There are 24 thoughts on “Restoration: A Theological Poem in the Book of Mormon”.

  1. Thank you for tweaking Welch’s structure of Alma 41:13-15. Your B lines bothered me a bit so I tweaked yours with the following result:

    A the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil
    for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish–
    B good for that which is good;
    C righteous for that which is righteous;
    D just for that which is just;
    E merciful for that which is merciful.
    E’ Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto
    your brethren;
    D’ deal justly,
    C’ judge righteously, and
    B’ do good continually;
    A’ and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward;
    E” yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you
    again;
    D” ye shall have justice restored unto you again;
    C” ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you
    again;
    B” and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
    A” For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and
    be restored;
    F therefore, the word restoration more fully
    condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him
    not at all.

    F is a ballast line for the poem.

    • Thanks for your comment. It is gratifying to have someone comment on an article originally posted so long ago. It is good to know that people still find the article to be of interest. And an insightful comment like this one is especially welcome. I like the change you propose. It increases the symmetry of B’ and B”, of A’ and A” by making their length more comparable. Aesthetically, that is a good change. I’m not sure I would read the F material as an F element. I think it can be seen as a kind of summary of the entire poem, that is, as a summative element of the poem that stands outside of the chiasm.

      At some point, I may assemble the various things I have written on the Book of Mormon into a book. If I do, I am going to modify this article as you suggest and credit you with the change. Where it differs from my own, I think it is a better reading than mine was. Thanks again for the comment.

  2. Thank you for this article. I know you pointed out the issues with the teachings of Nehor and their correlation to Satan’s plan in the pre-earth life.

    “that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4).

    Do you have some thoughts on why the current plan of salvation taught by the church moved closer to Nehor’s plan and moved away from the plan of salvation taught in the Book of Mormon consistantly for over 1,000 years?

    That is, only have those who accepted Christ and endured to the end going to heaven, plus those without the law and children who died. While the wicked would be cast into hell, subject to the devil for eternity after the resurrection and judgement.

    The Book of Mormon teaches a very traditional Christian view of hell and punishment for the wicked. Whereas the current church’s teaching on the plan of salvation would have the wicked spending eternity in the telestial kingdom under the influence of the holy ghost and those who accepted christ but did not endure to the end living in the Terrestrial kingdom under the influence of Jesus Christ.

    Just curious as to your thoughts on this (what seems to be) a disconnect in doctrinal consistancy over the ages.

    • James,

      The short answer to your question is that “we believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven.” Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants give further light and knowledge on the plan of salvation, knowledge that Book of Mormon peoples probably did not have. (The Apostle Paul does seem to have had it in some measure; so in some respects, the D&C doctrine of a heaven with different degrees of glory fits with the New Testament better than the traditional Christian creeds do.) The distinction between salvation and exaltation was probably not fully understood in Book of Mormon times. To be sure, if one holds that anything but exaltation is hell, then the Book of Mormon teachings are not inconsistent with our current understanding. Those who go to the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms are in a hell of sorts, damned for eternity from achieving the full potential of a child of God, unable to become like their heavenly parents and live for eternity with them. Nonetheless, we quite clearly have more details on the plan of salvation than the ancients had. Just as the New Testament teachings on our post-mortal existence are more fleshed out than those in the Old Testament, so the teachings of our time are more fleshed out than those of New Testament and Book of Mormon times. And it is very likely that those who come after us will someday understand important truths about our post-mortal existence that we do not now understand.

      There is, however, in the Book of Mormon, an account of damnation that can help reconcile the New Testament understanding of the plan of salvation with that of our time. In Alma 36, Alma gives us the best description in all scripture of eternal damnation. He experienced it and describes it powerfully in that chapter. He tells us, “I was racked with eternal torment” (Alma 36: 12). How can he have been wracked with eternal torment during his few days in hell? The answer would seem to be that one can experience eternal damnation in a finite time. If immersed in that darkness, one loses all sense of time, if the future and past disappear and one is caught in a dark eternal now, one can fully taste the bitterness of eternal damnation without spending eternity in that condition. So Alma experienced eternal damnation and yet will also be exalted. Thus, there is at least one person in the Book of Mormon who experienced both damnation and salvation. We now understand that others can do the same. All who do not receive the atonement of Christ will pass partially or fully through the experience of eternal damnation that Alma had. They will go to an eternal hell, but they won’t remain there for eternity. In short, the Book of Mormon reveals that eternity can be experienced in a finite time. Other, better experiences can then follow. But as I argue in the article, the Book of Mormon (and the D&C) both teach that if we do not accept the atonement by the end of our second estate, we will be punished for our own sins and will be eternally separated from God.

