Chapter 25 – Caution: Beware the Principle of the Two-Edged Sword!
CAUTION: BEWARE THE PRINCIPLE OF THE TWO-EDGE SWORD!!
For those who desire to and do come unto Christ by experiencing the mighty change, IT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT SATAN’S EFFORTS TO ENTRAP, DECEIVE, OR DELUDE YOU WILL INCREASE AND THE NATURE OF THOSE EFFORTS WILL CHANGE TO MATCH YOUR NEW SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENTS!
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE ADVERSARY TO DECEIVE!!!
This vitally important chapter was added because we are aware of several people who have enjoyed powerful, even extraordinary spiritual experiences as part of their baptism of fire who appear to most to have been deceived and deluded into acting outside of the Lord’s established commandments.
We believe that your best defense against these increased efforts of Satan to destroy is to understand that they will come, so that you may be properly prepared and can thereby continue to prevail against Satan, our adversary in this battle for our souls which commenced long, long ago in the pre-mortal realm.
The operative eternal principle that enables Satan to challenge one’s new spiritual growth in new and even miraculous ways we call the principle of balance in all things or the principle of the two edged sword which cuts both ways with equal force and effectiveness. The name fits because Satan is permitted to continue to test and challenge us in ways equal to or commensurate with our new spiritual development. This principle of balance appears to apply to all realms. One manifestation of this principle in the physical world is one of Newton’s laws which states that “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Furthermore, it is likely, but definitely not certain, that these challenges may not happen right away. They may well come months or even years later. And, like any good general, the adversary will seek to attack using the element of surprise or when defenses are down. Hence, the absolute necessity of staying on the path and continuing in prayer, fasting, searching the scriptures, and loving and serving others.
This whole scenario of falling away after receiving the mighty change is covered in Lehi’s dream, a representation of the whole process of coming unto Christ and attaining the celestial kingdom. As you recall, the tree in that vision represents the “… the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things.” 1 Nephi 11:22 In our view tasting the fruit of the tree clearly represents experiencing the mighty change and receiving one’s remission of sins, for certainly that is an extraordinary episode of tasting or experiencing the love of God. Now consider what Lehi observed about some who had tasted of this fruit:
1 Nephi 8:24-28 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
25 And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
28 And AFTER they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
Know also that the ways by which one may fall away are many, indeed far more than could be listed here. In fact, one of the challenges may include opposition from some unaware priesthood leaders. We are aware of a situation some years ago in which a woman who had received her remission of sins and born again experience enjoyed a number of special spiritual experiences and revelations which she shared with her Bishop. Her Bishop was, unfortunately, totally without even a glimmering of understanding of this experience and wound up summarily excommunicating her! The rest of the story is that within about nine months thereafter the Bishop suddenly died. (We are not suggesting that there necessarily was a connection between the two events.) Shortly after his death he returned to this woman pleading profusely for her forgiveness, which he obtained. All turned out well. She and the Bishop have become very good friends during his subsequent visits to her. It appears that the challenges can come from anyone or anyplace.
The other message that we wish to give here is that in reality, these renewed efforts of the adversary to deceive us are not to be feared, for when we are properly prepared such efforts only serve to strengthen us. This becomes apparent by pondering some more of the great insights of Brigham Young. As we searched the Discourses of Brigham Young for some of his thoughts on this subject, we discovered some very interesting comments on the essential nature of the role of the adversary. [Unless otherwise indicated all quotes are from the “Discourses of Brigham Young” as selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe.]
