Chosen or Posin’ ? Abraham, Buffy, and Other Choice Spirits

Bored in Vernal Bible, doctrine, foreordination, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, plan of salvation, theology 66 Comments

Avatar-BiVOT SS Lesson #2
This was an interesting lesson to read after last year’s brou-ha-ha over an alleged “generals in the war in heaven” quote. On the 25th of February 2008, the Church issued an official statement from the Office of the First Presidency to all General Authorities, Area Seventies, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, District Presidents, Temple Presidents, Bishops and Branch Presidents which read:

A statement has been circulated that asserts in part that the youth of the Church today “were generals in the war in heaven . . . and someone will ask you, ‘Which of the prophet’s time did you live in?’ and when you say ‘Gordon B. Hinckley’ a hush will fall, . . . and all in attendance will bow at your presence. [You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous.]”*

This is a false statement. It is not Church doctrine. At various times, this statement has been attributed erroneously to President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, President Boyd K. Packer, and others. None of these Brethren made this statement. Stake presidents and bishops should see that it is not used in Church talks, classes, bulletins, or newsletters. Priesthood leaders should correct anyone who attempts to perpetuate its use by any means, in accordance with “Statements Attributed to Church Leaders,” Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1 (2006), 173.

Although this is not Church doctrine, I don’t see much which distinguishes it from the following quotation in our approved Sunday School Lesson #2:

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the second coming of the Lord. Some individuals will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head — even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of His strongest children, who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly. …

“… Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 104–5).

I’ve been scratching my head all evening wondering why the Church would come out so emphatically against the “generals in heaven” quote, denouncing it as false doctrine, and yet retain these very similar teachings in the manual. I suppose it might be because of the notion that someone in heaven would bow to anyone other than a member of the Godhead; however, if we become gods when we are exalted that’s not as heretical as it seems. Perhaps the problem lies in the substitution of being chosen as a heavy responsibility for a kind of entitlement or specialness. But this is very subtle. The entire Sunday School lesson, based on Abraham 3 and Moses 4:1–4 expounds our own unique spin on Calvinism and the doctrine of election. In the vision recorded in Abraham 3, the Lord showed Abraham the Council in Heaven that was held before the earth was created. Present at the Council were “many of the noble and great ones,” including (as enumerated in D&C 138) Adam, Eve, Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Elias, Malachi, Elijah, Nephite prophets, Joseph Smith, Hyrum, Brigham, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, “and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times.” These spirits, the lesson teaches, were foreordained to do important things for the kingdom of God during their mortal lives. Including ourselves in that list of scriptural V.I.P.s is heady nectar.

That’s a very careful word — “foreordination.” We teach that even though a person is foreordained to a calling, that calling is dependent on the person’s worthiness and willingness to accept it. We may have been righteous in the premortal “first estate,” but that doesn’t guarantee the keeping of our second estate here on earth. In this way, we stay a pace away from predestination. But foreordination is a loaded word for twentieth-century Mormons.

Episode 22 of Season 7 and the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is titled “Chosen.” In this episode Buffy comes up with a plan which involves Willow performing a difficult spell. The magic activates Potentials all over the world, defying the tradition of only one Slayer per generation. As the screen shows a montage of young women, Buffy’s voice-over says:

From now on, every girl in the world who might be a slayer…
A young woman stands at the plate staring at the pitcher, waiting to bat. She looks a little nervous.

will be a slayer.
A young woman breathes heavily as she leans on her locker for support.

Every girl who could have the power…

A young woman is lying across the floor, having fallen out of her chair.

will have the power… can stand up,
In a Japanese-style dining room, a young woman stands up at family dinner.

will stand up.
A young woman grabs the wrist of a man who’s trying to slap her face, preventing him.

Slayers… every one of us. Make your choice.
The girl at the plate changes from nervous to confident, smiling as she waits for the pitch.
Are you ready to be strong?

This scene gives me the same kind of feeling I used to have as a young adult, when countless Church leaders spoke to groups of us telling us that WE were the chosen, saved for the Latter-Days, to prepare the world and usher in the Millennium. That’s the feeling I got when I heard the word “foreordination.” It still gives me shivers, thinking about it. I wasn’t a member yet, but in 1970 I was 11 years old when President Joseph Fielding Smith declared: “Our young people … are the nobility of heaven, a choice and chosen generation who have a divine destiny. Their spirits have been reserved to come forth in this day when the gospel is on the earth, and when the Lord needs valiant servants to carry on his great latter-day work.” I was part of that generation. But then I had children, and they grew, and became the Youth of Zion themselves, and suddenly the leaders were telling THEM they were the marked ones. “This is the greatest age in the history of the world, and its youth are a chosen generation,” President Hinckley told them in 1995. And then in November, my daughter brought forth my firstborn grandchild, and a third generation is beginning to rise up since I heard those words.

