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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.

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14 Comments

  • Reply Diana Gourley August 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Dr Wally,

    I find that I’m more likely to accept the mythical power of evil when I let my thoughts spiral downward toward negativity an false thinking. Recently, I had a powerful reaffirming experience regarding my divine worth and the work Heavenly Father would have me do. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . . (Galatians 5:22-23.)” I felt love, joy, and peace so I know the impressions I had were from God.

    Although the mistake has now been rectified, and I am at peace again, for a while I cast off the fruit of the Spirit by my unbelief and for a while sucked on empty pits thinking, “No. that couldn’t be me. There is no way I could be that special? I’m not good enough!” A friend shared the following quote by Marianne Williamson with me yesterday as he helped me regain my focus and faith:

    “It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

    We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    D&C 121:45 contains the antidote to Satan’s subtle lies,

    “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God. . . .”

    As I embrace light and truth, rather than darkness and negative thinking, the mythcal power of Satan is thwarted, and I enjoy more fully the fruit of the Spirit.

    Thanks, again, Wally, for stating the truth with such eloquence. You continue to inspire my mind to more noble thoughts. May the Lord bless you.

    Best Wishes,
    Diana Gourley

    • Reply admin August 25, 2008 at 1:53 pm

      Diana,

      You’re an inspiration that you fight against evil so hard. Thank you for your example.

      It was great to see your earnest face in sessions at Education Week. Thank you for your friendship!

      Wally

      • Reply Susan August 25, 2008 at 8:33 pm

        I read your article on “Joy, Seeking and Using God’s Gift” at… http://www.ldsmag.com/myth/080718joy.html and was completely ‘blown away’. it was great and soothing, much the opposite of the Dark Knight. Why did you bother to go see something titled: “The Dark Knight”, that is what I want to know.

        • Reply admin August 26, 2008 at 2:11 pm

          Good question. Would I see Dark Knight again? Probably. I appreciate the
          amazing story-telling. But I find the story to be flawed; I disagree
          with the assumptions of the writers. It helped me clarify what I do
          believe. And it entertained.

          -Wally

  • Reply Kevyn Gunther VanLehn August 16, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Thanks again to Dr. Wally for his amazing words. I’ve read Dr. Wallace Goddards books and articles for a very long time and he knows how to touch us in a way that we can understand and I greatly appreciate that.

    I also saw the latest Batman movie along with my husband and adult children. Although entertaining, I thought it to be terribly violent. I was disappointed that Batman so totally lost his cool and beat the living tar out of the Joker while he was in custody in Jail. That’s exactly what the Joker wanted. I was hoping Batman was above that.

    I also agree with Dr. Wally, the Joker (Satan) is not as clever as the movie portrayed. He can’t read Gods mind, or those who follow him. Evil (the Joker) was portrayed in the movie as somehow actually being able to know what people were thinking and what their next moves would be. Satan (the Joker)could have a little power over us if we are not careful, but not THAT much!He’s not reading our minds and knowing our every move. Now, keep in mind here, that I’m talking about those of us who follow Gods plan and are trying to do the right thing.

    I do have to comment on one more thing. I do worry about these young actors playing these viscious, evil characters. I know there is a lot of controversary over this, but I can’t help but feel that Heathe Ledger’s death had something to do with playing the role of the Joker. I read over and over again about his sleeping problem. There were many sleeping aides by his bedside. It certainly could have been accidental, but I think the poor guy was having a hard time sleeping and it could have been partly from playing that role, and that along with having a cold, well….
    it was just too much drugs in the body at once. But these poor actors pay a huge price for Hollywood and our entertainment. It’s really pretty sad.
    Thanks for reading. Kevyn

    • Reply admin August 25, 2008 at 1:53 pm

      Kevyn,

      Great point! I think that the study of evil can unsettle our souls–making it hard to sleep or even think clearly. It is best to study the good and holy.

      Thanks for your insight.

      Wally

  • Reply Charmaine August 17, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I like the two concepts of 1) Evil is fun but I wonder if the second one could also be 2)Why would you want to resist. Movies in general are filled with likable, sympathetic people doing things that look fun and exciting but we know in our hearts are wrong. They can make evil looks so right and natural. Some movies like Batman you can easily separate the good and evil characters but others are not so easy. This week we rented “P.S. I Love You” about a girl who had lost her husband to a brain tumor. They seemed to be so much in love in their modern day disfunction. After the husband dies he has arranged for a years worth of surprises and letters to be sent to his wife. One of the letters sends her back to his home in Ireland with her friends, who think it is time for her to have sex again and she does with a perfect stranger. Would anyone really be that crazy? But they made it look so sweet and right–“why would you want to resist.” Years ago the Dove foundation put “Sleepless in Seattle” on their list of “Good Family Movies”. It was shocking to me. The Meg Ryan character was sleeping with her boyfriend. When her mother talked to her about the “magic” of the wedding night she commented that they were already doing that. The Tom Hanks character was planning a weekend away with a woman he hardly knew. But, we loved these characters. They were us or we wanted to be them. This is where satan does his best work in muddling the line between good an evil and making us sympathetic and even adoring to wrong.

    • Reply admin August 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm

      Yes! Satan makes evil look good and good look evil!

      Wally

  • Reply Jim August 22, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    As always, I enjoyed these insightful comments. I agree with your description of Satan and his tactics. There is no doubt that Satan is real.

    I worry though that we may too easily dismiss our weaknesses with the Satan-made-me-do-it attitude. If we do give Satan too much credit, I wonder if this then becomes a justification for continuing in our errant ways.

    I question, for example, whether my sins or weaknesses can be directly attributed to succumbing to Satan’s temptations or whether they are simply a result of my own imperfect, mortal self. Although I realize I will not obtain perfection in this life, it seems that I am more likely to strive for perfection if I take responsibility for my actions and humbly seek a change of heart instead of blaming someone else for what I’ve done.

    Does this make any sense, and does anyone have any additional comments?

    • Reply admin August 25, 2008 at 1:51 pm

      Great insight, Jim. Clearly our misdeeds are the result of some combination of fallenness and devilish prompting. Sometimes more of one than the other. My idea of taking responsibility includes taking responsibility to chase Satan away. When we listen to the angels of our better nature, we are likely to do right.

      One way I’ve heard it discussed is that God votes for us, Satan votes against us, and we break the tie. Of course, if we do not cast a vote, nature is likely to drag us to badness since “the natural man is an enemy to God.”

      Blessings,
      Wally

  • Reply Charmaine August 23, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I don’t think any of us are fooled enough to think satan made us do it but he sure is good at throwing things out there and making them look “fun” as Wally said satan wants us to think he is in charge of fun. I guess it is the age old problem of resisting temptation. If we are not careful we come to a point where we don’t want to resist. We are enjoying sin and see no reason to resist. When we lose the spirit it becomes even more difficult. I remember a friend telling me her daughter said she left the Holy Ghost outside when she went to inappropriate movies. I think a lot of us think we can do that on occasion. If it is done too often we eventually don’t pick Him up again when we come out or maybe He doesn’t pick us up. It all seems so innocent at times. We cross the line almost unaware that we are doing it. This is where satan does his best work. Black and white we are good at but the little gray areas suck us in with the flaxen cords.

    • Reply admin August 25, 2008 at 1:51 pm

      Howdy, Charmaine. Yes. And the BIG lie is that wickedness is fun. While we are being enslaved, we are also being tortured. God liberates and blesses.

      Blessings to you,
      Wall

  • Reply Claudia August 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Hello all: The older I get, the more I realize how much the gospel truly is a ‘plan of happiness.’ (Remember the old church film, Man’s Search for Happiness? I watched it as an investigator years ago …) Satan wants us to be unhappy; Heavenly Father wants us to not only be happy, but even to have joy. What a difference in purpose!!

    I used to think as I contemplated daily actions, “Oh, this is wrong, and this is right.” Now a completely different thought pattern goes through my brain. I ask myself the question, “Will this make me happy, truly so in the gospel sense, and not just for now, but even later?” Satan’s ways always bring eventual sadness, pain, and great remorse. Heavenly Father’s ways bring me peace and confidence before God. I have found it MUCH easier to conquer weakness and resist tempation when I vew life through this lense. I know Heavenly Father has my best interest at heart, and I am learning to trust Him more and more all the time.

    So, yes, I admit the definite reality of Satan. I acknowledge that he really likes to tell us lies and is not to be trusted. And I have a testimony that Heavenly Father loves us, is always faithful, and is definitely to be trusted, even when we can’t see the end result and the going seems tough.

    There do seem to be gray areas we have to work through — as in, “Okay, avoid R rated movies, but what about the rest?” but I think doing so allows us to develop judgment and sensitivity to the Spirit, just as we allow our children to develop their own as they grow. Warmly, Claudia

    • Reply admin August 25, 2008 at 1:50 pm

      Claudia,

      Isn’t it interesting how long it takes us humans to learn the fundamental lesson of life: God is the one to trust! Blessings to you.

      Wally

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