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And who exactly are these "servants of Satan"?

Well since I left the church, obviously I am! Buuhhhhhhaaaaa!!

Although this doesn't address your post directly, I've read "The Origin of Satan" by Pagels, and I recommomed that book to anyone who wants to get an overview on the evolution of the idea of a satan through Jewish and Christian history.

Interestingly enough, the word Satan itself initially seems to indicate a type of accuser or prosecuter. This is especially clear in the story of Job, where Satan's role is to accuse Job of not actually being pious enough. One wonders if Satan will play a similar role at our judgment (ie. pointing out our flaws) or, as the rumor goes, will we be doing that ourselves?

I remember reading the results of a Barna Research Group survey back in 2001 on the religious beliefs of Americans. The results showed that Latter-day Saints were more likely to believe in the literal existence of Satan (as a real being who can influence others) than any other religious group. Most Americans indicated that they saw Satan simply as a symbol of evil. The fact that most Americans did not believe in the existence of Satan alarmed Barna, a Christian pollster.

And who exactly are these "servants of Satan"?

Those who would use the force of law to coerce others to be 'good' and those who exalt themselves above others. (This is what got Satan kicked out - this is what his servants are doing today).

Justin, that's a revealing statistic (that LDS score highest on the "believe in the literal existence of Satan" question). It's worth remembering what a central role Satan plays in the official First Vision narrative, which, while written in 1838, still refers back to Joseph's early experience.

He wrote (concerning that spring morning back in 1820) that "I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak" (JS-H 1:15). Joseph wrote that he felt engulfed by darkness and was on the verge of surrendering "not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being" (JS-H 1:16). So it's not surprising that LDS readily affirm that Satan is an "actual being."

I believe that "evil" exists, but not in a metaphysical sense, and I must admit that I never could bring myself to believe in a literal Satan. It just seems so implausible as to be absurd. There's a real being who, although once one of the favored sons of God and called "Light Bringer," now spends every moment trying to make people sin?

So it's not actually me who wants to steal a candy bar? It's an invisible man or one of his countless invisible angels tempting me? Satan is responsible for introducing sin, not "the natural man"? Demonic possession is not simply mental or physical disorders misunderstood?

Sorry, I'm not buying it.

Just the thought of someone burning those pages makes me mad. I guess there's no point now. I just would love to have a peek at what was in them. Isn't it supposed to be the book of Lehi?

I think that there is a satanic duality. There is the literal being who was cast out for rebellion and has power in this earth. Then there is the "Natural Man".

As there is no satanic equivelant to the Holy Ghost, it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority, if not all, the temptation we recieve is the result of our fallen state.

This is not to say that the Adversary doesn't tempt people on occasion. Joseph Smith believed that emphatically, but I imagine that he intervines at times when he can do the most damage.

Now there's a fascinating point, J. How can Satan be viewed as tempting us in a regular and personal way (as I think LDS doctrine portrays things) without there being some Holy Devil analog to the Holy Ghost, a medium of transmission for temptation?

In fact, LDS theology is quite clear that the Holy Ghost is a personnage of spirit, and this is necessary to discharge his Holy Ghostly duties. That also seems like an accurate description of Satan -- a personnage of spirit -- so it seems reasonable that he has similar powers of communication and influence over us mortals. Another still small voice, of sorts. Perhaps it must be so.

One ends up with the classic image of a cute little angel whispering good thoughts in one ear, while an impish little devil whispers bad thoughts in the other ear. (Note that's an image or representation of what the LDS doctrine implies, not a claim that is what LDS doctrine literally describes.)

Speaking of belief in Satan as a literal being, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion published an article in 1978 discussing the results of two surveys of the religious beliefs and behaviors of BYU students, one conducted in 1935 (administered to all 1750 students) and one in 1973 (non-random but a generally representative sample).

Among other questions, students were asked if they believed in a personal devil. Thirty-eight percent of the students in 1935 said yes (30% undecided). Ninety-five percent of the students in the 1973 survey said yes.

