January 7, 2008

Tempted in Proportion to the Light

PART 2 Orson Pratt April 13, 1856 If anything, Orson wanted the Saints to read their scriptures, reminding them that we may not be living up to the blessings God offers. Additionally, he reminded them that greater knowledge brings greater responsibility:

There is much doctrine in the Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants that would be instructive to the Saints, if they would not let them stay upon their shelves. Knowledge of truth would not harm you, though it may be better for some to let their books remain shut, rather than to transgress against greater light, for then greater would be their damnation and punishment. In proportion as we advance in the knowledge of the things revealed from the heavens, and in the powers and keys that are conferred upon us, the greater will be the condemnation, if we fall therefrom. This shows the propriety of every man and woman's habituating themselves, as I have already said, to righteousness.
Here he advanced an interesting thought: that we are tempted by Satan in proportion to the light we have received from God. A scriptural archetype of this idea would be Moses, who, after seeing the Lord in a great vision then encountered the adversary:
If you were, within one week from this time, to be let into all the visions that the brother of Jared had, what a weight of responsibility you would have upon you; how weak you would be, and how unprepared for the responsibility; and after the vision had closed up in your minds, and you left to yourselves, you would be tempted in proportion to the light that had been presented before you. Then would come the trial, such as you never have had. This is the principle upon which the devil is allowed to try us. We have a circumstance in relation to Moses' being tempted; when the vision withdrew, and the heavens closed, the devil presented himself and said, "Moses, son of man, worship me." Moses replied, "Who are you?" "I am the son of God," was the answer. Then said Moses, "You call me the son of man and say that you are the son of God, but where is your glory?" Could Moses have withstood that terrible manifestation, if he had not practiced for many years the principles of righteousness? A mere vision would not have strengthened him, and even to shew him the glory of God in part would not have enabled him to combat with the powers of darkness that then came to him. It was by his knowledge of God, by his perseverance, his diligence and obedience in former years, that he was enabled to rebuke the devil, in the name of Jesus Christ, and drive him from him.
For this reason God gives us light in proportion to what we can currently handle:
So it will be with you, whether you have the necessary preparation or not, for the Lord will say to the powers of darkness: "you are now at liberty to tempt my servants in proportion to the light that I have given. Go and see if they will be steadfast to that light; use every plan so far as I permit you, and if they will yield they are not worthy of me nor of my kingdom, and I will deliver them up and they shall be buffeted. You, Satan, shall buffet and torment them, until they shall learn obedience by the things that they suffer."
As the Lord said in a revelation to Joseph Smith:
For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation (D&C 82:3).
By preparing today by drawing closer to God, we can withstand the adversary in our time of trial as Moses did:
Hence the propriety of preparing for these things, that when they come you will know how to conquer Satan, and not want for experience to overcome, but be like Michael, the archangel, who, with all the knowledge and glory that he had gained through thousands of years of experience, durst not bring a railing accusation, because he knew better. And when Moses withstood Satan face to face, he knew who he was and what he had come for. He had obtained his knowledge by past trials, by a long series of preparation; hence he triumphed. So it must be with Latter-day Saints, and if we prepare ourselves we shall conquer. We must come in contact with every foe, and those who give way will be overcome.
Along with Moses, others encountered the power of the adversary in proportion to that which they received from God. One notable example would be Christ, who encountered the adversary after fasting forty days in the wilderness.[1] Using this method, God can truly allow us free agency. Were God to provide absolute irrefutable evidence of His existence, or bless us immediately upon any righteous act and punish us directly after any evil, there would be no growth, no test, no opportunity to actually choose. It has been suggested that in order for Christianity to survive, there must be "an empty tomb" to be filled by faith. While investigating the truth claims of the Book of Mormon, Terryl Givens found evidence both for the authenticity of the book, as well as against. This gave him insight into the nature of faith itself:
I came to the conclusion, in large part through my study of the Book of Mormon, that for faith to operate, and for faith to have moral significance in our lives, then it has to at some level be a choice. It can't be urged upon us by an irresistible, overwhelming body of evidence, or what merit is there in the espousing of faith? And it can't be something that we embrace in spite of overwhelming logical rational evidence to the contrary, because I don't believe that God expects us to hold in disregard that faculty of reason that he gave us. But I do believe that the materials are always there of which one can fashion a life of belief or a life of denial. I believe that faith is a revelation of what we love, what we choose to embrace, and therefore I think [it] is the purest reflection of the values that we hold dear and the kind of universe that we aspire to be a part of. And so it comes ultimately as no surprise to me that the evidence will never be conclusive on one way or the other. I think that there's a purpose behind the balance that one attains in the universe of belief.[2]
Orson urged the Saints in this, his final address before leaving for England, to prepare to overcome evil through Jesus Christ:
If we are to conquer the enemy of truth his power must be made manifest, and the power which will be given of the Lord through faithfulness must be in our possession. Do you wish to prevail-to conquer the powers of darkness when they present themselves? If you do, prepare yourselves against the day when these powers shall be made manifest with more energy than is now exhibited. Then you can say, the evil powers that have been made manifest, the agents that came and tempted me, came with all their force, I met them face to face and conquered by the word of my testimony, by patience, by the keys which have been bestowed upon me, and which I held sacred before God, and I have triumphed over the adversary and over all his associates.
Brethren, pray for me, that I may accomplish the mission that has been given to me acceptably in the sight of the Lord, acceptably to these my brethren that are presiding over me, acceptably to the nations, to the Saints here in Great Salt Lake Valley, that I may be one of the Saints that shall be perfected in righteousness, in long-suffering, in patience, in humility, and return in joy and peace to rejoice again in your midst. I ask the Lord to bless us, one and all, with his Holy Spirit, and to guide us in the way of life. Amen (JD 3:352-354).
Footnotes: [1] I also believe Joseph Smith may have had similar experiences. Some evidence is found in my blog post entitled "Joseph and the Devil." Joseph had counseled Heber C. Kimball as follows:
“When I related to brother Joseph the view I had of certain evil spirits in England, he said, that the closer we observe the celestial law, the more opposition we shall meet.” (Heber C. Kimball, JD 3:263).
Oliver Cowdery described an encounter Joseph had with the adversary with Moroni; more information on that will be added to the Joseph and the Devil post.
[2] Terryl Givens, Interview by Helen Whitney for the PBS documentary The Mormons, 2007.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All views are welcome when shared respectfully. Use a name or consistent pseudonym rather than "anonymous." Deletions of inflammatory posts will be noted. Thanks for joining the conversation.