“Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation,” Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2018), 47–59
“Lesson 2,” Preach My Gospel, 47–59
Missionaries are to testify of Jesus Christ and invite all to come unto Him that they might be saved and receive increased happiness, comfort, joy, and peace in this life. Providing specific instruction about the Savior is important for those who know little or nothing about Him. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is designed to help all people know that “Jesus is the Christ, … manifesting himself unto all nations” (title page of the Book of Mormon). One of the most effective ways to teach and testify of the Savior is to read together from the Book of Mormon. Passages from other standard works can also be helpful.
Consider the suggestions listed below. This activity may also be done as part of this or other lessons or as a lesson of its own. When helpful, repeat this activity several times before and after baptism and confirmation.
Make clear the purpose of the book.
Lehi and Nephi testify of the Savior.
Nephi recounts prophecies of the Savior’s ministry and Atonement.
Lehi testifies of the Savior as Redeemer.
Jacob testifies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Nephi teaches the doctrine of Christ.
Enos experiences the power of the Savior’s Atonement.
King Benjamin teaches of Christ.
Abinadi gives his life in testifying of Jesus Christ.
Alma testifies of the Savior.
Lamanites receive the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Amulek testifies of the Savior’s Atonement.
Alma experiences the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Alma testifies of the Resurrection and Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Nephi and Lehi are instruments in God’s hands to witness of the Savior.
The Savior invites people to come to Him.
The Savior teaches the Nephites of the Father and of His doctrine.
The Savior teaches His gospel.
The brother of Jared sees the Savior.
Ether and Moroni testify of the Savior and the power of His Atonement.
Mormon teaches of the pure love of Christ and His Atonement.
Moroni invites all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.
Prophets and apostles testify of the Savior.
Many people wonder, “Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” The plan of salvation gives us the answers to these questions.
God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally His children, and He loves us. We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not, however, like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him and enjoy all the blessings that He enjoys without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body.
God’s whole purpose—His work and His glory—is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan to accomplish His purpose. We understood and accepted this plan before we came to the earth. In the scriptures God’s plan is called a merciful plan, the plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of salvation.
Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and exaltation. Satan, or the devil, is an enemy to God’s plan.
Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. Our eternal progression depends on how we use this gift. We must choose whether to follow Jesus Christ or follow Satan.
We are physically separated from God during life on earth, but He wants every one of His children to find peace in this life and a fulness of joy in His presence after this life. He wants us to become like Him.
Under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth. While on the earth we are out of God’s physical presence. We do not remember our premortal life. We must walk by faith rather than by sight.
Adam and Eve were the first of God’s children to come to the earth. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, with bodies of flesh and bones. While Adam and Eve were in the garden, they were still in God’s presence and could have lived forever. They lived in innocence, and God provided for their needs.
In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve their agency. He commanded them not to eat the forbidden fruit, or the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obeying this commandment meant that they could remain in the garden, but they could not progress by experiencing opposition in mortality. They could not know joy because they could not experience sorrow and pain.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and they chose to do so. This was part of God’s plan. Because of this choice, they were cast from the garden and out of God’s physical presence. This event is called the Fall. Separation from God’s presence is spiritual death. Adam and Eve became mortal—subject to physical death, or separation of the body and spirit. They could now experience disease and all types of suffering. They had moral agency or the ability to choose between good and evil. This made it possible for them to learn and progress. It also made it possible for them to make wrong choices and to sin. In addition, they could now have children, so the rest of God’s spirit children could come to earth, obtain physical bodies, and be tested. Only in this way could God’s children progress and become like Him.
Life on earth is an opportunity and a blessing. Our purpose in this life is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence. In mortality we live in a condition where we are subject to both physical and spiritual death. God has a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. To become like God and return to His presence, we too must have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones. However, because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, every person on earth has an imperfect, mortal body and will eventually die. If not for the Savior Jesus Christ, death would end all hope for a future existence with Heavenly Father.
Along with physical death, sin is a major obstacle that keeps us from becoming like our Father in Heaven and returning to His presence. In our mortal condition we often yield to temptation, break God’s commandments, and sin. During our life on earth each of us makes mistakes. Although it sometimes appears otherwise, sin always leads to unhappiness. Sin causes feelings of guilt and shame. Because of our sins, we are unable to return to live with Heavenly Father unless we are first forgiven and cleansed.
While we are in mortality, we have experiences that bring us happiness. We also have experiences that bring us pain and sorrow, some of which is caused by the sinful acts of others. These experiences provide us opportunities to learn and to grow, to distinguish good from evil, and to make choices. God influences us to do good; Satan tempts us to commit sin. As with physical death, we cannot overcome the effects of sin by ourselves. We are helpless without the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Before the world was organized, our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to overcome the effects of the Fall. All of the prophets since the world began have testified of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.
We will all suffer physical death, but Jesus Christ overcame the obstacle of physical death for us. When He died on the cross, His spirit became separated from His body. On the third day, His spirit and His body were reunited eternally, never to be separated again. He appeared to many people, showing them that He had an immortal body of flesh and bone. The reuniting of body and spirit is called resurrection and is a gift promised to each of us. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected regardless of whether we have done good or evil in this life. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never again be subject to disease, pain, or death. The Resurrection makes it possible to return to God’s presence to be judged but does not guarantee that we will be able to live in His presence. To receive that blessing, we must also be cleansed from sin.
God sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin in addition to the obstacle of physical death. We are not responsible for the Fall of Adam and Eve, but we are responsible for our own sins. God cannot look on sin with any degree of allowance, and sin prevents us from living in His presence. Only through the Savior’s grace and mercy can we become clean from sin so that we can live with God again. This is possible through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that. He was called and prepared in the premortal life. He was the literal Son of God in the flesh. He was sinless and completely obedient to His Father. Though tempted, He never gave in to temptation. When the Father asked His Beloved Son to pay the price of the world’s sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The Savior’s Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection. Though He suffered beyond comprehension—so much so that He bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him—He submitted to the Father’s will in a supreme expression of love for His Father and for us. This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Christ promises to forgive our sins on the condition that we accept Him by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives. Through continuing repentance, we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are relieved of the burden of guilt and shame, and through Jesus Christ we become worthy to return to the presence of God.
As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
In paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus did not, however, eliminate our personal responsibility. We must show that we accept Him and that we will follow His commandments. Only through the gift of the Savior’s Atonement can we return to live with God.
Even though Christ conquered physical death, all people must die, for death is part of the process by which we are transformed from mortality to immortality. At death our spirits go to the spirit world. Death does not change our personality or our desires for good or evil. Those who chose to obey God in this life live in a state of happiness, peace, and rest from troubles and care. Those who chose not to obey in this life and did not repent live in a state of unhappiness. In the spirit world the gospel is preached to those who did not obey the gospel or have the opportunity to hear it while on earth. We remain in the spirit world until we are resurrected.
When our bodies and spirits are reunited through the Resurrection, we will be brought into God’s presence to be judged. We will remember perfectly our righteousness and our guilt. If we have repented, we will receive mercy. We will be rewarded according to our works and our desires.
Through the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection all people will be saved, or gain salvation, from physical death. They will be resurrected and become immortal—that is, they will live forever. Immortality is a free, or unconditional, gift to all people, whether they are righteous or wicked.
People may also be saved, or gain salvation, from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him, by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him.
Eternal life and exaltation are not the same as immortality.
President Russell M. Nelson taught, “In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter” (“Salvation and Exaltation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 10).
Exaltation, or celestial glory, is the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial kingdom. Exaltation is a conditional gift. President Nelson has taught, “Those qualifying conditions include faith in the Lord, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and remaining faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the temple” (“Salvation and Exaltation,” 9). Exaltation means living with God forever in eternal families. It is to know God and Jesus Christ and to experience the life They enjoy.
During our mortal lives we make choices regarding good and evil. God rewards us according to our works and desires. Because God rewards everyone according to their desires and their deeds done on earth, there are different kingdoms of glory to which we may be assigned after the Judgment.
