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The 2nd Message of the Book of Mormon: The Reality of Satan and His Machinations
The times in which we live provide the perfect opportunity for anyone to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Its most important message centers on the reality of Jesus Christ and His divinity, but there is another message that is often overlooked or completely ignored. This secondary message describes the reality of Satan and how he operates to overthrow the freedoms of nations. In recent decades, few within the Church have ventured to discuss or openly teach this aspect of the Book of Mormon. If one reads various Church publications, the reader will find veiled allusions about it. What one will find are numerous, open discourses about the “War in Heaven,” which briefly details Lucifer’s rebellion against God before the foundations of the earth were laid.1 The overt methods Satan used in this battle failed to produce the deposition of God from His throne, resulting in his expulsion from heaven. Having learned that such tactics rarely work, Lucifer, now wandering throughout the earth, had to change his strategy. The Book of Mormon is the manual for understanding his new methods through which he orchestrated the utter collapse of two distinct civilizations that inhabited North America long ago. Although this information permeates the text, the reader must actively seek to understand these truths and must not read it superficially. Critical analysis of the text in necessary to plumb the depths of Lucifer’s operation.
As one reads the Book of Mormon narrative, several prophets are instructed to maintain and pass down this record, or plates, to trusted men. This does not mean all that is contained in the Book of Mormon encompasses the entire history of the ancient civilizations described within. Far from it! Instead, two of the final compilers of the record, Mormon and Moroni, tell us that they compiled the record through abridgments, choosing specific portions of history for their audience to study.2 When ancient authors use such eclecticism in what they included in a historical record, it is the reader’s obligation to figure out the meaning behind the message because the narrative’s arrangement emphasizes important information. For the authors of the Book of Mormon, history was not viewed as some sort of fanciful antiquarianism that so many moderns of the past few centuries indulged in, but rather it served as a framework meant to guide the actions of future readers, enabling them to avoid the past mistakes of those who had gone before. Moroni alludes to this idea when writing about the ruination of his own people:
“Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.” 3
Having stated this, some may object as to how this type of information can build anyone’s testimony of the Book of Mormon. The refutation is quite simple. Since human nature rarely changes for the majority of the inhabitants of the earth, one can surmise that man will continue to make the same mistakes and fall for the same snares, which much of history so amply evinces. Given this information, Satan also understands the weakness of man and how to capitalize on it. Thus, he does not need to get too creative with his traps but only needs to mask them in subtlety. Elder Neal A. Maxwell described it in these terms: “No wonder the adversary steadily promotes all the ancient sins, not because he is uninventive but because his harvest is so constant.”4 While advocating sins that distract individuals from their duty to God, the adversary lays an all encompassing trap leading to the ultimate destruction of civilization. This type of trap is better know as a machination, or conspiracy. The Book of Mormon gives chilling accounts of such schemes, helping the reader to understand the ebb and flow of civilization. The pattern set forth is cyclical in nature, repeating itself in conjunction with the amount of corruption pervading society. Once sin gripped the majority of the masses, Satan’s agents made their political maneuvers to enslave all, even those “useful idiots” who unwittingly helped them rise to the top. These conspirators facilitated the complete destruction of both the Jaredites and the Nephites because they wanted power and money. In the end, these aficionados of the black arts too were swallowed up by their own plans.
With this in mind, relegating history to nothing more than fact finding and artifacts, although an important aspect of history, will render this discipline devoid of any utility for those who peruse its content. History is the study of human action and the connected consequences of those action. Its main purpose is to enable readers to increase in wisdom by studying the actions of others and the results of their choices. President Ezra Taft Benson, whose ministry focused on flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon, said in his most influential address, Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion, that “The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us.”5 This record is for us moderns to understand. Without understanding and applying the lessons of history, this same Moroni, who saw these modern days, knew that civilization would be fleeting at best. Therefore, given the vulnerabilities of human nature throughout time, the Book of Mormon is the ultimate guide for navigating these dark days in which we live.
The Need For History
At the outset of the Book of Mormon, Nephi’s record stressed the importance of historical records for the survival of civilization. Having been warned of the Lord concerning the impending destruction of Jerusalem, Nephi’s father, Lehi, secured provisions and departed with his family into the wilderness. It appears that this family had everything for the journey; however, this was not so. The Lord told Lehi in a dream that his sons must return to Jerusalem and obtain the brass plates, or historical record, which contained important genealogical information and Hebrew history.6 During Lehi’s sons’ endeavor to obtain the record, one man, Laban, obstructed their pursuit. This man did not hinder only the future of Lehi and his family but also unborn generations. In order to ensure the security of the record and simultaneously emphasizing its importance, the Lord commanded Nephi to do what most 21st century readers would consider unthinkable. He instructed Nephi to slay Laban.
And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property. And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief. 7
Notice the last line of this passage. The historical record was so important that they were worth one man’s life so that future generations would have a chance to live the statues of the Lord.
