The Message of the First Presidency to the Church -1942

Satan is making war … He plans to destroy liberty and freedom-economic, political, and religious, and to set up in place thereof the greatest, most widespread, and the most complete tyranny that has ever oppressed men. He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Without their knowing it, the people are being urged down paths that lead only to destruction. Satan never before had so firm a grip on this generation as he has NOW. “(Improvement Era, Nov. 1942)

(To learn more about the nature of Satan see: The Lion Sleeps Tonight- NOT! and Satan Exposed. )

Some of the most powerful “methods”  used by Satan to “urge” us down the path of destruction include: discouragement, the pleasure of sin and the gradual progress. Let’s talk about the principle of Gradual Progress ….


C. S. Lewis, a Christian author, gave us a keen insight into devilish tactics. In a fictional letter, the master devil, Screwtape, instructs the apprentice devil Wormwood, who is in training to become a more experienced follower of Satan:

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. …It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing.Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the GRADUAL ONEthe gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”(“The Screwtape Letters,” (1961), pg.56.)

The Master Devil warns Wormwood not to tempt anyone to commit a really horrible sin. Why? Because, there is a much higher risk the person will become so alarmed they will wake up saying something like, “I can’t believe I just had that thought. I would never do that.  I better stop this right now and get a hold of my life. etc etc”  Urging the bigger sin too quickly typically turns the person to God’s path. Satan knows that if we truly saw where we were headed if we remain on that path, we would turn away.

But it’s not on a mission 🙁
Recently, during my various jail visits I’ve spent time with three young men. Each about 18. Each a member of the LDS Church. Each at one time had plans to go on a LDS mission. Great young men. For example, during the interviews one spontaneously commented “I just got my Eagle”  another “I got 4.0 GPA last semester.”  And as strange as it seemed, one made mentioned of missing his friends at church and seminary.  

What else did these three young men have in common? A couple of First Degree Felony-Sex charges.

As a reminder, a 1st Degree Felony will bring a minimum of 5 years to life in the Utah State Prison. However, because each of these young men had aggravating sexual circumstances involving children if convicted they would face a minimum of “15 years to life.” That means (18 years-old + 15 years) they wouldn’t meet with the parole board about getting out until they were 33! (That’s if they were lucky, often the parole board keeps sex offenders for a few extra years.)

These young men (like thousands of other men and women) reported beginning their sexual career by accidental viewing of pornography on the Internet usually by being bored-having nothing to do- and just surfing on the Internet. 

Do you get it: boredom and an accident were these boys’ “first baby steps” down the path to prison!!!!   (Sorry for raising my voice.  I’m amazed at how much confidence Satan has in the Gradual Progress.)

I won’t offend your spirit by sharing step-by-step details of how “accidental viewing of pornography and boredom” over time leads to “felony touching offenses.” But, Russell M. Nelson gives a general explanation:

“From an initial experiment thought to be trivial, a vicious cycle may follow. From trial comes a habit. From habit comes dependence. From dependence comes addiction. Its grasp is so gradual. Enslaving shackles of habit are too small to be sensed until they are too strong to be broken. (Addiction or Freedom, Ensign November 1988)

Of particular interest is how Satan so cleverly encouraged these young men to keep one foot in the Church while he leads (NOT herds, chases, or drives) them down the path to “hell”.

I cannot put into words the anguish in my soul as I regularly experience first hand Satan’s successful use of the Principle of “Gradual Progress.” 🙁

Baby steps toward evil are still evil. Satan’s strategy does not need us to commit great sin.

Perhaps most compelling –Their rivers of tears and mountains of remorse now they’ve been caught – typically make no difference in the courtroom. If convicted these boys will be preparing for their experience at the Utah State Prison as a “child molester” usually in “PC – protective custody” (23 hours a day in lock-down) and being on the sex-offender registry for the rest of their life.

If I listen carefully I can hear Satan’s laughter
and his chains of captivity rattling.
He whispers “A little sin will not stay little.” 

It’s difficult for me to help you understand that one little view of pornography; one beer; one lie; one flirtatious comment; or one whatever – can keep you out of heaven because of the power of “Gradual Progress.”  (Besides, my guess is that if that was all we did it was “onceit wouldn’t!)

Satan executes his Gradual Progress strategy with skill and passion: “one time” turns into “two,” then “three” then we fall asleep to God’s will.  The day when our “little sins” don’t bother us is the day our descent down Satan’s gradual path begins.

Lot and his family initially placed their tent facing Sodom.
It was only one chapter later when they were living in Sodom. (Genesis 13:12; 14:12)

Determine if the Principle of Gradual Progress applies to you.
If so…
Identify one gradual path you are on that is leading you away from God 
Ponder where it is leading you.

It’s a principle with  promise.

dr rick
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