      Alma is not the only person who has experienced eternal damnation in a finite time. This website gives accounts of others with similar experiences whose lives have likewise, in some cases, been redirected.

      http://www.nderf.org/investigation_dark_side.htm

  3. The advantages provided by the millennial period in the pathway to the celestial kingdom, as provided to those who come forth in the first resurrection and the loss of advantage to those who do not so qualify was not addressed in your article or subsequent conversations. Surely this is a part of our “second estate” and important in a discussion on the justice and mercy of God – since it appears to be a period in which 6000 years of injustice might have some rectification. Why was the millennium and its consequences or lack thereof not a part of this discussion?

    • David,

      Thank you for your comment. Of necessity, articles have limited scope. The focus of this article is primarily on things Alma directly stated or strongly implied in his message to Corianton. I expect a very lengthy and informative article could be written on the role the Millennium will play in the execution of justice and mercy. Certainly, the millennial period falls within the scope of our second estate. But that task must fall upon others–perhaps you. While I don’t doubt it will be important, I myself do not understand all that well what role the Millennium will play in the testing and training of souls who have already died prior to its advent.

  4. Val, you wrote:

    “Fortunately, justice and mercy can be reconciled by atonement and repentance, which are, in turn, facilitated by a certain temporal slippage that separates act and consequence in the natural execution of justice…Consequence doesn’t always immediately follow act. This temporal lag between act and consequence is critically important for the full flowering of agency.”

    This mortal probation, or “temporal lag” of consequence, helps to explain what we learn in D&C 138:58-59 that the dead can still repent in the next life and still “be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God.” However, if they procrastinate their repentance until they are out of mortality they must pay their own penalty for their sins.

    It appears that the consequence or penalty is immediately activated upon the exiting of the “temporal lag” of mortality. That being the case, the portion of the Atonement that would have paid for their sins if they had repented in mortality can no longer help them because the consequence is applied before they repent. This is why Alma repeatedly warned not to procrastinate the day of our repentance (Alma 13:27, Alma 34:33-35).

    • Theodore,
      You raise an interesting and important issue. When does our second estate end? Does it end with the preliminary judgment that assigns us to Paradise or the Spirit Prison when we die and leave mortality? Or does it end when we face final judgment? The verses you cite in Alma certainly make it clear that we who are members of the Church would be foolish to bank on having an opportunity to repent after we die. There is no way to game this system. But personally, I’m also convinced that the sanctification process continues after this life. I think few, if any of us—and certainly not me—will be fully sanctified, fully purged of our human weaknesses and failings by the time we die. So few, if any of us, will be ready to enter comfortably the presence of God immediately after death. I suspect the process of further sanctification continues as our knowledge of who the Savior is and what he has done for us continues to deepen. The more we know him and what he did, the more perfect we will become if we are among those who voluntarily come to him with broken heart and contrite spirit. His gracious atonement will provide those of us who properly respond to it with the strength to be the perfect sinless beings we must be to reenter the presence of the Father.

      As for those who have not had a chance to know Christ adequately in this life (and that probably includes quite a few who are nominally members of the Church), the opportunity to voluntarily turn to him and receive the atonement probably continues after this life. One verse you cite, D&C 138: 57, suggests that this is the case: “the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.” What is the point of preaching the atonement to the unredeemed dead if they are beyond redemption by the Savior’s gift? It is possible that we have further light and knowledge that Alma didn’t have about the duration of our second estate. Or he may have believed that those he preached to were likely to have been adequately tested given the power of his testimony to them. The same might not be true for others who have not received a like witness.

      And yet, the other verses you cite, D&C 138: 58-59, give pause: “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.” What does “after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions” mean? Is this suggesting that they must suffer even as Christ did (D&C 19: 17-18), that their personal suffering can redeem them? I don’t think so. Much else in scripture would seem to contradict that idea and suggest that only Christ’s suffering can exalt us. Perhaps it just means they must suffer the godly sorrow that is always part of true repentance. That would be my guess, but you have called attention to a challenging verse that I probably don’t fully understand.

