War a Good Warfare

Understanding Agency in the Plan of Salvation

Grant Arnold

Grant W. Arnold, "War a Good Warfare: Understanding Agency in the Plan of Salvation," Religious Educator 24, no. 1 (2023): 34–57.

Grant W. Arnold (arnoldg@byulaw.net) serves on active duty as a chaplain (captain) in the United States Air Force.

photo of a compassThe exercise of agency will not be, and... certainly never has been, dependent on Satan's temptations. Photo by Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com.


John Calvin (1509–1564) is credited with expanding the concept of predestination. In the third book of his Institutio Christianae Religionis (Institutes of the Christian religion), he claimed that “all are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.”[1] Although Calvin was opining on salvation, his words, of necessity, affected free will. Specifically, if salvation is ordained, then our choices are meaningless because God has already predetermined our fate.

At first glance Calvin’s assertions seem to make sense since many humans make terrible choices and seemingly few devote their lives to Christ. However, for Latter-day Saints the concept of predestination is a false doctrine and is entirely “unscriptural.”[2] President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “no person is ever predestined to salvation or damnation. Every person has [moral] agency.”[3] Agency, or the ability to make choices, is a doctrine that refutes predestination. In reality we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through [Christ], or to choose captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27). Notwithstanding the restored Church’s clear stance, some Latter-day Saints may believe that Satan is necessary to the plan of salvation. Accordingly, they are unknowingly supporting a bastion of Calvin’s idea.

The confusion comes from a misunderstanding of restored scripture. First, in 2 Nephi 2:11, Lehi teaches his son Jacob that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” Second, Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 states that “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves.” In light of these scriptures, some gospel students believe Lucifer’s fall served two purposes. First, they believe Satan serves as the “opposition in all things” to Christ’s role as Savior.[4] Second, Satan provides the necessary opposition in this life by tempting the children of men.[5] Essentially, then, many believe that without some kind of adversary’s efforts, agency could not “function”[6] and thus the plan of salvation could not operate. As one example of Satan’s necessity in this regard, proponents of this position point to the fall of Adam and Eve. Specifically, they assume Adam and Eve could not have fallen without Satan’s temptation (and thus we could not have been born).[7] Further, God’s foreknowledge that Satan would fall and tempt humankind allowed God to proceed with the plan of salvation. These positions create many misunderstandings that distort our view of the plan of salvation, the premortal and mortal life, and the postmortal probation.

To be fair, however, many questions arise if we conclude that Satan’s work is unnecessary. For example, how would the plan of salvation function? How would opposition occur? Would we still face temptations? How would Adam and Eve fall? In a sense, “what would the world be like without [the devil]?”[8] All these questions and more need to be explored to sustain an accurate understanding of our agency.

Agency was at the crux of the plan of salvation (see Moses 4:1–4). It is something God will never take away.[9] A true understanding of the operation of agency in the premortal, mortal, and postmortal realms is crucial to correct the misunderstanding about the necessity of Satan’s actions. In addition, an understanding of agency’s operation increases as we include God’s laws, the Fall, and the expediency of Christ’s atonement. If these issues are not explored, then students could be inclined to inappropriately elevate Satan’s role in the plan of salvation, which automatically diminishes the central role of Christ. Put positively, exploring these issues and providing another interpretation of Satan’s role can elevate our appreciation of Christ’s grace and our adoration for him and God the Father.

Premortal Life

Although lost to a vast majority of current Christian sects, the “doctrine of premortal life was . . . accepted by many Jews and Christians around the time of Christ.”[10] Members of the Church assume this truth in a question posed by the Savior’s disciples: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2; emphasis added). It is illogical to assume the disciples were wondering what kind of postbirth sin a person could commit to merit a birth defect, since adjudicating punishment before one commits a sin defies all sense of “a just God” (Isaiah 45:21). Thus, the disciples’ question was, in essence, Was this man born blind because of a premortal sin?[11] To best understand why a “Satan” is unnecessary in the plan of salvation, we should consider these aspects of premortal life: who was present there and their relationships, the conditions that prevailed there, and the major events of that life.

Who Was Present in Premortality

The scriptures teach succinctly that “we are the offspring of God” (Romans 8:16). More specifically, we know that God is “[our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:48; emphasis added). Nevertheless, since Jesus is the “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) in the flesh,[12] we qualify our understanding of the father-child relationship by emphasizing that Heavenly Father is the “God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 16:22; emphasis added). Accordingly, every human “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents,”[13] which makes us all siblings. Thus, every human that has lived, is living, or will live on this earth was present with God as a spirit child before coming to earth. Naturally, our heavenly parents were present during our premortal existence as well.[14] Further, Jesus Christ, in addition to being the Only Begotten Son of God on earth, was not only present but was also “the Firstborn of the Father in the spirit world.”[15] Finally, we also know that other spirit children of God were “cast out” out of heaven (Revelation 12:9). This group of damned spirits includes their infamous leader, Lucifer, who upon falling became Satan.[16]

Losing Lucifer was not a joyous event because Heavenly Father loved all his spirit children with a perfect love beyond mortal comprehension (see John 3:16). In fact, God’s love is so focused and perfect that his mission statement is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [his children]” (Moses 1:39). Accordingly, the loss of Lucifer and the spirits who followed him pained God, insomuch that the “heavens wept over him” (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:26–27).

Premortal Conditions

Agency is “an exercise of [one’s] will, [or] the power to choose.”[17] This power to choose was a condition that existed for all of God’s children, even in premortal life.[18] For example, Jehovah exercised his agency by accepting his role as mankind’s Redeemer, declaring, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27; see Moses 4:1–2). Additionally, every mortal in premortality exercised agency by accepting Heavenly Father’s plan and Christ as Redeemer.[19] On the other hand, in response to Christ’s declaration, Lucifer exercised his agency to present an alternative to Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. Specifically, Lucifer “came before [God], 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” (Moses 4:1). Regrettably, a “third part” (Revelation 12:4; Doctrine and Covenants 29:36) of God’s spirit children followed Lucifer “because of their agency” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36). This eternal condition of choice allowed the children of God to “act for [themselves] . . . ; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man” (93:30–31).

