Genesis 3:15 is puzzling. It tells us that God punished Satan for his subterfuge in the Garden of Eden by putting enmity between us, on the one hand, and Satan and his seed, on the other. But if, as Ephesians 2:15-16 and D&C 101:26 make clear, Christ came and will return to put an end to enmity, why introduce it in the first place?

Some have read the enmity mentioned in Genesis as our hatred of evil. If that is right, then our enmity toward evil is one of the most important gifts we have. In fact, perhaps it is the most important gift, since without it we would be unable to recognize the truth. Without the ability to recognize truth, all other gifts, such as the Gospel, would be inaccessible to us.

Nevertheless, the hatred of evil may also be one of our most dangerous possessions. Hatred is that by which Satan rules the earth. It is the origin of most, if not all, of the blood and horror we see in world history and in the news today. Our natural hatred of evil becomes that by which we are turned against one another.

All that turn requires is that we see the difference between us as the difference of evil and good: I am on the good side, even if I am not perfect; the other person is on the evil side, even if she may have some good qualities. When we see another as evil, then our hatred of evil easily becomes hatred of that other person. The gift the Father has given to save us, becomes something by which we try to destroy each other.

It is easy to see that hatred and enmity toward one another in politics. And we needn't go to Washington to see differences about matters of policy become expressions of hatred. Almost any city or county in the U.S. is a good place to find it.

It isn't enough to believe that a candidate for office or an office holder understands what needs to be done differently than I do. The temptation is to go beyond that recognition of difference to an insistence that only someone of a defective moral character could hold my opponent's position. And if she is an immoral person running for office to foist her immoral plans on the rest of us, then I'm justified in hating her. In fact, my God-given enmity for evil requires that I hate her.

It is also easy to find enmity in other places. It is in many people's reactions to immigrants. We certainly see that misplaced hatred in the attitudes that people of different races have toward one another. We see it in white people who refuse to remember the origins of the poverty and degradation in which some black people find themselves and use that degradation and its results to make excuses for their hateful behavior and attitudes. We find it in black people who use their oppression and the oppression by their ancestors' masters as an excuse for enmity toward white people.

We see enmity in men who are unfair to their wives and other women, and who invent excuses for their unfairness by blaming their hatred on the women they abuse. We occasionally see it in women who allow the injustices they suffer to justify hatred of men. We see it in abusive parents who tell us that they are only giving their children "what they deserve."

But it is not only in events outside the church that we can see the growth of enmity.

Our supposedly righteous anger against such evils as too-easy abortion always threatens to slip into enmity toward those who honestly disagree with us about the issue. When that happens, we have allowed evil to use us as its tool. When evil rules us, then even the church is a vehicle for Satan's work.

Our supposedly justified hatred of evil can sometimes issue in hate toward others in the Christian church at large or within some particular church. Because of enmity, the church can be divided by factions, each faction insisting it has the truth and, therefore, that any other faction is evil. The consequence is hatred of one Christian by another, of one religious person by another. Christian unity disintegrates; we are no longer the body of Christ.

For Mormons enmity can raise its head when we speak of other Mormons whom we imagine, rightly or wrongly, to be a threat to the Church. Those with politically conservative views can be hateful and sometimes even threatening toward those with more liberal views. In turn, those with more liberal views can be condescending toward their more conservative brothers and sisters, and such condescension is only a barely disguised kind of supposedly sophisticated hate.

Sometimes a person will take up relatively minor doctrinal questions, like that of evolution, and they will make it a test of faith, assuming that any who disagree with them on the issue aren't real Mormons. Sometimes we react toward women in the Church who are concerned about women's issues as if they are our enemies or enemies of the Church, and sometimes they respond in kind. In spite of the fact that we probably would not use the word hatred to describe those relations, I don't think that word is too strong. We may keep our enmity civil, but it is still enmity.

10/24/2012 4:00:00 AM
James Faulconer
About James Faulconer
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.