God permits sin, or it could not be here. Pg. 76
Aside from the revelations in our day, there is not knowledge enough to tell you why God suffered sin to come into the world. You have been told the reason why – that all intelligence must prove facts by their opposite. Pg. 76
Evil is with us, it is that influence which tempts to sin, and which has been permitted to come into the world for the express purpose of giving us an opportunity of proving ourselves before God, before Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, before the holy angels, and before all good men, that we are determined to overcome the evil, and cleave to the good, for the Lord has given us the ability to do so. Consequently, when the evil is present with me, I have a little fighting to do, I must turn and combat it until it is eradicated from my affections, as well as from my actions, that I may have power to do all the good I wish to perform. Every person is capable of this, all can bridle their tongues, and cease from every evil act from this time henceforth and forever, and do good instead. Pg. 70
Sin has come into the world, and death by sin. I frequently ask myself the question: Was there any necessity for sin to enter the world? Most assuredly there was, according to my understanding and reasoning powers. Did I not know the evil I could never know the good; had I not seen the light I should never be able to comprehend what darkness is. Had I never tried to see and behold a thing in darkness I could not understand the beauty and glory of light. If I had never tasted the bitter or the sour how could I define or describe the sweet? Pg. 77
Sin is in the world, but it is not necessary that we should sin, because sin is in the world; but, to the contrary, it is necessary that we should resist sin, and for this purpose is sin necessary. Sin exists in all the eternities. Sin is co-eternal with righteousness, for it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. Pg. 78
Do not imagine that I am in the least finding fault with the Devil. I would not bring a railing accusation against him, for he is fulfilling his office and calling manfully; he is more faithful in his calling than are many of the people. God is not yet going to destroy wickedness from the earth. How frequently we hear it reiterated from the pulpit that he is going to destroy all wickedness. No such thing. He will destroy the power of sin. The work the Savior has on hand is to reduce the power of the Devil to perfect subjection; and when he has destroyed death and him that has the power of it, pertaining to this world, then he will deliver up the kingdom spotless to the Father. Pg. 71
How much does it take to prepare a man, or woman, or any being, to become angels to the Devil, to suffer with him to all eternity? Just as much as it does to prepare a man to go into the celestial kingdom, into the presence of the Father and the Son, and to be made an heir to his Kingdom, and all his glory, and be crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives. Pg. 79
Now back to the subject of the additional testing by the adversary that surely will come. In the teachings of Brigham Young there are a number of pertinent statements about this testing, which apply equally as well to the individual member as to the church as a whole. Consider thoughtfully and ponder the following words of President Young.
If true principles are revealed from heaven to men, and if there are angels, and there is a possibility of their communication to the human family, always look for an opposite power, an evil power, to give manifestations also; look out for the counterfeit. Pgs. 68-69.
False Spirits – There are many spirits gone out into the world, and the false spirits are giving revelations as well as the Spirit of the Lord. 3:44
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. 6:73-4
The children of men give heed to the deceiving spirits that are abroad, and that is the cause of the ten thousand errors, wrongs, sins and divisions which are in the world, and for this reason the multitude are unable to distinguish between the voice of the Good Shepherd and the voice of the stranger. 16:75
It was revealed to me in the commencement of this Church, that the Church would spread, prosper, grow and extend, and that in proportion to the spread of the Gospel among the nations of the earth, so would the power of Satan rise. It was told you here that Brother Joseph warned the Elders of Israel against false spirits. It was revealed to me that if the people did not receive the spirit of revelation that God had sent for the salvation of the world, they would receive false spirits and would have revelation. Men would have revelation, women would have revelation, the priest in the pulpit and the deacon under the pulpit would have revelation, and the people would have revelation enough to damn the whole nation, and nations of them, unless they would hearken to the voice of God. It was not only revealed to Joseph but to your humble servant, that false spirits would be as prevalent and as common among the inhabitants of the earth as we now see them. Pg. 72
There is evil in the world, and there is also good. Was there ever a counterfeit without a true coin? No. Is there communication from God? Yes. From holy angels? Yes; and we have been proclaiming these facts during nearly thirty years. Are there any communications from evil spirits? Yes; and the Devil is making the people believe very strongly in revelations from the spirit world. Pg. 73
Remember that the Devil did not tempt Christ until AFTER the marvelously strengthening experiences of his forty day fast nor did he appear to Moses until AFTER Moses had experienced the glory of the presence of the Lord. Moses 1:1-22. But to each the adversary did personally come and made an effort to tempt, deceive and delude through lies.
The following words of Brigham Young superbly explain the reason for this additional testing.
