—2 Nephi 9:51
In Part One of this series, I said the following:
“Now, if the point is to become redeemed by our Redeemer—and it is—then what is Satan’s best strategy? Well, he’s got to keep that from happening. But since he cannot ever directly prevent us from seeking the Lord, he has to be much more subtle. He has to distract us by diverting our attention…he just needs us to procrastinate.”It’s no surprise that the Adversary tries to distract us. In most cases, he doesn’t even need to be subtle about it. Those who have little interest in the things of God will find an unending supply of other pursuits to hold their attention. Our relative ease and endless information access, combined with a false and flattering religious tradition serve to keep most of us safely asleep.
Wolves come among us in sheep’s clothing, speaking soothing words to assure us all is well.
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 28:21)He must lead them carefully, so as to not awaken them, as they seek for happiness in all the wrong places, until it is everlastingly too late:
But 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. (Helaman 13:38)Shhhh. Keep them comfortable. Let them sleep. All is well.
But What of Those who Do Awaken?
Despite the Adversary’s best efforts, some few awaken anyway. They may actually read the scriptures and believe what’s written there. They may begin to recognize their desperate situation and need for redemption. They may notice the doctrine, ordinances, and practices no longer match scripture.
They may soften their hearts, open their minds, and cast away their unbelief. They hunger for truth.
Awake people represent danger to Satan’s kingdom, and he knows he must deal with them more directly. This is where his efforts become much more subtle. Rather than quietly slinking in the shadows to avoid notice, he switches to an entirely different tactic.
I call it the "false trifecta"
When people stop listening to the flattering voices and seek instead to hear the Lord’s voice, Satan gets his piece of that action by introducing as many strange, new voices as possible. By so doing, he hopes to take advantage of the open minds and willing hearts of repentant souls. He doesn’t care if your mind is open, as long as it’s open to him.
Those who come out of the various Mormon traditions face particular risk because they have likely spent their lives being told what to think, believe, and do, and have therefore never developed much ability to discern truth from error for themselves.
Satan exploits this perfect combination of openness, inexperience, and desire for knowledge by introducing his own counterfeit sources as if they were true. He slips in fool’s gold with the real gold, hoping you can’t tell the difference.
He knows you want to learn, and he's happy to help you do so, just as long as your learning is diluted. Or deluded. He WANTS you to be "ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is delicious and delightful. It fills the soul with joy. Naturally, having tasted of this feast, we want more. More knowledge. More understanding. More Godliness.
Abraham was a “follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge…” (Abraham 1:2) Such desires are good and Godly.
Indeed, Joseph Smith taught, “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” (TPJS, 364)
And Alma said:
…and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (Alma 12:10)And so, it is clearly good, right, and necessary that we learn the mysteries of God and Godliness. Because these things are “mysteries,” they will, by definition, be new to us. Learning the unknown gives Satan prime opportunities to insert his own teachings into the mix, hoping we will not notice.
Sadly, this approach is often successful.
I’ve seen too many people awaken and begin searching for gospel knowledge, only to be seduced by errant ideas about the nature of God, the nature of man, history, mythology, metaphysics, the study of Lucifer, spiritual "shielding," invented ordinances, what they assume went on before this earth, or any of dozens of topics that become at best, distracting, and at worst, Hellish. Such teachings are not gold. They're fool’s gold.
Sadly, these new pet topics become gospel hobbies for some, or even obsessions, causing closed minds, hard hearts, and damnation. What’s the point of shedding an old unbelief only to accept a dozen new ones?
Fortunately, there is a defense against this particular attack. Remember the Book of Gold? The Book of Mormon contains record after record of those who found redemption in the presence of the Lord. It bears witness of what they believed, how they behaved, and the path they followed into the Lord’s presence. These elements serve to guide us.
But what is NOT stated provides important guidance as well. You will not find extensive conjecture about multiple mortalities, the identity of Satan/Lucifer, attacks by demons, a hollow earth, polygamy, conspiracy theories, Heavenly Mother, whether the pearly gates swing or slide, how to leave your body, or secret tricks to summon spirits.
The bread crumb trail left for us by those who walked the path back into God’s presence is sufficient for us if we’ll walk the same path. There’s no need to try every other forbidden path fork. Only one path leads to the tree of life, and only those who cling to the rod of iron will successfully navigate that path. Let go of the rod, and you WILL be lost in the darkness.
You can, and you will learn the mysteries of Godliness along the true path when you walk it with patience and diligence. But you will learn them from reliable sources. For myself, I can unequivocally state that deep, careful and inquisitive study of the scriptures, most especially the Book of Mormon, absolutely does open the mysteries to view. Stick with this source and patiently mine the claim. The gold is there.
The question of sources brings up the issue of false teachers.
I’ve noticed that the current movement to preserve the restoration attracts all types and all viewpoints. Certainly all are invited to come and partake of what the Lord freely offers. Satan certainly comes as well, to spread his fool’s gold around.
Some, who are knowingly or unknowingly influenced by Satan, come with the intention of seeking followers, setting themselves up for a light, and getting gain or praise. They teach mysteries and secrets, revealing hidden knowledge—not from scripture—but learned in other ways, and from other sources. Some claim their higher knowledge frees them from the “lower” laws given by God in scripture, and they become a law unto themselves.
