Growing up in the desert, I gained a strong appreciation for water. Whether it was conserving water at home or making sure we had enough water while camping or backpacking, I learned how vital water, especially clean water, is for life. When I was young I went on two multi-day backpacking trips with my father and the varsity scouts. On both excursions we relied heavily on spring water to survive. When there were no springs to replenish our water we had to purify our water by filtering, boiling, or using iodine tablets. The water from streams and rivers needed purification due to the various microorganisms in it, especially giardia. If we had not purified our water, the results could have been drastic and long-lasting. If we did not have water, we would not have survived the hikes, or at least would have barely survived. [Image by Hypergurl].
We preferred the spring water because it did not take as much effort to process as did stream water, which needed filtering or boiling or iodine to be pure. When we were able to get water from springs we did because the ground naturally purified the water. It was water for which we did not work hard to procure but still reaped its benefits and blessings – we were like the Savior’s disciples who were told: “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor” (John 4:38). Even though the spring water was naturally pure, we still filled our bottles as close to the source as possible, to avoid the impurities that enter once the water leaves its subterranean origin.
Many of the events in the Bible occur in deserts. The early part of the Book of Mormon also takes place almost exclusively in deserts. The Savior lived in Israel around Jerusalem, which receives little rainfall each year. Water is a precious resource. Potable water is even more precious. Because of the desert surroundings of many of the prophets in the scriptures, water plays a prominent role in many parables or scripture stories. “Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:8-9). In the desert, where water is, there is life. Because water provides and symbolizes life, it is easy to understand why so many prophets, including the Savior, referred to water in their teachings.
When the earth was created, water covered the face of it (see Moses 2:2). The Lord commanded the waters to gather together and the dry land to appear (see Moses 2:9). Water was there from the beginning. Water was used to cleanse the earth of the gross wickedness in Noah’s day. Water is used literally, metaphorically, and symbolically throughout the scriptures.