      • Val,

        I would also draw your attention to D&C 138:32, which reads, “Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.” This seems to refute the concept that there are no “second chances.” Even those who “rejected the prophets” in this life have the opportunity to accept the Gospel in the world of departed spirits. The difference being that they must pay “the penalty of their transgressions” themselves (D&C 138:59), rather than benefiting from the price the Lord previously paid. They can then “be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God [Jesus Christ].” They are still “redeemed” through Christ even though they had to pay the penalty of their sins themselves.

        • Theodore,

          I think it is pretty clear that while we are in our second estate, we have an ongoing opportunity to repent and accept the atonement and be redeemed through it. The only question is how long the second estate lasts. At the conclusion of our second estate probation, we enter a kingdom of glory or outer darkness where we will remain for eternity. After the final judgment, there will be no movement between kingdoms, I believe, for reasons discussed in the paper. As noted there, if movement is possible, it would have the perverse consequence of making wickedness in this life more wise than righteousness. Virtually everything in scripture contradicts that idea. The fact that movement between kingdoms is not possible after final judgment is not, in my view, a function of divine vindictiveness or some arbitrary barrier to further progress. It is a function of the fact that our second estate (like our first one) adequately tests our will and desires. We will be in the kingdom and have the glory that our second estate experiences have demonstrated we can bear.

          As for the idea that we can suffer and pay for our own sins and then be saved, that is clearly true with this proviso. Those who go to the Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms of glory have been saved in many important senses, but they have not and will not ever attain exaltation, the optimal destiny for a human being. To live comfortably in the Celestial Kingdom, we must receive and be transformed by the atonement of Christ. Suffering for our own sins can never make us into a person like God who will be able to abide His glory in the Celestial Kingdom.

          • Val,

            I agree that once one is resurrected and assigned to a kingdom of glory that there is no path for them to move upward to a higher kingdoms; “…where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end (D&C 76:112). However, as long as one is still in the spirit world, that is, prior to their resurrection, “the dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God” (D&C 138:58). “The ordinances of the house of God” are required to enter the Celestial Kingdom, but not required for lesser kingdoms. Therefore, it appears that the pathway to the Celestial Kingdom is open to all until their final judgment and resurrection to a lessor kingdom of glory.

  5. It is an excellent analysis! But we first must acknowledge that our finite minds really are quite finite at this point. King Benjamin’s words should be kept in mind, that “man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend,” meaning, as someone put it, man can not even write the table of contents to what the Lord knows. My guess, my speculation, is that we mortals know — mercifully — next to nothing as to how or even whether Lucifer would have or could have achieved his real objectives, whatever they were. Freeman Dyson’s catchy phrase, “infinite in all directions,” applies here.

  6. Profound analysis!

    I wonder if it was Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery or Solomon Spalding who crafted that chiastic poem? 😉

    • John,

      Thanks for posting the two articles. Both are good, but I especially enjoyed the first one. It makes the same point as the Wright and Givens articles I cite in the paper. This article is additional evidence of an emerging consensus that Satan would have destroyed agency by separating actions from consequences, not by compelling good behavior. During the Cold War, Satan was cast as a kind of communist commissar who would use compulsion to violate agency. The idea that he was an antinomian libertine is more consistent with the message he everywhere seems to peddle. The first article you link adds good examples (beyond those in my paper) of Satan pushing the idea that we can do as we please and still be saved. And the citations of Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, etc., demonstrate that this understanding of the War in Heaven is not new. So thanks for the link.

      While I know you cite good authority for your point 1 that laws must exist which are ordained by an Omipotent power, I believe there are reasons to reject half of that formulation. It is true that laws must exist, but there need not be an Omnipotent lawgiver to have laws. There are two broad kinds of law: legislated law and natural law. A legislated law exists because some authorized legislator says it is so. Natural law merely describes reality. I am convinced that the law of justice is a natural, not a legislated law. This is an important assumption implicit in the article. Its truth is apparent from the fact that God cannot violate the law of justice or he would cease to be God (Alma 42: 22). If the law of justice were law by virtue of his legislative decree, he could abrogate it simply by issuing a new decree. If the law is a natural law—as argued in the article—then he cannot change it. He must adapt his will to this uncreated reality. I call him the ultimate realist because he does that. And being fully in harmony with what is, he has all power that any being can have. He is in that sense omnipotent. He is also a law giver, but the laws he gives us just lay out a path that allows us to avoid bruising ourselves by bumping up against immutable realities. Cosmic justice is nothing but the immutable unfolding of causal processes that are inherent in reality. Righteousness is living in harmony with truth, things as they really are and really will be.

