Deceptions cannot be solved on the same spiritual level they were created. This immediately binds a person to their deceptions and prohibits them, by their own power, to be relieved of them.
But what causes a deception?
It is when when we, in any degree, resist the spirit of truth. When we receive a prompting, or an invitation of the spirit, or know something to be true, and we harden our heart against it by rejecting it, we, in that moment, enter into a state of deception.
We persist in that deception as long as we continue to harden our heart against the truth.
And the deception becomes real to us. It becomes our perception of reality.
If we harden our hearts, and resist a truth in any degree, we must also do something to justify keeping ourselves in a hardened state. That thing is this:
We must tell ourselves a lie. And more fundamentally, we must live a lie in order to maintain our self-justified, resistant state.
We are in our pure spiritual state, spirits of truth. And so if we deny the spirit within us, and deny the truth, and deny the spirit of truth the Lord mercifully sheds forth on us, we learn to live in a state of deception. This is a state of being of a hardened heart.
We live a lie.
We live in a state of having the truth veiled from us.
And the lies we tell ourselves, and the lies we live, become the most important things to us. They become our gods, and we have an existential need to protect and defend them at all cost.
Because to let them go causes us to feel unjustified in the world. And there is no greater pain than to be unjustified. Self-justification is the only thing people seek in this world. It is the most fundamental need of every being on this earth.
And so we are wrapped and insulated and steeped in our deceptions. The lies accumulate over time, and so do our narratives – the stories we tell our self about our selves, and the stories we tell others, in order to prop up our justified world. These false-narratives become our reality.
We collect things of value and build identities out of them in order to give ourselves meaning. In order to establish value and purpose and relevance in the world.
The emblems and images we collect often include wealth, attractiveness, intelligence, education, prestige, “spirituality”, and our success. It can be a need to be affirmed by those we are sexually attracted to. It can be our reputation for something unique – being better at something than other people, more talented, or more accomplished.
The images can be trophies, or evidences that we present to the world in order to perpetuate and sustain our identity.
Even things like being a certain type of moral person, a “spiritual giant”, a church leader, or seen as something noble – like a great father or mother – can be used as false identity.
And we accumulate these emblems of worth. And use these emblems to prove to others that we are worthy of emulation or even worship.
As these emblems of worth become our evidence to the world that we have value, the people that affirm these emblems become trophies to us. People become objects we use to establish and maintain our false-narratives.
As long as we use others as validation of our own self-image we do not love them. We use them. They are objects to us. We do not see them for who they are, because we do not see ourselves for who we are. And we certainly do not see God for who he is.
We use our children, our spouse, our friends, our work associates, the members of our ward – everyone becomes a reflection of our value. By the way we solicit responses from them. We extract from them proof that the lie we are living is a valid one.
And so we sew these lies and emblems into an identity. And we clothe ourselves in that identity.
And we then see the world and others through the lens of that identity. Everything becomes a mode of either affirming our identity or challenging it.
And because of this, those with the same deceptions tend to attract each other and relate through their shared deceptions. They create families, and social groups, and churches, and communities and nations around their shared false-narratives. (All churches that are not those that are new creatures in Christ, are churches that collude over the same self-deceptions.)
Our false identities come by covering darkness within. It starts with the fall. We are born into a state contrary to our spiritual nature. And we are veiled from our selves and the God that clothes us in light. And because we lose our clothing of light for a fallen and vulnerable body, we seek to do for ourselves what we no longer think God will do for us.
And we spend our lives making a case to those around us that our false-identities are true. We seek validation and affirmation. If the jury of our peers and those we seek to be accepted by respond to us in a way that affirms our identity, we feel relief and self-satisfied. At least until the day is over.
So, we build our own identity. We create a self-image. We make gods of ourselves.
False Doctrinal Teaching and Self-Deception
Much false doctrine and false-teaching is attractive to us because it appeals to the false-identity that we’ve sought to build. It strengthens the deception. It justifies the narrative.
