A different take on the War in Heaven from Nephi Anderson’s “Added Upon”

Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon has been called “the most popular and enduring nineteenth-century work to emerge” from Mormonism’s “home literature” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.1 Anderson’s goal, according to the superscript in Added Upon, was to “assert eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to men,” though he would one-up Milton through the unique Mormon perspective. It was the original Saturday’s Warrior: two lovers meet during pre-mortality, find each other on earth, and return to a heavenly kingdom for a happily ever after. Givens identifies the book’s main flaws: “The dialogue is often wooden…and Anderson expounds, rather than depicts, his theology through blatant authorial intervention.” Still, by wedding sentimental romance with the plan of salvation, Anderson’s 1898 book lived through thirty-five editions and you can get it for free on Kindle.2

Anderson’s chief literary sin was his privileging of dogma over experience—it was as much a work of theology as a story in its own right. Anderson acknowledges at the outset that his story “is suggestive only” in areas “where little of a definite character is revealed.”3 Examining the theology reveals a different perspective on the War in Heaven than current Mormons generally hold.4 Rather than depicting Lucifer as offering to save everyone by force, thus depriving God’s children of their agency (a la evil contemporary government programs and socialism and evil communism), Anderson took a different approach:

The hosts of heaven—sons and daughters of God—were assembled. The many voices mingling, rose and fell in one great murmur like the rising and falling of waves about to sink to rest. Then all tumult ceased, and a perfect silence reigned.

“Listen,” said one to another by his side, “Father’s will is heard” (7).

“The voice,” presumably God, explains that the time has come for further progression in a “world of matter” where they will be tested, and where “the Son” will come “to satisfy the eternal law of justice” and “bring to pass the resurrection of the dead” (10). Each will retain her or his agency, but who would play the part of Son? As in the Pearl of Great Price account, one arises and offers himself and another arises to counter:

“Behold I, send me. I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that not one soul shall be lost; and surely I will do it; wherefore, give me thine honor.”

Then spoke one as with authority:

“Lucifer, thy plan would destroy the agency of man—his most priceless gift. It would take away his means of eternal advancement. Your offer cannot be accepted.”

The Father looked out over the vast throng; then clearly the words rang out:

“I will send the first!”

But the haughty spirit yielded not. His countenance became fiercer in its anger, and as he strode from the assembly, many followed after him (10-11).

Anderson introduces two other “sons of God,” Sardus and Homan, who debate the respective positions. Homan is concerned about Lucifer’s “haughty” and “overbearing” attitude, but Sardus is intrigued. “We have a right to think and to act as we please,” he reasons, “and I consider Lucifer in the right. Think of this magnificent offer, to bring back in glory to Father’s presence, every one of His children, and that, too, without condition on their part” (11). Homan counters:

“It is evident that we, in that future world of experience and trial, will retain our agencies to choose between the opposites that will be presented to us. Without that privilege, we should cease to be intelligences, and become as inanimate things. How could we be proved without this power? How could we make any progress without it?”

“I grant it all” [said Sardus].

“Then, what would Lucifer do? He would save you from the dangers of the world, whether you would or not. He would take away any need of volition or choice on our part. Do what we would, sink as deep into sin as we could, he would save us notwithstanding, without a trial, without a purging process, with all our sins upon us; and in this condition we are expected to go on to perfection, and become kings and priests unto God our Father, exercising power and dominion over our fellow creatures. Think of it! Evil would reign triumphant. Celestial order would be changed to chaos” (12).

Sardus grants that choosing between good and evil should be a part of their mortal estate—force isn’t at issue. Time passes and sides are chosen:

Lucifer was fast gaining influence among the spirits—and they had their agency to follow whom they would. The revolting spirit had skill in argument; and the light-minded, the discontented, and the rebellious were won over.

To be assured eternal glory and power without an effort on their part, appealed to them as something to be desired. To be untrammeled with laws, to be free to act at pleasure, without jeopardizing their future welfare, certainly was an attractive proposition. The pleasures in the body would be of a nature hitherto unknown. Why not be free to enjoy them? Why this curb on the passions and desires? “Hail to Lucifer and his plan! We will follow him. He is in the right” (17-18).

Again, no talk of force here. The argument seems to be that people will be forgiven regardless of their decisions. That the consequences for sins would be overlooked.

Many of the mighty and noble children of God arrayed themselves on the side of Christ, their Elder Brother, and waged war against Lucifer’s pernicious doctrine…The plan which had been proposed, and which had been accepted by the majority, had been evolved from the wisdom of past eternities. It had exalted worlds before. It had been proved wise and just. It was founded on correct principles (18).

Anderson doesn’t say, but this opens the door to possible failed experiments in the past, though only by inference.

By [this plan] only could the spiritual creation go on in its evolution [!] to greater and to higher things. It was the will of the Father, to whom they all owed their existence as progressive, spiritual organizations. To bow to Him was no humiliation. To honor and obey Him was their duty. To follow the First Born, Him whom the Father had chosen as mediator, was no more than a Father should request. Any other plan would lead to confusion. Thus reasoned the followers of Christ (18).

Finally, Anderson includes the since-repudiated idea of the “less valiant”:

Then there were others, not valiant in either cause, who stood on neutral ground. Without strength of character to come out boldly, they aided neither the right nor the wrong. Weak-minded as they were, they could not be trusted, nor could Lucifer win them over.

Meanwhile, the earth, rolling in space, evolved from its chaotic state, and in time became a fit abode for the higher creations of God (18-19).

