“How Could This Happen to Me?” Ensign, July 2004, 43
No one could have been more surprised than I was by what had happened. I, a faithful Latter-day Saint woman, realized I had developed a strong attraction for a man who was happily married to someone else.
He was a coworker of mine, and we worked on several projects together. Over time, we became friends. But soon I realized I was having feelings that went beyond friendship—feelings that tempted me to do what I clearly knew was wrong.
I was shocked. I was embarrassed. The direction my feelings wanted me to go was unthinkable. I thought to myself, “Things like this don’t happen to staunch Latter-day Saint women!” I could not believe I was in this situation. What was I going to do? I was tempted to rationalize, to say I had “fallen in love.” But I knew that was just an excuse.
In my struggle I found solace, direction, and strength in several different ways. Here are some of the things that helped me the most.
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “When God placed man on the earth, prayer became the lifeline between mankind and God.”1 I cannot express how much prayer meant to me during this time. It literally was my lifeline. I spent morning and evening on my knees. During the day I kept a prayer in my heart, asking for the strength I needed to behave appropriately and to do what was right. Many times I felt I could identify with the people of Alma: My burden was not removed—the attraction did not just go away. Rather, “the Lord did strengthen [me] that [I] could bear up [my] burdens with ease” (Mosiah 24:15). In other words, the Lord gave me the strength I needed not to act on my feelings.
The scriptures teach us to “let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). Because of my strong feelings, the temptation was great to entertain romantic thoughts about my coworker. Yet I did everything I could to avoid this. As we have been counseled by various General Authorities, I mentally sang hymns, recited memorized scriptures, and taught myself sermons to keep my mind where it was supposed to be, not where I was tempted to let it wander.
Each day the scriptures were an integral part of my life. I discovered the truth of these words by Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy: “As a person studies the words of the Lord and obeys them, … the power to resist temptation increases, and spiritual weaknesses are overcome.”2 While the scriptures I studied were not always directly related to the problem I was dealing with, the spirit that accompanied my daily scripture study gave me great strength.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “Temple work is not an escape from the world. … Being in the Lord’s house can help us to be different from the world in order to make more difference in the world.”3 The world teaches—through romance novels, television programs, and movies—that a person in my situation can act on any romantic feelings regardless of the consequences. In the temple, as I pondered sacred covenants I had made, I was reminded that I needed to hold myself to a higher standard.
One of my greatest comforts was the counsel and direction of a priesthood blessing. In a sacred, confidential setting, a faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holder laid his hands on my head and uttered inspired words. Some things I expected to hear; some I did not. From this blessing I received the comfort and guidance I needed to press forward, to learn from the experience, and to continue to work to overcome the temptation.
I learned valuable lessons as I tried to deal righteously with this temptation. First, “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added). Anyone—male or female, married or single—can find themselves in a situation similar to mine, but through diligence, the natural man can be put off “through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19). Prayer, the scriptures, the temple, and many other resources helped me take hold of the power of the Atonement and deal appropriately with my “natural man” feelings.
Another important thing I learned was to be more vigilant. While it is certainly appropriate for men and women who work together to be friends, whether in professional or Church settings, I have learned not to be too naive. Care must be taken to keep suitable boundaries around these relationships so they will not lead to potentially heartbreaking incidents.
The greatest lesson I learned was that I can rely on the Lord to help me through all my temptations and trials, no matter what those temptations are. In the book of Isaiah we read, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isa. 58:9). I needed the Lord during this time more than ever before, and He was a great comfort to me.
I am happy to say I was able to overcome my feelings for my coworker. He never learned what I felt, and nothing happened between us. The experience was painful, but the process of working to overcome this temptation helped me grow in significant ways. The experience also increased my appreciation for the Savior’s response to temptation: “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22). The Lord in His mercy gave me the strength I needed to eventually “give no heed” to the temptation I was facing, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
“You can be obedient. You can defeat Satan and overcome temptation. God ‘will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it’ [1 Corinthians 10:13]. The Lord does not expect anything of you that you cannot do.”
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Live in Obedience,” Ensign, May 1994, 40.