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He it is who seeks to lead men captive at his will, to destroy their power of agency and choice, to dupe them into bartering their birthright of freedom for the nauseating pottage of present expediency.
He it is who has cajoled men into the unscriptural conception that there are ways, many and variable, by which salvation is attainable, other than the one and only way provided by the Savior of souls.
He is the arch-deceiver, the master sophist, the prime dissembler, the prince of hypocrites.
Concerning the devil's plan of subverting the rights of man, and of those who support it, Moroni, the last of the Nephite prophets, wrote:
"Whoso buildeth it up, seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents; yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men, that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning." (Book of Mormon, Ether 8:25).
Though great be Satan's power, deliverance therefrom is provided through compliance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, at whose advent, now near at hand, the promised millennium of peace shall be inaugurated, a blessed feature of which is that the devil shall be rendered impotent to further subjugate the souls of men, and "that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled." (Rev. 20:3).
ON THE DEVIL'S GROUND
Prisoners to Satan
N the decisive issues of war there are victors and vanquished; the casualties comprise killed, wounded, and prisoners. Generally, capture by the enemy is the form of individual calamity most dreaded by the gallant soldier who knows he is fighting for the right, and particularly so if the foe be ruthless or treacherous.
In the battle of life as a whole, analogous conditions and categories obtain. The slain may have fallen in honor; for the disabled there is hope of recovery; but the fate of the captured is one of apprehension or dread certainty, ofttimes of horror.
When one is taken prisoner as the result of venturesome curiosity, reckless exposure, or disobedience to orders, he must bear the blame as well as the suffering consequent on capture. Many are prisoners because thoughtlessly, wilfully, or defiantly, they have trespassed upon the devil's ground, without warrant of duty or justifiable excuse. The soldier's part is to keep within the lines until ordered forward in attack to dislodge the foe.
Hosts of capable souls have heedlessly put themselves into the enemy's power by yielding to the treacherous invitation to fraternize with sin. Such a one is made welcome in the camp of the foe, and, at first a visitor, he sooner or later awakens to the fact that he is a prisoner, and withal a deserter from the ranks of patriotism and honor.
The young man, rich in hope and promise, sets out to see the world for himself-just to see, that's all, he says-and is
overpowered in the grog-shop trench or the wanton's dena prisoner in the power of a merciless and exulting foe.
Solemn as the sound of doom, piercing as the blast of angel's trump, is the Lord's affirmation: "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (John 8:34.)
Who can find so much as excuse to think of himself as a freeman when he knows he is a slave-to base passion, to dishonorable desire, to hypocrisy and crime?
The prisoner's fate is as commonly the result of negative sin-of neglect, indolence, failure to do-as it is the consequence of ill-directed activity and positive transgression. Refusal to comply with the prescribed laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to permit or invite capture by the arch-enemy of souls.
Obedience is the test of allegiance, and he whom we obey, the leader we elect to follow, is the master who directs our destiny, whether in the liberty of righteousness or the serfdom of sin.
"Know ye not," wrote Paul of old to the proud Romans, "that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Rom. 6:16.)
The certainty of capture by the enemy through passive irresolution or aggressive violation of Divine law, together with the actuality of the captive state was set forth by a Hebrew prophet on the Western Hemisphere centuries before the birth of Christ, as follows:
"For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger and perish.
"For behold, at that day [this latter, modern, present
day] shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say, All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well; and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them, I am no devil, for there is none; and thus he whispereth in their ears until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.
"Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith, must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28:19-23.)
It is evident from the foregoing and from the following, that captivity to the devil shall extend into the eternities as the state of those who have failed to establish their status as citizens in the Kingdom of freedom:
"For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance, even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked." (Alma 34:35.)
WHAT DOTH IT PROFIT A MAN?
Worldly Gain-Eternal Loss
NOR what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37).
These are questions put by the Teacher of teachers. They are related; we may consider them as one. Simple, like unto all the Master's teachings-for high precept and profound philosophy are embodied in the interrogatory— the question is searching, peremptory, challenging. Who that hears or reads can brush it aside? Compelling in its incisive brevity, it is of haunting directness. Once considered, even cursorily, it will not down; once admitted to the inner consciousness, it will not out. The baubles of earth are set over against the priceless jewels of heaven; the fleeting things of mortality are put in contrast with the enduring verities of eternity.
Granted that this is a material world, and that experience in material affairs is a pervading and indispensable element in the curriculum of life's school, it is no less truly a fact that earth-life is neither the beginning nor the end of individual existence and progression.
Material belongings, relative wealth or poverty, physical environment-the things on which we are prone to set our hearts and anchor our aspirations, the things for which we sweat and strive, ofttimes at the sacrifice of happiness and to the forfeiture of real success-these after all are but externals, the worth of which in the reckoning to come shall be counted in terms of the use we have made of them.