A War in Heaven, Again….On Earth

By: Jeff Spector
October 7, 2011

“And the Lord said: Whom shall I send?  And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.  And another answered and said: Here am I, send me.  And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Abraham 3:27 – 28)

During conference last week, two talks drew me to think about the war in heaven and how Satan influenced a third of Father’s children to follow him and thus were cast out, never to receive physical bodies and obtain the fullness of the Plan of Salvation.  One of those talks was Elder Holland’s Priesthood session address where he said,

“… Satan, or Lucifer, or the father of lies—call him what you will—is real, the very personification of evil. His motives are in every case malicious, and he convulses at the appearance of redeeming light, at the very thought of truth. Number two, he is eternally opposed to the love of God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the work of peace and salvation. He will fight against these whenever and wherever he can. He knows he will be defeated and cast out in the end, but he is determined to take down with him as many others as he possibly can.” (We Are All Enlisted, October 2011)

It occurred to me that a new war in heaven, here on earth, is happening at this very moment.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Savior teaches that the tares will live and grow among the wheat, but will be separated at harvest time.

We see, as pointed out in Hawkgrrrl’s post earlier this week, that many younger people are becoming disinterested in church in general and the same thing happening in the LDS Church.

While this is not entirely new and has been going on since the foundations of the world were made, it seems to be accelerating in terms of the numbers of people who are being lost to Heavenly Father and Jesus.  I am not talking about those who are part of another religious tradition or who adopt another faith, but those who completely lose their faith and belief in God.  After all, is this not the ultimate mission of the adversary? And with that loss of faith, sometimes comes a loss of moral compass.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20)

We’ve lamented, many times, the seeming loss of this moral compass and the wicked nature of the world around us. I’ve concluded that Satan is the best Marketing Executive the world has ever seen. Steve Jobs had nothing on him.  Satan, using people here on earth, can make just about anything sound appealing, inviting and acceptable. Under the guise of nature, free speech, and allowing adults to act anyway they choose, he has introduced all kinds of things to mainstream life clearly deemed unacceptable by the Lord. And while Satan cannot compel behavior, he does a good job of swaying people to allow their natural (Mosiah 3:19) tendencies to rule their behavior, even to their own detriment.  People make the choice to adopt these behaviors.

So, the question before us is simple, are we seeing a resumption of, or just a continuation of, the war in heaven right here, right now?  Are we witnessing the loss of more of Father’s children as they separate themselves from Him, His plan, His Gospel, or at the very least, the moral code that has guided and directed the majority of societies for thousands of years?

Surely sin and bad behavior have always existed.  It is, after all, part of the “Plan.” Some of it has been unspeakable.  But, are we in a moral decline from which many will never recover? Are they casualties of this “new war?”

17 Responses to A War in Heaven, Again….On Earth

  1. CatherineWO on October 7, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    A belief in God does not guarantee or predispose one to moral behavior. Nor does disbelief guarantee or predispose one to immoral behavior. My own personal experience of 60 years of living (very unscientific, I know) is that the two–religious belief and moral behavior–often do not go hand in hand.

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  2. KMB on October 7, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    “Under the guise of nature, free speech, and allowing adults to act anyway they choose, he has introduced all kinds of things to mainstream life clearly deemed unacceptable by the Lord.”

    Isn’t the word “clearly” the real problem here? Is it really that clear even from a faithful LDS perspective what separates “moral” and “unacceptable” behavior in the Lord’s view for many questions facing the world today?

    I believe most of humanity (LDS or non-) would cease immoral behavior immediately if (a) they knew God existed and (b) they knew that their behavior was “clearly unacceptable” in His sight. The problem is getting to that point.

    Most religious believers (LDS included) believe God finds their personal behavior and personal interpretation of their own religious doctrines “acceptable”. Obviously they can’t ALL be correct, but when even an appeal to the Bible, Book of Mormon and/or statements from Church leaders can’t create a “clear”, unambiguous view of morality and righteous behavior for LDS in many critical areas, then it’s not surprising that non-LDS would have vastly different opinions on morality as well.