I ask, is there a reason for men and women being exposed more constantly and more powerfully, to the power of the enemy, by having visions than by not having them? There is and it is simply this – God never bestows upon his people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them, to prove that individual, or that people, to see whether they will keep their covenants with him, and keep in remembrance what He has shown them. Then the greater the vision, the greater the display of the power of the enemy.
So when individuals are blessed with visions, revelations, and great temptations, LOOK OUT, THEN THE DEVIL IS NIGH YOU, AND YOU WILL BE TEMPTED IN PROPORTION TO THE VISIONS, REVELATION, OR MANIFESTATION YOU HAVE RECEIVED. Journal of Discourses Vol. 3, pgs. 205-206.
Just how effective and deceiving can the efforts of the adversary be? Surprisingly, the highly disturbing answer is “As effective as necessary.”
Consider carefully what Brigham Young says in this next quote about the effectiveness of Satan’s efforts to deceive, and then we will share with you some actual events of today that powerfully illustrate the adversary’s power to attempt to deceive.
There are many elders in this house, who if I had the power to mesmerize that vase and make it dance on that table, would say that it was done by the power of God. Who could tell whether it was done by the power of God or by the power of the Devil? No person, unless he had the revelations of Jesus Christ within him. I suppose you are ready to ask Brother Brigham if he thinks the power of the Devil could made the vase dance. Yes, and could take it up and carry it out doors, just as easy as to turn up a table and move it here and there, or to cause a rap, rap, rap or to bake and pass around pancakes, or get hold of a person’s hand, and make him write in every style you can think of, imitating George Washington’s, Benjamin Franklin’s, Joseph Smith’s, and other autographs. Can you tell whether that is by the power of God or by the power of the Devil? No, unless you have the revelations of Jesus Christ. Pg. 74
Now to some actual incidents that powerfully illustrate the great power the adversary and those that serve him have to deceive.
The first incident involves a good friend who to his great surprise received his baptism of fire when he was just ten years old, when he was simply praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true. In his early forties this man was called to serve as Bishop. While he was serving faithfully as Bishop, a spirit spoke to him and told him that “The brethren are all liars.” The truly startling part of his experience is not that a spirit spoke to him, but that as that spirit spoke, the lying statement was accompanied by a power of conviction conveyed into his heart that was indistinguishable from and as strong as his own testimony of the Gospel. And, this power of conviction stayed with him testifying in his heart that indeed the brethren were all liars.
What did our friend do about this remarkable experience and “testimony” that he had received? To his great credit, he wisely did nothing. He continued to serve faithfully as Bishop. But even more remarkable was that this statement and the power of conviction that accompanied it stayed with him and burdened his heart for about TWO YEARS. Then, after about two years, one day he was pondering once again this extraordinary experience and the powerful “testimony” that had burned into his heart. The thought came into his mind “Are the lives of the brethren the lives of men who are liars?” As he considered that in light of his substantial knowledge of the lives of the brethren (for he had taught both Seminary and Institute for many years) he concluded that without question the lives of the brethren were not lives of men who were liars and, therefore, the statement spoken to him some two years ago was absolutely a lie. As he came to that conclusion, he heard a voice saying something to the effect of, “Very good. Your test is now over. Realize now that it was a liar who told you that the brethren were liars.” As he heard those words the power of conviction that had accompanied that lying statement was gone from his heart.
The other instances of the devastating power of Satan’s minions to deceive and delude involved a mother and her grown daughter.
The mother had married her sweetheart from early childhood and enjoyed a truly good marriage with choice children. The dream ended suddenly when in his early forties her husband was discovered to be full of cancer and was gone within a few weeks. Subsequently she remarried but it was not the same. Her daughter says that her mother spent her efforts trying to make her second husband into her first. September had been Mother’s and her first husband’s special time because it encompassed their birthdays and their anniversary and it was always the month in which they took trips, made special purchases, and so on. Not surprisingly after her first husband’s “graduation”, every September mother became significantly depressed.
