In the Book of John, we learn, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (See John 1:3.)
It is clear, then, that anything that exists was created by God, and so God made Satan. However, he wasn’t Satan at his creation and he was not created evil. The prophet Isaiah helps us to understand what turned Lucifer into Satan and demonstrates that he is not the being God created him to be: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (See Isaiah 14:12.)
In other words, Satan, as created, was not evil. God does not create anything that is evil. The creation accounts in Genesis consistently remind us that everything God creates is good. How did Satan go from being a good creation of God to being the source of evil?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, teach that agency was an essential part of God’s plan for us. From the very beginning, God gave us the right to choose for ourselves. Although He made rules for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden concerning the tree, he did not lock it up where they could not get to it. In fact, he put it right in the center of the Garden, where they would see it often. They were free to choose to eat from it, and they did.
Agency explains how Lucifer became Satan. Mormons believe that God first created our spirits and allowed us to live with Him in Heaven prior to the creation of the Earth. This makes Him very literally our Father, and it also means we began to develop our characters and personalities prior to birth. We did not have bodies, but we did have personalities, and the ability to choose whom to become. Some worked hard to become as much like God as possible. Some did not. Some were power-hungry, even then, and it appears Lucifer was one of these. The events that would occur demonstrate he was popular among a certain type of spirit and that he used that popularity and his agency to cause others to make poor choices, even then.
Mormon beliefs talk of a great meeting held in Heaven in which we were told of the plan to create an earth for us. We would all, in our turn, go there to live for a while. We’d gain a body, come to earth through a family, and have agency. We would not remember our time in Heaven, but we would be given the ability to feel God’s presence and counsel to us if we listened and were anxious to do the right thing. Through what would be known as the Spirit of Christ, we would be able to discern truth from lies if we chose to do so. The Holy Ghost would be available to help us on Earth. With this help, we would be expected to search out the truth and then commit to live it.
Of course, we wouldn’t be perfect, and the Law required perfection in order to return home. To this end, God would provide a Savior who would come to earth through a mortal mother, with God as His father, and live a sinless life. He would then make a voluntary sacrifice on our behalf, known as the atonement. This would allow us to overcome death and to repent. It would make it possible to overcome the demands of the law through mercy. Jesus Christ volunteered for this calling, saying he wanted all the honor and glory to go to God.
Lucifer, however, did not like God’s plan. He used his influence to try to convince us to replace God and Jesus Christ with him. Lucifer said he would take control of our lives on earth, controlling every movement and thought so we could not possibly sin. In that way, no atonement would be necessary (relieving him of the need to suffer on anyone’s behalf) and we’d all come home safely. In exchange, however, he wanted us to let him take God’s place and receive all the honor and glory.
Lucifer’s plan was a selfish one, designed to win him a position of power and authority without undue sacrifice. This was a sharp contrast to Jesus’ proposal, which asked nothing for himself. However, perhaps because Lucifer was popular, or perhaps because his plan seemed to offer security and an easy route to success, one-third of God’s children chose Lucifer as their leader, rejecting both God and Jesus Christ.
They were not allowed to come to earth as a consequence. They will never receive bodies or families, and because they rejected the atonement before they even came to earth, they are not allowed to benefit from it. They were cast out of heaven for their efforts to overthrow God and His plan. All the remainder of the spirits in Heaven began to prepare for mortality.
However, Lucifer’s work was not done. He became Satan and he was angry at being cast out of Heaven. He was also miserable, having been denied what even he knew was a wonderful opportunity—even though he made the choices that led to it. He was determined to make every who had refused to follow him miserable.
His role in our lives today is to try to get us to reject the great plan of salvation we once embraced, to disobey God’s commandments, even to choose not to believe in God or Jesus Christ. He is determined to undermine God’s work.
Although Satan is allowed to try to make us sin and reject the opportunity to return home to God’s presence, there are some things he cannot do. He cannot force anyone to sin: he can only encourage sin. He cannot prevent anyone from knowing the truth who is determined to know it: he can only try to keep us from wanting to know. Satan cannot remain if we tell him to leave. In the New Testament, we can look to the example of Jesus Christ to know how to handle Satan’s temptations and lies. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus, Jesus simply refused to pay any attention to him and ordered him to leave.
Satan then, began life as we all did, as a child of God. He used his God-given agency to reject God and the gospel and chose instead to live a selfish life harming others. While he is temporarily allowed to try to carry out his revengeful goals, we are under no obligation to give him power over us.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.