Warning: This story exceeds 2500 words.
“Can you believe it?” Hannah asked Daniel, fairly dancing with excitement as they walked toward the Great Council Hall. “It’s finally happening.”
“I know,” Daniel smiled, excited himself and pleased to see his friend happy as well. “It’s been discussed for so long, I’m glad they’re going to go through with it.”
“Go through with what?” asked Ruth, overhearing their conversation as they walked past.
“Father’s called the Council,” Hannah replied, almost squealing with girlish delight. “They’re finally going to present the Plan.”
“Which plan?” her companion, Jonah, asked with mock curiosity. “There are so many.”
“The Plan, Jonah,” Hannah laughed, turning to walk backward. “The plan where we all get to become like Father is? The plan where we get bodies of flesh, like Father’s?”
“Oh! That plan,” Jonah replied, feigning shock. “I thought you meant some other plan.”
“Stop teasing, silly,” Ruth reproved, playfully swatting the man’s shoulder. “Let’s go!”
Ahead was the Great Council Hall and Hannah and her friends quickly joined a line. Millions upon millions of Father’s children were streaming into the hall. Many of them were talking among themselves excitedly. Some few, however, were quietly walking, their excitement mirrored in their eyes rather than their voices. Hannah was having a hard time containing herself as well. She and Daniel had talked about the promised Plan many times, and they had both discussed it with other friends. Nobody seemed to be quite sure what the whole Plan was, but everyone seemed to know that it involved getting a body of flesh, like their Father’s.
As Hannah entered the hall, her eyes took in the beauty of it once again. Quite often, she and several others had been instructed here by Father or one of his elder children. This was the first time, however, that she’d ever seen it this full. The hall was arranged rather like half a funnel but with steps leading to the top and the doors. Below, on a kind of dais, sat Father and Mother and, to Father’s left, Jehovah, the one everyone called “The First.” Behind them a series of chairs had been set up that climbed the hill on the other side of the hall like soldiers.
Jehovah was Father’s eldest child. Hannah had long since outgrown her childish envy of Jehovah’s position, always at Father’s side. Jehovah was almost like Father’s right arm, sometimes. He always did what Father wanted and Hannah admired him intensely for that. She wished she could be that responsible.
She felt a gentle pat on her shoulder. Daniel was gesturing to a group of four empty seats not far from where she stood. Hannah accepted her friend’s hand and let him lead her to them. Before long the entire hall was filled, most of the inhabitants chattering endlessly about the presentation to come. Hannah, for her part, though still excited, was impatient for things to begin. At last, Father stood and, gradually, the hall became silent.
“My children,” he said, “As I’m sure all of you know, the main purpose of this council is to present the Plan of Happiness, whereby those of you that keep your first estate will be allowed to gain a body of flesh.”
The hall erupted in applause and cheers. Father smilingly gestured for silence, but it was a long time coming.
“First, though,” He continued, “I’d like to make a few callings. All of the people I’m calling today will be prophets and rulers among you. Would those of you who accept this calling, please come to the stand?” What followed next was a lot of Father calling names and people emerging from the regular seats and walking down the aisles to sit down in the seats behind Mother and Jehovah. This seemed, to Hannah at least, to take a long time. When the last person took his seat on the stand, Father walked into their midst, faced the audience and stretched his arms out. “These will be my rulers,i” he declared. Again, the audience showed their approval with applause. Father smiled, seating himself next to Mother. He leaned over and whispered something to Jehovah who nodded and stood.
