To some it may seem strange to see ships of many nations loading and unloading cargo along the docks at Portland, Ore. That city is 100 miles from the ocean. Getting there involves a difficult, often turbulent passage over the bar guarding the Columbia River and a long trip up the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
But ship captains like to tie up at Portland. They know that as their ships travel the seas, a curious saltwater shellfish called a barnacle fastens itself to the hull and stays there for the rest of its life, surrounding itself with a rocklike shell. As more and more barnacles attach themselves, they increase the ship's drag, slow its progress, decrease its efficiency.Periodically, the ship must go into dry dock, where with great effort the barnacles are chiseled or scraped off. It's a difficult, expensive process that ties up the ship for days.
But not if the captain can get his ship to Portland. Barnacles can't live in fresh water. There, in the sweet, fresh waters of the Willamette or Columbia, the barnacles loosen and fall away, and the ship returns to its task lightened and renewed.
Sins are like those barnacles. Hardly anyone goes through life without picking up some. They increase the drag, slow our progress, decrease our efficiency. Unrepented, bulding up one on another, they can eventually sink us.
In His infinite love and mercy, our Lord has provided a harbor where, through repentance, our barnacles fall away and are forgotten. With our souls lightened and renewed, we can go efficiently about our work and His. Through His atonement comes an endless, abundant flood of grace. Sin can't live in that sweet water. But we have to make the effort, through repentance, to get there, and the trip can be difficult and turbulent.
That's what Lehi, nearing the end of his life, was trying to tell his sons. To Jacob he promised:
". . . thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
". . . And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
"And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
"Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
"Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered." (2 Ne. 2:3-7.)
Salvation is free. From the beginning, from the fall, the way was prepared for the Savior's atoning sacrifice to break the bands of death for all men.
But there is a law. Men were taught it, were taught to know good from evil, were given the freedom to choose.
Our Savior is a God of justice and of mercy. By law is justice served. By His atonement we receive mercy, available to all in an unfailing flood.
But, by the law, only by crossing the bar of repentance, by coming with broken heart and contrite spirit, can we shed our barnacles in the waters of His atoning grace. Those who don't, remain miserable forever.
To those who do cleanse themselves and live as the Lord taught, in virtue and with Christian love to all men, comes the greatest of all promises: Confidence in the presence of God. (See D&C 121:45.)