The Chapter Closes

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I’ve been thinking a lot about endings lately. Not endings of entire stories, but endings of chapters. My wife and I are about to drive across the country for a new life in Ohio. She has a new, better-paying job. We have a new house waiting for us. A new van to get us there. I have season tickets to the Cleveland Indians. We might even be able to persuade one of our best friends to come out and live with or near us, a friend who we thought moved out of our lives forever six months ago. And we’ll still have our familiar furniture, and our cats, and our daughter!

But…we are also leaving so much behind. It’s not easy to travel between Ohio and Provo, Utah. It’s two days of straight driving, or a very expensive plane ticket. That’s a huge gap between us and the things we’re leaving. The soul-deep friends we’ve developed here. Both of our cars, who have been with us through so much. Our first home together, where we’ve lived for five and a half years. Our cat Tzeitel, who disappeared three years ago, whom, by us moving to Ohio, guarantees we’ll never see her again. There wasn’t much of a chance anyway, but it still feels like we’re only now officially abandoning her.

I over-sentimentalize almost everything. It’s one of my greatest weaknesses. I anthropomorphize everything too. My car, Fyodor. My home, Fort Hewitt. My cats, Keyta and Tzeitel. Making them people makes it all the harder to leave them behind because I can’t explain to them how I feel. I can’t explain to them how much I care, because they don’t have my language. I can’t explain to them why I’m leaving, or that I’ll try and be back someday. And in return, I can’t hear their assurances that they will be okay, that they’ve said goodbye to others before, that they had such a wonderful time with me and they look forward to reuniting in the next life. Instead I just have to leave all of it behind, and let those things wonder why I’m abandoning them.

It hurts my soul to do this. Deep down, it hurts.

One of my friends I absolutely hate to leave, because he just suffered a great emotional blow with a personal relationship. Now his favorite people are leaving all of a sudden right at the same time. No more weekend hangouts. No one to look forward to seeing at the close of a week. And it’s me who’s leaving him alone when he needs a friend the most. That kills me.

To that friend: please come out to Ohio if and when you can! The guilt kills me, especially at night. We need you near us!

Damn it, it seems this world is nothing but partings. We don’t notice the good times because we can’t. They’re generally a flow of experiences. The partings, the losses, the endings, are the moments when the flow changes. Those we notice with poignancy. They are when we ram into a wall, when we feel torn apart. The partings impact us. Eventually we right ourselves again and we get back into a flow. And the flow is good, because it’s taking us somewhere good. But it doesn’t stop the moments our lives change course from hurting, from making us dread the next one.

Even if an experience is emotionally neutral, the very fact of it ending hurts me. It really does. Changing the litter box in the laundry room. Using that particular washing machine and dryer. Having to sweep the hardwood floor and seeing a visible result. The fact that those things will literally never happen again, even if they aren’t powerful moments in my life…it gives me sadness.

Let alone the memories that are truly meaningful. For instance, I’ll only ever walk into that Leading Edge slush room one more time. The place where I met my wife, where I met literally all my Utah friends but one. The editing room, where my wife and I led the team to two stellar issues, where I got my first acceptance for publication for “Duckman.” That’s all just a memory now, with nothing to relive it.

All in all, I hate goodbyes. Everyone does, but I think they hurt me more than most. Especially at night. And especially when I know it’s coming in advance, and I need to wait and count down the days, the hours, the moments, planning my schedule and penciling in what I know will be the final experiences of my life in this chapter, wondering if I’m using this time wisely.

The waiting is the slow twist of the knife. If I’m nervous about something, I’m the kind of person who wants desperately to get it over with. When the hour arrives, when I’ve determined I’m ready, I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to just rip off the band-aid. I want to just jump into the icy cold pool. I want to just give that report in front of the class the very first, rather than wait, shaking, for the rest of my peers to give theirs while I cower in the back of the room. Giving my baby her name and blessing was nothing. The anxiety of adrenaline shooting through me days in advance while being able to do nothing about it was the killer.

