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Guest Post: The Premortal Double-Risk

Rusty - February 9, 2006

This post was submitted by A Random John, FGB (Former Guest-Blogger).

Moses 4:1 reads:
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is 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.

Given that we are discussing the Pearl of Great Price along with the Old Testament this year in Sunday School I’ve had more chance than usual to wonder about subjects such as the creation, the pre-existence, and the war in heaven. The other day I had a thought that may or may not be original. I had certainly never heard of it before. I brought this up in Gospel Doctrine class and got zero response and couldn’t tell if everyone thought I was wacky and not worth responding to, if nobody had followed what I said, or if what I said was so unoriginal that it didn’t merit any comment.

In any case, here was the thought:

We usually talk about the risk involved in going with the plan Jesus put forth in terms of the fact that we will have agency and therefore sin. A risk that I’ve never heard mention is the idea that at the time we were choosing sides, the atonement had not been accomplished yet. This is a bit of a foreign concept to us as we can only remember our mortal lives in which the task has already been accomplished. However in the pre-existence there was a double risk, and perhaps two acts of faith required to side with Christ. One was faith in one’s own ability to properly use agency in mortal life. The second was faith that Christ would fulfill his role as Redeemer and save us from physical and spiritual death.

Perhaps some of the one third that followed Satan did so because of low self-esteem. They didn’t think they were up to the challenge of a mortality with agency. Perhaps others thought the atonement itself was impossible. It certainly is a mind-boggling concept.

Note that Satan makes an interesting claim, “surely I will do it,” which can be taken as an indication that his plan addresses both of the above risks by eliminating both agency and the need for an atonement. It also implies that there was some doubt (at least in Satan’s mind) not about our frailties (which are obvious) but about the ability of Jesus to accomplish his plan. Satan was probably not comfortable putting his salvation in the hands of another.

Oddly it wasn’t the scripture above that brought this to mind. It was the idea of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and taking a leap into the unknown. At that point they didn’t even remember the idea of the Atonement, but even after it was explained to them they had to act on faith in an event yet to come.

So my question is, has somebody else written on this subject? Is there any info out there on this idea? Am I off my rocker?


  1. Rusty,

    As Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward, this is EXACTLY where our discussion on the fall lead us also. While I did not get many comments as we were discussing it, the topic definitely provided a more realistic perspective for the class members (I got more positive comments about last week’s class than any other). I think the lack of discussion may have been due to the fascination with the new perspective.

    We were required to exercise tremendous faith in Christ’s ability to use His agency to complete the atonement AND we needed to have the self-confidence in ourselves to know that we would use our own agency properly.

    I provided a supplemental pass-out during class which is the third chapter of Stephen E. Robinson’s book “Following Christ – The parable of the Divers and more good news”. It is very good and talks about the connection between the fall and agency in the pre-mortal existence. I will e-mail it to you. I printed it off of GospelLink.

    Comment by Kevin — February 9, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  2. Kevin,
    I’m interested in the link you will email me, but you should also email it to A Random John, he’s the one who wrote the post.

    Comment by Rusty — February 9, 2006 @ 11:33 am

  3. Sorry. It is not a link, it is an attachment in PDF format. Can you forward it onto him? I don’t have his e-mail address.

    To continue with this most fascinating topic, it was precisely because the risks and the amount of faith necessary were SO HIGH that Satan was able to convince a full third of our pre-mortal brothers and sisters to rebel. He knew how to play upon everyone’s fears.

    It would seem to me that the amount of faith we needed in our first estate WAS essential to keeping that first estate. Many times we downplay the need for faith in the pre-existence because we “knew” everything as it was before of our eyes and we could see it. But I don’t think that was the case. I think that we all were required to exercise tremendous faith in the plan of salvation and in our Heavenly parents. We especially needed to believe that Christ would be successful, otherwise NONE of us would be resurrected or have the possibility to return home. We would truly be lost forever from our Heavenly parents.

    It makes me appreciate what Christ accomplished so much more. And it makes me understand why Satan’s alternative was so attractive. If we could minimize the risk by being assured we would choose good over evil, then half the of the risk was gone (i.e. “personal spiritual death risk” and the remaining risk was significantly minimized (i.e. “fallen world physical death risk”) — in other words, the chosen Saviour would not have to suffer AS MUCH to overcome because personal sins were eliminated from the equation.

    With your understanding of human nature from this world, don’t you see how that alternative plan would be attractive?

    Comment by Kevin — February 9, 2006 @ 11:50 am

  4. Kevin,

    Thanks! I am assuming that my email address will appear in the link below.

    Comment by a random John — February 9, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  5. Great post and discussion. Brilliant idea, and one that makes complete sense.

    Thank you for this.

    Comment by Ian Cook — February 9, 2006 @ 11:56 am

  6. Great thought(s) but I’m not sure I agree with your statement “It also implies that there was some doubt (at least in Satan’s mind)”. Satan was all about power and glory now…he wanted to be God. I think he used doubt and fear as to whether Christ could accomplish the atonement to help his cause, but I’m not sure that if he had any doubts that thery were a motivating force. Just my thought!

