The apostle John revealed to us, "There was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which decieveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation12:7-9).
Isaiah lamented, "How art thou fallen from heaven, oh Lucifer, son of the morning! how are thou cut down to the ground" (Isaiah 14:12). Joseph Smith wrote concerning this tragic event, "and was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him -- he was Lucifer, a son of the morning" (D&C 76:26).
Most Christian churches believe that a war was fought in heaven between Lucifer and Michael, but they have no idea of who Lucifer was, how he came to have angels of his own, what the war was about, and how it was fought. Through modern revelation we know the answers to these important questions.
Before the earth was created, a grand council was held in heaven where our Father's children were gathered together to hear about a glorious plan to help us progress to eternal life. In that plan our Father explained that we would leave heaven for a short time so that we might have the opportunity to experience choosing between right and wrong. But there was a danger in this. Those who chose to do wrong, even once, would become tainted with sin. Since nothing unclean can dwell in heaven, such people would be unable to return to their Father's home. However, the plan included a way to overcome this problem. Someone who had not committed any sin would have to be willing to pay the penalty for those who did. In that way, when we made mistakes in judgment, we could learn from them, repent of them and still be able to return to our celestial home.
The only question left was: Who would be this savior?
"An angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God" (D&C 76:25) stepped forward and said, "Behold, here am I, send me. I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind" (Moses 4:1) That angel's name was Lucifer. But Lucifer had a problem with our Father's plan. In it, only those who accepted the savior's atonement could receive eternal life. Everyone else would be unable to return to the celestial glory in which we all then lived. Lucifer had a better idea. He would force everyone to choose the right. In that way no one would become unclean through wrong choices and everyone would then be eligible to receive full salvation. Under such a plan, not one soul would be lost. Of course that also meant that the savior (i.e. Lucifer) wouldn't have to pay the penalty for anyone's sins, since none would have been committed. But Lucifer also offered another modification to the plan. He wanted all the glory and honor, even that which belonged to the Father.
A second angel stepped forward. This angel was the Father's beloved son, Jehovah. He said, "Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever" (Moses 4:2).
The difference between these two responses is instructive. Jehovah saw the wisdom in doing things the way His Father had designed the plan. His response was motivated by love, humility and obedience to someone greater than Himself. Lucifer's offer, on the other hand, was motivated by pride. He wanted the glory. He wanted the power. And he didn't want to share those with anyone, including his Father. In his pride he wanted to take the Father's place. Along with that pride came a sense of arrogance; a sense that he knew better than his Father, and was therefore better than Him. As such Lucifer's plan called for him to be a dictator, with us, his brothers and sisters, being his subjects (slaves).
Our Father chose Jehovah to be the savior.
Because of his pride and arrogance, Lucifer became indignant that he was not chosen, and rebelled against our Father. What then ensued was a war, where one third of the hosts of heaven sided with Lucifer, and the other two thirds, lead by Michael, the archangel, sided with our Father. (Although the scriptures do not mention Jehovah's involvement in this battle, we can assume it was considerable.)
But what kind of a war was this? Was it hand-to-hand combat? Did we use bow and arrows, swords and shields? Did we use guns and rockets, tanks and missiles? Did we perhaps use something more sophisticated like laser swords or bolts of lightning? But we know that spirits can't be destroyed, and we further know that Satan (his name being changed from Lucifer) and his angels are still very much alive and active on this planet. So what kind of a war did we fight?
The answer can be found by asking another question. How did Lucifer gather one third of the hosts of heaven to his side? Did he threaten them in some manner? There's no way they would have willing followed him to their destruction if he forced them to join with him. The only way to gather followers is by persuasion. Lucifer used his talents of rhetorical persuasion to convince one third of our brothers and sisters that his plan was better than God's. If you will, the war in heaven was like a political campaign, where each side tries to convince the population to vote for them based on their promises. There is nothing wrong with this kind of debate, except that there was not going to be any votes taken. Our Father was going to make His decision based on wisdom, not popular support. From the beginning, Lucifer's attempt to sway our Father's children to his way of thinking was doomed to failure. But there was no real sin in doing this. The sin came when our Father made His choice. Instead of gracefully accepting defeat, and yielding obedience to our Father's wishes, Lucifer became furious, and openly rebelled against the very Person who was seeking to offer him the chance for eternal life. That was his sin! It's all right to have a different opinion than God, but it isn't all right to go against God's wishes.
Lucifer violently disagreed with his Father's decision and, through his great persuasive arguments, convinced his followers not to obey their Father. If you will, a line was drawn in the sand separating the two classes of angels. All those who followed God were on one side, and those who opposed God were on the other side. Those who were not on God's side were physically removed from the confines of heaven.