And this goodbye process is a slow death. Methodical. Deliberate. And I’m the one doing the very dissecting that’s so torturing me! Organizing, implementing, directing the move. Sweeping up all my belongings, piece by piece, waiting day by day for the final day of farewell to come, experiencing the agony over and over again every single night. Having to look around at my little duplex where I’ve lived all my married days and formed my every married memory knowing that it’s among the last, but I can’t leave yet. I can’t just get in the car and go. No, I have to linger and soak up the sadness bit by bit. Think and feel in darkness as my body refuses to fall asleep. Bidding slow farewell to so many things that I will literally never see, hear, feel, or otherwise experience ever again.

Besides the new happy things I have waiting for my life in Ohio—and yet unknown happinesses can never compare with known ones—I have one hope. It is a single word: restoration.

You may have read Chapter 4 of my book The Hero Doctrine. It’s about how this life is in reality a dream, a dream from which we will one day wake up to true reality; how grief and loss are merely temporary, and that every good thing we wave farewell to in this world will rise with us in the next. In other words, restoration.

I’m going to leave an excerpt of that chapter here. It deals with the ending of The Last Battle in The Chronicles of Narnia. Never has the celestial kingdom been better described, even by Mormon writers.

In describing the new Narnia as compared to the old, one character tells little Lucy Pevensie, “When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”

Perhaps this is the answer to the question of my sentimental feelings for my old home. At the very least, it suggests one. As another character says, in that heavenly Narnia, “no good thing is destroyed.” I believe that in some form, my house, my old home, will be raised in the restoration of all good things. And perhaps that celestialized, glorified home is the real thing, not the dream version that I hold so much attachment to in this world.

In the new Narnia, the Pevensie children come upon a set of great golden gates. Here they hesitate, wondering if those gates could possibly be meant for them to enter. Then they hear a great horn, and the gates swing open wide, and out of the gates burst forth all the friends and family they ever had to say goodbye to, the kings and queens of old and the great heroes of Narnia’s past, creatures with whom they once shared adventures but had long since passed away, all at peace and safe at last, never to be lost or bid goodbye to again.

“Everyone you had ever heard of (if you knew the history of those countries) seemed to be there. There was Glimfeather the Owl and Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, and King Rilian the Disenchanted, and his mother the Star’s daughter and his great father Caspian himself. And close beside him were the Lord Drinian and the Lord Berne and Trumpkin the Dwarf and Trufflehunter the good Badger with Glenstorm the Centaur and a hundred other heroes of the great War of Deliverance. And then from another side came Cor the King of Archenland with King Lune his father and his wife Queen Aravis and the brave Prince Corin Thunder-Fist, his brother, and Bree the Horse and Hwin the Mare. And then—which was a wonder beyond all wonders to Tirian—there came further away in the past, the two good Beavers and Tumnus the Faun. And there was greeting and kissing and hand-shaking and old jokes revived….”

Brothers and sisters, might it be like that for us? Might we meet again all those we had known who went before us? Might we reunite with them as tears stream down our faces, as we shout and exclaim for joy that we never have to part again, that we never have to suffer again, that we can be together in the same society we enjoy on this earth without ever having to wave farewell again?

In the final spoken line of the story, Aslan declares, “The dream is ended: this is the morning.

“And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Despite my sadness, I know that it’s God closing this chapter in my life, not me. I know that because of the curious timing everything seemed to have. The combination of life events outside our control all coming to a climax totally without my input. I won’t go into those here. But I have a testimony that God is a master novelist, and He knows how to close a chapter—and just like C.S. Lewis, He knows how to write a happy ending.

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Called NOT to Serve

 

This, this is the reason Elder Holland is special to me.

You see, I never went on a mission. In that sense, I was lucky. I never had to deal with the intense emotional repercussions of being sent home early, whatever the reason for it. I’m pretty sure I would have been—I suffer from bipolar disorder. It was only by a miracle that I found help and medication that effectively neutralizes the extremity of emotions.

And it was because of that miracle that I wanted to try to repay the Savior for what He did for me, and go about preparing to serve a mission.

