The War in Heaven – Mormon Conflictology


Michael and his Angels in the War in Heaven


In addressing the invasion of Iraq, Gordon B. Hinckley said the following: The nations of the earth have been divided over the present situation. Feelings have run strong. There have been demonstrations for and against. We are now a world Church with members in most of the nations which have argued this matter. Our people have had feelings. They have had concerns. War, of course, is not new. The weapons change. The ability to kill and destroy is constantly refined.

But there has been conflict throughout the ages over essentially the same issues.The book of Revelation speaks briefly of what must have been a terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children. The account is worth repeating: And there was war in heaven: 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.’


The Heavenly Council

Latter day saints believe that Jesus was well surrounded in his pre-mortal state in the heavenly council from which the battle against Lucifer derived : Now, the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligence that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; […] and [the Lord] stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make rulers; […] and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou was chosen before thou wast born. And [the Lord] said unto those who were with him: we will go down, […] and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them. (Abraham 3:21-23)

Heavenly Council - Jesus in his pre-mortal state presents His Plan


In short, the plan’s proposals were for these spirit-children of God to come to earth, acquire a physical body and gain through personal experience knowledge of both good and evil. Moral agency was thus a crucial part of mortal probation, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all would be made alive and be resurrected to come forth at the Day of Judgement, inaugurating Christ’s millennial reign of peace.

A conflict arose among the pre-mortal angelic crowd on the subject of free agency, leading Lucifer to foment a rebellion against God’s authority. Mormons believe that since Lucifers’ first encounter with Adam and Eve, the fallen angel and a third of all the spirit-children of God have been engaged in attempting to destroy their Heavenly Father’s plan and make the human race as eternally miserable as they themselves are.


The Price of Peace

Marion G. Romney explains in his Ensign article The Price of Peace that, ‘Lucifer rejected the Father’s plan for the salvation of the human race and sought to substitute his own plan. Not prevailing, he, with one third of the hosts of heaven, was “cast down, and … became Satan … the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will,” that is, those who will “not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:3–4.)

Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.”(Moro. 7:17.)

Romney further explains that with “Lucifer [being] ‘the father of contention’ (3 Ne. 11:29) - and thereby the antithesis of peace – the price of peace is victory over Satan. As a prelude to peace, then, the influence of Satan must be completely subjugated. Even in heaven there could be no peace with him after his rebellion.

There, in the world of spirits, the Father and the Son could find no ground upon which they could cooperate with him. He had to be cast out—not compromised with, but cast out. “No man,” said Jesus, “can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”(Matt. 6:24.)


Violence, the antithesis of peace

The point I am trying to make is that Lucifer, the father of all lies, is understood in Mormonism as the antithesis of peace. This coincides with Galtung’s definition of violence. Galtung thinks that the best way to understand peace is by defining its antithesis: violence.

I know that in theological terms it would sound bizarre that the way for us to understand Jesus is for us to understand Satan. But let us put it this way, the best way to understand the plan of happiness (from a latter day satyagraha perspective) is for us to understand the plan of the adversary in making everyone as miserable as he himself is. The two plans are juxtaposed to each other and provide the contrast necessary sometimes in a religion where the main setting is the forces of evil in opposition to the forces of good.

Johan Galtung, the founder of peace studies, maps the major world religions in terms of their inclination to condone or reject violence. He uses the distinction between direct violence (intended by actors) and structural violence (built into social structures). To the extent religions condone or legitimize violence, Galtung argues that certain aspects of religion become cultural violence.  Johan Galtung’s conflict triangle (see below) works on the assumption that the best way to define peace is to define violence, its antithesis.


ABC triangle - triangle of conflict


Direct violence:

Direct attack, killing, massacres, etc. constitute our violent BEHAVIOR (B) towards the other.

Structural violence:

Death by avoidable reasons such as malnutrition for example. Structural violence is indirect violence caused by an unjust structure and is not to be equated with an act of God. These are the CONDITIONS (C) we have created for the other.

Cultural violence:

Cultural violence occurs as a result of the cultural assumptions that blind one to direct or structural violence. For example, one may be indifferent toward the homeless, or even consider their expulsion or extermination a good thing. These are the ATTITUDES (A) we cultivate for the other.




Because the different corners of the triangle can respectively be linked to attitudes, behavior and conditions, Galtung’s conflict triangle is also known as the ABC triangle. According to Galtung, violence can start at any corner in the cultural-direct-structural violence triangle and can be easily transmitted to the other corners.

The same can be said of its reverse peace model. Peace can start at any corner in the cultural-direct-structural peace triangle and may be transmitted to the other corners. In fact, Galtung’s expanded concept of violence/peace echoes some of the concluding words of King Benjamin in his tower-speech to the Nephites in regards to sin, or in other words, violence:

“Finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit [violence]; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts (ATTITUDES – ), and your words (CONDITIONS -), and your deeds (BEHAVIOR -), and observe the commandments of God (B+), and continue in the faith of  what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord (C+), even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember (A+), and perish not.


King Benjamin's Tower Speech in the Book of Mormon


King Benjamin, like Galtung, puts forward an expanded concept of peace, where he proposes that ‘by observing the commandments of God (B+ = righteous behavior)’ we behave and act in a direct peaceful way towards others. By continuing to live our lives in the faith of the coming of Christ (and of his peace), we should seek to establish Zion (C+ = just conditions), the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace on Earth. Rememberance is key to ensure that our thoughts and our attitudes towards the other are benevolent as we strive to fight the influence of violence in the world (A+ = peaceful attitudes).

The prophet Abinadi, when testifying of Christ in the Book of Mormon, makes a point of quoting scriptures from Isaiah, especially chapter 53. In verse 9 of Mosiah chapter 14, Abinadi says:

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (Mosiah 14:9)

If comparing with the King James version of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah writes:

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)


for even hereunto were ye called

Peter in his epistle, paraphrases the same prophecies of Isaiah in a powerful way reminding us to always remember him since we ‘were bought with a price‘ (1 Cor. 7:23) in that he suffered for our violences and overcame the world:

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin (violence), neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins (direct-cultural-structural violences), should live unto righteousness (direct-cultural-structural peace): by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)

In conclusion, Marion G. Romney explains that, ‘earth life is a period of trial for every person of two mighty forces pulling in opposite directions. On the one hand is the power of Christ (truth and nonviolence) and His righteousness (justice). On the other hand is Satan (lies and violence) and his fellow travelers (death, alienation and injustice). [Hu]mankind, in the exercise of their God-given moral agency, must determine to travel in company with the one or the other. The reward for following the one is the fruit of the Spirit—peace. The reward for following the other is the works of the flesh — the antithesis of peace‘.

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