Today we delve into the theological conundrum of Satan. We show that it is LDS theology that Satan is the opposition in the Plan of Salvation. That he could thwart the plan simply by ceasing his participation. The Apologetic response would argue that Satan is so pride driven that he can’t help himself but to stay involved despite his actually helping fulfill God’s plan or Satan is unnecessary and that opposition exists even if Satan steps aside. Either way Satan either is illogical or non-essential. We finish showing that in light of either Satan being illogical or inessential, it becomes non-essential to believe in him.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
For years I wondered about the “Satan” problem. I couldn’t understand, for example, the interpretation of Christ calling Peter Satan: “get thee behind me…”…You know the verse.
It also never made sense to me how Satan could be so stupid to tempt Eve to take the fruit, when if he didn’t, the entire plan of salvation would have stalled and Satan would have had the upper hand.
But then, the entire message of “satan” is very Christian, even LDS. We have this perfect polar opposite–God on one hand, and the Devil on the other. Black and White thinking at the foundation of the theology.
Bill,…your point about tying up the game makes sense to me: if satan (if such a being exists), according to LDS theology, were to simply stop doing what he does, then the opposition would end and the entire process would grind to a halt. There actually is a way for “him” to strike back–and yet he doesn’t? This being who is devoted in every single way possible to thwarting the plan of God….wont fight back with a way he could strike out successfully?
This is a problem, and I agree it makes no sense from the LDS perspective.
On the other hand, just by this very discussion and the conclusions made, isn’t the adversary sitting idleley by and and possibly snickering just a little? Hmmm? This is a theological rabbit hole that has many more paths of thoughts than can be shared in a comment section. Nevertheless, if it “needs be” a devil…we’ll start with that premise.
The idea if there is a being (God) with greater intelligence than all of us then it would be reasonable that in an existence of eternal intelligences there would be a equal oppositional figure to such a being. We’re taught in the King Follet discourse that God (as we know applicable to us) had a Father and so on. If that is the case, then wouldn’t a entity similiar to Lucifer potentially exist in some way before Lucifer became Satan? I believe where we get messy with all of this is the assignment of titles, space, time and the way scripture depicts ideas and imagery. We look at these ideas in very simplistic ways and attempt to mold them into our present world. The statement that the Devil is the author of all that is evil is most likely an expression for God’s children to understand in a simple means. If we were to be exposed to the full extent of the “dark side” I would suppose that the reality is much more complex and extensive than we comprehend. If man can’t comprehend the things of God why would they be able to comprehend the Devil and all the principalities and dominions of opposition to light?
After reading the LDS canon of scriptures on these matters, along with latter day leaders discourses, the Church cannot but doctrinize a actual entity of the Devil. The Book of Mormon has anti-christs that are convinced by the Devil’s agents and so much more sermons with respect to Satan. The Book of Revelation if studied with proper ancient understanding has marvelous insight on agency, Satan etc.. The parallels of the seven churches in John’s day to the apocalyptic future of the latter day church, when properly studied, is alarming to exactly what is impacting the Cburch today and its members. A spoil alert….. the acceptance of modern paganism, adapting modern sexual thought/practice and secularist thought into our Church is not going to work out well!!!
My conclusion is that there is a Satan that resides in an existence of eternity and that this being is only one of legions within the realm of the eternities. If he can make us come to a conclusion he doesn’t exist by just not tempting us and supposedly thwart God’s plan doesn’t that seem to work also? Since that is one of his motives, according to scriptures, he succeeds either way. See, these are round and round theological brain teasers we get ourselves entangled in and that maybe Satan is not as stupid as we think he would be. See how confused or uncovfused you are?
In closing, the conclusion that the Devil doesn’t exist and evil is all from within the natural man, then what are we to base our opposition against? We know who God is right? So if there is not a complete opposition to such then is there really a God? Can you have righteousness without unrighteousness? Not that there needs be opposition in all things,…but there always has and always will be opposition in ALL THINGS!! The Book of Mormon has some interesting ideas on this that need to be explored thoroughly….and yes with a open mind.
I bid you an Everlasting Farewell.
Your discussion didn t include the large implications that no dividing satan has. What implications does it have on temple ordinances? What implications does it have on the value of prophets and scripture the process this false idea?
To some extent I agree. I do think that the natural man within each of us is our own personal “devil” so to speak. The scriptures teach that God gave us weakness to help us be humble and as we go through the process of making His will our will weaknesses will be made strong. So yes, I believe that there is a natural part of us that puts us in opposition to God without the need for a being Satan. However, I do believe that a being Satan does exist and is striving to build a kingdom in direct opposition to God’s. He exploits the natural man within each of us to accomplish his goal. I believe he can even use our good intentions against us by twisting that which is good in effort to disguise his real motives which are what they were before this world was: power, control, glory and honor. I believe that the “church of the devil” or the “whore of all the earth” has very little to do with religious churches. In my view, I see the devil’s kingdom as government. Let me explain, A church is a place one can go to worship. Think about a government agency as a place where people go to “worship”. One could say those living on welfare(not judging here just offering perspective) are kneeling at the feet of government and saying feed me, clothe me, provide shelter for me. Take public education even up to the collegiate level, please government teach me or my children, provide for us so that the education comes not at personal expense whether time or money. Universal healthcare, please government give me the care I need to sustain life. I don’t mean to criticize people who take advantage of these programs but to show how as a society we often look to government as a savior or god and we worship accordingly. As people turn to government for the necessities of life, Satan becomes a ruler over us. He controls when, where, how many, what kind, at what price, etc. He has usurped power from the people to decide these things for ourselves. Why does he do It? Because he can. Now is the great day of his power. He won’t have the opportunity to rule in anyway over this earth at some point and so he is taking advantage of the time he has. He does this not because he is serving God’s plan by doing so, but because he is serving himself and now is his opportunity to do so. There is so very much I don’t understand. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything including this. I just know that I see government as a false kingdom of a false god and what being would have reason to build it up? Would it be the collective natural man? I am not sure that makes sense. This is an organized evil. Could mankind subconsciously create such a kingdom with such subtle malicious intent?
A while back, I discussed this idea at length with a number of church “leaders” including my Bishop, SP, and Institute Teacher. It was as an appendage to the topic of what makes Christ the “Redeemer” and what is he redeeming us from, for, or into. But each of these 3 said in their own ways that we put far too much emphasis on Satan for what he deserves. He presented a plan to force us, was turned down, and is now waiting for individuals to follow his new path. Our minds are ours. We can seek for inspiration for the Holy Spirit or demons, but nothing will be forced on us because of Christ’s plan.
I bring up the example of these local leaders as an example that this seems to be a well acknowledged idea among people who actually ponder on the meaning of church doctrines. You’re right that lds.org hints at the idea that Satan can tempt us, but I wonder if this disconnect occurs because the LDS organization sometimes puts more effort into supporting people with more general christian views feel empowered rather than teaching the purest Truths that they understand.
You need to think of it like this – Satan wants to maximize the amount of suffering in the universe as revenge for God denying him. If Satan never tempts Adam and Eve, they will forever be at peace in the Garden of Eden… no suffering there. It is within his motives to get the plan of salvation rolling, and then prove that humans are not strong enough for Jesus’s plan, therefore justifying his original plan of spiritual tyranny. Now that the plan of salvation is in effect, it is within his interests to tempt as many people into hell as possible to maximize suffering. If he stops tempting people, perhaps they can’t go to the celestial kingdom, but everyone will be worthy of a lesser degree of glory. No suffering there. He must take action if he wants to maximize suffering.
Thanks for the post. Here are a few thoughts that I hope might be helpful in the pursuit of truth and Christ:
#1 – Trying to understand Satan’s motivations is an impossibility. Doctrine and Covenants 76:48 provides some excellent context for that discussion. CS Lewis talks about that a little in his introduction to the Screwtape Letters. His object with that particular book was to help us discover the error of our ways, rather than to get us to see the wisdom or sensibility of Satan’s ways. Further, it is not consequential to understand His motivations in our efforts to grow closer to the Savior of the World.
#2 – One of the truths revealed in the 1st vision of Joseph Smith was that (in addition to the loving nature of God and His Son) there exists a being with astonishing power, who is in opposition to the plan of our Father in Heaven. This was not figurative, it was real. It had power to bind his tongue and almost overcame him. That dark influence was not just Joseph’s “natural man.”
#3 – The fundamental issue here is one of opposition and agency. It is easy to misread DC 29:39 and to think that without Satan, opposition and agency could not exist. That is not the case. Satan had agency to rebel against the plan. Agency, or the power to act, is as eternal as the matter that houses it. One could say that if there were no agency, then there is no matter or intelligence. While God “gives” us agency, it might be more accurate to say that He “preserves” and “augments” what little agency we may have had to begin with. That brings us to the nature of opposition. What is opposition? I’m not entirely sure. But scripture tells us that opposition comes from the existence of law. Since law has always existed, so has opposition. These things are eternal, and that is why they are difficult to fully understand. One of my favorite scriptures is when the Savior says “I am the Law”. In other words, He is the standard by which our thoughts, words, and deeds are measured. Our understanding of the law grows in proportion to the degree to which He reveals Himself unto us. What a great truth. Opposition perhaps grows in the same way. DC 29:39 means that opposition must exist for agency to exist, not that Satan himself must exist for agency to exist. One way of reading it would be “it must needs be that there is a pattern in eternity where spirits are tempted and tried, otherwise they could not be agents unto themselves.” Anything beyond that starts to get a little sticky, like what is the nature of temptation, or who tempted Satan, or when did the first opposition begin. I’m not sure those kinds of thoughts yield anything beneficial in our current predicament.
#4 – My last point is about why we even mention Satan in our church. I agree with your statement that there is too much fear as a motivation tactic. We shouldn’t teach the existence of Satan to instill fear. And certainly we can’t blame our own sinful behavior on Satan. The right way to respond is not “Satan made me do it” but “I myself desired to do what Satan may have helped to encourage or persuade.” I’m not totally sure what the right approach is to teaching the existence of Satan and how that might be helpful to us. But I do know that it is important to teach opposition, light and dark, right and wrong, truth and error. Satan is the personification of that, at least in our current condition and understanding. There is a Savior of our soul, and there is an enemy to our soul. Thankfully, those two are not equal in any sense.