Saturday, October 24, 2009

Selfless Satan

Embark with me to a world without intentions and motivations- where only choices and their consequences matter. A world where self-interest and benefit are measured by power, knowledge, and possessions. A world where behavior causes effects, and that's it.

Okay, here we are! Now, this world is isn't terribly different from our own. We live in a world governed by natural laws, where blessings (effects) are obtained by obedience to laws upon which those blessings are predicated (causes) - see D & C 130: 21. Let's seek to place Christ and Satan where they belong in the selfless-selfish spectrum in this world based on a cause-effect principle.

Effects: possesses all knowledge, all power, an eternal weight of glory, the worshipful adoration of trillions of humans, the constant company of God, boundless possessions, exaltation, peace, and a fullness of joy.

Causes: fidelity to God's will, including performance of the Atonement and every other task God laid upon Him

Effects: eternal damnation, eternal misery, the company of the damned, a day-to-day waking experience of ceaseless kicking against the pricks, without hope of offspring or glory

Causes: beguiling Eve, advocating his own plan in the Council in Heaven, disobeying God whenever he's not compelled to comply, tempting mankind to sin

Now we have juxtaposed Christ and Satan on an individual interest cause-effect criterion (how selfish they are as measured by effects on their individual welfare). This placement is necessary but insufficient to our placing them on a selfish-selfless spectrum, though, because the measure of selflessness must be against the interests of others.

The actions of both Christ and Satan make your and my salvation possible. Both are actual causes of human salvation (for background about actual cause and related issues, see or However, it is clear that the actions of each led to different results for the individual actor. Satan's involvement, though necessary for the effect of the Fall (which is in turn absolutely essential to the salvation of man) and the reality of continuing opposition (see 2 Nephi 2:11-17, also the problem of evil and thoedicy), seems to have rewarded him eternal damnation in exchange for his efforts. Yet Christ's efforts, which are neither more nor less essential for the salvation of man than Satan's, are rewarded by the greatest power and possessory interest a selfish individual could hope for.

"He that findeth his life shall blose it: and he that closeth his dlife for my sake shall find it" (Matt 10:39. See also D & C 98: 13 and TG: self-sacrifice).
Selfishness: "that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others."
Sacrifice: To forfeit (one thing) for another thing considered to be of greater value.

It's interesting that sacrifice is defined and thought of as forfeiting A for B, where B is considered to be of greater value. To me, that "sacrifice" = "a great bargain." It's like exchanging 5 bucks for a 2010 Mustang V6 Convertible. What kind of a sacrifice is that? If sacrifice is instead more of a bad bargain, say, a person sacrificing his or her life so someone else can have the right to vote on whether or not to have a burrito or a taco, then we attain an upleasant deduction. Satan is far and away more selfless than Christ as measured only by effects. His actions, actual causes of our exaltation, benefitted us greatly while resulting in unending personal punishment for him. He made a truly "bad bargain" on our behalf. Christ's actions, also actual causes of our exaltation, also benefitted us greatly, but resulted in a gargantuan ROI (Return On Investment) for Him.

So now we've placed Christ and Satan on our contrived selfless-selfish spectrum. Where we to follow Satan's selfless example, we'd likely behave quite differently- for example, by setting up a regional kindergarten conference and then blowing up the session once all the kids arrive. [God's work is to bring to pass (presumably, maximize) the immortality and eternal life of man. Immortality for all mortals is already assured, leaving only eternal life to maximize. Protected class #1- all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the Celestial Kingdom - D & C 137:10 - which salvation is equivalent to eternal life. So if you slay 100,001 kindergarteners you damn yourself but bring about the net eternal life of 100,000 souls (100,001 guaranteed saved minus one soul unequivocally damned). Now that's selfless in effect both of helping God in his work and maximizing the benefit of your fellow man.]

In fact, God may have pursued a comparable mechanism until the recent decreases in childhood mortality. [1) "The Lord takes away many, even in infancy... instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil." 2) "The only difference between the old and young dying is, one.. is freed a little sooner from this miserable wicked world." (Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church 4:553-554). 3) During ancient times and the Middle Ages, the infant mortality rate was about 200 deaths per 1,000 live births and the under-5 mortality rate was about 300 deaths per 1,000 live birth- 4) History of human life span and mortality

Or, we might set up an arrangement to join one of the other two protected classes: #2 millenial children or #3 Christ. [As essential as mortality is to our becoming gods, Jesus somehow achieved the desirable Godhood status before He ever came to earth- why not just follow His lead and skip the salvation-risky mortal experience? Or why not have everyone be born in the millenium- D & C 45:58 "And the aearth shall be given unto them for an binheritance; and they shall cmultiply and wax strong, and their dchildren shall egrow up without fsin unto gsalvation.]? These three classes are guaranteed salvation with no risk of damnation, whereas the rank and file participants on fallen earth may or may not end up receiving salvation.]

