Sunday, January 14, 2007

Persuasion or Flattery

In our premortal existence, two plans were presented to us. Each would lead us back to our Heavenly Father. Both were championed by great leaders, and each had a great number of followers. The primary difference, however, hinged on agency.

Our Father's plan, proposed by Jesus Christ, presented God's children with the opportunity to choose eternal life. Prophets, angels, and Christ himself would come to the earth to teach men the plan of salvation and to persuade them to follow that plan. Ultimately, however, whether they enjoyed eternal life was their choice. The Lord would not compel them to follow him.

Contrary to God's plan, Lucifer would take away man's agency. All would be saved regardless of their wishes.

Our Father's plan was implemented.

Satan, as Lucifer would later be known, rebelled and was cast down to the earth with his legion of followers. On the earth, he still wanted to take away the agency of men. Satan and his angels still seek today to compel men to follow him to eternal damnation by taking away their agency.

Satan does not respect agency; rather, he seeks to destroy it. Where Jesus persuades, encourages, and exhorts all men to follow him, Satan seeks to deceive us into following him through flattery, cunning, promises of worldly power, and appeals to the natural man.

The scriptures teach us about persuasion on the one hand and flattery on the other, and they give us many examples of each. A careful look at these teachings and examples shows that righteous persuasion respects and supports our agency. In contrast, Satan's use of flattery is designed to bring us into bondage. Like many of Satan's tools of evil, his use of flattery is a counterfeit to the Lord's use of persuasion and invitation to do good.

Let's begin by reviewing what both the Lord and Satan are trying to accomplish among the children of men. The Lord's work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). To succeed in this quest, the Lord has sent prophets to preach the gospel, “that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved” (Ether 8:26). Nephi was commanded to record his words because they “speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal” (2 Nephi 33:4).

Contrary to the Savior's plan, Satan wishes to bring eternal damnation to all of God's children. Satan's goal is lead us away through temptation to overpower us that we may “become his subjects at the last day” (Alma 34:39). Remember the scripture mastery verse in Alma 30:60, “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”

Compare and contrast the ways Jesus and Satan seek to motivate people. Let's look at several examples beginning with Satan.

Satan

Appealing to the natural man and his pride and promising worldly power, Satan uses flattery to lead men to do evil. It's part of his plan to use cunning and deceit.

  • Sherem, the anti-Christ, “preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ” (Jacob 7:2).
  • When Paanchi failed in his bid to win the judgment seat, he “was exceedingly wroth; therefore, he was about to flatter away [his supporters] to rise up in rebellion...to destroy the liberty of the people” (Helaman 1:7-8).
  • Alma the Younger “was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities” (Mosiah 27:8).
  • The people of Morianton were “inspired by his wickedness and his flattering words” in their unjust battle against their neighbors (Alma 50:35).
  • Gadianton, the great robber, “did flatter [his band], and also Kishkumen, that if they would place him in the judgment-seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority among the people” (Helaman 2:5).
  • Jared (not the Jared who crossed the ocean) “did flatter many people, because of his cunning words, until he had gained the half of the kingdom” (Ether 8:2).
  • The daughter of Jared used flattery and an appeal to wickedness to persuade Akish to kill the king: “I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say: I will give her if ye will bring unto me the ahead of my father, the king.” (Ether 8:10)
  • Akish then administered secret combinations “unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired” (Ether 8:17)
  • Finally, notice how Giddianhi, the leader of the robbers, uses flattering words to persuade Lachoneus, the governor of the land, to surrender and join the robbers: “Lachoneus, most noble and chief governor of the land, behold, I write this epistle unto you, and do give unto you exceedingly great praise because of your firmness, and also the firmness of your people, in maintaining that which ye suppose to be your right and liberty; yea, ye do stand well, as if ye were supported by the hand of a god, in the defence of your liberty, and your property, and your country, or that which ye do call so.” (3 Nephi 3:2)

Satan's ultimate goal in the use of flattery and cunning is to lead us into bondage. “And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men” (Alma 28:13). Remember Satan's efforts with the people who built the Tower of Babel. He “spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell” (Helaman 6:28). His plan today is the same as it was in the premortal life when he proposed a plan without agency.

