There are too many of our Christian brothers and sisters who condemn the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as demonic. They do so through a myriad of tactics, but one heinous endeavor of theirs is to take our rich, deep, and profound doctrine and reduce it into single line phrases that sound as ridiculous and stupid as possible. It is a similar tactic used by Atheists to make Christianity, in general, seem simple, shallow, and only for the uneducated. This type of presentation of our doctrine is rooted in two-hundred years of attacks leveled against the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. It is often information that is spread by those who honestly do not know that they spread lies—often these Christian brothers and sisters mean well as they seek to save the souls they think are lost to the devil. Though, I would plead to those well-meaning Christians to know that these lies have been started from those who do or have once understood our doctrine, but being deceived by Satan, have sought to lie, and reduce our doctrine into trivialities with the goal to deceive as many souls as possible from the truths that God has revealed to his prophets. Compared to the true doctrine we believe, the statements they make about our beliefs are untrue. I implore you to come at criticisms of these beliefs with a healthy skepticism. (The same goes for the beliefs of all people, if what you hear about another church’s belief seems too crazy to believe for a reasonable person, then you are likely being fed a misrepresentation of the true beliefs of those people, you should go and seek from the source what the true beliefs are.) The people who began spreading these falsehoods have purposely torn apart and reshaped our true doctrine so that those who read these claims will think, “Wow, that’s insane, how could any reasonable person believe this?” And I do not blame anyone for having those thoughts, if I was not a Latter-day Saint, then I might think the same. These reductionists claim we think we wear magic underwear or that we’ll be rewarded with our very own planet if we’re good enough. (This one is particularly blasphemous and not just for Latter-day Saints. Anyone who claims this is what LDS doctrine is, has a deep misunderstanding of the very nature of God himself. This claim results to reducing the role of God to being the overseer of one single planet. Is God not the ultimate King of all of the universe and beyond? It is insulting to the highest degree to the very Father that bestowed us with life on this planet in a universe of infinite worlds to suggest that when Christ grants the righteous “to sit with [Him] in [His] throne, even as [He] also overcame, and [is] set down with [the] Father in his throne” (Rev. 2:21) that he means we are to inherit a single planet. Is God the God of just the Earth? Or is he the ruler of the universe and everything beyond? Anyone that would reduce our doctrine to such a ridiculous state is admitting that they do not understand the role of God in the universe as taught by the Bible. And those who cannot, or refuse, to understand God would not know Him if he stood before them and spoke to their faces.)
One such criticism they level against the Church of Jesus Christ is that we believe Jesus and Satan are brothers. To be fair, this one is actually not too far off the mark, despite the reductionist views with which these critics typically portray LDS doctrine. However, it’s not the full picture. To clarify, we believe that we are all God’s children. God the Father is a separate being from Christ, and he is the father of both Christ’s spirit and physical body. We are only the spiritual offspring of God, not the physical. God is also the Father of Satan’s spirit. In this way, we do believe that Jesus Christ and Satan are spirit brothers. NOT physical bothers—as some who make this claim frame this belief. This claim leaves out, however, that we also believe that WE are also spirit brothers of both Christ and Satan. And leaving that part out of the statement of belief changes the entire framing of the doctrine from one with depth and life-changing meaning to a belief that just sounds a little crazy. When we understand the significance of our relationship to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and even to Satan, we understand what it is to be human, to be a Child of God, and what that means in terms of our potential in this life and the next.
I do not think it is necessary, in this post, to make scriptural arguments as to the validity of the doctrinal claim we make in regard to our spiritual relationship with God, as I am not attempting to convince anyone based on how we interpret scripture, rather I am simply seeking to demonstrate the depth and meaning behind the doctrine in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ’s doctrine on this matter, is that all humans who live and have lived on this earth are literal spirit children of God the Father and that we lived with God in a spiritual life before we came to Earth and received a body. This means that we believe all the angels in scripture and all the demons in the scriptures are cut from the same cloth as humans. Angels are either premortal spirits or post-mortal spirits (or resurrected men) sent by God to do his work. And demons are all premortal spirits that rejected God in the premortal life and were cast out of heaven along with Satan for their rebellion against Him. If you would like a comprehensive overview of these beliefs, with scriptural references, go to the links here: Premortal Life, Postmoratlity, Angels, Demons.
