Nephi prophesied that, in the last days, the devil would lead people “by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever” (2 Nephi 26:22).
It’s clear from the context that the “flaxen cord” described here was not strong. I envision a person with a very thin thread wrapped around their neck while Satan holds the end of the thread and gently pulls them. At any moment, the person could easily break the thread and pull away. But if they choose not to, if they decide to move the direction the devil is gently nudging them, then the strands grow thicker and harder to escape, until the person is truly captive.
How does that happen in our lives? We make a decision that seems small and harmless, and we justify that decision by calling it an exception or by reasoning that it is too small to matter. Then, we make another decision, and another. The small infractions become larger, and the exception becomes the rule.
Clayton Christensen shared an experience he had as a student at Oxford University, in which he decided to attend his church meetings on Sunday instead of participating in a championship basketball game. More than thirty years later, he viewed that decision as one of the most important of his life:
It would have been very easy to say, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy is the right commandment, but in my particular extenuating circumstances, it’s okay, just this once, if I don’t do it. And the reason that decision has proven so important to me is that my whole life has turned out to be an un-ending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had I crossed that line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. And when I have been subsequently confronted with opportunities to look at pornography or not pay my tithing, or compromise on others of God’s commandments, this lesson that I learned has been very important. The lesson is it really is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.
(“Decisions for Which I’ve Been Grateful,” Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional Address, 8 June 2004)
Today, I will be conscientious about the little things. I will remember that small infractions can lead to larger ones and that intentionally breaking a commandment makes me more likely to break another. I will resist the “flaxen cords” of the devil, knowing that those cords will grow thicker if I am not careful.