"We had an awesome experience this last week, in which we got the chance to visit a less-active family who lives in a little village about an hour outside of Lutsk (By bus). We're their new home teachers! :D We got up first thing in the morning, worked out, ate breakfast, got into our work clothes, and hopped onto a bus.
When we finally got there, I had forgotten what the other Elder's had told me as far as directions are concerned... but I confidently took my companion along the dirt path right behind the stop and started walking. I was pretty sure they said something about a dirt path. Makes sense, right?
Long story short, we ended up lost in the midde of nowheresville, by a heard of cows, and some random rancher man. I called Brother Polyshook, and gave the phone to the Ukrainian farmer so that, between these two Ukrainian guys, we could figure out where we even wanted to go.
Longer story short, I chose the wrong dirt path. Back track = 1 hour total of walking back to there house... which was in the opposite direction of where we were heading. Maaaaaaan.
But it's okay, because we finally made it to their place! What was first on our agenda, you may ask? Sawing logs! Ha! It was actually pretty fun, even though I never got to play with the Chainsaw myself. Bohdan Polyshook handled that, and I just stacked logs onto the little makeshift log holder thingy. (I'm really eliquently versed in farm vocabulary now, you see).
After hours of work, we got to wheelbarrow all those logs to the back of the house, and stack up a bunch of them. Brother Polyshook said that he would do them himself... mostly because I'm pretty sure I wasn't stacking them the way he wanted. He's got a thing about orderliness and niceness that I just don't have.
Then, we fooded.
We fooded so hard.
There was borshch, and there was home-made "pizza" (it's not just pizza here, it's something more magnificent), and there was home-made apple cake with chocolate on top. Ah man. I can't even describe the joys of that meal sufficiently. I have not yet eaten anything super horrendous, but I have eaten the GREATEST THINGS IN THE WORLD here in Ukraine.
And then, we had a spiritual thought about gaining spiritual light through scripture study, prayer, and church attendance. They were great! We had a family discussion, and everyone was so involved (except bohdan, but he was suffering from food coma, kind of like me).
We then looked at some of their family photos, most of which were pictures of their two returned missionary sons. Afterwards, we left them with smiles, hugs, and handshakes. All we had to do was walk back to the bus stop, and ride on home.
This took up our whole saturday. It was the most wonderful of days."
I have been thinking a lot this week, and I would like to share my thoughts with you. My thoughts have been drawn back to my basketball days, when we would prepare to have a game against our opponent. I would like to relate that to our life here on earth. We have an opponent right? He is the devil and along with him he has hosts of evil angels. So how do we prepare to face him? Well, in basketball there are a few steps we take. We watch film! We want to know what our opponent has done in the past. Then we pick apart their game plan. Then we form our strategy against the team we will face. I would like to take a minute and do those few things with our common opponent Satan. Once we have done this we need not fear in the fight against him for we will know how to defeat him. By preparing his weaknesses will be evident and we will know how to exploit them.
So first "Watch film," or in other words what has our opponent done in the past? To see a little bit of our enemy in action we can turn to the scriptures. In JST, Revelation 12:1–17 we find an account of How Lucifer (one of God's choice spirit sons) Became the devil and took a third of God's other spirit children and were cast out onto the earth. We read.
4 And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born.
5 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years.
6 And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;
7 And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ.
8 Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him.
11 For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them.
12 And after these things I heard another voice saying, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13 For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child.
17 Therefore, the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
In the Bible dictionary under War in Heaven we can also read:
"One-third of the spirits refused to accept the appointment of Jesus Christ as the Savior. Such a refusal was a rebellion against the Father’s plan of redemption. It was evident that if given agency, some persons would fall short of complete salvation; Lucifer and his followers wanted salvation to come automatically to all who passed through mortality, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication (see Isa. 14:12–20; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:4–13; D&C 29:36–38; Moses 4:1–4). The spirits who thus rebelled and persisted were thrust out of heaven and cast down to the earth without mortal bodies, “and thus came the devil and his angels” (D&C 29:37; see also Rev. 12:9; Abr. 3:24–28).
