The Peacegiver
Of Sin

By James L. Ferrell
An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by
Deseret Book.

You’ve never been a smoker, Ricky, but knowing what you know about smoking, what do you suppose is one of the biggest problems with smoking a single cigarette?”

“The danger that it will hook you into more cigarettes.”

“Exactly. How about with alcohol-what is one of the gravest dangers in a single drink?”

“The same. It would be the danger of getting hooked on additional drinks.”

“Drugs, pornography? How about for them?”

“Same thing. One dose of anything like that makes further doses more likely.”

“Why is that, do you suppose?” Grandpa asked.

“Well, they’re addictive. I’m no expert on the body chemistry of addictions, but evidently each of those things changes the body somehow, or else somehow corrupts the spirit, so that you start to crave more of them.”

“Yes. So with smoking or drinking or drugs or pornography, can you see how one act of sin can begin to give Satan power over you to lead you captive at his will?”

“Yes, with those kinds of acts, I can see that, yes.”

“What if the same thing were true of any kind of sin?”

“Are you saying that it is?”

Grandpa Carson handed Rick the book. He took it in his hands and started reading, beginning where his grandfather was pointing.

And now, my sons, the passage began.

Once again Rick felt drawn in by the words. There was a rush of wind, and presently he found himself in a lush, forested land. The air was sultry, and perspiration beaded on his skin almost in an instant. He was on a hillside, with green rugged mountains rising directly behind him to the east. No more than a half mile to the west, the ocean shimmered under a setting sun, which painted the occasional clouds in pinks and purples. He was still holding the book, which felt heavy in his grasp.

Below him in a clearing sat ten or so men. A frail white-haired man, with a staff in his hand, sat at the front of the gathering, next to an altar of stones. It was he who was speaking.

Men are free according to the flesh, his words continued, and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.67

“The great patriarch Lehi from the Book of Mormon,” came his grandfather’s voice, just behind him and to his left. “On the eve of his death, he is teaching his six sons, the two sons of Ishmael, and the former servant, Zoram, just what we have been talking about-that agency is the capacity we have to choose to follow either the Lord or the devil, and that if we choose against the Lord we lose our liberty and enter into the captivity of the devil.”

And now, my sons, Lehi continued, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.68

“Notice what Father Lehi says, Ricky,” his grandfather called to him, pulling his mind from the scene. “When we fail to follow the will of the Holy Spirit, we grant Satan power to captivate us through corruptible elements within our bodies-just as the addict loses control to his physical addictions. Sin is an addictive substance, Ricky. Our bodies can become wired for it. That is what Father Lehi is teaching his sons.”

“But how?” Rick was still struggling to understand.

“Let’s go back to the beginning.”

The pages of the book in Rick’s hand started to flip as if blown by a breeze, although Rick couldn’t feel anything. Within seconds, the book fell open to a page near the beginning.

“Read,” his grandfather commanded.

Wherefore, it came to pass, Rick read, that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment-

He looked up at his grandfather. “I’ve already read this.”

Grandpa Carson looked slightly cross. “Read, Ricky.”

. . . wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, Rick continued, because he yielded unto temptation.69

At this point the lush, tropical scene vanished and Rick found himself bathed in light. He read on, and a soothing voice descended from the heavens:

And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?

And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.

And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?

And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.70

“Ricky,” came his grandfather’s voice, pulling his mind from wherever it had been taken. “Who transgressed the commandment?”

His grandfather was standing next to him in the light.

“Adam did.”

“Having transgressed the commandment, there is only one way back to God for Adam. What is that way?”

“Through Jesus Christ.”

“Yes. But what must Adam realize after his transgression in order to come to Christ?”

“He had to know or be taught about Christ, to begin with.”

“Yes. And then what?”

Rick thought for a moment. “I’m not sure.”

“He needed to realize he had committed a transgression, Ricky, so that he would feel the need to come to Christ to be forgiven for it.”

“Okay, I understand that.”

“Do you?”

“I think so.”

“Then read once more Adam’s response to the Lord’s query.”

Rick read from where his grandfather was pointing.

And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?

And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.71

“What do you notice about Adam’s answer, Ricky?”

“It isn’t really an answer to the question, is it?”

“Go on,” his grandfather encouraged.

“Well, the Lord asked Adam a straightforward question: ‘Did you eat the fruit that I forbade you to eat?’ And rather than just saying ‘Yes,’ Adam felt the need to say: ‘Well, you gave me Eve and told me to stay with her, and she gave the fruit to me.'”

“Yes, Ricky. And notice how Eve did a similar thing. Read on.”

And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done?

And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.72

“What does it mean, Ricky?”

Rick pondered the question while his grandfather waited.

“In a way,” Rick began, “Adam and Eve didn’t think they had done wrong-or if they had, they felt like it was somehow okay or at least less bad because someone else caused or provoked them to do what they did.”

“Sound familiar?”

