Do you hate the devil because of his temptations and the evil he works in the world? Or do you hate him because people use him as a tool of fear and control, or as an excuse to not take responsibility for their own moral choices? Or do you simply think he doesn’t make theological or historical sense? I know I don’t believe in the multi-headed being stuck at the bottom of Dante’s nine levels munching on Judas Iscariot and other traitors, nor the pitchfork wielding, spiked-tailed, red skinned being gleefully dragging souls to hell, but I have to say that I find the figure of Lucifer in the premortal councils very compelling, and I want to tell you his story:
The tiniest bits of matter said yes, we will join together. They did it by copying each other–the simplest choice that says “I see you”–and as they did new structures arose. In time these structures became universes. Universes formed more universes, or broke apart again into chaos, until intelligent life emerged and began shaping its own future. These intelligences became the Gods, alive since “the beginning” since they were formed from living matter, but now in new forms–no longer a sea of chaos. Finding great joy in their new knowledge, power, and family, they invited more and more intelligent matter into their family, extending the joy of creation to more and more beings–a joy that could be fully tasted only by self-aware structures, beings who had chosen to be, and chosen to love.
In giving the knowledge and power of creation to newly formed intelligences–beings who hadn’t gone through the ages long process of finding the love needed for universes, lives, and Gods to flourish–these Gods gave a short-cut to their new children. These children could learn the power of creation, and destruction, without having lived through all the consequences of choosing good and ill. And here we meet Lucifer, Son of the Morning. We also find ourselves.
What do we see? Our glorious, intelligent, good brother Lucifer. The brother who soaked up everything his parent Gods would teach him, and passed it on to us, his adoring siblings, so we could all rejoice in the secrets of being. But there is this nagging hardness in our parents’ call to create, reproduce, and love. Not all of us would choose what it takes to become Gods. Some of us will refuse the hard choices. Is there no other way? Lucifer said there was. “Why can’t you just make everyone become Gods?” he asked our parents. It doesn’t work that way. “Why not? Just because you didn’t get where you are without great pain and loss, why do we all have to go through that? We know so much more now. You taught it to us. Why do any of us have to suffer like you did? You’ve given us all the knowledge to live forever and make new worlds. Why should anyone else have to suffer in the process? Why can’t your glory be given to all without passing through the evil? Isn’t that what you want? All of existence to be glorified and share in your majesty?”
I can imagine these questions pulling at our hearts. I see us looking at what our Parents had done and wanted us to do, and realizing that it would work. Lucifer’s plan would work. Our Parents could bring us to where they are–or very close–without the pain, the loss, the evil. My earthly parents didn’t raise no fools, and I find it hard to believe my Heavenly Parents did worse. But Lucifer’s plan says, this is enough. We need only get here, no further, and eternal life will be good. Exaltation is a state. Static. Unchanging. A state can be reached. We need no more to find eternal joy. But our Parents saw more. They reached their glory through ceaseless striving and boundless loving. They were not at the end of creation, but moving through it headed to a destination even they had not yet fully imagined. The laws of being were not encompassed in their knowledge, but only explored to the horizon, and as each horizon was reached a new one appeared. They had learned to love the journey so fiercely that they wanted all to come see. Come, follow Us. Join Us. Join Us in a quest, not a destination. Help Us find new horizons. Help Us understand new laws, since not all the laws of Nature even exist yet. Help Us shape the unrealized future. Lucifer’s plan could make us Gods, but would damn us at the same time. We would not flow into the unknown future.
So some of us stepped forward, understanding–or at least trusting–that there was no other way than to learn of good and evil, life and death, sorrow and joy. Having fallen from grace, Lucifer refused to pass through the pain, but he had no qualms about helping his foolish and trusting siblings to experience it. So he said to Eve, there is no other way. You must learn of evil to become God. And God rebuked Lucifer for tempting Eve. And Lucifer said, “I’m just doing your job. That’s what you want. That’s what you learned before, and what you taught people on other worlds.” And it was true, but our Parents taught with love, Lucifer with spite. Lucifer learned the error of his ways as our Parents let him grow no more. They granted him no more power, having seen how Lucifer would use it to damn all new creation, and for perhaps the first time Lucifer felt misery. But it had been his own choice. It was in him so completely that our Parents could not undo it. They could not make him love agency, so they had to stop his power before he destroyed eternal progression in the name of ending sorrow. He could not become the God he was born to be, or he would destroy countless futures. This sorrow of lost children could not be avoided by our Parents who knew that they could not deny agency–the reality of the very stuff that makes us–and knew that endless joy came only with eternal progression.
