The War in Heaven

How was the war in heaven fought? This was a question that I had asked myself ever since I was a child and first learned about a war in heaven. Did we actually fight against Satan and his followers somehow? If so, wouldn’t this contradict logic? For example, Hugh Nibley once stated:

God does not fight Satan: a word from him and Satan is silenced and banished.  There is no contest there.[1]

If Satan and his followers could be banished at a word, why call it a war? A war seems to indicate that Satan was actually able to put up a fight. In the traditional sense, a war fought on earth is done by two armies colliding, with each side taking their share of lives until finally, one side emerges victorious. However, things were different in the pre-existence. Spirits could not be killed; we were not trying to kill them, and they were not trying to kill us. Furthermore, we had God on our side, which was not a fair fight, not even for Satan, who was eventually banished at God’s word. How then, if this battle was so one sided, was it even considered a war? And if it was a war in the traditional sense, how was it fought?

In order to get answers to these questions, we must first determine how the war in heaven started. As we know, there were two who volunteered to be the Savior of mankind. According to the Book of Abraham, our Father in Heaven asked during the council of heaven:

The Council in Heaven
Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him (Abr. 3:27-28).

Once Christ was chosen by our Heavenly Father to be the Savior over Satan, Satan became angry. Furthermore, this scripture seems to indicate that Satan thereafter began recruiting others to join his side, convincing them that his way was better, for “at that day” according to Abraham’s record, “many followed after him.”

What strategy did Satan use to convince the children of God that his plan was better and to join his rebellion? John the Revelator tells us:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels…. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven…the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Rev. 12:7-10).

It is clear from this last statement that Satan’s strategy in his rebellion was to accuse the righteous followers of God of committing certain offenses. President Brigham Young stated:

As it has always been…when the sons of God assemble together, Satan will be on hand as an accuser of the brethren, to find fault with those who are trying to do good.[2]

In fact, the very word Devil means “accuser.”[3]

What offenses was Satan accusing the righteous of committing? What offenses was Satan accusing our Heavenly Father of committing? Your guess is as good as mine, but it stands to reason that Satan’s strategy was to find fault with the plan that was accepted over his.

In other words, Satan would approach anyone who would listen, and talk to them. During their conversation, Satan would begin finding fault with our Heavenly Father and his plan of salvation, while also finding faulting with anyone who would even consider aligning themselves with such a foolish plan. “Don’t you understand the high risk invoiced with Father’s plan? Don’t you know that the vast majority of God’s children will not become exalted under Father’s plan? Perhaps God does not love you enough to ensure your exaltation.” These are just some of the many different accusations that could have been used by Satan to pull God’s children away from the Father’s plan of salvation. In fact, the scriptures even tell us what one of these accusations that came from Satan’s very mouth was: “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it” (Moses 4:1), thus indicating that a better plan was to be had, as well as a better Redeemer than the one chosen by our Father in Heaven.

And before long, Satan had gained quite the following, for according to Abraham, "many followed after him" (Abr. 3:28). However, no doubt “the noble and great ones” also referenced by Abraham, refused to see their brothers and sisters throw away their eternal salvation so easily. John the Revelator reveals what we did to counter Satan’s accusations:

And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11).

Thus, while Satan was making accusations about our Heavenly Father and his plan of salvation to anyone who would listen, we were right behind, bearing our testimonies about the truthfulness of this same plan, trying to pull them back over to the Lord’s side.

In other words, Satan and his followers would accuse, and we would bear testimony in an attempt to save our brothers and sisters from perdition.

With this setting in mind, we are finally able to understand how this war in heaven was fought. Speaking of the verses penned by John the Revelator (quoted above), President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

The book of Revelation speaks briefly of what must have been a terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children.[4]

Thus, the war in heaven, according to President Hinckley, was simply a war over “the minds and loyalties of God’s children.”

The weapon?

That would depend on which side you were fighting for. The weapon used by us in this war was our testimony, while and Satan and his followers fought with accusations (see Rev. 12:10-11).

The reason why the concept of a war in heaven could not be grasped in my youth, was simply because I assumed that once each of our brothers and sisters had a chance to choose a side, the war in heaven commenced.
Satan in Cast out of Heaven

Not so.

The reality is that once each of our brothers and sisters had finally decided who to follow, the war in heaven was already over! The war was not us trying to get Satan and his followers cast out of heaven, but rather, as President Hinckley stated, was to determine who would ultimately win “the minds and loyalties of God’s children.”[5] Under Michael’s leadership,[6] we fought diligently to get as many people as possible on our side.  Conversely, Satan and those who were committed to his cause fought hard to pull them to their side.

Finally, after all of God’s children had a chance to choose a side, our Father in Heaven, according to the Book of Moses, “caused that [Satan] should be cast down” (Moses 4:3). Thus, with a word, Satan and his followers were banished without an ensuing fight.


[1] Brother Nibley goes onto say: “in fact we are expressly told that all the power which Satan enjoys here on earth is granted to him by God. ‘We will allow Satan, our common enemy, to try man and to tempt him’” (Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and Timeless, p. 288).
[2] Journal of Discourses, 11:141.  On a second occasion, Brigham Young also stated: “Don’t imagine that I am in the least finding fault with the devil. I would not bring a railing accusation against him for he is fulfilling his office and calling manfully.  He is more faithful in his calling than are many of the people” (Journal of Discourses, 9:108).
[3] Welch, Legal cases in the Book of Mormon, p. 134. See the definition of Devil, under “Word Origin and History for Devil”, located at:
[4] Hinckley, “War and Peace.” Ensign, May 2003, p. 78.
[5] Hinckley, “War and Peace.” Ensign, May 2003, p. 78.
[6] Revelation 12:7