Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Satan’s Plan and God’s Distance

March 11th, 2014 by G.

burning bush

The concept of glory is all over the scriptures. Glory is mentioned over 600 times in the scriptures, honor is mentioned nearly 200 times, and related concepts like praise and worship and worthiness are also hit pretty hard.

So it was discouraging when I realized I didn’t know what glory way, and so it was encouraging when I came on a simple definition of glory that made sense. In short, glory is earned love. The man who has glory is the man who excites admiration because of his merits. (See more here). Having a definition for glory has opened up the scriptures to me.

But my definition does not fit the scriptural usage perfectly. There are still a number of scriptures that talk about glory like it was some kind of shining stuff, maybe a spiritual substance.

And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shone with his glory.

That was an example. Perhaps its metaphor, but this passage and many others speak of God’ glory as something great, terrible, and blazing, in the presence of which none can stand.

Here’s another passage of scripture that’s been on my mind. It’s also about glory. Pay attention, poppets, it’s the passage this post is about:

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which 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.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down.

This story makes sense with my basic definition of glory. Satan wanted to do something praiseworthy such as saving everybody, and wanted the praise to go with it. Christ was willing to act as a Savior without the glory (which, ironically, was a more meritorious attitude than Satan’s, which meant Christ got the glory and Satan didn’t). (While I’m doing asides, let me add another one: isn’t this passage fuel for the fire for the folks who argue that God’s power consists almost entirely of his moral character? I think it is, seeing as how in verse 1 Satan asks for God’s honor and in verse 3 God says Satan asked for his power. Honor is power.)

But using that basic definition, what does glory have to do with destroying free agency in verse 2? If you understand glory as God’s visible godliness, then Satan asks for glory not just because he wants it, but because he needs it. He wants to come down among us in the full blaze of God’s glory, which will ensure that we will all be saved. Because living in the presence of Godly glory, none of us will be able to sin. Satan’s plan is to strip us of our agency by making goodness too obvious.

One of the complaints against God is that He is so far away and so hidden. He has to be.

Apply it to the Garden. God withdrew while Adam and Eve were tempted. Probably he had to. Having eaten the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, they had to depart. It wasn’t an arbitrary punishment; it was inherent; knowing good and evil and staying in God’s presence were incompatible.

Apply it to salvation. If only the good can survive the presence of God, then in the day of judgment whatever parts of our character that we have let become sinful will be blasted away. Only those have been wholly committed will be able to remain whole. Some of us will become crippled innocents and some of us will become Saints.

Comments (21)
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March 11th, 2014 08:17:06
21 comments

Agellius
March 11, 2014

“… in the day of judgment whatever parts of our character that we have let become sinful will be blasted away.”

Purged, you might say. : )


Adam G.
March 11, 2014

There are similarities, but I think I’m talking about something different here than purgatory. Purgatory is another name for a sanctification process that continues after this life, which I think most Mormons essentially believe in. It’s not uncommon to talk as if it could take millions of years for many of us.


Vader
March 11, 2014

Billions, for some of us.


Agellius
March 11, 2014

Purgatory is a sanctification process often depicted as the burning away of impurities or inordinate attachments. “Burned”, “blasted”, what’s the diff? : )


Adam G.
March 11, 2014

Purified means the affected quality is purged of its impurities and distortions but still remains. Blasted means the affected quality is gone. If thine eye offend thee . . .

I am speculating, or maybe just creating a rhetorical figure, not asserting a truth. But my speculation would be impossible in Catholicism (I think) because the end state is binary. Heaven or hell. Whereas in Mormonism being a crippled or partial angel is thinkable.

To put it in your terms, think of Dante taking a tour of hell that wasn’t really bad, except that at each level the dwellers were all defective because their peccant part had been removed. Here the castrati who sinned through lust, there the lobotomized who sinned through intellectual pride.


Agellius
March 11, 2014

Now I see the difference. Thanks.


Bookslinger
March 11, 2014

AG: shades of TK smoothies.


Vader
March 11, 2014

“Here the castrati who sinned through lust, there the lobotomized who sinned through intellectual pride.”

It would seem I have a head start on the process.

Seriously, this is more terrifying in a way than fire and brimstone.


Bruce Charlton
March 12, 2014

Speculation time!

Part of this is understanding who are angels and what are they doing? The usual assumption is that angels are a separate order of beings who are perfect (i.e. don’t make mistakes, always do the right thing).

But if angels have the same ultimate origin as humans, then they may well be learning and progressing – which means that, even if their motivations are perfectly good, they themselves can and will err from incomplete knowledge, skill and so on.

The angels which humans encounter may be of different types – pre-mortal humans who declined incarnation, post-mortal humans who are highly progressed and serve as messengers and instruments of God’s will, and post-mortal humans who are much less fully progressed and who do ‘prentice work which is useful to us, yet also a training for them.

Angels are helping us; but perhaps some are also engaged in an educational process for their own benefit.

“Here the castrati who sinned through lust, there the lobotomized who sinned through intellectual pride.”

It follows that our most avid reader from Minas Gerais, Brazil, will be resurrected with no tongue or middle fingers.


Adam G.
March 12, 2014

That makes a lot of sense to me too, Bruce C. This life is a preparatory state and we are told to learn charity and patience in it.

Books,
that’s where I got the idea.

Vader, it frightens me too.


Bruce Charlton
March 12, 2014

@Adam – Aside from the weirdly-tangential comment above – I was struck by your main point about the presence of God’s glory being so ‘dazzling’ as to render null the exercise of free will. That seems right.

This may also be the reason why (it seems) so much of God’s work on this earth is done by intermediaries – by angels. (Who are themselves almost too glorious and dazzling as it is, by all accounts). That, and the question of small adjustments within mortal life perhaps requiring interventions of similar (not overwhelming) strength… But my sense of God’s direct action as lacking ‘finesse’ may quite likely be simply a failure of my knowledge and imagination.

I don’t respond to the ‘blasted away’ metaphor, however. Somehow it doesn’t ring true. Would this blasting be the kind of thing a loving Father would do to his child?


Vader
March 12, 2014

@Bruce,

What I think the Jack-Booted Administrator is referring to is an incredibly vulgar former commentator on this site whose IP address is registered in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

We still regularly get rude comments from him, in spite of the fact that they are automatically filtered and never appear in our public comments threads.

It’s not just our site, either. The fellow is becoming notorious.


Adam G.
March 12, 2014

Bruce C.,
Your point about the ministrations of angels makes a lot of sense. It’s also suggestive that at the day of judgment we are told the 12 apostles will be the ones actually doing the judging. Or that in the temple ceremony you have to pass by guardians and angels before you are admitted to the presence. It seems to offer one last chance for the exercise of free will (or of self-preservation, maybe). It is also suggestive that the Holy Ghost is only spirit and doesn’t have this effect on us, but suggestive of what I don’t know.

When I say “blasted,” I don’t mean a volitional process. There are plenty of scriptures that say sin can’t exist in God’s presence. The implication is that its simply impossible. That’s where I got the blasted idea from. A loving Father who doesn’t want to blast his children has to keep them in exile. Though a loving Father could still ‘blast’ if the blasting was surgical in nature. I speculate here that it is.

On the other hand, it may be a failure of imagination and knowledge on my part, since obviously the Holy Ghost does have a presence with us without overpowering us (though its presence is modulated down quite a bit to be tolerable).


Bookslinger
March 12, 2014

AG: the influence/effect of the Holy Ghost is in degrees, from a mere hint of a whisper of a hint, to a baptism of fire that burns away the effect of sin from the soul and transforms the very blood.

In regards the First Vision when the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith, one may ask “What about the Holy Ghost, where was he?” my answer would be that he was there too, and had “fallen upon” Joseph. Otherwise, the glory of the Father and the “full” glory of Jesus (other mortals had previously tolerated Jesus’ presence in “mundane” circumstances where the Father wasn’t present) would have burnt Joseph to a crisp, or “withered” him as Moses described.

Angels and the Savior (as on the road to Emaus) seem to have the ability to contain or mask their glory and appear as mortals. We have no record, scriptural or other, that indicates the Father has done so.


