Spiritual AnchorsGod speaks to and operates through living prophets.
Brett Miller, LDSBC Institute of Religion instructor, spoke at Devotional on June 26, 2018.
I’m grateful for the choir to sing, it’s always nice to follow sacred music, and for Sister Stouder’s testimony. I’m glad to be with you today, and I’m glad that my wife is able to be with us. This past year of teaching at the LDS Business College has really been a wonderful experience for me and I look forward to several more years as I’m with you.
Today I’ve chosen to speak about personal spiritual anchors. We can learn a lot about spiritual anchors by observing physical anchors. I am mostly acquainted with two types of physical anchors: nautical, for boats and ships, or surface anchors, like used in rock climbing, mounting pictures to walls, or pitching a tent. In any case, anchors are used to hold things securely in place.
The word “anchor” is found six times in our scripture; four in the New Testament and two in the Book of Mormon. In the New Testament, Paul talks about anchors three times to describe the use of actual boat anchors on his journey to Rome during his ship reck experience. So let’s start with boat anchors.
Elder M. Russell Ballard once spoke about boat anchors, he said: “Have you ever watched a large ship weigh its anchor? It is fascinating to see and hear the massive links of chains screeching against the metal bow of the ship as the anchor is lowered or raised. Now, the metal shanks of the anchor chain are incredibly heavy, but their weight is slight when compared to the total weight of the ship. Still, if an anchor is placed properly on the bottom of the sea, it can hold a giant ship fast, even in rough seas” (“Anchor to the Soul,” BYU Devotional, 6 Sep 1992).
I’ve had a few opportunities to be on water: small boats when I was young on lakes near where I lived, fishing on the Columbia River, an old paddle wheel boat on the mighty Mississippi River, and larger vessels in the Mediterranean. In each situation, anchors were stored onboard in case they were needed. While fishing on the Columbia River, we would anchor the boat in strategic locations trying to find the large salmon that migrated there. On one such trip, I caught a three-foot-long salmon! I love salmon.
Elder Ballard adds: “Just as ships need anchors to keep them from drifting away on the open seas, people need spiritual anchors in their lives if they are to remain steadfast and not drift into the sea of temptation and sin. Faith in God and in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the main anchor we must have in our lives to hold fast during times of social turbulence and wickedness that seem to be about us everywhere today. This faith must be more than the dictionary variety. Our faith, for it to be meaningful and effective to hold us fast, must be centered in Jesus Christ, in his teaching, his life, his atonement, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter-days.”
It seems pretty obvious how important these marine anchors are to the safety of those on the water, but do we see with equal importance the same great need for personal spiritual anchors as we navigate through mortality? Mormon wrote about the Nephites of his day and how they had no secure themselves to the Savior. He said: “But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about on the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they” (Mormon 5:18). Mormon understood how important such anchors are in life, and particularly for our spiritual well-being.
When Joseph Smith read from James 1:5 about lacking wisdom and asking in faith, he saw that the next verse said “to ask in faith, nothing wavering” meaning not doubting “for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (John 1:6).
Now let’s talk about surface anchors. Elder Richard G. Scott spoke about rock climbing once and the use of this type of anchor. He said: “When a pair of climbers tackle a difficult ascent, a leader scales a wall, placing anchors a few feet apart. His or her rope is linked to an anchor by a carabiner. Safety is assured by a companion, called the second, stationed in a very solid position. The lead is protected as the second belays, that is, carefully controls how the rope is payed out. In this way the lead is assured protection while ascending. Should there be an inadvertent misstep, the anchor will safely limit the fall. Their goal is a safely overcoming a significant challenge. They employ techniques and equipment that are tried and proven.”
Elder Scott continued: “The companionship has studied the rules and techniques of rock climbing. They’ve received instruction from experienced climbers and have practiced to become comfortable with the proper moves and the use of equipment. They have planned a route and determined how they will work together. One belays while the other climbs, inserting anchors every few feet as protection should there be an inadvertent fall. While technical rock climbing appears to be risky and dangerous, these precautions assure an exhilarating experience, safely accomplished by following correct principles” (“The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” General Conference, October 2006).
