Satan’s Plan Part 1

This week in Sunday School and Primary the lesson is on Abr 3 and Moses 4 with a focus on the plan of salvation. I wanted to go in a somewhat different direction than the lesson would go. You might call this my scribbling on the margins of the lesson.

First off I think it’s important to emphasize just how big a change these scriptures give our theology compared with traditional Christianity. There is some overlap, especially in terms of the Arminian theology that was contemporary with Joseph Smith. I suspect the very notion of “moral agency” arises out of figures like Jonathan Edwards and the Arminian response. Mormonism while having subtleties uniquely our own, largely comes down on the Arminian camp’s view of freedom and moral agency.[1] In the Arminian view moral agency means that each agent must have the power to regulate and originate their own will. In Mormon circles many contemporary theologians like Blake Ostler or David Paulsen have focused on this power of origination in understanding Mormon thought.[2]

What’s key to the Mormon conception of the plan of salvation is thus our ability to chose. Even more than with the Arminians, agency becomes the focus of our mortal existence. Whereas most Christianity sees humans largely as existing for God, Mormonism inverts this. God’s work is to build up pre-existing spirits as much as he is able. Agency is thus center stage to this goal for God. Many theologies limit God by an appeal to the place of free will. Mormonism is unique in making this not a choice God creates by creating free will. Rather free will is there independent of God in some sense.

This is the place where question of the nature of free will rears its ugly head. Is free will something inherent ontologically to agents? Is it a description of what agents do? This is something that surprisingly is not really determined in Mormon thought. We can see this in the place of Satan in the narrative of free will.

Some, such as Ezra Taft Benson, see the description of Satan’s plan in Abraham and Moses as a claim that Satan wanted to ensure that every person would be good. There are two ways to see this. One is the idea it is possible to actually eliminate free will. We’d be automatons always choosing the right and never even desiring evil. Freedom in some deep sense would be gone and all of us would be saved. The second way of viewing this assumes that even Satan couldn’t fully eliminate free will. However he could create a totalitarian world such that we’d always be forced to do what was right.[3] That is regardless of our will there would be external means to ensure we’d always pick the right choice.

The main opposing view found can be found in figures like J. Reuben Clark. They all assume Satan simply couldn’t compel people. Thus Satan’s plan consists not of forcing people to be good but removing the consequences for evil. In this view Satan’s plan becomes a type of universalism where everyone is saved regardless of what they do. There’s some evidence for concern about universalism in scriptures like 2 Nephi 28:8. There may be some mild punishment but everyone would be saved. Satan’s plan becomes an extreme form of this universalism.

Looking at the language of Moses 4 the fact Joseph used the term “agency of man” can’t be neglected. As I mentioned agency was a key phrase in the debates between Arminians and Calvinists at the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon and was undertaking his revision of Genesis. While it’s possible that agency is an accidental term, it’s most likely it came to Joseph’s mind because of the context it had in that Arminian debate. The problem is that it is very hard to see in that Arminian context the idea that Satan was merely removing consequences from free choices. Moral agency is inherently human power to chose rather than having their will determined in any fashion. Actions can happen in a morally significant fashion only by the consent of the agent.

We thus have in the history of Mormon thought rather different ways of looking at Satan’s plan. Which should we pick?

We know that for the Book of Mormon mortality consisted of being balanced between good and evil. To be free isn’t merely to be the originator of ones choices. Rather to be free is to have two live choices. The preliminary redemption Christ gives us (see 2 Nephi 2:27-28) enables us to be able to make this choice.[4] Going by D&C 93:30-31 it seems like freedom is in some sense innate and defines existence.[5] As such one might think that Satan’s plan couldn’t be getting rid of agency. However I’d suggest a practical way where Satan’s plan could work.

We all know that how we think is heavily determined by our bodies and brain. I can’t choose to will myself to fly because my body’s not capable of it. But even beyond such obvious limits what I think about is highly influenced by my instincts and cognitive processing. There are types of brain injuries that can stop people from being able to do odd things like using nouns or verbs. There’s also fairly abundant literature on abnormal compulsions due to brains. All Satan would have to do in order to complete his plan was produce fallen bodies that didn’t have all the inclinations towards evil. That is, all he’d have to do is upset the balance between our attractions towards evil and good. He could make brains that more easily recognized and made the good appealing.

I should note that it is precisely here that many people have so many problems with theism. The traditional problem of evil is not just why there are any evils in the universe, but why freedom seems to allow so many freely chosen evils. It seems reasonable that God could create a world where brains wouldn’t develop leading people to be serial killers or rapists for instance. Now it is still controversial how much of our inclination towards violence and other evils is determined by our biology. However even if one thinks that only a part of such evils are chosen due to biology, it seems reasonable to assume that a biology is possible that would limit the desire of such evils.