Most striking to me is that Anderson doesn’t follow the now-typical “force” interpretation. (Incidentally, the Gospel Principles chapter on “Freedom to Choose” doesn’t explicitly advance the “Lucifer wanted to force us to do good” interpretation, either.) He depicts Lucifer as promising a consequence-free sojourn in mortality. (Incidentally, this is similar to Terryl Givens’s recent work in which he describes Lucifer as attempting to decouple choice and consequence.)

As an added bonus, notice Anderson’s dual reference to evolution—a spiritual and earthly type—a term that would become more contentious in the years to come.

This serves as a great reminder that different approaches to Mormon theological claims exist, waiting for us to draw on and/or wrestle with them. For more on “the Fall” in Mormon thought more broadly, you might check out aquinas’s excellent ongoing project.




1. Terryl L. Givens, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 287.

2. Ibid.

3. Anderson, Added Upon: A Story, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1912), 3. I love his additional comment on the value of letting the mind wander on matters theological: “It is hoped that the mind of the reader, illumined by the Spirit of the Lord, will be able to fill in all the details that the heart may desire, to wander at will in the garden of the Lord, and dwell in peace in the mansions of the Father.”

4. For a great overview on various interpretations see Boyd Jay Peterson, “’One Soul Shall Not Be Lost’: The War in Heaven in Mormon Thought,” Journal of Mormon History Vol. 38, No. 1 (Winter 2012), pp. 1-50. Since I only saw a pre-publication copy of Peterson’s article I’m not sure if he directly examined Anderson’s presentation in the final published draft, though he was aware of it.


  1. Last Lemming says:

    Apparently, one of my son’s Religion professors at BYU teaches the Anderson theory. Last summer, he had been attending another ward’s priesthood meeting and suddenly come rushing into the house and then back out again before I could ask him what was up. Later he explained that he had made a comment in class in support of the Anderson theory (not by name, of course) and nobody knew what he was talking about, so he had come home to get his professor’s handout propounding the theory. (We only live a couple of blocks away.)

    Apologies for now slipping into broken record mode, but this seems an ideal time to advance my own theory. I think Lucifer’s plan was to divert the evolutionary process so that the species homo sapiens never reached a state of accountability. As per Anderson, we could have done whatever we wanted without punishment, but I’m not sure we would have enjoyed it much. Essentially, we would have remained in Hobbes’ state of nature in which life was nasty, brutish, and short.

  2. Interesting, LL.

  3. The documentary evidence of which I am aware has church leaders staying that premortal nuetrality is a fiction around 1890-1920. So perhaps this volume was influential in strengthening that idea.

    I like Roman and Bradshaw’s article on Satan.

  4. I stumbled upon the book more than 40 years ago and read it in one day. The feelings I had while reading these “sentimental” passages compelled me to go on and read the Book of Mormon that summer. This was a critical time in my life. I was 14 years old and my family had never been active in the LDS Church. Added Upon may have some theological gray area – but to me it is a beautiful, moving story – one that changed my life forever.

  5. Boyd Petersen (my husb) has a great article coming up in Journal of Mormon History about the uses of the WiH. Watch for it; fascinating stuff!!

  6. Christine: you’re not alone. I know of several members who had a similar experience. Including Daniel C. Peterson. IIRC his family wasn’t very active, he wasn’t particularly interested in Mormonism, but he got a hold of a copy of Added Upon around that same age and it impressed him enough to take a closer look, leading to his ultimate conversion and etc.

    Znp: I provided the pre-frence (pre-reference?) in the last footnote. Does he spend much time on Added Upon?

  7. I still have a hard copy of it. Great novel. I especially like his story of the fisherman and son, who went into the center of the earth and spent time with the Lost Tribes. I wish some of my fishing trips were that exciting. Sadly, I usually can only speak of the imaginary fish that got away…..

  8. So does Boyd treat Joseph Smith’s take on the WiH?

  9. My mom had a copy of this and I read it several times growing up. I consider it as much of a useful source of truthful theology as “Saturday’s Warrior” is.

  10. Great post. I think I’ll get myself a free Kindle copy of Added Upon.

    Znp–I took a class from your husband a year or two ago at BYU and loved it. He talked about the upcoming article you mentioned, and I thought it sounded fascinating. I’m excited for it to finally be published.

  11. In other words, Lucifer wanted to save all in their sins. The Mormon Eden allegory makes a lot more sense in this light. This was my thesis (along with Jeff Bradshaw) in Element:

    Click to access 1%20-%20Bradshaw%20Head%20-%20Mormonisms%20Satan%20and%20the%20Tree%20of%20Life.pdf

  12. Fascinating. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for more than 20 years – still unread. I will now read it. Thanks.

    The stories of pre-mortal existence and the war in heaven are always the most intriguing to me. Can’t get enough of the various ideas about it.

  13. Interestingly, Satan claims to be able to save all, not exalt them, a reward he then seems to claim only for himself. So all roads lead to heaven, but nobody but he can reach the highest but he. We still hear echoes of thus in other religious traditions.

  14. re 5, 6, 8, 10–Through printing, subscribers can look for this issue of the JoMH any day now. BHodges beats us to the bunch by attaching the Dore illustration, which will also grace this issue’s cover in respect to its lead article. But Journal regulars may be pleasantly surprised to find that Petersen has supplied several more reproductions of art by Blake, Breughel and Raphael, among others, to illustrate his article (and provide a welcome break from the usual preponderance of grainy portraits). Petersen’s references to Anderson did survive editing, apparently.

  15. I read this book at a very young age, it was probably, along with a children’s four volume “Book of Mormon” the first basis of my testimony. Glad to know I can get it on my Kindle!

  16. KaralynZ: your response got me thinking, enough to put together a new post in response. Enjoy:


  17. .

    I particularly love quoting Added Upon in regards to the Millennium.

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