Given that agency existed premortally, the naturally resulting condition included differences in God’s spirit children due to the use of agency.[20] Of course, our foremost example of the righteous use of agency is Jehovah. On earth, Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). This earthly increase was so swift that Jesus was already teaching adults by age twelve (vv. 46–47). Christ’s swift increase on earth is likely a window into his premortal performance. Or, as Andrew Skinner, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, explained:

Prophets have taught that, as with all spirit children, Christ Himself had a beginning; that the principles of agency, obedience, and progression operated in the premortal state of our existence; and that the Savior honored and followed these foundational concepts of the Father’s plan until He stood like unto God.[21]

In short, the Savior developed so fully and completely as a spirit child that he attained godhood. The only temporary difference between the Son and the Father would be the fulness of joy Christ received after his resurrection.[22] Regarding the rest of Heavenly Father’s spirit children, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that “there was as great a variety and degree of talent and ability among us [premortally] as there is among us here [on earth]. Some excelled in one way, others in another.”[23] Indeed, God showed Abraham that there were many “noble and great ones” that God chose for special missions on earth (Abraham 3:22–23).

The final condition we will consider is the ability to sin premortally. Given agency and the differences of, among other things, nobility, sin logically must have been a part of our premortal existence. Professor Brent Top, former dean of Religious Education at BYU, explained:

Undoubtedly, then, [premortal] sin was possible because of agency and because of the enticements of opposition. The scriptures indicate that there were not only a variety of sins of omission, such as failure to be as faithful or as diligent as possible, but also sins of commission, such as Lucifer’s blatant rebellion.[24]

It is not necessary to guess at “all the things whereby [one] may commit [a premortal] sin” (Mosiah 4:29). However, scripture does show that the rebellion of Lucifer and his third part was of such a sinful degree that it warranted the ultimate punishment of perdition, or being cast out of God’s presence.[25] Speaking of premortal sin, Orson Pratt taught the following:

It is highly probable, that, there were many [spirits] who were not valiant . . . but whose sins were of such a nature that they could be forgiven through faith in the future sufferings of [Jesus Christ]. . . and through their sincere repentance and reformation. We see no impropriety in Jesus offering Himself as an acceptable offering and sacrifice before the Father to atone for the sins of His brethren, committed, not only in the second, but also in the first estate.[26]

Premortal Events

As spirit children exercised righteous agency in varying degrees, the seminal event of our premortal life took place: the “war in heaven.”[27] Although this “war” was indeed “fought” (Revelation 12:7), it was done so “with words, ideas, debate, and persuasion.”[28] Heavenly Father presented the plan of salvation and all understood that we would make mistakes and be “soiled by sin as we faced the opposition necessary for our spiritual growth.”[29] Yet mercifully we were taught and understood that Christ would save us through his eternal sacrifice. Although all knew that Christ was the promised and chosen Messiah, not all concurred. Satan presented an agency-abolishing alternative plan[30] that was, de jure and de facto, impossible to achieve. Sadly, the idea of “guarantee[d] salvation”[31] was so pleasing that many spirit siblings joined in Satan’s insurgence and were “cast out” (Revelation 12:9). In rejecting God, Satan and his partisans “kept not their first estate” (Jude 1:6).[32] Contrariwise, everyone sent to earth kept their first estate. The casting out of so many is “sufficient evidence of the operation of moral agency.”[33]

The final premortal event we must understand is the Fall. At some point after Satan was cast out of heaven, our world’s crowning creation event concluded with the forming of Adam and Eve.[34] After our first parents were formed, their fall was the final step in initiating the plan of salvation for this world. That is, “the Fall was planned”[35] and was necessary for our progression:

The Fall is an integral part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation (see 2 Nephi 2:15–16; 9:6). It has a twofold direction—downward yet forward. In addition to introducing physical and spiritual death, it gave us the opportunity to be born on the earth and to learn and progress. Through our . . . agency . . . we can come unto Christ and, through His Atonement, prepare to receive the gift of eternal life.[36]

Indeed, per the plan of salvation, choosing to fall was something our first parents had to do.[37] In fact, if Adam had not fallen, our births would never have happened (2 Nephi 2:22–23).

Mortal Life

There are many similarities and differences between our premortal life and our life on earth. Similar conditions include agency, laws, and opposition. Further, in light of the revealed conditions of the Millennium, we know that some current conditions of mortal life are unnecessary.

One of the most notable differences between our premortal life and mortal life is the “veil.”[38] The veil’s effects are twofold: forgetfulness and separation. The veil of forgetfulness “erases recollection of that spiritual preexistence and the memory of premortal life is as a feeble echo.”[39] And “mercifully, the veil [of forgetfulness] is there,”[40] because without it humans would come under greater condemnation for sinning while remembering that God lives and Jesus is the Messiah. Further, this veil of forgetfulness enables our life to be a true “time of testing”[41] of our use of our agency. The veil of separation prevents us from seeing spiritual things. Generally speaking, most of us never see wicked or righteous premortal spirits[42] or postmortal beings (i.e., disembodied spirits or resurrected beings). However, “sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin”[43] and people see beings beyond the veil. In short, while we lived with God we saw things clearly, but during mortality we “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

A similarity between this life and our former one is that we inherit agency so we can, as Lehi taught, act for ourselves (2 Nephi 2:16). Doubtless our opportunities to exercise our agency are increased here on earth. To elaborate, the earth is filled with “things to act and things to be acted upon” (v. 14). “Endowed with agency, [mortals] . . . are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon.”[44] Spirits, however, being of a finer or purer matter (Doctrine and Covenants 131:7–8), are generally not able to act on earthly matter. Consequently, it seems clear that mortals are able to exercise a greater degree of agency.