I discovered the right moment to submit my papers in an unexpectedly concrete way. Related thoughts had been slowly bubbling up in those days, and one day I wrote in my journal the words, “I want to serve…” and stopped. For a moment I pondered what words should follow after: did I want to serve “a mission” or did I want to serve “God”? Both would have worked fine, but as an aspiring writer I wanted to use just the right words. I ended up scribbling, “I want to serve God and go on a mission.” This word choice may seem inconsequential to most people, but for me it proved significant. When I looked up D&C Section 4, the quintessential missionary scripture, it repeated back to me the phrasing I knew was influenced by the Holy Ghost: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.”

I knew it was time.

They were officially submitted by that next May, and like every prospective missionary I looked forward to finding out where I would go. My guesses were either Canada or Chile, where each of my namesakes (Elder Neal A. Maxwell and my Uncle David, respectively) were sent.

But the weeks passed, and the call didn’t come. After a few months, my stake president inquired as to what was going on. He discovered what has become one of the greatest ironies of my life: the medication that I take for bipolar disorder, the medication that saved my life and helped put my soul in such a state that I could be worthy to serve a mission, caused a red flag to go up in Salt Lake. Why? Because Geodon is technically an anti-psychotic medication. I wasn’t psychotic, of course, but how would the church offices know that? Revelation, sure, but they can’t take chances, and I’m sure even then the Spirit would have told them I wasn’t supposed to go. 

And so, after months of patience and quiet work and prayer, my stake president asked me how I felt about “not going on a mission and moving on with [my] life.” And because of that patience and work and prayer, I was prepared for this answer. I accepted it. I accepted it as a call to something else. Some other work.

After I made this news public, my sister Jen, who served in Japan, left this brief note on my Facebook missionary page wall, written as if extending a different kind of mission call:

“Dear Neal, you have been called to serve your mission throughout your entire life. You will be blessed for your service. Through your faith and prayers you will see much success. Keep up the hard work.”

Those words she wrote were a confirmation of the feelings I already had—that my mission was elsewhere. My duties and purposes were elsewhere.

This recent interaction with a returned missionary was not the first time Elder Holland has spoken to people like me. He also addressed us in October 2011 General Conference.

We also recognize that there are some who have hoped all their lives to serve missions, but for health reasons or other impediments beyond their control, they cannot do so. We publicly and proudly salute this group. We know of your desires, and we applaud your devotion. You have our love and our admiration. You are “on the team” and you always will be, even as you are honorably excused from full-time service.

When I first heard those words, I cried a little, there in the cultural hall. 

Others who have been given an honorable release from the responsibility of serving a full-time mission will testify that guilt can still enter in—guilt that you are not working as hard or sacrificing as much as full-time missionaries. Guilt that, somehow, you weren’t worthy enough to go or you weren’t as capable or as needed by the Lord for His cause.

There’s no easy answer to those feelings, other than to pray and further develop your relationship with your Savior. He will tell you when your sacrifice, even if it’s just your willingness to sacrifice, is acceptable.

And He will tell you, with the subtle whisperings of the Spirit, what you can do for His cause instead.

Because that verdict does not excuse us from other aspects of the work. Instead, it as an invitation to spend our own free time, our whole life, in service to God, in the ways He commands us through our priesthood leaders and personal revelation. Whether it’s through official channels and callings or merely personal promptings to use our talents to guide others to the Savior, we are all enlisted, we who have the truth. 

Though we may not be called to serve a mission, we are ALL called to serve God.

Killing Your (Spiritual) Darlings

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All of last year I’ve been engaged in an ongoing effort to get an agent for my novel, No RomanceNo Romance has been with me since Fall of 2011, when I began taking secret notes during my job as a cashier at Home Depot. I wanted to write a novel that would just be fun; my two previous efforts at writing a novel-length story had more (self-)serious aims and I just wanted to write a silly goofy rollicking adventure along the lines of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Satire of adventure stories and pulp fiction, kind of a riff on Indiana Jones and other action movies. Well, in the summer of 2012 I wrote that book, and it was indeed goofy. It was also self-indulgent, nonsensical, without focus, and just did not make sense to people not in my brain with me. When I got a group of friends to do a thorough developmental edit and beat-by-beat critique of the story for me (when I was still convinced the story was genius) I was brought very, very low by their honest reactions. I shelved the project and moved on.

