November 6, 2007

The Devil's Looking Glass

Brigham Young
January 27, 1856

When Christ appeared among the Nephites one of the first things he taught was the need to avoid contention:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away (3 Nephi 11:29-30).

Brigham Young taught one clear evidence that a person has become disconnected from the Holy Ghost is contention; the tendency to argue, be angry, find fault, etc:
Again, when we look around we see many, very many, men and women who profess to know the things of God, to belong to His family, to the Church of the First-Born-the Church of Jesus Christ, who are ofttimes wrought upon by the Holy Spirit of the Gospel which has caused them to rejoice therein, who give thanks to their God, rejoice with joy unspeakable, and you would think they were very near the kingdom of heaven-near the threshold of the gate which opens into the presence of the Father and the Son, and yet, if anything crosses them, will give way to an evil temper; and anything is presented to them which they do not understand, they condemn it at once; they are ready to pass judgment upon that which they do not understand.
If they are crossed by their friends and families they are ready to speak by the spirit of evil, by the spirit of contention; they are ready to receive a little malice in their hearts. They do all this, they turn round and repent of it, they are sorry for it, and they say they will try to do better, will try to overcome their passions, or the temptations of the evil one in their natures. You see them again, have they kept themselves pure?
No they have not, but they have given way to evil, to a little dishonesty, falsifying, shading of sentiment, speeches, sayings, and doings of their neighbors. They have given way to anger, and will remark, "It is true I got angry, I was overcome, true I acted the fool, but I mean to refrain from so doing in the future." And thus they live for a spell, but how long will it be before they are again overtaken in fault?
Then if a delusive spirit, professedly a righteous one, is cast into a neighborhood, how easy such people are decoyed by it, led away by it.
Such a course is said to have been followed by the first president of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Thomas B. Marsh. He had lost confidence in Joseph Smith over money issues, and apparently later, due to an argument over something as trivial as milk strippings. Almost two decades after leaving the Church, Marsh returned and gave an address in the Tabernacle describing his feelings at the time he left the Church:
I became jealous of the prophet, and then I saw double and overlooked everything that was right and spent all my time in looking for the evil ... I felt angry and wrathful; and the Spirit of the Lord being gone, as the Scriptures say, I was blinded, and I thought I saw a beam in brother Joseph's eye, but it was nothing but a mote, and my own eye was filled with the beam; but I thought I saw a beam in his, and I wanted to get it out; I got mad and wanted everybody else to be mad. I talked with Brother Brigham and Brother Heber and I wanted them to be mad like myself; and I saw they were not mad, and I got madder still because they were not (Thomas B. Marsh, September 6, 1857, JD 5:207).
The spirit of apostasy overcame Thomas Marsh through faultfinding. He was paying more attention to what he saw as others' failings than he was to his own. Brigham said such an one would likely leave the Church in the end if the course isn't corrected; their former testimony will seem a farce:
At one time you see them as enthusiastic as mortals can be, in what they call righteous principles, and hear them saying, "I have more light now than I ever had before in my life, I am better now than I ever was, I am filled with the Holy Spirit." This is the way we often find them, they are rejoiced exceedingly and are upon Pisgah's topflaming Latter-day Saints, and, perhaps, when the next day or the next week has passed over they are angry, filled with malice and wrath.
After a while they will say, "That was a delusive spirit, it is true I felt joyful and happy, I thought it was the best spirit and the most light I ever enjoyed in all the days of my life, but I now find I was deceived, I find that if I had continued in that spirit there was a trap laid to catch me, to decoy me away, and destroy my faith in the holy Gospel." Is this the case with the Latter-day Saints?
Yes, with many of them.
Brigham wanted the saints to know their past righteousness and spiritual experiences were not sufficient to keep them on the right path in enduring to the end. Merely obeying the ordinances would mean nothing if one fails to be converted by Christ; the outward ordinances are expressions of what needs to occur on the inside, and daily striving will bring one closer to God.[1]

