Music Applications


I created these music-teaching applications during my early time as a programmer while I worked at The Music School (now defunct) in American Fork, Utah. They served me well while I was there, and now I hope that you will find them useful. If you’d like to download any of these for offline use, let me know.

The applications require the use of Adobe Flash, as that was the tech of the time. It’s still available for free download here:

Adobe Flash for Edge (Windows 10)

Adobe Flash for Chrome

Adobe Flash for Firefox

(If you don’t see the application when loading at first in Edge, just resize the window.)

The Apps

Note Driller

Learn notes quickly by placing them on the staff while you’re timed according to your desired settings for difficulty.

NoteDriller instruction video
Note Driller instruction video
Note Driller application

Circle of Fifths Driller

See how fast you can fill in the circle of fifths. Being able to identify key signatures on sight is a vital skill for the practical musician.

Circle of Fifths Driller instruction video
Circle of Fifths application
Circle of Fifths application

Chord Driller

See how fast you can specify the notes for all triads and / or seventh chords. Knowing how to spell chords is vital, basic skill to an understanding of so much other music theory.

Chord Driller instruction video
Chord Driller application


Nothing to Prove: Spiritual vs. Empirical Evidence

Reason of Hope vs. Proof

Peter counseled the early saints to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you in meekness …” (1 Peter 3:15)

In applying this counsel, I have found that there is a difference between a request for a reason of the hope that is in me, and a demand for proof that what I say is true.

On the surface, the two requests — a request for a reason of hope and a demand for proof — may appear similar, but at their foundations they are polar opposites.

Someone who requests a reason for spiritual things wants to listen to what you have to say. They see that you may have hope and understanding that they do not know how to obtain and that you may be able to explain how to receive it. They are humble and teachable.

Someone who demands proof for spiritual things does not listen; they are not interested in what you believe. They would rather that you believe as they do; it’s a bother that you hold to a position that counters theirs. They believe that their perception, experience, problem-solving skills and knowledge are superior to yours. They feel that discrediting your beliefs validates their own.


Ironically for those that require proof, if an argument that they give against your position is proven false, they simply shrug it off and move to the next argument, and they typically have plenty of those. They consider themselves the proverbial rubber and you the glue; your reasons bounce off them while theirs should stick to you.


That’s because they often don’t even accept the basic premises for the arguments against your position. Their intention is to expose a logical inconsistency within yours, thereby invalidating it. They have nothing to lose if their tactics don’t come to fruition as they attempt to use your position against itself, believing that it is flawed from its foundation, regardless of the counterarguments that you may produce. They may actually hope that you will accept arguments that they don’t even accept.

Empirical proof

Empirical — independently reproducible and observable — proof is useful and important when the judges are your fellow human beings.

For example, empirical proof is necessary in the American court system. This application is designed skeptically, and rightfully so. Juries are selected to consist of multiple members, as unbiased as possible. The proceedings are headed by a (hopefully) impartial, law-bound judge. Unanimity from the jury is required for a valid, condemning verdict.

Another necessary use for empirical proof is in science. Scientific inquiry, is also, by necessity, skeptical. If a scientist hopes to prove or disprove a hypothesis to the scientific community, they must produce a preponderance of evidence that can collectively take a solid beating, and they can count on that happening before their findings are widely accepted.

Applying proof correctly

Evidence is not universally applicable as proof. Expertise in calculus is useful for revealing evidence in physics, but is usually irrelevant in proving matters related to law. Similarly, expertise in law is very useful in relation to matters of courtroom proof, but not very useful in proving matters of astronomy.

Not only is empirical proof limited in scope, but it is also limited to the current, imperfect understanding of man:


That brings us to spiritual proof.

Spiritual proof

Spiritual proof is for spiritual truth. Empirical proof does not reign supreme in situations in which God is the judge. Empirical evidence may corroborate a spiritual position, but its role is incidental or subsidiary, not pivotal.

What is a position in which God is the judge?

It is any situation in which He expects us to act according to the light and knowledge that He has given us. Everyone born into this world is given a measure of discernment between good and evil (See Moroni 7:18-19John 1:9, Genesis 3:22). In such situations, we must choose to value the judgement of God more than the judgement of man (See Doctrine and Covenants 60:2, Matthew 6:2-5).

What, then, replaces empirical proof? Blind faith?

As a wise friend recently pointed out, the term “blind faith” is an oxymoron. The world considers faith to be blind, because it does not know what true faith is. True faith is to “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21) By definition, true faith must be centered in truth.

But how can we know what is true unless we require empirical proof?

Our Savior taught this mystery to Peter, the other disciples, and, by extension, to us:

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

(Matthew 6:13-17)

To paraphrase, the world with its wisdom was confused about Jesus’ identity, but his disciples knew who He was, because God revealed it to them.

Personal revelation from God is the basis of true faith, which is “the substance [not lack of substance] of things hoped for, the evidence [not absence of evidence] of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Spiritual proof is inherently different from worldly proof. It consists of a witness received directly from God by revelation, not a compelling presentation of empirical evidence.

