Agency and the Plan of Salvation

Before the world was, so say the prophets and prophetesses, our spirits dwelt in a heavenly sphere. As the world was to be made, the two eldest spirits came before heaven’s host assembled and presented two grand plans for our future mortality. The vision of the first was one of unity, a chorus of souls bringing glory to God through perfect obedience, from which there could be no deviation of individual will. By contrast, the vision of the second appeared to be cacophony. Mortal souls, empowered by agency, would be free to act, in turns, more righteously, and less. But out of that cacophony would come true harmony of independent voices, and it was clear that the exercise of agency had the potential to bring glory to God far beyond what its abdication could ever achieve. In simple terms, the unity plan would produce only Terrestrial Glory. The harmony plan, by contrast, would result in multiple degrees. Unfortunately, in addition to Terrestrial Glory, a lower Telestial Glory would be introduced. But without the lesser, the greater Celestial Glory would be impossible. A war of sorts ensued, as the host weighed the visions. Ultimately the second plan prevailed, and through the eternal principles of angelic democracy, agency became the foundation of the future world’s constitution.

From this tale, we understand that agency is at the heart of our earthly experience. The plan of salvation and exaltation hopes that we individually will bring glory to God (becoming godlike) through our agency. While it is generally understood that agency can be judged on an axis of righteous to unrighteous, it is almost as frequently forgotten that agency must also be judged on a second axis. As the competing plans in the preexistence clearly teach, agency can either be exercised or abdicated. It is impossible to bring the highest degree of glory to God, no matter how righteous our action, if we fail to exercise our agency and instead abdicate it through perfect (and therefore blind) obedience to authority.

Thus among the three degrees, obedience brings Terrestrial Glory without regard to the righteousness or unrighteousness of our actions, since we have abdicated our agency to authority. It is only through the exercise of agency that individuals and leaders can participate in Telestial and also Celestial Glory.

Discuss.

New Plan of Salvation Diagram

Comments

comments

53 comments for “Agency and the Plan of Salvation

  1. Rico
    November 16, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I am not convinced by the argument that abdication was Satan’s plan and that this would have led to a terrestial world. I would favour Kathleen Flake’s interpretation of Satan’s offer, namely that, ‘Lucifer’s plan to be “the one” was ultimately an attempt at regicide, even patricide, at unraveling the order by which life is engendered.’

    I see Satan’s offer as ultimately destructive of all life-giving capacities and a complete collapse of the freely chosen inter-dependent relationship that characterises divinity, in this I obviously follow Ostler’s view of divinity.

    Your diagram is very provocative though and I would argue that your primary insight that rejection might be a more noble use of agency than apathy to be compelling. I just could not accept the pre-mortal life to be the source of that insight.

    The rejection of the lukewarm in Revelation might support your argument but then I think we have to consider the reasons for people’s tendency to abdicate and whether they are based on uncertainty or hope or just a general malaise. If someone murder’s my daughter I could positively choose to reject God and murder the murderer or I could choose to forgive or I could fail to choose either and struggle to know what to do and by default do nothing. Should I really condemn the person who struggles to decide over the person who enacts revenge or even over the person who choose to forgive?

  2. Last Lemming
    November 16, 2009 at 11:31 am

    The way I put it is that under Satan’s plan, everybody would be saved but nobody would be exalted. I’m not sure that maps into degrees of glory precisely as you have depicted it, but you have the right idea.

    (The reason I think the mapping might be different is the issue of children who die before they become accountable. Having no real chance to exercise agency, they would receive a terrestrial glory in your scheme. To those of us who accept the 137th Section of the D&C, that doesn’t work.)

  3. November 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    The biggest problem I see with your analysis isn’t a big problem for me, but the logical next step is that the two critical elements in achieving Celestial glory are the exercise of free agency and righteousness. I love that it exalts the individual actor over the collective masses. If you act with righteousness and agency, therein lies heaven.

    It is Joseph Smith’s story culled down to its most fundamental. The individual takes on all of organized religion and overthrows it. Great concept, resonates with my Mormon and American upbringing. This appears to be the path to ultimate glory. The obvious dilemma is the constant conflict between an individual’s agency and the organization’s authority.

  4. November 16, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Check out Harold Bloom’s The American Religion: The Emergence of The Post-Christian Nation. Bloom (Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale) traces the development of the idea of personal God who can be used as a resource for advancement by motivated individuals. Bloom shows the development of this idea by Mormons and Southern Baptists but also by Pentecostals, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists.