Jesus Christ

While Satan wishes to bring us into bondage by getting “hold upon the hearts of the children of men” (Helaman 6:30), Jesus Christ wants shows us that if we choose to follow him and his prophets, we will experience “a mighty change” in our hearts which will lead to a “hope for salvation” and our “being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell” (Alma 5:10, 13). The Lord does not use flattery or cunning to trick us into following him. Rather, he seeks our discipleship through persuasion that respects and upholds our agency eternally and by inviting and exhorting us to follow him in righteous doing.

  • The Spirit “persuadeth men to do good” (Ether 4:11).
  • “Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of [Christ]” (Ether 4:12).
  • Men are “persuaded to do good continually” (Ether 8:26).
  • Nephi wrote, “the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto [my people]; for it persuadeth them to do good...; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.” (2 Nephi 33:4)
  • Mormon wrote, “that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually” (Moroni 7:13), and he confirms that the Lord uses persuasion: “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16).
  • Jarom described the process the prophets, priests, and teachers used to encourage people to choose the right this way: “Wherefore, [they] did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.” (Jarom 1:11)
  • Moroni used exhortation to encourage all readers of the Book of Mormon to believe him and follow his guidance. In the final chapter of Moroni, he used the word “exhort” or a form of it nine times including verse 4: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moroni 10:4)

The battle for the eternal souls of men which began in our premortal existence continues in mortality today. We can beware the efforts of Satan by knowing that he seeks our eternal damnation through deception. Flattery is one of his primary tools to get us to do evil. “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (3 Nephi 18:18)

18 comments:

Rob Osborn said...

Very excellent post! Reading this got me to wondering about it from a new angle I had never before seen. As I was reading, it came accross my thoughts that maybe in the beginning when plans were presented, if Satan wasn't lying about whom he could really save. Maybe he knew he could save none of them, no not one! But, he could overpower them through flattery and make them all slaves to misery! Maybe this is what is meant by him not standing by his words at the last day (save all mankind) because he can't. His whole purpose from the beginning was to make everyone evil and wicked and slaves to his evil secret combinations!

Eric Nielson said...

Persuasion Please.

The Saints Hackers said...

Excellent post. I'll be including the persuasion/flattery dichotomy as during my scripture study.

Rob- I don't know if I agree if it was Satan's purpose from the "beginning" to make everyone evil and wicked. From what I understand about the plan, Satan was all about getting people back to God. That doesn't sound like a wicked idea. Hid method and his motive were what was messed up.

TylerD said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. Interesting thought, Rob. I hadn't considered Lucifer's motives in the premortal existence. Clearly, he had already succumbed to pride wanting the glory for himself. It wouldn't surprise me if his goal was to make us all worship him. Was he trying to deceive us into following him knowing that he couldn't save us? That's what I hadn't considered, but it may be possible. He uses false promises which he never intends to keep to drag us into captivity today, so it's possible. I suspect, however, that he began with righteous intentions and that pride slowly led him down to hell. just like it can for any of us today if we won't humble ourselves.

M&M said...

This is a great post! I love the juxtaposition of the two concepts of flattery vs. persuasion. I think I'll add that to things I want to study a little more as well. :) It makes me want to see if there are other such dichotomies.

M&M said...

p.s. I learned something in a religion class a while back that has always stuck with me and has helped me understand this plan thing a little better...may feel like a technicality to some but it sort of gave me some clarity so I thought I'd share it.

