Watching general conference today, I was reminded again how absolutely critical it is to stay immersed in the word of God.

See, the world is seductive. The world is persuasive. And, in a lot of things, the world is dead wrong. But of course that’s not kosher to say these days (one of Satan’s victories, sadly), and in our tendency to try to fit in and be “normal,” we sometimes forget who we are and what’s actually true.

The solution — the only reliable solution, really — is to study the word of the Lord every day. I’ve found that the longer I go without being in the scriptures (or conference talks), the less real the gospel seems and the more rational and acceptable the world’s perspective starts looking. And that’s dangerous. Really, really dangerous.

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. (2 Nephi 28:22)

If you don’t believe in a real, unseen devil who is (insanely) trying to dethrone God and, as part of his plan, trying to pull you down and turn you into an agent of evil, then yeah, scriptures and conference and commandments and covenants and all the rest don’t seem to matter that much. Try to be a good person and not hurt others and you’re good to go, right?

But the words of the prophets and apostles are clear and have always been clear: there is an adversary, a cunning, ruthless mastermind who wants to destroy everything good in this world and who will use any tactic he can to get what he wants. He’s not folklore or myth. He’s not the invention of campfire storytellers or the concoction of priests trying to control congregations. He’s real. And he’s deadly.

The thing is, it’s not cool anymore to believe in Satan — which, of course, is exactly what he wants.

I’m not saying we need to fixate on the devil and keep him in our thoughts continually. That’s ridiculous. But if we forget that there’s a devil, it’s not very hard to also forget that we desperately need a Christ to save us. Without a real evil, real good means nothing. It becomes watered down, diluted to the point where it makes no visible difference in our lives. And if there’s anything the gospel is meant for, it’s to make a difference in our lives. God gave us the gospel to change us, to raise us up and transform us from earthy mortals into gods and goddesses.

Getting back to the beginning of this post, the more we study and live by the word of God, the more clearly we see the difference between good and the fool’s good Satan tries to pawn off on us. Distractions and deceptions don’t work on people who truly live by the Spirit. And it’s not just defense — resisting Satan is merely the baseline, and God is certainly not defined as “not Satan.” He’s far more than that. If we’re living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, strengthened by daily infusions of light, we’re filled with power to do good, to build the kingdom and make our home here a far better place in a lasting, eternal way.

If we want to stay true to the Lord — and that’s the only sane thing to do, honestly — then we have to make the word of God a part of us every single day. And if we don’t do that, it’s all too easy to be carried away by the winds of the world, tumbled down off the mountain of the Lord, over the foothills and through the valleys and out far into the wastelands till we finally forget who that God fellow was and why he even mattered.