Goodbye Satan, Hello World

I don’t have any statistics for you, just a hunch that we now usually say “the world” where twenty or more years ago we would have said “Satan” or “the devil.” I can’t remember the last time I heard a reference to Satan in my ward, but I hear criticism of “the world” on a more-or-less weekly basis in statements such as “the world would have us turn our backs on God” or “the world wants us to ignore the prophet.” A quick (not scientific) perusal of suggests that President Faust was the last person to make frequent reference to Satan.

I suppose we might speculate as to the reasons for this change (if, indeed, there really is one). I think there is a general discomfort, for a variety of reasons, in thinking about and talking about Satan. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, I wonder?

I can see some advantages in pinning evil on “the world.” Most of us might intellectually accede to a belief in Satan, but might nonetheless not really believe that a cartoonish figure in red support hose with a trident has any real impact on our lives. The world, of course, does impact our lives. To the extent that talking about the world instead of Satan helps people realize and then avoid evil, that’s a good thing.

But I can think of disadvantages as well. The world is, after all, God’s good creation and not evil. The people in the world may be ignorant or mislead or basically good but without the gospel, but they are not evil in general. To the extent that saying “the world” when we mean “Satan” encourages people to think that the world is satanic, I suppose that is a problem.

I’ve been thinking about this usage shift for a few weeks and it seems related to one of the changes made to President Packer’s talk. Despite the firestorm over President Packer’s talk and its redaction last week, I haven’t seen any commentary on the change from

“The holders of the priesthood have authority and should employ it to cast out these influences.”


“The holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.”

I suppose people might interpret that change differently, but to me it suggests removal of language associated with exorcism and is perhaps related to moving away from talking about evil directly.

I suspect a shift has occurred in how many LDS think about and talk about evil.

59 comments for “Goodbye Satan, Hello World

  1. Sscenter
    October 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I agree Julie. I have had this conversation with others that we reject the idea of a personal devil who follows us around all day but rather, the overall influence of a generally evil and fallen world that effects us.

  2. October 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I agree there seems to be an emerging trend to use “the world” as a general all-purpose reference to evil. But the term “Satan” still gets a lot of use at the local level.

  3. Ken
    October 12, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I’ve also noticed this trend in recent years, at both the local and central levels of the church. Maybe a decade or two ago I began to notice the term “adversary” increasingly used in place of “satan” or “devil.” And more recently, the increased use of the ubiquitous term “the world” often subsumes all of these ideas, maybe being used as a euphemism for another euphemism–“Babylon.” I get it in a way, but the problem with over-use of “the world” as a way to describe evil and opposition is that it’s not really a good and bad division of opposites out there along us and them lines–there is plenty of evil in the world, as well as wonderful beauty and goodness.

  4. October 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I don’t think so Julie. Unfortunately, we still have far too many people testifying about Satan in their testimonies and talks, and this goes as much for General Authorities as for regular members on a given Sunday.

    Although you are right that they don’t really say “Satan” anymore. Now they usually say “the Adversary”.

  5. October 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

    It does seem that language from the pulpit is (mostly) more sophisticated now. What hasn’t changed one iota is the underpinning of fear in our religion. Perhaps it’s better to imagine a devil in red tights taking a swan dive into a pool of hot lava, than to build an undercurrent of fear and separation between ourselves and those around us?

  6. DavidH
    October 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I think it is related to increased premillenarianism within the Church, increased retrenchment and withdrawal from general society, and a greater “us” versus “them” mentality.

  7. meems
    October 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I agree that the term “adversary” is used far more frequently than the word satan. However, as ironic as it might seem, isn’t it Satan himself who would want us to ignore him as a real being? Pinning evil, temptations, or general badness on “the world” … well, isn’t that sort of what Satan might want us to do because it takes him out of the equation? I was always taught that Satan is really winning when we get complacent about his existence.

  8. Julie M. Smith
    October 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I think y’all are right that “the adversary” replaced “Satan” awhile back for many people. Thanks for pointing that out. Now my sense is that “the world” is replacing “the adversary.”

