Sunday, June 24, 2007

Avoiding Temptation

Today I felt the talks in Sacrament Meeting were excellent. They were both on “avoiding temptation.” Both speakers gave many examples of why it is better to avoid temptation rather than taking it head on. Several stories were related including this one related in a talk by Elder Robert B. Harbertson:

Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley. There he fasted, and on the third day he decided to test himself against the mountain. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders, and set off to climb the peak.

When he reached the top, he could see forever, and his heart swelled with joy. Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke: “I am about to die. It is too cold for me up here, and I am freezing. There is no food, and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.”

“Oh, no,” said the youth. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite me, and I will die.”

“Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you.”

The youth withstood for a while, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass. Suddenly, the snake coiled, rattled, and struck, biting him on the leg.

“But you promised—” cried the youth.

“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away.

I really like this story. In my life it certainly seems like when I have reached a peak there is some temptation that looks enticing. However, no matter how enticing it looks, I know what it is and what the consequences of following the temptation are. Sin is sin. The consequences do not change for anyone, though it may involve a different period of time for the consequences to manifest themselves for each person.

A better question might be: “How do we avoid temptation?” rather than simply stating: “avoid temptation” and hoping it all works out. Fortunately, the answer is found in the scriptures. Alma, in the 13th chapter 28th verse of the Book of Mormon wrote: “But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering”

I see several important points in this verse. First is “that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord”. It is important to prepare to speak with the Lord (though this does not mean we should avoid speaking with the Lord until we are justly prepared, then we might never pray!). I certainly am not going to go before my boss with a problem or my findings without preparation. He knows I can do better and I will have not used either of our time wisely. I think the same applies to our Father in Heaven. When we are prepared to speak with our Father in Heaven, we will get the most out of it.

After preparing, we are then ready to “call on his holy name”. Our Father in Heaven is literally our father and is concerned about our everyday life. He does not want us to succumb to temptation.

Once we have prayed, Alma tells us not to stop there but rather to “watch and pray continually”. It is important to pray, but the fact that “watch” comes before “pray” seems significant to me. Our Father in Heaven certainly loves us and is entirely willing to help us. However, we must do our part. In fact, we must do all that we can. As we all will be saved, or resurrected, however where we go once our body and spirit have been restored depends upon our works. James taught: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (New Testament | James 2:26).

So once we have done our part, defined by Alma as: humbling ourselves, praying, watching continually, and praying continually, then we are promised a great bounty of blessings:

1. That ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear
2. To be led by the Holy Spirit
3. Humility
4. Meekness
5. Submissiveness
6. Patience
7. Filled with love
8. Long-suffering

This is what I love about this scripture. When we do our part, not only are we blessed with not being tempted about what we can bear, but we are richly blessed abundantly with God-like qualities. This world would change so greatly if everyone sought humility, meekness, submissiveness, patience, long-suffering, and to be filled with love.

The Apostle Paul gave a more visual representation of how to avoid temptation. In his epistle to the Ephesians he wrote:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins agirt about with btruth, and having on the cbreastplate of drighteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of apeace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of afaith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery bdarts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of asalvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (New Testament | Ephesians 6:13 - 17)

When we do as Alma taught, humbling ourselves and watching and praying continually, we literally arm ourselves to resist temptation. We are prepared for a situation that may have been unavoidable when we will be tempted. This is paramount because such a situation will absolutely occur!

In the Book of Mormon there are many wars. One of the great leaders of the people of Christ’s Church was Captain Moroni. He often used strategy to completely avoid fighting battles in war. In Alma 55 Captain Moroni had wine delivered to guards holding his people captive. Once the guards were drunken and asleep, Captain Moroni’s people threw weapons over the wall to his imprisoned people. In the morning when the guards awoke, they were forced to release the

ir prisoners. Thus Captain Moroni avoided any bloodshed by having a strategy or a plan. We can also strategize to avoid temptation. By creating a plan of how we might avoid situations where we might be compromised, we can instead be free from sin and draw closer to God!

Another strategy Captain Moroni used was to improve his cities with weaker defenses to be

ing exceptionally strong. In Chapter 49 Alma tells us how Moroni took the City of Noah, “the weakest part of the land” and made it one of the strongest cities held by his people. This vast improvement was accomplished through the work of improvement.

I know we can make those things that are weak in our lives become our strengths. I testify of it. Although it is certainly not easy, piece by piece, brick upon brick, it is possible. For it is written: “How great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!: (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 18:13).

This begs the question, how do we change so that we might avoid temptation and so weaknesses can become our strengths? There is one place we can always go for the help we need. This song, I Need Thee Every Hour continues to come to me. I know there are answers within its lyrics:

1. I need thee ev’ry hour,
Most gracious Lord.
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford.

I need thee, oh, I need thee;
Ev’ry hour I need thee!
Oh, bless me now, my Savior;
I come to thee!

2. I need thee ev’ry hour;
Stay thou nearby.
Temptations lose their pow’r
When thou art nigh.

3. I need thee ev’ry hour,
In joy or pain.
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.

4. I need thee ev’ry hour,
Most holy One.
Oh, make me thine indeed,
Thou blessed Son!

I know that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know me and every other person more personally than we likely can even comprehend. I know Jesus Christ will be there when we are in need, especially to avoid temptation and we look to him. I say this, knowing it is truth, in all humility, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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