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Anesthesia of the Soul & The Lullaby of Complacency

Satan's sedation versus Christ's salvation: explore the profound spiritual battle of one who heals and one who deceives.

Raising five kids guarantees a lot of checkups, cavities, braces, broken braces, etc. You know the drill. Pre-mission wisdom teeth extraction was always an event for our sons and my wallet. Thankfully, our dental health professionals are equipped with technology to dull the pain far beyond a trusty bottle of Jack Daniels used in previous generations.

Anesthesia. Whether it be from injections or gas, pain can be effectively obliterated. If you want to have a pain-free experience AND avoid the horrid sounds and smells, you can even opt for full-out sedation dentistry. In which case, they completely knock you out, do the work, and then wake you back up. What a blessing it is for us in all fields of dentistry and medicine. In the days before anesthesia, it was to tag a swig of this, bite the wooden spoon, and hang on. It takes a good deal of training to know how to effectively administer anesthetics. Some people study for years to be anesthetists or anesthesiologists. And aren’t we glad they do?

He wants to numb our spirits so that we sleep through life.

My friend Mike is the type of friend you could talk to for hours. One time, I was talking with him, and out of the blue, he said to me, “You know, if Jesus is The Great Physician, wouldn’t Satan be considered The Great Anesthetist?” This question, undeniably profound, led me to stew over these ideas for a long time. The incubation period led me to the following thoughts, which I express throughout the rest of the article.

Both halves of Mike’s statements are important, and I want to give them the time they deserve. Particularly because, if I am being honest, I LIKE anesthesia. 

Jesus Christ: The Great Physician

Throughout the New Testament, we find story after story of Christ healing both the physical and spiritual infirmities of those around Him. One of the many examples is the wonderful story of the healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda. Additionally, when Christ appeared to the Nephites, He immediately stepped into the role of Physician when He extended the invitation,

Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither, and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. 

The Apostle David A. Bednar made the link to Christ’s ability to heal us spiritually when he said

The Savior is often referred to as the Great Physician, and this title has both symbolic and literal significance. All of us have experienced the pain associated with a physical injury or wound. …From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt.”

The Great Physician is only one of many noble titles for our Savior.

Satan: The Great Anesthetist

If we view Christ as the Great Physician, how is Satan “The Great Anesthetist,” especially when I spent the first part of the blog singing the praises of anesthesia? It is as simple as this: Satan does not care about you sleeping through a tooth extraction or an appendectomy. He has much bigger ambitions than that. He wants to numb our spirits so that we sleep through life. Elder Alvin F. Meredith illustrated this point in his 2021 conference address, “The adversary seems determined to get good people to do nothing, or at least to waste their time on things that will distract them from their lofty purposes and goals.”

How does he do this? How does he distract and numb us to the important things in life? Back in 2014, then-President Uchtdorf itemized three specific ways that we can be put to sleep and, in doing so, miss out on what matters. 

1. Selfishness

2. Addiction

3. Competing Priorities

The adversary would love for us to be so caught up in other things that we become spiritually numb. Asleep? Even better.

The Adversary would also love nothing more than to see us cut ties with our Father. Elder Eyring touched on this in a BYU address when he said

… one of the effects of disobeying God seems to be the creation of just enough spiritual anesthetic to block any sensation as the ties to God are being cut. Not only did the testimony of truth slowly erode, but even the memories of what it was like to be in the light began to seem to him like a delusion.

A numb spirit equals a score for the adversary. These are very individual and personal things. I would suggest, however, that Satan has successfully “sedated” enough people—as to the things of God—that that numbness is being felt throughout our society, both nationally and worldwide. In turn, that numb society sings a lullaby to put everyone to sleep, a lullaby that is often heard within the very membership of the Church: “Things are fine. We are catching up to the world. Everyone needs to just chill,” or “I am enough.” The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture specifically written for our day, alludes to this lullaby in these words:  

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

We need to wake up! As Father Lehi begged his sons in his dying breaths:

Oh that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe … Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

These words were echoed later by Nephi as he self-evaluated, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.” In the latter days, the message still rings out, “Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom …” Just as it did in the days of Isaiah, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments …” We can see that the temptation to be ‘lulled to sleep’ has been a theme throughout time, a common tactic of the Adversary.

It is the time for us to wake up.

For me, there is a natural tendency that when the going gets tough, and things are stressful, all I want to do is take a nap. However, now is not the time. The Great Anesthetist would love for us all to take a nice long, Rip Van Winkle-style nap. It is not the time to rest up—it is the time for us to wake up.

As Paul encouraged, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” The Lord echoed these ideas to Joseph Smith almost a millennium later, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” Even more recently, Elder Richard G. Scott gave some great counsel when he said:

Avoid worldly wickedness. Know that God is in control. In time, Satan will completely fail and be punished for his perverse evil. God has a specific plan for your life. He will reveal parts of that plan to you as you look for it with faith and consistent obedience. His Son has made you free—not from the consequences of your acts, but free to make choices. God’s eternal purpose is for you to be successful in this mortal life. 

To accomplish these things and to continue fighting the good fight, we need to be three things:

1. Awake

2. Coherent

3. Sensitive

Three things and qualities that The Great Anesthetist would love to help us forget. A sleeping saint poses no threat to him.

About the author

Bradley McBride

Bradley McBride is the author of the blog ThusWeSee.com. He is a husband, father, grandfather and BYU grad.
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