Tuesday, July 3, 2018

How Long? Part 3: Deceiving Beings and Being Deceived

One great evil is, that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence, etc., and imagine that when there is anything like power, revelation, or vision manifested, that it must be of God. 
—Joseph Smith, Try the Spirits, T&C 147:6

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

God has been remarkably generous in offering new light and knowledge in this dispensation. We now have open access to truths kept hidden from the foundation of the world, together with the consequent responsibility to value, learn and apply these truths. We should study them diligently.

But we also have a problem. Whether we study diligently or not, deceivers and imposters do, studying how to pull off increasingly effective deceptions, which do, and will, fool all who are not better informed than the deceivers. Greater light empowers them; does it empower us?

Said Joseph Smith:
A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God. (TPJS, 217)
Suppose, for a moment, he really meant that. Do you have more knowledge than the evil spirits who attempt to mislead you? Or, setting the bar even lower, do you have adequate knowledge to detect the mortal imposters, deceivers and charlatans currently abroad in the world? It’s not getting any easier, and too many are already falling prey to shockingly transparent deceptions. As the deceivers up their game, more will be deceived. Will you?

Moses confronted Pharaoh’s magicians, who worked miracles by their sorcery. Is it possible such powerful deceptions will come again? Do you believe the prophecies telling us to expect deceivers working miracles in our day? (Rev. 4:9, 6:8; 8:3, Mark 6:4, Matthew 11:3, 6 NC, among others) How will you tell they are deceivers, when they seemingly exhibit such mighty power—and greater knowledge than you?

A Page from Hiram’s Book

In the incipient stages of the restoration, imposters beset the church, receiving false visions and revelations, exhibiting spiritual gifts from false spirits, and misleading many. Early among these was Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates. Within three months of his baptism, Hiram began receiving and writing false revelations to the church through a seer stone. Joseph Smith received a revelation to have Oliver Cowdery correct this error, and Hiram Page repented. Eight years later, though, Hiram turned against Joseph and was excommunicated. This is a man who joined the church less than a week after it was formed. He had seen and handled the gold plates, yet found himself susceptible to deception. This should not be as surprising as it may sound, though. Signs never produce faith.

Though signs, wonders, false scriptures, false revelations, forgeries, imitations, and high-quality replicas all abound today, they only lead away from faith. Without the ability to discern, we are all at grave risk.

After the Hiram Page incident, influence of false spirits continued, and many expressed concern about the phenomena manifested in Kirtland and elsewhere, leading Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord and receive a revelation on the topic in 1831; see T&C 36. Then, eleven years later, leading a people who were still too-often deceived, Joseph published an editorial in the Times and Seasons on the same topic. It begins as follows:
Recent occurrences that have transpired amongst us render it an imperative duty devolving upon me to say something in relation to the spirits by which men are actuated. It is evident from the apostles’ writings that many false spirits existed in their day, and had “gone forth into the world,” and that it needed intelligence which God alone could impart to detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God. The world in general have been grossly ignorant in regard to this one thing, and why should they be otherwise — for “the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.” The Egyptians were not able to discover the difference between the miracles of Moses and those of the magicians until they came to be tested together; and if Moses had not appeared in their midst, they would unquestionably have thought that the miracles of the magicians were performed through the mighty power of God, for they were great miracles that were performed by them — a supernatural agency was developed and great power manifested. (T&C 147:1)
Consider Moses

Moses was not deceived. But he already had knowledge adequate to detect, confront and overcome even Lucifer himself. Consider the definition of “glory,” which is intelligence, light and truth, as you read this prior event in Moses’s life:
And now it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying, Moses, son of man, worship me. But Moses lifted up his eyes and looked upon Satan and said, Who are you? For behold, I am a son of God in the similitude of His Only Begotten, and where is your glory that I should worship you? For behold, I could not look upon God except His glory should come upon me and I were transfigured before Him, but I can surely look upon you in the natural man. Blessed be the name of my God for His spirit has not altogether withdrawn from me. I say, Where is your glory? For it is blackness unto me and I can judge between you and God. For God said unto me, Worship God, for Him only shall you serve. Depart from here Satan, deceive me not…And again Moses said, I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of Him. For His glory has been upon me and it is glory unto me, wherefore, I can judge between Him and you. Depart from here Satan. (Genesis 1:3, OC, emphasis mine)
Moses had adequate light and truth within to detect the identity of the false Christ demanding his worship. How would you fare in the same situation?

Back to Joseph:
…if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory, or what is the manner of his manifestation? …Or who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the Devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings. A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. (T&C  147:8-9)
Are we foolish or arrogant enough to presume there will not be another Kirtland-like outpouring of false spirits and deceived followers? Do we presume Hiram Page was an isolated anomaly? Are we really competent enough in the things of God to detect and reject deceivers and deceiving spirits when they come (and they surely will)?

