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”?
I know that the metaphor “The Old Ship Zion” for me doesn’t feel very appealing. I much rather be on a cool ship like the one in the OP. Don’t really understand the analogy to an old ship. It gives me the mental image of having to hose water out of it all the time….which is not a very positive image.
Never been on a ship. But as a young teenager I lay in the bottom of a fishing boat in the mouth of the Columbia River, vomiting for 8 hours or so (mostly dry heaves of course) before dad was willing to stop fishing. I don’t much like the boat metaphor. It’s no wonder some people really want to get out.
Yesterday commented to a friend that General conference was a letdown because there was hardly an acknowledgement of the real world issues most everybody faces right now. I think most GAs wrote their talks months ago and for whatever reason didn’t or couldn’t change topics unless you were very senior (maybe Q15).
I also commented to my friend that now is the perfect time for women to get the priesthood with so many women stuck home without a man who hold the priesthood. No course correction yet.
I’ve been on a cruise ship only once – it was a floating city with ~4 thousand souls on board. I can’t imagine facing the terrible choice of leaving the ship or possibly drowning. That comparison works in the church’s favor. A more apt comparison might be that if the OP – do you stay on course or anticipate a needed change in direction, including in your personal life.
The Church is more like a fleet of ships at war. Turning and stopping is much more complicated than it is for one ship. As well the fleet can only travel as fast as the slowest ship. Some of the ships in our fleet are in areas where the members are mostly new. This is why the Church has reduced and simplified our worship service, and the content of our lessons.
Some members can make sorties out from the main fleet like this web site for example, but the further they stray the more risk they incur. But like all metaphors, this one isn’t perfect. Only the Church jettisons those who stray too far. Of course, the Church could improve this metaphor if it didn’t do this.
I generally think the Church has pretty good people on the Watchtower (or Crow’s Nest in this case) and are generally able to make pretty good course corrections as they see the need (and possibly for reasons those on the deck will never know for now). Still, I do think the Lord allows the Church to figure things out on its own more often than we may think.
The first thing that came to mind reading your analogy was the physical and mental health of prospective missionaries. It took a very long time, but I think the Church finally realized that a mission isn’t for everyone, and has made major improvements in their screening processes overall. I think this slow correction is understandable. Missions can largely be awesome experiences. I served in one of the lowest baptizing in the world and still had a blast. Even if the Gospel was taken out of it, it would still have been a powerful experience. Beyond simply spreading the Gospel and gaining converts, I could see how leaders would want nearly everyone to have this experience purely for their own growth. But such an experience isn’t necessarily in the best interest of every individual and those they associate with. It took a while, and there certainly is no spotlight on it even now, but I think they have admitted some people are better off taking a different path.
Aircraft carriers, at least in the US Navy, are nuclear powered. Shutting down a nuclear reactor is a challenging and dangerous process, and best avoided. Starting one up is also very challenging and time-consuming. Another lesson in organizational inertia here–sometimes it feels like the right thing to do is to maintain the status quo, no matter what is going on elsewhere in the ship. Even if the exposure to radiation is slowly and invisibly killing you.
A real-life example is the 1978 removal of the racial restrictions. The Church was several years behind the curve on civil rights because inertia makes it incredibly difficult to undo 100+ years of “this is the way we’ve always done things”. The process by which that revelation came to be took years, and change ultimately came after the organization was being squeezed by lots of pressure from inside and outside the organization. But in order for change to begin, Spencer W. Kimball first had to look inward and examine and challenge his own prejudices that were largely a product of his turn-of-the-century upbringing.
It takes a lot of time and effort to make a 180-degree turn in a large ship. But after the ship is turned, the crew still has to plot a new course and perhaps make significant changes to the ship’s mission, since they aren’t going where they thought they would be going anymore. It also causes crew members question why they had been going in the wrong direction for so long.
I’ve gotten the sense that this ship we’re supposed to stay in is actually on land and the warning for us to stay in it lest we drown is nothing more than a scare tactic. Nothing dire or devastating in real life will happen to anyone just because they stop going to church. Church is nothing more than a place that people can voluntarily participle in if they so choose. No one needs to feel obligated to it.
Seems to me if Heavenly Father is in charge and communicating directly with the church’s leadership there shouldn’t be any turning around necessary. And yet an uncomfortable degree of the church’s policy or lack of action stands against basic decency and fairness. How can this be?