A year and a half ago I returned to it with a new vision for the second and third acts. I rewrote them completely, this time with the experience gained from writing Sea of Chaos the previous year.  Having done so, and receiving positive critical support from some of the very friends who critiqued it so honestly the first time, I started looking around for agents. That was 2015. Let me tell you, the search for agents is painful and humiliating and disappointing. Especially when it lasts an entire year. But eventually you realize that maybe the problem is me.

I shopped what I had with my same writing group, and we realized some changes were in order. Again overcoming emotional lows, I implemented them to the best of my ability, but it still didn’t seem to work. A few agents who I thought would really appreciate it never got back to me, and my hopes were crushed. But just a couple of days before Christmas I got a personalized critique of my opening five pages from one last agent who I felt I’d been led to by the Spirit and who I JUST KNEW would “get it,” and suffice it to say, his rejection devastated me. I tried to convince him to read the rest of the first chapter, where I thought his concerns would be addressed, but he didn’t budge. He said he was going to go with his instincts. And boy was he right.

My wife witnessed my devastation and after I went upstairs to cry and pray and feel sorry for myself, did something miraculous. She read over the agent’s comments and opened up her own personal version of the No Romance document. Then, she took a machete to it.

The first chapter was virtually slashed in half. So many of my details were excised. The lines that I wanted certain characters to deliver to set up the themes of the book were gone. The chapter was stripped bare, not even its skivvies left on for comfort.

The very first time I read it, I was angry. I was offended. I was hurt. What had she, my beautiful wife, done to my book? Was what I had so awful? Was I that poor of a writer? I respected her opinion immensely. She was the best editor of her class at BYU. Extremely talented. And this is what she thought of my book? This was her remedy?

Then I waited. A couple of weeks. And I went back to it. And you know what?

It was ten thousand percent better than what I had.

There’s an old phrase in the storytelling profession, advice to new creative writers: kill your darlings. It means to be ruthless in your editing. Things you love, things that mean something to you, might be the very thing holding your book back from being effective, from being a great story. You might find them more dear to your heart than little Jimmy, but that can mean they stand out to readers like a sore thumb, or that they are getting in the way of a smoother yarn. And you have to be unafraid to kill them. Whether it’s with a machete or a scalpel, if you find yourself treasuring something that much, you very well might need to cut it out of your story. Keep your treasured things to yourself; others probably won’t understand them anyway.

So that’s why Nyssa did for me. She, the genius editor who saw what was there, what was possible, and trimmed the fat—which in this case was about two thousand words’ worth. She was kind enough to tell me that what I had written was not bad writing at all; it was simply excess and unnecessary to getting across the points I wanted to convey. And she was right.

She volunteered to continue the process with the rest of the book, per the agent’s particular suggestions. I allowed her to do so, and this time I watched. Not while she did it (that’s rude), but I compared what she had cut to what I had written. And I started to see it the way she saw it. And more importantly, I started to see it how the reader would see it, and how every agent I had queried over the past year had seen it. I started seeing what was necessary and what was just getting in the way, what was actually good prose and what was just me being in love with my own words—my darlings, you see. And I started to learn to hack and slash away for myself.

The photo at the top is what I did just today to a section that I determined for myself (Nyssa hasn’t seen it yet) was 80% self-indulgent navel-gazing bloat.

Of course, I didn’t only cut—I also had to sew together the pieces that had been ripped asunder. I replaced those longer paragraphs and pages with mere sentences and words, making sure it all still flowed, only this time uninterrupted by my literary excesses.

The results are getting high praise for the pacing and ease-of-read from my writing group every week. It’s been wonderful getting those compliments, but the credit goes to Nyssa for having that vision and having the courage to carve it down, knowing I’d be sensitive. She was the one that pointed out my darlings to me, and conveyed how much better my work would be without them.

I hope you already begin to see the spiritual side of this little parable. That we have our own little spiritual darlings, favorite sins that we hold onto because letting go, cutting them off, is just too hard and we don’t really see the big deal. Habits or behaviors or traditions that we probably have some inkling are ungodly but help us relax or deal with life’s problems and give us a little escape for a bit. Things that we treasure that we know don’t belong in God’s kingdom.