Mother was a lifelong, strong, faithful church member serving in many positions including Stake Primary President, counselor in a Stake Relief Society, and was at this time a Temple worker. Mother also worked as a nurse in a hospital where she had access to many drugs. One September, as mother struggled with her depression, while talking with her daughter one evening her conversation became quite bizarre. Daughter asked her mother if she was taking drugs which she denied. Within a week or so thereafter daughter received a phone call from the hospital that her mother had overdosed on drugs and was in critical condition. The mother lingered in a coma for about four months before passing away without ever regaining consciousness.
Her mother’s death was very difficult for the daughter but she was determined to endure her great sorrow well. So she began to more diligently serve her family and others and also undertook a vigorous physical fitness program of healthy eating and running. This continued for a number of months during which she lost a lot of weight and inches, regained her girlish figure, got up to running about 25 miles a week and was looking and feeling great. Then she became seriously ill. Examination showed that her immune system was severely dysfunctional with virtually no white blood cells. She was bedridden for about a year. Though basically bedfast, after several months she oh so slowly began to improve. Since her mother’s death and especially now she voraciously read and pondered the scriptures.
One day while lying in bed she felt powerful, loving, maternal feelings full of light come over her. This was most welcome and it felt so very good to experience that maternal love again, for she missed her mother so. Then she observed three women spirits in her room and they began to speak to her. They praised her for her good works and service to others. She was astonished at how much they knew about her life and the things she had done. In fact, it seemed to her that they knew everything that had happened in her life from the moment of her birth. They commiserated with her about how bad her health was. They puzzled with her about why “he” permitted her to suffer so, especially after all she had endured and done for others.
As the conversation continued they began to suggest that she never was going to get any better. Then they got around to suggesting that since she was not going to get any better, why not get out now. They began to tell her of several ways in which she could end her life and no one would ever know. By this time her eyes had begun to open and she began to ask where her visitors were from. As she asked these questions the feelings she was experiencing began to change, to become darker. She told them that the things which they were suggesting were wrong and were against what Heavenly Father taught us. They said that they had said nothing about Father but were concerned about her poor health and dismal future. As she probed more into who they were and where they were from their facades vanished and she knew whose servants they were. She felt the full force of their hatred, rage and desire to destroy her which left her spitless with fright. She immediately began praying for deliverance and Father’s help. Instantly they were gone.
As she lay pondering her experience the Spirit began to tell her that she had prayed often to understand what had happened to her mother. The Spirit then explained that her mother had been so ill that when those spirits had come to her that she had not recognized them. As mother accepted their advice they had gained more and more influence and control until, finally, they had led her to overdose on drugs.
We have shared with you these examples from today, (all these events occurred in the early to mid 1980’s) of just how powerful the efforts of the adversary can be to deceive and delude in order that you might have a better understanding of the many powerful tools the adversary has in order that you might more readily recognize such efforts aimed at you or your loved ones.
What then have we learned and what can we say about the scope of the Adversary’s power to deceive. In our judgment one rule is: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE ADVERSARY TO DECEIVE!!! (Neither we nor those involved have any answers on any other questions that these incidents might bring to mind.)
Other principles are also clear which can perhaps best be summarized by the statement, “Cling to the Iron Rod.” By that we mean in part to read and follow the word of God. It also means that one must really know the scriptures, not just casually read them from time to time. The following powerful promise to those who know, love and search the scriptures is found in Joseph’s inspired revision of Matthew 24.
Matt. 24:37 And whoso treasureth my word, SHALL NOT BE DECEIVED,
Remember, that His “word” certainly includes personal revelations as well as the scriptures.
Know also that the adversary has no power to overcome you against your will. He and his servants will do their absolute utmost to lead you astray, but they can not pick you up and throw you off the path; they must deceive, delude or otherwise lead you astray. Brigham Young had some most interesting comments about this.
You are aware that many think that the Devil has rule and power over body and spirit. Now, I want to tell you that he does not hold any power over man, only so far as the body overcomes the spirit that is in a man, through yielding to the spirit of evil. The spirit that the Lord puts into a tabernacle of flesh, is under the dictation of the Lord Almighty; but the spirit and the body are united in order that the spirit may have a tabernacle, and be exalted; and the spirit is influenced by the body, and the body by the spirit.
