Can God build ships?
In the Book of Mormon there are at least two accounts that show He can. The first is recorded within the very first book in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi). The setting is 600 B.C. just preceding the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem. Lehi, a prophet, and his family are warned by the Lord to flee. They leave behind all of their wealth and journey in the wilderness for eight years until they come to the sea, enduring a great deal of affliction and difficulty along the way (read the story for yourself here!) When they reach the sea, being led by God throughout their journey, they camp in a beautiful, fruitful area. They are so happy to be there and to rest! However, the Lord has an even higher goal in store for them.
After a number of days, God informs Lehi’s son Nephi (the next prophet) that Nephi will need to build a ship. Here is exactly what he says, “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” (1 Nephi 17:8). I am almost 100% certain that Nephi had never built a ship–certainly not a sea-worthy ship. Further, I am nearly certain that he never even thought of building a ship. Nevertheless, Nephi’s response is not, “What? That sounds crazy!” or “But I’ve never built a ship before…whine….” or “That sounds too hard!” One of the reasons Nephi is so amazing is that he really knows how to trust God and exercise faith (see another great example here).
Here is what Nephi replied: “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (1 Nephi 17:9). He gets right to work.
One major point I want to focus on in this post is the type of ship Nephi is instructed to build. Building the ship is a struggle and Nephi’s brothers mock him during the start of the construction. Yet the ship is eventually completed. In 1 Nephi 18 Nephi explains the process by which he built the ship: “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.”
I heard this scripture read aloud the other day while watching a great film–it’s amazing how hearing things aloud can help you focus on new things (or gems!). Anyway, it struck me how interesting it is that Nephi stresses that he did not build the ship after the manner of men–he built it in a new way (a better way) which was taught to him by God. I thought about how much this is like life. A lot of times God asks us to build the ship of our lives in a way the world might see as crazy–ridiculous. And yet, if we follow God’s plan, the ship of our self–like Nephi’s ship–will be able to cross the entire sea of life successfully–storms and all–and arrive safely in the promised land.
So, do we trust God to direct us in building or ship–in building ourselves? Do we trust him to guide our journey home to him? (I just thought of how he is already home (in heaven) so he knows best how to tell us where that home is. And Christ has walked the path from earth to heaven–that is why He is our perfect guide).
This all reminds me of another great scripture (Alma 37:6-7):
“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”
And this from 1 Corinthians 1:25 :
“…the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
What are some crazy ways God has directed you to build your life’s ship (which likely showed themselves not to be so crazy after all)? I know there are many examples in my own life. I also know, and bear my testimony in Jesus’ name, that God is the master shipbuilder–not only of wooden ships but of our lives which are the ships that bear us home to him in glory.
Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts!