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We know which of the Lord’s commandment of greatest importance: to love the Lord our God with our whole heart and mind and soul. But what is Satan’s first commandment? It is to hide. When we feel we have made a mistake, when we fear we have offended God, the adversary is quick to encourage us to turn away in shame. He wants us to separate ourselves from God and isolate ourselves from others. God unites. Satan divides. God creates. Satan destroys. Knowing that, why is it so hard to defy that seductive, insidious voice that urges us to run away?
Satan: The Accuser
The Hebrew word used for Satan means adversary, opposer, and accuser. In Revelation 12:10 John hears a loud voice in heaven saying “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” Christ is our advocate, and Satan is our accuser. But what does this look like in our lives? How does Satan continue the war he began in heaven? The battleground may have shifted, but the war is far from over; it is a battle for the souls of God’s children, and it continues in our lives and the lives of our families every day.
Satan does not merely accuse us before God; he is successful when he can get us to believe his lies, to accuse ourselves. His most potent weapon is shame. Brené Brown has made the study of shame her life’s work; in her brilliant book I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t) she offers her definition of shame: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. …Shame creates feelings of fear, blame and disconnection.”
Shame disconnects us from others, the very opposite of God’s desire. He asks us to join a community of believers, to covenant to bear one another’s burdens, and to share our emotional and physical resources with one another (e.g., Mosiah 18:8, Luke 3:11). He invites us to turn to Him and unite with others, until at last we are all united as one. In opposition, Satan wants to pull us away from each another through feelings of unworthiness. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that “He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven” (“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Oct 1976).
Jesus Christ is our Advocate
I loved to watch Perry Mason when I was little. He was a fictional defense attorney on TV. There was an accuser—the prosecutor. And there was a defender—the advocate. He sought both justice and mercy for the person on trial. I thought that if I were on trial, I would want Perry Mason to be my defender.
We have an even better advocate than Perry Mason. We have Jesus Christ for our defender, for our advocate. And unlike Perry Mason, Jesus is willing to not only defend us, but to pay for our offenses himself, to suffer the just penalty for all our sins and weaknesses. If we allow it, He will defend us to ourselves (the harshest jury we will ever face). He will teach us of our divine nature and invite us to feel His love for us. He will testify to us that we are lovable. As we become more gentle with ourselves, we can be gentler with others.
As we find love for ourselves, we increase our capacity to love those around us. Jesus Christ has power to transform our nature and hearts, so that we love goodness, and we love Him and His other children. Is it any wonder that “gospel” means “good news?” Jesus invites us to “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate” (D&C 29:5) and He identifies Himself as “the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” (D&C 62:1).
In the book of Revelation John records how the faithful triumph over the accuser: “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11). Our faith and trust in the Savior gives us power to overcome the accuser. The Lord doesn’t want us to turn away from Him in shame—just the opposite! He wants us to bring ourselves to Him, to bring every bit of us, the good and the bad, and let Him heal us. He invites us to be unified with Him and the Father and our brothers and sisters here in mortality. He tells us we are worthy of love. We have a way to distinguish between the voice of the accuser and the voice of the Advocate: all that urges us to hold ourselves in contempt, to see ourselves as unworthy, to run away and hide from God and from others—that is the voice of the accuser. Recognize it and reject it!
All that invites us to come unto Christ, to let Him heal us, to reach out to others, to believe in our own innate value and goodness, to trust in a loving God to help us be better than we are now—that is the voice of our Advocate who loves us. Do all you can to amplify that voice. Seek it out. Immerse yourself in that voice. Listen and believe.