Satan's Strategies to Ensnare You
I am really grateful to be able to be here today, and hope the Lord will help me say something that might be useful in some way.
My educational background is in business, and one of the things that I ended up studying a lot was strategy. Strategy is really important as you think about managing a business or an organization. Strategists ask questions like: What’s the mission? What are our competitive resources? How do we leverage those resources to succeed and be the best in a certain market or industry?
This world is about competition in a lot of ways. But there’s a greater competition going on on a daily basis, and the stakes are much higher. The intensity of the battle is much greater than any market or industry on the earth. It is the battle for our souls. I’d like to talk a little bit today about the strategies that the adversary uses to battle for our souls.
Thinking about business, if you had access to the full playbook and strategic initiatives of your competitor, would that be helpful? Certainly. It would really help in being able to make decisions and understand how a competitor might react to certain moves, and certain things you might do in the market. The scriptures show us what Lucifer’s primary strategies are in waging battle for our souls. I’d really like to rely on a lot of the visions and prophecies that Nephi had in this discussion. He speaks a lot about our day. He saw all of us, and what’s going on, and the things of the world, and what was going on with people in the Church. He has a lot of interesting things to say.
Nephi says this in 1 Nephi 14: “There are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations…
“And it came to pass that I [meaning Nephi] beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the [church of the devil] (verses 10 & 12).
There’s this interesting analysis that Nephi makes. He’s able to say, “Hey, there are two churches, two groups, two organizations, if you will. One [group] is those who truly follow the Lamb of God and are associated and belong with him. The other, by default, is the church of the devil.”
Now, a lot of times in this Church we think, “Well, I’m a baptized member of the LDS Church, and so I am a member of the church of the Lamb of God.” Well, we’re taught some interesting things in the parable of the ten virgins. This is a parable about our Church, the church of God. How many were prepared when the bridegroom came, of those ten virgins? Five. I don’t know if the percentages play out exactly, but the principle that’s taught is that just being a member of this Church does not guarantee us membership in this most important of organizations, the church of the Lamb of God.
I would also say I think there are individuals on this earth who are not baptized members of this Church, but are living to the best of their ability, following the Spirit. Based on the knowledge they have, they are doing everything they can to follow the Savior. Their hearts are committed to the Savior. Those unbaptized members, if you will, will be members of the church of the Lamb of God. So I think it really becomes incumbent upon us to ask ourselves, “Am I living the way I need to in order to be a member of the church of the Lamb of God?”
So the distinguishing characteristic is personal righteousness. It’s not just being baptized. Of course, I’m not trying to downplay ordinances for exaltation, because those are critical and important. But what I’m talking about today is our hearts. I think what identifies us with the church of the Lamb of God versus the church of the devil is where our hearts are. Satan works very vigorously to keep us from active participation in this church, the church of the Lamb of God. If I could read from Doctrine & Covenants section 76, it says: “We saw…and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
“And was called Perdition,” meaning lost, “for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
“…For we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take [away] the kingdom of our God and his Christ—
“Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.
“And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame” (verses 25-30).
So, there is this great war going on now. It’s more important than any marketing battle in the cola industry or automobile industry or anything like that. This is a battle, even a war, for the souls of the children of our Father in Heaven. How does Satan make war with us? What are some of the techniques or strategies he employs to make war with each one of us individually? Strategies of the Adversary.
I’d like to talk about three strategies. I know there are many, but I want to address three strategies that Lucifer uses against us today, to distract us from becoming members of the church of the Lamb of God—three things to try to keep our hearts far from our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.
First Strategy: Distracting Us with Less Important Things
The first one is distracting us with less important things. The second is destroying our agency. And the third is stirring our hearts to anger. I’d like to address each one of those.
Certainly Satan strives to distract us from what is most important in this life. If I can leverage some of the things that Nephi said, again. Seeing our day, he describes it as this: the adversary will “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 28:21).
There are many examples in the scriptures of good people that were distracted by things that weren’t as important. Amulek is one of those. Now, you remember, he and Alma had the chance to speak to the people of Ammonihah. Alma got up and spoke, and then it became Amulek’s turn. He got up and began to introduce himself before he shared his message. He says this: “I am…a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry” (Alma 10:4). So this is a guy that’s pretty successful in the world.
“Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power.” And then he catches himself when he says that. He says, “I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
“Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear” (Alma 10:5-6). Somehow he got so distracted through all the different things going on that he was not able, or did not give heed and credence to the promptings that he received from the Holy Spirit, from Father in Heaven, to call him to do things that were more important.
Here’s another example. In 1831, Joseph Smith and ten other elders were out on missions. They had left Kirtland, and they were out preaching the gospel in different parts of the area. Joseph Smith received a revelation to have everyone come back to Kirtland, and Heavenly Father particularly wanted Joseph Smith to come quickly. Well, they all met and got in a big canoe, got on the Missouri River, and as swiftly as they could they went back to Kirtland.
There was a point during the middle of this journey back when they were camped on McIlwaine’s Bend on August 12 th of 1831. This is documented in D&C 61. The Savior gives a revelation to Joseph Smith, and He makes a comment—a bit of a critique, but done very gently—when he says: “Verily I say unto you, that it is not needful for this whole company of mine elders to be moving swiftly upon the waters, whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief” (verse 3). So here are these missionaries, getting back as fast as they can to Kirtland, and kind of forgot about why they were really out, and that was to teach the gospel. Now Joseph needed to get back quickly, but did all of the rest of the elders? Apparently not, from what the Lord says. And he doesn’t criticize them, but just instructs them and tutors them.
I wonder if sometimes in our life we get distracted because we are “moving so swiftly upon the waters.” So many things going on, about our profession, our education, social situation. There are a hundred things that can cause us to be distracted from that which is most important. In my life there are professions, habits, hobbies—too many activities. I’ve even heard someone say, “I’m too busy because I’m now retired.” So you can be too busy in all kinds of different ways.
President James E. Faust gives us some wonderful counsel regarding that which is most important. He says, “we need to set priorities to guide us in allocating our time. Some forget that their first priority should be to maintain their own spiritual and physical strength.” So that’s the first one. “The second is their family, then the Church, then their professions.” Then he says, “All need time.”
If I were to say, “Okay, the most important thing is my spiritual development, so I’m going to quit everything, and I’m going to hike to the top of Mount Olympus every day and I’m going to read my scriptures from sunrise to sunset. And then I’m going to come down, rest, and do the same thing the next day,” I might learn more about the scriptures, but am I really developing and growing spiritually? No. I’m letting my family down; I’m letting down any responsibilities I have in the Church. I certainly won’t have a job for very long, if I’m doing that. So, the important thing is that all of those things need time.
In a recent leadership training with Elder David A. Bednar someone asked the question, “How can I find balance in my life?” He responded very directly, “There is no such thing as balance in your life. What you need to do is identify those things that are most out of whack and give attention to those things at that time.” We all only have 24 hours in a day, and there are many more things that we would like to do than we can do. So it’s important to allocate our time to those things that are most important.
Sometimes this gets difficult. We have a neighbor whose family of four children all ended up having some real skills in soccer. They got more and more involved recreationally, then competitively, and then they joined more elite teams. Practices were Monday through Friday; and on weekends they had games in far-off locations. And at one point they sat down with their whole family and said, “What is going on? We’re losing one another.”
Now, they still loved soccer and enjoyed playing it. Soccer isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. What they decided was, “Monday will always be the night for our family. We’ll never compromise on that. And if a team will still let us play, great. If they won’t, then we’ll find another team.” They made the decision as a family to get less involved in soccer and to make sure they still had time together. In three years they hadn’t even had a family vacation together, so they planned a family vacation. I was very impressed, because with so much pressure to succeed in worldly things, this family decided to excel at something more important. Well, let me ask a few questions. I’m asking these questions of myself, but you can listen to these questions and ask yourself whether or not Lucifer is making progress against you.
· Do I make time for spiritual nourishment through sincere prayer and meditation?
· Do I make time to study the word of God?
· Do I make time to be with my spouse, children, or other loved ones?
· Do I make time to worship in the temple frequently?
