Stepping on a Snake

Standard

Yesterday I walked down to our mailbox to collect the mail. There was an alumni magazine from my doctoral university so I started reading through it on my way back home. Being spring and Florida, I was wearing flaps (sandals). As I stepped onto the walk that leads to my front door I felt something rubbery under the front of my foot. I looked down, jumping back a bit as I did, to see a large black snake. My first fleeting thought was that it was a toy snake but I knew we didn’t have any and then it quickly slithered away to repair its dignity under some bushes. I always enjoy seeing snakes so I ran inside to call out my family to come look at the snake I stepped on. It was a Coluber constrictor priapus, also known as a southern black racer (because of their speed). These black racers are not poisonous, they can be feisty though so I was glad it did not bite me (I was in flaps so my foot was out in the open), as deserving of a bite I might have been. I shooed the snake away from our front door and it hurriedly slithered away, looking like it was thankfully uninjured.

This experience has direct gospel applications. I wasn’t watching where I was going and ended up stepping on a snake. I we are not careful in life and continuously mindful of where we are going we can step into dangerous situations. Life requires concentration and focus on our destination. even if we do not do anything wrong, we can end up somewhere where we do not want to be.

Note: snakes aren’t bad even if they terrify many people, I’m just taking a little license here and comparing it to something bad.

Master Mahan

Standard

“Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew [Irad], not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake. For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.” (Moses 5:50-51).

This murder is best understood in the context of Cain. Cain was one of the sons of Adam and Eve. He was the older brother of Abel. By the time Cain and Abel were born there were many people on the earth – many children and descendants of Adam and Eve – but by this point many were wicked. It does not take people long to fall away from the truth and to become wicked, even degenerate. Here is the story as found in the book of Moses:

“And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish. And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent; And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled. And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? And she again conceived and bare his brother Abel. And Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Moses 5:12-17).

It is clear that many of Adam and Eve’s children followed Satan. They had more children, hoping that they would follow their counsels and teachings. Many did not. Cain was not the first of the wicked children but he became one of the most wicked. Cain was a farmer, his brother Abel was a shepherd. Abel followed after the statutes and commandments of God. He was a righteous man who performed his sacrifices with exactness and honor.

Continuing with the story:

“18 And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.
19 And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
20 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering;
21 But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
22 And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?
23 If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him;
24 For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.
25 And it shall be said in time to come—That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.
26 And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother, who walked in holiness before the Lord.
27 And Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren.” (Moses 5:18-27).

The commandment and covenant Adam and Eve and their children had received was to offer up animal sacrifices in the similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of God. It was a blood sacrifice in expectation of the Atonement of the Son of God. Abel offered up a blood sacrifice, Cain did not. Cain listened to Satan and tried to offer up the fruit of the ground – whatever he farmed – instead of offering up an animal sacrifice. He offered a sacrifice but not the sacrifice the Lord required; Cain offered up the sacrifice Satan wanted him to. Satan knew the sacrifice would be rejected. Satan knew how Cain would react – he knew he would be upset and curse God. He was and he did.

Then Cain started off the deep end – he made a pact with Satan; it was a pact of secrets and murder for gain. “And it came to pass that Cain took one of his brothers’ daughters to wife, and they loved Satan more than God. And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands. And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret. And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.” (Moses 5:28-31).

Cain dealt with Satan in secrecy. Cain became Perdition – a destroyer (Latin: perdere – to destroyof truth; one who gave away his covenants for new ones with the devil. Cain was promised that he would rule over Satan – Cain had at least kept his first estate whereas Lucifer did not. From God Cain received the title Perdition, from himself (and possibly from Satan) he received the title of Mahan, which is of unclear meaning but based on context probably means something close to “master [owner, holder, keeper] of [a] secret.” (This interpretation agrees with what Hugh Nibley believed the title meant. See Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, p.12. In this document Dr. Nibley suggests that the word Master is not the English word master, but derives from Arabic word Mustirr (“keeper of secret”) and Mahan is related to the Sanskrit word maha (“great”); source). Cain’s covenant with Satan included a penalty of death for those who revealed it (this was a covenant that Cain’s friends, some of his brothers and sisters and their families, made too). Satan promised to deliver Abel into the hands of Cain. Cain would also reap the riches of his brother – his flocks.

“32 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
33 And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
34 And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?
35 And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground.
36 And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.
37 When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
38 And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother’s flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.” (Moses 5:32-38).

This was not a crime of passion, it was calculated murder. Cain’s purpose in seeking out his brother Abel was to kill him, to deprive Able of his life. In his post-murder phase Cain gloried in his power. He had power over life – like God. He could take Abel’s flocks and be rich. Then the Lord came to Cain asking him where his brother was. Cain’s reply? “I don’t know. Am I supposed to baby sit him? Am I his shepherd? Am I his keeper? I am a keeper of secrets, not my brother.” Then when the Lord exposes Cain for what he is, a murderer, Cain starts blaming Satan, the temptation of riches, and anger. “Satan made me do it. I was blinded by the rich, white coats of my brother’s sheep. I wasn’t myself, I was in a fit of rage.” These are all common excuses people still give when they get in trouble. It’s always someone (or something) else’s fault. Cain did murder for money but for a number of years before this he had loved Satan more than God. He did not just see Abel’s flocks one day and decide to kill him, Cain was wicked already, had covenants with Satan, and already had a plan to kill Abel.

What I want to focus on though is Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain was not simply answering in annoyance – “I don’t know where my brother is!” – he was revealing his callousness towards his family and other people. Cain revealed his self-centeredness and his selfishness. He was Satan’s protege and as the protege he adopted some of Satan’s characteristics, most predominantly, pride. Cain thought he could hide his sin from the Lord – that was a manifestation of his pride. He thought that he was not responsible for his brother, especially because Abel’s sacrifices were accepted but Cain’s were not; Cain felt offended by the Lord and by Abel. Cain took every opportunity of aggrandizement. He sought power and glory and riches (sound familiar? Satan sought the same things in heaven) at the expense of all else. No one would stand in Cain’s way, especially not his brother, who was the favored son.

In some ways this sounds much like the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brothers. His brothers were jealous of Joseph’s favored status (which was based in part on his righteousness); they wanted to kill Joseph but were convinced not to by Reuben, the oldest son. Maybe the brothers hoped to gain Jacob’s favored status; maybe they just wanted to kill Joseph because they were evil people and not necessarily just to get gain. In any case, there are repetitions of themes throughout the scriptures – wickedness and righteousness are found in cycles in the Book of Mormon and Bible. Cain was only the first of many murderers. But because he was the first he became Perdition and (future) lord over Satan.

Note: Image by Tintoretto circ. 1552. In public domain: http://www.wikiart.org/en/tintoretto/the-murder-of-abel-1552

The Reality of Evil

Standard

While I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my missionary companion and I were out knocking on doors in a suburb of Seattle on a Thursday morning in June. At one home a man talked with us through a kitchen window, which was right by the pathway to the front door. We talked with him for a few minutes. He told us that he had seen Christ in a vision and that he had had a badly burned hand completely healed through that vision. During our conversation in which he was trying to tell us of the error of our ways, I kept getting a progressively worse feeling inside. It is difficult to explain what it was like other than it was a really bad feeling (cue the Star Wars quote: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”). I had never talked with anyone who had such a evil spirit about him; it was almost terrifying. The feeling went way beyond creepiness. At one point, I felt that my legs were almost held in place as he talked with us. I was just thankful that we were separated by a sturdy house wall instead of talking with him without a barrier. He was not interested in what we had to say so we quickly left, thanking him for his time, and went on knocking on other doors. As we left his presence, the evil feeling went away. I hoped and prayed that one day he would understand and accept the truth of the gospel.

On a Monday just a few weeks later, my companion and I were out looking for a family who had just moved into our ward boundaries (their membership records had been moved into the ward but they had not shown up at church). As we were looking for their address we passed a house a few times. Inside that house there was a man who just stood inside and stared out at us. We found the address we were searching for but no one was home so I decided to go talk with the man who had been staring at us. I pulled out a Book of Mormon and we approached his home. He saw us coming (he was still staring at us) and opened the door saying, “Hello Elders!” I asked if he was a member of the Church. He replied, “If I was born a member and never not became one, I guess you could say that I was.” He invited us in and we talked for a few minutes. He had stopped going to church when he was 14. He started telling us many of the standard anti-Mormon lines and some not-so-common lines (e.g., The LDS Church owned Pepsi-Cola [but was hypocritical because they prohibited church members from drinking Pepsi]; it had been discovered that Moroni was the name of one of the Devil’s main messengers, etc.). The only thing I could do, because he was not really interested in talking with us, he just wanted to talk at us, was bear my testimony to him. My companion and I both had a creeping, hollow, bad feeling growing inside while in his presence. It was a really bad feeling, similar to what I had felt a few weeks previously. He quickly became very angry with us (mainly with me because I was the one responding to him) because I would not try to argue with him about the claims he was making against the LDS Church. He asked us to leave, which we gladly did, thanking him for his time as we went on our merry way. Like the previous man, I hope and prayed that he would be able to accept the truth some day.

Those are two of the most memorable times that I have been in the presence of people who have exuded such feelings of emptiness and evil that being in their presence was nearly unbearable for me. Those two different men were both witnesses to me of the reality of evil. The experiences might seem minor in light of all the evil that goes on in the world but the evil spirit is the same. There are people in whom the Spirit of the Lord resides, there are people in whom the Spirit does not reside, and there are some people in whom an evil spirit resides. These two men were filled with an evil spirit. I have not met any people like those two since that time.

C.S. Lewis Quote du Jour

Standard

“Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled…. It follows that this Bad Power…must have things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them…. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things – resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself…. Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.” (Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity. HarperCollins, 2001, pp.44-45).

There was a war in Heaven between Jesus Christ and Lucifer. Satan rebelled against God and God’s plan of salvation. At one point, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, Lucifer was good. He had intelligence, light, knowledge, and free will. He had the moral agency to choose right from wrong. These are the good things Lucifer received from God. He took these gifts and used them to become evil. It is only in this manner that God created evil. There are eternal principles – God’s laws – that are not breakable. Agency is one of them. God gave Lucifer – and all of us – agency, which agency Lucifer used for evil. Lucifer rebelled and was exiled to the earth. “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:3).

With this agency we all have been given comes the responsibility to choose that which is right. “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C; 101:78). With this agency – the same gift that made Lucifer’s fall possible – we can choose good or evil. Do you choose good?

Lessons from Life: Cockroaches – Part 2

Standard

We can and must fight the encroaching evils that try to enter our lives. Killing one cockroach is much easier than trying to root out a nest of them if they become established. There is an oft quoted poetic verse by Alexander Pope that explains why we must root out sin in its infancy:

Sin is a vice of such frightful mean
That to be hated has but to be seen
But seen too often, and familiar with the face
We first abhor, and then endure, and then embrace (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man {1732}, epistle 2, lines 217–20, in The Complete Poetical Works of Pope, ed. Henry W. Boynton {1931}, 144.).

This may sound like a slippery slope fallacy but that pattern is demonstrable repeatedly throughout history. It does not take much reading of the Book of Mormon to see people have a cyclical relationship with good and evil. We see this also in the Bible – righteous Adam and Eve who then have descendants quickly turn to evil. Similarly, in secular history we see countless civilizations rising, waxing, waning, and dying only to have other civilizations fill the void. I am sure that if we had a clear understanding of history we would see that the destruction of civilizations would in many cases be tied to the wickedness of the people. That might be a gross generalization and we know that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people and with nations, sometimes the destruction of a civilization is due to the wickedness or ineptitude of the leaders and not necessarily the wickedness of the people; however, I am sure that if we correctly understood history (like we will in the next life) we will see how the wickedness of civilizations usually led to their destruction. What I think we will see is that every wicked civilization was or will be destroyed but not all destroyed civilizations were necessarily wicked.

The light of Christ is given to all that they might know good from evil. The light of Christ provides inspiration – both spiritual and secular. When people en masse reject this light, their righteous progress as civilizations and individuals slows, stops, and even reverses. Knowledge can be lost. The ancient American civilizations knew much about astronomy and math and science – things that their more modern descendants had lost. The same goes for the ancient Egyptians – they understood much about architecture and mathematics that future generations lost. Fortunately in our day we have better record-keeping and access to knowledge so knowledge is less likely to be lost but it still can be lost. The overwhelming amount of information and knowledge to which we have access can be a problem, however. Things that are most important and useful can be lost in the shuffle of what is most flashy and trendy.

I’ll close by quoting the prophet Jeremiah. He said that the wars and evils that came upon the Israelites was “because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers” (Jeremiah 44:3). When we worship and serve other gods (which will be the topic of an essay to follow) and let sin come crawling into our lives like cockroaches, we are speedily heading toward destruction – whether in this life or in the next.

Lessons from Life: Cockroaches – Part 1

Standard

I live in Florida, which is great if you like warm winters, beaches, rain, and no snow. The downside is the number of insects and other critters. Occasionally we will see a cockroach in our home. There are only a few insects I do not like – cockroaches are one of them. Here in Florida, even in spite of deterrents and poisons, cockroaches can creep into our homes. They fit through small cracks and are virtually indestructible, as far as animals go; cockroaches have been known to live for at least a week without a head! Cockroaches live all over the world – even in Antarctica – but most are harmless to humans. Regardless of that, the cockroaches that invade homes can contribute to asthma and allergies. They are not clean insects and can spread their filth around as they scurry around. “They are also capable of mechanically transmitting disease organisms such as the bacteria which cause food poisoning. Recently, cockroaches have been found to be an important source of allergy in people, second only to house dust.” (Source). It is never enough to kill a single cockroach if we want to eliminate them from our homes – nests of cockroaches can live in our walls, reproducing rapidly.

One effective way to eliminate cockroaches is to use cockroach bait. When one cockroach eats the bait, which is poisonous to it, it is able to walk back to its nest (hopefully) where it will then die. “Cockroach baits contain a slow-acting insecticide incorporated into a food attractant. Roaches locate and feed on the bait, typically contained in small, plastic bait trays, and crawl away to die. Bait carried back to the nesting area also kills other roaches after being expelled in the sputum and feces” (source). In this manner, instead of simply killing one cockroach, you are able to get to the root of the problem and allow the nature of cockroaches to lead to their demise. Using bait, it is possible to take out entire colonies of cockroaches over a short period of time. Even so, most preventative methods need to be reapplied frequently in order to prevent or minimize further encroaches of cockroaches.

Just as we can have physical cockroaches enter our homes, so too can we have spiritual roaches invade our homes. What are we allowing into our homes? Do we allow filthiness or do we prevent it? If some filthiness finds its way into our homes do we do all we can to purge it from our homes or do we ignore the problem and let it grow? Like cockroaches, evil is pervasive; it is worldwide. Satan looks for any crack or crease or crevice to invade. He looks for chinks in our armor – any part of our lives that seem weak. However, Satan is not limited to sneaking in back doors; his brazen influence is seen as he mocks all that is sacred. Satan roams about the earth with an openness rarely seen in the history of the earth.

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, immorality. All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil” (Ensign, Nov. 2001). Yet, there is hope against this evil. Pres. Hinckley continued,

“And so, my brothers and sisters, we are met together in this great conference to fortify and strengthen one another, to help and lift one another, to give encouragement and build faith, to reflect on the wonderful things the Lord has made available to us, and to strengthen our resolve to oppose evil in whatever form it may take.

“We have become as a great army. We are now a people of consequence. Our voice is heard when we speak up. We have demonstrated our strength in meeting adversity. Our strength is our faith in the Almighty. No cause under the heavens can stop the work of God. Adversity may raise its ugly head. The world may be troubled with wars and rumors of wars, but this cause will go forward.

“You are familiar with these great words written by the Prophet Joseph: ‘No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done’ (History of the Church, 4:540).

The Lord has given us the goal toward which we work. That goal is to build His kingdom, which is a mighty cause of great numbers of men and women of faith, of integrity, of love and concern for mankind, marching forward to create a better society, bringing blessings upon ourselves and upon the heads of others” (Ensign, Nov. 2001).

Good and Evil – Part 2

Standard

None of us remember our life before this earth when we lived with our Father in Heaven as His children. However, just because we do not remember this does not mean it was not real or did not happen. Few people remember much of anything from their lives before the age of two. Many people do not remember anything from before the age of four. This is called infantile amnesia – the loss of memory from our earliest years. There are explanations why we do not remember but for now what is important is that even though we do not remember, those years of our lives actually occurred.

We know they occurred because we are here now – reading these words at some later stage in life. We might have photos or video of our youngest years. We might have heard stories about when we were born or about other things early in life. All of our knowledge about our first year or two of our lives comes from other people. We have to trust them (and photographs or video if we have them) but again, we know that those first years of our lives occurred because we are here now. This is the same as with our premortal existence. We do not remember that time but we know it occurred because we are here now. We have the testimony of latter-day prophets to trust. We have scriptural accounts in Abraham and Job referencing our premortal life. We are experiencing an amnesia now but some day we will remember our life before we came to earth.

While there we saw two plans presented – one by Jesus Christ and one by Lucifer. All of us here on earth now chose to follow God’s plan – we rejected Satan’s plan and watched as he and his followers were cast out – maybe some of us assisted with his expulsion. Evil at that point was definitely out of fashion.

Then we started coming to earth. It did not take long for Adam and Eve’s children to leave the Lord and lust after worldly things. They were no longer in the presence of God, although they had access to His Spirit if they sought it. They were, however, in the presence of Satan and his followers, even if they could not see them (although they probably could sometimes). Even though Satan is on the earth, he has no power over people except as they give him power. Make no mistake, he has great power. He tried to kill Joseph Smith as Joseph knelt to pray in what became known as the Sacred Grove. Satan also wields power indirectly through governments, mobs, gangs, murders, lies, wealth, and armies. He calls himself the prince of this world and he is to an extent. He is given nearly free reign over the earth. Satan is very real with real power. Twice in my life I have met people who had evil spirits within them. I still remember how I felt in their presence – it was not good. I have met and talked with many people who were what we would call strong “anti-Mormons” and none of them were like these two men. These two men were full of evil. Satan is there but he only has strength over us when we give it to him.

Throughout the ages God has given us a way to counteract the influence of Satan. He has given us people who speak with authority and clarity against the wiles and insidiousness of Satan. All are entitled to the influence of the Holy Ghost. All are entitled to discern good from evil but the Lord’s way is even grander and broader than that. He calls men who have been given His authority and authorization to act in His name.

Good and Evil – Part 1

Standard

I recently saw an ad for a Halloween party sponsored by a major corporation. The main tag-line of the ad was: “Evil never goes out of fashion.” That line succinctly summarizes one of the major problems in our world – that evil does not go out of fashion. The love of evil is not new to our world. Thousands of years ago lived a man named Cain. His parents were illustrious – they were our first parents. Adam was a prophet of God; he and his wife Eve were a couple of the most chosen among all the sons and daughters of God. Some of their children quickly stopped following their counsels though. Among them was Cain who “loved Satan more than God” (Moses 5:18). Cain was not the first of Adam and Eve’s children to leave God and love Satan: “And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.” (Moses 5:12-13). After that time Cain was born. He became notorious when he killed his brother and lied to the Lord. Before he killed his brother Cain did not love the Lord. He was one of the most secular in a rapidly-secularizing world. He was Satan’s protege.

Since that time, Satan’s influence has continued to flourish. Satan is the father of all lies (see Moses 4:4), one who seeks to destroy the agency of man (see Moses 4:3) by deceiving them and leading them carefully down to hell. Satan likes to spread rumors and contentions. He enjoys being a troublemaker. What’s more is that he enjoys the fact that not only do many people in today’s world not believe in God, even more do not believe that Satan exists. If Satan, and therefore evil, does not exist then moral relativism reigns. Further, if there is no devil then soon people will believe there is no God. That is not to say that God only exists if Satan exists – that is not true; however, once people stop believing that there is absolute evil, namely Satan, they will soon stop believing there is absolute good, namely God.

Satan exists as no more than an abstraction for many people (the same could be said for their conceptions of God but it is my impression that more people believe in God than believe in the Devil). Many believe that They are nothing more than unknowable concepts and not visible percepts. Even more, because of mistaken beliefs about the nature of God, many cannot conceive of the existence of a literal devil. If God created everything, did He create evil (i.e., the devil)? If so, why? Does that make Him not all good? Many arguments continue on in a similar manner. We as Latter-day Saints have a much clearer understanding of how Satan came to be, even if our understanding is limited.