The crucial first step in combating Satan is recognizing that he actually and truly exists. Many people today—even those who claim to believe in the gospel—think of Satan as purely symbolic, or as a myth concocted by men to control people with fear. This is exactly what Satan wants. He actively promotes the rumor that he does not exist, because people do not keep their guard up against something they do not believe is real.
But nothing could be further from the truth. We should be as certain of Satan's existence as a personal, individual spirit being as we are of God's existence. During these final years before he is stripped of his power at the Second Coming, Satan and his angels are frantically using all conceivable methods of deception to corrupt us. We must be constantly on the defensive, because the moment we let our guard down, our eternal souls are in danger.
• Romney, Marion G. Satan, the Great Deceiver. Ensign Magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. February 2005.
• Williams, Clyde J. “A Shield against Evil”. Ensign: The Magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, January 1996.
• Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 102–13
Satan is clever, cunning, and completely relentless in his goal of making all mankind miserable and claiming them for his eternal kingdom. He knows each of our weak spots and how to exploit them. Every single person on earth is watched closely by Satan and those who fell to earth with him after the war in heaven. Unlike us, they can remember the premortal existence, so they knows things about us that we may not know or understand ourselves.
Knowing he cannot immediately induce good people to commit major sins, Satan carefully analyzes the situation, forms a long term plan, and then subtly, slyly, and methodically puts it into practice. Whether it takes two weeks or two years doesn't matter to him. Satan and his angels will slowly lead people from right to wrong, gradually tempting them into larger and larger sin until people are committing sins that they never would have considered at first.
Satan uses tactics like disguises, peer pressure, money, power, and force. He wields such tools as television, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books to minimize the seriousness of sin and make it look attractive, pleasurable, and popular. He suggests rationalizations, like "If it doesn't hurt anyone, how can it be wrong?" and "It can't be wrong if two people love each other" to entice us to do things that are not pleasing to Heavenly Father.
False prophets can be made by Satan to look like true prophets. He has the power to perform miracles that deceive the people. He can change his appearance to look almost like an angel. The closer a person draws to Jesus, the greater the powers that will be used by Satan against them. When we are deceived into sin, Satan's reaction is laughter and rejoicing.
As part of our experience in mortality, Heavenly Father allows Satan and his angels to tempt and deceive us. Satan's hand has never been more clearly discernible in any human undertaking than the Holocaust during World War II during which the Nazis and their accomplices murdered 6 million Jews—a million and a half of them children. But Satan can go no farther than the wisdom of God permits, and his power may be checked at any time.
Despite his immense powers and influence, there are certain things Satan cannot do. He cannot read our thoughts. He cannot directly take someone's life. He also has no power to tempt children under the age of 8—the age of accountability. But he does try to harm young children by influencing the adults entrusted with their care to be negligent, careless, and otherwise sinful.
People often blame Satan for the sins they commit as if he is the cause of their wickedness. But if that were the case and people were mere victims, then mortals could not be condemned. Satan cannot compel a person to do evil—all evil is voluntary. Though Satan and his angels are incessantly attempting to confuse, trick, and deceive us, and can make wrong seem right and right seem wrong, they are only as successful as their victims allow them to be.