In the early 20th century, noted Evangelist Billy Sunday proclaimed, “I know there is a devil for two reasons; first, the Bible declares it; and second I have done business with him.” While some people might have doubts about Sunday’s commitment to God, I do not; I can–truthfully–make a similar statement.
It isn’t always easy to tell which is which. While God is mostly known as that “still small voice” [I Kings 19:12] Who loves us, and Satan is a railing accuser, sometimes it is Satan who speaks softly–to lure us to sin, and the phrase “wrath of God” is prevalent in Scripture. If you wish to be REALLY unhappy, try incurring the wrath of both God and Satan!
It is an economic truism that everybody responds to incentives, and, if we believe the Book of Mormon [II Nephi 2:16], both God and Satan realize this–and act accordingly. God, of course, offers freedom and eternal life, while Satan, the counterfeiter [II Corinthians 11:13-15], offers a perverted form of freedom and pleasure.
Sometimes, though, good people can find themselves unwitting tools of Satan. This is especially true in government. Government desires–with justification–to protect people from various bad things that this fallen world subjects them to, but finds that their actions elicits behavior that makes the maladies government want to spare people more likely. For example, government wishes to make the lot of the single mother more bearable, so it provides monetary assistance to those single mothers that it doesn’t provide to others, then welfare officials wonder why more women become even more promiscuous, skipping even the marrying part–so there’s no husband to abandon the family. Indeed, often the women–and children–have no idea who the father is. Economists call this phenomenon a “moral hazard.”
This phenomenon also happens in religious contexts. Various “ministers to the cults,” never bothering to find out what we really believe, wonder why their targets get angry at them. Here’s a hint: whenever you say that we believe things that we do not; whenever you imply that we are liars or idiots by telling us that we aren’t accurately conveying our beliefs, rather than loving us, as you profess, you hate us–with a passion. I get tired of being told, whenever I deny “swearing death oaths to Lucifer” or that I believe that Adam had sex with Mary to produce Jesus, that I don’t know what I believe–or that I don’t want to know the truth. I cannot conceive of a more effective dialogue-stopper than this insisting that Latter-day Saints are intellectually or morally bad.
Not even Latter-day Saints are immune from this trap of communicating hate instead of love. Too often we forget D&C 121:41-44 when dealing with fellow saints. How often have we chastised people for wearing inappropriate clothes to Church–without bothering to find out if they’re the best they have? How many of us accuse Latter-day Saints of apostasy when they forward questions their non-LDS loved ones ask–heedless of the fact that we cannot easily disown family members–even when they aren’t the best for us–and recklessly ignoring the fact that anti-Mormon acquaintances routinely predict such lashings out? How often have we accused people of being anti-Mormons when they ask difficult questions?
Here’s a hint for us: If a nonmember asks, “I heard you believe X. Is that true?” and accepts that we speak the truth about it, then the odds are that he or she is NOT an anti-Mormon.
May God help us distinguish those who hate us from those who don’t.