The Contradictions of the Adversary

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by Becca

If I were to fall off a cliff, it would be because I either got too close to the edge, or I was pushed.

Sin is often compared with the visual of falling off a cliff. When discussing chastity, or the word of wisdom, or other major commandments with our youth, we often tell them to stay as far away from the cliff as possible, or as in a recent Mormon Messages video for Youth, to fly 500 feet above the trees (an example of “hedging around the law”). If you keep yourself far enough away from the trees or the edge of the cliff, you should be “safe”.

But staying far away from sin is only half of the goal. Our purpose on this earth is not to merely avoid sin, but to come closer to God.

Ivan McClellan (CC)

Think of an archer shooting an arrow at a target. While the goal would be to hit the dead center of the target (the bullseye) there are several different ways to miss it. Rather than only one way to fall off a cliff (off the side) any deviation in any direction will lead to missing the bullseye. If the archer’s first shot at the target were to land a little left, he would know that he should aim the next shot a little more to the right – but if he aims too far to the right, his second shot will be sure to miss, even though he was correcting his actions toward the center. 

The Adversary tries to keep us from being with God – like trying to keep us from hitting the bullseye. Getting us to sin is not the only way to keep us from God, and Satan knows that. He knows that any pull in any direction can keep us from center. With him pulling in any and every direction, it should come as no surprise that some of Satan’s lies contradict each other. One of Satan’s most cunning tricks is to pull us with such force from his obvious lies in order to fool us into thinking that we are moving towards God’s plan – but Satan’s pull is too hard, and we end up missing the mark in the other direction.

For example, God’s way of parenting is laid out pretty explicitly in Doctrine & Covenants section 121.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

Satan deceives us as parents with at least two contradictory lies. First, he might try to convince us that his plan is better – that we should force our children to choose the right, go to Church, eat their veggies, go to school, do their homework, etc. Remember, Satan’s plan was to make everyone obey so there would be no sin and therefore no suffering. Unfortunately, this violates the very agency that the Savior died for us to have. This way is obviously not God’s way.

But if we try to move toward God’s way, Satan will pull too hard, trying to convince us that the other extreme is God’s way – the parenting method that says to never try to get your children to do anything because that would be violating their agency (part of God’s plan) so just let your children make whatever choices they want to, regardless of what you think or feel or know to be true. We can’t make our children do anything we want them to, so why try?

But now our arrow flies too far to the right.

The devil does not care about consistency. All he desires is “that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” He only cares that we miss the bullseye, he does not care in which direction we miss.

God’s laws are a fixed point, and Satan builds his lies around them.

Rob Ellis (CC)

Satan’s lies often draw us to extremes on either side of God’s laws.

This middle ground has been described by philosophers as the “golden mean“. If we get too focused on fleeing from sin, we run the risk of passing the “golden mean” and heading for the other extreme. Like when an archer over-corrects his subsequent shots after a miss.

A friend described Satan’s methods as “a confusing cacophony of voices.” She observed, “Satan is throwing out any crazy idea that sticks even if they don’t make any sense together.”

Satan doesn’t care if all of his lies don’t make sense when lined up together. He only wants to keep us from hitting the bullseye, and he will tell us whatever lie it takes to get us to miss.

  • What other examples have you seen of Satan’s lies contradicting themselves?
  • How does Satan cause us to over-correct?
  • How can we arm our families to spot the aim-throwing grabs of the Adversary?

About Becca

Becca is just a woman, mother, daughter of God, trying to figure things out. She blogs at My Soul Delighteth and Real Intent.

10 Responses to The Contradictions of the Adversary

  1. Cheryl says:

    Yes! I can see it: Satan decides that women are an important and integral part of the family, bound with endless influence. So, let’s convince men to hate them. Let’s convince men that women are to be owned and treated as less; silence their voices! But women eventually (societal-wise) decide that they have rights and are NOT property, so Satan goes with that –let’s make women think they are BETTER than men and that they don’t need to have children or get married or raise families. Let’s get them to forego family for careers.