T. Greer
March 16, 2014

This has been an interesting series of posts Adam. I would like to hear your perspective on how all of this fits in with the Melchizedek Priesthood, whose stated purpose is to bring man face to face with God–i.e., remove the distance you speak of.


Adam G.
March 16, 2014

I’m interested in your own initial answers to that question, T. Greer.

Thinking out loud, I am struck by the co-incidence that (1) the thing that keeps us from God is his glory and (2)the fact that in my schema priesthood is a form of glory, since its continuance depends on God’s valuation of your worthiness. Does having glory of your own make it easier to bear and embrace God’s? My own mission was hard and I didn’t really make a triumph of it, but I stuck it out. Since then I’ve had spiritual intimations that having seen the elephant in a small way, I am a member of the fraternity of Christ.

One other thought: the Melchizedek priesthood works in quorums and is the priesthood that seals and binds generations together. I know that humans tend to take on roles in different social settings. I have experienced that I am a better, happier man in quorum settings. Is it possible that we may collectively be more able to bear God’s glory than we are individually? There are some obvious resonances to some views of the Atonement where we take on a partnership with Christ. Also to the Prophet Joseph’s teaching that we can’t be saved without our dead, nor they without us. Also to sealing being a necessary ordinance for exaltation. Now that I think of it, there are also resonances with another idea of mine that heroes and role models are stepping stones to understanding the Christ and the Father, since they are too much to really grasp on their own. But when you admire and respect your father for his work and self-control, and through him you come to really admire and respect George Washington, say, you then are prepared for that flooring moment when the Spirit brings to mind your admiration and respect for them and shows you that Christ’s achievement encompasses theirs.

I notice that both of my suggestions have ended with experience of Christ-like character and deeds causing a greater understanding and therefore embrace of Christ. But in my schema, understanding and admiring someone for their character and deeds is the definition of glory. Does the Melchizedek priesthood *inherently* lessen the distance simply by making us better understand God by doing what he would do? Maybe glory is only “lethal,” so to speak, when we are afraid of it, but when we come to love and embrace it, which is the same thing as being part of it, even if we ourselves aren’t worthy, to the point where we can say of the experience of his presence ‘though he slay me, yet will I love God,’ then in a dominical paradox his glory is no longer dangerous to us?

These are half-formed ideas, even more so than the posts.


Vader
March 16, 2014

Would that the half-formed ideas coming off the top of my head were like this.


Bookslinger
March 16, 2014

Spencer Kimbal taught in his book “Faith Preceeds the Miracle” that there are three prerequisites to miracles: Faith, Humility, and Devotion to Righteousness. Being in the presence of godly glory is essentially miraculous, whether it be the visitation of an angel, the immediate presence of the Holy Ghost (by that I mean when the Holy Ghost “falls upon” someone, not mere _influence_ of the Holy Ghost), or a visitation by the Savior or Heavenly Father.

By inference, I would conclude that either lack of faith, or lack of humility, or lack of devotion to righteousness precludes us experiencing divine glory.

None of those three keys/prerequisites requires perfection, per se, but rather complete and utter dedication, at all costs, in all circumstances.

And those three keys/prerequisites are acquired/exercised in degrees; such that to the degree that one exercises them, one may be qualified to experience that degree of miracle/glory.

Joseph Smith taught that if we were pure and righteous enough, the angels “could not be restrained” from appearing to us. (Quote may not be exact.)

Joseph Smith attempted to teach and lead the saints not only to salvation in the highest heaven, but to have their calling-and-election-made-sure while still on the earth. That sealing event, if I understand it correctly, does involve the presence of heavenly/godly glory, though not necessarily that of the Father.


Zen
March 17, 2014

In same vein, we would do well to remember the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, as it relates here.

33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. D&C 84:33-34

While Hell is described in terms of death, fire and destruction, Eternal life is referred to as ‘Eternal lives’.

Likewise, we told there are bodies Telestial, Terrestrial and Celestial. The meaning of all of this is quite beyond me, except that I know that God is quite serious both in his generosity or seriousness of consequences.


Adam G.
March 17, 2014

Excellent, brothers.

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