The warfare is continued in mortality in the conflict between right and wrong, between the gospel and false principles, etc. The same contestants and the same issues are doing battle, and the same salvation is at stake.
Although one-third of the spirits became devils, the remaining two-thirds were not all equally valiant, there being every degree of devotion to Christ and the Father among them. The most diligent were chosen to be rulers in the kingdom (Abr. 3:22–23). The nature of the conflict, however, is such that there could be no neutrals, then or now (Matt. 12:30; 1 Ne. 14:10; Alma 5:38–40)."
So know that we have "watched film" on our opponent, or I guess the better word is adversary, let us pick apart his game plan. This is step number two. This will help us prepare for the most vital step: our game plan. Ok, his game plan! (These steps can be found in the Bible dictionary under "Devil," and some of the text has been copied right from there, just so you know!) In no particular order here is what the devil does:
-One of the major techniques of the devil is to cause human beings to think they are following God’s ways, when in reality they are deceived by the devil to follow other paths. We can find proof in 2 Nephi 28:21 "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell." I would ask each of you to examine your own life and see if this is not the case in some aspect or another.
-The devil is the father of contention. 3 Nephi 11:29 "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." These contentions often lead to much worse acts of anger, violence, and murder. Any time you feel contentious it is the influence of an evil spirit.
- He tries to imitate the work of God by transforming himself nigh unto an angel of light. 2 Nephi 9:9 "And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness." This step goes along with the first one. He will twist good things into bad things without us even knowing. In this way he will trick us, and cheat our souls, and we will not even know it.
- Since the devil and his premortal angels have no physical body of flesh and bones, they often seek to possess the bodies of mortal beings. There are many such instances recorded in scripture (Matt. 9:32; 12:22; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 8:30; Acts 19:15; see also Mosiah 3:6). The devil and his angels are jealous of us because a spirit can only have a fullness of happiness with a body. In his jealousy he will try and get us to misuse our body in any way possible.
- He is also a worker of miracles, by which he deceives many upon the earth (Rev. 13:1–15). In fact, the scripture says he deceives the whole world (Rev. 12:9). He can cite scripture to make his point seem plausible (Matt. 4:1–11). All of this is his scheme to make man miserable like himself.
Ok, now we have done our homework. We have watched film, and we have picked it apart to find our enemy's strategy. Know here is the important part. We MUST come up with a game plan to utterly destroy the evil one, then we must put it into action. Here is the game plan I would like to suggest to you:
- Pray! Alma 34: 23, 18 "Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save."
- Read and study the word of God! Helaman 3:29-30 "Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked— And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out."
-Keep the commandments! Every single one! Selective obedience is a death trap! D&C 98:22 "And again I say unto you, if ye observe to do whatsoever I command you, I, the Lord, will turn away all wrath and indignation from you, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you."
- Have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! Helaman 5:12 "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
In the end Christ will overcome the serpent. We are on the winning team! I promise that this game plan will prevail! And after the buzzer has sounded and the game is over the words that were spoken to the devil will be fulfilled. 2 Nephi 24:16 "They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee, and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?" Yes our enemy is strong. His back is to the wall and he knows his time is up soon. He wields hate, but we are motivated by a better cause (see Alma 43:45)!
One last thought before I close my letter to you this day. D&C 131:6 "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." Why is that? It is not because God does not want to save all people. Even those who refuse to lean His word. It is because those who do not learn, and do their homework, watch film, and make their game plan, will not overcome the devil and therefore not be able to be saved. Hold on to the words of the Savior when he said "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Knowledge is power! Follow the game plan that is laid by the Savior in the scriptures and in the words of the living prophets and the devil will have no power over you, you will always do what is right, and you will return to God in the last day with Honor. I know this is true. I know Christ is the living Savior and captain of our team of saints. I ask you the question found in Romans 8:31 "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Let me answer it. The Devil! But maybe the better question to ask would be "If God be for us, who can beat us?" Let me answer that: NOBODY!
Stick to the game plan and in the words of Christ Himself "ye shall have eternal life" (3 Nephi 9:14). This is my testimony, in the name of Christ, Amen.