Now I have to admit I have not done any real rock climbing, but it does sound thrilling. But I have a son who is a rock climber, and he has much of his own equipment, and does this kind of technical climbing. Agreeing with Elder Scott, my son added that sometimes he finds anchors left by previous climbers. Before using those anchors, he will check them to make sure they are still secured to the rock. He also said that for him and others, they have their rope through two anchors for added security. Though it is a redundancy, it has proven to be more than just added piece of mind when he has lost his grip and fallen, only to be caught and protected because his rope line is connected to secure anchors. For me it is easy to see how important these anchors are to the safety of those who engage in rock climbing, but do we see the same great need for personal anchors that protect us when we fall spiritually, physically, or emotionally?
Let’s return to Elder Scott. He said: “In real life, the anchors are the laws of God that provide protection under all of the challenges that you will face. The rope and carabiners that secure the rope to the anchors are obedience to these commandments. When you learn those commandments, continue to practice them, and have a plan to avoid danger, you will have a secure means of obtaining protection against Satan’s temptations. You will develop strength of character that will fortify you against transgression. Should you make a wrong move, there is no need for enduring problems because of the belaying or the help that is available through your repentance.”
Let’s now look at my second example of a surface anchor, mounting a picture on a wall. Since my family has moved many times, we’ve had many opportunities in decorating homes. My wife and I have spent many hours hanging pictures and things on our walls. Small pictures are easy, and a small nail will hold them securely on place. But our larger pictures take more effort and larger anchors. One of our larger pictures is of the First Vision, and my wife decided it would look best in our home above the stairway that led to the basement. At first, I thought there is no way I can reach that. But since that is where she wanted it, I explored options on how to accomplish it. Sounds kind of like Nephi who said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 3:7), I think you know the rest.
My inspiration came in the idea of bridging the open stairway by using 2x4 boards 10 feet long. I would buy several of them to span the distance, then lay a piece of plywood on top and make a temporary walkway. I could then put a ladder on that and work on hanging the picture. Next came deciding exactly where to place the picture and measuring for the locations of the wall mounts, or anchors, so they would be leveled with each other. When the anchors were in place I was able to hang the picture. And yes, it does look great. However, I have since used those 2x4 boards in the completion of our basement, which means I can’t get the picture back down. So maybe we won’t have to move anymore!
When I hang those larger pictures, I use two wall anchors to support the heavier weight. I know that in life, we can feel the weight of the world upon us, so more than one spiritual anchor is needed to keep us securely in place, and to keep us level and upright. These anchors are meant to help us when we feel temptation knocking on our door, or when we face difficult challenges, or perhaps when just dealing with questions for which we don’t have answers. Elder Holland taught: “When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” (“Lord, I Believe,” General Conference, April 2013).
Now for my last example, securing a camping tent to the ground. I grew up in the state of Oregon and as a Deacon in the Church, I was a Boy Scout. Typically, we had a campout every month, and a week-long summer camp with hiking in the nearby snowcapped Cascade Mountains. Our Scoutmaster worked for the Forest Service, so he always knew the best places to go. As a young scout I learned how to set up camp and cook over a fire. Occasionally, we would encounter bad weather, particularly when camping in the winter. It was important to make sure our tent was properly set up and secured to the ground by the wooden or metal tent stakes. I would see scouts sometimes who would not put in all of the stakes, just the corner ones. Occasionally, those tents would get caught by the wind and blown over, everything inside the tent was chaos. I wanted to make sure my tent was never pushed over by the wind, so I used all the anchors that came with it, putting in all the tent stakes only took another minute or two, but it provided so much more security. Besides, having all the tent stakes in place also meant proper ventilation, and I like to breathe!
Let’s return to our scripture references on anchors. I’ve already mentioned three on the New Testament that talk about the boat anchors. The fourth reference it’s also given by Paul, but has a spiritual context. Speaking about the trust and reliance we can have in God as a type of hope, Paul says: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). I find it interesting how the writings of Paul and the writings of Moroni are so similar. Both wrote about faith, hope, and charity, both wrote about gifts of the Spirit, both wrote about the hope we find from spiritual anchors. Moroni said: “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4, emphasis added). The understanding of spiritual anchors by Paul and Moroni are profoundly similar though they themselves were separated by time and distance.
