I’m really excited to speak today. As you know, yesterday was Valentine’s Day so the Bishopric gave me the obvious topic to speak about today: War. No, this isn’t a talk about dating, even though I’m sure most of you have likened dating to war at one point or another. And I definitely won’t be speaking about Ex-Boyfriends or Ex-Girlfriends, sorry to disappoint you. But I really was excited about this topic because if you know me pretty well, I am very much a “guy”. I’m into much of the stereotypical guy things: sports, cars, action movies. So war is a topic that fascinates me and I fueled that fire by taking a variety of courses relative to it in Political Science. Of course the war I’m speaking of today is actually the war between good and evil. My remarks today are based upon the talk given in the November 2008 Conference Report entitled “Winning the War Against Evil” by Elder James J. Hamula of the Seventy.
My objective in speaking to you today is threefold. First, I seek to help you understand the significance of the war against evil. Second, I wish that you might understand you have powerful allies to assist you in this war. And third, I want to give you an understanding of how to win the war against evil.
The war between good and evil started long before we came to this earth. The book of Revelation gives us some insight into the foundations and history of this war.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels,The book of The Doctrine and Covenants also gives us some insight into this war in heaven. During Joseph’s vision of the glories of heaven he was also given vision of the great war in heaven. We read,
“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Rev. 12:7-9)
“…an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,The seriousness of this war is communicated in the punishment given to those who rebelled against God at this time. Satan, one of God’s greatest children, was fallen and in retaliation he sought to make war against the people of God. War is not a word to be taken lightly. In today’s society we see war so much in the media whether it be news or entertainment that we sometimes take it as something far lighter than what it is. However, war is destructive and cold. Satan seeks to assure your destruction, I can think of no simpler yet stronger way to state it. Joseph’s vision continues to explain the consequences of losing your soul to the forces of Satan:
“And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
“And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!
“...[F]or we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—
“Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” (D&C 76:25-29)
“And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame, for thus came the voice of the Lord unto us:Might I draw special attention to some of the more poignant punishments that await such individuals. They are sons of perdition, it would have been better for them never to have been born, they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer…in eternity, and these individuals will receive no forgiveness. This is a very serious war and Satan seeks to turn you into soldiers for evil that will receive terrible punishments. In my emphasis I seek to help you understand that this war is like any war that has occurred in the history of the world, it is not something meant to be taken lightly and the consequences are most dire indeed.
“Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—
“They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
“For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;” (D&C 76: 30-33)
The prophet Joseph Smith once stated,
"Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached, good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God.
When you did that you left neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant."Clearly the seriousness of this war is grave indeed. We have left that neutral ground, brothers and sisters, and we must, therefore, endeavor to do our all to promote righteousness and fight the war against evil.
In political science, there are a variety of theories that I feel can be applied to this war in heaven to help us understand more fully our part in the war against evil.
One of the most basic theories of political science, as far as war, involves a tradeoff analysis. Basically one must simply understand the costs versus the benefits of fighting the war. In the case of the war against evil, I think the terms are rather simply laid out before us. By fighting against Satan, we can receive the blessings of eternity: exaltation and eternal glory crowned upon our heads and endless joy. By not fighting in this war or becoming one of his minions, we will forfeit these blessings and can potentially fall to such serious consequences as those that befall sons of perdition. Thus, it behooves us to ensure that we are willing to fight this war, that we understand very much what is at stake and practice the ways of righteousness to receive eternal glory.
Another theory is that of the power of Great Men. The leaders of nations have a great influence in the causing, development, and outcomes of wars. In the war in heaven, Satan’s evil influence caused many to fall very early on. So on this earth he seeks to do the same. However, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are very much righteous leaders and they seek to lead us to fight for righteousness. That is why they have given us so many righteous leaders on our earth. Our bishopric are perfect examples of righteous leaders that our Heavenly Father has sent us to provide us with inspiration and guidance in how to win this fight against evil.
The great writer William Shakespeare understood the power of leaders profoundly. In the play Julius Caesar we see the rising of many great men as powerful leaders. Early in the play, Cassius persuades the noble friend of Caesar, Brutus, toward a plot of sedition through the use of his rhetoric. Cassius brings to attention the power of Caesar and the way that power is undoing the republic of Rome. Thus, Caesar is painted as an evil and power hungry leader. Of course Cassius is not necessarily much better. In his persuasion of Brutus he states, “Men at some time are masters of their fates./The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar I.ii.93-95) Cassius points very clearly that men can be the masters of their own choices and destiny, but his hunger for power is apparent in his remorse of being an underling. Fate does not control our actions and neither do the power of our leaders, but undoubtedly they do influence our actions and whether they are a good or evil leader can make all of the difference.
