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Rivers are a symbol of our progression

Published: Wednesday, May 18 2011 5:30 a.m. MDT

Last Sunday, members of the church were invited to contribute to the restoration of a swath of ground vital to LDS history.

This time the plan is to restore the area around Harmony, Pa., where Joseph Smith received revelations, translated much of the Book of Mormon and welcomed heavenly visitors.

And this time, as in the past, the sacred space is graced by a wide, regal river — the Susquehanna.

Joseph, I'm convinced, was drawn to the majesty of rivers.

Nauvoo overlooks the Mississippi.

Independence, Mo., hovers near the mighty Missouri.

Rivers run through Mormon history.

Of course, there are practical reasons for building near a river — commerce, transportation, water needs.

But there's also a spiritual aura to great rivers that beckons believers and fosters deep thoughts about our lives.

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi not only sets up his camp in the wilderness on the bank of a river, but a river is right in the middle of his dream of the Tree of Life.

The River Sidon is the most prominent landmark in the Promised Land, and the Book of Mormon speaks of "peace like a river." Lehi admonishes his son to be like a river, "running into the fountain of all righteousness."

As for the Bible, it is awash in rivers.

The Savior was baptized in one.

A river ran out of Eden.

With the help of Moses, God contaminates the river in Egypt to show his unhappiness.

Lepers are commanded to bathe in river water, and the Gospel of John quotes Jesus as saying, "He that believeth in me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

Rivers play a major role in scripture.

They are the perfect symbol for the passing of time and a metaphor for the need to progress and move ahead.

As with fire, human beings can watch a river run for hours.

Something in them speaks to the soul.

And so it was, I think, with Joseph. He spent many hours — many years — next to rivers. And so have the Saints who followed in the current after him.

"Thou flowing water pure and clear," we sing in one of our hymns, "make music for the Lord to hear."

I am excited about the new "river town" church history site.

I'm already talking to my wife about a trip to Susquehanna to see where a great river once came together with a river of revelation.

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