Chapter 7: Heavenly Father’s Plan

Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Religion 130, (2005), 47–52


Heavenly Father desires a fulness of joy for all of His children. He presented a plan to provide the means whereby we can return to live with Him once again—saved, exalted, and with eternal possibilities (see statement from True to the Faith, 115–16, as cited in the student manual, 57). Central to the plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Firstborn of the Father in the Spirit and Only Begotten in the flesh, was chosen as our Savior and Redeemer, fulfilling the central role of the Father’s plan. The enormity of the Father’s plan can be more fully understood by its names:

Heavenly Father’s plan requires that we gain a physical body and prove ourselves worthy to return to His presence.

In this lesson the students will study important fundamentals of Heavenly Father’s plan and learn how to present the basics of the plan of salvation. Students should especially see how the plan is intended “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of God’s children (Moses 1:39).

Doctrines and Principles to Understand

  • There are three stages of Heavenly Father’s plan: premortal, mortal, and postmortal.

  • Jesus Christ is central to Heavenly Father’s plan.

  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to overcome the obstacles of spiritual and physical death.

  • Heavenly Father prepared degrees of glory for His children.

Teaching Suggestions

There are three stages of Heavenly Father’s plan: premortal, mortal, and postmortal.

Draw a crown on the board.

Crown
  • How would it change your life if you learned you were a direct descendant of a king and were about to receive a royal inheritance?

  • How can each one of us claim to be of a divine lineage?

  • What inheritance might we be entitled to?

  • How do we know these things?

Share the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Questions like, Where did we come from? Why are we here? and Where are we going? are answered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Prophets have called it the plan of salvation and ‘the great plan of happiness’ (Alma 42:8). Through inspiration we can understand this road map of eternity and use it to guide our path in mortality” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 96; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 72).

  • How should a knowledge of the plan of salvation affect the way we live?

Read with students the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer:

“There is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life. …

“When we understand the doctrine of premortal life, then things fit together and make sense” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 22; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 18).

DVD Track 11 Show track 11 on the DVD (4:30). The first two stories are intended to model how to use knowledge of the plan of salvation to deal with problems and questions. The last story presents a question but does not model how to deal with it. Use this story as an opportunity to practice with your students the process of applying their knowledge of the plan of salvation to a difficult question.

  • How was the plan of salvation used to answer difficult questions?

Have students divide into groups of three. Instruct them to turn to one of the sections of the Topical Guide (or the Guide to the Scriptures) listed below for the stage of existence they wish to learn and teach about. They should try to select one verse from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, one from the Book of Mormon, and one from the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price. They should use the verses they selected to help teach one other member in the group.

Stage

Topical Guide

Guide to the Scriptures

Pre-earth life

Man, Antemortal Existence of, p. 305

Man, Men. Man, a spirit child of Heavenly Father, p. 155

Mortality

Mortality, p. 329

Mortal, Mortality, p. 168

Life after death

Immortality, Immortal, pp. 224–25

Immortal, Immortality, p. 118

Allow students 10–15 minutes to select and prepare the scriptures they wish to teach. For the next 8–10 minutes, allow each student an opportunity to teach. Then switch or rotate the teacher, the investigator, and the observer.

Allow time for other students to share feedback regarding the teaching exercise by asking questions like the following to those who observed:

  • What went well?

  • What would you do differently if you were teaching this same scripture block?

As you summarize this part of the lesson, you may wish to use the following questions:

  • With biblical references available about our pre-earth existence, why is this doctrine unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? (The pure doctrines of Christ were lost during the Apostasy but in many instances are still in the Bible, especially when viewed through Restoration scriptures.)

  • How does modern revelation better enable us to teach the doctrines of pre-earth life, mortality, and life after death?

Invite two students to stand before the class. Ask one student to respond to the following situations taking the role of a person who knows nothing about the plan of happiness, and have the second student play the role of a missionary who desires to share the gospel. After the two students respond to the situation, allow other students in the class to offer their insights.

  • A young mother has just lost her five-month-old baby: “Will I ever see my child again?”

  • A teenager asks: “Why is it such a big deal to stay morally clean if life ends at death?”

  • A middle-aged man worries about his wife; they have four children, and his wife has just learned that she has cancer: “How can this happen if you believe in a just God?”

  • A young adult expresses: “I have committed so many sins, why should I even try anymore?”

