I was thinking that the story of Jonah, to some, may not be relatable because they say Jonah was a prophet and didn’t do what the Lord asked. However, yesterday I read (pg 70) that in the old testament when they say someone is a prophet, it means that they were called to prophesy or teach. It doesn’t always mean that they were the president of the church. So Jonah could have been an ordinary member like any of us.
Also, I see the story of Jonah as a story of agency - that we are agents to act and not be acted upon. Jonah chose to not listen to the Lord and doesn’t go to teach the people of Nineveh. He actually goes the complete opposite way. Jonah, seeing that he has endangered others, chose to be thrown overboard. Jonah chose to repent while in “hell” / inside the whale. Jonah then chose to do as the Lord commanded. Jonah chose to be irritated that the people repented and were not destroyed. Then the Lord teaches him about God’s love for all.
Jonah chose to be thrown overboard. In my view, this is an act of giving up control. Acknowledging that his use of agency has led to consequences he didn't intend. Now in the water, being tossed in the waves, Jonah's agency is limited, he's in bondage to his choice, and he is swallowed by a whale.
The whale that swallows Jonah is an act of divine love. A trial or struggle provided by a loving parent to a wandering child. It wasn't a punishment. Of course, at that moment, Jonah doesn’t view the whale as an act of love. He identifies himself in “the belly of hell.” However, the whale is likely the only reason Jonah doesn’t drown in the waves. It's an intercession. This "tender mercy" is an opportunity to reflect, change and apply the atonement.
In life, I can choose to do things my way or I can choose to try and follow God‘s will. If I choose to use my agency unwisely, I limit myself. As I choose contrary to God‘s will I will always find myself in “hell” - or in other words, I am choosing to separate myself from God and His love. However, our Heavenly Parents and our Savior, Jesus Christ, will always reach out to us when we turn our heart back to them. - "...his hand is stretched out still." When I choose to repent and re-align myself with God through the power of the atonement, I am teachable and learn of His love for me.