Week 06 is scheduled for study Feb. 1-7, 2021. If we are to conquer our weaknesses, our temptations, and to return victoriously back to God, we need to know something of the enemy of our soul and how to be victorious in the end.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 10:1-33 – Satan seeks to destroy the work of God.

Recording impressions while reading the scriptures is like planting seeds; even small impressions can lead to meaningful personal revelation.

Joseph Smith didn’t listen to the answer he received from God that he should not give the 116 pages of translated text to Martin Harris. He pestered the Lord until the Lord basically said, ‘Have it your way.’ Joseph was, in many ways, a product of his day and time. He had a better understanding of God than anyone alive, but he hadn’t yet learned all the wiles of Satan, God’s greatest adversary. In Joseph’s day Satan was considered a monster of epic proportions. Many were no longer believing in Satan as a literal being, like God is a literal being. Satan and God had become abstract concepts to the Christian world. How was Joseph supposed to oppose this enemy that would take his soul if he didn’t understand how he worked or how to recognize his presence in his daily life?

Invisible evil

How can you conquer an enemy you know nothing about? What about an enemy that apparently doesn’t exist? Over the centuries Satan has done such a good job in peddling the fictitious stories about himself being a demon, and a monster of heroic proportions that in an age of science to believe in such a being is laughable. Why would he promote such beliefs – that he steals naughty children at night, that he has horns and cloven hooves for feet, carries a pitchfork, and has a tail? What does this do for his cause?

First of all, when Satan makes a mockery of his own evil nature, people begin to believe that the whole concept of there being a Satan at all is silly, something in which only the gullible would believe. Oh yes, they can believe in God (for now), but this Satan that pokes the wicked with his pitchfork in pits of fire? No, that is not rational.

What these tales have done for Satan and his ilk is to allow them to go up and down in the earth undetected and basically invisible. For who can tell if someone is there if they don’t believe he exists? If all that he does is attributed to human feelings and behaviors then whatever he does is ascribed to someone else, rendering him able to do almost anything he wants, completely undetected.

By making himself invisible, and believed to be nonexistent to humans, he can then turn his energies to mocking, ridiculing, and knocking down people’s belief in God, Himself. Now who is left to defend God, for a belief in God alone cannot explain why all the evil in the world exists. In this scenario, the formula of good versus evil has become a one sided argument that no longer holds water. You can’t have someone in charge of all good, without someone promoting all evil. Without a power that champions each side of the argument, you are left without any argument at all, just something no one can explain to anyone’s satisfaction. Hence you have people proclaiming that a just God would never tolerate all the evil in the world.

Isn’t it interesting that no one disbelieves the concept of evil? They just no longer have anyone to blame it on, but themselves, and who wants to take on that responsibility? Without the possibility of absolute evil then how can you rationally believe in absolute good? The philosophical problems just keep multiplying.

So this is where we are today. We live in a world where Satan has convinced most people he doesn’t exist, at least in any form of a real threat to their soul. And by becoming invisible, he has eroded the belief in God, making Him partially invisible as well. This leaves most of the world without an anchor to their soul. Is it any wonder that mankind has learned over the centuries to rely on himself as the ultimate source of wisdom?

We now live in a world where we, as a race, believe we set our own standards of behavior, knowing full well that each person has the right to set their own standard, and to live by their “own truth.” How many times have you heard that expression, to live by your own truth? With all the billions of children alive on the earth at any one time, how many standards of one’s own truth are running amok on earth each and every day? This is why there is chaos in the world. Satan is promoting each of us to do what makes us feel good or feel good about ourselves. He is encouraging everyone to grab what they can while they can still do it, for tomorrow we die. And without a belief in God or the hereafter, dying ends our lives as we know it. Many believe in something after this life, but there is no clear doctrine taught by any of the Christian denominations that spells out what we have to look forward to, so many have lost faith in this lack of vision over what is to come.

Satan doesn’t need to sleep, and there is always someone awake, so his unrelenting drive to destroy every one of us who didn’t support him in the grand council in heaven never needs to be put on pause. He pursues us all twenty four hours a day. Anything he can do to frustrate God’s plans for us is his target. And what is God’s plan for us? Why our happiness. This is why Satan seeks to make us miserable, like himself. This is why he promotes anything that is counter to what God promotes, for God only promotes that which will bring us peace and happiness.