Spiritual proof is inextricably intertwined with faith. It follows the exercise of faith rather than simply materializing because of a compelling presentation of facts:

And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

(Moroni 12:6-7)

But how do we know in what to exercise our faith, if we have not yet received a witness?

Refuters of spiritual truths love to present this concern in various forms of reductio ad absurdum, i.e., “What’s to keep you from murdering someone to know if it’s right?”

That kind of ridiculous argument can result from relying upon the logic of man sans the Light of Christ. We can’t be deceived into heading into a drug den hoping to meet new friends that will be a positive influence unless we desire it, thereby willfully stiffening our necks and blinding our minds (See 1 Nephi 17:30).

Yet, I have heard similar concern even from people of faith about approaching spiritual experiments blindly. They state things such as “If I don’t know if a principle is good already, then how will I not be deceived by trying to live it?”

A spiritual “experiment” — learning of a spiritual principle, then living it in order to obtain a personal testimony of it —  starts with a reasonable expectation of a positive outcome based upon what you already know. It’s that simple and that safe.

The prophet, Alma, describes the process (in Alma 32. I recommend the entire chapter as instructive in this matter; I share only a small segment here):

26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.

27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

35 O then, is not this real [spiritual proof]? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good …

(Alma 32:26-35)

When you engage in a spiritual experiment, you see the hope in someone and ask for a reason. You read or hear what might be true, what you suspect is true, examine how you feel while learning of it and applying its principles and measure it against what you already know. Trying the experiment in this manner for a spiritual principle opens you up to receive the spiritual proof that you seek: a revelation from God regarding its truthfulness.

Until you receive your personal witness, you retain a natural, healthy bit of spiritual skepticism. However, to keep the skepticism in its proper place, we must

  • Be devoid of pride and rebellion against God
  • Possess a love of and thirst for truth.
  • Be willing to live according to the truth and knowledge received.

If we don’t meet those conditions, the spiritual experiment is doomed from its outset. Alma refers to this process as casting out the seed by our unbelief (Alma 32:28). Proof demanders may claim that this mindset taints the experiment, creating a situation for a self-fulfilling prophecy. In reality, these conditions are needed for complete objectivity and to create an atmosphere in which personal revelation may be received.

If we do meet those conditions and remain thus open to God’s inspiration, we will receive either the witness that we seek or the wisdom and strength to keep our concerns within the proper perspective until the witness becomes appropriate for God to grant us according to his omniscience, love, wisdom, and perfect timing.

Reliance upon spiritual evidence (the witness of the Holy Spirit) strengthens faith:

1 “… blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me [our Savior] and know that I am.

And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized …

(3 Nephi 12:1-2)

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust itinto my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

(John 20:24-27)

Spiritual proof is often private. Regardless of the involvement of others, only God, “which seeth in secret” (Matthew 6:4) know the desires of our hearts, the content of our prayers, the ways in which we exercise our faith, and how closely we act in accordance to what we know to be true. As God is the judge, public proof is unnecessary.

Our Savior demonstrated and taught of this privacy on multiple occasions, only some of which I recount below:

12 ¶ And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.

14 And he charged him to tell no man

(Luke 5:12-14)

35 … there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead …

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.

37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.

39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it …

(Mark 5:35-43)

And … Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.

(Mark 9:2-9)

Hence the commandment to “judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2) We simply don’t know to what degree someone is accountable to God, and should leave the judgement to Him.

Spiritual proof must be sought. While empirical proof is external — presented by others in a convincing, compelling way, true spiritual proof  is internal — between the individual and God, and must be sought diligently. It is not imposed nor coercive in any way, consistent with God’s constant support of the agency that He has given us.

Exaltation and condemnation are elective processes. God does not hold us accountable for spiritual knowledge that we have not received, including spiritual witnesses received by someone else, though He often gives an individual a personal witness regarding what someone else may share.

This is consistent with God’s mercy toward us, because once we know a spiritual truth, we are required to live according to it:

Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have [a] law revealed unto them must obey the same.

(Doctrine and Covenants 132:3)

For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.

Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors; and justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law.

(Doctrine and Covenants 82:3. See also Luke 12:48)

17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

(Alma 32:17-19)

Yet, lest we be tempted to avoid spiritual truth to avoid condemnation, we must also remember that “it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6)

My testimony

Empirical proof is great, but it has its place, and that place is not in the same arena with spiritual truth. If we rely upon Cæsar’s proof for the things which are Cæsar’s, and upon God’s proof for the things which are God’s (See Luke 20:25), we can learn tremendous truth and reach the eternal destiny that God has given us.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

(1 Corinthians 2:9-14)

I thank God that as far as worldly judges are concerned, I have nothing to prove. I know the spiritual proof I have received of God, I know that God knows it, and I cannot deny it (See Joseph Smith–History:1:12,25).

I share this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Nature vs. Nurture vs. Agency

Introduction: Serial Killers

As I drove to the office this morning, I heard a neuroscientist explaining his analyses of the brain scans of serial killers on BBC’s “The Why Factor.” He looked at one, particular scan and saw that there was little to no activity in the parts of the brain that should have registered empathy and disgust – two of the areas of normal brains that are “switched on” (to refer to the analysis as he did) in normal people (that are not serial killers).

