25 But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?
Even though Satan is clearly an actor in this verse, note the decisive role of the people themselves. Amulek was a hard worker and a successful businessman (Alma 10:4). He understood the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions, regardless of the challenges we face. Therefore:
- Instead of simply saying, “The devil has blinded your eyes,” he asks them why they have yielded themselves up to the devil, “that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes.” As Joseph Smith taught: “The devil has no power over us only as we permit him; the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 17). Therefore, it isn’t helpful to say, “The devil made me do it.” It’s not true.
- Instead of lamenting that the people don’t or can’t understand his words, Amulek tells them that they will not understand his words. It’s not that they lack cognitive ability; they are simply unwilling to exercise it. He knows what that’s like, because he’s been there. Before his conversion, “I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know” (Alma 10:6). Self-deception is real (see James 1:22), and the most basic form of honesty is to acknowledge the truth in our own hearts and minds.
No temptation, no pressure, no enticing can overcome us unless we allow such. If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame but ourselves. President Brigham Young once expressed this truth by relating it to himself. Said he: “If Brother Brigham shall take a wrong track, and be shut out of the Kingdom of heaven, no person will be to blame but Brother Brigham. I am the only being in heaven, earth, or hell, that can be blamed.” He continued: “This will equally apply to every Latter-day Saint. Salvation is an individual operation” (“The Three R’s of Choice“, General Conference, October 2010).
I am grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ which strengthens me and gives me power to overcome the temptations of the devil. Today, I will watch for temptation. I will seek to reduce its influence in my life and in my home. Ultimately, however, I will remember that how I respond to temptation is entirely up to me. I will avoid blaming my circumstances or other people for my decisions. I will adopt the adage of President Harry S. Truman: “The buck stops here.“