Even now, as busy as it seems as students, I think the best thing you can do is to go to the temple once a week, worthily, and serve there. There’s nothing more important. One of the best things that ever happened to me in my life was that when I got home from my mission my stake president invited me to serve as a veil worker in the temple. Every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. I got to go to the Salt Lake Temple and do that. It ended up being one of the best ways to keep me close to the Savior. You spend some time in a place where the world isn’t swirling around and the Spirit of the Lord can touch your mind and touch your heart and give you guidance and direction. You are making incredibly important decisions right now. The decisions you are making now and in the next few years, for most of you, are things that will impact your eternal exaltation. So you want to be in the right frame of mind to be able to make those decisions well.
Here are two more questions:
· Do I make time to have family home evening each week?
· Do I make time to visit my home teaching and visiting teaching families?
Well, the challenge I’d give all of us, me included, is to pick one activity in our lives that is not as important as some other things, and let’s do what we can to eradicate that from our lives and fill it with something more critical and eternal in nature.
So, one thing Satan tries to do and does well is distract us with less important things.
Second Strategy: Destroy our Agency
The second thing he tries to do is destroy our agency. This is a particularly pernicious and effective tool. He has always sought to destroy the agency of man. In Moses is recorded that great council in heaven. Heavenly Father speaks:
“Satan…came before me saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:1, 3).
He has always sought to destroy our agency. Heavenly Father stopped that and did not allow it. Free agency is the one gift He will never take from us. In fact, even though Lucifer has rebelled in such ways, He has still never taken it away from him. So if He’s not going to take it away from him, He certainly isn’t going to take it away from us. However, we can give it away if we choose.
Nephi, again looking in our day, said that there are many that the Adversary “leadeth by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever” (2 Nephi 26:22).
Now, Elder Nelson does a great job explaining how this works. He says: “While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices we are tied to the consequences of those choices. For example, we are free to take drugs or not, but once we choose to use a habit-forming drug, we are bound to the consequences of that choice. Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will.”
Now this is a tactic the Adversary uses, and there are many others that he uses. He is very subtle in the way that he approaches it. Let me ask some questions again.
· Do I have excessive debt? Do I have any consumer debt? Have I ever missed paying tithing because of a debt obligation?
· Do I participate in any form of betting, whether in person or online? Do I participate in recreational trips to Nevada? Do I wager on sporting events?
· Do I have addictive behaviors relating to any substance? Do I have addictions to substances not even mentioned in the Word of Wisdom?
· Do I watch too much television? Do I really need to watch that certain television series, say, Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., or whatever it is?
· Do I view pornography at all?
· Do I chat online with others in a way that is suggestive or inappropriate?
These are just a few techniques that he uses and you can make a list of questions much longer than this. Alma describes well how these techniques impact each one of us individually if we take the bait that Lucifer gives us.
He says: “And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity” (Alma 12:6).
If we fought so valiantly for our ability to choose our agency in the pre-mortal existence, why would we give it away here? Moreover, do you find it hypocritical that the Adversary tries to exercise his free agency by taking away ours? I don’t know that his plan would even have worked, but it sure isn’t fair.
Well, there are many I have seen in my own life, close friends, who have come into issues with pornography or gambling, and I’ve seen some of the challenges and problems that it can cause in their lives. It can ruin families, it can ruin your job, it can ruin your spiritual existence, it can ruin your opportunity to be a member of the church of the Lamb of God.
The challenge would be to identify any addictions we may have, small or large, and do what we can to eradicate them from our lives. We cannot eradicate them by ourselves. We have to have the Savior to do it. But President Gordon B. Hinckley gives us a wonderful formula. He says, “Plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you.” So that’s one—to rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Second, “and may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of a spiritual or priesthood leader.” And third, “if necessary, the counseling of a caring professional.”
I love this wonderful statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer: “Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of absolute and complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the Atonement of Christ.”
So this will always be one of Lucifer’s greatest strategies: to destroy us by destroying our agency.
Third Strategy: Stir Our Hearts to Anger
The third technique Lucifer uses is to stir our hearts to anger. Nephi, seeing our day, describes this: “For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish; “For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good” (2 Nephi 28:19-20).
