The constant appeal by LDS Church leaders encouraging us to engage in consistent daily scripture study is given with good reason. Throughout scripture and in church history, we read and learn of individuals who leave the faith because they are ignorant or confused as to what is true doctrine and are easily deceived by false doctrine.
Joseph Smith acknowledged, “The devil has great power to deceive.”
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord indicated, “Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you. Behold, I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name.”
It is clear from these verses that Satan is, and continues to be, actively engaged in trying to deceive us. More critically, these scriptures suggest that some individuals in the church are nonchalant in obedience or they are deceived and, not knowing truth, are led to engage in sinful behavior.
There is a powerful story from the scriptures that illustrates this fact and impresses upon us the need for sincere, consistent scripture study. In the Book of Mormon we are introduced to Korihor, who is an anti-Christ. He appears among the Nephites — members of Christ’s church — and preaches against prophecy and prophets testifying of Jesus Christ. He seeks to destroy men’s testimonies and to lead them astray. Korihor not only challenges the doctrines of the church, but he misrepresents them. This is where the story gets interesting.
Speaking to church members, who ought to know otherwise, he misconstrues church doctrine and accuses church leaders, “Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.” Korihor, in essence, lies and tells church members that they subscribe to the doctrine of “original sin.”
By articulating this lie and challenging other church doctrines, Korihor is highly successful among the Nephites, so much so that, “Thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men.” Many Nephites could have avoided being deceived, and enduring the sorrow and suffering that accompanies sin, if they had taken the time to learn and study Christ’s doctrine.
On the matter of “original sin” the Lord spoke clearly to the Nephites as well as to us. In scripture we hear Christ speak, “Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me; that it hath no power over them; … it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.” Other scriptures reinforce this truth: “Little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ.” The doctrine of “original sin” is clearly rejected in Christ’s church.
In today’s world we are bombarded by a multitude of cacophonous voices offering different and disparate solutions to today’s challenges. Many individuals live in societies that trumpet sin as acceptable to God. In these types of settings, it is easy to become confused, and it is easy to be deceived.
There is a solution: Study the scriptures and the words and teachings of today’s prophets. Use them as the foundation and standard for truth, and test all other ideas and concepts being espoused in the world against them. By doing this, individuals can discern and reject that which is untrue and embrace that which is in keeping with Christ’s gospel.
The lovely thing is that Christ does all in his power to educate us in light and truth. He implores us, “Now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, … let us reason together, that ye may understand: Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face. Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand.” The Lord loves us so much that he is willing to condescend, to speak to each of us on our level, and instruct us in life-saving truths.
For spiritual safety and security, recognizing that “Satan has great power to deceive,” scripture study and gospel inquiry must be lifelong pursuits engaged in by faithful members of the church who seek protection from deception.