Another similarity is the fact that we are subject to laws—the same spiritual laws that held sway in premortality, as well as earthly physical and natural laws that have certain effects on our mortal bodies. The physical laws we experience can be divided into two categories. First, there are conditions brought on by the Fall that include fatigue, aging, sickness, and physical and spiritual death.[45] Second, there are natural or scientific laws that constitute the God-intended conditions of a fallen world. These include, but are not limited to, various laws of physics (e.g., gravity, thermodynamics, etc.) that simultaneously complement and limit a mortal’s increase in agency. For example, gravity has ensured that, for most of history, humans have been confined to the earth and its atmosphere. Physical laws also reveal a great order such that “the earth, and all things . . . upon the face of it . . . do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

In addition to the physical laws, we also experience spiritual laws. For example, we progressed premortally by accepting Christ, which allowed us to keep our first estate. Likewise, we keep our second estate (Abraham 3:26) by accepting and following Jesus Christ on earth. Some commandments seem specific to mortal life (e.g., “thou shalt not kill,” Exodus 20:13). However, these mortal-centric commandments were likely part of the “first lessons in the world of spirits” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:56) that were taught to help prepare everyone for life on earth. Thus, “when we learn the gospel and gain a testimony here on earth, we are essentially relearning what we once knew and felt in our premortal life.”[46]

The opposition we face on earth, like our agency, is also intensified. Premortally and mortally, opposition and opposition in choice are automatic phenomenona that occur when physical and spiritual laws are established. When God pronounced a plan of salvation (a spiritual law), Lucifer was able to use his agency to reject and fight against that plan. No one is forced to follow law. However, Lucifer’s war was limited to words. Here on earth God again gives laws and commandments, and people are free to reject them; but instead of wars limited to words, here men can endeavor to “enforce [their will] by the sword” (Alma 1:12). Scientific laws also create natural opposition. For example, natural disasters occur within established bounds. Earthquakes, tornados, and even “seas heaving beyond their bounds”[47] all destroy homes and lives indiscriminately. Whether naturally occurring or occurring by divine direction, both forms of destruction bring about opposition to mortals.

Finally, mortal bodies come equipped with desires that are naturally opposed to God’s will. King Benjamin taught that “the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). In short, natural wants fill mortals with desires of the flesh, including appetites for food (beyond what is needed to survive), and all other types of pleasure-seeking (and pain-retreating) lifestyles. These desires, appetites, and passions were not felt with spirit bodies but are strictly part of the corporeal experience. Satan certainly exploits these weaknesses, but he does not cause them. Evidence for this is strengthened if we consider the Millennium.

The Millennium is a “thousand-year period of peace that will begin when Christ returns to reign personally on the earth.”[48] During this millennial period, “Satan [will] be bound . . . and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:110). Satan’s binding is brought about by both the “power of God . . . [and] also by the determination of the people of God not to listen to him, not to be governed by him.”[49] The effect of the binding is such that “Satan shall not have power to tempt any man” (101:28). Not surprisingly, however, all forms of opposition (and certainly agency) will not completely end while Satan is bound. For example, Joseph Smith taught that “there will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years.”[50] Additionally, “the traditions of the centuries will continue to influence men; and since they have their [moral] agency, they will be able to act for themselves even though Satan is bound.”[51] Thus, even though Satan does not tempt during the Millennium, agency will still be in full operation, even while the mortals on earth “continue to have children.”[52]

Postmortal Life

Not much has been revealed about the postmortal life, or life in the spirit world. Elder Dallin H. Oaks emphasized this fact when he quoted Professor Brent Top: “When we ask ourselves what we know about the spirit world from the standard works, the answer is ‘not as much as we often think.’”[53] Notwithstanding, there are some revealed truths that do give insights into conditions for disembodied spirits in the spirit world, including how agency operates.

To begin, it is important to note that “death” is nothing more than a “separation of the [mortal] body and the spirit [body].”[54] In essence, then, we are returning to our premortal state as a spirit. Since agency existed in the premortal realm, it follows that it would continue in the spirit world, regardless of whether Satan or his minions tempt disembodied spirits. At separation, each person undergoes a temporary judgment of sorts, which places him or her in a type of paradise or hell. Thus, a disembodied spirit “enters the world of spirits in a condition that is determined by God’s mercy and judgment.”[55] Spirits then wait in the spirit world until the Resurrection.

Naturally, the agency of disembodied spirits is the same as the agency of premortal spirits. For example, agency can be exercised in righteous action, such as when “faithful [mortals] of this dispensation . . . continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:57). To be precise, these faithful spirits preach to those who died “without a knowledge” (v. 32) of the gospel. Thus, spirits who hear the teaching have the option to repent, but they are in no way required to do so (see v. 58). Regarding the faithful spirits, Brigham Young taught that Satan will not have any power over them. Specifically, President Young explained that all evil spirits “will have no influence over our spirits.”[56] He also taught that when the righteous “go into the spirit world . . . [they] are masters over the power of satan, and he cannot afflict us any more.”[57] These faithful followers of Christ are rewarded for their righteous use of agency on earth. They can continue to use their agency to help the Lord’s work, especially among those in spirit prison.

Since spirits in spirit prison have the ability to repent, they also, of necessity, have the ability to exercise their agency unrighteously. In fact, the Church’s Gospel Principles manual states: “These spirits [in prison] have agency and may be enticed by both good and evil. If they accept the gospel . . . they may leave the spirit prison.”[58] This ability to be enticed is not solely dependent on temptations by demons. Rather, because people enter the spirit world with “that same spirit which doth possess [their] bodies at the time that [they] go out of this life, [then] that same spirit . . . [has] power to possess [their] body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34). Hence, people who are addicted to various sins will still face enticements but will lack bodies to fulfill their sinful desires. Such disembodied spirits are distracted from repenting when they focus on fulfilling cravings. Eventually, everyone in the spirit world will be resurrected and brought before God for judgment. Interestingly, God judges us “according to [our] works [and desires]” (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9). Thus, since agency is so crucial it continually operates, even in the spirit world.

