Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Cunning Plan of the Evil One


27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!
28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 27-29)

It’s a well-known scripture, memorized by many seminary students over the years.

Recently I was reading it over, and I noticed some things.

I noticed Jacob observes on the cunning plan of the evil one, but he doesn’t seem to elaborate on what that cunning plan is, but goes on talk about “the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men.”

I realized that we have to infer some things. We have to realize it is the devil who tries to use those things. He also tries to make us think our learning makes us wise enough that we don’t have to listen to the counsels of God.

Learning doesn’t automatically translate into wisdom, as I’m sure many of my readers know. “Learning” in the gospel is like knowing in your head that stealing is a sin, but “wisdom” could be represented as the point where you can realize when you’re being tempted to steal and you can resist it successfully once and for the rest of your life.

Jacob mourns over the vainness, frailties, and foolishness of men. It hit me this time reading that after having had a number of temptations recently targeted specifically at my vanity, frailties, and foolishness.  Satan really does try to use those things against us.

Vainness is our pride.  Because of our divine nature, we know we have the potential to become something so much greater…  But Satan tries to use that against us, twisting it into a desire for ascendency, hostility toward authority, notions that we are better than others.  He tries to use it to destroy any notion that we need to be humble. He wants to keep us from achieving the meekness that we need to turn to Christ, to repent, and to grow, and to learn from anyone else. 

Frailties represent our mortal weaknesses and limitations. We can’t live long without discovering we have these, yet Satan will try to conceal them from us.  Or he will try to make us think that we can’t overcome them, to make them into our prison. Or he will stress us in moments of weakness (hunger, loneliness, fatigue, discomfort) to get us to sin.

Foolishness.  Today we think this means “stupidity,” but it had a different meaning before, evoking the tendency to backslide, to err, to go apostate, to wander from the truth, or even to rebel.  Mormon observed on man’s falseness and unsteadiness, quickness to do iniquity and slowness to do good, how quick to be proud and slow to be humble. (see Helaman 12:1,4-5)  We all have a tendency to wander or divert, which we have to recognize and curtail whenever we notice it starting to take over. Satan tries to use it and exacerbate it.

Our best weapons against vanity, frailty, and foolishness are probably humility, grace, and repentance.