The Quiet, Creepy Whisper?

January 24, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 10:36 am   Category: Theology

My Friend and neighbor, Bruce, is a tremendous gospel teacher and student. I seek his counsel on all sorts of gospel topics and he generally has just the answers I am looking for. But on some things we just don’t see eye to eye. One of those things is on what Satan can or can’t do in this world.

Bruce quotes gobs of scriptures that say basically “sin is conceived in the heart of man” and how the “flesh” and our fallen nature are the source of all sin. Satan is not really actively involved at all in Bruce’s teachings. It is the sin and temptations of the flesh that cause all sinful choices in this world. More specifically, Bruce insists that Satan has no power to place thoughts or ideas in our minds. In other words, he believes Satan cannot convey any external intelligence to us.

I conceded to Bruce that many sins are conceived in men’s hearts without promptings from the devil – just as many good deeds are from “our own free will and choice”. However I do believe Satan has his own version of the Spirit’s “still, small voice”. I think Satan uses his little wicked whispers to give us ideas that are in exact opposition to those that God would want us to choose.

I taught the Gospel Doctrine lesson that covers D&C 10 this week at church and feel like I found my strongest argument for this idea. The Lord makes it abundantly clear that the idea to steal and utilize the 116 lost manuscript pages was Satan’s plan that he somehow put into the minds and hearts of those wicked men. That sounds like a pretty good case for external specific intelligence being conveyed to me. Bruce has yet to counter it (though it has only been one day so far.)

The idea I have is that as part of the opposition in all things that God allows on the earth, He allows Satan to use counterfeit versions of his own communication methods. It is as if there are two spiritual radio stations out there and we choose which to tune into by our righteous or wicked decisions.

What do you think? Is Bruce right or am I on to something?


  1. I think that there is no question that the Adversary has power. His manifestations to Moses (Mos) and Joseph Smith (JSH) are examples of it. But I think we need to be very careful in what we ascribe to him. There is no ?dark side? of the force. If we take the lectures on faith approach, God?s power comes from his perfection and righteousness. The Adversary has power from knowledge alone.

    As to whether or not he can communicate to mortals, there are a lot of references to it in the narratives of the scriptures. That doesn?t necessitate that it be literal; however Joseph Smith seems to have believed that he could:

    Manuscript History of the Church“?if Satan could not speak in tongues, he could not tempt a Dutchman, or any other nation, but the English, for he can tempt the Englishman, for he has tempted me, and I am an Englishman;” (Ehat & Cook pg. 81) 

    Posted by J. Stapley

    Comment by Anonymous — January 24, 2005 @ 8:09 pm

  2. Nice reference J! I’ll use that with Bruce.

    The real question between us boiled down to whether Satan was given any power to “prompt” people or not. It is clear that Satan is not a true rival to God. But does Satan’s knowledge and “priesthoods” give him enough power to literally whisper ideas to our minds? This quote you gave is a good indicator that that he literally does whisper in our ears rather than just figuratively doing it.

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — January 24, 2005 @ 9:44 pm

  3. J. it just dawned on me that the argument that could be made against that Joseph Smith quote is that Satan can appear and speak to anyone in their own language, but that doesn’t mean he can “prompt” us or give ideas to our minds… So it may not help in my discussion much after all.

    Bruce claims Satan tempts us with external things rather than in our heads. But how does he do that? If he can’t invite people to think certain things then what does he do? The theory makes it sound like Satan has only been a spectator since appearing personally to a few men in ancient times… (Or maybe he is appearing on occasion to people today?)

    In any case, it make much more sense to me that Satan actually is busy inviting people to think and do evil things — and that necessitates some method of communicating knowledge/feelings/impressions into the minds of humans. They then use their agency to accept and reject such invitations.

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — January 24, 2005 @ 11:40 pm

  4. Didn?t Joseph say that his revelation sending the Knights and others travel to sell the Canadian rights to the Book of Mormon came from Satan?

    That said, we?re definitely not sent here to overcome Satan. We?re sent here to overcome our own weaknesses. We?d still go through mortal probation even if Lucifer hadn?t rebelled. 

    Posted by David King Landrith

    Comment by Anonymous — January 25, 2005 @ 9:47 am

  5. Thanks DKL,

    If Joseph did say that it would be a strong support for my case. I suspect I would research that in The Words of Joseph Smith? (Isn’t that the Ehat and Cook so often sourced?)

    The problem with this topic is that many people seem to think it has to be one way or the other — either all sin is conceived in our own hearts without Satn involved (Bruce’s take) or all sin is generated by Satan (popular folk take). I think there could be some truth to both. Most sin probably is self-generated because of the flesh, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of an occasional “revelation” from ol’ scratch as well does it? 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — January 25, 2005 @ 10:40 am

  6. Think Screwtape.

    Comment by annegb — August 27, 2005 @ 6:51 am

  7. If Christians’ struggle against sin were a struggle against just the flesh and the world, then Ephesians 6:10-20 and the “deliver us from the evil one” line in the Lord’s Prayer would be silly.

    Comment by Jason M. — October 19, 2005 @ 7:30 pm

  8. Thanks Jason. There are lots of proof texts that could be pointed to for the reality of a being that is Satan. I have yet to hear a good explanation of what the devil does if our real enemy here is “the flesh”. But as I understand it, the position may be that there is a real devil but he has little real power over us and that temptations really are a result of the flesh. I think they believe the devil is mostly a symbolic figure head for the opposition to godly behavior.

    I’m still not sure what to think of it all myself.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

  9. From the scripture it is obvious that the adversary has been given the right, by God, to test every believer, and he began by testing Jesus himself, and not just once in the desert, for the scripture says that he left him, “for a while.” Does he have the power to whisper evil things? absolutely. anything to torment you and to make you disbelieve and even deny Christ, just as he made Peter deny Christ. Yet Christ accepted Peter after he rose from the dead, even though Peter denied him to men. So God’s mercy endures forever, and we have only faith and hope in him.

    Comment by believer — February 1, 2007 @ 4:37 pm