Ultimately then, it seems to me that the real issue in Satan’s plan most likely isn’t totalitarian force, eliminating consequences or eliminating our low level freedom. Rather his plan was eliminating the balance between good and evil in our fallen state. Given what we know of the plan of salvation this makes sense. In contemporary theology the plan is usually seen as being a developmental necessity. We need to have a veil of forgetfulness and come to a world of evil where we can choose both good and evil. There simply were limits to our development in heaven where the good was always such an obvious choice. Effectively what Satan’s plan most likely does is to interrupt that balance. Perhaps to simply eliminate the probationary state.

Note this interpretation has an other helpful side effect. It explains why Satan’s plan was so attractive to so many in the council meeting. Even today people are not convinced by Mormon views on the plan of salvation. The problem of evil is a strong counterargument. If Satan’s plan really is just raising the problem of evil in heaven and arguing we don’t need this level of evil, then it makes sense why it was so attractive. People continue to be persuaded by the argument.

[1] Arminianism is named after the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius. The two big points of disagreement Arminius had with other theologians was over the form of grace and salvation and then the nature of free will. Grace enables people to resist sin but freedom enables people to resist grace. Often Arminians held to a view that Adam’s fall was already taken care of by grace such that we are not bound by it. This is somewhat similar to the idea in Mormonism that Christ took care of Adam’s sin and the effects of his fall for all so that we are responsible only for our own choices. There are many other points of parallel with Arminianism particularly in the Book of Mormon. The other major figures in the movement were Hugo Grotius and John Wesley. Some have particularly focused on Grotius’ writings as potentially an influence on Joseph Smith although there’s not direct evidence of influence I’m aware of. Arminianism was especially popular in the Methodist congregations Joseph was exposed to when young.

[2] Blake’s masterwork on this topic is Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God. Most of the book consists of his arguments for this position as well as drawing out its implications theologically. He’s also the past year been going through the positions and arguments of the book in a podcast with his son. I have some qualms with some of the arguments and am largely agnostic on the question of ontological free will. However the importance of Blake’s work can’t be dismissed.

[3] It’s easy to see how cold warrior Benson would be attracted to seeing Satan’s plan as a kind of communist totalitarianism. There are obvious problems with such a view of course.

[4] It is worth noting that by adopting a position where Christ overcomes the effects of the fall for all, the Book of Mormon takes a position akin to Arminianism. This prevenient grace comes before a choice and is without merit. It is the ability to chose to accept God’s salvation and further grace. It is worth noting that D&C 93:30-32 also ties agency to the ability to receive truth but also reject truth. While prevenient grace is typically associated with Arminianism it can also be found in earlier movements. The form given in D&C 93 actually bears more resemblance to to the Cambridge Platonists like their leader Benjamin Whichcote. The Cambridge Platonists saw this grace leading to accepting the very mind of of God in the mind of man. This in turn was seen as God deifying man.

[5] Saying freedom or agency is innate is not the same thing as saying what freedom consists of. So assuming agency is libertarian free will may be problematic.

34 comments for “Satan’s Plan Part 1

  1. I agree that the appeal of Satan’s plan must have been the elimination of suffering in mortality. I often find myself asking, “Lord, I understand there must be opposition in all things, but does it really have to be this hard?” Perhaps a third of the host of heaven believed it shouldn’t have to be.

    As a missionary learning a foreign language, I struggled with how to translate the term “agency.” I’ve seen arguments that it ultimately refers to accountability, based on a legal-type definition of agency under which an agent is accountable to his principal. But that does not appear consistent with how Joseph Smith used the word (D&C 29:39: “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves.”) Joseph seems to have used the word more in the sense of having no master dictating your actions.

    Part of the text of Moses 4:3 that is sometimes skipped is the end of this phrase, that Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him.” Satan was seeking to destroy something God gave to man. It doesn’t make much sense to say that God gave man accountability. Instead, consistent with other usage in the D&C and Book of Moses, it appears to refer to man’s ability to choose between good and evil.

  2. I’m not so sure it’s the elimination of suffering. I think given what we know Satan may have been fine with certain types of natural evils. What he appeared to want to change was the plan for us to likely choose evils. As I said, a different type of brain could easily have done that. So it’s actually pretty plausible Satan could have enacted his plan. He may also have rejected the divine hiddenness entailed by the full veil of forgetfulness and God acting in terms of plausible deniability. If our instincts were towards good, and we had more reason to believe in God and ethics, then it’s quite plausible most or even all people would be saved.

