The restored gospel has an infinite variety of wonderful doctrines. One of those principles is the concept of “turning back.”
Jesus proclaimed, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:62)
The most famous example of “turning back” in the scriptures is Lot’s wife. Jesus specifically asked us to, “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Lk. 17:32) How could we forget?
Because of widespread wickedness, God decided to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He agreed with Abraham to spare all the righteous people. Unfortunately, only Lot and his small family qualified.
The Lord warned Lot’s family, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” (Gen. 19:17)
The family fled. They escaped to the mountain. Tragically, Lot’s wife, “looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Gen. 19: 26)
I don’t think Sister Lot was killed because she quickly glanced back out of curiosity.I think she turned back with her heart. She yearned to return to Sodom. She wanted to go back home. She did not have sufficient faith in the Lord to go forward.
Another example of turning back in the scriptures involves the children of Israel. Through divine intervention they gained their freedom. They were protected and preserved through amazing miracles. Yet, when the “going got tough,” they wanted to return to Egypt and the surety of enslavement.
They complained, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Ex. 16:3)
They preferred bondage to deliverance. They constantly complained and pestered Moses and the Lord. They lacked “faith in every footstep.” They had no faith in the future. They just wanted to turn back. Of course, it is common for people to choose security over freedom. Because of their persistent desire to turn back, the Lord did not allow them to enter the promised land. Instead, the Lord made them wander in the barren desert until they died. To paraphrase Jesus, “Remember the children of Israel.”
Near the top of the list of those trying to turn back are Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. They constantly murmured. They rebelled. They constantly looked back. “And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.” (1 Ne. 7:7)
Had Laman and Lemuel returned to Jerusalem they would have been killed or captured during the Babylonian invasion. They didn’t care about the prophet’s warning. Instead of having faith in the Lord, the prophet, their father and brother, they wanted to turn back to where it was comfortable. To paraphrase Jesus again, “Remember Laban and Lemuel.”
When times get tough, we often reminisce about the “good old days.” It is human nature. In frustration, Nephi, son of Helaman, wrote:
“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:
“ Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—
“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.”
Like Helaman’s son, we sometimes forget the bad parts of “those good old days.” He described Lehi’s time as a time when everyone was “firm to keep the commandments,” “slow to do iniquity,” and “quick to hearken to the Lord.” That may have been true for Lehi’s sons, Nephi and Jacob, but what about Laman and Lemuel, and their clan? They were hellions. How could Helaman’s son forget about them?
Apostle Peter describes in graphic terms what it means for a convert to “turn back.”
“For if after they [converts] have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”
“But it happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again . . . . “ ( 2 Pet. 2: 20-22)
The first principle of the gospel is to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we turn back, we turn our backs on him. We no long have sufficient faith in him. We no longer trust him. We ignore his amazing grace. We no longer have faith in every footstep.
Apostle Paul summarized, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-24)
Let us remember Lot’s wife, the children of Israel, and Laman and Lemuel. Because if we do not remember the past we liable to repeat it. We must look forward with trust and faith, and not turn back because of doubt.
In the immortal words of Satchel Paige (1906-1982), Baseball Hall of Fame star pitcher for the Negro and Major leagues, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” (“Satchel Paige,” Wikipedia, Wikiquote)