The Mormon understanding of Satan/Relationship to God

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The Mormon understanding of Satan: Relationship to God

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Question: Do Latter-day Saints consider Jesus to be the brother of Satan?

We believe Jesus is the divine Son of God and that Satan is a fallen angel, but that God is the Father of all

Some Christians claim that since Latter-day Saints consider Jesus and Satan to be "brothers" in the sense that they have the same Father, that this lowers the stature of Christ, or elevates that of Satan. Some go so far as to imply that the LDS "really" worship or revere Satan, and are thus not true "Christians."

Jesus, Satan, and all humanity share God the Father as their spiritual sire. However, moral agency led Jesus to obey God the Father perfectly and share fully in the Father's divine nature and power. The same agency led Satan to renounce God, fight Jesus, and doom himself to eternal damnation. The remainder of God's children—all of us—have the choice to follow the route chosen by Satan, or the path to which Christ invites us and shows the way.

Divine parenthood gives all children of God potential; Christ maximized that potential, and Satan squandered it.

To choose the gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace that attends it will lead us home again. If we choose to follow Satan's example, and refuse to accept the gift of God's Only Begotten Son, our spiritual parentage cannot help us, just as it cannot help dignify or ennoble Satan.

In December 2007 the Church issued the following press release on this issue:

Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. [1]

Latter-day Saints do not believe the extra-biblical doctrines which surround many Christians' ideas about God, such as expressed by the Nicene Creed

LDS doctrine does not subscribe to traditional creedal trinitarianism. That is, the LDS do not believe the extra-biblical doctrines which surround many Christians' ideas about God, such as expressed by the Nicene Creed. Specifically, the LDS do not accept the proposition that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father," as the Nicene Creed declares.

Rather, LDS doctrine teaches that God the Father is physically and personally distinct from Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son. The Father is understood to be the literal father of His spirit children.

LDS believe that Jesus Christ's role is central to our Heavenly Father's plan. Christ is unique in several respects from all other spirit children of God:

It is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are "brothers," in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father

God the Father also had many other spirit children, created in His image and that of His Only Begotten. These children include all humans born on the earth. Some of God's children rebelled against Him, and contested the choice of Jesus as Savior. (See D&C 76:25–27). The leader of these children was Lucifer, or Satan. Those spirit children of God who followed Satan in his rebellion against Christ are sometimes referred to as "demons," or "devils." (See Moses 4:1–4, Abraham 3:24–28).

Thus, it is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are "brothers," in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father.

Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable

However, critics do not provide the context for the idea that Christ and Lucifer were brothers. Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable. In a similar way, Latter-day Saints do not believe that Jesus and Satan are equals. The scriptures clearly teach the superiority of Jesus over the devil and that Michael (or Adam) and Lucifer (Satan) and their followers fought against each other (See Revelation 12:7-8) to uphold the plan of the Father and the Son.

Finally, while it is true that all mortals share a spiritual parent with Jesus (and Satan, and every other spiritual child of God), we now have a different, more important relationship with Jesus. All of God's children, save Jesus, have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In sinning, they abandon and betray their divine heritage and inheritance. Only through Jesus can any mortal return home to God the Father. This return becomes possible when a sinner is born again, and adopted by Christ, who becomes the spiritual father to those whom He redeems. (See Romans 8:14–39.)

Critics also ignore the Biblical references that imply that Satan is one of the "sons of God." (See Job:16, Job 2:1)

Cautionary Note to Members

An Anti-Mormon poster at the 2004 Mesa Easter Pageant betrays its poor understanding of what "Mormonism" actually teaches.

Elder M. Russell Ballard cautioned members of the Church:

We occasionally hear some members refer to Jesus as our Elder Brother, which is a true concept based on our understanding of the premortal life with our Father in Heaven. But like many points of gospel doctrine, that simple truth doesn't go far enough in terms of describing the Savior's role in our present lives and His great position as a member of the Godhead. Thus, some non-LDS Christians are uncomfortable with what they perceive as a secondary role for Christ in our theology. They feel that we view Jesus as a spiritual peer. They believe that we view Christ as an implementor for God, if you will, but that we don't view Him as God to us and to all mankind, which, of course, is counter to biblical testimony about Christ's divinity…
Now we can understand why some Latter-day Saints have tended to focus on Christ's Sonship as opposed to His Godhood. As members of earthly families, we can relate to Him as a child, as a Son, and as a Brother because we know how that feels. We can personalize that relationship because we ourselves are children, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. For some it may be more difficult to relate to Him as a God. And so in an attempt to draw closer to Christ and to cultivate warm and personal feelings toward Him, some tend to humanize Him, sometimes at the expense of acknowledging His Divinity. So let us be very clear on this point: it is true that Jesus was our Elder Brother in the premortal life, but we believe that in this life it is crucial that we become "born again" as His sons and daughters in the gospel covenant. [2]

Early Christian Evidence

An anti-Mormon protester at October 2002 LDS General Conference does little to help others understand LDS doctrine properly.

