Jesus, Lucifer, and the Sons of God
“Jesus was willing to come to the earth, give His life for us, and take upon Himself our sins. He, like the Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments…. Satan wanted to force us all to do his will. Under his plan, we would not be allowed to choose…. After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, ‘I will send the first’ (Abraham 3:27)” (Gospel Principles, 14-15).
The LDS Church correctly identifies Jesus Christ as “Jehovah,” which was the name of God in the Old Testament (Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18). At the same time, however, Mormons are taught that Jesus Christ was simply the firstborn of Heavenly Father’s billions of spirit sons and daughters living in heaven. These spirit children included all those who would become human beings on earth as well as all of the rebellious spirits (demons) who would not have the opportunity to live mortal lives on earth.
Among these spirit offspring of Heavenly Father, according to LDS teaching, is Lucifer, known since his rebellion as Satan. As quoted above, Gospel Principles clearly refers to Jesus and Satan both as “sons” of Heavenly Father. This means, of course, that they are brothers. Earlier editions of Gospel Principles (from 1978 through 2008) stated this explicitly:
Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27)…. Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came… (Gospel Principles [1997 ed.], 17-18)
The new edition of Gospel Principles omits this reference to Jesus and Satan as “two of our brothers.” No doubt, the editors omitted these words because the idea that Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan sounds rather shocking. But is this still the LDS Church’s teaching? Yes, as the description of Jesus and Satan as “both sons” of Heavenly Father makes clear.
Some well-known LDS leaders have confirmed this to be Mormon doctrine. Spencer W. Kimball, for example, stated that when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, “a momentous contest took place between two brothers, Jehovah and Lucifer, sons of Elohim…. Satan, also a son of God, had rebelled and had been cast out of heaven and not permitted an earthly body as had his brother Jehovah” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball , 34). The LDS Church’s official website includes an article that states, “Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers.”
The LDS doctrine that Jesus and Satan (also known as Jehovah and Lucifer) are spirit brothers does not mean, of course, that they are at all alike morally. Mormons clearly understand Jesus to be sinless, holy, and perfectly good, while Satan is rebellious, wicked, and thoroughly evil. However, the Mormon doctrine does mean that Jesus and Satan started out, at least, as the exact same kind of being. Both of them were spirit sons of Heavenly Father, with the same nature and the same potential. The LDS website article just quoted explains that what made Jesus and Lucifer become such different beings was that they made different choices: “How could two such great spirits become so totally opposite? The answer lies in the principle of agency…. That brothers would make dramatically different choices is not unusual. It has happened time and again.”
Yet the Bible never suggests that Satan was ever, in any sense, the same kind of being as Jesus Christ. Jesus, in fact, is the maker of all angels (including Satan, the first fallen angel) and of everything else (John 1:3; Col. 1:16). Since Christ has always been God, even before creation (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5), he has always been the superior of Lucifer and everyone and everything else in God’s creation.
Nor does the Bible ever say or imply that Satan ever had the potential to become God, although he may have thought so. Many Christians think that what Isaiah said about the arrogance of the king of Babylon—that he imagined that he could make himself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:13-14)—is likely descriptive of the arrogance of Satan as well. Even Gospel Principles cites this passage as explaining Lucifer’s fall (16), although Isaiah says nothing about him wanting to be the savior or force us to do God’s will. That Satan became the devil because of an arrogant desire to be God’s equal is therefore a better explanation than the theory that Satan rebelled after God rejected his plan to save everyone.
We explained in our study of chapter 2 of Gospel Principles that human beings are not by nature God’s children. Those who believe in Jesus Christ become God’s children by being “born again” by the power of the Spirit, and God adopts them as his “sons” (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 3:26-4:7; 1 John 3:1-10; 5:1-2). We also saw that human beings did not live in heaven as spirits and then receive mortal life on earth; rather, we are by nature mortal human beings and our existence begins here (Genesis 2:7; John 3:31).
The Bible does speak of a host of heavenly beings as the “sons of God” (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). Some of these “sons of God” were rebellious, as was true of those who sinned with the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6:1-4. Others of these “sons of God” were righteous, as was true of those who “shouted for joy” when God made the world (Job 38:7). It is interesting to note that Job was not one of those “sons of God” who witnessed the creation of the world. Here is what Jehovah (“the”) says to Job from the whirlwind:
Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
(Job 38:2-7 , emphasis added)
The question, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” is a rhetorical question to which the expected answer in context is “Nowhere.” Job does not know what he’s talking about when he questions God, because Job wasn’t there when God created the world and doesn’t understand all that God did or how he did it. The “sons of God” were there, shouting for joy at God’s work of creation, whereas Job, untold millennia later, is complaining about the way God’s creation works. These challenging words of Jehovah take it for granted that Job was not around when he created the world and therefore was not one of those “sons of God” who witnessed creation. Of course, this is the obvious explanation for why none of us remembers being there—we weren’t there!
