As you’ll probably know, I’m an armchair philosopher. To put it a bit clearer, I read, study and ponder all kinds of things (my favorite scripture is D&C 88:78-80 which tells us what belongs to the doctrine of the Kingdom). And I like to speculate where I don’t have real knowledge; also, I am able to adjust my conclusions based on new information.
All of us, who haven’t been bred with full certainty about this world and its implications for us, have wondered at times why a good, omnipotent God allows so much evil in the World. It seems that quite often those who pay the highest price for the agency of man are the weakest and the most innocent ones here. And it tends to hurt deep in the heart, especially when you realize you yourself have caused innocent suffering.
As I have learned to know the love and goodness of the Lord, I have also learned to know that there is also a counter force for the influence of the Spirit. We talk about the Adversary, the Evil One, Satan, Lucifer etc.. We are given to understand that he was almost equal with Father, almost equal with Jesus Christ in intelligence and power (fine details, we don’t know…), until he rebelled against Father. Actually the story of how he became Satan, the Destroyer, the Slanderer, cuts almost uncomfortably close to Oedipus Rex in its basic point that Lucifer wanted to ascend to the throne of the Father without “growing up”. Well, now it sounds almost like any home with a teenage boy, right? Perhaps that is one of the messages the Lord wants to tell us through this? That we all have the capacity to good and evil. We determine what it’s going to be.
Speculation aside, we must realize that his power is also real, and he is the great imitator, a master at forgery. As you’ve probably heard, “you can’t buy happiness with money; however, applied judiciously, money can create an illusion that will betray most people into thinking it’s the real thing — for a while”. What happens often in these situations is disillusionment and recriminations. Not a pretty sight. As Nephi says, he will bind us with “silken cords’ — shackles that don’t feel like shackles until you try to break free. And when you do try to break loose, it is the Devil, who will tell you that you are a lost cause, it is too late for you to repent; the Lord doesn’t want you any more, because you’re so far gone.
However, now we must also realize that the Adversary is not responsible for all suffering or evil in this world. What’s a bit intriguing, in fact, is that it is we ourselves who are responsible for most of it. Check out Mosiah 1:39:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
We have been told that Satan has no power over little children, and I’ve heard fairly experienced Primary teachers disagree with the notion based mainly on how little children can get restless and start teasing each other and/or the teachers. But we need not insert Satan into the equation at all. What we have there is an example of “natural man” or little children who haven’t yet learned the difference between good and evil and who therefore need someone to guide them. The guidance should always be given lovingly…
So, if you say, “the Devil made me do it” you are not telling the whole truth. A clearer picture can be seen by inserting perhaps a reminder from him about a “wrong” that has been perpetrated on you, or a yearning that you’ve had for certain things or whatever. The faster we learn to take responsibility for our own actions, the better we’ll be able to figure out how to live our lives.
Just a little reminder, in other words, that we must yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and become submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love and so forth. Also remember that Paul tells Galatians that the fruits of the Spirit are love, peace, joy, patience, kindness and so forth. All kinds of good things. Even when we feel hurt or have difficult matters to discuss, we will always be more successful with a patient and loving approach, trying to remember to foster love for all of our brothers and sisters. That is what the Lord expects of us, but that will be a lifetime project for any one of us.
In the end, I have strong faith in the Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He paid the ultimate price, because he, our God, suffered for us, so that he would have the power to satisfy justice and mercy. His Atonement will wipe away the tears of sadness, recompense and reward so that in the end all that is unfair about this life or this world will be set right. With mercy and justice. Such a faith gives me a reason to live one more day, and often hope that I have many days left, so I can still learn while I have the privilege.