There is a matter I would like to lay out and explain in all plainness, and yet I think it is one that we have a very difficult time accepting.
I think I will try teaching it with questions and answers. Let us look at the scriptures.
2 Nephi 28:20 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
21 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.
22 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.
Question: How could Satan rage in the hearts of some men, but not others? Anger is a powerful feeling. How could Satan make some people angry? How come not other people? Is tempting someone the only thing the adversary can do to a person, or can he affect their emotions dramatically? Can he not only affect someones emotions, but also target those emotions toward something? Can the adversary inspire specific thoughts in people? Does the adversary inspire only anger, or can he inspire other feelings, such as an easy going apathy? And with all of this, why can he successfully do it to some people, but not to others?
Answer: There is a startling amount of truth packed into these few verses. In these verse we see the adversary stirring up a powerful emotion, anger, in people. Not only are they stirred up to anger, but it is not just an undirected feeling of anger. It is anger targeted against that which is good. These verse speak of the adversary inspiring men with specific ideas, such as that “all is well in Zion” and that there is no devil. They describes him inspiring a range of emotions in men, flattering them, inspiring apathy, as well as anger. The question about how Satan could affect some men in all these ways, but not others, is the crucial one, but not one we will address yet.
Are there other verses in the scriptures in which we see the adversary inspiring men with specific thoughts and feelings? Well, look and see.
In each of these verses, there are two interesting questions that we never ask. The first is whether the adversary really does these things to real people the same today as in ancient days. The second is why was he able to to these things to some people but not to others in each of these scriptures. There are actually so many, that I will just offer little clips of the scriptures here.
3 Nephi 1:22 …there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, …
3 Nephi 2:2 …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 … and Satan did go about, leading away the hearts of the people, tempting them and
causing them that they should do great wickedness in the land.
3 Nephi 11:29 …he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Ether 8:25 … for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.
26 …that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.
D&C 10:32 … Satan will harden the hearts of the people to stir them up to anger against you, that they will not believe my words.
Mosiah 16:3 For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over
1 Nephi 13:29 … an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea,
insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
It is somewhat startling what power the scriptures show the adversary exercising over people in the scriptures. And it leads us to a crucial question: Why is the adversary able to exercise such power over some individuals, but not over over others?
The key to all of this is a simple notion we have long forgotten. Sin gives Satan a measure of power over people. We see Satan exercising power over people in the scriptures: affecting their emotions, inspiring them for or against things, inspiring thoughts in their minds that they believe are their own notions. And, given that we see such things in the scriptures, the crucial question is “How did he get such an ability?” and the answer is “Whenever we yield to his temptations, be it a temptation to do wrong , to speak wrong, or to think wrong, we give him a corresponding measure of power over ourselves.” It is sin that gives the adversary power over people.
We see him exercising that power over people in the scriptures, and we see the same thing today.
These days, many people, even in the church, think that while pornography and fornication are wrong, they have little direct affect on a person, other than affecting their worthiness. We have forgotten this basic truth: Sin gives the adversary power over people. Serious sin, such as fornication, gives the adversary dramatically greater power in a person’s life than a smaller sin, such as gossiping. The adversary exercises his power against people in these days precisely the way he did in the scriptures.
And we see that. We saw our nation become all about tolerance in one moment, and then swing around to be cruelly intolerant to Christians in the next. There is no consistency because they are not moved by logic, but by the sway of the adversary who stirs up those who choose sin in this age at his whim just as he did in the Book of Mormon.