The Savior warned His followers about the power and influence of Satan saying:
Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. 3 Nephi 18:18
Sifting wheat or winnowing is accomplished by throwing wheat into the air and allowing chaff to be blown away, leaving just the grain. From Satan’s perspective, he’d like the good, that is, the spiritual part of men winnowed out leaving just the evil, fallen part of us. That way he can have full power over the hearts of men and women.
The Book of Mormon tells of just such a time. A time when the Jaredites had become so wicked that Satan had full power over the hearts of the people.
But behold, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed… Ether 15:19
Satan is real and has influence in all of our lives. We have been taught this is particularly true for those who are seeking to follow Christ. Joseph Smith told Heber C. Kimball:
“The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifest by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes.” Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967), p. 132.
It is important to remember there are vast numbers of fallen spirits on the earth who seek to deceive and mislead mankind. I believe each of us have encounters with these fallen spirits—more often than we realize. I know by my own experience that evil spirits are about us. Generally we’re unaware of their actual presence by sight, but on one occasion the Lord lifted the veil to teach me that that are real and have power.
Satan Gives “Revelation”
The fiery darts of the adversary are real. The scriptures use this phrase to help us realize that Satan does indeed have power, and can wield it against us. When the Lord communicates with us we generally refer to it as the whisperings of the Spirit. When Satan communicates with us, I think the phrase, “fiery darts”, is a descriptive metaphor of Satan’s revelatory method.
I’ll give an example of one way this satanic revelatory processed worked on me. As a 7th grader I was learning the ways of the world. My friends and I had learned to “flip the bird”. However, my “bird” didn’t have wings. In other words, it wasn’t as classy as my friends. This troubled me. One morning, as I was waking up, I was “taught” how to slide the fingers on either side of my middle finger into the proper position so I could have a classy bird. My bird now had wings, and I could effortlessly employ it.
Satan can bring ideas into our minds and influence the feelings of our heart just as Heavenly Father does. His “revelations” teach us to become like him, perfectly evil, while Heavenly Father’s revelations teach us to become as He is, perfectly good.
Ways to Know When Satan’s Fiery Darts are Directed at You
I think Brigham Young said something profound when he taught:
In the first place the spirit is pure, and under the special control and influence of the Lord, but the body is of the earth, and is subject to the power of the devil, and is under the mighty influence of that fallen nature that is of the earth. If the spirit yields to the body, the devil then has power to overcome both the body and spirit of that man, and he loses both. JD, Vol.2, Pg.256, Brigham Young, April 6, 1855
As spiritual beings having a mortal experience we need to understand what Brigham Young is teaching. When we’re born into this world our spirits are pure (D&C 93:38), but our bodies are of the earth (Mosiah 3:19). In addition, we are exposed to influences from two sources: the powers of heaven and hell. In short, the powers of heaven entice us to follow God, and the powers hell entice us to follow Satan.
Following is a list that provides some general ideas to help us determine when we might be experiencing the fiery darts of the adversary. Before you read this list I want to go on record as saying that I’m not suggesting that every time a person experiences something on this list that Satan is the cause. That would be like saying that every time someone has a stomach ache they are experiencing cancer pain. But if stomach pain or the things on this list become a daily event, then caution should be taken.
Discerning the spirit of Satan versus God
1. You feel unhappy, depressed, confused, and frustrated. Vs. You feel happy and calm.
2. You feel heavy, full of darkness. Vs. You feel full of light.
3. Your mind is muddled. Vs. Your mind is clear.
4. You feel empty, hollow, and cold inside. Vs. Your bosom burns with love for the Lord and for others.
5. You feel selfish, possessive, self-centered. Vs. You feel generous.
6. Everything anyone does bothers you. Vs. Nobody can offend you.
7. You are always on the defensive. Vs. You are very forgiving and kind.
8. You become discouraged easily. Vs. You feel confident in what you do.
9. You become secretive, evasive. Vs. You don’t mind anyone seeing what you are doing
10. You want to be alone. You avoid others — especially family members. Vs. You feel outgoing, anxious to be with others
11. You are envious of what others do and what they have. Vs. You are glad when others succeed.
12. You want to get even and show others up. Vs. You want to make others happy, even those opposed to you.
13. You are critical of others, especially family members and those in authority. Vs. You bring out the best and say the best about others.
14. You feel hesitant, unworthy, and unwilling to perform Church ordinances. Vs. You gladly and willingly perform Church work.
15. You don’t want to pray or read scriptures. Vs. You feel like praying and reading the scriptures.
16. You find the commandments of God and rules of the family bothersome, restricting, or senseless. Vs. You wish you could keep all the Lord’s commandments.
17. You become a slave to your appetites; your emotions become passionate; over indulgence in food, sleep, sex, stimulating entertainment, loud music, strong anger, outspokenness all become part of your character.
You feel you have control of your appetites and emotions: food and sleep in moderation, sexual restraint, recreation that is wholesome and moderate; you are calm and control your speech; you feel no anger.
18. You want to make sure all the help you give others is duly noted by them and the world. Vs. You feel a deep desire to help others—usually in a way no one else will know about.
19. You look for and find evil in others and broadcast it. Vs. You speak and think only good about others.
20. You question others’ motives and secretly delight in their problems, and say, “I’m glad I’m not that way.” Vs. You feel sorrow when others have problems and sincerely desire to help them.
This list was adapted from a talk given by John H. Groberg, of the Seventy, given at BYU June 15, 1982. It was titled, Investing for Eternity.
 He is here, mighty among the children of men. There is a vast number of fallen spirits, cast out with him, here on earth…there are many evil spirits among us, and they labor to overthrow the church and kingdom of God….Do you suppose these devils are around us without trying to do something? … I say … we have got a mighty warfare to wage with these spirits. We cannot escape it. What will they do to you? They will try to make us do anything and everything that is not right.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 238-40.)