John Bytheway pointed out something very special about the prayer of King Lamoni’s father in Alma 22:

18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead.

Did you catch that? Lamoni’s father said, “I would give away all my sins to know thee.” What a perfect example of someone who has the courage to kill his spiritual darlings! He didn’t want to just mostly repent. He wanted to repent of all of his sins. Every part of him that would keep the Spirit out of his life. He wanted to root out of himself all ungodliness.

He wanted to tell a perfect story.

The spiritual darling I’m trying to develop the courage to cut out of my life at this time is a couple of sitcoms from the 80s and 90s. I used to watch reruns of them as a kid on Nick-at-Night, and when they showed up on Netflix I would go into phases where I’d just watch certain shows over and over—not just because they made me laugh, but because I enjoyed the company of the characters so much. I felt—and feel—less lonely when they’re around.

The problem is that those characters’ words and deeds are often anything but godly. And that constant ungodliness in the air gets in my system until I’m completely numb to the spiritual toxicity of it, and their behavior seems perfectly normal. I’m pretty sure my personal stance on the law of chastity won’t be changed by their actions, BUT—what am I doing hanging around people whose stances are in such direct opposition to mine? What am I doing patronizing a television show that probably contributed directly to the normalizing of casual sexual relationships in America? I don’t know, I like them, that’s all! When they’re not making light of sex, they can be pretty good and all right people!

So clearly, I’m still trying to deal with that. Comfort sins are indeed sins, but they are also comforts. Mac ‘n Cheese might be unhealthy, but it does transport you back to childhood for a time. Spiritual darlings might need to be excised, but they really are darlings.

But of course, reliance on such escapes is reliance on the arm of flesh—not on God. And I have to figure out how to emotionally detach myself from these television characters whose company I love so much. I have to learn to kill that darling of mine.

So take some time to do an inward search and see what your spiritual darlings might be. Then check if they’re getting in the way of the story the Lord is trying to write of your life. If they are…take up some fresh courage and with it a machete, and hack away. Your story will be better for it.

The God that Never Was

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In Season 2 of Doctor Who, David Tennant and friends come across this friendly fellow you see above. Through dialogue with a possessed member of their crew, they determine that he is none other than the devil himself. The Doctor ruminates on the possibility that there actually could be a Satan figure in real life.

The Doctor: You get representations of the horned Beast right across the universe in myths and legends of a million worlds. Earth, Draconia, Vel Consadine, Daemos… The Kaled god of war, the same image, over and over again. Maybe, that idea came from somewhere. Bleeding through, a thought of every sentient mind…

Ida Scott: Originating from here?

The Doctor: Could be.

Ida Scott: But if this is the original, does that make it real? Does that make it the actual Devil?

The Doctor: Well, if that’s what you want to believe. Maybe that’s what the Devil is, in the end. An idea.

In both the media and popular culture, whenever someone brings up “Satan” or “satanic,” they generally assume one of two portrayals, both of which are represented in this scene in Doctor Who. Either 1) he is the monstrous fire demon the picture shows, or 2) he is just an idea, the word we use for temptations, a kind of scapegoat we can blame in place of ourselves.

Both of these are excellent lies. If the devil (the real one, that is) can get us thinking that all he is is a terrifying looking monster, and his only followers are the kind of people that chop up their parents and listen to horrible music and drink blood at cult meetings, then he’s won a pretty great victory. “Satanic” to most people brings up this image, and so they’re not looking for satanic influences in seemingly more benign circumstances and events. That gives the devil license to roam freely, because he’s invisible. Likewise, the lie that there is no devil, only an idea, a symbolic figure that merely represents evil rather than one that effects it, then he’s also free to wander the earth and whisper to whom he chooses.

So, what does “satanic” really mean? What do Mormons mean when they refer to something that looks perfectly normally and ordinary—say, sitcoms or certain pop songs—as “satanic”?

When we say “satanic,” we mean something is 1) deceptive 2) manipulative or 3) limiting (that is to say, preventive of the soul’s progress).