His conclusion was that the scan subject shouldn’t be walking around in public.

Then it was revealed to him that he had been tricked, and that the subject of the scan was himself.

He laughed at the news, then got to thinking, asking himself “Why am I not a psychopathic serial killer?” He then discovered that he displayed a pattern of aggressive behavior mingled with other psychopathic markers. Yet, he was still not a serial killer.

This story reminded me of a documentary that I had seen years before of someone on other side of a similar study. It featured an interview with a serial killer whose name I forget. He stated that he willingly submitted to the study because he wanted to know why he did the things that he did.

I don’t recall if the producer of the documentary presented a conclusion … but I did get the neuroscientist’s self-analysis. His conclusion regarding why he wasn’t a serial killer: “I was loved as a child.” Given the evidence, he’d designated himself as a success on the “nurture” side of the old nature vs. nurture debate.

I was disappointed to hear him say that. I’d like explain to you why I was disappointed.

Things to Act and Things to Be Acted Upon

The prophet, Lehi, taught that among God’s creations there are those that act and those that are acted upon (2 Nephi 2:13-14). You and I act, and stones that we throw are acted upon. We may refer to our God-given ability to act as agency. (See Moses 4:3.)

I’m a big fan of properly understanding and exercising agency. Before we came to this world, Lucifer proposed a plan tauted as one in which “one soul shall not be lost” that involved the removal of our agency. (See Moses 4:1.) It commenced what is often referred to as the War in Heaven (about which I’ve written recently: The War in Heaven, continued). In a nutshell, Lucifer’s plan was remove us from the “acting” category and to place us into the “acted upon” category, a plan that was against God’s will for us.

Lehi teaches us that it is necessary that both things that act and things that are acted upon exist (2 Nephi 2:13-14). However, there is a problem when a person, an autonomous child of God born to act, becomes, instead, acted upon. We have a term for that situation. It’s called victimization.

The degree to which we abdicate our agency is the degree to which we become victims (though, of course, not all situations in which people are victims are because of willful abdication of agency). The degree to which we victimize others is the degree to which we act contrary to God’s will for us and them, acting Satanically, depriving others of their agency.

This is especially grievous for those who possess the priesthood of God.

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson –

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controleld nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lorrd is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

(Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37)

Does nature play a part in our decisions? Yes, it does. How about nurture? Absolutely. But those aren’t the only factors in what we do. If they were, we would be victims – poorly-written human software programs being acted upon, producing reactions completely in response to the stimuli surrounding and within us. To use another computer analogy, we would be the personification of G.I.G.O.: garbage in, garbage out.

Conversely, there are those that grow up in deplorable conditions that choose to rise from the ashes of abuse to build better lives for themselves and for their posterity. They do what they can to break the cycles of depravity and deprivation, producing the diamonds of peace and personal growth from the raw carbon of adversity.

And no matter what we can or cannot completely overcome of the situations in which we find ourselves, we can we must – always retain our agency. Being able to act and not be acted upon is perhaps the single, most godly trait that we possess, the defining characteristic of our divine nature as children of God. It is what differentiates us from his other creations.

The Winner: Agency

There is always a third element to the nature vs. nurture controversy, and that ingredient is agency. No matter what our genetics (nature), environment or upbringing (nurture) are, we are still always free to choose what we do with the life- and attitude-building materials that God has given us.

The ultimate “why factor” is not a simple combination of nature and nurture, but what we choose our personal agency.

The Three Witnesses and the Ex-boyfriend Effect

The ex-boyfriend effect

This post focuses on what I refer to as the “ex-boyfriend effect.” Let’s look at an example of the effect, then I’ll explain what it is.

Ask a girl in love about her boyfriend. She’ll tell you of the great things that they do together and about how cute and thoughtful he is.

Ask that same girl about the now ex-boyfriend the day after he’s broken her heart. What do you expect to hear?

This time you’re more likely to hear of his neglect, quirks, and insensitivity.


Because now she’s removed the rose-colored glasses, has nothing to lose with offering a more wide-eyed appraisal, in addition to the fact that she may still be smarting from the rejection and may want to save face for having dated the jerk in the first place.

If she still tells you of his virtues, it says a lot of the character of both the ex-boyfriend and the girl. I consider the positive testimony of a (figurative) ex-girlfriend to be one of the most credible testimonies available.

The witnesses of the golden plates and the ex-boyfriend effect

I am a bit surprised at how often people claim that no one saw the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.

Some of the time, I think that people just don’t know of these testimonies given by those who saw them, so here they are:

Testimony of three witnesses

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris

Testimony of eight witnesses

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer

Jacob Whitmer

Peter Whitmer, Jun.

John Whitmer

Hiram Page

Joseph Smith, Sen.

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H. Smith

For this post, we’re going to focus on the “three witnesses”: Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer. Not only is their testimony the more potentially incredible of the two accounts, claiming the visit of a divine messenger, but, in a way, their testimony carries more weight as a result of the ex-boyfriend effect.

