Joseph F. Smith
“As he observed human behavior, Joseph Fielding wondered about the nature of evil and its source. He asked his father [Joseph F.] whether Satan was the sole source of evil and to what extent Satan was restricted from sacred places, such as the temple. An avid student of Church history, even at this early age, Joseph Fielding knew that once, during the apostasy at Kirtland, a number of disgruntled members tried to take over the Church. In a meeting at the Kirtland Temple in late 1837, Brigham Young vigorously defended Joseph Smith. A scuffle ensued, during which some minor damage was done to the temple. Joseph Fielding cited the incident in his question regarding Satan’s influence and human agency:
April 3, 1900
You ask, Can a man do any wrong without first being tempted of Satan? All men have their agency, the spirit of Satan leads to error and darkness and wrong doing. If a man does wrong, it is because he yields to the spirit of evil, thereby exercising his agency. If he does good, it is in accordance with the spirit that is of God, and he uses his agency in that as well. Those who overcome evil in this life will be beyond the power of Satan in the life to come. In other words, Satan’s power ends in this world so far as the righteous are concerned, for they arise above him and above his influence; and power is not given to him to tempt them in the spirit world, they having overcome him in this. So far then as the righteous are concerned, Satan is effectually bound, whether it is in this life or in the life to come. But as mortality is never free from its own weaknesses there is no perfect safety in this sphere without the presence continually of the influence of the Holy Spirit. Satan can enter any place where he is invited or permitted to enter by man. If wicked men enter the house of God or have dominion in it, Satan will have access there, but where the righteous rule and the righteousness of God prevails, there Satan cannot come, at least with power.
You ask the question, Can a man do wrong in the temple if Satan is not there to urge him on? In the case you cite with reference to the Kirtland Temple it would seem that Satan himself had taken possession of the minds of those men, and if not in the temple in person, his power was certainly manifested through his agents there, who were apostates. I repeat, Satan, by his presence or power, can go anywhere that man can go who invites him or yields to him and his influence. The prevalence of the spirit of apostasy on the occasion you refer to gave the adversary almost full control at that time in the temple, and it is only by the power of righteousness that Satan and his influence was expelled therefrom. As to whether the binding of Satan is a literal binding as with a chain or not, it matters not. I am inclined to believe that the chain spoken of in the Bible, with which Satan is to be bound, is more figurative than real. He will be bound both by the faith of the righteous and the decrees of the Almighty during the Millennial reign and will be cast down into hell, as the prophets have said, and shall not be at liberty to molest the children of men until the end of the thousand years.” 1
On one occasion I heard the late Apostle Marriner W. Merrill, President of the Logan Temple, relate this extraordinary incident:
He was sitting in his office one morning, he said, when he noticed from the window a company of people coming up the hill to the Temple. As they entered the Temple grounds they presented rather a strange appearance, not only in dress but in their mode of travel. Some were riding on horses, others were in conveyances, and still others were afoot. He wondered who they could be as he was not looking for a company of such size that particular morning. They dismounted from their horses, stepped down from their conveyances, put their animals under the shade and walked about complacently as if they had a perfect right to be there.
A little later a person unknown to Brother Merrill entered the room. Brother Merrill said to him: “Who are you and who are these people who have come up and taken possession of the Temple grounds unannounced?” He answered and said: “I am Satan and these are my people.” Brother Merrill then said: “What do you want? Why have you come here?” Satan replied: “I don’t like the work that is going on in this Temple and feel that it should be discontinued. Will you stop it?” Brother Merrill answered and said emphatically, “No, we will not stop it. The work must go on.” “Since you refuse to stop it, I will tell you what I propose to do,” the adversary said. “I will take these people, my followers, and distribute them throughout this Temple district, and will instruct them to whisper in the ears of people, persuading them not to go to the Temple, and thus bring about a cessation of your Temple work.” Satan then withdrew.
President Merrill, commenting on this strange interview with the Evil One, said that for quite a period of time the spirit of indifference to Temple work seemed to take possession of the people and very few came to the House of the Lord. The presumption was that Satan had carried out his threat which caused a temporary lull in Temple work.
It is not to be wondered at that Satan, who is the enemy of all righteousness, is displeased with Temple work. 2