Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation

Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, (2004), 47–59


Christus statue

Your Purpose

As you teach, prepare your investigators to meet the qualifications for baptism taught in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 and in the baptismal interview questions. This is best accomplished by inviting your investigators to make and keep the commitments listed below.

    Baptismal Interview Questions

  • Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father?

  • Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world?

  • Are you willing to keep the Sabbath day holy, including partaking of the sacrament weekly and rendering service to fellow members?

    Commitments

  • Will you pray to know that what we have taught is true?

  • Will you repent of your sins?

  • Will you attend church with us this Sunday?

  • Will you follow the example of the Savior and be baptized on (date)?

  • May we set a time for our next visit?

  • Commandments from lesson 4 that you choose to include.

Helping Others Learn about Jesus Christ

Missionaries are to testify of Jesus Christ and invite all to come unto Him that they might be saved. Providing specific instruction about the Savior is important for those who know little or nothing about Him. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is designed to help all people know that “Jesus is the Christ, … manifesting Himself unto all nations” (title page of the Book of Mormon). One of the most effective ways to teach and testify of the Savior is to read together from the Book of Mormon. Passages from other standard works can also be helpful.

Consider the suggestions below. This may be done as part of this or other lessons or as a lesson of its own. When helpful, repeat this activity several times before and after baptism and confirmation.

Title page and introduction

Make clear the purpose of the book.

1 Nephi 10–11

Lehi and Nephi testify of the Savior.

1 Nephi 19

Nephi recounts prophecies of the Savior’s ministry and Atonement.

2 Nephi 2

Lehi testifies of the Savior as Redeemer.

2 Nephi 9

Jacob testifies of the Atonement.

2 Nephi 31–33

Nephi teaches the doctrine of Christ.

Enos

Enos experiences the power of the Atonement.

Mosiah 2–5

King Benjamin teaches of Christ.

Mosiah 12–16

Abinadi gives his life in testifying of Jesus Christ.

Alma 5, 7

Alma testifies of the Savior.

Alma 17–22

Lamanites receive the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Alma 34

Amulek testifies of the Atonement.

Alma 36

Alma experiences the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Alma 40–42

Alma testifies of the resurrection and Atonement.

Helaman 5

Nephi and Lehi are instruments in God’s hands to witness of the Savior.

3 Nephi 9–10

The Savior invites people to come to Him.

3 Nephi 11–18

The Savior teaches the Nephites of the Father and of His doctrine.

3 Nephi 27

The Savior teaches His gospel.

Ether 3

The brother of Jared sees the Savior.

Ether 12

Ether and Moroni testify of the Savior and the power of His Atonement.

Moroni 7–8

Mormon teaches of the pure love of Christ and His Atonement.

Moroni 10

Moroni invites all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.

“The Living Christ”

Prophets and apostles testify of the Savior.

Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us

Many people wonder, “Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” The plan of salvation gives us the answers to these questions.

God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally His children, and He loves us. 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 the scriptures God’s plan is called a merciful plan, the plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of salvation.

Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and eternal life. Satan, or the devil, is an enemy to God’s plan.

Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. Our eternal progression depends on how we use this gift. We must choose whether to follow Jesus Christ or follow Satan.

We are physically separated from God during life on earth, but He wants every one of His children to find peace in this life and a fulness of joy in His presence after this life. He wants us to become like Him.

The Creation

Under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. 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. While on the earth we are out of God’s physical presence. We do not remember our pre-Earth life. We must walk by faith rather than by sight.

Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve were the first of God’s children to come to the earth. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, with bodies of flesh and bones. While Adam and Eve were in the garden, they were still in God’s presence and could have lived forever. They lived in innocence, and God provided for their needs.

In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve their agency. He commanded them not to eat the forbidden fruit, or the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obeying this commandment meant that they could remain in the garden, but they could not progress by experiencing opposition in mortality. They could not know joy because they could not experience sorrow and pain.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and they chose to do so. This was part of God’s plan. Because of this choice, they were cast from the garden and out of God’s physical presence. This event is called the Fall. Separation from God’s presence is spiritual death. Adam and Eve became mortal—subject to physical death, or separation of the body and spirit. They could now experience disease and all types of suffering. They had moral agency or the ability to choose between good and evil. This made it possible for them to learn and progress. It also made it possible for them to make wrong choices and to sin. In addition, they could now have children, so the rest of God’s spirit children could come to earth, obtain physical bodies, and be tested. Only in this way could God’s children progress and become like Him.

