Wednesday, April 11, 2012

17. Satan Monitors Our Speech

In the previous chapter I shared what I consider Satan’s greatest tactic against us. In this chapter I will share another of Satan’s important tactics against us: Satan uses the things we say out loud against us.

We as Mormons face an interesting command in scripture to pray both vocally and silently:
And again, I command thee that thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private.
D&C 19:28

I think we should generally use silent prayers for a different purpose than vocal prayers because of Satan. While prayer is a wonderful tool for communicating our troubles with God, praying our troubles out loud (or any vocal mention of our struggles) lets Satan and his followers know exactly what is vexing us. And they will use this information against us. We can reduce the influence of Satan by simply watching what we say out loud because Satan cannot read our thoughts.

These principles are affirmed in the following discourse by Francis Gibbons, an LDS Church leader. Elder Gibbons teaches that God and those inspired by God through the spirit of prophecy can read our thoughts, but Satan and his followers cannot:
But a more significant reason for praying secretly is found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 6, where it is written, “Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart” (D&C 6:16).
Other scriptures broaden this concept to include not only God, but those whom God inspires. So Zeezrom, the crafty lawyer who was taught by Alma and Amulek, became convinced “that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy” (Alma 12:7).
It is clear, then, that Satan and his followers, who have been cast out of God’s presence and are dead to His Spirit, are excluded from those who, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, may know the thoughts and the intents of our hearts.
Francis M. Gibbons, “The Dual Aspects of Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 78.

Elder Gibbons also affirms the importance of praying silently in order to combat Satan’s tactics against us:
So, in his wisdom and mercy, God has provided a channel of communication between him and his children on earth that Satan, our common enemy, cannot invade. This is the channel of secret prayer. The significance of this to the Latter-day Saint is profound, for by this means we are able to communicate with our Heavenly Father in secrecy, confident that the adversary cannot intrude.
… while Satan can convey thoughts, he does not know whether these thoughts have taken root unless they are reflected either in words or in actions.

So how do we balance the command in scripture to pray both vocally and silently? My approach is to have somewhat separate purposes for vocal prayers versus secret prayers: I try to focus my vocal prayers with my family on gratitude for blessings, while using silent prayer to pour out my challenges and weaknesses in private in order to receive assistance from the Lord without Satan monitoring the conversation. Certainly, families and couples have need at times to pray vocally about challenges, and children need these experiences to build their faith in the face of opposition. So my approach is not a rigid one. My goal is simply to give Satan and his followers as little ammunition as possible.   

Another important point made in Elder Gibbons’ 1991 address is that we talk too much: “Often, we talk too much. We say things that need not be said or should not be said; for in saying them, we may open a crevice which enables Lucifer to wedge his way into our lives.” If Elder Gibbons could have seen in 1991 where the internet and cell phones and email and social media have taken our communications today, I imagine he would have stated this principle even more emphatically. I think Satan laughs that now media sources have transformed a small “crevice” of evil opportunity into a vast chasm.  

As a personal example, when I falter and say something critical about someone out loud, I can be certain that I will be immediately tempted with additional critical thoughts about that person. This increase in temptation is due to the fact that Satan and his followers take careful note of what we say and then use the intel to tempt us or those connected to us. We certainly don’t want to give Satan ammunition against us, but we do just that when we speak carelessly.