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Much of life’s adversity comes from the way humans frequently mistreat each other. People can be harsh, deceitful, and even predatory. I thought about writing a piece for Meridian comparing human behavior with some of what we find in the wild.
So I looked up the ten deadliest animals, to see if there’s a parallel. And, as you might expect, I found a predictable list. In the water we find sharks, hippos, and crocodiles happy to take a chunk out of us. On the land, if not careful, we can encounter lions, cape buffalos, elephants, scorpions, and snakes. One site I checked ranked them by the number of deaths caused per year, from the jellyfish that claims 100 lives every year, to the 100,000 people who die from snake bites.
But the deadliest of them all is the one that flies. It can find us anywhere in the world, and it’s the toughest to avoid. Its yearly death toll is higher than all the others put together. It’s also the tiniest animal on the list. It’s the mosquito, transmitting fatal diseases to 700 million people all over the world, and killing 2 to 3 million of us annually.
Instantly I realized that while there are parallels between man and various beasts in the world, only one creature is as insidious as the mosquito: Satan. He can find us in our most remote hiding places, creep through the smallest chinks in our armor, and almost imperceptibly deliver hideous spiritual poison. His followers blanket the earth, search us out and– without roaring, thundering, or splashing– just quietly try to kill us.
Even more invisible than the mosquito, Satan hovers nearby, eager to strike at our most vulnerable moments. He’s been at this game for a long time, and knows each of our weak spots. He cannot be waved away, and will circle back for as long as it takes to wear us down.
That is, unless we’re vigilant and know how to protect ourselves. Just as mosquito nets and heavy clothing can protect us from deadly diseases, we have all the gear we need to fend off Satan, if we will use it.
The first line of defense against any attacker, is Know Thine Enemy. And nothing lays out Lucifer’s subtle, yet relentless, tactics more clearly than does the Book of Mormon. By studying its stories, carefully culled by prophets who saw our day, we can identify precisely how he plans to lead us astray and destroy us. In fact, reading just for these clues would be a great line of defense, and a great new way to approach scripture study.
Next, we need to stop rolling our eyes about the “Sunday School answers.” This reaction to pray/study/attend church/etc. is precisely the way Satan wants you to see the weapons he most fears. He wants you to sigh with boredom, see them as trite, and shrug off the very tools that can crush him. He wants you to see repetition in General Conference talks as a problem, not as evidence that the basics aren’t being followed, thus must be emphasized again. He wants you to feel you already “know all that,” and don’t need to hear it again.
We need to bear our testimonies more often, and not just on Fast Sunday. We need to bear them to those we visit and home teach. We need to bear them to our family members. We need to bear them to possible investigators. Each time we vocalize what we know in our hearts it makes our testimony stronger and firmer.
We need to pray for help, fighting the adversary in our weakest areas. This means swallowing our pride and baring our souls to God in humble prayer. God is the strongest being in the universe—why wouldn’t we enlist his help? Satan would have us think our worries are too puny to bother God, or that we’re not worthy in the first place. We need to fight through that and plead for heavenly assistance.
We need Priesthood blessings. What an under-utilized, incredible gift we have! Who else in this entire world has access to direct messages from God that can guide and comfort us? How can we possibly think we’re as strong alone, as we are with the power of the Priesthood helping us?
We need to ponder what we study. We need to allow the truths of light and progress to bathe our souls and remind us who we are and the destiny we actually have. We need to feel and hear God’s answers as we unplug the world, and tune in to revelation. Sometimes we simply need a Gratitude Bath. We need to luxuriate in the monumental blessing it is to be members of Christ’s restored church, and simply taste the joy of it, and realize we never want to lose this.
One thing that often surprises us is the strength and resolve we get when we accept callings. It shows faith, obedience, and a willingness to be part of the team. Every calling, if done right, is difficult. But it’s difficult in the same way that exercise or scholarly pursuits can be difficult—it pays off and builds us. It makes us stretch and improve in ways we need to grow. Callings make us mature. Mature people are less likely to fall for Satan’s tricks. Callings look like they’re all about giving, but in reality they’re all about receiving. And they’re a tool in the war against Satan.
We need the power of fasting, and all that it gives us both spiritually and physically. We need to experience what it’s like to live on a higher plane, to see with greater vision, and to remove ourselves from the fleshy weaknesses Satan wants us to cling to.
Another weapon against the adversary is service. When we’re engrossed in helping others, something magical happens, something that reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. Our own problems shrink, and our self-esteem grows. It’s impossible to serve sincerely without experiencing this. And when we do, we are less inclined to hear Satan’s whisperings, less inclined to indulge in self-pity.
We fortify ourselves against Lucifer when we take part in ordinances, attend the temple, and do family history work. We tune into Heavenly Father’s plan, raise our sites, and advance the kingdom.
Reading our Patriarchal Blessing is another tool in our arsenal. By heeding warnings and realizing our potential we stay focused, and less vulnerable to distractions from the big picture.
And finally, as soldiers in this battle, we need to remember that it’s not just about defense, but offense. We need to take the battle to the enemy and fight for what’s right—for morality, modesty, freedom of religion, and every other good cause that tells Satan he’s losing this one. We need to take a strong stand, with a figurative Title of Liberty, to protect our faith, our families, and our freedoms. This means we control the media and electronics in our lives, not the other way around. We decide how we’ll bring up righteous children unto God, rather than let society’s standards lead the way. We decide to get involved in community causes and we determine which political leaders to support.
Coming back to the mosquito analogy, we don’t just cower in a corner and hope our repellant does the trick. We swat them dead whenever possible. And fighting Satan is not just about raising a shield to block his javelins. It’s thrusting a sword out, ourselves.
We are living in a dangerous world, and the deadliest creature has set his sites on God’s children. But we can defeat him. People do it every day. We just have to put on the right uniform and join the winning team.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.