    Comment by don — February 9, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

  7. Don,

    I don’t know if I agree. If we assume Satan was all about power and glory now then he would have had to develop a strong selfish and evil side very quickly. I find it difficult to accept that.
    Most of the time people descend into extreme evil step-by-step. It is not something born whole. It comes a little here and a little there. I think that maybe Satan did have doubts like many others but as he was rejected by Heavenly Father, he slowly allowed the resentment and anger to build. After his rejection, he would have allowed the evil to fester and grow in his heart. I think that in the end it DID become about the power and the glory but I don’t think it started out that way.

    I wonder why it was so hard for him to understand that messing with our agency was not an option? Wouldn’t he have realized that agency was part of the foundation of eternity and was not negotiable? Didn’t we have enough knowledge in the pre-existence to realize that?

    Comment by Kevin — February 9, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

  8. Don,

    Good point. Satan might have been saying one thing while thinking another. I would guess that his own pride wouldn’t allow him to think that Jesus could pull it off since Satan was probably well aware that Satan couldn’t do it. That said, even if Satan had no doubts he certainly used doubt as a weapon. I do think that the feasability of the atonement was a major question for many. How much trouble do we have making use of it in this life knowing that it has already happened. Now imagine making use of it beforehand.


    If Satan believed the atonement was an unacceptable risk then he might have seen his plan as the only alternative. It wouldn’t be a pathway to true salvation, but you could keep what you had.

    Comment by a random John — February 9, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

  9. Interesting ideas. Lucifer’s case is interesting in that he was taking an immensely bold step to propose his own plan over the Father’s and hope the majority of God’s children would follow; that being his only hope for it to come to pass and for him to avoid punishment. The problem with that is it is ludicrous to think a spirit child (even an older, more powerful one) has a better plan and chance with it then the Supreme Being of all things.

    My question is whether Satan’s plan is actually feasible or not. He said it was, but could he REALLY make sure not one soul will be lost and all could return and recieve all the promised blessings without the use of agency?

    Comment by Bret — February 9, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

  10. Bret,

    I’m not sure that it was a democracy. I would guess that even if a majority went with Satan that he wouldn’t get his way.

    As for the feasibility, my guess is that it would include very little progress and not lead to exaltation, so it wouldn’t work in the same way.

    Comment by a random John — February 9, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  11. I think faith in Jesus was a huge determinant in the premortal estate. I also think Joseph’s account of the narrative in the KFD is important. In it, he states the plan of Jesus was to “save” all but the son’s of perdition. He goes on to state that Satan’s plan was to save all including perdition.

    As I understand it, perdition is only for those who have recieved the fullness. In essence, if there is no perdition, then there are no kings or queens. Satan sought to destroy the government of God. Perhaps there are those who resented that government.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 9, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  12. Another possible deterent/ risk might have been the particular life circumstances/ life missions(s)/ challenges we were told we sould assume.

    Comment by LisaB — February 9, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

  13. Satan wanted to be God, he stated it plainly when he presented his plan. He wanted the glory and the honor and he wanted it Now! I don’t see anything in the scriptures that would indicate any different. I think he was smart enough to use the doubt of whether Christ could accomplish the atonement as a tool to convince others to follow him and his plan. But I really question if he had a doubt about Christ that it was a motivation for him.

    Comment by don — February 9, 2006 @ 5:56 pm

  14. I enjoy discussions about our premortal life, so thanks for the ideas here.

    I think we have romanticized the premortal life, council and war in heaven, etc. so much that it may be hard to come up with new ideas.

    One idea I had is that I don’t think that everyone that chose to come here to the earth, did so with the explicit goal of attaining Celestial Glory. I think they were simply trying to avoid Outer Darkness.

    Comment by Tim J. — February 9, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

  15. ARJ,

    Definitely. You pointed out what I meant to include. God’s reign is absolute but I think the possibility that God would allow majority rule is plausible. Or maybe since God already knew how many would rebel and how many would follow the Savior He gave the chance for a different plan, knowing it would not come to fruition. That way we have the agency to truly choose and God’s planis still fulfilled.

    I dunno. I’m thinking out loud.


    I agree. I think that could be the difference between the noble and great ones and everyone else who didn’t follow Satan.

    Comment by Bret — February 10, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

  16. Tim J and Bret,

    I wonder if those that followed Satan had any concept of what their ultimate reward would be for doing so? It seems that they must have been hoping for something other than what they are going to get. What did they reasonably think they could accomplish?

    Comment by a random John — February 10, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

  17. ARJ,

    Good question. I imagine they had to have some sort of an idea of what they got. God, being perfectly just, obviously gave them exactly what they deserved and I cannot see that happening without those spirits having a decent understanding of what they were doing. (i.e.–you cannot sin in ignorance)

    As for what they hoped to accomplish by following Lucifer into rebellion…your guess is as good as mine. Maybe they would not have been comfortable living in a world and in the plan God provided (kinda like terrestial beings being uncomfortable in a Celestial world)???

    Comment by Bret — February 12, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

  18. If nothing else, I like Phillip Pullman’s take on this in his allegorical interpretation of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in his book “The Amber Spyglass.”

    Comment by Bret — February 12, 2006 @ 2:59 pm


    Comment by Bill — May 31, 2007 @ 7:05 am

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    Comment by John — June 17, 2007 @ 12:37 pm