Agency Operates Independent of Satan

Although agency is an independent gift from God that exists before, during, and after mortal life, the idea of a “necessary” Satan is not entirely unscriptural. At face value Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 seems to say that the devil’s tempting of humans enables humans to be agents. However, as we analyze the verse, a more nuanced meaning emerges. Moreover, searching out inspired teachings on opposition as well as other scriptures helps triangulate the meaning of that verse. Finally, analyzing the problems arising from assuming Satan is necessary for the operation of moral agency will be beneficial.

Analyzing Doctrine and Covenants 29:39

And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet. (Doctrine and Covenants 29:39)

This passage has been used to support the idea that we must be tempted by Satan in order to exercise agency. However, careful analysis and a review of how it was used in sermons lead to another possible interpretation. To lay a foundation for better understanding, I will summarize (1) the textual history of section 29, (2) its historical background, (3) a summary of Satan as discussed in the Doctrine and Covenants, (4) an exegetical analysis of key words in section 29, and (5) a review of how the verse was cited in sermons in the 1800s.

Textual History

The earliest recorded version of Doctrine and Covenants 29 is found in Revelation Book 1 (“RB1”), but it was most likely copied into RB1 from earlier manuscripts that are “no longer extant.”[59] The section was first punctuated and put into print in The Evening and the Morning Star, a Church-run newspaper edited by William W. Phelps.[60] Next, the Book of Commandments, a predecessor to the Doctrine and Covenants, was printed in 1833, with one minor punctuation difference[61] from Phelps’s work.[62] Finally, verse 39 was also printed in both the 1835 and 1844 versions of the Doctrine and Covenants and matches the punctuation in the Book of Commandments.[63] In fact, the only changes that occurred in section 29 were adding punctuation marks (along with the subsequent minor changes to those marks) and numbering verses. This revised punctuation made the text easier to read without changing meaning. Aside from punctuation, the text of verse 39 has remained intact from the earliest version through the current version. The consistency over time is remarkable considering the potential for human error.

Historical Background

The restored Church was first formally organized as “the Church of Christ” in the state of New York on 6 April 1830.[64] Nearly six months later, the Lord delivered Doctrine and Covenants 29 “at a small gathering of Church members . . . in Fayette, New York, where they gathered for their quarterly conference in September 1830.”[65] This small band of converts joined the Church with a theological understanding consistent with their respective religious traditions.[66] Thus, it follows that these early converts had “different views about the nature of Adam’s fall [and] . . . hoped the Lord would clarify some things about it.”[67] More specifically, the written preface to the “29th Commandment” provides that “the People of God . . . seeing somewhat different upon the death of Adam (that is his transgression) therefor they made it a subject of Prayer & enquired of the Lord.”[68] Thus, the subject that led to section 29 was the transgression and fall of Adam. Interestingly, agency seems to be crucial to the Fall since, prior to verse 39, the Lord states that he “gave unto [Adam] that he should be an agent unto himself” (v. 35).

Satan in the Doctrine and Covenants

Section 29 is not the only place where the devil is mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, the words Satan, devil, adversary, and Lucifer all appear therein. At least one or more of them appear in thirty-two different sections. These references fall into five broad categories: (1) deceits, (2) contention or violence, (3) power, (4) consequences, and (5) being overruled. If one reads 29:39 and concludes that Satan is necessary to agency’s operation, that conclusion is not supported by any other verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that references Satan.

Exegetical Analysis

In Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 the word needs in “it must needs be” is an archaic adverb that, per Webster’s 1828 dictionary, means “necessarily” or “indispensably” and is “generally used with must.”[69] A synonymous and more modern rendering of needs is “of necessity.”[70] The phrase “must needs be” is not unfamiliar to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Given the Saints’ familiarity with that scripture, this relationship is not surprising since the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were “given unto [the Lord’s] servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:24; emphasis added).

The words tempt or tempted are not as common as “must needs be” in the Doctrine and Covenants, appearing ten times in the revelations. Webster’s 1828 dictionary aligns with the modern meaning of that word (i.e., to influence a person to do a wrong or evil act) but also provides the following under the entry for tempt: “In Scripture, to try; to prove; to put to trial for proof. God did tempt Abraham. Gen. xxii [22:1]. Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God. Deut. vi [6:16].”[71] When compared to the KJV root meanings for tempt or tempted, the original Hebrew or Greek words concur with Webster’s scriptural definition of the word tempt. For example, the Hebrew words translated as “tempt” or “tempted” are bahan (בָּחַן), meaning “to examine, try, prove,”[72] and nasa (נָסָה), meaning “to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test.”[73] Thus, per the biblical usage of the words tempt or tempted, there is not necessarily a negative connotation, and no connection to enticing someone to do an evil act.

With these antiquated definitions in mind, the first clauses of Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 could be rendered: “And it must[, of necessity,] be that the devil should [try] the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves.” Given that Satan is not the sole source of mortal trials, this puts more emphasis on opposition, and not on the source of the opposition. This also ties back to the original question the early Saints asked God (i.e., questions regarding the Fall of Adam and Eve). In essence, the Fall placed man in a state of trial and opposition “for [our] sake” (Genesis 3:17).

Citation Review

According to the Scripture Citation Index[74] website, Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 has been cited either singularly or in conjunction with other verses a total of twenty-nine times in twenty-six different addresses.[75] Seven of the twenty-six addresses listed were given between 1859 and 1881, roughly twenty-nine to fifty-one years after the revelation was recorded. The seven 1800s sermons that cite Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 were delivered by four different Church leaders: three by Brigham Young, two by Orson Pratt, one by George Q. Cannon, and one by John Morgan.

The addresses in the 1800s use verse 39 to bolster certain theological points. To begin, nearly all used the verse to emphasize the necessity of opposites (e.g., bitter and sweet) in gaining experience. For example, Brigham Young taught that the Fall was necessary so “that mankind might be brought in contact with the principles and powers of darkness, that they might know the bitter and the sweet, the good and the evil.”[76] Brigham Young also used the verse to support the idea that without evil and good, “man could not have been an agent unto himself.”[77] After using the verse to support the premise that Satan currently has power to tempt, Orson Pratt spoke of the Millennium, when Satan’s agency would be reduced, and added:

The Lord will not destroy the agency of the people during the Millennium, therefore there will be a possibility of their sinning during that time. But if they who live then do sin, it will not be because of the power of the devil to tempt them, for he will have no power over them, and they will sin merely because they choose to do so of their own free will.[78]

Thus, as far as the Scripture Citation Index reveals, Church leaders in the 1800s used Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 to explain opposition in this life, including why opposites are necessary and that they enable agency, or to acknowledge that Satan has power to tempt humankind.

