The Book of Mormon, A Latter-day Corrective – #8
Sizing Up the Enemy
By H. Wallace Goddard
Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles that will focus on the Book of Mormon in response to President Hinckley’s challenge for church members to read that holy book before the end of the year. Click here to read the introductory article.
As we know, the Book of Mormon was written specifically with us in mind. So it is noteworthy that it has many passages about Satan. I suspect that God wants His latter-day children to understand their enemy. The Book of Mormon provides vital lessons about Satan’s objectives, methods, and the proper response to him.
Satan has nothing but malicious intent. He is miserable. He wants us to join him in relentless misery.
And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost (1 Nephi 12:17).
And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil (2 Nephi 2:18 See also 2 Nephi 2:27).
Satan uses every form of subtlety, treachery, and trickery to achieve his vile purposes. The irony is that he does not seem to realize that he is advancing God’s purposes even as he fights against Him. Satan “knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world” (Moses 4:6).
And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness (2 Nephi 9:9).
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none–and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance (2 Nephi 28:21-2).
For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him (Alma 5:40-1).
Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, that it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people; and thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes and lead them away to believe that the doctrine of Christ was a foolish and a vain thing (3 Nephi 2:2).
Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen! (3 Nephi 9:2).
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11:29).Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually (Moroni 7:12).
How to Respond to Satan
Agency is a big challenge in mortality. It is also our redemption. We can choose eternal death or eternal life.
And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom (2 Nephi 2:28-9).
But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God (Moroni 7:13).
There are many ironies in Satan’s story. The Son of the Morning has chosen darkness. One of the most talented of God’s children will be most impotent in eternity. The harshness that he directs at disciples hurts Satan himself most of all. He speaks with great confidence yet is entirely unreliable. Even as he tries to thwart God, he advances God’s purposes.
One of the great ironies in Satan’s behavior is that he promises fun, pleasure, and gratification. But he does not honor his promises. He delivers misery, hate, emptiness, and profound nothingness. He promises the world and delivers only the suffering of hell. As we learn from Korihor’s experience:
And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell (Alma 30:60).
We should not trust a liar. We should trust Truth and Light.
While I believe that the best way to deal with Satan is to be filled with God, the Book of Mormon clearly wants us to understand our enemy. It shines Light into the darkness so that we can avoid being tricked by the father of lies.