    At what point does it become God’s responsibility to provide a clearer picture of what’s acceptable and what isn’t, given that even within the Church the supposedly “clear” messages in the past still present contradictions and questions?

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  3. Mike S on October 7, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    I would argue that the premise of the question is wrong. It is true that the activity rate in the LDS Church is decreasing, that our missionary efforts are 50% less effective than they were a few years ago, and that we are not growing as much. This is mirrored in many traditional religions – Catholics, Protestants, etc.

    However, I think there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual. I would argue that spirituality is at least as strong as it has been, and that we have improved in many areas. In a recent Gallup/USA today poll (2010), 92% of Americans say they believe in God. The number of Americans who say religion is “very important” in their life (as opposed to “fairly important” or “not important) was 56% in 2008, compared to 52% thirty years ago. So, we are still a spiritual county, just a less religious county.

    And I would also argue that we have made great strides in spirituality. We are more accepting – when I was born, we didn’t let women pray in Sacrament meeting or let blacks have the priesthood – those have changed. I think there are many, many people who are more concerned with the world around them – be it other individuals, the environment, the essence of right, loving and accepting people “different” from them, etc.

    And I think this is a natural evolution which will lead us into the Millennium. Prior to the Reformation, a central Church essentially controlled one’s access to God. After men like Martin Luther, etc., personal access to God has increased. The founding of America was initially driven by even more personal access to God. And the trend has continued. People are increasingly attracted toward being “spiritual and good people” as opposed to “religious people”.

    In the context of the LDS Church, this is true. There are many things that define someone as a “good” and fully engaged Mormon to the average member of their ward – white shirt on Sunday, no tattoos, 100% home teaching, full weekly attendance, callings, etc. There are similar things in other religions. For example, someone who drinks coffee may be considered by many of their peers to be a “bad” Mormon, but it doesn’t mean they are a “bad” person or any less spiritual than someone who doesn’t.

    So, people aren’t necessarily rejecting God, they are just rejecting these cultural trappings of religion. And the trends will continue. People will remain spiritual (and will become more so as time progresses). Religions that focus on the spiritual and not the traditional superficial trappings will become successful. Those that don’t will continue to dwindle.

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  4. GBSmith on October 7, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    “So, the question before us is simple, are we seeing a resumption of, or just a continuation of, the war in heaven right here, right now? Are we witnessing the loss of more of Father’s children as they separate themselves from Him, His plan, His Gospel, or at the very least, the moral code that has guided and directed the majority of societies for thousands of years?”

    I think it’s generally the case that the current generation feels like the world and the younger generation in particular are going to hell in a hand basket. It may be that some sociology grad student could try and quantify that but my opinion is that it’s likely the same. Kinsey found that peoples sexual practices hadn’t changed over a pretty long period of time and since the sexual revolution it’s more public but I’m not sure it’s more. Prophets still preach, teach, exhort and expound about the same things and people still listen or ignore depending on their age, interest and abilities. The only thing that I think may have changed is that it seems people seem less inclined to believe that what they do in the here and now will matter in the hereafter. IMHO.

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  5. Agnes on October 7, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    (Wheat & Tares: I read this gem on the web!)

    F-word Mania

    The members of the present degenerate Hollywoodized generation love to needlessly sneak in the f-word for pure (?) shock value. I guess it’s the literary form of “flashing” or “indecent exposure.” They may not know that they are referred to in the 22nd chapter of Revelation which says “he which is filthy, let him be filthy still” – and they sure wouldn’t want to know where such unrepentant low-lifes will end up, as vividly portrayed in that Biblical book! America’s suicidal turning away from God in recent years has created a huge vacuum that has been quickly and gleefully filled by someone whose five-letter name starts with “S” – and, no, it isn’t Santa (to find out just re-arrange these letters!). How many more disasters will have to happen in the US and elsewhere before even low-lifes will start to see connections?

