Of Good and Evil, of Heaven and Hell, and of God and the Devil: Recognizing the Reality of the Adversary Without Giving Him Undue Sway in Our Lives
By Ken K. Gourdin
Although these thoughts began to gel sometime around Halloween of 2016—when Hollywood takes advantage of the time of year to release a spate of horror movies, some of which may involve demonic possession and the forces of evil—I was looking for posts which I made elsewhere which I then could excerpt and use here to complete my thoughts. I still haven’t found the particular posts for which I was searching, but I found some content in which I had expressed similar thoughts.
My tastes run more toward lower-key, more understated Hitchcockian horror, in which, whatever is happening on screen, the greater horror is playing out in the mind or the imagination of one of the characters (or, for that matter, in the mind of one or more of the viewers or listeners). Frankly, in an era in which, by contrast, very little (if anything) is left to the audience’s imagination these days and every last gory detail is played to the hilt for maximum sensory effect, I mourn those bygone days.
Similarly, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground between those who, being of a more empirical bent, mock and cursorily dismiss the ideas of higher and lower powers waging an ongoing battle between them (one which began somewhere else and now is continuing here), on the one hand, and those who cannot be unconvinced that, surely, Satan is behind everything that happens with which they disagree, on the other hand. The latter group ignores a good number of other possibilities: Man’s simple inhumanity to man, “hap crappening,” living in a fallen world, the usual, inevitable vicissitudes of mortality, and so on. To be fair, however, there are probably a good number of people who don’t know what to make of the situation either way, so they attempt, for example, to exploit it to comedic effect.
Saturday Night Live’s “church lady” comes to mind: “Could it be Satan???”
When the question was raised at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion—essentially, how does Satan get his power? Where does it come from? (see here, this and all other links accessed March 2, 2017: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/55113-whats-going-on-here/)—I answered:
My thoughts parallel those of [another poster]. Ultimately, whatever power Satan gets is the power that I give him through my choices and my actions. If I pay him no heed and refuse to do his bidding, he has no power, at least, not through me. There are others who pay him entirely too much heed and who gladly do his bidding, and, sadly, they will continue to wreak havoc in this fallen world through their choices and their actions. Whatever consequences are visited upon others through those earthly choices and actions, however they may remain unaddressed and unrecompensed in mortality, ultimately, God will not be mocked. As they sowed in mortality, so shall they reap in eternity.
Perhaps a short primer on the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in order. We believe that everyone who comes to earth existed before this mortal state as an unembodied spirit. We believe that the war described by John the Revelator in chapter 12 of his Revelation, the final book in the New Testament of the Holy Bible, between Satan, on the one hand, and God and Christ, on the other, after which Satan and 1/3 of the hosts of heaven were cast out, while it may not have been a “hot,” shooting war, was, nevertheless, a genuine conflict. We believe that the conflict which started there continues here. See https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/war-in-heaven?lang=eng.
We believe that those who were not cast out of the premortal state which Revelation refers to as Heaven opted to come here, to receive bodies, and to undergo a period of testing and trial which will qualify them for their eventual reward. Whatever reward one receives following one’s mortal sojourn will be far grander and more glorious than the eventual fate of Satan and the 1/3 which followed him. See the following address: https://www.lds.org/topics/plan-of-salvation?lang=eng&old=true.
Someone asked about a potential link between demonic possession and mental illness. Another poster was skeptical of some of the experiences related in the thread by others who had close second-hand experience with Satan (often referred to in LDS parlance as the Adversary) and his followers. I replied:
I think, perhaps, that mental illness can make one more prone to the Adversary’s influence (while such experience has not involved possession, I have personal experience with this). I would not, however, conflate mental illness with possession by or influence of the Adversary. They are two different things, even though they might be related in some cases and in some ways. I know two things: (1) I know the Adversary is real; and (2) I know that almost any being who has a body ultimately has (or at least can have) power over one who does not. I don’t have any reason to doubt any of these accounts. I have never, to the best of my knowledge, met anyone who has shared such an account on this thread, but I have no reason to believe that these people are not reasonably sane, reasonably well-adjusted, reasonably intelligent individuals. If they tell me that [x] happened, then I have little reason to doubt that [x] happened. I believe that there was a war in Heaven, and that the battle begun there continues here. That said, while Satan and his minions may have power to bruise my heel, I have power to crush their heads (along with, as I said, most anyone who has a body).
Later, I further addressed my skeptical interlocutor:
Skepticism can be just as much a tool of the Adversary as can deliberately doing things that leave one vulnerable to his influence. You probably think that your skepticism renders you invulnerable to having such experiences, when in fact the opposite is true. And the problem is that by the time you recognize this, it may be too late for you to do anything about it (“Hey, maybe there is something to the accounts of these types of experiences after all”). Nephi [a Book of Mormon prophet] describes you perfectly.
I then quoted 2 Nephi 28:22 from the Book of Mormon, a book Mormons believe describes the Lord’s dealings with the people on the American Continent in much the same way the Holy Bible describes His dealings with those in the Old World:
“And behold, others he [the devil] flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”
I prefer my approach, previously stated, which I believe accomplishes two things, (a) recognizing reality, while (b) not being unduly fearful or preoccupied that such a reality exists: (1) I know the Adversary is real; (2) I know that the battle (perhaps a better word would be the effort) he began in the premortal life to try to win the souls of men continues here on earth; and (3) I know that any being with a body has (or can have) power to triumph over any being without one.
While I don’t favor your approach to things spiritual, and while we fundamentally disagree, nevertheless, I wish you well.