“Brothers and sisters,” he began, “here is the plan. Michael and I will go down from this place, for there is space. There, we will take some of the materials we have available here and make an earth where you can live. On this earth, you will be given an opportunity to prove that you will do whatever your Father commands you. Those who keep their first estate will be among those given the glory of bodies of flesh and the ability to live on the earth we create. Those of you who do not will not receive this glory. Those of you who then keep your second estate will have glory added upon your heads forever and ever.ii”
There was a good deal of muttering as Jehovah seated himself again. Father stood up in his place. “Children. We understand your concerns. We plan to place a veil of forgetfulness over your minds as you go down to live on the earth. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a fair test. You will make some mistakes and will sin, to be sure. However, we will provide you with a savior, who will be my son in the flesh, live a life completely free of mistakes or sins and then take all of your sins, your pain and your mistakes, on his own soul and die to pay the price for these sins. This will allow you the gift of repentance. Then you will be able to free yourselves from your mistakes and be clean enough to re-enter our presence. Now, whom shall I send?iii”
“Send me!” said a voice some distance to Hannah’s right. About three seats further along their row, Lucifer was standing up, a confident smirk on his face. Everyone in the hall turned to look at him. Golden haired and beautiful, Lucifer was commonly known as “The Son of the Morning.” Hannah had considered him a friend for as long as she could remember. He could talk his way around just about anyone and get his way in a matter of moments. “Let me be your son,” he said, stepping into the aisle and slowly descending the steps as he spoke until he stood at the foot of the stand. “I will redeem all of mankind, so that not one soul will be lost. We will simply make them obey. You know my plan is foolproof. It can’t help but succeed. So, in return, Father, you can give me your power.”iv
Father frowned, a deep sadness coming into his eyes. He turned to Jehovah, who was still sitting quietly to Father’s left. “What do you think about this plan?” he asked.
“Father,” Jehovah responded, “I will do whatever you say. Let the glory always go to you.v”
Father smiled, then turned to the audience again. “My children, this may change the plan tremendously. Let us adjourn the council temporarily and consider carefully which of the two plans we each prefer. Return when your decision is made and we’ll take a vote.”
Lucifer looked slightly confused, then smiled confidently as he swept from the hall. After he’d gone, Michael stood from among the “rulers” at Father’s back.
“Be careful, brothers and sisters,” he cautioned. “We all know how persuasive Lucifer can be. Don’t allow yourselves to be alone with him for too long.”
With that, the council broke up as each person left to consider the options. Hannah, however, sat quietly in her seat in the council hall. Why had Lucifer done this? Father’s plan was a good one. Wasn’t he, in effect, saying that it was a foolish plan? Wasn’t he saying that people couldn’t be trusted to choose the right way? Perhaps he didn’t really know what he was doing. If she could talk to him…
“Hannah,” Daniel said, interrupting her thoughts with a gentle touch to her shoulder, “shall we go and talk about this?”
Hannah nodded absently, still confused at Lucifer’s sudden desire for power, and allowed her friend to lead her from the hall. As they emerged, however, Lucifer was waiting outside for them.
“I don’t want anything to do with you,” Daniel exclaimed angrily at Lucifer and, with that, turned and left.
“That’s all right,” Lucifer smiled. “The person I really wanted to talk with was you, Hannah.”
“I was hoping to talk with you, too, Lu,” Hannah responded with a quick smile. She let him lead her to a quiet spot and they sat down together. “You start,” she offered.
“Okay,” Lucifer nodded. “You know how much I love our Father. But I’m concerned that his plan leaves too much to chance. It’s too risky. If we can’t remember home, how can we really be expected to make the choices that are right?”
“Father said a savior would be provided so that we could make our mistakes, then repent and learn from them,” Hannah answered quickly.
“Yes, I know,” Lucifer nodded, “But think about it. How much easier do you think it would be if you had someone else making those decisions for you. You wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you were going to make a mistake.”
“I like to make my own decisions, Lu,” asserted Hannah firmly, “It’s a gift that I’m used to.”
“But with the veil of forgetfulness across your mind,” Lucifer pointed out, “you wouldn’t remember making your own choices.”
“Lu,” Hannah smiled, leaning forward to place a hand on his shoulder, “think for a minute. We’ve spent our entire lives learning, growing and progressing. We’ve all had the freedom of personal agency, that has allowed us to get to the point that we’re ready to gain bodies. Now you want to take that away? Who would be benefitted by this plan except for you? Who would progress except for you?”
