Our Accuser and our Advocate

I recently came across a treasure at the bookstore. A massive coffee-table (in deference to the Word of Wisdom: Postum-table) treatment of the major stories of the Bible. It contains photographs, historical background, maps and other great information. Fortunately, it was not priced by the pound, so I could afford it.

While flipping through it in the store, I came across a small comment addressing the words “Satan” and “Devil.” The editors noted that both terms are derived from words that mean “adversary” or “accuser.” That brought me to a halt.

As an attorney, I’ve always paid particular attention to the legal analogies used by the Savior in teaching the gospel. He and others refer to His role as a mediator, someone who bridges the gap between God and His children, who have become adversaries as a result of disobedience. In my experience, a mediator is a third-party neutral, a person who represents the interests of neither party, but is there to restore peace where there was conflict. His effectiveness lies in his ability to stand outside the dispute, never taking sides.

Other times, the scriptures focus on Christ’s role as judge in the great and final judgment that will determine the direction, or lack thereof, of our eternal progression. You do not need a law degree to understand what a judge does. He hears the case against you, and decides (or supervises a jury as they decide) whether you are guilty or innocent. If you are guilty (and in the case of sin, who isn’t?), he pronounces the judgment against you. Like the mediator, the best judge is impartial, applying law to the facts and announcing the result. He is there not to help you, but to measure you.

But there is a third courtroom analogy used to describe the Savior. He uses it Himself in a revelation to Joseph Smith in which he declares: “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father.” (D&C 29:5). The apostle John used the same example when he wrote that if we have sinned, we have “an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1).

The role of the advocate is one I understand quite well, because I take it up on a daily basis. Your advocate is more than a cheerleader or a representative. An advocate takes up your position and argues it as his own. He takes up your cause, pleads your case, and seeks to sway the hearts and minds of the judge and jury on your behalf. In a criminal case, he is all that stands between you and punishment, and he is sworn to do so, even if he has doubts of your innocence.

It is a powerful image, made more powerful when we consider that Satan’s very title includes the role of “accuser.” Many Christian faiths put a heavy focus on the “just” or “angry” God who looks upon our sins, proclaims our guilt, and casts us into a fiery pit for eternity if we fail to do His will. He often sounds much more like an in-law than our own father.

I think this image of God mixes up the players. Our accuser in the final judgment will be Satan, our adversary. He will point to the moments in our lives in which he successfully steered us into dangerous and forbidden paths and joyfully decry our failings. He will contend that our deeds have made us his.

Once his case is made, then our Advocate arises. He “appear[s] in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24). If we have given our best, and still fallen short, He still will argue our case. However, the winning argument will have nothing to do with our own behavior, because the truth is that, after all, we did fail. We did not live up to the standard set by Christ himself. Instead, He will point to the wounds in His hands, feet and side, and will plead that–for His sake–we be forgiven. By His sufferings, he has justly claimed us, and he will claim His right to bring us home.

His will be the most compelling case, in fact the only argument. that can be made on our behalf.

And it will carry the day.




Adam, Where Art Thou?

Going through the temple recently, I was struck by something in the story of Adam and Eve that never had caught my attention before.  Following Eve’s partaking of the forbidden fruit, and Adam following suit shortly thereafter, both of them become aware of their nakedness and hide from the presence of the Lord.  God searches for them and calls out for Adam, asking “Where art thou?”  (Genesis 3:9).

With the understanding that Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden is symbolic of all of mankind’s separation from God as result of sin, what caught my attention was who moved out on whom.  In all of our lives there are times when we become acutely aware of the distance between us and the Lord, whether as a result of transgressing His laws or through the spiritual atrophy that results from being too apathetic in our devotion.  At such times it is easy to feel abandoned, to believe that God has withdrawn from us and left us alone as a punishment for our sins.  Too often we forget that the Lord hasn’t moved.  We have.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they ran and hid.  But the Lord still sought them out, asking where they had gone.  I think that this same thing happens with each of us when we distance ourselves from deity through disobedience, doubt or even despair.  We find ourselves lost and alone, but that doesn’t mean that the Lord has given up the search.  No matter where we have hidden ourselves, He still calls out for us and provides a way home.  In the case of Adam and Eve, despite the fact that they were cast out of the Garden, they were not expelled from the love of God.  Through the ministration of angels and the promised atonement of Christ, the Lord followed them right out into the wilderness.

Recently I became personally aware of how the Lord continues to search for us long after anyone else would have given up the chase. I was assigned to home teach an elderly couple who had been faithful and devoted members of the Church for many years, but then due to a number of old and unresolved grievances withdrew themselves from active participation in the Church.  By the time I met them, they had not been to Church in years.

Not long after I was assigned to them, both my senior companion and I began to feel a pressing need to invite them back to Church.  The prompting would not go away, and so each month we extended invitations to them to come back.  Each was refused, sometimes with no small amount of irritation.  But with each declined invitation, the prompting to invite again was more powerful.  My companion and I both wondered aloud at why this seemed so urgent.

After several months of invitations, the husband became seriously ill, and his condition worsened with alarming speed.  Shortly thereafter, his family called us to the hospital to administer him one last time before he passed to the other side.  As we left his room and returned to the car, I could not get out of my mind how the Lord had not forgotten about this brother.  Few people in our ward would have known him if they had seen him, but the Shepherd remembered his face and He strove to the end to bring him back to the fold.

That impression has stayed with me and has provided me with considerable hope.  I understand better now than I used to that the Lord never throws in the towel on any of us.  Even to the last of our days He calls out to us:  “Where art thou?”  Like Adam, we need to own up to our mistakes and our fears and answer the voice in the Garden.