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For the Youth: To Avoid Your Enemy, the Devil By Marcia Hammond Ogden, Meridian Magazine, Thursday, April 10, 2014

Would you like the good news first or the bad news? Letfs get it over with and go with the bad. The bad news is: you are growing up in a telestial environment, a sex-saturated environment that does not support Christian values. I grew up in the 1950s, a fairly terrestrial environment that supported basic Christian values such as abstinence before marriage and fidelity to onefs spouse after.

I grew up watching television programs such as gLassie,h gFather Knows Best,h and gLeave it to Beaver.h You are growing up with such programming as gAdult Swim Channel,h gForensic Files,h gFamily Guy,h and gGlee,h and others that are mildly to extremely crude or graphically violent entertainment.

Todayfs telestial culture accepts many alternative lifestyles. It stresses more about whatfs in its food than its sexual habits. People obsess about hormones and antibiotics in their meat, or whether the produce is organic or not. There is little concern for or discussion about sexually transmitted diseases.

I grew up in the most prosperous times in American history. I have never wanted for anything in terms of clothing, food, education, religious freedom, and safety. I never thought I would live to see a 9/11 or a tsunami that killed over 300,000 people. I had hoped to have passed the baton onto another generation to experience the latter-day cleansing periods, but now it seems that I might possibly experience the collapse of the worldwide economy and who knows what else it will take to get people to repent.

President Packer has said repeatedly that we are now living world-wide Sodom and Gomorrah. Evil is embraced by the majority throughout the earth. Elder Christoffersen says we cannot hope that the future will resemble the past either economically, politically, or socially (gMoral Discipline,h Ensign, November 2009, 105-108).   So we are headed into the white water rapids. But, there is good news.

Doctrine and Covenants 138:55-56 teaches that we all received our first lessons in the pre-mortal world. We were instructed there as to how to navigate our particular circumstances and time on earth. We know how to confront this growing evil. We know how to carry out our callings such as Primary teacher, Relief Society visiting teacher coordinator, Elders Quorum instructor, or bishop. We know how to be mothers and fathers. We know how to defend the faith, spread the gospel, and stay strong in the face of deteriorating social values and a disintegrating society.

More Holiness Give Me

My husband presided over the Guatemala Missionary Training Center from 2006-2008, instructing nearly 1500 missionaries during that time. We taught them not to fear, that they knew how to be missionaries. They just needed to work hard and be obedient to get the Spirit to remind them of their first lessons in the pre-mortal world.

We had about thirty-four groups of missionaries pass through that Central American MTC. To every group I asked, gWhat is our purpose here on earth?h Almost without exception they answered, gTo get back to Heavenly Fatherfs presence.h I would then ask, gIf our purpose is to get back to Heavenly Father, why then did we leave Him in the first place?h That led to a deeper reason for being on earth. We are here to become like the Father and the Son. In the pre-mortal realm we desired all that the Father had: His kind of body, His power, His love, His glory. We wanted to be like He is. Hence the name of the Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day what? Saints. We sing, gMore Holiness Give Me.h What is the inscription at the entrance of every Temple? gHoliness to the Lord.h We must become celestial before we can occupy a celestial realm.

That is why it is so urgent that we repent today and every day. Sometimes we think we can have some fun now and repent later, maybe just before we go on a mission or get married in the Temple. Although repentance is always available, we can lose our ability to repent, or our desire to repent. If we are not becoming like God we are becoming like the one who hates us, our adversary. By our daily choices we are being changed into one being or another.

Which Realm Do You Want to Live In?

Who occupies the telestial realm? Those who are unrepentant murderers, liars, cheaters, thieves, adulterers, pornographers, fornicators, etc. Who occupies the terrestrial realm? Those who are honest, good, and faithful to their spouses. These people do not lie, cheat, steal, look at pornography or commit adultery or murder. They are the honorable people of the earth. Who will occupy the celestial kingdom? People who are honest, good, and faithful to their spouses. They donft cheat, lie, steal, commit adultery, view pornography or kill.

What then is the difference between celestial people and terrestrial people? Celestial people are valiant in their testimony of Jesus. God is first in their lives. For terrestrial individuals, God is second; hobbies and careers come first. They consistently give the crumbs of their time to their callings, or the time that is left over after they have satisfied their own desires for fun or advancement.