The authors suggested three possible interpretations of the data, which showed a general swing toward conservatism among BYU students: more rigid selection and retention policies had produced a more conservative student body, or on-campus socialization had become more effective in building conservative values while in college, or the shift toward orthodoxy and conformity was characteristic of the church generally and the BYU data should be taken as a reflection of this trend. They saw evidence supporting all three explanations but left it to others to do further testing.

Interesting. I've always figured the "Holy Ghost" was kind of like the light of Christ, just more and with a Spirit guy in charge of it. I know that many suggest the Light of Christ is just a watered down Holy Ghost. No?

I thought we worked under the assumption that the "servants of Satan" were all the angels that fell with him. Certainly we don't need to rely on devils to tempt us (we appear to be pretty fallen as is), but there are quite a few of those other fallen spirits out there if we take the 1/3 number seriously. Certainly the Devil can delegate, can't he?

John C saith:

"...there are quite a few of those other fallen spirits out there if we take the 1/3 number seriously. Certainly the Devil can delegate, can't he?"

Let's not forget that there are folks who pretty much learn to follow exclusively the voice of Satan during this life (not exercising ANY control over their base appetites) and, upon dying, their spirits do not leave the "earth plane". They stay right here among us and cheer us on when we also give in to our base desires.

One reason that these spirits do not "move on" is because spirits' movements in the spirit world are often directed by their thoughts. Spirits who have learned during this earth life to expect a meeting with God after death immediately think about that as soon as they realize they ARE dead, which is when they encounter the "Being of Light". If a person's mind is totally engrossed in the things of the world upon death, that's where he is likely to stay until he grows weary of it.

Justin said:

.."Among other questions, students were asked if they believed in a personal devil. Thirty-eight percent of the students in 1935 said yes (30% undecided). Ninety-five percent of the students in the 1973 survey said yes."

So, for those who think Satan is only symbolic, was the temptation of Jesus during his 40-day fast only "figurative" ? What about Moses' encounter with Satan (Moses 1:12)?

According to Karen Armstrong, in Muslim theology, Satan is one of the angels who became enamored of the ways of the flesh - drinking, feasting, having sex and obsessively surfing the internet. He wasn't a major figure, but rather a foolish, carnal one, distracted from the glorious divine by the comparably trivial pleasures of physical existence. When Iran called the U.S. "the great Satan," using that definition, they were exactly right.

One of the Quranic names for Satan is Iblis.

Here are a few passages that I pulled off the internet after doing a search under Quran and Iblis. The language of these two passages is really very interesting from an LDS perspective:

"Call to mind, when We commanded the angels: Submit to Adam, they all submitted, but Iblis did not; he refused and was arrogant, being already one of the disbelievers." - Chapter 2, Verse 35
"Allah questioned him: What prevented thee from submitting when I commanded thee? He retorted: I am better than he. Thou hast created me of fire while him hast Thou created of clay. Allah said: In that case, depart hence. It behoves thee not to be arrogant here. Get out, thou art surely of those abased. Iblis pleaded: Grant me respite till the day when they shall be raised up. Allah said: Thou art given respite. Iblis said: Since Thou hast brought about my ruin, I will assuredly lie in wait for them on Thy straight path and will approach them fore and aft, and from right and left, and Thou wilt not find most of them grateful. Allah said: Get out hence, despised and banished. Whoso of them shall follow thee should know that I will surely fill hell with you all." - Chapter 7, Verse 13-19

I'm going to have to look up other translations of these verses. I don't recall them reading this way before but maybe I was missing something the last time around.

What and interesting topic Dave. Thanks for bringing it up. The diversity of opinions here shows how little consensus we have on the subject of Satan. I postulated a few months ago that the Devil has a "Quiet, Creepy Whisper" in opposition to the Spirit's Still, Small Voice. As you noted, if the devil does not have this capability to communicate to our minds our standard beliefs are all wrong about the devil. I think the idea of there being opposition in all things supports the idea, but I am anything but certain on this subject.

Nice link, Geoff. Great minds think alike.

So if wicked men didn't steal the pages, and thus there was no nefarious plot to alter the words, why couldn't Joseph retranslate The Book of Lehi after the manuscript was burned? Danithew for one would really like to read it.

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