“Isn’t that a sacrifice you’d be willing to make,” Lucifer suggested, “if it meant you’d be guaranteed your return home?”
“What I want is to be like Father and Mother,” Hannah insisted, the smile draining from her face.
“But if you follow Father’s plan,” Lucifer tried, “you’ll have to go through lots of things you’ve never experienced before: hunger, pain, sadness, despair, loneliness. You’d be subject to the choices of others as well as your own. With my plan, you wouldn’t have to experience any of that. You’d be…”
“Safe?” Hannah finished, “Lu, haven’t you been paying attention? Father’s explained all of this. We have to experience the negative so that we’ll be better able to appreciate the positive; sadness and happiness, despair and joy, loneliness and friendship, hunger and satisfaction, pain and pleasure. We need all of these things. As for being subject to the choices of others, I’m willing to put up with that if it means I can become an exalted being like Father is.”
“Fine, I’ll give you that,” Lucifer replied, shifting his position a little, “but don’t you think that if Father really loved us, he would at least try to make this even a little easier?”
“Lucifer,” Hannah cried, tears coming to her eyes as she pulled away, “Who are you? Do I know you? Have I ever really known you?” Stumbling to her feet, Hannah ran weeping back to the council hall.
Eventually, the hall was full once again. After a while, Father stood. “It is time to vote, my children. All those in favor of Lucifer’s plan, please stand.”
Hannah was dismayed as, three seats away, Jonah rose to his feet.
“Jonah, what are you doing?” she asked.
“What I think is right,” Jonah replied, not taking his eyes from Father, who looked like he was about to cry. “Lucifer is right. It’s too much to think that, even if I make all the right choices, everyone else will also choose correctly. Lucifer said that he could guarantee that everyone would choose correctly. I want that guarantee.”
“But, Jonah,” Daniel asked, “how will you progress without the right to choose for yourself?”
“What good is that,” insisted Jonah, “if it means I’ll have to endure the consequences of everyone else’s choices as well as my own?”
“Jonah, please…” Ruth began.
“Stop!” he exclaimed, “You don’t understand. I’ve made up my mind and nothing you can say is going to change that.”
Father bowed his head. “I’m sorry with all my heart, children,” he said, “I, too, have decided. I will send ‘the First.’”vi
The hall erupted. The noise was such that anyone would have thought the building had been destroyed.
“You’ll regret this, Father,” Lucifer yelled, his rage marring his looks, “You’ve made a huge mistake. I’ll prove it! Let me show you!”
“Jehovah,” Father said, seating himself with a look of grim determination on his face. “Cast them out.”
“It shall be as you command, Father,” Jehovah responded, solemnly coming to his feet. “Brothers and sisters, by choosing Lucifer’s plan, you have failed to keep your first estate. Therefore, I hereby cast you from Father’s presence. Be gone!vii” He raised his right hand in a gesture of dismissal. There was a flash of light and suddenly Lucifer and everyone who stood in his support were gone.
Hannah was astonished at how empty the council hall suddenly seemed. Nearly a third of the former occupants had disappeared. The entire hall was filled with stunned muttering as they all looked around at the empty seats.
“Children,” Father called, drawing their attention back to him. “Congratulations! Those of you that remain have kept your first estate. Your reward will be to gain the glory of a body of flesh and an opportunity at exaltation.”
An enormous, ecstatic cheer went up from the hall.
I had to do a great deal of praying and pondering to complete this exercise. The question, “What is the purpose of our existence,” is one that I believe the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) answers really well, and I wanted to write something that would encapsulate those beliefs. I’d like to point out that this story is entirely fictional and doesn’t represent the gospel in more than a peripheral way. If you read the scriptures I’ve included in the endnotes below (links included), you’ll see where the similarities are. If this story has raised any questions about Mormon gospel, I invite you to visit mormon.org to find the answers.
i. Abraham 3:23
ii. Abraham 3:24-26
iii. Abraham 3:27
iv. Moses 4:1
v. Moses 4:2
vi. Abraham 3:27