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 that great dragon was cast out,
that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,
which deceiveth the whole world:
he was cast out into the earth,
and his angels were cast out with him.”
– Revelation 12:8-10
You are at war.
It’s that simple. And that complex.
You are – whether you desire the conflict or not – engaged in the greatest, biggest, and bloodiest war that has ever been waged. Kings, peasants, butchers, bakers – all have faced it. Cities, even countries, have been obliterated by it. Every man woman, and child since the beginning of time has died fighting it, or losing to it.
It steals the lives and souls of men every single day.
This is no ordinary war. Because in this war, nobody can stay home.
There is nowhere to hide.
The entire world is the front line.
“Although our memory of it is withheld, before we came to this earth we lived in the presence of God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
-Elder Richard G. Scott
The scriptures and words of latter-day prophets have been clear as to the nature and origin of this eternal war.
It began in the premortal world where we lived as spirit children. Imagine for a moment the peace and contentment we must have felt – we, who were so pure and clean that we could live in the very presence of God.
And yet, we were not perfected.
Something was missing. Our happiness was incomplete.
We weren’t like our Father.
Because we lacked two things:
- A body, and
- Growth through experience.
Father knew that the only way for us to gain these things was to send us away.
Send us to a place where we wouldn’t know who we were.
A place where we would be surrounded, nay, even buried in dangerous and slippery temptations, trials, and difficulties.
Father knew that for us to attain the growth we needed, we couldn’t stay in our safe heavenly home where He and others were near.
We had to be allowed to choose for ourselves so we could develop the character of our Father.
And so, Father presented to us His plan.
A perfect plan. The only way for us to gain the two things we lacked.
His plan gave us agency, the ability and opportunity to choose for ourselves.
The plan recognized that, in the process of our growth, we would all sin and fall short of perfection.
And so, His plan provided for a Savior, a Savior who would offer mercy such that attaining the growth we needed wouldn’t require our eternal damnation.
At the root of the plan was trust, love, and hope.
Father revealed His plan, and we shouted for joy at the prospect – the opportunity to become like Him.
“He (Satan) was with the hosts of heaven in the beginning. He was “an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God”. He came before Christ and proposed to God the Father, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor”. This he proposed to do by force, destroying the free agency of man.”
– Elder James E. Faust
But not everyone was enthusiastic about the Father’s plan.
Many had deep concerns and worries, like:
What if… I’m not strong enough?
What if… I lose my purity?
What if… I never return?
What if… a body proves too much for me?
What if… I don’t find the right spouse?
What if… I don’t live up to expectations?
What if…. I can’t be righteous enough?
What if… I fail to complete my life mission?
Chief among these was the Son of the Morning.
His name was Lucifer.
He stood in the middle of that heavenly meeting.
And, essentially, told the Father that His plan was wrong.
It was too dangerous.
He proposed a different plan – HE, Lucifer, Son of the Morning, would take charge.
He would save all mankind from the dangers that Father’s plan presented.
He would save us from the dangerous part of agency – ourselves.
And he would return us all home, perfect and spotless.
All we had to do was give him the honor and glory.
Lucifer’s plan appealed to many of the souls in heaven. It guaranteed total safety – we could all come to earth, get a body, and be watched over by the Son of the Morning himself, who would stop us from ever using our agency incorrectly.
Lucifer’s plan answered our worries by isolating and protecting us from facing evil.
Isn’t that good?
“Thus, Satan proposed to carry out the Father’s plan in a way that would prevent the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and give Satan His glory.”
-Dallin H. Oaks
A plan or method is designed, if followed, to lead to an end – a result.
The result that made Satan’s plan appealing is safety – it would shelter us from challenges and temptations, constantly supervise us to eliminate sin, and prevent us from having opportunity to choose anything that might be threatening or dangerous.
His plan of compulsion guaranteed that we would emerge from the experience without any losses.