It seems that selflessness and rational self-interested behavior are more different- or more similar- than they superficially appear.

Closing pieces-
1) God commands that you seek your own self-interest. It's simply the ironic reality that to do so is, counter intuitively, to seek in the short-term the interests of others.
2) I feel to be grateful for my mortal experience notwithstanding my failure to make one of the three protected classes above. All of God's mysteries are accessible to me, and He will reveal them based on the pattern evidenced in 1 Nephi 11:1.


  1. Interesting post. My main challenge is this: I don't believe Satan was necessary for God's plan to work. I believe in the existence of sin without a Temptor.

    I think people interpret the Book of Mormon to mean that a Devil/Temptor is needed... but the text does strictly say that. All it says is that we need to be "enticed." On the side of righteousness, this enticement can simply be the "Call of the Other," or Arbinger's "personal influence." On the side of sin, it can simply be our mortal, physical desires.

    The reason I dismiss the absolute necessity for a Devil/Temptor is because it implies everything you've written about in this post. I know this is only thought-play (as you said, an imaginary world where only consequences matter), but it represents the actual implications of the idea of necessary Devil, and I don't think it is scriptural.

  2. On a further note, I think you will clearly recognize the possibility of sin without the Devil or his minions tempting us, if you see self-betrayal and self-deception as a form of sin. Refusing to acknowledge the humanity of another person (self-betrayal) doesn't require a little voice in my head (I'm speaking figuratively)... but a little voice in my head can certainly exacerbate the issue.

    I personally believe that our mortal separation from God could and would have happened without the devil's interference... the devil just sped the process up prematurely, and in so doing handed us a perfect ritual metaphor for our own personal entrance into sin and subsequent separation from the Holy Ghost while in this life (I'm speaking of the temple).

  3. The claim that Satan wasn't necessary is an abnormal and bold assertion! It finds support in that:
    - It seems that we had agency (power to discriminate between and select alternatives) in the pre-earth life, since "Although one-third of the spirits became devils, the remaining two-thirds were not all equally valiant, there being every degree of devotion to Christ and the Father among them" (BD War in Heaven) This exercise of agency took place after Satan's rebellion, but before the fall. Additionally, Satan's choice to rebel would've been impossible where rebellion not an actual option (i.e. Satan committed a pride sin to become the devil, indicating that sin was possible before the arrival of a devil on the scene).
    - Some scriptures don't explicitly support a conclusion that Satan was necessary for the plan; rather only that opposition or enticement is requisite. One can certainly conceive of Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit without Satan's trickery (e.g. by deliberate choice, accident, or curiosity).

    I agree with the conception that refusing to acknowledge another's humanity (I would also use the term self-betrayal) is a sin that doesn't necessitate Satan's influence. However, Moroni 7:17 seems to attribute all evil to the devil (But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him), which leaves no room for extra-Satanic evil. On the other hand, at least one scripture suggests the existence of evil deeper than that which Satan perpetrates: "Which dark and blackening deeds are enough to make hell itself shudder, and to stand aghast and pale, and the hands of the very devil to tremble and palsy."

    It also does seem strange (see wiki's "problem of evil" and "theodicy" articles) that God would rely on an evil particular individual or class of individuals to bring about His purposes. Your suggestion resolves the tension.

    I appreciate your boldness and am still considering your claim of an unnecessary Temptor/Devil.

  4. Thanks for your response!! :)

    However, Moroni 7:17 seems to attribute all evil to the devil (But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him), which leaves no room for extra-Satanic evil.

    Fair point. However, I'm not sure I'd interpret the verse this way. It doesn't say all evil comes from the devil, only that all evil is of the devil. The preposition "of" may indicate a different sort of relationship.

    For example, we often use the phrase "in the world, but not of the world." In this context, we rarely interpret the word of as 'from.' Rather, if I am of the world, it simply means I have allied myself with the ways of the world.

    If I am doing something hideously wrong, you could say, "What you are doing is something that the devil would like. It is congruent with his ways of thought. If you persist, your allegiance will be to him instead of Christ. You will be his ally. You and your actions will be of the devil." This doesn't necessarily mean that the devil is the cause of my actions, or that the evil I am doing was the devil's creation (though we often use that rhetoric).

  5. My first thought was similar to Jeff (although he was way more eloquent)--I'm not sure Satan was necessary for a Fall and thus not necessary for my Salvation and has done me no favors (at least not since before mortality).

    My 2nd thought was that by this train of thought, Anakin was awfully selfless when he helped the younglings make it into the 1st protected class. (Can't watch that episode because of that one part--its horrid)


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