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). [Read more…]