Look unto Him in Every Thought
Adapted from a keynote address by Sister Jones at BYU Education Week on August 21, 2018.
We are constantly bombarded with enticements. Companies pay billions of dollars every year to entice us. Enticements come in the form of billboards, TV ads, and ads on our electronic devices. We also experience many personal enticements that may come as temptation to do wrong or as happiness and encouragement to do good. Enticements are a part of our daily lives. How we choose to deal with them can make all the difference in how we live.
Several years ago I was driving to the temple one lovely spring morning. I had my scripture CDs playing, the sky was a glorious blue, the birds seemed to be singing “Oh, how lovely was the morning!” (“Joseph Smith’s First Prayer,” Hymns, no. 26) in four-part harmony, and I was on top of the world as I drove down the street. It was one of those rare perfect mornings—until I suddenly noticed a number of cars ahead of me being pulled over by the police. Before I knew what was happening, I saw flashing red and blue lights in my rearview mirror. I was caught in a speed trap, and I was guilty. My heart sank, my pride was dashed, and, unfortunately, my biggest worry was that someone I knew would see me!
As the very kind officer finished writing out my ticket, he handed it to me and cheerfully directed, “You have a good day, ma’am!”
“Have a good day”? How could I have a good day? I was amazed at how quickly feelings of darkness, failure, and shame washed over me.
My immediate thought was “How can I go to the temple now? I’m not worthy to be in the Lord’s house.”
I turned my car around and began SLOWLY driving toward home. My own thoughts were separating me from the Spirit. My mind quickly began listing all my personal weaknesses as I mentally beat myself up. I had truly been enticed. I had made a mistake—one I could make restitution for and learn from. Yet I was allowing myself to slip into darkness. But in this one particular instance, instead of continuing this negative berating, I came to myself (see Luke 15:17).
I decided to pour out my heart in prayer to express my love to my Heavenly Father and to ask Him to forgive me for choosing darkness after getting the ticket and to help me see with spiritual eyes what was really happening.
In those few moments, a loving Father helped me see that I was allowing lies to enter my personal temple. Receiving a speeding ticket had nothing to do with my worth as a daughter of God. In that moment, I longed even more for the light, refuge, and peace of the Lord’s temple. I turned my car around, and through my tears, I was once again on my way to my original destination, watching the speedometer with great care.
I have learned through this experience and many others that this life is perfectly designed to give us all the opportunities we need to grow “spiritual muscles” and, through patience and dependence upon our Savior, to become like our Father in Heaven.
Inherent in every enticement to do wrong is a spiritual growth opportunity. This is no doubt a reason Nephi’s brother Jacob counseled us, “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose” (2 Nephi 10:23).
When enticements come, and they will, Jacob is effectively saying, “Be happy! You have agency and you can choose your reaction to everything coming your way—whether it’s the bad driver in front of you, the teenager coming home after curfew, the bills piling up, the pneumonia that just won’t go away, or the washing machine that just quit working. They are all there for our spiritual growth, if we can see them for what they really are—and be grateful.
As I have reflected on my experience of the ticket on the way to the temple, I recognize I had two choices: I could keep up my shield of faith, chock it up to experience, learn from it, and continue on my way to the temple. Or I could have let the police officer and the ticket ruin the rest of my day. In choosing the latter, I would have said in effect to the officer, “Here, sir, here’s my agency. I give it to you freely. Now you control me and all my emotions. I now choose to have a lousy day.”
As we make a daily effort to overcome our enticements, we begin to experience greater control in our lives. The little things don’t bother us as much because we see them for what they really are—opportunities to turn to our Heavenly Father and to become as He is.
Joy D. Jones is the Primary General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She enjoys playing with her grandchildren, temple and family history work, cooking and nutrition, hiking, and camping. See more insights from Sister Jones on her Facebook page.