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The Eternal Conflict by S. Dilworth Young who was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 30 May 1978.

I have one advantage over President Oaks and his father. The time at which I served as a corporal in the 145th Field Artillery was just before Noah’s ark. They have claim to a more modern period.

Those occasions on which I come to the Y always serve to put me in a position where my heart beats a little longer and a little faster. And I am in trouble—if I put this manuscript on the podium I cannot see it, and if I hold it up I cannot see you. I’ll hold it up. [laughter] Your youth, your hopes, your fears, your anticipations, your buoyancy, and, yes, your despairs seem to be so much a part of me that as I look at you I want to laugh with joy, but I want to weep also. You are so young and so fragile—and yet seem to have such abiding confidence that you know what you are about and where you are going.

The truth is that in a way you do know where you are going—not perhaps during the next fifty years, but during the eons of eternity. By reading a few words in the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants each of you may know where, in a larger sense, you are going. You may have the vain hope that by acting in a telestial or a terrestial manner somehow you will become celestial. Or you may decide in the first place to be celestial and then really reach that goal. The fact which you will ultimately face, whether you like it or not, is that the Lord God does not lie. He keeps his word, and by keeping that word he will inevitably place you in the kingdom you have earned. You, perhaps, will be glad to be where you are placed, thankful that it is better than you dared to hope. But if it is not as good as you could have had, as soon as you get used to the particular light in the place, you will realize that some of those you love are in a place much brighter, and that you could have been with them but did not choose to so live, but thought, rather, that the earthiness of the earth was more pleasure than the promise of the glory of that heaven where you cannot go.

Then you will be faced with the eternal question which constitutes the torture of living hell: “Why did I do the things which forfeited the glory?” No answer will come to you—perhaps that is what hell is like: eternally asking why but never having the satisfactory answer. We all should take warning that the Lord himself said that there be few who find eternal life, and resolve to be one of the few (see Matthew 7:14).

I have found that it helps me to look back to my beginnings—to know the purpose of my being and of the efforts of certain evil ones to circumvent that purpose. I realize that I cannot see it as it really was, but I can imagine the meaning to me of certain commandments given in the beginning, and see more clearly why I must aim high and be consistent—and not falter.

May I go back to the time when I surveyed eternity—and I assure you that for the next 150 pages this account is purely imaginary. There is not a bit of it that you can claim as doctrine—unless you want to—and I cannot be accused of plagiarizing anything.

Each star declares the ordered law of heaven, 
Each rising sun the order of our day. 
Yet we on earth— 
A small one of creation, 
Held in its place by one law, heaven given— 
Ponder at our terrifying speed through space. 
We know exactly when the moon arises, 
And when the comet flashes into view. 
We look with precise telescopic vision, 
And endlessly count galaxies, 
Each one a million stars, 
Each star so far away that 
What we see today 
Took place so many 
Thousand thousand years ago 
That where they are 
Or what they are today 
We cannot know. 
Then, bursting through the cosmic 
Dark, the voice of prophecy is heard. 
We learn that Kolob is the nearest 
To the throne of God; 
Each revolution takes a thousand 
Of our years to make its day; 
That this great star 
Has been assigned by Him who dwells 
On high 
To be the measuring rod 
Of our eternal way. [Abraham 3:3–4]

There was our home! 
Our spirits given birth 
By noble parentage; 
The Father of us all, 
A dweller in eternal light, 
Exalted Maker of the universe, 
Exalted Man. 
We bowed before him, 
Calling him by name 
Our Father, Elohim! 
And by his side 
Our heavenly mother sat 
As was her due, 
Not making earths 
Nor giving them law, 
But doing what a heavenly mother does, 
Teaching her spirit children to be true. 
The spirit children ask, as earthlings do, 
How may we be like Father, filled with light? 
How do we obtain a body 
Firm of flesh and bone? How do we gain the right 
To be exalted?

What do heavenly mothers say 
To heavenly children? 
Then faintly to our souls we 
Hear her sweet reply. 
Obey! That is the law 
Hear all of His commands. 
Obey each one. Listen and 
Hear the music of the spheres, 
Of the worlds as they come into being. 
Learn heaven’s rhythm. 
Your Father gives you freedom 
To obey or disobey, but you 
Yourself must make decision 
If you would learn to live 
In heaven.

