In these verses, Mormon chronicles the Nephites’ descent from great order to great lawlessness from the 27thyear to the 30th year after the sign is given of Christ’s birth. It starts with pride, persecution, and inequality. Then we get this:

15 Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.
16 And thus Satan did lead away the hearts of the people to do all manner of iniquity; therefore they had enjoyed peace but a few years.
17 And thus, in the commencement of the thirtieth year—the people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should—and thus in the commencement of this, the thirtieth year, they were in a state of awful wickedness. (3 Nephi 6:15-17)

I notice there are three statements about what Satan does and how the people respond.

Satan stirred people up. It’s a very interesting image there of a pot of liquid that is stirred. It is as though people would be calm and content if left alone, but then Satan stirs them up to do iniquity, trying to convince them they are not happy as they are, that the need power, authority, riches, and vain things of the world.

Satan did lead away the hearts of the people. This idea of leading away hearts is another interesting image. It tells us that Satan managed to engage people’s affections and desires in the iniquity they were doing. That’s very troubling because emotions are very powerful. When one want to do iniquity and don’t want to do good, then doing good starts to feel very unpleasant, like one fights with oneself to do it, and it isn’t very enjoyable.

The people were delivered up…to be carried about by the temptations of the devil. This image of delivering people (like a package) and being carried about, almost like a baby, is pretty sickening. It makes it sound like the people have no choice in the matter, like something madethem sin. But the reality is that they simply gave up the fight. They gave up fighting temptation and decided to do whatever they wanted, even though it broke the commandments. The reality was, it was actually what Satan wanted, so they essentially yielded their agency.

Now, sad as it is to read about this, I think it gives us some important warnings for our own lives. It tells us to be alert to notice when we are being stirred up or when our hearts are being led away toward evil or when it seems like we’re just being carried about without our choice. Half the battle is realizing we are in the predicament, discerning the devil’s machinations in our lives.

I’ve recently felt like I’m being stirred up with agitation, frustration, desperation, and anxiety. My head knows that I’m in a place where I’m being asked to grow in a number of different directions at once, that I have to exercise patience, that I have to buckle down and get to work. I’m in a place of stretching, but all the same, it is very difficult because of the strong emotions that are pulling me back and forth, this way and that. It makes it hard to concentrate.
The only way to make it through is to yield my heart to God, to resolve to do His will, no matter what my lying feelings shriek at me. I must trust that each day my righteous efforts will bring me closer to Him.

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