2. By What Means Did Satan Seek to “Destroy the Agency of Man”?
The book of Moses states that Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man.” The means by which this would have been accomplished have not been authoritatively explained. However, the common LDS assumption is that, as part of the Devil’s premortal proposal, an element of compulsion was required—the idea that Satan advocated “the assertion of raw power to coerce moral sanctity from humanity.” For example, in an article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Riddle writes: “Lucifer’s plan proposed to “save” all of the Father’s children by forcing each to obey the Father’s law in all things.” Similarly, Ludlow states that: “Lucifer… wanted to modify our agency so that there would be no opportunity at all to sin, thus enabling all God’s children to return to their celestial existence.”
Yet, at least insofar as an analogy can be drawn between what was contemplated in this proposal and life on earth today, LDS theology seems to preclude the possibility that such a plan could have succeeded. Drawing a distinction between “agency (the power of choice)” and “freedom, the right to act upon our choices,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks argues that though it is possible for our freedom to be curtailed, “no person or organization can take away our free agency in mortality.” Moreover, even if there were a way that people could be continually compelled to “do the right things,” Elder Oaks argues that they could not qualify to enter God’s presence without a concomitant transformation of their natures. McLachlan insightfully observes: “There is a strong sense in LDS doctrine that Satan’s coercive plan is a lie from the beginning because it is a rejection of reality itself which is based on the agency, creativity, and co-eternality of intelligences.”
In light of these considerations, should the element of compulsion as the central feature of Satan’s premortal proposal be assumed without question? It might seem difficult to imagine that the Devil could have won so many followers in the premortal world on the basis of a plan that was so thoroughly unworkable, if not impossible. Our examination of the story of the Fall [to follow] attempts to provide a reasonable alternative to the traditional view on the nature of Satan’s efforts to “destroy the agency of man.”
Next: 3. Why Was It Essential That Premortal Spirits Be Given the Opportunity to Receive a Body?