OT SS Lesson #2 states that its objective is “To help class members understand the doctrine of foreordination and their own responsibility to help build up the kingdom of God and bring souls to Christ.” Do you think this is the intended meaning of the scripture block in Abraham 3, Moses 4, and D&C 138? Do you think you were part of the Council in Heaven described there? Does the doctrine of foreordination as you have been taught it give you a sense of specialness and entitlement? Were you taught you would usher in the Millennium? Do you feel your day of being a chosen generation of youth has passed you by?

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*Bracketed portion of the circulated quote not included in the First Presidency letter.

Comments

comments

Comments 66

  1. BiV,

    I’ve been scratching my head all evening wondering why the Church would come out so emphatically against the “generals in heaven” quote, denouncing it as false doctrine, and yet retain these very similar teachings in the manual.

    The answer to this question just might be that the Brethren never saw this connection, having forgotten ETB’s quote. It’s really not that easy to catch everything. They’ve scrubbed references to Bruce R McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine from the new Gospel Principles book, so they do take seriously the power and influence of misunderstood quotes.

    This scene gives me the same kind of feeling I used to have as a young adult, when countless Church leaders spoke to groups of us telling us that WE were the chosen, saved for the Latter-Days, to prepare the world and usher in the Millennium. That’s the feeling I got when I heard the word “foreordination.” It still gives me shivers, thinking about it.

    This kind of talk is very powerful to give to youth. It’s one way to keep them in the church, showing them their supposed importance in this life. I’m not trying to discount this kind of language, because in a fight for the survival of the human soul, Satan does his best to tear it down, to tell the soul that it is meaningless and worthless. Having language that plays up the value of the souls born today is a good way to fight against these tactics of Satan.

    Being more mature and more educated about this world, I now don’t really believe this generation is really all that different than previous generations. I think what makes individuals better today are the societies that we live in and their ability to allow/facilitate individuals to be better than they normally would be. Put today’s generation in a similar situation as say those in the 14th century and would we really have acted differently? In other words, say you were born in 1320 in France without the knowledge you have of several more centuries of enlightenment, and would you really have acted any differently than the people who were actually born in the 14th century? Would someone born in the 14th century born today act differently than anybody else born today? Societies shift tremendously over time and the current society as we see it today will not be seen in 50 years or 100 years. It will take a totally different shape based on the struggles and contributions of the individuals in that society over the next 50 to 100 years. We’ll see much of the same, but much quite different, just as we have seen much the same and much quite different in the last 50 to 100 years. Does anyone think Teddy Roosevelt will recognize America today? It will be totally different for him, much like Thomas Jefferson would not recognize Teddy Roosevelt’s America. Societal change is like a flock of birds, shifting constantly, not necessarily by outside forces, but most likely from forces within, forces that cannot be controlled or guided by any one or group of individuals as they want it. Some individuals try to force a society to their will. They’ll get a shift, but it won’t end up being exactly what they want.

    In the end, I appreciate being in this generation rather than any other, mostly for the knowledge that we have now, and the ability to be introspective and retrospective. The comforts that we have in society today allow us to be able to look back at previous generations with a sense of amazement at where we are, but also a sense of acknowledgment and thanks to those who created such a comfortable life for us today.

  2. I have never liked this kind of talk, plus it has been happening for many years. I know why they do it, but I think we already suffer from youth and young adults that can have an inflated sense of egoand so we do not need to add to it with this kind of rhetoric. In achieving the aim of the lesson there are other ideas that could be used.

  3. The big difference between the “generals in heaven” statement and the quote from ETB is that the former did not originate from a GA and the latter did. Aslo, ETB made no claim in his quote that every single youth in the church at that time held some general leadership position in heaven. Many, if not all of us now, may have been foreordained to come to earth and build up the church at this time but that doesn’t mean that we should all be included in the list of “noble and great ones”. Most of us are rank and file members of the church and probably held no higher leadership position prior to mortal life. There are those in this life that are called to high leadership positions in the church and those that are called to do the ground work. Both are essential to the work of the church. There is no reason to not believe that some were foreordained to great leadership positions and some were foreordained to non-leadership positions.

    As for the “generation” questions, I think most people get caught up in the semantics of the word. I think of “this generation”, as used in a gospel context, to mean the generation of the restoration – beginning with Josepth Smith and continuing to this day and perhaps until the second coming. I’ve never thought of “generation”, as used in the church, to mean anything less; it wouldn’t make any sense.

  4. Funny, you should bring that up. i was preparing that lesson for next Sunday and I was still there wondering if I use the ETB quote or not. Since this is a rather short lesson as far as lessons go, I thought we could take more time discussing that concept.

    Since I think we sometimes have such a narrow view on these things. That a “Great and Noble One” is of more value to the Lord than a simple Church member who does all that they are asked to do and then some.

