Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:7-8

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

Yesterday I mentioned how Satan uses techniques that are uniquely suited against each individual. We all have our secret weaknesses, and many times they are secret even from our own selves. We feel bold and confident, believing there is no chink in our armor, right up until the moment that he pierces us with his arrow.

Then our weakness is exposed and we are ashamed to discover this part that is so willing to trade all our principles for temporary gratification. We lose trust in ourselves, and we feel naked. Having seen this bare side we hurry to craft a persona to conceal it behind, an apron of fig leaves to prevent anyone else from seeing what we truly are. We hide.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:6

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Why did Satan approach Eve about the fruit in the first place? Why did he focus on its ability to give one knowledge? As I mentioned a few days ago, why would he even begin his temptation by reminding her that God had forbidden this? Well, probably because it would work. Because Eve was a particular way, and Satan knew what that way was, and so he knew the best strategy to tempt her.

Sometimes I have been amazed at the temptations that have come to other people, because I have thought to myself “well no one would ever fall for that,” but then they do! And meanwhile I have had my own temptations, which are very well fitted to my own weaknesses, and I have fallen to them where others never would have! We all have different Achilles’ heels, and frankly many of us don’t even know what ours are until Satan compromises us through them. Then, like Adam and Eve, our eyes our opened to our own shame.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:4-5

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Every temptation comes with the promise of gain. Take the money and you can buy the things you want. Tell the lie and you’ll get out of trouble. View the pornography and you will have a rush of pleasure. Shout at the child and they will stop doing the thing that annoys you.

In short: eat the fruit and you will gain. And why do we give in? Because there is a truth to all of these statements. Immediate gratification does come about by committing sin. It really works!

Of course we have also been warned of painful side-effects accompanying each of these vices. After the rush of gratification comes the lack of self-respect, the shame, the addiction, the broken relationships, the decline of health, the sense of being fractured, the feeling of being cursed. And it is against these consequences that Satan lies, just as it was the consequence he was dismissive of to Eve: “Ye shall not surely die.”

When asked why we sin, most of us say it was because we thought we could get away with it, which is another way of saying we believed Satan and thought we could slip past the consequences. We thought that if we were fast enough or clever enough we could take the gratification of sin while dodging all the pain. We assumed the promised shame was only put upon us by stodgy priests and parents, and if we just didn’t care about them we wouldn’t feel bad about it. But as each of us has learned, it doesn’t really work that way. The pain is already hidden within the pleasure, you cannot bite the fruit without consuming both.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:1-3

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

I find very interesting the question Satan leads off with. Drawing attention to the fact that God had forbidden the eating of this fruit seems a risky tactic, more likely to prevent Eve from doing so than anything else. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to distract her from that memory while he tried to get her to eat it?

But then she might trespass God’s commandments, but it would just be an accident, not a willful choice, and that is not what Satan wants. I firmly believe that Satan wants us to know what we do is wrong as we do it. He doesn’t want us to ignorantly partake in behaviors that cause us self-harm, he wants us to look ourselves in the eye with shame because we knew better and did it anyway. He wants us to lose faith in ourselves, to give ourselves over to despair.

The Epic Life- Summary

Many of these studies have begun when I feel myself caught between two competing ideas, each of which seems worthy, and each of which I suspect is correct in its own sphere. In this case I was caught between my desires to live a life that is grand and purposeful, and the sense that I should be content with the simpler things of life.
On the one hand I didn’t want to fall into complacency by never striving for something greater. On the other hand I didn’t want to fall into vanity by overlooking the good I already had. As is often the case I found a happy medium between two extremes. Because yes, it is possible to have inappropriate cravings and it is also possible to have inappropriate passivity, but there is also a quiet passion in between.
Here are a few of the main points I learned from this study. They highlight the common pitfalls that lay on either side of that middle path, and what we can expect to find by following that strait and narrow road instead.