The early Ante-Nicene Church father Lactantius wrote:

Since God was possessed of the greatest foresight for planning, and of the greatest skill for carrying out in action, before He commenced this business of the world,--inasmuch as there was in Him, and always is, the fountain of full and most complete goodness,--in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father... Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. Therefore he was infected with his own envy as with poison, and passed from good to evil; and at his own will, which had been given to him by God unfettered, he acquired for himself a contrary name. From which it appears that the source of all evils is envy. For he envied his predecessor, who through his steadfastness is acceptable and dear to God the Father. This being, who from good became evil by his own act, is called by the Greeks diabolus: we call him accuser, because he reports to God the faults to which he himself entices us. God, therefore, when He began the fabric of the world, set over the whole work that first and greatest Son, and used Him at the same time as a counselor and artificer, in planning, arranging, and accomplishing, since He is complete both in knowledge, and judgment, and power... [3]

Many things he here taught are not considered "orthodox" by today's standards. However, Lactantius was definitely orthodox during his lifetime. Amazingly, many things here correspond to LDS doctrine precisely in those areas that are "unorthodox." For example,

1. "He produced a Spirit like to Himself," namely Christ. Christ, in this sense, is not the "co-equal," "eternally begotten," "same substance" "persona" of the later creeds.
2. "Then he made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain." God made another spirit who rebelled and who fell from his exalted status. He is the diabolus.
3. Christ is the "first and greatest Son." Not the "only" son.
4. Lastly, since the diabolus and Christ are both spirit sons of God, they are spirit brothers.


Question: Could Moroni have been an "angel of Satan"?

The teachings of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church affirm that Jesus is the Christ, something that Satan cannot do

Some critics of Mormonism have charged that Moroni — the resurrected prophet who gave the Book of Mormon plates to Joseph Smith — was really an angel of Satan. [4] They base this charge on two passages in the New Testament:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13–15)

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

The question is asked, "If Satan can appear as an angel of light, couldn't he have deceived Joseph Smith by claiming to be Jesus Christ or Moroni or any of the other messengers who appeared to him?"

These objections fail an objective analysis using the scriptures as our standard of truth. The teachings of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church affirm that Jesus is the Christ and that he "came in the flesh" as prophesied and affirmed in scripture. For Satan to inspire these latter-day truths goes counter to Christ's own teachings (Matthew 12:25–26; also Matthew 9:33–34; Mark 3:22–30; Luke 11:14–26; Jesus the Christ, pp. 265–266).

To believe that an uneducated farm boy could have imagined these things and convinced so many others of their veracity is difficult to justify especially in view of the testimonies of all those who were also intimately involved as eyewitnesses to many of these same events. Indeed, to deny these events took place as so many witnesses testified takes more faith than to accept their accounts as factual. Joseph Fielding McConkie pointed out:

"Many a pretender to the prophetic office has claimed to entertain angels or to have spoken with God, but who other than Joseph Smith introduced his angels to others? Joseph Smith introduced Moroni to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. He was never alone when priesthood or keys were restored.... He and Sydney Rigdon received the revelation on the degrees of glory together. Together they saw legions of angels, along with the Father and the Son (see D&C 76:21–23). Oliver Cowdery was with Joseph Smith when John the Baptist came to restore the Aaronic Priesthood, and when Peter, James, and John came to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood. Oliver was also with Joseph Smith when Christ came to accept the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and Moses, Elias, and Elijah restored their keys, powers, and authorities."[5]

Mormon belief does support the idea that Satan can appear as an angel of light, but Joseph taught members how to recognize this ruse

This is certainly possible in LDS belief, since the Book of Mormon describes two instances where this occurred (2 Nephi 9:9; Alma 30:53). Joseph Smith also briefly described several incidents of this nature associated with the restoration (D&C 128:20; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 214 ). Nevertheless, it appears that Joseph became aware of this tactic early on and taught the members how to recognize this ruse (Teachings, pp. 202, 204, 214, 227; see also Bruce R McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:440–441).

The Bible also contains a test to enable us to judge or, as John says, to "try spirits whether they are of God" (1 Jn 4:11). If Jesus Christ or Moroni or any of the other messengers who appeared to Joseph Smith failed this test we would know they were ministers of Satan.

