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Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the book “Sisters, Arise!” by Lynne Perry Christofferson. The book is available at Seagull Book, Deseret Book, and

It’s one of those rare evenings: nobody else around, no meetings to attend. You’re caught up on your laundry and current church assignments (total fantasy, of course). After standing on your feet most of the day, you’re craving a warm, relaxing bath. You start the water running in the tub, making sure it’s good and hot because you intend to soak for a full hour. Just as you turn to prepare yourself for the bath, [you hear the buzz of your phone from the bedroom.] Habit propels you [toward the phone] where a glance at the caller ID tells you that this call cannot be ignored.

Ten minutes later, you’re congratulating yourself on keeping the conversation short, when you remember the running water. You dash back to the bathroom, frantically turning the knobs of the faucet. Whew! The nearly overflowing tub is just waiting for you. But there’s a problem. You notice steam rising and realize that the water is scalding hot. The tub is full, so adding cold water is not an option. Neither is plunging your arm in to release the plug and drain a bit out. You decide to wait five minutes. Surely by then the bath will have cooled enough that you won’t be risking serious burns. The seconds crawl by. Your aching muscles are crying out for a soak and will not be silenced.

So…you dip one foot in the water. Aaugh!! It’s painfully hot! How about the tip of one toe? In and out quickly, again and again. Then more toes. The process is tedious, but worth it because now you’ve got a whole foot in the water and the delicious warmth is spreading. It takes several minutes more to ease in all the way, but it’s sooo heavenly. You wish you had time to make this a nightly ritual. A quarter of an hour later, you’re beginning to doze when you gradually become aware that the water has cooled noticeably. Drowsily, you drain a bit out and then you reach for the faucet, turning on a thin stream of steaming water to make yourself comfortably warm.

The moral of this story? She who eases into evil will find herself in hot water.

What a startling phenomenon. Had you jumped into the burning tub when you first saw it was full, you would have screamed and scrambled out immediately, likely in tears. But toe by toe by foot by leg you were able to enter the water—even finding it soothing. Soon, you found that you needed more of the hot stuff to maintain the desired temperature. The spiritual application is obvious.

It is crucial that we understand so we recognize areas where we may already have a toe or foot in spiritually dangerous waters. The descent into evil can be so gradual as to be nearly imperceptible. Satan is no fool. He doesn’t tempt with shock treatments. Rather, he patiently persuades us, by degrees, until we find ourselves firmly in his territory. “…and thus the devil cheateth [our] souls, and leadeth [us] carefully down to hell.” (2 Nephi 28:21)

How often have we heard or said, “It was such a great movie…except for that one scene?” For some unaccountable reason we assume that spiritual poison is acceptable in small doses, while we wouldn’t dream of ingesting insecticide or motor oil—not even a spoonful. What if we collected all those seemingly insignificant scenes, spliced them together, and watched them as a full-length film? No doubt we would be horrified and offended. Yet, one questionable scene at a time, we become desensitized to the evil right under our nose. We forget that in the long run, the effects of being poisoned by degrees can be just as deadly as a single heavy dose.

One of the greatest dangers we face in these high tech latter days is the threat of becoming desensitized to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Once this occurs, it is just a matter of time before we begin easing into evil. In speaking to a group of Nephites, the prophet Jacob described some of their women this way, “…whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate…which thing is pleasing unto God…” (Jacob 2:7)

Though words like “tender” and “delicate” might describe something very fragile, we must not equate them with weakness. Jacob was referring to pure minds and fine-tuned spirits—the kind that operate on the same frequency as the Holy Ghost—enabling these Nephite women to discern His promptings. Make no mistake; any woman in possession of these qualities has access to tremendous spiritual power.

We become desensitized to the gentle whispers of the Spirit when we allow ourselves to be overexposed to all that is loud, intense, and fast paced…Frequent exposure to these kinds of thrills can be addictive and damaging to our spirits. We’re exposed to sensory overload for an alarmingly high percentage of our waking hours, saturated with sound waves and visual stimulation. Have you ever attended a concert that left your ears aching and ringing for days afterward? What about that super-sized fast food combo meal you wolfed down for lunch yesterday? It was loaded with sweeteners and sodium to boost the flavor, and more calories and fat grams than a body needs in an entire day.