What does this all mean for us, though? Well, it means that there is absolute infinite potential for each human that lives on this Earth to bring with them the absolute perfect goodness of Christ or the absolute evil misery of Satan. Each human who lives is an embodiment of that war in heaven, if it were not so then that war would not have been necessary. We are beings of dueling natures, one of the natural man that seeks to pervert the ways of God and live in abject opposition to the Almighty and one that is a child of God that seeks to bring about peace and goodness in the world in opposition to the devil. Each of us lives constantly in direct opposition to ourselves, always fighting to serve God over the natural man or the natural man over God. We are beings of hypocrisy to the highest degree, for we will always profess one thing and then do another. We will always want to stamp out evil yet commit the same evils ourselves. We will fervently protect, with great love and adoration, those who we hold dear, but then in the same breath condemn and seek to destroy those that others hold dear with their own love and adoration. We are both selfish and selfless. We are both kind and mean. We are both good and evil. Each and every one of us.
This is likely a familiar doctrine to other Christians, as this is not unique to the Church of Jesus Christ, this is a religious doctrine as old as time itself. It is a prevalent theme in media. It is as obvious to those who see the world for what it is as the surety that the sun will rise tomorrow. Some secular thinkers will deny that this is the case (it is a flaw in Marxist Ideology, which presupposes that men, if given the right circumstances, will not commit evil.) But evil is not born out of necessity for survival—in some cases desperation is the precursor of evil, but that is not the source of it—evil is born out of our potential as children of God. It is not born from God, for God is not the source of evil, He is the source of all that is good and lovely and wonderful in the world. Satan is the progenitor of evil, and thus all evil that man could commit stems from the first who did rebel.
In the great Council of Heaven, God presented to us all the Plan of Salvation, in which we would gain the opportunity to receive a body and progress beyond our infant spiritual state. This was a critical point in time, one that marked our beginning in progression and learning. We saw the presentation of the plan, but there was something missing. With the uncompromising laws of justice, declared in the heavens before the world was, only those who could live perfect lives would be able to share in the reward God prepared for us. So, Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of the Father in both spirit and flesh, came forward and offered his plan to allow us to return to God. He, knowing that only He was capable of living this perfect life, that only He could live without breaking a single law of heaven, would offer Himself as a sacrifice so that justice would be satisfied for all those who would be punished for breaking the laws of heaven. Then Christ offered up the glory of his plan and His sacrifice to the Father, denying His own power and giving all of it to God. Then, Lucifer presented his own plan. In this plan not a single soul would be lost, for not one person would be allowed to choose anything that broke even the smallest law in heaven, making Satan the ruler of all man and the universe. And on top of this authoritarian enforcement of heavenly law, Lucifer proposed that he himself would be given the glory, leaving none for the very Father of our spirits. God then declared that the First should be chosen and for his plan being denied Satan rebelled against God and started the war in heaven.
That is what the scriptural record tells us, but based on the story of the Garden of Eden and temple teachings I think there is more to it than that. Before that point in time, in the premortal life, I think it likely we had not thought it possible to reject God. When Satan chose to rebel we saw that we had a choice in the matter. From that day forward each of us as premortal spirits had to contend with the knowledge that if we so chose, we could refuse to follow God. We became “as gods, knowing good from evil,” in our premortal state. And with that knowledge gained we could no longer live in the presence of God as we were, unable to progress in our spiritual form. We had to either choose to come to Earth, to test our ability to choose God over anything else or deny God’s plan and follow Satan. There was no middle ground. We had to choose God or Satan. This struggle presented enough of a difficulty for us that one-third of all the premortal spirits denied God and followed Satan, the rest of us choosing to follow God. I think because we all made the choice to follow God with the perfect knowledge we had of God’s divinity, our judgement was clouded as to our motivations. Did we follow God because we had loyalty to him, or did we do so because it just seemed a better alternative to being cast out of heaven and doomed to live an eternity aimless, bodyless, and purposeless? The only way to prove our loyalty for a surety was to do as God asked, and go to Earth to “prove…herewith, to see if [we would] do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abraham 3:25). So, a veil was placed over our minds to block the memory of the premortal state and we were sent to this Earth, where we are free to know if we chose God because we loved him and trusted him, or if we did so for some other reason that is not to God’s satisfaction.