The Good Life

First and foremost I learned that God expects us to live with passion. God expects us to be doers. He wants us to accomplish many good things in this life, to be an active and essential piece in His plan. After all, are we not all called to join the body of Christ? And is not the body of Christ a vehicle for doing? Does it not have a mission to reach out and save the entire world? And how is the body to accomplish this, if not by all of its parts surging to the cause?
God loves heroes. He is the inventor of heroes. God raised up Noah to build the ark, Moses to part the Red Sea, Jonah to reclaim the people of Nineveh, Esther to plead for her nation, Samson to fight the Philistines, David to topple a giant, Elijah to call down fire from heaven, Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and His own son to reclaim us from death and sin. And that same son, the greatest hero that the world has ever known, he attested that those “that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).
If you are here in earth life then you are here for a reason. If you can feel God’s spirit move upon you then it is to move you into action. God has not lost His need for heroes, He has not lost His need for workers in the field, and He has not stopped offering His strength to those that will champion His cause. If you are willing to clean yourself and apply wholeheartedly for a position you will find that He still has a great mission in reserve for you. He has yet another epic tale for your voice to speak.
2 Timothy 1:7- For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Nephi 1:23- Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

The Counterfeits

Satan always has counterfeits for God’s virtues. Where God is love, Satan is lust. Where God is confidence, Satan is the thirst for control. Where God is joy, Satan is diversion. And certainly Satan has his counterfeits to distract us from the truly epic life as well. In my study and personal experience I have been able to identify at least two of these counterfeits.
The first is the fame of the world. God has given to us an incredible energy that is meant to be spent in our great calling. But if we do not have a great calling to pour our strength and devotion into, then that strength and devotion must go elsewhere, and in many cases it has gone to a shrine of gold and glory. We covet possessions and conveniences, titles and recognition, adoration and attention. We hope to stand as king of the hill for a moment, vainly assuming that if we even managed the feat we would be remembered for it.
Another of Satan’s distractions is in complacency. It is true that there is a place in the gospel for quiet repose, a greatness from doing the small and simple things, a building up of the kingdom just where one stands. But truly doing the small and simple things with any degree of consistency is itself a very challenging undertaking, one that the complacent will never succeed in. Never make the mistake of believing that contentment and humility are the same as complacency and passivity. God might very well invite you to focus your strength locally, but never so locally that it doesn’t escape your own orbit!
Mosiah 12:29- And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?
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.

The Cost and Reward of Greatness

Having considered these counterfeits to the truly epic life, it is important to acknowledge that Satan possesses one great advantage. It is that the truly epic life always come at great cost. Frankly none of us fit the gate, in one way or another we are out of shape. Some of us are too proud and must be humbled. Some of us are too passive and must be pushed out of our comfort zone. Some of us are too wounded and must accept healing. Some of us are too guilty and must endure purifying. Perhaps the one constant is that each of us are blocked by the fear of whatever it is God is asking us to do. Fear alone is enough to kill any hero before they are born.
No wonder we are told that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat,” while on the other hand “narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
But no matter the ease of the first path, its destination is made perfectly clear: destruction. And no matter how difficult the second, its destination is also made unambiguous: life. There is no convenience worth dying for and there is no cost that life is not worth. It is not an easy way before us. In fact, without grace it is an impossible way, and even with grace it still is just plain hard. But if it were not hard, neither could be it truly great. Nothing of substance comes cheaply.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:28- For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
Luke 14:27- And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Influence and Persuasion- Ephesians 2:1-6

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)


You who were dead in trespasses and sins; ye walked according to the course of this world,
had your conversation in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath.

Yesterday I considered how ineffective forcing people to obey you is in the long term. In this verse Paul describes those of us that have been wrapped around Satan’s finger for years, doing all manner of soul-wrenching sins due to the anxiety, fear, and addiction he smothers us with. And we might confess that we hate what we do, yet feel doomed to continue doing it all the rest of their lives.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ

And yet, for all that control Satan seems to have had over us, one day, on a whim, we will say that they have had enough and leave him for something better. God simply walks by and offers to take us somewhere new and we say “Yes, please!” And just like that the power and control and dominion of Satan is shattered.

