Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” But he left out another certainty, that Satan will not rest as long as mortals live on Earth.
Since the war in heaven, Lucifer has been devoted to our destruction. He and his followers work relentlessly to bring us down and keep us there. And we’ve seen many of his evil tactics unfold, almost always imperceptibly at first, then ramping up as we succumb.
Husbands and wives never used to wonder if they were compatible. There was too much work to do, especially in the decades before automation when farming was more prevalent. But as soon as we had a minute to pause, Satan had us wondering if we really had all that much in common. No? Then maybe we should split up, right? He has always attacked the institution of marriage, fanning the flames of the “trade in and start over” idea.
Soon he was banging the drum of pleasure-seeking above all else. Put yourself first, look out for Number One. He claimed “fun” was the only happiness we’ll have on this earth. Man’s selfish tendencies were healthy and justified; indulge before you die.
Giving up your virtue goes right along with that. Besides, everyone else is doing it, right? Surely you don’t want to be the only odd duck who clings to outdated morals! In media and in the culture of today, sex outside of marriage is depicted as perfectly acceptable. And Satan is cheering.
Pornography and other addictions crept into his game plan, snaring as many of God’s children as possible. And the Evil One was right there to tell us there’s no way back, no way to overcome these strong urges. He even had the audacity to claim that many addictions are private, and hurt no one else. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Another misery he hyped up as a virtue, is busy-ness. If you’re overwhelmed and overbooked, you’re doing life right. Tick off those boxes, accomplish all you can. Other things, like temple work, family history, service, repentance—those can all wait, said Lucifer. Teens, you can skip prayer and scripture study today because you have a soccer practice, a piano lesson, homework, and online chatting to do. Remember, a distraction doesn’t have to be evil to be effective.
Another of the silken webs he spins is that anyone else’s success means your failure. You can’t be happy for others, because that wonderful trip or home or car could have been yours. He encourages you to be jealous of others’ victories, and secretly glad when they fall back.
And that leads right to… Compare yourself constantly with what you see online. You’ll never be that beautiful, lucky, wealthy, happy, or as good as they are. They’re more popular and successful than you’ll ever be. You have every right to be depressed about it, he whispers.
Did you know one in three teenage girls in the U.S. has seriously considered suicide? And the spike in this figure mirrors the advent of cell phones.
Another whole cloth lie Satan pushes is that the world is splintering apart and there’s nothing you can do about it. The Bible even says the world will become wicked, so just stay home, watch TV, and let it happen. He wants to keep us from gathering Israel, doing missionary work, and standing up for what’s right. Just hide that ol’ light under a bushel and be quiet. Ignore those leaders who tell you to get involved, run for the school board, and make a difference in your neighborhoods. The adversary loves complacency.
He also whispers that if God loved you, he’d answer your prayers immediately. He’s probably not even listening. Give it up, already! Solve your problems yourself. Satan definitely doesn’t want us to exercise faith or patience. He doesn’t want us to know that God often has something even better in mind for us.
It’s been a risky one, but Satan has recently issued another call: Violence is justified. He’s assigned thousands of his minions to stir this up, to make sure it has no consequences, and that it’s “the only way” to get through to some people. He urges kids to play violent videogames, he paves the way for violent movies, and soon has everyone de-sensitized. Violence becomes just another option when you’re angry.
But the latest lie that worries me is not loud or violent. It doesn’t even involve thrill-seeking, or comparing ourselves to others. It’s the notion that being alone is waaay better than being with other people. The pandemic showed us we could survive without mixing in, and if you can just get away from humanity, life is simpler. Face it, he says, people complicate our lives. Being alone is best; you can think and meditate, not be pressured or rushed, just you be you.
We all know cell phones can be used for good, but they have completely preoccupied some people, especially among the youth. Algorithms that addict people to “likes” keep us staring at our screens, excluding any live interactions. So, we’re halfway there, aren’t we? We’re already partially isolated.
But is that much alone time healthy? Experts are emphatic: It’s a danger to both mental and physical health. The American Psychiatric Association says loneliness and social isolation may be as bad for your health as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and significantly impacts mental health as well. COVID’s restrictions only increased the problem.
The Centers for Disease Control report that loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. They cite studies that show social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Loneliness creates a 50% increased risk of dementia and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
Going the solo route also keeps people from marrying and forming celestial bonds. A rigid hermit lifestyle eliminates service, missionary work, the taking of the Sacrament, and the joys and the lessons that come with community.
But it’s quiet, so no one jumps up and down about it. Physical and mental illnesses crop up, but too many fail to see the connection to isolation.
We need to fight back. Satan has won far too many battles. And it isn’t enough to remember that he loses in the end, and you just need to be wearing the right jersey. There are millions of our brothers and sisters who are falling prey to him during the fight—people who could be helped and saved.
Book of Mormon prophets saw visions of impending destruction, of people falling away. But they didn’t just sit and let it happen. They worked even harder to rescue the ones they could. If each of us took a hard look at Satan’s latest lie, we could make a great difference in our homes and communities. Let’s reach out to everyone who’s lonely. Let’s establish sensible rules for cell phone use in our families. Let’s walk around and greet others, get to know people, and be useful. It isn’t a monumental effort, just an awareness of the problem, and a desire to stay caring and connected.
I really think this is one we can win.
Joni Hilton is a Latter-day Saint author, Seminary teacher, and shares life hacks at https://m.youtube.com/c/jonihilton