“Book of Mormon Principles: Our Eternal Choices,” Liahona, Feb. 2004, 33
There was war in heaven, according to the revelation of John. “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7–9).
What, we ask, could possibly be the reason for war in heaven? What could cause such hostility among the children of God?
Rebellion is a common cause of war. Heavenly Father gave all His children opportunity to choose the path of obedience that leads to eternal happiness. But some, it seems, chose the path of self-interest, with no regard for the agency of others.
Isaiah teaches us that Lucifer, their leader, had said in his heart, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:13–14). Lucifer said to the Father of all, “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost,” and then demanded, “wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).
Our Father’s plan called for sending His spirit children to earth with the guidance of a Master Teacher who would provide a perfect example they could choose to follow (see Abr. 3:24–28). In agreement with this plan, the Firstborn Son of God said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2). Jesus Christ was chosen to be the teacher, the exemplar, and ultimately the Savior for all humankind as they came to live on earth.
In the war that followed, one-third of our Heavenly Father’s spirit children were cast out with Lucifer. The other two-thirds kept their first estate and thus received the opportunity to progress by following the plan of salvation. These are they to whom the Lord said, through Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).
Unfortunately, some of Heavenly Father’s children who come to earth lose the ongoing war with Satan in mortality. Others continue to follow Jesus Christ and prevail over the evil one. But it is our Father’s will that all have the opportunity to make this choice, and all are rewarded according to the way they use their agency. “Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God,” Nephi wrote. But he added that when people have rejected every word of God and they are ripe in iniquity, they are ready to feel “the fulness of the wrath of God … upon them” (1 Ne. 17:35).
What of those who have not heard the word of God in this life? Is there hope for them?
Yes. In His infinite love and mercy, Heavenly Father provided a way that all His children may know His doctrine and choose to follow Him. The psalmist wrote prophetically that everyone would have the opportunity to believe and be saved: “The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Ps. 98:2–3).
The resurrected Lord Jesus Christ told His Apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15–16). Through an instructive vision given to His Apostle Peter, the Lord made it clear that the good news of the gospel was not to be withheld from any of Heavenly Father’s children (see Acts 10:9–16). “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons,” Peter said. “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35).
President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) saw in vision that those who die without having the opportunity to hear the gospel in this life will have the gospel preached to them in the spirit world. There they will be taught all “principles of the gospel that [are] necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (D&C 138:34).
This doctrine that all must have the opportunity to know and choose the path of salvation and eternal life is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon. For example: “He hath given [salvation] free for all men. … All men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. … And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Ne. 26:27–28, 33).
And again: “We see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name” (Alma 19:36), Mormon taught. “Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy” (Alma 26:37), Ammon explained.
This message has been repeated in our day as well: “The voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear” (D&C 1:11). That same Lord who commanded His ancient Apostles to go to the ends of the earth explained that He brought forth His word through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the latter days “that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers” (D&C 1:23).
Those who might hear His word are warned not to take it lightly but to forsake sin and serve Him: “He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; … And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; For I am no respecter of persons” (D&C 1:32, 34–35).
And so we see that the gospel must go forth throughout the earth because our Eternal Father and His Son, the Lord and Savior of the world, have decreed it. And those who “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) in the premortal council when they learned of our Father’s plan will once more have the opportunity to rejoice when they receive the gospel through the power of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.