Satan is the ultimate counterfeit; the perfect example of an inferior substitute.
What’s tricky about a counterfeit though, is it can be incredibly hard to catch. It takes acute awareness to be mindful of the many inferior substitutes around us.
I recently found a website that takes ‘R’ rated movies and edits them down to PG-13, pretty great right? So the first movie I bought/rented was V for Vendetta (sidenote: you can return the movie you buy for $1.00 less than you bought it for, so in the end it’s like you rent it, but they don’t get nailed on the copyright fees). I had always heard it was a ‘must see’ and I was pretty excited about it. After watching it, I was suuuper pumped up, (*spoiler alert) seeing as good rallies more good and is able to triumph over the evil that had overtaken the country. How’s that for summarization? I then told my dad about it and he too admitted it was all pretty exciting…yet he didn’t condone not just how they did it, but also why they did it. Even though they were fighting for something that would take out evil, the entire premise was based on fairness. He pointed out to me that fairness is the counterfeit of righteousness. Not all counterfeits are opposites, but the truth in the matter is always God’s higher law. I still enjoyed that movie, but my awareness was brought to a complete new realization. I am now really trying to be mindful of more counterfeits in my everyday life, and choose God’s higher law.
Pretty much what Eve did. In reference to this story Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilities are good; (while) neither is evil. Usually however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose …the greater law. That was the choice made in Eden.” Of the two things God instructed Eve, she chose the greater law- to have children. I can imagine it made things pretty confusing for her when Satan showed up. At the time, she didn’t know just who exactly Satan was. It really didn’t help that he was posing as a counterfeit version of Christ, the serpent. Christ? Serpent? Say waaa??
The truth is, the serpent is a very ancient symbol of Christ, which honestly surprised me.
In Andrew Skinner’s article, ‘Serpents, Symbols and Salvation’ he writes, “The serpent is often used to represent one of two things: Christ or Satan. [With] synthesized evidence from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Greece, and Jerusalem, we can explain the reason for this duality. Many scholars suggest that the symbol of the serpent was used anciently to represent Jesus Christ but that Satan distorted the symbol, thereby creating this paradox. The dual natu
re of the serpent is incorporated into the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon…Enough glimpses and echoes of the divinely intended meaning of the serpent symbol exist to enable us to make significant connections to Christ.”
This is exactly why Satan attempted to appear to Adam and Eve as a serpent, a being of light who had power and authority. He used a powerful symbol, one that Adam and Eve would have associated with Christ, to try to deceive and confuse them into doing what he wanted them to do (Brother Hugh Nibley has suggested that by the time they were tempted by the being who symbolically is called a serpent, Adam and Eve had concluded that they must partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Imagine Satan thinking he has entrapped them in his cunningness, but all the while Adam and Eve had already tapped into God’s will).
“Societies and scriptures of the Near East simultaneously attributed two highly symbolic roles to serpents. One role connected serpents to the heavens by having them represent deity, creative powers, and healing. The other linked them with the underworld and associated them with evil, harm, and destructive influences. We who live in modern times have no difficulty appreciating this double symbol because, in fact, this duality persists in our own day. The symbol of the healing serpent appears on the physician’s caduceus, while a person of disreputable actions—especially treachery— is sometimes referred to as “a snake” says Skinner.
Remember the story about Moses and the fiery serpents? After many people had been bitten and died, the people cried for help. Moses was instructed to wrap a snake around a brass pole and raise it into the air. All that would look up at it would live. So as Moses wrote the book of Genesis describing Satan appearing as a “serpent” to Adam and Eve his readers would have understood what that meant.
Just as Moses cured the Israelites from their poisonous stings by holding up a serpent on a staff, in Helaman 8: 14- 15 we are taught there too that Moses held up the serpent as a symbol of Christ.
“Yea, did he [Moses] not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.”
The question to ponder now- was Satan entirely truthful, or were they half-truths? I haven’t entirely come to an opinion on the matter, but it’s worth perusing.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die (Lie?) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Truth)” (Genesis 3:4-5)
One of Satan’s ruses is to mix mostly truth with a little error, so is that the case here in this story of creation?
According to the “standard” view of the Creation story, Satan mixed truth with falsehood in his assertions to Eve. On the one hand, Satan is seen to have told a part-truth in his assertion that Adam and Eve’s eyes would “be opened, and [they would] be as gods, knowing good and evil”; on the other hand, his claim that they would “not surely die” as the result of eating is taken to be deception pure and simple.
In a thoughtful book entitled The Savior and the Serpent, Alonzo Gaskill questions this picture of Satan’s deceptiveness, argues by saying that he was “actually quite accurate” in his statement about both matters. He says, “Scripture and rite tells us that Satan promised Eve two things: (1) that she would not die and (2) that, by partaking of the fruit, she would become as God is. It is commonly said that the promise that she would not die was false. However, the Hebrew rendered “ye shall not surely die” is more accurately translated, “in dying ye shall not die, but shall be as the gods.”
Thus, although traditionally we assume that Satan lied to Adam and Eve, it appears (from the Hebrew) that he was actually quite accurate in what he told them. In physically dying you will not permanently die, but will become as the gods (living eternally and potentially becoming as they are). True to form, Satan had taken a truth and applied it in such a way as to achieve his unrighteous purposes.”
“To fully appreciate Gaskill’s perspective, it must be understood that he takes the unusual position of interpreting the entire story of the Fall as being about you and me, the “metaphorical” Adam and Eve, and not about our first parents, the “historical” Adam and Eve. Thus, according to Gaskill, any attempt to use the biblical text or modern temple teachings to prove that the “historical” Eve was deceived—or to assert anything else about our first parents—is futile, as he sees the account as wholly applying to us.”
Yet even his disguise and half disguised lies were not enough to deceive Eve into blindly eating the fruit. What Satan’s efforts did do however was to beguile her. He made her question, made her doubt, and sent her on a soul searching journey. A journey where she became her most authentic true self.