    After all, “many are called, but few are chosen.” That would tend to the idea that many are foreordained to do great things, but fewer actually choose to do them.

  5. Telling the youth they are a chosen generation verses that they were generals in heaven and that previous generations will bow in reverence before them are two very different things. Since the latter was falsely attributed to general authorities, I think clarifying the falseness of the statement to the general membership of the church was the right thing to do. The main purpose of general authorities is to keep the church true and fix errors when they are identified. Everyone generation was chosen for a particular purpose – this is really a no brainer. The youth always needed to be reminded of who they are and that they have purpose.

  6. I would say because the first quote carries a feeling of pride of place, the second carries a feeling of responsibility. Foreordination is not being “chosen” or “special” in the sense of better-than, but is being chosen to perform a special and specific purpose. Others were reserved for their dispensations, as well. It hearkens back to the “I am unique . . . just like everyone else” quote. We are to use our uniqueness, our gifts, to serve, not to lord it over everyone else. The first quote subtly twists and perverts the doctrine by creating an expectation of adulation.

  7. Cheryl,

    This is a great post. I have used the Generals in Heaven quote in speaking to the youth (long time ago). I am aware of the brethern and their efforts to stop its use. And I am teaching a lesson next week on the subject. I do not know how to sort it all out.

    Do you have the full copy of the FP letter? Would you be so kind as to e-mail me a copy at hal@packardlaw.com

  8. My wife and I taught Alma 13 this week in Seminary, and I used that text as a chance to teach that different people interpret things differently – even in the Church when dealing with strictly Mormon scriptures.

    Many people read into that passage that ALL who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood were chosen in the pre-existence to do so because of their exceeding righteousness; many limit that to those who are high priests in the Melchizedek Priesthood; some, like me, limit it to those who fit the Old Testament definition of “high priest” (those who are “The High Priest” among the body of priests – or “Chief Priest” in Alma’s case). The exact same thing can be said about Abraham 3 and any other passages that talk about “noble and great ones”.

    I think one of the greatest, most fundamental paradoxes of Mormonism is the whole “we are chosen to do a unique and special work (that will be accomplished no matter if we do it or not).” Honestly, I have NO problem with that paradox, since I don’t have a problem with paradoxes generally – and since I believe this particular paradox is important and even necessary.

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    Hal: the link to the First Presidency letter is here.

    DB: re “semantics of this generation” — I tend to agree, however almost all of the quotes on this topic specifically reference the “youth.” What happens when you are no longer a “youth?”

    Ray: I agree that the important message is that we are chosen to do a unique and special work in the latter days. However, I always interpreted teachings that were given to mean that I personally was part of the Council in Heaven described in D&C 138. Now I’m not so sure.

  10. The more I learn, the less I know.

    Just like in statistics or anything else, you can always find a quote to support anything you personally choose to believe, even in our church. We may have been Generals, we may not have been Generals. “As man is, God once was, as God is, man may become”. Or maybe we’re not really sure what that means anymore and don’t really teach that. Polygamy is essential to our salvation. Or maybe it’s grounds for excommunication. Wine is fine to drink in the temple. Or maybe wine will keep you from even going to the temple. Blacks were fence-sitters in the premortal life (perhaps when we were Generals and foreordained), or maybe some of them, who are leaders now, were actually also Generals and foreordained.

    Perhaps we should go way back – what is the most important. Love God. Love our neighbor. And that’s about it.

  11. “Does the doctrine of foreordination as you have been taught it give you a sense of specialness and entitlement?”

    As I think about the things I was taught as a youth, I think it was easy to feel more “special” than others because of being taught that false statement. You only have to hear it once for it to really stick and mean something to you. I realize that a lot of teenagers already struggle with thinking the world revolves around them, so this added concept of “specialness” can create more problems than not.

    “Were you taught you would usher in the Millennium? Do you feel your day of being a chosen generation of youth has passed you by?”

    I was taught that I would usher in the Millennium growing up. Also, I do have things written in my patriarchal blessing about me in the life before this one and I wonder how typical that is in blessings. I have felt at times that my blessing has more to do with the life before and the life after than my actual life here. So, I think it has been easy to feel a feeling of specialness or entitlement as a youth, but I have long since realized that it is more about reponsibility and not specialness at all.

  12. Now I wish I were teaching this lesson. I would SO show that scene from Buffy.

    Maybe that’s why I’m not a teacher any more. They just stick me behind a piano or an organ and let me rot there….

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    I know, Eric!
    and it’s not that I’m AGAINST teaching this doctrine, exactly. There’s something so powerful, so motivating about being one of the chosen ones (I felt that when I saw the Buffy scene). But does being chosen or being one of the great and noble ones who were present at the Council in Heaven make you better than everyone else?