So let’s talk about these spiritual anchors that bring us hope. Just shortly before his death, Elder L. Tom Perry was preparing a message to Aaronic Priesthood holders, and he mentioned in it one of his personal spiritual anchors. He wrote: “I grew up in a comfortable environment in Logan, Utah. I had no childhood worries of food or shelter or education. But perhaps because life was easy, I needed something to hold on to that would anchor me. For me that anchor was the priesthood of God. … I’ve learned that there is a guide, an anchor, and a protection in the priesthood” (“The Priesthood: A Sure Anchor,” Ensign, April 2016).
Elder Perry gives a great example of what a personal spiritual anchor can be. For him, one such anchor was the priesthood. Spiritual anchors can be a variety of things, and they can be different for each of us. And just like large ocean ships that have multiple anchors to keep them from drifting, or tents that use multiple tent stakes to keep them in place, when it comes to personal spiritual anchors more are better.
Earlier we saw how Elder Ballard talked about faith in Jesus Christ as our main spiritual anchor. The Articles of Faith state that “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Articles of Faith 1:4) is the first principle of the Gospel. In the True to the Faith booklet we read that “Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love, it includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though you do not understand all things, He does.” And perhaps most meaningful to our discussion today, it says: “When times of trial come, faith can give you strength to press forward and face your hardships with courage. Even when the future seems uncertain, your faith in the Savior can give you peace” (, p. 54).
A dictionary definition states that an anchor is “a person or thing that provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation” (Apple Computer Inc. Dictionary, version 2.2.2, “anchor”). Elder Ballard said that: “… the most important knowledge you can acquire, and the area of learning that will keep everything else in focus for you and bring you true happiness and joy, will be your solid anchor of assurance that you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I also quoted from Elder Scott as having referred to God’s commandments as spiritual anchors. For me a good example of this comes from a video that came out some years ago for seminary classes, it portrays a young man who learns from his “better” alternate personality. One scene is when they are in a Ferrari sports car and he sees a sign which says ‘speed limit 55.’ He says to his alter ego: “I’m in my dream car, and I’m supposed to go 55 miles an hour?” His alter personality replies sarcastically: “Rules are stupid, right?” To which he agrees. And then the sign changes to “No Limit” and he takes off driving recklessly fast on a two-lane road. Suddenly, an oncoming semi-truck pulls into his lane heading right for him. Just before they crash head on, he is back in his bedroom and says to his alter ego: “Did you see that? That guy could have killed us.” The conversation then goes like this. His alter self replies: “He didn’t do anything wrong.” “Didn’t do anything wrong, he was in my lane!” … “Well, if there was no law, which is what you wanted, then you have to say there is no wrong. And if there is no law, which law did the truck driver break?” “None.” “So what did he do wrong?” “Nothing, except he was in my lane.” “Were you in the correct lane?” “Yes!” “How do you know that.” “Because the law says …” “You got it. The law designates which of the opposing choices is right and which is wrong. … Let’s see how this fits in with God’s laws. If God didn’t have any laws, could you disobey them?” “No.” “Could you obey them?” “I guess not.” “Well if you couldn’t obey them, then you couldn’t do good or become righteous. So the question is, how are you going to follow Christ if He doesn’t have a right way?” (“Act for Themselves,” Book of Mormon DVD Presentations, 2005). I love how this video shows that God’s laws and commandment are to anchor us to Christ.
I have several spiritual anchors of my own. One is that we are children of God. I love the Primary songs, and of course a favorite of many is “I Am a Child of God,” the first song in the Children’s Songbook (, p. 2). Having grown up in the Church I sang that song many as a child. And we sang it in our Family Home Evenings when our children were growing up.
