EFM.jpgThe fourth installment in a continuing series in which the author probes the hidden treasures of wisdom in that bastion of seminary education, Especially for Mormons. The previous three issues can be found here: 1, 2, 3. Today’s text: “Discerning Between the Spirit and Satan.”

Doctrinal Commentary on Especially for Mormons is pleased to present this special Halloween guest commentary by Omni J. Edwards, a seminary teacher in Malad, Idaho. His insightful analysis of “Discerning Between the Sprit and Satan” allows us a rare glimpse into the spiritually nourishing instruction that he provides the youth of the church every single day.

Discerning Between the Spirit and Satan

1. When you have the [S]pirit:

2. You feel happy and calm.

3. You feel full of light.

4. Your mind is clear.

5. Your bosom burns.

6. You feel generous.

7. Nobody could offend you.

8. You feel confident in everything you do.

9. You wouldn’t mind everybody seeing what you are doing.

10. You feel out-going [sic], anxious to be with people.

11. You are glad when others succeed.

12. You want to make others happy; you bring out the best in and say the best of others.

13. You gladly and willingly perform church ordinances.

14. You’d like to be in the temple for a while everyday.

15. You feel you can magnify your church calling.

16. You feel like praying.

17. You wish you could keep all the Lord’s commandments.

18. You feel you have control of your appetites and emotions: food and sleep in moderation, sexual restraint, diversion that is wholesome and moderate, calm and controlled speech, no anger, etc.

19. You’re generally just glad to be alive.

20. ¶ When you don’t have the Spirit, or Satan is prompting you:

21. You feel unhappy, depressed, confused, frustrated.

22. You feel heavy, full of darkness.

23. Your mind is muddled.

24. You feel empty, hollow, cold inside.

25. You feel selfish, possessive, self-centered.

26. Everything anyone does bothers you.

27. You are always on the defensive.

28. You easily become discouraged.

29. You become secretive, sneaky, evasive.

30. You want to be alone.

31. You avoid other people, especially members of your family.

32. You are envious of what others do and of what they have.

33. You are critical of others, especially of family members, and of authority.

34. You feel hesitant, unworthy to perform church ordinances.

35. You don’t want to go to the temple.

36. You wish you had another church job, or no job at all.

37. You don’t want to pray.

38. You find the commandments bothersome, restricting, or senseless.

39. You become a slave to your appetites; your emotions become passionate: over-indulgence [sic] in food, sleep, sex, stimulating entertainment, anger, out-spokeness [sic], etc.

40. You wonder if life is really worth it.

– Stan Miller et al, The Best of Especially for Mormons, p. 61

As the binary opposition of the title suggests, there are only two possible states of Spirit-having: 1) Having the Spirit, and 2) Not having the Spirit — that is, being under the influence of Satan.

These two states can be thought of as two adjacent fields, one entirely filled with light and one completely dark. Those who have the Spirit inhabit the former, those under the influence of Satan, the latter.


Church precedent governs one’s placement in these two fields by the following parameters:

  • In order to “have the Spirit,” all the necessary conditions set forth in the first list must be rigorously kept.

  • Merely a “drop” of the opposing set of conditions places you under the influence of Satan. For those in this state, Satan stands ready to fall upon them and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him.

Think of it like this delicious cake I brought along with me. No one wants to eat it when they discover that it contains this piece of dog feces (I didn’t use “Devil’s Food” for nothing). Similarly, the Spirit does not dwell in unholy temples. That feeling of nausea you have right now, like you’re going to vomit? That’s how the Spirit feels about you when you feel “cold” (v. 24) — just one item from the second list is like dog feces baked into your soul. It makes you at once impure and impervious to the Spirit.

Poo Cake

Or think of it as a cliff: One selfish inclination (v. 25) pushes you over the edge, plunging you into darkness. In order to climb back to the Lord’s side, every single handhold and foothold must be meticulously navigated in exact sequence — one misstep and back down the murky precipice you go.


However, be careful not to take the cliff analogy too far, thinking that, by staying as far away from the edge as possible, you can avoid falling. It is worth pointing out that one’s proximity to the line / cliff is irrelevant:

  • In an absolute binary model, there is no gradient and, therefore, no spiritual distinction between walking directly alongside the line and seeking to stay away from it. You remain entirely surrounded by either light or darkness.

  • Furthermore, if you are on the light side, no matter how much space you put between yourself and the line, you are always only one “confused” (v. 21) thought away from bridging the distance to the other side.

Because the Lord cannot look upon sin with the “least degree of allowance,” all amounts of impurity are uniform. Any item from verses 21-40 sullies your soul and surrounds you with darkness just as much as any other. Therefore, R-rated movies, sex (v. 39), a “muddled” mind (v. 23), depression (v. 21), and even the very feeling of unworthiness (v. 34) are functionally equivalent.

Know that priesthood leaders, since they always act under the influence of the Spirit, are always on the “light” side of the line. If you hope to serve a mission, be married in the temple, or even just partake of the sacrament worthily each week (and thus avoid eating and drinking damnation to your soul), you must also have the Sprit with you at all times. This is your guide to doing that. Anyone or anything that tells you otherwise is under the influence of Satan.