I attended a wonderful panel by Boyd J. Peterson on the War in Heaven in Mormon Thought. This is the copy of a very similar presentation he gave at MHA. He spoke about Glenn Beck’s usage of the War in Heaven as a conservative argument against liberal policies:
“Collective salvation, unless we all are saved, none will be saved, okay? Jesus came to save you, okay? Let me just give you the — real quick, you’ve got to take it back, you’ve got to take it back to the war in heaven. War in heaven with the angels and everything else, and they have this war and Lucifer says, “I’m going to save all of them. Just give me the glory.” And God says, no, I don’t think so. And he selects, he selects the plan of Christ which, I’m going to send a savior down and he will save each individual, okay? That’s why he’s — that’s why God came — that’s why, you know, God came down and saved the — saved us all because of individual salvation. You accept the atonement of Jesus Christ and you are saved. Collective salvation is, I can’t be saved on my own, I can’t be. I have to make sure and ensure everyone else’s salvation and then we’re all saved together.”
Interestingly, I attended another sunstone panel on Glenn Beck entitled GLENN BECK: LIKELY MORMON OR UNLIKELY MORMON? and conservative panelist KATHRYN BOYCE HEMINGWAY supported Beck and argued against the ‘liberal agenda’ by explicitly quoting the War in Heaven.
My first thought is that I wonder what non-Mormon listeners think about this reference. So far I’ve not found any non-Mormons noticing and commenting on this issue. The blog posts I’ve found that reference the War In Heaven quote place it in a Book of Revelation context. This blog post on the other hand does talk about Mormon concepts of the War In Heaven but it degrades into a post about race. I am a bit surprised by the lack of notice and wonder when we will see a Christian uproar that these specific Mormon views are being taught as if they are mainstream.
Beyond that, however, I want to at least promote an alternative interpretation of the War in Heaven that is more favorable to Liberals and progressive social policy:
First of all, we should look at the very setting the divine council. Our voice was involved in this process and our spirits were able to vote and to endorse the plan of the Savior. Additionally, Mormons believe that there are two parts of the atonement: Parts of the impact are Universal and Unconditional and other parts are individual and we must choose to accept them.
Because of the atonement, we are brought back from the grave to stand by at the bar of God. Moreover, there are other impacts the savior has on our world that affect us regardless of any merit on our part. For instance, we consider the light of Christ to come to all men as a universal recognition of truths.
Other parts of the blessings of the atonement only come to those that repent. Additionally, as members of his church we take on additional covenants that bring additional blessings. We are also judged for our merits and rewarded for our hard work and sacrifice.
Moreover, our very belief in the tiered heavens of salvation is significant. We believe in the importance of being valiant in the testimony of Jesus in order to enter into the Celestial Kingdom. Hard work is important. Yet, we also believe that even those that inherit the lowest degree of glory due to their sloth and negligence are given certain rewards and blessings. Even the Telestial Kingdom is a state of paradise.
God’s/Christ’s plan can thus be said to be a mixed economy. Certain gifts are ours by virtue of electing a savior while in other regards we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”
How does this analysis relate to Government. First of all, we continue to exercise our free agency in a democracy through the right to vote. Unlike the eternal plan which is fixed for all of earthly history, we have the ability to alter our government and social programs. We can learn from the consequences of bad decisions and bad programs and reform our system. In this sense we have a greater participatory stake in our government than in the outcome of the divine council. At the very minimum in this way our government is very different from Satan’s plan.
Moreover, basic and minimum safety nets are consistent with God’s plan. It may be a bit specious, but cant we draw connections between the universal resurrection and restoration to perfect health and Universal Healthcare. We can connect the power of the light of Christ to our value of Universal Education. Like with the plan in heaven, we choose to enact these basic safeguards to protect those that might be worse off or in need. Our social systems are not inconsistent with the plan of heaven when we fight for minimal basic conditions and a safety net. Imagine a divine plan without a universal atonement. None of us would have a chance to progress and develop. Likewise, a society without public education is general stagnant and suffers from a poorly developed economy. If the Telestial Kingdom is still a paradise, then can we not look to a welfare state to provide minimal standard of living.
On the other hand, our mixed economy still allows for merit to emerge. We find large disparities in capacity and virtue in our society. This is again consistent with the plan in heaven.
In spiritual terms those that have been given much are often given special challenges and more is expected of them. God allows the Devil to specifically tempt Job because of his righteousness. Moreover, we often sing the hymn “Because I have been given much I too must give.” Likewise, as we pass progressive taxes we realize that those that have more can be asked to contribute more back to society because they have benefited from the conditions of the earth.
Counter to what Beck and other conservative Mormons suggest, progressive democratic government is not analogous to Satan’s plan, but is instead compatible with the plan of salvation of Jesus Christ