Intention Is Not Enough
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“Intention Is Not Enough,” New Era, July 1981, 4

The Message:

Intention Is Not Enough

It was a fall day in Wyoming. The majestic Tetons rising high into the blue sky were delicately mirrored in Jackson Lake—a breathtakingly beautiful setting for the beginning of a high adventure canoe trip down the 98 miles of the rugged Snake River. True to its name, the river curled its way through a wilderness area abundant with wildlife. There would be few roads and only occasional trails.

Excitement was high, and hearts seemed to be beating a little faster than usual as the 19 Scout leader fathers and their 16-year-old sons waited on the river bank at Moran to begin their canoe trip down the Snake River.

Two tanned, tall, river-experienced 19-year-old young men would be our guides—one at the head of the group and the other following close behind. Their every word of instruction and warning was caught by ears that were straining to learn. There was a bit of apprehension as they warned about whirlpools, with their circling current, that could take a canoe and its occupants down under. There was also the instruction about approaching and riding through the white water areas. The main word of instruction was, “Whatever you do, don’t unbalance your canoe.” We resolved and it was our intention that we would do everything the guides had instructed us to do. We would stroke evenly on each side; we would kneel up all the way so we could move easily and keep the canoe in balance.

As the leader responsible for the group, I seemed to be having some second thoughts as I listened to the safety precautions the guides were giving us. I remembered a newscast a few days before telling of a father who had fallen from his canoe while going through a rapid and had struck his head on a rock and had drowned before he could be recovered, even though he had his life jacket properly in place.

The lead guide gracefully slipped his canoe into the water and glided effortlessly out into the river. In turn, each canoe, with father and son in place, followed. It was a beautiful day—the fresh clear air was invigorating; the clear blue sky with an occasional white billowy cloud added to the beauty of the surroundings. The water was clear and the river flowed smoothly along. The spruce and pine trees, together with grass and shrubs, made each turn of the river one of artistic beauty. The first ten miles were so enjoyable that most of the fear and concern faded away.

As we looked ahead, we could see another stream emptying into the main river. We could see the whirlpool signs, and we became more alert as we approached the junction point. All of a sudden there was an excited cry ahead: “Look at the moose!” I wanted to see the moose, so I whirled around and caught a fleeting glimpse of it with its large flat antlers just as I was going headfirst into the Snake River.

The water was cold; the rocks were hard. I struggled to get to the surface. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind: “I wonder where my son Dave is. How will I find our canoe? Can I find my paddle?”

As I swam toward the shore, I caught sight of Dave right ahead making his way to the bank. I lost my hat and all of the suntan lotion and the dark glasses I had in my pocket. But I was glad to get out of the cold water and again get back in the canoe so we could keep up with the others.

After that, they could have said “Look!” at a thousand moose and we would not have turned around to look. We looked straight ahead. There were miles of rapids and white water, and we went safely through. We didn’t look to the left or to the right. In fact, one rapid was so severe that one canoe in trying to negotiate it tipped over backward.

The father was heavier than his 16-year-old son, and he was in the back. They had not intended to unbalance the canoe, but they did. They got wet just the same. Intention is not enough!

The Lord has said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).

Yes, again, intention is not enough.

On another occasion as Joshua was being installed as the leader of Israel to replace Moses, who was being released, the Lord gave Joshua the key. He said, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. …

“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” (Josh. 1:5, 7.)

Joshua was told to do according to all the law.

On another occasion with Helaman’s stripling warriors, their success was based on this same key.

“Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them” (Alma 57:21).

They did “perform every word of command with exactness.” The key to their success was to obey every word and command. Yes, if we are going to draw upon the powers of heaven, intention is not enough.

We must obey every word of command with exactness. Remember these words of the Lord:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).

We must actually obey the law; intention is not enough!

Illustration by Lee Shaw