There have been some sorrowful things in the news recently. One story particularly struck me. A man who once held great trust in his church and community misused that position of authority, and the results are nothing short of tragic. To satisfy his lust, he left a trail of victims – one whom he had directly hurt and misused, and many whom he indirectly wounded (his wife, children, parents, and family, and members of his congregations and classrooms throughout the years who had trusted his council and judgment).
I stared for a moment at the photograph of him. He looked like the shell of a man who had self-destructed.
Even more sorrowful – this story I’ve described could be about more than one individual, in more than one locale. I wonder, “Why is there so much moral decay around us, and why are so many individuals and families, including some in the church, falling victim to it, being tragically scarred by it?” Most days we all find ourselves assaulted by immoral messages of some kind flooding in on us from every angle.
When Moses had the people assembled, he commanded them, “Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily. . . . Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” I especially like the phrase, “increase mightily.” I wonder just what that promise truly entails.
Then, emphasizing the command, he told them what to do. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:3-9, emphasis added).
Even today Jews wear phylacteries, where passages of the law are written on scrolls of parchment and enclosed in tiny boxes. They are bound on the left arm and on the forehead, as an ordinance of remembrance of the Mosaic law, and worn during the morning prayers. What a great physical reminder of keeping that commandment close to their minds.
Thousands of years later, one of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” In response, Jesus didn’t issue any new commandment or profound truth. He repeated the same thing, almost word for word, as Moses had said. “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (see Mark 12:28-30).
In the agony of their private realizations and recognitions of their transgression, most people in trouble end up crying, “What was I thinking?” Well, whatever they were thinking, they weren’t thinking of Christ.
I think of the disastrous example of King David, and the man from the newspaper, and a close friend from my youth – and the lesson that I take from them all is that it CAN happen to anyone. What am I doing to prevent it from happening to me?
The only real control in life is self control.
As members of His church, we pledge every Sunday of our lives to take upon ourselves His name and promise to “always remember him.” So let us work a little harder at remembering Him—especially that He has “borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows . . . , [that] he was bruised for our iniquities . . . ; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Surely it would guide our actions in a dramatic way.
I quote from Nephi, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, who was weighed down with sorrow. He answered his own cry by saying, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.” (2 Nephi 4:28)
May the joy of our fidelity to the highest and best within us be ours as we keep our love and our marriages, our society and our souls, as pure as they were meant to be.
(Some thoughts and lines of text in this posting were heavily borrowed from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s April 2010 General Conference “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul”)