28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.
29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;
30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.(3 Nephi 12:28-30)
The part of this scripture that is most memorable is that looking to lust is accompanied by the mental act of committing adultery. In this day and age, probably the main sin we probably associate with looking is pornography. But the warning is about adultery, which is a sin associated with another person one knows and probably commonly associates with.
There’s another part which is just as important but which is not so well noticed—the instruction to “suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” What are “these things”? I think it could be two different things. In one way, it could mean the lustful desires. But it could also be a reference to the interactions that led to the lustful desires rising in the first place.
Those who are visually oriented maybe attracted one way, but others may be attracted by a small and simple acts of consideration over time. If a person doesn’t guard their heart, they can build up an affection rivaling their marriage. Ego gets involved and feels fed in a new way. This is why Christ gives further instructions to deny oneself “these things” and take up the cross. One must deny oneself thoughts and ruminations about the other person.
Taking up the cross is a good way to express how one must deny oneself thoughts of the forbidden one. Taking up the cross is a burden one carries hour by hour. It will be the last thing a person wants to do, so comparing it with the prospect of bodily torture is apt. The forbidden thoughts will seem too sweet, too delightful, and putting them out of mind will seem too hard, but it must be done, or else a person will wallow in a sea of lust.
When Christ says it is better to deny self of these things than be cast into hell, that hell He speaks of is not just after mortality. It is also in mortality. In fact, “hell” is His name for that sea of lust one may have unwittingly become immersed in. This might seem contradictory; lust is so alluring to those in it. But in the unflinching light of truth, “hell” is a good name for a state in which a person wants something very badly but can never lawfully have it, worlds-without-end-Amen.
How does Christ know this? To me it implies that in these things as in all others, He had faced the same temptations, was tempted to the very extremity, and He overcame it. He who is called the epitome of love was Himself tempted with the counterfeit. He accepted worship and devotion without using it as an occasion to gratify any appetite or lust.