The Cunning Plan of the Evil One

There are two competing schools of philosophy in LDS thinking, about how strict the requirements for exaltation actually are.

One viewpoint is that most everyone, after this life, gets a second chance, even many chances, to repent and accept the Gospel, and then they have 1000 years during the millennium to sort it all out, repent and finally qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. This is probably reinforced by the whole concept of vicarious ordinances, and the hope that loved ones of past generations “make it”. The resulting “feeling” is that there’s no hurry, and God will keep working with us until we make it. It creates a mushy understanding of the cost of discipleship and the price of Eternal Life, which is not supported by any scripture I am aware of.

The other viewpoint is the theme of “Enter ye in at the straight gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because straight is the Gate and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) also (Luke 13:24-29)

Our goal then, is to find the “Straight Gate” – the one which few people find – one which even ½ of the 10 virgins failed to find.

The Book of Mormon labels people who profess righteousness, but have not learned to hear the voice of Christ,  “Workers of Iniquity”.

37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!

38 Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.

39 And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil. (Alma 5:37-39)

We Un-Blogged recently about the fulfillment of the parable of the 10 virgins would be in the latter days (our times) and that “those who have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived . . . shall abide the day [of my coming.]” (D&C 45:56-57)

It appears that one of the great “deceptions” of the latter days is the thinking that there is no real “straight gate” requirement, that there are multiple chances to “accept the gospel” and repent, and that half-hearted discipleship in this life can all be remedied in the next.

I do believe in vicarious ordinances and in salvation for those who have not had the chance to embrace the gospel in this life, and to pay the price of exaltation while in mortality. Salvation for such through vicarious ordinances and post-mortal repentance are glorious, saving and exciting truths. I also believe that people who are pressing forward in this life, and die while “enduring to the end” will have the opportunity to continue their journey to its full glory in the next life.

But, the scriptures say of those who have the full gospel, and the full opportunity in mortality, but who do not hearken to the Holy Spirit and exercise their agency to repent in this life:

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, 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; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. (Alma 34:32-35)

It may be shocking to label someone “wicked” who dies without learning to rely upon and obey the “Spirit of the Lord” until it has withdrawn from him – and even more shocking to consider that the devil will thereafter have “all power over you”. But, these are the words and teaching of the scriptures.

I have never been a teacher who holds forth damnation and hell as a motivation to repent. I am hoping to promote an understanding, and speak against a possible deception, if you will, in our thinking; one which has the potential to bite our spiritual heads off – whether we understand it or not.

The privileges and powers of these latter days are laid in a divine banquet before us. We have a fullness of every blessing available to us. We literally swim in the living waters of truth. For us, for someone so blessed, we do not have the option of lukewarm discipleship in this day, hoping for a “second chance” in the next life.

Not only do the scriptures not teach such a deceptive, and demotivating doctrine, but warn us against it as being the “Cunning Plan of the Evil One”.

26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.

27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!

28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel [promptings] of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9:26-28)

Brother John

© October 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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33 Responses to The Cunning Plan of the Evil One

  1. Brent says:

    I am still reading through your blog. I really enjoyed this. This topic had been on my mind for a few months reading FTL and this blog. You addressed all of the citations I had swirilling about in my head, and brought them into a cohesive explanation. Thanks for being another answer to my pondering and prayer.


  2. Robyn says:

    Thanks Steve for suggesting Stephen Robinson’s book. That was very king of you. I’m going to order it for my right now.


  3. James says:

    When engineers perform failure analysis, the most challenging failures to design for aren’t the too much, to little, there when you don’t want it, or not there when you do want it kind of failures, they are erroneous functions that occur while everything appears to be ok. Those can easily be missed until severe consequences.

    Entering the presence of the Lord in the way we are taught in the temple is often thought to happen after mortal death. However, it does not limit the timeframe to a post-death occurrence. By mentally sweeping the possibility under the post-death carpet, we may deceive ourselves by justifying setting our sights much lower during our mortal lives. Read pray go to church. Stay out of big trouble. Do good deeds. After I die I’ll get on the bandwagon and beat a path to the veil. However, if I had no mind to seek the Lord’s presence in this life, why would I expect that to change after I die?
    Alma 34:
    For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors…. I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end…. for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.



  4. Robyn says:

    I love the artical and comments but I am a little troubled. Both my parents were good active members. My mother was truly born of the spirit and had many spiritual experiences. She or my father never got to the point of having her calling and election made sure before they died. Does this mean we children are not sealed to them? All but one of us is very active in the church and gosple partly because most of us were sent a problem child or two that caused us to pray and study more to recive devine help.

