President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) 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” (“The Great Plan of Happiness” [address given at the Church Educational System Symposium, Aug. 10, 1993]).
This lesson provides a brief overview of the plan of salvation, emphasizing elements of the plan that are taught in the Book of Mormon. The lesson focuses on the happiness and joy we can receive because of Heavenly Father’s plan.
Begin the lesson by asking the following question:
How would you describe the difference between pleasure and happiness?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how Elder Talmage described the difference between pleasure and happiness:
“The present is an age of pleasure-seeking, and men are losing their sanity in the mad rush for sensations that do but excite and disappoint. …
“Happiness includes all that is really desirable and of true worth in pleasure, and much beside. …
“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering” (James E. Talmage, Improvement Era, Dec. 1913, 172–73).
How did Elder Talmage describe the difference between pleasure and happiness?
Ask students to think about how happy they are. Invite students to ponder the following questions:
What in your life has brought you true happiness? Would you like to be happier?
Invite students as they participate in this lesson to look for what Heavenly Father has provided to enable them to be truly happy.
Draw or display each part of the accompanying diagram as you talk about each part of the Lord’s plan of salvation in the lesson:
Explain that in the premortal spirit world, we learned about our Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness (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.
Explain that under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the earth. God placed Adam and Eve on the earth in the Garden of Eden, where they lived in His presence. God allowed them to make the choice to leave His presence and experience mortality. Adam and Eve chose to do so, and this event is called the Fall. The Fall of Adam and Eve made it possible for them to bring children into the world. Without the Fall, Heavenly Father’s children—including us—would not have been able to come to earth and receive a physical body (see 2 Nephi 2:22–23).
What were some of Heavenly Father’s purposes in allowing us to come to earth and receive a physical body? (Receiving a physical body allows us to become more like Heavenly Father, who has a physical body of flesh and bones [see D&C 130:22]. In addition, having a physical body allows us to be tested, provides opportunities for us to develop divine attributes, and makes it possible for us to form an eternal family.)
Point out that the prophet Lehi taught about one purpose of our life on earth. Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 2:25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the purpose Lehi spoke of.
What did Lehi teach about one of the purposes of our existence? (Students may use different words, but help them identify the following doctrine: The Fall of Adam and Eve enabled us to come to earth and have joy.)
Explain that a righteous prophet and king named Benjamin taught his people about obtaining joy and happiness. Invite a student to read Mosiah 2:41 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what we can do to obtain happiness.
What principle can we learn from Mosiah 2:41 about what will bring us happiness in this life and in the next? (Help students identify a principle similar to the following: If we keep the Lord’s commandments, we can be happy in this life and eventually dwell with Heavenly Father in a state of never-ending happiness. Write this principle on the board.)
Why do you think obedience to God’s commandments brings happiness?
Consider inviting students to choose a topic in the booklet For the Strength of Youth (2011) and asking them to look for how following a particular commandment or standard can help us be happy in this life and in the next. Invite several students to report what they find to the class. As they report, you might consider asking:
How has following that commandment or standard helped you be happy?
Invite students to ponder the commandments and standards they may need to more completely follow in order to receive the happiness Heavenly Father offers us. Encourage students to choose one and to set a goal to follow it.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws. …
“… Despite all we can do, we cannot have a fulness of joy in this world or through our own efforts. (See D&C 101:36.) Only in Christ can our joy be full” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Joy and Mercy,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 73–74).
According to this statement by Elder Oaks, what can’t we receive in this world or through our own efforts alone?
What do you think it means to experience a “fulness of joy”?
Help students understand that in this life we will experience sorrow and pain, but that we may also experience a great measure of joy in this life as we live in harmony with God and His laws. We can obtain a fulness of joy only as we become like our Heavenly Father—which is a process that continues throughout this life and into the next. Book of Mormon prophets taught why we cannot obtain a fulness of joy without Jesus Christ and His Atoning sacrifice for us.
Divide students into groups of four. Assign the students in each group to read one of the following scripture passages, looking for the condition we would be in without Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Ask one student from each group to report to the class what their group found. (You may want to write the references on the board.)
According to Alma 41:10–11, what consequence will we experience if we choose to sin? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we choose to sin, then we will be unhappy. Explain that not all unhappiness that we experience in mortality is the result of sin; however, sin always eventually leads to unhappiness.)
What would happen if there were no salvation from sin and physical death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, there would be no Resurrection and we would be shut out from God’s presence and be miserable forever.)
Point out that we refer to the condition of being shut out or separated from God’s presence as spiritual death. Physical death is the separation of our spirit from our body. Both of these conditions prevent us from being like our Heavenly Father and experiencing a fulness of joy.
Explain that when our mortal bodies die, our spirits enter the spirit world and await the Resurrection. The spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of peace called paradise (see Alma 40:11–12). The spirits of those who did not receive the gospel during mortality or who rebelled against it enter spirit prison, where they have the opportunity to learn and accept the gospel (see D&C 138:30–35).
While students are still in their groups, invite each group to read one of the following scripture passages, looking for doctrines and principles that help us understand what Jesus Christ has done to help us overcome physical and spiritual death and experience a fulness of joy. Ask one student from each group to report to the class what his or her group found. (You may want to write the references on the board.)
What doctrines or principles can we learn from these scripture passages concerning what Jesus Christ has done to help us overcome physical and spiritual death and experience a fulness of joy?
As students report, you may want to write the following doctrines and principles on the board:
Point out that the good works referred to in Mosiah 16:10–11 include repentance. In Alma 12:34, God’s rest refers to “the enjoyment of peace and freedom from worry and turmoil. The Lord has promised such rest to His faithful followers during this life. He has also prepared a place of rest for them in the next life” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Rest,” scriptures.lds.org).
Ask students to consider the doctrines and principles on the board and choose one that is particularly meaningful to them. Invite students to share with the class or with a partner why they are grateful for the doctrine or principle they chose.
Place a picture of Jesus Christ on the board in the center of the diagram of the plan of salvation.
How would you summarize Jesus Christ’s role in Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness? (Help students identify the following truth: Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice are central to Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness.)
How does each part of Heavenly Father’s plan depend upon or relate to Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice?
Review with students Elder Oaks’s statement “Despite all we can do, we cannot have a fulness of joy in this world or through our own efforts. (See D&C 101:36.) Only in Christ can our joy be full” (“Joy and Mercy,” 74). You may want to share your testimony of Jesus Christ and His role in fulfilling Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness.
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 the Book of Mormon to watch for additional truths about the Savior’s central role in the plan of salvation and how this plan can bring us a fulness of joy.