Ever notice before church or before a temple trip,
Or before an FHE how you feel contentions grip?
Well, it’s not coincidental—‘tis the Devil, don’t you see?
And his timing is predictable; it’s not a mystery.
So with this knowledge, form a plan that is your very own—
On how to speak and how to act when hostile seeds are sown.
For when you feel to argue and angry thoughts take sway,
Turn the tables right around and this is what you say:
“Shut up there Mr. Devil, I’ll have no more of this;
Cease your lying tongue from its masquerading hiss!”
Thus freed from false possession may calm and peace be found;
And may God’s spirit fill your heart and love and joy abound.
Do you know the Three C’sters? They are triplets. They visit every home. Sometimes they feel so welcome they just move in permanently. They cause anger, bitterness, grudges, resentment, hurt, pain, indifference, backbiting, lack of forgiveness, and loss of the Spirit. Who is this unhappy trio you might ask? Let me introduce you. These three siblings go by the names of Contention, Conflict, and Criticism.
These three have paid many a visit to my family. Let me describe one from my growing up years. My parents called everyone to come for family home evening (FHE). With nine siblings, let’s be honest, any given week probably about half of us were not happy to be there. Just the effort of getting everyone together in one room was an unspoken invitation for the three C’sters to arrive. And they came—faithfully—every week! In fact, I dare go as far as to say that no one was more committed and dedicated to FHE than they.
Well, this particular week everyone was especially wound up, silly, mad, frazzled, bored, and tired. Mom had spent time preparing an extra spiritual lesson, and we were trying to get started. It took repeated (less then patient) calls for everyone to gather. Conflict expressed frustrations about having to have FHE right then. Criticism voiced something about having another dumb, boring lesson. From there, Contention took charge. It was a fight about who had to play the opening hymn on the piano; then it was a fight because so-and-so stole someone’s spot on the couch; then some were teasing, some were fighting, some were wishing everyone would just grow up; and some were wondering why we all do this FHE thing every week anyway!
About that time Dad decided things had gone far enough and put the “foot” down. He dished out extra jobs to the most egregious offenders in consequence of their crimes—all to squeals of delight from the C’sters. At this point Mom couldn’t take it anymore and said something to the effect that all her preparation was in vain and fled the room in tears. In silence each of us dismissed the beams in our own eyes and glowered with self-righteous indignation at the motes in the less-than-holy eyes of the sinners around us. One by one we slowly slinked off under a dismal cloud of darkness to pursue other less worthwhile activities. The only ones who remained were the three C’sters—all holding hands, laughing, and spinning circles in the living room.
They had won.
Now, contrast that experience with another that happened recently. Most of the family was together and Mom was recounting a spiritual story. As usual, and right on cue, who should arrive but the three C’sters. After a few minutes of Contention, Conflict, and Criticism, Mom said never mind, she would share her experience another time because the Spirit had left the room. One of the C’sters let out a victory cry. As we all sat there in the all-too-familiar ominous silence someone said, “Maybe the Spirit is gone, but we can invite Him back!”
Then it happened. Something that does not happen often enough. Everyone stopped, assessed the situation, and each chose to let go of hurt, pride, anger, sarcasm, silliness, and frustration. Under the mutually found light of truth, we saw the three C’ster for who they really were and unitedly uninvited them from our gathering. As they left, the Spirit returned.
In the days since, I have thought about this often. It is amazing how often the three C’sters—Contention, Conflict, and Criticism—touch our lives. That should come as no surprise, for the father of this unholy trio is the Devil himself, he who forever and always wants us to be “miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27-28). And his timing is predictable. Too often as we strive to do something worthwhile, good, uplifting, holy, spiritual, or eternal Satan sends the C’sters to deaden, distract, or destroy the experience. But knowing his diabolical strategy gives us power, for when we see his influence we can call it for what it is. (See “The War Goes On”, Ensign April 2017, pg. 33)
And we can send the C’sters packing.
Written: April 22, 2017