Good morning brothers and sisters, I’m Mike Nelson. I’m Chantal Ficquet’s son, and son-in-law in Malcolm and Rose Saunders. My beautiful wife Amanda and I have been in the ward for nearly 4 years now, and we have two girls Danielle and Celeste.
I have been asked to talk about the Plan of Salvation.
Most of us are familiar with the idea, but on day-to-day basis we probably don’t think about, or appreciate it, very much. For my part, my average day consists of working from home doing computer programming, playing with and helping take care our little girls, I don’t usually think about it.
But sooner or later, it will become one of the most important gospel teachings for us. When we feel like our life is lacking meaningful purpose, we ask “Why am I here?” When a new little one is born, we may wonder “Where did they come from?” When a loved one passes away, we wonder “Will I ever see them again?” (In our family, our youngest, Celeste, was born on January 31, and her great-grandma Dorothy Saunders passed away that same evening). Or in days leading us to our own passing, we will nervously question “What’s next?”
So if the Plan of Salvation doesn’t touch you, know that someday you will be very glad you know it, and, more importantly, that you have a testimony of it. I encourage you to pray for the Holy Ghost’s confirmation of the doctrine I’m reviewing today.
I’m going to quote heavily from President Uchtdorf’s “O How Great the Plan of Our God!” from the most recent General Conference (October 2016) and from the missionary pamphlet “The Plan of Salvation”.
Brothers and sisters, we are eternal beings, without beginning and without end. We have always existed.1 We are the literal spirit children of divine, immortal, and omnipotent Heavenly Parents! (Utchdorf)
you lived with Him as a spirit before you were born on earth. You knew and loved Him, and He knew and loved you. This period is called pre-earth life. (Plan of Salvation)
Scripture has not revealed too many details of what pre-earth life was like, but we know that we were God’s Spirit Children, who possessed a certain degree of what the scriptures describe as “intelligence, or the light of truth” (D&C 93:29), but our Father possessed all intelligence, light and truth. And He wanted us to become glorious like He is.
[There was a] Grand Council where our beloved Father presented His plan for us—that we would come to earth, receive mortal bodies, learn to choose between good and evil, and progress in ways that would not otherwise be possible. (Utchdorf)
How do we become good at making choices? Obviously we need information, but to some degree I think the ability to make choices is a skill that needs to be developed. Our Father wanted to teach us how to make choices, and more importantly, how to choose good, and mortal life was essential for that.
I imagine some of us were nervous at His plan, just like a young child might be nervous at the idea of going to Preschool for the first time. We may have wondered “It sounds hard (although we probably had no frame of reference with which to compare earth-life). If I will be presented with truth or error, will I choose truth? And if I make a mistake, how can I return to Father?” It may have even sounded like an impossible plan.
Satan, one of our brothers, apparently thought he had a better plan. Rather than allow us to make choices, thus demonstrating how much light and knowledge we possessed, he said we should just go to Earth, but not make any choices, and all be “saved.”
His plan had appeal, but it actually missed the point. Essentially, in his plan, it would be almost sitting on the sidelines of life, not actually participating. We would have been “a thing to be acted upon”, rather than “a thing to act” (2 Nephi 2:26). We wouldn’t learn to make choices, or gain intelligence, or become like our Father.
Moses 4:2 says “Satan rebelled against [God], and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him”
How had he rebelled against God? I think by trying to supplant God’s plan with his own. And he was seeking the glory of having the “chosen plan,” or in other words, seeking to take God’s glory. He was trying to show himself smarter than God.
On the other hand, our eldest brother, Jehovah (who would be known as Jesus Christ on Earth) supported God the Father’s plan. Without Christ, God the Father’s plan couldn’t work. But he supported his Father by offering himself as a “ransom for sin” (2 Nephi 9 chapter summary); in other words He would suffer for all our sins, if we would accept him as our Saviour.
It was a tough decision: follow Satan’s plan, which sounded safe (no choice, no accountability, but really no progression), or the Father’s (learn to choose, sometimes choose the wrong, and have faith that Christ would make us clean again).
Those who followed Satan didn’t want to make choices or be accountable. It sounds like they were afraid, and lacked faith in God the Father’s plan, and Christ’s ability to save. They might have thought “I don’t want to do that. It sounds too hard. It’s not for me… I don’t believe Christ can do what he says, or that I can become like God”, so they didn’t even try.
After that, they probably realized that in so doing they had rejected God the Father and Christ, and really couldn’t stay with them; thus they were cast out.
And after being cast out, they were probably sorrowful, jaded, and perhaps wanted to justify their decision: show us that God’s plan wouldn’t work, that we couldn’t become like Him.
