I’ve always loved a good superhero movie. I’ve noticed they often involve a seemingly normal individual who begins some sort of journey of discovery about who they really are and what they are capable of. In many of these movies, good triumphs over evil and I am often left with what I can only describe as a real kick-butt euphoric feeling by the end. A few weeks ago I saw a superhero movie that I can’t stop thinking about. It takes place during World War I and one of the main characters is a spy for the Allied forces. This guy clearly has a mission and he is determined to see it through, risking everything to find out what the enemy is up to. On his journey, he meets up with a woman who has recently discovered her own mission and together they try to save the world. (Don’t worry–I won’t be spoiling the ending here!)
Normally superhero movies don’t really get me thinking on a deeper level–they are just good fun, right?–but this one most definitely did. In months prior to viewing the movie I had been pondering about my own earthly mission. As I watched the movie I started thinking, not just about my own mission, but about the “enemy” in my own life story. Who is the enemy? I thought. Well, that’s easy, it’s Satan. Then I asked myself, What am I doing to fight the enemy? And then with worry, What has he done to keep ME from MY MISSION? After a lot of study and reflection, I can say without a doubt: We ALL have individual earthly missions AND Satan is actively involved in trying to thwart those missions.
Ezra Taft Benson taught about four tools Satan uses to “overcome the Saints”: DESPAIR, DISCOURAGEMENT, DESPONDENCY, and DEPRESSION. More recently Elder Kevin Pearson described more of Satan’s effective “weapons”, such as DISTRACTION, DECEPTION, and DESENSITIZATION. As I’ve talked with friends and family and thought back on my own experiences I would add DOUBT, DELAY, and DISCORD as some of Satan’s tools. Elder Holland summed up Satan’s motives for using these tools perfectly: “Because he knows he can’t improve, he can’t progress…He is a miserable man bound by eternal limitations, and he wants you to be miserable too. Well, don’t fall for that.”
Unfortunately, I did “fall” for a time and Satan brought discouragement and doubt right into my heart without me even fully realizing it. When I was a sophomore in high school I decided it was the right time to get my patriarchal blessing. It was a wonderful experience and my blessing taught me about my earthly mission as well as some of my gifts and talents. One of my dear friends also had the same gift my blessing told me I could develop. As my friend progressed in her talent, the comparison game began. It started with thoughts like, I’ll never be as good as she is and then, Why do I even try? I felt discouraged for sure. Then other thoughts would come into my mind like, That patriarch must have been wrong. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I let Satan make me doubt my own patriarchal blessing! He is so very sneaky. It’s been almost twenty years (gulp!) since my blessing was given to me and I am just now mustering up the courage to develop the gift I stuffed away for so long. I love what Jean Bingham said at this year’s BYU Women’s Conference. It is the greatest counterattack: “The wonder of [Heavenly Father’s] heavenly economy is that every single one of us can be spectacular because of our unique bundle of talents and abilities. Unlike the world, in His kingdom, there is no winner’s platform that only has room for one or two. Each of His daughters has been taught and prepared and gifted premortally with marvelous potential to become a queen in the celestial kingdom.”
For some of us, maybe doubt and discouragement aren’t the problems in keeping us from our missions. Maybe for some of us, Satan is able to keep us good and distracted from feeling and being led by the Holy Ghost. Do you remember Elder Oaks’ talk about Good, Better, Best? Is Satan keeping us so focused on “good” things that we forget to make time for the “best” things? Or perhaps Satan knows he might not get away with something like tempting us to never pray at all, but he could get away with delaying or procrastinating our prayers til the end of the day when we are already in bed and too tired to make much effort. Maybe he delays us in reading our scriptures, or repenting, or attending the temple, or acting on a spiritual prompting or forgiving someone. Or maybe he does what it says in 3 Nephi 11:29 by stirring “up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another”, attempting to distance us from the spirit by creating discord in our relationships. Whether it’s doubt or discouragement, delay or distraction, the first step in fighting is recognizing when Satan is working on us.
Once we recognize what the enemy’s tactics are in our own lives, how do we lead a counterattack? Ezra Taft Benson suggested twelve ways we can “defeat” the “devil’s designs”: repentance, prayer, service, work, health, reading, blessings, fasting, friends, music, endurance and goals (go read about all of them sometime!). Unlike many superheroes in the movies who can only rely on their own abilities to defeat the enemy, we have Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, fighting right alongside us. Jean Bingham taught, “…Because Jesus Christ was willing to take upon Himself the sins and infirmities—or inadequacies—of each of us, and fulfilled that sacred trust through His infinite Atonement, we can have every confidence that we can become all we were divinely designed to be…So, what ‘extraordinary thing’ will you choose to do?…Whether your ‘work of salvation’ is largely in the home at this time in life or your influence extends to a global scale, or somewhere in between, the Lord is pleased with your efforts when you are focused on serving God’s children and the eternal goal of returning to Him as a ‘new and improved’ version of your spiritual self.” Some of us might have thousands of followers, while others of us might only be followed around by the pitter patter of little feet. Whether our spheres of influence are great or small, we have missions to perform. Whatever these missions look like, and they are different for each of us, they are absolutely worth fighting the enemy for!
Lauren is a photo taking, scrapbook making, kindergarten teacher turned stay at home mom. She grew up in Sandy, Utah and graduated from BYU in Early Childhood Education (where she met her husband, who happens to be her favorite person in the whole world). In her spare moments she enjoys spending time outside, picking up a good book, writing in her journal or feeding her recently acquired addictions to dark chocolate and sushi. This year Lauren is thrilled to begin her journey as a member of the Festival of Trees Executive Board. Finding opportunities to help others (and teaching her kids to do the same) is one of Lauren’s greatest joys.
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