Teaching about the Fall

When first teaching this doctrine, do not teach everything you know about it. Explain very simply that God chose two of His children, Adam and Eve, to become the first parents on earth. After their transgression they were subject to both sin and death. By themselves they could not return to live with Heavenly Father. The Lord spoke to Adam and taught him the plan of salvation and redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. By following that plan, Adam and his family could have joy in this life and return to live with God (see Alma 18:36; 22:12–14).

Our Life on Earth

Life on earth is an opportunity and a blessing. Our purpose in this life is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence. 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. During our life on earth each of us makes mistakes. 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.

While we are in mortality, we have experiences that bring us happiness. We also have experiences that bring us pain and sorrow, some of which is caused by the sinful acts of others. These experiences provide us opportunities to learn and to grow, to distinguish good from evil, and to make choices. God influences us to do good; Satan tempts us to commit sin. As with physical death, we cannot overcome the effects of sin by ourselves. We are helpless without the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The Atonement

Christ in Gethsemane

Before the world was organized, our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to overcome the effects of the Fall. All of the prophets since the world began have testified of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.

We will all suffer physical death, but Jesus Christ overcame the obstacle of physical death for us. When He died on the cross, His spirit became separated from His body. On the third day, His spirit and His body were reunited eternally, never to be separated again. He appeared to many people, showing them that He had an immortal body of flesh and bone. The reuniting of body and spirit is called resurrection and is a gift promised to each of us. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected regardless of whether we have done good or evil in this life. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never again be subject to disease, pain, or death. The resurrection makes it possible to return to God’s presence to be judged but does not guarantee that we will be able to live in His presence. To receive that blessing, we must also be cleansed from sin.

God sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin in addition to the obstacle of physical death. We are not responsible for the Fall of Adam and Eve, but we are responsible for our own sins. God cannot look on sin with any degree of allowance, and sin prevents us from living in His presence. Only through the Savior’s grace and mercy can we become clean from sin so that we can live with God again. This is possible through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that. He was called and prepared in pre-Earth life. He was the literal Son of God in the flesh. He was sinless and completely obedient to His Father. Though tempted, He never gave in to temptation. When the Father asked His Beloved Son to pay the price of the world’s sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection. Though He suffered beyond comprehension—so much so that He bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him—He submitted to the Father’s will in a supreme expression of love for His Father and for us. This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement.

Christ promises to forgive our sins on the condition that we accept Him by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives. Through continuing repentance, we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are relieved of the burden of guilt and shame, and through Jesus Christ we become worthy to return to the presence of God.

As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

In paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus did not, however, eliminate our personal responsibility. We must show that we accept Him and that we will follow His commandments. Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.

The Spirit World

Even though Christ conquered physical death, all people must die, for death is part of the process by which we are transformed from mortality to immortality. At death our spirits go to the spirit world. Death does not change our personality or our desires for good or evil. Those who chose to obey God in this life live in a state of happiness, peace, and rest from troubles and care. Those who chose not to obey in this life and did not repent live in a state of unhappiness. In the spirit world the gospel is preached to those who did not obey the gospel or have the opportunity to hear it while on earth. We remain in the spirit world until we are resurrected.

Scripture Study

The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality

When our bodies and spirits are reunited through the resurrection, we will be brought into God’s presence to be judged. We will remember perfectly our righteousness and our guilt. If we have repented, we will receive mercy. We will be rewarded according to our works and our desires.

Through the resurrection all people will become immortal—they will live forever. Immortality is a free gift to all people, whether they are righteous or wicked. Eternal life is not, however, the same as immortality. Eternal life is a gift of God given only to those who obey His gospel. It is the highest state that we can achieve. It comes to those who are freed from sin and suffering through the Atonement of Christ. It is exaltation, which means living with God forever in eternal families. It is to know God and Jesus Christ and to experience the life they enjoy.

Resurrection and Reincarnation

Some people may confuse the doctrine of resurrection with the concept of reincarnation. The concept of reincarnation involves being born into the world again in a different form and is false doctrine. The doctrine of resurrection involves receiving an eternal reward of an immortal body of flesh and bone. This is true doctrine. Make sure those you teach understand clearly the doctrine of the resurrection.

Kingdoms of Glory

During our mortal lives we make choices regarding good and evil. God rewards us according to our works and desires. Because God rewards everyone according to deeds done in the body, there are different kingdoms of glory to which we may be assigned after the Judgment. Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fulness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun.

People who do not accept the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon.

Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the stars.

Plan of Salvation

plan of salvation(click to view larger)

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes salvation possible.

Invitation to Be Baptized

The invitation to be baptized and confirmed should be specific and direct: “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God? We will be holding a baptismal service on [date]. Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?”

