Sunday, September 1, 2013

Notes on Being Mormon: Mythology of the Devil

I had an experience yesterday, which, combined with recently reading Napoleon Hill's "Outwitting the Devil", made me realize a few things.


First, a little background- my religion teaches that Satan started out just the way we started out-- as spiritual children of our Heavenly Father, and that he rebelled and started down the path to evilness and was cast out of the presence of God. 

Second- my religion teaches that we have the power to refuse Satan's temptations and evilness in our lives. 

So this is what I realized: the world, in general, has done a really good job of mythologizing satan. Probably with his encouragement and whispered ideas. Think about this for a minute. In many religions, Satan rules Hell, right? He's almost always perceived as this huge, powerful, terrifying being-- often in a demonic, beast-form with cloven hooves and a spiked tail and horns and the like. Imagine the glee he must feel when people are sold this version of him.

What if I told you the myth is a lie?

What if all along, he's actually been even less powerful than you or me? Oh, he's smart. He's tricky and he's very, very good at camouflaging his lies by hiding them in a bucket of truths. He'll tell you ten truths so you'll believe one lie. I'm not saying he is without power, but I think most of us imagine him as being much more powerful than he really is.

What if we've been duped? What if, instead of a towering, growling horrifying beast, he's just an angry, man-like being? 

My religion also teaches that because of his choices in the pre-existence (pre-Earth life), Satan will never get a body. He will remain in that pre-mortal form forever. While we, having received bodies because we chose to stick with God and Jesus instead of following Satan, will have the opportunity to learn, grow, and become more than what we were. We have the potential to become like God-- resurrected beings. Deep doctrine, I know, but that's what we believe.

As such, we have continued to move forward while Satan fights a losing war. He has won some battles, sure; he's captured some souls, perhaps. There are some who prefer lives of evil and wickedness, and there are many, many others who are inadvertently following Satan-- read the book-- Napoleon Hill makes a very good argument for this-- he calls it "drifting"-- instead of controlling our own thoughts, many of us mortals just exist and let depression or hopelessness or fear or desire control us-- it's a fascinating idea. 

Anyway, I feel rather... empowered by letting go of the myth of the gigantic, steaming, frightening evil that is Satan. He's just a rebellious dude who is angry he won't ever get his way. He won't ever control all the souls of men. He won't ever rule and have all the glory. 

One other note about Mormon doctrine-- we also believe that Jesus and Heavenly Father wanted us to come to Earth, to gain bodies, so that we could exercise our agency (or right to choose). We believe that Satan wanted to remove the agency part of the plan entirely. Think about that. It makes sense, then, that his power lies in controlling as many of us as he can. Convincing people that he offers freedom, he actually binds them with chains of addiction, failure, fear and negativity.

The point is, let's not give Satan more power than he has. Let's not let mythology frighten us. Let's take control of our minds, our actions and our lives. Recognize evil exists, acknowledge the battle going on behind the scenes of the Earth, and choose a side. 

Probably the only thing more dangerous than not recognizing your power over Satan is denying his existence... but that's a topic for another time. 


trishcook said...

Amen!! Love reading your insights!

Steph said...

Thanks, Trisha!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Steph! Very well put ...

Steph said...

thank you, Jaymie, and thanks for sharing on FB. :)