A while ago I decided to seek out common temple phrases and words in the scriptures. The first word I studied was “sealing.” I thought I knew what I would find, but it seemed like a good place to start since I knew for certain that it was discussed in scripture. To my surprise, I quickly came across Alma 34:35,
“If ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his.”
I was a little shocked by this. Satan has power to bind us to him after death? And then I found a more familiar scripture, spoken by Jesus, Matthew 16:19,
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”
And that brought to mind another scripture about binding, D&C 82:10,
“I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
As I pondered these scriptures, I saw them in my mind in a very visual way. On one hand I saw mankind bound to Satan, and then on the other hand I saw mankind bound to Christ. And there was a major difference between the two bindings. In the first, Satan had control, but when it came to Christ, mankind was in control, as if mankind were binding the Lord.
This solidified in my mind something about the nature of God and His role upon the earth: Heavenly Father doesn’t step into our lives and tidy up our messes, or build walls around dangerous ideas to keep us from making bad decisions. Instead, He encourages us to use our own brains and make our own choices. And then, if we are willing, he lends us His own power to tidy things up. He gives us claim upon Him. We are in control. He empowers us. Remember Matthew 16:19? “I will give unto thee the keys.” God has gone to great lengths to put the keys in our hands and make sure we are clean enough to use them. He went so far as to sacrifice His own son.
“for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.” (2 Nephi 9:5)
Satan, however, does not submit or sacrifice for anybody. He is a taker, not a giver. Given the chance he will take our very souls. He wants to be the one with power, and when we put ourselves in his path he does his best to convince us that he is the man in charge. The scriptures have something to say about this. How do we escape those moments of our lives when we find ourselves within Satan’s power? Isaiah 52:2 directs:
“Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”
Isn’t it interesting how easy this advice seems. “Shake thyself… arise… loose thyself,” as if all that is required is to force our way out of sleep. And once again we see the pattern: the power lies within us. Just as we must take the reins in order to steer ourselves toward salvation, we must take action in order to steer ourselves out of the grasp of Satan.
It’s easy to fall into a trap, believing that “God loves me, and therefore wants to keep me safe and happy.” The problem is that God’s purpose in sending us here to earth is not to keep us safe. When a coach takes his team to spring training, his goal is NOT to make it as pleasant and enjoyable as he can. His goal is to stretch his players and make them capable of the intense tasks he knows they will face. Similarly, God sent us here to train us. He is conditioning us to take on God-level tasks, and to be equal to such tasks. He is looking for smart, driven, and hard-working individuals. And where He sees weakness in us, He works to set us straight. It may not always be a fun time, but when we follow him, we see results.
Satan, on the other hand, is seeking slaves. He doesn’t encourage thinking… or really action of any kind unless driven by himself to his own miserable ends. Men stagnate and erode in his service. Comfort and pleasure is encouraged, especially if it distracts from real improvement, and eventually men find themselves running from one pleasure to another in complete dissatisfaction. When we are in his power we achieve nothing significant. We are stagnant. You might even say we are damned.
It can be wonderful to recognize the power God places in our own hands. How marvelous that He puts us in the driver’s seat instead of dragging us along behind him. However, we have nobody to blame for eternal failure but ourselves, and that is a frightening realization. How often do we wait around for the Lord to come along and make things happen, when in reality the power resides within ourselves and He is waiting for us? In the words of Elder Jeffrey Holland,
“When the light dawns and it finally comes to you that this gospel really is true and the work matters and that God is not going to come down and do it Himself, we will realize that we are the only hands he has got, and that we are the only feet he has got. When somebody knocks on those doors it is with our knuckles… Moroni and Mormon and Alma and Joseph Smith are not going to come down and go in that door and do that teaching. It is you and it is me. It is just people who get up, like we get up every morning and do the work of the Lord the way those men and their wives did it in their era, and in their day and in their age, and in their time, but now it is our time. When we come to know this, then we will get on with the work.”
Now back to my study of the word, “bound.” I recently added one more scripture to my anthology on the subject, from Doctrine and Covenants 45:55. This is a revelation directly from the mouth of the Savior, speaking about the new millennium following His second coming. It states, “And Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men.” May we take the power that we have been given and leave no place in our hearts for evil and despair.