Pick a topic that you think represents the whole plan of salvation. No matter what you choose, it will be like saying my hand represents what my whole body is all about. Even if we choose the Atonement of Christ, we have only exchanged the hand for the trunk of the body. Even the atonement needs to be put into perspective by referencing other doctrines, like the Fall, the resurrection, and agency.
The plan of salvation our Father in Heaven presented to us is massive in its scope, and grand in its scale. It can’t be reduced or simplified to a chart with a circle that represents the pre-existence, a circle for mortality, a circle for post-mortal life, and a series of circles for where we will be after the judgment. The plan includes all the laws that govern this world, all the commandments, all the programs of the Church, the priesthood, the gifts of the Spirit, etc., etc.
The purpose of this lesson is to try to get a better grasp of the grand scale of the plan our Father created for us. Its purpose is to provide us with … well, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up and look at the reasons for the plan in the first place.
The members of Christ’s Church understand that any and all references in the scriptures to our divine potential to become like God is a literal doctrine. But that doctrine, though it existed in the Church of Christ at the time of the original apostles, was changed over time until even the idea that we are God’s children became a purely figurative concept. The literal truth that we were God’s spirit children, and that we could progress to become just like Him, had been driven from the official theology of the Church within the first 400 years after Christ’s death.
To understand the need for a plan requires that God have a reason for providing His children with mortal bodies, even when He knew that doing so would damn every last child for eternity. He would have to have a pretty good reason for such a drastic step. And all of His children would have to be willing to undergo the arduous journey back home once separation took place. So what was His reason for such a deed?
God, our Father is a glorified and resurrected man. He enjoys all the privileges and pleasures of the power and glory that comes with perfection and exaltation. One of His main attributes is His pervasive love. Love governs everything He does. He knows that His children can become like him and share in all his glory and joy. But each child must choose such a path in order to obtain it.
The plan for the salvation/exaltation of God’s children was to set up a system of laws, whereby each child would be rewarded in the end of the plan with whatever level of eternal enjoyment they chose to embrace through whatever amount of the laws of happiness they were willing to live. Our loving Father will reward each of us individually with whatever level of glory our heart desires and that we are willing to live for. But by His own decree, he will not force himself upon us. We must be the one to choose Him or some other level of happiness. If He interfered with our choice then His judgments would not be just.
The plan for the salvation/exaltation of God’s children began when we were still children, living as spirits in His presence. We were taught, educated, and given choices to make. We grew and matured, and were at last ready to make our make-or-break choice that would determine much of our future. We were officially presented with the plan our Father had created for us and asked if we were willing to support it.
Our choice was either to support our Father in Heaven, along with the plan He presented, or to follow our rebellious brother Lucifer, and the plan he presented. To follow Lucifer would be to come out in open rebellion of our Father, which would mean open warfare with the ruler of the universe. One third of the children of God chose to follow Lucifer. In the end they were all ejected from God’s presence and were damned for eternity. They were the original sons of perdition.
By our choosing to follow the plan as presented by our Father in Heaven we passed our final test. The reward was that by having kept our first estate we were promised that we would, after our mortal experience, receive a resurrected body, as well as a degree of glory that would last forever. Even those who went to mortality and completely became degenerate in every respect would receive this blessing.
Those who went to earth and made covenants with God, and followed the example and instructions of our Savior, Jesus Christ, would return home and receive all the blessings God had to give. They would share in Christ’s eventual glory and live forever in the presence of God and His son, having the blessings and privileges of family relationships forever. So everyone was offered a degree of glory depending on the level of desire they had to follow the commandments given to us through the Savior of all mankind, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.
Included in this plan is everything that governs the universe as we know it. All the laws of physics that control how matter behaves, and all the laws of agency that govern what God is allowed to do to and for us, and what we are allowed to do is included in the plan. We have moral agency in this life. We are not allowed to do anything we please with impunity (without punishment). We are answerable for every act and desire of our hearts.
The Fall of Adam and Eve was required so each of us could be brought into a world where we were truly free to choose between good and evil. We had to be damned in order to be placed in a position where we could freely choose between staying damned or being redeemed through obedience to Christ’s laws of redemption.
To be damned is to be separated from God, to be estranged from Him. Mortality provides us with that venue. Here we are truly free to choose life or death, eternal damnation or eternal life with God. But there is only one path available to us to achieve that latter option. We must obey Christ and do as He commands us. Any choice other than following Christ will, in the end, leave us estranged from God. Anyone who does not follow Christ and the path He laid out for us to return to God will forever live elsewhere, and will never see God again.
All who do not become sons of perdition themselves will eventually be forgiven of their sins. Why? Because Christ’s atoning sacrifice paid for their sins, and His grace and love will allow them, after they have paid their portion of their sins, to be forgiven of their breaking of eternal laws. They will all be given, as promised, the degree of glory they chose to receive based on their willingness to follow the plan of happiness set up by our Father in Heaven before the world was created.
Those who choose to make covenants with God and follow the commandments received by His son will be given the privilege of sharing the glory of the Son when he is exalted after the judgment is over. All those who chose to become like Him will receive all the same blessings He who came to earth and was perfect in all things will receive. He has promised to share everything the Father has to offer with everyone who has chosen to follow His commandments and become like Him.
Our Father in Heaven knew that in order for us to share in his joy and perfection we would have to become like Him. The blessings He enjoys come directly from being the kind of person that He has chosen to become. We can only receive the portion of His lifestyle based on how closely we are willing to learn to be like Him. So earth life is not about doing, it is about becoming. After all, this whole plan is based on God’s desire that we become like Him.
The method we have to follow to become like God and Christ is to learn to trust them, even though we cannot see them. The more complete our trust, the more we will be willing to make the changes needed to become like them. This is where faith comes into the plan. Everything we learn to become will have to come through the exercise of faith, through obedience to the laws and commandments given to us by Christ.
Exercising our trust in God, our Faith, changes us in fundamental ways that couldn’t happen any other way. It requires a voluntary submission of our will to His in order for it to work. Faith is an exalting principle of power. It is the power by which we are able to transform ourselves from sinners into saints, from one who is damned to one who is saved and exalted.
This is the outline only of the plan for our salvation as presented by our Father in Heaven. Everything in the plan revolves around the atoning sacrifice of His son, Jesus the Christ, our Redeemer and Savior. The only way for us to be saved from our damned state, to be redeemed from our fallen nature, is to choose to be obedient to Christ’s laws and commandments. It is these very laws and commandments that transform our characters and our very nature into ones that can allow us to confidently walk back into the presence of God and enjoy the kind of life He lives. We will enjoy His kind of life because we will have become the same kind of person He is.
Our Father in Heaven would love nothing more than to have every single child come back into His presence and enjoy what He enjoys for all of eternity. But He knows that not all of His children have that desire. It is through His infinite love that degrees of glory can be available for all of us in the hereafter. We will all be happy with what we receive for a reward in the judgment, for we will all understand and agree that the judgments of the Lord are just, and that what we receive is what we really wanted to have, for it is what we were willing to live for.