July 26, 2009

The War in Heaven

According to Mormon theology, we all lived prior to our mortality as spirits in God's presence. In this condition (referred to as the pre-existence) God sat in counsel with those who would go on to be great leaders in mortality, among them the premortal Jesus and the spirit whom Isaiah would one day call the Son of Morning.

At some point, God decided to enact a plan that would give His spirit children the opportunity to progress and be like Him. It required that they take on physical bodies and come to earth to live by faith and be tested. After hearing the plan, however, the Son of Morning sought to modify it. Essentially, he said: Put me in charge and I'll ensure that all mortals live sufficiently worthy to return to heaven as exalted beings.

God, however, would have none of it. Rather, He wanted all mortals to be free to choose their own paths, a condition that required them to make choices: good versus evil, virtue or vice. Angered by the decision, the Son of Morning left God's presence and took with him a third of the hosts of heaven. In the process he became Lucifer and--again, according to Mormon theology--the source of all evil, an enemy to God and the one who tempts mortals to sin.

If you're confused by this, you're not alone, since according to the account, a former stalwart in heaven:
  1. Heard the particulars of God's plan, but wanted to modify it so that all his spirit brothers and sisters would return to heaven (not such an evil objective--after all, missionaries hope to convert us all, too)
  2. Then, not getting his way, he became so angry that he left heaven to fight against God's plan
  3. But due to his new role as tempter and source of all evil, he makes it possible for mortals to have and make choices (after all, there is no freedom to choose evil, if evil doesn't exist)
  4. So each time he is successful at tempting a mortal, he works against the objective he proposed in council with God
When will it ever occur to Lucifer/Satin (i.e. the devil) that he can thwart the cause of heaven and end God's plan by withholding temptation? In other words, if he stops tempting people, they don't sin. If they don't sin, they return to God unblemished. That's exactly what he'd hoped to achieve in the first place! When I've pointed this out to my Mormon friends, they say, "Well, Satan is stupid and angry." But does that sound like someone who was once called Son of the Morning and a fallen angel? He has to be smarter than that.
Clearly the account doesn't make much sense, but that on its own doesn't concern me. As I've said elsewhere, many of the narratives included in the scriptures fall in the same category, yet may still contain lessons of value. While I don't take them literally, they can provoke productive thought. This one, however, is a bit different because of the worldview it engenders. While people should be worried about exacting some amount of discipline over their own passions and appetites, many are instead concerned about a shadowy tempter who is only mentioned obliquely in a handful of scriptural references. Let's not worry about the devil. Whether you do or don't believe in him, let's agree that it's in our control to live unselfish and compassionate lives.


Anonymous said...

There are "lessons of value" that can be accessed available in most works of fiction -- even some of the worst fiction.

From my perspective, religious people commonly error by exalting their preferred texts (and fictions) as "real" or fundamental "truth" -- which they know by "faith" -- even as they go to extremes to minimize and deny significant evidence to the contrary.

I think for the people making this error, faith serves 1) as an instrument of manipulation among religious leaders, 2) a shared individual comfort mechanism that serves systemically to sustain active ignorance (belief in fictions), and 3) a conveniently ambiguous claim to tribal identity (as in "people of faith").


Anonymous said...

I find it funny that the more one learns about something, the more they dislike it. But once they learn even more their opinion changes. Stuff like so include the idea of the Loch Ness Monster perhaps being true...if you search, you'll learn so much about the hoaxes it will make you believe it's fake. Search more and you find lots of surprising realistic data like sonars and sound recordings and pic shots of flippers underwater.

Even some stuff from the scriptures become surprisingly realistic as you learn more.

I test my faith all the time. And i find answers that later strengthen my beliefs. I think it is that which our creator wants, if he exists, and that's up to you as individuals to believe or not. I am not a blind believer, and as of now i'm still trying to figure out the answers to certain things which i disagree with.

Anyways, back on topic, i will use the example of The Flood narrative as back-up.

At first, us ignorant individuals may believe it happened just because we're told.

The more we search, we learn that it is (and was) scientifically impossible for the earth to be covered in a layer of water 8 kilometers high.

However, as you search even more, you discover that the hebrew word for "World" can also be taken to mean just "land", and then once you research more about the Black Sea and what happened around there around 5000 years ago, when The Flood supposedly occurred, you'll learn that during that time, "the fountains of the deep" did indeed flow into the Black Sea which was previously a lake, because gallons of saltwater cascaded into the lake from the Mediterranean Sea. And the "windows of heaven" were most likely "opened" indeed, and we know that such phenomenon is called precipitation. As we learn more, we find that Mt.Ararat lies in turkey, rather close to the Black Sea, and that the word "40 days and 40 nights" is biblical language for "a long time". Also remember that turkey lies close to the middle east, which includes Mesopotamia, where Noah's descendants later dwelled, judging from the tales of the Tower of Babel, and the claim that Abraham and his family left from the Mesopotamian city of Ur. Funnily enough, the Mesopotamians also have a similar narrative of a deluge, which leads to the understanding that, based on all the proof, The Flood did happen.

Now you mentioned of the LDS story of Lucifer's proposal.

As a defendant of all ideas, i like playing a two-way chess game with my self. I like to contradict my beliefs and later find if they can be contradicted even further. And eventually the answers are surprising. And to get the best results, we must examine all data, not negate parts.

Lucifer's supposed intent wasn't to just make up a perfect plan for all to reach salvation by destroying free will. He supposedly made the plan as a way to trick his own creator into awarding him, Lucifer supposedly even asked that he would do it if God later gave him a share of his glory. Obviously, according to the story, Lucifer's plan completely failed, and he was cast out. Do you really think he wants to stick to his intended plan, when the reason he made his plan was for the glory? The fact that he now knows that there's no way for him to get his coveted glory fully violates his desire to work hard for his selfish desires. He won't get the glory, he knows it, thus he no longer has a motive for fulfilling his original plan and instead took plan B, which isn't truly a plan, but more of a "I hate you, God! I'll do everything i can as a revenge for this!" sort of act.

I'm not saying the narrative is necessarily true or not, but you can't say that it contradicts itself in any way once you understand it in its fullness.

Now, on the matter of whether anything really happened or not, i won't say anything, that's up to the individual to believe. But i know that at least the story wasn't in error, whether or not the claim that it happened is false, that's another thing. But the story was not a contradictory idea.