    I have one sister who has two children who have ADHD. Both are not active in the church and stuggle in life making bad choices. My sister spent many hours in prayer and fasting for them. One day after much prayer she went to the temple. While in the terrestial room she saw her children in vision as Gods. She also saw herself and her husband that way also. She was so overwhelmed that she ask God to take the vision away. There is so much we still don’t know. This did give her comfort and after this experience she was made Relief Society President. I feel accountable but I see those in the family who painfully go through life with Social Anxiety Disorder, Depression, ADHD and other mental disorders. I think where much is given much is expected. I feel I was given a great challenge with two of my childen who keeps me on my knees in prayer. I believe they were given the challenges because they chose them. Both childen are giving and kind and are trying to be active in the Gosple
    but struggle daily. I can still hope that some on the other will be given a chance
    when they are whole.


    • John Pontius says:


      We can’t judge our parents, or anyone else. We just have to trust the Savior to work all of these things out. Our part is to have faith, to be obedient, and to be “enduring to the end” when our lives end. It sounds to me like that is what your parents did.



      • Steve says:

        In Stephen E. Robinson’s “Following Christ,” he discusses what he calls the parable of the diver and discussed “degree of difficulty” as it relates to our mortal probation. I think that would be helpful in resolving the concern about social, physical, mental, and emotional problems we can face. “Following Christ” can be obtained in paperback for about $7 and at 159 pages it’s an easy read.


  5. Amy Weston says:

    Brother John,
    This is one topic that I have taught in Sunday School that was deffinately not well received. Out of the entire class only 2 people spoke up and agreed wiith me and surprizingly one was a new convert, who unfortunately hasn’t come back to church since then. Even with all the scriptures to back you up, it seems to touch a nerve with some.
    I appreciate your unblog so much. It helps me to know I am not alone. I love that you teach truth no matter what, you are such an example to me, a reflection of how the Savior was, for his teachings for some were also not well received. Thank you my friend.
    Sister Amy


    • John Pontius says:

      I understand Amy. I have learned by experience which principles people will not accept easily. And, it is stunning to me that even when the scriptues plainly teach it, they won’t accept it. You just have to teach by the Spirit (as I’m sure you do) and let the chips fall where they fall.

      I got two scathing comments yesterday about that article. They were the only two I’ve ever received from the Un-Blog. It was interesting. They both seemed to not have even read the article. They read the title and the gist of it, and then fired off an angry defense of “Second Chances”. One guy said he was unsubscribing from the Un-Blog because of it. I imagine Father gets “unsubscribed” all the time.

      Brother John


  6. Melody says:

    Could you please comment on the following quote, as it relates to what you have said in this post?
    “‘The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. . . . Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God’ (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, p. 110).

    “We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them. When parents keep the covenants they have made at the altar of the temple, their children will be forever bound to them” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 94–95; or Ensign, May 1992, 68 ).”

    I’m sure it’s just due to my limited understanding, but the above quote seems to contradict some of what you have said. What you have said resonates with me, but how can righteous parents “save” their wayward children? Any enlightenment would be appreciated. 🙂


    • John Pontius says:

      Dear Melody,

      This is a true principle. I think Elder McConkie clarified it best.

      “When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.” (Teachings, p. 321.) Thus if both parents and children have their calling and election made sure, none so involved shall be lost; all shall come forth to an inheritance of glory and exaltation in the kingdom of God.” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol 3, page ?)

      The key here is that BOTH parents must have their C&E made sure, then the children cannot be lost. God then honors this covenant in any way necessary to call the children back. This principle was the reason Alma could pray with such great power for his son Alma the Younger, and God sent angels, to honor “the faith of thy father”. Alma had this great faith because he had heard the voice of God proclaiming that his Children would be exalted, and could not be lost.



      • SBH says:

        Assuming Lehi and Sariah made their calling and election sure, would that not ensure an exaltation for his rebelious sons as well? My understanding is that Laman and Lemuel would have a tough road back, but the fact that Lehi and Sariah kept their covenants means all their posterity is secure. From what you said above, am I correctly interpreting this to be your view?

        I have believed this concept based on the above quotes, but it is not something I would ever bring up in church. And while I believe this concept, I can’t say with confidence that this is something I am completely sure about. I may be interpreting this incorrectly, and I do not have any special insights from the Spirit on this doctrine. I love the idea though of the opportunity to secure a “second chance” for any wayward posterity, and I hope that this is what is being promised at the veil.


        • John Pontius says:

          Dear SBH,

          When I write an Un-Blog, I’m trying to keep it as small as possible. If I went through every point that could be made, each Un-Blog would be 50 pages long. I actually started to write about Laman and Lemuel, but erased it because it was getting too long. If you will allow me, I will Un-Blog about that in the next couple days.

          I agree with your sense of propriety about these doctrines. They are not easy to reach unless you are standing on a pretty tall ladder. But, when you understand them, they are true, and they are glorious.

          Thanks for the comment,


  7. Jared says:

    Another great article!

    I am often amazed when I see mature members of the church who appear so tepid in their devotion to their covenants. It is as if they think they have already made it, for some reason or other; so why not enjoy life playing golf and watching football instead of building up the kingdom? I can only conclude that if they are reading the Book of Mormon or attending the temple, they are not paying attention. This whole attitude blows my mind. I just don’t get it.

    I believe that part of teaching faith in Jesus Christ and repentance is accomplished by clearly outlining the requirements for exaltation, how to follow the Spirit, and how to become fully consecrated to the Lord.

    It seems like the two most common deficiencies are lack of serious gospel study and prayer. Joseph smith said that faith is mainly a matter of mental discipline. Hence, it takes a lot of mental diligence to 1) learn the principles, laws, covenants, etc…, and 2) Add things up.

    This article is a wonderful example of simply “adding things up.” It is not rocket science; but it does require honest effort.



  8. Donald says:

    kjo5, I was just reading Moroni chapter 7 tonight. It might be helpful for you. I highly recommend it.


  9. mjo5 says:

    I was reading today the entry in the Bible Dictionary on the Devil. I had to pause when i came to this part:

    “Latter-day revelation confirms the biblical teaching that the devil is a reality and that he does strive to lead men and women from the work of God. One of the major techniques of the devil is to cause human beings to think they are following God’s ways, when in reality they are deceived by the devil to follow other paths.”

    I thought, “if this is true…how many of us think we are following God, when in fact it is the Devil, and how do we get confused when we are told ‘the devil persuadeth no man to do good, no not one” (Mor. 7:17) How do we suppose to call it of God? It also says this:

    ” He can cite scripture to make his point seem plausible ”

    Is that where we get off? How do I know I’m not being deceived when he can

    ” transform himself nigh unto an angel of light”?

    If I am committed to obedience 100% and I get a prompting and I think it is from God and it’s not…I’m committed to doing it. The fact that it might go against my own reason or even prior God’s laws doesn’t help since Nephi slaying Laban and Abraham being willing to Kill Isaac teach me those kind of promptings can be from God.

    How do I know I’m not one of the 5 foolish virgins?


    • John Pontius says:

      Dear mjo5,

      These are very good questions you ask. A good place to start might be my book “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”. The thesis of the book is to answer the very questions you ask.

      I have written about these things in many Un-Blogs, but if you’ve recently joined us, that would be kind of daunting to find them out of 350 posts.

      So, tomorrow, I’ll Un-Blog a little more on this subject, and ask the Un-Blog readers to give their opinion on your questions. Adding their collective lives together, there is probably more than a thousand years of experience learning to hear the voice of the Spirit, and distinguish truth from error.

      Thanks for the question,

      John Pontius


      • Steve says:

        I think the difference, or one of the differences, between Abraham or Nephi and most of us is that they knew the Voice of the Spirit without question. The key is getting to that point when you have learned the difference. I like what we are taught in the book of Moses: Satan came to Moses claiming to be the Only Begotten. Moses, having experienced the Glory of God knew Satan had no such glory and was not fooled. Similarly, the difference between the Voice of the spirit and demonic voices is absolutely distinguishable. I think the key here is to continually treasure up the words of life–what we read in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets–this will help us to “educate our consciences,” as Covey puts it, so that we can recognize the differences without fail.


  10. K-Jo says:

    I am so grateful that it is not up to me to judge what is meant by a second chance. In my mind’s eye I can see many who are born into the church yet for some reason in life they have been wounded at tender ages and have turned away from the church. Until their wounds are healed they will not be able to see clearly or have the desire to participate in the organization the Lord has established in these latter days. I do not remember which apostle said in a talk many years ago (although I see his face in my mind)…that every person would have a “sensitive” chance to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is meant by sensitive, I do not know. I do know that the Lord in His perfection is able to see into the deepest crevices of the heart and know the desires that are there. As for myself, I have no excuse. Although I don’t understand all things, I know enough of what is required of me to be held accountable if I do not become everything I promised to become before I came to this earth. As for anyone else, I cannot say.


    • John Pontius says:

      Well said – very well said. We can only judge ourselves, and that not very well. We just keep going forward, doing everything we can – and because of the grace of Christ, we will make it. He does not require us to be perfect in order to succeed – only obedient. Perfection is something that lies far beyond this life.



  11. Pearl says:

    Wonderful post. This train of thought is so insidious… and unfortunately so prevalent among the Saints.

    I did not read the comments, so I’m sorry if I repeat something already said…

    There is so much grey area to this thinking, isn’t there? “But Uncle Bob had a terrible Bishop as a youth – he can’t be held accountable for leaving the Church!” …or… “Sam just turned away the missionaries who were sort of lerpy individuals anyway – that can’t ‘count’ as having a chance!” … or… “If Grandma would’ve have a different husband, she’d have had a much different life and probably stayed in the Church – the Lord can’t count that against her!”

    There are so many excuses… how do we know if someone “had a fair chance” after all?

    Again, great post. Anything by which we are susceptible of deception are my favorite topics lately. 🙂


    • John Pontius says:

      Thanks Pearl. I loved K-Jo’s comment in this regard. We simply must not judge. Every scenario you proposed and a million more, are probably going to be valid reasons for the Grace of Christ to engage.

      In the meantime, we keep pressing forward.



  12. ken h says:

    This is so beautifully stated. I have found for me that the “still small voice” of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ are best heard when the distractions of Babylon are removed. I have found that meditation upon the words of Christ have helped me immensely. When all is quiet and serene then I can best feel and hear the promptings of the Spirit. I think of how peaceful and reverent the Temple is. I usually have soft, gentle spiritual music playing over my surround sound system during the day and at night so that I fall asleep unto the Lord and awake unto the Lord. It sets the tone for my day and I sleep better than I ever have before. These things have helped me to hear, feel and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I hope that these things that you mention John can be said from the pulpit in every ward. I hear discussions that you have presented about working out the problems half hearted discipleship in the next life.


  13. Bruce says:

    Brother John, you are way off here.

    (Remainder of Comment Deleted)


    • John Pontius says:


      I don’t publish angry comments, comments that are sarcastic, derogatory, rambling, doctrinally unsound, or from people who are clearly antagonistic to basic doctrine of the Church. I commend you to your own journey, and whatever you choose to believe.

      If the Un-Blog upsets you, just don’t read it.


      Liked by 1 person

  14. Jason says:

    In Bruce R. McConkie’s timeless BYU devotional The 7 Deadly Heresies he labels the misconception of getting a second chance in the next life heresy number 5 among church members. Here is just a small quote from his talk.

    “There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

    For those who do not have an opportunity to believe and obey the holy word in this life, the first chance to gain salvation will come in the spirit world. If those who hear the word for the first time in the realms ahead are the kind of people who would have accepted the gospel here, had the opportunity been afforded them, they will accept it there. Salvation for the dead is for those whose first chance to gain salvation is in the spirit world.”

    Today is the day to repent.



  15. Genevieve says:

    Dear John,

    We do agree with that. The reality of these 2 competing schools of philosophy in LDS thinking is sadly true. We are witnesses of it.

    Thank you for having so clearly explained that. That strenghtens us. We feel less lonely when we read your articles and your books. It is so good to find brothers and sisters who share the same beliefs than we do, who have the same goal : Sion.

    Thank you.
    God bless you

    Genevieve and William


  16. TDG says:

    Bruce R. McConkie wrote concerning the definition of Lukewarm]: Good, upright, decent members of the Church who nonetheless do not put first in their lives the things of God’s … kingdom. They have testimonies; they know the work is true; but they specialize, as it were, in the social gospel; that is, in that portion of the truth which seems to bless others on pretty much the same basis as people are bettered by any good concepts in any church. Their interests are largely centered in temporal things, in making a living, in the things of this world. They are not wicked and ungodly in the sense of being carnal and evil. … They seek the honors of men and the wealth of the world with more zeal than they do the honors of God and the riches of eternity. They are lukewarm and their souls will not be saved. “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.”

    In a recent regional conference Elder David A. Bednar told us that testimony will not be enough. He said that we would need to experience the “Mighty change of heart”, or be as the people of Ammon who once they had been “converted unto the Lord” they never did fall away.

    It was wonderful to hear an apostle (Elder Bednar) talking on the need for the rebirth. I think that it would have been even more helpful for him to have expounded on the only way of ascending to that spiritual level and beyond and that is (as you have taught since your first book “Following the Light of Christ”) by being as the wise virgins and “taking the Holy Spirit for a guide”. D&C 45:56


  17. Another Testimony says:

    Thanks John! We should surely understand that us LDS in the last days have no excuse for not “going thru the full process” of receiving the promise of eternal life and the fullness of the Holy Priesthood. We have been given so much on these things… but in our apathy and feeling that all is well or that we need no more… has gotten the best of us. Herein lies our need far and wide for our repentance as a whole, to comeout from the condemnation we have laid under for so long! To be made partakers of that greater power which is needed to build up Zion! I love this amazing gospel!


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