Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Satan’s First Plan

March 07th, 2014 by G.

Council in Heaven

Here is a Mormon model of the pre-existence. Christ presented a plan for us to experience mortality and Satan presented an alternate plan. Christ’s plan allowed full scope for our free agency, so we’d sin, which He would repair by atoning for the sin. Satan’s plan restrained our free agency through repression and tyranny and disinformation/propaganda and who knows, so that we wouldn’t sin. We voted to accept Christ, but Satan and his followers wouldn’t accept the vote, like king-men. Consistent with their plan, like king-men they then went to war to get by force what they had lost by vote. They lost this confrontation too and were thrown out. But the war continues. It has become a bandit resistance campaign of subversion and sabotage.

The model is wrong.

There was no vote. God commanded us to go (see Rameumpton’s excellent comment here). We obeyed. Satan did not obey. He offered an alternative.

Satan . . . was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

Moses 4:1

Satan doesn’t say what his plan was. But it probably wasn’t a plan to use force and compulsion. Elder Oaks points out that force and compulsion can only limit agency. They can’t remove it altogether. But Satan’s plan was to destroy agency.

Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man

Moses 4:3

The only way to destroy agency is to take away law and right and wrong. So Satan likely planned for us to not be moral agents at all. “Do as Thou Wilt,” he would command, and then he would look after us. We would be his blue-ribbon show cattle. The real choice in Heaven was something like the choice in Toy Story II between a risk-free but sterile existence or a meaningful life of love, damage, and loss. See also the blog favorite “Nothing in Heaven Works as it Ought.”

Satan’s second plan to use totalitarian means—force and fear, corruption and bribery, comprehensive propaganda schemes—all that came later after the Fall, as we can learn if we pay close attention at a certain place. That was when his first plan, his failsafe alternative, had already been rejected and he had determined to subvert the Father’s plan to the extent possible to prove it was a mistake.

When people say ‘that’s Satan’s plan!’, they ought to say it to efforts to strip out consequences, to undermine standards so no one fails and no one’s feelings get hurt, to be less “judgmental” and more “therapeutic.” We are surrounded by both of Satan’s plans.

Comments (26)
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March 07th, 2014 12:47:25
26 comments

Zen
March 7, 2014

When we raise our hands in church, we are not truly voting at all. We are conscientiously acting in union, because unity is so important. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine”.


Vader
March 7, 2014

Excellent post, Adam. I can’t think of anything to add, really.


Bruce Charlton
March 8, 2014

@Adam – My feeling is that Satan revealed to God the Father, by his comment, that he (Satan) did not understand and/ or did not approve of the plan of salvation.

What Satan actually proposed was not possible.

Satan’s concern was revealed as being wholly about what people actually did (their actions) – which could be controlled.

Satan revealed by his statements that he was not concerned by Men’s souls – except perhaps taking pleasure in being able to coerce physical action (obedience) in despite of agency.

In other words, what Satan said he wanted to do was impossible (in that sense it was not an alternative plan to attain the same result – but a plan with a different aim altogether) – but Stan’s comment revealed the depth of Satan’s misunderstanding of God’s purpose, and indeed revealed his opposition to God’s purpose.


Adam G.
March 10, 2014

Bruce C.,
the idea that “Satan’s Plan” mostly relied on external coercion of what people actually did was a simplification that arose during the Cold War in response to Communism. This post argues that Satan’s plan is and was more complex than that. It involves not just external coercion but also propaganda and deceit, since reducing information reduces agency. It also relies on stripping things of their moral content and reducing the consequences of action, since free agency requires meaningful choices.

I think that it is dangerous for Mormons to think that Satan’s plan is just external coercion. Of the three methods of attacking agency, that is probably the least dangerous.


Bruce Charlton
March 11, 2014

@Adam. I suppose I cannot see how agency could itself be deleted since it is (I think) essential and eternal. Effective agency (depending on the ‘self’ which is a gift from God, a consequence of us becoming his children) could be attacked, but only by stripping away the divine spark – to which God would not consent. So what is left is a relatively ‘superficial’ thing, in the sense of manipulating action and loading choices while leaving agency/ free will intact. Yet I do perceive that this modern world seems to induce people to choose damnation, and I assume this choice is effective – so I suppose that the original Satanic plan could have been the opposite… I find it hard to reach a satisfactory conclusion on this.


Adam G.
March 11, 2014

Bruce C.,
I agree that the ability to will is inherent. But for that ability to mean anything, it requires an external creation in which to act and cause and experience consequences, and it requires a moral law that makes those consequences meaningful.

What I am arguing here is that coercing external obedience was only a late and secondary part of Satan’s plan. This post argues that trying to have the moral law not apply to humans, so that we had the status of animals with will and the ability to act but not the ability to act sinfully or righteously. In passing this post also argues that propaganda and lies are a totalitarian method of control that he favors as much as fear and coercion.

In a later post today http://www.jrganymede.com/2014/03/11/satans-plan-and-gods-silence/
I argue that overwhelming us with godly power and the obviousness of the good was another tactic that Satan tried to pursue. This would be a method of internal coercion, not external, because it would affect the will.

