According to Latter-day Saint theology, were we forced to pick between outer darkness or earth life?
We don’t have too much to go on when it comes to understanding pre-earth life but what we are able to do is look at the logic of the choices on the table. In summary, it doesn’t seem true that in the pre-earth life we only had the choice between:
- Outer darkness
- Earth life.
The reason being that it’s a false dichotomy, there are logically other options available. The only way it could have been a choice only between outer darkness and earth life is if God somehow forced us to pick between just those two options and there doesn’t appear to be any reason to think that.
First some thoughts on choices in general:
False dichotomies are choices between two things that aren’t a direct negation of each other. In these cases:
- There are actually more options available than the two you have been given
- You run the risk of both options being undesirable
For example if someone said to you “Tomorrow for dinner you must eat either lasagne or steak” you might turn round and say you don’t actually want either. You could also ask why it can’t be steak or chips. We could easily add a few more options, but we still wouldn’t guarantee we have eliminated the possibility of you liking none and wanting something else.
Dichotomies are different because there really are only two options. If someone gave you a voucher you suddenly have the choice to “Use the voucher” or “Not use the voucher”, you have to choose one. Before you received the voucher, the dichotomy didn’t exist so the only question at this point then is whether it was a good thing to put you in this dichotomy.
Now onto pre-earth life:
It seems that before God presented his plan we had reached some kind of limit to our progression, or at least we had really slowed down. God therefore found himself in a dichotomy, he either would:
- do something to enable more growth or
- not do something to enable more growth.
It’s doubtful that this decision took him by surprise, he knew it was coming and I doubt we didn’t have a big hand is asking him to do something. God chose to “do something” and called a grand council. At this point it seems a good idea that God did something because progression is good.
God presented the option to come to earth but it wouldn’t guarantee success. Lucifer had a different idea but God didn’t see that as the best option so he chose Jesus not Lucifer.
So God puts one offer on the table, earth. This naturally put us in a dichotomy that wasn’t there before. We now had to choose between the only two options available between “Earth” and “Not earth” (there is logically no third option).
Some chose “Earth” (i.e. you and I) and some chose “Not earth”. Of those who chose “Not earth” we only know about Satan and a third of the hosts of heaven.
The important thing to note is that Satan and the third didn’t just choose “Not earth”, they also chose to actively fight/rebel against God and the “Earth” option. But that wasn’t part of the dichotomy God gave.
So the options God gave us were “Earth” and “Not earth”, which is a logical necessity when a new opportunity is opened to you. From what we know on the subject, this seems a good dichotomy in opening up the new opportunity to us. For those who chose “Not earth”, they also had the choice between “rebel” and “not rebel”.
But what about a potential third group who wanted “not earth” and also “not rebel”?.
If this potential third group did exist, did God force them into the false dichotomy of outer darkness or earth life? To believe that is the case we would need a good reason to believe both the following:
- The group actually existed at the point when Adam began the human race.
- God either said “Go to outer darkness or you will be sent to earth” or “Go to earth or you will be sent to outer darkness”
With regards to 1, we don’t have any strong reason to think there was such a group at the time Adam began the human race. Orson Pratt commented on this:
It is not likely that the final decision of the contending armies took place immediately. Many, no doubt, were unsettled in their views, unstable in their minds, and undecided as to which force to join; there may have been, for aught we know, many deserters from both armies: and there may have been a long period before the division line was so strictly drawn as to become unalterable. 1
But imagine the group did actually exist, what reasons do we have to think God forced them to make a choice in the false dichotomy? We do not know of any but should evaluate any we come across. For the time being we don’t think we have enough evidence to convict and instead have reasons to believe the choices given were good, and that we all got exactly what we wanted.
- Orson Pratt, “The Pre-existence of Man’ The Seer Apr. 1853, 54-56