An Infestation of Manifestations

In light of these warnings from Joseph, it’s alarming to read current claims of spiritual manifestations—eagerly and publicly shared in great detail—yet bearing the hallmarks of deception. Books, websites, and social media groups do a brisk trade in this false currency, convincing and deceiving the uninformed with instructions about how to “pierce the veil” and obtain a sought-after experience. As I’ve written before, “piercing the veil” will indeed bring you into contact with spiritual beings. But this is no guarantee they will be sources of truth. If “piercing the veil” is your stated goal, you’re practically begging to be misled. Evil spirits with a great deal of knowledge, even the appearance of glory, most surely stand ready to interact with all who will receive them.

Likewise, mortals under the influence of false spirits, make lavish claims about themselves, their importance, their titles, callings, authorities, future roles, indispensability to the kingdom of God, and the necessity of following them. Yet, such people have accomplished nothing besides making claims. Didn’t the Lord tell us to judge by their fruits? Where, then, are the fruits, by which we can know them? What good does it do to make claims—as a substitute for the years of actual labor and sacrifice required to accomplish something that furthers the Lord’s work?

False Christs? For Real? 

The Lord warned us explicitly of false Christs who will work great signs and wonders, deceiving, if possible, even the elect according to the covenant. (Matthew 11:6, Mark 6:4 NC). I don’t take this to simply mean there will be deranged people running about, claiming to be Jesus returned (though there certainly are.) Such generally fail to convince anyone, and have little chance of deceiving the elect. What need of the warning, then?

No, the dangerous false Christs are those angels of light who make themselves known to those who seek Christ with zeal but not knowledge. They most certainly pretend to be our Lord, and they do a passable job of imitation. Are we to assume every purported experience with a supernatural being claiming to be Christ actually is Christ? Are we to believe every so-called “second comforter experience” trumpeted on the internet, which, upon inspection, bears none of the hallmarks of a true encounter, and disturbing hallmarks of a false one? If every “second comforter” experience is actually genuine, then why did our Lord explicitly warn us of false Christs?

The only logical explanation is that He warned us for good reason, and that there are, and will be, false Christs deceiving, if possible, the very elect.

The devil tried it on Moses. He’s not above trying it on you. If you “pierce the veil” unprotected by adequate light within and a reliable connection to the Record of Heaven, you will most certainly be deceived. The light and truth that will protect you are only obtained by the medium of sacrifice. See Lecture Sixth of the Lectures on Faith.

Sacrifice and Sound Reasoning

Part of that required sacrifice involves putting in the time and diligent effort in study and prayer required to obtain light from God. It’s becoming evident who has not made such effort, as people ask questions and propose ideas that demonstrate their lack of familiarity with what has already been given. We now have a massive library of reliable information available to us, and it continues to grow, thus requiring a concerted effort, spanning years, to come to understanding. Further, God expects us to use critical thinking, sound reasoning, and logic to process what we’re studying. Notice, however, that list of tools does not include emotion—and for good reason.

Emotion is unreliable as a revealer of truth. As I’ve written previously, one of Lucifer’s greatest triumphs has been convincing so many that their emotions constitute revelation because they “feel the spirit.” Thus, they make their feelings the final measure of truth, and become easily deceived. Many false ideas offered and believed among us are nothing more than wishful thinking, based on emotional whimsy, demonstrating both ignorance and poor reasoning. Perhaps some of these emotionally appealing, but false ideas, will provide subject matter for a future post in this series.

It matters not how compelling, moving, or sentimental an idea the devil presents. His power shook the earth when he commanded Moses to worship him. His dramatic performance included shouting, weeping, wailing, teeth gnashing and trembling. Moses was moved with emotion, but when he gave place for that emotion, he only saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, Moses subordinated his fear, trusted in the light and truth he had already obtained, and overcame the devil himself.

This is a valuable lesson. Truth is not subordinate to our emotions; rather, we are to subordinate our emotions to truth. Get it backwards, and you’ll most certainly fall victim to deceit. Get it right, and you’ll have a powerful fortification against being deceived. I don’t know how to say it more directly, but I’ll try:

If you believe something is true because you “felt the spirit” you are probably deceived. I wish I could proclaim it with the sound of a trump every time I hear someone make this statement. It still happens far too much among a people who should know better. Feelings are not the source of light and truth.

And remember, the ONLY way Moses could differentiate was by having MORE light and truth than Satan. Do YOU?

Do not be preoccupied with food for your bellies, but for food from God, that is, light and truth, leading to endless progression upward. I am Son Ahman and can give you sustaining light and truth, for God the Father has declared I am His Son. 
—TSJ 5:13

Then Jesus said to them, In the name of Father Ahman I tell you the truth, Moses was not the one who gave bread, it was my Father who did that. But now my Father is offering true life-giving bread from heaven, which is light and truth. For the Bread of God is sent from the Heavenly Council to give light and truth to the world. They responded, Master, feed us with this bread forever. 
—TSJ 5:15