I got a new cell phone recently. It’s fancy. But fancy is kind of the norm now. We’re a bit spoiled, don’t you think? All this technology doing the work for us. Especially when typing and texting to friends. My new phone does a pretty brilliant job of autocorrecting when my thick thumb hits the wrong key. I’ve gotten in the habit of just typing through the word I want even while I recognize I missed a letter or three earlier, and it usually gets the job done successfully (there are teeth-gnashing exceptions—why on earth did you think I meant that word?).
Spellcheck used to be the big thing the older generation complained about. With spellcheck, students don’t need to learn how to spell anymore! It just does the job for them. They’re going to go through life unable to spell basic words and become terrible communicators and thinkers.
I’ve been an old man since my youth and so I used to get uppity about the thing too. That happens when you take pride in your spelling ability. I got to the top three or four in a spelling bee in elementary school. I think in terms of the written word. It’s always been natural to me.
Nowadays, it seems like no one complains about autocorrect the way they used to complain about spellcheck. I think that’s a shame, because there is a world of difference between the two. Where spellcheck just underlines the misspelled word, letting you know it needs to be fixed, autocorrect does the job for you. There is no reason to go back over your message unless you notice out of the corner of your eye that the autocorrect turned “nice” into “toast” or something. Where spellcheck invited learning by informing you of your mistake and showing you how to fix it, autocorrect allows you to speed through without an extra thought at all.
(Interestingly enough, “autocorrect” is getting that red squiggly line beneath it. I didn’t think about it before, but I think that has some pretty heavy significance.)
So what does this matter? Am I still just an old man complaining about kids these days?
To the second question, well, yes, I’ve always been that way.
But to the first question: it matters. Oh boy, does it matter. It’s the difference between the two plans of salvation presented at the great council of the gods before the foundation of the earth.
Lucifer proposed to save everyone. Now, there are two interpretations of how he would do that. The common version of his plan we hear described most often is that he’d make everybody do the right thing all the time. No sin would ever be committed, and so no sin would ever prevent a child of Heavenly Father from attaining exaltation.
But there’s another interpretation of his plan that I think makes a lot more sense. After all, how can you force a being to make the right choice? I don’t see how that plan could successfully be implemented. The plan that I think he had in mind was the principle behind autocorrect. (There’s that red squiggly line again.) No matter what we did here on earth, no matter what sins we made, what mistakes, what selfishness, what pride, what lust and envy and gluttony we exhibited, we’d be saved. No matter how we spelled words in the choices of our lives, we’d be exalted. We could do whatever we wanted, and we’d get back to heaven. We’d all be back in the clouds, and worship Lucifer as our new God.
Then there’s the plan Heavenly Father had in mind. It’s a lot more like spellcheck, to me. We’d go down to earth and write up our essays, and even if we didn’t have access to the entire dictionary of truth and correct spellings, we’d have something called a conscience. That little voice in our head would inform us when we did something wrong. In essence, it would put a little red squiggly line beneath our choices, and it was up to us to check it, think about it, and then correct it ourselves. Our writing wouldn’t be perfect, and we’d make a lot of mistakes along the way, but if we consistently noticed that red line, we’d be granted the mercy—through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—of being able to correct it before it was printed off to turn in.
We know which plan was put in play. We know Satan and his cohorts were banished as a result of their choice to rebel against a system they may have thought unfair. But it was perfectly fair. That was the point.
So why care about the difference? Satan’s plan was never implemented. It’s in the past. Why should we care about it now?
The answer is that it’s not in the past. Satan is still attempting to implement a plan very much like it—at least, one with a similar aim in mind: to take away the agency of God’s children. And the difference is important because it is essential to our understanding of this mortal life, essential for us to know how to come back to live in His presence as spiritually evolved beings. Essential for us to evolve at all.
So how is Satan selling his plan for rule today? By helping us find ways around consequences. Helping us choose whatever we want to without regard to the effect. Modern comforts and conveniences, scientific discoveries and technological developments are helping us take shortcuts. We can do whatever we want, and ignore potential consequences. This is seen most damningly in the paradoxically titled “pro-choice” position on abortion. A woman has a right to choose what she will do with her body! Well, a pregnant woman (excluding cases of rape) has chosen exactly what she will do with her body. As has the man, with her body (an even grosser crime). And the pregnancy, intended or accidental, is the consequence. Women seeking abortions and men trying to pressure a woman into one are seeking to destroy their own agency through destroying the effect they originally caused. As such, this position is not “pro-choice” at all. In reality, it is anti-choice, because they are trying to do away with the natural consequence of their actions. In that case, their original choices mean nothing. Without accountability, there is no true free will.
(I realize this is unfair towards women—but that, unfortunately, is biology. An errant father may escape temporal consequence by leaving the mother to deal with the pregnancy alone, but rest assured, his judgment will come, and it will come straight from God Himself at the bar.)
This principle is seen everywhere in modern society. We seek to get rid of guilt for immoral behavior by rationalizing it as mere social conditioning or the result of an oppressive puritanical culture. We get rid of weight by undergoing surgery or taking miracles pills rather than taking care of our bodies ourselves. We expect technology and the bounty of others to take care of problems we could reasonably solve ourselves with a little extra work. We ask for preferential treatment as victims of an oppressive society rather than do the work of building our souls and character to reach farther on our own strength.
It’s the principle of mercy unbound. A state where there is no law, where choice does not matter and we can manipulate the result to both have our cake and eat it too. Mercy is a terrific impulse, and God is a god of mercy, and the Atonement is founded on the principle of ultimate and eternal mercy—but without a foundation of justice, mercy cannot exist. Without existing law, no exemptions can be made. What we are attempting to live today is simply lawless, amorphous, anarchic. No rules, no system, no accountability.
As Alma and Amulek pointed out, God will not save us in our sins. He will save us from our sins, after we’ve acknowledged them and worked to correct them.
The implementation of Satan’s plan may not any longer be obvious and presented to God’s children as a whole. But that slithery gentleman is still fixing to strip us of our agency, to make us objects rather than agents, to destroy our identity as the race of gods that we are. That’s the only way he has to gain control over us. That’s the only way he can fulfill his dark ambition to become a god, which has always been his aim. In his twisted, pathetic little mind, godhood is all about control.
But we know that a being cannot be a god without transformation. We grow by making mistakes, then recognizing them as such, and then choosing to do the right thing the next time it comes up. And we cannot do that without choosing it ourselves. An object cannot ascend to godhood. Only agents can.
That being said, I don’t think Satan’s plan is autocorrect anymore. I think it’s pre-spellcheck. Pre-word processing software. Pre-computers or even dictionaries at all. I think he wants us to type whatever we want, as much as we want, in whatever way we want, all without a single red squiggly line to let us know when we made a mistake. A correct spelling of words? Give me a break. It’s up to you to decide how to spell the words on your paper. I can spell mine any way I’d like, and you can do the same. Whatever a man spells, it is no crime. And we prosper according to our genius.
And so what’s the result of no spellcheck? Of a variety of spellings for the same word? Of not even the validity of a dictionary, that great big book of truth, to check your work?
Chaos. Incoherence. Disorder and apathy. In short, no one will ever learn anything about how to spell, how to use words, how to put them together into cohesive thoughts. No one will progress, and we remain stunted, forever in our intellectual infancy, never once making an ounce of development towards the beings God so desires for us to be. Never becoming the writers of our own stories, the creators of our own worlds.
So reject Satan’s plan. And as you go about writing your own story, keep a dictionary nearby, and pay attention to that red squiggly line.
Especially the one under “autocorrect.”