Reflecting on “The Pure Stream”

What is more natural than water flowing downhill? Whether it falls from the sky, bubbles up to the surface in springs, or comes from snowmelt, water thereafter always follows the path of least resistance to find the lowest point it can. Further, by nature, the faster water flows, the more it picks up dirt from its bed and carries it along, becoming murky and unable to reflect much light.

Of course, water flowing uphill is against its nature, but that’s part of the point of the Parable of the Pure Stream. We might even say the faster we go through life, the more we hurtle forward without worrying about what direction we’re taking, the more baggage, problems, and even sins we can pick up along the way. And it can follow that if swiftly flowing water becomes clouded by particles, then water forced to move slowly because it’s flowing against gravity is more likely to remain clear.

So go our lives. In a vision, the patriarch and prophet Abraham saw that one of the central purposes of our lives on Earth is to “prove [us] herewith, to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command” (Abraham 3:25). The word “herewith” refers to the Earth itself and all of the things that come along with an imperfect and even fallen world—all of its challenges, attractions, and distractions.

Benjamin, both a king and a prophet of his people, warned that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). By “natural man,” he is referring to a person whose overriding concerns are his or her instincts, impulses, and pleasures and who does only what comes easy. In other words, the person who follows the path of least resistance. There are assuredly times in our lives, whether those have been in the past or still dog our steps, where we are tired, even overwhelmed, and don’t want to do anything hard.

When my oldest child was about six, if we were walking to our church building—a walk of of less than two blocks—she would tell me after not very long that she was tired or her legs hurt and she wanted me to carry her. Knowing she was capable of continuing to walk and desiring not to set an unhealthy pattern of doing things for her that she could do herself, I would tell her that walking when it was hard would make her legs stronger. Several years later, she beats the rest of us there and back without any trouble.

Similarly, our Heavenly Father knows what we’re capable of. He knows our spirits and minds can be master of our physical appetites. He knows we can resist the urge to take the path of least resistance. Before He gave the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus climbed said mount (see Matt. 5:1–2). Those who put forth the effort, who “flowed uphill,” and followed Him up there were rewarded with treasures of truth and wisdom. And even then, many of the things Jesus taught required doing the hard things—holding up our light where others can see it, not becoming angry with others, refraining from judging, turning the other cheek.

At times, we will lack the strength to push upward by ourselves. Having climbed the most difficult mountain that anyone ever faced through His sacrifice in the Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus Christ can lend us His power to make our own climb if we seek it.

The two lakes in the parable illustrate the opposing outcomes and destinations of our choices: a life of limited personal growth and benefit to others, or the opposite. We can choose to limit ourselves to watering a few stunted trees or nourishing a beautiful garden. It all depends on which direction we choose to flow.

Photo by Pixabay on

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