      For evidence that God is bound by natural law, we can look to the statement: “intelligence … was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29). Intelligences have their own inherent, uncreated properties. God cannot create an intelligence and, therefore, cannot fundamentally control another intelligent being. Nor does he want to. He respects our autonomy and our agency. He recognizes and honors its reality. The universe has an uncreated order that is ontologically prior to God’s existence as God. He has all power that can be possessed within the limits of that uncreated order, but he is not omnipotent in the same way that the orthodox Christian God is held to be omnipotent.

      But the constraints uncreated reality place on God’s power are something we should welcome, not lament. They solve all kinds of theological problems and make real our individual potential to be like our Heavenly Parents. A god who is omnipotent in the orthodox sense must be held accountable for anything done by any of his utterly contingent ex nihilo creations. If that is the nature of God, all laws are legislated and we are locked in the atonement paradox of Trinitarian Christianity that I discuss in footnote 4.

      Thanks again for the helpful links. (It is probably apparent, but I have somehow mismanaged this posting and put it in the wrong spot. It responds to John’s, not Theodore’s post.)

  7. Beautiful. Another great example of the depth within many Book of Mormon passages that completely escape most readers. This is a book that begs us to dig in, ponder, and explore. The craftsmanship and inspiration behind it keep yielding treasures. Thanks for digging into this one. It would be interesting to translate it back into a Semitic language and understand if there might be additional wordplays or other poetic tools that might have been part of Alma’s original message. Sometimes they show up still in the text.

  8. Val

    I enjoyed your article. Thanks. You wrote, “It is the original plan of Satan that we rejected in the preexistence. There Satan promised, “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost” (Moses 4:1).” I have thought much about this verse. Here are my conclusions. I am curious to get your take on this.

    1. Satan is a liar from the beginning (D&C 93:25) and the father of all lies (Moses 4:4).

    2. The only person who confirms that Satan’s plan was to “redeem all mankind” is Satan himself (Moses 4:1). But, he never said how he planned to do this.

    3. God and Jehovah also desired that all mankind would be redeemed, “that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.” (Moses 5:9)

    4. God tells us that Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). But, this is not the same thing as seeking the redemption of all mankind. Somehow we tend to link these two statements together. Nor are we given a timeline for these events. Satan seeking to destroy our agency could have come after his proposal was rejected by the Father. I cannot see a merciful Father casting down one of his sons simply for making a proposal, especially if the proposal could have benefited his other children.

    5. Now my conclusions. I do not believe that it was ever Satan’s intent to “redeem all mankind.” Being a liar, I believe that he said what he thought God wanted to hear. Since he knew that God loved his children – a feeling apparently absent from Satan – and wanted them all to be redeemed, he said what was expedient for him to gain power. So, I would refer to Satan’s plan as his “purported plan.” What was his real plan? I am not sure, but I am fairly confident that at its core was a power grab, which inevitably involved revoking our agency – the capacity to act – which God had given to us.

    • Here are two articles with some thoughts on this matter. Both articles basically come to the conclusion that of the four things required for agency to exist:

      1. Laws must exist, laws ordained by an Omnipotent power, laws which can be obeyed or disobeyed;
      2. Opposites must exist—good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong—that is, there must be opposition, one force pulling one way and another pulling the other;
      3. A knowledge of good and evil must be had by those who are to enjoy the agency, that is, they must know the differences between the opposites; and
      4. An unfettered power of choice must prevail.

      Satan sought to destroy the agency of man by eliminating number 1 by overthrowing God and making himself the lawgiver.

      http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/volume-11-number-1-2010/war-heaven-and-satan-s-continuing-battle-power
      http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/volume-12-number-3-2011/liar-beginning

    • Loren,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Here is my response to your points. In point 4, you suggest that destroying agency and redeeming all mankind may not be related and in point 5 you suggest Satan was lying and never intended to redeem everyone. It is possible that all the things said about Satan and the War in Heaven are disconnected fragments, that everything said about him is tainted by him being a liar. But we generally rely upon Occam ’s razor when evaluating theories, because integrated theories that logically connect many disparate facts have greater aesthetic appeal and greater utility (being more intelligible and generative of new, logically related insights). The wide use of Occam’s Razor as a metric for measuring theory value may merely reflect limitations of the finite human mind rather than reality, but since I have a finite mind, I value the metric and use it. So I prefer a theory that logically connects and affirms the destruction of agency, the proposed redemption of all humanity, Satan’s lying, his desire to have all glory, the expulsion of a third part of the hosts of heaven, and other associated facts. In my view, the theory explicitly and implicitly developed in this article integrates all these facts. Let me expound more fully on the theory, which I couldn’t fully develop in this article. The length of the comment here illustrates why this material couldn’t be incorporated above.