    The most interesting part is that idea of man as free agent is more Gnostic than traditionally Christian, and it has a traceable history. It came into American consciousness around 1800 from specific historical events and sources. Anyone who wants to understand the antecedents of the Mormon doctrine of agency should really read Bloom’s analysis. The book is still in print and available from Amazon.

  5. November 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I haven’t read this one, but Philip Lee’s Against Protestant Gnostics looks as if it might be relevant. It’s interesting how even the language used to profess faith in public has moved toward the gnostic view. Mormons routinely say “I know” instead of “I believe” when bearing witness. Lee sees this as a heresy and argues the point.

  6. Rob Osborn
    November 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    You mentioned- “The vision of the first was one of unity, a chorus of souls bringing glory to God through perfect obedience, from which there could be no deviation of individual will.”

    I would tend to disagree. It was common knowledge that there would be a fall (through choice and sin) in the council in heaven, and so it was brought up “who” should go and redeem men from their already fallen condition which they, by choice, had fallen due to choosing sin over righteousness.

    What did Satan want? He wanted the kingdom- to rule over it in an unrighteous dominion. He wasn’t going to save anyone, that is why a few verses later he is called a “liar”. He wanted immortality and a human body, but he wanted to drag the children of God down to hell and reign over them personally forever having trapped them in everlasting chains of darkness (sin). Being held in the “chains of hell” is effective destruction of ones agency- no longer to freely act and choose, but instead being chained down in torment from which their is no escape.

  7. Rob Osborn
    November 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    One clarification to my last post- I said-

    ..and redeem men from their already fallen condition which they, by choice…,

    I meant this in future terms when man came into the world and had thus become accountable and had fallen due to sin- that moment.

  8. brjones
    November 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    “What did Satan want? He wanted the kingdom- to rule over it in an unrighteous dominion. He wasn’t going to save anyone, that is why a few verses later he is called a “liar”. He wanted immortality and a human body, but he wanted to drag the children of God down to hell and reign over them personally forever having trapped them in everlasting chains of darkness (sin). Being held in the “chains of hell” is effective destruction of ones agency- no longer to freely act and choose, but instead being chained down in torment from which their is no escape.”

    Just curious as to where you got this from, Rob. Not saying you’re wrong, but I’ve just never heard this before.

  9. November 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Rico (1): Although we use the word “Terrestrial” to refer to the middle degree of eternal glory, I’m not sure that it’s meant to imply a “terrestrial world.” I’ve often heard it described that the Telestial degree will be more glorious than the most beautiful place in the world today, that the Terrestrial degree will be more glorious still, and so forth.

    Your point about the difference between failing to exercise agency because of general inactivity vs. failing to exercise it by actively abdicating it is well taken. I’ll have to think more on that.

    LLemming (2): Good point. I think this highlights a theological problem. If there is a necessary purpose in the mortal test, gaining experience, then how it is possible to circumvent it and attain the highest degree without having been accountable? Like you say, if one accepts D&C 137, one can be so comforted, but I don’t think the mechanism is understood.

    Ulysseus (3): True.

    MoHoHawaii (4-5): I’m actually writing from the library of the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri, today, so I went over and pulled the book off the shelf. I’ve always found Bloom thought-provoking, so I’m interested in taking a look.

  10. Thomas
    November 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    #1: If someone murder’s my daughter I could positively choose to reject God and murder the murderer…

    Not sure that to kill a daughter’s murderer (assuming the state fails to live up to its social contract to do so on my behalf) would be to “reject God,” or that the killing (in that limited circumstance) should be called “murder.” See Genesis 9:6.

  11. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Re #2

    “The reason I think the mapping might be different is the issue of children who die before they become accountable. Having no real chance to exercise agency, they would receive a terrestrial glory in your scheme.”

    Thanks for bringing up this question. While I was on my mission in Japan, we were talking to a man about the plan of salvation and he indicated that given our description of the options, the best option to assure that everyone reaches the CK (as gruesome as it sounded) is to end lives before the age of accountability. Sort of like the tale of Masada, where those chosen by lot ended the lives of all the Jewish holdouts before they could be conquered by the invading Roman army.

    Obviously he wasn’t prepared to hear our message, so our discussions with him ended, but I was interested in preparing myself to better explain my way out of that discussion, should it happen again. Like a good missionary, I brought it up with the mission president during an interview, but he reply was terse and a bit reproaching that the thought was so ridiculously absurd that no answer theologically derived answer was necessary.

