We live in a society where morals and truths have become relative and subjective. Many people have come to believe that what is right and what is wrong depends on the circumstance and on the proposed outcome. The Lord has never, in all the scriptures that have ever been written, indicated in the smallest way that right and wrong were up for interpretation or subject to circumstances. To the Lord there are no shades of gray. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.
In Teachings of Prophets: Spencer W. Kimball, chapter 10, President Kimball describes the character and practices of Satan.
Peter cautioned us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
And the Savior said that the very elect would be deceived by Lucifer if it were possible [see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22]. [Lucifer] will use his logic to confuse and his rationalizations to destroy. He will shade meanings, open doors an inch at a time, and lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black.
This is an important distinction to make. The Lord declares something to be right or wrong. He never waffles or backs down on a principle. These are eternal constants. But Satan will try to justify, rationalize, excuse, reason with, or dismiss the absolute of anything. Why? Because if he can get us to believe that wrong is really right, then he can get us to believe anything he wants.
The next time you read Facebook, a magazine, or a newspaper, look for firm statements of right and wrong. Count how many you can find. Now, just to make it interesting, try to count how many reasons people give for what they did, how many reporters assume shades of gray in their reporting, or how many judges or lawyers try to justify something based on a “shade of gray,” a moral relative. Again, if Satan can get us to believe that right and wrong can be based on circumstance or point of view then everything is possible.
Reality of Satan
One of the difficulties with standing up for right and wrong in today’s society is that if someone believes in God, that belief is based on an abstract concept. After all, what Christian church, besides ours, believes that God is corporeal, with a body of His own? We stand alone here.
What does the world believe when it comes to Satan? If they believe in him at all, and that is a big ‘if’, he is more of a concept than a person. After all, if you have a belief in a being that promotes good, it makes sense that there is at least a power or an idea that would promote the opposite. But who would promote the opposite of good? That just sounds silly, doesn’t it? And this is just what Satan wants us to think. Once he has convinced people that he doesn’t exist, then he can come and go invisibly, because no one believes he exists. He can do as he pleases without opposition.
One of the misunderstood ideas those in the Christian community hold against the Latter-day Saints is that we believe Satan and Jesus were brothers. That really gets their hackles up. The notion that God gave birth to both the most holy of sons, and the most damnable of creations is heresy. We are among the few on the planet who still believe that Satan is not only an actual being, but that he has great power as well. What we still have a difficult time with, as a people, is how much Satan hates us. We focus almost exclusively on the Lord’s love for us, and it becomes difficult to imagine that someone could hate us as much as God loves us.
My great great grandfather, Marriner Wood Merrill, was the first president of the Logan Temple. As an Apostle, and as the president of the Logan Temple, he had many interesting experiences. In Nolan P. Olsen’s book The Logan Temple The First 100 Years we can see an example of just how real Satan is.
President Merrill was sitting in his office one morning in the early 1890’s when he heard a commotion outside. Stepping to the window, he saw a great congregation of people coming up temple hill, some on foot, and others on horseback and in carriages. President Merrill’s first thought was, “What will we do with so many people? If we fill every room in the temple, it will not begin to hold them all.”
The riders tied their horses up at the hitching posts or turned them loose in the temple corrals, and walked complacently about the front grounds, without seeming to have much purpose in mind. They were rather an odd looking group, and were dressed quite shabbily.
They made no effort to enter the temple, so President Merrill went out to greet them and see what he could do for the group. He said to their leader: “Who are you, and who are these people who have taken possession of the temple grounds unannounced?”
He answered: “I am Satan, and these are my people.”
Brother Merrill asked: “What do you want, and why have you come here?” Satan replied: “I don’t like what is being done in the Logan Temple, and have come to stop it.” That was a bit of a shock to President Merrill, and he answered: “No, we will not stop it. This is the work of the Lord and must go on. You know that you or any one else can not stop the work of the Lord.”
“If you refuse to stop it, I will tell you what I propose to do,” the adversary said.
“I will scatter this congregation of people throughout these valleys, and we will keep people from coming to the temple. We will whisper in their ears and discourage them from attending the temple. This will stop your temple work.”
President Merrill then used the power of his priesthood and commanded Satan and his followers to depart from holy ground. He said that within four or five minutes there was not a person, horse or buggy in sight. They just disappeared into thin air and were gone.
Then, for the next ten or twelve years we could have closed Logan Temple, for very little work was accomplished. … Christian L. Olsen lived only a half mile from the temple, and he said any time he said out loud that he was going to the temple, something happened to keep him away. One evening he said to the boys:
“Tomorrow we will finish grinding our molasses, and then I’d like to spend a week in the temple.” The mill was operating perfectly that evening, but the next morning the main wheel was broken. The more they repaired the machine, the more things broke and went wrong with it. He finally spent the full week making repairs so the one day’s grind of molasses could be completed. He did not get to spend the week in the temple.
… He said: “Anytime I wanted to go to the temple, I soon learned that I could not say it out loud. I got up, milked my cows, set the bucket down and ran. And then I could get there without any trouble” (
Logan Temple: The First 100 Years, by Nolan P. Olsen 165 – 167, printed by Keith W. Watkins and Sons, Inc.).
This ending piece of advice is something I was raised with, and have passed on to others. Satan is indeed aware of what we state we want to do. If we have problems getting to Church or to the temple, we just have to keep our mouths shut and go when the time comes. Announcing aloud our intentions to do good sometimes causes things to happen to get in our way of being obedient.
In the same lesson mentioned earlier, President Kimball continues on with his description of how Satan operates.
He is no slouch. He has done his homework and knows us all intimately.
The arch deceiver has studied every way possible to achieve his ends, using every tool, every device possible. He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man, … so he may take over their minds and pervert their bodies and claim them his.
He never sleeps—he is diligent and persevering. He analyzes carefully his problem and then moves forward diligently, methodically to reach that objective.
He uses all five senses and man’s natural hunger and thirst to lead him away. He anticipates resistance and fortifies himself against it. He uses time and space and leisure. He is constant and persuasive and skillful. He uses such useful things as radio, television, the printed page, the airplane, and the car to distort and damage.
He uses the gregariousness of man, his loneliness, his every need to lead him astray. He does his work at the most propitious time in the most impressive places with the most influential people. He overlooks nothing that will deceive and distort and prostitute. He uses money, power, force. He entices man and attacks at his weakest spot. He takes the good and creates ugliness. … He uses every teaching art to subvert man.
The adversary is subtle. He is cunning. He knows that he cannot induce good men and women to do major evils immediately, so he moves slyly, whispering half-truths until he has his intended captives following him.
This last sentence is the key. Satan uses these shades of gray to deceive us. Shades of gray are partial truths, justifications, and excuses. They are based on our desires because we are more willing to believe something that justifies what we want. They are based on power because we are more willing to believe something that gets us something we want. They are based on lies because people can use lies to gain control over others and hence get what they want. The truth, mingled with any form of a lie is a shade of gray. To the Lord there is no such thing as a shade of gray. To the Lord these things are either white or black.
Anything tainted with ill intent, hatred, selfishness, pride, or any other corruption, is in need of being repented of. This is our challenge. How can we become completely honest? What can we do to tell only the pure truth? Have we learned how to accept responsibility and not make any excuses for failure, and are we able to give credit where credit is due when we succeed?
Our goal is transparency. Christ is transparent. There are no hidden agendas, no deceptions, just honest, “yea, yea,” “nay, nay” communication. Can others say the same of us? May our communications be either black or white, and avoid the shades of gray.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.