A certain episode in the Book of Omni illustrates what happens when a people possess no historical record. Babylon sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Some who fled from the invading army were able to escape, and eventually the Lord also led them across the water to the promise land. The record of Omni says that these were the people of Zarahemla.8 They descended from Mulek, son of King Zedekiah, descendant of King David.9 Since the people had no record to guide them, over time their history dwindled into oral traditions which, for the most part, became corrupted over time: history became legend, legend became myth. Devoid of any moral compass, their civilization plunged into civil strife and wars; they had no knowledge of their creator, leading them to deny the existence of such a being.10 Fortunately for the people of Zarahemla, King Mosiah, father of King Benjamin, prevented their collapse by introducing them to the records of their forefathers and teaching them a language to assist them in their education.
Preistcraft: Satan’s Ultimate Machination
Knowing that true historical accounts, both about the Creator and a people’s origin, provide the necessary foundation upon which civilization flourishes, Satan, in order to facilitate the collapse, must undermine the belief and trust in these records. Many hold the notion that such plans can only come about from outside infiltration. Yet history and the scriptures show otherwise. Outsiders who attempted to accomplish the corruption of a people must be able to blend in quite well. Since they are unaware of all the cultural aspects and language of their target society, they would be required to spend a great deal of time assimilating into the society before they can traverse undetected by the people. Though Lucifer is patient, the use of outsiders appears to be less effective for obtaining his ends. However, this does not mean that outsiders are completely out of the picture. Sometimes his use of outsiders enabled Lucifer to acquire internal assets to assist him in carrying out his schemes. Using those who reside within society is much more advantageous to his cause, for he can capitalize on the discontent of marginalized factions.
Those dissatisfied, harboring resentment because of real or perceived injustices, are likely to help outsiders infiltrate or become their agents in undermining society. Understanding the knowledge upon which civilization is built, they must change the hearts and the minds of their fellow citizens against this core. It must be noted that this method can be applied at both the macro and micro levels. When dealing with a larger scale, this pertains to a country and its constituent institutions that comprise its framework. Probably one of the most important political philosophers to read on this matter is Niccolo Machiavelli. In his work, The Prince, the Italian demonstrated his perspicacious insights about human nature, often noting the vulnerabilities of society because of malcontents within its borders.11 He notes that if an outsider wishes to subjugate a country, he must “make himself the leader and defender of the less powerful” within the target society, for an “outsider will be brought in by those dissatisfied, either because of too much ambition or because of fear.”12
This applies to the microcosm as well, which, for the purposes of this article, represents the Church. Again, the Book of Mormon is our key for understanding this phenomenon. The pages of the sacred book are filled with accounts of disaffected individuals who seek to undermine the teachings of the Church by spreading strange doctrines, enticing believers away from the true worship of God. Lucifer himself is often directly involved in influencing these figures and teaching them what to say. Consider the account of Korihor, with whom Alma contented:
But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me. 13
The words taught to Korihor, and others like him, calculate to undermine the very moral fibers of society. Why is this? Well, if you’ll recall from the New Testament, the Lord refers to the devil as the “the prince of this world.”14 Those who seek to establish an order opposed to his must stand ready to face the adversary and his legions, for, at the moment, the world, which encompasses the wicked, is his dominion.15 However, before the scene of bloodshed can overtake society, Lucifer must soften up his target by having his agents teach that “there is no God.” The reason for this is summed up quite well in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” Lehi gives a more detailed explanation of Dostoevsky’s terse remark.
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. 16
If these provocateurs can convince citizens that God is a mythical being, then his laws too must be imaginary and useless. Nevertheless, simply telling citizens and believers alike that there is no God requires preliminary tactics to lead them up to this point. One Antichrist figure, Nehor, in the Book of Mormon employs these with great effect. This man’s message taught that “every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.”17 This is very cunning. Taking the scripture at face value, it is obvious that ecclesiastical leaders will benefit. What is not quite as apparent is that the people who adhere to such doctrine do as well, which is ultimately tied to the success of these pseudo-priests. As long as the priests teach only what is pleasing to the crowd, they will accumulate not only much esteem but also a great deal of money; while on the other hand, the crowd comes to believe that these men are true preachers because what they are taught is easy to live and appear to prosper because of it.
The church of Nehor, and its doctrines, firmly fixed its followers’ hearts upon riches and appearances. After a while of adhering to this church, the constant success granted by its precepts lead its followers to believe that their is no God except themselves. Anyone who sought to challenge their precepts were considered blasphemous and undesirable, like in the case of Gideon. This follower of Christ challenged Nehor and his perversions, but instead of persuading Gideon of his doctrine, Nehor enforced his beliefs with the sword, killing the elderly gentleman.18 The reason for Nehor’s slaying of Gideon is found in his doctrine, which Korihor would later reveal while teaching the people.
And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime. 19
Deep down, Nehor killed Gideon because, to him, it was not considered a sin. Since he considered himself a god and a law unto himself, anyone who stood in his way or contradicted what he believed perished.
