THE DEVIL

July 27, 2021
My mother talks about the devil more than anyone I know. Maybe that's a generational thing. I'm not sure. She has told me during the hardships of two divorces and hitting roadblocks in my career, "The devil is camping on your trail!"

I think it's always a good idea to be aware that there is a devil and that he is an enemy of all things good and hopeful--but maybe it's best not to focus on it excessively.

I remember, as a missionary, whenever someone made the commitment to be baptized, crazy things started to happen in their lives. Long lost relatives started showing up to dissuade them from their commitment. People in their families got sick or got in trouble in some way, taking their focus away from the newfound joy they were receiving. This was such a common experience that I started warning people about it as soon as they set a baptism date. I would warn them that the adversary was going to try everything he could to stop them from going through with it. I had stories to share with them because I had seen it before.

Having said all of this, I don't think it's a good idea to be obsessed with the devil. I don't think we should focus on him excessively--even with the intent to avoid his influence. The prophet Alma counseled his son as about secret combinations, whose founder is the devil:

"And now, my son, I command you that ye retain all their oaths, and their covenants, and their agreements in their secret abominations; yea, and all their signs and their wonders ye shall keep from this people, that they know them not, lest peradventure they should fall into darkness also and be destroyed" (Alma 37:27).

Alma is counseling his son not to dwell on darkness. He is telling him not to focus on satanic influences, rituals, and organizations. What is he to focus on instead?:

"And now, my son, remember the words which I have spoken unto you; trust not those secret plans unto this people, but teach them an everlasting hatred against sin and iniquity. Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls. O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day" (Alma 37:32-37).

Instead of focusing on avoiding the power of the devil, focus on living in the power of God. Focus on being humble, repenting, and serving God the best you can. Focus on accomplishing God's purposes in the world. Of course it's good to be aware of the devil and his influence. But if we focus on that too much, it distorts our view, unsettles our minds, and makes us feel insecure. If we are living in the power of God, we have no need to fear the devil. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

The things we focus on we get more of. If we focus on spirituality, goodness, love, and godliness, we will get those things in greater abundance. If we focus on fear, pain, danger, and the influence of the devil in our world, that will come to dominate our thoughts and warp our perceptions. So be aware of the devil, but don't let him dominate your thoughts even as you try to avoid his influence. Instead, fill your mind with thoughts of God and accomplishing his holy purposes.

As mid-singles and later married couples, you have doubtless faced significant adversity in your life. Just remember that one who is wiser than you allowed it to happen, and is there to pick up the pieces and use them to build something more beautiful than before. It is better to ask, "What does God want me to do with this experience?” rather than thinking, "The devil is camping on my trail!" It is much better to think about God's intentions than how the devil thwarted your good intentions. It's better to think that things are as God intended, in His infinite wisdom, rather than thinking the devil has won a victory in your life. Remember, even when the devil gets his way, his actions end up serving God's purposes in the end (Moses 4:6).

The devil is the enemy of all righteousness. But also remember the words of the prophet Elisha, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (2 Kings 6:16).

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