Memories: The Safety Knot

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen

From my scouting days, I can recall the fascination we boys had for the “one-handed bowline.” The scoutmaster had a knack for the dramatic. “Imagine,” he said, “that you are stranded on the face of a cliff, not being able to get up or get down safely. Gaping below you is the canyon floor a thousand feet straight down! Someone looking over the cliff from above throws a rope down to you and tells you to tie it around your mid-section so he can pull you up. What knot do you tie?” We shout: “The one-handed bowline!” “Right,” says the scoutmaster, “because once you have it tied in place, it won’t slip and crush you under your own weight or let you drop. That safety knot is the key to your lifeline.” He then demonstrates how to tie this knot by holding onto the rope with one hand above and manipulating the end of the rope with the other hand in a series of rapid maneuvers resulting in the desired knot—a lifesaver when we are in mortal danger.

I have often thought of this lesson while traversing the pathway of life with its endless array of unexpected barriers, treacherous curves, and dangerous cliffs. What is the safety knot of life? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which will never let us slip and fall to our doom as long as we use the right connections of faith, hope, and obedience, and hold diligently to the tether from above!

When Mormon was struggling through the final phases of the Nephite era, forced to witness the utter destruction of his people because of their unprecedented abominations and wickedness, he must have felt as though he were on the edge of the abyss, staring down into a maul of madness and mayhem below. How did he endure and survive through that period, which was “one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land” (Mormon 2:8), one based on murder, cannibalism, rape, torture, and universal bloodshed pervasive to a degree never before seen in all the house of Israel (Mormon 4:12)? The record outlines the nature of his “safety knot”:

• Gratitude: Though his comrades swore by their own prideful strength, Mormon continually recognized that “it was the Lord that had spared them” (Mormon 3:3); he realized and knew “from whence their blessings come” (Mormon 5:10).
• Charity: Though they were without grace (Mormon 2:15), “without Christ and God in the world” (Mormon 5:16), without love one for another (as we shall see in Moroni 9:5), “without order and without mercy” (Moroni 9:18), “without principle and past feeling” (Moroni 9:20), and “without civilization” (Moroni 9:11), Mormon never ceased to exercise charity toward them: “Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart” (Mormon 3:12).
• Humility: Though the Nephites were motivated purely by vengeance and anger, Mormon submitted submissively to the will of the Lord, who declared: “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay” (Mormon 3:15).
• Valor: Though constantly beset by life-threatening influences, Mormon never ceased to serve the people. “Behold, I am laboring with them continually” (Moroni 9:4). Never once did he lose his focus on completing his mission to maintain and preserve the sacred records (see Mormon 3:17–18; 4:23; 5:8–15; 6:6).
• Prayerfulness: Though the people “did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them” (Mormon 5:2), Mormon never ceased praying: “and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them” (Mormon 3:12; compare Moroni 9:15).
• Compassion: In the midst of carnage and chaos, Mormon never lost his compassion for, and sorrow on behalf of his people: “And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried: O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Mormon 6:17)
• Higher Perspective: Despite the prevailing context of corruption and bloodshed, Mormon never lost sight of the bigger picture—it was the iniquity of the people that led to their destruction. “Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss. O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return” (Mormon 6:18–20).
• Devotion to the Cause: Though the people had hearts of adamantine hardness and debauchery (see Moroni 9:9–10), Mormon cultivated a spirit in keeping with a “broken heart and a contrite Spirit,” just as the Lord had commanded (3 Nephi 9:20; 12:19; Mormon 2:14). Writing to his son, Moroni, Mormon expressed his feelings of devotion this way: “And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God” (Moroni 9:6).
• Faithfulness: “My son, be faithful in Christ,” Mormon would write to Moroni; “and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever” (Moroni 9:25).

The Lord commanded that the record of the demise of the Nephites should be written and come to light in the latter days (see Mormon 5:9–10) as a warning to the people to come unto the Lord and repent. It is only through the gospel of Jesus Christ that destruction can be avoided and safety assured. Modern civilization is all too frequently characterized by wickedness and debauchery not unlike that depicted in the final chapters of the Book of Mormon. How can one find light in the darkness and hope amidst evil? How can one continue valiantly amidst wickedness? Could it be that the Lord preserved the bleak annals of the final years of the Nephite civilization not only to show the horrible consequences of iniquity, but also to highlight the example of Mormon and Moroni as a brilliant reflection of spiritual truth and hope against the blackness of a hopeless lifestyle—one “without Christ and God in the world” (Mormon 5:16)? The safety knot these two devoted prophet/historians used to maintain a firm grasp on the tether of righteousness is clear for all to see: gratitude, charity, humility, valor, prayerfulness, compassion, higher perspective, devotion to the cause, and faithfulness.

By cultivating such qualities, we too can qualify for the promised blessing that Mormon would invoke upon his son: “And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen” (Moroni 9:26). (Richard J. Allen)

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2