As the literal children of God we are born as potential inheritors to all that God has and to the power that God commands. Both Satan and Christ were born to this same potential. Christ, being the Firstborn, kept his responsibility as the wisest, most prudent, and godlike of all of the Father’s spirit children and provided us with an example as to our potential if we only would embrace the Father in the same manner as Himself. We watched as Christ participated in the creation of the Earth, wielding the powers of Heaven in a fantastic manner that caused the creation of the very world upon which we would soon live. Through righteousness, obedience, and absolute devotion to the Father, Jesus Christ showed us how a perfect son or daughter of God ought to live in the premortal life. Then, again in the meridian of time, Christ descended from the throne of God to live among us, His brothers and sisters, to again show us the potential of the children of God on this Earth if we would only live with a perfect heart devoted to the glory of God. Christ went about the Earth healing all manner of sicknesses, performing all manner of miracles, and teaching wonderous doctrine that inspired and brought man out of a lowly state of dejection to one of power and prosperity in spirit. Christ provided to us the ultimate example of our potential as to what a child of God could be if we would only be willing to give all the glory to the Father and give all our will to the Father, as Christ did. He showed us what man could become, if we would only set ourselves aside and allow the Father to shine through us and ignite the potential each of us contains as children of God. As children of God we have inherited some of His power and with that power we can bring to the world goodness beyond our reckoning, just as Christ did.
Then, in opposition in all things, we see the result of Satan’s rebellion. We see the absolute power corrupted by pride, hatred, and evil. Satan took his divine potential as a child of God and squandered it through his rebellion. He sought to wield his birthright as a child of God as a power for the purpose of destroying the work of the very Father that created him. In jealous rage for the brother he saw lifted up by his Father, when he himself was rejected, he took that power he had and tore away one-third of the Father’s children and with him they were all banished from the Father’s presence; a choice they willingly made knowing the consequences of disobedience to the laws of heaven. In Satan we see the miserable state of existence that comes when we reject God. We see our potential as agents unto evil, for we, as children of the very same Father, to inflict abhorrent evils on the world and to the individuals that are our brothers and sisters. Because we are children of God we are inheritors of his power, and with this power we are capable of committing evils beyond our imagination, just as Satan did with the hosts of heaven. The power we have as humans is given to us by God, namely our self-awareness and our ability to choose actions contrary to our innate instincts. God has trusted us with that power (consciousness, agency, or self-awareness) and as such the consequences for abusing it are dire.
The war in heaven, portrayed as two brothers fighting one with another for the affection of their Father, one brother willing to submit to the Father’s will and the other unwilling to give up even a speck of his own, lingers on still as Satan seeks to convince the children of God to wield their inheritance of godly potential for the sake of the destruction of God’s plan. Among the first is almost an exact replay of the war in heaven, but on a much smaller scale. Abel presents to the Father a sacrifice as the Father asked, showing obedience and humility to the commands of God, while Cain presents to the Father a sacrifice that is subpar, one that God did not command, and one that is not acceptable to God. Instead of doing as God asked, Cain thought he knew best and offered what he thought God needed, not what God asked for. In response to God’s rejection Cain, in jealous rage, commits the first murder. He kills his righteous brother in a horrific repeat of what Satan tried to do in the premortal life. Satan attempted to usurp Jesus’s birthright as the chosen of the Father, but unable to win that battle he seemed to have thought he would win it on Earth by convincing the rejected, rebellious child of the first humans to do to his own brother what Satan likely wanted to do to his spirit brothers as well. Here we see again the opposition of man’s potential as God’s children. Abel, righteous and content to do the will of God is accepted by God and able to return to his presence (the blood of Abel is able to cry out to God and God seeks punishment on Cain for slaying a righteous soul, suggesting Abel is with God). In punishment, Cain himself is not killed, but he is banished from the fledging civilization just as Satan was cast out of heaven. There are countless stories, scriptural, historical, and fictional, of brothers fighting against each other, one good and the other evil. The archetype is a story we are all familiar with because it inhabits each of us as a veiled memory of the time we spent in the premortal life, remaining in us as a lesson of our divine lineage.
