We live in a world that has been turned upside down and inside out, a world where good is considered evil and evil is considered good. We cannot trust our President to be honest with us, and we cannot trust many of our political leaders. They are daily deceiving us with lies, half-truths, and false information; they are slowly destroying our God-given agency and rights.
Moroni, an ancient American prophet, explained that evil – including lies and deceit – comes from Satan and good comes from God. “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of god to be of the devil” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 7:12-14).
A special agent for the FBI investigated organized crime groups transporting illegal drugs into the United States. He and another agent approached an apartment where they believed a known drug dealer was distributing cocaine. He shared the following experience with a friend:
“We knocked on the door of the drug dealer. The suspect opened the door, and upon seeing us, tried to block our view. But it was too late; we could see the cocaine on his table.
“A man and a woman who were at the table immediately began removing the cocaine. We had to prevent them from destroying the evidence, so I quickly pushed the drug suspect who was blocking the door to the side. As I pushed him, my eyes met his. Strangely, he did not appear angry or afraid. He was smiling at me.
“His eyes and disarming smile gave me the impression that he was harmless, so I quickly left him and started to move toward the table. The suspect was now behind me. At that instant, I had the distinct, powerful impression come into my mind: `Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.’
“I immediately turned back toward the suspect. His hand was in his large front pocket. Instinctively I grabbed his hand and pulled it from his pocket. Only then did I see, clutched in his hand, the semiautomatic pistol ready to fire. A flurry of activity followed, and I disarmed the man” (Personal correspondence of Elder Neil L. Andersen, March 7, 2005).
The FBI agent had judged evil to be okay and nearly lost his life. The drug dealer was convicted of murder in another case and boasted that he would have killed this FBI agent had he not turned around at that very moment. The agent said that he had a “distinct, powerful impression” come into his mind, warning him to “beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.” I believe that the agent received this warning from the Holy Ghost.
Moroni continued his instructions with these words: “For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
“But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him” (Moroni 7:15-17).
The war between good and evil started in our pre-earth life, and it continues on earth today. We know of the war in heaven because of the writings of John the Beloved who told us of a “great dragon” who fought against God. The name of this “dragon” was Lucifer (now known as Satan or the devil), a son of the morning, who convinced a third part of all the hosts of heaven to follow him. “And there was war in heaven: Michael [Adam] and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
“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, and his angels were cast out with him [to the earth] (Revelation 12:4-9).
Elder Andersen shared some of his thoughts about being aware of “the evil behind the smiling eyes” and how we can discern between good and evil. “The power of the Savior and the power of the devil are not truly comparable. [See Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:1-22.] On this planet, however, evil has been allowed a position of influence to give us the chance to choose between good and evil. The scripture says: `God gave unto man that he should act for himself. [And] man could not act for himself … [unless] he was enticed by … one or the other” [Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:16].
“The choice between good and evil is at the very heart of our experience on earth. In the final review of our lives, it will not really matter if we were rich or poor, if we were athletic or not, if we had friends or were often forgotten.
“We can work, study, laugh and have fun, dance, sing, and enjoy many different experiences. These are a wonderful part of life, but they are not central to why we are here. The opportunity to choose good over evil is precisely why we are here.”
Lehi, a prophet in ancient America, taught his children, “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
We all want to choose good, but we are often deceived by “smiling eyes.” Moroni said, “Take heed … that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God” (Moroni 7:14).
Jesus Christ told the Nephites, “Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you”
(3 Nephi 18:18).
Early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were told by revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith, “And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:3).
From these scriptures we know that Satan is real and will do everything in his power to deceive us in order to overthrow us. We are to be careful about distinguishing between good and evil, and we must pray always in order to stay out of Satan’s grasp.
Elder Andersen said that we can discern the evil behind something that doesn’t appear evil by listening to the counsel of wise people (parents, older siblings, etc.), the living prophet, and the Holy Ghost and by having our own testimony of the Savior.
“First, talk to your parents…. We fathers … along with your mothers, have a deep interest in your choosing the right.
“Next, follow the prophet. These 15 men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators are given divine power to see what we sometimes do not see….
“Very importantly, let the Holy Ghost be your guide. The Lord has promised us that as we live righteously, the still, small voice will come into our mind and into our heart….
“The gift of the Holy Ghost is a spiritual gift. It is sensitive and will not be associated with unworthiness. You cannot offend or ignore it one day and expect it to strengthen you the next day. But as you heed its promptings and remain righteous, it will grow stronger within you. The Holy Ghost warned my friend of physical danger; the Holy Ghost will also warn you of spiritual danger.
“Finally, gain your own testimony of the Savior. Pray passionately. Read the Book of Mormon when no one is watching. Take time alone to think about who Jesus really is and how His life and sacrifice are important to you.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to a large group of young men and women and gave them counsel about how they could discern between good and evil. He told them to 1) Be grateful: “The habit of saying thank you is the mark of an educated man or woman.”
2) Be smart: “You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.”
3) Be clean: “We live in a world that is filled with filth and sleaze, a world that reeks of evil. It is all around us. It is on the television screen. It is at the movies. It is in the popular literature. It is on the Internet. You can’t afford to watch it, my dear friends. You cannot afford to let that filthy poison touch you. Stay away from it. Avoid it….”
4) Be true: “Be true to your own convictions. You know what is right, and you know what is wrong. You know when you are doing the proper thing. You know when you are giving strength to the right cause. Be loyal. Be faithful. Be true….”
5) Be humble: “There is no place for arrogance in our lives. There is no place for conceit. There is no place for egotism. We have a great work to do. We have things to accomplish.…”
6) Be prayerful. “You cannot do it alone… get on your knees and speak with the Lord. You know that He is the source of all wisdom. You need His help, and you know that you need His help. You cannot do it alone. You will come to realize that and recognize that more and more as the years pass. So live that in good conscience you can speak with the Lord. Get on your knees and thank Him for His goodness to you and express to Him the righteous desires of your hearts. The miracle of it all is that He hears. He responds. He answers – not always as we might wish He would answer, but there is no question in my mind that He answers.”
I know that we will be blessed to see “the evil behind the smiling eyes” as we follow the counsel of wise associates, prophets, apostles, and the Holy Ghost. I know that a testimony of the Savior is valuable in discerning between good and evil.