Water Down
August 1988

“Water Down,” New Era, Aug. 1988, 14

Water Down

“If the current drags me into that mess, I’m through!”


I dived through the water and swam around behind the boat, trying to catch the breath the cold water pushed out of my lungs. Actually, it felt good. The air above the river was hot and heavy, and I needed that sudden jolt to wake me up and prepare me for my first ski run of the day.

My first ski run, and possibly my last. Not only of the day, but of the year—two years, in fact. I would be leaving for my mission in about two weeks, and I had been spending the entire summer cramming in a lot of activities that would be prohibited once I entered the mission field.

I figured that if I spent enough time skiing, swimming, dating, dancing, and doing a thousand other things I wouldn’t be able to do as a missionary, I’d get it all out of my system and be ready to settle down once I reached the MTC. I hardly even looked at the scriptures. They weren’t going to change any in the month before I left, and I would have plenty of time to study them over the next two years. I would soon be devoting 24 hours a day to the service of others, so I had decided to devote the preceding month to the service of me.

I signaled to Kent, who was driving the boat, that my ski was adjusted and ready. He smiled, nodded, and began to accelerate. Getting up on the river, where the current was particularly strong, was not easy, but I managed, and I was soon gliding across the water’s surface. The wind pressed on my face. I closed my eyes and smiled up toward the sun. What a wonderful feeling.

But suddenly my ski struck something hard, and I crashed face down in the water. For some reason, I was being dragged rapidly toward shore. It took me a second to realize that I’d run into a jumble of logs and branches that were floating downstream, and my ski was hopelessly entangled. The current was pulling me toward the shore at the bend in the river, where a mass of sharp rocks and branches had piled up. “If the current drags me into that mess, I’m through,” I thought as I frantically tried to free myself from the entangled ski.

My cousins in the boat quickly realized the danger I was in, and circled back around to try to fish me out. Unfortunately though, the boat got caught in the current too, and I found myself sandwiched between the boat and the rapidly approaching pile of debris. Sharp branches and jagged rocks were only a few feet, a few inches, from my eyes, my throat, my chest. If only I could dive under the boat and put it between me and the ragged shore. I tried, but the buoyancy of my ski vest made that impossible.

I began praying desperately. It was the only alternative left. Immediately some force, like a huge hand, thrust me down into the water and under the boat. I was glad the boat had a jet engine, so I didn’t need to deal with a propeller. My ski had finally been wrenched from my foot, and with the new mobility that gave me, I was able to push out from under the boat and emerge on the other side, just in time to see it crash into the debris.

I could hear my cousins shouting and crying, sure that I had been skewered by a branch and was caught under the water. I shakily called out to them, and with great relief, they pulled me back into the boat.

I huddled in my towel and mulled over what had just happened as we headed back to the sandy beach where we had started. My mission had almost been finished before it began. How important the work must be! I felt the Lord had truly sent angels to be round about me, to bear me up, as it says in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88. I was grateful to have been spared to do his work.

It was then that I understood that my preparation tactics had been all wrong. If the work was that important, I shouldn’t be out grabbing at all the excitement I could before I left. I should be trying to embrace all the scripture study, all the prayer, all the service I could. Of course it wouldn’t hurt to get a little fun in, but I should have begun long ago to practice what I was going to preach.

I would definitely have to change my schedule for the next two weeks, and I’d have to work harder in a different way, than I’d ever dreamed. That realization was a cold, hard one, but actually, it felt good. I needed the sudden jolt to prepare me for the next two years of my life.

Ready, Set, Go!

The time between the arrival of your call and your entrance into the MTC is invaluable. You can use it to prepare for one of the biggest events of your life. Here are some suggestions for making the most out of that time:

1 Re-read the Book of Mormon. Make sure you have a strong testimony of it.

2 Find out as much as possible about your mission area. Read books on it, and talk to people who have been there.

3 Spend quality time with your family and others who are closest to you. They’re the ones you’ll miss most.

4 Start memorizing the scriptures that go along with the missionary discussions. You’ll appreciate the head start that gives you when you enter the MTC.

5 Work and pray to develop a sensitivity to other people’s needs and how you can fulfill them.

6 Review basic etiquette and social skills. Develop an attitude of graciousness and gratitude.

Illustrated by Paul Mann