Mutiny, Madness, Murder … and the Mouth of God

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

Hollywood has told the fascinating tale of the Mutiny on the Bounty lots of times. But few know the whole story or how it demonstrates the power of God’s Word.

In April 1789, a mutiny broke out on the HMS Bounty. The ship’s second-in-command, Fletcher Christian, decided he’d make a better leader than the captain, William Bligh. Christian and his fellow mutineers took over the ship and forced Bligh and his men onto a tiny raft. When Bligh begged for mercy, Christian bellowed “I am in hell!” and cut them loose.

Christian sailed the ship to Tahiti where they lived for a few months and then Christian, eight of his men and a group of Tahitians sailed on to a tiny uninhabited island called Pitcairn.

At first, the island seemed like a paradise. There was plenty of food and water and the weather was ideal. But their sinful human nature quickly took over.

One of Christian’s men stole one of the Tahitians’ wives and a rebellion broke out. Christian and all but four of the men were killed in the fighting. Then one of the men learned how to distill alcohol from the roots of an island plant and soon the tiny group was consumed by drunkenness and orgies. One man threw himself off a cliff while drunk. Another drank himself to insanity and threatened to kill the others until he was axed to death by the other two men. Then one of those two died of asthma, leaving only a man named Alexander Smith and a handful of Tahitian women and children.

Things looked hopeless. But everything changed with the discovery of a long-neglected item among the ship’s remaining articles: a Bible.

Desperate, Smith immersed himself in God’s word and prayer. With the Holy Spirit’s help, he decided to make some big changes. First, he destroyed the still and sobered up. Then he began to share what he was learning from the Bible with the others. He instituted daily prayer times, Sunday worship, a makeshift church and even a Christian school. The little colony began to flourish. Hate and hopelessness were replaced with love and joy.

Years later, a British ship discovered the island. The crew was shocked to find that it was inhabited by a peaceful group of English-speaking people living the Christian faith. They were so impressed that they disobeyed orders and refused to report that they had found the long-lost mutineers of the Bounty.

Here’s one of Smith’s prayers that’s as relevant for us today as it was for him and his little band of Christians:

Suffer me not O Lord to waste this day in sin or folly.
But let me worship thee with much delight.
Teach me to know more of thee
and to serve thee better than ever I have done before,
that I may be fitter to dwell in heaven,
where thy worship and service are everlasting.

AMEN