Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles instructed religious educators 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 to CES religious educators, Aug. 10, 1993], si.lds.org; see also Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings [Church Educational System manual, 2004], 68–74).

This lesson provides a brief overview of the plan of salvation and focuses on the central role of Jesus Christ and His Atonement in that plan.

Suggestions for Teaching

Jesus Christ’s role in the premortal life

As part of the devotional, you may want to invite the class to sing verses 1 and 4 of “I Believe in Christ” (Hymns, no. 134) or another hymn about the Savior. Begin the lesson by asking:

  • How would you respond if someone asked you why Jesus Christ is important to you?

Explain to students that in today’s lesson they will learn about the role of Jesus Christ in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. Invite them to look for truths as they study today that can help them strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.

handout iconCopy the following chart on the board. You may also want to distribute it as a handout for students. (If you distribute handouts, ask students to complete their charts as you complete the chart on the board.)

Jesus Christ is central to Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation

Premortal Life

Mortal Life

Postmortal Life

   

© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Point out that Heavenly Father’s plan consists of three main stages: (1) our premortal life, which preceded our physical birth; (2) our mortal life on earth; and (3) our postmortal life, which will follow our physical death.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement, and ask the class to listen for the limitations we experienced in our premortal life:

“We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not, however, like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him and enjoy all the blessings that He enjoys without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body.

“God’s whole purpose—His work and His glory—is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan to accomplish His purpose. We understood and accepted this plan before we came to the earth. …

“In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth” (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service [2004], 48, 49).

  • What limitations did we experience in our premortal life?

Explain that as Heavenly Father presented His plan of happiness, we learned that a savior would be required to carry out this plan. Lucifer, one of Heavenly Father’s spirit children, rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan. He became known as Satan, a Hebrew term meaning “adversary.”

Invite a student to read Moses 4:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Satan demanded of Heavenly Father.

  • What did Satan demand of Heavenly Father?

  • According to verse 2, what did Heavenly Father say about Jesus Christ?

  • What was Jesus Christ chosen to do? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board under Premortal life: Jesus Christ was chosen in the premortal life to be the Redeemer of mankind.)

Explain that after Jesus Christ was chosen to carry out Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, He created this earth where we could each obtain a physical body and gain experience.

Ask a student to read Hebrews 1:1–2 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for Jesus Christ’s role in the creation of the earth.

  • What was Jesus Christ’s role in the creation of the earth? (Write the following doctrine on the board under Premortal life: Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the earth.)

Invite students to think about the earth’s beauty. You may want to display one or more pictures showing the beauty of the earth.

  • How does knowing that Jesus Christ created this earth, and millions of others like it, affect your feelings about Him?

Jesus Christ’s role in mortal life

Explain that in mortality we experience additional limitations or obstacles that prevent us from becoming like Heavenly Father and returning to His presence. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement, and ask the class to listen for two obstacles we experience during mortality:

“In mortality we live in a condition where we are subject to both physical and spiritual death. God has a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. To become like God and return to His presence, we too must have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones. However, because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, every person on earth has an imperfect, mortal body and will eventually die. If not for the Savior Jesus Christ, death would end all hope for a future existence with Heavenly Father.

“Along with physical death, sin is a major obstacle that keeps us from becoming like our Father in Heaven and returning to His presence. In our mortal condition we often yield to temptation, break God’s commandments, and sin. … Although it sometimes appears otherwise, sin always leads to unhappiness. Sin causes feelings of guilt and shame. Because of our sins, we are unable to return to live with Heavenly Father unless we are first forgiven and cleansed.

“… As with physical death, we cannot overcome the effects of sin by ourselves” (Preach My Gospel, 50).

Explain that before Jesus was born on the earth, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream when he learned that Mary was expecting a child. Ask a student to read Matthew 1:21 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the angel proclaimed to Joseph.

  • What did the angel say Jesus would do? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board under Mortal life: Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins.)

  • What did Jesus Christ do that allows us to be saved from our sins?

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane
The Crucifixion
Mary and the Resurrected Jesus

Why Weepest Thou? © 2015 by Simon Dewey. Used by permission of Altus Fine Art, altusfineart.com.

Display the pictures Jesus Praying in Gethsemane, The Crucifixion, and Mary and the Resurrected Jesus (Gospel Art Book [2009], nos. 56, 57, 59; see also LDS.org). Remind students that Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, and Resurrection are collectively referred to as the Atonement.

  • What must we do to be saved from our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (See Acts 2:38).

Jesus Christ’s role in the postmortal life

Ask students to think of someone who has passed away. After a few moments, ask:

  • According to your understanding of the plan of salvation, where are those who have passed away? (At death the spirits of all people enter the spirit world. To add to students’ understanding, you may want to invite a student to read Alma 40:11–14 aloud.)

Display the picture Burial of Jesus (Gospel Art Book, no. 58; see also LDS.org). Invite a student to read 1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6 aloud. Then ask:

  • What did Jesus Christ do immediately following His death?

