At some point, God decided to enact a plan that would give His spirit children the opportunity to progress and be like Him. It required that they take on physical bodies and come to earth to live by faith and be tested. After hearing the plan, however, the Son of Morning sought to modify it. Essentially, he said: Put me in charge and I'll ensure that all mortals live sufficiently worthy to return to heaven as exalted beings.
God, however, would have none of it. Rather, He wanted all mortals to be free to choose their own paths, a condition that required them to make choices: good versus evil, virtue or vice. Angered by the decision, the Son of Morning left God's presence and took with him a third of the hosts of heaven. In the process he became Lucifer and--again, according to Mormon theology--the source of all evil, an enemy to God and the one who tempts mortals to sin.
If you're confused by this, you're not alone, since according to the account, a former stalwart in heaven:
- Heard the particulars of God's plan, but wanted to modify it so that all his spirit brothers and sisters would return to heaven (not such an evil objective--after all, missionaries hope to convert us all, too)
- Then, not getting his way, he became so angry that he left heaven to fight against God's plan
- But due to his new role as tempter and source of all evil, he makes it possible for mortals to have and make choices (after all, there is no freedom to choose evil, if evil doesn't exist)
- So each time he is successful at tempting a mortal, he works against the objective he proposed in council with God
Clearly the account doesn't make much sense, but that on its own doesn't concern me. As I've said elsewhere, many of the narratives included in the scriptures fall in the same category, yet may still contain lessons of value. While I don't take them literally, they can provoke productive thought. This one, however, is a bit different because of the worldview it engenders. While people should be worried about exacting some amount of discipline over their own passions and appetites, many are instead concerned about a shadowy tempter who is only mentioned obliquely in a handful of scriptural references. Let's not worry about the devil. Whether you do or don't believe in him, let's agree that it's in our control to live unselfish and compassionate lives.