John states, "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God" (1 Jn 4:2-3). Joseph Smith likewise taught, "...if I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness.... [A]ny man who says he is a teacher or preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophecy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; and by this key false teacher and impostors may be detected" (Teachings, p. 269).

In the First Vision Jesus Christ was introduced by God the Father as his "Beloved Son" (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). God the Father was, in essence, witnessing that Jesus Christ was his Only Begotten Son just as he had done when Jesus "came in the flesh" and was baptized (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11). In a subsequent appearance Jesus identified himself as "the first and the last...he who liveth...he who was slain" (DC 110:4). Jesus Christ was testifying that he was the same person who lived in the Holy Land and crucified for our sins. He confirmed that he indeed came "in the flesh" to accomplish the atonement.

The angel Moroni testified of Jesus Christ, which is something that Satan would never have done

The angel Moroni who appeared to Joseph Smith also confirmed that "Jesus Christ was come in the flesh" by quoting Old and New Testament scriptures which were fulfilled with his coming (Joseph Smith—History 1:40). He also stated that his (Moroni's) purpose was to reveal a book "giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent" and containing the "everlasting Gospel...as delivered by the Savior" following his mortal ministry. The stated purpose of the Book of Mormon is in fact to convince both "Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ" (title page); as such, it is subtitled Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints believe it to be a second witness, after the Bible, of Jesus Christ's divine mission. If Moroni were Satan or one of Satan's ministers acting as an instrument of evil, he surely would not have done so much to convince mankind to believe in Christ; it goes counter to Satan's purpose (Matthew 12:25).

In the Book of Mormon, Jacob told us:

"Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord." (2 Nephi 9:5-6.)

Jacob's brother Nephi taught:

"And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, harken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye — for Christ will show unto you with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness." (2 Nephi 33:10-11)

The Book of Mormon also contains an account of Christ's visit to those upon this continent wherein he allows them to "feel the prints of the nails" in his flesh (3 Nephi 11:14) that they might understand that he died for them also. Thus Moroni and the book which he brought, both testify that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and was come in the flesh "manifesting himself unto all nations" (title page; 1 Nephi 10:4-11; 1 Nephi 11:18-21, 1 Nephi 11:27-33; 1 Nephi 15:13; Mosiah 7:27; Mosiah 15:1-2; Ether 3:6; Ether 3:9; Ether 3:16-17; Moroni 9:25).

None of the messengers which appeared to Joseph Smith ever denied that Jesus Christ was the Messiah come in the flesh (DC 13:1; DC 18:11-12; DC 19:16-19; DC 20:1; DC 110:4) and all had a "testimony of Jesus." Paul gave us a final key to detection of false messengers; he said that their "end shall be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:15). If their works be evil or unrighteous we will know they are not from God. "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).


Question: Why is the name "Lucifer" used to represent Satan in Latter-day Saint scriptures and the temple ceremony?

"Lucifer" is a name which designates the pre-mortal Satan, prior to his rebellion against God

One critical website claims, "Another error in the King James Version is the introduction of the name “Lucifer” into the English translation of Isaiah 14:12, a name with occurs nowhere else in the Bible." [6]

In LDS theology, "Lucifer" is a name which designates the pre-mortal Satan, prior to his rebellion against God. Because of Isaiah's use of the term, it has a long history in that role in western Christianity.

The use of Satan/Lucifer in the endowment is not surprising—the endowment is a symbolic ritual drama designed to teach important spiritual truths. It does not matter what Satan's "pre-fall" name really was. Names like "Jehovah" and "Jesus Christ" are Hebrew and Greek respectively: yet, Hebrew and Greek are not likely the language of the pre-mortal world either. The names are used because they quickly and accurately transmit meaning to western Christians.

John Milton, in Paradise Lost used the term in the same way—because its use would be familiar and instantly recognizable to his Christian audience. He knew that it was an allusion, but used it because it was a well-known symbol:

Citie and proud seate

Of LUCIFER, so by allusion calld,

Of that bright Starr to SATAN paragond. - Paradise Lost, Bk IX.
  1. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Answering Media Questions About Jesus and Satan," Press release (12 December 2007). off-site
  2. M. Russell Ballard, "Building Bridges of Understanding," Ensign (June 1998), 62. off-site
  3. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 2.9. in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (1885; reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004), 7:52–53.
  4. MormonThink.com website (as of 5 May 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm
  5. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Sons and Daughters of God: The Loss and Restoration of Our Divine Inheritance (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1994), 194–195. ISBN 0884949362.
  6. "JST Bible Translation," MormonThink.com