The Burial of Christ

The Burial of Christ, by Carl Heinrich Bloch. Courtesy of the National History Museum at Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, Denmark. Do not copy.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 138:18–19, 30–32 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus Christ did to allow the gospel to be preached to everyone in the spirit world.

  • What did Jesus Christ do to allow the gospel to be preached to everyone in the spirit world?

  • How do these efforts illustrate the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for all people?

Refer to the picture Mary and the Resurrected Jesus (Gospel Art Book, no. 59; see also LDS.org), and ask the class:

  • What happened on the third day after the Savior’s death? (He was resurrected.)

  • What does it mean to be resurrected? (A person’s spirit and physical body are reunited, never to be separated again [see D&C 138:17].)

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 15:20–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Jesus Christ’s Resurrection affects each of us.

  • How are we affected by Jesus Christ’s Resurrection? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board under Postmortal life: Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected.)

Invite a student to read Revelation 20:12 aloud. Then ask:

  • What will happen to each of us after we are resurrected?

Explain that the book of life can represent a person’s thoughts and actions in this life as well as the record kept in heaven of the righteous (see Bible Dictionary, “Book of life”). Emphasize that we are judged not only according to our works but also according to our thoughts, words, and desires (see Mosiah 4:30; Alma 12:14; 41:3; D&C 137:9).

You may want to suggest that students write John 5:22 in the margin of their scriptures near Revelation 20:12. Ask students to read John 5:22 silently and look for who will judge us.

  • Who will judge us? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board under Postmortal life: Jesus Christ will judge all mankind.)

Remind students that the ultimate purpose of Heavenly Father’s plan is to provide us an opportunity to obtain eternal life, or exaltation, which means to become like Heavenly Father and live with Him forever in eternal families. You may want to display a picture of your family and explain why it is important for you to be able to live with Heavenly Father and your family forever.

Invite a student to read John 3:16–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what we must do to receive eternal (or everlasting) life.

  • What must we do to receive eternal life? (Explain that to believe in the Only Begotten Son means to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and live according to His gospel, which includes receiving temple ordinances.)

  • How would you summarize John 3:16 as a principle? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board under Postmortal life: If we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and live according to His gospel, then we can receive eternal life.)

Remind students of the question you asked at the beginning of class: “How would you respond if someone asked you why Jesus Christ is important to you?” Ask students to explain how they might further develop their answers to this question based on what they have learned today. You may also want to invite several students to share their testimonies of Jesus Christ and His role in Heavenly Father’s plan. You might conclude by sharing your own testimony as well.

Commentary and Background Information

Jesus Christ covenanted to be the Redeemer

While serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Tad R. Callister taught that Jesus Christ was chosen by Heavenly Father and entered into a covenant to carry out the Atonement in the Father’s plan of salvation:

“In the premortal council the Savior covenanted with the Father to perform the Atonement. John Taylor wrote, ‘A covenant was entered into between Him and His Father, in which He agreed to atone for the sins of the world’ [The Mediation and Atonement (1882), 97], and hence he became known as ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8; see also Moses 7:47)” (The Infinite Atonement [2000], 74).

In Abraham 3:27 we read that Jesus Christ indicated His willingness to fulfill the role of Redeemer when He said, “Here am I, send me.” Commenting on Jesus Christ’s statement, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“It was one of those special moments when a few words are preferred to many. Never has one individual offered, in so few words, to do so much for so many as did Jesus when He meekly proffered Himself as ransom for all of us” (Plain and Precious Things [1983], 53).

The Atonement of Jesus Christ helps us overcome sin and death

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Atonement of Jesus Christ allows us to overcome the effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve, as well as the effects of our own sins:

“As a result of Adam’s transgression, mortals were separated from God (see Romans 6:23) and would be forever unless a way was found to break the bands of death. This would not be easy, for it required the vicarious sacrifice of one who was sinless and who could therefore take upon Himself the sins of all mankind.

“Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. … Jesus suffered willingly so that we might all have the opportunity to be washed clean—through having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized by proper priesthood authority, receiving the purifying gift of the Holy Ghost by confirmation, and accepting all other essential ordinances” (“The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 84–85).

Jesus Christ is the central figure in the plan of salvation

President Gordon B. Hinckley testified of the significance of Jesus Christ as the central figure in the plan of salvation:

“[Jesus Christ’s] Atonement is the greatest event in human history. There is nothing to compare with it. It is the most fundamental part of our Father’s plan for the happiness of His children. Without it, mortal life would be a dead-end existence with neither hope nor future” (“Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 8; see also John 3:16).

Jesus Christ “made the worlds”

The earth on which we live is not the only planet created by Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1–2 helps us understand that Jesus Christ, under the direction of God the Father, “made the worlds.” The book of Moses reveals that the worlds He created are “without number” (Moses 1:32–33).