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Monday, February 10, 2014

18. Spiritual Land Mine #6: Conquer "The D Word"

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 18th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

I had to cry uncle.

For days, I contemplated what the next Land Mine in this series is.  I kept thinking it was _____________, which (as I now understand) is Land Mine #7.  Yet my search for Land Mine #6 seemed elusive.

Then one day, a friend mentioned "The D Word" (which does not rhyme with "dam") to me.  Then another friend.  Then I read an e-mail where "The D Word" seemed to lunge at me.  Then one of my kids mentioned it.

In a two day period, I heard "The D Word" 15 times.

So today, you read the thoughts and feelings on a topic I hadn't planned on writing about, but as it appears, somebody else did.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God" 

The Joseph Smith Translation alters the Sermon on the Mount slightly:

"Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall he added unto you" (JST, Matthew 6:38).

One of the most challenging aspects of life is remaining focused on matters of everlasting consequence.  It's not easy living in a world where the mists of darkness reign supreme, and are composed of devil-inspired distractions.  It's no wonder Elder Richard G. Scott observed, "Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction" ("First Things First," Ensign, May 2001, 7).
"Satan tempts us with alluring distractions, attitudes, and circumstances, which appear on the surface to be harmless; but as one partakes of them, the spirit slowly suffers, creating a weakened condition which can produce eventual alienation from God. Jesus told his disciples in ancient America to 'watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat' (3 Nephi 18:18)."  (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., "Second Nephi: The Doctrinal Structure," p.302).
Indeed, a disciple's duty always has and always will involve discerning and, when necessary, discarding the dross in favor of that which is of greatest worth.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking this.

In his June, 1976 First Presidency Message, "The False Gods We Worship", Pres. Spencer W. Kimball addressed the Saints by saying:
"The Lord gave us a choice world and expects righteousness and obedience to his commandments in return.  But when I review the performance of this people in comparison with what is expected, I am appalled and frightened. Iniquity seems to abound.  The Destroyer seems to be taking full advantage of the time remaining to him in this, the great day of his power.  Evil seems about to engulf us like a great wave, and we feel that truly we are living in conditions similar to those in the days of Noah before the Flood." (emphasis mine)
He went on to say that "we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people — a condition most repugnant to the Lord."

To summarize the various ways we are distracted from celestial things in pursuit of that which is idolatrous, Pres. Kimball stated:
  1. An idolater is one who sets his or her heart or trust in something other than the God of Israel.
  2. An idolater cannot be saved in the kingdom of heaven.
  3. Telling parallels exist between ancient forms of idolatry and the behavioral patterns of the Latter-day Saints.
  4. We live today in conditions resembling the days of Noah before the Flood.
  5. "We are, on the whole, an idolatrous people".
  6. Idolatry forms a grave and singular contradiction in the lives of the Saints.
  7. We must forthwith leave off our idolatry, or be damned.
  8. We must serve the Lord at all costs and prepare for what is to come.
  9. Our modern life-style, tainted by idols, contrasts the rural ideal of a generation ago.
  10. If we live righteously, the Lord will protect us from all our enemies.
President Kimball said these things nearly 38 years ago.  What do you think he'd say about our condition today?

The Road to Idolatry is Paved with Many Distractions

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says:
"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."
God is a god of patterns -- patterns which teach us not only of His grandeur and magnificence, but also how precise actions inevitably bring about certain outcomes.