    Even now I am puzzled by this. If exercising agency is necessary to achieve exaltation, then children who die before the age of accountability must be tested. But, if they are to receive a true test, then some must fail. This would undermine our current understanding that all are saved in the CK.

  12. hawkgrrrl
    November 16, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    “Even now I am puzzled by this. If exercising agency is necessary to achieve exaltation, then children who die before the age of accountability must be tested. But, if they are to receive a true test, then some must fail. This would undermine our current understanding that all are saved in the CK.” Elsewhere, JS stated that parents who had lost children would have them back to raise later on. Personally, I think he was just being kind, not prophetic, in saying that. But if you take him at his word, that second opportunity could be a mortal probation. If so, what is the impact of being raised by resurrected parents? Is it like being the bishop’s kids, only worse?

  13. November 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Rob (6-7): Of course we have to reconcile the imagery of “dragging the children of God down to hell” with the vision of the eternities as realms of glory, where even the lowest radiates with the brilliance of the stars. I think we aren’t too far apart where I’m suggesting that abdicating agency is not godlike behavior and you’re stating that the metaphorical chains of hell are actually the destruction of agency.

    For the rest, I’m wondering if you aren’t conflating the fallen Satan’s revenge plan (after he lost), with Lucifer’s original plan (presented to the hosts of heaven)? Would both have been the same? Even if what you’re describing had been Lucifer’s secret agenda, it seems surprising that he would have been able to persuade 1/3 of the host of heaven with that plan. Wouldn’t he have had to make a better sales pitch?

    Was a fall necessary in both plans? Isn’t the fall merely necessary in order to introduce agency into the world? Couldn’t a world operating without agency have avoided a fall?

  14. brjones
    November 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    #12 – Imagine the trouble THOSE kids will get up to. Yikes.

  15. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    My high school seminary teacher had some discussions with a local non-dem Christian church pastor who’s son was investigating the LDS church. The pastor didn’t look upon the church favorably. Ethically or not, the teacher shared with us as a class the details of the discussion that took place.

    As the Pastor bore his testimony of his faith in Christ and his view of the plan of salvation, it struck the teacher that his view of heaven…being ministered to by Christ as His servants without sealed bonds to family…was in accord with the descriptions of the Terrestrial Kingdom. He told the man that (if he continued to live the life he was describing) he would receive everything that he wanted. The man testified that he knew he would. Then the seminary teacher asked him if he wouldn’t additionally value having his spouse and family members with him for eternity. He indicated that the relationship he would have with Christ would negate the need for the other relationships.

    I’m comparing in my mind the Terrestrial Glory resulting from the pastor’s faith with John’s interesting description Terrestrial Glory by obedience without exercise of agency, and it makes for an interesting comparison.

  16. Rob Osborn
    November 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    “Just curious as to where you got this from, Rob. Not saying you’re wrong, but I’ve just never heard this before.”

    BRJONES,

    From a lot of study, it’s mostly conjecture on my part but with a fair amount of cross-referencing and not trying to read too much between the lines it can be extrapolated.

  17. Rob Osborn
    November 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    John H,

    It’s my personal opinion that Satan was trying to usurp the kingdom much the same way he works today in trying to get evil people to usurp various worldly kingdoms. The BoM is replete with this.

    One thing we do not know for sure is what Satan’s real plans were. He stated that he should be sent- that not one soul should be lost (of those given to him to save). This is the same thing Christ was going to do- to save all, that not one soul should be lost (of those given to him by the Father to save). So clearly, there was some deception on Lucifers part because he was called a liar in part due to his statements at the council. From the BoM we read that Satan is still leading souls away in his plan from the Father (his real plan) promising them salvation (he knows he lies in this) but offering none at the great last day.

    Much is confused about the agency part in our understanding. We assume he was really going to “save” all mankind but destroy their agency in the process. This of course cannot be correct because in order to do so would mean that man would not fall due to choice, and it was known prior that man would fall and need a redeemer. Lucifer said- “send me” inferring that of coarse there would be a fall through choice- that there would be sin in the world. A better understanding of agency is that it is a right held by responsible persons when they are obedient. Sin causes us to lose our agency. the all to familiar story about the whirlpool and the sign warning passers-by not to enter. If we stay out we have choice to do what we want to do- have control of our life. If we enter however we surrender that control and instead are acted upon and cannot choose to be out of a helpless drowing sate. So, when God said that Lucifer was cast out and became Satan to “drag men down to destruction”, it means that Satan is going to drag men down tot he destruction of their agency.

