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Nature shows are amazing. With today’s drones and satellite technology, we’re able to glimpse rare beasts in their habitat, from the mountains of Tibet to the deepest oceans of the Pacific.
And we marvel at their skills. Whether it’s the incredibly swift cheetahs like the ones Elder David A. Bednar spoke about at our last General Conference, or the intelligent octopodes who undo locks and sneak around the aquarium, to amphibians of the rain forest who change colors like a laser light show, we are astonished.
Each animal seems equipped with unbelievable survival techniques. And one thing they all do is watch carefully for danger. In social groups such as the ones meerkats maintain, certain adults take turns watching for predators. They stand alert and watchful, as if in a war zone. And they actually are in a kind of war zone, because neighboring tribes are a constant threat. Creatures protect their turf, their mates, and their food. Animals guard their young even more ferociously. The whole notion of enemies is quite serious.
Until you come to humans. And maybe this is where our collective IQ takes a nose dive, because we are waaay less vigilant about this. Sure, we use tools better, we make music, we build hospitals, we laugh at jokes, we share history lessons, we do a lot of things animals do not. But we fail miserably at warding off evil.
While deer stare with absolute focus at the grasslands where a cheetah might be creeping up, we hear questionable language in a movie and make excuses. “It’s just in one scene,” someone will say. Soon we become desensitized, even defensive of our choices. And our marvelous brains manage to dismiss other threats to our spiritual safety as well. We become careless about church attendance. We justify immodesty in thought and action. We fall into bed too tired to pray. We reach for our cell phones to check Instagram instead of for our scriptures to check what God might want to whisper to us. We’ve all fallen prey, no pun intended, to Satan’s subtle tactics.
And because he doesn’t spring out of the grass and kill us on the spot, we think we’re safe. We’re at the top of the food chain, for heaven’s sake. Why should we worry?
Satan, unfortunately, is at the top of his food chain as well. Only it’s not a food chain since he doesn’t have a physical body. Maybe it’s a wickedness chain. In any case, he has mastered the art of fooling mankind. And he has millions and millions of helpers.
Satan masquerades better than any animal on this earth. He can disguise evil as innocent fun, luring us into absolute destruction. Then, when we try to climb back out of the hideous pit he convinces us it’s too late—we can never reverse our bad choices. God doesn’t want us. We’re doomed forever.
There really should be a nature show about humans, but filmed as if by a visiting team from Mars or someplace. It would show us skipping merrily along, trying to fit into the popular crowd, believing all the advertisements we see, and completely oblivious to the needs of other humans around us. Suddenly—because they’ll edit out the time it takes for Satan to reel us in—we’ll see humans completely miserable, caught up in shallow lives and bad relationships, gripped by addiction, angry and self-pitying, proud and unforgiving, completely lacking in compassion, and blaming God for all of it. Or saying this proves He doesn’t exist.
It could be on Netflix, produced by Adversary Productions. A Martian narrator who has somehow mastered a cool British accent will say, “Incredibly, the most evolved mammal on the planet is least adapted to guarding against danger.” Then predictions of extinction will follow, with at least one reference to the Dodo Bird (sigh).
OR… we can decide we owe it to ourselves to be better at this. We already have “watchmen on the tower,” our Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson and the Apostles. We can heed these leaders’ words to set our lives in order and fortify our borders.
We can learn the enemy’s tactics. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: No manual is better than The Book of Mormon for laying out exactly how Lucifer sets his traps. And no manual is better at showing us how to avoid them, and conquer evil.
We can rededicate ourselves to protecting our young. I’m aware of a preschool in another state where parents basically use it as a babysitting service. They don’t come in to observe; they simply assume that if it’s state licensed the people running it must know what they’re doing. But at least one teacher is angry and uncaring. All day. With 30 kids. Where else are parents not examining what’s going on? Right where I live there are elementary school curriculum issues and some families are opting to home school over it. Others are crusading, trying to make a difference. There is need for vigilance everywhere.
We also need to know ourselves and our vulnerabilities. Slow marine creatures have shells and reefs where they can hide, or perhaps they bury themselves in the ocean floor when predators swim near. Other animals use camouflage, armor, frightening stripes, speed, claws, safety in numbers, sharp quills, poison—any number of ways to escape danger.
Snails don’t try to run. Fish don’t try to hide in a forest. They know their limitations. And so should we know where we are susceptible. If peer pressure has always tripped you up, then arm yourself against it. Get counseling. Find out how to stop caring so very much about the approval of the crowd.
If you tend to listen to fault-finders who would tear down your faith, stop believing them more than you believe the Holy Ghost.
Whether your weakness is dishonesty in the workplace, morality issues, complacency, selfishness, jealousy, a temper, grudge-holding—whatever it is—admit it to yourself and get the help you need. This can be professional therapy. It can include trusted friends who can support your goals.
And, above all, it should include prayer, fasting, and diligent study of the scriptures. This is how we can arm ourselves against the adversary. This is how to open the channels of revelation and hear what God wants us to do. What decisions should we change? What people should we avoid, or approach? What must we learn from life’s challenges, so we’ll build the strength we need? And how can we defeat Satan?
Finally, we must forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. We mustn’t believe the message that we’re too awful to be forgiven, too flawed, too unlovable. We must reach out to Christ who redeemed us, and trust that we have eternal value. We can remember that God knew we would slip up. That’s the whole reason why we need Christ’s atonement. This was never meant to be a perfect place filled with perfect people, but a globe of imperfect humanity.
Yes, our enemy is invisible, sneaking and creeping closer than we realize. But our greatest allies are also unseen and are even more powerful: Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Leaders have told us we also have untold numbers of ancestors and loved ones from beyond the veil who can buoy us up and help us triumph.
Surely we can do a better job than the beasts of the world, in watching out for enemies. Let’s remember that this battle is a spiritual one, then let’s use our greater intelligence and spirituality to make a plan and then follow it.
Hilton’s newest work, A Little Christmas Prayer, is destined to become a Christmas classic. This tale, for any reader of any faith, teaches us all the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.