Give evil a face

This is how we can recognize our enemy, invisible or not. When we acknowledge God as our Father, we must also acknowledge Satan as our fallen brother who seeks to destroy us. By acknowledging God’s love of all that is good, the peace the Spirit brings, and the joy that kindness offers, we can see that anything that doesn’t promote those things must be coming from him who hates us with an unending vendetta to destroy our happiness. This is how we can “see” Satan at work, how we can recognize good versus evil in all its many presentations and facets. We must keep the equation balanced. Where there is good, there is also evil. Where there is a God, there must also be an adversary to His goodness, and that adversary is as committed to our misery as God is committed to our happiness. There must be opposition in all things. By believing these things we can see our invisible enemy, and track him wherever he goes. We can see the hand of God in all things, and know the source from whence they come.

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 10:34-52 – The Lord’s “wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”

Recording impressions while reading the scriptures is like planting seeds; even small impressions can lead to meaningful personal revelation.

I am a purist. When God says He knows the end from the beginning, that He knows all things, I believe Him and take Him literally at His word. I have found a number of people in my life who don’t believe God’s own declaration that He knows all things. Personally, I don’t know how one can explain prophecy and revelation of future events with that perspective. For when Nephi and other prophets wrote that they were shown our day, that they “know” us, what else am I to assume, but that God can see into the future, and even show that inevitable future to others? So all my comments are from my purist perspective.

Satan is indeed clever. But the scriptures tell us that one thing he cannot do is understand the mind of God. I don’t know if he actually thinks he can outsmart God, or if he is just so angry and hateful that he will do anything in his power to frustrate His plan for us, and strip as many of us of our future happiness as he can before he gets what he must surely see as his eventual eternal punishment.

One of the amazing things pointed out in the manual is that God prepared for the loss of those 116 pages Martin Harris took more than two millennia before the actual event. He knew what Satan would try to do to frustrate His work for the Restoration of His gospel, so He commanded the prophets to make duplicate records and alternate accounts to make up for what Martin Harris would cause to happen. The stunning lesson I learn from this account is that God is always seeing everything with the long view. He is preparing for the future one day at a time through little means, so when something is needed, it just happens that everything is in place for a miracle to save the day.

The Lord doesn’t just do this with scripture. I believe He has been working for many generations to have everything in my life and in your life ready and prepared so when you need things to “come off conqueror” it will already be there for you. It will appear to be incidental or an unexplained event that is fortuitous, but the Lord never needs to make last minute adjustments to make up for surprises we throw His way, for He already knows the end from the beginning, and has prepared all things in readiness for our day. We can live with absolute confidence that God has been planning for our success in our own day of uncertainty, for He has known about our day for many, many millennia now.

Today’s lesson is meant to show us that God did not send us here to toss the dice to see if we succeed or fail. He has planned for our success. If we do not succeed, that is not because God didn’t do His part. It is we who have failed. So plan on being successful. Put your faith in God and all His generations of preparation for your day. Know that He is ever working in your behalf to bring you home a conqueror, not a fallen victim. He believes in us, and with Him standing for us, who can stand against us?

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 11 – If I ask of God, I will receive.

Recording impressions while reading the scriptures is like planting seeds; even small impressions can lead to meaningful personal revelation.

When Joseph received this revelation for his brother Hyrum, the words he received were not just for Hyrum, but as the manal points out, they apply to all of us. For example, look at Doctrine and Covenants 11:3.

Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.

We associate the reaping of the field as doing missionary work, but remember that the Lord is also talking about every person’s calling in the last days. Every person who has a desire to assist God in His work of salvation, by virtue of being alive in the last days, is called to help in the work. This is a generational calling and responsibility. If we are willing to put in the work, He promises us each treasures and eternal life or salvation.

He then goes on and promises Hyrum, and each of us, personal revelation. See verse seven.

Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.

In the whole history of the world, revelation was usually thought to belong to a select handful of faithful Saints, primarily the prophets or the ultra righteous. But in the last days, in a generation of high priests and a whole world full of Melchizedek priesthood holders, personal revelation is the norm, not the exception. With the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the ordinances of the holy Temple, we have made covenants that promise us continued connection and guidance from the third member of the Godhead. We have each been given the gift of his constant companionship. Is it any wonder then that God has promised each of us that if we will ask we will receive?

