Angels and demons

Some weeks back, I happened to see the last few minutes of the movie “End of Days“, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger ends up taking on Satan himself. It highlighted for me how differently the LDS Church and most other Christians religion view angels and devils (or demons). I think it explains in part why Evangelicals are so obsessed with the LDS doctrine that both Christ and Lucifer are — just like the rest of us — eternal, uncreated intelligences with agency who each received spirit bodies from God and thus — just like the rest of us — are ‘spirit children’ of Heavenly Father. Their usual way of framing this is that “Do Mormons really believe that Christ and Satan are brothers?”, an issue that presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has now apparently raised.

The short answer is, yes, an answer that (in my opinion) makes as much or more sense than traditional Christian theology while defusing the whole sticky issue of why (and how) did God create evil (theodicy). Let me explain.

From what I can tell, most Christian churches fall into one of two camps: those who don’t believe angels really exist (except as a symbolic concept for God’s love and power in our lives), and those who believe that angels really do exist and form a class of supernatural beings created by God, distinct and separate from humanity. Angles are often assumed to be bodiless and without gender, but able to take on human form. God created all angels ex nihilo (from nothing), including Lucifer (Satan) and all those who followed him to be come devils and demons. Similarly, God creates each human spirit or soul ex nihilo at or sometime after the moment of conception of the physical body.

Latter-day Saints, by contrast, believe that angels (Greek angelos: “messengers”) are simply either resurrected humans or ‘the spirits of just men made perfect’ who either have not yet been incarnated or have not yet been resurrected (cf. D&C 129). In other words, all angels are, like us, eternal uncreated intelligences who have been given ‘spirit bodies’ by Heavenly Father in preparation for receiving mortal bodies and eventually immortal (resurrected) bodies.

As such, we all have inclinations, nature and agency that exist independent from and co-eternal with God. Lucifer was just one of us in this premortal existence, though apparently one of the ‘great and noble’ ones and ‘in authority before God’ — his name means “light-bearer”. However, when confronted with Heavenly Father’s plan for our mortality, including Christ’s atonement, he and those who followed him rebelled, wanting a different (and ‘safer’) plan in which “not one soul would be lost”, but one which would take away our freedom of thought and action (agency) in mortality. Here are four accounts from LDS scripture, first from the Book of Moses (Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of Genesis; found in The Pearl of Great Price):

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying — Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor….

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 4:1, 3)

Second, from the Book of Abraham (also found in The Pearl of Great Price):

…if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all…

I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee [Abraham] to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; and they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.

And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Abraham 3:18-19, 21-28)

Third, from The Doctrine & Covenants:

And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was 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 wept over him — he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.

And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning! (D&C 76:25-27)

Fourth, from The Book of Mormon:

And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.

And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind…

But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

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 2:17-18, 24-27)

The pervasive theme is that of agency, a key concept in LDS theology and one that much of Christianity struggles with (e.g., free will vs. predestination). Lucifer became Satan through exercise of his agency during our premortal existence; he and those who followed him in rebelling against God lost forever their opportunity for incarnation, resurrection, and exaltation. God did not and does not create evil; we create it through the exercise of our agency. In other words, evil exists in the world because of our choices, not God’s. Christ, through His Atonement, pays the price of the evil that we create and, ultimately, purges it from our very being, so that we can be pure as He is pure — all conditional upon our repentance.

So, yes, Lucifer is our brother, just as Christ is our Elder Brother (a title and concept that Christians curiously have no problems with) — but Christ is our Savior and God and seeks to make us — who are (as Paul wrote) the children of God“heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Lucifer, on the other hand, seeks to damn us all that we “might be miserable like unto himself.” As Lehi says, we are free to choose which one we will follow. ..bruce..

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