President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles instructed seminary teachers to present a brief overview of the plan of salvation at the beginning of each school year:
“A brief overview of the ‘plan of happiness’ … if given at the very beginning and revisited occasionally, will be of immense value to your students. …
“Young people wonder ‘why?’—Why are we commanded to do some things, and why are we commanded not to do other things? A knowledge of the plan of happiness, even in outline form, can give young minds a ‘why.’ …
“… Provide a basic feeling for the whole plan, even with just a few details. … Let them know what it’s all about, then they will have the ‘why.’ …
“… If you are trying to give them a ‘why,’ follow [this] pattern: ‘God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption.’ [Alma 12:32; italics added.]” (“The Great Plan of Happiness” [CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants/Church History, Aug. 10, 1993], 2–3, si.lds.org).
In response to President Packer’s counsel, this lesson provides a brief overview of the plan of salvation as it is taught in the scriptures. The lesson focuses on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is “the central fact, the crucial foundation, and the chief doctrine of the great and eternal plan of salvation” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 8). As students come to understand the plan of salvation, their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will increase. They will grow in their resolve to keep the commandments, receive the ordinances of salvation, and be true to their covenants.
Suggestions for Teaching
The plan of salvation in the Book of Mormon
Explain that in the premortal spirit world, we learned about our Heavenly Father’s plan for our salvation (see Moses 4:1–2; Abraham 3:22–28). Through this plan, we would be able to become like Him and dwell in His presence forever.
On the board, write The plan of salvation includes …
Ask students to complete this thought in their scripture study journals or class notebooks.
After students have had time to write, share the following definition of the plan of salvation. You may want to write it on the board or a poster before class begins.
The plan of salvation is “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, designed to bring about man’s immortality and eternal life. It includes the Creation, Fall, and Atonement, along with all God-given laws, ordinances, and doctrines. This plan makes it possible for all people to be exalted and live forever with God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Plan of Redemption,” scriptures.lds.org).
Ask students to raise their hands if the words they wrote match this definition in any way. Then direct the following questions to some of the students who raised their hands:
What did your definition have in common with this one? Why did you include this point in your definition?
Assign students to work in pairs. Ask one student in each pair to read Alma 22:12–14 and the other student to read 2 Nephi 2:25–28. (You may want to write these references on the board.) Ask students to look for parts of the plan of salvation mentioned in their assigned passages. After students have had time to read, ask the partners to take turns sharing what they have found.
Explain that in the Book of Mormon, prophets use various titles to refer to Heavenly Father’s plan. Invite students to turn to 2 Nephi 9:6, and ask a student to read the verse aloud.
In this verse, what phrase refers to God’s plan? (“The merciful plan of the great Creator.” Write this on the board next to 2 Nephi 9:6.)
Ask students to silently read the other scripture passages listed on the board, looking for phrases that refer to Heavenly Father’s plan. When a student finds a phrase that refers to Heavenly Father’s plan, invite him or her to write it on the board next to the scripture reference where it is found. The completed list on the board should look something like this:
(To help students increase in their appreciation for the teachings in the Book of Mormon, you may want to point out that phrases such as “plan of salvation,” “plan of happiness,” and “plan of redemption” are mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon but not in the Bible.)
What do these titles emphasize about Heavenly Father’s plan? (Ensure that students understand that Heavenly Father’s plan is designed to bring His children eternal salvation and happiness.)
Testify that we cannot return to the presence of God and receive eternal salvation without divine help. Invite students to read Mosiah 3:17 individually, looking for the central figure in the plan of salvation. After they report what they found, have a student read 2 Nephi 2:8 aloud. Emphasize that Jesus Christ is the central figure in the plan of salvation, and His Atonement is what makes the plan work for all God’s children. Ask a student to read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 49).
You may want to explain that the word appendage refers to an object or concept connected to something of greater importance, such as a branch that is part of a tree. A tree can live without a branch, but a branch cannot live if it is separated from the roots and trunk of a tree. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is “the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them” (“The Mediator,” Ensign, May 1977, 56).
Explain that Heavenly Father’s plan is often called the plan of salvation because it involves saving us. As the one who made our salvation possible through the Atonement, Jesus Christ is called the Savior.
On the board, write We need to be saved from …
Ask a student to read 2 Nephi 9:6–10 aloud, and then ask another student to read 3 Nephi 9:21–22 aloud. Invite the rest of the students to follow along, looking for ways to complete the statement on the board. You might suggest that they mark their findings in their scriptures.
Ask students to share what they have found, and write their responses on the board. Ensure that they understand that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people will be saved from physical death. Also make it clear that through the Atonement, we can be saved from our sins, which would otherwise make it impossible for us to dwell in the presence of God.
How do Jacob’s words in 2 Nephi 9:6–10 help you understand why he would make these exclamations?
According to 2 Nephi 9:7, 9, what would happen if there were no Atonement? (Our bodies would die and never rise again, and our spirits would become subject to the devil.)
Refer to the final sentence in the definition of the plan of salvation that you shared earlier in the lesson: “This plan makes it possible for all people to be exalted and live forever with God.”
Why is it important to understand that the plan makes our exaltation possible but not certain? (As students respond to this question, ensure that they understand that we have agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves. Our exaltation depends in part on how we respond to the blessings God has offered us.)
Write the following scripture references on the board: 2 Nephi 2:25–28; 2 Nephi 31:17–20; Alma 34:15–16. Ask students to study these passages silently and list in their scripture study journals the things these scriptures say we must do to receive all God offers us through His plan of salvation.
When students have had enough time to complete this assignment, invite them to share their answers with each other. As they do so, point out examples of obedience to the “God-given laws, ordinances, and doctrines” mentioned in the definition you shared earlier. (Examples from these verses include exercising faith unto repentance, being baptized, and receiving the Holy Ghost.) After the students report, consider asking the following questions:
How do our actions influence our ability to receive the blessings of the Atonement? (As students answer, look for opportunities to testify that as we choose to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and follow God’s plan, we prepare to receive eternal life through the Savior’s Atonement.)
How can understanding the plan of salvation help us keep the commandments?
Ask a student to read 2 Nephi 2:25 aloud.
In what ways has following the plan of salvation brought joy to you?
To conclude the lesson, explain that as students study the Book of Mormon, they will learn many more doctrines related to the plan of salvation; this lesson has presented only a brief overview. Encourage students as they study to watch for all that God has done for them as part of His plan of salvation and to watch for all they need to do to receive the full blessings God has planned for them. Bear your testimony of the truths that have been discussed in this lesson.