Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Devil's Ploys: Book of Mormon Entry 2

I was so close to missing it. But luckily, I didn't.

I was quickly skimming over 2 Nephi 28:19-23, a passage about the Devil's ploys, the day active and passive voice became a little more important to me. I was skimming because who likes reading all about the Devil and his nasty tricks? I mean I don't. Anyway, while looking past versus 22 and 23, I noticed the word "grasps" on one line and "are grasped" on the next. "Why the difference?" I asked myself.

Photo by Victor
I knew the difference between active and passive voice. In active voice, the subject or actor in the sentence comes first with a verb immediately following, so "he grasps." In passive voice, the object, or what is acted upon, comes first making the verb become passive, or what is happening to the object and not what the subject is doing. The subject either comes later or remains unsaid, for example, "they are grasped," where no subject is said at all leaving "they" to be "grasped" by somebody unsaid.

Looking back over the versus with active and passive voice in mind, I began to see a pattern. Every time the Devil was referred to, he was the subject of the sentence. He, as the actor of the sentence, was constantly on the move, actively trying to "shake" us, "grasp" us, "pacify," and "lull" us. He "cheateth," "flattereth," "leadeth [us] away," "whispereth in [our] ears." He "rage[s]" against all that is good. Suddenly the Devil seemed powerful, frightening, and dreadfully busy. But what was worse came next.

Further down the versus, there was a sudden shift into the passive voice. The catalyst? "His awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance." Those who allowed themselves to be taken in and acted upon by the Devil suddenly became incapable of acting. The sentence structure itself showed it. "They are grasped with death and hell," they "have been seized" by the Devil. They cannot act for themselves, having given away their agency to the Devil and his ploys and rendering themselves objects to be acted upon.

Looking up from the page, I was shocked at how clearly the bondage of sin was embedded into the very sentences of the versus. It was terribly clear how existence would be if I was ever to relinquish my agency. I feel incredibly grateful that God gave me agency. After all, even those who give away their agency to the Devil's ploys will someday have to actively "stand before the throne of God" because God will not take away our agency. In fact, God requires us to be accountable. Perhaps that is why the Devil is so clever. He deceives us into thinking his way is easier, that no agency is better. But then at the last, when we must stand accountable before God, he abandons his followers and they are left not knowing how to deal with the consequences that will always come, regardless of active or passive choices.

Agency and accountability. Active and passive. To act and to be acted upon. What should we choose? Its pretty simple when put this way. 

1 comment:

  1. I never realized how significant a shift in voice between active and passive could be. Your insights here were clear and powerful. I'll have to pay more attention to passive and active voice in my future scripture studies.