Plan of Salvation Overview

Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), 7–10


In 1993 Elder Boyd K. Packer, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, told teachers in the Church Educational System that they should give an overview of the plan of salvation at the beginning of every school year. The following teaching suggestions refer frequently to Elder Packer’s talk “The Great Plan of Happiness,” parts of which are included with other helps in the appendix. Please refer to it as you prepare to teach the plan of salvation to your students (see “The Great Plan of Happiness,” pp. 290–93).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Note: Prayerfully study these introductory materials and consider the principles in this section before preparing your lessons.

  • Heavenly Father is a glorified, perfected, celestial Father who possesses a fulness of joy (see Mosiah 4:9; 3 Nephi 28:10).

  • We lived with Heavenly Father before we came to earth. We are His spirit children and He wants us to have the same joy that He has by becoming like Him (see Jeremiah 1:5; Hebrews 12:9).

  • In order to become like God, we must have a resurrected, glorified physical body and we must grow to acquire the qualities of godhood (see Alma 11:43–44; Job 19:26; 3 Nephi 27:27; D&C 130:22).

  • Our mortal life on earth is designed to help us gain godly attributes. It provides us with the opportunity to gain a physical body and learn the lessons of godhood by having the freedom to choose to follow the counsel of God or the enticements of Satan (see Genesis 2:16–17; 2 Nephi 2:25–27; Alma 34:32–34).

  • The Creation of the earth and the Fall of Adam brought about the necessary conditions of mortality, including spiritual and physical death and a world where there is toil, pain, and sorrow (see Genesis 2:17; 3:6–7; 2 Nephi 2:15–25).

  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ provides for the Resurrection so that everyone will receive an immortal physical body (see Job 19:25–27; Ezekiel 37:12–14; Alma 11:42–45; 42:23).

  • The Atonement can also cleanse us from personal sins through our repentance and enable us to obtain eternal life and become like God (see Isaiah 1:18; 2 Nephi 10:24–25; Mosiah 3:19; Moroni 10:32–33).

  • In every dispensation, Jesus Christ has sent prophets to teach His gospel to God’s children on earth. The Church of Jesus Christ has been established in these latter days to invite all to come unto Christ and partake of His plan of happiness (see Amos 3:7; Alma 12:32–34; D&C 1:1–14).

Additional Resources

  • “The Great Plan of Happiness,” pp. 290–93.

Suggestions for Teaching

Note: Choose from the ideas in this section, or use some of your own, as you prepare to teach the assigned topic. The four teaching suggestions for the plan of salvation overview will be the same for each of the four scripture courses. It is recommended that you teach a different one to your students each year.

weekly icon Plan of Salvation Overview: Suggestion 1. (90–120 minutes)

Help the students visualize the plan of salvation (the plan of happiness) by stretching a string from one wall of your classroom to the other. Hang a paper clip over the string so that it can easily slide along the string. Prepare two identical figures, one of clear plastic and another of white paper, that can be attached to the paper clip.

Tell students that the string represents the line of our lives and that one end of the string represents our past and the other our future. The clear plastic figure represents our spirit body, and the white paper figure represents our physical body. Move the paper clip along the string and add the figures to it as you discuss our progression from premortal past to postmortal future. When you discuss death, separate the clear plastic figure from the white paper one. Ask questions such as those listed in the following sections as you teach the plan of happiness, and use the information in the appendix as needed. It is usually preferable to let the students discover as many of the answers as they can by letting them search the suggested scripture references.

Premortal life

  • Where does the life line begin and end? (see D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:18; “Spiritual Creation,” p. 291). Explain that the line of our lives actually extends beyond the walls of the room and continues forever in both directions. Our lives did not have a beginning, and they will have no end.

  • What do you know about your Father in Heaven and your life with Him before you were born on earth? (see “Premortal Existence,” p. 290).

  • What does it mean to be a spirit child of God? (see “Premortal Existence,” p. 290; “Spiritual Creation,” p. 291).

  • Since we lived with Heavenly Father in the premortal world and we were immortal, why didn’t we stay there? (see “Agency,” “The Grand Council and the War in Heaven,” p. 291).

  • What do we know about the differences between Heavenly Father’s plan and Lucifer’s alternative? (see Moses 4:1–4; “The Grand Council and the War in Heaven,” p. 291).

  • Why do you think the Lord prizes the freedom to choose (agency) so much that He would even allow Lucifer and his followers to rebel and start a war in heaven? (see “Agency,” p. 291).

Mortal life

  • Since Satan will eventually be cast into outer darkness, why did God allow him and his followers to come to earth and tempt us? (see D&C 29:39).