All three of the “three witnesses” of the golden plates: Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer were excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at some point (What Happened to the 3 Witnesses?). The breakup was a painful one; they did not simply fade out of activity or favor. They were excommunicated, or, in other words, forcibly removed from the Church against their wills.

But all three of them, despite having nothing to lose during the time that they were separated from the Church, never did deny their testimony of having seen the plates presented to them by an angel. All three reaffirmed their testimonies of what they had seen shortly before they died. (See What Happened to the 3 Witnesses?)

Regarding Oliver Cowdery:

David Whitmer … recalled Cowdery’s parting words: “I was present at the death-bed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last words were, ‘Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon.’”

(What Happened to the 3 Witnesses?)

Martin Harris:

“I tell you of these things that you may tell others that what I have said is true, and I dare not deny it; I heard the voice of God commanding me to testify to the same.”

But the most compelling testimony of all, to me, is that of David Whitmer. He was the most disaffected “ex-boyfriend” of all, never returning to the Church during his lifetime.

David Whitmer:

That I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that Book, as one of the three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have always adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all my statements, as then made and published.

From what I see, these three individuals had nothing to lose from denying their testimony of seeing the gold plates during a heavenly manifestation, and perhaps something to gain in the eyes of the world. They also likely would have avoided persecution by distancing themselves from the Church that forcibly removed them from their places of honor and even membership.

But they didn’t deny.

This situation, to me, adds more credibility to their testimony, than if they had remained within the Church. I wonder if God, in his wisdom, didn’t choose them as the three witnesses, in part, knowing how they would stand by their testimony despite every, external reason to deny.

Add to that your own personal witness through the Spirit as an answer to prayer (see Moroni 10:3-5), and you’ve got plenty of reason to believe that the three witnesses saw what they claim to have seen.

I add my personal testimony to that of the three witnesses. Joseph Smith received the plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. The witnesses of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and the Holy Spirit regarding the plates and the Book of Mormon are true.

The War in Heaven (continued)

A primary purpose for blogging is to provide me with material to use when answering Gospel questions. I believe that the content of the following post is relevant to many Gospel questions, wherefore I present unto you The War in Heaven (continued).

I don’t mean “continued” as in continued from a previous post, but continued as in continued on earth since our premortal existence.

What is the War in Heaven?

Let’s read the accounts that we have about the War, then I’ll give my opinion about what the War in Heaven is:

John’s account:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time …

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

(Revelation 12:7-17)

Here’s what I gather from that account:

  • Satan and his followers did not win the War in Heaven (no surprise there).
  • Those who overcame Satan did so “by the blood of the Lamb [faith in the Atonement of Christ], and by the word of their testimony.” This was a war of words, reason, and testimony — faith vs. fear and rebellion.
  • Satan is not now in some far-away place. He and his followers were cast down “to the earth,” and “the devil is come down unto you.”
  • Satan is described as “the accuser of our brethren … which accused them before our God day and night.” Accusing believers was, apparently, one of Satan’s favorite activities, so we can expect that he will continue doing that among us here, especially since he “was wroth with the woman [church/believers],” and it mentions that he “went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Moses’ account:

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying — Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me — Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.

(Moses 4:1-4)

Here’s what I gather from that account, in addition to what we learned from John:

  • Satan proposed an alternative to the Father’s plan of salvation, which he touted would result in the salvation of every soul.
  • Satan’s rebellion consisted, at least in part, in attempting to implement a pivotal part of his plan: removing the God-given agency (free will) of man.
  • God rejected Satan’s plan, but instead of casting him into some nether region of the Universe, sent him to be among us as “the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will,” but only for “as many as would not hearken unto [God’s] voice.”

Additional details from the Doctrine and Covenants

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn a little bit more about Satan’s rebellion and the significance of the agency of man with regard to that rebellion:

Behold, I gave unto him [Adam] that he should be an agent unto himself …

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;

And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;

And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.

And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—

(Doctrine and Covenants 29:35-39)

From this passage, we may add the following to what we already know:

  • Satan’s objective in proposing his plan appears to have been to obtain God’s power without having to go through all of that pesky process of exercising faith, obedience to God’s commandments, repentance, etc.
  • The devil tempting us is a necessary part of God’s plan! Without it we could not be agents unto ourselves nor know “the sweet.”

One, final passage:

25 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,

26 And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.

27 And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!

28 And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—

(Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-28)

The takeaway:

  • Not only was Satan trying to shortcut the Father’s plan to exaltation, but he “sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ!” This wasn’t just an alternative plan of salvation that Satan was proposing. It was a full-scale coup d’état disguised as a benevolent proposition. (In that case I imagine that it might have been handy for us to not have agency — celestial slavery, in essence.)


And now, the promised opinion:

The War in Heaven was a battle to overthrow the Kingdom of God, selfishly waged by Satan and fought by some of our brothers and sisters. Satan apparently thought that he could trick God into giving him his power (oh, the self-deception) by proposing a plan of “salvation” that included the removal of our agency.


Satan’s plan was not only presumptuous, it was also impossible.