Ideas for Teaching

This section has ideas for you to use in preparing for and teaching this lesson. Prayerfully follow the Spirit as you decide how to use these ideas. Add the ideas you select to your lesson plan. Keep in mind that these ideas are suggestions—not requirements—to help you meet the needs of those you teach.

Short Lesson Plan (3–5 minutes)

The plan of salvation teaches us where we came from, why we are here on earth, and where we will go after this life. It maps our eternal journey through premortality, mortal life, death, resurrection, and to our life in the eternities. The plan also explains what our loving Father in Heaven does to help us make this journey successfully so that we can return to His presence and become like Him. The plan focuses on the mission and Atonement of Jesus Christ in overcoming the effects of the Fall and making eternal life possible for us. We invite you to ponder and pray about this message.

  • Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us

  • The Creation

  • Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve

  • Our Life on Earth

  • The Atonement

  • The Spirit World

  • The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality

  • Kingdoms of Glory

    Commitments

  • Will you pray to know that what we have taught is true?

  • Will you repent of your sins?

  • Will you attend church with us this Sunday?

  • Will you follow the example of the Savior and be baptized on (date)?

  • May we set a time for our next visit?

  • Commandments from lesson 4 that you choose to include.

Medium Lesson Plan (10–15 minutes)

Our message helps us understand the purpose of life and who we are. It gives us hope and helps us find peace, joy, and happiness. It tells us where we came from, why we are here on earth, and where we will go after this life. God is our Father, and He loves us. We are His children. We are part of His family, and we lived with Him before we were born on this earth. He has a plan of happiness that makes it possible for us to return to His presence after this life. Our progress depends on how we use our God-given agency, or ability to choose. As part of that plan, the Fall of Adam made it possible for us to come to earth, gain a physical body, have experience, and have families of our own. But the Fall also brought physical death, which is separation of the spirit from the body, and spiritual death, which is separation from God.

Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Christ’s atoning sacrifice overcame the effects of both physical and spiritual death. We will all be resurrected and will live forever with physical bodies free of pain and sickness. Christ also made it possible to overcome spiritual death. As we live His gospel He will mercifully forgive our sins. He will heal us and replace guilt and shame with peace and happiness in this life.

As part of God’s merciful plan, we will all suffer a physical death. Our spirits will be separated from our bodies and will live for a time in the spirit world. We will then be resurrected with an immortal body, an eternal union of our body and spirit. We will be judged according to our works and desires. Those who have lived the gospel will receive our Father in Heaven’s greatest gift, the gift of eternal life in His presence.

Our Heavenly Father has again reached out to His children in love to reveal His plan of happiness. We learn about this wonderful plan in the Book of Mormon, which you can read, ponder, and pray about. We invite you to attend church and worship with us.

    Commitments:

  • Will you pray to know that what we have taught is true?

  • Will you repent of your sins?

  • Will you attend church with us this Sunday?

  • Will you follow the example of the Savior and be baptized on (date)?

  • May we set a time for our next visit?

  • Commandments from lesson 4 that you choose to include.

Full Lesson Plan (30–45 minutes)

  • Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us

    • God is our Heavenly Father, and we are His children (see Acts 17:16–34; Hebrews 12:9).

    • God has a plan for our happiness. Jesus Christ is central to that plan.

    • God’s plan of happiness makes it possible to return to His presence (see Moses 1:39).

    • Our eternal progression depends on how we use our agency (see 2 Nephi 2:27–29).

  • The Creation

    • Under the Father’s direction, Jesus Christ created the earth (see Hebrews 1:1–3).

  • Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve

    • Adam and Eve were created in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26–27).

    • In the Garden of Eden they were innocent and lived in God’s presence.

    • Because they partook of the forbidden fruit, they were cast out of the garden (see Moses 4:19–31). This is called the Fall.

    • They became mortal, were able to have children, and were also subject to sin and death (see 2 Nephi 2:22–25; Moses 5:11).

  • Our Life on Earth

    • Our purpose in life is to find lasting peace, joy, and happiness as families and to prepare to return to live with God.

    • We came to the earth to be tested (see Abraham 3:24–25).

    • We gain a body of flesh and bones, but we are subject to physical death.

    • God gives commandments. If we obey, we are blessed. If we disobey, we sin and receive the consequences.

    • All sin must be paid for, either by ourselves or by Christ (see D&C 19:15–20).

    • We make choices, and we all commit sin (see Romans 3:23).

    • We have experiences that bring us happiness and also sorrow.

    • We cannot overcome either physical or spiritual death without Christ.

  • The Atonement

    • Because Jesus Christ overcame physical death, we will all be resurrected (see Alma 11:41–43).

