Lesson 30: The Great Plan of Happiness

Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 133–37


Purpose

To help class members gain a greater understanding of life after death and the mercy that is available to them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Read, ponder, and pray about the following scriptures:

    1. a.

      Alma 40:1–23. Alma teaches Corianton about death and resurrection.

    2. b.

      Alma 40:24–26; 41. Alma teaches Corianton that after we are resurrected, the righteous will be restored to happiness and the wicked will be restored to misery.

    3. c.

      Alma 42. Alma teaches Corianton about justice and mercy in the great plan of happiness.

  2. 2.

    Additional reading: Doctrine and Covenants 138.

  3. 3.

    If Book of Mormon Video Presentations (53911) is available, prepare to show “The Mediator,” an eleven-minute segment. If the videocassette is not available, you may want to prepare to read or tell this parable, which can be found in the following printed sources: Gospel Principles (31110), chapter 12; Conference Report, Apr. 1977, pages 79–80; or Ensign, May 1977, pages 54–55.

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Draw the following diagram on the chalkboard:

plan of salvation

Explain that we often draw diagrams like this one to teach about the plan of salvation. However, if this is all we do to explain the plan, we fail to mention Jesus Christ, who plays the central role in the plan. We also fail to mention doctrines that are central to the plan, such as the Fall, the Atonement, and agency.

Read the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“The Lord has described his plan of redemption as the Plan of Happiness. … Conversationally, we reference this great design almost too casually at times; we even sketch its rude outlines on chalkboards and paper as if it were the floor plan for an addition to one’s house. However, when we really take time to ponder the Plan, it is breathtaking and overpowering!” (“Thanks Be to God,” Ensign, July 1982, 51).

Explain that today you will discuss some of Alma’s counsel to his son Corianton. In teaching Corianton, Alma referred to Heavenly Father’s plan as “the plan of restoration” (Alma 41:2), “the great plan of salvation” (Alma 42:5), “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8), “the plan of redemption” (Alma 42:11), and “the great plan of mercy” (Alma 42:31). As Alma taught about the plan, he emphasized the centrality of the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and individual agency.

Scripture Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the scripture passages, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Discuss how the selected scriptures apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share appropriate experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. Alma teaches Corianton about death and resurrection.

Explain that chapters Alma 40–42 of the book of Alma continue Alma’s counsel to his wayward son, Corianton. Alma saw that Corianton’s misconduct was caused in part by a lack of testimony and a misunderstanding of some basic gospel doctrines. Alma helped Corianton understand what happens to us after death.

Discuss Alma 40:1–23. Invite class members to read selected verses aloud.

  • How did Alma decide which subjects he should talk to Corianton about? (See Alma 40:1; see also Alma 41:1; 42:1.) How do you think Alma was able to “perceive” Corianton’s concerns? How can we better perceive the needs of those we teach?

  • What happens to our spirits between death and resurrection? (See Alma 40:11–13. They go to either paradise or spirit prison. Explain that “outer darkness” in verse 13 refers to the place we usually call spirit prison.) How did Alma describe paradise and spirit prison? (Have class members read Alma 40:11–15, 21 to find answers to this question. You may want to summarize class members’ responses on the chalkboard in a chart like the one on the next page.)

    Paradise

    Spirit Prison

    State of happiness

    State of misery

    State of rest and peace

    State of darkness, with weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth

    No troubles or sorrow

    Awful, fearful waiting for the wrath of God

Explain that in 1918 President Joseph F. Smith received a revelation that helps us understand more about the state of our spirits between death and resurrection (D&C 138). In this revelation, President Smith saw the Savior’s ministry in paradise and the teaching of the gospel to those in spirit prison. President Smith learned that the spirits in spirit prison will be taught the gospel and that they will have the opportunity to repent before the final judgment (D&C 138:29–34, 57–59).