There really weren't two plans...there was one plan and two responses to it. (See Moses 4:1-2 and Abr. 3:27-28.) The Father presented His plan and asked "Whom shall I send?" (Abr. 3:27). Satan wanted to be the savior, save everyone (destroying agency) and have God's honor. Jehovah offered to be the Savior as well, but wanted to give God the glory and preserve agency. God chose Jehovah, the adversary stormed off, and many followed him. He's been mad ever since. :)

In this class, we were also taught that this likely didn't happen in a day. Where Satan was at that point was probably an accumulation of some measure of pre-earth time's bad decisions. Likewise with all of us who made a choice which "savior" to follow. We didn't choose what side of eternity we would be on in an instant.

Rob Osborn said...

I did some more thinking on the subject of Satan's thoughts and actions and I am beginning to be more and more convinced that satan wanted us all to fall and be in his power. But he lied when he said he would save them all. God knew this and realized that all satan was really trying to do was to make all mankind slaves to sin to his egotistical powers.

If the statement is made that satan wanted or still wants to destroy our agency, then how does he do this? He does it through sin. Man loses his agency- his ability to make unhampered decisions- by choosing disobedience. Sin and it's consequences takes away our ability to act on our own. This is where the statements come that Satan has "all power", or "chained down", "everlasting chains". So why would Satan want this?

Because when we are in his power, he can control us. He loves that control ego thing. Problem is though, he can only usurp our power of agency when we give into sin. Sin causes us to be forever cut off from God. Agency plays in here because we will obviously want to go back and dwell with god again. If satan was in charge though, we would not be able to excercise that agency to do so- we would of forever been cutoff without a choice of repenting.

Maybe I am up in the night on this thought, who knows!

M&M said...

I'm wondering if there is a contradiction in what Satan presented...and maybe this is what you are saying, Rob...that without agency, there could be no salvation. To "save" all men in God's vernacular couldn't have been without agency. He might have thought he could do it, but it was about him, not about God's glory. Salvation is ulimately about giving glory to God, and can't be forced upon us; we have to choose to be saved, choose to come back to God. Clearly, the goal of the adversary was power and glory. And clearly, this was not what would allow God's plan to work.

We're probably saying the same thing.... :)

Rob Osborn said...

I thought of it even more and have made it a little simpler ,I think. Agency is the actual excercise of a decision. For instance- if I was in prison and wanted to go to disneyland, I could not excercise that agency and therefor, I have no agency or choice in the matter.

Applying this to satan, if he was in charge there would be no plan for our salvation and redemption. Because all of us would certainly fall through sin, we would not be able to excercise our agency unto repentance and salvation because it would be the same as the man locked up in prison who is uncapable of excercising choice. Satan said that he would save all and not lose one. This was his grand lie. He knew he was not capable of saving any at the last day. He was just trying to start a rebellion against God and wanted to take his power from him.

God knew that once man came to understand the difference of good and evil through their own decision that it was also their right afterward to then choose either good or evil. Satan's plan was to remove the possibility of choosing good after man sinned. He would do this by offering no means for redemption. Man would have been trapped and incapable of excercising choice or agency unto salvation.

M&M said...

Maybe we could say that agency is being "free to act" vs. being "acted upon." If we follow Satan without repentance, by degrees we lose our ability to act.

But I'm afraid we are getting away from the original post. Tyler, please let us know if we are getting off track...I'm new here and don't want to distract...I tend to just like to discuss whatever is on the table but don't want to take away from your awesome points you made about persuasion vs. flattery. Thanks again for fleshing this out!

TylerD said...

Love the comments. They're right on, and I'm learning from your observations and comments. Thanks for sharing.

Doug Towers said...

TylerD

Great post. A lot of work and thought there. Whenever I have felt guidance by him, it has always been with persuasion: Never feeling that slightest degree of force.

On the other hand, the dark side is always trying to con and push.

m&m

Although I already believed the principle, I hadn't noticed the scriptural support for the idea that there could be only one plan. So thanks for that.

I also agree with you that Satan would have just been a messed-up guy. It is strange that he had such ability that he was chosen by God to be born early in the process, yet was so off the track. Understanding of that eludes me at the moment. You'd think if you were that intelligent you wouldn't do something so stupid.