    • Through Christ’s Atonement we can become clean from sin so that we can return to live in God’s presence (see 2 Nephi 9:8–9).

    • Christ will forgive our sins as we have faith in Him, repent, receive baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.

  • The Spirit World

    • All people must die.

    • At death our spirits go to the spirit world.

    • We live in either a state of misery or a state of peace and rest, depending on how we lived in this life.

  • The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality

    • Our spirits and bodies will be reunited in the resurrection (see Alma 11:42–45; 40:23).

    • We will return to God’s presence to be judged according to our works and desires.

    • If we have repented, we will receive mercy.

    • Eternal life is a gift of God given to those who fully obey the gospel of Jesus Christ (see D&C 14:7).

  • Kingdoms of Glory (see D&C 76; 137; 1 Corinthians 15:40–42).

    • We receive rewards according to our works and desires (see D&C 137:9).

    • Those who receive the gospel and live it valiantly throughout their lives will receive the celestial kingdom (see D&C 76:50–70).

    • Honorable people who are “blinded by the craftiness of men” and who are “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus [Christ]” receive the terrestrial kingdom (see D&C 76:75, 79).

    • Those who sin and do not repent will receive the telestial glory after they suffer and pay for their sins.

    Commitments

  • Will you pray to know that what we have taught is true?

  • Will you repent of your sins?

  • Will you attend church with us this Sunday?

  • Will you follow the example of the Savior and be baptized on (date)?

  • May we set a time for our next visit?

  • Commandments from lesson 4 that you choose to include.

Questions to Ask after You Teach

  • What questions do you have about what we have taught?

  • What do you understand about God’s plan for you and your family?

  • From what we have taught you, what do you understand about the role of Jesus Christ? What does that mean to you?

Key Definitions

Following are terms that are frequently not understood. Make sure you explain them clearly and find out if those you are teaching understand.

  • Atonement: As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinners and allowing them to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross. He was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all mankind. He suffered the penalty for our sins in Gethsemane and died on the cross. He took upon Himself the pains, sicknesses, temptations, afflictions, and infirmities of us all (see Alma 7:11–12).

  • Exaltation: Eternal life in God’s presence; to become like our Father in Heaven and live in His presence. The greatest of all the gifts of God. Exaltation comes through the Atonement of Christ and through obedience to all the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

  • Fall (of Adam and Eve): When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they became mortal—that is, subject to sin and death. Adam became the “first flesh” upon the earth (Moses 3:7). Latter-day revelation makes clear that the Fall is a blessing and that Adam and Eve should be honored as the first parents of all mankind.

  • Judgment: God, through Jesus Christ, will judge us individually to determine the eternal glory we will receive. This judgment will be based on our obedience to God’s commandments, including our acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We will receive our eternal reward based on whether our works and desires have been good or evil.

  • Immortality: The condition of living forever in a resurrected state, not subject to physical death.

  • Mortality: The time from birth until physical death.

  • Physical death: Separation of our spirit, which lives forever and cannot die, from our physical body.

  • Premortal life (premortality; pre-earth life): As spirit children of our Father in Heaven, we lived in His presence before we were born on this earth. In premortal life we did not have physical bodies.

  • Redemption: To deliver, to purchase, or to ransom, such as to free a person from bondage by payment. Redemption refers to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to deliverance from sin. Jesus’ Atonement redeems all mankind from physical death. Through His Atonement, those who have faith in Him and repent are also redeemed from spiritual death.

  • Resurrection: The reuniting of the spirit body with the physical body of flesh and bones after death. After resurrection, the spirit and body will never again be separated, and the person is immortal. Every person born on earth will be resurrected because Jesus Christ overcame death.

  • Salvation: To be saved from physical and spiritual death. All people will be saved from physical death by the grace of God, through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each individual can also be saved from spiritual death as well by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ.

  • Spiritual death: Separation from God and His influences; to die as to things pertaining to righteousness. Spiritual death was introduced into the world by the Fall of Adam (see Alma 42:6–7). Mortals with evil thoughts, words, and works are spiritually dead while still alive on earth (see 2 Nephi 9:39). Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel, men and women can become clean from sin and overcome spiritual death.

    Other Terms That May Need Further Definition for Those You Teach

  • Baptism by immersion

  • Celestial

  • Cleansed [from sin]

  • Creation

  • Eternal progression

  • Eternal life

  • Faith

  • Forbidden fruit

  • Forgiven [of sin]

  • Garden of Eden

  • Kingdoms of glory

  • Opposition

  • Physical death

  • Plan of salvation

  • Probation

  • Repent

  • Sin

  • Spirit world

  • Telestial

  • Terrestrial

  • Tree of knowledge of good and evil