You are quite right that God wouldn’t permit any of these at a fundamental level and probably they’re impossible at that level. For instance, 2 Nephi 2 tells us that removing the moral law is tantamount to removing God. But its still helpful to understand what Satan is trying to do. It ties together a number of different threats. Instead of just seeing coercive measures as Satanic threats, we can now also recognize measures to strip actions of their consequences and of their moral value*, and even demands for signs and other extremely overt action by God, all as a suite of measures to undermine moral freedom.

It also illuminates the Garden of Eden story, I think. There is very little there about the evils of coercion. But there is innocence, and there are no bad consequences, and the two are inextricably linked.


JKH
March 17, 2015

“I argue that overwhelming us with godly power and the obviousness of the good was another tactic that Satan tried to pursue.”

But isn’t that an exact description of what Christ does in 3rd Nephi?


G.
March 18, 2015

@JKH,
I think you could make an equally strong argument that the 4th Nephi society was the result of a selection effect.


JKH
March 18, 2015

And the kids that died — on what criterion of selection were they killed? The death of the innocent children — and the overwhelming demonstration that opposition by anyone (“unrighteousness”) could result in summary death — could not help but have a chilling effect on the exercise of “agency” by the survivors. Does early 4th Nephi society fall within the Plan of Salvation — or does it lie without?


Zen
March 18, 2015

Miracles and angels might be expected to overide agency, but Laman and Lemuel (as well as many other examples) show that people are eminently qualified to ignore such things if they want to exercise their agency in contrary ways.

I would not put every death or injury up to an exact degree of righteousness. It was simply the more righteous part – I don’t think we are justified in saying that the righteousness of all who lived was better than the righteousness of any who died. As a group, those who lived were better, but not necessarily individually. Let us not imply mathematical precision where it was not intended.

In fact my experience is, no matter what happens or how I pray, God does not want to overwhelm my agency. If he does overwhelm it, it is very temporary.


G.
March 18, 2015

JKH,
I have no idea how “the death of innocent children” would have had a chilling effect on the agency of the survivors.
The reason I argue that 4th Nephi was mostly a selection effect is that the scriptures say they were:
https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/10?lang=eng


JKH
March 18, 2015

G.
I was thinking the children, being innocent (i.e. being children), did not die for their own misdeeds, but for those of others, most importantly their parents. Surviving parents of surviving children would be constrained in their agency by their love for their children. Put a gun to my head, and my sense of agency may remain robust. But put a gun to my child’s head — what then of my agency? That is what I meant. It’s a favorite and effective tactic of occupying armies, of dictatorships.


G.
March 18, 2015

I see what you mean now. I’d respond that children are always extremely vulnerable to the consequences of their parents’ choices, but parents keep on making bad choices.


JKH
March 18, 2015

My point with the children is not that they are vulnerable, but that they — and that wonderful human capacity for life-long love of ones own children — can be used to effectively thwart the free exercise of agency by their parents. Were the parents truly righteous/virtuous members of 4th Nephi society, or were their choices compromised — in a moral sense — by Christ’s “overwhelming display of godly power”? My greater point would be that the meaningful — in a Plan of Salvation sense — exercise of “agency” has been perverted/thwarted throughout history. Unutterably sad. And perplexing.


Bookslinger
March 18, 2015

JKH, your point harkens back to the non-believer’s trope of accusing God of the murder of innocent children who died in Noah’s flood. And it comes under the wider heading of theodicy. Non-LDS theologians and pastors have long had many satisfactory rejoinders as to why a loving God “killed” the children in the flood, some quite compatible and even in sync with LDS general authorities.

Your logic rests upon the assumption that dieing as a child (and by extension death by any means other than old age) is necessarily a bad thing. A belief in the God of the Bible does not necessarily preclude early or unfortuate deaths, or any other sickness, accident, or tragedy.

What you are essentially arguing is that _if_ there is a God, that he _must_ conform to _your_ notions of what a god should be and do.

But the opposite is true. Because _if_ there is a God, then he in fact and most obviously _does_ allow innocent children to die, and occasionally even has somewhat of a hand in their death.

The key to the conundrum is an understanding that mortality is but a tiny slice of our eternal existence.

Your problem/stumbling block is that he hasn’t _personally_ answered your question as to why. And… you have not sufficiently sought him out, to get to know him, his personaltiy, qualities, perfections, and attributes, in order to come to your own understanding of possible reasons. many theologians, including LDS apostles and prophets have put forth many possible answers/theories based on the attributes and purposes of God as revealed in the scriptures. yet you refuse to consider them because they ahve not first proved God’s existence.


JKH
March 18, 2015

Bookslinger

Are you talking to me? You make claims about me you can’t possibly know. I don’t know you, you don’t know me.


MC
March 18, 2015

Children suffer severely from their parents’ poor choices in all times and places. We warn people from the rooftops how they are hurting their innocent children, and implore them to repent before it’s too late, yet most do not.


