7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.As wickedness increases on the earth, so does the power of satan. He can work signs and wonders, transform himself into an angel of light, and has abilities to entice, mislead, deceive, trick, and tempt that are great, even to the extent that the very elect will succumb. His deceptions can be so subtle and can seem so real, like mirages of desert oases that we yearn to reach, but that ultimately result in one distancing him or herself so far from God that they are off the path to eternal life, wandering in strange roads.
The ground cover in our fruit tree orchard is a mix of orchard grass, wildflowers, and weeds. Until one develops an eye for it, it is very difficult to tell the weeds and the wildflowers apart until they bear fruit (form a head). In times past, I have inadvertently ripped out many good wildflowers because I thought they were weeds. I was working in the orchard the other day, trying to clear out weeds, and came across a tangle of large wild clover and alfalfa. I almost bypassed the clover because it was so well camouflaged in the alfalfa (our animals can be fed the alfalfa). It was only for the newly developed fruit (the purple flowers) in the alfalfa that I spared the good and was able to trace the clover to its root and pull it out. The wild clover has a very long and skinny root that grows rapidly, which it can be difficult to pull out if the soil is dry and hard (so does alfalfa by the way). A few lessons to draw from this: 1) for the unexperienced, it takes time before the fruits will appear that will help us to know truth from satan's counterfeits. It is important to be patient, not act hastily, and seek out guidance from the spirit, which will teach us the truth of all things, before acting. 2) It is important to keep our own spiritual ground fertile with soft soil. If we allow the soil of our hearts to become hardened, the advancements made by the adversary will be more difficult to root out when they are identified. 3) No one is immune, regardless of status or background, from the enticements and deceptions of the adversary. These weeds spread and pop up everywhere. They learn how to transport themselves even into the most well-tended gardens. Anyone who thinks they are beyond satan's reach, no matter what they do or how they live, has been deceived.
|Alfalfa with flowers (left) and wild clover (right).|
There are also many good people who are and will be deceived, even the elect. Many of us are so eager to obtain further light and knowledge that we jump at the chance when something resembling truth comes in our path. We don't even question its source or whether there are elements of error woven in, designed to promote our downfall. How do you know if someone has been approved of the Lord, received spiritual gifts from His hand, been appointed as one of His prophets or messengers, or has received abilities, insights, so called "gifts" in some other way? How are you able to judge the heart of another or the source of ones gifts and deem them pure? In most cases you cannot entirely. Therefore, you cannot entrust one iota of your salvation to another person, ever. You may listen, take what others offer or say, but before adopting such things into your life or doing what anyone else suggests, take some time to bring these things to the Lord in fervent prayer and perhaps fasting. There is no rush. Take time to seek out the Lord's guidance. This is your eternal salvation we are taking about. If an angel were to appear before you, how would you respond to it? How would you determine if it was a messenger from God? If you met someone demonstrating great insights into your life or offering to help you grow spiritually through their spiritual gifts, how would you respond? Even the best among us will be deceived. Love them, treat them kindly, be compassionate towards them, they can be reclaimed and the Lord will be merciful to them. Some related verses from Doctrine & Covenants 50:
2 Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.Almost every word of the temple endowment will help us understand the threat of deception by satan and his counterfeits, and thus endow us with increased powers to avoid them. Listen carefully to the words of the adversary: "what do you want?", "you can have anything in this world", "you will be like gods", "I will teach you the philosophies/commandments of men mixed with scripture", "these teachings are received quite well". Listen to the words or reactions of Adam: "I am looking for messengers from the Father to teach me", "this man does not believe what is being taught". In other words, when one embarks on the path back to the Father, the adversary will come to tempt and deceive them into worshiping him. When we call out to our Father in Heaven, the god of this world may be among the first to answer, seeking our attention and offering us the desires of our hearts, pushing us towards destruction. It is important that our hearts remain focused, that we do not believe in the teachings of this world or settle for the rewards and things of this world. We must keep the commandments we have been given and then the Lord will send true His messengers to teach us.
3 And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
6 But wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment.
7 Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed;
8 But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world.
9 Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me.
15 And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?
16 Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.