Steamboats and Wharves

by | Dec 23, 2022

painting of steamboat on a river

Authentic Joseph Smith (No. 2)

Part of the Joseph Smith, Jr. Series

All blue quotes by Joseph Smith (unless otherwise noted).

From Wilford Woodruff’s diary (February 1844)


Thick of Thin Things

While addressing Nauvoo’s civic problems regarding steamboats and wharves, Joseph observed people and society. See if you notice this dynamic in your life and the people around you. He said:

“Shallow drafts intoxicate the brain.”

shallow: lacking in depth, knowledge, thought, or feeling

drafts: ideas, schemes, design

In other words, people get wrapped up in trivial pursuits, plans, and causes. The result: it clogs the brain waves and their ability to see and accomplish greater things.

Elder Uchtdorf

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught something quite similar:

We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.

Those who favor “thin things” sometimes tend to reject those who strive for higher, better outcomes.

Shawnie Cannon (one of my best lessons in life)

Perhaps A Bit Frank

This is a bit frank, but this may help some of you. In my personal life, I’ve been in church callings and planning sessions with other people where the time is busied away with addressing minutiae and protocols that have little long-term value – and entertained at the expense of structuring more significant outcomes. These kinds of good people mean well, but as Joseph notes – their sights and focus are interrupted and hijacked by smallness. (But they dote on it…)

Reflecting back, I realize how much the tendency to focus on tedious, small issues frustrated me. For example, with those kinds of people, I would feel fettered and shut down by frequent rejection and disapproval of my bigger ideas and energetic contributions. I didn’t really understand why that kind of response happened; I couldn’t put my finger on the cause or the dynamic until I read Joseph’s words. Like a rush of wind, everything was clear.

I realized by nature, I am a “go big or go home” kind of girl. And those tendencies are sometimes not well-received by others. Perhaps it also impinges on others’ priorities of minimizing their load. Nonetheless, now I realize there’s no stigma from not fitting in or experiencing that kind of response because it’s not personal. They would respond to anyone with that kind of passion and enthusiasm in the same manner.

There were a significant number of Saints who reacted to Joseph in this way, and it frustrated him. He would have given them more and done more for them. (See JS No. 1 for his remarks about that.)

Thankfully, Joseph’s insight into the effect of ‘shallow drafts’ is a perfect lesson for me. Allowing tedium and minutiae to fill our headspace prevents greater inspiration or more prosperous outcomes. Those who favor “thin things” sometimes tend to reject those who strive for higher, better outcomes. This awareness has helped my mindset and blessed my path moving forward.

Joseph Is the Best

I love Joseph Smith! As well as being a mighty prophet, he spent time conquering civic and secular obstacles. His keen observations about the nature of people bless us almost 200 years later.

I’m currently reading a book called “The Words of Joseph Smith,” and Joseph’s words, even when talking about wharves and steamboats, make a STELLAR read!

Note: usually, the book costs a small fortune because it is out of print. But I found it on Kindle, bundled with other books for $10. The downside is the electronic version is hard to navigate when trying to read the footnotes and editorial notes – which contain some of the best reading of the whole book. So I use Kindle bookmarks a lot to help with that flaw. Just a tip and a heads up.

(P.S. I receive no compensation for any recommendations – I like sharing!)

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