Review of Modern Usage

As of July 2022, when filtered for general conference addresses, Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 has been cited singularly twelve times in eleven different addresses. Eight talks focus on the latter portion of the verse (the idea that understanding the bitter enables us to enjoy the sweet).[79] For example, Elder Neil L. Andersen used the verse to support the point that the “scriptures teach that we will taste the bitter and the sweet.”[80] Or, as Elder Bruce C. Hafen explained, “Without tasting the bitter, we actually cannot understand the sweet.”[81] Finally, before quoting verse 39, Elder Delbert L. Stapley said, “As part of our test [on earth], we also may be subjected to temptation as was Christ.”[82] Other talks used the verse to expound on the concepts of opposition or temptation. For example, Elder Dallin H. Oaks used it to expound on the meaning of 2 Nephi 2:16 and then added that “opposition was necessary in the Garden of Eden.”[83] And Elder Rulon G. Craven taught that “temptation is a necessary part of our earthly experience.”[84]

In light of such historical usage, there is no evidence to support the idea that Satan’s work is necessary to the plan of salvation. Rather, opposition is necessary for our progression. True, Satan is a source of opposition, but the teachings of Latter-day Saint apostles and prophets do not assert or require the idea that a perdition-doomed child of God must provide such opposition in order for God’s plan of redemption to function. The fact that children will be born during the Millennium[85] without exposure to Satan’s influence as they grow to adulthood, further strengthens this idea. That is, since agency still operates during the Millennium, when Satan will be powerless to tempt people, the exercise of agency will not be, and therefore certainly never has been, dependent on Satan’s temptations.

Teachings on Opposition

Lehi taught his son that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). In modern times Elder Dallin H. Oaks expounded on the need for opposition, teaching that it “provide[s] alternatives on which to exercise our agency” and further explaining that Satan ironically “facilitated” the Father’s plan by being a part of the opposition we face through his deceptions and temptations.[86] Or, as Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained, “Satan’s ongoing opposition is a useful and even necessary part of moral agency.”[87] Aside from temptations, Elder Oaks explained that opposition also takes the form of “difficult circumstances we face in mortality.”[88] Whether as temptations or challenges, he emphasized, “opposition permits us to grow.”[89]

Other Scriptures

Many other scriptures discuss agency in our mortal probationary state. Samuel the Lamanite taught that “[we] are free [and] are permitted to act for [our]selves; for . . . God hath given unto [us] a knowledge and he hath made [us] free” (Helaman 14:30). King Benjamin taught that “the natural man is an enemy to God . . . unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). Alma adds that humans “[became] carnal, sensual and devilish, by nature” (Alma 42:10). Paul explained that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Lehi taught that “men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men” (2 Nephi 2:5).[90] In speaking on God’s laws, Joseph Smith taught that “by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:20). Taken together, these scriptures indicate that agency operates independently of Satan’s temptations.

Problems with Assuming Satan’s Work Is Necessary

So far, the proposed interpretation of Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 assumes Satan is not necessary to the plan of salvation. Another argument in favor of this position is that assuming that Satan is necessary to the plan raises several logical consequences that contradict settled gospel doctrines. Thus, reductio ad absurdum, or argument to absurdity, facilitates understanding on the needlessness of Satan’s work.

To start, if Satan is necessary, then one could argue that God’s love is not perfect and that God is not just. That is, if at least one of God’s spirit children must fall, become Satan, and tempt mortals—all to provide the necessary opposition so that that plan of salvation can function—then perfect love and justice are broken when one soul is permanently punished so that all others may progress. Instead, perfect love is manifest as the Anointed One sacrifices himself to “appease the demands of [perfect] justice” (Alma 42:15) so that all others may progress.

Some may argue that God’s omniscience reconciles these issues. That is, God’s knowing that Satan would choose to rebel allowed God to know that his plan would succeed and still be perfect. However, this “reconciliation” still concedes that God’s plan requires a fallen tempter. Yet this requirement for even one tempter in a plan of salvation means that the plan is flawed because it makes impossible the salvation of every child. To be perfect, God’s plan must operate independently of the wicked use of a premortal child’s agency and offer “salvation to all who will believe in Christ and live his laws.”[91] Christ’s same salvific offer made on earth must also be offered premortally, else “God is . . . partial . . . and a respecter to persons” (Moroni 8:12).

Next, assuming Satan is necessary means his works are ultimately good. Specifically, if the opposition in life can be provided only by Satan, and we cannot progress without opposition, then Satan’s evil works are actually saving us. This creates at least two issues. First, it diminishes the glory of the Godhead and their work (Moses 1:39). Next, God punished Satan’s rebellion by casting him out of heaven. If Satan were helping us, then God’s punishment of him is called into question. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that no mortal is foreordained to commit evil in life and then explained why: “If men were appointed to sin and betray their brethren, then justice could not demand that they be punished for sin and betrayal when they are guilty.”[92] The same logic applies premortally to Satan.[93]

Further, if Satan is necessary, then he purposefully chose (and chooses) to lose his war on mankind by tempting Adam and Eve (and then by continuing to tempt humans).[94] That is, this paradigm assumes the Fall comes only through Satan’s temptations and we only progress by those continuing temptations. These assumptions mean Satan held, and continues to hold, an eternal filibuster or, rather, an at-will checkmate option. Specifically, if Satan never tempted Adam and Eve, or if he stops tempting mortals, God’s plan would cease to function because of the loss of “essential” opposition. Of course, that would contradict scripture, as we know that “the works . . . and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught” (Doctrine and Covenants 3:1).