  9. wondering
    October 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Hmmm…actually, I was struck while listening to conference last week how many speakers specifically mentioned Satan (also called Lucifer, “the devil, or “the adversary.”) Here are four from the Saturday afternoon session:,5232,23-1-1298-9,00.html,5232,23-1-1298-11,00.html,5232,23-1-1298-14,00.html,5232,23-1-1298-15,00.html

    Here’s a quote from the second one:

    However, with all the heavenly blessings bestowed upon us, Satan, ever so real, is ever so active, and conflicting messages are continually bombarding all of us.

  10. oudenos
    October 12, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Julie M. Smith,

    I have disagreed with you in the past a few times, but your last two posts are really awesome. That is all.

  11. October 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    This looks like a job for Ziff.

    He could tell you the trends in GC at least. The dude is a statistics wizard.

  12. Lorin
    October 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I wonder if the change in language instead reflects the speakers’ collective percepts of the enemy’s change in tactics:

    “Satan” connotes an unseen whisperer who tempts specific individuals to perform specific and personal sinful acts.

    “The Adversary” connotes unseen legions of spirits commanded by Satan, who collectively sow evil among individuals and on a coordinated mass scale.

    “The World” connotes a mass of individuals who have either unwittingly or willing succumbed to “The Adversary,” and are now vocal proponents of the evil acts and philosophies that originate with Satan. Using the term “Satan” is used less because the evil philosophies and temptations are no longer whispered — they are shouted in media, on the Internet, and in commonplace social settings.

    If you’re going to study the progression from one term to the other, study the context in which they are used as well. I think the nature of temptation has changed a lot in the last 60 years or so, and it is only fitting that the language change with it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the changes in both match up pretty well.

  13. Jeremy
    October 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I don’t really bemoan the diminished use of the word “Satan” by Church members–in my own life, I think I can pretty much take the blame for my screw-ups. Seems to me it’s healthier and more empowering–and more accountable.

    On the other hand, I absolutely hate using “the world” as the default foil for righteousness. It breeds insularity and self-congratulation and promotes the “bunker mentality” that President Hinckley preached against and fought so hard to distance the Church from. It derides God’s Creation and the many wonderful creations and contributions of His children. It treats the world as a drudgery to be endured rather than a wonder to be explored and celebrated.

    Plus, it’s sloppy and small-minded. Going into battle against “the world” rather than against sin is like covering your eyes with one hand and flailing your sword with the other. It excuses us from our scriptural and doctrinal charge to go into the world and seek out the best parts of it.

  14. October 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I also think it is a change in focus on how we study the scriptures, perhaps influenced by the last days theology of the Millennium. While the scriptures do discuss Satan, they equally discuss Babylon/Mammon/the world versus Zion/Consecration/Saints. In the days when Satan was used more, it was easy to blame Satan for our problems. Why? Perhaps because there isn’t a lot we can do to combat him, or protect our homes from him. However, we CAN make a difference against the influences of the world. We can get rid of the television, get our food storage, hold FHE, etc.

    For me, it was Hugh Nibley that weaned me off of the ‘adversary’ and onto a dislike for Babylon/the world. As we focus on Zion, temples, standing in holy places, protecting our families from evil influences, etc., we’re going to focus more on the visible than the invisible.

  15. October 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    As “wondering” points out in a comment above, there is no lack of people, including GAs, speaking about Satan from the pulpit. Four references from just the Saturday afternoon session. There were probably more than that in just that session.

    In my opinion, a good idea would be for us to focus our talks and testimonies entirely on Christ and his Gospel. Is there really a need to devote time to talking about Satan from the pulpit? Let’s focus on what is positive about embracing the Restored Gospel. The Atonement of Jesus Christ has so much to it that we can learn and discuss — let’s make that the focus of our religious speaking and testimony.

  16. Wilfried
    October 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Interesting topic, Julie. Words like “world” and “culture” shift in their connotations according to time and context. A century ago, the “world” in its relation to culture often had a positive ring in Mormon parlance. Preston Nibley (1936) lauded George Q. Cannon with: “In his varied travels he absorbed the culture of the world, which he used for the purpose of promulgating his religion.” The May 1937 Improvement Era editorial extols the pioneer Bowen family with: “Though living under pioneer conditions, they drank the culture of the world from books of classic merit.” Note the openness towards the world, which matches the theory of the “assimiliation mode” during this period (Mauss). But by the 1970s “the world” had gained more negative connotations. In the 1976 Symposium on the international church, Noel B. Reynolds claimed that “the world view of the gospel is essentially subversive of the world views perpetuated by the cultures of man.” Since then, many examples of “the world” as a generalized concept for evil.

    Though ambiguity remains. Jeremy (13) is right: recurrent themes in President Hinckley’s talks are reaching out to others, being good neighbors, simply acknowledging diversity without interpreting it as barrier, recognizing the good in all people, setting aside parochialism, embracing “the world”.

  17. Julie M. Smith
    October 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Wilfried, fascinating. Thanks for sharing those examples. If I were to hear someone in church say, “in his varied travels he absorbed the culture of the world,” I would assume that meant that he had fallen away!

  18. October 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I’ve noticed this, too, and I find myself calling him “the adversary” now. My reason is mainly because I think our culture has a tendency to put you in the “radically crazy, religious lunatic” box if you talk about “the devil” or “Satan.” Too many TV evangelists have turned people off, I guess.

    So saying “the adversary” is my way of trying to make my points heard without evoking the lunatic fringe baggage that “the devil” and “Satan” seem to be carrying around today.

    At church, though, I will still use the word “Satan.” And I never talked about “the devil” much. One thing’s for sure. We need to be very much aware of him and his efforts.


  19. October 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Let’s focus on living the Gospel and trusting in the saving grace of Jesus Christ — not on Satan and his efforts.

  20. Adam Greenwood
    October 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I avoid talking about the Devil because I am superstitious. Naming calls.

  21. Mark D.
    October 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    This “worldly” thing goes back a ways:

    Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (KJV Titus 2:12)

    So does “the adversary”:

    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (KJV 1 Pet 5:8)

  22. October 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Interesting topic, Julie. My thoughts were akin to Lorin’s (#12). Well said.

    As I read, I was reminded of the BYU motto (or whatever you’d call it).In the world, but not of the world. That negative phrasing has been around at least 50 years.

  23. meems
    October 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I keep having visions of Flip Wilson in drag saying, “The World made me do it!”

  24. Mark N.
    October 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I blame the SNL Church Lady. Nobody wants to be seen as the one who says, “Could it be… Satan?”

  25. Mark D.
    October 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    This looks like a job for Ziff…The dude is a statistics wizard.

    Ziff is a “dude”?

  26. chris
    October 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    #22, I understand your dislike of certain things at BYU. And I’m not being condescending here, as it’s pretty easy to see some self serving sanctimoniousness attitudes that pat themselves on the back for being righteous and going on and completely missing the mark when it comes to charity. But that phrasing didn’t come from BYU and it’s a lot older than 50 years. I think it came from Jesus.

    John 17
    14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
    15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
    16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

    The hardest thing for myself at least, is to try to have charity for those who I presume should know better. Because it’s way too easy to become self-righteous and assume someone else is getting it wrong/missing the mark. Then I realize I’m the one with the problem, in spite of whatever “problems” I perceive in others.

  27. Bill
    October 12, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Although its origin is unclear, in recent years the BYU motto has generally been understood to be “Enter to learn, go forth to serve”:

    Doesn’t have quite the same anti-world connotations as that other phrase.

  28. October 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    “In the world but not of the world” is not BYU’s motto, I’m pretty sure.

  29. October 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    My husband, who is not LDS, but has been married to me for 14 years, does a lovely comedy routine called “Church Daddy”. Every time he does it, he only refers to Satan as “The Adversary”. And he never heard that term growing up Episcopalian.
    I expect in a few years’ time, Church Daddy will start saying “The World”, as well.

  30. October 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I know its not really adding anything to the discussion, but I’m compelled to say that I really do not like using the term “the World” to mean evil. It is inaccurate and, in today’s society, comes across as fanatical, as if we are not willing to interact with anyone else (“the World”). I know that isn’t what is intended, but I can’t help getting the implication.

    When I was a boy, my mother repeatedly told me that her reaction to the idea that we must be “in the world but not of the world” — which was that we emphasize the wrong part of the saying. We need to emphasize the “in the world” portion of the saying over the “not of the world” part.

    I fear lest we loose the ideas the savior taught: “Ye are the light of the world” and “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Last I checked, salt is ineffective by mere proximity. It requires contact.