The analogy just doesn’t work. To wit, the Good Ship America, floating the capitalist seas. COVID-19 required the good ship America to completely change course. In CA where I live, effectively overnight, though in some states slightly less quickly, we completely changed the way we live. If the Good Ship America, 330 million people strong, can change course so quickly, surely the 15 million member Good Ship Zion could also do so.
I got the sense at GC that the feeling is that this will be over soon. Just fast and do some family history and before you know it temples weddings and missions and 2-hour block church will be back. I think this is why they aren’t concerned about brainstorming ways to get the Sacrament to the widows (via facetime was my recommendation), keep calling new missionaries, and aren’t cancelling June temple weddings. As this continues to draw on into the summer, perhaps we will see more changes.
I agree with Jack on one hand. On the other hand a month or so back church was cancelled, and temples closed. How long did that take.
It looks to me like if RMN said women can hold the priesthood, his obedient 14 would say what a great prophet we have. Whatever RMN says goes. The only inertia is RMN. And possibly the Oak holding him back.
I realize your question is more rhetorical in nature, but I’ll take a stab at it. How can this be?
1. Mortality is just as much a test for Church Leaders as it is the rest of us. I think for it to be otherwise would be highly unfair. Although I think the communication line is open a good chunk of the time, I think they still have to struggle to get confirmation on decisions they’ve made like the rest of us have. From time to time I’m sure they’ve acted before asking. I’d like to think the Captain would be willing to step in before His new crew hits the rocks, but I imagine He’s fine letting them hit a few rough spots now and then if it gives everyone involved better sea legs.
2. Maybe much of the world is actually changing directions while the ship is still on course. Numerous times (many of them being on water) I’ve experienced that phenomenon where you suddenly feel you’re moving backwards but only because what’s immediately in your field of view is moving, and not necessarily where you plan on going. Google calls this linear vection, but I could have sworn there was a different term for it in my psychology class. I think many of us fall victim to a spiritual form of linear vection from time to time.
3. It’s a ship that prides itself on getting its passengers (current or potential) to the desired destination. Ideally this would entail planning the most efficient route and allow smaller boats and life rafts to intercept it along the way. Occasionally there may be large groups of people who only become aware of the ship and destination after it has departed their port. Without sacrificing the end destination nor the general nature of the ship, going back for these new passengers is likely in everyone’s best interest. Another example that comes to mind are converts from Shintoism. My understanding is the church used to not allow them to be baptized if they showed any inclination whatsoever of still worshiping their ancestors. Later, as long as they recognized their relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior and met the basic temple requirements, they could be baptized. I’ve heard they do Family History work better than most members.
Sorry Chadwick, didn’t see your comment before I wrote mine.
The Church solution ro the virus is fasting and prayer. Which is less damaging than disinfactant, but is it any more effective.
I said at the time that this was risky for the church because it is measurable. You can look at the figures and tell whether the fast worked.
I am amazed no one is evaluating the success or otherwise of the fast. Why not?
I’m not sure the American analogy works either. The ship may have turned on a dime, but it ignored many of the engineering specifications (civil rights) in the process, potentially resulting in a number of hard to find cracks in the hull that are going to need to be addressed sooner, rather than later. And while it may be able to miss or skim the rocks (Covid 19), it may be turning into the corral reef (economy). Guess we have the option of a new crew every two to six years, however. I imagine something similar could happen with the Church, but a single revelation could mostly have all cracks (real or perceived) welded immediately to the satisfaction of most members.
My ward council this morning attributed the fact that states are starting to plan easing restrictions on the success of the fast. I don’t know what the actual data show, but we Latter-Day Saints are prepped to take credit for it.
bdb, on the day of the fast April 9 America https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
435000 cases 15000 deaths and this is expected to reach between 60,000 and 100,000 deaths.
On 25th America has 987322 less 119000 recovered cases and 55415 deaths. You are still having over 1000 to 2000 deaths a day.
It is way too soon to reopen. You will have a second wave, if the experts are right.
In Australia with 26 million people, we have 1051 active cases, and 83 deaths. No deaths today. Our government has just introduced a phone app that uses bluetooth to see another phone. If either of the phone users are diagnosed with covid the health dept can access their phone and contact anyone that has been near for 5 minutes, so they can be tested. Enhanced Tracing.
We are just starting to reduce isolation, very carefully.
If we multiply our numbers to your population you would have 13,663 cases and total deaths 1,079 with no new deaths today. In reality you had 868,323 and total deaths 55,415 today 1157 deaths.
Someone in leadership has made decisions or something in your system has caused an extra 53,000 deaths, and more to come. Accountability?