  18. hawkgrrrl
    November 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Personally, I don’t see how you can make it to the CK with no decision-making skills. Privates in the army obey orders unquestioningly. How do you go from being a private to a general without gaining experience and confidence in your decision making? You would not bring anything to the table (or the council of gods). I don’t see how you could abdicate your decision-making (blind obedience or its oft-mistaken twin blind disobedience) and somehow become a god.

  19. November 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    For what it is worth, Harold Bloom is great, but what is the American Religion of the 21st Century? I don’t think it will be gnosticism, Maxine Hanks, notwithstanding.

    Also, another problem with the individualist approach is where does that reconcile with all the professed Mormon Buddhists who have taken the concept of Zion and the City of Enoch’s oneness and parlayed that into an Eastern leaning melting of boundaries into the nothingness that is?

  20. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    If Lucifer had a plan that there would be no deviation of will, how would he have accomplished that? Electric shock collars? Omnipresent camera monitors? Or was there really a mechanism whereby he could have prohibited deviation of will? Would the Father of our spirits allow a presentation of mortality without deviation of will to take place if there was no mechanism for such a plan to be carried out? What was so enticing about his plan? Mortality without agency doesn’t sound like it could have possibly had appeal. Seems like it must have been Lucifer’s ability to mix a preponderance of lies with just the right amount of truth to lure the 3rd.

  21. Last Lemming
    November 16, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    If exercising agency is necessary to achieve exaltation, then children who die before the age of accountability must be tested. But, if they are to receive a true test, then some must fail. This would undermine our current understanding that all are saved in the CK.

    It’s important to keep the concepts of salvation and exaltation distinct. In the context of D&C 137, I interpret salvation to mean not having to suffer for your own sins. (This corresponds to the second definition of sin outlined by Oaks here:

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=83db605ff590c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    “We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).”)

    Little children and others who were not accountable are saved in this sense because they will never have to suffer for the transgressions they committed. I do not understand this to mean they will automatically be exalted. In Doctrines of Salvation (vol.2, p.54), Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

    “Little children who die before they reach the years of accountability will automatically inherit the celestial kingdom, but not the exaltation in that kingdom until they have complied with all the requirements of exaltation…[A]ll the blessings will be theirs through their obedience, the same as if they had lived to maturity and received them on earth.” (emphasis in original)

    “Complying with requirements” and “obedience” smack of exercising agency. So I believe that they will have to exercise their agency in the resurrection in order to be exalted. And I believe some will exercise their agency in a way that means they never achieve exaltation. But because they will never suffer for their sins, they are still saved.

    If Lucifer had a plan that there would be no deviation of will, how would he have accomplished that?

    By making sure nobody ever became accountable. Then, they would all be saved, but could never exercise agency and never be exalted. Basically, the species Homo Sapiens would never have evolved such a large brain. Who would want that? The ones who knew they would never be able to comply with the requirements for salvation if they became accountable.

  22. MisterCurie
    November 16, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I have always favored the interpretation that when saying that Lucifer would save us all, it was not that he would force us to do right, but rather that he would allow us to do whatever we wanted without suffering the eternal consequences. In effect this would truly destroy agency as there would be no consequences for our actions.

  23. November 17, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Am I the only one freaked out by comment #10? This one scared the pants off me.

    Are you seriously arguing that vigilante killing for the purpose of avenging a loved one’s death is anything other than murder? I don’t care if you have an Old Testament proof text to justify your killing another person in cold blood; in fact, that makes it even scarier.

  24. Rico
    November 17, 2009 at 3:53 am

    #23 – I am glad someone expressed my sentiment first. Moreover, I was speaking directly from the perspective of the Church today. Which I feel fairly confident would condemn such an action.

    #9 – John, Thanks for your comment. I agree that using ‘world’ after terrestial was confusing and I did intend to convey terrestial glory. My point is that I see Satan’s original offer as destructive of life and I see his subsequent rebellion and bitterness flowing out from that in the same pattern. Your distinction between the two is worth thinking through though.

    When speaking about satan’s plan I am always surprised at the variations we come up with in that the text really says very little about it and hwy God was so upset. Perhaps this is why it is a useful archetype. As I am reading through the different interpretations I am thinking the text does not say that. I include my own here, but it is only one that makes sense in light of what follows to my mind.

  25. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

    What a bunch of drama queens. “Scared the pants off me?” Look, Joseph Smith taught that Peter lynched Judas. (Richard Bushman credited the Reed Peck letter containing that report, but omitted that little detail.) When the Missouri government authorities refused to protect Mormons’ rights to life and liberty, the Mormons acted as “vigilantes,” and did, in fact, kill people. I have yet to see David W. Patten condemned by Mormons as having “rejected God” for his actions at the Battle of Crooked River.

