I’ve taken a facebook “challenge” to state my favorite scripture verse as an excuse to write up a post I’ve been toying with for a while. Lately I have been rather fascinated by the story of the Brother of Jared building the barges.
In Ether 2 the Jaredites are commanded to build barges “after the manner which they had built.” So this is not so much like Nephi’s experience–apparently this group was familiar with barges, at least for short trips. But for crossing the ocean, the barges that were built had a couple major faults:
And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.
No light, and no air.
Imagine being a Jaredite helping to build these barges to cross the ocean. You know that there are some big problems with the solution that is being presented. But you are asked to pitch in anyway.
Imagine being the Brother of Jared, asking the people that have followed you all this way, and being commanded to build these barges, but there are some obvious problems. You have to ask your brethren to help you build these barges, and at some point the major design flaws come to light. And you have no idea what to do.
Are we ever asked to pitch in towards something that seems absolutely useless, pointless, or futile?
So The Brother of Jared prays and asks for guidance. God gives him the solution to the air problem. He then tells His prophet to come up with a solution for the light problem.
“Here comes the Brother of Jared! Hey, what did the Lord say?”
“He told me how to get air in the barges.”
“Wonderful! What about the light?”
“He asked me to come up with a solution”
“…Oh. OK, what are you going to do?”
Now it could perhaps be that the Brother of Jared had formulated an idea fairly quickly, but I rather doubt it. I would guess that he wrestled with it for a while. I think it was a hard time for him, and he spent a lot of time thinking and working. I think God wanted him to have that time to think and to struggle, and to come up with a solution.
I also think he worked hard on the solution. The scriptures state that he did “molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass.” Perhaps not; but to me, that sounds like a lot of work.
I think he realized that he could not do it without help from the Lord. That in the end, his efforts alone simply would not be enough. But he needed to do the best he could.
In my own (much smaller) experiences, I’ve found that there is very often a difference between what I think is my best effort and what my best effort really can be (I’ve also learned that I can’t give everything my best effort all the time). Miracles come by the grace of God, but they are more likely to come after we have given much more than we thought we could initially.
So I think it quite likely that the Brother of Jared understood that it may be that God would not provide the miracle, but would give him further instruction and guidance (and that was OK).
But the miracle does come. And I love the implication behind this. God takes that effort, and makes it shine, providing light (and a constant reminder of God’s power and mercy) for everyone.
I love the lessons here, and there are a lot of them. God expects us to work and struggle to solve our problems. He will definitely help us, but the point is that we need to learn and grow. But most of all, that when we have worked and prayed and done everything we can do, and prayed some more, and worked some more, and it seems like all we have to show for our work is a lump of rock.
God touches it.