EDIT: This is following is presented as one narrative interpretation, which is not without valid contest. See the discussion in the comments below – especially the comments by aquinas – for how this interpretation may or may not have validity with the history of this text. I believe this narrative reading cam be of interest, regardless whether it presents the actual original intent . This is also not designed to be an expression or declaration of belief
There is a fascinating narrative string in LDS scripture and sacred drama as it currently canonically stands involving the Satan figure, and his repeated rejection and rebellion against the “chosen others” granted key roles in the Eternal Plan of God. Each event involves an explanation as to how Satan distanced himself from God, and was “cast out”.
While we are accustomed to reading the first two of these narratives as telling the same story (Satan’s desire to be the Savior figure and being rejected for pride), a close reading shows that it is possible that this is not the only productive reading.
Moses ( actually a part Joseph Smith’s revision and expansion of Genesis) tells of the rejection of Satan as the Savior figure. I propose we read Abraham presenting the rejection of Satan as the First Man. The Temple Endowment Ritual presents the rejection of Satan as the authorized Granter of Knowledge.
First is the text of Moses 4:1–4:
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved andChosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should becast down;
Note particularly that “the first” to make a proposal here is Satan, which is rejected in light of the proposal of “the second”, which is the humble response of the Beloved Son. The writing of this in mid to late 1830 was probably contemporary with the writing of Doctrine and Covenants 29:36–37, which reinforces the desire for the Lord’s role of honor:
[T]he devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
Abraham 3:26–28, probably written around 1842, present the significantly different account of Satan’s rebellion in a different setting. Due to the oblique nature of referring to the personages, I’ve added editorial labels to clarify the individuals in play in the proposed interpretation:
And God [IE, the Father] saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God [Jesus, the ‘Son of Man’], and he [IE, Jesus] 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;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
And the Lord [Jesus] said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man [IE, Michael] 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.
Here, it is “the first”, one “like unto the Son of Man” that is accepted for being sent, and “the second” which is angry, and “kept not his first estate” – here, the mission under consideration is the beginning of ‘keeping their second estate’.
We can take these as two individual unrelated and contradictory narratives (which, to a degree they are), or we can view them as a fascinating narrative progression, where first the Satan figure initially strove for the highest level position, was rejected, and then tried out for the next highest position – the next most important role in the Eternal Plan, underneath the authority of the role he was initially rejected for.
And he’s rejected there, too.
In the course of the development of the Fall narrative, this adds some nuance as to the next essential role we see Satan playing: usurping the role of the Granter of Knowledge.
He is tired of getting rejected, and takes matters into his own hands. While the idea of Satan being the one tempting Adam and Eve to take the forbidden fruit is old and traditional – even appearing explicitly in the earliest strings of uniquely Mormon scripture – certain elements of the motivations and method were not fully expressed and developed until the presentation of the Temple ritual, where the figure of Satan expresses, both to Adam and to God, that he is, “doing that which has been done” before, doing that which would “make them wise”. That he is helping them progress the same way God did. When he is punished, it is not not denied that what he did was something that would have been done anyway – it was simply not his to do, and not at that time.
And once again, he is rejected and cursed, which leads to an extended and specific plan and vow/rant of rebellion. If he cannot play a starring role, he will attempt to ruin and overturn the plan.
It will be noted that even after rejection, Satan still claims the titles of the roles he was explicitly rejected for. He proclaims himself as “Son of God” worthy of worship (see Moses 1:19), and even later, explicitly proclaims himself, “God of this world”, the object of prayer.
In separate narrative strings, he strives to frustrate and tempt the roles he desired to fill. He famously tempts Jesus to get him to fail, and submit to him (see Luke 4). He tempts Adam. He tempts and threatens the messengers of Knowledge.
Perhaps, with the thought that if they failed, he would be justified in saying, “See? That wouldn’t have happened if you’d picked me.” – like a jilted actor rejected from a dream role who now openly desires the whole production to fail – and then blames its failure on its lack of inclusion of he as the star.