Good and Evil – Part 2

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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

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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.

The Hollow Hedonism of Pride

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Pride is ultimately manifest by and in Satan. Lucifer, or “the Shining One” was truly a “son of the morning (2 Ne. 24:12). After his fall from heaven, that son of the morning became the prince of darkness and the father of mourning. Of those who follow Satan it is said, “Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them” (Moses 7:37). We gain some insight into why Lucifer fell from Heaven in the writings of Isaiah. Speaking of Lucifer, “For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…” Who are these stars? They are us! “I will sit also upon the [mountain of the assembly of the gods], in the [farthest north heaven]; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (2 Ne. 24:13-14). Satan said, “I want this, I want that.” This is a very selfish and prideful mindset. He wanted to be above all; he wanted God’s glory without any effort.

Because of this God said, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the [depth] of the pit” (2 Ne. 24:15). For, “the proud and lofty, and…every one who is lifted up…shall be brought low” (2 Ne. 12:12). An apostle stated, “One way or another, the grossly selfish will finally be shattered, whimpering, against the jagged, concrete consequences of their selfishness” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1999, p.25). As a result of his pride, that Shining One became degenerate like an “abominable branch” (2 Ne. 24:19) without root or fruit; yea, he became even “as a carcass trodden under feet” (2 Ne. 24:19). Those who walk a prideful path will find that instead of leading to celestial peaks, it leads only to the dark depths of the pit. The lives of those who follow the tempter’s travesty of the truth, end up in tragedy.

What then is pride? “It is an attitude that commences with personal comparisons with others and leads to demeaning thought or oppressive actions directed at other sons and daughters of God” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Pure in Heart”, p.96). Pride is as C. S. Lewis said, “the complete anti-God state of mind.” God is “immeasurably superior” to us and “unless [we] know God as that – and, therefore, know [ourselves] as nothing in comparison – [we] do not know God at all. As long as [we] are looking down, [we] cannot see something that is above [us]” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp.109-111). Proud men or women “preach and set themselves up fro a light unto the world” (2 Ne. 26:29). “They put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain” (2 Ne. 26:20). Pride is the great stumbling block. When men walk by the light of the sparks of their own conceit, their lives are full of shadows of darkness (see 2 Ne. 7:11). Christ is the true light of the world and when men walk by the light of any other source, their light grows dim and soon dies out. The proud who set themselves up as lights unto others, only set themselves up to become lost in the tepid mists of darkness. Since pride is self-centered selfishness that is also competitive, those who engage in this hollow hedonism will never focus on the true source of edification, which source is Christ. Those who seek to compete with God will never succeed. Their end will be a pitiful brokenness.

The natural man is a prideful creature, thus, steps must be taken to overcome this great sin called pride. The road one must walk to leave the valley of pride is not an easy path; it is an uphill journey but it leads to the exalted heights of eternal life. Overcoming pride is accomplished by humbly following Christ, even if and especially if that means treading the thorny paths that He forged. As we follow Christ we too need to take up our crosses. We must submit ourselves to our Father’s will, even to the point of crawling forward on our knees. King Benjamin taught, “And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:25). This is an important point to focus on. King Benjamin stated that we are less than the dust of the earth because the dust of the earth belongs to God. We are here on earth to show that we are willing to turn ourselves over completely to God. Christ ransomed us for Him but we must submit our wills to God’s, else we do not belong to Him and, as Benjamin taught, in a sense really are less than the dust of the earth. Joseph Smith taught us that the earth “abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law” (D&C; 88:25). The earth lives a celestial law, do we?

Those who do not humbly follow Christ are “in open rebellion against God” (Mosiah 2:37) for “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24). He or she who is prideful and unrepentant is not following Jesus Christ and therefore serves the devil. Of these people the Lord stated, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C; 1:16).

Overcoming pride is essential to our eternal salvation. We cannot trust in the arm of the flesh because flesh is dust and corruptible and must waste away. God will never fail us. He is there as we seek Him. We must pray for humility. We need to repent of our prideful ways and turn our hearts completely to Christ. This is a complete submission of our wills to God’s. Only with the power of the Holy Ghost can we create this vast change within ourselves! I was not completely correct with my statement. Only the power of God, of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ’s Atonement can make this change within ourselves. However, we need to demonstrate effort. The Holy Ghost will teach us how to humbly follow Christ and submit our wills to God’s.

Great power, even greater faith, comes to us as we are humble. With humility and faith we can work miracles. The greatest miracle will be to change from the old man of sin and be reborn as a new creature in Christ. As we are humble we may be instruments in the Lord’s hands. The more humble we are, the more effective we may be. I pray that we may strive to live in humility and take upon us the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lucifer’s Insidious Plan – Part 3

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Heavenly Father chose Jehovah. In response, Lucifer rebelled. Many rebelled with him. But the majority of spirits did not join with Lucifer; they understood his lies. They saw through his orations and discerned his pride. However, those who followed Satan fought hard for his plan; Lucifer drew the support of one third part of the hosts of heaven (see D&C; 29:36). Heavenly Father let Lucifer fight and gain supporters because He could not take away His children’s agency. He would not force them to follow His plan. Michael led God’s armies to victory and Heavenly Father cast Satan out of heaven and down to the earth through the power of His Beloved Son (see Moses 4:3). Lucifer became Satan and the heavens wept over him. God wept over Lucifer’s fall; all wept for him and those who followed him. He had been a choice spirit but instead chose the path to perdition. His path left him nothing more than spirit. He is bitter about the loss of glory but he is still prideful; he wants to draw away as many children of God as will follow him.

Satan continues to wage his war against the Savior and all of God’s children. He wants to deny us what he was denied – the opportunity to return to live with God again. The war he commenced in heaven continues today. Satan’s prophets preach sermons that are merely gaudy imitations of godly principles. They preach relativism, hedonism, and humanism. They build false temples and gain faithful followers. His disciples buy up power and influence with the riches of the earth and with promises of happiness. Any happiness or mirth that comes from living as a citizen of Babylon is ephemeral. His followers prance about in gaudy clothing, walking with a mincing step (see Isaiah 3:16), and speaking with tongues of tinkling cymbals and sounding brass (1 Corinthians 13:1). They compass themselves with sparks, thinking they are the lights of the world (see Isaiah 50:11 and 2 Ne. 7:11). Yet their evanescent sparks will sputter and die. Some of Satan’s followers even preach his gospel while denying his existence. They create whitewashed facades to hide their inner decay. Instead of being filled with truth and light, they are filled with dead men’s rotten bones. Satan’s lies are so insidious yet so appealing, that many do not realize the deleterious effects of heeding them. Those ensnared by Satan’s deceptions often, like the anti-Christ Sherem who stated at the end of his life that “he had been deceived by the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:18), do not know that they are living his plan of damnation and not the Lord’s plan of progression. Satan lives a plan of misery and desires all of us to forget and stop following the plan of happiness.

We should use our agency to reject Satan’s plan of misery. We need to cleave to the good and reject that which is bad. We need to clasp the iron rod and ignore the scorn of those dwelling in Satan’s architectural marvel – the great and spacious building – even as beautiful or impressive an edifice it might be. It was built by the master of pride, and like Lucifer, will have an exceedingly great fall. The time is now to choose to endure to the end where we partake eternally of the sweet fruit of the tree of life and where we will be forever clasped in the loving embrace of the Savior through His atoning blood.

We must press on keeping the encouragement of the Prophet Joseph in our minds: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and sisters]; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free. Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons [and daughters] of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” (D&C; 128:22-23).

As we fight on in righteousness we will be victorious! We can, and will, win the war that was started in the pre-earth life. In righteousness we will stand victorious, surrounded by the army of the archangel Michael, and be reunited with our Eternal Father in a world of endless light and love.

Lucifer’s Insidious Plan – Part 2

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The day came for an official presentation of the plan of salvation. God had prepared His plan from the beginning; I believe that many and even all of His spirit children already knew the plan but God needed to give His children the opportunity to accept it or reject it. He needed to let Jehovah exercise His agency and publicly propose and accept His role in the plan. Our Father also wanted to allow Lucifer to exercise his agency and put forth his own plan. A great conference was called in Heaven; we all gathered there as siblings, friends, and families. We waited in eager anticipation for the announcement of the next step in our eternal progression. Heavenly Father explained to us the Plan of Salvation and called for a Savior. Jehovah stepped forward and said he would go in accordance with His Father’s will and that the entire honor would go to the Father. This was the plan we knew and accepted. Many shouted for joy at the prospect of coming to earth (see Job 38:7). Not all were thrilled though. Then Lucifer stepped forward and revealed his plan.

Some likely knew portions of his plan but he had not let his plan be widely known – he waited for the right moment to present what he deemed a superior plan to his Father’s. What was his plan? It was similar to the Father’s plan but with insidious differences. With all the power and persuasion of his rehearsed oration, he began to unfold his plan. “I propose that we will send everyone to earth to receive a body. However, I will be the Savior.” Murmurs arose from the crowd. “Lucifer will be our Savior?”

He continued his speech, “But only on one condition – we will require everyone to be good. We will make sure everyone makes only good choices. Then they will not sin and they can return to live with Father. We will make sure everyone makes it back to heaven. With my illustrious plan there will be no suffering, no sin, and no sorrow. Everyone will be perfect. All will live in Heaven on earth and be as Zion. We will not lose any to the dredges of sin or the pain of despair! I will save all my brothers and sisters; I will exalt them!” People started nodding in approval. “Lucifer’s plan sounds fair. It sounds good to me.” Others saw his plan for what it was: “If everyone will be forced to be perfect, then we don’t need a Savior. Satan wants to usurp Jehovah without actually doing anything!”

As Lucifer listened to some express their approval, he smirked. He knew something those who liked his proposal did not know; some understood Satan’s motives instantly. Satan knew the fatal flaw of his plan but he was not going to tell anyone. The flaw in Satan’s plan was that no one would be able to return to Heavenly Father’s presence. Without agency and thus a time of testing, God’s children could not make the required growth that would enable them to be like their Father. All Lucifer wanted was Heavenly Father’s honor (D&C; 29:36), in fact he demanded all of Heavenly Father’s honor.

That was the most insidious part of Lucifer’s plan – he knew that his plan would not work; he knew it would relegate all of God’s children to eternal damnation. However, he believed he could be granted God’s power through his plan; that only shows that he did not fully understand the process and nature of exaltation. Why did Lucifer desire to take what he deemed to be the easy road to exaltation? Satan might have been frightened of what earth life entailed. He wanted the easy way out. He wanted the reward (and all of the reward) without any effort. In what would have been the most selfish act in eternity, Lucifer was willing to sacrifice the eternal progression and eternal lives of all of his brothers and sisters, just so he could be like God. Ironically, Satan’s plan that would deny people their agency resulted from him exercising his agency. God allowed the presentation of this plan because agency is an eternal principle. In his perversity and knowing that agency was essential for people to become like Heavenly Father, Satan proposed a plan that removed agency—only he would reap agency’s benefits while all of God’s other children would be denied its blessings. Lucifer wanted to usurp Jehovah’s role as God through divine investiture of authority. While his plan might have started out innocently in the beginning, it was not innocent in the end.

Lucifer’s Insidious Plan – Part 1

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Let me tell you the story of one of the most tragic characters in all of the scriptures. This story begins many years ago in a premortal world of light and truth. This is the tragic tale of a bringer of light, a shining one, even a son of the morning. This essay is quite different from anything I’ve previously posted on my blog. It’s part doctrinal, part speculative, and part dramatized. As such, please forgive the literary license I take in the story. While I believe my interpretation of the root cause of the tragedy is sound, some of the ascribed thoughts and feelings are included to flesh out the character of the antagonist – who happens to be the main character of this story. Again, this means that much of this is my opinion and certainly is not doctrinal, although I do not think it is far-fetched.

Lucifer was one of the bright stars in heaven; he was likely one of our Father’s choicest sons – someone of great intelligence and faith. He was there when the “morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7). He was not evil in the beginning, his path to depravity began small and potentially innocently but it soon became overgrown with thorns and thistles. How did he become the devil, an enemy to the Savior forever (see D&C; 76:25)? As with all sin, I believe Lucifer’s fall started with pride.

The Savior was the firstborn of the Father. He was chosen from the beginning for his role as Savior and Lord. He was the most intelligent and truest of all His Father’s children. By divine investiture of authority from His Father, Jehovah had authority to act fully in place of the Father. When the discussion started concerning going to an earth and gaining physical bodies, the Savior was there to support His Father’s plan. At first, Lucifer might have thought that the plan of salvation was good. It made sense. But then he started thinking that it left too much room for error, it seemed too hard. “Hey, that is not fair! How could Father’s plan be fair if some of His children would never return to His presence?”

Lucifer knew, as did we all, that eventually we could become like our Heavenly Father – in character, in attributes, in authority, and in power. Knowing he could be like Father made him feel good. He knew of the power and authority that would come in time and he liked the idea. However, he began to be impatient – he couldn’t wait that long. He might have asked himself, “Why cannot Father give me His power now? Why is He holding me back?” He wanted to be like Heavenly Father now! Even though Lucifer had some authority from God and was in God’s bosom (see D&C; 76:25), he wanted all of God’s authority. Lucifer might have been envious of Jehovah’s relationship and status with the Father. However, He not only wanted that position as favored Son but also he wanted God’s position! Isaiah tells us Lucifer’s thoughts, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (2 Ne. 24:13-14). What a selfish desire! “I will” do this, “I will” do that, “I will exalt myself.” He was puffed up with pride. He thought his expansive pride could exalt him. He wanted to make himself like God and sit on God’s throne.

So Lucifer formulated a plan. He thought it was good. It would, he thought, allow—no, require—all of God’s children to return. So Lucifer started talking to his brothers and sisters, gaining support where he could for his plan. It made sense and it seemed fair. Those who listened to him thought it seemed fair but Lucifer had ulterior motives.