This phrase came to mind as a title for this post as I thought about its practical application. Two weeks ago our Gospel Doctrine class in church covered the fall of King David. As much as this dramatic tragedy is studied throughout the world, the part of this story that resonates most meaningfully to me is a tiny detail near the beginning that is rarely mentioned. I haven’t seen it in any manual, and I’ve only ever heard it in one lesson, but it’s stuck with me for many years.
David was a special, powerful, favored man of God, yet he ended up an adulterer and a murderer. How did this happen? Where did his slide begin? The first verse of the story, 2 Samuel 11:1, tells us.
And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. (emphasis added)
It’s hard not to read that editorial note of disapproval in the last part. Until this point, nothing negative is shown of David; afterwards, it’s all downhill. This is where the tragedy started. David was supposed to attend a meeting of kings, but instead sent servants. He took a day off and hung around in Jerusalem. While he was indulging in playing hooky from work, he saw Bathsheba, and I think we all know where things from there.
The lesson for us is pretty clear: sins of omission, such as skipping meetings or other mundane routines of the disciple’s life, are the beginning of a downhill spiral into destruction. David didn’t go from being a prophet to a pervert overnight; it started with a refusal to carry out a simple obligation of regular duty.
May we be warned.
NOTE: I stand corrected. I just looked this verse up at the wonderful scripture study site at BYU, and found that this verse was used to teach this principle by Neal A. Maxwell in 2001:
There are so many ways to keep the shielding seventh commandment firmly in place. Instructively, for instance, David’s fall, at least in part, was facilitated because he was not where duty lay: “It came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, … David tarried still at Jerusalem” ( 2 Sam. 11:1). Then, as you know, came the lustful view from the roof and all the sadness that followed. Implicit, therefore, in the instruction “Stand ye in holy places” is to avoid indulgent tarrying ( D&C 87:8; see also Matt. 24:15).
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