True to the Faith says this about the Plan of Salvation:
In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father prepared a plan to enable us to become like Him and receive a fulness of joy. The scriptures refer to this plan as “the plan of salvation” (Alma 24:14; Moses 6:62), “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8), “the plan of redemption” (Jacob 6:8; Alma 12:30), and “the plan of mercy” (Alma 42:15).
The plan of salvation is the fulness of the gospel. It includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and all the laws, ordinances, and doctrines of the gospel. Moral agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, is also essential in Heavenly Father’s plan. Because of this plan, we can be perfected through the Atonement, receive a fulness of joy, and live forever in the presence of God. Our family relationships can last throughout the eternities.
You are a participant in Heavenly Father’s plan, and your eternal experience can be divided into three main parts: premortal life, mortal life, and life after death. As you come to understand the plan, you find answers to questions asked by so many: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after this life?
Boyd K Packer said: “There is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life. . .” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 22; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 18).
True to the Faith:
Before you were born on the earth, you lived in the presence of your Heavenly Father as one of His spirit children. In this premortal existence, you attended a council with Heavenly Father’s other spirit children. At that council, Heavenly Father presented His great plan of happiness (see Abraham 3:22–26).
In harmony with the plan of happiness, the premortal Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of the Father in the spirit, covenanted to be the Savior (see Moses 4:2; Abraham 3:27). Those who followed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were permitted to come to the earth to experience mortality and progress toward eternal life. Lucifer, another spirit son of God, rebelled against the plan and “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). He became Satan, and he and his followers were cast out of heaven and denied the privileges of receiving a physical body and experiencing mortality (see Moses 4:4; Abraham 3:27–28).
Throughout your premortal life, you developed your identity and increased your spiritual capabilities. Blessed with the gift of agency, you made important decisions, such as the decision to follow Heavenly Father’s plan. These decisions affected your life then and now. You grew in intelligence and learned to love the truth, and you prepared to come to the earth, where you could continue to progress.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about our feelings in the premortal life regarding our coming to mortality: “One of the most exhilarating moments of your life—when you were filled with anticipation, excitement, and gratitude—you are not able to remember. That experience occurred in the premortal life when you were informed that finally your time had come to leave the spirit world to dwell on earth with a mortal body. “You knew you could learn through personal experience the lessons that would bring happiness on earth—lessons that would eventually lead you to exaltation and eternal life as a glorified, celestial being in the presence of your Holy Father and His Beloved Son. “You understood that there would be challenges, for you would live in an environment of both righteous and evil influences. Yet surely you resolved that no matter what the cost, no matter what the effort, suffering, and testing, you would return victorious” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 5; or Ensign, May 2001, 6).
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave perspective and hope regarding man’s eternal existence: “Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death. Prior to our birth, we dwelled as spirit children with our Father in Heaven. There we eagerly anticipated the possibility of coming to earth and obtaining a physical body. Knowingly we wanted the risks of mortality, which would allow the exercise of agency and accountability. ‘This life [was to become] a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God’ (Alma 12:24). But we regarded the returning home as the best part of that long-awaited trip, just as we do now. Before embarking on any journey, we like to have some assurance of a round-trip ticket. Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—and not around—the doors of death. We were born to die, and we die to live (see 2 Corinthians 6:9). As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992,102; or Ensign, May 1992, 72).
Note: Because our Father is a creator, we have desires to create too. It helps us to be like him.
True to the Faith:
Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth (see Mosiah 3:8; Moses 2:1). From scripture revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we know that in the work of the Creation, the Lord organized elements that had already existed (see Abraham 3:24). He did not create the world “out of nothing,” as some people believe. The scriptures also teach that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34). God created Adam and Eve in His own image and in the image of His Only Begotten (see Moses 2:26–27).
The Creation is an integral part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. It gives each of us the opportunity to come to the earth, where we receive a physical body and exercise our agency. In the premortal Council of the Gods, the following declaration was made: “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” (Abraham 3:24–25).
