One of the most exhilarating feelings known to man is to summit a high mountain peak. Amongst the clouds, gazing off in the distance for miles that seem without end, the elevated man feels incredibly alive. Adrenaline runs through his veins as he nears the edge of the mountain face, the rush is authentic and incomparable. He is full of freedom, solace, satisfaction and invincibility. Amongst the angels and closer to heaven there is something very spiritual about a mountain summit. These feelings are the rewards for the perseverance and exhaustion he has expended in getting to the top. One foot in front of the other, mental toughness and not quitting got him there.
I have climbed a mountain or two in my day. I collect a rock from every mountain top I have ever scaled. Half dome in Yosemite, and Mt. Whitney are two of my most memorable. I remember being twelve years old and seeing the granite slab to scale near the summit of Half Dome and thinking,”there is no way!” There are steel cables built into the granite with wooden planks for your feet. I can still remember the sense of accomplishment at twelve years old when I pulled my scrawny self to the summit.
I want all of you to put yourself on top of the mountain. See if you can imagine yourself feeling what I have described. Now I pose to you a question…Once you have made your summit, then what? How long do you stay and bask in the elation of being on top? How do you feel as you head back down the mountain and have to go back to the real world? After a short while of hiking downhill the experience you just had at the summit almost seems like a dream. The ecstasy of a summit is short-lived and reality sets back in. You start to feel the aches and pains in your muscles and joints again and there is a real mental and emotional let down knowing that the best part of your hike is over. Going up seemed faster and easier because you had something to look forward to.
Unfortunately as a mountain climber you can’t spend forever on the summit. It would be really neat if those supernatural feelings could last forever. Sadly if you stay for too long most likely you are going to attract a storm and have a high chance of being struck by lightning.
The good news is that spiritually speaking, you never have to come down from the mountain top. The feelings you had of freedom, solace, satisfaction and invincibility can be felt always…on the condition that you don’t ever start back down the mountain. The promise of our baptismal covenant is that if we always remember him and keep the commandments that we may always have his spirit to be with us. The crowning spiritual achievement of our lives would be to always be under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost. This is the mountain top I am speaking of.
Many of us have climbed spiritual mountains only to descend time and time again. We trade the pleasant feelings of peace and safety of the soul at the top for the struggles, pains, and chaos of the cliff side.
As humans why is it our tendency to come down from on top? I would propose to you a few different reasons why we come down and the thought processes behind them. Is it because we are all too familiar with heartache, guilt, struggle and grief of sin and we don’t know how to handle our lives without it? Do we feel we do not deserve to be on top? Is it boring feeling only good things all the time? Or could it be the mere fact that it is lonely at the top?
For me personally as I tackle the temptations of life it seems as though a moment of peace and happiness is always short-lived. I keep thinking to myself, “I’m good now but oh no what temptation is around the corner?” , “how long can I really keep this up?” It almost seems easier to go back to what is familiar and that is to be struggling with some major issue or temptation.
I am not talking about trials or challenges that come unannounced or uninvited into our lives. I am talking now about voluntary sin…things that you could have prevented had you made better decisions.
2 Nephi 2:27 is very clear in regards to our decision-making power,
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
Those of us who are people pleasers love to tell people yes… We ares Yes-Men and Yes-Women and we are well liked…and we like it that way. Well I have lived long enough to know that I cant always say yes…Sometimes the best answer is NO.
It is essential as individuals that we have enough wisdom and self-respect in order to assess a situation and use our best judgement. Satan is constantly present in our lives and he needs to be told NO over and over and over. He is persistent and he wants you down at his level. He wants you broken, alone and depressed. He won’t make his desires for you obvious, he will lead you along slowly step by step back down the mountain before you even realize what is happening. Before you know it you will be so far from the mountain top and too exhausted that getting back on top to those feelings will seem utterly impossible. He wants you miserable and hopeless like he is.
Our response to Satan’s attempts to bring us down will make or break our lives. It IS serious. Many things that appear as “no big deal” or simply “for the story” or “for fun” are in fact crafty designs from Satan to destroy your soul.
There are two different examples from the scriptures I want to share to illustrate my point as to the response to Satan’s persistence to get you off the mountain top.
The first is the story of Lehonti from the Book of Mormon. His is a tragic story of letting himself down from a mountain top. The Book of Mormon is full of war stories between the Nephites (faithful followers of God most of the time) and the Lamanites (worldly and wicked most of the time). A very evil man named Amalickiah will represent Satan as we relate this story to our lives.
