Neither to the Right Hand nor to the Left

As Moses prepared his people to enter the promised land, he warned them multiple times not to turn “to the right hand or the left,” but to stay focused on keeping God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 5:32, 17:11, 20, 28:14). After Moses’ departure, the Lord reiterated this charge to Joshua, who extended it again to the Israelites (Joshua 1:7, 23:6).

About 600 years later, in 640 BCE, an eight-year-old boy named Josiah became king of Judah. His great-grandfather, Hezekiah, had been a righteous king, but both his father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh, had done “that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:2, 20). But Josiah was determined to get back on track and follow the commandments of God. The scriptural record introduces him by saying:

He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.

2 Kings 22:2 (see also 2 Chronicles 34:2)

A useful way to think about temptations is that they are distractions from what we know we should do. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us past the bounds of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses. He puts attractive snares on our paths at just those moments when we are most vulnerable. His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father” (“The Straight and Narrow Way,” General Conference, November 1990).

Elder David A. Bednar has reminded us not to be diverted from the path we have agreed to follow: “Gospel covenants and ordinances operate in our lives much like a compass…. Our covenants and ordinances point us to and help us always remember our connection with the Lord Jesus Christ as we progress along the covenant path” (“But We Heeded Them Not,” General Conference, April 2022).

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob reassured us, “The way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him” (2 Nephi 9:41). The path of discipleship may be rigorous, but we need not be confused about our next step. If we’re aligned with God’s commandments and with our covenants, then we ought to keep moving forward and not allow distractions to turn us “to the right hand” or “to the left.”

Today, I will follow King Josiah’s example of focused adherence to God’s commandments. I will avoid distraction by focusing on the path of discipleship and taking my next step forward.

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