  14. I am actually uncomfortable with the whole idea of being “chosen” or one of the “great and noble ones”. I don’t like the idea of the exclusivity of the “one true Church”. I think everyone has something to offer the world. I think that the 99.9% of people who aren’t an “active-LDS” Church member have every bit of a chance of ultimately getting back to the same reward with God as I do. The natural implication of that belief, however, makes me wonder whether it really matters if someone is LDS in mortality. As we teach, any necessary ordinances can be taken care of vicariously, so as long as someone is a good person, what does being “chosen” or a “great and noble one” really mean? We teach that every calling is the same, whether prophet, Primary teacher, bishop, etc. Do we really believe that or is that lip service leaders give the masses?

  15. Mike S-

    “We teach that every calling is the same, whether prophet, Primary teacher, bishop, etc. Do we really believe that or is that lip service leaders give the masses?”

    I don’t view the calling of prophet the same as a primary teacher. I think the expectations of the Lord on a prophet are significantly higher and they have much less breathing room than all of the rest of us. I also believe his willingness to serve the Lord first and foremost has had to be tested throughout his life to a degree that we don’t understand. So, although the importance of the work is the same, the people who fill them have to be 110% dedicated to the Lord and He will try and test them first to make sure they are prepared and willing.

  16. awesome, biv. (and let me just take a second to swoon away at your Buffy tie-in).

    I view both statements the same. Quibbles about the authority of who said it, and teasing apart the minutia that differentiate them is rather meaningless to me. “Chosen People” rhetoric is old. Ancient. LDS didn’t invent it and we are definitely not the only group using it as a member motivating factor. I used to get a whole lot of feeling of special-ness at being “one of the chosen one’s”… but (as you noted) as I started seeing how it was used (again and again and again) it lost it’s power for me. I see it rather as a tool now.

    In a way, it also reminds me a bit of the Second-Coming rhetoric; if I remember correctly, early church leaders/members (I’m thinking Brigham Young, but blurry on the facts) were sure the second coming was happening in their life-time. When I was a child, I was POSITIVE it was going to happen when I was a teen. And just the other day at a family dinner the topic came up, and all the adults (me the silent exception) were absolutely in agreement that the second coming was only 20 or 30 years away (the discussion, of course, connected to talk about the economy and retirement etc…)

    same ol same ol in my book.

  17. I think this bit about being the chosen people is just a pep rally (perhaps like the Buffy quote) to rally people around a cause. I suppose it’s fine for the youth whose egos have no limit anyway. It seems silly for adults to be taught / buying into this stuff. Just an opinion.

    Do I think people were LITERALLY chosen to usher in the millenium? I like to think there were sign-up sheets, more like the school play. If you are willing and available, and you sign up, there you go. But you don’t have to really be particularly talented. School plays sort of suck as a result, but reliability is more important than talent. I guess if you are really awful, they could stick you painting scenery.

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  19. #5 – I agree with this. There is a significant rhetorical difference between saying that a generation is particularly strong and has great responsibilities, and saying that everyone who ever lived on the earth will bow at your feet in reverence when you walk by. I think president benson’s quote also primarily comes across as addressing the great responsibilities that will belong to this generation, as opposed to the praise and laud that will be heaped on their heads. I think service vs. celebrity is a significant difference. Clearly the more recent quote is just meant to inflate one’s sense of pride. I don’t see anything in it that encourages anyone to do anything positive or noble.

  20. My problem with all these “chosen” and “special” quotes is I look at myself and don’t see someone necessarily “special” or “chosen” or “noble and great.” It’s more frustrating than encouraging.

  21. I think G (#16) makes a great tie in, as the one thing I remember hearing more than the “chosen generation” was the imminence of the second coming. This is an interesting topic not only because it has been an ongoing matter of Mormon culture Joseph Smith, but is broadly ecumenical. The sensational History Channel has been on a 2012 doomsday/endtimes/Nostradomas kick for a few weeks now, as “scholars” from many religious stripes are interviewed, I notice a lot of this same type of rhetoric coming from their view of endtime prophecies.

  22. “#18 – Hilarious, BIV. Something tells me there wasn’t a limited number on that sign-up sheet, though.”

    In fact, I think sign ups are open through the millenium.

  23. Cowboy – “I’d like to meet the people who signed up for “15th century serf”.” I have to guess they were either in the bathroom when it got posted, and this was all that was left OR they were too stupid to know that this wasn’t related to surfing. Talk about disappointment!

  24. I don’t know about those sign in sheets. My patriarchal blessing tells me I wanted to come to earth earlier, but they made me wait.

  25. Another great thread at MM. There is nearly always an interesting and thought provoking post here.

    I have nothing against the idea, that in this the last dispensation, their are many who were held in reserve to come into the world now because of their exceeding great faith there.

    But I think it is more important that “exceeding great faith” be found here. Having proven valiant in pre-mortality is no guarantee of being valiant in mortality.