Satan is a deceiver. The father of lies. He generally doesn’t manifest himself in obvious ways, by sending people under his influence out to just kill or hurt other people at random. That’s obvious evil, and can be stopped with a bullet. Satan is a lot more subtle than that. He is because it makes him a lot harder to track down and defeat.

The devil is a master disguise artist. The devil can be a gentleman, the devil can be beautiful, the devil can quote scripture and “transformeth himself nigh into an angel of light” (2 Nephi 9:9).

He can color a hundred truths with a single lie at the outset. That is perhaps his most effective technique—presenting the philosophies of men but mingled with scripture, and also presenting scripture mingled with the philosophies of men.

Take this story for instance:

Man administers LDS priesthood blessing along I-15 to car crash victim

Is the overall message good, even faith-promoting? Yes, of course! It’s a news story from a secular source that showcases the use and effectiveness of priesthood power.

But notice something else: Satan got a word in at the beginning that filters and colors the spirituality of the story to any curious non-member reading it. This priesthood blessing—the use of the same power God used to frame the heavens, licensed to be used only by those He authorizes—is equated with sending wishes out into the universe.

Kinda hampers the truth, doesn’t it? As long as you’re well-meaning, you go to heaven. The priesthood blessing is only worthwhile in that it’s someone being really positive about a victim of a car accident.

Now, I understand that the woman quoted does not understand the priesthood, and she shouldn’t be expected to. And she certainly is not satanic herself. She doesn’t mean ill; that’s not the issue. It’s not even the issue that she’s quoted in the article. The issue is that her perspective—influenced subtly, yes, by Satan (notice how ridiculous that sounds? that’s by satanic design)—is quoted first. And that quotation frames the rest of the story of this noble priesthood holder as just a well-meaning bystander who might as well have just thought positive things in the victim’s direction.

And so Satan gets in his lie before the believers get a chance to testify. The truth is therefore diluted, and the missionary effect of the article is diminished. Satan has achieved his goal.

When we finally see Satan face to face, the scriptures tell us we’re going to be shocked at how normal, how pathetic he looks: “Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms? And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners?” (2 Nephi 24:16-17).

He could be short. He could have curly hair. His features could be soft, and his fingers stubby. Whatever he is, he’s going to be a disappointment if we expect to see Rob Zombie or the villain of Blizzard’s “Diablo.”

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Ultimately the deceit is so great on so many levels with so many people that a moral and intellectual chaos results. Kinda like the one we’re in now—where moral relativism and the sexual revolution have destroyed any common values and orthodoxy that once guided our society as a whole. One can do as one pleases.

Including the devil. In times of chaos, he can step in and take control by appealing, Trump-like, to people’s worst natures, our animal instincts, the core desires that we are most ashamed of, which he tells us to instead embrace. That leads to such things as the current campus rape epidemic, but the discord is so great that no one even thinks to solve the problem with chastity. No, we want to be saved in our sins, not from them. Because now that we’re all down here in our natural man, we really don’t want to have to leave. We don’t want to have to change. So we fix our sights on targets other than the true culprit.

Look what the Joker did to Harvey Dent. In the chaos of his soul, Harvey didn’t even notice there was a devil manipulating him in that hospital, feeding him ideas. That’s the devil at his finest. When even the grotesque doesn’t seem evil anymore.

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(This is why I’m upset about the new Joker’s portrayal in the Suicide Squad trailer: he’s just a sicko who likes to torture. The real devil doesn’t just want to cause pain. He’d be perfectly happy if you felt nothing at all, as long as you didn’t notice he was ultimately leading you into hell to join him in his misery. Physical pain is not the same thing as eternal pain, moral pain, the pain and death of the soul. Heath Ledger’s Joker understood that.)

Everyone remembers the above moment in The Dark Knight: “Hiiiiii.”

Because we laughed! It’s ugly, horrifying, even traditionally satanic with its imagery—but it’s also somehow hilarious. And that makes him win, because we are laughing at reality being upended, at right being wrong and wrong being right.