    I agree agency just can’t mean accountability or responsibility, although I know some such as Blake argue that’s at least a necessary condition. Again, while I ultimately reject interpreting Satan’s plan in terms of Arminianism, I do think the debates between Calvinism and Arminianism give us much of the language Joseph used. Both in the Book of Mormon but also his other discussions.

  3. Very interesting Clark. I’ve always felt that the key to Satan’s plan lays in the Book of Mormon language and is easier than even changing our bodies. I believe that Satan could “force” everyone to do what’s right by changing the definition of “right” and “wrong”. Once he does that, then there is no sin. This variation is either explicitly stated or at least echoed by the 3 great Anti-Christs–Sherem, Nehor and Korihor, especially Korihor. “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime. (Alma 30:17)” Yes, relativism raises its ugly head!

    Lehi points out why this is a problem in 2 Ne. 2. In summary, when you have no law, you have no sin, then you have no righteousness, nor happiness, nor punishment, nor misery. All of that equals “no God”, which nullifies creation in some manner.

    Now, I’m NOT a philosopher, but this seems to work from a common sense standpoint to my mind. Hopefully, I haven’t gotten too far off track from your original post.

  4. Wow, how and when did we all starr aligning in our thinking? This is shaping up to be an awesome dialogue, and not out of confirmation bias but out of patterns of thought we each have discerned in our own study. My view, as y’all stemming mostly from the B of M but also Moses and Abraham (all “modern’ revelation to the LDS church) is God had a need for his children to further self-actualize.

    His plan was for his children to learn to advance in behavior and thinking outside of his presence, ‘out of Eden.’ A prime directive for this plan was free will. With so many children living ‘our of Eden’ with free will, probablistically many would not grow as expected. A propitiation was also needed to give the sojourners a way to return and inherit.

    Enter Jehovah, chosen as that propitiation after he volunteeted. Lucifer pipes up” What if we make it a determinstic system, eliminate the risk, and thus no one has to be lost or nailed to a tree?”

    We read how well the alternate proposal went. Lucifer and other rebellious hosts are ineligible for the plan, leave as spirits, and function like wayward Lamanites to seemingly always oppose the other children/Nephites serving their missions on Earth.

    So here are, born to be kings and queens destined for an eternal realm and spending pre-, earthly, and post-ives preparing, shedding unneeded baggage, learning and living faith, hope, and charity until we face final judgement and receive a realm suited for whomever we become, ministering angels, gods and goddesses, or something else.

    Free will, natural consequences, eventual accountability, and the Christ all have a part in the plan, the Christ being central. Thank you for your kind attention.

  5. Clark, I do not wish to enter into this debate, some of it is way over my head. I do though want to comment on some of your words and their implications. You say

    “There is some overlap, especially in terms of the Arminian theology that was contemporary with Joseph Smith

    Looking at the language of Moses 4 the fact Joseph used the term “agency of man” can’t be neglected. As I mentioned agency was a key phrase in the debates between Arminians and Calvinists at the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon and was undertaking his revision of Genesis. While it’s possible that agency is an accidental term, it’s most likely it came to Joseph’s mind because of the context it had in that Arminian debate.

    There are many other points of parallel with Arminianism particularly in the Book of Mormon. The other major figures in the movement were Hugo Grotius and John Wesley. Some have particularly focused on Grotius’ writings as potentially an influence on Joseph Smith although there’s not direct evidence of influence I’m aware of. Arminianism was especially popular in the Methodist congregations Joseph was exposed to when young.”

    Are you implying that some of the Book of Mormon and modern scripture came out of Joseph’s mind rather than the words of the Lord or Nephite prophets? I would be concerned if you are!!!

    The other point I would like to discuss sometime maybe in another post concerns:-

    “This is somewhat similar to the idea in Mormonism that Christ took care of Adam’s sin and the effects of his fall for all so that we are responsible only for our own choices”

    Are you saying that Adam committed sin in the Garden of Eden?

  6. In the dialogues on this web site I have personally preferred the use of the LDS council model where we share our thoughts on the original post but avoid direct confrontations and inferences of false doctrine. I find that when different minds share ideas on this web site, agreement isn’t a certainty, but curiously we tend to converge on a shared understanding.

  7. As to parallels between Armenianism (which I am not familiar with) and LDS works or theology, I personally don’t look for direct causal links, but instead assume, rightly or wrongly, parallel development of spiritual understanding, considering humans and a belief in the Christ are common factors.

  8. Terry, there’s no doubt relativism and universalism are condemned in the Book of Mormon. Which is partially why many switched from a totalitarian view of Satan’s plan to a “no consequences” view of Satan’s plan. The problem with this view is that when Satan’s plan is directly addressed the focus is on agency and not consequences. Put an other way we should distinguish between Satan’s plan in the council and Satan’s plan after being cast out. Since being cast out his plan is to make all miserable by teaching relativism and a lack of consequences. More to the point by making short term selfishness the only consideration.