Take credit for those figures?
Eli, perhaps the difference in consequences (53,000 deaths) are a result of different values being put on economy, and civil rights. Either community safety or individual rights.
@Geoff-Aus. Sure America-wide numbers are bad, but only Utah matters when testing the efficacy of an LDS fast, right? Plus, the fast is only responsible for any positive change, not negative ones.
(I’m not saying the fast was a bad thing, I participated in it, but to my fellow council members it must be seen as driving a successful covid outcome, not matter what actually happens afterward)
Genuinely curious what civil rights you have lost. My general understanding is that what we are doing in America right now is mostly voluntary. Meaning we the people have chosen to do what it takes to save lives. While some governments are starting to re-open, many people are still choosing to stay home. Ultimately we get to choose how we respond.
Have you ever been stuck on a boat in rough waters and you couldn’t wait until you could step on land again?
Bdb, Are you saying it is not possible to negatively evaluate the result of a fast, even if they are negative. Its a test of faith?
@Geoff I think my attempts at sarcasm are falling short.
And I do think, for some segment of the church, it IS impossible to negatively evaluate the results of the fast. (I’m not in that segment, anymore)
Ultimately, in my mind, this is not about economy and rights vs. lives. It’s about lives. It bothers me many fail to see that. Everything I’ve researched so far shows the medical community is still largely split on this virus. Nearly no one still, as far as I can tell, has a real denominator at this point, though antibody tests are starting to give just a small idea, which as far as I can tell has been promising. I’ve also seen articles stating that by avoiding immediate herd immunity we may likely end up killing more people in the long run.
But I’ve also glanced at a few numbers and stats that have tracked eventual suicides linked to hard times, and those numbers scare me as well. There are other mental health issues and their related side effects that that will likely come into play with time. The expertise of the medical community, however conflicted it may be, ends with medicine. A few have overlapping mental health domain, but nothing beyond that. I think we need to broaden our scope a bit. You and I may be lucky enough to maintain social isolation for some time without detriment to ourselves, and save a few lives because of it. I feel like it will be poor consolation for the two kids down the street whose dad committed suicide because he was unable to provide.
Ideally, I’d love to see a future where the world (as in families and businesses) is willing to save up and put a little aside so that when something like this happens again, it can pause for a few weeks, then pick up again without missing a beat. It’s probably wishful thinking. The ship of the world could definitely use some extra reserves.
My state hasn’t been all that bad, and I’m grateful things have been done mostly on a local basis. I do feel for the rights of others, however. I don’t understand why a state would allow Walmart to stay open but not the smaller, local business owner down the street providing similar services. Heck, the latter could probably do a better job keeping the store clean than Walmart. I don’t see why a guy keeping himself hundreds of yards from everyone has to be arrested for not being home. I have heard more cops are starting to refuse the demands of political leaders, which hopefully serves as somewhat of a wake-up call. And yes, I’m glad many can choose to stay home. I recently chose to, despite being given the opportunity to do otherwise.
One of the things that many of us are not aware of is the affect on third world countries. For example Australias near neighbours of Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
Indonesia is a muslim country with 270 million people. America now has 56000 deaths, predictions are Indonesia could have 150,00o deaths, but they already have that number of deaths from TB each year. Though how many will be recorded? Their health minister said they all pray 5 times a day, so should be good. Fasting anyone?
Then there is Africa with a population of 1.2 billion people.
bdb I did hear some sarcasm, and sent some back.
As what Churchill called a “Former Naval Personage” (USMCR, and briefly officer candidate), I was taught that a boat was a vessel small enough to be stowed aboard a ship. The exception would be the modern submarines, which are still called “boats” in a nod to tradition (they used to be carried out to sea by tender ships) even though they’re quite large.
You gave me quite a rush of nostalgia – I once briefly had the conn of the Spruance-class destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford. Unfortunately, I never got do execute a crash stop. 🙂 I had the helm of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) once, too, and have some idea of the distance involved in making a turn in the world’s largest warship.
Your analogy is an apt one, and I would add to it that the ship has an enormous moment of inertia, but once exceeded, things can go Tango Uniform in a big hurry. It takes a lot to get there, but if the Ike takes on more than about 15° of roll, she’ll capsize. Although I’m certainly one of those advocating for change in the church and that right quickly, I think that leaders, especially general leadership, are looking at the “roll indicator” when they contemplate changes, in the fear that major changes will push the Good Ship Zion past the capsize point.
I think that might just show a lack of faith, but who am I to judge?