So Lucifer makes sense to me. I’m agnostic about a tempter who speaks to our thoughts. I’ve seen enough of evil people that I find it simple to imagine evil among spirit beings. I also find it inconsistent to believe that God can speak to our spirits, however you interpret spirit, and not allow the possibility that other unseen beings can also speak to us. I’m sure some of my acquaintance say none of it is from unseen beings, but I’ve already given my reasons for finding that improbable, pessimistic, or a concession that the future is completely determined and all meaning is finite. The Lucifer that makes sense to me saw a real, possible future where pain and sorrow were absent. He only failed to believe that Joy (like work) is not a state. Joy is inseparable from process and is meaningless without change. He mistook the passing state of our Parents as an end, or at least convinced himself that such a state would be a sufficient end.
I’ll admit, this Lucifer makes less sense in the presence of an all-knowing God who understands every law of Nature and can predict the entire future. In this heaven, Lucifer and a third of our brothers and sisters would have to be truly foolish or willfully rebellious with no hope of success. On the other hand, in a world where our Parents could share all Their understanding except for Their experience, in a world where the laws of Nature are emerging and even being shaped by the intelligences within, I can see Lucifer saying, “Look, I’ve done the calculations. This would work based on the very knowledge you have given us.” Lucifer simply extrapolated to one of the possible futures. That it was a future without a future didn’t matter. That Lucifer would be choosing a state and not a process, would be limiting agency, would be limiting reproductive rates, and might be limiting the amount of intelligent stuff that could be invited towards Godhood didn’t matter. Suffering and pain would be avoided. His power, and maybe ours too, would be assured.
But our Parents had evolved into and chosen an open future. An unknown future where agency had full reign. A world where every being willing to join it would be enabled to maximize our potential. A world where joy and sorrow coexist and are found in becoming, not in being. A world of hope and great knowledge, but not of certainty. Never of complete certainty. A world where perfection is not a state to be achieved, but an undertaking possible in the now but never finished. And true love means not letting Lucifer or anyone else stop this journey, even as it breaks our Parents’ hearts, and forever will, to watch their children choose an end to their growth.
Very interesting thoughts, thanks for your incites. One of the things I struggle with along these lines is why is it that some people experience much more pain and suffering than others. I do not buy into the “Saturdays Warrior” paradigm. I see have known to many truly spiritual people who seem to struggle in this life both physically and materially. Are you familiar with the “Mindful Mormon” he has a piece on Lucifer that interesting. Thanks again for your post. It is always fun to see insightful ideas from anther bearded Mormon!
I’m not familiar with the Mindful Mormon. I’ll see if I can find the post.
As to the unfairness of evil, I have answers that satisfy me intellectually, but when I encounter pain I don’t think they are worth much. I suppose they are enough for me to not give up on God.
This version makes the most sense to me, too. It reminds me a bit of Elder Oak’s parable in his talk “The Challenge to Become” (2000) in which a father desires to give his son all that he has. But he knows he can only do that if the son has the right experiences.
Outwardly, the premortal life must have looked a lot like the goal that the Gods were offering: We already lived with our Heavenly Parents and siblings. We were apparently sufficiently free of sin to be in their presence. And we already contained our divine potential. All that would seem to be lacking was a physical body, which should have been easy enough for beings able to create the universe to simply forge for us. I can see how Satan would prioritize keeping all of that rather than risking it on this mortality thing. But preserving that would have meant stasis (as you’ve clarified well here). So, it took faith to choose to take the plunge and trust that (a) it would be possible and (b) it would be worthwhile.
I will say, I don’t think that negates the possibility of omniscient Gods, only of our ability to know their omniscience perfectly. How could we know that they would create a perfect plan (and that Christ would participate perfectly) before it had happened? I think our lack of knowledge is where the faith comes in, regardless of how much the Gods did or didn’t know.
Thanks again for this great piece.
Intellectually I can’t see a way around omniscience implying determinism, and I find that incompatible with any meaningful notion of agency. So I throw out such a concept of God as unimportant. If my future is predetermined in every detail, I may be making choices, but I’m not changing it. So I choose not to worry about that possibility despite its being a real possibility.
The entire "Satan" concept makes absolutely no logical or even dogmatic sense given his "history" and purpose as found in Mormonism, which when simply examined falls apart all by itself.
In Mormonism, we are taught that Satan (Lucifer) rebelled against God's (and/or Jehovah's) Plan and chose to do all he can to destroy it by testing and trying us… by tempting us to commit sin. This is what provides the needed "opposition in all things" required for us to prove our faithfulness so as to "endure to the end" and, thus, be found worthy of being exalted. This is the role Satan plays in literally helping us gain that ultimate goal. In other words… by this Plan of Salvation, Satan becomes absolutely NECESSARY to that Plan.