    The test here is to apply the doctrine of Christ to the extent that we receive a remission of our sins, here and now. When we do, then we’re in favored position with God and have greater access to His Spirit and gifts. This is the message of the Book of Mormon.

    The question we need ask ourselves is: have I received a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost?

  26. Funny stuff in this thread!

    I think the whole business of being “right” and “special” is problematic. It’s human nature, but problematic. I think it’s us projecting what’s important to us now onto Heaven. I have a hard time imagining God-like beings taking pleasure in being “better” than others.

  27. As someone who has been told he was less valiant in the premortal existence many more times than he was told he was a general in the last dispensation (Yeah, I know some people who mean well, but I don’t think they’ve moved very far past 1978…), I feel that all of this talk about the premortal existence is kinda…silly.

    C’mon. Even if it happened, there was a veil. We’re just speculating. Sometimes we mean well, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stick our feet in our mouths.

  28. Jared – “But I think it is more important that “exceeding great faith” be found here. Having proven valiant in pre-mortality is no guarantee of being valiant in mortality.” hear, hear!

    Andrew S – “Sometimes we mean well, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stick our feet in our mouths.” And worse, sometimes we are sticking our feet in other people’s mouths.

  29. Excuse me for a moment while I get a little passionate…Really is the general consensus of this thread that the “chosen generation” rhetoric simply “a tool” to motivate “the youth”? If so I think that is a bit jaded and misses what I interpret as the purpose of the doctrine. Teaching that someone is chosen does imply responsibility, but it also implies specialness. I think that anyone who looks at the youth today could say that they have egos, but they could not say that they have a sense of worth. I think that is why the first quote is rejected (for inflating ego) and the second taught in Gospel doctrine (to emphasize worth). To me teaching that we are the chosen generation instills the concept that we are special and important and of worth to God as his children in his plan. There is also a sense of continuity by using the word generation…this brings to mind connectedness to our predecessors and ancestors whom we are indebted to for their choices, good and bad that made us who we are today. We couldn’t be who we are without them, therefore I highly doubt that they will be bowing to us when we are blessed (and perhaps only able to fulfill our purposes)by learning from their experiences (we probably have the most scripture now of any time on the earth). I also think that the reason that this has been taught over and over is because we are ALL God’s children and all of us have a special part to play in his plan to usher in the millenium…even the serfs, and the surfers (neither which probably ponder the intricacies of the doctrine of foreordination 🙂 Anyhow, maybe it’s just because I don’t want to grow up and think that being special only applies to my kids, rather every person is of great worth and potential (even me), but I still feel that goosebumpy feeling when I read quotes like this that makes me want to be a little better. I still want to kick butt like Buffy.

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  31. I guess I got enough of the “chosen generation” talk to internalize it. I also got enough of the pioneer stories to know that they were pretty amazing.
    I don’t think I’ll be jealous of my children when they are told they are important. I will agree with it. My generation will do some things and face some challneges. Their generation will be slightly differentyet still importnat.

  32. Yes, yes, dear. You’re very unique and special. Just like everybody else.

    We all kept our First Estate and chose to follow Jesus. So did Hitler, Alexander, Pol Pot, Charles Manson, and Stalin. I was told I was a chosen and special generation. My children have been a chosen and special generation. I hope I have a few years yet before my grandchildren come along, but they will also be a chosen and special generation, saved for the last days.

    That was a powerful scene. It also broke the Buffy-verse in a profound way — lots of slayers running around without watchers to train them, and nobody around to train the watchers, and lots of other hellmouths to deal with, and the First still running around to cause trouble. Nice attempt on Joss’ part to make a great visual of “girl power,” but Joss’ image of female empowerment isn’t one I’m 100% with.

  33. First, given my current thinking on the Book of Abraham, I’m not sure I put any credence to it any longer. So, the whole council in heaven thing doesn’t work for me any longer. I kind of wish the church would just let it go.

    Second, having been in the “pep rally” when ETB told us how special we were, yes I do think that it is just a motivational tool. A missionary will now think, “I can’t slack off, I’m one of the chosen and I need to go out there and fulfill my destiny.” That motivates some people more than others, but it is used as a motivational technique. I’ve been in corporate “pep rallies” where I’ve been told, “We have the greatest employees in the world.” Do we really? No, we are just pretty much the same as any other company. But, does that motivate some people? Yes. (Not all, but some.)

  34. So if we were generals in the War in Heaven, that still leaves room for plenty of degrees of valiancy and wisdom. There’s a lot of daylight between U.S. Grant and George B. McClellan.

    Courtesy forbids me disclose who I think was General Pope in the preexistence.