    Another example about women: Satan says, “Let’s treat women like objects.” So on one side, it will be massive pornography, all-out addiction, prostitution, sex trafficking, the works. On the other, you have women who are told that they are the cause of all evil in men, and so they are covered from head to foot and are treated like garbage if they deviate even the slightest in the way they dress.

    Like you said, Satan doesn’t care how he destroys us. He just wants to destroy us.

  2. Paul says:

    Very insightful post, Becca! Love the archery image — it illustrates so well what the Book of Mormon teaches about going past the mark. Artificial fences we construct to “protect” us from sin may be just as damaging as the sin itself if they lead us to judge one another and keep us from keeping the second great commandment.

    I remember as a young missionary attending a meeting in the Provo Temple with the temple president in which he confirmed that Satan is a liar. As such he may tell part of the truth, and then sour it with a lie. That knowledge invites me to think carefully as I seek to understand the implications of doctrine and divine counsel.

  3. Missy says:

    I agree that Satan is a master at utilizing extremism, he will do everything possible to push us to any extreme. It could be to the extreme right or left, it could involve any sin, excess is what he wants because it is exactly what destroys us. I just read an article about a disturbing trend that has been uncovered in the UK where in a certain community girls as young as nine and eleven are being married off to much older men. These marriages are not legal and they are also not sanctioned by the actual leaders of this religious group, these are shady back ally things and they are more common than anyone ever thought. To me this relates in a couple ways. The parents of these young girls have clearly been mislead into thinking that what is best for their daughters is to arrange these marriages, that if they pick a man that they feel is a good person and follows their religion that-that is what is best for their daughters. It isn’t, is is terrible and their daughters should be able to one grow up healthy and be protected by their parents and also to make their own choices when they are old enough, to use their agency to make their own choice on who they marry. Also what kind of man would marry someone so young? Not a righteous man. This entire mess has Satan written all over it, destroying the lives of these innocent young girls, tricking their parents into thinking that this is acceptable and alright, using so called religious leaders to convince people of this and then perform these “marriages”. It is terrible! I had just read about this on the BBC before I read this post and to me they completely related. Satan wants to destroy us and everything around us, when things are falling to pieces he is laughing and enjoying our pain. Extremism is one of his favorite methods and tools and it is evident in so many ways. I hope that this story that I just shared doesn’t offend anyone, that isn’t my intention, it just bothered me so much and it related to this post in my view completely. Thanks for sharing this…

  4. Bonnie says:

    As a person often given to extremes, this hit me square on. 🙂

    I have been pondering this for awhile, searching for centeredness and balance all my life. It’s an eastern philosophy to be wise about extending ourselves beyond our center of gravity, but I’d never applied it to Satan and spiritual things, and the “narrowness of the way.” I can almost see “good, better, best” as the three rings leading closer to the mark too. We spend our whole lives trying to find the bullseye, getting better and better at hitting best. It’s all a game of practice and repetition, with our early failures fading as we continue to work at it.

    • Becca says:

      I like the point you made about practice and repetition – I didn’t even think about that when I was writing this post, but how does an archer improve? He practices. Ha. Excellent addition. Thanks, Bonnie!

  5. Sarah says:

    I see this pertaining to the Word of Wisdom and healthy eating. There are so many clamouring voices wanting to tell us the best way to eat for good health – all meat! no meat! no carbs! all carbs! etc etc etc.

    It is confusing, contradictory, and smacks of man-made religion (to me, at least). Referring to the scriptures — basing our eating habits on what it says in the Doctrine and Covenants — cuts out all confusion and leads to peace and health.

    I love the arrow and bulls eye metaphor. Thanks for sharing.

    • Becca says:

      I read an article once somewhere (specific, I know – ha ha) about “orthorexia” – an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. The thing that blew me away about it was that psychiatrists don’t want to classify it as an official disorder because they are concerned about the obesity epidemic. It’s as if they would rather have people who are unhealthily obsessed with healthy eating that people who don’t care about healthy eating…

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