'Whither goest thou?'

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples: "Little children, yet a little while I am with you." Peter asked, "Lord, whither goest thou?" The Lord replied: "Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards." (John 13:33, 36.)

According to tradition, Peter, while fleeing Rome on the Appian Way, was asked by the crucified Savior, "Quo Vadis?" (Whither goest thou?) A humbled Peter returned to Rome where, we are told, he died a martyr for the gospel's cause."Where goest thou?" might be asked of us. We may embark upon numerous geographic routes, having in mind many destinations during our mortal sojourn. However, it is our spiritual destination with which we should be most concerned and for which we need to do the most preparation and work.

In daily life, there might be barriers that impede our travel: a road or bridge might be washed out during a storm, for example, or border crossings might be closed by governments. In such cases, we might have to find alternate routes, delay or even cancel our travel plans.

Spiritually, we can go where we want to go, when we want to go. The Lord has given us that right and power. The only barriers on the road to our spiritual destination are those we erect ourselves. True, others might put stumbling blocks in our path through various forms of temptation, but those blocks in and of themselves have no power to stop us if we are not willing to succumb to them. We are our own agents. We need not fall into temptation's hands just because they are outstretched, waiting to catch us.

We cannot linger at roadblocks to spirituality and, at the same time, progress on our journey home to eternal life. Nor can we follow guides leading in the opposite direction. Jesus said to the multitude: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24.) Having set our eternal destination, we must choose to follow either the Lord or His adversary, Satan. On this journey, there is no neutral path.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) wrote a morality play, "Cain," inspired by Gen. 4:1-16, that teaches this truth. Byron described how Lucifer tempted Cain, telling him that Adam had been deceived and that the gospel had no meaning. Here is part of the dialogue:

Cain: Wilt thou teach me all?

Lucifer: Ay, upon one condition.

Cain: Name it.

Lucifer: That thou dost fall down and worship me - thy Lord.

Cain: Thou art not the Lord my father worships.

Lucifer: No.

Cain: His equal?

Lucifer: No - I have nought in common with him! Nor would: I would be aught above - beneath - Aught save a sharer or a servant of His power. I dwell apart; but I am great - Many there are who worship me and more Who shall - be thou amongst the first.

Cain: I have never . . . bow'd to my father's God, although my brother Abel oft implores That I should join with him in sacrifice; - Why should I bow to thee?

Lucifer: Hast thou ne'er bow'd To him?

Cain: Have I not said it? - need I say it? Could not thy mighty knowledge teach thee that?

Lucifer: He who bows not to Him has bowed to me.

Cain: But I will bend to neither.

Lucifer: Ne'er the less, Thou art my worshiper; not worshipping Him makes thee mine the same. ("Cain, a Mystery," Act 1, scene 1, Byron Poetical Works, p. 525, Oxford University Press.)

Byron wrote of ageless truth: if we do not bow to the Lord then we bow to Satan. We choose to follow one or the other. No one, at the beginning of this life's journey, intentionally chooses to follow Satan. Why, then, do so many take that route? There are perhaps as many answers as there are individuals who walk that path.

Some might become distracted along the way, and give in, as did Cain, to the enticings of Satan. Distractions come in many forms: sin, greed, envy, jealousy, selfishness, an unforgiving heart, to name a few.

Too many have hardened their hearts and poisoned their minds to the extent they are unable to continue on their original course. Some, having taken offense at something said or done by leaders - whether they be General Authorities or ward, stake, mission, auxiliary or priesthood leaders - choose to exit the road homeward and travel what they think is a better or quicker route. But there are no alternate routes or shortcuts to eternal life.

Each of us must, from this point onward in our journey, answer the question, "Whither goest thou?" Our answer will be determined by whom we choose to follow. In deciding, we must take Christ at His word: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

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