Hymn text by John M. Chamberlain, 1844-1925. View the full text of this hymn.

 

southern cross

When we talk about enduring to the end, we often talk about staying in the strait and narrow path. The idea is that we have a clear path to follow that the gospel has laid out for us, and that we have little room for variation from that path. If our goal is eternal life and everything that the Father has, then we can’t make up our own route to get there. He’s set the goal for us, and He dictates the path. It is strait, and it is narrow.

We have guides to get us there, of course; it would be unfair to demand that we follow such a rigid course without also telling us how to walk that path. We are given the scriptures, prophets, local and general leaders, families, and of course, the gift of the Holy Ghost. We talk about the scriptures in particular as an iron rod, but we could just as easily describe all of those guides as an iron rod, built on the side of the path to help guide us along the way.

One image that isn’t used as frequently, though, is that of a guiding star. The wise men followed a star to see the infant Jesus, but I can’t think of any other scriptural imagery that references the guiding power of stars. The chorus of this hymn mentions it, however. Listen:

We are marching, marching homeward
To that bright land afar.
We work for life eternal;
It is our guiding star.

“That bright land afar” is described earlier as eternal life. We are marching on to be with our Father, and to be like Him. That goal serves as our guiding star. You may not be familiar with celestial navigation; I know I certainly haven’t had to chart a course using the stars. It can be difficult to an inexperienced person like you or me, since as the earth rotates on its axis, the stars also rotate through the sky. A constellation may start the night in the east and end up in the west before long. Navigation can only work by orientating to a fixed point. In the northern hemisphere, that’s the North Star; in the southern hemisphere, there’s no star that occupies a fixed position, but the Southern Cross points the way. The starry sky spins through the night, but those two fixed positions never change. If you know where Polaris is, you can always at least be sure which direction north is; if you can find Crux, you can also find south.

We hear many different messages in our lives, and they often contradict each other. We may be told to get with the times, or to be on the right side of history. But we know that if we want to get to our goal, we need to orient ourselves using those fixed points. Just as the location of the North Star never changes, so too can we count on the fact that the things we learn from the gospel will never change. Jesus will always be our Savior. He will always have suffered for our sins, and we will always need to exercise faith and repent if we want to make use of that gift in our lives. The gospel is a fixed point, and we can always use it to chart our course through life as everything else changes around us. We need not be “driven with the wind and tossed,” as James warned. We can plot a steady course and safely arrive at our destination.

Image credit: “Southern Cross,” flickr user rplzzz. CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

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