The prophet Lehi taught: “If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. “And [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. “And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall” (2 Nephi 2:22–26; see also verses 19–21, 27).
Adam and Eve expressed their gratitude for the blessings that came as a result of the Fall:
“Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. “And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: 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 5:10–11).
Excellent resource for the Fall:
“Adam had a spiritual body until mortality came upon him through the violation of the law under which he was living, but he also had a physical body of flesh and bones. “… Now what is a spiritual body? It is one that is quickened by spirit and not by blood. … “… When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was not subject to death. There was no blood in his body and he could have remained there forever. This is true of all the other creations” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:76–77).
“If we cannot be good, except as we resist and overcome evil, then evil must be present to be resisted. “So this earth life is set up according to true principles, and these conditions that followed the transgression [of Adam] were not, in the usual sense, penalties that were inflicted upon us. All these … that seem to be sad inflictions of punishment, sorrow, and trouble are in the end not that. They are blessings. We have attained a knowledge of good and evil, the power to prize the sweet, to become agents unto ourselves, the power to obtain redemption and eternal life. These things had their origin in this transgression. The Lord has set the earth up so we have to labor if we are going to live, which preserves us from the curse of idleness and indolence; and though the Lord condemns us to death—mortal death—it is one of the greatest blessings that comes to us here because it is the doorway to immortality, and we can never attain immortality without dying. “So these are all real blessings. We come to the earth with all these conditions arranged as they are so that we have to struggle constantly against evil, struggle to preserve our lives, struggle for everything of true value—that is the thing for us to understand—this is the course of life that is most desirable, and for our good. We have no need to find fault with these conditions. The Lord has ordained them all for our welfare and happiness” (Morris, in Conference Report, Apr. 1958, 39).
“I’m very, very grateful that in the Book of Mormon, and I think elsewhere in our scriptures, the fall of Adam has not been called a sin. It wasn’t a sin. … What did Adam do? The very thing the Lord wanted him to do; and I hate to hear anybody call it a sin, for it wasn’t a sin…The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here, then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here, then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself, and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat it, you will die. “I see a great difference between transgressing the law and committing a sin” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Fall—Atonement—Resurrection—Sacrament,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 124).
Note: Something to consider – if it was a part of the plan for Adam to fall, why have a garden of Eden at all? Perhaps to see contrast, give them the ability to make that first choice, to introduce Satan.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is central to Heavenly Father’s Plan
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained the roles Christ plays in the salvation of man “Before we can even begin to understand the temporal creation of all things, we must know how and in what manner these three eternal verities—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are inseparably woven together to form one plan of salvation. No one of them stands alone; each of them ties into the other two; and without a knowledge of all of them, it is not possible to know the truth about any one of them. “Be it known, then, that salvation is in Christ and comes because of his atoning sacrifice. The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion. It ransoms men from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the Fall of Adam. All men will be resurrected because our blessed Lord himself died and rose again, becoming thus the first fruits of them that slept. “And further: Christ died to save sinners. He took upon himself the sins of all men on conditions of repentance. Eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God, is available because of what Christ did in Gethsemane and at Golgotha. He is both the resurrection and the life. Immortality and eternal life are the children of the Atonement. There is no language or power of expression given to man which can set forth the glory and wonder and infinite import of the ransoming power of the great Redeemer” (“Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, 9).
The great joy and good news of the gospel is that we will live again because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ all obstacles can be overcome by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. He alone can succor and save the children of men because He “descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things” (D&C 88:6). He paid the price for our sins; therefore, as we come unto Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, we can return to the presence of the Father (see D&C 45:3–5). In addition, “as we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ” (Preach My Gospel , 52).
Elder Russell M. Nelson shared his feelings about the Atonement: “I weep for joy when I contemplate the significance of it all. To be redeemed is to be atoned—received in the close embrace of God with an expression not only of His forgiveness, but of our oneness of heart and mind. What a privilege! And what a comfort to those of us with loved ones who have already passed from our family circle through the gateway we call death!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 46; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 34)
Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy taught what we must do to overcome spiritual death: “The Savior has atoned for our personal sins on the condition of our repentance. Personal repentance is a necessary condition of salvation but is not by itself sufficient to assure salvation. Without the Atonement, our repentance will not save us. One must also accept the ordinances of baptism and receive the Holy Ghost, by which one is born again as a spiritual child of Christ” (“The Restored Doctrine of the Atonement,” Ensign, Dec. 1993, 12).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie described the Lord’s ordeal: “We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane. . . .“We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name. . . . “. . . On a hill called Calvary . . . the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.
“With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. . . . “. . . While he was hanging on the cross . . . all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred. “And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things—then he said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost. . . . “His rising from death on the third day crowned the Atonement. Again, in some way incomprehensible to us, the effects of his resurrection pass upon all men so that all shall rise from the grave” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 9–11; or Ensign, May 1985, 9–10).
True to the Faith: You are now experiencing mortal life. Your spirit is united with your body, giving you opportunities to grow and develop in ways that were not possible in your premortal life. This part of your existence is a time of learning in which you can prove yourself, choose to come unto Christ, and prepare to be worthy of eternal life. It is also a time when you can help others find the truth and gain a testimony of the plan of salvation.
President Thomas S. Monson, a counselor in the First Presidency, described some of the reasons we chose to come to mortality and be separated from our Heavenly Father: “Clearly, one primary purpose of our existence upon the earth is to obtain bodies of flesh and bones. We are here to gain experience that could come only through separation from our heavenly parents. In a thousand ways, we are privileged to choose for ourselves. Here we learn from the hard taskmaster of experience. We discern between good and evil. We differentiate as to the bitter and the sweet. We learn that decisions determine destiny” (“Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, June 1993, 4).
In 2 Nephi 31, Nephi clearly explains:
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and abaptism by water; and then cometh a bremission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this astrait and narrow bpath which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which cwitnesses of the dFather and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow apath, I would ask if all is bdone? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken cfaith in him, drelying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to esave.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a asteadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of bhope, and a clove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and dendure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eeternal life.
Nephi also taught “The right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Ne. 25:29).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following analogy: “This is the day of our mortal probation. We might compare our eternal journey to a race of three laps around the track. We have completed the first lap [our pre-earth life] successfully and have made wonderful progress. We have started on the second lap. Can you imagine a world-class runner stopping along the track at this point to pick flowers or chase a rabbit that crossed his path? Yet this is what we are doing when we occupy our time with worldly pursuits that do not move us closer to the third lap toward eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God [see D&C 14:7]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 15; or Ensign, May 1998, 14).
Life after Death/Postmortal Life
True to the Faith: When you die, your spirit will enter the spirit world and await the resurrection. At the time of the resurrection, your spirit and body will reunite, and you will be judged and received into a kingdom of glory. The glory you inherit will depend on the depth of your conversion and your obedience to the Lord’s commandments (see “Kingdoms of Glory,” pages 92–95). It will depend on the manner in which you have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51; see also 76:74, 79, 101).
Elder Earl C. Tingey explained the need for overcoming physical death: “Physical death is the separation of the spirit
from the physical body. At death, the body is laid in the ground, and the righteous spirit is received into a state of happiness called paradise (Alma 40:11–12). Those who are wicked and choose evil rather than good while in mortality go to a place within the postmortal spirit world referred to as ‘darkness’ (Alma 40:13–14) or spirit prison. From among the righteous in paradise, missionaries are selected to teach the gospel to those in spirit prison (D&C 138:30). “It was never intended that the spirit and the body remain forever separated. After all, ‘the spirit and the body are the soul of man’ (D&C 88:15). Man was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26–27), who is a glorified personage possessing a spirit and a perfected physical body (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). When we, as personages of spirit, were in the pre-earthly existence, we recognized that God had a spirit and a perfected body. Could we, in a spirit state only, become like God? No. We had to gain physical bodies through birth on a physical earth. That process began when Adam and Eve became the first physical beings on earth, possessing bodies that housed their spirits (Moses 3:7). When Adam and Eve died physically, as does every other human being, their spirits were separated from their bodies. “One of the missions of Jesus Christ was to overcome physical death by providing a literal and universal resurrection for all mankind” (The Atonement, 56–57).
