“It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15). - Dallin Oaks in the recent Church Conference.
“To provide alternatives on which to exercise our agency, we must have opposition.”
This is not true. (a) I can choose between majoring in Biology or in Literature without opposition. (b) I can choose whether to work as a carpenter or as a plumber. Opposition is not necessary for there to be alternatives. (c) I can even choose to righteously feed the poor without thinking of an opportunity to unrighteously take food from them. How could I!? Until I give them food, they have none for me to take! (d) When our first child was new-born, we took care of that child. There was no wickedness in what we did, but it would be very wrong to say there was no goodness in what we did! We did not have to face evil child-abuse before we were capable of practicing good child nurturing. (e) And our children, and their parents when children, experienced good nurturing – and loved it, they recognized it – and it was performed voluntarily (through “free agency) – even without the presence of child abuse being at hand as an “opposition”. We declined, denounced, and rejected the opposition even while it didn’t even exist.
So Oaks, a lawyer, might say, “Ah-ha, but the opposition was in your mind.” Exactly! We do not need an evil Being, an evil Tree, a Serpent, in order for us to conceive of evil, wrong action, bad behavior, sin. We can conceive of evil even when it does not exist in actual “opposition”.
Oaks does not propose what opposed the Plan of Salvation. I do not mean what opposed the process and unfolding of the Plan of Salvation. I mean the establishment of the Plan of Salvation. Was it never established? If a plan is not established, how can it have existence. The very concept of plan implies both a time before its fulfilment and a time before its establishment. A plan looks to the future, because it is based on past considerations. If nothing was considered, no plan could be proposed. If neither considered nor proposed, it could not be implemented. So what opposed the Plan of Salvation from the very first earliest primeval "Beginning of Days" - before there even were days?
Also from 2 Nephi, the Book of Mormon “author” writes “it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.” There “had to be” opposition? God lacked the ability to put a single tree in a garden!? Heck, even I can do that, plant one tree and stop before planting a second one. But God could not put a sweet tree in the garden; he lacks that power. He had to put a bitter tree in the garden so that he could put a sweet tree in it. Evil, bitterness, opposition always precedes goodness, sweetness, harmony. Therefore evil is prior to goodness, goodness depends for its existence on evil, and therefore evil is the more powerful force in the universe. We would be better off worshipping Satan than such a half-god.
Continuing with the Book of Mormon, Oaks quotes, “Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other”
It is difficult to understand what this means. Must one be “enticed” before one acts? In the a very broad sense, perhaps. Is hunger an “enticement?” If so, then yes, we must be “enticed” in order to eat that we may continue our lives. A better word would be “stimulated” or “moved upon.” A worse word would be “tempted.” I do not need to be tempted to sin; I can do it without hardly thinking at all. Likewise, I do not need to be offered an opportunity (enticement) to do good. I can conceive of some good on my own, with no one around, and go out and perform that good deed. If “enticement” is extended to include my thoughts, well then the teaching is vacuous. To say one must be “enticed” is saying no more than one decides to do something without or without an outside stimulus.
Oaks continues, “Similarly, in modern revelation the Lord declares, “It must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves” (D&C 29:39).”
If we cannot have free agency without the tempting of the devil, then how does his temptation create free agency? If we cannot have free agency without the Devil, then the Devil is co-Creator of man, in the sense of a being possessed of moral understanding and free will. That is enough reason to reject this teaching.
Does the devil tempt through free agency or is he forced to tempt whether he wants to or not? If he has free agency, how did he get it? We can’t get free agency until we are on earth, hear the commandments (for Adam and Eve) or the Plan of Salvation (their descendants), and obey or disobey (in our case) or both obey and disobey (in Adam’s and Eve’s cases). Adam and Eve, and the rest of us, need a Tempter, an Opposition, in order for us to exercise agency. Then what Tempter or Opposition did Satan face that allowed him to exercise agency? Because remember, he became Satan while he was in the Presence of God, and that is where he was when he became Satan. So what was it, in the Presence of God, where no wickedness nor unclean thing can dwell, that wickedly opposed God and wickedly tempted Satan, that allowed him to make a free choice, to choose to be damned. One who truly understands the Plan of Salvation, would he choose eternal damnation? Not unless he was insane. Is there insanity in heaven? If Satan was insane, he should not have been held responsible for his actions (in Mormon pre-existence heaven).
Oaks continues, “Opposition was necessary in the Garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve had not made the choice that introduced mortality, Lehi taught, ‘they would have remained in a state of innocence, … doing no good, for they knew no sin’.”
How can sin make good deeds good? Is there no absolute good? Is all good conditioned on the presence of sin? If I can sin without goodness, why can’t I do good without sin being connected to it? If Adam did nice things for his wife and Eve did nice things for her husband, is that not good? If it is neither good nor evil, what is it? Neutral? If it is neutral then, when done from free choice, what makes it good after knowing sin? What is the qualitative difference between the two deeds – a good act done when there is no sin around, before or after, and a good act done where there is sin around? Is love good only when there is adultery? Is love neutral (not “good”) when there is no adultery involved?
Here’s something odd.
Oaks says, “From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to the Father’s plan and to Satan’s rebellion against it. As the Lord revealed to Moses, in the council of heaven Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man.”
Satan wanted to destroy man’s free agency. Satan tempted man, which “needs be” in order that they “be agents unto themselves.” If Satan wanted to destroy the agency of man, why did he co-create that agency in the first place? If he simply had refrained from tempting man, men would not have become “agents unto themselves.” Voilá, the Plan of Salvation obstructed!
“Thus, Satan proposed to carry out the Father’s plan in a way that would prevent the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and give Satan His glory.”
How can it be said that Satan proposed to carry out the plan if his proposal would prevent the carrying out (“accomplishment”) of that plan (“purpose”)!? If the proposal was to carry out the Plan, then it could not have prevented the Plan, could it? If it in any way hindered the Plan, if it hindered it, it could not be said it was carrying it out. Is it just that Oaks expressed himself poorly here – in General Conference for which he had a year to prepare – or was he hinting at a “mystery” known only in the highest councils of the Church?
Was the epistolator thinking of Oaks when he woefully wrote,
“These are spots in your feasts of charity…: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; … wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
Why was Oaks heedless of 1 Nephi 3:7 when he referenced opposition in all things:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
If God commanded Adam to not eat of the tree of Knowledge, and also commanded him to stay with Eve, then God must have provided a way where Adam could have fulfilled both commandments. Is God tempting Adam to sin, by giving contrary commandments so that he has no choice but to disobey one of them? Not according to James: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (1:13)
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (1:14) In other words, Adam was drawn away by lust, not by his desire to obey a commandment.
“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (1:15) In other words, “In Adam, we sinned all.”