The arch-nemesis of Person-truth

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This entry is part 9 of 17 in the series Who Is Truth?

From the idea view of truth, falsehood shares many of the same attributes as truth, but there are also differences. While falsehood is not universal or unchangeable, it does consist of a series of passive ideas. Like truth, falsehood is a matter of the mind. We develop false ideas when we engage in bad reasoning, or when we draw false conclusions from our observations. We can also invent false ideas in order to deceive others (in contrast, truth cannot be invented, only discovered). However, from the idea view of truth, we are dealing with ideas – whether those ideas are true or false.

If we take the person view of truth seriously, though, we also change our view of falsehood. The great battle in this life is not between truth and falsehood, but Truth and Falsehood. Person-truth has an enemy, the father of lies. Lucifer (known to us as Satan), the devil, personifies falsehood and deception just as surely as God personifies truth. In other words, we might say that there is a person-falsehood as well.

President James E. Faust explained, “As the great deceiver, Lucifer has marvelous powers of deception.”((James E. Faust, “The Great Imitator,” Ensign, November, 1987. ))Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). In the Book of Mormon, Jacob taught that the devil was that “being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness” (2 Nephi 9:9).

From this view, the great question is not, “What is truth?” Instead, the great question is, “Who is truth?” Other questions might be, “Who speaks for truth?” or “Is this a message from truth, or His enemy?” Our great task is not to sort between true and false ideas, but to learn to discern the voice of Truth and the disguises His enemy. In different words, the question is not what to believe, but who to follow. Alma taught:

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ … And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold …

For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him. (Alma 5:38-41)

In these verses, the great choice is not between two different sets of doctrines or beliefs, but between two different masters.

The opposite of person-truth is also active

From the person view of truth, truth is active in the world (as opposed to an abstract idea awaiting discovery). But so is the father of lies. He is actively trying to deceive us, and lead us away from the Truth made Flesh. For example, Adam and Eve did not fall prey to errors of reason or mistaken observations—they were actively deceived by the devil. While the person view of makes truth more personal and real, it can also make its opposite more dangerous. False ideas cannot come looking for us, or actively keep us prisoner. But Falsehood can.

Those who lead people away from Christ are not always merely mistaken in their beliefs. Korihor, known by readers of the Book of Mormon as an anti-Christ, described his own experiences:

But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth. (Alma 30:53)

From Korihor’s experience, we learn that just as Truth can commission messengers, so can His enemy. The father of lies has agents working in the world, sowing seeds of confusion and deception. Bad reasoning or errant observations (falsehood in the world of idea-truth) cannot do this.

From the idea view of truth, there are no false ideas that we cannot think our way out of. We can always revise our ideas based on systematic observation and rational analysis, no matter how wrong they were to start with. But if there really is a person who personifies falsehood and spreads lies, this may not be the case. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi had a dream about our journey to Christ (Truth). He observed “mists of darkness” that made it difficult to see the way. We read, “And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost” (1 Nephi 12:17).

In other words, there may really be intellectual snares and traps that, once sprung, we cannot think our way out of. It is possible, from this view, to be held captive by a lie, or possessed by a false view of the world. Mormon tells us that at one point, “Satan did go about, leading away the hearts of the people,” and that “thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes” (3 Nephi 2:2-3). When this happens, everything we see is filtered through the lie. Even our questions become distorted by the false premises that have captured our minds, which is part of the trap.

From an idea view of truth, the proper treatment for this would be good rational counterarguments. But from a person view of truth, rational arguments may be insufficient. Divine rescue is often needed. This can involve the Holy Spirit, the scriptures, prayer, and even priesthood authority. When Satan visited Moses and attempted to deceive him, Moses could not get him to go away using his own authority or reasoning. He had to invoke the name of Christ, and draw upon His power and authority (see Moses 1:12-22). The word of Christ (the Truth made Flesh) can pierce the deceptions of the adversary and illuminate our minds through His presence. Mormon taught,

[W]hosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out. (Helaman 3:29)

Some members (and former members) criticize Church leaders for discouraging members from reading anti-Mormon or ex-Mormon literature. From their view, those who love truth should never be afraid of competing ideas. False ideas, from this view, cannot hurt us. Nothing requires us to believe what we read, so it cannot ever hurt to be exposed to new ways of looking at the world.

However, if we adopt a person view of truth, we see things differently. It is possible for false ideas to hurt us. It is possible for the adversary to ensnare us with deception, even if our explorations are innocently motivated. This is why President James E. Faust warned, “It is not good practice to become intrigued by Satan and his mysteries. No good can come from getting close to evil. Like playing with fire, it is too easy to get burned.”

The opposite of person-truth uses false covenants

Just as our pilgrimage towards person-truth is grounded in covenants with God, the servants of Falsehood also (sometimes) make covenants with their master (the adversary). It is possible to literally make a deal with the devil. The first recorded example if found in the story of Cain. We read:

And it came to pass that Cain took one of his brothers’ daughters to wife, and they loved Satan more than God.

And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.

And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret. (Moses 5:28-30)

Unlike the Truth made Flesh (Christ), however, the father of lies does not keep his promises. We read, “the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60). But this does not keep people from making pacts with the adversary. In the Book of Mormon, we read about evil men who formed secret combinations. We read, “And they did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness” (3 Nephi 6:28).

Another group “formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God” (Ether 8:18). Moroni explains:

And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites. And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not. (Ether 8:20-22)

In short, Truth’s arch-nemesis is also a master counterfeiter. He mimics Truth and His ways, while striving to deceive us into abandoning our covenants with Truth. He does this in part by mimicking covenants themselves. He will at times invite his chief followers to make similar pacts, but instead of pacts that hold us accountable before God and to serve our fellow man, they will be pacts towards sin and deception.

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