The Enemy in the Gutter


I was never involved in any fights in high school. I’m glad I wasn’t. I’m not very big, and I don’t find great joy in cuts and bruises.

But one time I got into a fight walking home from school that lasted a few weeks. My opponent was only 28 centimeters tall, but this was one of the toughest battles I’d ever fought. This battle was with a magazine.

My high school was within view of our front porch, so I walked to and from class every day. One afternoon, as I stepped across the thin ribbon of green lawn that divided the school’s sidewalk from the road, I noticed an open magazine by the curb. I couldn’t tell what it was at first; then I realized it was pornographic. I quickly lifted my eyes from the gutter and kept walking toward home.

This is how the battle began. Every day as I went to school, and every day as I came home, I had to face the temptation that lay in the gutter.

As I think about it now, I wonder why I didn’t just pick up the magazine and throw it away. But I didn’t even want to touch it. What if someone saw me with it? Or what if my dad saw it in our garbage can? Or what if I picked it up and saw more than I wanted to see?

Each day my mind could come up with some pretty good rationalizations: “It might be good for you to know what’s in there, so you’ll know what’s going on in today’s world,” or “You don’t want to be a sheltered, naive little boy, do you? What’s it going to hurt, anyway? Just repent later. Who’s going to know?”

One day in seminary, our teacher pointed out that Jesus answered each of his temptations with a scripture. That sounded like a good idea.

Looking through my scriptures, I found a verse about battling temptation: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear” (Alma 13:28).

Another helpful verse came from the New Testament: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

This was a formula I could use: humble myself, watch and pray continually, and trust that God would help me find a way to escape the temptation. I began to cross the street in a different place, and these two verses of scripture helped me as the days passed with the magazine still sitting there in the gutter.

One afternoon, as I stepped off the curb, I noticed that the magazine was gone. I could tell by the appearance of the gutters that a street cleaner had recently passed by. A street cleaner—how appropriate, I thought.

God did make a way for me to escape, and together we won the fight. Curiosity, rationalization, and laziness are no match against courage, self-control, and mental toughness.

Victory in physical battles requires strength, muscles, and skill; but the fight is never tougher and the victory is never sweeter than in the battles with temptation. No, I never got into any fights in high school; but with some help from the scriptures, I defeated a 28-centimeter magazine.

[illustration] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus