It has been reported that this weekend Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee will have an article published in the New York Times Magazine in which he asks, about Mormonism, “Don’t they believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers?” This question is a standard Anti-Mormon trope. However, I do not understand why it is so. For that matter, I do not understand why it is more offensive than actual Protestant belief regarding the origin of evil.
Christianity has long struggled with the origin of evil in the world. If God created all things ex nihilo and if God is omnipotent, omniscient, and so forth, then he is the ultimate author of evil. Even though the Devil and Adam are in rebellion to God, it is God who made them (and us) so. Thus, God gave us sufficient will to rebel and the inclination to rebel, and then, when we rebel, he cuts us off and condemns us to hell for rebelling. It does not require omniscience to see the flaws of this plan, especially if one posits that God is a God of love.
The advantage of the Mormon approach to the problem of evil is in our belief that God has chosen to limit his ability to alter our agency. Thus whatever evil we do, we do because we are allowed to do it. If evil (or, more likely, selfishness) is our nature, then it isn’t because God made us so, but because that is the nature that God is helping us overcome. We are co-infinite with God, so it isn’t ultimately his fault.
Further, since we do believe that the Fall was a planned-or event, God remains a loving God. Although he has made it very likely that we will sin, allowing us the ability to use our own agency and sticking us in a body that is mortal, he has also provided a Savior for us. This Savior, our Brother, acts also in his own agency, sacrificing himself in order to save the rest of us. Thus, the Father and the Son have created a plan that is reliant on their love for us and our acknowledging that love to work. We can change and become better people through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, in addition to being saved from eternal damnation.
Our other brother, Satan, was given his agency, as we were. He chose poorly. He led others astray and continues to do so. He appears to be motivated by spite, pride, a desire to be right, and a general dismissal of the possibility of God’s mercy and love. After all, he was rejected for rebelling; why won’t everyone else be? Satan’s continued existence is evidence of God’s commitment to the principle of agency above all else, not evidence of God’s lack of foresight.
The notion that Jesus and Satan are brothers is true in the same sense that Adolf Hitler, Mother Teresa, Paris Hilton, Charles Dickens, Attila the Hun, and I are siblings. It is an attempt to reduce our notion of the pre-mortal existence to its ridiculous extreme. However, it is, I believe, a better solution to the problem of evil that then assumption that a loving God doesn’t actually love some of his children, so he created a means of temptation so that they would not have to be saved. What is the saving grace of a God who is so stingy with the salvation offered? Where is the truth in a God who creates the Father of Lies?
Mr. Huckabee is most likely bringing up the subject in an effort to ridicule the beliefs of Mormons and thereby shore up his support in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, which he may well win. The New York Times Magazine is facilitating his effort. That said, I can’t think of a doctrine that better highlights the superiority of LDS thought over Protestant approaches to Christianity. If a mention of our doctrine leads to a close examination of the doctrine within Protestant Christianity, then I can only see this as a net gain.