By Degrees

The devil doses in small but deadly degrees.

Lehonti was a Lamanite protected on a mount,
Surrounded by defenders even more than he could count;
But Amalickiah’s message flattered him in part,
And so he left security for vanity of heart.
Yet flattery turned fatal so remember, won’t you please?
How subtly and slowly he was poisoned by degrees.

As children of Almighty God we stand on holy mount,
Protected by His angels, even more than we can count;
Yet still we hear from down below the Devil’s crafty call,
Those who choose to listen in, like Lehonti surely fall.
For if we leave our mountain top, then Satan wins with ease
By titillating temptings, delivered by degrees.


I love the story of Lehonti for the powerful lesson that it teaches.  You may know the tale.  The king of the Lamanites was convinced by the wicked defector, Amalickiah, to go to war again against the Nephites.  However, having been badly beaten by them in the recent past, the majority of the Lamanite army refused to obey their king.  They banded together on the top of mount Antipas and appointed Lehonti to be their leader. 

Under the direction of the king, Amalickiah took the remaining loyal part of the army and camped at the base of the mountain.  He then sent word up to Lehonti that he wanted a secret meeting with him.  Multiple times Lehonti refused before finally giving in and meeting with Amalickiah.  In this meeting, Amalickiah told Lehonti to come down at night and surround the loyal part of the army and then he, Amalickiah, would surrender the whole army to Lehonti.  The only payback was for Lehonti to make Amalickiah second in command.

And so it was done.  Pretty good move for Lehonti, right?  He now had control of the entire Lamanite army.  The only problem, Amalickiah then had a servant slowly poison Lehonti until he died.  Unlike the song, there is nothing funny about it—pride does go before the fall.  In Lehonti’s ambition, he compromised and made contracts with a venomous snake.  And the sad outcome was all too assured. (See Alma 47.)

If only Lehonti had stayed where it was safe!  If only he had not listened!  If only he had not descended!  Why is it then, that the lesson so easily seen in the lives of others, is so hard to learn in our own?  Because the Devil is so adept at dressing up death in its many diverse disguises and then delivering it to us deftly and diligently by nearly indistinguishable degrees.

Hence the Lord’s continuous and countering plea to “stand ye in holy places, and be not moved” (D&C 87:8).

Written: March 30, 2019

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