This following story will start off strange and dark, but the ending will be much better, so…just keep reading. When you read the next sentence, you will probably be blown away, but it is something I didn’t add in my last piece ”Too Many Paths” and it is too important not to say.
When I was worshipping Satan in middle school and high school, I engrossed myself with what the local library had to offer (this was before the Internet became what we know it to currently be). I read Anton LaVey, Varg Vikernes, and Aleister Crowley, I studied medieval texts, and read books by journalists about supposed Satanic cults and serial killers. Something about the idea of the Hollywood, horned, red skinned, horror movie devil was more appealing to my adolescent I-know-everything-and-I-am-cool-because-I-do-bad-things mentality than the sheep and bright Jesus and all the banal platitudes and vague abstractions that engrossed believers.
Hearing things like “Jesus loves you and seeing pictures of a white, calm, happy Jesus always hugging ginger kids and other children that seemed to be right out of “Leave It To Beaver.” I was young and had spent a youth under really strict, parents (albeit very good parents who never gave up on me), so my mind was always racing towards the opposite of what was around me—the promise of some kind of interesting life outside of my mundane existence. My worldview was being molded, but not in a good way.
Going home and listening to my accountant mother always tell me to save everything I earned and my father always calling my brother and I a ‘brick,’ because we were young and often did things that showed we were either chimpanzees or affected with Down Syndrome (any chromosomal problem that would logically show why my brother and I were doing the things we did). I was thirteen or there abouts, so I thought that I knew everything and that my parents didn’t know what they were talking about.
The days passed with family dinners, threats of punishment if “A’s” were not received in school, repetitive answers of “Because I said so” to questions of “Why?,” BBQ’s and football (which I never understood as a game or entertainment), talks of new cars and the gaping mouths that appeared them as neighbors were in awe, schools full of clics and happiness drawn by making yourself feel better than an ‘inferior’ social group, teachers who tried to convince us that knowing the Pythagorean Theorem would someone land us a job when we got older, teachers ridiculing the students if they liked a certain football team, and all the young people degrading each other by saying “You are doing X like a fag.” I listened to the dads talk about their jobs and the moms brag about their children and share secrets and gossip with each other that would be passed along to other women.
Since I have become Mormon, I have heard the idea that someone you give your testimony to may not respond kindly, but it may just not be their time yet. God Always Has a Plan for everybody and I have come to understand that He probably Didn’t Want me growing up in a Mormon community like Provo, because I would have rebelled against the church and that lifestyle. I had to come to Mormonism later in my life when I was calm enough to fully understand it and be responsibly faithful.
At that time in my early teenage years, I was rebelling as much as my white, middle class mentality knew rebellion. Satan seemed more appealing and seemed to offer that hope of an interesting and eventful life in the future. I was tired of Sunday school teachers asking us loaded questions every year that seemed to be repeated. I was always surprised that some around me would find something new in the same lessons over and over again—lessons prepared with very obvious answers and scenarios that we would never ever come in contact with ever.
I was already tired of the monotony of life and I hadn’t even entered “the real world,” yet. I would spend a lot of my time in the library or the nearby YMCA. I was either exercising or reading or both at the same time. I didn’t have many friends because of the rumors of me being gay and my weirdness for questioning the divinity in college football and saying that I would rather read than watch a game of people running back and forth across a field, bashing their heads together, and occasionally kicking a pigskin through a gigantic ‘Y.’ Yes, I hold a lot of anger about a lot of things, but most often it comes out as sarcasm or the occasional harmless shenanigan.
Back during my Satanism days, I realized something very paradoxical about many of the Protestant denominations in terms of Satan. Satan was the angel of light who rebelled against God (both Protestantism and Mormonism agree on that point), but the question remained in me about Satan’s role in the afterlife. If God had punished Satan by sending him to Hell, then didn’t it seem reasonable that Satan would have to stay in Hell and be burned by the fire and brimstone? But, the Bible showed him walking around and talking to God and Jesus. And, it also showed him locked up in Hell. Then, there were the demons shown having seemingly free reign over humans and known by name. Legion, Azazel, Wormwood, Baal, Azriel, Apollyon were those named in the Bible.
Was Satan tortured in Hell by demons, who he controlled? Or, was Satan under the directions of God and forced to do the tempting he did in the Bible? This would be strange because it is not much of a punishment to do something you like doing and wanted to do anyway. Were people tortured forever in Hell but God and his demons (those who had rebelled against God) somehow exempted or given special privileges over others in Hell? The whole idea didn’t make much sense to me and I couldn’t for the longest time come to terms with these conflicting ideas.