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  6. Dan on October 8, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    the rejection of organized religion does not equal the rejection of God.

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  7. Jeff Spector on October 8, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    CatherineWO

    “A belief in God does not guarantee or predispose one to moral behavior. Nor does disbelief guarantee or predispose one to immoral behavior.”

    Absolutely true! We are, as natural beings inclined to behavior that is not good for us. We have to resist our natural inclination to sin.

    The difference between the believer and non-believer is not that one sins and the other does not, it is that one knows they are and needs to repent and the other might not think they are doing anything wrong.

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  8. Jeff Spector on October 8, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    KMB

    “At what point does it become God’s responsibility to provide a clearer picture of what’s acceptable and what isn’t, given that even within the Church the supposedly “clear” messages in the past still present contradictions and questions?”

    Here is how I look at it. I am not responsible for whatever was taught before that is no longer taught as it pertains to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. I am accountable for what is taught now. Contradictions may exist, I know they do, but so what?

    To me, it is pretty clear what is and is not acceptable behavior. The real basics of the Gospel have not changed. The Savior gave us two great commandments, they are still in force today.

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  9. Jeff Spector on October 8, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Mike S

    “I would argue that spirituality is at least as strong as it has been, and that we have improved in many areas.’

    I do not buy this for a minute. Too many people had their lack of religiousness under the guise of “spirituality.” What the heck does it mean anyway? There are as many definitions as there are people who claim it.

    The fact is the world is a much more wicked place than it was. The world is less religious than it was. In my mind, it probably means Satan is winning the war.

    I do not possess a world view of things in the world, I have an LDS view. I do not apologize for that. So I view how the world behaves from that viewpoint and I think it is bad and going to get worse.

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  10. Jeff Spector on October 8, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    GBsmith,

    “The only thing that I think may have changed is that it seems people seem less inclined to believe that what they do in the here and now will matter in the hereafter. IMHO.”

    That might just sum it all up right there. And that, to me, is the problem.

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  11. Badger on October 8, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    Jeff, I think I understand what it is you’re referring to, but I wouldn’t connect it to the war in heaven in the same way you did. As the war is described, it seems that everyone had some sort of first-hand knowledge of God. Whatever decisions people are making on Earth today are not being made in that environment. For the same reason, I don’t see how most Earthly wheat-vs-tares issues would fit in.

    As I read it, the main features of the war in heaven were (1) warfare, based on (2) disagreement over free agency and Satan’s purported no-soul-left-behind alternative plan. I have no problem conceiving of the warfare as metaphorical, but there were supposed to have been “no neutrals”. Individuals falling away or led astray don’t seem sufficiently enlisted.

    As for free agency, it seems to me that concern in the church about the risks to salvation inherent in its exercise are at a very high level. You expressed such concern yourself (“free speech”, “allowing adults to act anyway they choose”). Such concerns are well founded, of course; many human decisions are bad ones. But I think you go so far in depicting advocacy of freedom as a Satanic technique as to be incongruous with the theme of the account of war in heaven.

    I understand your remarks in the spirit of “the Devil can cite scripture for his purpose”; that is, I’m sure you don’t mean that “free speech”, etc., are Satanic ideas, just that they can be, and are, abused. Although that is true, I see the war in heaven as a warning that fear of the abuse of free agency can go too far, that the price of preventing all bad outcomes is too high, and that security and safety, even in the most ultimate spiritual sense, cannot take precedence over all other values.

    So that’s where the connection you’re making specifically to the war in heaven breaks down for me. There seem to be important pieces missing.

    I always get a little uneasy in conversations like this one, so let me just say I don’t believe and don’t want to imply that anyone is unwittingly in agreement with the Devil to any degree. I’m just describing how I tend to think about these matters.

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  12. Jeff Spector on October 8, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Badger,

    Actually, my depiction of the a “war” is really one of believers versus “used to be believers.” Those who have given up completely on God.