Laughter disguises evil extremely effectively. Look at modern comedy. Arrested Development is hilarious! The cleverest and most wonderful comedy I’ve ever seen. It also shatters and mocks the law of chastity over and over again until you’re completely desensitized and numb to sexually explicit references and jokes. Sex is thrown from the pedestal into the gutter. And make no mistake: television leads the way. When we watch it, even if we’re not actively thinking “This is normal,” that’s slowly the perception we get. What they do on TV is what everyone is doing, what everyone is thinking, the way everyone else behaves. So why shouldn’t I do what they do? Why shouldn’t my values be the same as Sam Malone’s?

With one lie he’ll gradually introduce another lie, then a few more, until he has total control over our perception of truth. This can be intellectual, like with books and arguments and philosophies (Conversations with God might as well be called Conversations with a Being that Transformeth Himself Nigh Unto an Angel of Light, for all the half-truths in there that make Satan’s lies seem reasonable); or it can be purely physiological, like with addictions. Especially with addictions, I should add. Because controlling us, manipulating us, depriving us of our agency—the attribute that makes us most like God—is his entire goal. And addictions do that very thing: prevent us from making choices.

Addiction starts with a little dabbling, a little interest. But indulgences feel good. They become more and more frequent, we become more and more dependent, until the soft cord of flaxen around your neck becomes a chain. Any influence that starts or leads us along this path is literally “satanic” for that reason. It takes away our most godlike characteristic and prevents us from attaining more godlike characteristics.

Pornography is probably the most satanic thing there is on this earth. It deceives by lying about what sex actually is and is like and what we can expect from a sexual partner; manipulates by addicting the viewer to its poisonous nectar; it limits by preventing us from seeing other human beings as children of God, as potential gods and goddesses themselves, as souls rather than mere bodies, and destroys our most important relationships. It crushes God’s plan for us—and that is Satan’s ultimate goal. He wants to keep us from progressing, keep us as spiritual infants.

Why? Why all this? Who is he, really? What motivates him to do these things in these ways?

Let’s just take a brief look at his back story.

In the grand councils of heaven, when plans for God’s children were being made, Lucifer sought the position of savior. He introduced a plan that would give him the glory, and in particular him the very honor of God—which I interpret as being what makes the elements obey Him. In other words, Lucifer wanted to become God. Of course, in desiring such a thing, Lucifer disqualified himself from the running. Because in his mind, being God was the same thing as ruling, as having control over God’s children. In his plan, he would ensure they all received celestial glory, in essence depriving them of agency (another internally contradictory thing; one cannot achieve the status of a god without choosing it for oneself). Christ volunteered to be the Savior not because He wanted to reign over His brothers and sisters, but because He loved them, and the glory would go back to the Father. In wanting power over souls so transparently, Lucifer proved himself unworthy of godlike power before the test even got underway, and he was disallowed from even receiving a body—the point of which was to begin the journey to become like Heavenly Father. And so Lucifer was essentially the first to have his growth permanently stunted.

So why should Lucifer, now Satan, care to watch the rest of God’s children grow, and progress into the very heights he wanted to ascend himself, while he is kept below in misery? He doesn’t. He wants us to remain as limited as he is. And if he can get control over us in any way, he gets a taste of that “godlike” power he always wanted.

He is not God. But he is the god we let him be.

Don’t give it to him. Do not let him be your god.

Let him be the god that never was.

 

 

 

Super Crescendo Day

rubio_trump

Today is Super Tuesday. One of the two most crucial days in the presidential primary. (The other is the Tuesday two weeks from now, March 15th.) The Book of Mormon tells us that democracy is a good thing, because the voice of the people will, in most cases, choose good over evil.

Then it follows with a warning.

Mosiah 29:27—

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

Relevant, don’t you think?

I think some judgment will be refreshing to see, actually. It’s both a terrifying and exciting time. Terrifying because of all the awful things that will happen to both nations and souls. Exciting because the hand of God is going to be seen more and more prevalently until that great last day. My father-in-law, who is not a Mormon, commented recently to me, “It does seem like we’re leading up to a crescendo.”

The lines are getting sharper and sharper. The grays are separating, gathering into black and into white. That means it’s our responsibility now more than ever to stand up. To awake, and arise.

I think Judgment Day, when it comes, will happen on a Tuesday.