Wisdom > Cunning

During His visit to the American continent, the Savior quoted most of Isaiah 52, including this passage:

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

Isaiah 52:13-14 (See 3 Nephi 20:43-44.)

In this passage, Isaiah describes a servant of God who would make wise decisions (“deal prudently”) and would be exalted, but not without suffering.

Shortly after quoting this passage, the Savior commented on it. Speaking of a future servant who would be rejected by some people as he declared the gospel, He promised:

The life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.

3 Nephi 21:10, italics added

After losing the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript, Joseph Smith was devastated. The Lord subsequently revealed to him that the people who had stolen that manuscript intended to use it to discredit him. They had changed the words in the manuscript. If he retranslated the same pages in the same way, they would produced their altered manuscript as evidence that his translation was not correct. (See Doctrine and Covenants 10:10-19.)

But God had prepared a way to thwart this plan: Joseph would not retranslate the same pages. He would instead translate a different account of the same historical period. Thus, the stolen manuscript would be of no use. “I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work,” said the Lord; “yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:43, italics added).

Wisdom is aligned with eternal principles. It is honest and straightforward, reliable and good for everyone. Cunning is clever, often associated with deception. It is situational in nature, and benefits some people at the expense of others. It thrives on obscuring the truth, not revealing it.

Wisdom is stronger because it is more durable. Cunning is brittle and unsustainable. It may temporarily appear to be a successful path, but that is an illusion. Wisdom will ultimately prevail.

Today, I will remember that God’s wisdom is greater than the devil’s cunning. I will strive to align my actions with true principles, knowing that positive consequences will follow in the end.

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