And would leave us exactly the same as we were before it all started.
Lucifer guaranteed one of the things we required to become like Father: a body, but completely neglected the second thing we need to become like God.
Growth and experience.
Satan’s plan was a carefully rigged mimic of Father’s perfect one – a mimic that offered one of the benefits, but neglected the other because it was too risky.
A plan that would leave us eternally damned, forever unlike our Father in Heaven.
Perfect, even sinless, yes, but still not like God.
“Satan’s proposal would have ensured perfect equality: it would “redeem all mankind,” that not one soul would be lost. There would be no agency or choice by anyone and, therefore, no need for opposition. There would be no test, no failure, and no success. There would be no growth to attain the purpose the Father desired for His children.”
-Dallin H. Oaks
With Satan’s plan mapped out in black and white font on your computer screen, you might wonder why anyone would ever fall for such a cheap fake.
And yet, a third of the hosts of heaven did.
And this is where we come to Satan’s secret – the trick that empowered him to deceive a third of God’s children out of their goal.
Lucifer, Son of the Morning, played off the fear of the hosts of heaven – fear of agency, fear of danger, fear of failure, and even fear of ourselves.
And he won a third of us over to his plan of false promises.
But by doing so, Lucifer damned himself. He and the angels who followed him were cast out of heaven. They lost their second estate – their opportunity to become like Father.
Satan is, frankly, a sore loser. Despite the fact that he perfectly knows his eternal failure, he and his followers have embarked on a kamikaze attempt to convince as many souls as they can to reject the Father’s plan.
And you’re one of them.
Lucifer no longer has the opportunity to persuade the whole host of heaven at once. Instead, he’s forced to attack and persuade in smaller, often individual skirmishes.
You will recall the ‘concerns and worries’ I listed earlier. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet you even recognized a few of them. I did.
That’s because Lucifer is very good with his favorite tool.
And his skill hasn’t decreased over the thousands of years earth has existed – he has only become more masterful at pulling out our fears and insecurities, whispering them to us over and over, and making them the focus of our attention.
Until, unwittingly, we begin to implement his plan in our lives.
“It is true that fear can have a powerful influence over our actions and behavior. But that influence tends to be temporary and shallow. Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts, and it will never transform us into people who love what is right and who want to obey Heavenly Father.”
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The scriptures and modern prophets have been clear about the nature of fear. Consider these statements:
“I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.”
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
-2 Timothy 1:7
“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
Fear is Satan’s tool.
It is not of God. It is not holy, it is not good.
And it is the antithesis of the first and most important principle in God’s plan.
“Fear is the opposite of faith.”
-President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Boyd K. Packer, and others.
Faith is essential to growth; it entails love, trust, and hope.
Faith is the foundation of Father’s plan, the first essential principle of the gospel.
And fear, the opposite of faith, will, if we allow it, destroy our chance to fulfill God’s plan for us.
Fear will stop us from attaining growth.
“But,” you might say, “how could that happen?”
“A healthy fear is good for you!”
Now, to clarify, I do not speak of the ‘Godly fear’ referenced in the scriptures – which, as Elder Bednar taught in the April 2015 conference, “dispels mortal fears” and is “loving and trusting in [God]” – the essence of faith.
I speak of true fear.
Fear that paralyzes; fear that holds us back from personal confidence; fear that causes us to hide, to isolate, to protect ourselves from the outside world – and even those around us.
Fear that causes us to lose sight of what is truly important.
Fear that drives our lives, clouding our judgment.
Fear that overrules wisdom, prudence, love, trust, hope, and even faith itself.
You know of what I speak.
You’ve felt it before, to some degree or another.
We all have.
“Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future… Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly.”
-Gordon B. Hinckley
Satan’s plan has taken many faces over the earth’s history and it continues to infiltrate many levels of our lives. But all manifestations of his plan have one thing in common.
They all seek to destroy and manipulate agency.