In his paper "Twelve Diatribes of Modern Israel", Avraham Gileadi, PhD said that:
"Next to actual prophecy, scriptural types provide the most reliable guide to the future, particularly to the last days. Indeed, all true prophets prophesy, more or less, using types and shadows from Israel's ancient past to predict the future.  By familiarizing ourselves with the ancient types, we will know both a sickness and its cure; we will recognize our present condition and know what its outcome must be." (found in "By Study and Also By Faith, Vol 2: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley", p. 353-405)
A careful examination of these ancient patterns reveals a fascinating find: we (humanity) are repeating an ancient pattern of giving in to various telestial distractions:
  1. Worshiping of Images (including images that "turn away" people's heart from God, such as images from television, movies, and videos).
  2. Violence and Sex (the legitimizing of carnality in our culture...especially in our own homes via our choices of entertainment). This carnality now makes itself apparent -- and is legitimized -- in places where you'd least expect to find it.
  3. Rock Music (how many forms of music corrupt our souls and encourages us to descend from the divine to the carnal).
  4. Organized Sports (ancient Romans devoted so much exorbitant resources to sports, that charitable programs rated a poor second.  Today, our devotion of time, money and fanfare to sports is a replay of ancient Rome).
  5. Human Idols (when you revere, venerate, stand in awe of, extol, put on a pedestal or idolize anyone -- or those who don't dissuade/stop people from doing the same).
  6. Imaginations of the Heart (studies or desires that draw us away from God).
  7. Nature Cults (a preoccupation with parks or gardens to escape devotion toward God and humanity).
  8. Babylon (the manufacture, promotion, and sale of the works of men's hands which constitute idolatry). Babylon also makes itself apparent -- and is legitimized -- in places where you'd least expect to find it.
  9. The Arm of Flesh (trusting in any other mortal for temporal or spiritual salvation).
  10. Elitism-Pharisaism (participation in, or legitimizing, a group which places itself above, instead of equal to, another group of people.  Where authority is a badge of man-made superiority).
  11. Pollution of the Temple (by setting up man-made abominations in it).
  12. Mammon (the lure, promise or extolling of riches).
"The distraction that money causes can happen so naturally and so easily that it is hardly noticeable. One reason for this is that we do have to live in this world and we do have to take care of our finances. But the Book of Mormon prophets show us that the fine line between being industriously self-supporting and setting our hearts on riches is treacherously easy to cross. It is far too easy to begin spending most of our time thinking about money and the things it can buy. Joseph Smith taught that our concern for riches, as much as anything, will keep us from being exalted. Focusing our attention on the things of this world keeps us from focusing on God and from learning the lessons of righteousness that we have to know in order to be exalted (D&C 121:34-36). This focus generally leads to compromises of integrity that good people would not otherwise make. These compromises can be as large as fraud, but can also show up in smaller ways, such as infringing on a friendship in order to make money." (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., "Fourth Nephi through Moroni: From Zion to Destruction", p.100)
To that, I'd like to add four more distractions:
  1. Not Keeping The Sabbath Day Holy (we seek out and do many activities which do not bring us closer to God on this, the Lord's day).
  2. Our Emotions (greed, envy, jealousy, selfishness, an unforgiving heart, magnifying small imperfections, unfavorably comparing ourselves with others, etc).
  3. Busy-ness (being so preoccupied with the flurry of daily life that you fail to immerse yourself in the gospel of Jesus Christ).
  4. Not seeking spiritual knowledge (which will get you a lot further in the eternities than the NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, MLB, Facebook or Instagram ever will).
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because 
thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou
shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law
of thy God, I will also forget thy children." (Hosea 4:6)

An Invitation

If you hope to detour from the distractions and deceptions of the adversary; if you seek peace in the midst of life's storms; if you yearn for divine direction for your life, then it is vital that you learn to hear the voice of the Lord.

We inwardly chuckle at the ancient Israelites who failed to just look up at the serpent on Moses' staff and live, yet fail to do something as simple as look up to Jesus Christ and ask for His help.

Perhaps you don't know how.

Perhaps you haven't made it a priority.

Perhaps you're so aware of your personal failings, that you don't feel worthy.

Perhaps you don't really believe the Lord will talk to you, and therefore don't seek revelation.

Or perhaps you've allowed the distractions and pace of your life to crowd out the Spirit.

The Mormon pioneers faced similar physical obstacles: They battled heat, cold, hunger, pain and death.  Yet somehow, they were not deterred.  They did not let distractions on the trail or even deaths of loved ones keep them from reaching their destination.  They moved on with one focus in mind: a greater, more abundant communing with Jesus Christ.

And in reading the journals of many of those pioneers, they got their wish.  Promises were made, ordinances performed and even veils were parted to assure them that their eventual rests would be glorious in quality and eternal in duration.

So it is with you and me.
"The antidote to the distractions of the adversary is Jesus Christ.  The Savior illuminates our vision of who we are and why we are here and gives us courage to move forward in the journey toward our heavenly home. The potential reward is a Big Finish that makes Rachmaninoff pale by comparison." (Sherry L. Dew, "No Doubt About It").
Here are some things to consider in drawing closer to Him and inviting Him to direct you past the distractions:

1. Increase in your knowledge of God.
"Wisdom is in short supply in the world today because men do not know God, not even all those who preach a return to Him. Until we come to a knowledge of God, we will continue in our distraction, regardless of how much other knowledge we acquire." (Elder Marion G. Romney, February 11, 1964, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1964, p.8)
One way we can increase in our knowledge of God is reading not only the scriptures, but those who seem most important to Him.  Here's a pop quiz: Besides Jesus Christ, what prophet is quoted most often in the New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants?  And when was the last time you really immersed yourself in the writings of that prophet?

