For excitement, challenge, and diversion, a friend of mine used to hunt mountain lions in the hilltop areas of southern Utah. Among other things, this sport requires personal patience, endurance, and skill, durable horses, and dependable, well-trained dogs. To be effective in locating, cornering, or “treeing” a mountain lion, dogs must be completely dependable from the moment the hunt starts until the capture is finished.
A few years ago when I was visiting with my friend at his place of business, I noticed he had a beautiful hunting dog tied to the outside of his office building. As came close to the dog, I was impressed with his stature, markings, and color. I commented to the owner, “Isn’t he a beauty? How long have you had him?”
“I’ve raised him from a pup. He’s been trained since he was a few months old to track mountain lions. But now he’s got to go. I’m going to get rid of him. He isn’t worth his keep anymore,” he said with a firm and final conviction.
“Why do you want to sell a dog as alert and strong as this one?” I inquired.
To this query the wise owner, a veteran of many mountain lion hunts, said with emphasis, “You know, when I have spent months and months training a hunting dog for these outings, I expect, and demand, one thing. When we’re tracking lions, we’re tracking lions, and that’s it. My dogs, and I usually take about four of them, know this, and if one lets me down, he’s had it. Last time we were out on a hunt, moving into the mountain areas where the lions hide out, this dog was distracted by a jack rabbit and ran after him for more than half an hour.
“Later on the same day he was gone for about an hour chasing a deer. Both of these incidents were indulged in by this disobedient dog despite many months of tedious training. I therefore resolved that when I returned to the city he was no longer to be a member of the hunting expedition. He isn’t worth his feed. He must be sold.”
As I traveled back to Salt Lake City alone by automobile later that day, my thoughts turned to this experience with a master’s comment and decision about one of his dogs. The dog had lost his usefulness because he had forgotten his training and the purpose of the hunt. He could be distracted, diverted, and led in wrong pursuits.
Similarly in our daily lives we sometimes forget our goals and purposes and let distractions, interferences, and temptations lead us away from the charted courses we have been trained to pursue. It is to be hoped that we will stay close to our Master, heeding His teachings and avoiding situations that tend to lead us away.
Lofty standards of behavior will always be based upon a love for the right and walking in paths of righteousness. Wickedness in any form will never lead to happiness. We must be aware of those who will deceive and have us believe there is no heaven, there is no hell, and that the only road to happiness is marked with compromise, convenience, and momentary pleasures or pursuits. Satan is real, and he is effective. He would throw men down by his cunning. He would have all mankind strangers to God. Let us not be deceived. God lives, and through him and with him we can accomplish all things. We must not permit ourselves to become entangled in the sin of compromising our standards, but rather we must learn to avoid all the ways of Satan. His paths lead to disappointment, frustration, and regret.
We compromise our blessings, we rationalize ourselves out of the sure and eternal ways when we do not ask our God to help us continue in his paths. Often a disciple of God can best be identified by the paths he travels.
“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32.)
The Lord has promised us that he will help us in our pursuit of happiness if we will continue the quest for righteousness and follow his paths. The abundant life will be ours if we walk with his strength. If we will remember and practice the Savior’s teachings every day, Satan can have no power over us. God’s strength makes it possible for us to walk uprightly. Ammon in his comments to his brother Aaron in the 26th chapter of Alma, verse 12 [Alma 26:12], points to paths of life that bring security and insulation from devilish desires.
“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; … for which we will praise his name forever.”
Our continuing pursuit of happiness will bring us our Heavenly Father’s strength and protection. In his paths we will find security. My constant prayer is that we will all have the desire in our hearts to earnestly seek the pathways of safety by honestly keeping all of his commandments.
Let us not forget the lessons learned from my friend who taught me well about what is necessary in worthy mountain lion hunting dogs and from a God who knows well his children. Let us not forget our goals and purposes, and let not distraction, interferences, or temptations lead us away from the charted courses we have been trained to pursue.