Further, in the Temple we learn (sorry if this is a spoiler) that Satan already knows that this same Plan, in the exact same way, is "… the same thing which has been done in other worlds" Thus, this is the EXACT same Plan of Salvation that has already proved successful "in other worlds".. and that Satan KNOWS this and therefore knows his side has NEVER won.
Thus, Satan knows he cannot win by this Plan. Yet, contradictorily, God and us cannot win by this Plan WITHOUT Satan.
Given all this, were Satan real and determined to destroy God's Plan, as we are told… then why doesn't he?
All Satan has to do to win over God… is to simply stop filling the role of the Adversary as the Plan requires! By no longer being the Adversary in God's Plan… that Plan… must… fail. And without Satan, there is no need of a Savior to save us from a Satan that no longer exists. And if Satan were, indeed, as crafty and intelligent as he is claimed to be, he would have figured this out millennia ago… and if not, then I have just revealed the means by which he could win EVERYTHING he wants.
The fact that temptations and Life's tests continue despite Satan already knowing this… only evidences if not indisputably proves that Satan does NOT exist.
Richard, it looks like you edited your original post and it kept the two earlier versions. I hid them, but can put them back if you want.
I had several similar thoughts about how dumb Satan would have to be to do what he did–and how dumb the third of our siblings would have been to follow him. What I discovered as I imagined what it would take to become the fastest reproducing, evolving Gods in an evolving (and thus not completely determined) cosmos, was that any successful Gods must be radically selfless. But if their power to create and destroy was not directly tied to selflessness, then it would be possible for some beings to game the system. They could pretend selflessness and love just long enough to come into their power, and then do whatever they wanted. One solution to this is Gods that test potential Gods in a setting where the benefits of love vs. selfishness are ambiguous so we show if we value love for its own sake or for the reward it brings. As we have learned, there is no other way. Under these conditions, it would be possible to make Gods (having power over life and death and creation and destruction) who don’t love sufficiently to be reproductively successful. A plan like Lucifer’s could bring “exaltation”. It would be glorious for some, but reproductively unfit and a dead end for life in the cosmos.
So I may have thrown out some of the LDS exegesis that is completely nonsensical, but I arrive at a story that matches quite closely the events described in the Plan of Salvation. I just give different, and I think better, reasons. Lucifer and his followers don’t have to be idiots. They just have to be a little too selfish.
I guess I see this as a third alternative rather than accepting the either/or proposition you are arguing.
Nice post Richard. But methinks that even if he did stop assisting, our own capacity for evil would live on. What say you?
This was a very nice post to read. It wasn’t the typical post trying to figure out the aspect of agency that Lucifer was trying to destroy, or how he would try to save everyone. The problem I seem to have with that common approach I guess is that from personal experience I feel that it ultimately seeks to find salvation in perfection of the law. Now, I have no problem for someone to walk perfectly without sin, but I think the proper paradigm is to focus on Christ, not the law.
I also think that you are gravitating towards the right interpretation that it wasn’t just what Lucifer sought to destroy in agency, it was in his aim of self-glorification. Glorification became the object, not the experience. The lesson or experience was Gods object for us to become like him. And this condition continues to be pervasive in men, and if one will, ought to be the main lesson about Satan’s war on agency.
Words have meaning and context in the Book of Mormon (which is why I think it is such an amazing work) and they are a key to understanding. When Lucifer says that he will save all that not one shall be lost, lost is referring to the lost and fallen state. Many miss this and focus on the saving of everyone as if God has no love or mercy.
In that thread I also want to point out a possibility that you might not of thought of. That God knew a portion would rebel in heaven, and that his plan made a provision for them as well. When God caused that Lucifer should be cast out “by the power of Mine only Begotten”, I ponder what this power to cast out is. Isn’t it the power to cast off and redeem? I also read somewhere along time ago so but forget where, that someone else had come to this conclusion as well. The person who responded to it, I think a member of the twelve simply stated that it wasn’t a component of the curriculum to teach or something to that effect. And I suppose it isn’t but it does add a little flavor to the story you have proposed and to me it points to the mercy, wisdom, and love of God in his plan of salvation which began not just here on earth, but the moment it was unveiled. Because in the moment it was unveiled, it caused (causation?) change in paradigm to begin among the intelligences, consequentially, and so it began.
Matt is right I think that if Satan were to go away, there would still be evil, we would still be lost and fallen. But I have to wonder what the name change is all about for Lucifer to Satan. Is Satan a designation and not an actual person?
Like a DBA company: Jim Banks DBA Jim’s Plumbing. Jim’s plumbing can go out of business, but Jim’s still alive and kicking (hopefully). These roles are caused by the plan of salvation and it’s the economy of this growth experience and lesson, so to speak. But as an experience it will eventually all come full circle and each act must be accounted for. God doesn’t leave any loose ends and there are ultimately no uncertainties because the object of the plan to gain experience is not an uncertainty. It’s a perfect plan that foresees all eventualities. It does this because the plan itself created them and answers them. So, what happens in between the beginning and end (I guess) is mainly just the experience. All we get to choose is how we want to respond to and interact within that experience. We get to test the consequences in a relatively short span of time, of life with and without God.