      As noted in the article, I believe Satan is an egotistical Romantic who suffers massive delusions of grandeur. He petulantly equates what he wants with what should be and is. Unlike God, who is the ultimate realist, he vainly imagines a universe that entirely reflects and responds to his will. For reasons Adam S. Miller discusses very cogently in the passage quoted in footnote 10 and the larger essay from which it is taken, this fantasizing is sinful. It is willfully self-deceptive. However much Satan’s towering ego affirms his fantasy and kicks against the pricks of reality, at some deep, more authentic level, he must know his fantasy is a lie. So when he attempted to sell the idea that he could save everyone regardless of their behavior, he was lying. But it is a lie that flows out of his grandiose character and out of his defiant relationship with God and with reality.

      Let’s explore his relationship with God, and ours, in the preexistence. We don’t have much information about our first estate, but there is one well-established fact about our post-mortal existence that has huge implications for the preexistence and the War in Heaven. Scriptural accounts of the last judgment make it very clear that no sinful human being can bear to be in the presence of God (e.g., 1 Nephi 15: 33 – 34; 2 Nephi 9: 46; Mosiah 2: 38; Mosiah 27: 31; Alma 36: 14 – 15; Rev 6: 16 – 17). This truth is especially well expressed in Alma 12: 14 – 15. In the presence of God, humanity is stripped of all sinful self-deception. “We shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness” (2 Nephi 9: 14). Thus, for sinners, the command “depart from me” (Matt 25: 41) is received as a merciful release from the terrible presence of God, the last place an unredeemed human sinner wants to be. The wicked “are their own judges” (Alma 41: 7) and of their own volition flee from God while, at the same time, grieving that they have chosen to die spiritually by separating themselves from Him.

      What sinners will feel when they return to God’s presence during the last judgment is precisely what they would have felt had they sinned while still under God’s “all-searching eye” (2 Nephi 9: 44) in the preexistence. It follows that any who will be unable to bear the presence of God as sinners at the last judgment were likewise unable to commit sin while still in his presence prior to the first judgment. In other words, no human being could then sin. Alma affirms this truth, saying that we had to leave “the presence of the Lord . . . to follow after [our] own will” (Alma 42: 7). In order to fully discover and exercise our own will, we who were God-fearing had to fully leave God’s presence. So we came to earth with our memories of God blocked by the veil.

      Though no one born on this earth was or (with very few exceptions) will be capable of defying God while in his glorious presence, Satan and a third part of God’s spirit children were so constituted that they could defy God face to face. This difference in character was the great dividing line in the pre-existence, the determinant at the first judgment of whether spirit children had or had not kept their first estate. (Sons of Perdition end up with Satan in the eternities instead of in a kingdom of glory because, on this earth, having a perfect knowledge of him, they defy him face to face and, thus, behave here as Satan and his followers behaved there. They thereby revoke their decision in the preexistence and forfeit what they gained by keeping their first estate).

      When God rejected Satan’s plan to “redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost” (Moses 4: 1) because it didn’t square with reality and was, therefore, impossible, two thirds of God’s spirit children humbly accepted the divine decision. But Satan and his third part brazenly defied God and insisted that the plan of universal salvation be adopted. Their brazen defiance of God and their support for universal salvation were probably linked.

      As I note in the article citing Greg Wright and Terryl Givens, Lucifer would have destroyed agency by separating choices from consequences. His plan was to let us do whatever we wanted while guaranteeing our return to heaven regardless of what we chose. If all our choices lead to the same outcome, human agency is destroyed. We have the power to choose a destiny for ourselves only if our choices have important consequences.

      Just as we can more deeply understand our feelings while in God’s presence and our limited capacity to commit sin in the pre-existence based on the more detailed descriptions of the last judgment, so we can better understand the plan Satan proposed in the pre-existence from the more extensive information we have of his false doctrines here on the earth. I cite in the article the various minions of Satan who teach the popular idea that one can do as one pleases and still be saved, e.g., Nehor, the eat drink and be merry line, cheap grace, the popular doctrine Samuel the Lamanite mentions. The fact that this seems to be one of Satan’s most consistent and popular lies on earth is pretty good evidence that it was the popular plan he proposed in the preexistence.

