Many people recognize poison ivy by the phrase “leaves of three, leave it be.” On the campout yesterday, one of the young men was looking at a plant and said “I see a poison ivy plant, it has three leaves…wait a minute, I think this might be a 3-leaf clover.” I asked him if he knew how to tell the difference and he started to describe the physical characteristics of poison ivy. When he was finished, I told him an easier way was to pick the plant, rub it on his skin and wait a day. If he was itchy, it was poison ivy.
So how can we recognize danger when it comes into our life? How we can know when something or someone is trying to lead us down the wrong path? There are four things we must do:
- Know where we want to go
- Recognize the signs of evil and danger
- Demonstrate courage to chose the right
- Have the tenacity to endure to the end
First, we have to know where we want to go. The purpose of this life is to gain experience, receive a mortal body, and demonstrate our willingness to follow the commandments of God. Along the way, most of us will have the opportunity receive an education, have a career, marry, and raise a family. All of these things can help us on the path back to our Father in Heaven. If you don’t know what you want out of life, it is impossible to make choices to get there.
“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.'”In Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road. She asks the cat “Which road do I take?” To which the cat replied “Where do you want to go?” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Second, we have to recognize the signs of evil and danger. Satan desires one thing–to frustrate the work of the Lord. He does everything he can to destroy the creations of God. However, he doesn’t typically work in bold, in-your-face manifestations. Instead, he is very subtle and sly. He is a patient being…able to bide his time to strike his fatal blow. Nephi describes Satan’s efforts like this: “[Satan] will pacify, and lull [man] away into carnal security…and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 32:21 emphasis added).
Nephi describes these efforts of Satan as a flaxen cord. A flaxen cord is a cord made of many small threads. Think about how easy it is to break a single piece of thread. Now consider the difficulty in breaking a rope consisting of 20, 40, or even 100 threads. This is how Satan leads us to hell…one sin at a time. If we do not recognize the danger signs of sin quickly and break those things which would tie us down, we can soon become overwhelmed and feel helpless. You have to recognize the signs of evil and danger.
Marijuana is sometimes called a gateway drug. It doesn’t have the same effects as crack, meth, or heroine…but it can lead to abuse of these drugs as addicts become used to the effects of one, lesser drug, and give it up for progressively stronger drugs.
Likewise, happily married men don’t typically decide one day to have an affair. Instead, they are lead gradually to that fatal act by first viewing “harmless” pornography or casually observing other women (remember David and Bathsheba). There is danger in “just looking”!
Third, we have to demonstrate the courage to choose the right. Joshua famously declared “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It is easy to make this declaration from the safety of the pulpit or our home. Do we have the courage to make this declaration reality in our lives? When we leave our home each morning, are we ready to “serve the Lord” all day and in all things?
It gets even more difficult to choose the right when others around us…particularly those we respect…are making poor choices.
Fourth, we have to have the tenacity to endure to the end. Paul records in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” True success in life isn’t about winning individual battles, true success in life is about finishing the course…it’s about winning the war. Satan would see us destroyed by sin; led to that action by subtle temptations and poor choices. We have to share the same passion to defeat Satan that the people of Limhi showed in their fight agains the Lamanites. “…They fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight” (Mosiah 20:11).
This life isn’t going to be easy, but we conquer evil by:
- knowing where we want to go
- recognizing the signs of evil and danger
- showing courage to chose the right
- having the tenacity to endure to the end
How do we do this? How can we follow this prescribed course? It goes back to the Sunday School answers…
- go to church
- read the scriptures
- listen to your parents
- follow the teachings of Jesus Christ
I don’t want to over simplify, but it really is this easy. If you want to know the voice of the Good Shepherd, then you have to study the voice of the Good Shepherd. If you want to return to live with your Heavenly Father, then you have to practice living a celestial life now. If you want to be happy tomorrow, then you need to try to be happy today. Our actions are all interconnected. We determine our future by every action we take in the present.