    “Are you seriously arguing that vigilante killing for the purpose of avenging a loved one’s death is anything other than murder?”

    In the limited circumstance where the civil authority has totally abdicated its responsibility to do justice — yes. I suppose (though I am not sure) that if one of my loved ones were murdered in California — where the judiciary is dishonestly complicit with a faction that, in a grave moral error, abhors capital punishment — I would accept the state’s dispensation of “justice” (even though a California death sentence is, for all practical purposes, a life sentence; most murderers die of natural causes before the endless series of bad-faith appeals is exhausted). I don’t expect the state to work perfectly, even in matters of justice, and so I can tolerate some imperfection.

    But in a hypothetical situation where a murderer is given an obscenely mild punishment — then yes, I believe the State would have abdicated its responsibility to do justice. According to the Declaration of Independence, it is not only the right, but the duty of the people in such a circumstance, to remedy the defect by direct action. The Revolution was fought over far lesser injustices than the countenancing of murder.

    Consider this situation: A young child is brutally murdered. But because the victim is a member of some despised minority, the murderer is given a slap on the wrist and set free after a week in jail.
    Are you honestly telling me that it would amount to “rejecting God” to refuse to accept that as the final verdict?

    I think your approach to this is simplistic and one-dimensional.

  26. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    D&C 134:5 —

    “5 We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments…

    It follows that when men are not protected in their inherent rights by the law, men are not bound to sustain and uphold their unjust government.

    Mormon theology on the respective rights and duties of citizens and the State is in fact quite sophisticated, and is in accord with the natural-law philosophy of Augustine and Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” We have the privilege of living — for now — “moored with two good addresses…a butcher round one corner, a policeman round another”, where government does fulfill its basic responsibilities, more or less. The error is in thinking that conduct that is appropriate in that situation is appropriate everywhere, and that obedience to the State, and deference to its decisions, should in all circumstances be given the force of religious obligation.

    Porter Rockwell would not approve, nor would the Apostles who praised him at his funeral.

  27. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    #25 – I am glad someone expressed my sentiment first. Whether or not something amounts to murder would ultimately be determined by the wording of the law and the circumstances surrounding the act, as “murder” is a term of art. But as to whether or not I would personally have a moral objection to a vigilante killing as a matter of fact, I don’t hesitate at all to say no. Just because something is a law does not make it necessarily moral or just, and I believe the opposite is also true. I think a vigilante killing could absolutely be moral and just. I think it’s interesting to see the outrage at the very idea of a vigilante killing, when members of the church are taught at their parents’ knees about the wonderful lesson of faith to be gained from Nephi’s murder of an unconscious man in order to steal his property. I’m not a historian, but I would venture a guess that murder and theft were both against the law in Jarusalem in 600 B.C., so I think we can all agree that we’re just fine with such an act under the right circumstances.

  28. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Sorry for the threadjack.

  29. November 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Re #25, if you believe in the rule of law this question is not a hard one. Yes, you are rejecting God and all that is holy if you intentionally, with malice aforethought, take it upon yourself to kill another human being. “Doing what the state wouldn’t” does not justify the crime.

    I’m sorry if this lacks nuance.

  30. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    #29 – I believe in the rule of law. Does it mean that I reject god and all that is holy if I intentionally, with malice aforethought, speed on my way to work? What about if I intentionally, with malice aforethought, trespass on another’s property? I guess I don’t have a hard time conceding that one rejects god and all that is holy when he or she does anything that god has told him or her not to do, which you’re saying includes obeying the “law of the land.” If you are interested in entertaining a little nuance, though, I think it’s a dangerous undertaking to tell another person when they have or haven’t rejected god. I think, by and large, people can determine for themselves whether they’ve done such a serious thing. I also think the judgment you are passing is similar to one that might be passed by opponents of the death penalty on those who support it. It’s just a matter of degree.

  31. November 17, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    The arguments given #26 and #27 show contempt for civil society. We live in peace precisely because we don’t resort to violence whenever we disagree. Instead, we go to the state house and present an argument. Sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t. Rejecting this process in favor of religious mob rule imperils us all.

    I also apologize for the threadjack and will now be quiet.

  32. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    #31 – I’m not sure what religious mob rule has to do with it. My feelings about the propriety of vigilante killings have nothing whatever to do with religion. They have to do with morality. And perhaps you should ask someone who lives in the ghetto where children are gunned down on their way to and from school whether they agree that we are either a “civil society” or “living in peace”. I think one’s perspective on such an issue as this is going to be vary dramatically depending on one’s experiences.

  33. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    #31, read the bloody posts. I am not advocating disregard for civil society, when it exists. It doesn’t always, and a conscientious person ought to consider what his duty should be in that case.

    brjones makes my point probably more calmly than I did. The point (which apparently needs repeating) is not “let’s go out and hang the animal who raped and murdered Anne Pressly because the wussy jury only imposed life.” (Enough of the rule of law still exists in this country that that would be wrong: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light or transient causes.”) It is simply this: To declare, painting with a broad brush, that any killing not formally authorized by a judicial officer is “murder” and amounts to “rejecting God” — without accounting for different circumstances from ours — is to make an unrighteous judgment. I like to think that I — even in California, where I do believe the government has come perilously close to illegitimately abdicating its responsibility to do justice to murderers — would not be driven to seek the life of the murderer of a loved one. But I would not dare to judge someone to whom that case is more than a hypothetical.

    The State has no inherent rights that human beings do not possess individually, before delegating them to government. When government materially breaches the social contract, the rights delegated devolve back upon the people, who may justly exercise them. That is why the Mormons in Missouri resorted to “vigilante” justice, and why they were justified in doing so.

  34. Wyoming
    November 17, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I just listened to a fascinating dialogue between a fundamentalist and liberal christian at http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={141FD18F-575B-4FB7-9AF3-51BB597F62D9}

    The fundamentalist (Terry Boyle) bemoaned the fall of Adam because we as humans couldn’t be trusted with the burden of choice. Everything would have worked out if God been allowed to control our agency. I was surprised at how much closer we are to the very liberal John Shelby Sponge. He emphasized that agency was critical component of becomming fully human (divine in our perspective). The more I learn about the broad range of Christian perspectives on agency, the more I appreciate Doestevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor.

  35. November 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    To MoHoHawaii: I don’t believe anyone on this thread is advocating “revenge killing”. Instead, I perceive the real argument is whether or not “revenge killing” can be considered first degree murder, which I believe is what permanently disqualifies one from celestial glory because of the risk of shedding innocent blood, versus second degree murder or manslaughter, which I do not believe imposes any permanent limitation.

    The reason we frown upon revenge killing in civilized society is not only because it pre-empts our justice system, but also because we run the risk of killing the wrong person, or perhaps the right person for the wrong reason. In either case, we then become guilty of shedding innocent blood, making the revenge killing first degree murder.

    Ultimately, the Lord has told us “Vengeance is mine, and I shall repay”. So we’re probably better off leaving vengeance to the Lord, who is the only one we can trust to fully understand the situation.

  36. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    #35:

    “Ultimately, the Lord has told us “Vengeance is mine, and I shall repay”. So we’re probably better off leaving vengeance to the Lord, who is the only one we can trust to fully understand the situation.”

    But doesn’t that logic make it illegitimate for us to impose retributive justice, whether individually or even collectively, through the vehicle of the State?

  37. November 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    When speaking about satan’s plan I am always surprised at the variations we come up with in that the text really says very little about it and hwy God was so upset. Perhaps this is why it is a useful archetype. As I am reading through the different interpretations I am thinking the text does not say that. I include my own here, but it is only one that makes sense in light of what follows to my mind.

    I am always amazed by the hold this idea of two people (Christ and Lucifer) making “presentations” of “their” plans to the assembled masses has on the Mormon imagination, when the text says nothing like that.

  38. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 17, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Abr 3:28: the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him

    Abr 3:24: And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down

    If Jehovah stood among them (the souls that were good) then that hints at some degree of assembly. If Lucifer had many follow him “at that day” they were likely either part of the assembly or at least near by.

    I read that as somewhat supportive of assembled masses.

    Moses 4:1: 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.

    If Lucifer came before the Lord God and offered to redeem all mankind, that suggests some degree of a presentation.

    Moses 4:2: 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.

    This suggests to me that Jehovah did not make a presentation, but supported the plan given by the Father and volunteered to be the Savior of the world.

  39. brjones
    November 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    #35 – Jack Mormon, I appreciate that this may be your view on the subject, but actually religion doesn’t play any role in this issue for me. I’m just talking about whether it would ever potentially be appropriate for someone to take it into their own hands to mete out justice on another person. And as to whether or not it’s first degree murder, as I said before, that is a relatively technical analysis that depends on the provisions of the law and the circumstances of the case, having nothing to do with whether or not the person is deserving. In any event, just because it might be first degree murder does not mean it would not necessarily be just, in my opinion.