If the prophets counsel members to be modest, celestial individuals scramble to wear appropriate tops, higher necklines, less revealing clothing, and longer skirts. Their dress for sacrament meetings and Temple attendance reflects their reverence and respect for the Savior. They dress and groom their hair in a humble manner that does not cry out, gLook at me!h

When the prophets counsel members to avoid any entertainment in music videos or movies that contains profanity, graphic violence, nudity, crudity or the suggestion that sex before marriage is good, those who aspire to a celestial glory donft see most of todayfs popular movies. They know that yesterdayfs R-rated movies are todayfs PG-13 movies. They disregard the ratings and choose to follow the Lordfs standard as outlined in the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth.

Those qualifying for a terrestrial realm ignore prophetic counsel and find themselves saying frequently of their attire and the movies they view, gItfs not that bad.h Well, there is a kingdom for gItfs not that bad.h Itfs a good place. Itfs the middle kingdom no one ever thinks about. Because of their Protestant heritage some members think in terms of heaven or hell. They know they arenft worthy of the worst kingdom; therefore, they most certainly must be headed to the best, forgetting that there is a middle kingdom for the honorable, good people of the earth who did not put God first in their lives. Terrestrial individuals prepare for Sunday lessons the night before class after the latest sport or entertainment event, giving the crumbs of their time to their callings.Celestial qualifiers prepare a week ahead, giving the best of their time, talents, and resources to building the kingdom of God on earth.

The Work of Satan is All Around Us

Do you know what Satanfs misery is? Our missionaries always said he was miserable because he didnft have a body.  I suspect that he and his followers commandeer many earthly bodies. How else can we explain the horrendous acts carried out by fellow human beings upon one another? The lawyer of the man who beat his wifefs little four-year-old then left him to die, tried to get a lighter sentence for him by declaring that he suffered from gmultiple personality disorderh (that happened in Utah, in the spring of 2010). I immediately thought of the Savior who had cast out multiple devils from some individuals.

Other missionaries said Satan was miserable because he couldnft be with God. Actually, he hates God and doesnft want to be with Him. Satanfs misery stems from the fact that he cannot have a family. He will never feel the tender embrace of a wife, or be able to read a story to a little girl, or play ball with a son. He will never take a daughter to the Temple. He is miserable because he has no family. He seeks the same misery for each of us, and he doesnft need to make us telestial people to win that battle. He just needs to keep us from being valiant in living the commandments. If we are casual about the commandments and prophetic counsel, we qualify for the terrestrial kingdom.

Is there marriage in the terrestrial or telestial kingdoms? No, there is no marriage. There are no family relationships. Only those who can be trusted to foster righteousness—a desire to be strictly obedient—in an eternal posterity can enjoy eternal marriage and family relationships in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.

What is it that will give you the determination to be strictly obedient? President Eyring stated that what you are becoming will be your greatest strength in facing temptation. He said, gYou gain strength from what you are, not just what you knowh (gInspiring Students to Stand Strong Amid the Torrent of Temptationh Church News, August 18, 2001, 5).

Lessons from Daniel in Iraq

I was chatting with our oldest son, Daniel, on the phone not too long ago. He lives in Washington D.C. where he translates Arabic for the government. Hefs part of the team that helps keep Americans safe. He was single (though he has since married).  

Daniel said that he was exposed to pornography at the age of twelve. A boy at school had brought a magazine that he showed to others. Daniel never looked at that stuff again. He said, gIfm so glad I never went back for more when that boy in my class showed us those pictures. To this day I can still see some of those pictures in my mind. Can you imagine how gross it would be to have your head full of images, and not just one or two? How could you ever get that stuff out of your mind?h

Ten years after that incident he found himself in Iraq. He had enlisted with the Utah National Guard Military Intelligence and had graduated from the Defense Language Institute in Arabic. In Iraq he often went on raids with marines and other soldiers to find documents. He helped bring up the rear of the convoys. The other soldiers would raid the homes and offices, then rush the documents back to Daniel and others who would translate what had been found.

On one occasion the soldiers dumped a cell phone in his lap and asked him to look for any material that might be useful. Daniel flipped it open, turned it on and began to view a video clip. Within two seconds he realized he was into a clip of pornography. He snapped the phone shut and tossed it to a buddy, telling him he wasnft going to look through that stuff. Daniel told me he had felt totally disgusted at what he saw in the two seconds he had the phone on.