  35. Here’s kind of a weird take on why perhaps the generals in the war in heaven quote is bogus. As far as I am aware the scriptures makes reference to our “pre-mortal” stations with titles such as; The Noble and Great Ones, or the Morning Stars, or Archangel, or I AM – the self existent one. I think a lot about Jesus words to Pilate when he said: “my Kingdom is not of this world”. Sparing the fast testimony rhetoric, I think we rarely take this to heart, but rather try and create this kingdom in our minds, from our own image. This of course would be only natural, but avoids the point that our systems and structures are not necessarily his. So in short, I might argue that it is misguided in the first place to assume that there was even such thing as “generals” in the war in heaven. While it may be reasonable to conjecture that rank existed, applying mortal military nomenclature to what in all liklihood may have been Priesthood offices of sorts, seems to covey the idea that the “war” realized in the form of a Telestial military conflict.

  36. Genevieve:

    One of the more memorable spiritual experiences in my days as an RLDS youth came at a youth camp when a man younger than I now am shared his conversion experience of seeing Zion in a vision of the last days, with the Jew and the Gentile sharing the Bible and the Book of Mormon, while outside the walls people begged for entry into a Kingdom whose lifestyle whey would have been unwilling to embrace.

    And then he sobered us, by saying he was telling this to us because he realized his generation would NOT build that Kingdom. I think that is sad, and sadder as I muself grow older, but I still think the call of the trumpet to each generation should still be strong and certain.

    He passed on the mantle and went down fighting. I hope to do the same.

  37. It smacks of idolatry: all will “bow at your presence.” A hush when “Gordon B. Hinckley” is invoked. We need a lot less of this in the Church and I’m glad they denounced it. We aren’t all that special and a little more humility would go a long way.

  38. Genevieve,

    #35,

    To me teaching that we are the chosen generation instills the concept that we are special and important and of worth to God as his children in his plan.

    As long as it is clear that the “chosen generation” includes all 6 billion people born on earth today, in this generation. After all, how exactly are you differentiating between the “special” and just run of the mill human? Is it just those lucky enough to hear the Gospel? You really think that God would categorize 10 million as “special” and the other 5,990,000,000 people as ordinary or bad?

  39. Firetag,

    #44,

    One of the more memorable spiritual experiences in my days as an RLDS youth came at a youth camp when a man younger than I now am shared his conversion experience of seeing Zion in a vision of the last days, with the Jew and the Gentile sharing the Bible and the Book of Mormon, while outside the walls people begged for entry into a Kingdom whose lifestyle whey would have been unwilling to embrace.

    Can you not see the contradiction in your vision? Who begs to enter a kingdom whose lifestyle they would not be willing to embrace?

  40. Not at all, Dan.

    Ever want a pony as a kid? Or the prettiest girl in your high school class? Or the highest paying job? Or just to run away from home because things were bad at the time?

    Disparity between desire and capability exist throughout our lives.

    (And it wasn’t my vision, just for clarification.)

  41. “Ah yes, Cowboy, but what about the prevalent “fake military” that is the scouting organization?”

    Exellent comment Hawkgrrrl. Out of a desire to not over do it, I did fail to acknowledge that currently our designation of Wards and Stakes has it’s orign in 1800’s military organization.

    BIV:

    The problem I have always had with the War in Heaven concept is, who exactly wages war against God. Does that therefore imply the plausibility that God can either be killed, imprisoned, or defeated, through physical violence? I think suggesting as much goes completely against the LDS notion of God and what it means to be Eternal. In order to justify this, I had always seen the term “War” in this context to mean conflict more broadly. Without going into great detail, I used to theorize that this war was more political and analogous to the Gadianton combination, and used Moses 5, and Helaman 6, to justify this position. In short, there was some type of secret rebellion in the pre-existence. This too, has it’s logical problems however. How does one start an underground rebellion against an omnisient being, for example? From there you have to conclude that God tolerated this occurence in order to effect the plan of salvation and this dichotomy of good and evil spoken of by Lehi in 2 Nephi 2. This to me then implies that the plan of salvation requires the inevitable loss of those who rebel to create this condition of choice. That would be for example the one third part of the host of lost in the said war. It would also include those who early on were enticed by Satan to establish this secret brotherhood on earth. In short, for me this then calls into question the Atonement. After all, how infinite is the Atonement if in addition to the sacrifice, resurrection, and Exaltation of a God, it also requires the unreedemable sacrifice of those who create opposition. For me it kind of turns Alma 34 on it’s head. Anyway, enough of my ramblings.

  42. Firetag,

    Ever want a pony as a kid? Or the prettiest girl in your high school class? Or the highest paying job? Or just to run away from home because things were bad at the time?

