In this lesson, our objective is to “come off conqueror.”
A conqueror, according to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, is “one who gains a victory; one who subdues and brings into subjection or possession, by force or by influence.”
What are we supposed to “conquer”? What victory are we seeking? Who or what are we called upon to subdue and bring into subjection?
These questions have two answers. First, “pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (10:5).
The second answer is like the first: to conquer Satan, we must conquer ourselves. This means mastering our desires.
The word “desire” appears eight times in Doctrine and Covenants 11. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation” (11:8). Like any tender parent, the Lord is interested in what we are interested in. He wants us to have the desires of our hearts if they are righteous. And in the end, we will be judged as much by what we have desired as by what we have accomplished: “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:8–9).
I have a friend with a testimony. He served a mission and was married in the temple He is a good man, a hard worker, and a helpful neighbor. We’ve had a lot of good talks over the years. Unfortunately, his church activity is sporadic. He spends his weekends doing sports. His family has disintegrated into unbelief and indifference. He says, “I know I should be active in the church . . . but I just can’t work up the desire.”
Isn’t that the question for us all? As the Savior asked his disciple John, “What desirest thou?” (D&C 71:3). What do we desire? As Alma asked the people at the Waters of Mormon, “What is the desire of your hearts?” What is it in our heart of hearts that we truly desire?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions” (“Desire,” General Conference, April 2011). As we study this lesson, we should analyze our desires because what we desire turns into what we choose to spend our finest energies on.
For example, do we desire joy? Do we desire revelation? If so, the Lord promises, “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness” (11:13-14).
Do we desire to bring our families and others to Christ? “If you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (11:21). “Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God” (11:3).
Of course, desire must lead to action: “Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in their sickle to reap” (11:27). Still, desire comes first. So, the great question is, How do we develop the desire to “thrust in the sickle” and reap while the day lasts? What if our desire falters, as in the case of my friend? What if we “just don’t feel like it”?
What if we feel too tired, too distracted, too burdened with care to acquire “good desires”?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks answers this question by recounting the story of Aron Ralston, a hiker faced with death who had to decide what was most important in his life:
“How do we develop desires? Few will have the kind of crisis that motivated Aron Ralston, but his experience provides a valuable lesson about developing desires. While Ralston was hiking in a remote canyon in southern Utah, an 800-pound (360 kg) rock shifted suddenly and trapped his right arm. For five lonely days he struggled to free himself. When he was about to give up and accept death, he had a vision of a three-year-old boy running toward him and being scooped up with his left arm. Understanding this as a vision of his future son and an assurance that he could still live, Ralston summoned the courage and took drastic action to save his life before his strength ran out. He broke the two bones in his trapped right arm and then used the knife in his multitool to cut off that arm. He then summoned the strength to hike five miles (8 km) for help. What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire! When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.” (“Desire,” General Conference, April 2011.)
The vision of his own little child filled Ralston with an intense, hard, clear desire for which he would give anything. Likewise, the vision of my own beloved family fills me with a deep desire to do what I can to ensure their eternal happiness. And I suspect that is true of you, too.
We develop that intensity of desire to follow the Lord when we realize what we have to gain—or lose. Crucially, we must remember that Satan is filled with desire—an insistent desire—to destroy us. He is single-minded. His desire is unquenchable. “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation,” the Lord warns, “for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (3 Ne. 18:18). Our desire for eternal life must outweigh Satan’s efforts to deny it to us.
As the Lord indicates, the practical step to attain that level of desire is to pray for it. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To achieve our eternal destiny, we will desire and work for the qualities required to become an eternal being. For example, eternal beings forgive all who have wronged them. They put the welfare of others ahead of themselves. And they love all of God’s children. If this seems too difficult—and surely it is not easy for any of us—then we should begin with a desire for such qualities and call upon our loving Heavenly Father for help with our feelings. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:48). (“According to the Desire of Our Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21.)
It is not only appropriate but essential that we “call upon our loving Heavenly Father for help with our feelings.” In this way, we begin to “educate our desires.” Declared President Joseph F. Smith, “The education then of our desires is one of far-reaching importance to our happiness in life” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 297). How do we do this?
Educating desires, Elder Neil L. Andersen has said, “is not a once-in-a-lifetime job. It requires not only constant preparation, but also constant nourishing of desires that are noble and eternal, while discarding those that are unrighteous and evil.
“Educating our desires also requires strengthening and fortifying them through scripture study, prayer, obedience, and righteous experiences” (“Educate Your Desires,” Conference of BYU Investment Professionals, September 2011).
If we will do these things, we will “come off conquerors.” And as the Lord says, “Then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you (11:17).