Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post: The Atonement Overcomes the Adversary

Yesterday we went with our son, A-5, now a Sophomore at BYU to his church service down in Provo. There were few there during the holiday break. Most, of course, had gone home. Some stayed in Provo because of jobs or the distance or lack of family to go home to. Our son had volunteered to speak in church (it's a layman's church anyway) as he lived close enough to return during the break.

A piano in every lecture hall - for Sunday conversion from Biology to Church meetings.
It is always interesting to see the church school turn over to church services on a Sunday. His meetings were held in the brand-spanking new Life Sciences building. So there we sat in a lecture hall that during weekdays is used for lectures on biology, including every latest discovery of molecular or evolutionary biology, and on Sundays becomes a church house for talks and lessons on the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow it all works.

Now the talk:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

My name is [A-5], I live in the 8th ward and am currently attending BYU studying physics and acoustics and enjoy playing my trumpet at the basketball and football games.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak today. I pray that the spirit will guide my words and your thoughts so that we all may be edified and guided with the direction we need in life.

In Revelation we read that:

“there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9)
All who came to this earth with a body choose to fight against the dragon in the preexistence. The apostle Paul taught that:
“we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
What Paul is telling us is that the war in heaven continued on into this life. We are at war!

I do not speak on this topic to promote violence or to cause fear, but the opposite. By discussing this important condition of life and sharing the counsel of prophets, both ancient and modern, on how to overcome it, I hope to instill peace and courage. Satan is real, but God is too. It is important to have an appropriate understanding of him. Jumping to the extremes of ignoring Satan’s reality or becoming grossly fascinated by the dark things of Satan’s world is very dangerous. The scriptures and modern prophets provide us with much needed help and guidance on this topic.

Satan tempted our first parents in the Garden, and persuaded Cain to betray his brother Abel unto death. This same Satan plagues us today, yet he has had a great deal of time to gain experience and to learn how to best tempt mankind. At a BYU devotional in 1982, Bruce C. Hafen said the following about our modern day foe:

"The Prince of Darkness has dragged out the heavy artillery. He is no longer limited to arrows and swords and BB guns. Now he is Darth Vader, with laser guns, light speeds, and the death star. [laughter] We are near the end of a fight to the finish, and no holds are barred."
In his epistle to Timothy, Paul counsels his younger friend in to gospel to “fight the good fight of faith,” and states that he has “fought a good fight,” but how are we supposed to combat Satan, this unseen being with an army of devils? ElderHales at a recent General Conference (April 2013), reminds us of some advice also given to us by Paul. He said,
“Brethren [and sisters], if we are faithful … armor will be given to us as a gift from God. We need this armor! Young [people], your [parents] and grand[parents] never faced the temptations that you face on a regular basis. You are living in the last days. If your father wanted to get in trouble, he had to go searching for it. Not anymore! Today temptation finds you! Please remember that! Satan desires to have you, and “sin lieth at the door.” How will you resist his aggressive tactics? Put on the whole armor of God.”
In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul teaches us about what he calls the armor of God.
10. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:10-18)
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we find a reiteration of the teaching of the armor of God:
“Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen.” (D&C 27:15-18)
When I was little I thought this was just some cool imagery. It made for a pretty cool primary or family home evening lesson, but as I have gotten older, it has become something much more important. Honestly, I was quite surprised at how challenging it was to serve a mission. It seemed like once I received my call, Satan did all he could to prevent me from serving. Even after going to the temple and receiving my endowment, in the mission field, it seemed like every step I took closer to God, I had to fight harder with Satan. It surprised me how much the mission was actually like real life. I tend to like to think and plan far in advance, and in growing up, I always had those two years in my mind that I would serve a mission, but I kind of planned around it, sort of thinking they would just occur like a dream, and it sort of did. It’s hard to express into words those two years, honestly, it’s hard to put into words any two years of life. Anyways, in coming home from the mission, I’ve realized once again how desperate and real Satan is. Without the luxury of a companion, which I had thought to be quite a burden, and the hours of study time every day with the scriptures, I have found the “real world” to be quite challenging. But I have now realized that in coming home, I perhaps took off my armor, or did as Jesus’s disciples did, and “went fishing” in my own way.

This past semester, I took an awesome New Testament class in which we focused on the four gospels. At the end of John, there is a cool little epilogue where Peter, John, and many of the other disciples go fishing. Jesus comes calls to them and perhaps causes them the most extreme deja vu. I strongly remember when Elder Holland shared this story, and how he shared it in General Conference in 2012. The realization or revelation that I felt like I recently received from this story is that the call to a mission, to discipleship, is eternal. We aren’t supposed to go back to old shores, to who we were. Everyone should come home to their family, school, work and such after the mission, but as Elder Bednar counseled us in the MTC, go home but don’t ever leave the mission field. For me, I think that being a missionary is an important part of wearing the armor of God.

How we live our faith has great importance in providing us with armor-like protection against the adversary. President Thomas S. Monson shared with us in this past General Conference that

“Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Heavenly Father will influence all that we do. Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives. Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. I reiterate what we have been told repeatedly--that in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things, for the adversary and his hosts are relentlessly seeking for a chink in our armor, a lapse in our faithfulness. Said the Lord, 'Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.'”
Other important ways to strengthen us against evil is to attend the temple, fast, provide service, and partake of the sacrament. Of course this is not all inclusive. There are many important things to do or remember in this fight, such as what you are fighting for. We should follow the standard of liberty of Captain Moroni, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” (Alma 46:12)

Amongst all of these battle strategies and such, it is most vital that we remember our Savior and Redeemer, our Rock and Foundation, Jesus Christ. It is because of Him and His Atonement that we are capable of overcoming physical and spiritual death. It says in D&C “And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them.” (D&C 35:14) In ancient Egypt, 

“Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
In closing, let’s remember the valiant stripling warriors,
“And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds. And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe--that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power. Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually (Alma 57:25-27)
In Japanese, there is a saying:

 「七転び八起き」(nanakorobi yaoki) 

which translates to “Fall seven times, get back up eight.” It is not about whether or not you fall down, or even how many times you fall down, but whether we stand back up.

While we will struggle and suffer in this life, if we continue to fight on God’s side, we will be saved through the infinite power and mercy of the Atonement of Christ, our Redeemer. He loves us and strives with us through this fight to the end. I share this in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

After A-5's Sacrament Meeting, we went to his apartment which I have visited several times dropping in after my evening Welsh classes but his mom hadn't yet seen. She said it was nice then proceeded to clean out the fridge. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of single, college men."

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