  31. Julie M. Smith
    October 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Kent, I think that comment adds quite a bit.

  32. Mark D.
    October 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Has BYU’s motto ever been “in the world, but not of the world”?

    Also, I have never heard anybody use “the world” as a synonym for evil. In a religious context it generally means something like “conditions as they typically prevail in the population at large”, e.g. secular, common, undisciplined, pertaining to this earth, containing a mixture of both good and evil, etc.

  33. Jeremiah J.
    October 12, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I actually noticed several references in conference to the adversary trying to get us to think this way or have this attitude. So I guess the general premise of the post doesn’t ring true to me.

    “But I can think of disadvantages as well. The world is, after all, God’s good creation and not evil.”

    “The world” does not equal “the Earth”. For one thing “the world” (in the NT and modern scriptures) seems to refer more specifically to human relations. In the NT Christ says its ways are bad, that it is wrong about judgment, that the ruler of the world has been judged, and that He has overcome the world. In D&C 1 the world is said to have the “image and substance of an idol”. None of this makes sense if we read “world” simply as “God’s good creation”. The world does seem to have some created, God-ordained dimension to it, as when Paul says the higher powers are ordained of God, and that God created thrones, principalities, etc. But it is fallen and corrupted, too, as evidenced by Christ’s teaching that the world “hates” Him, as well as his disciples, and that his kingdom is not of this world. The world “rejoices”, while the disciples weep, when Christ is crucified. In the NT “the world” is the translation for “kosmos” (order) and “aion” (age), which indicate something more like “the structure or system of human relations” rather than “God’s creation” generally.

    “To the extent that saying “the world” when we mean “Satan” encourages people to think that the world is satanic, I suppose that is a problem.”

    Any evidence at all that general authorities are doing this? Besides, isn’t this the opposite of your general point, that the GAs are downplaying Satan and demons? Are they putting less emphasis on Satan, or more?

  34. Keith
    October 12, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    I’m wondering if I haven’t heard mention of Satan but more with the terms adversary, father of lies, and the like in more official, public discourse. I think there may good reason not to parade the name about too easily (and Pres. Faust’s talk mentions this, if I remember right), but there’s real power to remember the idea (brought out in 2 Nephi 2 especially) that we have someone actively working against us who is miserable and seeks our misery. Lehi points to agency as the choice between Christ (and, through him, joy, liberty, eternal life) and Satan (and therefore misery, captivity, death). One or the other, doesn’t seem to be a third choice. It’s a powerful idea.

  35. Jonathan Green
    October 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    I rather liked the traditional formulation of the “world, the flesh, and the devil.” It let you specify the problem much more specifically.

  36. michelle
    October 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

    So I decided to do a quick search in the scriptures and noticed something I thought was interesting.

    We get both the negative connotations of “the world”, e.g.,
    I will punish the world for their evil, Isa. 13: 11 (2 Ne. 23: 11). If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before, John 15: 18-19. The great and spacious building was the pride of the world, 1 Ne. 11: 36. The world is ripening in iniquity, D&C 18: 6. Keep thyself unspotted from the world, D&C 59: 9. He that is faithful and endureth shall overcome the world, D&C 63: 47. Ye shall not live after the manner of the world, D&C 95: 13. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine, John 17:9.

    But then you also have many references to the reach of the Savior’s atonement that is for “the world,” the nuance that has to do with the Creation (the world has a critical part in the plan of salvation, after all), etc.

    The thought I had was we sort of need both. If you don’t have opposition, you don’t need Christ. To realize that there is opposition in “the world” — that this world is fallen and Satan is allowed to roam about trying to wreak havoc — is essential to knowing that we need Christ. But it’s powerful that it is because of Him that the world was created and that the world can be saved, e.g., God so loved the world that the Only Begotten Son came to save men, John 3: 16-17 The Lord raised up a Messiah, a Savior of the world, 1 Ne. 10: 4. The Lamb of God is the Savior of the world, 1 Ne. 13: 40. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved, John 3: 17

    And this verse sort of captures both sides of this coin pretty profoundly: 41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

    Truth is, we are all “the world” because we all have our fallen, natural, earthy weakness that we can only overcome through Christ.

    Where I get uncomfy is if we ever have discussions where ALL the energy in a class is focused on the “they” out there and not enough is focused on cleansing our own vessels, letting the Savior help us wipe the earth from our eyes and our souls.

    So, Ziff, if you are reading, let me add my request to have the scriptures included in your analysis, because I think it’s interesting to track the usage anciently as well as in currentish times.

  37. michelle
    October 13, 2010 at 12:39 am

    “The world” does not equal “the Earth.”

    That may not be the dominant use of the word, but it still seems to me to be there. Maybe I’m missing something, but in a quick search, I found verses like the following:

    John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

    John 16:21 – A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

    John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (Another example of more than one meaning of the word.)

    Acts 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, …

    The other definitions are more prominent, but I think it’s interesting to see the variety of uses, sometimes even in the same verse.

    It’s like that one word, depending on how it’s used, can sum up the “three pillars” of the plan: creation, fall, atonement.

  38. October 13, 2010 at 12:43 am

    chris #26:

    Sentence #1: I love BYU. I am a BYU grad. My husband got his PhD there. My mother, sister, and brother all got degrees there. My dad was a professor there for 30+ years and is an honorary alumni. I have two kids there now. I just bought a blue and white cougar dinner bell to hang in my new house. Our second Christmas tree is blue and white and covered with BYU paraphernalia. We sing the cougar fight song for daily devotional in lieu of hymns. We end prayers with, “Amen. Goooooo cougars.” I was wearing a BYU t-shirt today — until I spilled Y Sparkle on it. Then I had a Creamery mint brownie for dessert. And no one is allowed to walk on our grass.

    Sentence #2: Huh?

    Sentence #3: I realize it didn’t originate with BYU. Just heard it all the time there. (Didn’t mean it was some *official* motto. I’d guess that is either “The World is Our Campus” or “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve” like on the monuments at the entrance.) Within the *context of the OP* the point was that *the modern day LDS church* has used the term “the world” with the negative connotation for decades. It’s not a recent innovation.

  39. Jeremy
    October 13, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Yeah, it wasn’t the BYU motto. I think it was the annual seminary theme one year when I was in high school in the early 1990s.

  40. October 13, 2010 at 5:42 am

    Alison, thank you for reminding me of that BYU slogan that “The World is Our Campus”.

    I guess we don’t have such a negative view of “the World” after all.

    As mentioned, our members and the General Authorities usually use “the Adversary” when they talk about Satan. Unfortunately, too many of our talks are a paean to Satan and his great powers to lead us astray. It could be a supply/demand thing — these things are said over the pulpit because of a perception that this is what we as a congregation want to hear.

  41. michelle
    October 13, 2010 at 5:58 am

    johnf, I guess I’m not understanding why you think it’s so bad to talk about the adversary.

    p.s. to my other comments. I know there are people here (Julie and others) who know boatloads more than I about the NT. Still, I found what I found interesting and it’s gotten me thinking more about it all. I love looking at different facets of words in the scriptures, but had never given this particular word much thought until now.

  42. October 13, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I wonder if any of the negative connotation has to do with the fact that the earth is currently in a telestial state?

    I do agree it has to do with relationships. Relationships among mankind and between men and God. I doubt that the “world” connotation was necessarily a bad thing during the 200 years of peace amongst the Nephites. However, I can see Noah, Enoch and his city considering the rest of the “world” as being sick and depraved, ripened for destruction.

    Given the complexities of such a large world population, it is easy to over generalize in saying either the world is evil, or that the world is good. There is plenty of both to go around, I suppose.

    As for the scriptures, they usually point to an “us versus them” attitude. Be in the world, but not of the world – means we must be involved in the world, but if the world was a good place, we would also be encouraged to be of it, as well. We are to be the light of the world. Why? Because the world lacks spiritual light. As LDS we have been taught about the Great Apostasy, where much light and truth was removed from the world. That the world hates Christ and his disciples strongly suggests that there is specific connotation for the term that does not necessarily mean the physical earth, nor all people in general; but is used as a term for those in the great and spacious building who mock the things of God.

    Personally, while I do believe there is a Satan, I think we often give him too much of the blame for our sins and choices. I much prefer the term “the world” of which I am often a part. I can’t easily defeat that which I cannot see, but I can overcome myself and the telestial world within me.

  43. Lorin
    October 13, 2010 at 7:41 am

    One more thing about “The World,” as used by speakers: One of the major take-aways I get from the temple (not just the endowment but the initiatory part as well) is that there are not only individual sins to overcome, but collective sins as well. Worldly philosophies or “traditions of our fathers” that may or may not originate with Satan, but which serve his purposes if they distract us from our obligations to God and our reasons for coming to earth. In many ways, the temple experience seems to be a lesson in how to replace a telestial (The World) mentality with a celestial mentality.

    If leaders are indeed using “The World,” as a euphemism for Satan, I can see that as problematic. But I wouldn’t be too quick to set aside their “The World” terminology, in the event it may often be either a subliminal or consciously precise word choice of the speaker. I’ll venture that in many cases, “overcoming the world” is precisely what they mean and precisely what we need to ponder.

    Sometime, when I have the time, I hope to do a “The World” word search on and see if reading their words in that light gives me any new personal insights.

  44. Julie M. Smith
    October 13, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Jeremiah J. and michelle,

    Good insights. I’m sure you noticed that the bulk of the “world=bad” stuff in the NT is Johannine.

  45. lyle
    October 13, 2010 at 9:26 am

    My favorite euphemism is “the enemy”.

  46. b
    October 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

    #18 do TV evangelists still use the word ‘devil’? I thought they had all pretty much replaced it with ‘Obama.’

  47. MR
    October 13, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Science and rational thinking is having a subtle influence on most of us, even the most stubborn, literal-thinking of our brethren. We’re not hearing much from the “Lamanites” either, but for different reasons like political correctness and DNA issues.

  48. October 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I tend to avoid using the name “Satan” only because I find it cliche – sorta like putting a Hitler mustache on public figures. We get it. Hitler was a bad guy. Anything else you want to say? Do you know anything else about Hitler?

    I prefer the name Lucifer, partly because it has a pleasant sound (and etymology: “Light-bringer”) and it evokes the memory that he was once one of the most noble in heaven. Maybe I just like to remember that nuances exist in even the most traditionally flat characters.

  49. Kingsley
    October 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    In my ward the trend has moved from archfiend to the cloven foot. I think my favorite catchall tho is “the philosophies of men.” Esp. when used in priesthood discussions that more or less add up to elegies for the decline of western civilization.

    Speaking of which, it would be sort of sad to see the story of the serpent, dragon, beast, demon etc. go. I’d argue that the name and the story are inseparable. And why not, since we’re sophisticating everything, get rid of angel, archangel, spirit, dove etc. too. But I suppose if you drop the one set you drop the other with it, or at least its power to move. And every six months you have to endure 8 to 10 hours of ethics—the horror.

  50. October 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Interesting thoughts. This makes a fitting end (?) to what appears to be a trajectory of Christian evil. That is, in the Hebrew Bible there is no concept of Satan at all. Sure, that’s where the word comes from (as a noun, not a name), but the concept of evil is certainly not attributed to a single malevolent authority (this is all well-trod ground, I know). I wonder whether we’ll eventually leave off “world,” preferring instead the even more abstract “evil” as a disembodied concept. All things must be restored!

  51. Jack
    October 13, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    There’s nothing more evil than a human being. Indeed, one is led to ask, “does evil exist anywhere else but in the human heart?” And if not, then only a human being can fully embody evil. Ergo, the name of the evil man is the name of evil incarnate. Or as Kingsley said, “the name and the story are inseparable.”

  52. Kingsley
    October 14, 2010 at 12:41 am


    Just as interesting are the discoveries or restorations of once sacred texts that at least point to a fitting end to what appears to be a trajectory of Christian thought regarding the Hebrew Bible.

  53. Mark D.
    October 14, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Name wise, I think “the devil” is much more suitable than “Satan”. For some reason, I shudder to use the latter, but the former isn’t much of a problem. Perhaps it is because the former seems more demeaning than the latter, which practically seems to elevate him to a position he does not deserve.

