Thus far we've seen how to tell whether something bears Christ's Spirit or not.
Now we're prepared to flip that around, and ask:
How can we discern whether something bears the spirit of the Anti-Christ?
Interested? Clark Burt commented in Part 9: "Another question to ask is: what is Anti-Christ? Is religion Anti-Christ? Is following the prophet Anti-Christ? Are those that teach there is no Christ Anti-Christ? Is it possible that getting caught up in trying to identify a person as the Anti-Christ, causes us to minimize what is Anti-Christ?"
Those are important questions. The first point I want to make is that, just as there are signs (i.e., fruits) of Christ's Spirit/ light/ word/ power ― (like faith, hope and charity) ― so too, there are "anti-signs" of the Anti-Christ.
Three Anti-Signs, to be exact.
The Art of Seduction
The Three Great Anti-Signs are quite obvious once we know where to look.
Just as Christ's kingdom is "not of this world" (John 18:36), the kingdom of Anti-Christ is very much of this world.
Ironically, we find the Three Anti-Signs thriving in modern religion, of all places.
The key to unlocking the Anti-Signs is to understand something about secret combinations.
Yes, secret combinations. And no, I am not a conspiracy-theory-kind-of-guy.
Secret combinations are like a fire; close up, they are bright and hot. But as we move further away, we lose sight of the flames but can still see the smoke. Further still, we may not be able to see the billowing clouds of smoke, but we can smell it in the air (like when the Canadian wildfires polluted the air quality thousands of miles away).
Follow your nose; we're going to look at what the Anti-Christ smells like.
The Nephites did build them up [we're talking about secret combinations] and support them
Why would good, God-fearing people "support" such wickedness? And how did they "build them up"?
Well, the short answer is money. That's how we build and support things here in the telestial world. As Hugh Nibley liked to say, "The Mahan Technique is to convert life into property."
The way the righteous are seduced into complicity with secret combinations is not to get them to sign up as card-carrying-members, but to get them to unwittingly enjoy the spoils down-stream.
beginning at the more wicked part of them
Normally we think of the "more wicked part" as people wearing hooded cloaks and chanting like monks in a circle, sacrificing goat blood on a stone-tiled pentagram in some dank basement (making a caricature of what people who participate in secret combinations are actually like).
But I don't think all those sweet Nephite moms and pops were swearing secret oaths and committing murder.
Instead, I view them as victims of a corrupt system. They were caught up and trapped in a society that, regrettably, served the rich and powerful.
until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites
Notice that what began as localized wickedness spread over time; it became adopted more widely until, at last, it was just "the norm."
and had SEDUCED the more part of the righteous
"Seduced" is such a loaded word. It means, "to entice into sexual activity."
If you want to read a bizarre chapter of scripture, I suggest you check out Ezekiel 23. In it, Ezekiel compares Jerusalem to a harlot who "bruised the breasts of her virginity" (Ezekiel 23:3). Her paramour was Assyria and Egypt; she trusted them and had a sordid affair and became "polluted."
Now, here's the point: alarmingly (if you thought that Ezekiel was talking about someone else), Ezekiel uses the same analogy to describe how Israel was unfaithful with . . . wait for it . . . her prophets.
Wait. What? How could infidelity be tied to the way the prophets and the people "get it on" (pardon the French)?
Well, the Lord uses the word "seduced." He said his people were "seduced" by "prophets that see vanity" (Ezekiel 13:9-10).
[Anti-Christ] Practice Pointer: The way you "seduce" the righteous is simple: get their leaders to preach a path that leads them into "vanity" like the Pied Piper.
until they [the righteous] had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils.
Oof. And we haven't even gotten to the Three Anti-Signs yet.
The Three Anti-Signs
Let me give you three keys that will never rust.
The spirit of Anti-Christ is accompanied by three anti-signs, the dearest desire of all secret combinations:
to get power and gain . . . [and] the glory of the world.
(Ether 8:23, 7)
What I find fascinating is the fact that these three signs are also the same signs of priestcrafts:
Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world ["power"], that they may get gain ["gain"] and praise of the world ["glory"].
(2 Nephi 26:29)
Okay, third time the charm? A third instance of this unholy trinity pops up in the Book of Mormon at the point the Church of God was broken up among the Nephites.
Specifically, Satan tempted the people
to seek for power and authority [power], and riches [gain], and the vain things of the world [glory].
(3 Nephi 6:15)
Fourth time the charm? Because guess what are the defining characteristics of the Great and Abominable Church?
And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church["gain"].
And also for the praise of the world ["glory"] do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity ["power and authority"].
(1 Nephi 13:8-9)
The question we should ask is whether the signs of the spirit of Anti-Christ are found in the Church today?
When the Angel Rebuked Joseph Smith
Several years ago I was invited to speak at Stake Conference. As is my practice, I didn't write a talk but tried to "treasure up the words of life" beforehand (D&C 84:85).
(And no, I have not been invited to speak since.)
As I stood at the pulpit, with the cameras trained on my shiny bald forehead, broadcasting into two other buildings, I silently prayed for the Lord to fill my mouth.
I opened my scriptures; a thought came to my mind. I turned to the Pearl of Great Price and read a verse from Joseph Smith-History to the congregation:
"I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich.
"This he forbade me, saying that I MUST HAVE NO OTHER OBJECT IN VIEW in getting the plates but to glorify God, and MUST NOT BE INFLUENCED BY ANY OTHER MOTIVE than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them."
Did Joseph get the plates? Nope. Not the first time. Nor the second. Or the third. Why not?!
The Lord must have been serious about that "pure heart" business.
But how easily we find ways to profit from our service to God, hoping to have it both ways; to serve God AND Mammon.
And we call it a "win-win."
"Objection, Your Honor!"
"Tim!" someone says. "You're worried over nothing. You see, the Church is not following the spirit of Anti-Christ because its leaders are "seeking the welfare of Zion." There's no problem with the apostles and prophets asserting their keys and authority or collecting vast sums of wealth or receiving honors and awards! Building temples and doing missionary work take money. They're doing it for the good of the kingdom!"
Mmm, I would nod, collecting my thoughts.
My kingdom is NOT of this world.
Mmm, I would continue to stall, speechless.
How quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world are the children of men!