I’ve been reading and thinking an unduly amount about The Dark Side, aka Lucifer and Hell. So, naturally I decided to write out some of my thoughts, partially in the hopes of clarifying them and also to just get them off my chest. I mean, I’ve mused about some stuff before (like the eternality of evil, my own trajectory to Hell, and on the opposite side what Heaven must be like), so this isn’t completely uncharted territory.
My thoughts are pretty speculative in nature, which I think is the only way they really can be since there’s not a lot of canonized scripture about the devil and Hell, beyond warnings about those that will go there and stuff about fire, brimstone, wailing, and ye olde gnashing of teeth. Although to be totally honest I haven’t done a comprehensive scriptural study or looked through GenConf talks or other prophetic teachings, so if anyone has resources they’ve found insightful, send them my way.
I’m not sure what I think as far as the literal nature of the devil, so throughout the post he’s treated as a reality, which I think is the best approach, even if the devil is more a mythic figure, since I write/talk about fictional characters as if they were real people all the time, it’s not a big deal for that to happen here.
Who is the devil? Like, as a person, not as this incarnation of pure evil. Within Mormonism, we believe that he’s our brother, who rebelled against God by presenting a plan that took all the glory for himself and would have brought everyone back to God’s presence, which the record states would destroy agency. What would bring someone to this point? Love? Pride? Emotional attachment? An overly enthusiastic hold on justice? Fear? The manipulative whisperings of God’s fallen devil-brother (probably named Palpatine)? Liberals? Feminism? Homosexuals? Asking questions? A simple misunderstanding?
There’s loads to the story that we don’t know and I haven’t fully thought through (partially I think because there’s at least a cultural taboo against speaking too frequently about the devil. I have some vague recollection of being told that whenever you talk about the devil you bring his presence into the room, which is hogwash, but instilled enough fear or whatever in me that I haven’t pondered the devil much). There’s definitely a possibility of casting Lucifer in a sympathetic light in the story, particularly when you throw in The Fall narrative. Yet, I don’t think that’s necessarily inevitable. And even if he is sympathetic to some degree, I still think it’s possible to conceive a being that has been so consumed with darkness that his sole existence is built around spreading misery and woe to all he can.
The first time I watched Les Miserables (the 2012 film version), I was struck with the thought that perhaps Javert is like Lucifer. He held so closely to the law and to justice that he lost sight of mercy, thinking that the only way for people to return to God was for perfect, exact obedience to the Law, which he would coerce out of all humanity, for the greater good of allowing them to return to dwell with God. When Christ offered to be the merciful sacrifice on all of our behalf, he was unable to reconcile that with his hold on Justice, throwing himself from the Kingdom—just as Javert commits suicide when confronted with Val Jean’s willingness to give up his own life and merciful sparing of Javert’s. I suppose having removed himself from the Kingdom and seeing the worship of Christ and God that happens, Lucifer then is consumed by the need for vengeance, which can only be had by convincing people that there is no hope for redemption or self-improvement, spreading misery and hopelessness.
That’s obviously my own speculation and I’m not one-hundred percent sold on it, but it’s been a compelling possibility for me. There are a number of other ways to fill in the details, all of which result in drastically different characters and therefore different responses.
So, how should we respond to the Devil? Fear? Hate? Love? Sympathy? Pity?
I think fear is what gives the devil power. I’m also skeptical of hate resulting in any sort of positive outcome. After all, we all know that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. Sympathy for the Devil clearly results in the loss of your soul in exchange for immortality (see The Rolling Stones for proof). Pity is another response that I think lacks productive outcomes and seems to be a cheap form of empathy, that allows you to express disdain for others, while seeming like a good, caring person.
Which leaves us with Love. It sounds weird/wrong to say that you love the devil, but I think pure, Christ-like love is the only proper response. He is our brother after all. And Jesus said love everyone and to bless those that curse you—who curses us more than the devil? So, let’s bless away. I’m not sure how you would express pure love for the devil, but I think having that response distances us from the fear and hate that would make us vulnerable to the darkness and evil that draws us away from God.
