As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God designed a plan for our ultimate happiness, and conversely, that Satan is actively designing a plan for our ultimate misery. Both know our personal strengths and weaknesses and both have power — the balance of which is thankfully not even measurable. God’s grace instigated through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinitely greater and provides the lifesaving hope that we need to wade through Satan’s temporary entrapments.
In our most recent Sunday School class with “Come, Follow Me” suggestions as our guide, I sat in a circle of teenagers and discussed that idea and how the only way to effectively preach the truths of the Restoration of the gospel is to fight against personal apostasy now.
“I don’t want any of you leaving the church someday because of some aspect of doctrine that you don’t satisfactorily understand,” I told them. “So for the next two weeks, we’re going to practice the pattern of fighting Satan’s lies and seeking for truth. We’ll work to strengthen our personal convictions and abilities to teach truth to others.”
When I asked if there was a point of doctrine the teens would like to understand better, one raised his hand and said he wanted to talk about the priesthood and the timing of the revelation that ordained all worthy males in order for him to teach it better to someone with questions. As a group, my students challenged each other to look for resources at home and online that would help them next Sunday in their efforts to teach. (I’ll take any suggestions for resources on this topic in the comment section below.)
We continued our discussion by sharing Elder Neil L. Andersen’s “Beware of the Evil Behind the Smiling Eyes,” and learned the following:
• The devil “persuadeth men to do evil.” (Moroni 7:12)
• “He (has) fallen from heaven, (has) become miserable forever.” (Luke 24:36-39, John 1:14, 3 Nephi 12:48, D&C 76: 23-24)
• He now works “that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (Moroni 7:17)
• He is a liar and a loser. (D&C 93:25)
From horrific sins against humanity as were experienced in Boston this week, to the smallest deviation in choices or accountability, Satan is the master of compounding the stakes of our mistakes. The sooner our kids learn to discern his tactics, the better their chances of avoiding his pitfalls.
Our class members took turns on Sunday teaching Elder Andersen’s suggestions to prevent personal apostasy and risk not living up to our full potential in this life and the hereafter:
- Talk to your parents. My students quickly admit that although their parents aren’t perfect, they have been commanded and are willing to honor them. They said that seeking parents' advice and involving them in solving struggles would make both stronger in the gospel and as a family.
- Follow the prophet and listen to general conference for inspiration on how to stand against evil forces and live righteously. We played a little matching game I created to help us remember the nuggets of wisdom found in the most recent sessions of conference.
- Let the Holy Ghost be your guide. Because all in my class have been baptized and have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, they know that personal inspiration is possible if they’re making right choices and earnestly seeking truth. Elder Andersen said, “The gift of the Holy Ghost is a spiritual gift. It is sensitive and will not be associated with unworthiness. You cannot offend or ignore it one day and expect it to strengthen you the next day. But as you heed its promptings and remain righteous, it will grow stronger within you.”
- Gain your own testimony of the Savior. No one can effectively share the gospel as a full-time missionary by saying, “My mom knows what I’m teaching you is true.” You have to discover both the redeeming as well as the enabling power of Christ’s Atonement for yourself in order to help others.
- Pray passionately. We loved that alliteration and Elder Andersen’s encouragement to take our personal prayers to the next level.
- Read the Book of Mormon when no one is watching. Fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith was the perfect example of the importance of personal scripture study by candlelight at night and personal prayer in a private place in order to find the true answers to his deep questions.
I look forward to deepening my testimony of the Restoration this month in Sunday School and continuing to topple spiritual obstacles and temptations that are seeded, and unfortunately, tailored just for me.
Asking questions is an important part of spiritual conversion and is often triggered by tragedy. As long as we’re willing to live according to the truths we discover, answers will come and a personal apostasy will be averted in favor of a deep commitment to eternal truths and that elusive happiness we are all seeking.