Satan and his followers were sent away from God’s presence and were not allowed to be born on earth. They continue to exist as spirits. They are miserable, and they want you to be miserable. They tempt you and all God’s children to do things that bring unhappiness and that are not pleasing to God. (Plan of Salvation)
On the other hand,
[You and I] knew we would sin and make mistakes—perhaps even serious ones. But we also knew that our Savior, Jesus Christ, had pledged to come to earth, live a sinless life, and voluntarily lay down His life in an eternal sacrifice. We knew that if we gave our heart to Him, trusted Him, and strived with all the energy of our soul to walk in the path of discipleship, we could be washed clean and once again enter the presence of our beloved Father in Heaven.
So, with faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you and I accepted, by our free will, Heavenly Father’s plan. (Plan of Salvation)
Your purpose in leaving His presence to come to earth includes obtaining a body, gaining experience, and learning to make right choices. (Plan of Salvation)
So here we are: earth life. Our recollection of pre-earth life has been removed. We experience the good and the bad. Joseph Smith was told that even all the terrible things he experienced would “give [him] experience, and [would] be for [his] good” (D&C 122:7). So have you had tough experiences that have given you experience, and made you wiser? Certainly for me that’s been true.
Likewise, “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us” and will “give us so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18-19). The “intelligence” mentioned there isn’t just book-smarts, or even street-smarts. It’s that intelligence, or light of truth, that we seek to gain, and God possesses in its entirety. Learning to keep commandments, be an honest person, follow in Christ’s footsteps, that type of eternal intelligence.
In addition, in this life we see just how eternally intelligent we are (so far). We commit sin, which is “knowingly choosing to do wrong or not to do right” (Plan of Salvation). The problem isn’t just making “mistakes,” or accidentally choosing the wrong. The problem is that we choose darkness when we know better. We demonstrate that we don’t actually want to become full of truth like our Father.
If we choose darkness and reject God, we can’t return to Him. We are damned, or eternally unable to progress.
But of course that’s where the miracle of Christ’s atonement comes into play. If we accept His atonement by striving to keep his commandments, and enter into a covenant with him through baptism and Gospel ordinances, he is able to change us and make us clean.
In paying for your sins, Jesus did not eliminate your agency or personal responsibility—He will not make you clean against your will. To receive His help and strength, you need to exercise faith in Him, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and choose to follow His teachings for the rest of your life. As you rely on the Atonement, you will feel the love of God, and He will help you endure your trials. You will experience joy, peace, and consolation. All that seems unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father. The Atonement is the central point in the plan of salvation. (Plan of Salvation)
Time Between Death and the Resurrection
So in this life we try our best to follow Him and “be perfect” (Matt 5:48), but it’s basically impossible for us to attain the level of perfection required to become like our Father, at least in this life.
That’s might be why there is a “space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection” (Alma 40:6). This life must end in order for us to continue our lessons of eternity.
From an earthly perspective, physical death may seem like an end, but really it is a beginning, a step forward in our Heavenly Father’s plan. At death, your spirit will leave your body and go to the spirit world, which is a place of learning and preparation.(Plan of Salvation)
We call this place or time “the Spirit World”. This is a time where those who didn’t learn of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have an opportunity. But we know there is so much more to the Gospel than what has been revealed; and we may realize we don’t know what’s been revealed quite as completely as we might have thought.
Those who seek for more truth and embrace it will be happy in this state, but those who reject the truth of the Gospel won’t be able to hide from it, and will be miserable being surrounded by it.
Resurrection and Judgment
And at last, the day of the resurrection and judgment will come. Christ has “risen again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works” (Alam 32:22).
Gladly, Christ, who, as part of the Atonement, suffered our pains and sins, will be the one to judge us.
That Day of Judgment will be a day of mercy and love—a day when broken hearts are healed, when tears of grief are replaced with tears of gratitude, when all will be made right.3
Yes, there will be deep sorrow because of sin. Yes, there will be regrets and even anguish because of our mistakes, our foolishness, and our stubbornness that caused us to miss opportunities for a much greater future.
But I have confidence that we will not only be satisfied with the judgment of God; we will also be astonished and overwhelmed by His infinite grace, mercy, generosity, and love for us, His children. If our desires and works are good, if we have faith in a living God, then we can look forward to what Moroni called “the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge. (Uchtdorf)
At that day, we will know what degree of glory we have chosen: what is called Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial glory, or kingdoms.
Have we decided to remain in our sins and rejection of God? Generally that’s what’s described as Telestial glory. Have we tried to do good, but rejected Christ’s atonement? That’s what’s described as Terrestrial glory. Or have we tried to live His Gospel, and been cleansed through the Atonement, and through that power become worthy of the glory of the Father? That’s Celestial glory. To live with God the Father and Christ, and be sealed together as families for eternity, to have inherited “all that the Father hath” (D&C 84:38).
WHAT DOES THE PLAN MEAN FOR ME? When you understand that God is your Father, that He loves you, and that He has made it possible for you to gain experience and knowledge here and become like Him after this life, you know the importance of your decisions during your life. You understand that you must follow Jesus Christ to receive the full blessings of our Heavenly Father’s plan.