Spirit of discernment

Teachers of the gospel often encounter people with "itching ears" who aim to turn others away from the truth. Some of these individuals occupy many platforms in the world, from mass media with sophisticated technology to those who have a talent for public or private speech. They aim to sway and lead away the weak.

Some who lead others astray might merely be misinformed and, therefore, misguided themselves. Yet others are of a devious vein, having yielded to lower influences.

During the October 1952 general conference, President Joseph Fielding Smith said: "Now we know that there are many spirits abroad in the land, and as the Lord says, their doctrines are doctrines of devils; some are the commandments of men. Are we prepared by our knowledge and understanding to segregate these doctrines which are of men and which are of devils, from the truth? Are we living near enough unto the Lord to have that spirit of discernment, that we are entitled, as we would be through our humility and faith, to know the truth that would make us free? . . .

"So far as the philosophy and wisdom of the world are concerned, they mean nothing unless they conform to the revealed word of God. Any doctrine, whether it comes in the name of religion, science, philosophy, or whatever it may be, if it is in conflict with the revealed word of the Lord, will fail. It may appear plausible. It may be put before you in language that appeals and which you may not be able to answer. It may appear to be established by evidence that you cannot controvert but all you need to do is to abide your time. Time will level all things. You will find that every doctrine, every principle, no matter how universally believed, if it is not in accord with the divine word of the Lord to His servants, will perish. Nor is it necessary for us to try to stretch the word of the Lord in a vain attempt to make it conform to these theories and teachings. The word of the Lord shall not pass away unfulfilled, but these false doctrines and theories will all fail. Truth, and only truth, will remain when all else has perished. The Lord has said, 'And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come' " (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24).

A Chinese folk fable tells of a man who, as he traveled through the country, came to a large city, very rich and splendid; he looked at it and said to his guide, "This must be a very righteous people, for I can only see but one little devil in this great city."

The guide replied, "You do not understand, sir. This city is so perfectly given up to wickedness . . . that it requires but one devil to keep them all in subjection."

Traveling a little farther, he came to a rugged path and saw an old man trying to get up the hillside, surrounded by seven great, big, coarse-looking devils.

"Why," says the traveller, "this must be a tremendously wicked old man! See how many devils there are around him!"

"This," replied the guide, "is the only righteous man in the country; and there are seven of the biggest devils trying to turn him out of his path, and they all cannot do it."

After he related that fable in 1857 in a discourse in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Elder George A. Smith commented that the devil has false priests and the "whole world with them so perfectly at his disposal, that it only takes a very few devils to keep them all in subjection. . . and that whole legions of devils have nothing to do but look after the Mormons . . ." in an effort to destroy the Church (Journal of Discourses, 5:363-364).

From earliest times, Satan has attempted to hinder the upward journey of many of God's children. As he did in the Garden of Eden, he sometimes takes upon himself the role of deceiver. At other times, he works through those whose wills bend to his own. In the Book of Mormon, some of these people are called anti-Christs, those who seek to destroy the Church of God and openly preach against any who believe in Christ.

Their techniques are well-known to those whose spiritual eyes are open. The adversary's minions spread lies, all the while presenting themselves as sincere seekers and teachers of truth. They elevate themselves and their own works while diminishing the roles of prophets, apostles, and other servants of the Lord. They esteem science and technology, and declare that the teachings of prophets are foolish. They ridicule righteousness. And, ironically, they accuse Church leaders of perverting the words of the Lord.

The Savior taught that His sheep know His voice. May we ever be attuned to it so that we may remain on the upward path, immune to whatever Satan might try to do to bring us down.

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