“Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 2,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles instructed seminary teachers to present a brief overview of the plan of salvation at the beginning of each school year:
“A brief overview of the ‘plan of happiness’ … , if given at the very beginning and revisited occasionally, will be of immense value to your students. …
“Young people wonder ‘why?’—Why are we commanded to do some things, and why are we commanded not to do other things? A knowledge of the plan of happiness, even in outline form, can give young minds a ‘why’” (“The Great Plan of Happiness” [CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants/Church History, Aug. 10, 1993]; si.lds.org; see also Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings , 69, 70).
This lesson provides a brief overview of the plan of salvation, highlighting the three main elements of the plan—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each of these elements will be taught in more depth in coming lessons as they arise in the text of the Old Testament.
Note: You may want to follow up with students about their efforts to begin reading the scripture text for the course. You could invite them to share with another student what they learned during their personal scripture study, including a favorite verse. Consider inviting a few students to share with the class.
Invite students to think about times when they have worked to become better in some way. For example, an individual may have worked to better his or her time or skill in a particular sport. Another may have worked to speak more kindly about others or use more uplifting language. Ask a few students to explain to the class how they have worked to improve themselves and how it felt when they accomplished their goal.
As shown in the accompanying diagram, draw an oval on the board and label it Presence of God. Write Premortal Life in the left side of the oval. Then draw a circle underneath the oval. (You will label this circle later in the lesson.)
You may want to invite students to copy the diagram in their class notebooks or scripture study journals and add to it throughout the lesson.
Explain that we have been improving and progressing since before we were born. Ask students to explain what they know about our premortal life. As part of this discussion, you may want to give students time to read the “Premortal Life” section of the Basic Doctrines document (found in the appendix of this manual) or the paragraphs about premortal life in True to the Faith (see True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 115–16). Make sure they identify the following truths about premortal life: We lived in the presence of our Heavenly Father as His spirit children. We developed our identities and increased our spiritual capabilities. We learned that Heavenly Father would provide us with an opportunity to become like Him. We chose to follow our Heavenly Father and progress toward eternal life even though Lucifer and many others chose to rebel against Him. We accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior.
In the premortal life, how were we different from our Heavenly Father? (We did not have physical bodies or the knowledge and attributes of Heavenly Father.)
Invite a student to read Moses 1:39 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for Heavenly Father’s purpose for His children.
What is Heavenly Father’s purpose for His children? (Heavenly Father’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. You may want to suggest that students mark the words immortality and eternal life in their scriptures.)
What is immortality? (Living forever with a resurrected body.) What is eternal life? (To become like our Heavenly Father and to live as families eternally in His presence.)
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Eternal life is the name given to the kind of life that our Eternal Father lives. … God’s life is eternal life; eternal life is God’s life—the expressions are synonymous” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 237).
On the diagram, label the right side of the oval Eternal Life. Explain to students that we were unable to progress further in our premortal life without additional help from Heavenly Father. As spirit children we participated in a grand council before we were born. There Heavenly Father presented His plan for our immortality and our progression toward eternal life.
Write Essential Elements of God’s Plan next to the diagram on the board. Explain that Heavenly Father’s plan consists of three main elements that make it possible for us to become like Him.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask students to listen for and identify the three essential elements of Heavenly Father’s plan.
“A great council in heaven was once convened, in which it seems that all of us participated [see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (1976), 348–49, 365]. There our Heavenly Father announced His plan. … The enabling essence of the plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As it is central to the plan [see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 121], we should try to comprehend the meaning of the Atonement. Before we can comprehend it, though, we must understand the Fall of Adam. And before we can fully appreciate the Fall, we must first comprehend the Creation. These three events—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are three preeminent pillars of God’s plan, and they are doctrinally interrelated” (“Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 33).
What did Elder Nelson say are the three “pillars” of Heavenly Father’s plan? (Students should express the following truth: Heavenly Father’s plan for our immortality and eternal life includes the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Invite a student to list these three elements under the heading on the board.)
To help students understand the doctrines of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, divide the class into three groups and assign each group to study one of these three doctrines. Provide them with copies of the Basic Doctrines document (see the appendix of this manual) or with copies of True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference (see LDS.org). Ask the students in each group to study their assigned doctrine individually, looking for how that part of Heavenly Father’s plan helps us to receive immortality and eternal life. After sufficient time, invite students to discuss the following questions in their groups. You may want to write these questions on the board or prepare them on a handout.
How does this part of Heavenly Father’s plan help us to receive immortality and eternal life?
What would happen if this part of the plan were missing?
After sufficient time, invite one or two members of each group to present to the class a summary of what they learned about their assigned topic. Ask them to share how their group answered the two questions above. (As students report on the Creation, label the circle underneath the oval with the word Earth, as shown in the accompanying diagram. As they report on the Fall, draw an arrow from Premortal Life to Earth.)
To help students feel the truth and importance of these doctrines, invite them to answer one or more of the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
What difference does it make in your life to know about the Creation and how it fits into the plan of salvation?
What difference does it make in your life to know about the Fall and how it fits into the plan of salvation?
What difference does it make in your life to know about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it fits into the plan of salvation?
Write Mortal Life in the circle representing earth. Explain that mortal life provides a way for us to progress toward immortality and eternal life. When we are born into mortality, we receive a body and have experiences that allow us to develop faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ showed us how to progress through mortality toward eternal life (see John 14:6; 2 Nephi 31:7–10, 19–21).
On the board, draw an arrow from Mortal Life to Eternal Life, as shown in the diagram. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for what we must do in mortality to progress toward eternal life.
“We are now being tried and tested to see if we will do all the things the Lord has commanded us to do. These commandments are the principles and ordinances of the gospel, and they constitute the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every principle and ordinance has a bearing upon the whole purpose of our testing, which is to prepare us to return to our Heavenly Father and become more like Him. …
“… Only through the gift of the Atonement and our obedience to the gospel can we return and live with God once again” (“The Plan of Salvation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 71).
According to Elder Perry’s statement, what must we do to progress toward eternal life? (Students may give a variety of correct responses, but they should identify the following truth: We must obey Heavenly Father’s commandments to receive eternal life. Write this principle next to the circle representing the earth in the diagram.)
How does obeying Heavenly Father’s commandments help us to become more like Him?
To help students feel the truth and importance of this principle, you may want to invite them to think of commandments or standards that have helped them become better people. Invite a few students to share their experiences. You might also consider sharing how obeying commandments and following standards have helped you on your journey toward becoming more like Heavenly Father.
To help students apply this principle, invite them to think about any commandments or standards they need to obey more fully. Do not ask them to share this with the class, since this may be very personal. Encourage them to write on a piece of paper a goal to live that commandment or standard. You might suggest that they keep the paper in a place where they can refer to it often to help them remember their goal. Assure them that every effort they make to be more obedient to the commandments brings them closer to their Heavenly Father and a life like He lives.
Invite any who would like to do so to testify of the doctrines or principles they learned today. You may also want to share your testimony of the doctrines and principles taught in the lesson today.
Conclude by explaining to students that as they study the Old Testament this year, they will have opportunities to learn more truths about Heavenly Father’s plan and deepen their testimonies of it.