EFM.jpgThe first installment in a continuing series in which the author probes the hidden treasures of wisdom in that bastion of seminary education, Especially for Mormons. Today’s text: “The Wedge of Discouragement.”

Abstract – Sobering signs of the impending apocalypse: When Mormon folklore is imported from China and consumer confidence is so low that even the Devil is forced to liquidate his assets, it is time for all faithful Latter-day Saints to stockpile weapons and pool their food storage in secret compounds in Southeastern Idaho.

The Wedge of Discouragement

1. A Chinese legend describes how the Father of Sin decided to have a sale and dispose of all the tools he owned to anyone who would pay his price.

2. The implements were laid out in a row for inspection. Among them were tools labeled: Malice, Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, and Deceit. Every one had a price tag on it. Apart from the others lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, very worn from use, that was priced a great deal higher than any of the rest.

3. One of the buyers asked the Devil what it was. “That,” he said, “is discouragement, and it’s in fine shape.”

4. “But why have you priced it so high?”

5. “Because it’s more useful than any of the others. I can pry open and get inside a man’s conscience with that wedge when I couldn’t get near him with any other. And, believe me, once I get inside, I can use that man to whatever suits me best. Of course, you’ll notice it’s a little worn; that’s because I use it with nearly everybody, for very few of you mortals know that it belongs to me.”

6. However the price was so high that this particular tool was never sold.

7. The Devil still owns it, and is still using it today.

– Stan Miller et al, The Best of Especially for Mormons, pp. 14-15

This seminal text on the nature of the Devil has bred much confusion over the years due to common misinterpretations of the word “wedge.” Traditional readings promote an inordinately vague understanding of the term, incorrectly emphasizing its role as an agent for “prying” or “opening,” a criterion shared by almost any blunt object with a tapered edge.

On closer inspection, the careful reader will note that, in verse five, the tool’s great value is not ascribed to its usefulness in penetrating other objects (though it is clearly capable of this as well), but rather to its capacity for spanning the distance between the Devil and the tempted. Therefore, it functions more specifically like a golf wedge (this also explains its high price), appropriate not only for closing the gap between the tempter and his goal, but also perfectly suited for beating open a conscience should the occasion call for it.

The implication that the Devil routinely transacts business while shooting eighteen holes of golf portrays the Father of Sin as the consummate capitalist, albeit not a very successful one since he has apparently been forced to liquidate his assets (see verse 1). However, consistent with his demonic reputation, this proves to be a clever ruse. As verse five further informs us, a “mortal’s” knowledge that a given tool belongs to the Devil prevents its use, so by selling everything off he distances himself from his tools sufficiently to ensure maximum efficacy all the while cooking the books to lay claim to massive government bailout funds. Furthermore, this compounds the power of his most prized wedge: Anyone seeing the Devil beg for money before Congress is bound to get discouraged, because if the Devil himself cannot amass enough filthy lucre to stay solvent, how can anyone else? Buying up large tracts of land in Southeastern Idaho is probably the safest bet for securing your future.

However, perhaps the most intriguing insight that this particular passage presents is that if the Devil were selling his tools of the trade to anyone, how did the Church not seize this opportunity to buy out its main competitor?