My dad was an amazing fly fisherman. So much so, that throughout my childhood I watched as various male cousins were shipped off to our home each summer to learn the ropes in Logan Canyon, from my dad. And he knew the best secret places to catch the biggest rainbow trout. When no cousins were on hand to receive his tutelage, I somehow managed to tag along, tangle the lines, play with the lures, and yack nonstop about clouds and chipmunks. Today I joke that my dad should have had a T-shirt that said, “You’re scaring the fish,” just to save his having to say it so often.
And he was a marvel to watch, standing in green waders out in the rushing stream, his line arcing just so as he effortlessly cast the hook out over the rippling water. His tackle box was filled with bright, Merthiolate-colored salmon eggs, lead sinkers, plastic bobbers and the best part of all: The lures. Like evidence of a secret stash of tropical birds in Utah, here were feathers of all colors and descriptions. More dazzling than jewelry, some of them resembled bugs or striped fish, sparkly creatures in chartreuse or hot red. If there can be hot pink, there can be hot red, and these were unmistakably hot. A pirate’s chest couldn’t have held more fascination for me. And my dad knew how to use each one, and what kind of fish would be most captivated by it.
I’d sit on a boulder at the river’s edge and wait. Noisily, but I’d wait. And then the moment would come. Dad would get a bite and the line would pull taut. You could almost guess the weight of the fish by how hard it tugged as Dad set the hook and reeled him in. Soon he’d yank the fish from its river home into the blinding light and the air above. Writhing, it would twist back and forth, trying to free itself. But the hook’s barbs were firm and the fish was quickly scooped into a net and deposited in a brown canvas bag that jostled with the creature’s last attempts to escape. The lure had worked perfectly, and the fish had been fooled.
And now comes the part where I explain that I am not actually comparing my dad to Satan, but there’s a lesson here. We are the fish. We’re swimming along through our lives, and we have an enemy who wants to ensnare us. But he doesn’t use the Joni method of fishing. He doesn’t jabber away, splash, or try to grab you outright. He uses stealth and cunning. And instead of pulling you up, he pulls you down, as if you are one moment walking along and breathing fine, and then struggling not to drown the next. Just as a fish essentially drowns on an overdose of oxygen, we drown from lack of it when held under water.
We move through our lives like a fish through a stream—eating, sleeping, meandering, watching for danger—but not really thinking about unseen enemies who are trying to trick us. We see a shiny lure and we swim over to check it out. The next thing we know, the hook is set and we’re being reeled in. But here’s where we differ from the hapless fish: We can learn about dangerous lures and avoid them. We can study Satan’s tactics (the Book of Mormon is like a Survival Manual if you read it right), and spot his attempts to destroy us before we fall prey to them.
The smartest way to do this is to look into your own heart and honestly admit what tempts you. Just as fishing lures are customized to appeal to certain fish, so are the enticements Satan dangles before us. And each of us has weaknesses different from the next person’s. Maybe yours is a Word of Wisdom issue. Or gambling. Or pornography. Or vanity. Or materialism. Or pride. Or overeating. Or laziness. Whatever it is, you can bet the adversary knows precisely which lure to attach to his line when you’re his target. What’s most likely to pull you away from searching for your ancestors or attending the temple? A sale at the mall? A new movie? A ballgame? What’s most likely to keep you from attending church—a headache? Being offended? Wanting to rest after a busy week?
Whenever you have a righteous choice on the table, Satan will make you a counter offer. He’ll bid for your attention in your favorite color, just sparkly enough, just delicious enough to make you swim over and check it out, unless you’re on your guard. And then he’ll snap his wrist, set the hook, and catch another one. And Satan has no limits; he can catch fish all day- and does.
But we don’t have to end up in his canvas bag, gasping for our last breath. We can avoid his snares—and the fishing hole entirely—by following Christ’s commandments and listening to our leaders. The prescription for freedom isn’t that complicated; it just takes dogged determination and obedience. Stay in the mainstream of the church, serve, study the scriptures and pray. The Primary Answers win again. That’s how to be smarter than the fisherman. And luckily, our tackle box is better than his, and we have all the tools to do it.
Joni Hilton’s book, “FUNERAL POTATOES—THE NOVEL” (Covenant Communications) is in LDS bookstores everywhere.
Her latest three novels, “JUNGLE,” “SISTERS IN THE MIX,” and “PINHOLES INTO HEAVEN” are all available on Kindle at amazon.com/author/jonihilton and at www.mormonbooksandauthors.com.
Listen (and call in) to The Joni Hilton Show, streaming live on AM-1380 Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. PST.
Hilton has written 20 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. She is also the author of the "As the Ward Turns" series, "The Ten-Cow Wives' Club," and "The Power of Prayer." Hilton is a frequent writer for "Music & the Spoken Word,"and many national magazines. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California. She can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com, Twitter:@JoniHilton, and Facebook: Joni Hilton.