The Gospel Principles book misunderstands this passage, then, when it states, “When the plan for our salvation was presented to us in the spirit world, we were so happy that we shouted for joy (see Job 38:7)” (13). Look back over Job 38:2-7, quoted above, and you can see that the passage says nothing about us being there and in fact assumes that Job (who is one of us) was not there. It also says nothing about God presenting anyone in the spirit world with a plan of salvation. Throughout the entire chapter, God contrasts his absolute knowledge and power displayed in creation with Job’s ignorance and inability to control the forces of nature.
The book of Job speaks of Satan as coming with these “sons of God” before Jehovah in heaven (Job 1:6; 2:1), which some people think means that Satan was one of these heavenly “sons.” That is one way of reading these verses. On the other hand, it may be distinguishing Satan from the sons of God: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6). Either reading is possible, because not all of the “sons of God” were good.
What is quite clear, however, is that Jehovah is not one of these “sons of God.” Rather, he is the God before whom these sons assemble. In these passages, Jehovah (whom the LDS Church recognizes was Jesus Christ before he became a man) points out that Job was his servant and feared him (Job 1:8; 2:3). Satan is completely under the control of Jehovah, who allows him first to take away what Job possesses but not hurt him. Jehovah later allows Satan to hurt Job but not kill him (Job 1:12; 2:6). We see here very clearly that Jehovah and Satan were not brothers—not even estranged brothers—but rather that Jehovah was God and Satan merely a rebellious creature. Like a dog on a leash, Satan could go no further than his Master, Jehovah, would let him.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus Christ is God’s “Son” in a unique sense that sets him apart from and above all the angels. Those angels might as a group be called God’s “sons” in some general, figurative sense, but as the book of Hebrews points out, God never said to any individual angel, “You are my Son” (Hebrews 1:5). Angels are God’s “sons” only in the loose sense that they are spirits whom God created as his servants (1:7). Jesus, on the other hand, is the divine Son who alone receives worship from all of God’s angels (1:6), rules as God forever (1:8), made the universe (1:10-12), and sits at the Father’s right hand, on the very throne of God (1:13). These truths about Jesus Christ reveal that his status as God’s “Son” is that of an equal—someone who is himself God (1:8; see also John 1:1; 20:28; Philippians 2:6). This is not true of the angels, nor will it ever be true of human beings, even those saved through faith in Christ.
The LDS Church correctly teaches that Jesus Christ came into this world to be our Savior. LDS teaching about the meaning of what the Savior came to do, however, deviates from the teaching of the Bible. The Mormon understanding is that we lived in heaven as God’s spirit children and that he sent us to earth to live mortal lives in order to “prove ourselves worthy of exaltation” (Gospel Principles, 13). The “gospel” is the message of Jesus “which tells us what we must do to return to our Heavenly Father” (16). Jesus’ part in this plan was to take our sins on himself so those sins would not disqualify us from returning to our heavenly home. “It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation” (16). By exaltation, as Gospel Principles explains later, the LDS Church means becoming all-knowing, all-powerful gods like Heavenly Father, with our own creations and spirit children (chapter 47, pages 275-77).
The Bible’s understanding of what Jesus came to do as our Savior is quite different and flows from what the Bible says about who and what we are. We are not heavenly beings sent to earth as a proving ground to attain exaltation as gods. Rather, we are earthly beings whom God created to love and serve him in this physical world, but who rebelled against our Creator (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:7; 3:1-24; Romans 1:20-25). We are ungodly sinners, enemies of God, deserving of his wrath, but Jesus Christ came to reconcile us to God by dying on the cross for us (Romans 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 Peter 2:24-25). The gospel is not a set of instructions for how we can “prove ourselves worthy of exaltation,” but a message of forgiveness and eternal life with God given to those who do not deserve it and can never be worthy of it (Matthew 9:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). Jesus Christ, who is God’s unique, divine Son, is the only heavenly person to become a human being. He did so in order to be the Lamb of God for our salvation. As a result, he is the only man (because he is far more than a man) who “is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).
For Further Reflection
- Were Jesus and Lucifer ever equally God’s “sons”?
- Were human beings among the “sons of God” in heaven when God created the world?
- In what way is Jesus Christ uniquely God’s Son?