If you’ve been in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for any length of time, you’ve heard the saying “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.” There are variations, but the idea is we need to have eternal goals and then do the work necessary to achieve them. Anything else will not work.
This is an immutable law in the Gospel. Jesus Christ did what we could not do for ourselves: the Atonement and the Resurrection. What’s left for us to do? Everything we can. (2 Nephi 25:23)
We’ve been given talents and abilities by God, and we’re meant to put them to work in this mortal life. Often when we think of our earthly commitments, the big things such as keeping the commandments, making temple covenants, and enduring to the end come to mind.
However, those big things are built on the little things we do, the tedious things, the things that often try our patience and our resolve. We would probably make ONE BIG RIGHTEOUS CHOICE if it meant we didn’t have to make any of the thousands of little small ones every single day, right?
Brothers and sisters, this is where the adversary tries to nail us: by selling us counterfeits. Shortcuts to happiness. Lies, saying we can get to the end of the road without so much effort. And he is especially adept at doing this by attacking the ways we use our physical bodies.
“Because Satan is miserable without a body, he wants us to be miserable because of ours.
Your body is your personal temple, created to house your eternal spirit. Your care of that temple is important.”President Russell M. Nelson, April 2019
Think of the big ways we damage our bodies. Each of them demonstrates a way that Satan tries to convince us we can be happier if we indulge.
Drugs? There’s escapism in drugs, where people can check out of the negative physical feelings or emotions that dominate their lives. These effects are short-lived and the body develops a tolerance over time, requiring greater doses for a diminished return, often with permanent damage to the physical vessel.
Alcohol? The same principle as drugs and more dangerous because it is more socially acceptable throughout the developed world.
Pornography and Promiscuity? This one is huge. The pinnacle of physical pleasure in mortality is sexual pleasure and the Lord is very specific in how we are to share this ability. Yet Satan would have the world accept pornography, promiscuity, and a wide array of unchaste behavior as a shortcut to the pleasure associated with sex without all the work of building a relationship, committing to a marriage, and sharing a life with a daughter or son of God. Even worse, it damages body and soul in the long run, and pornography—like any other drug—requires doses of greater intensity over time.
We see this principle carry over into other indulgences the prophets have warned us to avoid, such as financial debt. So often, debt feels like a shortcut to what we want but we pay the price in interest to the financier. Even worse, we erode our impulse control when we allow ourselves to live beyond our means. If we think we can keep that confined to one area of our lives, we are wrong. The prophets would not counsel us to avoid something if it were not immoral on some level, and debt certainly qualifies.
Spiritual blessings require us to live within our means, just as much as financial stability requires it of us. Ask any accountant you know: the rules of money are hard and fast, and we are all subject to them. You may be able to create the illusion of value in the short term, but in the end, if it’s not truly there, it all comes crashing down. This same principle applies to our spirits. The positive news is the law of heaven states that when we obey God, we obtain His promised blessings. (D&C 130:20-21)
The key to true happiness in this life? We can’t fall for the trap of spiritual shortcuts which is inextricably tied to how we treat our physical bodies. It’s also tied to how we treat our time, how we use our temporal resources, and what we feed our minds. This is why God’s prophets have told us to be industrious, to focus on our families, to live within our means, and to enjoy wholesome entertainment.
We have to be careful, and deliberate. God has blessed us with scripture and prophets and prayer, all of which together can help us to see through the counterfeits that Satan offers us. Even better, God has given each of us the means to fulfill the commandments He has given us (1 Nephi 3:7.) Faithful Latter-day Saints will seek out their God-given talents, and act with patience and hope as they do the hard work of following the Gospel path.
At the end of that path, at the end of the day, at the end of our lives, only one thing will matter:
Have we done the real work?
Let’s get to it.
“Careful versus Casual” -Sister Becky Craven, April 2019
“Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts” – Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 2004
“To the Boys and to the Men” – President Gordon B. Hinckley, October 1998
“Be Not Deceived” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2004
Graham Bradley is a trucker, novelist, and illustrator. He served a mission in Barcelona, Spain, from 2003-2005. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamBeRad.