This lesson should help us understand the grand scope of the plan of salvation and encourage us to live according to our knowledge of the plan. This lesson is an overview, giving insight into how elements of the plan relate to one another.
The plan of salvation is “one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind.”
The Father’s plan for our existence has variously been called:
These words emphasize various benefits and features of the Father’s plan for us. It can certainly bring us happiness if we follow the commandments and live up to our potential.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The great plan of salvation is a theme which ought to occupy our strict attention, and be regarded as one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 68) Ask yourself: Are you giving the plan of salvation your “strict attention”?
As members of the Church, we have been blessed with an increased knowledge and understanding of our premortal existence. The increased knowledge includes:
· Understanding our literal relationship to God as spirit sons and daughters who lived with Him before we came to earth in mortality. D&C 76:24; 93:29. Our knowledge of this special relationship should influence our behavior and attitudes here on earth.
· A knowledge that we participated in the council in heaven and accepted the Father’s plan for our salvation and exaltation. 2 Nephi 2:24-26, Alma 34:8-9, and Abraham 3:24-25 detail elements of the plan that was presented and approved. Those elements include the Atonement and mission of Christ, the creation of this earth, the Fall of man, the plan for receiving bodies and being tested, and free moral agency—the ability and opportunity to choose good or evil.
· Jehovah’s response to the plan of salvation as He became the central figure on whom the whole plan depended for its success. Moses 4:2; D&C 19:16-19 and 76:40-42 demonstrate how the Savior obeyed the Father’s will.
· Rebelling against the plan of salvation, Lucifer sought to withhold free moral agency, force and compel our behavior, and gain the Father’s power for himself. (Moses 4:1, 3; D&C 29:36) Becoming Satan, he and his followers were cast out of Father’s presence, losing their opportunity for mortality and salvation. (D&C 29:36-38; 76:25-27; Moses 4:4; Abraham 3:26). It is important that we accept the literal existence of Satan just as we accept the existence of Our Heavenly Father.
· When the plan of salvation was accepted, we were joyful. According to latter-day prophets, Job 38:4-7, especially verse 7, indicates the way we felt on that occasion. Knowledge of our premortal acceptance should help us as we face the trials and tribulations of life.
· Great and noble spirits were chosen by the Father and foreordained to carry out important responsibilities on the earth as the work progressed and the plan was executed. D&C 138:55-56; Abraham 3:22-23, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 365.
Since we all kept our “first estate”, our premortal life, we have come to the “second estate” or mortality. (Abraham 3:26) D&C 29:40 explains that we entered mortality through the Fall of Adam and Eve, so we now exist in a fallen state as mortals subject to temptation and trials as well as the two deaths—physical and spiritual. The necessity of this step for our eternal progress is taught by modern-day revelation. Eve put it in perspective when she said: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11)
Purposes of this mortal life include:
· Reception of a physical body. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom” (TPJS, 181)
· To prove our faithfulness through obedience to all of God’s commandments (Abraham 3:25-26). This includes the doctrine of repentance and receiving the ordinances of salvation.
· To form eternal families, sealing parents and children through temple ordinances. (Moses 2:28; D&C 93:40; 131:1-4; 138:48). The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles proclaimed that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children…The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 102)
Temptation from Satan is a part of mortal life (D&C 29:39) for a wise purpose—to allow us to choose good over evil and learn by our experiences to make wise choices with desirable consequences. Agency is an important part of mortality as taught in D&C 58:27-28; 101:78; and 2 Nephi 2:25-27.
When we die, our spirits enter the spirit world. Our mortal record will heavily influence our conditions in the postmortal spirit world. (Alma 34:34; 40:11-14)
· D&C 137:7-9 and 138:30-34 teach that those who have not had the opportunity to receive the gospel in mortality will be presented with the choice after this life. If they accept the gospel and qualify themselves, they can inherit all that they merit by their works and desires.
· D&C 128:6-8, 15 indicate that we can help our ancestors receive all the blessings of the gospel by acting as proxies for them where necessary and appropriate and that for us to be perfect, we need to help them [the dead] become perfected.
· Physical and spiritual death came by the Fall of man through Adam’s choice. D&C 88:14-16 and 93:33 teach that we will be redeemed from the grave [temporal death] through the Atonement of Christ with the potential for a “fullness of joy”. Alma 42:11-13, 15 teach deliverance from spiritual death through the mercy of the Savior if we choose to repent of our sins and sincerely seek forgiveness.
D&C 76:111 teaches that we will be returned to the presence of God to be judged according to our works; inheriting the place we deserve in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial degree of glory based on the way in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus.” (D&C 76:51) Our next lesson will review the doctrines concerning the three kingdoms of glory.
President Boyd K. Packer said: “There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy…. Remember this! The line “And they all lived happily ever after” is never written into the second act [of the play]. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right… Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of [the plan], you won’t make sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much. Some are born in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering. Some experience premature death, even innocent children. There are brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. We have seen a lot of that recently. Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven” (The Play and the Plan, [7 May 1995], 1-2)
Lessons available on the internet at www.NeumannInstitute.org