24 And now it came to pass that the people were more angry with Amulek, and they cried out, saying: This man doth revile against our laws which are just, and our wise lawyers whom we have selected.
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?
Henry David Thoreau once lamented the plight of students who could discover new satellites (or moons) of Neptune, and yet “not detect…to what vagabond he is a satellite himself” (Walden, New York: Thomas E. Cromwell & Co., 1910, p. 66). It is difficult to be objective about ourselves, and we so often fail to acknowledge the influence of others in our decisions because we want to believe that we are independent and self-directed. The truth is that we are self-directed, but only to a point. As Lehi taught, we act for ourselves by deciding whether to follow the enticings of God or of the devil (2 Nephi 2:16).
Because the devil is tempting us to do things that are not in our self-interest, he tries to hide his identity from us and make us believe that his temptations are our ideas. He says, “I am no devil, for there is none” (2 Nephi 28:22). He wants us to believe that he doesn’t exist so that we will assume that his temptations are actually our own thoughts and desires.
In the passage above, Amulek counters this strategy by pointing out to the people that they are under the power of the devil—surely not a message they wanted to hear, but an important one nonetheless. He acknowledges that they are agents, that they have the power to choose whether or not to “yield [themselves] unto him.” And he explains the consequences of that decision: Satan will blind the eyes of his followers. He will harden their hearts so that they refuse to understand and accept truths which they are taught. Amulek had experienced this himself. As he confessed in his opening remarks: “I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know” (Alma 10:6). An unwillingness to accept truth when you see it is an indication that you are under the power of an adverse influence.
Today, I will remember that Satan wants me not only to do evil but also to reject truth. If I give in to his temptations and do things I know to be wrong, he will use that influence to confuse me, to desensitize me, and ultimately to convince me not to listen to truths which might otherwise help me repent and get back on the right track. I will avoid yielding to his temptations so that I can see clearly and discern right from wrong.