4 And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.
5 And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.
6 And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.
(1 Nephi 12:4-6)
Nephi wanted to see what his father had seen in a vision. His father’s vision had consisted of a symbolic world in which he participated and learned valuable principles by interacting with the symbols. Nephi’s vision, in contrast, consisted of a guided panoramic tour of important future events, with explanations about how the symbols in his father’s vision applied to the real world.
The example in the passage above is noteworthy. A “mist of darkness” was one of the symbols in his father’s dream. In this passage, Nephi sees a series of natural disasters which cover the promised land with a literal mist of darkness. After the mist goes away, the Savior appears to Nephi’s descendants. Shortly after, the angel explains that the mists of darkness represent “the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost” (1 Nephi 12:17).
When I think of a temptation, I think of an enticement to do something wrong. But the imagery of a mist of darkness makes me think more broadly: any distraction which prevents me or delays me from doing what is right is a temptation. The imagery of the Savior visiting Nephi’s descendants only when the mist of darkness has subsided resonates with me. Is my life so full of distractions that I’m missing opportunities to interact with Him?
As Elder Quentin L. Cook has pointed out, many of the commandments we follow serve the purpose of clearing out distractions:
We are bombarded with visual images of violence and immorality. Inappropriate music and pornography are increasingly tolerated. The use of drugs and alcohol is rampant. There is less emphasis on honesty and character. Individual rights are demanded, but duties, responsibilities, and obligations are neglected. There has been a coarsening of dialogue and increased exposure to that which is base and vulgar. The adversary has been relentless in his efforts to undermine the plan of happiness. If we separate ourselves from this worldly conduct, we will have the Spirit in our lives and experience the joy of being worthy Latter-day Saints (“Are You a Saint?” General Conference, October 2003).
Today, I will avoid distractions. I will remember that the temptations of the devil include not only enticements to do wrong but also distractions from doing right. I will ensure that I remain focused on doing what I should do, and I will avoid cluttering up my mind and my schedule so that there is no room for God.