George Albert Smith’s grandfather George A. Smith served for many years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and in the First Presidency as a counselor to Brigham Young. George Albert Smith often repeated the counsel his grandfather used to give to his family: “There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s territory and the devil’s territory. If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch you are in the tempter’s power and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord.”
George Albert Smith said that he used this counsel throughout his life to guide his choices: “When I have been tempted sometimes to do a certain thing, I have asked myself, ‘Which side of the line am I on?’ If I determined to be on the safe side, the Lord’s side, I would do the right thing every time. So when temptation comes think prayerfully about your problem and the influence of the Lord will aid you to decide wisely. There is safety for us only on the Lord’s side of the line.”
All safety, all righteousness, all happiness are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are keeping the commandments of God by observing the Sabbath day, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you attend to your secret prayers and your family prayers, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are grateful for food and express that gratitude to God, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are honest in your dealing with your fellow men, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you observe the Word of Wisdom, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. And so I might go on through the Ten Commandments and the other commandments that God has given for our guidance and say again, all that enriches our lives and makes us happy and prepares us for eternal joy is on the Lord’s side of the line. Finding fault with the things that God has given to us for our guidance is not on the Lord’s side of the line. (“Stay on the Lord’s Side of the Line“, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith)
Stay Within the Lines
There are many decisions we can make that are neither good nor evil (such as what color to paint our house, what to have for breakfast, and so forth). But when it comes to the Lord’s commandments, there is a line between the Lord’s territory and Satan’s territory (see 2 Nephi 28:21–23;Moroni 7:16–17)
Some people think of crossing the line as something like a line in the sand, where one crosses from one side to another on an equal plane. However, I believe that when we cross the line we are no longer on an equal plane, but rather dropping to a plane that is dramatically lower. We should rather think of crossing the line as crossing over the edge of a waterfall. President James E. Faust pointed out the same thing in his talk entitled, “The Devil’s Throat“:
“As a young man I served a mission to Brazil. It was a marvelous experience. One of the wonders of the world in that great country is Iguaçu Falls. In the flood season, the volume of water spilling over the brink is the largest in the world. Every few minutes, millions of gallons of water cascade into the chasm below. One part of the falls, where the deluge is the heaviest, is called the Devil’s Throat.
“There are some large rocks standing just above, before the water rushes down into Devil’s Throat. Years ago, reckless boatmen would take passengers in canoes to stand on those rocks and look down into the Devil’s Throat. The water above the falls is usually calm and slow moving, and the atmosphere tranquil. Only the roar of the water below forewarns of the danger lurking just a few feet away. A sudden, unexpected current could take a canoe into the rushing waters, over the cliff, and down into the Devil’s Throat. Those foolish enough to leave the canoes to stand on these treacherous wet rocks could so easily lose their footing and be swept away into the swirling currents below.
“I recognize that some of you think of yourselves as daredevils, ready to take on almost any challenge. But some of these excursions for excitement will inevitably take you down into the Devil’s Throat. The only safe course is to stay well away from the dangers of the Devil’s Throat.”
Just as the current becomes more swift and strong as one moves toward the brink of a waterfall, so we are drawn by the power of the adversary as we approach “the line”. This increased pull of the adversary is explained well in Elder Bruce C. Hafen’s talk, “A Disciple’s Journey“:
“A few years ago our teenage daughter was feeling quite unsettled, asking some very honest questions, such as “Why is life so hard?” As we talked over dinner one night, I prayed like a missionary for the right things to say. After all, our children are our most important investigators. In the very moment, I received a prompting about “gravitational pull.” I grabbed a paper napkin and drew a sketch I’d never thought of before. It sparked a lively discussion…
“I’d like to share with you today the ideas from that sketch on the napkin…. Let’s call this sketch “a disciple’s journey.”
“A disciple moves from darkness into light, which increases from the dim light of the stars to the moon and then to the brightness of the sun. Joseph Smith compared these heavenly bodies with the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms. As the temple teaches, we can and should move toward that celestial light during mortality. We need not be of the world, even if we must live in the world.
“Imagine that two vertical lines separate the stars, moon, and sun into three sections. Each line suggests a major transition as we move from one stage to the next. However, our journey is not rigidly sequential. Our experiences may move us back and forth.
“Envision also two circles, each with a center point, located in stage one and in stage three. These circles represent the gravitational pull from the opposing poles of our journey. In the darkness of stage one, he who claims to be the god of this world exerts a constant force to hold us back from moving toward the light. As we cross the first barrier, we will leave the strongest satanic tugging—though he will always try to ensnare us wherever we are in the journey.
“Reaching out from the center of light in stage three, Jesus also “entices” us with a spiritual gravitational pull toward Him.”
“As soon as you start moving toward the light, the gravitational pull of darkness will immediately try to jerk you back, “for Satan desireth to have you.” He will tempt, frighten, and fight you. Missionaries know all about this. In some way, opposition hits virtually every investigator. The first time Adam and Eve taught their children the gospel, for example, Satan came among them, saying, “Don’t believe your parents.” And so the children, we’re told, “believed [them] not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.” (“From that time forth” tells us that these children chose to be devilish after the Fall, after they heard that message. They were not born devilish.)
“Satanic opposition does have great power in today’s world. Satan holds “a great chain in his hand,” which symbolizes such addictions as drugs, alcohol, and pornography—and the prince of darkness looks up and laughs at the poor souls he captures.20
“But that opposition cannot destroy us. Remember Joseph praying in the grove: an enemy power, he said, bound his tongue so he “could not speak.” Remember Moses when he first saw his grand vision: “Satan came tempting him” until Moses feared exceedingly, and “he saw the bitterness of hell.” But both Joseph and Moses called upon God, who gave them power to drive Satan away. That is a key insight: Satan may rattle us, but he cannot overcome us, for God can cast him from our presence.”
Alma 39, from today’s reading, contains the scriptural basis for today’s discussion. Although there are a LOT of things that I would LOVE to focus on in Alma 37, 38, and 39, the principle of finding safety on the Lord’s side of the line is the one thing that stood out most to me this time. It hit me hard as I came across the words of Alma to his son Corianton: “Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.” (see Alma 39:1-5, emphasis added). Had Corianton stayed away from the “borders of the Lamanites” he would have never crossed paths with Isabel. He may have heard of her, but he would have never met her. He sought her out, and he found her–among the boarders of the enemy.
Stay on “the Lord’s side of the line”! Stay upstream from the brink of the waterfall–“The Devil’s Throat”!! Stay far away from “the boarders of the Lamanites”!!! STAY SAFE BY STAYING WITHIN THE BOUNDS THE LORD HAS SET!