Later in the story, Marc Antony speaks at the funeral of Caesar. He seeks to persuade the people of the injustice committed against Caesar in his murder, but he gives this profound insight into the actions done by men, which rings more profoundly in the case of leaders, such as Caesar whom he speaks of. He states, “The evil that men do lives after them;/The good is oft interred with their bones.” (Julius Caesar III.ii.77-78) The evil influence of leaders can often be left behind but the good is often quickly forgotten. Pay close heed to righteous leaders and follow their counsel. Make sure to surround yourself with the words of righteous leaders and that you heed their call.
One of our righteous leaders today gave great insight into the severity of the war against evil this day. President Boyd K. Packer stated, “I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now.” So we live in some rather scary times, the war is more vicious than ever before, but that does not mean we are helpless in this battle.
Elder Hamula teaches us quite plainly about how to win the war against evil. He states,
“…there is only one way to win the war against Satan, and that is to win it in the same way it was won in the beginning. When victory was finally achieved in the War in Heaven, a loud voice was heard to declare: ‘Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ…For they [referring to Michael and his angels] have overcome him [referring to the devil 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.’Our faith, testimony, and consecration are the keys to winning this war. This is the same solution that was given in the beginning and it will be the same solution in the end. Thankfully, Elder Hamula also gives us instruction as to how we might develop these gifts. Speaking of faith he states,
“Do not miss the significance of this declaration. Satan was overcome in the beginning by (1) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, (2) Testimony of Him that was steadfastly kept to the very end, and (3) consecration of oneself to the Lord and His work. If this was the means for defeating him in the beginning, you can be sure that this is the one sure way to defeat him now.”
“…do as young Joseph Smith did. Find a quiet place and pray to your Father in Heaven. Do so regularly and earnestly. Prayer is a precondition to revelation. The more regular and earnest the prayer, the more frequent the revelation. When received, revelation provides the evidence or assurance of things unseen, which is the foundation of faith.”I find it powerful that he mentions prayer as the precondition to revelation. We often speak of not receiving a witness until after the trial of our faith, this is a perfect example of that. He also assures us that as we pray more regularly and earnestly we will receive more revelation. That is a marvelous gift to have and this all collectively strengthens our faith.
Elder Hamula also spoke of developing testimony.
“…learn to hear the voice of the Lord. His is a still, small, and whisper-like voice. It is one that is felt more than it is heard. It comes in the form of thoughts, feelings, and impressions. To hear such a voice, you must be still and quiet in your own soul, laying aside your excess laughter and light-mindedness. While it may not seem easy to so discipline your life, hearing the precious, loving voice of the Lord will sustain you in every circumstance and is therefore worth every effort.”It is interesting that he makes no specific mention of testimony, but this is clearly instruction for building of testimony. To bear witness, which a testimony is, we must have a witness born unto us. The ultimate witness is through the Holy Ghost. We must always find ways to renew that witness, strengthen the witness, and new truths to witness of. It is through the voice of the Spirit that we will achieve this.
Finally he instructs us how to consecrate ourselves to the Lord.
“….obey the word of the Lord as it is given to you. His word will not only love and comfort but invariably instruct and correct. Do as He bids you to do, no matter how hard it may seem to you, and do it now. It is in doing the will of the Lord that knowledge of Him and love for Him accrue to your soul, which leads you to be ever more willing to lay down your own life and follow Him.”I think this was an interesting realization for me to see that really consecration is about obedience. The Lord asks to us serve Him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength but I think so often we have an attitude of thinking of consecration in the form of the United Order, a group in which all members have all things in common. Really consecration reaches far higher than that. Consecration is a setting apart of your life in its entirety for God. That does not mean all of our focus must be solely upon Church. It does, however, mean that we are always focused upon the ways of God and righteousness. We will do all we can to always do the right thing and enrich our own lives as we enrich others.
The war against evil can be won through our love of the Savior. When we put Him first, all of the other pieces will fall into place and we will be happy. The Savior knows the way to righteousness and conquering Satan, as we trust in Him we will be blessed in receiving these things.
Talk given February 15, 2009 in the BYU 122 Ward.