    Jerry & Jeff, regarding influence I assume the Book of Mormon is a real translation but a loose translation using similar ideas in Joseph’s mind to communicate what was on the plates. That is it’s more an ideological translation than a literal word for word translation. (It’s not even clear if the gold plates had words written on it or had symbols representing ideas or even mnemonic devices) That’s why so many KJV phrases and phrases from Joseph’s religious environment get used. Brant Gardner’s work on the translation of the Book of Mormon is probably the best overview of the model I am assuming.

    That religious environment was perfused with Arminian theology against Calvinist theology. (In a certain way that divide is still present and is one reason among many why many Protestants are so opposed to Mormon thought – Calvinism has become fairly triumphant in Evangelical circles) Anyway, I think the Arminian theology influenced Joseph by giving shape to the ideas of Nephi, Mormon and others. This may well have included, as Blake Ostler speculated, that expansions to the text were given during the translation process. (Somewhat like happened with the Bible translation that became the JST) In doing so the text might distort somewhat the underlying text yet communicate better to the people of the 19th century. Still while Arminian parallels are important, so too are the ancient ones and that’s where I’m turning next. (That’s why I labeled it part 1)

  9. Clark, I had no doubts about you. And now I know it’s Arminian and not Armenian. Wow, that would have tainted my further research on the topic :).

  10. So Clark, The Book of Mormon is not really what it says it is the Book of Joseph Smith. The man who his wife said could not string two sentences together. Wow.

  11. “The distinction is whether God allows His desire to save all to be resisted by an individual’s will (in the Arminian doctrine) or if God’s grace is irresistible and limited to only some (in Calvinism).” -from Wikipedia article on Arminian theology.

    I realize this is somewhat superfical research, but certainly I can see how LDS theology, at least in general, aligns with Arminianism as opposed to Calvanism. But as with Jeff Walsh, I do not see the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith as informed by this thinking. Rather, I see Arminianism contributing to Joseph Smith’s ultimately turning away from the Constantinian Christian tradition and being the somewhat educated but open mind God needed for the restoration.

  12. Clark, I still don’t have doubts about you, but you don’t really need my validation. :)

  13. Actually, Clark, I have never distinguished them in this way, but my point described in my comment was for BOTH pre- and post- casting out. I think that would have been his argument in the Council.

  14. Clark, don’t forget to consider the standard environmental solution. I think this is where Sam Harris’ well-thought out hyper-rational quasi-religion goes. If you have a critical mass of people doing the “right things” which are easily understandable and transmitible, then the environment can theoretically be biased to prevent the emergence of any severe insidiousness. With the right structures ensuring like-minded evil doers can’t get together you have a theoretical chance of eliminating all egregious behaviour.

    As you say, perhaps this requires some retweaking of natural proclivities to ensure phase stability. Harris assumes this tweaking can be done via purposeful gene-culture engineering/biasining. Obviouslay Satan’s plan couldn’t take its sweet time getting there (not one soul lost). But, the philosophical parallels between hyper-rationalism and Mormon ideas of Satan’s plan are interesting.

  15. Jeff, not sure what you’re saying. So far as I know everything I said is straightforwardly orthodox and completely lines up with the descriptions of the translation process. If you disagree I’d be interested in why.

    Chris, I think the problem with that is the difference between “most doing X” and “all doing X.” There’s no doubt the environment can bias what the median behavior is biased towards. However if I understand Satan’s plan it wasn’t “I’ll save more than Jesus” it was “I can save everyone.” So that’s what needs be explained.

    Now to be fair, the biological explanation can be criticized along the same lines. Would a biological bias keep people from doing evil?

    And also to be fair, the problem with Satan’s plan is that it wouldn’t work. That is it wouldn’t develop souls in the appropriate fashion. So one could always say, well even if Satan’s plan wouldn’t actually save everyone that doesn’t mean it wasn’t actually his plan.

  16. Clark I really would like to discuss the translation process with you. However at the moment I am half way through listening to Brant Gardeners five hour podcast with John Dehlin. I decided to do this as you said that you presume that his understanding is one that you accept to be correct. It is interesting that he (Brant) along with Grant Palmer, Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens Michael Quinn and others all couple the translation process with Joseph Smith so called treasure digging exploits and the “stone in the hat myth”. When I compare what these people say with what Joseph, and Oliver Cowdrey the ones who were involved, in the process said I wonder who is telling the truth. I will get back to you when I have listened to the rest of the pod cast .