  • Why was it necessary for us to come to a physical earth and get a physical body? (see D&C 93:33–34; Moses 1:39; “The Grand Council and the War in Heaven,” “Physical Creation,” p. 291).

  • What were the consequences of the transgression of Adam and Eve? Why was the Fall of Adam and Eve necessary? (see 2 Nephi 2:19–25; “The Fall and Mortality,” p. 292).

  • Why was a Redeemer chosen even in premortality? What would result if there were no Redeemer? (see 2 Nephi 9:7–10; “The Grand Council and the War in Heaven,” p. 291; “The Atonement,” p. 292).

  • Why did Jehovah (Jesus Christ) need to come to earth and take upon Himself a mortal body? (see “The Atonement,” p. 292).

  • Since we face so much temptation in the world today, what can we do in cooperation with the Lord to change our natures and resist evil? (see 1 Nephi 2:16; Mosiah 3:19; 4:1–3; 5:1–2; Ether 12:27).

Postmortal life

  • What is the difference between physical death and spiritual death? How are we rescued from each one? What is our part in overcoming spiritual death? (see 2 Nephi 9:6–23; Alma 40:11–14; D&C 29:40–44; “The Mission of the Church and the Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel,” “The Atonement,” p. 292; “The Spirit World,” p. 293).

  • Where do we go upon death? What important works that we know of are going on in the spirit world? (see Alma 40:11–14; D&C 138:11–37; “The Spirit World,” p. 293).

  • Who is the Great Judge? When will we be judged? Is there more than one judgment? (see “Judgment,” p. 293).

  • For what will we be judged? By what standard will we be judged? (see Mosiah 2:36–41; Alma 41:3–7; D&C 82:3; “Judgment,” p. 293).

  • What possibilities are available to those who don’t hear about the gospel in this life? (see D&C 138:1–37; “Judgment,” p. 293).

  • What will we be like when we are resurrected? (see Alma 11:42–45; “Judgment,” “Resurrection,” p. 293).

  • What is our ultimate destiny and what can we become if we follow the “great plan of happiness”? (see D&C 76:50–70).

  • Why couldn’t our Father in Heaven bestow godhood upon us without our having to go through this mortal experience? (see Alma 34:32–34).

Consider leaving the string up for a time and referring to it as needed to help students see how the truths they are learning fit into the plan.

Ask students how a knowledge of the plan helps them understand why the Lord commands certain things and forbids others. Choose a commandment that some young people in your area seem to struggle with (perhaps honesty, chastity, or Sabbath observance) and ask students why keeping that commandment makes sense when you understand the plan of happiness.

Share your testimony of the beauty of the plan and the importance of remembering why we are here and what the Lord has done to help us return to Him.

weekly icon Plan of Salvation Overview: Suggestion 2. (90–100 minutes)

A diagram such as the one below can be used to teach the plan of salvation. This method is good for teaching the plan visually but does not teach the chronology as well as suggestion 1.

Ask questions such as those listed in suggestion 1 as you draw the diagram on the board (or you could use a handout) and discuss the elements of the plan of salvation. Draw arrows to indicate our progression through the stages of our existence, according to the plan. Where possible, let the students discover the answers to the questions by searching the suggested scripture references. Consider displaying the chart in the classroom so you can refer to it throughout the year.

weekly icon Plan of Salvation Overview: Suggestion 3. (60–70 minutes)

A simple yet effective way to review the plan of salvation that emphasizes the importance of mortality is to use an illustration of a bridge. Draw the accompanying diagram on the board or on a poster. Leave the labels off at first and write them in as your students discover the elements of the plan as you study the scriptures together.

Show students the bridge and ask: What purpose does a bridge serve that a road alone cannot? (It helps you cross a canyon or gap.) Read Abraham 3:22 with your students and help them understand where we were before we came to earth. Then read Moses 1:39 to help them understand what Heavenly Father is seeking to bring to pass, or where He wants to take us. (Immortality means to live forever as resurrected beings; eternal life means to be with God and be like Him; see “Premortal Existence,” p. 290; “Spiritual Creation,” “Agency,” p. 291.) Write All Mankind at the lower end of the bridge and Eternal Life, with its definition, at the other end.

Ask the following questions:

  • Why were we encouraged to leave the premortal world and come to this earth?

  • What “gap” or “canyon” (what differences) existed between Heavenly Father and us when we lived with Him as His spirit children?

Help students discover that although we lived with Heavenly Father and were His children, in many ways we were not yet like Him (see 3 Nephi 12:48; D&C 76:70; 88:41; 130:22; “Premortal Existence,” p. 290).