Some claim the right or calling to teach such things, even seeking money or other gratification for doing so. Others exercise false spiritual gifts, issuing prophecy about the future, or offering to tell you about your past lives and identities, or your mission here on earth. Some even claim to be reincarnated important people, or claim special powers, standing, or callings. All profess to know tantalizing secrets they will very willingly reveal to impress you.
Do you have any idea how many men have come along over the years claiming to be the “one mighty and strong?” They were all deceivers. (Pro Tip: Anyone who claims to be the One Mighty and Strong—isn't.)
I’m reminded of the tactics used by proponents of “Spiritual Wifery” in the early LDS church. Men came claiming secret knowledge and authority, proclaiming a “higher law” of free love and unrestrained sex, and contradicting what is clearly proclaimed in scripture. Secrecy was the watchword, adultery was the result, and damnation was the reward.
Yes, there are actually people who do know the mysteries of God. And they don't share what they know:
And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. (Alma 12:9)This ought to tell you something about those who are eager to share the mysteries they claim to understand.
Do you want to learn the mysteries of God? Learn them from God. Mine his word, labor in the spirit, pray and seek. Pay the price. He will open unto those who knock, and will give them His gold.
Of course, such an effort takes time, patience, and labor. Few are willing to give what is required. Few exercise patience in the face of promised “something for nothing” gratification. Few will keep up the sweaty work of digging and lifting when Satan waves fool’s gold in their face. Don't be a fool.
As Mormons, we're very comfortable with the idea of new scripture. The anticipated coming of the “Sealed Portion” of the Book of Mormon, together with references to the Book of Enoch, Record of John, Book of the Lamb of God, Record of Joseph, Brass Plates, and others, all combine to give us a lively expectation of, and openness to, new scripture.
We WANT more books.
Combine that desire with an openness and hunger, and you end up with people who eagerly investigate, and perhaps too readily embrace, quasi-scriptural writings. Examples abound:
Apocryphal Ancient Texts: Most of these suffer from the ravages of mis-translation and intentional obfuscation. There are dozens, if not hundreds of these works floating around and garnering attention of truth seekers. Many are indeed ancient. And some may, indeed, contain some truth. Or falsehood. Want to risk it?
Modern Pseudepigrapha: The term "pseudepigrapha" refers to fake scripture, intentionally written to read like scripture, complete with references to actual scripture and narrative elements designed to fit within scriptural history. Want Hagoth’s back story? How about Lehi’s history? The 116 lost manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon? The Brother of Jared's record? It’s all out there for the asking. Or not.
The “Sealed Portion.” Oh yes, it’s available. In fact, there are lots of different "Sealed Portions" out there. They’ve been popping up for many years all over the world, buried in strange places, or even unceremoniously handed over by angels to willing "translators." None of them are the same, none are inspired of God, and none are true. But they all claim to be the secret, sealed portion of the most correct book on earth. In reality, they are Book of Mormon Fan Fiction.
False Revelations: Who says the D&C only has 138 sections? There’s no shortage of folks out there claiming to receive “thus saith the Lord” type revelations, and new volumes of scripture. They range from pedestrian to zany. If you miss the days of Joseph Smith dictating revelation, then this is the deal for you. As long as you’re not actually seeking truth, that is.
What do all of these pseudo-scriptural writings have in common? They distract from REAL scripture. In fact, to a believing truth seeker, with shovel and pick in hand, they become an almost irresistible attraction and time suck. There are thousands and thousands of pages of this stuff out there, ready to trap your mind and waste your time—time that could be spent mining far richer veins.
Some justify searching into these sources by claiming that there may be some flecks of gold in that ore, and that they’ll never know until they spend the time to dig it up, grind and process it. What harm could there be in looking, after all?
Here’s the trouble with that idea: It requires discernment. In fact, it requires not just discernment, but super-powerful, ultra-acute discernment in the face of very convincing fakes. Looking for gold in the Devil’s mine isn’t for amateurs. Remember when the First Presidency was taken in by the Hoffman forgeries? Is your discernment good enough to dance near that fire? (Hint: If you think it is, that shows it isn't.)
Just because you recognize SOME truth doesn't mean you're prepared to discern ALL truth. The stakes are high, and mistaking fool's gold for the real thing may cost you everything.
And you know what? Even if there is some truth in some of these non-scriptural sources, THEY STILL AREN’T SCRIPTURE!!! Why waste the time? We have ACTUAL records of ACTUAL people who walked the path to redemption. And we’re woefully ignorant of what has been given!!
Given some of our current behavior, is it any wonder that only two years after its formation, the LDS church was under God's condemnation for treating scripture lightly?
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written (D&C 84:54-57)Are you out from under this condemnation? Are you sure?
If not, you really don't have time to waste on false teachings, false teachers, and false scripture. Only a fool will spend his labor for that which is of no worth. Don't be distracted by fool's gold.
Many among us fervently hope and pray to see the full restoration of the gospel; to see the formation of Zion; to stand in that day when the Savior returns. Such hopes will remain mere dreams until we finally remember and take seriously what the Lord has already given. Until we do, Satan will continue to ravage the flocks, culling all the sheep he can.
God has already given us all we need to find Him. Isn't it time we took it seriously?
Behold, I am God; give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my words.