The Lord Has Made the Sea Our Path by Elspeth Young

The Lord Has Made the Sea Our Path

{ John Poulsen }
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We have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea [and] great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea...

2 Nephi 10:20-21

The story behind The Lord Has Made the Sea Our Path

John Engfelt Poulsen was born in German-occupied Jutland during the winding up scenes of WWII--"a nightmare," his mother, Anna, later described, "that lasted over five years.  It was frightening because we never felt safe anywhere...something bad happened every day."  In the years leading up to his birth, John's parents had witnessed mass shootings, reprisals, and other atrocities by the Gestapo; while also standing firm with their King and fellow compatriots in protecting their Jewish citizens from the Nazi regime.  Several months after their precious boy's birth, the couple heard their little one laugh for the first time.  It was the night that the Germans capitulated, and peace was proclaimed on the air.

While Anna and her husband did everything they could to create an idyllic childhood for their young son (and, eventually, for his baby brother, Palle as well) it was not until missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began teaching the family about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, that lasting peace and security became a permanent part of their lives.

Eight-year-old John immediately and whole-heatedly accepted the missionaries' message, and understood its power to bless.  He later recalled, "I believed in the healing power of the Priesthood ever since I was young, and appreciate my testimony and knowing that there is a life hereafter where I can be with my family forever."  John's faith was a catalyst in the lives of his parents, and together the family was baptized.

Then, trusting to inspiration and offer for sponsorship received by the senior missionaries instrumental in their conversion and baptism, Elo and Anna chose to gather with the Latter-day Saints in America and embark on a new life of increased hope, faith, and freedom.

John later wrote, "Believe me--the day I said goodbye to my school, I wished I could stay, and the day we went to say goodbye to all our close family, my grandfather could hardly speak....[As we set sail], all joined in singing the Danish National hymn.  When the ship slowly sailed out of the harbor of Aarhus, it was a solemn moment."

Despite the sacrifice and struggle of leaving all that was familiar and dear in their homeland, like another family who found refuge in the Americas, the Poulsen family trusted in the Lord, believing, "we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path" (2 Nephi 2:10).

Even so, the family prospered in their newfound faith and homeland.  John's father wrote, "It has been a testimony to me that whenever we do what the Lord wants us to--and do it in order to serve him--we will be blessed tremendously.  I know that without his help, I could not, and would not, have been where I am and what I am today.  I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to hear the message of the gospel, be able to receive it, and for having led [us] to this wonderful place on earth."  Similarly, after a lifetime brimming with experience and sacrifice, John penned these words to his grandchildren, "The most important thing I own are my scriptures.  Work hard, be honest with yourself and others.  Be an example, give service, and rely on the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost--as they will never lead you astray."

Symbolism in The Lord Has Made the Sea Our Path

The Poulsen family's passage aboard the MS Stockholm to their new "adventure" in America was by no means the first time the family had sailed together.  In the first weeks after the War, Elo (an able seaman and award-winning yacht racer) secured a carefully crafted wooden cradle to the cabin benches aboard their family sailboat so that his infant son could safely enjoy family outings down the local fjords.  The little family sailed together often, and John never lost his passion for the sea.

As a young adult, John bought his first craft and lived aboard ship both during his single days as well as during the first year of married life with his bright-eyed bride and faithful love of his life, Kathy.  Later, his tales of the sea were his daughters' favorite bedtime stories.  Within this painting, John looks outward to sea with the childlike faith that accompanied his entire life—the faith, like Jacob of old, which believes that God can make the sea a path to a better life now, and eternally.

   Note: Quotations are gathered from the collected writings of John Engfelt Poulsen (1945-2023), Anna Sorensen Poulsen (1923-2018) and Elo Harald Poulsen (1918-2015) by kind consent of the John E. and Kathryn Poulsen Family.  Spelling and punctation has been standardized.
© By Elspeth Young, All Rights Reserved. You may not print, copy, or reproduce this artwork or make derivative works from it without the prior written consent of the copyright holder. For permissions, please review our FAQ page.

From the Newsroom

Elspeth C. Young completes new oil painting - "The Lord Has Made the Sea Our Path"

By Al R. Young The Lord Has Made the Sea Our Path is the newest oil painting to be added to the line of original artworks from Al Young Studios.

Click here to see a larger image of the new painting, read the artist's commentary, and look at the selection of prints--if any are available.... Read more »

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