Football season is in full swing, and it would be hard to find a single American who hadn’t sat in the stands and watched at least one football game in their lifetime. We’ve all seen the familiar plays that bring cheers of delight, though usually only on one side of the bleachers. Fans of each team tend to sit together, and when a great play is made, a roar of approval comes from that team’s section. Every play is greeted by cheering from some direction.
So it is with us. Every time we do something, you can bet you’ve pleased one of two observers: Christ, or Lucifer. Let’s look at some examples.
You did your Home or Visiting Teaching with sincere interest and love? Christ cheers. You flaked out again and got too busy? Satan cheers.
You gave that stupid brother-in-law a piece of your mind? Satan cheers. You held your tongue, prayed for help in loving him, and set a good example? The Savior cheers.
You put in an honest day’s work even though your boss was out of town? The Lord cheers. You diddled around and then left early because no one would know? The adversary cheers.
Life is filled with such crossroads where we have a choice to make. And, going back to the football analogy, each play either advances the ball towards our own goal line, or towards the enemy’s.
There’s an extra component in real life, however: Satan even cheers the neutral plays. If he can keep you from progressing toward temple sealings and exaltation, he’s content with that. If he can merely sidetrack you and convince you that something else is an equally good pursuit (sorry, but watching excessive football games does come to mind), he’s just as pleased as if he got you to turn away from a person in need. As long as he blocks your path towards a close relationship with Christ, he doesn’t care what caused the fumble. In today’s world with so many pursuits competing for our time, Satan loves to offer an array of seemingly acceptable ones, just as long as you avoid the really paramount goals of temple attendance, sealings, and strong testimonies.
How many families would you guess chose to shop, go boating, or attend their kids’ soccer games instead of watching Conference last weekend? But we were together and it was family time, goes the story. It also sent the message to the kids that instruction from our leaders is optional if you get a better offer. Satan cheers.
How many dads play video games-yes, sometimes with their kids– for hours on end, instead of clicking on the many family history sites that could help find ancestors for temple work? But at least he’s with the kids. Satan smiles.
How many moms spend hours on end blogging, reading Pinterest, or scrapbooking, instead of teaching skills to their children that could help them on their missions, or listening to a child’s heartfelt concern about schoolwork? But I’m getting ideas for my family and my calling. It isn’t that blogging, Pinterest, or scrapbooking are bad. It’s that they can get nearly addictive, while the family misses teaching moments and chances to make lifelong, loving memories. Satan throws a party.
So how do we send Satan to the bench and turn the game around? We consciously choose things that will make Christ cheer. He is ever mindful of us, and nothing we do escapes His attention. So we read our scriptures even when life is tugging at our elbow, trying to get us to go elsewhere. We say yes to callings that scare us to death. We commit to fulfill our Home and Visiting Teaching Assignments. We ponder what our leaders say and what we learn from scripture study. We pray even when we’re tired.
We control our tempers. We nurture our children. We work on selflessness in our marriages. We reach out to serve the less fortunate in our communities. We get to know our neighbors and pray for missionary experiences. We delight in dressing modestly. We obey the Word of Wisdom. We pay our tithes and offerings. We honor our bodies and make healthy choices. We think long and hard about the atonement and repent regularly. We attend the temple often. We reach out to less active members and let them know we love and miss them.
The list could go on and on. None of these things are new, and that’s exactly how Satan hopes you’ll think. Oh, that’s just the tired old list of Sunday School answers. And it’s the very list so many people have a hard time embracing. We each know what tempts us and where our weaknesses lie. Let’s roll up our sleeves and commit to a concrete plan that helps us conquer those tough areas. Christ will cheer, Satan will wince, and that’s exactly how you want to keep it. It’s like the saying, “Live life so that when your feet hit the floor, the devil shudders and says, Dang-she’s up!”
Teach your children that even seemingly small choices can have lifelong-even eternal-impact, and no little decision is inconsequential. They all advance us in some direction. And one thing is certain: No matter what you choose, someone is definitely cheering.
Joni Hilton’s latest book, “FUNERAL POTATOES-THE NOVEL” (Covenant Communications) is in LDS bookstores everywhere.
She has written 17 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music & The Spoken Word,” many national magazines, and can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California.