The typical plan of salvation discussion covers where we were, are, and are going to be. But that is the least of our worries. The plan of salvation is mostly about what we were, are, and are becoming. The whole plan is all about exalting God’s children. This article is a review of the five main elements of the plan for our eternal happiness.
All quotes come from the 2014 Relief Society & Priesthood Manual, Lesson Three.
Choosing the Savior
This life is not an accident. It is not a free-for-all of events. Our Father in Heaven planned this life out from beginning to end down to the last detail. The gospel of Christ is the code of laws appointed by God with the sole purpose of mapping out the path for his children to pass through the mandatory trials of mortality and still be able to return to him. This is also known as the Plan of Salvation, or my favorite, the Great Plan of Happiness (Alma 42:8).
When we lived with God in the premortal world the complete plan was explained to us. We understood it. We were thrilled by it. We shouted for joy (Job 38:7). We may not be doing much shouting now, but we sure did then when we had a better understanding of the plan.
The first step in the Plan of Happiness was to choose someone who could make the success of the plan possible. That person was Jesus. He was chosen by our Father to be the sacrificial lamb that would make it possible for the rest of the family to come home. Christ was chosen to be the one to die for us that we might live. What a calling. The question is, why did he have to die? Was there no other way?
The short answer to that last question is no, there was no other way. Jesus simply had to die. But here is the reason. The second essential element in our Father’s plan to bring us home was to give us an opportunity to exercise our agency without our parents in the room. This life is all about deciding where our hearts truly lie. Even when we cannot see our Father, are we still willing to follow his teachings and be obedient to his laws? In order for us to be able to do this, our first mortal parents, Adam and Eve, had to exercise their God-given agency. Did you notice in the main image that there is only one part out of the five that our Savior is not front and center? The Fall is the only part God could not do for himself.
Adam and Eve were doing really well, until Satan tricked Eve into doing something he thought would ruin everything, but the Lord had foreseen the event and had planned around it so that it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Satan talked Eve into eating the fruit she had been told not to even touch. With Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience to God’s commandment, they fulfilled the second step of God’s plan. Adam and Eve fell from grace, were cut off from God’s presence, and introduced mortality into the world. Their attainment of mortal death and spiritual death became the default inheritance for each of us.
Remember, this was all part of the plan. This was all needed. It was all a good thing. It would not have been good had not Christ already been in place to save us, but that had already been taken care of, and our road to redemption was already paved.
As father Lehi said, this life is a probation. The reason we are here is to be tried and tested to see if we will still follow our Father and be true to his son, Jesus Christ. We needed to come to a place where we were truly able to choose between absolute good and absolute evil. This is our final test before we are placed where we will be for the rest of eternity. This probationary time is critical to the outcome of the rest of eternity.
We are, all of us here in this mortal world, on probation. We were sent here primarily to obtain tabernacles [bodies] for our eternal spirits; secondly, to be proved by trial, to have tribulation as well as the abundant joy and happiness that can be obtained through a sacred covenant of obedience to the eternal principles of the gospel. Mortality, as Lehi informed his children, is a “probationary state.” (2 Nephi 2:21.) It is here where we are to be tried and tested to see if we will, when shut out of the presence of our Eternal Father but still instructed in the way of eternal life, love and revere him and be true to his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”
In Conference Report, Apr. 1965, 11.
We talk a lot about the Atoning sacrifice of Christ, but as important as it is, it would not be possible without the Fall of Adam and Eve. That is how critical the Fall is to our salvation. The Atonement is the cure for the curse of the Fall. Since we have committed acts of disobedience to God’s laws, we have been barred from His presence. God cannot and will not tolerate sin (disobedience) in the least degree. So the other death, spiritual separation from God, would be permanent without someone who could make peace between us and our Father.
Because Adam and Eve became mortal, by definition they would die a physical death. Physical death guarantees that we will only have a physical body for a short time before being deprived of it again. One of the main reasons for coming to earth was to get a body like our heavenly parents have, even it would be just a temporary one. But the hope was to get it back again someday.
What does the Savior’s atonement do for us? Because of the sacrifice he made, starting in the Garden of Gethsemane, and ending on the cross, three things became possible that would not have been able to happen otherwise. His suffering on our behalf enabled him to set the conditions for the redemption of our souls. His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection enabled him to offer the gift of eternal life to all of God’s family, at no cost to us. This was a free gift. The third gift of his Atoning sacrifice enabled him to satisfy all of God’s laws, and still open the door for us to be forgiven of our sins and misdeeds, and allows Christ to exalt to godhood all those who follow him and cleanse their souls through repentance.
This is why we speak of Christ, teach of Christ, rejoice in Christ, and obey all that he tells us to do. He is our only way out of the predicament we call mortality and sin.
We each obey the Lord in varying amounts. Some are very obedient and resourceful about doing good and furthering his work. Others of us are trying hard, but at times come up short. Still others of us are not overly concerned about the whole plan of happiness thing, and would rather just do our own thing while we are here.
When we are resurrected we will receive a body that suits the spiritual power we acquired through our actions while on earth. Put in simple terms, those who played around and neglected all their responsibilities to their Father in Heaven will receive Telestial bodies. Those who were good people and followed the basic teachings of the great philosophers of the world, or some of the teachings of Christ will receive a Terrestrial body. Only those who have made and kept sacred covenants with God, and endured in obedience to the end will be able to receive Celestial bodies, the kind Christ and our Father have.
“Spirits cannot be made perfect without the body of flesh and bones. This body and its spirit are brought to immortality and blessings of salvation through the resurrection. After the resurrection there can be no separation again, body and spirit become inseparably connected that man may receive a fulness of joy. In no other way, other than birth into this life and the resurrection, can spirits become like our eternal Father.”
The Law of Chastity,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1931, 643; see also Doctrines of Salvation, 2:85-86.
This separation of those who have obeyed from those who have not is called the Final Judgment. Christ is the judge since he is the one who paid the price for our souls. Our souls are his to do with as he pleases. It is certainly a good thing he loves us all with a perfect love. He will offer us every opportunity to receive every blessing available, but in the end, it is we who make the final choice of where we will be for the rest of eternity.
We choose each day where our priorities lie. We choose how we treat each other, whether or not we pay our tithing or show up at the meeting the Bishop asked us to attend. We choose how we treat our family members and our neighbors. Christ cannot make those choices for us, He just gives us, in the end, what we have chosen for ourselves. This is why another name for the great plan is the plan of restoration.
The Plan of Happiness is designed to bring us safely back to our Father in Heaven to live with our family members in happiness forever. There is no part of the plan that steers us any direction but straight back to Him. This is His work, and His glory, to bring us back home to have eternal glory with Him and Christ as families, forever.
“This plan of salvation is family centered. … [It] is designed to enable us to create eternal family units of our own.”
Sealing Power and Salvation, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year (Jan. 12, 1971), 2.
Too often we think of the plan of salvation in terms of only where we are at the moment and where we are going after this life. While that is indeed part of the plan, it is only the location. The structure of the plan has nothing to do with place, but everything to do with purpose. God wants us to become like Him. This requires that our characters be proven and refined. We must demonstrate to Him, and to ourselves, what kind of life we want to lead in the hereafter. So when you have trials and tribulations, remember that their sole purpose is to help each of us decide what kind of person we want to be in the eternities. Our reaction to what happens to us is all part of that refining and determining process.
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