To me, there is no greater example of the truth of our power as children of God, manifest through the pure goodness of Christ and the absolute evil of Satan, then in the historical events of the past 100 years. Within that short time span we have committed the greatest atrocities this Earth has ever seen. We have also brought about more good to more people than at any time in our human history. In just the last 100 years we have seen the development and subsequent use of the most powerful weapon ever created in the atomic bomb (there are more powerful ones, but they have not been used). Both of these bombs killed tens of thousands of people in an instant. In these same 100 years we have seen several attempts at genocide or mass murder at the hands of human leaders who had given up all their humanity in an attempt to pursue goals similar to that of Satan in the premortal life, the absolute authority of themselves to rule without question over mankind. Millions upon millions of people were slaughtered to appease the twisted and malevolent visions these men had, and because they wielded a power that only a child of God is capable of wielding, other children of God suffered under horrific circumstances.
In the same time frame we see the growth of the human population explode as medical and technological advancements, through the freedom of capitalistic economies (the freedom of choice in an echo of God’s own plan), bring the impoverished people in the world out of destitution and into wealth unimaginable by even those who lived only 200 years prior. Those same technology advancements have enabled the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach millions and millions of people today, so much so that the Church of Jesus Christ, fledgling and wrought with turmoil and financial strife before and after the exodus of its people from the Eastern US to the Western US in the mid 19th century, has reached over 17 millions members and is capable of providing humanitarian aid anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice through the selfless service of Christ’s disciples and the generous donations of those same people. We have countless stories of brave men and women sacrificing their lives, livelihoods, and families in opposition to the very same satanic authoritarians that have caused incalculable suffering. Because of these people those regimes were overthrown and while the suffering has not ceased in those countries, it is certainly alleviated by the willing sacrifices of those who chose to follow God and do His will not because it was convenient, but because they had loyalty to Him. There are many wonderful religious figures, many of which are not Latter-day Saints, that have used their God-given powers as children of God to affect mighty change and bring the goodness of Christ’s example to the people of this world. People like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and more recently Tim Ballard in his dedication to the rescuing of trafficked children. Then we have the everyday members of the Church of Jesus Christ that dedicate their free time to assisting the Lord in building His kingdom. Some of them spend eighteen months to two years in strange parts of the world, some not-so-strange, and dedicate each day of their lives to the service of the people that surround them. Those who are not serving missions spend their days seeking to edify those in their communities, offer service to neighbors, bring their friends and family to Christ, and dedicate what little time they have outside of family and work to ensuring the local levels of the Church function so that millions and millions of people around the world will always have access to the gifts of the Gospel, both the spiritual and material.
Jesus Christ and Satan are spiritual brothers, but we are also spiritual brothers to Satan and Christ. Our divine potential to be like God is clear in the figure of Christ and our demonic potential to commit evil acts in a perversion of God’s power is clear in the figure of Satan. It is necessary to understand our nature as humans on this Earth, for we are the offspring of the Almighty and because of this we are each inherently able to access power that is capable of enabling the slaughter of millions or in bringing millions to the healing power of Jesus Christ. If you cannot see the potential of that evil or that good in yourself, then you are blind to the nature of humanity. For each person who has or does or will walk this Earth is a child of God, and as such we are inheritors of godly power. Through this power we can wield it as we see Christ wield it, and bring to the people around us healing, miracles, and edification. Or we can wield it as Satan does and bring to those around us misery, hatred, and even death. That is our choice. That is our dilemma. That is what it is to be human.