The story is told about a bank executive in the 1800’s interviewing three candidates for leading his horse-driven wagon from town to town with its precious load. The first candidate spoke up and said, “Sir, I can take your wagon down the trail to the base of the canyon; doing so with the wheels within three feet of the cliff’s edge.” When asked what he could do, the second young man said, “You know what…I can do the same; but I would be able to steer within one foot of the cliff’s edge.” “Both of you are very impressive”, said the interviewer. “And what can you do?” he asked, turning to the third young man. “Sir, sorry to disappoint, but I would get your wagon to the valley floor, staying as far away from the cliff’s edge as possible.” Without thinking anymore about it, the bank executive hired the third man to steer his wagon safely to its destination.
After their father’s death shortly after reaching the promised land, Nephi was quickly aware of the hatred and animosity from many in Lehi’s growing family – led by Laman and Lemuel. The two older brothers continually had a problem with the emergence of their younger brother as the righteous follower of the Lord’s way, and that he was to be their leader in this new land. Actually, they would not have anything to do with that idea, and instead sought to take the life of their younger brother. Led by the Spirit, however, Nephi and all those that also followed the Lord’s ways, fled from danger and left the presence of the older brothers. Their flight into the wilderness was a fast one, and they quickly distanced themselves from the evilness of the ones that sought their lives. When faced with evil, they distanced themselves from it as far as they could go. When driving the precious cargo down the canyon, the better-qualified driver stayed as far from the cliff’s edge as possible.
What do you do when you confront evil – whether small or large? Do you flirt with the edge, or do you distance yourself from it? Would you have stayed close to Laman, or would you have run for the hills? Many times we are stubborn, or just plain ignorant as to how closely we remain to evil people or evil ways in our lives. In my past, I had thought that I could be around my friends as they partook of activities and substances that draw you away from the Spirit of Christ. I was strong enough to flirt with the edge and not go over…at least that’s what I thought at the time! After successfully avoiding certain evils for years and years, I caved in. The adversary did not shove me towards the murky depths of the river seen in Lehi’s vision. Instead, he chose to slowly, gently nudge me towards the river’s edge. Then, while trying to keep my grasp on the rod of iron, I dipped a foot into the water, and pretty soon found myself waist-deep in the middle of the river. Wow! Before I realized what was happening, I had slipped from the strait and narrow path, holding steadfastly to the rod; and then waking up one day and finding myself drenched in the muddy waters away from the path.
Nephi was right! The only way to deal with the evil desires of some of his family was to flee from their presence, and to keep going until the distance was safe. Distancing yourself from evil is simple, but not always easy. You may have to leave behind certain friends. You may have to flee from temptations that present themselves at school. If you’ve already fallen prey to these evil designs, you may have to correct your ways – and this is often very difficult and painful to do. At your youthful age, you will hopefully learn the valuable lesson to keep the wagon’s wheels as far from the edge as possible, rather than flirting with disaster. Using another quote from John Bytheway, “It is easier to prepare and prevent, than to repair and repent.” Seminary is a forum in which you can prepare yourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically, to take on the evils that you will face every day. Sometimes you don’t even notice this battle going on in your life. At other times, it is as flagrant as ever. By reading from the Book of Mormon every day, and pondering upon what you read…learning from the experiences of the Nephites and Lamanites, you will arm yourself well enough to be strong against the evils that you encounter at school or around town. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when you’ll need help from your parents and leaders, but that’s okay. If I could share anything from my personal experience with you, I would just implore you to stay as far away from the edge that you can, and don’t even flirt with evil. Distance yourself from evil…now!