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DAVID - What does the symbol of the serpent represent in the religious world?
JOEL - It depends on the culture and time. Among the Lamanite descendants of Lehi, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, became a symbol for the great White God who had ministered among their ancestors. It was called Kukulkan among the Maya. For the Hopi indians the serpent represented fertility.
In the Bible the serpent represented Satan who was cursed because of what he did in the garden of Eden:
"And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:" (Gen 3: 4)
Satan is known as "that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies" (2 Ne. 2:18; D&C 76:28)
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt 23: 33)
Contrast this where in in the Gospel of John 3:14–15, Jesus makes direct comparison between the raising up of the Son of Man and the act of Moses in raising up the brazen serpent as a sign, using it as a symbol associated with salvation:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life". (John 3: 14)
In one case it represents Jesus being raised on the cross and in the other it represents the evil who are destined to be damned. Symbols can have different meanings to different people and according to different circumstances. The meaning depends completely on the context within which it is spoken.