I have long been concerned with avoiding deception. I am a Mormon convert because I am a seeker of Truth. I am not interested in dogma or the masks of God, except as they are useful to leading me deeper into eternal truth. I need to experience God, to know Them, not just learn about Them as conceptualized by any earthly organization. Don’t misunderstand: I am a faithful believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I believe the Church is the authorized vehicle to establish Zion on the earth. But, of course, the church is not the gospel.
I say “of course”, but I have noticed that that statement does not seem to be universally understood within the Church. There seem to be two kinds of deception amongst LDS church members. This may extend to other Christians and other faiths, but I’m concerned here with LDS members. The first kind of deception common in the Church, as far as I can tell, is this idea or belief (usually unconscious) that being active in the Church, obeying the commandments and traditions of our faith, and steadfastly “doing” the gospel will result in eternal life, which is often conceptualized as a a large nuclear family gathered for Family Home Evening. We all love our families. Most of us want to be with them forever. The deception lies in believing that love of family is the most important principle of the gospel. Jesus, however, taught a much more difficult doctrine — that eternal life is to know God, and that to love God with all our being is the first and greatest commandment. That is, even if we are commanded to kill our own precious child, we are willing, because we love God more than we love even our own family. This is hard doctrine, and easy to ignore. The deception is in the ignorance.
The second kind of deception is becoming more and more prevalent, as the saints of God mature spiritually, both individually and as a community. As we grow in the gospel, our faith gradually becomes knowledge, precept upon precept. We begin to learn the mysteries of God, things not appropriately discussed at church — higher truths, if you will. We begin to understand how to use power in the priesthood, no matter our gender. Temple worship becomes more meaningful. We begin to know God on a much more personal level. The dangerous deception at this stage of our spiritual development is that we can begin to believe that we are somehow special, or even more loved by God. We can wonder and worry about why the Church leadership isn’t proclaiming these higher truths to the members. It’s easy to feel “chosen”, to feel that we’ve “outgrown” the Church. We may question and disagree with various policies or practices, or even certain leaders or doctrines of the Church. It becomes all too easy to walk away from the ignorant fold with a prideful certitude of our spiritual superiority.
How do we avoid deception? How do we stretch our minds and our spirits to receive greater light and knowledge without risking constant assault by the Father of Lies. We all know that the basic spiritual disciplines of prayer, gospel study, and church activity — when approached with a hungering and thirsting for righteousness — will provide a shield and a protection. We can live with ears open continually to the voice of the Lord and a heart fully committed to obedience, an eye single to the glory of God and a soul full of charity. Satan hates to be ignored, and will redouble his efforts to deceive and lead astray when our focus remains firmly on Christ. But Christ is always the winner. And as long as we walk with Him, so are we.
What practices and disciplines do you employ to avoid deception?