Rob

Some interesting ideas you are throwing around your mind. Satan is definately into taking away freedom through sin. And God is about freedom through right choices.

Rob Osborn said...

m&m,
You said it very well with agency- "free to act" I did a little search today as this has really been pressing on my mind and came up with something. If we take the "free to act" as our agency, then here in mortality we must be able to freely choose and "act" so to speak. What is it we are choosing though? Well I found a scripture out of several on the topic that speaks magnitudes. It is in 2 Nephi 2:27, it reads-

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; 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.

(Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:27)

How would one then not be able to freely choose between the two? This was on my mind today. What i came up with was that if one of the two choices were not made available to us, then agency in the matter is nullified. So which one would of satan made impossible for us to choose and act upon? I believe that since he himself is evil, he probably would of made eternal life unavailable to us even though it existed.

He possibly would of done this using temptation and flattery to make us sin, and then offer no redeeming power to the sinner and thus- nulify agency by removing the choice from him because it would of required a savior- someone perfect to counter eternal justice.

I think what it really might come down to is that we needed a perfect savior in order to uphold agency because it was a given from the start that once man was seperated from heavenly father and left to choose for himself in an infant state- he most definatly will sin and thus be imperfect. Satan could of never of been that savior because I believe that at the time of this grand council in heaven, Satan was already on the downward spiral- he was headed for doom and as the verse I mentioned pointed out- he wants us all to be miserable also.

Maybe I am still up in the night in my musings.

Sorry for the extended and boring post, it is getting too late!

M&M said...

Rob, first of all, when I used the "free to act" etc. phrases, they were directly from that scripture. I'm not that good to come up with stuff like that on my own. :) 2 Ne. is one of my fave chapters in the BoM.

Secondly, to be honest, I'm not so sure that the adversary didn't really want to save us. But either he didn't understand how that could really happen, or, perhaps, he had more ulterior motives to lead us all to sin (I am not sure I see support for that in the scriptures, but I suppose it's possible).

Moses 4:3 sums it up well, I think. Those two things (seeking to destroy agency and seeking for God's glory) were enough to get him cast down and without the chance for progression. Says a lot to me about what is key to the plan: agency and God's glory. The Savior's response preserved both.

2 Ne. 2 teaches a lot about what would happen if there was no opposition (which seems to me to be how the adversary wanted to execute God's plan -- 'no stress, no mess...I'll just bring everyone back!' ;) ) BUT if he had forced us all, then there would have been no opposition, which, according to the scriptures (esp. 2 Ne. 2), means there could have been no anything. No creation, no righteousness, no happiness, no God, even. (Still can't get my mind around that one...did Satan know that? I dunno...I wonder how much he really understood at the Grand Council...I think he had already fallen from light in a significant way by this point.)

Hmm....rambling.... ;)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

Off subject - What is the significance of :) and ;)? I notice you keep using them.

Rob Osborn said...

What I think might be paramount in Satan's plan is that he is still championing that plan to those in whom he overcomes and is tempting the rest to come over and side with his plan. Those who fall prey to him and remain in that state will end up losing their agency- they will be in that state where they are "acted upon" instaed of being free to act.

Satan's power is "captivity", this captivity is being chained down so that we cannot excercises agency- thus Satan destroys our agency. He is not trying to force anyone into righteousness. He is just tempting us to make bad decisions that end up limiting our agency, even to the extent that he would bring us down into everlasting chains.

There is still something about agency that i can't quite put a finger on yet, I am going to have to have one of them deep brainer sessions I guess.

M&M said...

Rob,
I think you summed up the adversary's focus well. He still wants to destroy agency by tempting us away from the light. We are only truly free within the arms of the Savior. Had a huge aha with all of that tonite. Wow.

Doug, :) is a smiley face on its side, and ;) is a winking smiley. :)

Doug Towers said...

m&m

Very cleaver.