This term arises out of Revelation 12:7 and refers to the conflict that took place in the premortal existence among the spirit children of God. The war was primarily over how and in what manner the plan of salvation would be administered to the forthcoming human family upon the earth. The issues involved such things as agency, how to gain salvation, and who should be the Redeemer. The war broke out because one-third of the spirits refused to accept the appointment of Jesus Christ as the Savior. Such a refusal was a rebellion against the Father’s plan of redemption. It was evident that if given agency, some persons would fall short of complete salvation; Lucifer and his followers wanted salvation to come automatically to all who passed through mortality, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication (see Isaiah 14:12–20; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4–13; D&C 29:36–38; Moses 4:1–4). The spirits who thus rebelled and persisted were thrust out of heaven and cast down to the earth without mortal bodies, “and thus came the devil and his angels” (D&C 29:37; see also Revelation 12:9; Abraham 3:24–28). The warfare is continued in mortality in the conflict between right and wrong, between the gospel and false principles, etc. The same contestants and the same issues are doing battle, and the same salvation is at stake. Although one-third of the spirits became devils, the remaining two-thirds were not all equally valiant, there being every degree of devotion to Christ and the Father among them. The most diligent were chosen to be rulers in the kingdom (Abr. 3:22–23). The nature of the conflict, however, is such that there could be no neutrals, then or now (Matt. 12:30; 1 Ne. 14:10; Alma 5:38–40). (Bible Dictionary War in Heaven)
“I suppose that many of us, if not all, labored as missionaries for the Savior in the pre-mortal life, going among the spirits to persuade others to choose the Savior, and following him in preparing for earth life. We now have a veil of forgetfulness drawn over our minds, and we do not remember the details of those events; yet the spiritual capacity that we developed in the pre-earth life has come with us into mortality, and when we hear the gospel preached it strikes a familiar note. We are learning again principles we once knew; that capacity responds to every true doctrine that is taught to us when it is properly stated. Our main business in this world is to continue that spiritual development we started so long ago, and this we will do by obedience to the gospel.” (Robert J. Matthews, “Why a Savior Is Necessary, and Why Only Jesus Christ Could Qualify” BYU Speeches of the Year, 4 December 1984 ).
You had the opportunity before coming here to voice your desire to have this privilege of Earth Life in the council of the spirit world. You were valiant in the defense of truth and right. You made a free and willing decision to abide by the laws of Eternal Progress as outlined by our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. You kept faithfully your first estate and have been added upon by being born into this world and given a physical body with which you might experience Earth Life. You have been given a body of such physical proportions and fitness as to enable your spirit to function through it unhampered by physical impediments. You should cherish this as a great heritage. Guard and protect it–take nothing into it that shall harm the organs thereof because it is sacred. It is the instrument of your mind and the foundation of your character. [Patriarchal blessing of Boyd K. Packer, 15 January 1944, 1 cited in CES Fireside Feb 2003]
If the veil that covers our remembrance were somehow lifted, we would see ourselves in that glorious assembly where our Eternal Father presented to us the plan of salvation and exaltation. It must have been a most interesting time, and there probably were some anxious moments of intense emotion, anticipation, pondering, and discussion. Father was about his work, teaching us how to exercise our agency by unfolding truth to our understanding. (Elder William R. Bradford, BYU Oct 27, 1981)
“In our preexistent state, in the day of the great council, we made certain agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan, conceived by him. We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we became parties to the salvation of every person under the plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work. The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation. That places us in a very responsible attitude towards the human race. By that doctrine, with the Lord at the head, we become saviors on Mount Zion, all committed to the great plan of offering salvation to the untold numbers of spirits. To do this is the Lord’s self-imposed duty, this labor his highest glory. Likewise, it is man’s duty, self-imposed, his pleasure and joy, his labor and ultimately his glory. (Elder John A. Widtsoe, “The Worth of Souls,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, October 1934, 189).
Brigham Young gave us some practical advice on how to do this. “The difference between God and the Devil,” he said, “is that God creates and organizes, while the whole study of the Devil is to destroy” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 69). In that contrast we have an important example of the reality of “opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11). Remember, our Savior, Jesus Christ, always builds us up and never tears us down. We should apply the power of that example in the ways we use our time, including our recreation and diversions. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Powerful Ideas,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 25)
He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night; he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ (President Faust, Ensign, November 1987, pp. 33-36).