To my youthful, limited understanding, Satan seemed to be doing his own thing, running a Hell that was his and roaming the Earth messing with people. Would Satan punish those people who worshipped him? It seemed highly unlikely and Satan would quickly lose the soul collection battle if he was torturing those who worshipped, glorified, and praised him. Even considering that the Bible was God’s Word, it didn’t seem like God gave Satan his fair share in the text. Yeah, Satan seemed like the way to go. He represented the rebellious spirit inside of me and helped my worldview with something interesting.
This whole Satanic phase didn’t last very long because I turned to Atheism after that and stuck with that world view for many years, because the world made much more sense without a God. And I looked back on the days of youth and Satan with a fond remembrance and a bad feeling towards adolescence and the troubles I had in the public schools and the fights I got into, the vandalism on my locker, the throwing me behind a corner so no one could see and taking all that I had on me, and parents who were frustrated because I kept getting in trouble at school without the understanding that if I told the teachers on the students who beat me up, it would just bring more of a harsher beating on me for telling.
From the problems of my youth, I always believed there was evil out there. Some people think that as an Atheist, you cannot believe in evil, but I did. I had seen it in people and always knew it was there. But, regardless, I had a problem trying to really find meaning in life even thought I had a deep ambition and hope in the future. There were a lot of things that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around until I came to Mormonism.
Have you ever had a massive change in worldview in a good direction?
I remember when I was in high school and spent too much of my time watching MTV, thinking that it was somehow a way to form my identity by acting just like those who appeared on the reality shows of MTV. This was back in the early nineties; back when MTV actually did play music videos. I would watch this show called “The Real World.” It was a paradoxical show where young, hip people are placed in a huge house, but the ironic thing is that the show had nothing to do with the actual real world. The slogan for the show should have been: ‘the real world, that isn’t actually real.’
On one of the seasons, there was a Mormon girl on there. She was from Provo and from Brigham Young University… and a family of many brothers and sisters. She seemed like the stereotypical Mormon to me, especially when she was talking to the one guy she liked about Mormonism. The two were at a concert together and the guy was commenting to the audience about the transcendental qualities inherent in Mormonism. I remember him saying something about the Lorenzo Snow revelation. I had heard some about this from my Southern Baptist high school.
As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.
My Southern Baptist high school was full of that hell fire type preaching that one would expect from Jonathan Edwards… if he was much angrier than he actually seemed. I learned a lot about Satan and Hell and punishment and anger from that school. This is where I came to the idea that many of the various denominations of Christianity will base the core of their theology and how they interpret certain parts of the Bible on how they understand the personality of God.
The Southern Baptists look at God as William Wallace, and the Methodists see God as Mr. Rogers. I haven’t quite pegged the personality as seen through many Mormons, because I understand (from what others tell me) that our military ward in Korea was a very unique ward in the way that it runs and the people in it. I have been told that my shenanigans and viewpoints would not be accepted by some bishops and stake presidents back in the states, but that didn’t make them wrong in anyway. It is just that some people are very strict and conservative about their beliefs and the way that things are run.
When I was investigating the church, I asked about the personality shift that God seemed to go through throughout the Five Books of Moses. He goes from asking all rhetorical questions, to some great leader, to a straight up lecturer—all the while He seems to portray certain personality characteristics inherent to only that certain book. The Brother who baptized me gave a good answer one time. He said, “Does anybody portray a single personality trait? People’s personalities are diverse, even during one single day. Is God so different?”
And, part of the idea about understanding God (more than just his personality) requires comprehending the completely worldview change of the God of Mormonism. He Lives on a star near Kolob in a physical body around his infinite number of spirit children and angels, who don’t have physical bodies like Him. For us to be in His Presence, we need to go to the Highest Kingdom of Heaven, after we are purified in Spiritual Prison.
My mind… blown! My world view, expanding. God Lives with his wife, the Heavenly Mother. There were High Councils in Heaven and the fate of his Spiritual children sealed with a promise by one of my sons to symbolically shed his blood for us. If we understand Lorenzo Snow’s revelation correctly, Heavenly Father was similar to us a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away. He became exalted, Created this existence, had numerous spiritual children, and now we live in the Latter Days. My mind… blown!
I have a big imagination, so visualizing all this and filling in the transitions between ideas is something I regularly do. With my imagination, Mormonism has kept my interest pretty well with the worldview altering ideas and theology.
I have recently been doing a Bible study by reading the entire Quad from cover to cover, making notes as I go through. The whole perception of the Bible is much different after I have been exposed to the revealed gospel. The idea of M-theory and the multi-verse hypothesis have been easily intertwined with the stories in the Bible. And, when I became LDS, I wanted to align myself with the Spirit and open my heart to all the goodness in the world. My life started on a very terrible note, but then I ended up faithfully on the right path which lead me to receive Sepher Lehi, Blooms and Stencils, and The Book of Heavenly Mother. The future is bright.