  40. November 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Rigel,

    There is an assembly or council or whatever, but there is no formal presentation of competing plans in the text. One plan is presented, and the Father asks who he should send to handle it. Jehovah says, “Send me, I’ll do it your way and give you the glory,” and Lucifer says, “Send me, and I’ll save everyone, so give me all the glory.” The Father says, “OK, Jehovah, you do it.” Lucifer gets angry, rebels, and is cast out by Jehovah along with his followers.

    So I don’t think there’s anything in the text that rises to the level of presenting two competing plans. Lucifer wants to modify the existing plan to his own advantage (destroy human agency and usurp God’s power), but that’s not really the same as Jehovah says, “Here’s my plan,” and Lucifer says, “Here’s my plan” (and, when people take the idea and run with it, there’s some sort of “vote” and the majority wins).

  41. November 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Jack,

    I think first and second degree murder and manslaughter are legal terms and thus should be irrelevant in justifying a killing in God’s eyes. It should be quite possible to be convicted of first degree murder yet stand justified before God, or to be convicted of manslaughter (or acquitted, or not even prosecuted) yet still be condemned in his eyes.

    Thomas,

    But doesn’t that logic make it illegitimate for us to impose retributive justice, whether individually or even collectively, through the vehicle of the State?

    It certainly does seem to suggest that revenge is an improper motive when imposing justice.

  42. jmb275
    November 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I actually really like the concept of this post – that blind obedience is really just abdication of choice, not humility, or good use of agency and hence does not, itself, earn a reward. In that vein it has merit in its own right regardless of whether or not the details of the plan of salvation are correct.

    As for that, I agree with kuri. I think it is a misinterpretation to assume that God the Father, in the absence of an appropriate plan for his myriad children, asked for suggestions from which 2 emerged. The plan existed from the beginning to allot us our agency. God asked for someone to send, and then a contrasting idea was presented by Lucifer in an effort to gain glory. We, on earth, just weren’t down widdat so we sent’im packin’.

    Nevertheless, loved the post. It would be interesting to examine this idea in the context of D&C 76 where the descriptions of those who end up in the various degrees is given (re testimony of Jesus, etc.).

  43. Thomas
    November 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Kuri #41:

    Romans 8:13 “For he [i.e. the civil authority] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

    The three main purposes of criminal punishment, according to most theoretical discussions of the subject, are incapacitation, deterrence, and retribution. The last consideration is often criticized as barbaric and (inexplicably, in my view; see above) contrary to Christian ethics.

    I tend to think barbarism, so-called, has more going for it — if nothing else, its frank honesty — than it gets credit for. More to the point, I believe that if justice is not retributive — if a government sanction is motivated by nothing more than the moral-content-free, utilitarian notions of incapacitation and deterrence — then it is not actually “justice.” It is simply government policy — the State seeking its ends by whatever means necessary. But ironically, divorcing the “justice system” from the moral character of justice, doesn’t just mean the government shies away from primitive tribal notions like the death penalty. There’s also the possibility (if the law and morality have nothing to do with each other, and it’s all just a public-choice-theory utilitarian calculus) of the law imposing sanctions for people’s acts, regardless of the acts’ moral content. Thus we get abominations like the proliferation of regulatory felonies and “strict liabiity” offenses.

    Tethering law to retributive justice doesn’t just mean that people are sometimes punished more than would technically be necessary to incapacitate them, or provide a deterrent example. (Most of the savages who commit violent crimes aren’t intelligent enough to really be deterred anyway.) It’s also a protection against being subjected to criminal sanction simply because it serves the interest of the state to do so — a guarantee that a person isn’t in danger from the law unless he’s actually doing evil. (See Romans 8:13, above.)

    It’s my turn now to apologize for a first-degree aggravated threadjack with special circumstances. Although there are some fascinating overlaps between the concepts of retributive justice and moral accountability, the actual subject of the thread.

