sympathy for the devil

there are many illogical aspects of believing in a devil.  the best take i’ve read on this so far is shermer’s the science of good and evil.  this post is on “a mormon testimony of satan”, by John Nilsson:

“I know that the Devil lives in outer darkness surrounded by concourses of ghastly minions amidst weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth”.

Why don’t we hear this from the pulpit in LDS testimony meetings? It’s just as much an article of faith as the existence of God, right? There must needs be an opposition in all things, as Lehi said.

Here’s the problem: many modern LDS leaders have told us that truth feels GOOD, and that we can recognize spiritual truth by the good feelings it engenders in us. Barring a rational way to arrive at a conviction of the existence of Satan (which I have yet to find, although both Hitler and Hannah Montana could be cited as evidence of Old Nick’s meddling in our world), the spiritual method appears to be the only method for being sure that Scratch exists. But to have GOOD feelings about the existence of our ultimate adversary, the being of pure redolent evil whose every thought and action is bent on our destruction, physically and spiritually? So I would bet a lot fewer LDS folks have firm convictions of the devil based on spiritual subjective evidence like the kind mentioned above.

I say this knowing that many people have had experiences which they interpret as Satanic, from possession narratives to bump-in-the-night phenomena to mysterious movings of Parker Brothers’ Ouija Boards.  Creepy feelings may convince many LDS folks that the devil is real. Or the ubiquitous references to Lucifer in Holy Writ and LDS culture fulfill the same function. But aren’t we supposed to gain a testimony for ourselves of spiritual matters, and not take the word of others as our deepest source of conviction?

Evil makes sense to me. The Devil does not.

Here’s why: For the concept of the Devil to make sense, you have to posit that he or she (do you capitalize references to the Anti-Deity?) chooses to be evil not just once or twice, or even as an overall pattern of life. He ALWAYS chooses the wrong. To choose the right even once after becoming the devil would render one unfit for the post, and another powerful sub-demon would angle for your position. Think of Satan’s blood pressure! Which means Lucifer misunderstands God’s ultimate design and needs help to clearly understand (metaphysically stupid), or is genuinely convinced that the cause he is advocating is right, in which case he is mentally confused and again needs our sympathy and help (metaphysically ill). If Satan desires his own ultimate unhappiness, because it makes him happy, I confess I just don’t get it. For a being to be absolutely evil, I can see no other option. In either case, the Devil is something less than he is made out to be in our tradition.

I believe that evil is real, but am not sure that it can be personified the same way that good can. Not usually believing in things that don’t make a bit of sense (but sensing that I’m expected to), can you help me gain a testimony of the Devil?

(original post from mormon matters (


2 thoughts on “sympathy for the devil

  1. This article focuses on a (the) devil’s (i.e. “The Devil”) moment-to-moment behaviors and the contradictions that the writer believes must certainly exist. Here is another perspective:

    The devil (“The Devil”) has rejected the great creation of the Creator (i.e. God, Elohim, Jehovah). Until the Final Judgment, he (The Devil) continues to exist and has decided to perform in the role of Antogonist. Perhaps he has even AGREED to perform in this role at God’s request.

    As such, this individual/personality/spirit/intelligence (i.e. The Devil) is not so much a moment-to-moment behavioral basket case as he is an ICON for “anti-Creation” and “anti-Salvation”. All mortals have the same propensity to disagree with God’s plan, for “misbehavior” and general “badness”, so the devil (i.e. The Devil) is not so much the INSTIGATOR of all-that-is-evil (contrary to Moroni’s teachings) as he is a leader and champion (God’s chosen champion in order to brand) for all that is evil.

    This (strange) relationship is clearly discussed in the book of Job, where Satan repeatedly negotiates with God over Job’s fate. Satan (i.e. The Devil) is given boundaries and even permission to perform in his assigned role.

    And why not– the role of Prince of Darkness ends after the Final Judgment passes: those who believe are saved, those who don’t are damned, and the Prince of Darkness is assigned to his Final State– Outer Darkness.

    So where is Satan’s (i.e. The Devil’s) motivation to perform in all of this?

    Simple: He is a damned soul. By choice. After the final judgment, this person/intelligence/spirit/person loses EVERYTHING. He is not assigned to a particular place in the Creator’s creation (i.e. the afterworld, Heaven, etc.) The Devil is sent to OUTER DARKNESS.

    And where is this OUTER DARKNESS? It is beyond the light. Beyond The Light means to be Outside of The Light (of Creation), thus, to be consigned to outer darkness means Satan (and anyone who chooses to completely (and knowingly) reject God, his creation, and his salvation) is uncreated– these persons lose their spirit (which was given to them in the First Estate), and if the being in question has been born and received a physical body, it too is lost, and he (or any Son or Daughter of Perdition) becomes uncreated.

    In this uncreated state, The Devil (his pure, raw intelligence) has no body, no brain, no memory, no associations, no affiliations, no structure, no history, and no accountability. He has been thrust out beyond all that is created (by Elohim/Jehovah). This is the ultimate judgment (and mercy) of a loving God to those who reject his plan– they are thrust beyond the light and into Outer Darkness. These concepts (Outer Darkness, the Judgment to those who have become Sons and Daughters of Perdition, Hell, etc.) are equivalent.

    In the meantime, right now, Satan enjoys some notoriety (fame, glory) for being known as “The Devil” and serves as a/the leader/icon/celebrity for rebellion, entropy, faithlessness, “sin”, etc. and he (The Devil) ultimately couldn’t care less. He honestly believes the Creation is flawed, will not last (i.e. will come unraveled at some point), that the Savior (and His Plan) is ill-conceived and of limited (i.e. non-eternal, time-limited, doomed to fail) effect, so he (i.e. The Devil) believes that, ultimately, the Plan of Salvation will fail. And when it does, all of creation will come unraveled, body will become separated from spirit, spirit will become separated from intelligence, complete entropy will ensue (atoms, molecules, planets, suns, and entire galaxies will disintegrate) and the great plan of creation and the subsequent need for salvation will be null and void.

    When this occurs, Satan (i.e. that person presently known as “The Devil”), with all of his intelligence, potential, energy, and capability will have an equal chance with God (and the rest of us) of using the eons and eons of time to put together an alternate creation in which He (i.e. The Devil) is Lord and Master.

    This is the Plan of Satan. This is what he believes, where he has placed his faith, and where his hope lies. Satan (i.e. that individual referred to be scripture, historical text, etc.) is not influencing your every thought to do evil, he (i.e. The Devil, and that person/personality referenced by God the (present) Creator) serves as the icon or symbol of rebellion against the present Creator and His Creation. He will be thrust out along with all those who feel and believe that it isn’t fair or right that one (or the present) God/Being be permitted to be the Great God, the One True God, The Lord of Lord’s, etc. But so it is in this (and every other?) creation that exists, or existed.

    There must always be someone that comes first, and second, and so forth. The problem (for Satan, at least) is that God never retires. His reign is everlasting. What a disappointment for him (and others who think like him) to remain in a lower position forever and ever and ever. C’est la vie.

    Satan’s great belief, and gamble, is that this creation (i.e. Creation) won’t last. Many (creations, gods) have probably gone before, and many (Satan believes) will follow. The stuff of creation (we are taught) is eternal. Intelligence cannot be created or destroyed. It has always existed. And eternity is a long time. Satan’s hope, or at least his belief, is that this creation will fail like others that have (probably) gone before and he will (finally) have his chance. His faith lies in himself and in the probability of perpetual creation attempts. The bottom-line is this: he (i.e. The Devil) chooses not to put his faith in this creation and to accept his position as third (or lower) man on the hierarchy (after Elohim and Jehovah). According to scripture, he (i.e. The Devil) attempted to forego the eons and eons problem by rejecting the present creator and his present creation in favor of his long-range plan. This he did by insisting on being “The Savior” and to dethrone God himself in this present creation, so that he might make this present creation his own. But, of course, such a plan was, and must be, rejected (God must look after his own welfare and position in creation to ensure the viability of this creation), thus Satan (i.e. The Devil) chose to become as one satisfied with being recognized as anti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-Creation.

    In all probability, Satan possesses as much sound reason and intelligence and capacity for happiness as any of us. He might even be God’s personal friend, perhaps even dining with God every Sunday afternoon and discuss the “plan” of salvation and how it will be played out. But in the end, and primarily because God (Elohim) and his son (Jehovah) worked out the plan and excluded him (perhaps only because Lucifer was 3rd in line), Satan chose to be the antagonist in the plan and, in the end, will actually be blessed to be returned to his prior state, that of being uncreated, beyond the light, or as we have come to know it from scripture, thrust into “outer darkness”. There he will await, or work, to bring about his own plan, and a God to his own creation. Thus is Satan labeled today, as one who is: rebellious, an enemy to God, the anti-Christ, the Son of Perdition. It’s a matter of perspective, really.

    How merciful a plan, if you think about it– that even those who completely disagree with Elohim, the Creation, the great Plan of Salvation, and the Plan of Salvation (as effected by Jehovah) will, at the very worst, have those “gifts” associated with God’s great gifts of creation and salvation (i.e. a spirit body, a physical body, and a permanent (??) place in heaven) removed from them.

    Most likely there is no pain and no punishment (in the traditional sense of the word) associated with this state of Outer Darkness. You simply return to that original state in which God/Elohim/Jehovah found you– raw intelligence, without a body, without a brain, without memory, without relationships/associations, etc.

    This is what “Satan” is and what his motivations are. He is probably a real being, but from our perspective, is more a representation of what it means to reject God, God’s Creation, God’s Salvation, and all that He offers. He is aware of the risks (limited for sure), the benefits (a role to fulfill and a legacy to remembered for) and has chosen, eyes wide open, to follow this chosen path.

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