But Lucifer hasn't given up. The war that started in heaven is still raging here on earth.
In any conflict, there has to be an objective, or goal. Our Father's objective is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). Satan's goal is "that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27). However, just having a goal doesn't mean it will be achieved. As anyone who has ever played chess, or even checkers, knows that to win you need to have a strategy. There has to be some sort of a plan to help you achieve your goal. Our father has a plan for our salvation. Satan also has a plan of how to achieve his objective. But, in any conflict, a wise combatant thinks ahead and plans a counter move to the move he thinks his opponent will make. Since his opponent will do the same, then a counter-counter move must be planed.
Our Father made his first move when He created the earth. Satan then made his move on Adam and Even in the garden of Eden. God countered with teaching Adam and Eve about the atonement. Satan countered by tempting mankind to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. God countered by sending His Son to earth as a sacrifice. Satan countered by tempting Christ into corrupting His mission. Christ successfully blocked that move. Satan then countered by inspiring the Pharisees to have Him killed. Bad move. That only played into God's strategy. So Satan went back to tempting mankind. God counters by offering repentance. Satan counters through persuasion that our sins are beyond forgiveness. And so the conflict goes on.
As we read the Book of Mormon, we see excellent military strategies, some on both sides of the conflict. Even when the Nephites seemed to be in a hopeless situation, a brilliant strategy helped them out-maneuver their enemies and gain the upper hand. In our conflict with Satan, we too need an effective strategy for out-maneuvering him
But this is not a physical contact war. This is war of words. This is a conflict of ideas. This is a struggle for control over the hearts of men. This is a mind game. We are bombarded with persuasive words coming from both sides; one to follow the plan of God, our Father, and the other to follow the plan of Satan. Unfortunately, however, in this contest for our souls, God plays fair; Satan doesn't. Satan uses deceit, trickery, lies, half-truths and any other under-handed tactic he can think of in order to win.
In the very beginning of the battle on earth, he offered Eve that which was forbidden by God. She told him, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die" (genesis 3:2-4). Satan called God a liar, while it was he who was doing the lying! What audacity! And, Eve herself later admitted she had been beguiled (deceived, tricked) by the devil (Genesis 3:13).
What makes this battle even worse is that Satan changes his strategy from person to person. To some he will lure them with the pleasures of the world, while others he will lure them into a vow of poverty. To some he will tempt with the praises of men, while others he will persuade to shun notoriety. To some he will entice to do wickedness, while others he will entice to act godly. While God is consistent, Satan will whisper whatever he thinks the person wants to hear, carefully leading them off the road to salvation. He even uses such words as "love", "peace", "unity" and other similar terms to mislead some into thinking they are serving God, when, in reality, they are falling prey to God's arch enemy.
Then how do we recognize Satan when he makes his move? Although at times it can be obvious, there are other times when his attempts to lead us astray are very subtle. However, if he is going to persuade us to follow him, then he must convince us in some way to accept his ideas. This is why it's important for us to understand the nature of the war in heaven. The first rule in any contest is to know your opponent. In the National Football League, one team will play another team once each weekend. But during the rest of the week, each team reviews video tapes of its upcoming opponent's previous games to understand their strategy and how to counter it. In any military conflict, it is of tremendous value for one side to learn as much as it can about the other side's goals, plans and tactics. And so it is in our conflict with Satan.
The thing that motivates Satan is pride - self righteous, arrogant, conceited, egotistical pride. It's the type of pride that seeks for the praise of others and the type that pursues power, with the intent to gain control over people. It's this type of pride that, when things don't go their way, causes such people to become angry, seek revenge, act disobedient and rebel against authority. These are Satan's trademarks. Closely associated with these are the tendencies of fear, doubt, and despair. On the other hand, God's trademarks are love, service, peace, patience and humility, with its accompanying tendencies of hope, faith, and courage.
Consider the reign of two different kings - Benjamin and Noah. Although Benjamin ruled over his people, he did so without any thought of gaining glory for himself, or of enslaving his people. He ruled in love and in service to others. Noah, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite. He was vain and lazy, living off the hard work of his subjects. Although Benjamin wasn't tolerant of sin, he was a gentle, patient man. Noah was self righteously arrogant in the way he treated others. And when things didn't go his way, as when Abinadi came along, Noah's reaction was one of anger, rebellion and revenge -- just like his father, Satan.
