During nine years of full-time service for the Church in France, Belgium, Romania, Moldova, and now the Europe East Area, I have seen inspiring examples of faith, compassionate service, and endurance. But regretfully, wherever I have served I have also witnessed the devil at work among the people. Those whom Satan entices by his cunning are generally unsuspecting and well intentioned; however, once they allow themselves to be deceived and delivered into the devil’s hands, they often seem less able to free themselves from his chains.
The deception frequently begins with half-truths such as these: Because God loves all people and is merciful, He will forgive all sin at the last day. A loving Father would never permit His children to be led forever out of His presence by a devil. Therefore, the deceptive reasoning continues, it is all right to eat, drink, and be merry, to cheat a little and lie a little, for by grace all will be saved. But a careful reading of 2 Nephi 28:7–8, 21–22; Ephesians 2:4–9; and other references cited herein can help us understand that these views do not represent true doctrine.
More than 545 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Nephi was permitted to see our day. He warned that apostasy would abound because of false teachers who teach vain and foolish doctrines, and he added that “at that day shall [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. 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” (2 Nephi 28:20–21).
The Book of Mormon and the revelations of the Restoration teach how we can resist the evil strategies of the devil. These teachings include the following:
1. Establish a foundation on Christ. President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988), who served as a counselor in the First Presidency, was once asked what advice he would give to members of the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake for the New Year. He replied, “Tell them to be a little bit better each day.” To become like Christ may seem to be an insurmountable task, but to become a little bit better each day is not so daunting, and this process can provide the power necessary to combat the forces of evil.
Helaman tells us, “It is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.” If we do so, Satan “shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
2. Make and keep covenants. When Alma baptized Helam at the waters of Mormon, he declared, “Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you” (Mosiah 18:13).
All who are baptized similarly covenant to serve God. They renew their baptismal covenants each Sunday by partaking of the sacrament, solemnly promising “that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Moroni 4:3).
3. Heed the words of the prophet. On April 6, 1830, the Lord, speaking through the Prophet Joseph Smith, commanded members of the Church to give heed to all the words and commandments of the prophet. And then came the promise to all who would do so: “For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:6). Today we are instructed to follow the counsel of President Gordon B. Hinckley, who occupies the same position of authority and trust as did the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1830.
4. Watch and pray always. After instituting the sacrament among the Nephites, Jesus taught them the purpose and manner of prayer. Said He: “Watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him. … For Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. … And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Nephi 18:15, 18, 20). Prayer gives us the spiritual strength and direction necessary to withstand temptation.
5. Avoid contention. Contention will always drive away the Spirit of the Lord. When the resurrected Jesus personally appeared to the Nephites at the temple in Bountiful, He taught: “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. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:29–30).
An example from the Europe East Area is illustrative of the power of the devil and how it was set at naught by the Book of Mormon. A lovely young sister from Saratov, Russia, was baptized in December 1997. She was called to teach seminary but avoided using the Book of Mormon and other Church materials. She soon began meeting with members of other churches, became confused about the doctrine of Christ, ceased partaking of the sacrament, and rarely attended Church meetings. Satan had begun to lull her away from the truth and to carefully lead her away from the Church.
At a New Year’s Eve party with Latter-day Saint friends, everyone wrote on a piece of paper a wish for the new year. All the papers were placed in a hat, and each person randomly drew one. The paper this sister drew read, “You will go to the temple.” She immediately informed everyone that she would never go to the temple. However, a friend persuaded her to read the Book of Mormon with him. She began slowly but within a month had read the book in its entirety for the first time. She knew it was true, and with that witness came a strong desire to go to the temple, which she did one year later while serving a full-time mission in Moscow. She recently stated: “I know Heavenly Father loves me so much. He literally saved my life.”
The Book of Mormon can help fortify all followers of Christ against the evil strategies of the devil. I add my witness to that of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461). The devil will have very little power over those who study and follow the precepts of this volume of scripture, and they will be well established on the road to eternal life.
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.
Wrap a piece of string around a family member’s hands five times. Relate the story of the Russian woman and discuss how Satan uses deceptions to bind us. Then slowly unwrap the string as you discuss the five teachings on how to resist evil. Conclude by giving the untied person a Book of Mormon, emphasizing its ability to free and fortify us from evil.
As you read the first three paragraphs of the article, ask family members to listen for some of Satan’s strategies. Before the lesson, draw the shape of a shield on paper and cut it into five pieces. Label each piece with one of Elder Orton’s teachings. Put the shield together as you discuss how to resist evil.