    But that’s not the vision. The vision is thus: a society that is unattainable by the vast majority of the sons and daughters of God because they are unwilling to live the life of the society which they desire. That’s just poppycock. That builds up those who are within that supposed society as somehow better than those without. That frustrates the notion that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God because only 10,000,000 out of the 6,000,000,000 are actually of worth to God. In other words, the other 5,990,000,000 are not of worth to God. Let’s not even forget the billions who have lived on this earth without this utopian society amongst them. Sucks for them for not having it. Mormon exceptionalism is just as bad as Jewish exceptionalism was when John the Baptist chided the Pharisees, reminding them that God could create out of mere stones sons of Abraham, and that their lineage meant nothing in the end if they themselves did not live a good life. Being a Mormon, living a righteous life, doing everything you are supposed to do does not make you one whit better than anyone else on this planet. Because the moment you start taking pride in your religious standing vis a vis someone else, you’ve failed to learn the most important lesson of the Gospel. To love your neighbor as yourself. There is a sneering prideful exceptionalist problem with this vision you describe in #44. That’s not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You would be chided for blocking the wonders you have in your society from those who are supposedly begging to enter. You would be on the left hand of God for not taking care of the needy, because you did not do unto the least of those, Jesus’ brethren. Remember the 5,990,000,000. They hold far more value to God than you and those who think like this give them.

  43. Let me put this in numbers. The value of 5,990,000,000 compared to the value of 10,000,000. Let’s remove all the unnecessary zeros and we get 10 vs 5,990. Out of every 6000 people only ten are of real value to God. Surely though those other 5990 have some value. Let’s put a number on the value of each of those persons. Say the 5990 average a value of 5 and the 10 have an average of 10. Now what is the sum value of the 5990? That’s 29,950. And what is the value of the 10? 100. What level of value must be placed on the 10 to exceed that of the other 5990? Well, if we keep the value of the 5990 at 5, the 10 must have a value of 3000 per each individual. In other words, God must value each individual who has joined his church 600 times MORE than the value of each life of those who do not join the church for him to value the sum of all who join his church over the sum of all who do not.

  44. Dan:

    a) Neither I nor the man who had the vision said anything about Mormons comprising those in the Kingdom. Read more carefully, please.

    God and/or evolution do seem to be awfully willing to give lots of lifeforms a chance at the best knowing that most will not achieve the highest. Your democratic egalitarianism is itself on about the same order of rarity as Mormonism in world history, and humanity itself is a mere blink of the eye in a planetary history that goes back more than 4 billion years.

    Of course, you can decide (hopefully) that your good fortunes can and ought to be used in the service of others, but hopefully you’ll find even better ways to serve than simply handing them away. (See the parable of the talents.)

  45. In Short, Dan, what I mean is that Lehi’s discourse on the idea that there must needs be an opposition in all things, implies that Satan must have fallen. Based on the theory of this paradigm starting in the pre-existence and persisting into mortality through the secret combinations started with Cain and spoken clearly of in Moses 5, it appears that someone must present the opposition. In other words someone has to play the bad guy who is sent to Outer Darkness for Lehi’s theory to work. This person is unredeemed, and at a bare minimum we call this person Satan.

  46. Cowboy,

    Does that imply that Satan had no choice in the matter? Could we have seen a scenario where no bad guy was there, and everyone chose to follow God out of their own free will? Because that’s the implication of free will, that free will allows the individual a choice, and that according to Mormon theology on the matter, this sort of thing happened before. Thus Satan had a pattern in which to follow. Understanding this pattern, would Satan truly have chosen out of his own free will a non-redeemable sacrifice? My understanding of intelligent creatures indicates that unless one gets something significant in return, no rational, intelligent creature will accept non-redeemable pain and torment. What’s in it for Satan?

  47. Firetag,

    God and/or evolution do seem to be awfully willing to give lots of lifeforms a chance at the best knowing that most will not achieve the highest. Your democratic egalitarianism is itself on about the same order of rarity as Mormonism in world history, and humanity itself is a mere blink of the eye in a planetary history that goes back more than 4 billion years.

    Way to downplay the importance of humanity. Yes, humanity is a mere blink in the eye of planetary history, and yet here God is sacrificing His Only Begotten for this mere speck of life.

    a) Neither I nor the man who had the vision said anything about Mormons comprising those in the Kingdom. Read more carefully, please.

    ah, RLDS. I understand better.

  48. Dan:

    I think the sacrifice says more about God than about any special place for humanity in the cosmos. As I’ve said the following on my blog’s “About: The Fire Still Burning” page:

    “…[God] may be revealing Himself as a God so compassionate as to mourn the death of cancer cells, so terrible that He destroys galaxies for purposes of a greater good, and so just that He treats cancer cells, galactic clusters, and all things between or beyond with the same incomprehensible dis/com-passion. To this God, creatures like us are simultaneously less than nothing – and more than anything.

    There is no safe distance to follow such a God. He’s not playing by our rules, but by His own. To paraphrase some lyrics from the Contemporary Christian group Casting Crowns:

    He is not “…the God we want, but the God who is.

    Will we trade our dreams for His? Or are we caught in the middle?”