John Mansfield
March 19, 2015

The first person who brought ideas like these to my mind was the celebrity philosopher Camille Paglia back in ’94. When I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, she gave a speech on campus that most of the undergrads attended—like a BYU forum in the Marriott Center, but with perversity since it wasn’t BYU. The campus newspaper reported on the event and provided some student responses. Paglia had praised Arab pederastry for the way it broadened the horizons of young men. A female student was quoted that she wasn’t sure if pederastry was a good thing or not because of issues of willing consent; coercion seemed to be the only identifiable moral wrong she could stand by, any others lying beyond her permitted grasp. Taking in this mess, I wondered: Was Satan’s plan in the premortal council the same as the one he’s snaring people with now?


Vader
March 19, 2015

An acquaintance tells me of a similar happening at a small but prestigious engineering school. One of the fraternities threw a Roman orgy in the courtyard of their house, and the dean of students walked in just at the right moment to encounter a threesome going at it in what was inarguably a public place.

The campus community was outraged for weeks. Because the girl in the threesome was 17, therefore underage, therefore not truly capable of consenting. Because it was unacceptable to find anything else outrageous about the incident.


Bruce Charlton
March 19, 2015

wrt death of innocent children in scripture.

The general point is that our knowledge that our God is a God of Love does not come from empirical investigation of the world, or from a survey of all the events described i scripture.

The origin of this knowledge is quite different – it comes from late in the history of God’s revelations – from Jesus Christ as reported in the Gospels and most clearly in the final and summating Gospel of John (and his first Epistle) – and (for Mormons) from authoritative modern revelations confirmed by personal revelations.

This is not the kind of knowledge that can be refuted by any specific empirical or scriptural incident, past present or future – especially when these are prone to being misexplained and misunderstood.


JKH
March 19, 2015

Bruce Charlton
How does the Jesus of 3rd Nephi qualify as a “God of Love”? An article by Joe Klein in this week’s TIME online mentions the “massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland” and comments “It may be argued that the massacres were necessary, that Israel could not have been created without them, but they were massacres nonetheless. Women and children were murdered. It was the sort of behavior that is only possible when an enemy has been dehumanized.” The key word here is “dehumanized.” Did the Christ of 3rd Nephi “dehumanize” the “unrighteous”, i.e., among other things, cease to respect their right as individuals to make choices (right or wrong, which is after all the whole point of exercising our “free agency”)?

And just as a side note, why is the Christ of 3rd Nephi never referred to by members of the Church, never meant when they use the term “Christlike”? You yourself (Bruce Charlton) refer to “Jesus Christ as reported in the Gospels”, but don’t mention the Jesus Christ of 3rd Nephi, although he has been specifically referred to in comments above and 3rd Nephi is a recent, specifically “Mormon” contribution to our knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.


G.
March 19, 2015

JKH,

I’ll think you find that we here do include 3 Nephi in our definition of Christlike. See also the hymn, Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.

Your fundamental problem is that, in my opinion, you misunderstand what agency is. Effective agency is the ability to make choices that have meaningful consequences. The destruction of inveterately wicked cities that continue to persecute and kill the Saints after having witnessed convincing miracles isn’t contrary to agency. It’s part of agency. Too many and too obvious/too direct consequences can stunt agency, but too few and too indirect consequences can also stunt agency. The balance to strike depends a lot on specific circumstances that will be much easier for God to know and understand then for us. Further, agency isn’t the only concern. Given all that, I am willing to defer to God’s judgment instead of insisting on my own.

The main reason we know Jesus is full of love for us is personal revelation. Personal revelation also testifies that the Book of Mormon is true. Those are incredibly strong reasons for believing that Christ’s overwhelming love and the destruction of the wicked in 3 Nephi 9 are compatible. If you can’t reconcile them at your current state of understanding, your current state of understanding is likely at fault. Put the issue on the emotional shelf for a bit, and do a little more listening and probing then arguing and insisting.

I am assuming, of course, that you believe in the Book of Mormon. If not, that puts your participation in this thread in a very different light. Please clarify whether you are a believer in the Book of Mormon or not before you continue to participate in this thread. Your participation is otherwise appreciated.


Vader
March 19, 2015

‘An article by Joe Klein in this week’s TIME online mentions the “massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland” and comments “It may be argued that the massacres were necessary, that Israel could not have been created without them, but they were massacres nonetheless. Women and children were murdered. It was the sort of behavior that is only possible when an enemy has been dehumanized.”’

Frankly, when a commentator describes the 1948 war in this manner, I’m not terribly inclined to continue to take him seriously.


Vader
March 19, 2015

JKH,

Can you clarify whether you are a believer in the Book of Mormon?


The Junior Ganymede
March 19, 2015

JKH posted two comments that were moderated because they evaded G.’s question.

JKH, before you comment further on this thread, can you clarify whether you are a believer in the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament, Jesus Christ, or God? Pardon the intrusiveness, but it will clarify the discussion tremendously.


bookslinger
March 19, 2015

JHK, I apologize for jumping to conclusions about you. If you were not playing the “But God kills innocent children!” card, then I totally misunderstood your comments.

Based on past experience/interactions, I have little to no patience for people who play that card.

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