There have been recent references by our leaders comparing the church to a boat in stormy seas, and that we need to stay in the boat. If the church is being compared to a boat, I would hasten to say from my experience that it should be compared to a ship, and in particular an aircraft carrier.

While there is no legal definition of the difference between a boat and a ship, it is mostly agreed upon that a ship is much larger than a boat  

About 15 years ago I got to take the helm of a 509 ft, 9200 ton US Navy Destroyer. I only had the conn for about 30 minutes. We were in the middle of the South Pacific, so there was little chance of me as a civilian getting in much trouble. But I did have to keep the same course, which required several slight corrections due to wind and current. Each one needed a very slight turn of the rudder, which then took time for the ship to actually turn. Once it was turning, I had to anticipate when I needed to straighten it back out, because if I didn’t, I overshot the turn, and then needed a counter turn to undo my first overshot turn, etc, etc. Needless to say my exact course for that 30 minutes looked like a bunch of small “S-turns”.

Stopping a ship this big was no easy task. Normally you would start slowing down miles before your needed the reduced speed. But the ship I piloted above has an emergency stop procedure called a “crash back”, where it can stop in about three ship lengths. This is done by reversing the pitch in the screws (propellers) while keeping them spinning in the same direction. This is quite exciting, and requires a warning to the crew to “hold on”. I’ve done it a couple of times during sea trials on new ships.

Everything I said above about a 500 ton destroyer can be multiplied by 10 when compared to an aircraft carrier. It takes several miles to stop carrier, and lots of anticipation for turns.

If we look at the church as a large ship, it helps us understand why it does what seems like short sighted or even stupid things. It has so much momentum, that it takes months/years to slow down, or change course.

Take for example the calling of missionaries. I just had a friend’s child called to a South American mission, reporting the the Argentina MTC in July! I’ve heard others getting calls to Europe, including Italy, with reporting dates this summer. So one could argue that it is too hard to stop this whole missionary thing. But I think they could stop it, but then once it is stopped, it would be very hard and time consuming to start it back up. So they let the ship (missionary callings) just carry on, with the momentum carrying it forward.

While very few countries in the world are going to accept missionaries from the most infected country in the world before there is a vaccine, the ship (church) has decided its easier to just keep calling them, and then postponing them in increments, then to do a “crash back” and stop the whole thing. Once stopped, it would probably take a year or more to get back up to speed. Also, once stopped, some (many) of those kids will go do other things, like jobs, school, marriage, and will not ever go. I personally think that is the reason they don’t stop calling missionaries.

What other examples can you see where the large unwieldy ship metaphor applies? What changes (course corrections) have you seen in the church that seemed very late, but makes more senses once you recognize the momentum behind the “Good Ship Mormon”?