Some may counter that Satan “knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6) when he tempted Adam and Eve (i.e., he tempted without knowing he was initiating God’s plan).[95] But it is unsound to assume God would neglect to teach his spirit children about the Fall, one of the “three great eternal verities upon which salvation rests.”[96] In fact, in the premortal realm God taught everyone about the “need for a future Atonement” of Jesus Christ.[97] Thus, of necessity, he must also teach “the Fall before we can fully comprehend the purposes of the Atonement.”[98] Thus, the “plan presupposed that Adam and Eve would fall . . . [; hence the need] for the Savior.”[99] Consequently, Satan knew about the Fall before being cast out. Therefore, he also knew about the Fall before deciding to tempt Adam and Eve. Accordingly, when the scripture says Satan “knew not” God’s mind (Moses 4:6), this more accurately reflects his pride and belief that he could “destroy the world” (v. 6). Thus God allows Satan to operate, not vice versa.

The Presented Plan of Happiness

Given that only opposition, not Satan, is necessary to the functionality of God’s plan, then at least a few questions remain. These include: How could we face opposition without Satan? How could we be tempted without Satan? Who would have tempted Adam and Eve?

Facing Opposition without Satan

Regarding opposition, let us first recall the following previous points: we always had God’s law, we always had agency, and the Fall was always planned.[100] Like his word, God’s law is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) and inherently creates choice. That is, “thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15) automatically creates a choice to obey or disobey. Of his own volition, Lucifer used his agency to break eternal laws. Surely no one would argue he was tempted to violate them.[101] Also, premortally, we knew that through the Fall we would all be able to obtain a physical body.[102] Our mortal bodies are replete with “natural man” desires. Our physical bodies, being an “enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19), provide automatic opposition. This physical opposition operates independently of any devil-induced temptations.[103] Thus, God’s law combined with agency, the Fall, and a physical body (i.e., the natural man) provides any necessary opposition.

Evidence of this natural and sufficient opposition surely exists when we consider the salvation of those born during Christ’s millennial reign.[104] Although many will choose Christ while Satan is bound (Doctrine and Covenants 88:110) and unable to tempt (101:28), not everyone will necessarily fully embrace Christ’s restored church. In fact, after the Millennium is ushered in, “there will be need for the preaching of the gospel . . . until all men are either converted or pass away.”[105] Further, the scriptures teach that “power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they [are] accountable [to God]” (29:47). But “all of us know of deeds performed by little children that may only be described as evil.”[106] If Satan cannot tempt little children, and yet they still do nasty deeds,[107] then certainly the natural man is at work in them and all of us. Thus, Satan is only exploiting tendencies already innate in the natural man.

Temptation without Satan

To address the next question, we must recall that, as discussed earlier, tempt can also mean “prove” and “try.” Thus, when “the Lord seeth fit to chasten [us and try our] patience and . . . faith” (Mosiah 23:21), as he did with Abraham, we know it is for our benefit. On the contrary, Satan is “the great imitator,”[108] and he perverts and distorts godly trials by tempting us. Hence, as God’s trials help us improve and bring us closer to him, “Satan’s temptations . . . are designed to take away our blessings.”[109] In addition, there are natural laws set in motion that cause the “sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Accordingly, it is entirely possible that any necessary temptations or trials in our lives can be handled solely by God in the form of direct (i.e., Abrahamic tests) or naturally occurring involvement. Natural trials occur in the form of fallen-world scientific operations (e.g., illnesses or natural disasters) or trials brought about by our own or others’ disobedience to God’s laws as well as by accidents, mistakes, and negligence.

Proving Adam and Eve

Finally, if Satan never tempted Adam and Eve, how else could the Fall have occurred? As noted above, even God steps in, when necessary, to try his children. Further, the pattern from the scriptures shows that, in most instances, Heavenly Father does his work “by the Son” (Moses 1:33). Accordingly, it is possible that proving Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was originally Christ’s responsibility.[110] If true, then Satan was merely continuing one of his original tactics in attacking God’s plan: usurping Christ’s role. It is also possible that Adam and Eve could simply have made the “‘fortunate fall’ forward”[111] decision without any influence from Satan, since the choice to partake of the forbidden fruit was “given unto [them]” (Moses 3:17).


Premortally, we lived with our loving Heavenly Parents, our Savior, and our siblings. Laws and agency were eternally established, and Lucifer chose to rebel and received a just consequence. The fall of Adam and Eve was planned. Externally substantiating Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 shows that God allows Satan to tempt because it facilitates the plan of salvation (i.e., helps us know bitter to understand sweet). Assuming Satan’s work is necessary to the plan of salvation creates several problematic doctrinal issues. On the contrary, understanding that Satan’s work is unnecessary to God’s plan provides reconciled paradigms. These include the truth that God truly loves all his spirit children. Thus, despite knowing that not all would accept the offer, he created a perfect plan by which all could accept salvation. Satan “that man of sin [is] revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) unequivocally as our enemy, and only God’s work is necessary for our salvation. Divine judgments on Satan will be just. One thing remains constant: Christ, not Satan, is “expedient” (Alma 34:9) to the plan.


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1564, trans. Henry Beveridge, https://ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes/institutes.v.xxii.html.

[2] Eldon R. Taylor, “I Have a Question: Predestination,” Ensign, December 1990, 29.

[3] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 1:61.

[4] Dan, “Did God Create Lucifer to Fall?,” Ask Gramps (blog), January 11, 2017, https://askgramps.org/god-create-lucifer-fall/.

[5] Annurs, “Would the Plan of Salvation Be Different If Satan Had Not Rebelled?,” Ask Gramps (blog), December 8, 2017, https://askgramps.org/plan-salvation-different-satan-not-rebelled/.

[6] Church Educational System, Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2010), 19.

[7] Mirium, “Why Did Satan Tempt Adam and Eve to Eat the Fruit?,” Third Hour (blog), November 2, 2009, https://thirdhour.org/forums/topic/24935-why-did-satan-tempt-adam-and-eve-to-eat-the-friut/.