  17. “However if I understand Satan’s plan it wasn’t “I’ll save more than Jesus” it was “I can save everyone.” So that’s what needs be explained.” – Clark

    I think what I was trying to say is that if the environment is “homogeneously good-enough”, no one might fail horribly. You are right in saying this doesn’t guarantee that everyone would be perfect. But it might mean that everyone would be “good-enough” to be saved. However I think that entails sufficient-enough after-life progression.

    This of course begs the question of whether the atonement saves us after this life after judgment. If there is within kingdom progression, does this occur because of the atonement or because of other things? If it is because of other things then Satan’s plan seems logical enough.

  18. From Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, chapter 7:

    [The Father asked,] “Who will redeem the earth, who will go forth and make the sacrifice for the earth and all things it contains?” The Eldest Son said: “Here am I”; and then he added, “Send me.” But the second one, which was “Lucifer, Son of the Morning,” said, “Lord, here am I, send me, I will redeem every son and daughter of Adam and Eve that lives on the earth, or that ever goes on the earth.” “But,” says the Father, “that will not answer at all. I give each and every individual his agency; all must use that in order to gain exaltation in my kingdom; inasmuch as they have the power of choice they must exercise that power. They are my children; the attributes which you see in me are in my children and they must use their agency. If you undertake to save all, you must save them in unrighteousness and corruption” [see Abraham 3:23–28; Moses 4:1–4] (DBY, 53–54).

    (I was surprised this got past correlation)

    I assume Brigham’s perspective comes from Joseph Smith. I’ve heard of another journal more contemporary with Joseph that expresses a similar perspective.

  19. David, I think assuming Brigham’s views all came from Joseph is problematic. He was definitely there for some teachings but also was often away on missions when many key teachings were going on. Further I’m not sure the quote says what you think it says. If this life is developmental in nature, then even if Satan forced everyone to do good their natures would still be the same.

    Put an other way this can easily be read not in terms of removing consequences from actions, but as recognizing that righteousness and corruption is about the inner soul and not merely ones acts. That is if someone would desire evil, taking away their ability to act on that potential doesn’t make them good.

    So I’m not sure if impacts on the discussion of Satan’s plan as much as you think.

    Chris, I assume the biggest part of the atonement is in changing us. How exactly that works isn’t at all clear. I do tend to assume that this life as a developmental issue can only change us so much. So I see the atonement as changing us in this probation by judgment. However I suspect we’ll continue to have more development after judgments. I know not everyone agrees with that view though.

  20. It took me half a lifetime to finally see things from a different angle. That angle- Satans plans are today the same plans he had then. Nothing has changed, he is just more evil and mad now. Satans plan was to take over the Fathers kingdom, usurp His authority, and let wickedness reign in Gods holy courts. It was about secret plots, secret combinations that woukd overthrow righteousness. It was never about saving anyone but rather bring everyone into subjection to wickdness and tyranical rule under Satans power. Satan lied in saying he wanted to be the saviour. Satan sought, and still seeks, the destruction of our agency. It is through that destruction that he gains control of our souls and become ensnared in the chains of hell. That destruction of agency comes through disobedience to Gods laws. Satans plans were never about saving everyone into the Fathers kingdom nor were his plans about taking away choice to do evil. Satan wants us to choose evil, has always wanted that from us.

    Agency is the power of action which comes through free will. Think of this, those who follow Satan are led away captive down to destruction. If one is “captive” to anothers will they have no agency. That is how Satan sought to destroy our agency and still seeks that very thing. Its still the same plan, the same war, fought over wickedness vs. righteousness.

  21. Rob, your comment lines up pretty-much with a conversation I had just the other day with some folks at “Sic et Non.” One insightful commenter in particular got me thinking about what the adversary’s underlying motives truly might have been–apart from the common narrative about the fear of experiencing too much difficulty during mortality. And, at this point in my thinking, I can’t shake the notion that what he really sought was to preserve the old order of things–wherein the noble and great ones; the sons of the morning; those who were “in authority” before the throne of God seemed to possess a special distinction amongst the hosts of heaven.

    And, so, when the adversary seeks to destroy our agency what he’s really trying to do is bridle the upward mobility of those whom he considers to be inferior to himself. When all is unveiled we may learn that he (and those who followed him) was not unlike the “kingmen” from the Book of Mormon. They sought to maintain the distinction of “high birth” by putting the skids on a system that allowed for more upward mobility on the part of all people regardless of station.

    That said, one of the commenters suggested that his “pitch” might have been propagandistic–in the sense that, while his plan may have included the “salvation” of all souls, the real purpose for doing so would’ve been to preserve the old pecking order; to keep everyone in their particular ranks, so to speak. And this is where we see the real difference between his plan and that of the Father. God’s plan is all about enabling us to move onward and upward–indeed, to receive all that He has–that is, if we’re willing.

