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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Casting Out Evil, Part 5: The Tactics Satan Uses to Torment You


“We live in a wicked world. Never in our memory have the forces of evil been arrayed in such deadly formation. The devil is well organized. Never in our day has he had so many emissaries working for him.” (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, “Satan’s Thrust: Youth,” Ensign, Dec, 1971).
(Pres. Benson made those remarks 48 years ago. I can only imagine what he’d say now).

Among church members, there is a predominant tradition which says we shouldn’t know about Satan and how he attacks us. That ignorance is bliss. Ignore Satan, and he’ll go away.

Joseph Smith said it’s not only an evil, it's a “great evil” to be ignorant of the nature of evil spirits -- their power, government, intelligence, the laws by which they are governed and the signs by which they may be known. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:572-3). In fact, without that knowledge, Joseph said, you invite darkness, suspense and doubt, experience spiritual captivity (Isaiah 5:13, 2 Nephi 15:13) and thus, evil spirits will have greater power over you.

It’s no wonder that Pres. Benson said that because Satan knows where and how to strike you, “A study of Satan’s methods can alert us to his seductions.”

So, I extend to you three invitations:
  1. If you’d rather remain ignorant of Satan’s ways, then feel free to keep napping, or
  2. If you’re interested in leaving behind your ignorance of Satan, studying his methods and being alerted to his seductions, keep reading, or
  3. If you’re interested in looking beyond your own needs, and seeking ways to help others avoid spiritual darkness and captivity, then comment on this post below. Add more knowledge and more testimony to it. Make this post stronger.
In my previous post, I opined that evil spirits have three objectives:
  1. To try, torment and torture you.
  2. To keep you from knowing Christ as Savior. Prevent the formation of a relationship with Him.
  3. To keep you from serving with Him effectively. Prevent the formation of a working, productive relationship with Him which will help others form a relationship with Him.
To accomplish these objectives, Satan and his forces employ at least 12 different tactics:

1. They observe you.


Satan watches us. He hears us speak. He knows our predominant faults and uses temptations to lead us to yet another sin.
“And thus he goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of Men.” (D&C 10:27)
The minute we take our focus off of God, he jumps in and tempts us with what we’ve relocated our focus on.
“Often, we talk too much. We say things that need not be said or should not be said; for in saying them, we may open a crevice which enables Lucifer to wedge his way into our lives. We learn from 2 Nephi that Satan “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27
Satan and his followers are persistent in their quest to drag us down to their level. They will use any device or artifice to accomplish their end. If they see from our words or actions evidence of animosity or hatred or discord among us, they may capitalize on them in ways which will be detrimental to us. 
Wisdom suggests, therefore, that we suppress words and actions which might enable Satan to harm us or whose tendency might be to create discord or enmity." (Elder Francis M. Gibbons, “The Dual Aspects of Prayer,” October 1991 General Conference)
“I know very well that, whether we are active or not, the invisible spirits are active. And every person who desires and strives to be a Saint is closely watched by fallen spirits that came here when Lucifer fell, and by the spirits of wicked persons who have been here in tabernacles and departed from them, but who are still under the control of the prince of the power of the air. Those spirits are never idle; they are watching every person who wishes to do right, and are continually prompting them to do wrong. This makes it necessary for us to be continually on our guard—makes this probation a continual warfare.” (Brigham Young, JD 7:239, September 1, 1859).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8)
"’What shall I do?’ says one. Why, keep your mouth shut when you have no need to open it, and the devils won't get in at your ears. James, the Apostle, said that the tongue was an unruly member, and that it set all the rest on fire; and there is considerable truth in the saying. If you cannot keep your tongue still, put it between your teeth and hold it there until you can control it; and I will promise that, if you will do that, the Devil cannot do much with you; but I can assure you that he will play upon the tongue.” (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 5: 373.)

