A few years ago, our family went on the Hiawatha Trail bike ride southeast of Coeur d”Alene, Idaho. This popular bike trail is built along one of the most scenic stretches of the old Milwaukee Railroad tracks (no longer in operation). It traverses through 10 tunnels, over 7 high trestles and covers 15 miles of the rugged Bitterroot Mountains. The most remarkable portion of the trail is the Taft Tunnel. This long, dark tunnel burrows 2.6 km under the Bitterroot Mountains at the Montana-Idaho State line.
After donning helmets and headlights, we were ready to begin our adventure. As we approached the entrance to Taft Tunnel, the park warden stopped us to give us an explanation of the tunnel. He explained that on either side of the flat road through the tunnels there were trenches. These trenches drained thousands of litres of water that seeped into the tunnel each day from underground springs. He gave us an interesting warning: “The sound of that trickling water may beckon to you, but don’t give into that call. Don’t even get off your bike to even take a look. Stay in the middle of the road.”
As we began our dark, cold journey through the tunnel, we understood the warning. The soothing sound of the trickling water was indeed inviting. In the darkness of the tunnel, that sound pulled at your senses to come and discover its source. Upended bikes and sprawled out cyclists were evidence of those who gave into the temptation to take a look at the trench. In the dark, the cyclists were not able to see that the road sloped quickly at the edges to allow drainage. That slope ended abruptly at a deep cement trench that snatched up bike tires as soon as they were close! The result was skinned up knees, broken spokes and embarrassed bikers who wished they had given heed to the warden and stayed in the middle of the road and out of the gutters.
Similar to that good warden, our prophet warns us of the unseen dangers on our journey through life. President Monson relates the story of Tongan maka-feke. “Many years ago, on an assignment to the beautiful islands of Tonga, I was privileged to visit our Church school… On that occasion, entering one classroom, I noticed the rapt attention the children gave their native instructor. His textbook and theirs lay closed upon the desks. In his hand he held a strange-appearing fishing lure fashioned from a round stone and large seashells. This, I learned, was a maka-feke, an octopus lure. In Tonga, octopus meat is a delicacy.
“The teacher explained that Tongan fishermen glide over a reef, paddling their outrigger canoes with one hand and dangling the maka-feke over the side with the other. An octopus dashes out from its rocky lair and seizes the lure, mistaking it for a much-desired meal. So tenacious is the grasp of the octopus and so firm is its instinct not to relinquish the precious prize that fishermen can flip it right into the canoe…
Today we are surrounded by the maka-fekes that the evil one dangles before us and with which he attempts to entice us and then to ensnare us. Once grasped, such maka-fekes are ever so difficult—and sometimes nearly impossible—to relinquish. To be safe, we must recognize them for what they are and then be unwavering in our determination to avoid them.” (True to the Faith, General Conference, April 2006)
The Saviour is our perfect example for avoiding the gutters and maka-feke of Satan. When Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, His answer was quick and firm: “Get thee behind me, Satan (Luke 4:8).” When confronted with temptation, Christ didn’t even go look. He was not fooled by the counterfeit. Instead he rejected temptation promptly. We too should follow His example and stay clear of Satan’s traps. We should not even entertain temptations. For when we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us!
In his talk “True to the Faith,” President Monson echoes the warning of the Hiawatha Trail Warden. President Monson encourages us to “resolve here and now to follow that straight path that leads home to the Father of us all so that the gift of eternal life—life in the presence of our Heavenly Father—may be ours.” He warns against the maka-fekes of immorality, pornography, harmful drugs and excessive debt. We need to avoid these traps even if they beckon us. We need to tell Satan to get behind us.
In the dark of that tunnel, it would have been difficult to avoid the gutters without the light of our headlamps. Modern day prophets and apostles act as our headlamps by illuminating the path before us. Likewise the light of our Saviour beckons us to Him. Far ahead in the distance of that long dark tunnel, we could see the smallest pinpoint of light. As we kept that destination in our focus, kept moving forward on our pedals, the light grew brighter and brighter and closer and closer. Eventually that pinpoint of light grew into an inviting exit that opened up to a breath-taking rocky mountain valley of majestic pines and beautiful rivers.
In this, seemingly, dark tunnel of mortality, the Saviour promises us: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you (D&C 88:63).” He is our Light in the darkness and He beckons us to our Heavenly Home. As we move closer to Him through our righteous living, He moves closer to us. We simply need to remember the warning of the warden: “The sound of that trickling water may beckon to you, but don’t give into that call. Don’t even get off your bike to even take a look. Stay in the middle of the road.”