Summarize by stating that knowledge of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness helps us answer questions like these.

Jesus Christ is central to Heavenly Father’s plan.

Begin by asking students: How is Jesus Christ central to the great plan of happiness?

Have the students open their scriptures to Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:1–16 and individually read and analyze the verses, looking for examples of Jesus playing an important part in Heavenly Father’s plan. After sufficient time, list on the board and discuss the insights gleaned by the students. If needed, use the following chart:

Jesus Christ is central to Heavenly Father’s plan

JST, John 1:1–2

Jesus was with Heavenly Father and taught the gospel in the premortal life.

JST, John 1:3

Jesus created this world.

JST, John 1:6–10, 14

John the Baptist was sent to bear witness of Jesus as the Son of God.

JST, John 1:12

Those who believe in Jesus are given power.

JST, John 1:16

Through Christ we can receive immortality and eternal life.

  • What experiences in your life will help you teach investigators the importance of Jesus Christ in Heavenly Father’s plan?

  • How will you know if investigators are accepting your message and coming unto Christ?

Write “Creation—Fall—Atonement” on the board. Explain that these three events are an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan. Share with students a statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie where he helps us understand how the three fundamental aspects of the plan of salvation—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—interrelate (see student manual, 57).

  • How is the Savior central to each of these events?

  • How did the Atonement of Jesus Christ have impact in our lives before the Creation of the earth?

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to overcome the obstacles of spiritual and physical death.

DVD Track 12 Ask a student to read Elder Russell M. Nelson’s statement about atonement (see student manual, 58), or you may choose to show DVD track 12 (0:33).

  • What insight do you gain from that statement?

Write the words “physical death” on the board.

Have a student read 2 Nephi 9:7–9 to the class.

  • According to these verses, if there were no Atonement, what would happen to our bodies?

  • What would happen to our spirits?

Have a student read 1 Corinthians 15:19–22 and another student read 2 Nephi 9:11.

  • How many of the earth’s inhabitants overcame physical death through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Write “spiritual death” on the board. Invite a student to read the definition of spiritual death in Alma 42:9. Have students go to the student manual (see pp. 58–59) and find answers to the following questions:

  • What brings spiritual death?

  • What are the consequences of sin?

  • What did Christ do to make it possible for us to overcome sin?

  • What must we do to overcome spiritual death?

Tell students that some of the most important details we know about the spirit world or life after death come from a vision received by President Joseph F. Smith. Invite students to turn to Doctrine and Covenants 138. Review with them the detail of the vision found in the section heading. Ask the following questions, and have students find the answers in the first few verses:

  • What was President Smith reflecting upon when he had this vision? (The Atonement and the love of God and His Son, while pondering the scriptures; see vv. 1–4.)

  • What were those in the spirit world doing? (see vv. 12–16).

Have students turn to Doctrine and Covenants 138:18–19 and identify what the Lord taught those who had been faithful when He visited the spirit world.

Discuss verses 29–37 with students, and have them identify the similarities between the doctrines taught in the spirit world to those who had rejected the truth on the earth and the doctrines taught to investigators in mortality.

Heavenly Father prepared degrees of glory for His children.

Explain that missionaries teach investigators a very general overview of the degrees of glory. Doctrine similar to what missionaries teach is contained in True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference (2004) in the first two paragraphs of the section “Kingdoms of Glory” under the subtitles “Celestial Kingdom,” “Terrestrial Kingdom,” and “Telestial Kingdom.” Have students read about these doctrines in True to the Faith (pp. 92–94).

  • Why is it important not to overwhelm investigators with too many details before they understand and begin living the first principles of the gospel? (see D&C 19:22).

  • What do you feel are the most important details investigators should know about the degrees of glory early in their study of our gospel message?

Assign each student to make a lesson plan that he or she could use in teaching the three degrees of glory to an investigator. Then have each student teach a partner from that lesson plan. Have them evaluate each other on the strengths of the teaching and what they could improve. Next, have students pair up with new partners and teach their lessons again. Follow up with evaluation.

Suggested Assignments for Students

  • Study “Atonement” in the Bible Dictionary (p. 617) or in the Guide to the Scriptures (“Atone, Atonement,” p. 22). You may want to mark information you intend to use when you teach about the Atonement.

  • Make a one-page summary or illustration of the plan of salvation.