I now pick up the words of Abraham (so you will know that I am not plagiarizing):

And there stood one among them 
That was like unto God, 
And he said unto those who were 
With him: We will go down, 
For there is space there, 
And we will take of these materials, 
And we will make an earth whereon these 
May dwell. [Abraham 3:24; emphasis added]

We—you and I—are “these.” Some of you here today are among those of whom he spoke when he said he would make some his rulers. But “it doth not yet appear what we shall be,” as John said (1 John 3:2), or which of you is designated.

I like to imagine what took place in that great assembly. In my mind I compare it, in a sense—though it cannot be compared—to this assembly today. We are all of the earth but from this position on the stand, we, your leaders, look over your thousands and, if the building were full, your twenty thousands, your vast assembly, and think of how it could have been then as the Father spoke to his children.

Let me try to describe it to you as I have imagined it was in that period of our lives—and I do not pretend to know that this is the way it really was, but I like to think that it might have been rather like this:

The vast concourse of heaven 
Gathered at the Father’s call 
[as you gather here at President Oaks’s call]. 
In seats of honor sat the noble ones, 
Those spirits bright. 
Jehovah sat upon his Father’s right 
Befitting one who is the 
Firstborn son. 
Seated next to him, a brilliant son, 
His face illumed with an inner light, 
Was Michael, then Gabriel 
And Raphael strong. 
These great ones standing out 
Amid the throng. 
And there were others, too, 
Whose names were not revealed, but later, 
Given earthly names, 
Would carry forth the Father’s will, 
His every word and plan fulfill.

Then to the left were other brilliant sons 
Who liked to win their way by argument 
And skill in use of words, 
These were the angels of the sharp debate, 
Who suited sophistry and logic to their gain. 
They had not conquered hate. They had not 
Learned that love, that all-inclusive law of heaven, 
Implements the law that God has given. 
And here among them Lucifer held sway. 
No one could say he was not brilliant. 
He’d earned his name by brilliant thinking power, 
Not faith in Elohim and his great love, 
Not being kind, 
But by the logic and the process of the mind. 
A great star, a son of the morning. [Isaiah 14:12]

The Father spoke: 
The multitude of spirit children 
Silent grew, and listened 
To this great exalted Man, 
This Man of Holiness, 
Their Father, Elohim:

My children all: You see in me 
Exalted man, of flesh and bone 
And spirit pure. One time, long 
Long ago, I was as you, a spirit son 
Of an exalted Father. [see HC 6:302–17] 
You may become as now I have become 
But you must do as I have done. 
I’ll send one of my sons 
Out into space 
Where matter whirls unorganized 
Where he, by my command and his own faith, 
Will form this cosmic matter into earth 
Where each of you may go, and there 
Enter within a tabernacle made of earth. 
Each cell within your body will be of the earth. 
It will respond to earthly stimuli 
But you must conquer it 
To your own will 
Then bend your will to 
Be obedient to my command. 
If you obey, you shall be given 
Life eternal and 
Return unto this heaven 
To dwell with me forevermore 
To be like me, to share my power, 
Joint heirs 
With all of my exalted 
Sons. I give you now 
Free agency: the right 
To be obedient, or to 
Disobey—this right is 
Heaven-given to each one. 
If you should choose to 
Disobey, you lose your 
Place in my exalted heaven. 
The heavens rang with 
Paeons of exalted joy. 
The morning stars sang 
Forth their hymns of 
Praise. 
The sons of God with one united 
Voice 
Shouted hosannas to the 
Lord of hosts. [Job 38:7] 
All heaven stirred 
In holy jubilee. 
All nature trembled 
In its ecstasy.

But there were those 
Who took no part with 
The great joyous throng. 
To one side in proud disdain stood Lucifer: 
This rabble shouts in ignorance 
Of what they face. 
My plan was better. 
I would give them place 
Without an effort on their part 
If they would follow me. 
If I can gain enough of 
Following, I may yet 
Win what I might have won, 
Take exaltation’s throne, 
Displace that favored One, 
The Firstborn Son.

We do not know the means 
That Lucifer employed 
To gain his ends, 
Nor do we know just 
What is “War in Heaven.” [Revelation 12:7] 
But war it was, 
Fought with the means 
At hand. 
The hosts of Lucifer 
Made a determined stand 
But lost. And mighty Michael 
And his angels won.

Out of heaven and into the earth 
The hosts of Lucifer were driven. 
One-third of all the heavenly 
Hosts thus lost their heaven. 
No home was theirs among 
The concourse of the stars. 
Their place was gone. 
They had no home 
Except to roam the earth, 
Unwitting agents in the 
Lord’s own plan to 
Test the agency and 
Freedom granted unto man.

