A soldier on his first day of basic training noticed a sign posted prominently in the dining hall, which read, “Complacency kills.” Some time after, he learned the validity of that statement as his unit headed down a road they traveled daily. They were attacked in a spot “where nothing ever happened.” Because the soldiers were not on their guard, the enemy was able to wreak greater devastation.
In a talk in October 2011 general conference, President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (2008-2015), said that today’s youth “are being raised in enemy territory” and facing spiritual warfare.
From the scriptures, he explained, we know “that there was a war in heaven and that Lucifer rebelled and, with his followers, ‘was cast out into the earth,’ (Revelations 12:9). He is determined to disrupt our Heavenly Father’s plan and seeks to control the minds and actions of all. This influence is spiritual, and he ‘is abroad in the land’ ”(Doctrine and Covenants 52:14).
On this battleground of mortality, the enemy, like the example above, seeks to push every advantage. The scriptures teach that those who are “lulled away into carnal security” will say, “All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well.” But through such complacency “the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21).
Regarding life in the last days, President Thomas S. Monson has counseled, “We cannot afford to be complacent. We live in perilous times; the signs are all around us. We are acutely aware of the negative influences in our society that stalk traditional families.
“We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, must stand up to the dangers which surround us and our families” (“Constant Truths for Changing Times,” April 2005 general conference).
The kingdom of God requires valiant discipleship, said Elder Kevin W. Pearson, a General Authority Seventy. “There is no room for average or complacent disciples. Average is the enemy of excellence, and average commitment will prevent you from enduring to the end” (“Stay by the Tree,” April 2015 general conference).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1981-2004), explained that “merely being lukewarm” in our righteous desires to follow the Savior’s plan is “yet another variation of the ‘sorrowing of the damned,’ ” (Mormon 2:13).
“Righteous desires need to be relentless,” Elder Maxwell said, “because, said President Brigham Young, ‘the men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle every day’ (in Journal of Discourses, 11:14). Therefore, true Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors.”
The Apostle Paul was perhaps referring to this battle when he urged the Ephesians to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
To those desiring to be “true Christian soldiers,” Heavenly Father has provided powerful protection against the incessant onslaught of the devil. With “loins girt about with truth” and “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (vs. 13, 15), we can be prepared at any time to fight — like David battling Goliath — or flee — like Joseph of Egypt running away from Potiphar’s wife. Either way, we are ready to move and to act.
Just as modern body armor helps to defend against bullets and shrapnel, our “breastplate of righteousness” and “shield of faith” — our obedience to the commandments of God and willingness to act in His name — help to safeguard us against “the fiery darts of the wicked” (vs. 16).
With a “helmet of salvation,” we protect our minds and with a “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs. 14, 17), we can defend truth and righteousness. For, as the prophet Helaman teaches, the word of God “is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked” (Helaman 3:29).
Yet, even dressed for battle, we must be vigilant, ready to follow the orders of our most trusted Leader. Complacency, in effect, is a form of pride where we believe our way is best or our view is the correct one. In a devotional at Brigham Young University earlier this year, Elder Carl B. Cook, a General Authority Seventy, explained, “Pride, that sinister, grievous, subtle, disrupting, insidious, menacing, and rotten attribute of the natural man, constantly pulls us to focus on ourselves, our looks, our talents, our desires, our goals, our passions — on me, me, me. We look inward rather than outward toward others or up to God. Pride focuses on what I want instead of on what others want or on what God wants.
“The antidote for pride is humility. It is humbling ourselves and putting God’s will above our own, seeking what He wants instead of what we want and aligning our will with His.”
Elder Cook said that when he loses the Spirit or feels distant from God or from others, pride is often at the root of the problem. “I have found it helpful to ask myself, ‘Is it my pride that is causing this conflict?’ When there is tension in a relationship, I ask, ‘Is it pride?’ When I am not getting along with my leader, ‘Is it pride?’ When I am not getting along with those whom I am called to lead, ‘Is it pride?’ When I shrink from correction, ‘Is it pride?’ I find that inevitably when I ask myself the question ‘Is it pride?’ the Spirit whispers, ‘Yes, it is!’ ”
While the enticements of the devil are real, the enticements of the Holy Ghost are also very real and powerful, Elder Cook assured.
And, as a servant of the Lord, President Packer promised, “You will be protected and shielded from the attacks of the adversary if you will heed the promptings that come from the Holy Spirit.”
Rather than being complacent or lukewarm in our discipleship, let us be valiant, humble, and submissive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, that we may be able to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).