Consider how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. The first two temptations, as recorded in Matthew, begin with, "If ye be the son of God" (Matthew 4:3-9) IF! Satan was taunting Jesus. He was trying to provoke him to pride in order to prove His divine calling. It reminds me of the movie "Return of the Jedi" where the evil Emperor of the Empire taunts Luke Skywalker to give in to his hatred, thereby giving in to the dark side of the force. This is what Satan was trying to do to Jesus. It would have been so easy for Christ to pridefully say, "I'll show you!" But He didn't. When the first two attempts at this failed, Satan then tried to tempt the Savior with the lure of power and glory.
Whenever we see these negative tendencies in others, or in ourselves, we can then be sure that such people have become followers of Satan, knowingly or unwittingly. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we see this type of behavior among those who claim to be followers of God because Satan has successfully deceived many into thinking they are serving God while performing ungodly deeds. Outwardly this type of religious person may seem to be pious in their appearance and actions, but when something goes against their beliefs, they become a totally different person. For that matter, I'm sure Satan himself is nice enough when things are going his way. But when people disagree with him, or he doesn't get what he wants, then all hell breaks loose in a violent rage.
The Pharisees and Sadducees of Christ's day are an outstanding example of this. They walked about acting pious, but inwardly they craved the praise of men. They wanted people to view them as wise men of understanding, both spiritually and temporally, and, as such, they always sat in the chief seats wherever they went. They acted dignified and holy in public, until Jesus dared to correct their misguided notions and point out their hypocrisy. Then, instead of behaving as men of God should, they became angry, bitter, vile, and viscous, even to the point of murder.
Throughout much of religious history we have seen horrible acts of savagery committed in the name of God. Many of the fiercest attacks on Joseph Smith came from the leaders of the Christian churches of his day. Today, Jews and Arabs kill each other in the Middle East because of religion. Catholics and Protestants kill each other in Ireland. Moslems and Serbs kill each other in Bosnia. In America there are many Christian churches who seem to behave quite piously but who become extremely hostile at the mention of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They don't just doctrinally disagree with us, they openly attack us. Their anti-Mormon literature is filled with lies, half-truths, and misquotes, while all their observations about us are laced with venom. And yet, in their own eyes, they think that God is pleased with such behavior on their part. Satan has very successfully used religion to deceive people into following him.
But what about those who truly seek to do good in their lives yet don't belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I know many Christians who genuinely show forth the fruits of the Spirit and are totally lacking the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:17, 22). Has Satan also led them away from the true path of salvation? Perhaps to some extent he has, but they haven't become his followers. Instead, "these are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men" (D&C 76:71). As such, in the resurrection, they will receive greater glory than many Mormons who didn't live their religion. In such cases Satan hasn't completely succeeded in his goal; he has only achieved a limited, and somewhat hollow victory.
To be tempted by the pleasures of the world is one thing; to become a follower of Satan is quite another. However, one of Satan's successful strategies is to use the normal temptations of life to lead us into his camp. Yet once there, it becomes difficult for people to see their error. They become blinded to the truth and become defenders of that which is evil. That's why God has given us commandments. Following them is our safeguard against Satan's slick, deceptive ways. When we fail to follow them, we tend to give into temptations easier, which plays into the hands of the very person who seeks to destroy us. Paul taught that even Christians aren't exempt from this kind of strategy (I Timothy 5:15).
Joseph Smith wrote, "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion" (D&C 121:39). This happens even to those who hold the priesthood of God. Unfortunately, we see LDS husbands who are dictatorial with their wife and children, local priesthood leaders who are rebellious of church authority, and members who are critical of their faith. This type of behavior is not from God, but, rather, indicates that such a person is following the plan of Satan.
However, we don't have to become egotistical to be a disciple of Satan. Remember, his goal is to make us miserable as he is. Can someone be truly happy when they possess the attributes of fear, despair, hopelessness, self pity, pessimism, and doubt? And can people be miserable when they are filled with hope, faith, optimism, self-confidence, and courage? The answer to both questions is no! Fear and doubt don't come from God, and neither can hope and faith come from Satan. Therefore, whatever produces these tendencies tells us a lot about what source they come from.
Why is it important for us to understand the war in heaven? Without an understanding of who we are, why we are here and where we are going, we can more easily be deceived into following the very person we should flee from. Without an understanding of our adversary, we go into battle unprepared for the fight. Without an understanding of the nature of the conflict, we blindly fall into Satan's trap. Through the prophet Joseph Smith, our Father in heaven has not only restored the true, full gospel of Jesus Christ, but has also revealed vital information to help us successfully return to Him, despite Satan's plan.
Another counter move on God's part.
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