Where Do YOU Draw the Line?

My question to you is, gHow can you get to a point where those kinds of things donft tempt you; where breaking the law of chastity would not be possible?h Do you remember what Moses said to Satan when Satan came along and invited him to try a cigarette, and to watch inappropriate entertainment, and to waste valuable time twittering people, or to date too early, or to date exclusively, or that it was okay to get intimate with his girlfriend because they loved each other, or to wear that short skirt? Okay, Satan didnft try to get Moses to succumb to those particular temptations, but Satan was, in essence, asking Moses to worship him by participating in the excitement of his world.

Moses replied, gWho art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory that I should worship thee? Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God. Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begottenh (Moses 1:13-16). In other words, the things you are inviting me to do donft seem that fun or interesting. They feel dark to me.

Why was Moses able to recognize his specific temptations as evil? Why were those things disgusting and not tempting at all? Moses knew he was a son of God. He knew who he was. And he had been viewing the glories of God to such a degree that he couldnft be tempted. Can you get to a point that Satanfs world is not tempting? How can you view Godfs glories such that you couldnft be enticed by Satanfs invitations? If you understand your purpose here on earth you will recognize how that purpose helps you in resisting temptation.

Youfll notice when you read Alma 5 that Almafs questions have nothing to do with how much you know but who you are becoming. He asks if you have been spiritually reborn of God; if you have received His image in your countenances; if you have experienced a mighty change in your hearts. Your stake president and bishop ask similar questions when they interview you. They arenft concerned with how much you know about the law of chastity. Instead they ask if you are morally clean. You answer, gI am.h They never ask how much you know about the law of tithing; instead they ask if you are a full tithe payer. You can answer, gI am.h The same is true for the Word of Wisdom. You can answer, gI am,h when they ask if you are fully obedient to the Word of Wisdom. Did you know that gI AMh is another name for the Savior? Your greatest strength, then, will derive from who you become.

Spiritual Rebirth

Not long ago I was in San Diego to help my daughter with the birth of her third son. Karsten entered mortality by way of much pain. Present at his mortal birth were the same elements present at our spiritual rebirth. There was the water that bursts from the amniotic sack.  There was the blood from the labor and pain. And there was the light into which he emerged to breathe and begin his mortal journey.

Did you know that newborns canft see for some weeks after birth? They can track you as a shadow but they canft distinguish faces. They are completely reliant on their parents for sustenance and protection. They also donft care who holds them, and they donft even know who is holding them. Around 4-6 months of age they begin to get picky about who wants to carry them around and will howl if they donft trust you or you are not their mother or father. Thatfs what your Heavenly Parents hope you will do when invited by untrustworthy influences to break the commandments. They want you to howl and run.

Similarly, your spiritual eyes are not fully open right after your baptism. Baptism is just the beginning of your spiritual growth. It allows you to enter the kingdom of God. You will be progressing towards your Temple endowment which—through your faithfulness—will allow you to enter the highest degree in the kingdom where God resides and reigns.

It is the love of the Savior and the deep gratitude for His Atonement that opens your eyes to reality. You must find ways on a daily basis to feel that love and gratitude. If you donft, you will burn out with the commandments. Youfll find them restrictive. Youfll view them as Laman and Lemuel did, gLook what the commandments do to me,h instead of as Nephi, gLook what the commandments do for me.h

A brother in our ward got up in testimony meeting and said, gWhen I was growing up I knew the Church was true; I also knew it was not fun.h He persisted in keeping the commandments because he admired so many of the adult ward members. He grew to love things he formerly thought were boring. Today he is a chaplain in the United States military.

How does accepting the restrictions of the commandments make you free? Isnft it interesting that as Satan whispers to you to rebel against God and His mortal leaders—to be free—he is taking you captive and making you less free.

How much freedom does a young man have who wonft study in school or do his homework? His choices for attending colleges and universities will be limited. His career choices may be small. If he rejects the Word of Wisdom in favor of the freedom to smoke and drink or do drugs, his health will be compromised. I have a loved one who is only twenty-nine years old and has to take medication to calm his damaged nervous system. He abused drugs for years. He has no job skills and finds himself competing for jobs with college graduates who will take any job since there are fewer available. How free is that? How liberating can it be to have sexually transmitted diseases because you chose to ignore God when he told you through his prophets not to have sex before marriage?

To be continued