“Chapter 1: Understanding the Plan of Salvation for Heavenly Father’s Children,” The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual Religion 150 (2017)
“Chapter 1: Understanding the Plan of Salvation for Heavenly Father’s Children,” The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual
Students often face false philosophies of the world regarding the purpose of their existence. As you teach the plan of salvation, help clarify the purpose of mortality and the role of our Heavenly Father’s plan to give direction and meaning to life. As students understand the plan of salvation, they will understand how tribulations, joy, work, study, and maintaining physical strength play an important part in their daily experiences. When we follow the Savior’s example, we are happier and are better able to bless the lives of our families and those we serve.
Heavenly Father prepared a plan of salvation that teaches us where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going after mortality.
Understanding our place in the plan of salvation helps us develop faith and find joy in a world with many inequities.
We can use our knowledge of the plan of salvation to help us in our earthly challenges.
Ask if any student can quote Moses 1:39. If so, give a student the opportunity to do so; then invite the class to recite it together once or twice. Ask a student to explain what this scripture means to him or her.
Write The Plan on the board. Write the following scripture references underneath, leaving out the phrases in parentheses:
Invite several students to take turns reading these verses aloud. Ask students to find some of the names for Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. Help students discover that the names given to this plan describe Heavenly Father’s purposes for us. You may want to suggest that students consider marking these names.
Write the following three terms on the board, which are the three stages of existence: premortal life, mortal life, and postmortal life. Ask students to share what they know about each stage of Heavenly Father’s plan. Refer them to scriptures and statements by the prophets as needed to help them understand the following concepts:
Heavenly Father is a celestial being with a glorified body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22). He is the Father of our spirits (see Romans 8:16–17; Hebrews 12:9). We lived with Him as spirit children (see Abraham 3:22–23).
In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. …
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).
We rejoiced as we began to understand Heavenly Father’s plan. (See Job 38:4–7. Latter-day prophets have taught that verse 7 refers to the joy we felt in our premortal existence when we accepted the plan of salvation; for example, see the statement by Elder Richard G. Scott under the section “Heavenly Father prepared a plan of salvation …” in the student manual.)
Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan and offered an alternative plan that would limit our agency. He and his followers were cast out. (See Revelation 12:7–11; D&C 29:36; 76:25–27; Moses 4:1, 3–4.)
Being faithful in our premortal life was keeping our “first estate”; our “second estate” began with our mortal life (see Abraham 3:26).
Whatever knowledge and intelligence we gain during mortality through our diligence and obedience will rise with us in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18–19).
Discuss the following questions with students:
Why are each of these three stages of existence important to becoming like our Heavenly Father?
How does knowing you are a son or daughter of God help you to understand your divine potential?
What spiritual qualities help us become more like our Heavenly Father? (Faith, obedience, humility, and so forth.)
What will be the results if we follow Heavenly Father’s plan? (We become like Him, receive a fulness of joy, and so forth.)
Ask a few students to take turns reading the following scriptures aloud and to explain why living according to God’s plan brings happiness:
Explain that even as we live according to the great plan of salvation, parts of mortality may be very difficult and include severe trials. Nevertheless, we should remember that Heavenly Father wants us to find joy and peace by keeping His commandments.
Invite students to name some plays they have seen or read that had more than one act.
Why is it important to know what happened in the first act of a three-act play?
How would not knowing about our pre-earth life cause misunderstanding about who we are and what our eternal potential is?
Invite a student to read aloud the following description President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave when he likened the plan of salvation to “a grand three-act play”:
“Act 1 is entitled ‘Premortal Life.’ The scriptures describe it as our first estate (see Jude 1:6; Abraham 3:26, 28). Act 2, from birth to the time of resurrection, is the ‘Second Estate.’ And act 3 is called ‘Life After Death’ or ‘Eternal Life.’
“In mortality, we are like actors who enter a theater just as the curtain goes up on the second act. We have missed act 1. The production has many plots and subplots that interweave, making it difficult to figure out who relates to whom and what relates to what, who are the heroes and who are the villains. It is further complicated because we are not just spectators; we are members of the cast, on stage, in the middle of it all!
“As part of the eternal plan, the memory of our premortal life, act 1, is covered with a veil. Since we enter mortality at the beginning of act 2 with no recollection of act 1, it is little wonder that it is difficult to understand what is going on” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Play and the Plan” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, May 7, 1995], 2).
Why does forgetting “act 1” (our premortal life) require us to exercise faith in the Lord?
How can knowing that we came to earth and entered mortality as a part of a divine plan help us when life is difficult?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer:
“We sometimes wonder: If the plan really is the great plan of happiness, why must we struggle to find fulness of it in mortal life?
“If you expect to find only ease and peace and bliss during act 2, you surely will be frustrated. You will understand little of what is going on and why things are permitted to be as they are.
“Remember this! The line ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right. …
“Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much. Some are born in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering. Some experience premature death, even innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. …
“Do not suppose that God willingly causes that which, for his own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Play and the Plan,” 2).
Review President Boyd K. Packer’s statement “Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life.” Ask students how they would use their knowledge of the plan of salvation to respond to the following statements and questions:
My father died before I was old enough to get to know him. Will I ever see him again?
I have a friend who does all kinds of bad things, and he seems perfectly happy. Why should I keep God’s commandments?
My fiancée and I agreed that we’re not going to have any children—they are too much of a burden financially and emotionally. We’ll be happier without a family.
Help students understand that we developed talents and abilities in the premortal life and that knowledge of our premortal life should encourage continued faithfulness and development of our talents and abilities during mortality. To help them understand these principles, share the following statements by General Authorities and discuss the questions following them.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:
“In this prior life, this premortal existence, this preexistence, we developed various capacities and talents. Some developed them in one field and some in another. The most important of all fields was the field of spirituality—the ability, the talent, the capacity to recognize truth” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Making Your Calling and Election Sure” [Brigham Young University devotional, Mar. 25, 1969], speeches.byu.edu).
Why do you think spirituality is “the most important of all fields?”
In what ways might spirituality affect our ability to understand temporal knowledge?
Ask students to share several common temporal challenges experienced in mortality (for example, finding a job, having sufficient finances to meet basic needs, keeping good health, and understanding trials).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“Agreeing to enter this second estate, therefore, was like agreeing in advance to anesthetic—the anesthetic of forgetfulness. Doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient, in the midst of what was previously authorized, to ask him, again, if it should be continued. We agreed to come here and to undergo certain experiences under certain conditions” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Premortality, a Glorious Reality,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 17).
How does knowing that you were willing in your premortal life to submit to certain conditions on earth affect how you accept and deal with challenges?
How can the knowledge that we developed various talents and abilities in our premortal life help motivate us to develop them in this life also?
Encourage students to explain the plan of salvation to family members during a family home evening lesson.
Ask students to write responses to the following questions in their class notebooks or study journals:
In what ways can improving our education and employment skills help us fulfill our purpose in mortality?
How could our gaining greater training and education bless our families and others both spiritually and temporally?