ARCO, Toys, and Noah’s Lonely Walk…
One of the oldest toys I remember owning and playing with as a child was a Noah’s Ark playset. I recall well its plastic construction, with the hull that could store all of the animals, two by two, the deck that fit in the top with a little cabin like structure and removable roof, and the ramp for loading the animals, which was detachable for when the flood came and the ark set out to sea. It would roll over in the bathtub if you were not really careful, but it was a lot of fun.
My dad got that old ark from the ARCO gas station on the corner of Shaw Avenue and Maroa in Fresno, California. I never realized the promotional value of the Ark from ARCO until just now. I remember how I would excitedly ride with him to the small service station, and after receiving full service, which was all that was available then, and with each fill-up the attendant would bring me an addition to my animal collection, a new pair of animals in a small bag. Again, I had so much fun playing with those toys and thinking about Noah and his family being saved with the animals from that great flood. Monica has similar memories with her Grandpa Charlie bringing home those same Noah’s Ark toys from the gas station. It is no wonder that when we had children, and now grandchildren, we made sure that they had Noah’s Ark sets to play with as well. They make very special Sunday toys.
I suppose between having those wonderful toys, and learning of him in some of my earliest Sunday School experiences, this is why I have long admired Noah. That old patriarch is one of the first prophets about whom most children learn. Of him it is written, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:8-9). He also built this massive ark and welcomed two of every kind of animal for a very long boat ride. What is there not to admire about Noah?
As a person of importance in history there are not many who exceed Noah. He is one of few who can be named as being a common ancestor of every person alive today. Like Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife are the ancestors of every generation that lived after them. Of his great grandfather Enoch, like Adam, it is written of Noah that he “walked with God.” Noah with his wife, sons, and daughter’s-in-law, were assigned in the wake the flood the singular responsibility to repopulate the world, and layout the foundational teaching of all mankind. But before all that, he was tasked to live a very solitary life of criticism, rejection, and the exercise of great faith and moral courage.
Noah has long struck me as a lonely figure, and as so, he, while he walked with God, he walked against the wicked practices and popular ways of nearly every other person on earth of his day. The world was a wicked place, with generation after generation being born into the darkness of evil teaching. God commanded Noah to call His children to repentance. When over many years and through much long suffering and tribulation on the part of Noah they refused and sought to slay him, God commanded Noah to build an ark.
Many have questioned God’s decision to flood the world and destroy all flesh, somehow believing that this would not be the act of a loving and compassionate God. However, this was the only act that could preserve the agency of men and provide just opportunity for those yet to be born into the world. The people of Noah’s day were given every opportunity to repent and to follow God, follow the words of His prophet Noah, but they rejected that opportunity, and our loving Heavenly Father could no longer in justice and mercy send more of His beloved spirit children into a depraved world to be lead from birth to do wrong. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, God compassionately intervened in the course of human history “when corruption had reached an agency-destroying point that spirits could not, in justice, be sent here.” It was for love of man, and all the generations who would follow Noah, that God sent the Great Flood.
“…corruption had reached an agency-destroying point that spirits could not, in justice, be sent here.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
So, in what must have been a terribly lonely time for Noah, he warned the people, he constructed the ark, he warned the people more, he boarded every kind of animal two by two onto the ark, and seven days later the rains began. The time for repentance had passed, and Noah and his family were saved with the creatures of the earth to preserve human and animal kind alike.
Many who have chosen to follow God have been required to walk alone, or nearly alone. Loneliness is one of the costs of moral leadership. Noah, like other prophets, before and since, like anybody who has chosen to do right in the face of popular condemnation and ridicule, at times had to walk alone. It is a solitary journey, often only accompanied by the Savior, and those great patriarchs and matriarchs of history’s past guiding us to our day. Nevertheless, only Jesus Christ ever was called to walk completely and utterly alone. As President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “A man who has principles has to stand up for those principles, regardless of how lonely it is. Jesus was a lonely figure. He had no home. There weren’t very many who listened to Him. He was really a lonely figure, and on the cross the loneliest of all. There goes with moral leadership a certain amount of loneliness,” (Feb. 11, 2000).
“A man who has principles has to stand up for those principles, regardless of how lonely it is. [Jesus] was really a lonely figure, and on the cross the loneliest of all. There goes with moral leadership a certain amount of loneliness,”
President Gordon B. Hinckley
The lonely walk of Noah, and those lonely paths trod by all who would have the moral courage to follow God and truth, are made in good company with the Savior Jesus Christ, and therefore well worth the journey.
We must choose as did Noah, and his wife and children with him, to follow the Lord in all things, or we put at peril our future, and the future of all who will be born hereafter. God chooses and puts His words into the mouths of prophets for us to follow. We read them in the scriptures, we hear them in the voices of those who speak on God’s behalf, and we feel them by His Holy Spirit. If we follow God’s prophets we will be on the path that He has laid out for us.
“The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked.”
President Henry B. Eyring
As President Henry B. Eyring said, “The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late.”
“Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm’s way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety” (General Conference, April 1997).
There is a children’s song written by Marianne P. Wilcock titled “Build an Ark.” It’s words inspire us to follow God as He commands and we will have safety. When Noah was given the impossible task of building an ark and rescuing a world for life to live another day, he did as he was commanded because he knew that with God all things are possible.
I can be like Noah.
Yes, I can be prepared.
I can build my ark,
and I’ll find safe shelter there.
I can do the things I know are right.
I can learn and pray with all my might.
And then when storm clouds come,
I’ll be safe within my ark.
I will build my ark before it starts to rain.
I will follow the prophet,
for he speaks in God’s name.
I’ll prepare ev’ry needful thing.
I will walk in righteous ways.
When the rain starts to fall on me,
I’ll be ready for that day.
May we all follow the word of God and be willing to build our arks, to stand with moral courage, and to walk the loneliest of roads when it is required, that we might live our day for the benefit of all those days and children of God to come. As President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote in words of song:
Oh, give me Thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from Thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to Thine eternity.
As God placed the arc of the rainbow in the clouds, a token of the covenants made with Noah, so shall He abide by all those things which He has promised if we just follow Him and walk in His light. May we all take shelter in obedience to His word, and walk in His abiding companionship, as did Father Noah, safely through the storms and into the clear day and light of His love. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.