Lesson 1: The Plan of Salvation

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

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’” (“The Great Plan of Happiness” [address to CES religious educators, Aug. 10, 1993], LDS.org).

This lesson provides a brief overview of the plan of salvation. It 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).

Suggestions for Teaching

Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness

Invite a student to read Moses 1:39 aloud. (Or the student could recite it if he or she has it memorized.) Ask students to follow along, looking for what Heavenly Father stated is the purpose of His work. Write the following statement on the board: The purpose of Heavenly Father’s plan is to provide a way for us to receive immortality and eternal life.

  • What is the difference between immortality and eternal life? (Immortality is living forever in a resurrected state; through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everyone will receive this gift. Eternal life, or exaltation, is living in God’s presence forever with our families; this gift is also available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but only to those who obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel.)

To help students understand the term “eternal life,” invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

God’s life is eternal life; eternal life is God’s life —the expressions are synonymous” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 237).

  • What are some of the blessings given to those who receive eternal life?

Draw the accompanying diagram on the board. Invite students to copy the diagram or take notes in their class notebooks or scripture study journals as they learn about the plan of salvation in this lesson.

plan of salvation diagram 1

Explain that in our pre-earth life, we lived as spirits in the presence of our Heavenly Father. There we learned about Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness and how following that plan would help us fulfill His purposes for us (see D&C 138:55–56; Abraham 3:22–28).

  • How were we different from our Heavenly Father in the pre-earth life? (He had a perfected body and character. We did not.)

  • In the pre-earth life, what did Heavenly Father present to us to help us receive immortality and eternal life? (The plan of salvation.)

Explain that we use the word mortality to refer to our life on earth. As shown in the accompanying diagram, add to the board an oval that represents earth life, and label it with the word Mortality. Draw an arrow from Pre-earth life to Mortality.

plan of salvation diagram 2
    Give students time to ponder the following question:
  • Why did we need to leave God’s presence in order to become more like Him? (Students’ answers may include the following: to gain a body; to learn and grow by using our agency.)

After a few students have responded, invite a student to read aloud the following explanation by President Spencer W. Kimball:

“God has given us a plan. He has sent us all to earth to obtain bodies and to gain experience and growth” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 25).

  • According to President Kimball, what are some reasons God has sent us to the earth? (As students respond, they should identify the following truth: God has sent us to the earth to obtain bodies and to gain experience and growth.)

  • What role do the challenges of temptation, sickness, sorrow, pain, discouragement, disability, and other mortal difficulties play in our efforts to receive eternal life?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:19–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify obstacles that can prevent us from receiving eternal life.

  • What are some obstacles we face in mortality that can prevent us from receiving eternal life? (As students respond, help them identify the following truth: Sin prevents us from becoming like Heavenly Father and returning to live with Him. See also Moses 6:57, which teaches that through repentance, we can return to live with God.)

On the board, write Sin on the diagram near the word Mortality. Invite one student to read 1 Nephi 10:21, another to read Moses 6:57, and another to read Alma 41:10–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for reasons why sin prevents us from becoming like Heavenly Father and receiving eternal life.

  • According to these verses, why does sin prevent us from becoming like Heavenly Father and receiving eternal life? (Students may give a variety of answers. Help them identify the following truth: No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.)

Invite two students to come to the front of the classroom. Ask one to hold a picture of Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 56; see also LDS.org) and the other to hold a picture of The Crucifixion (no. 57). Invite a third student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:40–42 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what Heavenly Father provided so we can overcome sin.

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 76:40–42, what makes it possible for us to overcome sin? (Students may respond with different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Jesus Christ suffered and was crucified for the sins of all people.)

Invite the students holding the pictures to explain what the events depicted in their pictures have to do with our ability to overcome the effects of sin. Display the pictures on the board as shown in the accompanying diagram.

plan of salvation diagram 3 with pictures

Write the following scripture references on the board: D&C 18:22–23; D&C 25:13, 15. Assign students to work in pairs. Ask one partner to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:22–23, and ask the other partner to read Doctrine and Covenants 25:13, 15. Ask them both to look for what we must do to access the cleansing power of the Atonement and receive eternal life. Invite them to share with their partners what they have found.

  • What must we do to come unto Jesus Christ and receive the blessings of His atoning sacrifice? (Answers may include demonstrating faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the Holy Ghost, enduring in faith, keeping covenants, and obeying the commandments. As shown in the next diagram, draw an arrow from left to right across the bottom oval. Write students’ answers along the arrow.)

Summarize students’ answers by testifying that if we are obedient to the principles and ordinances of the gospel, we can overcome sin through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Explain that when we make and keep the baptismal covenant, we are mercifully forgiven of our sins if we repent. In addition, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have daily access to help along the path toward eternal life.

  • How has God helped you through the Holy Ghost in your daily efforts to live the gospel?

Explain that in addition to sin, there is a second obstacle that must be overcome in order for us to receive eternal life. Ask students if they can identify this obstacle.

After students have responded, write Physical Death on the diagram next to the word Sin. Invite a student to explain what happens to our spirits and bodies after we die. Invite one student to read Doctrine and Covenants 93:33–34 aloud and another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for an answer to the following question:

  • How would permanent separation of our spirits and bodies be an obstacle to becoming like God? (Students should identify the following doctrine: We cannot be like Heavenly Father without a body of flesh and bones.)

Show the class the picture Mary and the Resurrected Jesus Christ (Gospel Art Book, no. 59; see also LDS.org), and ask a student to explain what is happening in the picture. Then invite a student to read Alma 11:42–44 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what Jesus Christ did so we can overcome the obstacle of physical death.

  • According to these verses, what has Jesus Christ done to ensure that we can overcome physical death? (Help students identify the following doctrine: Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected and will live forever.)

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 138:14–17.

  • How can the “hope of a glorious resurrection” bring joy to you and your family?

Remind students that immortality is a gift that all people will receive. Eternal life, however, is the Lord’s gift only to those who obey the laws and ordinances of His gospel. Place the picture Mary and the Resurrected Jesus Christ on the board next to the other pictures. Write The Atonement of Jesus Christ above the three pictures.

Draw another circle in the top oval and label it Eternal Life. Draw a vertical arrow from the end of the arrow at the bottom of the diagram to the words Eternal Life.

plan of salvation diagram final

Ask students to summarize what they have learned about Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness. Invite them to look for an opportunity to teach the plan of happiness to a family member or friend.

To conclude the lesson, explain to students that in their study of the Doctrine and Covenants, they will learn many more truths related to the plan of happiness. This lesson has presented only a brief overview. Share your testimony of the truths that the class has discussed in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

The Atonement is at the center of the plan of salvation

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified:

“The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been called the ‘most transcendent of all events from creation’s dawn to the endless ages of eternity.’ [Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ (1981), 218.] …

“That sacrifice—the Atonement of Jesus Christ—is at the center of the plan of salvation” (“Sacrifice,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 19).

The lessons of mortality

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that challenges during mortality can refine us:

“Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 27).

The Book of Mormon teaches that one of the purposes of mortality is to experience joy: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

Heavenly Father awaits our return

President Thomas S. Monson testified of God’s desire for each of His children to return to His presence:

“It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings are earned through a lifetime of striving, seeking, repenting, and finally succeeding. …

“Our Heavenly Father rejoices for those who keep His commandments. He is concerned also for the lost child, the tardy teenager, the wayward youth, the delinquent parent. Tenderly the Master speaks to these and indeed to all: ‘Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.’

“… As His special witness, I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return” (“The Race of Life,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 93).

“Become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).

What is the difference between immortality and eternal life?

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught:

“Eternal life … is something altogether different [from immortality]. Immortality is about quantity. Eternal life is about quality.

“Eternal life is the culmination of existence. As spiritual children of God, you and I are heirs to this priceless fortune, benefactors to a glorious future, recipients of grace.

“If immortality is God’s work, then eternal life is God’s glory” (“What Is the Difference between Immortality and Eternal Life?” New Era, Nov. 2006, 8).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Help students get to know each other

The following activity will help students get to know each other and begin thinking about the plan of salvation. Give each student a copy of the following chart. Give them five minutes to mingle and find classmates about whom the statements in the chart are true. If students can say that a certain statement is true about themselves, they should sign that box on their classmates’ charts. For example, a student might ask a classmate if he or she has read the entire Doctrine and Covenants. If the classmate says yes, his or her name can be written in the corresponding box in the chart.

I can explain the purpose of life.

I know the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.

I served someone else today.

I have read the entire Doctrine and Covenants.

I know why Heavenly Father gives us commandments.

I know the name of every student in this class.

I know of a scripture that teaches about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I can explain what happens after we die.

I think I have the largest family of anyone in the class.

I can testify that the Savior loves me.

I can explain what prevents us from returning to dwell with God.

I have had an experience when my obedience to a commandment has made me happier.

I can testify that the Savior lives.

I can explain what Jesus Christ did to save us.

I think I’m the youngest in the class.

I know why we needed to come to earth.

After sufficient time, ask students how many squares have been signed on their papers. To review their answers, and to help students get better acquainted, consider asking which students signed the “youngest in the class” square, or invite someone to demonstrate that they “know the name of every student” in the class.

Ask a few students to read aloud the names they have written in the square that reads, “I can explain the purpose of life.” Invite one or two of the students they name to explain their understanding of the purpose of life. If students have trouble responding, you might suggest that students read Moses 1:39 and look for what God stated is the purpose of His work. (During this activity, do not pressure students to respond if they do not feel comfortable doing so.)