If we’ve become accustomed to super-sized meals, highly caffeinated energy drinks, the repeated adrenaline rush of violent movies or extreme sports, and the constant noise from our iPods, we shouldn’t be surprised when it’s nearly impossible to hear the promptings of the Still Small Voice. How can the Spirit compete with all of the noise and stimulants? The answer is: He doesn’t even try. He does not increase His volume to a shout. So how do we protect ourselves from spiritual desensitization in order to discern such delicate whispers?

I recall, as a young missionary, being informed that on the next Preparation Day our whole mission would participate in a “Book of Mormon Marathon.” We were to rise early that morning to take care of essential laundry and letters, and then gather, fasting, with other missionaries in our zone and read The Book of Mormon until dinnertime, when we would pray together and end our fast. Now, I love reading the scriptures, but I confess to being less than enthusiastic to fast on a P-day and to give up the chance to unwind a bit.

Despite my poor attitude, I chose to obey. On the appointed day, in the designated location, I opened my scriptures to begin reading…At that time my personal study was in the late chapters of Alma which were filled with accounts of the nearly non-stop wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites. To me, this was not the most meaningful part of the book—not by a long shot. I debated whether to skip to a more riveting section of the book, but finally chose to just plow through the “battle stuff” in record time.

Perhaps it was the fasting, or maybe it was reading for several hours straight, but as I made my way through chapters I’d read many times previously, I began to see the account in a new light. By the time I reached chapter 50 of Alma, I was truly engrossed in the story. A line from verse one seemed to stand out in bold letters: “…Moroni did not stop making preparations for war.” Even in times of peace, this righteous Nephite Captain took steps to ensure the safety of his people. Moroni directed his armies to build layers of protection.

First, they dug up heaps of earth “round about all the cities.” Next, works of timbers (fences) were built. The third layer was a frame of pickets on top of the timbers. Then Moroni erected towers that overlooked those pickets, and built places of security upon those towers. The Nephites were also prepared to cast stones down on anyone that approached. These layers of outward protection were added to the breastplates and head-plates, the arm-shields and thick clothing with which Moroni had already armed each of his men. (See Alma 43:19, and 49:24)

As a result of the Nephite’s efforts to strengthen themselves against their enemies: “When the Lamanites came to battle at the city of Ammonihah, because they had destroyed it once because of the iniquity of the people, they supposed it would again become an easy prey for them…But behold, how great was their disappointment…the chief captains…were astonished exceedingly because of the wisdom of the Nephites in preparing their places of security,” and a city “which had hitherto been a weak place, had now become strong.” (See Alma 48:3-5, 49:14)

What spiritual parallels exist for these layers of protection? I believe that prayer is our first line of defense; true communication with our Heavenly Father, requesting His help in discerning good from evil, especially when the difference is subtle. Intense study of the scriptures and the words of modern day prophets must be the next layer. No surprise here. These are sources of powerful truths and warnings which assist us in discovering patterns of wickedness and its ugly consequences, so we may avoid them.

The order of other layers of protection may be subject to debate, but the list certainly includes: obedience, repentance, fasting, temple worship, pondering, modesty, paying a full tithe, living the Law of Chastity, honesty, partaking of the Sacrament worthily, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and purity of thought. The list could continue for pages. Every sincere prayer we say, every moment we search the scriptures, every act of obedience to God is an invitation to the Holy Spirit to participate more fully in our lives, and increases our ability to recognize His promptings. That is the ultimate protection.

If we think we can casually saunter up the strait and narrow path and make it to the Tree of Life, we are deceiving ourselves. If we believe we can keep one foot on the path while dangling the other foot in the river of filthy water, think again. Let’s be honest, anyone knowingly dangling a foot in filthy water has already left the path. Fence sitting is never comfortable—sooner or later we will land on one side or the other, and it is usually the path of least resistance, not to be confused with the strait and narrow!

As we follow Captain Moroni’s example, erecting layers of protection around ourselves, we will be able to keep our focus on the Tree of Life and avoid the trap of easing into evil—thus keeping ourselves out of hot water.