    I hope that clarifies what I’m saying for you.

  49. When have people thought the End Was Near:

    – Christ’s apostles at the meridian of time
    – The year 666
    – The year 1000
    – People in JS day
    – People in 1800’s
    – Saturday’s Warrior generation 30-40 years ago
    – The year 2000
    – Etc.

    Everyone projects the “End of Days” time on their own generation.
    Everyone projects being “God’s chosen people” on their own beliefs, whether LDS, RLDS, Muslim, Baptist, etc.

    We’re just the same…

  50. Dan:

    I may be reading into this and leading a scenario of what if’s, but what the heck. Does this imply that Satan had no choice in the matter? I’m not sure that’s what I am saying, but only that Satan is a necessary evil for the scenario explained in 2 Nephi 2. As you point out people tend to be rational utility maximizers, so signing up willingly for the Satan position seems counterintuitive. Perhaps this means there is no free will, or perphaps it is a hole in the doctrine. I vote for the latter, as I am not certain about the Eternal struggles between good and evil via a Satan character. As for 2 Nephi 2, I think your second question is very interesting:

    “Could we have seen a scenario where no bad guy was there, and everyone chose to follow God out of their own free will?”

    Before I begin I will admit that the scriptures are slightly vague on this point, but according to 2 Nephi 2:22

    “22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.”

    I think if you take this in context with the verses earlier that mention that there needs to be an opposition in all things, coupled with Satan role of enticing, we get an interesting picture. In short it seems that Adam and Eve needed more than just the presentation of choice, rather they needed to fall, and in order to do so they needed a catalyst. This Lehi refers to as an enticing, suggesting that men were in fact not free to act without an enticing:

    “16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not bact for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
    17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.”
    2 Nephi 2:16 – 17

    So in short, the scriptures seem to indicate that Satan was necessary to the plan as he is to entice us unto evil. Like you, I can’t imagine why a fallen Son of the Morning would be so invested in his Satan role. He seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself, doesn’t quite cut it for me. Eternal damnation would be a great motivator for swallowing ones pride in effort to reconcile themselves to God. Personally I see this entire premise as fable.

  51. Mike S.:

    I doubt time ends (ever), but it does not follow that things do not change beyond the ability of a society to imagine the changes. Consider Germany in the 20th Century, as one example. The West has been an exceptionally stable and safe society compared to the norm of world history. If anything, I would argue, we’re likely to underestimate rather than overestimate our own stability. One can believe in progress without thinking that progress is inevitable or uninterrupted.

    Cowboy:

    Utility is subjective, and the potential for rationalization is comparable to any potential for rationality so far.

  52. Cowboy,

    The Satan role may have been necessary to the plan, but I find it hard to believe that God forced Lucifer into that role or that Lucifer took that role without seeing some benefit for himself out of it. Who knows, maybe Lucifer’s rational deduction was that he found reward enough in destroying the souls of men. But it isn’t a role given him by God, nor forced upon him. And therein lies my problem with the way we are framing the discussion about this life. We look backwards, find a pattern, and claim foreordination worked the process. This takes from the beauty of free will and the ability of individuals and groups of writing their own destinies and futures. None of the events in this world were destined to have happened the way they did. Free choice allows people to act one way or another.

  53. Dan:

    22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
    23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
    24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
    (2 Nephi 2:22 – 24)

    11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
    12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
    13 And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.
    (Moses 5:11 – 13)

    Satan was necessary for the plan, and this really all that I am saying. The idea that God forced Lucifer into that position could certainly be implied, but more important than that is the fact that Satan is a necessary evil. In short the plan of Salvation requires a Satan of sorts, and this requires an unredeemable agent. I find the whole counterintuitive to the notion of an infinite and Eternal atonement.

  54. I think “foreordination” is our attempt to have things both ways: to assert that God had an eternal plan for how things were going to work out, and yet to preserve free agency. “Saturday’s Warrior” was so influential on our doctrine that many times we cannot sort out what is and is not popular belief which has roots in that musical. But I like to think that Satan did have agency, to the point that if he had made a different decision a different plan would have been put into action.

  55. “But I like to think that Satan did have agency, to the point that if he had made a different decision a different plan would have been put into action.”

    I’d like to think that too.

  56. Post
    Author

    UPDATE: Interesting talk given by Neil L. Andersen at Sunday’s CES Fireside. He told the Young Adults of the Church that they were “chosen and foreordained to have the gospel in your life and to be a leader in the cause of the restored gospel.”

    “Do not dismiss nor diminish the specific role and responsibility that has been given to you,” he said. “You are to be a captain in the Lord’s cause, charged with holding the banner of the restored gospel high.”

  57. Ha! I was at the MTC when I heard Boyd K. Packer say the exact quote “you were generals in the war in heaven”. I find it funny that he denies saying it.

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