I suppose that it does say something about us if we continually choose God but I’m not sure what. Because anything I come up with could cause me to boast.
Interesting thoughts, Mike. I am pleased when people arrive at the same conclusions as mine for different reasons. It increases my confidence I might be close to right about something. Especially when I can’t possibly know many of these beliefs with any certainty.
As I understand it, Lucifer, Satan, and the Devil are theological developments that happened in different time periods and were sometimes conglomerations of ideas that we don’t generally believe in as LDSs. Satan and Lucifer were both titles, I believe (Satan was for sure), that had little to do with modern presentations of the Devil. That was a medieval development, I think.
I can imagine the choice to come to earth as an ongoing process. I don’t see any reason why we all had to choose it at once and then just wait our turn. Some people could have chosen it long before others–especially if the Gods are continuously creating new children. Leaving Eden is something each of us had to do, not just Eve and Adam. I also don’t see why Lucifer or any of his followers couldn’t change his mind.
As to Christ’s power to cast out, this is a troubling detail in my story, still. I can understand the need to prevent the selfish from becoming Gods, and I can even make an argument as to why the first Gods would have been radically unselfish, but I’m proposing that the Gods are intervening and short-cutting the immensely long natural/undirected process of becoming Gods. My story says that at certain points an individual’s progression (which was unnaturally sped up by the Gods) is suddenly halted by those same loving Gods. Some individuals are denied the chance to get bodies (at least until they pass a test). Others are denied the ability to create worlds or other spirits (until they pass another test). I can rationalize the tests, but I can’t point to a mechanism for preventing progress outside of the system. Once you give Lucifer the knowledge of how to be a God, how are you going to stop him? And once you even give him the knowledge of how to learn to be a God, what will stop him? It might take him longer, but is there a way to stop him without active punishment, and thus coercion? I can’t picture it, yet, and it’s a loose end.
I very much enjoyed this. Having read several of your posts around the web, I’m now wondering when you’re going to publish a book on Mormon theology. I’d buy it.
Jonathan, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your posts. Like Benjamin, I’ll buy your book.
I look at it this way, Lucifer saw two options in order for God’s Great Plan to work. We were presented with the option of either to Act or be Acted Upon to reach Godhood, like unto our Heavenly Parents. Lucifer, in his limited understanding and faithless fervor, declared that if left to Act, surely many of God’s children would be lost. He therefore suggested the other approach, they must be Acted Upon.
The problem was that Lucifer had neither the understanding or the faith to trust that Heavenly Father would reach down and mercifully Act Upon those children who Acted in discordance with Celestial Law. While Lucifer thought it was either or, Heavenly Father was promising that He would do everything to not only preserve His children’s Right to agency ( the ability to Act of their own volition ), but to Act Upon them by sending One to save them. Lucifer’s perception of the One, was to be the compelling force to bring about universal salvation, irrespective of Agency. He foolishly saw himself as the One who would work out salvation for God’s children, as if he Acted independently and therefore deserved the glory. But Jesus recognized that it was only through willful submission (both an Act (will) and to be Acted Upon (submission) ) to Heavenly Father’s will, would The Great Plan of Happiness come into effective fruition.
Lucifer lacked the faith to comprehend God’s grand design, and his fall is infinitely tragic, whereby he is becoming more and more that which he foolishly aimed to create: a being purely Acted Upon. Unfortunately for him, his punishment is to be Acted Upon towards his own dissolution as an agent unto himself.
I always thought Satan "won" by keeping us from returning to God's presence. If he stopped tempting us, and your argument assumes that his influence is the only way by which we sin, then we would be vacuously righteous and can go back to God. So he loses. On the other hand, Matt's comment implies we have an inherent capacity for evil, so now I am wondering what role Satan plays in addition to our own tendency for sin… When I sin, is it my own tendency for evil, or was it Satan tempting me? At any rate, now I know what to research next time I study the scriptures.
Sarah McBride Luo,
I don’t think my argument assumes Satan is the source of all sin. Maybe I can improve my writing if you explain where I state this or how I imply it.
As I think about my model, sin is the result of individual choices, and it includes whatever choices keep us from eternal progression. Whether Satan tempts us or not isn’t really relevant. The literal (or potentially literal, to be more precise) Lucifer I describe could serve the same role without any power to tempt another, except perhaps his words that were spoken in the pre-mortal councils. There is no silent whispering of spirits in our minds required. While I don’t dismiss the possibility, one could without doing any violence to my story.