Storm Warning
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“Storm Warning,” New Era, Oct. 2001, 42

Storm Warning

Adapted from a January 14, 1998, devotional address at LDS Business College.

Those terrible storms you sometimes hear about on the news? They have a spiritual equivalent. Here’s how to avoid being uprooted or even carried away.

Elder Neil L. Andersen

A few years ago we were in Tampa, Florida, to spend some time with our family. During our time there, a powerful and potent tornado touched down. While hurricanes are common to Florida, tornadoes are not. This tornado came ripping through Haines City, about 50 miles away from where we were, leaving destruction in its path.

I read one experience of a woman in her mobile home. As she heard the winds approaching, she went into her bathroom and crouched down on the floor hoping to avoid injury. She felt her trailer shake, she was jostled around, and then everything was quiet. As she crouched motionless in her bathroom, she heard the voice of her neighbor who lived approximately 50 yards away from her. The voice said, “I am here in the front room.”

She thought somehow her neighbor had come into her trailer and was looking for her. She soon, however, was very surprised to find that was not the case at all, but that the winds had lifted, carried, and landed her trailer upright on the top of her neighbor’s trailer. She had not realized it, but her trailer had been flying through the air. Her neighbor was actually below her, in the neighbor’s own mobile home.

Spiritual tornadoes

When we built our house, it was interesting to see all the efforts made to securely hold the house in place. First a giant hole is dug, and the footers for the foundation are placed deep beneath the frost line. Steel rods run through the yards and yards of cement that form the foundation. With each adjoining part of the house, metal and steel is used to ensure that each part of the house is attached firmly to the other, and that all is tied securely into the foundation and footers. Every effort is made so that the house may remain stationary should winds or tornadoes come upon us.

With all the wonderful blessings that are ours in living in this beautiful world, ours is also a time of spiritual tornadoes.

These tornadoes come out of the modern-day sky with increasing frequency and test our spiritual foundations. With more opportunities, more time, more freedom, and more privilege come more temptation and more chance of spiritual destruction from the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life (see Matt. 13:21; Luke 8:13–14).

To weather these storms in this environment, we have been instructed by the prophets to become grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things (see Eph. 3:17; 1 Pet. 5:10; Col. 1:23; Col. 2:7).

What does it mean?

What does it mean to be grounded, rooted, established, and settled spiritually? It means having an eternal perspective. It means realizing those things that will shape our lives over much more than the next 5, 10, 15, or 50 years, but that will shape and mold our spirits eternally, for our spirits live forever. It is having a faith that is not a generalized feeling but reflects specific experience with interlocking principles. Being grounded and rooted means being able to look forward and backward from this life. A hundred years from now, how will my decisions affect me? A thousand years? A million years? The difficulties that are now mine, how meaningful will they be in a future state?

This perspective of seeing the spiritual all around us, seeing the purposes of life, does not come merely because we want to believe these things. If we have not grounded and settled these things deep within the foundation of our soul, when the tornadoes come we will find ourselves carried away, and rarely will we land right side up on our neighbor’s trailer.

Being grounded, rooted, established, and settled means that we see things as they really are, that we see the spiritual hosts that surround us, that we understand that those who are with us are more than those who are against us. It means that we sense that while this earth life is a true proving ground, and there will be many difficulties and obstacles to overcome, all lasting happiness will come as we keep the commandments of God and as we put our trust in Christ, who is our Savior.

I would like to share with you four powerful pillars to anchor you in your spiritual foundation so the tornadoes of the world will not dislodge you and carry you away.

  1. We must pray. There is no other way to have these spiritual assurances. We must pray and ask for them. We must seek them from our Father. Don’t try to survive spiritually without deep and continuous prayer. Don’t roll into bed at night without first kneeling before your Father, expressing your thankfulness for what you have, and appealing to Him to strengthen your spiritual pillars.

  2. We must study the scriptures. The Lord has given us these magnificent books to cement our foundation and to give us another way to unlock spiritual confirmations. As I read the scriptures, as I come to understand the tremendous miracle of the writings being preserved for us, I better understand how crucial this gift is for our spiritual foundation. For many, reading the scriptures is not a natural experience. It requires work; it requires self-discipline; but study is essential in constructing these pillars in our hearts.

  3. We must worship. There is power in the ordinances of the gospel, in taking the sacrament every week, in approaching the sacrament prayerfully, righteously asking for forgiveness. There is power in meeting together in our Church meetings and our homes and discussing the doctrines of the kingdom.

  4. We must be willing to serve one another. We must be unselfish and incorporate into our lives the qualities that Christ has taught us. As we live these principles, we will learn that there is no lasting happiness in selfishness and that as we give ourselves to others, our spiritual moorings will be strengthened. Pray, study, worship, serve. This is how we build the spiritual foundation to be grounded, rooted, established, settled. Be willing to recognize and acknowledge the spiritual manifestations you have already received.

Helaman 5:12 says, “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his 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, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

I pray that this may be our spiritual foundation, that when the worldly tornadoes come dangerously among us, we may stand firm.

Illustrated by Sam Lawlor