The Contradictions of the Adversary
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.
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.
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?