Let us consider for a moment what it might have felt like to be the first man. I have often thought of that—like being driven up Rock Creek Canyon with nothing in the canyon except rocks, suddenly pushed out from a self-sustaining Eden into a world where every gain was made by sacrifice and toil.

Adam looked about him 
And surveyed the world 
In which he lived. 
Forgotten was the glory of his past; 
Lost to him by heavenly decree, 
His life in Eden lost to memory 
His greatest worry how to 
Feed and clothe his progeny. 
And by him was his Eve, 
The fairest of the fair 
Of that far day. 
A woman filled with loveliness. 
She’d borne the pain 
Of many children, 
Scattered now upon the land, 
And raising children of their own. 
She’d stood by Adam’s side 
When first he tilled the land, 
And planted seed. Then 
Watched the growing plants 
And harvested. 
She’d learned to cook and sew 
The skins which covered them, 
To know 
The times of change of the moon, 
Of making of a home, 
And much about a woman’s softening 
Touch upon her man.

Let us listen to a prayer that Adam might have offered—I do not think he did, but he might have (see Moses 5:4).

Adam’s Prayer 
O Lord, we have not heard thy voice 
These many days. 
Our sons and daughters grow 
Without thy word. 
Their children grow apace 
In ignorance of thee—except 
To know that once thou smiled 
On us, when we began to be. 
What shall we tell them, Lord? 
What is our destiny? 
Shall we ne’er see thee more? 
Do we but knock in vain 
Upon thy door?

There is always an answer to a righteous prayer, you know.

The First Visions 
One day while Adam tilled his field, 
A wooden hoe he’d fashioned in his hand, 
He heard a voice from over Eden way. [Moses 5:4] 
The voice was one he recognized 
As of the Lord 
With sweet accord he kneeled 
Upon the land and wiped the perspiration 
From his face. I hear thee, Lord!

He heard the voice say: 
Adam, offer sacrifice; begin this day! 
Take the firstborn and the best from out 
Thy flock or herd, build me an altar, and 
With a fire consume the beast. 
Take not the least, but best. 
No explanation given— 
Just that voice from over Eden way.

Adam built an altar on 
The highest hill, a platform 
Three feet high and ten feet square. 
There, he said, I think that will 
Do. 
He laid the sticks and got the fire 
Burning fierce and high 
Then slew the firstborn lamb—the best 
He had. No scrub was this. 
It would have won a prize 
At any fair. 
The smoke, most black and thick 
Rose high into the morning sky. 
The stench of burning flesh 
Was on the air. 
His children and his grandchildren 
Gathered round and asked: 
Grandfather, why do you 
Burn up the lamb, 
The best one you have? 
And he replied: 
The Lord commanded me 
And I obey. 
I pray you children likewise 
Will obey. 
Said one: If you must burn a lamb or calf 
Why do you take the best? 
Why not yon scrubby one? 
Then Adam said: 
The Lord said take the firstlings 
And the best. 
Some of his children hastened to obey 
And others kept their firstlings from 
That day.

The days and years passed by. 
At stated times the 
Sacrifice was made. 
The flocks and herds increased 
And Adam thus obeyed 
The Lord’s command. 
One day there stood 
Before this loyal man 
An angel of the Lord 
Who said: Adam, 
Why dost thou offer 
Sacrifice? 
I do not know why. 
I 
Only know the Lord 
Called out of Eden: 
I recognized his voice. 
I had not heard it 
For these many years. 
He said: Adam, offer 
Sacrifice. 
I do not question 
When I hear that voice. 
I offer sacrifice; 
The best I have 
The firstlings of the flock
Some of my children offer too, 
Which thing 
I wish they all would do.

Then spoke the angel. 
You are accepted of the Lord 
With all they loyal sons. 
This act is a similitude 
Of what the Son of God 
Will do 
When time shall 
Reach meridian. 
He’ll die upon a cross 
Then resurrected be 
That you may come 
Once more into his presence, 
With all of your posterity, 
If they will obey as you obey. 
Each time you sacrifice 
You will remember him, 
Have faith in him, 
Repent of any evil acts 
You do. 
And be baptized, be born again, 
Of water and of spirit. 
You will then become his son 
As all must do. [see Moses 5:5–8; 6:64–68] 
Now teach your children 
They, too, must obey the 
Lord’s command 
And offer sacrifice and 
Be baptized and worship 
Constantly the Lord 
Who is to come. 
One day those sons of Adam 
Who were skeptical 
Received a visitor. 
An angel came and 
Spoke to them (that Lucifer, 
That Satan to the world): 
Your father had an angel 
Speak to him and told him 
How to worship God—to kill 
A lamb or calf. I laugh at such 
Foolishness as he has taught. 
I, too, am a son of God. 
I say, believe it not! 
And they believed it not. 
Then Adam sent his 
Loyal sons to preach to 
Those who errant were, 
And by the spirit of the 
Holy Ghost to bring them 
Back, a promise gave 
That, if they would repent 
And be baptized, they yet 
Could gain their paradise. 
And many heard the 
Word and came 
Repenting to their father’s 
Home. [Moses 5:13–15] 
But many would not come. 
Their selfish hearts 
Were filled with earthly sin. 
They could not feel the 
Words of truth within 
Their minds—but 
Rather, with sophisticated 
Thought, 
Believed it not, 
And bowed their heads 
To riches and to 
Gain.