[8] Hook (TriStar Pictures, 1991).

[9] Ronald T. Halverson, “I Stand at the Door, and Knock,” Ensign, November 2004, 32.

[10] Michael R. Ash, “The Restoration and Early Christian Teachings,” Ensign, April 2013, 60.

[11] For more on Christ’s reply, see Boyd K. Packer, “The Moving of the Water,” Ensign, May 1991, 7–8.

[12] “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, April 2000, 2.

[13] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, November 2010, 129.

[14] See First Presidency, “The Origin of Man,” Ensign, February 2002, 30: “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth.”

[15] Cecil O. Samuelson, “Testimony of Jesus Christ,” Religious Educator 8, no. 2 (2007): 22, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/re/vol8/iss2/4.

[16] See Revelation 12:9; Isaiah 14:12; and Luke 10:18.

[17] Dallin H. Oaks, “Free Agency and Freedom” (Brigham Young University devotional, October 11, 1987), speeches.byu.edu.

[18] Oaks, “Free Agency and Freedom.”

[19] Henry B. Eyring, “Walk in the Light,” Ensign, May 2008, 123.

[20] This truth led to false ideas concerning the type of life a person is born into on this earth. We must accept the fact that the presence of “noble and great” spirits (Abraham 3:22) in premortality of necessity means there were also spirits there who were less so (see Alma 13:3–5). Yet we must carefully distinguish between what has been revealed (i.e., the fact of disparity in premortal performance) and that which has not (i.e., how or if people’s circumstances at birth are preassigned).

[21] Andrew C. Skinner, “The Premortal Godhood of Christ: A Restoration Perspective,” in Jesus Christ: Son of God, Savior, ed. Paul H. Peterson, Gary L. Hatch, and Laura D. Card (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002), 56.

[22] Craig James Ostler, “Doctrine and Covenants 93: How and What We Worship,” Religious Educator 3, no. 2 (2002): 79–80, https://rsc.byu.edu/vol-3-no-2-2002/doctrine-covenants-93-how-what-we-worship.

[23] Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, Book 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980), chap. 2.

[24] Brent L. Top, The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), chap. 5.

[25] See Doctrine and Covenants 29:36; 76:25–27; and Revelation 12:4.

[26] Orson Pratt, The Seer, April 1853, 54.

[27] Gospel Topics, “War in Heaven,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/war-in-heaven.

[28] Larry R. Lawrence, “The War Goes On,” Ensign, April 2017, 33.

[29] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan,” Ensign, May 2020, 93.

[30] For discussion on the possible plans Lucifer proposed, see Kevin M. Bulloch, “The War in Heaven and Satan’s Continuing Battle for Power,” Religious Educator 11, no. 1 (2010): 33–46.

[31] Robert J. Matthews, Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 485.

[32] See Abraham 3:28.

[33] Skinner, “Premortal Godhood of Christ,” 71.

[34] Since Michael (the premortal Adam) helped fight against the “Dragon” (Revelation 12:7), Satan had already been cast out of heaven at the point he tempted Adam and Eve. See Guide to the Scriptures, “Michael,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/michael.

[35] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, November 1993, 73.

[36] Gospel Topics “Fall of Adam and Eve,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/fall-of-adam-and-eve.

[37] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 1:14–15.

[38] See Guide to the Scriptures, “Veil,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/veil.

[39] Hugh B. Brown, “The Fight Between Good and Evil,” in Conference Report, October 1963, 93.

[40] Neal A. Maxwell, “Patience,” Ensign, October 1980, 31.

[41] Thomas S. Monson, “Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, June 1993, 4.

[42] But see Ether 3:19–20, which recounts how Mahonri Moriancumer could not be kept from beholding the premortal Christ.

[43] Ezra Taft Benson, “Life Is Eternal,” Ensign, June 1971, 33.

[44] David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” Ensign, November 2006, 90 (emphasis added).

[45] Gospel Topics, “Fall of Adam and Eve.”

[46] Norman W. Gardner, “What We Know about Premortal Life,” New Era, February 2015, 13.

[47] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 286–87.

[48] Guide to the Scriptures, “Millennium,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/millennium.

[49] George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 1:86. For more details on how Satan will be bound, see Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001), 89.

[50] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011), 268–69.

[51] Joseph Fielding Smith, “Concerning the Millennium,” Improvement Era, October 1920, 1113.

[52]Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009), 263.

[53] Dallin H. Oaks, “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, November 2019, 26.

[54] Guide to the Scriptures, “Death, Physical,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/death-physical.

[55]Doctrines of the Gospel: Teacher Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000), 106.

[56]Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), 282.

[57]Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 282.

[58]Gospel Principles, 244.

[59] “Source Note,” Revelation Book 1, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-book-1/1.

[60] “Source Note,” The Evening and the Morning Star, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelations-printed-in-the-evening-and-the-morning-star-june-1832-june-1833/7#source-note.

[61] In The Evening and the Morning Star version, the verse ends with a colon, whereas the Book of Commandments version ends with a period. Also, although not a punctuation matter, the newspaper version uses an ampersand to begin the verse, whereas the Book of Commandments spells out the word And.

[62] “Chapter XXIX,” The Book of Commandments, 1833, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/book-of-commandments-1833/65 .

[63] Section X, verse 10, of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, page 115, includes the passage that is now Doctrine and Covenants 29:39. See The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/doctrine-and-covenants-1835/123. See the same in the 1844 edition, page 157, at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/doctrine-and-covenants-1844/159.

[64] Richard L. Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Vintage, 2005), 109.

[65] Steven C. Harper, Doctrine and Covenants Contexts (Springville, UT: Book of Mormon Central, 2021), 60.

[66] Church History Topics, “Religious Beliefs in Joseph Smith’s Day,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/religious-beliefs-in-joseph-smiths-day.

[67] Harper, Doctrine and Covenants Contexts, 60.

[68] Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29], Revelation Book 1, p. 36, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-book-1/20.

[69] Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. “needs.” Available at http://webstersdictionary1828.com.

[70] Google, s.v. “Needs,” accessed July 31, 2021, https://www.google.com/search.

