Question: Do Mormons believe that Satan can read our minds?

Table of Contents

Question: Do Mormons believe that Satan can read our minds?

Church leaders have tended to teach that only God has access to our inner thoughts

Church leaders have tended to teach that only God has access to our inner thoughts. Satan does, however, have extensive experience in observing mortals and this intuiting their thoughts and desires.

We can take comfort, however, in both the protection of the Holy Ghost, and the fact that Satan has no power over us save that which we grant him.

Satan "cannot know our thoughts unless we speak them."
—Elder James E. Faust[1]

The Lord told Oliver Cowdery in D&C 6:16:

Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart (italics added)

However, as an author in the Ensign observed:

Some have interpreted the statement to mean that God is the only being who can know another’s thoughts....Others suggest that in D&C 6:16 (and D&C 6:24) the Lord may be referring to man’s inability to know another’s thoughts....The question is thus not addressed as to whether or not Satan can directly discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts.[2]

Elder ElRay L. Christiansen observed:

Satan knows all the tricks. He knows where we are susceptible to temptations and how to entice us to do evil. He and his messengers suggest evil, minimize the seriousness of sin, and make evil inviting....Surely then Satan and his followers have some knowledge of our thoughts and tendencies. He has knowledge that is superior to man’s knowledge, but he lacks the wisdom to properly use his knowledge for good purposes. Some people are like that and often find themselves opposing even that which is right and true. Satan is a great deceiver, a liar....Satan and his aides no doubt may know our inclinations, our carnal tastes and desires, but they cannot compel a righteous person to do evil if he seeks help from the Lord. Too many try to blame Satan when in reality the fault lies within themselves because they yield to his enticements.[3]

President Joseph Fielding Smith observed that Satan can spread his message "in the person of a friend or a relative in whom we have confidence. He has power to place thoughts in our minds and to whisper to us in unspoken impressions to entice us to satisfy our appetites or carnal desires and in various ways he plays upon our weaknesses and desires."[4]

The Ensign noted:

it is possible that Satan can at least determine our susceptibility to a particular temptation from our words and actions, which reveal our thoughts....

Satan can see our fruits as well as any person—and we can be certain that he’ll be quick to take advantage of the weaknesses we exhibit.

The question of Satan’s ability to know our thoughts is an interesting one. But in the end, it probably doesn’t make much difference what seeming opportunities Satan has. We’re promised that we won’t be tempted beyond our ability to withstand (see 1 Corinthians 10:13); we can consistently choose to resist all forms of temptation, if that is our desire.[2]

Avoiding the influence of Satan

"Satan cannot seduce us by his enticements unless we in our hearts consent and yield."
—Joseph Smith, Jr.[5]

Elder Gene R. Cook taught:

May I share a few of Satan’s cunning illusions which undermine spirituality. Satan, with an illusion, leads a man to puff himself up with pride to say, “I am my own man. I know the Lord lives, but he expects me to handle this particular matter on my own and not bother him with any details.” Not being familiar with the scriptures, the man may not know that Satan teaches the world there is no God. But to the Saints he simply says, “There is a God, but he is only generally involved in your life. He would not specifically help you today.” Or he teaches the world not to pray, but to the Saints he simply says, “Don’t pray now. You don’t feel like praying right now.” (See 2 Nephi 32:8–9.) The net effect is the same.[6]

"[W]e bind the adversary and his mortal minions only as we bind our appetites.
—Neal A. Maxwell</ref>Neal A. Maxwell, "The Man of Christ," Ensign (May 1975).</ref>

Elder Ian S. Ardern of the Seventy taught:

Satan tempts us at our weakest point. After the Savior had fasted 40 days and 40 nights and “was afterward an hungred,” Satan, seizing the moment, said, “Command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:2–3).

Satan seeks to tempt us when we are feeling weak and at what he perceives to be our weakest points. He will pick away at them in the hope that we will succumb.

We all have weak points, and mortality is our opportunity to make weak things strong. President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) declared: “The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you’re having the most difficulty keeping today. If it’s one of dishonesty, if it’s one of unchastity, … today is the day for you to work on that until you’ve been able to conquer that weakness. Then you start on the next one that’s most difficult for you to keep.”[7]

Richard G. Scott taught:

Some of us at one time or another let the pressures of life or the false teachings of men cloud our vision, but when we see with clarity, the difference between the plan of God and that of Satan is unmistakable. Satan would convert divinely independent spirits into creatures bound by habit, restricted by appetite, and enslaved by transgression. He has never deviated from his intent to enslave and destroy. He would persuade us to improperly use the divine gift of free agency. Through subtle, tempting influence, he encourages us to gratify desire for personal power and influence or to succumb to appetite. He progressively binds those that follow carnal desire. Unless they repent, they are effectively converted into robots who no longer exercise control over their eternal destiny.

He cleverly confuses some until they depict God as an exacting, harsh judge, or as a distant deity, devoted to meticulous scorekeeping. God is neither. He is a loving, patient, understanding Father deeply interested in our personal welfare, anxious for our happiness, and totally committed to our eternal progression.[8]

And:

Neither Satan nor any other power can weaken or destroy your growing character. Only you can do that through disobedience. That is why Satan is so intently focused on tempting you to make decisions that will undermine your character. Satan is an accomplished master at making devastating choices appear attractive, even reasonable. So be careful. At this critical time of life, you will be faced with many choices. The decisions you will make will profoundly affect life now and for eternity. Make them wisely and prayerfully.[9]


Notes

  1. James E. Faust, "The Great Imitator," Ensign (November 1987).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lawrence R. Peterson, Jr., "Questions and Answers," Ensign (July 1984).
  3. ElRay L. Christiansen, "Q&A: Questions and Answers," New Era (July 1975).
  4. Joseph Fielding Smith, Melchizedek Priesthood Course of Study, 1972–73, 298.
  5. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 65.
  6. Gene R. Cook, "Spiritual Guides for Teachers of Righteousness," Ensign (May 1982).
  7. Ian S. Ardern, "[https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/02/shunning-temptation-a-key-to-receiving-revelation.p25 Shunning Temptation: A Key to Receiving Revelation," Ensign (February 2014).
  8. Richard G. Scott, "The Plan for Happiness and Exaltation," Ensign (November 1981).
  9. Richard G. Scott, "[https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/02/living-a-life-of-peace-joy-and-purpose.p18 Living A Life of Peace, Joy, and Purpose," Ensign (February 2014).