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 the body and spirit of that man, and he loses both.
Recollect, brethren and sisters, every one of you, that when evil is suggested to you, when it arises in your hearts, it is through temporal organization. When you are tempted, buffeted, and step out of the way inadvertently; when you are overtaken in a fault, or commit an overt act unthinkingly; when you are full of evil passion, and wish to yield to it, then stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacle, take the lead. If you do that, I will promise that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives. But many, very many, let the spirit yield to the body, and are overcome and destroyed. 2:255 Pgs. 69-70.
The other day, while reading from 1st Nephi we saw for the first time in the last half of Chapter 2 and the first few verses of Chapter 3 an absolutely classic and highly instructive example of the Lord’s method of leadership and the principle of following His appointed leaders. The situation occurred just after Lehi and his family had left Jerusalem with Laman and Lemuel complaining to high heaven about the whole undertaking, so Nephi decided to seek confirmation directly from the Lord. 1 Nephi 2:16. And he received his answer, for according to the record,
… I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
So the Lord granted unto Nephi the information he sought as well as some additional information. And we have a smattering of the revelations that Nephi received on that occasion or occasions in verses 19 to 24 of this chapter, including in verse 24 the reason that Laman and Lemuel were along on the journey. (Basically to provide opposition and to remind people of their constant, daily need for the Lord. Sound familiar?)
But what happened next as recounted in Chapter 3 verses 1-2 is what we find so instructive. First let us read the verses:
1 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
And then Lehi goes on to explain the need for Nephi and his brothers to go get the brass plates of Laban. How is this a great example of how the Lord leads and instructs us? What is so striking here is who the Lord gave these commandments to and the circumstances under which they were given. Here, it seems that Nephi had just returned from what may well have been some extended period of time, probably hours – maybe even the better part of a day or perhaps longer – of praying to and communing with the Lord, perhaps even speaking face to face with him which the literal record strongly suggests, and yet the Lord had said nothing to Nephi about going to get the plates even though it was to be Nephi’s leadership and faith that would cause that mission to be successful. Instead the Lord honored father Lehi’s position as father, patriarch and leader of his family, to whom the Lord had given the direction to lead his family out of Jerusalem, and gave to that faithful father and prophet the vital instructions for his sons. Lehi then had to instruct Nephi and the others on the Lord’s commandments about their mission to obtain the records. And Nephi was required to accept his father’s instructions on faith and then carry out those instructions of the Lord that he had received through his file leader, his father. We see this as a clear and powerful example of the principle that the Lord honors and respects those leaders whom He has chosen.
Another striking example of the same principles occurs later on in their journey and is recorded in the beginning of Chapter 18 of 1st Nephi.
1 Nephi 18:1-4 And it came to pass that they (Laman, Lemuel et al) did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.
2 Now I, Nephi, did not work timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.
3 And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.
4 And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.
How long do you think Nephi and the others labored to make their tools, gather materials and build the boat? Probably somewhere in the range of three to six months, perhaps longer if they had to let the lumber dry out or season. According to Nephi’s record, which we just read, during that period on many occasions he communed with the Lord and was shown “great things.” Now pay close attention to the next verse in the record.
5 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my FATHER that we should arise and go down into the ship.
We think these are perfect examples of how the Lord honors and respects those he has called to leadership positions granting unto each according to their need AND THEIR CALLINGS appropriate guidance and inspiration and how the Lord requires us to follow proper leadership. However, it is always appropriate, indeed even NECESSARY, to seek confirmation of the soundness of that leadership from the Lord, just as Nephi did at first. The Lord requires us NOT to follow blindly.
But, in tests of faith and obedience following file leaders may not always be the answer either. In fact, on at least one occasion in the scriptures one described as “a man of God” (meaning a prophet) lost his life for obeying another prophet rather than obeying the direct word of the Lord to him. The incident is found in I Kings 13. There we read that this “man of God” was sent by the Lord up from Judah unto Beth-el to king Jeroboam to call the king and his people to repent of their idol worship. Further, we learn that the Lord instructed the man of God to “Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.” I Kings 13:9.