Tell students that the pillars supporting the bridge represent what Heavenly Father has brought about to help us become like Him, and the span on top of the pillars represents what we are to do. Have your students read Abraham 3:24–27 to find what Heavenly Father did for us; then discuss why that was necessary (see “Agency,” “The Grand Council and the War in Heaven,” “Physical Creation,” p. 291). Write The Creation on the first pillar.

Ask students:

  • What do you think the second pillar represents?

  • After the physical creation of the earth, what part did Adam and Eve play to prepare the way for us to become more like Heavenly Father? (see 2 Nephi 2:22–25; “The Fall and Mortality,” p. 292).

Write The Fall on the second pillar and discuss briefly how the Fall brought opposition, sin, and death into the world.

Ask students: What would happen to us physically and spiritually if everything remained in a fallen condition? Read 2 Nephi 9:6–10 and discuss what God did to help us overcome the effects of the Fall (see “The Atonement,” p. 292). Ask what the third pillar represents and label it The Atonement of Jesus Christ. Ask:

  • Why can Jesus Christ promise to redeem us from our sins?

  • On what conditions can we be forgiven of our sins and bring about the plan of redemption in our lives? (see Alma 42:9–15).

Have students read Helaman 14:15–17, and ask: What blessings of the Atonement are given to all mankind regardless of how they live? (The Resurrection and being brought back into God’s presence for judgment.) There are other blessings that are given only to those who earnestly seek them and live by His gospel. Have students read Articles of Faith 1:3–4 and list the first things God requires us to do to be forgiven of our own sins and to be perfected (see also “The Mission of the Church and the Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel,” p. 292).

Finish labeling the bridge as in the diagram and ask students how understanding the plan of salvation helps them understand why we are commanded to do some things and forbidden to do others. Choose commandments that some young people in your area might be struggling with, and discuss what the plan teaches us about why God has given us those commandments.

Read to your students Elder Boyd K. Packer’s statement in “Judgment” (p. 293) and share your testimony of the “great plan of happiness” that Heavenly Father has prepared for His children.

weekly icon Plan of Salvation Overview: Suggestion 4. (40–45 minutes)

Prepare the accompanying diagram as a handout for each student or as an overhead transparency. Review with students that we once lived in the presence of God (see “Premortal Existence,” p. 290) and the circumstances that brought us to our fallen condition (see “The Fall and Mortality,” p. 292).

Ask students:

  • Where does the strait and narrow path lead?

  • What has our Heavenly Father given us to help us stay faithfully on the path?

Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Orson F. Whitney, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, to help them understand the seriousness of our fallen condition and the only way we can be freed from it:

“When Adam fell, it was as if the human race had fallen into a pit, from which they were powerless, by any act of their own, to emerge; having no means whereby to climb up and out, and not even knowing how to climb. But a Friend, all-wise and all-powerful, comes to the mouth of the pit … and proposes to rescue them from their unhappy situation. He makes of his own life a ladder; lets it down into the pit and says: ‘Now climb!’ They who climb, get out of the pit. They who refuse to climb, remain in the pit—and who is to blame but themselves?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1927, 149).

Have students, individually or in groups, study the following questions to help them discover how the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the principles and ordinances of the gospel provide the way for us to overcome our fallen condition:

  • What is the path that leads us out of our fallen condition? What are the first steps we must take to get on that path? (see 2 Nephi 31:17–19; “The Mission of the Church and the Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel,” p. 292).

  • What are some of the ways the gift of the Holy Ghost helps us overcome our fallen condition and press forward on the path? (see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 3 Nephi 27:20; D&C 45:56–57).

  • Who provided and pointed out this path for us? What must we do to stay on it? (see 2 Nephi 31:19–21; “The Atonement,” p. 292).

  • In addition to the covenant of baptism, what other ordinances and covenants has Heavenly Father given us to help us rise above our fallen condition? (see D&C 84:33–40; 131:1–4).

  • What will we be like when we return to live with Heavenly Father if we have been faithful in making and keeping our sacred covenants? (see 1 John 3:1–4; Moroni 7:48).

  • How does a knowledge of the plan of salvation help us understand why we are commanded to pray? to be baptized? to be honest? to be morally clean?

  • How does a knowledge of the plan of salvation help us understand why we are commanded to be free from addictive substances? to pay tithing? to serve a mission? to attend the temple?

When students have completed the exercise, invite them to share what they learned with the class. Bear your testimony of all that the plan of salvation means to you. Encourage students to ponder the plan of salvation often and determine how an understanding of it can help them live the gospel in their daily lives. Conclude by reading the following statement by President Hugh B. Brown, who was a member of the First Presidency:

“The leaders of the Church have, from the beginning, taught faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we acknowledge him as our Savior and Redeemer. It is our duty to teach this to our children … and, because they are children of God, [to] teach them to be loyal to the royal spirit that is in them” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1966, 104).