In another post Matt posted these comments about what was said by Kent P. Jackson, a professor, at BYU, a college owned and managed by the LDS Church.
Jackson says that today’s Christian churches are “apostate” Christian churches that do not have the right God, “But God is not at its head, making that church—following the appearance in it of Satan—no longer the church of God.” Jackson clarifies, “To say that Satan sits in the place of God in Christianity after the time of the Apostles is not to say that all that is in it is satanic.” However, he provides no idea about how a church of worship can have Satan as its God and not be satanic.
My purpose is to answer the last sentence, although I should first mention that Jackson is a professor at a church-owned school, and not a leader of the LDS Church nor authorized to make doctrinal statements on his own. But that said, I don’t see anything he is saying that doesn’t jive with what I’ve heard from church leaders.
Mormons use the word “satanic” to mean different things in different contexts. In one sense, something is satanic if it is of the devil and pure evil. In another sense, something is satanic if it leads somebody away from the truth. Jackson is using the word here in its second sense, while Matt is interpreting it as being in the first sense.
Mormons do not believe that other churches are satanic in the sense that they are pure evil or that they are run by Satan himself, unless you’re talking about actual Satan worshipers. Mormons do believe that other churches possess only a portion of the truth that is available in the LDS Church, and that therefore these churches may lead people away from the greater truth. However, on the other side of things, these churches may lead people away from evil to a higher state than they were previously in. In other words, something could be “satanic” and “godly” in the same moment, depending on their influence.
Mormons believe the true church of Christ in the ancient world was lost, and that the Christian religion that took hold under Constantine was therefore “satanic” in the sense that it taught only a portion of Christ’s truths, along with many falsehoods. But if you examine the history of that church which became the Catholic church and led to Protestantism, you can clearly see that were it not for this church that Christianity would be virtually non-existent today, and in my mind the Christianity that exists in the world, even if it doesn’t have the whole truth, is better than no Christianity at all. It is this “apostate” Christianity that led to the founding of the United States, and without traditional Christianity it’s hard to see how the groundwork could have been laid that led to the environment in which the LDS Church could be founded, survive, and finally thrive.
Of course whenever someone hears their religion referred to as “satanic,” regardless the intended meaning of the word, it sounds terribly offensive, and I don’t really expect that my explanation will make you feel much better, although I do hope you can at least see that Mormons don’t mean ill by it. We’re not saying that anybody is a Satan-worshiper and evil, we’re just saying that other churches don’t possess the complete truth, which is no more than what any other church might accuse us of based on the differences in our theologies.