This prophet delivered the message to king Jerobaom and was faithful to the Lord’s directions to fast when king Jeroboam subsequently invited him to dine. Verses 7-9. However, on his way home he encountered “an old prophet in Beth-el.” We pick up the story at verse 11.
11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
12 And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.
13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
15 Then he said unto him, come home with me, and eat bread.
16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
17 For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again by the way that thou camest.
Pay particular attention to this next verse as revised by the Prophet Joseph which tells us the reason for the actions of the old prophet.
18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water, that I may prove him; and he lied not unto him.
Unfortunately for the man of God, at this second entreaty from the old prophet he yielded and did as requested by the old prophet.
19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
After they had eaten the old prophet gave the man of God the bad news.
20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came unto the prophet that brought him back:
21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God commanded thee,
22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulcre of thy fathers.
The grim fulfillment of the words of the old prophet to the man of God from Judah is recounted in the next few verses.
23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
Incidentally, one remarkable sign that the death of the man of God by the lion was divinely decreed was that the ass was still at the scene (normally the ass would have frantically escaped at the first whiff of the lion’s scent) and unharmed by the lion. When word of the death of the man of God from Judah reached the old prophet the scriptures report that this was his statement:
It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him. (Verse 26).
We must also point out that this account was of two independent prophets. Since neither of them knew the other the evidence indicates that the old prophet had no direct leadership authority over the other.
One very prominent lesson from this extraordinary account is that direct revelation from the Lord OVERRIDES everything else. But note also that what the man of God was directed to do was NOT contrary to established doctrine and practices; rather it was special direction to him for that particular situation. This is a difficult case and we suggest that a prudent approach to it is to view it narrowly rather than to consider that it gives one wholesale license to go against priesthood leadership. BUT IN EVERY CASE WE EMPHASIZE THAT IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE THAT ONE MUST BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN AS TO THE SOURCE OF THE DIRECT REVELATION. It is also vital to be sure, via personal confirmation of the Lord to you, that leaders are acting under the direction of the Lord. AS the example quoted above from 1st Kings so powerfully shows, acting on assumptions about someone else’s presumed authority without verifying those assumptions with the Lord can prove dangerous, even fatal.
Other factors to consider carefully when seeking to determine the source of spiritual communications include the following. One must carefully evaluate supposed “revelations” from unknown sources with the existing knowledge and testimony that we have.
Finally, we would urge that one master, that is fully understand, the principles of discerning spirits which the Lord has given us in three different sources. The first source is found in D&C 129, which we quote in its entirety.
D&C 129:1-9 There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones –
2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear –
7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to DECEIVE; but he will still deliver his message.
8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands, he will offer you his hand, and you will NOT FEEL ANYTHING; you may therefore detect him.
9 These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.
The third source is in the Prophet Joseph’s extraordinary editorial entitled “Try the Spirits” from The Times and Seasons on April 1, 1842 about the discerning of spirits. It is found in the documentary History of the Church at Vol 4, pgs. 571-581 and is restated in The Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith at pgs. 202-215. THE FULL TEXT OF THE LATTER IS IN THE APPENDIX.
Incidentally, the fact that the Prophet Joseph took the time and effort to write out these thoughts and have them printed as an editorial in this major church publication powerfully illustrates the magnitude of the problems that the saints were then having with extraordinary efforts of the adversary to delude and deceive, a point emphasized in the opening paragraph of the editorial. As one grows spiritually it is totally reasonable to expect to hear of or even personally experience more and more of such efforts by the adversary.
CONCLUSIONS: Our conclusions in this area include that one MUST ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FOLLOWING RULES:
Rule Number One is “CLING TO THE IRON ROD; PRAY, PRAY, PRAY; AND ALWAYS USE THE KEYS GIVEN FOR DISCERNMENT!”
Rule Number Two is “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE ADVERSARY TO DECEIVE AND DELUDE!”
Rule Number Three is “WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS FOLLOW RULE NUMBER ONE!”