“What do you mean?”

“Aren’t you, in your relationship with Carol, exactly like Adam and Eve?”

Rick fell silent at the thought. He was beyond trying to defend himself.

“And if Adam is in any way unclear about the responsibility for his transgression, is he now going to be more or less likely to feel the need to come to the Savior?”

“Less,” Rick answered.

“So notice, Ricky: One transgression, one choice away from the Lord, and what happens? The transgressor becomes blinded to his responsibility for sin, and he begins to fall into the captivity of the devil, which are the chains-the chains of sin-that keep him from feeling the need or desire to return to the Savior. This is how we become subject to the will of the devil when we yield to temptation.”

Grandpa Carson took the book back from Rick.

“Now, Ricky, a few minutes ago I suggested that you misunderstood the nature of sin. Let me tell you what I meant by that.”

“I think I already know,” Rick interrupted.

“Go ahead, then. What are you thinking?”

“Something about sin changes us, kind of like bodily

addictions do. We view the world differently after we sin than before. Like Adam, we become more concerned with ourselves and with how we look, and we somehow lose sight of the Lord and our need for him. We begin to see the world in ways that excuse our indiscretions. And then, like a kind of addiction, I suppose, we find it easier to continue in sinful paths. In fact, after Adam and Eve’s transgression, Satan was able to get them to do something that never would have entered their minds before-to hide from the Lord.”73

Rick was surprised by the words he heard himself saying-surprised in the sense that he found himself learning as he heard his words, if they were his words at all. These were new thoughts to him, yet they were coming from his mouth, and he felt a calm conviction within his breast as he spoke.

“It’s interesting that Adam remained clear on Eve’s need for the Savior,” Rick mused. “He retained the ability to recognize others’ sins. And yet even this ability became perverted, for he began to see others’ sins as somehow an exoneration of his own. This kept him from fully contemplating his own sins and therefore kept him from turning fully to the Savior-or at least, it would have. I can’t remember the particulars of the story well enough, but Adam and Eve were rescued from this blindness fairly quickly, I think. For they came to the Lord.”

“Yes, Ricky, they did. But only after the Lord came looking for them.74 They had turned their path from him and were hiding from his presence before he came and called out to them.

“And then,” his grandfather continued, “remember what the Lord did next: He cursed the ground ‘for their sake’ and ‘greatly multiplied’ their sorrow in bringing forth children.75 That is, he banished them to an earth where everything would be difficult-a curse that was ‘for their own good’ since the sheer difficulty of life would push them to look heavenward for help even in the midst of their sins, every such approach to the Lord providing them an opportunity to be saved from their captivity in sin.”

Rick had never heard that idea before, and it fascinated him. The difficulty of life itself is a blessing! he realized. For it initiates a desire within us to come to the Lord-a yearning we can feel even when we are blinded by sin!

“The predicament of sin, then, Ricky, is much bigger than the fact that we commit individual sinful acts. It is that by so doing, we corrupt our hearts and become sinful ourselves-hard-hearted, stiff-necked, dark. We no longer see clearly but, as Paul warned, ‘through a glass, darkly,’76 which is according to Satan’s plan to ‘blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.’77 The scriptures declare that this is ‘a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity.’78

“Once sinful in our hearts, acts and thoughts that were formerly reprehensible to us become desirable. We come to desire to do what we shouldn’t and lose our desire to do what we should. Struggling with our own ‘beams,’ as we discussed before, we begin to become obsessed with others’ ‘motes.’79 In the words of Paul, we ‘think ourselves something’-better than, more deserving-when ‘we are in fact nothing,’ and are therefore ‘deceived’ about our sinfulness.80 Paul called this ‘the bondage of corruption.’81 Losing sight of our sinfulness, we lose sight of our need for the One who has come to heal the sinner. Like Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon, being hard in our hearts, we ‘do not look unto the Lord as we ought.’82

“This, Ricky, again, is what is meant by ‘the chains’ or ‘captivity’ of sin: Precisely when we are most sinful and therefore most in need of repentance we least feel the desire or need to repent. This is the predicament of sin. And this is why the Lord himself declared, ‘I require the hearts of the children of men,’83 and why the prophets have uniformly declared that what is required is not just a cessation of sinful ‘acts,’ but a ‘mighty change in our hearts.’ It is as the prophet Alma taught: Only this mighty change of heart can loose us from the chains of hell.”84

Grandpa Carson stopped for a moment and looked kindly at Rick. “You have a wonderful summary of some learning in your back pocket there, Son,” he said, nodding toward Rick’s hip. “Unfortunately, knowledge for the mind is never by itself enough to break from the chains of sin. Such knowledge can be helpful, to be sure, but only if it leads you to him who is powerful to save. Salvation is not in a sentence, or in a string of sentences, however profound. It is rather in a person-in the Messiah, come to earth, to deliver man from his sins.”

Printed with permission of Deseret Book Company

2004 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.