The Portland Docks

The Portland Docks

Excerpt from the talk titled: You Make a Difference by Thomas S. Monson


To some it may seem strange to see ships of many nations loading and unloading cargo along the docks at Portland, Oregon. That city is 100 miles from the ocean. Getting there involves a difficult, often turbulent passage over the bar guarding the Columbia River and a long trip up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

But ship captains like to tie up at Portland. They know that as their ships travel the seas, a curious salt water shellfish called a barnacle fastens itself to the hull and stays there for the rest of its life, surrounding itself with a rock-like shell. As more and more barnacles attach themselves, they increase the ship’s drag, slow its progress, and decrease its efficiency.

Periodically, the ship must go into dry dock, where with great effort the barnacles are chiseled or scraped off. It’s a difficult, expensive process that ties up the ship for days.

But not if the captain can get his ship to Portland.

Barnacles can’t live in fresh water.

There, in the sweet, fresh waters of the Willamette or Columbia, the barnacles loosen and fall away, and the ship returns to its task lightened and renewed.

Sins are like those barnacles. Hardly anyone goes through life without picking up some. They increase the drag, slow our progress, and decrease our efficiency.

Unrepented, building up one on another, they can eventually sink us.

“In His infinite love and mercy, our Lord has provided a harbor where, through repentance, our barnacles fall away and are forgotten. With our souls lightened and renewed, we can go efficiently about our work and His” (“Harbor of Forgiveness,” 30 Jan. 1988, p. 16).

A loving Heavenly Father has provided for our guidance models to follow, men who made a difference in their own times. I choose to call these noble souls “pioneers.” Webster defines a pioneer: “One who goes before, showing others the way to follow.”

With faith as their moving power, they sailed upstream against the currents of doubt which surrounded them. We cannot help but be inspired in our efforts as we remember their examples.

From Nephi: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Ne. 3:7).

From Samuel: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).

From Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).

From Job: “I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).

From Joseph: “I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4).

These noble leaders made a difference in their own times. What about today? How about me?

The world felt the quickening pace of activity when President Spencer W. Kimball declared, “We must lengthen our stride.” He stepped forward and the Church followed.