      In the preexistence, this doctrine Satan pushes so aggressively here on earth would have been appealing to the third part of God’s spirit children who were comfortable being in his presence while defying his will. Satan’s plan would have permitted them to follow their own will while on earth and then return without consequence to dwell with God as brazen sinners, a relationship that, apparently, would not have troubled them. But since heaven would have ceased to be heaven if filled with this kind of sinful narcissists (1 Nephi 15: 33), Satan and his brazen third were forced to depart the presence of God (D&C 29: 36; Rev 12: 3 – 9). This ejection was just because the ejected third were perfectly informed of God’s goodness and his will by the ultimate sign, his presence. To defy God when one has perfect knowledge is especially depraved. As Alma says, “how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that … only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression” (Alma 32: 17 – 19).

      For the two thirds of God’s spirit children who could not defy him face to face, Satan’s plan held no attraction. Unable to be in God’s presence as sinners, they would have been irrevocably excluded from heaven by their own God-fearing nature if Satan’s plan had been adopted. After defying God by following their own wicked will on earth, they could never again have lived comfortably in heaven under the gaze of his all searching eye.

      Thus, those of us who could not defy God while in his presence were caught on the horns of a dilemma. Further self discovery, further spiritual development was not possible for us if we remained in heaven. The scope of our agency was circumscribed by the intimidating presence of our beloved Father. We had to leave his protective presence to choose for ourselves and become who we truly were. But having left the presence of God, we would become the fallen, sinful beings we are in and of ourselves, beings who could never again live comfortably with God. So we faced an impossible choice: remain with God in a state of blessed damnation, unable to grow or develop, as beings who were derivatively and inauthentically righteous or leave heaven, gain the power to choose, inevitably choose sin, then die the spiritual death of permanent separation from our Father in Heaven.

      We were saved from this dilemma, this impossible choice, by the mercy of Christ that is discussed in the article and illustrated in the poem. It lets us leave God’s presence but then voluntarily reenter it by coming to Christ and being purged of sin as we stay engaged with this Divine being. The presence of Christ protects us from ourselves and empowers us to reject sin just as the presence of the Father did in our pre-mortal state. But this time, we are placed in the saving presence by our own act rather than by an act of God. We have freely chosen to be with him and, through his merciful, gracious moral influence on us, like him. If we receive Christ and his atonement, we are able justly and comfortably to reenter God’s presence and live with Him as exalted beings.

      So in response to your 5th point, I think Satan was inauthentically sincere about his plan. His plan was impossible—contravened cosmic justice—but he doesn’t acknowledge the reality that contravenes his will. He has lied to himself (and probably knows it deep down) but is so enamored of his own fantasies that he believes them in certain respects. And his inauthentic belief has made him a powerful salesman of his false ideas both in the preexistence and here on earth.

      Though I have probably not expressed them all that clearly, the various parts of this analysis seem to me to fit together as an integrated, logical whole.

      • Val

        Thanks for your response. However, I think that you are far too kind to Satan by viewing him as a frustrated romantic. I see him as sinister, merciless, and the antithesis of God in every way. Just my opinion. I agree in principle with Ockham’s razor, and that is why I believe as I do about Satan. Whether he is a romantic or not I do not know, but I do know that he is a liar. With that as a foundation, I should not believe anything he says unless validated by a third party. That seems to be the simplest and most obvious approach.

        • Loren,

          I seem to have a dimmer view of most of the Romantics than you do, so we probably don’t disagree all that much. Satan is vicious and the Romantics who admired Milton’s Satan (as mentioned in footnote 11) were foolish to do so. Adam Miller (footnote 10) sagely shows how much serious sin is inherent in Romantic fantasies. They are by no means innocent. This helps explain why engrossing video games can be so spiritually debilitating and why apostles have warned us against squandering our time and corrupting our soul by escaping into these fantasy worlds where the immutable laws of reality do not apply, where murder and mayhem do no lasting harm. Movies and literature are likewise often dangerous. If these works of art reflect true principles, they have great potential to train us to be good. But Satan seems to be the majority shareholder in most of the businesses that produce these cultural products, so the worlds they embed us in do not show the real, nasty consequences of unrighteous actions. That evasion of reality defines Romanticism for me. It makes most works of modern Romantics imitations of the dangerous false reality where sin has no consequences that Satan tried to sell us in the premortal world.

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All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged. Individual authors are given the option to disallow commenting or end commenting after a certain period at their discretion.

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