Smooth doctrines are ones that do not require us to cast off our self-deceptions and stand naked before God. They teach us that we are acceptable in our self-deceived state, and if we just keep trying to improve ourselves and just do “better” we will be acceptable before God.
But what is “better” in a state of self-deception? The problem, of course, is that your view of “better” will always be viewed through your own distorted sense of reality.
You have to be divested of your self-deception before you can even understand what it means to be “better”.
Another false-teaching is to believe that becoming born again is a long process over a lifetime of incremental improvement. This is attractive because it requires us not to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
This doctrine teaches that we can come to God without casting off our false-identities.
Those that teach this doctrine are often those that have found great success in the world. They have done well professionally and often financially. They are well respected and therefore have been affirmed most of their life as an object of adoration or emulation.
Because of this, they teach the doctrine that you can manage your creature in such a way that you can do most of the work yourself. And by exercising discipline and the proper image management, you can make yourself into something really great. And the gap between what you’ve created and where God is can be closed after you die through his “atonement”.
And of course, this is a lie. It is a false religion. You are not saved by the “management of your creature”. It is the doctrine of the anti-Christ (Alma 30:17).
Another type of doctrinal deception comes to many who are elect and highly favored of the Lord. If those that are prone to spiritual experience have not submitted their lustful desires for greater spiritual experience, many receive false revelations that take them on false and strange roads.
Living by false teachings and a deceived doctrine always feeds a self-deceived state and false self-image. This is a primary way these doctrines can be detected (a subject to be explored later).
How Do We Come Out of this Condition?
To put off these clothes – to submit our identity back to God requires us to stand naked before him again. This causes us to fear and tremble.
Standing naked before God is a terrifying prospect for those that have (in their view) successfully established themselves in their identity. The image they have built to justify their world, and to be affirmed and respected, and to manufacture value, and relevance, and ultimately meaning – to make all of that vulnerable is a fearful and dreadful thing.
Letting go of a self-deceived state requires us to submit our narratives, and lies, and sense of reality back to the spirit of truth. It requires us to be vulnerable.
We have to begin by committing ourselves to be influenced by truth. And we have to be willing to sacrifice our self-deceptions, our views, our understanding – all the things we use to comfort ourselves from the pain and fear and terror of the fall.
We have to submit to something higher than ourselves and understanding.
And so, as we began, we come to understand that deceptions cannot be solved on the levels they were created.
We learn to exercise faith. We learn that that by yielding to the spirit of truth, it requires us to also become the spirit of truth.
This is the process of having a broken heart.
A broken heart, in one fundamental sense, is having the false narratives and self-deceptions broken. It is to be divested of the lies we have used to give meaning to the world and to ourselves.
By yielding to the process of having our hearts broken and focusing intensely on light and the spirit of truth, the Lord can lead us out of our deceptions.
He can send us his spirit, which “teaches the truth of all things” (Moroni 10: 5).
By not feeding our deceptions with attention. By not wrestling with them in their current state. By not applying our own thoughts to them, and yielding to a higher thought – a higher light – a higher truth. We can simply let go.
Coming out of our deceptions is like escaping the Chinese handcuffs we would play with as kids. The more force you exerted trying to relieve yourself, the more you kept your self stuck.
You have to relax and let go. And just focus wholeheartedly on responding to the spirit of truth that is constantly inviting you out of your deceptions.
And go to the Lord in prayer. And relax. And submit yourself to confront your reality. And to allow the Lord to teach you about the lies you’ve accepted. And allow him to displace those lies with his spirit of truth.
For Christ cannot be deceived. And he doesn’t respond to you according to your deceptions and false self-image. He is the spirit of truth and he loves you perfectly despite the image you create.
And because of this he invites you to come out of the image. He invites you to lay the deceptions down and be vulnerable to him. He loves you out of them.
Any image that we have in our countenance that is not his image is a false one.
All obedience, sacrifices, covenants, requirements, laws, conditions, trials, experience, has one purpose: to redeem us out of our deceptions and to receive the mind, power, life, and image of Christ.
And we can be redeemed from our false identity and self-deceived state.
And this is what it means to be born again.