    (I would never use a capital letter when writing “the devil” or “the adversary” either, for the same reason. And somehow I doubt that the forces of evil all travel under the same flag anyway…)

  54. October 14, 2010 at 6:50 am

    So perhaps we should use the title, “he who should not be named”? :-)

    That Satan/Lucifer is a spirit child of God who completely rebelled, should not escape our consideration. He didn’t begin as the devil or adversary, but became such from the choices he made.

    Perhaps therein lies the point. We are also spirit children of God who the innate tendency to rebel. It is not impossible for any of us to also fall and become a devil and an adversary to God and his people. I’ve seen several fall from the Lord, only to then become His enemy. For those involved in apologetics, they often see former members of the Kingdom seeking to lead away and astray the children of God. These glory in their power, even as Lucifer glories over the power he holds over the children of men.

    That we have the potential to be God or devil is a poignant one, for sure.

  55. October 14, 2010 at 8:47 am

    The Devil’s already done his work, no? As a result, the natural man is an enemy to God and always has been from the Fall of Adam until the present time. Given this, do we really need to look elsewhere than inside ourselves for the evil that causes untold suffering for the children of men? What, therefore, does waxing long about the Devil “tempting” us to do things bring us? Yes, Lucifer is tempting us to do things that are contrary to God’s will but in a roundabout way: if we yield to some of the unholy enticings of our physical bodies, which are inborn as part of the nature of our telestial existence, then we are sinning and indulging the natural man.

    Our job in life is to overcome the natural man and come closer to God. My sense is that focusing on Christ and his Atonement is the best way to do this. So I worry that spending time over the pulpit waxing eloquent about Satan is “less effective”.

    As a result of the Fall, we are born into physical bodies that carry

  56. Liberty
    October 17, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Instead of saying “devil” or “Satan” how about “He who must not be named?”

    Or to paraphrase Moses 1: “You’re Satan? You’ve got to be kidding, you look like an accountant!”

    Our theology is not dualistic. Satan’s power cannot begin to compare to God’s. Satan can only use deception, confusion and propaganda. It is “the world” or “Babylon” which makes his campaign effective, usually with a nice profit motive and fringe benefits for the major players.

  57. October 18, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Kingsley, I’m not sure what you’re saying. Examples?

  58. Petrinax
    October 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Recalling President Packer’s April conference address on priesthood—where he said priesthood authority had been well and widely distributed by the correlated efforts of church leadership, but its companion, priesthood power, had been poorly developed in the homes of the members, gives additional reason to puzzle over the emendation of “casting out” to “combating.” I cannot see how this change lights the way to greater understanding and development of priesthood power.
    Having authority to “cast out” recalls the reports from the New Testament and the Book of Mormon and the temple demonstration of how this is to be done—using a priesthood key to summon and engage priesthood power to disperse an evil influence. But what does it mean to use priesthood authority to combat evil influences? “Combat” is to engage in battle and struggle. There was a time when saints believed that priesthood simply and directly vanquished the enemy—“dismissed without further argument.” Urging us to combat seems to reinforce our sense of impotence as if we were cut off from heavenly rescue and surviving the evil siege by our own frequently inadequate efforts at righteousness, mingled with lectures from the pulpit, pamphlets and visits to LDS social services.

  59. DeniseB
    October 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I appreciate your comments John F. and Petrinax
    There is power in the names we use.
    Frequent repetition of particular names has an effect.
    For eg. The Melchizedek Priesthood is so called so as not use the name of the Most High repetitiously.
    We often use the word Saviour from the pulpit instead of Jesus Christ to give due reverence to His name.
    I attended a Gospel Doctrine class where the teacher told us that we didn’t teach our children or talk about Satan enough. She proceeded to talk about him in a way that caused me to stand to my feet and rebuke her. She certainly had opened the door for him to take over the spirit of the class, and to give him undue attention, even worship.
    However, I did marvel on my mission, when a Priesthood Holder did cast out evil spirits, that I didn’t know how it was to be done.
    It was done differently from what is shown in the Temple, and even the Temple approach isn’t clear on that method and its application to personal settings.
    I agree with John F. that the power of Christ is missing from our discussions, talks and commentaries. We talk about staying away from the World/adversary but we don’t talk about how to activate the atonement in our lives. We talk from a fear foundation not a Hope and Faith foundation.
    As for “goodbye Satan, hello World”, I think we need to teach process, not just make statements.

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