    So, what I came away from that conversation with was the fact that the adversary’s plan was downright anti-Christ–in the sense that the Savior’s whole purpose is to position himself so that others, through Him, might ascend and receive more than they could otherwise. Whereas, the adversary’s purpose, while, perhaps, not precisely the opposite would block any upward mobility beyond himself and, by extension, those who followed him.

  22. Jack,
    I wonder just what position Lucifer had. We know he was light bearer, he was in position of authority, etc. Perhaps he was close to godliness at a certain point.
    I presume that Satan loved the glory of being boss. His pride led him to fall and in that process he justified his sinful behaviors that came along with that pride. In similar fashion here on earth we see the same rise of evil in organized crime. There definitely is a pecking order in evilness. I think that once he was neck deep in it he honestly thought in his heart he could dethrone God and take His glory. By the time his expulsion finally came about both sides were deeply entrenched against each other and there wasnt no going back. That said, I believe this scenerio hasnt ever happened in eternity. This is a unique rare situation where someone high up in Gods kingdom fell and drew a large part of the kingdom with him down to destruction. The conditions here on this earth are also rare in that this is kind of like the main battle front in Gods universe where this war, that has been raging for long before we came here, will finally play out and the ramifications will be eternsl, a new precedence.

  23. Rob,

    I find it interesting to consider Abraham 3 in light of the Adversary’s position during pre-mortal life. We learn that there was/is an inequality of sorts among the intelligences–nothing sinister, just an ontological fact. But my sense is that, in spite of the inequality, there’s a minimal standard of preparedness that qualifies all who attain it — from the greatest (Christ) to the least (moi) — to continue on to the next phase of development. And this is where things got dicey with the pre-mortal hosts. IMO, some of them didn’t like the idea of the “little guy” having a shot at the big chair–and the adversary was the greatest among those who were against that kind of upward mobility for the masses. But, oh, how the masses shouted for joy at the possibility.

    Just thinking out loud.

  24. Clark,

    I’m assuming that you’re already aware of Jeffrey Bradshaw’s opinions on the subject. He’s of a similar opinion–that the adversary sought to destroy the whole probationary aspect of the process. But, he takes it a little further by suggesting that the adversary, right there in the garden, attempted to negate the possibility of mortal life altogether.

  25. Jack, I hadn’t seen Bradshaw’s comments on that. I’m not sure I buy as much appealing to the garden story, but it’s plausible. However if we appeal to the fallen Satan as an explanation of his plan in heaven then I think that ends up pushing the “no consequences” model more. After all that’s effectively Satan’s method here. Bradshaw also sees the issue as saving sons of perdition primarily. I’m not sure I buy that, although I understand his appeal to the King Follet Discourse version of the story.

    I think what most models do agree on is that God is trying to develop the inner person and Satan was merely focused on the external aspects (what they do). Going beyond that one will inevitably need to speculate a bit.

    Regarding the differences of the intelligences, it’s worth asking whether this was merely at a particular time and thus developmental or whether it was ontological. There’s lots of interesting questions about that particular passage.

    Robert, at least one of the accounts in the KFD can be read as saying Satan was a counselor. The notes are fragmentary and not all in agreement so I’m not sure I’d accept that reading. But people have made it.

  26. The idea that Satan was trying to preserve the status quo, instead of allowing others to progress, is an intriguing perspective. That certainly is observable historically as we examine what the elite try to do. Thank you for that insight.

  27. The evilness in the status quo is pride and in its sustainment it requires dirty deeds. It always produces laziness at the expense of others hard work and with laziness comes sin and giving in to immorality. That result leads to the loss of light and truth. At some point even Lucifer lost sight of righteousness, truth and the plan. He championed the idea that we should be laws to our own selves, said another way- slaves to sin, Prideful, sinful, lazy, seeker of darkness, accuser and enemy to all righteousness. All attributes of who Lucifer became.

  28. Jeff, there’s actually a lot of stuff in the Book of Mormon that likely didn’t come from an ancient American society. The theology, especially, shows quite a bit of evidence of being dependent on centuries of Christian theological development. But somehow it just pops full-blown out of Alma’s head. Frankly, I don’t think it popped out of Joseph Smith’s head either, but our consideration of the book needs to incorporate ALL solid evidence, not just whatever confirms our preconceptions. Only then will be we begin to understand this wonderfully complex book.

  29. Franklin, I think that while there may be expansions to communicate ideas, I’m far less convinced by arguments regarding figures using ideas that developed over time. My next post is about three quarters finished and coincidentally addresses this point.

