“Lesson 15 Class Preparation Material: Heavenly Father’s Plan and Our Divine Potential,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 15 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
Imagine being a new convert to the Lord’s restored Church in Joseph Smith’s time. Your view of Heavenly Father’s plan would have been incomplete. If you had been raised as a Christian, you might have had beliefs similar to the following: (1) God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one God, without body, parts, or passions; (2) humans had no existence prior to this life, and they were created by God out of nothing; and (3) God is unknowable and mysterious—the idea of humans being His children is only a metaphor.
By revelation, Joseph Smith and the early Saints came to understand the nature of our Heavenly Father and His divine plan of salvation. Imagine what it must have felt like as they learned some of the restored truths we treasure today about Heavenly Father’s plan.
Much of Joseph’s understanding of the plan of salvation came through his work on the Book of Mormon and on his inspired translation of the Old and New Testaments. While translating the book of Genesis in 1830, the Prophet Joseph learned that Moses was taken to a high mountain and shown the expansiveness of God’s creations. This revelation is what we now know as the first chapter of the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. The Lord told Moses that he was a son of God. God also taught an important truth found in Moses 1 about the purposes of His work.
When speaking of immortality and eternal life, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
The gift of eternal life is worth any effort to study, learn, and apply the plan of salvation. All humankind will be resurrected and receive the blessing of immortality. But to achieve eternal life—the life God leads—is worth living the plan of salvation with all our heart, mind, might, and strength. (Robert D. Hales, “The Plan of Salvation: A Sacred Treasure of Knowledge to Guide Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2015, 25)
Notice that Elder Hales defined eternal life as “the life God leads.” Consider what it means for you that Heavenly Father’s work is to bring you back to His presence so you can enjoy immortality and eternal life.
In a revelation received on May 6, 1833, Joseph Smith recorded, “Man was also in the beginning with God” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29). Joseph’s translation of the book of Abraham, which was published in 1842, provided greater insight into our pre-earth life and our postmortal possibilities.
In 1844, just months before his death, Joseph Smith spoke at what would be his last conference. His friend, King Follett, had recently died in an accident, and the family had asked Joseph to speak at the funeral. Joseph taught boldly the characteristics of God and our potential to become like Him. In what would become known as the King Follett discourse, Joseph declared:
There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. … If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. …
God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … If you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves. …
When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. …
… God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. …
Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests [and queens and priestesses] to God, … by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation. (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 39–40, 210, 221)
Note: The entire King Follett discourse can be found in “Classics in Mormon Thought: The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, Apr. 1971, 12–17.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught:
God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is. (D. Todd Christofferson, “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 97)
Imagine again living as an early convert to the restored Church. You most likely would have believed with a majority of Christians at the time that when a person died, he or she went to either heaven or hell. Many people in Joseph Smith’s day identified as Congregationalists or Universalists. If you held a “congregationalist” view, you would believe that only a small number of people would make it to heaven. If you held a “universalist” view, you would likely believe that God would require some punishment for sinners but that eventually all people would go to heaven.
In February 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had a vision that helped us better understand life after death. The two men were working on the Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament in the upper floor of the John Johnson home and had stopped to ponder John 5:29, which is about the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. Several men were in the room with Joseph and Sidney as the two men experienced the vision and described what they saw. This vision, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76, helps us better understand Heavenly Father’s plan. Consider marking truths from this section that expand our understanding of the afterlife and reveal Heavenly Father’s desire to bless all of His children: