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).
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:
“God’s life is eternal life; eternal life is God’s life —the expressions are synonymous” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 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.
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.
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 , 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 , 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.
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.
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.