  • Alma said that at an appointed time, we will be resurrected (Alma 40:21). What does it mean to be resurrected? (See Alma 40:21, 23. The spirit and body are reunited, and the body is restored to its “perfect frame.”) Who will be resurrected? (See Alma 40:5; see also Alma 11:42–44.)

  • Alma mentioned several things that he did not know about death and resurrection (Alma 40:2–5, 8, 19–21). What can we learn from the fact that Alma testified of the doctrine of resurrection even though he did not know all the details about it? (Help class members see that it is not necessary to understand every detail of a doctrine or event before receiving a testimony of its truthfulness.)

2. Alma teaches that after we are resurrected, the righteous will be restored to happiness and the wicked will be restored to misery.

Read and discuss selected verses from Alma 40:24–26; 41.

  • Alma referred to resurrection as a restoration because the spirit and body are reunited and the body is restored to its “perfect frame” (Alma 40:23; 41:2). What further restoration will take place when we are resurrected and “judged according to [our] works”? (See Alma 41:3–6. The righteous will be restored to happiness, and the wicked will be restored to misery.) What does it mean to be restored unto good or evil?

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated, “The resurrection is a restoration, both a restoration of body and spirit and a restoration to the individual of the same mental and spiritual acquirements and attitudes he had in this life” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 641).

  • In what sense are we “[our] own judges”? (See Alma 41:7–8. We choose whether to do good or evil and thus choose what we will be restored to after death.)

  • Alma explained that Corianton could not be restored from sin to happiness because “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). Why can’t wickedness bring happiness? (See Alma 41:10–13; Helaman 13:38.) How would you respond to the argument that some people seem to find happiness in activities that are against the commandments?

    President Ezra Taft Benson said: “While [people] may take some temporary pleasure in sin, the end result is unhappiness. … Sin creates disharmony with God and is depressing to the spirit” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 91; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 65–66).

  • What did Alma say that Corianton needed to do to have good restored to him? (See Alma 41:14–15.) What experiences have shown you the truth of the statement that “that which ye do send out shall return unto you again”?

3. Alma teaches Corianton about justice and mercy.

Read and discuss selected verses from Alma 42. Explain that Corianton was troubled by his father’s teachings. He did not understand why “the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery” (Alma 42:1). In response to this concern, Alma taught about the justice of God. He also taught that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world “to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice” (Alma 42:15).

To help class members understand Alma’s teachings about justice, have them read Alma 42:6–7, 10, 18 aloud. As they read, help them understand the truths listed below:

  1. a.

    Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we are in a fallen state. We are mortal—subject to death—and imperfect. In this fallen state, we cannot dwell in the presence of God, who is immortal and perfect. Justice demands that we be cut off from God’s presence temporally and spiritually.

  2. b.

    When we sin, we separate ourselves further from God because “no unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21). Justice demands that we be punished for our sins.

  • What would happen to us if we were subjected only to justice? (See Alma 42:14.) What is required to satisfy the demands of justice so we can return to dwell in Heavenly Father’s presence? (See Alma 42:15.)

If you are using the video presentation “The Mediator,” show it now. If you are reading or telling the parable yourself, do so now. Point out that the debtor represents each of us, the creditor represents justice, and the debtor’s friend represents the Savior.

  • How did the Atonement of Jesus Christ “appease the demands of justice”? (See Mosiah 15:7–9. He subjected Himself to death and took upon Himself the sins of all mankind.)

  • Alma testified that “mercy cometh because of the atonement” (Alma 42:23). What must we do to be able to receive the fulness of God’s mercy? (See Alma 42:13, 23, 27, 29–30; see also Alma 41:14; D&C 19:15–18.)

Conclusion

Point out that after receiving this counsel from his father, Corianton repented and returned to missionary service (Alma 43:1; 49:30). Emphasize that as we follow God’s commandments and repent of our sins, we are able to partake of the mercy that is available through the Savior’s Atonement.

As directed by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.