LeGrand Richards, in A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, taught:
“One of the greatest errors in the teaching of Christian religions is the doctrine of one heaven and one hell, so that all who go to heaven share and share alike, and all who fail to go to heaven are sent to hell where they share and share alike.
This thought has led many to feel that while their lives may not be all they should be, they are as good as, or better than, the average. Thus they feel that all will be well with them…Such a doctrine does not have the motivating and stimulating power to impel or encourage men to do the best they can, but rather to satisfy themselves by doing as well as the average man. Such a doctrine places no value on anything more than average devotion and obedience to the commandments of the Lord, or the development of one’s talents and their useful devotion to his service.”
Elder David B. Haight, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught how we are all equal as we seek to inherit the celestial kingdom: “Revelations to Joseph Smith expand man’s knowledge that Jesus Christ was crucified to save the world from sin, that through his act of redemption all mankind will be resurrected from the grave and given the possibility of eternal life if obedient to gospel principles. “We are taught further enlightenment on Jesus’ statement ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). We learn not only of the degrees of glory and those eligible, but that man should strive for the highest ‘heaven’ which is available, and is reachable only through obedience to all of God’s commandments. President George Albert Smith said: ‘One of the beautiful things to me in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it brings us all to a common level. It is not necessary for a man to be a president of a stake, or a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, in order to attain a high place in the celestial kingdom. The humblest member of the Church, if he keeps the commandments of God, will obtain an exaltation just as much as any other man in the celestial kingdom. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it makes us all equal. . . . As we keep the commandments of the Lord . . . we have equal opportunities for exaltation’ (in Conference Report, Oct. 1933, p. 25)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 33–34; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 23–24).
Keep your explanation of the degrees of glory simple, like the intro to the Kingdoms of Glory in True to the Faith:
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected (see Alma 11:42–45). After we are resurrected, we will stand before the Lord to be judged (see Revelation 20:12; 3 Nephi 27:14). Each of us will be assigned to an eternal dwelling place in a specific kingdom of glory. The Lord taught this principle when He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. The glory you inherit will depend on the depth of your conversion, expressed by your obedience to the Lord’s commandments. It will depend on the manner in which you have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51; see also 76:74, 79, 101).
Russell M Nelson explained, “Resurrection, or immortality, comes to every man and every woman as an unconditional gift. Eternal life is a conditional gift.”
Blessings through Knowledge of the Plan
True to the Faith: A testimony of the plan of salvation can give you hope and purpose as you wrestle with the challenges of life. You can find reassurance in the knowledge that you are a child of God and that you lived in His presence before you were born on the earth. You can find meaning in your present life, knowing that your actions during mortality influence your eternal destiny. With this knowledge, you can base important decisions on eternal truths rather than on the changing circumstances of life. You can continually improve your relationship with family members, rejoicing in the promise that your family can be eternal. You can find joy in your testimony of the Atonement and the Lord’s commandments, ordinances, covenants, and doctrines, knowing that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).
Exercise: Answer these questions using your knowledge of the plan of salvation.
- A young mother has just lost her five-month-old baby: “Will I ever see my child again?”
- A teenager asks: “Why is it such a big deal to stay morally clean if life ends at death?”
- A middle-aged man worries about his wife; they have four children, and his wife has just learned that she has cancer: “How can this happen if you believe in a just God?”
- A young adult expresses: “I have committed so many sins, why should I even try anymore?”
Watch this video: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-07-002-the-plan-of-salvation?lang=eng (about 10 minutes))
President Monson lovingly reminded us, “May we ever remember that the mantle of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cloak of comfort but rather a robe of responsibility. Our duty, in addition to saving ourselves, is to guide others to the celestial kingdom of God.”
Challenge: make a visual aid to explain the plan of salvation or do an FHE on it.