Influence and Persuasion- 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance
I have concluded reviewing both Satan’s and God’s methods for winning souls over to their sides. Where Satan employs fear and coercion, God shows immense patience and mercy. Where Satan threatens those that do not conform, God waits for us to come to Him by our own volition, and forgives all of our earlier rebellion when we do.
If one thing is clear from this, it is that God is playing the long game. He sows love and care in our hearts over the years, increasing the desire in us to choose Him. Satan, on the other hand, seems driven by haste, requiring immediate results from us.
And indeed, the times that I am at my worst as a parent are when I feel constrained by a need for certain behavior right now. I am at best as a parent when I am playing the long game, simply nurturing love in my children until they choose to follow my example on their own.

Influence and Persuasion- Moses 1:12-13, 19-20

And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.


Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me
Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded
Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell
Satan wants Moses to do something for him. His first approach is to “tempt,” trying to coerce Moses into behaving the way he wants him to. Moses is resistant to that, and Satan responds by getting loud and angry, now trying to frighten Moses into doing what he wants!
Coercion and fear. This one scriptural example gives us a very clear picture of Satan and his methods, and it is a picture that we are all too familiar with. For Satan has taught these tactics to all mankind, and we have been quick students of the form. I am sure we can all recall times that another person has tried to manipulate and frighten us into giving them what they wanted. I am sure we can all recall times we have used these tactics to get what we want, too.
Of course, this method requires a great deal of energy from the forcer, as they must submit the other against their will. And obviously the person being forced will not be converted to the cause, they will only remain subjugated so long as they are under the power of the controlling force. It is only their behaviors that are being influenced, not their inner desire. Thus, even from a pragmatic standpoint it is an unsustainable method, and sure to falter sooner or later. But more importantly, it is unquestionably immoral and abusive.

Who Am I?- Luke 4:3, 13; Matthew 16:13-14; Mark 6:3; Matthew 26:63, 65; John 18:33

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?


And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God…
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

In the account of Jesus’s temptations in the desert, twice the nature of his divine identity is brought under attack. Satan tries to stir doubt that Jesus really is who he is, and goads him into proving hos holy sonship.
It is an ingenious ploy, for to rise to the challenge and prove that he really was the son of God, would be for Jesus to reveal that he actually had an insecurity about it. If you really know that you are who you are, you don’t need to prove it to anyone.
Jesus resists the temptations, and finishes the encounter safe and secure. Surely, though, this was not the end of the his and the devil’s duel. Indeed, the entire exchange finishes with the telling phrase “he departed from him…for a season.”

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Is not this the carpenter?
Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God….He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?
Art thou the King of the Jews?

In fact, a review of the gospels readily proves that the assault on Jesus’s identity was far from over. Many times the claims of his divine sonship was challenged, questioned, and rejected.
People tried to tell him that he was a carpenter, a devil, a blasphemer, a prisoner. Even those that probably meant well mislabeled him as John the Baptist, or some other prophet. At one time Jesus remarked that even his own disciples did not know who he really was (John 14:9).
Satan knew that Jesus’s entire mission could be broken if he could get the Savior to question who he really was. If he could make Jesus unsure, even once, he would be defeated.
But Jesus was sure.

Free Will vs God’s Control- Personal Example

There are those that fall into sin, and then wonder how they were ever expected to prevail given the hand that they were dealt. There are also those that have remained faithful while those around them fell into sin, and then feel a sort of survivor’s guilt for it and wonder why they were kept hedged safe.

Predicaments such as these serve to test our faith in free will. It is far easier to say that you were made to be good or made to be bad, rather than to take responsibility for your actions. On the one hand you don’t want to be boastful, and on the other you don’t want to condemn yourself, and so you assign the responsibility elsewhere. But false modesty and false accusation are still false, and ultimately get us nowhere.

We do ourselves a terrible discredit when we deny our own power. Any time we fail to take ownership for our own actions, we cut our feet out from under us. I have certainly done myself that disservice, both in terms of not wanting to accept responsibility for my sins, nor for my obedience. A large part of my discipleship has been learning to give myself my fair due.

And so, I have done things that I am ashamed of, and I have done other things that I am proud of. It is true that I was enticed towards each of these. In fact the thoughts to do them did not necessarily originate in me, on the one hand being inspired by Satan and on the other inspired by God. Thus one can say that those beings are the authors of my choices, but they are still my choices. I take full ownership of them. Neither God or Satan has ever wrested control from me. I have only ever done what I have done.