Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wife Rule #130: Why I Love Your Mother (to my children) -- Chapter Six: The Great War

And there was 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.
--Revelation 12:7-8

John the Revelator continues: "And the 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 12:9). The first front of the Great War was in heaven. It began before men were placed on the earth, since we know that Satan was there in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve first encountered him. The prophet Moses sheds a little more light on the subject of this war:

1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—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.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
(Moses 4:1-4)

The goal of the Great War was power--God's power. Somewhere along the line, Satan became discontented with having God rule over him and sought to dethrone God (see Isaiah 12:12-14). He wanted to become a ruler, a father, a leader of his own dominion. And he wanted to do it his own way.

The issue the war hinged on was agency. Yes, it always comes back to agency. Satan thought he could win by destroying the agency of man; he perpetuated the lie that he could save all mankind without agency. His lies must have carried great appeal to many of our Father in Heaven's children, because a full third of God's children (Revelation 12:4) were casualties of the first great battle in the war over agency, which took place in heaven before Adam and Eve were sent to the garden.

Having rejected the God who created them in an all-out rebellion, a third of God's children could no longer find joy in His holy presence. So our Savior, under the Father's direction, cast them out into the earth, which is where the second front of the Great War continues to this day. The two thirds of our brothers and sisters who chose to follow Michael the archangel and the Lord Jesus Christ remained in heaven, with the plan to come to earth firmly in place.

As for Satan and his followers, they are reaping the consequences of their rebellion; they are completely damned in their progress. They were denied the opportunities for growth afforded by experiencing mortality here on earth. They were cast out of heaven to earth as spirits only, to remain in that state forever (see 2 Nephi 9:8-9). With the damnation of eternal spirit-hood ever burning in their hearts, they covet our physical bodies. In fact, they covet any physical body so badly that a legion of these devils, after being cast out of a man by our Savior, begged Jesus to allow them to enter the bodies of a herd of swine (see Luke 8:26-33). Driven by envy and hatred, they are relentless in their assault on our marvelous bodies, tempting us to either loathe or worship them, or to abuse them in nearly uncountable ways. They know that our marvelous physical bodies are one of the keys to our eternal progression.

But back to the main issue of the war: how did Satan attempt to destroy our agency? The scriptures don't specify exactly, but he could have done it by knocking out any of the three pillars upon which agency depends: (1) he could try to destroy the law that defines our choices; (2) he could try to destroy our freedom to choose; or (3) he could try to destroy the Savior who gives us the ability to recover from wrong choices. I believe that he probably attempted to attack agency from all three angles during the war in heaven, because his actions and those of his deceived followers certainly try all three ways of destroying agency in the continuation of that war here on earth.

Undoubtedly the most alluring of Satan's lies is that there is no law. Think of what that would mean! Without law, there is no such thing as sin. Without sin, there is no punishment and no eternal consequences to our actions. You can do whatever you want, and be happy. You have a free pass to decide to follow whatever beliefs you find most attractive. There is no absolute truth, no standard of morality.

There are countless--countless--voices singing this siren song in the world today; they come from those around us, from movies, television, music, magazines, books, the Internet, and pretty much anywhere else you turn in the world. My precious children, don't believe them! They are lies, every one of them. Ignoring the laws of God or pretending that they don't exist does not change them, any more than believing that gravity doesn't affect you will somehow allow you to fly. By breaking God's laws through ignorance or unbelief you only reduce your own agency and become more like Satan.

Satan also attempts to reduce our power to choose in any way he can. Corrupt governments that restrict the freedoms of their citizens are certainly part of this, and world history is full to the brim of stories of bloody conquests and people seeking for power at the expense of the freedom of others. Can you see why it is essential that we stand up and let our voices and actions support the cause of freedom? We are restricted in our actions and thus are blocked in our progress as a whole nation to whatever extent we loose our ability to choose.

Also very effective at reducing our freedom to choose are the powers of addiction that come from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, or any other habit-forming vice. My children, you cannot afford the risk of exposure, not even once. You cannot predict how quickly--or more dangerously, how slowly and subtly--the restricting chains from these products will wrap around you, until one day you wake to find that some other thing outside of yourself has a stranglehold on your life. Do not sign over your precious agency to a bottle, a can, a pack, a picture! Determine now never to become trapped by these dangerous substances, and avoid them completely!

We also lose our freedom by the patterns of poor choices that we fall into. Some of these lead to prison or other consequences that greatly further reduce our agency. As an example, consider what would happen to you if you never learned to control your temper, if you allowed yourself to fly into a rage every time things didn't go your way. You would lose your friends. You would lose your self respect. You may lose your job. You may even lose your family. The prisons are full of those who never learned to control their actions. The further we sink into sin, the more Satan delights in it. He whispers in our ears that we cannot change, that it is hopeless, that we were "born that way," that it is "just the way we are." My children, these are lies! You can change. You can be free. The Savior's mighty atonement for us has guaranteed that there is a way to escape!

Satan tried his best to thwart Jesus' perfect, sinless life, to make Him unable to be our Savior, but Jesus gave him no heed (see Luke 4:1-13). Having failed completely at all these attempts throughout Jesus' glorious life, Satan still tries to destroy our agency by telling us there is no Savior. He uses the power of sophistry and plays on our pride and intellectual arrogance by whispering to us that there is no God, no Savior, and no plan. My children, Satan lies! I testify to you that if I know anything at all in this world, I know that God lives; that Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose from the dead to save us; and that we can repent and change and be perfected in Him. We are not trapped by our past if we embrace the salvation freely offered to us by Jesus. Our agency, however tarnished by sin it becomes, can be made bright again through faith in Him and repentance. Our agency--that precious gift given to us by our Father in Heaven--will be with us as long as we strive to be with Him.

Satan's whole idea that mankind could be saved without agency is a total sham--a lie of the grossest proportions. Without agency, there could be no happiness, no growth, and no salvation. You can never become what you do not choose to become.

Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n.

--Anonymous, Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 240

So we are to become what we choose. That's good news. But even better news yet, my beloved children, is that despite the Great War--despite Satan's and his followers' everlasting hatred and deception and attempts to destroy our agency at every turn--victory can be won. It has been done by countless of our brothers and sisters before us. In fact, there is a pattern for victory set for us in the scriptures, as shown to us by our first parents. It is a pattern of sense and beautiful simplicity. And coincidentally enough, this pattern has everything to do with why I love your mother so much.

Part six of a twelve-chapter essay. Read more: Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Epilogue

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