These types of individuals are extremely dangerous to society. Initially, people who believe that might makes right feel they are oppressed in their desire by the laws and institution under which they live. The last few verses in Alma 1 demonstrate this, for many of the followers of Nehor engaged in all manner of sin and wickedness.20 The only thing that kept them in check was the law handed down by King Mosiah. The only way to liberate themselves from this plight is to take charge of the government. After Nehor’s execution, according to the law, another man, Amlici, sought to overturn the structure of the government toward these malcontents’ favor. Since the doctrine of Nehor placates the carnal senses, Amlici gained many followers strengthening his political base. Knowing the strength of the Church within Nephite lands, this man and his followers canvassed on the platform of monarchy. (This maneuver echoed that of Satan in the “War in Heaven.”) Amlici and his follower believed that once they obtain ultimate power in the land, they could change the laws to benefit themselves and at the expense of their foes. Fortunately, this man’s hubris was on display for many to see, and the voice of the people thwarted his plot to subvert the laws of the land. Yet Amlici had already planned for this outcome and preemptively concocted a political machination to overthrow the government of the Nephites. He did so by making an alliance with the Lamanites, using their deep hatred of the Nephites to stir them up to action. Amlici ultimately failed in his plot to destroy the liberty of the Nephites, but he serves as one example of many within the Book of Mormon narrative, who sought to subvert the government by means of conspiracy. At the root of these schemes was priestcraft.
As one continues toward the end of the Book of Mormon, the emergence of political conspiracies intensifies to such a degree that even the righteous began to partake in them. The reason for this is because it was so profitable to do so.
And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations. 21
The false doctrines of Nehor had taken their toll on Nephite civilization, slowly changing the tenets of the true church until they had become corrupted. Very few remained who truly tried to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most believers endured severe persecution from those who professed the tenets of Nehor, and those who professed such tenets happened to make up the majority of the Church. The conspirators often carried out secret murders, killing those who attempted to expose their schemes to unassuming citizens. The reason these secret murders and cover-ups were able to occur sprang from the power the cabal had obtained over the government, the very task Amlici had undertaken previously in Nephite history.
And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men; Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills. 22
Ultimately, the conspiracy of priestcraft led to the down fall of both the primary civilizations within the Book of Mormon: first the Jaredites, and then the Nephites. The last few books within the text focus on spelling this out for the audience: Mormon, Ether, and Moroni. Each book demonstrates that both the political and ecclesiastical leadership had eventually became consumed with secret works of darkness, with the practice these machinations resulting in disaster. There is no doubt that in order for all this to happen the doctrines of the church had to have been changed. When such apostasy sets in, it is always done by ecclesiastical leaders in some the highest positions of the church. It must not be assumed that this happened all at once, but through steady and gradual changes the church arrived at this station almost imperceptibly. The decline is tantamount to what Hugh Nibley described happened to the church in the Old World.
The apostasy described in the New Testament is not desertion of the cause, but perversion of it, a process by which “the righteous are removed, and none perceives it.” The Christian masses do not realize what is happening to them; they are “bewitched” by a thing that comes as softly and insidiously as the slinging of a noose. 23
This, and the prophet Moroni’s commentary within these books about secret combinations, serves as a warning to those reading the book at a later date, namely us. Moroni even suggested that the priestcraft of Nehor and his followers would infect the “holy church of God” in the last days, mimicking the pattern of apostasy in his day.24 Returning to a point made above, the only way this could happen must result either from outside infiltration and from traitors within. This, and Moroni’s remarks about the future, emphasizes the need to understand history and the patterns that are shown therein. Without treasuring up the Lord’s words, we are more apt to be deceived as the last days role on. If we have not cherished that which the Lord has given us, can we possibly discern changes to the Lord’s doctrines or machinations when they are afoot? The answer is no because our ignorance blinds us to these subtle maneuvers. Some may wonder whether such evils could occur in our day. The prophet Moroni again disabuses future readers of their wishful thinking:
And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites. And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not. Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be. Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning. Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and 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. 25
Even with this stated, some will simply say the prophet is speaking simply to the Gentiles and not members of the Church. I beg to differ. The majority of members of the Church are Ephraimites. If the reader will consider the patriarchal blessing pronounced upon Ephraim’s head in The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 48, you will find that Ephraim is promised to become a multitude of nations. The words nations and Gentiles mean the same thing in Hebrew (goyim). Thus, Moroni is speaking to you!
So, is the Church and the United States undergoing changes to their histories by malcontents and traitors? If so, prepare for a revolution.
See Revelations 12
Words of Mormon 1:3, Mormon 5:9, Moroni 1:1
Neal A. Maxwell, ‘“Behold, the Enemy Is Combined” (D&C 38:12),’ Ensign, May 1993
Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, November 1986
1 Nephi 3:2-4
1 Nephi 4:10–13
Helaman 6:10, 8:21
Although scholars for the past four centuries have demonized Machiavelli, recent scholarship has exposed glaring holes in the arguments and reasoning of past antagonists. Two works in particular, Redeeming The Prince and Machiavelli’s Ethics, have shifted the conversation in academic circles about this important political philosopher.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince trans. P. Bondanella (NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 11.
John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11
Matthew 13:49-50 JST
2 Nephi 2:13
Hugh Nibley, When the Lights Went Out, 1, Early Christian View ¶6 • WLWO, p. 1–29