Becoming a saint takes time, and it is the work of the adversary to divide the saints in order to "decoy" them from achieving Zion within themselves and in their society:
Our religion is a practical and progressive one. It will not prepare a thief, a liar, a sorcerer, a whore monger, an adulterer, a murderer, or a false swearer, in one day, so that he can enter into the celestial kingdom of God. We ought to understand that when our lives have been filled with all manner of wickedness, to turn and repent of our sins, to be baptized for the remission of them, and have our names written upon the Church records, does not prepare us for the presence of our Father, and elder brother. What will?
A continuation of faithfulness to the doctrines of Christ; nothing short of this will do it. The Latter-day Saints should understand this. Do they?
Yes. Do they live to it?
A great many of them do not. All ought to live their religion every day, and there are a great many who do. But there are a great many who do not, who are overcome with evil, get out of the true path of righteousness, and do those things which are wrong. They contend with each other, quarrel, have broils and difficulties in families, and in neighborhoods, law with each other touching property, one saying, "This is mine," and another saying, "It is not yours, but it is mine." One says, "You have wronged me," the other says, "I have not." Thus there are thousands of plans which the enemy of all righteousness employs to decoy the hearts of the people away from righteousness.
Brigham once proclaimed the Mormon Creed was to "mind your own business."[2] He meant it; judging others retards our progress and contracts our feelings. Charity, a gift of the Spirit, has no place in us when we are already filled with malice, anger, or hate. The Lord said if we fail to forgive the sins of others we will not be forgiven:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).
I submit we won't be forgiven in such a case because we cannot be forgiven. We cut ourselves off from the atoning grace of Christ by not forgiving others. Brigham referred to a dream John Young[3] related to him regarding the devil's looking glass:
It is our privilege, for you and me to live, from this day, so that our consciences will be void of offense towards God and man; it is in our power to do so, then why don't we? What is the matter?
I will tell you what the difficulties and troubles are, by relating brother John Young's dream. He dreamed that he saw the devil with a looking glass in his hand, and the devil held it to the faces of the people, and it revealed to them everybody's faults but their own. The difficulty is neglecting to watch over ourselves. Just as soon as our eyes are turned away from watching ourselves- to see whether we do right- we begin to see faults in our neighbors. This is the great difficulty, and our minds become more and more blinded until we become entirely darkened.
How do we avoid this darkness? Brigham says practical religion overcomes the Pharisaical trickery of the Devil's looking glass. Watch yourself and overcome evil by fleeing from the Devil:
So long as I do the thing the Lord requires of me, and do not stop to inquire what I shall tell to my neighbor as his duty, and pay very close attention to my individual person, that my words are right, that my actions are right before God, that my reflections are right, and that my desires are according to the holy Gospel, I have not much time to look at the faults of my neighbors. Is not this true?
This is our practical religion; it is our duty to stop and begin to look at ourselves. We may have trials to pass through, and when people come to me, and tell me that they are wonderfully tried and have a great many difficulties to encounter-have their troubles on the right and on the left, and what to do they are at a loss to know, I say, "I am glad of it." I rejoice to think that they must have trials as well as other people. And when they say, "It seems as though the devil would overcome me," it is a pretty good evidence that an individual is watching himself.
If you feel evil, keep it to yourselves until you overcome that evil principle. This is what I call resisting the devil, and he flees from me. I strive to not speak evil, to not feel evil, and if I do, to keep it to myself until it is gone from me, and not let it pass my lips... I have nothing particular upon my mind, only to urge all the Latter-day Saints to live their religion (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:90-96).


Ordinances alone don't perfect, as I have discussed before on this blog. For example, see Heber C. Kimball:
"...Some will come with great zeal and anxiety, saying, "I want my endowments; I want my washings and anointings; I want my blessings; I wish to be sealed up to eternal lives; I wish to have my wife sealed and my children sealed to me;" in short, "I desire this and I wish that." What good would all this do you, if you do not live up to your profession and practise your religion? Not as much good as for me to take a bag of sand and baptize it, lay hands upon it for the gift of the Holy Ghost, wash it and anoint, and then seal it up to eternal lives, for the sand will be saved, having filled the measure of its creation, but you will not, except through faith and obedience. Those little pebbles and particles of sand gather themselves together and are engaged, as with one heart and mind, to accomplish a purpose in nature. Do they not keep the mighty ocean in its place by one united exertion? And if we were fully united we could resist and overcome every evil principle there is on earth or in hell" (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 3:123-125).
Judging others was discussed by Brigham elsewhere:
I will repeat part of the "Mormon Creed," viz, 'Let every man mind his own business.' If this is observed, every man will have business sufficient on hand, so as not to afford time to trouble himself with the business of other people (Journal of Discourses 2:93).
See "Weed Your Own Garden" for more on this topic. 

The John Young mentioned could have been a brother, nephew, or son of Brigham; all three were named John.

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