First of all, you can’t deceive God.

I suppose that Satan thought he could because of self-induced, pride-based spiritual blindness.

But, sadly, he succeeded in deceiving many of our brothers and sisters. Ironically, though Satan promised his followers easy deliverance, he was actually the catalyst through which they completely disqualified themselves from any degree of salvation.

And thus we see the end of him who aperverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not bsupport his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to chell.

(Alma 30:60)

Second, God’s power is his honor (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36 — “… honor … is my power”), and you can’t transfer your honor, as Satan requested.

It is possible to delegate authority, but you can’t delegate authority to someone dishonorable and leave the situation unscathed. If you officially name someone to represent you and that person betrays you or represents you poorly, your credibility is destroyed.

Honor is not some scepter of power that can be handed off or stolen. It is at the core of who God is. God is love. God is also honor. If God didn’t have his honor, then He would have no power and He would cease to be God (See Alma 42). But God will always retain his honor; He will keep every promise that He has ever made. He will act honorably in every situation.

That’s why you and I are in trouble. We could not regain our forfeited honor without the cleansing blood of Christ, mercifully made available through God’s real Plan of Salvation. I don’t know how it’s possible, but God has told us that it is, and I believe Him. (See Moroni 10:33.)

Satan had already given up his honor by acting in rebellion against God and recruiting a third part of our brothers and sisters to his side. There was nothing that God could do to restore that to the unrepentant Satan, because God cannot make someone honorable against their will. The essence of honor is choosing good over evil — a choice that God is willing to defend for the rest of us to the point of letting a vast quantity of his children choose an eternity of lost exaltation or even salvation (See Jude 1:6, Abraham 3:24-28).

That being said, those who possess the priesthood of God act in the name of Christ, endowed with power from on high … without being 100% honorable in and of ourselves. We act in the honorable name of Jesus Christ — one whose name is so revered by the intelligences of the universe that if we appropriately represent Him,

we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

(Jacob 4:6)

But let us not forget that even priesthood power can only exist in the absence of Satanic influence over agency:

Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their ahearts are set so much upon the things of this bworld, and caspire to the dhonors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

That the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

(Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37)

This is a probationary time — a learning time, in which continually striving and repenting is acceptable to God. (See Alma 12:24)

But it won’t work forever. Eventually, we must become completely honorable, and toleration for dishonorable activity will end. But God is “might to save” (Isaiah 63:1) and will help us to get there if we continually yield ourselves to Him during our mortal probation and afterward until He has completed the perfection process with us.

Third, exaltation (what we sometimes, perhaps incorrectly, refer to as “salvation”) cannot exist without agency.

Exaltation is reaching our full, eternal potential: becoming gods like our Father (Psalms 82:6, John 10:22-39D&C 132:37Romans 8:14-17Essay: Becoming Like God). You can’t become a God without first becoming a celestial being. You can’t become a celestial being without growing beyond your present spiritual immaturity and weakness. You can’t grow without facing trials, being tested, and making choices. You can’t make choices without your God-given and God-protected agency. Agency is an indispensable attribute of godhood.

The War in Heaven, continued

The war isn’t over yet. It has just changed battlefields.

Why? Why would God put us in that position? He was the one with all of the power. He won the battle! He cast Satan and his followers down. Why not cast them straight into Outer Darkness from whence they could not return, so that we wouldn’t have to deal with them?

If we believe that God is our loving Father in Heaven, which I do, then we must conclude that there is some divine purpose in God allowing Satan to retain influence over us.

He gave us the answer in one of the scriptural passages that we’ve already read:

And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—

(Doctrine and Covenants 29:39)

Apparently Satan’s opposition actually enables us in the very agency that he sought to remove from us. Now there’s an ironic twist!

That’s the problem with opposing God. He can turn weakness into strength, poor decisions into learning opportunities, and opposition into an exalting tool. There’s just no way for Satan to win … the war, that is.

But Satan doesn’t have to draw his motivation from the possibility of winning the war. He’s content just winning a battle here and there, taking down as many soldiers as possible in the process, for

the devil … seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

(2 Nephi 2:27)

The misery of a third part of the host of heaven wasn’t enough. He’s after you and me as well, and he won’t rest until he is bound, then finally stripped of his power and cast out forever.

Satan’s plan of attack

Believe it or not, we now come to the purpose for this blog post; the preceding explanations were prelude. The purpose is to discuss

How to recognize and combat the tactics that Satan uses to continue the war that he started in Heaven.

Remember that his initial strategy was to remove our agency and essentially enslave us.

His tactics haven’t changed.

He will do everything that he can to remove or limit our agency.