  30. Clark, I have spent time looking at Brant Gardeners ideas about the translation process and as requested by you I would be happy to discuss my own understanding. First of all Joseph Smith himself said that he translated the book using the Urim and Thummim which came with the plates, Oliver Cowdrey said he wrote the entire Book of Mormon except a few pages as it came from Joseph as he translated from the plates using the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. Emma Smith tells us that she acted as scribe while Joseph translated the lost 116 manuscript pages, as Joseph translated using the Urim and Thummim which came with the plates. Our Saviour Jesus Christ, after outlining the responsibilities to the 3 witnesses said:-

    ” And ye shall testify that you have seen them, (The plates etc.) even as my servant Joseph Smith has seen them, for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.
    And he has translated the book, even that part which I have commanded him, and as your Lord and your God liveth it is true” (D&C 17:5-6)

    I think that most people would say that the best witness’s of events are the ones involved and were there when the event happened. No where is there “solid” evidence (to quote Franklin) that Joseph was “The village Seer” as Gardener alleges. The “stone in the hat” straw man myth was started by Willard Chase in 1822 in an affidavit in which he was requested to relate the story. . This was one of many such statements collected by Philastus Hurlburt from the residents of Palmyra. These affidavits was also the beginning of the spurious myth that Joseph was a treasure digger.

    So lets look at whether these men were giving “solid” evidence. Willard Chase was a lay minister for the Methodist Church and was no doubt amongst the group of ministers that Joseph tells us joined with Reverend Lane who ridiculed Joseph’s first vision His daughter Sally Chase was a treasure glass looker. Philastus Hurlburt a twice excommunicated member of the early church and who was a bitter enemy of Joseph. Indeed a court order forbidding him being near Joseph had been issued. Hulburt was commissioned by a group of Methodist ministers to go to Palmyra to collect affidavits, many of them being written for them by him. When one reads these statements all of them are calculated to besmirch the Smith family and label them in the worst light. These affidavits were later published along with a very slanted view of the Book of Mormon in a book published by Eber D Howe called Mormonism Unveiled. Eber D Howe was never a member of the Church but his wife and niece did become members much against his wishes. He was proprietor of a newspaper called the Painsville Telegraph in which he rubbished Mormonism.

    These affidavits and Howe’s book for many years were look upon by the Church as just anti-Mormon propaganda. That was until in 10 Jan1984 when Ronald W Walker wrote an article in BYU Studies Vol 24 Issue 4 called “Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer” . In this we learn that Walker was contacted by Leonard Arrington the Church Historian who said that recently found documents which indicated treasure-hunting activities of Joseph Smith. In his own words he wrote in his diary:- ” These finds will require a re-examining and rewriting of our origins” This article and another by Richard L Anderson in the same issue began a long examination of treasure digging history which came eventually to New York area and even though there is no “solid ” evidence that Joseph practiced this it was assumed he did especially when the Hurlburt affidavits were re-read.

    Even though the letters were eventually proven to be forgeries by Mark Hoffman, the tradition has persisted painting Joseph as being a treasure digger and this was his main occupation in his early years. But what does Joseph say, he relates the time he was employed by Josiah Stoal to hunt for a silver mine, he ends his narrative by saying ” Hence arose the very prevalent story of me being a money digger” (JSH 1:56) So if this “solid evidence” is in our standard works, how can it be that by 1825 he had a reputation of being a money-digger

    And so we have the “stone in the hat and money digging” straw man continuing being built by D Michael Quinn, Richard Bushman, Dan Vogal, Terryl Givens Richard L Anderson Ronald Walker and scores of other historians believing anti-Mormon sources rather than the ones who were there concerning the translation process. Who are we to believe

  31. Franklin. If all scripture comes from the same source that is the Lord, are we saying that He cannot reveal to different prophets the same message? Was the Saviour plagiarizing when He almost word for word gave the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites

  32. Jeff while there are reasons to be distrustful of the Hurlbut affidavits I don’t think one should just dismiss them outright. Further you’re just wrong that all accounts of using a seer stone with a hat are from unfriendly sources. Emma in particular mentions it. Martin Harris says Joseph put the interpreters in the hat although that doesn’t fit the description interpreters that came with the plates as they were too large. So most think either he was popping off one of the “lenses” of the interpreters to make a seer-stone like object or was using one of his seer stones in that case. Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery notes the same thing as does David Whitmer.

    I’d further add that not everyone saw treasure seeking with a seer stone negatively. Josiah Stowell testified positively of Joseph and joined the Church. He also gives some of the more interesting descriptions of the plates. He died faithful although unable to make it to Nauvoo prior to his death.

