The Enemy in the Gutter


It couldn’t come up to get me, but I could come down to it. And that was the danger.

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 11 inches 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 class every day. One afternoon, as I stepped across the thin ribbon of green lawn that divided the 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 do know 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 the Topical Guide, I found a scripture 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).

This was a formula I could use: Humble yourself, and watch and pray continually. I crossed the street in a different place now, and these two scriptures 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 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 victory is never sweeter than in the battles over self. No, I never got into any fights in high school; but with some help from the scriptures, I defeated an 11-inch magazine.

[illustration] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus