Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward.
In the Bible, in John 10:10 are recorded these words, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Who is this one whose three-fold purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy? He is Lucifer – the Shining One, the Light bringer, or the Son of the Morning. He is also known as Satan or the devil. The name Lucifer is mentioned only once in the Bible as recorded in Isaiah 14:12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”, but references to his other names, Satan or the devil, are found widely in other scriptures.
There are some people who would like to believe that Satan is just a fictitious character created to scare people into doing what is right by threatening them with the fires of hell and damnation. However, just as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that there is a God, with like certainty, Mormons know that Satan lives, that he is a powerful personage of spirit, the archenemy of God, of man, and of righteousness. Because Satan is the great deceiver, he is able to convince some people that lies are truth. The Savior Himself spoke of this as recorded in the Bible in John 8:44, when He said to the Scribes and Pharisees,
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.“
Modern-day scripture as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 76, verses 25 and 26, teaches that Satan is a spirit son of God who was once an angel “in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition, for the heavens swept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.” And so we learn that in the pre-mortal Council in Heaven, Lucifer, as Satan was then called, rebelled against God, and since that time, he has sought to destroy the children of God on the earth and to make them miserable. Knowing these things cements our belief in a pre-mortal life, wherein we dwelt as the spirit children of God. As was manifest in the “war in heaven,” we had freedom to choose there, as we do here. Because of modern revelation, Mormon doctrine can give us a glimpse of pre-mortal life, telling us that we are all eternal beings who once lived with God and seek to return to Him.
One primary issue in the conflict between God and Satan is agency. Agency is our God-given right to choose between good and evil. Agency is a precious gift from God that is essential to His plan for His children. In Satan’s rebellion against God, he “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). Said he, “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). Modern-day scripture as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 29, verses 36 through 38 teaches even more about Satan’s rebellion, “. . . .and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; and they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; and, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.” As a result of this rebellion, Satan and his followers were cut off from God’s presence and denied the blessing of receiving a physical body.
Mormon doctrine teaches that Heavenly Father allows Satan and his followers to tempt us as part of our experience in mortality. Doctrine and Covenants, section 29, verse 39 teaches, “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.” Further clarification on this can be found in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) as recorded in 2 Nephi 11-14:
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). Because Satan seeks the misery of all mankind, he and his followers attempt to do whatever it takes to lead all men away from righteousness and the plan of happiness which Heavenly Father has designed for them. For example, he seeks to discredit the Savior and the Priesthood, to cast doubt and disbelief of the power of the Atonement, to counterfeit revelation, to distract men from all truth, and to contradict individual accountability. He also attempts to undermine the sanctity of the family by promoting such acts as same sex relations, making a mockery of marriage by promoting relations outside of marriage, and extramarital relations for those who are married. He also discourages childbearing by married adults who would otherwise raise children in righteousness.
Satan is a very real personage and his mission is to destroy all mankind. That is why the Apostle Paul gives the reminder that, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). He exhorts that a spiritual battle is raging and everyone must protect themselves by putting “on the whole armour of God, that [they] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). He gives further instructions in Ephesians 6:14-18 to:
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
Satan cannot make an individual do anything, only the individual can decide that he will do it. Individuals do not have to give in to the temptations of the adversary. Each person has the power to choose good over evil, and the Lord has promised to help all who seek Him through sincere prayer and faithfulness. He has promised to never leave nor forsake those who would hold fast to the iron rod, which is the Word of God, and never let go. For, “whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:24). “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually” (Moroni 7:12). However, echoing the words of the Apostle Paul a person can take heart and say, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).