I like to refer to anything that limits or removes the agency of man as a “re-branding of Satan’s plan.” He re-packages and sells his failed, premortal plot in a thousand different ways for the continued destruction of man. Here are just some of them:

  • Inhibiting our ability to think or reason through the use of mind-altering substances or situations, including alcohol and drug abuse (whether legal or illegal), and even the “normal” mind-altering effects of chronic tiredness, poor health and excessive noise.
  • Limiting our personal freedom through slavery, totalitarian government systems with tyrannical leaders, coercive legislation and policies, and severe economic burdens and restrictions.
  • Promoting coercive, restrictive societal norms and traditions such as chauvinism, misogyny, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and tolerance for manipulative shaming, bullying, ridicule, rhetorical divisiveness, hate and violence.
  • Convincing us that we are unaccountable to God, country, and one another for the consequences of our actions, allowing personal choice to trump communal need, teaching us that we are justified or in an exceptional position due to personal circumstances, privilege, deprivation, ability, or lack of ability.
  • Spreading lies, misinformation and partial truths that keep us in the dark, mobilize us against that which is good, set us against one another, and engender systematic distrust and isolation.
  • Subjecting us to seemingly unendurable pressures, such as chronic and systematic abuse, fatigue, poor health and excessive noise that drive us to abandon reason and develop self-destructive coping mechanisms.
  • Promoting anything that encourages us to ignore the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, kindness and common sense, which is, essentially, persisting in any of the negative beliefs and behaviors listed above, but can also include indulgence in anger, frustration, demoralization, apathy, self-pity, immorality and other, unrepented sin. Once you’ve quenched the influence of the Spirit of God in your life, anything goes.

Our defense — the Holy Spirit

You know the best defenses in this war. They even include the so-called “primary answers” — the ones that even children know and can give as an answer to any Gospel question:

  • Frequent prayer
  • Substantial scripture study
  • Filling our minds with pure thoughts, our hearts and hands with service, our homes and lives with celestial conversation and activities
  • Church and temple attendance
  • Partaking of the sacrament and participating in other, holy ordinances
  • etc.

These activities fill us with the Holy Spirit. Beings of light, the “very elect,” filled with the Spirit of God, cannot be deceived into forfeiting their agency (See Joseph Smith–Matthew 1:22).

War heroes

One of my heroes in the Book of Mormon is the prophet, Abinadi (Mosiah 11-17). Preaching to an unrighteous people, he saw through the lies and deception of King Noah’s wicked priests through the discernment that comes through the Spirit. When every aspect of his physical freedom was denied him, and despite all of the physical and spiritual manipulation that he faced, he was so full of the Spirit of God to the point that he could teach and prophesy even in the very act of being burned to death.

That, to me, is a masterful manifestation of spiritual resilience that results in complete self control and uninhibited exercise of agency.

There are so many, other examples in the scriptures from whom we can learn how to combat the forces of Satan and their agency-destroying attacks. Here are just a small handful of them:

  • Alma, who exposed Korihor’s self-deception to the point that he blasphemed himself into being stricken by God and eventually trampled to death (Alma 30).
  • Amulek, who warded off Zeezrom’s manipulation, confounding him and eventually facilitating his conversion (Alma 11).
  • Ammon, who could not be killed, and could discern the thoughts of Lamoni — the Lamanite king trapped by the incorrect traditions of his fathers, leading to the conversion of thousands of the Lamanites (Alma 17-19).
  • Jacob, who withstood Sherem, the anti-Christ in a story similar to Korihor’s (Jacob 7).
  • Esther, who endangered her own life to deliver her people from the hasty edict of King Ahasuerus (Esther 3-5).
  • Nephi, who, numerous times, confounded his brothers’ attempts to thwart Lehi’s plans to lead his family to physical and spiritual safety in the Lord’s way (1 Nephi 2-4, 7, 16, etc.).


Let us resist Satan’s attempts, in any of their manifestations, to remove or limit our agency. We already know that Satan will eventually be completely vanquished; let us minimize the number of spiritual casualties in the process.

… Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!

(Doctrine and Covenants 128:22)

Helium and the Great Debate: Theism vs. Atheism


The Great Debate: Atheism vs. Theism

On the website Quora the other day, I was asked to answer a question about who would win a debate between a deist (a “type” of theist) and an atheist. Here is a link to my full answer. (Throughout this post, I won’t differentiate between deists and theists, as the distinction is irrelevant to my topic.)

In summary, I answered that “the Deist hasn’t seen God, so he’s basing his premise of the existence of God on something other than what the atheist would consider to be objective, empirical evidence. The atheist can’t prove the negative premise of God’s non-existence.”

In comments to my answer, some people pointed to a principle of debate that I had heard before, though I have never formally participated in debate: that the burden of proof lies with the claimant. In other words, the atheist is at an advantage in the debate, because he doesn’t have to prove anything; it is the deist that has to prove that God exists, not the atheist that has to prove that God doesn’t exist. The assumption is that unless the presenter of the claim can produce compelling, objective evidence, the claim is unreliable or false.

This, of course, puts the theist at a disadvantage, because, as I mentioned, there isn’t what many would consider to be objective, scientific evidence for the existence of God.

But does that mean that the atheist is right?

I think that a possible answer lies in recognizing the inherent limits of science, as illustrated in the story of the discovery of the element Helium.

The Discovery of Helium


During the recent excitement over the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017, I learned of the discovery of Helium. Helium appeared as a previously unwitnessed, yellow line in a spectral reading of the sun’s light taken during a total eclipse in 1868. Read more about it here. Having been discovered in observation of the sun, the previously unknown element was named after Helios, the personification of the sun in Greek mythology.