2.  Spend some time with the "General Commandments" -- the scriptures.
“People who study the scriptures get a dimension to their life that nobody else gets and that can't be gained in any way except by studying the scriptures. There's an increase in faith and a desire to do what's right and a feeling of inspiration and understanding that comes to people who study the gospel - and who ponder the principles, that can't come in any other way.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Church News, Jan. 24, 1976, p. 4).
3.  Spend some time obtaining your "Personal Commandments" -- in prayer.
"We should find an appropriate place where we can meditate and pray. We are admonished that this should be 'in your closets and your secret places, and in your wilderness.' (Alma 34:26.) That is, it should be free from distraction, in 'secret.' (3 Ne. 13:5-6)" (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, "Prayer", April 1977 General Conference)
4. Ask the Lord for His help in identifying your vulnerabilities in terms of [a] the characteristics of an idolater (see Pres. Kimball's speech here) and [2] the nature of telestial idols (see Dr. Gileadi's paper here).

5. Repent - All. The. Time.
"The disciple is called to proceed along the strait and narrow path without distraction. All have sinned. All have come short of the glory of God. All have need of repentance. Thus all of us, to some degree, have taken brief detours from the gospel path, detours that cost us time and opportunity." (Robert L. Millet, "An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship", p.79).
6. Spend some time communing with God in the temple - a sanctuary from the distractions of the world.
"Sometimes our minds are so beset with problems, and there are so many things clamoring for attention at once, that we just cannot think clearly and see clearly.  At the temple, the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can 'see' things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known." (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, p.181)
7. Always remember the adage, "Put the Lord first, and He will show you what comes second."

In Conclusion

I know how incredibly hard it is to keep your eyes focused on eternal goals (as Dr. Gileadi stated, "true worship exists within an extremely narrow compass") while refusing to be derailed by the distractions of mortality.

I fail at it constantly.  Constantly.

Yet as you well know, the Lord gives no commandment unless he prepares a way to keep it (1 Nephi 3:7).

Even if you fail at deviating away from the devil, Christ will always be there offering you His nail-imprinted hand to help you up and out of the distractions.

Surely our seeking to obey the FIRST commandment -- to love the Lord with our whole heart, and soul, and with all our might -- will receive untold and even unanticipated amounts of aid so that you can prepare yourself to overcome Spiritual Land Mine #7...

...wherein you will be able to perform a miracle.


  1. You have summarized what is one of my biggest sins, er, shortcomings. Perhaps my biggest one. Perhaps the one I need to pray most diligently over, according to Ether 12:27.

    Trouble is, if I start to make real progress on this, I start getting proud of myself, thus the reference to Ether.

  2. Awesome, thank you! I think a great deal comes down to this. Can we weed out enough of the world and its distractions to truly focus on the Savior and His teachings? I'm working this out for myself right now. It's challenging, to say the least. Especially in this world that sees so many of these distractions as valuable and even desirable uses of our limited time. Definitely takes wisdom to learn what the Lord would have us each do.

  3. "Put the Lord first, and He will show you what comes second." I love that!

    Great thoughts in this post and reminders of all the distractions. It's good to reflect on them again. Brother Gileadi explains Isaiah so clearly. He is my favorite. Is that the prophet most quoted?

    I woke up today, and reminded myself to turn to my religious reading first, as I will then be able to handle the land mines for today. I read everyday, but sometimes it is later. It's better if I do it first (and later too) life is such a battle! I've really been working on hearing the voice of the Lord to me, and those distractions you talk about really do interfere. But so do the other voices (my own and the devils that create fear).

    thanks for all your words.

  4. Very good post -- thank you. I've discovered recently that if I'll question myself as to whether what I'm planning on using my time toward is "single to the glory of God" -- or if I'll try to focus my time and energy on His glory -- that the distractions fall away quickly and it's easy to see what I should be doing.

  5. Thanks for a great post. I have used Dr. Gileadi works for myself and when I taught seminary. Knowing vs. doing is still hard and it was a good remainder of "distractions".

  6. Your first point on the worshipping of images calls pornography to mind. One who engages in this most definitely is most definitely is engaging in a form of worship.