The doctrinal statement that we are spirit children of Heavenly Parents has always resonated positively with me, and the scriptures support it. In the New Testament we read that we are the offspring of God (see Acts 17:29; Hebrews 12:9). From the experience of Jeremiah in the Old Testament we learn that God knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5). Abraham saw that we were in the beginning with Heavenly Father and that this earth was prepared for us to have a mortal experience (Abraham 3; see also D&C 49:17; 93:29). The Book of Mormon teaches that God’s Plan of Salvation was prepared from the foundation of the world and was to be taught to us in mortality (see Alma 12:30; 22:13). In the New Testament we also read that we are not just the children of God, but that the faithful will be joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16–17). And finally, from the personal scripture of my own Patriarchal Blessing I am told that I am “a son of God.” You are also a son or daughter of God. I treasure this and hold on to it. It is something that I and cannot let go of or deny.
Another of my personal spiritual anchors is that God speaks to and operates through living prophets. The pattern of God working through prophets is clear to any real student of the Bible. So, having modern-day prophets has been something easy for me to accept. Foundational to me is the calling of Joseph Smith as the prophet of the latter dispensation. The one thing that I use as a picture in my mind, when I need to call upon a good and positive image, is that of the First Vision. I believe with all my heart and soul in the First Vision. I believe that God the Eternal Father, and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, came and appeared to the boy Joseph. They told him that They had a work for him to do, and Joseph tried to live up to that ever after. I know that Joseph saw those two divine persons during that visionary event. It is as secure to me as an anchor sunk deeply into a stone wall for rock climbers. In any trial or difficulty or concern, I can fall back on the thought of the First Vision and say that of all else, I know that really happened and that God speaks through His prophets today.
I have known nine of the 17 modern prophets, from President McKay to President Nelson. David O. McKay was known for being a true gentleman, caring for others, and how he treated his wife. I can still picture in my mind images of him on our black and white television. Joseph Fielding Smith was a scholar. He wrote several books, many of which I have referred to often. Harold B. Lee was younger than most were and the feeling in the Church was that he could be the prophet until the millennium. But the Lord had different plans. Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet of my youth, and it is his signature on my mission call. He was known for two phrases: “Lengthen Your Stride” and “Do It.” He emphasized the need for more young men to serve missions. Ezra Taft Benson emphasized reading the Book of Mormon, and to flood the earth with it. Howard W. Hunter emphasized being temple worthy and attending the temple often. He said to always have a temple recommend even if distance or other factors prevent you from attending very often. Gordon B. Hinckley had a great wit and a fun sense of humor and a positive outlook on life. He was interviewed by a couple of TV newsmen and shared his testimony publicly. During his administration as president of the Church, temple building was advanced to a remarkable pace giving us most of the temples we have today. Thomas S. Monson was known for his impeccable memory and his thoughtfulness for others. He was also concerned with rescuing every soul. And Russell M. Nelson is a remarkable man who not only loves us but understands how we as human beings operate. I have met him twice; once casually at a wedding reception and more formally in a Priesthood Leadership meeting, during a stake conference. They are all remarkable men who have learned to be taught by the Lord and follow His counsel completely. My personal experience has taught me that I can trust them. Living prophets are a secure spiritual anchor to me, and I try to follow their counsel. They are an anchor that I cannot deny, nor will I ever betray.
The things you choose to be your personal spiritual anchors are just that, a choice. By choosing to anchor yourselves to something solid like “upon the rock of our Redeemer who is Christ, the Son of God” and then, “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo” (Helaman 5:12), because of the rock upon which you have built, “for the devil seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). Returning again to Elder Ballard’s message, he said: “When you know and live these simple truths, they will be a spiritual anchor to help you keep your own life from being ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14).”
May we all chose and develop solid personal spiritual anchors in our life; things we will never give up, turn from or betray, regardless of the difficulties we may face. This will help ensure that will return to Heavenly Father one day. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Brett Miller was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in the Church with a brother and two sisters. He served a full-time mission in Rome, Italy and then attended Brigham Young University where he met his wife, Alice.
Brother Miller graduated with a degree in business management and was employed for 10 years in banking in Utah, Idaho and Oregon. While in Oregon, he served as an early-morning seminary teacher, which led to a career change to teaching seminary and institute for the last 25 years in the states of Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Minnesota.
Brother Miller has a master’s degree in education administration and a Ph.D. in educational leadership. He began teaching at LDS Business College last summer and finds great joy in teaching students here.
Brother and Sister Miller have six children and 11 grandchildren.