Amalickiah used to be a Nephite who became a Lamanite. He wanted control over the entire Lamanite army. At the time the Lamanites were at peace with the Nephites and as the scriptures say (Alma 47:6), “they were fixed in their minds with a determined resolution that they would not be subjected to go against the Nephites…”
A Lamanite leader of a large army named Lehonti was camped out at the time with his army on top of a mountain…
Amalickiah sent messengers to Lehonti’s camp to try to get Lehonti to come down to the foot of the mountain and get him to negotiate with him about control over his army. Lehonti knew that this probably wouldn’t be a good idea and he at first said NO. Amalickiah sent messengers to Lehonti’s camp a second and third time and each time Lehonti said NO.
When Amalickiah didn’t have success he persisted, Alma 47:12 says, “And it came to pass that when Amalickiah found that he could not get Lehonti to come down off from the mount, he went up into the mount, nearly to Lehonti’s camp; and he sent again the fourth time his message unto Lehonti, desiring that he would come down, and that he would bring his guards with him.”
Satan does the same thing with us. If he isn’t successful to get us down off the mountain at first he will come up the mountain after us. He is cunning and will tell us lies that “with our guards we will be safe” and he will relentlessly use any and every tactic, often subtly to get us down.
The story ends as Lehonti finally gives in to Amlickiah’s desires and he comes down with his guards. Amalickiah explains that if Lehonti will come down with his armies off the mountain at night and surround Amalickiahs camp that in the morning he will be surrounded and give control of both armies to Lehonti. The one condition is that he, Amalickiah, would be placed second in command afterweards. Lehonti gave into the enticing offer and everything happened as planned. The custom of the Lamanites was that if the leader of an army is killed the second automatically assumes control. So Amlickiah had Lehonti poisoned immediately afterwards and by evil design became leader of the most powerful Lamanite army.
The story of Amalickiah and Lehonti is chilling because it illustrates so well the intentions and tactics used by Satan to take control over our lives. He lies and manipulates and persistently seeks our downfall, constatly throwing temptations at us from every angle. It also shows us the tragic result of what will happen if we give into his game.
Interesting to me is that he came with his messengers in secret and wanted Lehonti to come down from the mountain at night. Doesn’t Satan operate the same in the 21st century? Also he used the lure of worldly ambition, power and status to entice Lehonti to give up his position. Three of the great temptations Satan uses to trick us are fame, money and power. It’s remarkable how Lehonti could go from being “fixed in his mind with a determined resolution” to in the end, giving in to Amalickiah and being posioned to death…All because he chose to come down. It doesn’t matter how many times we said NO before, Satan is relentless with us and all it takes is one YES for us to end up vulnerable to a deathly strike from Satan.
As tragic as Lehonti’s failure is, there are better examples for us to achieve success in the war with Satan. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the story of Nehemiah is inspiring. A devout Israelite in Persian captivity, he was granted permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the once great city of God. Up on top of the mountain walls he was ridiculed incessantly for what he was doing and people tried to get him to come down off the walls. Nehemiah’s response to the opposition over and over was was steadfast,
“And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? (Nehemiah 6:3).”
We need to be like Nehemiah, so engaged in the Lord’s work that coming down off the mountain and giving into Satan seems ridiculous. We need to decide before the temptation to come down how we will respond. We all need to make a personal decision right here and right now that, “I WILL NOT COME DOWN.”
I want to share with you a little of my life story. I was born to an incredible LDS family. I was taught right from wrong and worked to gain my own testimony in my teenage years. I went to a school without many members and I saw the ways of the world and it was easy for me to say no. I said no over and over to temptations. I left on my mission worthy and eager to serve. I hit the ground running. I was so close to heaven on my mission. Getting back home I was fixed in my mind with a determined resolution to say no to the world. I attended the temple and dated to get married but none of my relationships seemed to work out. I got discouraged and Satan started to get me off the mountain step by step, little by little. He used the lure of popularity and “the dating scene” in Provo to get me to think it was ok to make small mistakes. I didn’t fall to the bottom of the mountain but I said YES when I should have said NO too many times. Heartbreak and rejection in my life led to vulnerability and the worlds way seemed ever more enticing. Satan soon had me “off the mountain” spiritually speaking without a temple recommend. This is what he wants more than anything. The freedom, solace, satisfaction and invincibility of the mountain top are gone.
On the mountainside now he has you right where he wants you. The trail is rough…the road upwards is steep and its so much easier to continue downwards with the pull of gravity. Depression and self loathing set in because now you are not where you want to be. You were on top of the mountain and you know that is where you need to be but now it seems so far away. These are the moments that define you. It is a long road back to the top but you CAN make it. Through the atonement and by uniting yourself to the Savior, he will make the trail seem easier. Instead of feeling alone you will have someone carrying you back up that mountain. I love the analogy that the road to heaven is not a stairway but simply an elevator. Christ is the operator and all you have to do is put yourself in the elevator, which represents uniting yourself to Christ, and he will take you straight to the top. Our relationship to him is vital to getting on top of the mountain. This is the situation I am in right now. My life has been up and down spiritually for the last three years. it is not easy getting back to where I feel like I once was. It would have been much easier if I had never taken that first step back down the mountain.