Those who have repented of their sins, received the ordinances of the gospel, and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will be saved in the celestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 137:10). In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun.
The celestial kingdom has three heavens or degrees (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1), and only those who have an eternal marriage, sealed by the Holy Spirit, can enter into the highest, which is exaltation (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:2). They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fulness of joy.
Those in the celestial kingdom who do not have an eternal marriage can enter into another “heaven” or “degree” in the celestial kingdom, but in that place they are ministering angels who “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, … angels of God forever and ever” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:17; see also Doctrine and Covenants 131:4; Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 92).
People who do not accept the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this life or in the world to come but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:71–80).
Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life or accept the gospel in the world to come will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the stars (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–86).
This section has ideas for you to use in preparing for and teaching the information in this lesson. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance as you decide how to use these ideas. Add the ideas you select to your lesson plan. Keep in mind that these ideas are suggestions—not requirements—to help you meet the needs of those you teach.
What questions do you have about what we have taught?
What do you understand about God’s plan for you and your family?
From what we have taught you, what do you understand about the role of Jesus Christ? What does that mean to you?
Following are terms that are frequently not understood. Make sure you explain them clearly and find out if those you are teaching understand.
Atonement of Jesus Christ: As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinners and allowing them to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross. He was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all mankind. He suffered the penalty for our sins in Gethsemane and died on the cross. He took upon Himself the pains, sicknesses, temptations, afflictions, and infirmities of us all (see Alma 7:11–12).
Exaltation: To become like our Father in Heaven and live in His presence as members of His family. President Nelson has taught, “To be exalted—or to gain exaltation—refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm” (“Salvation and Exaltation,” 8). Exaltation comes through the Atonement of Christ and through obedience to all the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
Fall (of Adam and Eve): When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they became mortal—that is, subject to sin and death. Adam became the “first flesh” upon the earth (Moses 3:7). Latter-day revelation makes clear that the Fall is a blessing and that Adam and Eve should be honored as the first parents of all mankind.
Immortality: The condition of living forever in a resurrected state, not subject to physical death.
Judgment: God, through Jesus Christ, will judge us individually to determine the eternal glory we will receive. This judgment will be based on our obedience to God’s commandments, including our acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We will receive our eternal reward based on whether our works and desires have been good or evil.
Mortality: The time from birth until physical death.
Physical death: Separation of our spirit, which lives forever and cannot die, from our physical body.
Premortal life (premortal existence; pre-earth life): As spirit children of our Father in Heaven, we lived in His presence before we were born on this earth. In premortal life we did not have physical bodies.
Redemption: To deliver, to purchase, or to ransom, such as to free a person from bondage by payment. Redemption refers to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to deliverance from sin. Jesus’s Atonement redeems all mankind from physical death. Through His Atonement, those who have faith in Him and repent are also redeemed from spiritual death.
Resurrection: The reuniting of the spirit body with the physical body of flesh and bones after death. After resurrection, the spirit and body will never again be separated, and the person is immortal. Every person born on earth will be resurrected because Jesus Christ overcame death.
Salvation: To be saved from physical and spiritual death. “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression; … that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:2–3). All people will be saved from physical death, or resurrected, by the grace of God, through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is an unconditional gift from the Savior to all human beings, regardless of the choices they make during this life. Salvation from spiritual death (sin) is conditional. President Russell M. Nelson taught, “People may also be saved from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him, by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him” (“Salvation and Exaltation,” 8).
Spiritual death: Separation from God and His influences; to die as to things pertaining to righteousness. Spiritual death was introduced into the world by the Fall of Adam and Eve (see Alma 42:6–7). Mortals with sinful thoughts, words, and works are spiritually dead while still alive on earth (see 2 Nephi 9:39). Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, men and women can become clean from sin and overcome spiritual death as they repent and live the principles and ordinances of the gospel (see Articles of Faith 1:2–3).
Baptism by immersion
Cleansed [from sin]
Forgiven [of sin]
Garden of Eden
Kingdoms of glory
Plan of salvation
Tree of knowledge of good and evil