  44. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 17, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Kuri…

    I agree with your statement:

    “So I don’t think there’s anything in the text that rises to the level of presenting two competing plans”

    There was one plan. Whether you call Lucifer’s opposition a presentation or a modification, it does not elevate it to two competing plans. I just read the text with the thought that we are reading a highly abridged version of the events that transpired. Enquiring minds want details…:)

  45. November 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Thomas,

    Briefly (this will be my last post on the subject, since it is a threadjack), I’d like to offer a couple of points. Since I’m not a believer, scripture cuts no particular ice with me except in the sense that it offers wisdom and ethics in some areas. I don’t think criminal justice is one of those areas. I think the criminal justice systems Paul was familiar with were appallingly “barbaric” by modern standards. Also, your discussion of criminal punishment ignores notions of “restorative justice”: restoration, reconciliation, healing, etc. I think there is a discussion to be had regarding whether that type of justice isn’t more consistent with what are commonly termed “Christian ethics” (although this thread isn’t the place to do it).

  46. November 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I like this discussion, especially comments, 13, 17, 21, and 22. I agree with a lot that is in them.

    This is my guess as to what Lucifer’s alternative proposal was (and by implication what agency is). He couldn’t actually do it (that was the big lie), but I think he could get enough people to believe he could do it and think it was a safe alternative, which is why so many fell (literally) for it.

    God’s plan was based on agency and accountability. People would have an instrumentality in their own salvation. Agency and instrumentality are synonyms (look it up). People would be instrumental in their own salvation through the principal of accountability which is based on the law of agency. The atonement would make the various kingdoms available and possible, and give people the freedom and opportunity to attain them. Agency and accountability would determine which kingdom they received. Exaltation is possible, but nothing is guaranteed.

    Lucifer’s proposal was based on no agency and, therefore, no accountability. People would not be instrumental in their own salvation; he would do it all for them. He could tell them that under his proposal they could gain a physical body, do whatever they wanted, be redeemed unconditionally, receive an immortal body, and be ‘saved’ without risk on their part. Lucifer claimed he would redeem all that one sold would not be lost (unless you count lost from the possibility of exaltation). The people would not have an instrumentality (or agency) under his proposal; he would do it all for them.

    Lucifer would allow the fall to occur, allow freedom and choice (but withhold accountability), allow people to gain physical bodies and have mortal experiences, and redeem all as he claimed. Remember, he can’t actually do this, he just needs to convince others that he can (perhaps if he could get God to give him His power?)

    Lucifer could tell the people that they would get all the benefits of God’s plan, including a resurrected, immortal body at the end of it all, without the risks. The down side? The salvation he offered would be a terrestrial glory at best, the same level into which Adam and Eve were placed in the garden originally (since it would be unjust to either reward or punish them). The celestial is not attainable since there is no growth, merit, or reward involved in his proposal, and the telestial is unnecessary because there is no accountability and punishment.

    Satan’s plan now is not to destroy agency, but to use our agency and accountability against us. Why would an adversary keep the same plan he offered while he was trying to be a savior? He wants to take the foundation of God’s plan and use it to destroy and damn as many as he can. That would be poetic.

  47. November 17, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    One other thought from the original post: Those who wanted to follow Lucifer’s proposal were, in a number of ways, abdicating their agency. So, according to what I outlined above, they were hoping to gain a terrestrial glory through the abdication of their agency.

  48. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    November 19, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Lucifer was a communist.

  49. hawkgrrrl
    November 20, 2009 at 10:36 am

    SUNNofaB.C.Rich – you could say the same of Jesus’ followers or Sidney Rigdon’s Campbellite congregation.

  50. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    November 20, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I could but that would just muddle the issue… I was saying that in response to #46 where the differences between Lucifer and Gods plan was that in Lucifers plan everyone was ensured the same mediocre result and in Gods plan it was up to you whether you made it big or didn’t make it at all.

  51. November 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Based on Eastern European communism, mediocre would have been a substantial upgrade! But point taken.

  52. D Richards
    November 3, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Just for clarification, since this seems to pop up now and then in doctrine discussion: there were not two plans presented by the two eldest spirits. First, it was God’s plan for us to come to an earth, gain a body and return to him if we followed His plan (This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man). And secondly, Lucifer presented his modification to God’s plan wherein he would save us all (probably with the proposal that we wouldn’t be held responsible for our actions) and then that he’d get the glory. We do know that Christ was the first born of God’s spirits, but we don’t know where Lucifer fit in the offspring chart. He was a “son of the morning” with great power and position, but we I’m pretty sure don’t know that he was the second born. In Mormon Doctrine, Elder McConkie wrote “This name-title of Satan (Son of the Morning), indicates he was one of the early born spirit children of the Father. Always used in association with the name Lucifer, son of the morning also apparently signifies son of light or son of prominence, meaning that Satan held a position of power and authority in pre-existence. (D. & C. 76:25-27; Isa. 14:12-20.)” (Mormon Doctrine p. 744)

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