I've been given the opportunity to teach the women of my church lessons on lds doctrine once each month. This does not mean I am an expert on lds doctrine. It means that I learn and add to my knowledge each time I prepare a lesson and that is the biggest reason I love this calling to serve!
This past Sunday I taught the sisters about The Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation is often referred to as The Plan of Happiness and in short, is a way that God has enabled us to one day become like Him. I will include the basic layout of my lesson along with visual aids that I prepared. These aids are free for personal use.
I began by having various women read quotes I handed out and then we identified an eternal truth represented by those quotes.
#1 The prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end...There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [that is co-eternal] with our Father in Heaven.
#2 D&C 93:29: Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
Eternal Truth 1- We have always existed
#3 In the process of time each of our intelligences was clothed with a spiritual body by Heavenly parents, and we became personages of spirit with bodies of eyes and ears and hands and feet.”
#4 President Benson said: “I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father.”
Eternal Truth 2 - We are children of God.
#5 President Benson said: [The Lord] has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys.”
#6 “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” - Lorenzo Snow
Eternal Truth 3 - We can become like God
The way we can become like God is through the Plan of Salvation
#7 “Our spirit bodies were capable of tremendous accomplishments, but they also had some serious limitations. There were some laws that they could not obey, and therefore there were some blessings not available to them. Thus our Heavenly Father called us into a grand council in heaven where he proposed a plan that would give us further opportunities of growth and development by giving us further opportunities of choice”
There are several components to this plan, seven of which we'll discuss today. For a full explanation of all aspects of the Plan of Salvation please see the suggestions for further study at the bottom of this post.
First we needed a physical body.
Doctrine & Covenants 88:15 - "For the spirit and the body are the soul of man."
Second we needed an Earth
Abraham 3:24 & 25 - "And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [the children of God] may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.
Third we had to forget our pre-mortal life.
We'll discuss in more detail the purpose of the veil in a moment.
Fourth, the earth we were put on needed to have the existence of opposites
#8 “That the Lord is displeased with wickedness is true. That He desires that it not occur is also true. That He will help those who oppose it is true, but that he allows wickedness to occur at all through his children here in mortality is proof of His having given them their freedom to choose, while reserving for Him a basis for their final judgment...There are boundaries beyond which Satan cannot go. But within those bounds, he is presently being permitted to offer an unrighteous alternative to God’s righteous principles, thus allowing men to choose between good and evil and thereby determine the station they shall occupy in the next life.” - Ezra Taft Benson
Fifth, we needed to be free to make our own choices, and this is also where having a veil of forgetfulness placed over our minds is important.
#9 “When we lived with our Father in heaven we did not need to exercise faith...We knew he existed and were convinced of his existence, but we were not necessarily converted to him and his great principles because our knowledge of him had come from external sources without virtually any effort on our part. So that we would come to a knowledge of him in and of ourselves, our Heavenly Father proposed that when we came into this earth life a veil of forgetfulness would be placed over our minds so that we would not remember our pre-earthly existence with him. Only then could the choices that we made here upon this earth truly come from within us. -Daniel H. Ludlow
Sixth, in order to make informed choices we needed to have a knowledge of the law and the consequences for obeying or disobeying it.
#10 “Our Father in Heaven promised us that while we were here on the earth he would give us law and would...send angels and prophets to teach us and give us scriptures so we could learn the laws and why we should keep them. President Benson has taught us that, “We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices.”
“Abraham was shown the spirit children of our Heavenly Father before they came to earth. He, too, was shown the creation of the earth, and the Lord said to him: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Life is a testing time in man’s eternal existence, during which he is given...the right to choose between right and wrong...On these choices hang great consequences, not only in this life, but, even more important, in the life to come. -Ezra Taft Benson
Seventh, we would need a Savior.
#11 “Each law has consequences, opposite and equal. Whenever a law is kept or obeyed, the consequence is a blessing which results in happiness. Whenever a law is broken or disobeyed, the consequence is a punishment, which results in misery or unhappiness...the law of justice then always requires a payment. But another law also operates in the moral realm - the law of mercy, which in no way robs or violates the law of justice but which makes possible the vicarious payment of broken law. For example, the law of mercy permits the disobedience of a person to be atoned for or paid for by the obedience of the Savior, providing that the person who disobeyed the law will repent.
President Benson has said, “I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation.
This plan is everything! This is why we are here. To prove not just to God, but to ourselves what kind of person we can become. Sometimes we call mortality a test and that can make it feel like we’re here to pass or fail, but it’s so much more than that. Do we really want to be like God or are we willing to settle for less? We have to decide what we want and then act each day to achieve it and the gift of agency makes this both possible and at times difficult.
Because of agency all of us have been and will continually be affected by our own choices and the choices of others. And because of agency we can choose to respond to the things that happen here in mortality in a way that will help us grow or in a way that will stunt our growth.
Each of these roses was once a seed. A seed is a plant in a state of arrested development, supplied with food materials and protected by a seed coat. It is able to remain alive, although dormant, until suitable conditions cause it to grow.
Seeds tend to remain dormant as long as they are dry. Introduce water to them and the water will penetrate the seed coat, the seed will begin to swell and the seed coat will rupture, allowing the seed to sprout. As the emerging seedling begins to grow, its dependence on stored food diminishes and the transition to its own food production begins. However some seeds require specialized pre-conditioning before water can penetrate their outer coat. For example, alternate freezing and thawing may be required to break down and crack hard seeded shells. Some seeds must be singed by the heat of forest fires before they are able to germinate. Calvaria tree seeds must be ground around in the gizzard of a turkey , enough to weaken the shell but not damage the seed, and then passed through the intestinal tract of the turkey before they are able to germinate.
We’re a lot like seeds. We start out under the protection of the law of the age of accountability and our gospel knowledge or food stores, come from our parents or others. Eventually, to move onto our next stage of growth we need the water of baptism and we have to start making our own food so to speak, gaining our own testimony. Sometimes our testimony of Christ and the plan of salvation can come only through being singed by fire, or being nearly ground to bits in affliction. It seems an odd thing, but because I’ve experienced my faith and other good qualities grow through the most harrowing times in my life, I know it’s true.
#12 “It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him... As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.” - Ezra Taft Benson
The title of the fourth lesson that I’m also covering today is, Living Joyfully in Troubled Times. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a time since the fall that wasn’t a troubled time though we do know that in the last days things are worse than they ever have been before. I want you to just think for a moment about how knowing the plan of salvation helps you find peace.
I know when I first started to really grasp all of the elements of the plan, some of which we’re not covering today, I started wondering how well I really knew the laws of God. This instilled a desire within me to make sure I knew exactly what he expected of me and I started studying the scriptures with real intent and learning things I hadn’t been open to before. Knowing exactly what God expects of me and of the gift of the Savior has brought me great peace and helps me strive to choose the best things in my own life, I’m not perfect but I’m more aware now than I was before of whether something is right or wrong or is worth my time and energy in the long run.
Cheiko Okazaki once said, “Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs of your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations. Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others - nearly always this will make you despondent. Don’t accept somebody else’s interpretation of how you should be spending your time. Make the best decision you can and then evaluate it to see how it works.”
At this point I opened up the meeting for discussion. Different sisters talked about how knowing the plan of salvation brings them joy or inspires them to choose wisely. I reminded everyone that we are capable of greater things than we know and that we are the ones who impose our own limits in life. I closed with a poem I've loved since I was a youth and that encourages me to keep trying.