The Poetic Corner: Forward Or Back

Forward or Back

another misadventure

another portion of your history gone wrong

you just wanna tear out the page

but the ink has stained too long

you think it’s sunk too deep

a second chance is long gone

so instead of forward

you turn back

no longer working on things you lack

your faith, your hope, your charity

you shun the things that set you free

and try to find the answers in

the lack of light and your favorite sins

the habits you have yet to break

the thoughts you hate and the words you say

they make a slave of you each day

but the key, you see, is not to look back

it’s to keep pressing on

finding faith in the Lord, not in the world

and before long you’ll find a change is in place

the things of your mind

and the pace of your heart

will begin to take part in the plan God has set

to make you like Him and erase your regrets

to put off the slave who causes you shame

to set yourself free

and take the name of Christ upon you

a new way to live

a beacon for truth

spreading the love of God to all

and it all begins on the point you now stand

move forward onto the rock of Christ

or back into the sand

Agency is something that we all possess. We are agents unto ourselves, meaning that we can choose how to set the course of our lives. God has given us this free will so we can be properly tested. He will not force us to choose good, but instead we must actively pursue Him and seek Him out.

We’re all guilty of the person described in the poem. At one point or another, or on multiple points, we have turned back to sin during hard times for a temporary “comfort.” Of course, there really is no comfort in sin. We convince ourselves that we need it and make exemptions through anger, sadness, loneliness, hunger, tiredness, etc. In consequence, we put a stop to our spiritual progression. We put spiritual chains upon ourselves and make ourselves into slaves. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is often referred to as the “natural” or “carnal” man.

King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, talked about the natural man and the agency of man. He said,

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

The natural man, or the inclination within us to disobey God, is an enemy to God. To solve this, we must “put off” the natural man. Shun him. Shed him from us as a snake sheds its old skin.Howis this done? Number one, through the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ, and two, by “yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” Instead of following the instinct to do evil, we must listen to our conscience, the secular world’s term for the Light of Christ within us.

It’s a small, subtle influence, but a very powerful influence as well. We can feel it when we go to church, when we open up and read the word of God, when we do service for others, etc.Thatfeeling is what we must seek for and, as King Benjamin reminds us, we must rely on Christ. Only through Him and His power can we change ourselves. Not just our behavior, but our hearts and our minds. We must become, as he says, like a child. He even lists some attributes for us to help us understand when we are beginning to change.

I know that through Christ and by submitting ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can change. We can root out the natural man and become a saint, a true example of a disciple of Christ. When hard times come, don’t turn back to bad habits. Don’t look for comfort in sin, or comfort from the world. Seek the comfort that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He can give you the strength to overcome all things and move forward, not back.

Coming Off the Mountain

The Book of Mormon is overflowing with stories we can relate to and learn from. One I’d like to share is the story of Amalickiah (Uh-mal-i-kye-uh) and Lehonti (Leh-hone-tie). Amalickiah was an evil, blood-thirsty, power-hungry man. All he wanted to do was become king of first the Lamanites and then the Nephites, so that he could bring everyone into bondage and under his control. He accomplished half of his designs; he did take the throne of the Lamanite king. He had to do a few things though, before he could accomplish that goal.

The first thing he had to do was take control of Lehonti’s army. Lehonti and his men were Lamanites, and they didn’t want to go up to battle against the Nephites. So they went up to a mountain and refused to fight. Well, the Lamanite king gave Amalickiah an army and commanded him to battle Lehonti. But Amalickiah had other plans. In Alma chapter 47 verse 10 it reads,

And it came to pass that when it was night he sent a secret embassy into the mount Antipas, desiring that the leader of those who were upon the mount, whose name was Lehonti, that he should come down to the foot of the mount, for he desired to speak with him.

The embassy went up three times, and each time Lehonti refused to come down to the foot of the mountain. They were fixed with a determineded resolution that they would not be made to fight against the Nephites. Amalickiah wouldn’t give up though. Since being straightforward didn’t work, he decided to try something a bit sneakier. In verse 12 it reads,

And it came to pass that when Amalickiah found that he could not get Lehonti to come down off from the mount, he went up into the mount, nearly to Lehonti’s camp; and he sent again the fourth time his message unto Lehonti, desiring that he would come down, and that he would bring his guards with him.

Lehonti decides to go along with it and comes just a little ways down the mountain. Amalickiah tells Lehonti to surround his men during the night, and that when they wake up in the morning, he (Amalickiah) would surrender his army to Lehonti, on the condition that Amalickiah would be made second-in-command.

Lehonti agrees and surrounds Amalickiah’s army at night. When they wake up they become afraid and decide to join with Lehonti’s band. So… how does one become leader if he’s second-in-command? Easy. He kills the leader. Verses 17 to 19 read,

Now it was the custom among the Lamanites, if their chief leader was killed, to appoint the second leader to be their chief leader.

And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.

Now, when Lehonti was dead, the Lamanites appointed Amalickiah to be their leader and their chief commander.

Amalickiah had cleverly played out his entire scheme, and it worked. So what are we to learn from this story? For us, Amalickiah is Satan. We are Lehonti. Satan wants us to come off our mountain. He doesn’t want us to stand in high places, places of spiritual security. He tempts us, sometimes in obvious ways. Sometimes he tells us to come directly off of the mountain. This usually doesn’t work. When something is obviously wrong, it’s easy to just say no.

That’s when Satan gets tricky. He tells us to only come down part way, and bring our guards. When Satan can’t get us with obvious things, he tries to bring us down in small, subtle ways.

Just a litte bit, it won’t hurt. Just this once, it’s no big deal. You can stop anytime. No one will know.

These are all things that Satan tries to put into our heads. He’s clever, and sometimes we’re tricked, as Lehonti was. Lehonti fell for the trap because he let his greed get the best of him. We often do the same thing, allowing our physical appetitites to distract us from the gentle cautions of the Holy Spirit. Lehonti’s decision cost him his life, and it was in degrees. Our own decisions to give in to Satan’s traps can lead us to spiritual death, and it is often in degrees as well.

May we learn from this lesson. Be watchful and aware. Satan is always tempting us, trying to get us to come off the mountain. We must ignore him and instead listen to the voice of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ. When we build our foundation on Jesus Christ, listen to the Holy Ghost, and pray continually to our Father in Heaven for strength, we cannot fail.