Within the Church, we often teach that “Satan’s Plan” was to force everyone to always choose the right so that all of God’s children could be saved.
This plan of absolute compulsion is one possibility; however, the scriptures do not give any details of Satan’s plan beyond its motive—to destroy the agency of man.
That agency has two parts: choice and consequence.
While most people assume that Satan was trying to take away our ability to choose, he also could have accomplished his aim by taking away or mitigating the consequences. Either way, agency is destroyed. Yet, either way he presents an enticing plan that removes the risks of mortality (as well as the growth, of course) and promises a safe return to God.
Satan’s Plan Continues in Mortality
While God’s plan centers entirely on the immortality and eternal life of His children, Satan’s plan centers entirely on his own glory. He “sought to take the kingdom of our God, and his Christ.”
While he promised to “redeem all mankind, that one soul [should] not be lost,” perhaps “that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning” was more concerned with gaining followers and usurping God’s power than he was with actually fulfilling those promises and ensuring our salvation—just as he is now.
In fact, Elder J. Reuben Clark explained the impossibility of each alternative of his plan:
“As I read the scriptures, Satan’s plan required one of two things: Either the compulsion of the mind, the spirit, the intelligence of man, or else saving men in sin. I question whether the intelligence of man can be compelled. Certainly men cannot be saved in sin, because the laws of salvation and exaltation are founded in righteousness, not in sin.”
As Korihor learned when he was struck dumb then trampled to death for preaching against Christ, as the third part of the hosts of heaven learned when they didn’t actually receive bodies or return to God, as everyone who follows Satan will eventually learn, the father of lies will not fulfill his promises. “The devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”
The Bible Dictionary teaches, “The warfare is continued in mortality… The same contestants and the same issues are doing battle, and the same salvation is at stake.”
Satan’s plan has not changed.
He is still more concerned with getting us to follow him than he is with fulfilling any of his empty and impossible promises. And his aim is still to destroy our agency: our ability to choose and the consequences that accompany those choices.
Satan’s Plan Takes Away Choices
We talk often of the ways Satan continues to fight against choice: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography—any addiction that overpowers our self-control and ability to make our own choices. Even technology, eating, or keeping up an image can become addictions that strip us of our agency.
He lures us and lulls us into these paths of apparent freedom, secrecy and pleasure with a flaxen cord until he binds us with inescapable chains in which we have lost control of our choices.
These dangers are real, seductive, and enslaving. Falling victim to any of Satan’s choice-debilitating tactics certainly destroys our agency and gives him the power he has always sought.
However, this is not his only tool.
Satan’s Plan Takes Away Consequences
The Bible Dictionary also explains, “Lucifer and his followers wanted salvation to come automatically to all who passed through mortality, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication.”
In other words, we would just have to show up for life, experience it however we wanted, and then gain salvation. Period.
As Nephi explains, many people still buy into, and teach, this idea.
Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
This is Satan’s plan.
From the beginning he promised a plan that would save all of God’s children, when in reality it could save none of them.
He is trying to separate consequence from choice, to convince us that at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God, no matter what we did or didn’t do in this life.
He wants us to believe that we can still come in to the wedding feast, even if we don’t have enough oil for our lamps and that “enduring to the end” simply means we hang on through mortality until it’s over and then we will gain the reward of eternal life.
Choosing God’s Plan
However, God has a different end in mind. The end, or goal, or objective, of His plan is to make us like Him. In order to endure to that end our choices, and their consequences, matter.
He does not want us to come back to Him the same as we left because we have merely been compelled to do right and never learned to choose. And He will not save those who did not truly choose Him and all the consequences of the true path of discipleship.
God’s plan is merciful, but it is also just, and it requires both aspects of our agency.
“The nature of the conflict… is such that there could be no neutrals, then or now.” We stood firmly with Christ once before. We are here to prove that we will choose to do it again, no matter the consequences.
Further Reading: Satan’s Rebellion