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August 2008

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Divide and Conquer?


We humans tend to think in terms of two groups: us and them. The functional definition of “them” is anyone who does not agree with me on some key issue. We make Muslims into thems because they do not accept Christ. We make other Christians into thems because they do not accept the Restoration. We make other Latter-day Saints into thems when they disagree with us on key points of belief. We make family members into thems when they hurt our feelings. Then we exaggerate differences and vilify the different.

This cannot be according to God’s will. He says that “if ye are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

Perhaps we should be better at finding common ground. Perhaps we could be more tuned to the things we have in common. With many Muslims we share a deep commitment to God. With most other Christians we share a
profound love of Christ. With all Latter-day Saints we share eternal covenants and fundamental truth. With family members we share a bond and covenant.

Are there ways we could be better at finding our common ground and appreciating our shared purpose? Would our worlds be better places as we did so? Is the willingness to see our shared purposes a part of our answer to the commandment to love as He loves? How can we be better at reaching toward unity?

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The Mythical Power of Evil


Satan has an amazing marketing department. He has quite effectively convinced the world of many ideas that are entirely false. He is, after all, a liar from the beginning. Two of his prominent lies:
•    He is in charge of fun
•    Resistance is futile

“Satan is in charge of fun.”

Hell’s only export is misery.  So it is a great tribute to his marketing department that so many people believe the opposite. Much of the world thinks of following God as tiresome, tedious, and joyless. Meanwhile, Satan throws the party.

The culture swallows whole the fabrication that Satan is the consummate party host. He knows how to have a good time. And he knows how to show his guests a good time.

“Resistance is futile.”

Those of us who have spent a lifetime trying to overcome our weakness while feeling that we have made scant progress may be tempted to conclude that we just can’t make it. Evil is too persistent and we are too weak. We might as well give up and just have some fun.

The myth in motion

I was reminded again of the power of these cultural myths when I saw The Dark Knight. The movie is amazing! But anyone who has seen it knows that evil always has not only the fun but also the upper hand.

The Joker, a fitting personification of evil, seems to be permanently amused. He is sadistic but seemingly having the time of his life.

Even more, the Joker is unconquerable. He anticipates each person’s moves, thwarts even the heroic, and controls all outcomes. He can throw together the destruction of a hospital without breaking a sweat.

This may underscore one of the biggest lies promulgated by Evil’s public relations staff: He has immense power!

Let’s consider the facts of the matter.

Satan is heartless.

After making bold promises, Satan always leaves his accomplices empty handed. Just as the Joker gladly killed any rivals—and even partners—so Satan does not care in the least about his minions. Consider Korihor’s miserable discovery.

And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell. (Alma 30:60)

Satan and his followers don’t care about anyone. They laugh as they pay IOU’s with nothing but misery.

Satan is tiresome and boring.

Satan does not have a creative plan of his own. He is not a child building sandcastles. He is the rotten kid on the playground who is glad to throw sand in the face of anyone who bothers him—and everyone bothers him. He is fully predictable. He will sow dissent, doubt, and distrust. That’s all he does.

And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. D&C 93:39

Evil is not remotely creative. It follows a timeworn script devoid of any hint of life or freshness. God is the source of anything remotely creative. If we cut ourselves off from God, as Satan has done, we lose all creativity.

Satan is a weakling.

In Dark Knight, the Joker had amazing insight into people’s character and unlimited ability to orchestrate vast and creative schemes. What a lie! Not only does Satan (and those who follow him) not know the mind of God (Moses 4:6), he doesn’t understand goodness or any humans who embrace it. He filters all perceptions through his very-dark glasses.

Further, think what it is like to team up with the most contrary and selfish people in the universe. Satan is not like Robin Hood and his merry men. If we could look past the Hollywood stereotype of clever and charming criminals we would see the truth: bleak, ugly, scroungy, hideous unhappiness. Even the weakest child endowed with faith in Jesus Christ has power to push away Satan and his hosts. Satan is a weakling.

Dark and Light

In perfect contrast to Satan and evil is God and goodness. Those who have even dipped their toes in the waters of gospel living know that a bad day in God’s service is better than the best day under Satan’s dominion. The same truth is attested by the testimony of the scriptures:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another. D&C 90:24

Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord. D&C 98:3

Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church. D&C 100:15

There is vastly more that could be written on this subject. It would be useful to discuss all the subtle lies developed by Satan’s PR machine–lies that cause us to hold back our commitments from God and goodness. Suffice it to say that we live in a time when many “call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

As much as I enjoyed the movie, Dark Knight, it suffers from a moral fog. It has more regard for darkness than light, chaos than lawfulness. We should be sure that no amount of storytelling will distract us from the eternal truth: God is good, gracious, and joyous. And He is in charge.