I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter Katelyn on Saturday. As I prepared for this event, I read Samuel Brown’s excellent book, First Principles and Ordinances, where I came across an insightful perspective on the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand”:
There is a famous American story about a vision in which a man sees his life in review, matched with two pairs of footprints on a beach— one belonging to himself, and the other to the Lord. During the hardest times of his life, the man sees only a single set of footprints. When the man asks Christ why the second set of footprints is missing at the times of greatest trial, as if Christ had abandoned him when it mattered most, Christ explains, “It was then that I carried you.” I have heard this story countless times, and I acknowledge that it has been precious to some who struggle. But the core of this sentimental story is misleading. While there is no doubt that Christ will indeed carry us in our lives and is truly the author of our salvation, we ought to be skeptical about this modern tale. How could a person’s life story be told with only one set of human footprints? The Mormon version of that visionary beach would have so many footprints that it would be hard to find undisturbed sand. There would be parents and siblings, friends and neighbors, visiting and home teachers, the Relief Society presidency, the bishop and his counselors, even sometimes the young women and young men of our wards and neighborhoods. Their footprints would be all over our beach. At times of trial, the footfalls may become a stampede, the sand bearing the marks of an earnest crowd of saints carrying us forward.
I believe this illustrates quite nicely what Mosiah 18:8-10 means, and I shared this insight during a talk that I gave as part of the baptismal service. I told Katelyn that an important part of the baptismal covenant is a willingness to help carry others during their difficult times, and also to allow others to help carry us during our own challenges and trials.
For me, this is a compelling vision of what Mormonism can be.