Satan

(also see “Critical thinking”, “Hell” and “Plan of Salvation”)

 

Pros of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
Satan fulfills an essential part of God’s plan, for there must be an opposition in all things. This opposition provides a chance for us to be tested and to grow, a chance for us to prove that we will follow God instead of Satan. Satan’s literal power is occasionally made manifest with dark, supernatural experiences. This can actually help people both be scared of him and know that God is real, which serves to strengthen testimony and faith.
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Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
To some believers, the idea that Satan is putting ideas into your head can be confusing. Knowing that there’s a possibility that your thoughts, that your logical deductions, and that your wants and needs are not coming from you but from Satan can be paralyzing. Many believers thus live their lives in daily uncertainty and self-mistrust.
 
Some believers suffer cognitive dissonance with the doctrine of Satan. There are a lot of questions about Satan that often go unanswered, such as why is he assisting God in providing the needed opposition, is this opposition actually needed for us to be tested, why would he ever make himself known and prove there is a God,  how can Satan possess someone and take away their agency, etc.
Because Satan represents everything that is bad and evil to believers, it can be offensive to nonbelievers who are vilified as being followers of Satan. In Mormonism, people who strongly disagree with the church are labeled as having the spirit of the devil, that they are following evil spirits, and even that they are part of the devil’s great and abominable church if they don’t believe in God. This implies that not only are people who don’t follow church commandments not doing the right thing, but they are literally disciples of the most nefarious villain in history. This is a form of ad hominem attack that disparages the character of nonbelievers or believers who don’t obey church commandments. Because Satan is not to be trusted and does not have any credibility, those who “follow Satan” automatically lose a great deal of trust and respect in the Mormon community – sometimes they are even feared.
 
The fear of Satan and his followers seems to encourage obedience in a similar way that the threat of Hell and punishment does. It seems to some nonbelievers that the fear of being miserable like Satan, of being delivered unto Satan, of having Satan possess the bodies of the wicked after death, and so on can have harmful effects. Not only is the fear itself uncomfortable and undesirable, but it can simultaneously discourage critical thinking and minimize the desire to interact intellectually with nonbelievers who “follow Satan”. If Satan and his teachings and anything contrary to the church are so terrible, why even go there in the first place?
 
To many nonbelievers, the idea of being possessed by Satan seems harmful because it often misrepresents real medical problems. This sometimes causes real harm as people confuse real medical illness with being possessed by the devil. Medical treatment is missed or delayed and there is frequently an emotional or social stigma that the sick individual is burdened with.
 
This stigma is well represented by a general conference address by Robert Hales: “He cannot influence us unless we allow him to do so, and he knows that! The only time he can affect our minds and bodies—our very spirits—is when we allow him to do so. In other words, we do not have to succumb to his enticements!”  Joseph Smith also said: “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power “ (also see here, and here). Indeed, there are many reasons within Mormonism for those who have been falsely accused as having been possessed by Satan to feel bad about themselves.

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

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