2. They whisper negativity to your spirit.

“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.” (2 Nephi 28:22)
“We don’t always know the details of our future. We do not know what lies ahead. We live in a time of uncertainty. We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. Occasionally discouragement may sneak into our day; frustration may invite itself into our thinking; doubt might enter about the value of our work. In these dark moments Satan whispers in our ears that we will never be able to succeed, that the price isn’t worth the effort, and that our small part will never make a difference. He, the father of all lies, will try to prevent us from seeing the end from the beginning.” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “See the End from the Beginning,” April 2006 General Conference)
“One occasion I heard the late Apostle Marriner W. Merrill, president of the Logan Temple, relate this extraordinary incident:
He was sitting in his office one morning, he said, when he noticed from the window a company of people coming up the hill to the temple. As they entered the temple grounds they presented rather a strange appearance. . . .
A little later a person unknown to Brother Merrill entered the room. Brother Merrill said to him: "Who are you and who are these people who have come up and taken possession of the temple grounds unannounced?"
He answered and said: "I am Satan and these are my people."
Brother Merrill then said: "What do you want? Why have you come here?"
Satan replied: "I don't like the work that is going on in this temple and feel that it should be discontinued. Will you stop it?"
Brother Merrill answered and said emphatically, "No, we will not stop it. The work must go on."
"Since you refuse to stop it, I will tell you what I propose to do," the adversary said. "I will take these people, my followers, and distribute them throughout this temple district, and will instruct them to whisper in the ears of people, persuading them not to go to the temple, and thus bring about a cessation of your temple work." Satan then withdrew.
The spirit of indifference to temple work took possession of the people and very few came to the house of the Lord for a period after this incident. It is not to be wondered at that Satan, who is the enemy of all righteousness, is displeased with temple work.” (Rudger Clawson.Deseret News Church Section, Dec. 12, 1936, Vol. 344, No. 61).
“We should be on guard always to resist Satan's advances.  He will appear to us in the person of a friend or a relative in whom we have confidence.  He has power to place thoughts in our minds and to whisper to us in unspoken impressions to entice us to satisfy our appetites or desires and in various other ways he plays upon our weaknesses and desires.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., “Answers to Gospel Questions”, 3:81).

3. They lull you into complacency.

“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)

4. They test and exploit your weaknesses.


As we read in the New Testament, when Jesus had fasted forty days, He had very likely come to a point of physical vulnerability. Being hungered, the tempter came to Him and said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matthew 4:3)
“Satan tempts us where we are most vulnerable.” (Elder Joseph F Merrill, April 1941 General Conference, p. 50-51).  
“We should be on guard always to resist Satan's advances.  He will appear to us in the person of a friend or a relative in whom we have confidence.  He has power to place thoughts in our minds and to whisper to us in unspoken impressions to entice us to satisfy our appetites or desires and in various other ways he plays upon our weaknesses and desires.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., “Answers to Gospel Questions”, 3:81).
These weaknesses include:

Isaiah 61:3 -- “spirit of heaviness”.
Luke 13:11 -- a woman stricken with “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years”.
Numbers 5:14,30 -- “spirit of jealousy”
Hosea 4:12 and 5:4 -- “spirit of whoredoms”
Romans 8:15 -- “spirit of bondage”
Romans 11:8 -- “spirit of slumber” (eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear)
2 Timothy 1:7 -- “spirit of fear”
1 John 4:3 -- “spirit of antichrist”

5. They make you weak (or sick or tired).

"You can see the acts of these evil spirits in every place, the whole country is full of them, the whole earth is alive with them, and they are continually trying to get into the tabernacles of the human family, and are always on hand to prompt us to depart from the strict line of our duty." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:369). 
“There are myriads of disembodied evil spirits—those who have long ago laid down their bodies here and in the regions round about, among and around us; and they are trying to make us and our children sick, and are trying to destroy us and to tempt us to evil. They will try every possible means they are masters of to draw us aside from the path of righteousness.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 6:73-74, November 22, 1857).
Note that in these verses, there’s very little differentiation between healing and casting out: And in the first two verses, Jesus doesn’t necessarily heal her, but instead, He “rebukes” the fever:
“And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her.
And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.
And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.” (Luke 4:38-41
“In the first place the spirit is pure, and under the special control and influence of the Lord, but the body is of the earth, and is subject to the power of the devil, and is under the mighty influence of that fallen nature that is of the earth.  If the spirit yields to the body, the devil then has power to overcome both the body and spirit of that man, and he loses both.” (Brigham Young; In Journal of Discourses, 2:255-56) 
“Satan exerts a mastery over the spirits that have been corrupted by his practices; he is the foremost of the angels who were thrust down, and the instigator of the ruin of those who fall in this life; he seeks to molest and hinder mankind in good efforts, by tempting to sin; or it may be by imposing sickness, or possibly death.  Yet in all these malignant doings, he can go no farther than the transgressions of the victim may enable him, or the wisdom of God may permit; and at any time he may be checked by the superior power.  Indeed, even the operations of his utmost malice may be turned to the accomplishment of divine purposes.” (Elder James E Talmage; Articles of Faith, p. 63) 

