Some things never seem to change. When you have something going that works for you, you stick with it. That seems to be the adversary’s approach as well. He always seems to focus on sex, addictive behaviors, feeding doubt and flat out lying. He hasn’t changed much since, well, before the beginning.
One of his techniques seems to have caught Mormon’s eye as he was pulling together the Book of Mormon. He included several examples of a technique that many of the bad guys – some of who we call Anti-Christs – seemed very partial to: Flattery.
But, before we get into the scriptural examples, let’s define what it means to flatter:
- to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention.
- to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively
- gratify by falsification
- to play upon the vanity or susceptibilities of; cajole, wheedle, or beguile (Dictionary.com)
Surprisingly, all four of these definitions work in the context of what Satan’s helpers were busy doing in Book of Mormon time, and are still doing today.
King Noah’s subjects, “became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them.” (Mosiah 11:7)
Sherem was a smooth-talker, “And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.” (Jacob 7:4)
Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah effectively practiced the same technique, “…they did deceive many with their flattering words, who were in the church, and did cause them to commit many sins;” (Mosiah 26:6)
Pahoran told Captain Moroni that, “those who have sought to take away the judgment-seat from me that have been the cause of this great iniquity; for they have used great flattery, and they have led away the hearts of many people, which will be the cause of sore affliction among us;” (Alma 61:4)
And no discussion of Anti-Christs would be complete without Alma calling out Korihor for the same thing, “But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words.” (Alma 30:47)
Last, and worst, is the adversary himself uses this technique, “And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.” (2 Nephi 28:22)
Why is flattery so effective? Because we all love to be praised. We love to be acknowledged. We love to be told those things that make us feel good about ourselves – even if they aren’t particularly accurate. Personally, I like it, and soak it in.
These days, I see some trendy memes and ideas floating around that make me think of such flattering words. Two mantras that seem to have become part of the lexicon are these:
“You are enough.”
“You are perfect just the way you are.”
Both very sweet sentiments. Both very flattering – sadly, both are untrue.
How do I know this? Because I know, deep inside my heart, that I am not enough, and I am not perfect the way I am. And I also figure that you are not enough, and you are not perfect, either.
BUT THAT’S OKAY! I’ll explain later, because right now I need you to take a deep breath, trust me, and keep reading.
I can explain how I know that I am not enough, or that I am not perfect just the way I am with one word:
Yes, that single name renders those two flattering expression pointless. Why? Because if I were enough, and you were enough, and we were all enough, we would not need…
- A Savior
- The Atonement
If we were “enough,” there would be no need for Christ’s great Atoning sacrifice. If we were ‘perfect, just the way we are,’ we’d already be good to go – eternally speaking.
I’m definitely not good to go, and I doubt most of you are – so we do need a Savior. We have known this from before the foundations of the earth. “The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that while in our premortal state, we were all present when God the Father explained His plan for the salvation of His children. We learned that a Savior would be needed to overcome the problems brought on by the conditions of mortal life.” (link)
Paul added, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
What does that mean? It it simply means that we are not enough. If we think that we are “perfect just the way we are,” why would we strive for improvement? Why would we even need to be concerned with something like repentance? That’s for those imperfect people, anyway.
Have we come to this earth to reach a plateau where we take a seat, admire the view and say, “Hey! I’ve arrived. I have reached a place where I am good enough, so I can stay here.” Nope.
This is why I see these current mantras to be more in a long line of flattering words, which can distance us from both reality, repentance and the Savior. Nice trick, right?
I am quick to acknowledge that “I Am Inadequate!” is a terrible mantra for life. Fixating on our shortcomings can lead us to sad, depressive and dark places – it simply isn’t healthy. Honest, but unhealthy. Accepting the fact that we are not enough is the essence of humility, and it can lead us to much better places if we also accept it as a means to moving forward IF we add something to it…
At this very moment, some of my wise and witty readers are not very happy with me and are waggling their fingers at me, saying, “Hang on just one minute, Mr. Brad. If I do a search on the Church website, I find talks, articles and videos all saying ‘You are enough.’ Are you opposing what they are teaching?”
Absolutely not. What they are teaching is correct. Last year the Church released a beautiful Mother’s Day video to reinforce the important point that “you are enough” and are deserving of love, and to love yourselves – There is no question there. There are also talks that make the point that “You are enough,” but they always seem to include an asterisk. That asterisk is important and makes those teachings valid, and hopeful.
But regarding the popular, stand-alone usage of the phrase, I lament the absence of the asterisk. Every time someone says, or writes those flattering words, there should be an asterisk. Like this:
You are enough*
You are perfect, just the way you are*
If you read the talks, or watch the videos carefully, you will notice there is always an implicit asterisk coming up, and here it is:
This simple addition can turn those flattering words into words of salvation. By themselves, those words might make us feel good about ourselves, and where we are, (Whether they be true or false) but they are merely flattery. Add the asterisk, and you suddenly have divine purpose, and essential, eternal truth which brings hope.
Here are some examples of the asterisk in action:
Elder Devin Cornish taught, “What we cannot do is rationalize rather than repent. It will not work to justify ourselves in our sins by saying, “God knows it’s just too hard for me, so He accepts me like I am.” “None of us will ever be “good enough,” save through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ, but because God respects our agency, we also cannot be saved without our trying.” (link)
Sister Jennifer Kearon taught, right after saying “You are enough,” that “He loves you just the way you are, right here, right now, in all your beautiful messiness. But He also loves you enough not to let you stay the way you are right here, right now. He has much bigger plans for you!” (link
Just this month in General Conference, Brother Brad Wilcox taught something similar, “God loves us as we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us this way. Growing up unto the Lord is what mortality is all about. Change is what Christ’s Atonement is all about..” (link)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “However, even when you and I come to understand our true identities, God loves us too much to let us be content with what we have achieved spiritually up to now, because He is a perfect Father.” (link)
If you love the “I am enough” mantra, or have it on your wall, mirror or fridge, don’t freak out – keep it! But I humbly suggest you draw an asterisk on it to remind you what Christ has promised, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you…” (D&C 68:6)
If we embrace Christ, and His Atonement, we can become enough, we can become perfect. He has the power, grace, mercy and desire to help make that happen for each of us. In Conference, Elder Clark Gilbert said, “Regardless of whether we start in abundant or difficult circumstances, we will realize our ultimate potential only when we make God our partner.” (link)
YOU ARE ENOUGH – IN CHRIST
I AM ENOUGH – IN CHRIST
WE ARE ENOUGH – IN CHRIST!
Isn’t that beautiful?