What’s in store for our brother the devil? The narrative within the Church suggests that he lost all opportunity for a body and redemption long ago and that he’ll be locked in some miserable, dark, awful place with suffering for eternity. Along with his followers and a handful of truly terrible people. Or something.
First, it seems a bit off to me that there is no chance for redemption. Shouldn’t the infinite and eternal Atonement cover them too? I mean, I’m sort of ok with the idea that they wouldn’t ever change, as long as they have the possibility to do so. That wouldn’t make a difference to some, but is an important distinction for me.
Then, I guess I’m still unsure what the reality of showing love to the devil would look like. How can you show care for a spiritual being? Bake spirit-cakes? Constantly mourn with his misery? I dunno.
Perhaps even he can change one day. I think the evil necessary for opposition will continue to exist, with or without a devil, or in some way, Lucifer is really filling a role that must be filled for the plan to go forward, which would make him good because he’s evil. And that just gets really murky. Interesting. But murky.
On the Highway to Hell…
How long are people in Hell? There’s at least some idea within Mormonism that Hell is only temporary, for some individuals. This stems from the idea that ‘eternal’ and ‘endless’ are adjectives that stand in for ‘God’s’ referring to the punishment being described as belonging to God and not necessarily describing the timing associated with the punishment.
I love the idea of eternal progression present within Mormonism and the idea of trapping some select individuals in a place with no possibility for change seems antithetical to that principle. I like to have some hope in humanity, which extends even to the devil and his angels, I suppose—yeah, I hold out hope that they’ll be able to change and progress one day.
I’ve thought a decent amount of what Heaven would be like and frequently comment on situations as being like Hell, but haven’t really put together a comprehensive idea of Hell, until now. So, here goes:
Sopping wet feet, soaked through from the slush and verging on freezing, but retaining enough feeling that it hurts. Like Hell. Obviously.
Same pain in your fingers, which are still numb enough that they are close to useless for doing anything with.
I’m walking with a purpose and need to get somewhere quickly, but am inexplicably stuck behind a slow-walking person, whom I am unable to maneuver around.
The smell of burnt popcorn is everywhere. A haunting, taunting aroma of deliciousness that could have been.
Nickleback is being faintly played, interspersed with various techno covers of “Last Christmas” just loud enough that you know what it is and your ear constantly strains to pick it out, making it impossible to ignore.
Some irritatingly smiley stranger refuses to recognize that I have a place to be and engages with me in conversation about the weather, while also managing to express such unbelievably bigoted and misguided opinions that I am frustrated and feel obligated to respond for the sake of the world.
I am hungry beyond belief, surrounded by people eating delicious looking and smelling food, yet unable to eat.
TVs are constantly in my peripheral vision playing videos of Christopher Nolan acolytes raving about Inception’s flawless, brilliant, intellectual plot and structure.
For some reason, I’m forced to make and answer phone calls, whilst making this incredibly frustrating, eternal journey.
Even this phone calls are not enough to dissuade the irritatingly smiley stranger, who continues to engage me in conversation.
Said stranger loudly chews bubblegum like a cow chews its cud, while talking at me.
I occasionally slip and fall into the slush.
And so it goes…for eternity.
Now, who would deserve to spend forever in such a terrible place? Probably no one. It’s too awful.
But more generally, I suppose I think Hell (for whatever span of time) is for the worst of the worst. Traitors would be pretty high on that list. Adulterers. Murderers. Slow walking people (obviously Hell is filled with them). Stupid people that refuse to shut up. Incredibly gifted and talented people that use what they’ve been given for personal gain or to exploit and harm others. Rapists. Abusers.
Some of that was snarky. But even for these awful people, I think there’s good deep down inside that can be brought out. There’s hope for everyone. I don’t think that anyone should be sent to Hell for eternity, since I think all should and will have a chance at redemption. Perhaps that’s naïve and wishful thinking. But, I mean, eternity’s a long time—anything can happen.