    Anyway, while I’d agree his treasure hunting gets exaggerated, it’s not like there’s nothing to it.

  33. Clark I am amazed that you give any credence at all to the Hurlburt affidavits, have you ever read them? Are you saying that Eber D Howe’s book is reliable? As for Emma’s statement which you will find in the Joseph Smith Papers project she was only involved with the 116 pages and she said the translation was done with the Urim and Thummim, she does not say that he used a stone in a hat. That came from her son Joseph Smith !!! president of the reorganised Church who said his mother said it some 50 years after the event. Are you really seriously accepting his word as true?. There is no authentic record that Martin Harris was involved with the translation of the Book of Mormon, this was done principally by Oliver Cowdery who said he wrote down the whole Book of Mormon we have today except for a few pages and Emma Smith neither mention anything about a stone in a hat. After the Book of Mormon was completed the Urim and Thummim was handed back to Moroni. I suppose that maybe the seer stone could have been used to receive revelation or used by Joseph with the Bible revision.

    As for Joseph’s money digging exploits I have already quoted scripture that the only time he did this was when he worked for Josiah Stoal. He was once asked was Joseph a money digger, he said yes but it was not very profitable I only received 14 dollars a month (Elders Journal July 1838 p 43). Of course this was when he was employed by Josiah Stoal.

    As for David Whitmer and his sister Elizabeth Ann I think you are wrong by saying they were faithful witnesses, again have you ever read Whitmer’s “Address to all Believers in Christ” published in 1887. In it he claims that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that he led the whole Church into error. In it he claims that when he left the Church that he was told that it was God’s will that he was to lead His Church. He organised the own church names The Church of Christ (Whitmerite) The address relates all the errors that Joseph introduced which he said did not come from God but from the wicked prophet that practiced polygamy. Does this sound like a faithful witness? . His sister Elizabeth Ann who you also class as faithful left the church following the death of her husband Oliver in 1860 joined the reorganised Church. All the rest of the diatribe adding to the stone in the hat myth and so so-called money digging exploits were from reminiscences from second or third hand sources accepting what anti-Mormon enemies to truth have said.

  34. Clark it is a pity that any historian who accepts anything that comes from the affidavits or from Mormonism unveiled cannot have read the following from Elder John A Widtsoe:-

    Philastus Hurlburt is a pathetic figure. Benjamin Winchester, in whose home young Hurlburt occasionally stayed, wrote a brief biography of the man. He tells that E. D. Howe paid him five hundred dollars for the manuscript of his book and then dared not publish it under the real author’s name, for his reputation was “too rotten.” Winchester closes his story as follows: Mr. Hurlburt with his ill-gotten gains, went to Erie County, Pennsylvania, in the township of Girard Miller settlement, and bought a farm, and married a wife, soon became a drunkard, spent every cent of his inglorious gains, was reduced to beggary, took to stealing for a livelihood, was detected in stealing a log chain, fled the country, to escape justice and that is the last of him, so far as I know (John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith–Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951], 79.)

    E. D. Howe, publisher of the Painesville Telegraph had a personal motive in publishing the book. His wife and other members of the family had been converted to the truth of the restored gospel and had joined the Church. Despite Howe’s insistence, they refused to leave the Church. In furious anger, Howe bought and used the morbid manuscript which Hurlbutt had offered him. These two men, fierce enemies of Joseph’s work, produced the book-which has been used as a “bible” to every anti-Mormon writer since that day. Honest historians would accept with much caution statements made by such a combination. In Mormonism Unvailed hate and the lust for money stand out primarily (John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith–Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951], 77.)

    I compiled a paper recently answering the questions posed by one of the foremost anti-Mormon web sites, my conclusions about Hurlburt is:-

    This man was expelled from the Methodist Church where he was a preacher for “his immoral conduct with a young lady”. Sometime in 1832/3 he joined the Joseph Smith Church of Christ as it was called then. He was ordained an Elder by Sidney Rigdon on 18th Mar 1833. In June 1833 he was excommunicated on grounds of sexual immorality.
    Even though he was accepted back into the Church he soon after again fell into sin and was again excommunicated. When he was refused entrance back into the Church there developed in him a real hatred of the Church and especially Joseph Smith. He began travelling throughout the country giving lectures against Mormonism. He also, at the request of an anti-Mormon Ohio committee travelled to Palmyra New York. This journey he undertook for the purpose of collecting statements, most of them composed by him disparaging the Smith name. The object of these statements was to obtain information that would show the bad character of the Smith Family as a whole, divest Joseph of all claims of being an honest man and place him at an immeasurable distance from the high office he pretended to occupy. (Defending the Saints Jeff Walsh p17)

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