6. They seduce and deceive you.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44
“Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:8 JST) 
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1
“The adversary presents his principles and arguments in the most approved style, and in the most
winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes; and he is very careful to ingratiate
himself into the favor of the powerful and influential of mankind, uniting himself with popular
parties, floating into offices of trust and emolument by pandering to popular feeling, though it
should seriously wrong and oppress the innocent.” (Brigham Young, JD 11:238). 
“The Book of Mormon informs us that the Devil will come along with all manner of deceitfulness, and persuade the people to lie a little, to steal a little, and to rob your neighbour of anything that lies within your reach.  Such a course leads to death and dissolution, and will cause those to mourn hereafter that follow it.  These are mysteries that are worth finding out. (Elder Heber C. Kimball; January 6, 1861, JD 8:331).

7. They entice you to do evil.


In addition to Satan enticing Eve in the Garden of Eden and Jesus in the desert, we read:
“Then there came out a lying spirit, and stood before them, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith?” (2 Chronicles 18:20
“Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.” (Moroni 7:12
“When the Devil cannot overcome an individual through temptation to commit wickedness, when he sees that a person is determined to walk in the line and travel straight forward into the celestial kingdom, he will adopt a course of flattery, will strive to exercise a pleasing influence and move along smoothly with him, and when he sees an opportunity he will try to turn him out of the way, if it is only to the extent of a hair's breadth.” (Pres. Brigham Young, JD 3:318). 
“Satan was generally blamed for the evils which we did, but if he was the cause of all our wickedness, men could not be condemned.  The devil could not compel mankind to do evil; all was voluntary.  Those who resisted the Spirit of God, would be liable to be led into temptation...... God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not” (Joseph Smith; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 187). 

8. They defile you (by projecting evil, impure images into your mind).

“Satan was an accuser of his brethren from the beginning, hence the rejoicing of angels when he and his kind were cast down to earth bodiless, estateless and powerless, except for evil. Wandering spirits in the realms of darkness, seeking everywhere and under all circumstances to enter, defile and destroy the souls and bodies of men.” (Elder Moses Thatcher; August 28, 1885, JD 26:305) 
“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27)

9. They torment, torture and harass you (emotionally, physically, mentally via suggestions).


“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment” (Alma 36:17
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Also, in Job 2:3-7, we read how God placed limits on Satan’s ability to harass Job:
“And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job.”

10. They encourage you to believe in self-promotion and self-empowerment.


The entire notion of creating your own life, and believing in your own ability through your willpower to succeed at what you want, contradicts the entire concept of submitting to the will of the Father.

We are invited to “lose our lives” in the service of God...to “come follow me” (Jesus), not our own will. We are commanded to strip ourselves of pride and vanity. Jesus also taught that submission to God’s will was even greater than self-mastery and empowerment, and that it is possible to be “one” with God.

Hence, "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." (Galatians 6:3)

11. They blind you to truths.

“Yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive, and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Genesis 3:5 JST) 
“But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?” (Alma 10:25
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Corinthians 4:4
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

12. They enslave you (for example, substance abuse, anger, gambling, hypersexuality)


It could be said that those who have have sinned so deeply they are in the devil’s power have sold their soul to the devil. In this respect, they are enslaved to him:
“For behold, at that day shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:20
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.“ (John 8:34-36
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18)
In warfare, it would be foolish to think a highly organized force would ignore and disregard their opponent’s weaknesses. Quite the contrary: in warfare, you patiently observe your opponent’s weaknesses and seek to exacerbate and amplify them, and ultimately, defeat them.

That’s what Satan and his forces have been doing for many millennia. They’re very skillful at it, too. And they are up to the challenge. President Brigham Young declared,
"The men and women who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom will find that they must battle with the enemy of all righteousness every day." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 392).
In my next post in this series, we’ll see how some are defeating Satan and his experienced forces. They are turning the tide in terms of health, happiness in their homes and relationships, and more.

I think that sometimes, we accept the cruddy circumstances we find ourselves in, without ever considering that Jesus really does want to lighten our loads and take upon Himself our burdens. He delights in doing so, and is discouraged when we don’t eagerly take advantage of the great atonement.

When you do -- especially via casting out evil -- you’ll discover something profound about Jesus in your personal life.

In fact, you could consider it a mystery.

And that mystery will be unveiled next time...here.