    In using free speech, I was trying to emphasize the point that things are been promoted under the guide of free speech that is wrong under the Gospel as we know it in the Church. Not that Free Speech is wrong. Far from that.

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  13. Mike S on October 8, 2011 at 10:10 PM

    Jeff,

    I would still argue that the things that make someone a “good” Mormon aren’t necessarily the things that make someone a “good” person. Ideally, the two coincide, but I know many, many people who have high Church callings, don’t drink coffee or wine, wear white shirts on Sunday, etc. yet screw over their neighbor in business deals throughout the week, are demeaning toward their family, etc.

    This is where I see the dichotomy. You can be a “religious” person but not very “spiritual” as above, “spiritual” but not “religious”, or both, or neither. At the end of the day, I would rather be seen as a spiritual person than a religious person.

    And regarding …The fact is the world is a much more wicked place than it was…, I’m not sure what you mean by that. There is more peace now than in many of the barbaric times that existed on earth. While still present, there is generally less racism than previous times. Women generally have more rights now than they had for thousands of years. We care more about the environment than we did in the past. We have more freedom of religion than we did in the past. So, I’m not sure in which way things have become so wicked…

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  14. Jeff Spector on October 9, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Mike S,

    I agree with you for the most part especially the part about religiosity or the appearance does not always match the behavior. Kind of like the devout Catholic Mafia guys!

    I also agree that our own world has become much more tolerant to a large degree. but that is certainly not true across the world.

    But at the same time, I would argue that the the moral fiber of our world (which can mean the western world) is less than it was. More children out of wedlock, a disdain for marriage, infidelity, lack of charity, crooked politicians and corporate executives, greed, the love of material things, the rise of porn, low brow media, etc.

    For me, it is quite the paradox.

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  15. Tachyon Feathertail on October 9, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    I think that what’s going on is that people are realizing it’s okay to be the person God made them, and that they don’t have to change in order to become acceptable to society.

    I feel optimistic that people of all kinds — women, children, blacks, gays, the elderly, the transgendered, and members of minority religious groups like yours — are more accepted now, and less likely to be abused now, than ever.

    There are a lot of abuses of financial and political power, but this isn’t because people are more evil now than in past days — it’s because power is more concentrated now, and so the people who have it can do what they want with no consequences.

    I feel that morality comes from considering how your actions affect others, and not taking orders from people with unquestioned power.

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  16. Neal on October 11, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    I would consider things more a continuation.

    When I look at the scriptures/temple teachings about the war in heaven, Satan being cast out, etc. etc. a couple of interesting thoughts some to mind.

    First is the passage in the PoGP where the Lord states that He can look at all the creations He has made – millions of earths like this – and this is the most wicked. Next consider the references to Satan being cast out, and sent specifically to THIS earth, and the notion that he is literally the ‘god’ of it. Then consider the teachings that Christ atoned for the sins of this world and ALL the other worlds that were made. An infinite atonement.

    Now put that all together and you get this – This is Satan’s home base, his home planet, and he RULES. The Savior of all mankind was sent here to THIS planet because he had to face and overcome Satan on his home turf. Only here could Satan attack Him and tempt Him directly. So essentially we’re living on the most ghetto, most wicked planet in the entire universe, and Christ came here specifically because of that. Any wonder things are a little tough? Let that sink in a bit…

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  17. Redster on October 19, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    My brother, a Mormon, pointed me to this discussion. One question I have for all of you is how you define the world becoming more evil? From a humanist’s perspective we have less starvation, lower percentage of violence as a percentage of the world population, greater tolerance of those not like us (this is a hit and miss, but the trend in westernized countries is a bumpy trend in a positive direction), greater rights of women, and the list goes on. Does the fact that we have easier access to porn and that people are not enticed by organized religion as much mean all the other positive movements are reversed or nullified? I don’t get it. It seems to me, by way of a lot of reading on the subject, that if the following of the Golden Rule is your measuring stick to the goodness of mankind, the world is getting to be a much better place.

    Please, set me straight.

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