I am concerned about the battles raging in our society – the battles which divide us into opposing groups, and also the internal battles for individual souls. These are continuations of a war which began long ago. We have no recollection of it, but scriptural accounts can stir up feelings and give us a sense of the intensity and eternal significance of the struggle. (See Revelation 12:7-9, Moses 4:1-4, Abraham 3:27-28)
What makes this war is so challenging on an individual level – and that is the level that it really counts – are the realities of our current mortal existence.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I believe that we are essentially spiritual beings. We are actually the spiritual offspring of God, and as such have at our spiritual core a divine nature and potential. In order for us to be able to progress toward that potential, we have been given the opportunity of this mortal existence. We have been housed in physical bodies and placed in a temporal world. I do not believe that everything about these physical bodies and this world are inherently bad or evil. These bodies are marvelous creations and allow us to do wonderful things. Our world is filled with so much that is beautiful and good. However, being a spiritual being inside a physical body creates the basis of our test, and the core of the battle – will the spiritual overcome the physical and progress, or will the spiritual yield to the physical?
A knowledge of the leaders of the opposing sides is critical. On the one side we have Jesus Christ, a wise and loving God. His desire is for us all to successfully return to our Father in Heaven and dwell with Him in eternal glory and happiness. He lovingly provided the only way for that to happen because we cannot do that in our present condition. We need a Savior to redeem us from our mortal and fallen state.
On the other side we have an adversary – Satan, Lucifer, the devil. His desire is to thwart the Plan of Happiness and to deprive us of all that our Father would have us enjoy. His role is to provide opposition, thus giving us an opportunity to exercise our agency. Agency is essential in the plan and in the outcome of our personal battle. In the most basic terms we are free to choose which side we are on and who we follow. It is complicated, however, by the cunning craftiness of our adversary who confuses and misleads us.
Because of the Fall of Adam we are all fallen men and women – that is the nature of that physical part of us. The tendencies of fallen men reflect and are encouraged by the tendencies and characteristics of the adversary. Satan sought glory for himself – he encourages us to be self-centered, self-serving, and prideful. He is “all about me”. He encourages us to compare and then envy. He stirs up anger and malice and hate toward each other as he feels toward God.
Satan has been denied a physical body, yet he gets some kind of pleasure out of influencing us to misuse, abuse or destroy ours. He uses those very physical desires and passions against us to enslave us to him. He even begins with the “all about me” temptations – to seek pleasure and do what we want and have it all now. More subtly, he uses our physical needs, desires, and preferences to convince us that this is way we really are – the “authentic self”, “the real me”, “I was born this way”. He then encourages us to celebrate the misuse of this physical part of us. He even twists the idea of our divine nature by insisting that it was God who “made us this way” and because God loves us He approves of whatever behavior our natural man seeks to indulge in.
God does love us unconditionally, but scriptures make it clear that “the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)
Ultimately, the result of our personal battle depends upon which side we choose to surrender to.
It is a surrender either way – we must yield to one or the other.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi2:27-28)
Will we surrender to the Natural Man? Our adversary would lead us to believe that surrendering to him is somehow liberating or a victory for ourselves, yet it leaves us firmly in his power and under his influence. The result can only be misery.
Or will we surrender – give all of our sins, weaknesses and faults – to Christ and allow Him to overcome our Natural Man and change our nature, so that the divine can flourish and grow? This is a surrender too. Many of us mistakenly believe that we are supposed to do this on our own. Somehow through our own willpower we just need to do all the right things and overcome natural tendencies to sin.
Sadly, many do try to overcome faults or be good on their own and then give up. With the guidance of the adversary they conclude that it is impossible because “I can’t help it, this is just the way I am”. The reason we can’t change ourselves is because that is how we are supposed to be. Thus they surrender to him – yield to the Natural Man. Satan so wants us to believe that this fallen, natural man with all of its selfish, prideful tendencies is the “real me” and in the process deny our Real Self who at the core is divine.
Those who have surrendered to the adversary may feel relief, even a kind of liberation. This seems to be the end of the battle. It may seem an easier road without the struggle to change or be good, but true lasting happiness will be elusive. Deep down I think we all know that there is something better for us and within us. It think these nagging feeling spur some on to try to get others to join with them, as if convincing others that wrong is right would make it feel more right. Behind this, of course, is Satan working to add to his ranks.
It has been revealed to us how and by whom the War is won. Our part in the general war should focus most on saving individual souls, starting with our own. In such a large, all encompassing war, ultimately what is most important is the individual soul anyway.
NOTE: I use the word Man in the general sense, referring to all of Mankind – human beings of both genders.