Chapter 7: The Words of Satan
Moses received an interactive vision, the knowledge of which was withheld from humankind until it was restored to Joseph Smith, June 1830–February 1831. Why was it withheld? The Lord explained: “because of wickedness it was not had among the children of men” (Moses 1:23). The Lord protected the contents of the vision from centuries of unauthorized additions and deletions to come forth as part of “the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Because Joseph Smith obeyed the Lord’s commandment to emend the Bible, critical information about ultimate good and ultimate evil is available today. It is easily accessible—Pearl of Great Price, first book, first chapter. It is a quick read. If you read at the average rate of 200 words per minute, you can read the 1,472 words of Moses’s vision in just 7.36 minutes.
In my opinion, the first chapter of Moses is elite for many reasons but especially because it restores a correct understanding of God. The vivid drama presented in actual conversations between God and Moses and Moses and Satan read like a transcript and contrast divine purpose and intent with Satan’s attempted coup.
The chapter begins boldly with the fact that Moses received this information directly from God: “The words of God, which he spake unto Moses” (Moses 1:1). After identifying Himself, God declares who He is and His relationship to Moses: “I am the Lord God Almighty and . . . thou art my son” (verses 3–4). The where and when of the interactions are then explained: When: “At a time when Moses was caught up,” where: “into an exceedingly high mountain” (verse 1). Next, God explains the technical issues of how a God and human conversation take place. “The glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence” (verse 2). These first introductory verses end by God stating the reason for direct communication with Moses: “I have a work for thee, Moses, my son” (verse 6). Moses received his calling to be prophet personally and literally as articulated in the fifth article of faith: “We believe a man must be called of God.”
The vision unfolds: “As the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore. And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof” (Moses 1:27–29).
Moses saw the world from creation to the “ends thereof,” and he saw all the people who had or would live on the earth—“all the children of men which are (or) were created,” which means that every one of us was in Moses’s vision.
When the vision closed, Moses was left to himself. He fell down. Hours passed.
Finally, as he recovered some of his natural strength, the awe of the vision overwhelmed him with a startling realization: “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). Moses verbalized the difference between his spiritual and his natural eyes and knew that if he had not been “transfigured,” he would have “withered and died in [God’s] presence” (Moses 1:11). Joseph Smith verified this: “For without this [God’s power] no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C 84:22). Moses’s awareness was vital and timely because in his compromised condition, he was going to receive another visitor.
Enter Satan. The first words from Lucifer’s mouth are a bold attempt to reverse what Moses’s face-to-face communication with God had accomplished. “Moses, son of man, worship me” (Moses 1:12). God had just told Moses he was a son of God, then Satan counters by addressing him as “son of man.” But Moses knew the difference between light and darkness and challenged his adversary: “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. For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?” (Moses 1:13–14). Moses realized he may be nothing compared to God but as a son of God he had power over Satan.
This thought caused Moses to rejoice and gave him courage to dismiss Satan: “Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve. . . . I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan” (Moses 1:15, 18).
Satan ranted, “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” (Moses 1:19–20).
Satan did not depart. Instead, a terrifying scene followed, as Satan trembled, the earth shook. Although Moses feared greatly, he called upon God, which is reminiscent of Joseph Smith’s experience in the grove: “I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction” (Joseph Smith—History 1:15). And like Moses, Joseph called upon God: “I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy” (airmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith%27s_First_Vision/Accounts/1832/Motivation_is_different).
Moses prayed: “In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan” (Moses 1:21). Finally, with these words sanctioned under divine authority, “Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not” (verse 22). Moses recognized Satan’s vulnerability—his tactics of crying, weeping, wailing, gnashing his teeth, and instilling fear—and acted definitively, commanding, “Get thee hence.” With Satan gone, Moses lifted up his eyes to heaven, was filled with the Holy Ghost, called upon God in prayer, received gifts and promises, and again experienced His glory (verses 24–25).
Moses had survived the test and his courage was rewarded. God promised: “Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God. And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen” (verses 25–26).
Words of Satan
Most often in scripture, Satan’s influence transpires in camouflage, behind the scenes. He does not say or do the evil but puts ideas into a person’s mind and the person commits the evil act. There are at least four notable exceptions where Satan does his own work—with Moses, Jesus, Joseph Smith, and Cain. To Cain he said: "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” (Moses 5:29). (It is shocking to me that Satan asks Cain to covenant with him “by the living God,” which seems an admission that he knows God is real and has ultimate power and authority.) And “all these things were done in secret” (Moses 5:30).
Another example of Satan’s use of words comes in reading the first 38 words listed below in which Satan refers to himself nine times, using the pronouns I and me. He also blasphemes, as we saw above, by claiming to be the Only Begotten. Here are some of his egotistical phrases (italics added in all of the following): “Moses, son of man, worship me” (Moses 1:12); “I am the Only Begotten, worship me” (Moses 1:19); “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). This word pattern is the same as in Isaiah 14:13–14: “For thou [ Lucifer] hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
Satan does not have a unique or varied vocabulary. In the hundred words that Satan speaks in first person, only one is unique to the Pearl of Great Price—sware, which is merely an archaic past tense of swear.
The Pearl of Great Price reveals Satan for who he is as well as exposing some of his tactics and emotions:
· He uses the threat of death to control.
· He demands secrecy.
· He commands without authority.
· He causes fear that can be accompanied by a vision into the bitterness of hell.
· He trembles and the earth shakes.
· He cries with a loud voice, weeps, wails, and gnashes his teeth (Moses 1:22).
· He lies, claiming to be the Only Begotten. (One of his specific lies, to "redeem all mankind" is suspiciously self-serving. The Father's plan already saves every soul by resurrection and by the fact that every soul but the sons of perdition will inherit a kingdom of glory. Could it be that Satan's suggested addendum to the Father's plan was to find a way to provide a kingdom of glory for those few who qualify as sons of perdition?)
· He covets in audacious pretense, coveting God's honor. (In Doctrine and Covenants 29:36 we learn that God's honor is His power. " And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency.”
· “Satan . . . sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3).
Moses’s example is important for us today. As we discern the difference between God and Satan, we must defend ourselves and dismiss him: “Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory” (Moses 1:20). And it may take four times.
(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017
(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017