I want more than anything the feelings from being on top of the spiritual mountain. The world and its cesspool of sin, heartache, depression, disease, addiction and confusion are exhausting and not worth it. One of the greatest lies Satan has is that those involved in sin are having a good time. They might put on a show that they have the life on the outside but I guarantee you that on the inside they are screaming for freedom. Most are people running from their problems, trying to numb their spiritual and emotional pains. My sister showed me a Christian bumper sticker recently that said… Repentance: Screaming to Silence.
Silence may seem boring but the inner peace is so sweet and the very reason we should want to be good. We shouldn’t be good simply to be accepted by the church, family or to receive a reward like temple marriage. Think about it hard. Why are you choosing to obey the commandments that separate you from the world? The Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom… the reason should be for the inner peace and love for yourself, your Savior and Heavenly Father at its core. All other reasons will eventually be tested and will not last unless the intentions are pure.
My family loves to go river rafting and I enjoy pulling gospel analogies from the river. So forgive an additional analogy. There is a dangerous rapid on the American River where my family loves to run called Satan’s cesspool. Falling out in this rapid is not pleasant.
Last time I went down the river my cousin Joel fell in the rapid and was tossed around in chaotic white wash. His face was pure panic. The danger of the rapid isn’t necessarily Satan’s Cesspool but the rapid immediately following, Son of Satan’s. If you fall out in Satan’s cesspool it’s really easy to swim through Son of Satan’s and it could be life threatening. Luckily for my cousin, we pulled him right back in the boat before he had to swim Son of Satan’s. If we find ourselves out of the boat, off the mountain and in Satan’s grasp… it is much better to decide to get back as soon as possible. Too many delay repentance saying they aren’t ready or not strong enough or any other number of excuses. These are Satan’s lies. The longer you wait the greater the chance of drowning further and further in sin. The truth is you are powerless and it is urgent that you get back in the boat ASAP by humbling yourself and letting the Savior perform his healing. He will pull you back in if you let him. It is much better to be in the boat then to expose yourself to the cold, swells and rocks of the ferocious river. Stay in the boat. If you fall out get back in right away. There is no other way.
It is always better to decide beforehand a plan of action to stay in the boat, rather than wait till you are tumbling overboard. What are our dating standards? Will we continue on in an unhealthy relationship that is bringing us down? Will we choose to keep the Sabbath day holy? To pay our tithing? To keep the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity that separates us from the world? What rules and boundaries will you set up for yourself and with your dating partner to ensure that you do not take steps down the mountain? Will you decide to do your home teaching? To serve in the church selflessly and sacrifice for the happiness of others? These are very real issues and they take real determination and effort in order to make them consistent habits of happiness.
How committed to staying in the boat or to go back to my original analogy, to staying on top of the mountain are we? Too often we put ourselves into the category of those in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon who partook of the fruit of the tree of life (Celestial living, peace and love of the Savior) and then fell away.
1 Nephi 8 24-28
“And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.”
The way the world is today is so far removed from the standards of the church. It has come down to a choice to live according to the worlds way or the Saviors way and there is hardly an in between. Either we decide to join the masses in drinking and sexual relationships outside marriage or we commit to monogamy and sobriety. Either we are “all in” with regards to the church or we are of the world. Do we desire a life of service in the church and sacrifice for family or are we selfish following worldly pursuits? The ways of the world are miserable. It is literally a cesspool as I said before. We can rise above all that, but not alone.
The good news is that no matter how far removed from the mountain top we may be, or how far down the river underneath the rapids… there is always a way back to peace and safety. Before I looked at the daunting Half dome face and thought, “There is no way!” But just as I found a way as a twelve year old boy to brave the cables I know that through Christ there is a way to scale our spiritual mountains. It just takes a resolve to never quit. The Savior is offering to accompany us in our hardship, even if we were once at the top and now find ourselves spiritually somewhere where we have never before imagined we would be.
As far as the way back, instead of a stairway to heaven where the Savior helps us along the way, the path seems more of an elevator. The Savior is the operator and he invites us in. Then he will take us straight back to the top of the mountain if we align ourselves with him and live His gospel. Our relationship with him is so vital to our repentance and emergence at the summit.
He has promised,
- “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”
- “For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you (D&C 64:2).”
- “He that is faithful and endureth shall overcome the world (D&C 63:47).”
In my room I recently placed the photo of Christ on top of the mountain looking over the city of Jerusalem (below). It is my own way of taking a stand. I know that through the love of the Savior I, like him, can overcome the world through consistent righteous decisions. I want the top of the mountain. “I will not come down!” Let us all choose to soar above the world today and everyday as followers of the Savior.