Does Helium exist? Any atheist who accepts common, scientific knowledge would debate that it does. There is a preponderance of objective, scientific evidence … now.

But in 1867, who would have won a debate over the question of whether an element with the chemical constitution of Helium existed upon earth?

The skeptic.

It wasn’t because Helium didn’t exist. It was simply because it wasn’t part of the body of scientific knowledge at that time. Dimitri Meldeleev didn’t even begin work on the periodic table of elements until 1869. The positive claimant would have lost because of the absence of objective, scientific proof for the existence of Helium.

Helium did exist. After its initial appearance in the spectral analysis, not only did subsequent experiments prove that Helium was a previously undiscovered element, but that it was also present on earth, and is the second-most abundant element in the universe, second only to Hydrogen.

So why would the 1867 debaters have come to the “wrong” conclusion?

The Limits of Human Knowledge

Is there an inherent problem with debate that the claim that the burden of proof rests upon the claimant?

No. For the sake of debate, it’s a pretty good rule that, for the most part, puts the debaters on an even playing field.

But just because someone would win a debate about a point doesn’t make that point true, even setting aside the variable skill differences between the debaters, and the consideration that the non-existence of God is an unprovable claim in and of itself.

Debate between humans is limited to the collective knowledge of the time. Human knowledge will always be limited, even scientific knowledge, which actively expands the gamut of the body of human knowledge. May it ever continue to expand. But despite its growth, it will still be continually changing and limited.

My Testimony

I believe that God lives. My evidence is not scientific, but I cannot ignore it in honesty. I feel as the prophet, Joseph Smith, did:

… who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny … I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it …

(Joseph Smith-History, 1:25)

Regardless of whether or not I could win a debate about it with an atheist in the eyes of the world, it doesn’t mean that my testimony is not true.

Countering the Cain Effect: Repentance as the Antidote for Self Deception

……………   Cain and Abel   …………


The Bible begins with the story of the first (dysfunctional) family, including Adam, Eve, Abel, and … the star of this show: Cain.

Why Cain?

Because there’s a little bit of Cain in all of us.

Recognizing that and dealing with it appropriately helps us to avoid turning to the dark side as he did.

This episode of Bryan’s thoughts focuses on what I like to call the Cain Effect, commonly known as self deception, and its antithesis, repentance.

The Cain Effect, Explained

Cognitive Dissonance

The Cain Effect is a fancy term for self deception. Self deception is a technique that we use to resolve cognitive dissonance (“thinking noise”). Another term for cognitive dissonance is inner conflict. Inner conflict results from recognizing that our beliefs and our actions are in conflict with one another or with our perception of reality.

We humans hate cognitive dissonance. It makes life miserable. We do many things to make it go away.


Some of the things that we do to resolve cognitive dissonance are constructive and positive. We may call that repentance. An important aspect of repentance is reconciling our behavior with our beliefs. Repentance requires honesty and humility, recognizing that we can be and often are wrong, and that (hopefully to an increasingly smaller degree) we will continue to find things within ourselves that are broken and require improvement.

Usually this reconciliation involves changing our behavior to match our beliefs. Sometimes, however, we recognize that our beliefs are incorrect, and repentance requires changing our beliefs.

Don’t think of repentance in this sense as a strictly religious action, though repentance is an integral part of religion. Anyone may repent in this way, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Self Deception

Some ways of dealing with cognitive dissonance are destructive to our souls. We may call them self deception. Self deception is a common, yet less-effective way of resolving cognitive dissonance.

Self deception is the inversion of repentance. As the term suggests, it involves lying to ourselves. It consists of changing our correct beliefs to match our incorrect behavior.

We self deceive because it does resolve a measure of cognitive dissonance. It narrows the gap between our beliefs and our behavior.

But self deception has two fatal flaws.

First, we don’t really believe it. Deep down, we still know what is really true. So in order to keep the noise down, we must continue lying to ourselves, trying to convince ourselves that we really believe what we want to believe.

One example of this process is the confession of Korihor, an anti-Christ:

But behold, the devil hath deceived me … and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success; insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth … (Alma 30:53)

We are no more honest with others than we are with ourselves, and we use the convincing of others as a tool to try to convince ourselves. As we deceive ourselves and subsequently destroy our own souls, we destroy others in the process.

Second, it just plain doesn’t work. When we try to become a law unto ourselves, controlling our environment, including the people around us, attempting to turn reality into something that it is not, reality eventually comes back around to bite us. We reap what we sow, and no amount of self deception can avoid that.

Cain: The Father of Satan’s Lies

His Story

Now let’s see how this applies to Cain. Cain … this … is your life!

(The LDS canon of scripture contains two, detailed accounts of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. The first is in the book of Genesis. The second is in an alternate version of a portion of Genesis, called the Book of Moses, which the prophet, Joseph Smith, received by revelation. Because of details important to the premise of this post, I have chosen to use the account from Moses).

And … Eve … bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him?

And … Cain was a tiller of the ground.

And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.

And … Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering;

But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?

If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire …

For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.

And it shall be said in time to come—That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.

And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother, who walked in holiness before the Lord …

And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die … and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands …

And … Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.

And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free …

And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?

And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground …

And Cain said unto the Lord … I was wroth … for his offering thou didst accept and not mine …

And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord …

(Moses 5:1-41)

An Analysis of the Self Deception: The Original Cain Effect in Action

Cain loved Satan more than God. One of his first, recorded lies to himself is “Who is the Lord that I should know him?”

Cain knew very well who the Lord was. His father and mother had taught him. As Eve said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words.” In the course of his story as shown above, before he killed Abel, the Lord corrected him. Cain killed Abel in full rebellion against the Lord.

Satan knew Cain. He knew that Cain was rebellious and that he did not desire to offer an acceptable offering. So, ironically, he commanded Cain to make an offering unto the Lord.

Satan can’t command the righteous because they reject his authority. As Moses later explained,

… Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

… Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

(Moses 1:12-13, 20)

Moses’ declaration to Satan, “Who art thou?” carries echoes of Cain’s declaration, “Who is the Lord?” but contrasts Moses’ faithful attitude with Cain’s self deception.

Cain made the offering. The Lord rejected Cain’s half-hearted, disobedience-laden offering of the fruit of the ground. Offerings were, by the Lord’s instruction, as Abel’s offering: “of the firstlings of [the] flock, and of the fat thereof.”

So Cain had a choice to make. He could repent, or he could rebel. He chose rebellion, becoming, according to the declaration of the Lord, the father of Satan’s lies.

Speaking of lies, let’s look at the next round of them in Cain’s murder of Abel:

And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die … and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands …

And … Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.

And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free …

And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?

And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground …

“And this that thy father may not know it.”

Did Cain’s father discover the murder? Um, yes. And so did the Lord, because “the voice of [Abel]’s blood crie[d] unto [Him] from the ground.”

And so did the rest of the world. Abel’s murder is arguably the most famous murder in the history of the world.

That one failed miserably, didn’t it, Cain? That’s what happens when you believe the serpent whose original lie instigated the fall of mankind. Satan is self deception’s partner in crime.

Did Satan know that Adam would discover Cain’s crime? Perhaps. After all, he is a liar.

But it’s also possible that he did not. Moses also makes it clear that Satan “knew not the mind of God” when deceiving Eve. (Moses 4:6)

“I am free”

This statement lies at the heart of the Cain Effect.

Free from what?

Cain’s “confession” to the Lord holds the key: “I was wroth … for his offering thou didst accept and not mine …”

He wanted to be free from having to look at that stupid, goody-two-shoes brother of his that always reminded him that he wasn’t good enough. 

Abel was a carrier of cognitive dissonance for Cain. He had to do something about it. True to form, Cain chose rebellion over repentance, believing the falsehood that removing the reminder of his failure would bring him peace.

And for a very short time, he may have actually felt free … if you discount the searing heat of what was left of his conscience.

But quenching deafening cognitive dissonance by lying to himself, and subsequently others, was a way of life for Cain at this point, so much so that when asked “Where is Abel, thy brother?” he was able to lie to the Lord: “I know not.”

Cain didn’t know the mind of the Lord, either. How else could he have supposed that the Lord wouldn’t know what had happened to Abel and that he could lie to him? It was the same kind of vain, self deception that allowed Cain’s master, Satan, to rebel against God before the foundation of the world.

“And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord.”

How’s that for freedom?

Take it from the story of Cain: self deception doesn’t work.

The Cain in Each of Us

I think that we all deal with the Cain Effect to some degree. Not all of us kill someone so that we don’t have to look at them, but we do avoid reality and deceive ourselves and others in the process. We

  • run
  • hide
  • demean
  • ostracize
  • ridicule
  • ignore
  • avoid
  • coerce
  • control
  • abuse
  • etc.

Insecurity is the root of many evils. We introduce insecurity into our lives by building upon the sandy foundation of self deception. Self deception isn’t the only cause for insecurity, but it is a super-PAC-level contributor.

The Antidote

The antidote to self deception is repentance: recognizing where we are wrong, and correcting our behavior and/or beliefs appropriately – in accordance to truth.

When we can’t recognize where we are self deceiving, it helps to involve trusted friends and, if necessary, inspired mentors, leaders, and/or professionals.

And don’t forget to pray. God can inspire us to see what beliefs and behaviors cause the cognitive dissonance, guilt, and insecurity that destroy our peace.

Satan would convince us that humility is synonymous with weakness, that appearing right is more important than becoming right, and that saving face is an acceptable alternative to course correction.

Remember that Satan is a liar and that the fruits of his self deception didn’t work out for him any more than they did for Cain or for his other followers.

Jesus Christ, the only being who was ever strong enough to resist temptation for the duration of his entire mortal life, invited

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

(Matt 11:28-30)

If He that bore the weight of the sins of the world can say this his burden is light, then He must understand what it takes to quiet the storm of our cognitive dissonance. I suggest that we take Him at his word.

Now that’s freedom 🙂