A Shield against Evil


In every dispensation of time, God has commanded prophets to warn his children of the influence of evil among them. In the latter days, we have been blessed not only with living prophets, but also with ancient scriptures prepared to teach us how to overcome evil. President Ezra Taft Benson declared: “The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. … It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day.” 1

Ever since Satan was cast out of the presence of Heavenly Father in the premortal existence, he has been the enemy of our Father, who is the author of all righteousness. Satan is the “father of all lies” (2 Ne. 2:18; Ether 8:25) and the “author” or “master” of all sin (Hel. 6:30; Mosiah 4:14). It is his purpose to make our Father’s children share in his own misery. The Book of Mormon teaches us how Satan gains power over mankind, as well as how we can fend off his attacks. Following are some of Satan’s tactics and how the Book of Mormon helps us defend against them.

Satan’s Tactics

Relying on Worldly Wisdom

Satan has taken away many “plain and precious” truths given in earlier times, making it possible for people in our day to “stumble” spiritually (1 Ne. 13:29). The Book of Mormon and other modern scripture restore these truths. But part of “that cunning plan of the evil one” is to convince people that when they are learned in worldly ways, they do not need to heed the revelations of God nor the counsel of his prophets (2 Ne. 9:28).

This was the way Sherem, the anti-Christ, was able to deceive many Nephites in the time of Jacob (see Jacob 7:1, 23). Likewise, some individuals today, by their smooth words and learning, try to deceive members of the Church by questioning the decisions and directions of the Lord’s anointed servants. These people may call for such changes as modifications in Church doctrine or liberalized moral standards. Sadly, some members are led into inactivity and even apostasy by these people because they do not search and understand the scriptures as illuminated by the light of the Spirit.

Satan and those who follow him also use their deceptive influence to change people’s perception of evil. Isaiah wrote, “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (2 Ne. 15:20). The Book of Mormon is full of examples of this value switch—from Laman and Lemuel to King Noah to the Gadianton robbers. Our society is no different. Great value switches take place in our music, movies, marriages, dress standards, and other areas of our lives. That which is wholesome, modest, or uplifting is often ridiculed or demeaned, and that which is degrading or demeaning is highly valued.

Anger and Contention

The influence of evil also stirs people up “to anger against that which is good” (2 Ne. 28:20). The more wicked part of the Lamanites, for example, became so angry toward their brothers and sisters who had been converted to the gospel of Christ that they sought to kill them (see Alma 24:1–2, 19–22, 30; Alma 25:1).

An increasingly wicked world today not only perceives evil as good, but also harbors anger and resentment toward righteous people and principles. Elder William Grant Bangerter of the Seventy, now an emeritus General Authority, observed: “In doing these wicked things [adultery, indulgence in pornography] they [who participate] suggest that it is not so bad anymore. Since so much of the world accepts these actions, if we resist them or speak out against them, we will be scoffed at. We will be called prudish, Victorian, puritan, and self-righteous, as if we had become the sinners.” 2

Contention is a form of anger that can be especially dangerous. The Savior warned, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention” (3 Ne. 11:29). The spirit of contention leads to family conflicts and neighborhood disputes. It is also the wind that fans the flames of war and strife between nations.

Seeking Happiness in Sin

In today’s world, evil influences teach that there is happiness in iniquity. Samuel the Lamanite warned the Nephites of the fate that awaited them if they continued to seek happiness in sin:

“Behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head” (Hel. 13:38).

All around us today, advertisements, movies, and books portray evil as the source of happiness. Alcohol, drugs, and infidelity are represented as bringing easy and immediate pleasure and satisfaction. Seldom do we see portrayed the pain, sorrow, and suffering actually caused by sin.

Ignorance of Evil

Along with false concepts of happiness, Satan spreads the rumor that there is no devil (see 2 Ne. 28:22). Evidence of this denial, and of the false security it leaves in people’s hearts, is abundant. There are those who profess belief in the gospel yet live as though Satan were not real.

Others say that the idea of a devil is nothing but a creation of men who want to use fear to keep people under their control. Accepting such an idea is like stepping into a boxing ring and convincing oneself there is no opponent while being continually pummeled by the opposition.

Spiritual Apathy

Satan desires to block our communication with God. He does all he can to cause us to forget or forego our prayers. He lulls some away through complacency. Others he convinces not to pray because they have committed serious transgressions (see 2 Ne. 32:8).

Apathy, or the “all is well” (2 Ne. 28:21) syndrome, is another snare to be avoided. “The peril of this century,” declared Elder David O. McKay, “is spiritual apathy.” 3 Failure to actively seek righteousness can cost us our exaltation as surely as choosing wickedness.

Rationalization

Nephi warned us against thinking that God “will justify in committing a little sin” (2 Ne. 28:8). Rationalization is frequently used to excuse what some see as lesser degrees of evil. We often hear people say, “This music isn’t that bad compared to the really heavy stuff”; “The prices were too high anyway, so we didn’t tell the clerk he undercharged us”; or “These days any movie has some of that in it.”