Our mother Eve, the mother of all flesh 
Grieved in her heart 
The loss of these benighted sons 
And grieving, prayed: 
O Lord, give me a son 
Who will a comfort be; 
Who’ll grow to manhood strong; 
Who’ll worship thee, the Lord, 
And pray; 
Who’ll keep all thy commands 
Who will not stray.

Then Cain was born. 
And Eve rejoiced, 
Believing that the 
Lord had heard her prayer, 
And praised his holy name 
And said: I have gotten a 
Man from the Lord. 
But Cain grew up 
Rebellious as had Lucifer 
Before: 
Who is the Lord, he said, 
That I should worship him? [Moses 5:16]

His mother Eve mourned o’er 
This errant son. 
His father Adam sorrowed 
That this son rebelled.

Another son was born. 
To them was given Abel 
To heal their hearts. 
This son was one 
To be obedient 
To be what they had 
Hoped that Cain would 
Be, And as he grew in faithfulness 
He listened to his father 
Adam speak the truths 
Of God revealed 
To him. [Moses 5:17] 
Cain, growing tall and strong 
And handsome, as such 
Men are handsome, 
Looked upon a niece with 
Lustful fervor and married 
Her. But neither knew the 
Lord but turned their hearts 
Away from Adam, and away 
From all he taught and 
From the Lord. 
They could not hear Him 
Speak, nor feel when he 
Had spoken. 
Then Satan 
Came to Cain 
And put into his mind 
The Oath, the Oath 
Of Hell: 
Swear by thy throat 
That thou wilt not 
Tell this great secret 
To thy father Adam 
And I will show 
Thee how thou 
May obtain thy brother’s 
Flocks and herds. [Moses 5:28–29] 
Then Cain swore by his throat 
And Satan made it plain 
To him 
Just how to murder 
And get gain.

Adam called his sons 
Unto his side and said: 
I heard the voice of him 
Who is our God 
From over Eden way, 
Say: 
Offer up an offering this day 
A sacrifice, a burning 
Sacrifice of firstborn 
Calf or lamb—an offering 
In blood. And I obey. 
So likewise you, 
Cain, my son, receive 
Command to do 
As I have done, 
And Abel too. 
Each one is to obey. 
This is a memorial 
To one who when 
The time is come 
Will offer up himself, 
The firstborn 
Of all the Father’s children 
That we may return 
Again into his presence.

Then Abel called his family 
And said: 
My Father said to offer up 
The firstlings of my flocks of sheep 
And herds of kine 
He said God gave the word.

At his command I’ll build 
An altar nigh 
And send the incense high 
To honor God and to 
Obey his word. 
The offering to be a sign 
Of one to come, in some far day, 
Who will atone 
And wash our sins away.

Then Cain—with knowledge 
Of the oath to Satan— 
Heard his voice—the dulcet voice of Lucifer. 
You needn’t offer up 
A cow or lamb. 
Throw on the fire 
Ears of corn, some 
Wheat, a beet or two 
You may be sure 
That God will know 
Your heart and recognize your praise 
If you give to him 
A part of what you raise. [Moses 5:18]

And Cain obeyed 
And called his family: 
And spoke: 
I am a farmer 
A tiller of the land. 
My corn and wheat 
Grow tall on either hand 
My garden stuff is 
Growing row on row. 
I’m almost ready now 
To harvest reap. 
Why should I buy and 
Offer up a sheep 
Or calf: I laugh 
With scorn at 
Such an idea now 
And I laugh still more 
To offer up a cow. 
I’ll make my offering 
From what I gain from 
Land. I’ll burn some 
Corn and beets and 
God will understand. [Moses 5:19]

I now quote from the original account in Moses:

And the Lord had respect 
Unto Abel, and to his offering; 
But unto Cain, and to his offering, 
He had not respect. . . . 
And Cain was very wroth. . . . 
And the Lord said unto Cain: 
Why art thou wroth? 
Why is thy countenance fallen? 
If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. 
And if thou doest not well, 
Sin lieth at the door, 
And Satan desireth to have thee; 
And except thou shalt hearken 
Unto my commandments, 
I will deliver thee up, 
And it shall be unto 
Thee according to his desire. 
And thou shalt rule over him. . . . 
And Cain was wroth, and 
Listened not any more to 
The voice of the Lord, 
Neither to Abel, his brother, 
Who walked in holiness 
Before the Lord. [Moses 5:20–23, 26]

May I now again return to my imaginary account.

Abel’s wife spoke to Adam: 
Abel is not home this even’ 
It’s growing late, and I 
Am worried. Some 
Fateful thing, the danger 
Of the world, the cliff 
O’erhangs the valley. 
The streams are running 
High, 
He might have slipped 
And fallen.

Then Adam said: 
The morrow, daylight dawning, 
Giving light, then I shall go 
In search of him. 
Likely he has gone too 
Far in search of a lost lamb 
o return in the dark, 
And keeps a fire burning 
There 
To frighten both 
The lion and the bear.

In early dawn he then set forth, 
Not knowing the direction of 
His going. 
But soon he came into the field 
Where Abel kept his sheep 
And saw upon the ground 
The lifeless body of his son, 
The arms outstretched 
(He could not be asleep), 
The eyes half-closed 
And sightless, 
The white teeth showing 
Through half-parted lips. 
He spoke; he called; 
He touched the stiffened 
Arm—with no response. 
He somehow knew that 
This was death. 
He knelt beside the 
Stiffened corpse and 
Wept. 
Then Satan to his minions 
Makes it plain: 
We’ve taught them how 
To murder and get gain.

And now we’ll place 
Into their minds 
Perversion of the 
Sacred act of 
Procreation, 
This gift the Father 
Gave to all who 
Come to earth, 
When all his sons 
Were shown that 
Home and hearth 
Are given as a 
Pattern showing men the way 
To heaven. 
Go forth, you servants of the Devil, 
And let men feel the power which 
Comes from evil. 
Then they, themselves, will 
Carry forth his work, 
They’ll lie; they’ll cheat; 
They’ll rob and murder too. 
They’ll teach perversion of 
The heavenly gift. 
They’ll seek to spoil 
All those that God would save. 
They’ll soul and body of mankind 
Enslave.

Well, these are the last two pages; you will notice that they are 102 and 103. [laughter]

First Great Lie 
The Lie 
As Cain drove 
Forth his brother’s 
Flocks to his own 
Land, he heard 
The voice of God 
Speak to his 
Very soul, which said: 
Cain: Where is Abel, thy 
Brother? 
And Cain in 
Snarling, deep 
Satanic speech 
Replied: 
I know not. Am I 
My brother’s keeper? [Moses 5:34]

The Answer 
The Lord said [unto Cain]: 
[and this is the account that is in the 
Pearl of Great Price] 
What hast thou done? 
The voice of thy brother’s 
Blood cries unto me 
From the ground. [Moses 5:35]

You know the rest, and you know that it has gone on all the years since. Ever since that day, the conflict has been whether or not we will obey. And Satan, with all the power of his sophistry and smoothness, teaches us all to break all the laws of God.

We could go on and on and see with introspective horror the proud and haughty Cain, acting in the image of his sponsor, reply to the great question: “Where is thy brother?” answering with one of the greatest lies of all time: “I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Let us come back to our day and our time.

The first great law still holds. Obey! Obey the commandments of your Father and my Father. Do what I am sure that our heavenly parents taught you to do in that far day. Have the determination to go back into their presence when the time comes. And come it will, whether you like it or not.

If each of you is not there when the final family gathering takes place, your Heavenly Father will weep, as only an eternal being can weep. Let not any of us cause him that kind of sorrow.

Perhaps it was something like I have portrayed in the beginning. Now, after five thousand nine hundred years (plus or minus) we ourselves need not hear the Lord command Adam any more to desire to obey, for we have the Restoration—the full restoration—and that is that.

God surely lives and is our Father, and we know it. And not Adam but Joseph Smith presented his relationship to us through revelation so that we could understand. Joseph Smith was a prophet just as Adam was a prophet, and also a seer and a revelator. He was given the keys to open the way for us to reach out and find and know our Father and our elder brother, his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Let us not fail to reach, to seek, to find, and above all to obey.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.