Remember that the purpose of having the gift of the Holy Ghost is to have his constant companionship in our lives. We must learn that he is always with us when we are seeking to do God’s will. Yes, there are many times when we will need to make decisions on our own, after all, it is our life, and we must learn to make hard choices. But the Spirit is always there to help us make good choices, to recognize good from evil, and to make corrections when we go off the path. There is no gift like this one, for it is a constant tether to the Godhead itself, to the mind and will of God, Himself. This gift is what helps teach us how to think, feel, and act like God and Christ.

Have faith in the Spirit, but just as importantly, have faith in your own ability to follow the Spirit. Seek to do right and the Spirit will guide you. You will feel good about your choices, and even when you are unsure, have faith that when you make a mistake, it will not be fatal. The Spirit will always help you back on the right path if we make choices in good faith, but choose amiss. His is a mission of love and service, just like our mission to each other.

Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 11:15-26 – As I seek to “obtain [God’s] word,” I will receive His Spirit and power.

Recording impressions while reading the scriptures is like planting seeds; even small impressions can lead to meaningful personal revelation.

The manual says that Hyrum Smith wanted to do missionary work even before the Book of Mormon was translated, and for that matter, before the Church was restored. The Lord’s counsel to Hyrum was to seek to obtain God’s word, and then when he had received it the Lord would help him preach God’s word to others. Hyrum’s heart was in the right place, but he didn’t know enough yet to be useful to the Lord in the way the Lord wanted to use him.

When we have callings in the Church we are expected to perform the duties of that calling; so where does the act of obtaining the word of the Lord come into the performance of our callings? Just this morning, I noted in our reading in the Book of Mormon that Jacob taught the people this way (Jacob 1:17).

17 Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord.

Jacob and his brother had both decided that the sins of the people would be answerable on their own heads if they did not teach them with all the energy of their souls to do right. So before Jacob taught the people in the temple he sought the Lord to see what the Lord would have him say to them. I am sure he could have taught them any number of wonderful sermons. He was certainly capable of doing so, but he wanted to know what the Lord wanted him to say. What is recorded in the rest of the chapter is his “errand from the Lord.”

Many feel like they are frozen in their path until the Spirit tells them to do something, but that isn’t how this works. We are supposed to be anxiously engaged in doing the Lord’s work using all our faculties in an effort to magnify our callings. The Lord’s counsel is for each of us to be constantly seeking His word through study and prayer then living what we have learned. That last part is implied, not openly stated, because all the study and learning in the world won’t do you any good spiritually if you don’t live what you know to be right.

The example in this section of Hyrum being told to go seek God’s word before heading out the door to preach His gospel applies to all of us. We must know what God has had recorded for our benefit in order to be of use to the Spirit in teaching His word to others, be they in or outside of the Church. The more we have incorporated what we learn through our studies into our life, the more we will be able to teach by example and by inspiration. See the Personal Study section for a continuation of this topic.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 11:12-14 – Recognizing the Spirit’s voice

I think it is important to have your eyes on these verses as you think about what they are saying.

12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.

13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

I hope I can answer for all mankind when I say that we all have inclinations to do good things now and again. When was the last time someone dropped something and you instinctively picked it up for them, or held open a door to let someone in or out of a room? Have you fetched a glass of water for someone or tended someone who was sick? What about helping someone solve a problem or difficulty in their life or perhaps you gave advice to someone to help them in their work? This is the Spirit Christ is referring to, the desire to be kind, helpful, to be good to others.

When we seek this Spirit, this inclination to be useful to others, we are inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives. His role is to enlighten our mind, to teach us better ways to help, to serve, to look outside of our self, and to do greater good than we could have done on our own. The result of being and doing good is joy. Joy is not something that is accidentally found or experienced. Joy is purposeful and deliberately chosen. Christ says in verse 13 that when we are humble, judge righteously, and do justly to others that he will send the Spirit to enlighten our mind and that will fill our soul with joy. So joy is a choice we make by the way we choose to live.

14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

The act of living what we have learned in the gospel of Christ, and by following the urgings of the Spirit, is the way in which we come to know the answers to our prayers. When we choose to believe in Christ’s gospel, and we live it according to our faith, the Spirit is promised to us by Christ. The Holy Ghost will give us answers, guide us, direct us, and our lives will be enriched by this association we develop with the Godhead and with our fellow man. The plan of salvation is designed to bring us joy. That is its whole purpose. Living a life of kindness and continually seeking to emulate the goodness of God in our own life is how we implement that plan for our salvation.

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That You May Come off Conqueror

Week 06