Now we know that the father of contention is the adversary, and we also know that the Lord frequently is called the Prince of Peace. Peace, tranquility, harmony, unity—that is of the Savior. Contention, negativity, criticism—all those things are of the adversary.
Recently we were hiring for a position where I work. Two individuals ended up in the last round of interviews. They both had excellent resumes, their experience was perfect for what we needed, and so we had a chance for them to meet a number of people in our organization. It was so fascinating that despite the almost equal backgrounds and experiences, one of them was extraordinarily positive. When we asked him questions he was just very positive. You could tell that he would be a contributor to a positive and productive work environment. The other candidate was very negative. This person had an axe to grind about everything that was brought up. You can see how one would be such a valuable asset and one could have such a terrible, negative impact. I would rather have someone working at our company that may not be quite as bright, but works very well with people—has teamwork, integrity, all those things—because we’ll get a whole lot more done as an organization.
Satan is very skillful and subtle playing us off of one another. If someone were to come up and slap you across the face, I think most here would say, “Okay, that was over the line. I shouldn’t slap this person back, and I’ll just kind of walk away.” But he’s so subtle and tricky in the way he does this, that he’s able to drive wedges before we even know it.
Here are some questions that we might ask ourselves:
· How do I react when someone says something offensive to me? Am I easily offended?
· Do I feel bad when someone else succeeds or achieves something great?
· Do I accept counsel easily from church leaders, even if it’s not delivered in an understanding way?
· Do I withhold a compliment intentionally from someone who deserves it?
· Do I ever feel an inward joy when another experiences disappointment or failure?
· How do I react if I’ve been unfairly judged?
· Do I criticize others quickly?
· Am I withholding forgiveness from someone so that I might have the upper edge in our relationship?
I issue a challenge for each one of us. If there is anyone in your life with whom you do not have a good relationship or with whom you have any enmity, do what you can to break that enmity down. Prayerfully identify who that person is. Humbly go to them. Ask for forgiveness. Or, if you haven’t even done something and you’re just angry at them, pray so that you have good feelings about that person. The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell within us if we have anger, animosity or contention within us. Those two things cannot mix.
Elder Nelson says, “We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peaceably as couples, families and neighbors.” One of the adversary’s greatest tools today causes us to contend one with another, by pride, by being offended, or by the thousand different ways it can happen. He works so hard and so skillfully at this because the tiniest wedge will drive away the Spirit.
I am so grateful that we have the Lord, and the scriptures that help us identify many of the strategies that the adversary uses to keep us from reaching our full potential, from being as righteous as possible, and ultimately from being members of the church of the Lamb of God.
There is a statement made in D&C 100 to Joseph Smith. This was a time when the early church was trying to develop Zion. There were great hopes of building a Zion society. But it started to unravel, primarily because of personal unrighteousness on the part of some saints. Joseph Smith was concerned about this, but the Lord said to him, “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church” (verse 15).
And then he says this: “For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness” (verse 16). There is no question about whether there will be a righteous people. There will be a church of the Lamb of God. That will happen. The only question becomes whether we will be members of it or not. As we can identify these strategies the adversary uses—to distract us with less-important things, to destroy our agency, and to stir our hearts to anger—if we can rely upon the Atonement and combat those strategies so that we can enjoy the blessings of the gospel in our lives, so that we can be members of that church of the Lamb of God, we’ll be blessed greatly. We’ll not only personally be blessed, but we’ll be more enabled to help others along their way. The reason that you’re here at this school, the reason you’ve come to this earth, the reason you’re a member of the Church, is so you can serve and bless the lives of others. That becomes our ultimate mission. I think that as our lives are analyzed after we go back, there will be much discussion about what we have contributed, not what we’ve achieved, in this life.
There’s a great hope that if we collectively—not only personally, but also collectively—can gain this type of righteousness; we can literally bind Satan’s power. Nephi, seeing our day and people, says: “And because of the righteousness of his people [meaning the Lord’s people], Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth” (1 Nephi 22:26).
May we not only as a people allow Him to reign, but may He reign personally in our lives. Of these things I testify and bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.