Nephi wrote that the devil would lead many “by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever” (2 Ne. 26:22). A flaxen cord would be made of fine, light-colored fiber manufactured from flax—its individual strands soft and thin and easily broken. But as a cord, it is soft to the touch yet strong and unyielding. If we continually rationalize our involvement with “little sins,” we are being subtly, ever so gently, led away by Satan until eventually we will become bound with his “strong cords.”

Vain and Worldly Things

Pride, power, and riches also lead many away from righteousness. In the days of Alma the Younger, people in the Church became proud because of riches and other vain things. This led them to ridicule others and persecute those who did not believe as they did (see Alma 4:6–8).

Unfortunately, for many people in today’s society, prestige seems all-important. Pride and materialism cause people to sacrifice spiritual goals for positions, possessions, and power. Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived in exile for many years, warned that while his people suffered oppression under communism, the people of the Western world have been oppressed by materialism; and thus, he said, “I could not recommend your society as an ideal for the transformation of ours.” 4

Satan may not get us to commit adultery, murder, or rob a bank, but then he doesn’t have to. All he has to do is turn us away from the things that matter most.

Overcoming Satan’s Influence

How, then, can we possibly resist the adversary and fend off his temptations? We must understand the following principles and act on them:

  • In the end the devil will not support his own (see Alma 30:60). Satan promises great rewards and yet ultimately leads us to sorrow, misery, and destruction. Though Satan is the author of wickedness, his reaction when we sin and suffer is laughter and rejoicing (see 3 Ne. 9:2; Moses 7:26).

  • If we have been lulled into carnal security, we must shake off our spiritual lethargy. Lehi pleaded with Laman and Lemuel:

    “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell. …

    “Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness” (2 Ne. 1:13, 23).

President Marion G. Romney declared: “During these closing years of Satan’s power, he is frantically using every conceivable means to deceive and corrupt us.

“There has never been a time since the world began when obedience to Paul’s charge, ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,’ was more imperative than it is today.” 5

To put on the armor of righteousness requires more than lip service to spiritual things; we must be willing to put them first in our lives.

• Several times in the Book of Mormon we are told to watch and pray always to overcome Satan’s temptations (see Alma 13:28; Alma 15:17; Alma 34:39; 3 Ne. 18:18). The act of watching might be compared to serving as a guard at a military base and being continually on the alert for attacks from the enemy. Elder Harold B. Lee said: “There are carefully charted on the maps of the opposition the weak spots in every one of us. They are known to the forces of evil, and just the moment we lower the defense of any one of those ports, that becomes the D Day of our invasion, and our souls are in danger.” 6

We are not capable of overcoming Satan alone. Because he remembers the premortal existence, he may know things about us that even we do not yet understand. Therefore, we must pray continually for the sustaining help of our Heavenly Father in overcoming his influence. President Brigham Young taught, “The men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle with the enemy of all righteousness every day.” 7

To effectively overcome the influence of evil, we must understand how vital it is to hold to the iron rod of God’s word. In answering Laman and Lemuel’s question about the meaning of the rod of iron seen in vision, Nephi said to his brothers that “it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them” (1 Ne. 15:24).

Holding fast to the word of God means understanding the principles found in the scriptures and incorporating them into our daily lives.

In our efforts to resist the adversary’s influence, we must remember that we are free to choose our own course of life. Samuel the Lamanite taught: “Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever … doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free” (Hel. 14:30).

The ideas that “the devil made me do it” or “I couldn’t help myself” are simply false notions and excuses for our own poor choices. “The devil has no power over us only as we permit him,” the Prophet Joseph Smith said. “The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” 8

A change of heart and a will to live righteously can bind Satan now. In the Book of Mormon, we find accounts of those who had received a mighty change in their hearts and could say, “We have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2; see also Alma 19:33).

The Book of Mormon provides a classic example of an individual who in large part bound Satan in his life. Note the qualities of Moroni, as identified in Alma 48:11–13:

“Moroni was [1] a strong and mighty man; he was [2] a man of a perfect understanding; yea, [3] a man that did not delight in bloodshed; [4] a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

“Yea, [5] a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; [6] a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

“Yea, and he was [7] a man who was firm in the faith of Christ.”

Mormon was so impressed with Moroni that he said: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17).

The qualities listed above, if acquired and developed, can help us defend ourselves against the influences of evil. Moroni obviously understood the things that he and his people needed to do to overcome the adversary in their lives, and he led by example. The Book of Mormon teaches that we can fight evil in the same way.

[illustration] Nephi Rebuking His Rebellious Brothers, by Arnold Friberg

[illustration] A wicked world not only perceives evil as good, but also harbors anger and resentment against the righteous. Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi challenged the influences of evil in his day and was condemned to death for his testimony. (Abinadi Appearing Before King Noah, by Arnold Friberg.)

[illustration] Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty, by Clark Kelley Price

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (1988), 56.

  2.   2.

    Ensign, May 1984, 27.

  3.   3.

    In Conference Report, October 1907, 62.

  4.   4.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart (1978), 33; from a commencement speech given at Harvard University, 8 June 1978.

  5.   5.

    Quoted in “Historic Conferences Come to End,” Church News, 5 July 1975, 10.

  6.   6.

    “Powers of the Gospel,” Improvement Era, November 1949, 737.

  7.   7.

    “Remarks,” Deseret News Weekly, 28 December 1864, 98.

  8.   8.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 181.