[71] Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), s.v. “tempt.”

[72] Blue Letter Bible, s.v. “H974,” https://www.blueletterbible.org/.

[73] Blue Letter Bible, s.v. “H5254,” https://www.blueletterbible.org/.

[74] Scripture Citation Index is an online tool that allows users to link scripture citations to, among other things, a majority of “general conference talks [and] Journal of Discourses speeches” (“About,” Scripture Citation Index, https://scriptures.byu.edu/).

[75]https://scriptures.byu.edu/#::c12e1d .

[76] Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1860), 7:158. See also p. 201: “We must have our day of trial—an opportunity to become acquainted with the bitter and the sweet.” See also Journal of Discourses, 19:317.

[77] Journal of Discourses, 11:235.

[78] Journal of Discourses, 16:320.

[79] See Eldred G. Smith, “Opposition in Order to Strengthen Us,” Ensign, November 1973; Loren C. Dunn, “Hanging On,” Ensign, May 1974; Thomas S. Monson, “The Paths Jesus Walked,” Ensign, May 1974; Delbert L. Stapley, “Using Our Free Agency,” Ensign, May 1975; Horacio A. Tenorio, “Teachings of a Loving Father,” Ensign, May 1990; Bruce C. Hafen, “The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004; Thomas S. Monson, “Ponder the Path of Thy Feet,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2014; Neil L. Andersen, “Wounded,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2018.

[80] Anderson, “Wounded,” 84.

[81] Hafen, “Atonement: All for All,” 97.

[82] Stapley, “Using Our Free Agency,” 22.

[83] Oaks, “Opposition in All Things,” 114 (emphasis added).

[84] Craven, “Temptation,” 76 (emphasis added).

[85]Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009), 263.

[86] Oaks, “Opposition in All Things,” 114–15.

[87] Todd D. Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 49.

[88] Oaks, “Opposition in All Things,” 115.

[89] Oaks, “Opposition in All Things,” 116.

[90] Lehi expounded on the domino effect of trying to remove the law. Although removing the law would remove sin, it would also eliminate righteousness and happiness, as well as the opposites of punishment and misery (2 Nephi 2:13). Thus there would be no God and no things “to act [or] be acted upon” (v. 13). Lehi addressed the converse point by emphasizing that because there is God and God gave the law, there are things to act (v. 14).

[91] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Glorious Gospel in Our Day,” Liahona, April 1980, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1980/04/the-glorious-gospel-in-our-day (emphasis added).

[92] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:61.

[93] To further illustrate the point, we can analogize from an event in the Book of Mormon. Specifically, the wicked rulers of Ammonihah were angry at the success of the preaching of the gospel (Alma 14:3). Appallingly, the rulers took out part of their anger on some of the converted women and children in the city by burning them alive (v. 8). The prophet Alma explained he was “constrained” from saving the martyrs because “the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory” (v. 11). Mercifully, thanks to Christ, the martyrs were saved when they died. No one would ever say, however, that the work of the wicked rulers in casting the martyrs into the fire was “necessary” for their salvation. No one would argue that what the wicked rulers did was in any way salvific—it was evil. Likewise, just as the Lord allowed the wicked rulers to choose evil, he allows Satan to carry on in wickedness “that the judgments which [God] shall exercise upon [Satan] in [God’s] wrath may be just” (v. 11).

[94] Technically one could argue three alternatives to this particular absurd proposition. First, Satan unwittingly lost the war, but this thought seems unlikely for a “son of the morning” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:26–27). Also, considering how the plan of salvation was presented, it is unfathomable that Satan did not know the Fall was necessary for the plan to operate. Further, even if he was completely ignorant that his temptation of Adam and Eve would “kickstart” the plan of salvation, the concept of an unknowing Satan requires that he never discover his “necessity” and continue to ignorantly tempt us, an even less likely scenario. Second, there is always the possibility that Satan tempts strictly out of pride (i.e., he believes he can win the war)—but this idea loses significant strength after Christ accomplished his atonement. Third, one could argue that Satan had nothing else to do. However, this “bored” Satan line of thinking assumes he gets more delight out of frustrating a few than he would out of forever frustrating God and all of God’s spirit children—again an unlikely scenario.

[95] See the discussion in footnote 98.

[96] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Three Pillars of Eternity” (BYU devotional, February 17, 1981), speeches.byu.edu.

[97] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Atonement of Jesus Christ,” in Latter-day Saint Essentials: Readings from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. John W. Welch and Devan Jensen (Provo, UT: BYU Studies and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002),13.

[98] Tad R. Callister, “Teaching the Atonement,” in Teach One Another Words of Wisdom, ed. Richard N. Holzapfel and David M. Whitchurch (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 31.

[99] Robert J. Woodford, “‘In the Beginning’: A Latter-day Perspective,” Ensign, January 1998, 15.

[100] Regarding the planned Fall, see Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954), 103: “The Lord knew [Adam and Eve would Fall], and he had designed that they should.”

[101] Considering we lived with God, and also considering the prophesied conditions of the Millennium, a discussion on intelligences acting as tempters to spirit children seems absolutely unnecessary.

[102] See “Plan of Salvation” in True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 115–16; and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2010, 129.

[103] Although there is no need to fear Satan, no one should underestimate him. Instead, focus on Christ.

[104] See Revelation 20:4; Doctrine and Covenants 45:58.

[105] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 1:87.

[106] Robert L. Millet, “The Natural Man: An Enemy to God,” in The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only Through Christ, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1991), 153.

[107] Notwithstanding, little children are not accountable for wrong choices (see Doctrine and Covenants 29:46–47).

[108] James E. Faust, “The Great Imitator,” Ensign, November 1987, 33.

[109] P. Scott Ferguson, “Withstanding the Evil One,” Religious Educator 12, no. 2 (2011): 155–67.

[110] Author’s personal discussion with Rex Butterfield, a professor in the religious education department at BYU–Idaho.

[111] Roger R. Keller, Light and Truth: A Latter-day Saint Guide to World Religions (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 307.