The Bad Side of Jesus

February 12, 2014 | 21 comments
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Last week, as we were walking to school, my 6 year old spontaneously started telling me about his latest Primary lesson.  He does this often, and usually reports the talking points accurately.

“I learned about the bad side of Jesus,” he said.

“Really? Jesus has a bad side?” I responded, wandering if they had talked about casting moneychangers out of the temple.

“Yes. A very bad side. You know, when we were all in heaven, and he decided that one third of the spirits shouldn’t be allowed to have bodies, and that made them really sad, and Jesus did that, so that was the bad side of Jesus. Can you believe Jesus did that?”

So that particular lesson about the plan of salvation and the pre-existence didn’t get through as clearly as his teachers must have hoped. But I do like the way that slightly distorted view casts a different light on those experiences we lost when we passed through the veil of forgetfulness.

Imagine, for a moment, that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, close brothers who look alike, maybe even share the same mannerisms and charisma. Imagine them as twins even. Somehow, through chance or fate or choice, Lucifer got the role of the evil twin, the bad side of Jesus. After all, it’s not hard to imagine them as equal in potential to do good or evil, equal in potential for glory and honor. But our story has to have a black hat as well as a white hat, defiance to define submission. We had to have both Jesus and the bad side of Jesus.

21 Responses to The Bad Side of Jesus

  1. Steve Martin on February 12, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.

    Lucifer is a fallen, rebellious angel.

    Big difference.

  2. Rachel Whipple on February 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Was it that big of a difference in the beginning? Sure, after choices have been made, we are revealed to be who we are. They are different now, as different as two sides of the same coin.

  3. Sarah Familia on February 12, 2014 at 9:35 am

    “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”
    ? Mark Twain

  4. Kent Larsen on February 12, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Rachel, as I understand it, Steve is not Mormon, so he doesn’t necessarily believe in the Mormon view of the pre-existence. Steve, it might be nice if you gave us a bit more about where you are coming from and how you approach these statements.

    As for me, I too loved the chance your son’s statement gave me to re-examine the way we see the war in heaven. I agree with the idea that Lucifer’s proposal must have been much more attractive than we generally portray it, or 1/3rd of the children of God wouldn’t have been in favor of it.

    And your observation reminds me of a kind of yin-yang approach. I’m not sure it works, but it certainly gives me something to think about. Elements of that kind of dualism are certainly true.

  5. chris on February 12, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    So basically, if you added another 14% to 47% you’d be saying that Mitt Romney = Jesus.

    - Sorry I couldn’t resist. Even from the beginning it’s apparently been a battle of the percents.

  6. chris on February 12, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    “added another 14% to get to 47%”

  7. wreddyornot on February 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    The humility of our children to observe and have empathy always impresses me too.

    I’ve believed that there’s nothing very eternal or supernal in a plan that doesn’t have the power to redeem and atone for those, no matter who/what they are or what path they’ve chosen and gone or when they did so, who repent. Perhaps we shortchange agency, repentance, and the Savior’s various powers.

  8. Rachel Whipple on February 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    So can Lucifer repent? Is there a good side of Satan?

  9. New Iconoclast on February 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Kent, I heard somewhere that Steve Martin had been baptized. ;)

    Seriously, folks, the boy nailed it almost perfectly. Those spirits rebelled, and according to the plan, didn’t get bodies. That wasn’t Lucifer’s doing, it was a consequence imposed on them by Father and Son for their disobedience. Yup, Jesus did that.

    Personally, I thought he might be talking about all of the Savior’s impatient outbursts where he asks how much longer he’s going to be forced to put up with the thick-headed apostles. I do like the mirror twins idea, though.

  10. Rachel Whipple on February 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Yep, sometimes we spend so much time thinking about how loving and good Jesus is that we forget he has a bad side and that we can choose to be on it.

  11. D. Michael Martindale on February 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Lucifer’s plan was VERY attractive. We know this because it entices a whole lot of people today, right here on Earth. It allows us to relinquish responsibility for doing our own thinking, making our own choices. Freedom can be scary, and not everybody likes it. Freedom brings responsibility for one’s choices, and a whole lot of people HATE that!

    What is the dangerous truism, “Even if the church leader is wrong, obey his counsel anyway, and God will make it right,” if not a desire to relinquish responsibility for one’s choices?

    God will not make it right. God will hold you responsible for your choices, even if it was to follow the counsel of a leader. God did not give you a brain to have you shut it off.

  12. Dave on February 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    The book The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels is relevant to the whole discussion, but difficult to summarize for an LDS audience.

  13. Alex Treharne on February 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    It would not be inconsistent with multiple scriptural accounts of younger sons being chosen above their elders to speculate that Lucifer, the “son of the morning” was actually the eldest, and that, like so many others that followed, rebelled and fell, and his younger brother secured the birthright. This idea seems consistent with his title, the “son of the morning.” What is earlier than “morning”?

  14. Michelle on February 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I think a scriptural parallel for the ‘bad side’ would be His “left hand,” perhaps?

    It kinda reminds me of Elder Nelson’s talk on the fact that God’s love actually isn’t unconditional. It’s divine, but our agency can put limits on what He’s able to do for us.

  15. Cugeno on February 12, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    “Lucifer’s plan was VERY attractive. We know this because it entices a whole lot of people today, right here on Earth. It allows us to relinquish responsibility for doing our own thinking, making our own choices. Freedom can be scary, and not everybody likes it. ”
    Our family just lived for a few years in the former East Bloc, and this comment of DMM’s above is eerily accurate. Just a few generations of not thinking, not choosing, not deciding can breed that activity — that capability — right the heck out of a people. Figuring out how to do it again, even with help, seems to be a pretty daunting learning curve, as well…

  16. wreddyornot on February 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    “So can Lucifer repent? Is there a good side of Satan?”

    I believe that agency and repentance are eternal and supernal principles, so I say yes to the first question.

    As to the second, I’d never pretend to answer for anyone else.

    It seems that having a “side” infers nature, not nurture. If nature, then one might ask: Is there a bad side of God? Hence, we’d be somewhat back to the child’s kind of observation. Where nurture is involved, isn’t repentance present?

  17. 0t on February 13, 2014 at 2:07 am

    I think sometimes that maybe more people might have gone to Lucifer’s side if they had a clearer picture of what things would be like here… but then, I also think that we had the love of the Father and the Son, and that probably was discernable vs Lucifer, whom the scriptures portrayed as being more concerned with his own glory.

    As far as whether the Adversary has a good side or can repent. Note that he is a being who is working to destroy you and will use any means at his disposal to do so. His feelings of anger and rage are absolute and beyond anything we can comprehend, because he knows he’s cut off eternally. Entertaining any idea about him otherwise is the spiritual equivalent of seeing how close you can get to a downed electrical wire. I literally believe you are placing yourself in grave spiritual danger by doing so.

  18. NorthboundZax on February 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Thoughtful kid.

    For some time now, I’ve been throwing around the idea of how we really know that Satan is all bad. Everything we know about him has been filtered through his nemesis. If Lucifer had been victorious in the War in Heaven, it isn’t much of a stretch to consider that he might be calling Jehovah the “Father of all lies” and similar rhetoric.

  19. SL on February 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    All this reveals just how problematic the war in heaven narrative really is unless we read it as an allegory. If we read it literally, it introduces all sorts of unworkable theological problems.

  20. Cameron N. on February 14, 2014 at 12:44 am

    @14 – Well, he said in some ways it is unconditional, but not all ways. Just as it is for any parent.

  21. jkh on February 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Which side of Jesus is depicted in 3rd Nephi, Chapters 8 and 9?

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