Communism, addiction, unrighteous dominion, bullying, peer pressure, isolation, and even sin itself are just a few potent examples.
Satan’s opposition, and all the many faces his plan has taken are simply an extension of the same war we fought in heaven: another attempt to deny us our agency and opportunity to grow.
And that is what fear does.
Consider a few examples:
- A young girl who doesn’t talk to people because she’s afraid of what they’ll think of her.
- A parent who refuses to discipline their child, afraid they’ll hurt his/her feelings.
- A youth who isolates himself from peers because he’s afraid they’ll be a bad influence.
- A parent who is overly protective of a child, afraid of what the ‘outside world’ could do to them.
- A youth who avoids being assertive and making choices because they’re afraid of ‘messing up’.
- A teenage boy who doesn’t serve a mission because he’s too afraid to go.
Now, all of these choices aren’t inherently ‘bad’. There are times when a young girl shouldn’t talk to someone, a parent shouldn’t discipline, a youth should avoid peers, a parent should be protective, a youth should be careful, and yes, even times when a young man should not or cannot serve a mission.
But you’re no fool. You know that the choices in those examples were dangerous, wrong, and even damaging.
The key word is ‘afraid’.
“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.
-Dallin H. Oaks
Doing the right things for the wrong reasons is still wrong.
Like a man who gives service so that others can see how ‘righteous’ he is, or a youth who goes on dates to get a ‘physical thrill’.
In fact, the scriptures are clear that it’s better to do the wrong things for the right reasons than to do the right things for the wrong reasons.
That is why the Savior sat to eat with sinning publicans while condemning the Pharisees.
If we fail to do the right things for the right reasons, it is “not counted unto [us] for righteousness” (Moroni 7:6-7) because “the Lord will judge each of us according to the desires of our hearts, as well as our works.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson)
Yes, the works do matter; but works are simply the natural fruits of having the right reasons.
It’s the reasons, the motivations, the true desires of our hearts that determine our direction and, eventually, eternal progression.
And Satan’s motivations – fear, pride, jealousy, etc. – will always be wrong reasons, no matter what you choose to do.
Follow the commandments, study your scriptures, serve your fellow men, go to church, or take the sacrament.
If the ‘why‘ behind any choice is “I’m afraid of…” or “what if…”, you’re doing it the wrong way.
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
– Moroni 7:9
“Sometimes, in the routine of our lives, we unintentionally overlook a vital aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, much as one might overlook a beautiful, delicate forget-me-not… We focus on what the Lord wants us to do and how we might do it, but we sometimes forget why…
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Fulfilling a checklist of commandments and obligations is not the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is not the word of wisdom, a choice of music, rules for dating, or the law of chastity.
The gospel is “the good news”: that Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement can change us. Not simply our actions or habits, but the true, inner us – our hearts, our motivations, our desires.
The gospel is all about the reasons. It’s about growing – increasing our faith, love and hope – gaining the ability to see, feel and understand the things our Father does.
The gospel is not about being sinless or celestial.
Because frankly, in this life, that’s impossible.
And in the end, the reasons are what matters most.
It’s the reasons, not the choices, that make a natural man into the character of God.
“As His covenant people, we need not be paralyzed by fear because bad things might happen. Instead, we can move forward with faith, courage, determination, and trust in God as we approach the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Perhaps you now see the eternal battlefield a little clearer.
Satan’s plan is everywhere.
It’s in your phone, your computer, your newspaper, your conversations, your government, your workplace, and yes, sometimes in your sacrament meetings.
It’s even inside of you – your motivations, your thoughts, your desires.
There is no way to hide from it.
Crisis is the new normal.
You’re on the front lines, and you only have two choices.
You can sacrifice your agency to Satan’s fear, allow him to ruin your life, destroy your dreams, and damn you for eternity.
Or, you can do the only logical thing.
Fight. Fight for the right reasons.
Fight to always have the right reasons.