The Liahona Magazine

He Marked the Path and Led the Way

When we follow Jesus Christ, doing what He did, we can confidently return to our heavenly home.

Several years ago, my family and I decided to hike a mountain trail in Iceland to see a famous waterfall. We had never been on this mountain. We were uncertain about the trail, and we are not experienced hikers.

We watched others start up the trail and followed. Soon, they were out of sight, and so was the trail. We looked carefully and noticed piles of intentionally placed rocks, called cairns, at regular intervals marking the path to the waterfall. We became confident that if we could find the cairns, they would lead us to the waterfall.

Patches of ground near the trail featured white, fluffy cotton grass,1 which grows in marshy terrain. Stepping into the cotton grass always left us with muddy, water-filled shoes. We learned that the cotton grass marked a path we did not want to follow.

The trail was not easy. Sometimes it was steep, and we became tired. But we persisted, paying careful attention to the cairns and avoiding the cotton grass. Finally our efforts were rewarded. We reached the magnificent waterfall and enjoyed the view from the mountaintop and the refreshment of the water.

As we trekked down the mountain, we saw dangers we had not seen before. The cairns had helped us avoid deep pools of water and steep cliffs. We were grateful those cairns led us safely to our goal.

Our journey through life is like this summer hike. We want to return to our heavenly home, but the path can be difficult to navigate. As we study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, we can learn how He navigated mortality, placing metaphorical cairns for us to follow. When we follow those cairns, doing what Jesus did, we can confidently return and reach our destination.

Cairn 1: Know Who We Are

Jesus Christ came to know who He was (see Luke 2:49). Though we do not know how He felt as He was baptized by John, the divine reassurance must have been comforting when His Father spoke to Him “from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

With confidence in His identity, Jesus Christ was able to declare to Peter and Andrew, “I am he of whom it is written by the prophets” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 4:18 [in Matthew 4:19, footnote a]). And to the Samaritan woman, He declared, “I that speak unto thee am [that Messias, which is called Christ]” (see John 4:25–26).

Knowing who we are is a cairn of fundamental importance. Our most important identity is that as children of God, regardless of how else we choose to identify ourselves. If we fail to find this cairn, we may wander off the path and end up in the cotton grass.

Cairn 2: Know Heavenly Father’s Will

Jesus Christ sought to know His Father’s will. After His baptism, “Jesus was led up of the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be with God.

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered and was left to be tempted of the devil” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 4:1–2 [see also Matthew 4:1–2, footnotes 1b, 2c]; emphasis added).

Why did Jesus go into the wilderness to commune with God? It is reasonable to believe that He did so to learn His Father’s will, so that there would be no doubt as to what God’s desires were for Him. Similarly, for us to learn God’s will for us is a cairn. If we do not know what God’s will is for us, we will wander into the cotton grass.

We learn God’s will for us in the scriptures, from the words of living prophets, and through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. But we need to desire to be with and commune with God in prayer, as Jesus did. Knowing our true relationship with God, that He is our Father and we are His children, makes prayer natural (see Matthew 7:7–11). Difficulties with prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.2

Cairn 3: Align Our Will with Heavenly Father’s Will

Jesus Christ aligned His will with His Father’s will. Once, while traveling, Jesus sat at Jacob’s well outside the city of Sychar in Samaria while His disciples went into the city to buy food. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus asked her to draw some for Him. She was surprised at the request, coming as it did from a Jew. In the discussion that followed, she learned that Jesus was the promised Messiah. She returned to the city, declaring that she had met the Christ (see John 4:3–29).

When the disciples returned, they encouraged Jesus to eat the food they had purchased (see John 4:31) and “marvelled” that He had spoken with a Samaritan woman (see John 4:27). The Savior responded, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me” (John 4:34). Jesus’s meat—His purpose—was to do the will of the Father and accomplish the Father’s work. He said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus allowed His will to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7), aligning His will with God’s will. This is another cairn Jesus left for us.

We need to conscientiously align our will with the will of our Father in Heaven. Prayer is one of the ways we do so. “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God” but to help us learn and accept His will.3

Cairn 4: Make and Keep Covenants with God

Jesus Christ was baptized “to fulfil all righteousness” (2 Nephi 31:5). He told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus said to His future disciples, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19).

We do so by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized in His name, receiving the Holy Ghost, and continuing to make and keep covenants with God. We covenant to keep Christ’s commandments, which are given for our benefit. Each covenant is a cairn along the covenant path that leads to Christ.

On our summer hike, we were free to choose a different path to the top of the mountain, but a different path might not have, and likely would not have, led to the waterfall. We could have been delayed because we were stuck in the mud, been stymied by dangerous cliffs, or given up because of tiredness. Staying on the path provided the most direct and sure route to our destination.

In life, we cannot create our own path and expect God’s promised outcomes (see Matthew 7:24–27). We are free to choose, but we cannot choose the consequences of not following the revealed path. We cannot stumble off a cliff and “decide” not to fall.

Cairn 5: Endure to the End

Jesus Christ wanted to “finish his [Father’s] work” (John 4:34). On the cross at the end, after Jesus had completed “the work which” God gave Him to do (John 17:4), He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Finishing our work is a cairn that is necessary to arrive at our desired destination. Jesus Christ said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

To those who fail to do so, the Savior will say, “Ye never knew me” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 7:33 [in Matthew 7:23, footnote a]; emphasis added). If we do not understand what the Savior was accomplishing, we will end up with soggy, muddy shoes because we never knew Him and never joined Him in His work.

By knowing who He was, knowing and aligning His will with His Father’s, making and keeping covenants with God, and enduring to the end, Jesus Christ “marked the path and led the way”4 to how we return to our heavenly home. Our task is to follow those cairns. Thus, “Not only shall we emulate His course while” here on earth, but we do so if we “would be heirs”5 to receive all that Heavenly Father has (see Joseph Smith Translation, John 3:36 [in John 3:36, footnote a]).


1. Eriophorum.
2. See Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”
3. See Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”
4. “How Great the Wisdom and the Love,” Hymns, no. 195.
5. “Come, Follow Me,” Hymns, no. 116.

Dale G. Renlund
Dale G. Renlund
Dale G. Renlund was named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 3, 2015. Elder Renlund had served as a General Authority Seventy since April 2009 prior to being named to the Quorum of the Twelve.