Lessons on the Plan of Salvation

Lessons on the Plan of Salvation Preface

Purpose of this book – For many years I have prepared a weekly message for my family, and I greatly appreciate their love and patience in this effort.  Many of the lessons in this book are shortened versions of some of those messages. 

In the words of Nephi, it is my intent to write in “plainness that no man can err”.  It is my hope “that the things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation….for we labor diligently to write to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God for we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do….And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:7, 21, 23, 26).

In attempting to follow the example of Nephi, as set forth above, I have tried to teach truth that is in harmony with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  If there are errors, they come from my lack of understanding.  I desire to continue to learn and to teach, and look forward to receiving the greater light and knowledge which has been promised.

The following account describes how I came to write this book.

My understanding of the plan of salvation began with the Book of Mormon – In the Book of Mormon we learn about the plan of salvation, the plan of redemption, the plan of happiness, the plan of mercy.  The Book of Mormon teaches about the plan from beginning to end.  In the Book of Mormon we are taught about a seed which becomes “a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41).  Great men and events have planted these seeds in my life.  Gaining my testimony of the plan of salvation has been for me like planting the seed described in Alma 32.        

Missionary in the London England Mission and as a return missionary - Elder Marion D Hanks was my mission president.  President Hanks knew, and loved, and taught from the Book of Mormon.  It was on my mission that I fell in love with the Book of Mormon and began to study it.  After my mission I became a student of Elder Bruce R McConkie.  He also used the Book of Mormon to teach the plan of salvation, and I loved and studied his teachings.  During this time the seed doctrines of the plan of salvation were planted in my heart.  (See Alma 32:28)   

Raising our family – After our marriage I studied the Book of Mormon early most mornings as I rode my exercise bicycle.  Sue made sure our family read the Book of Mormon before school.  We participated in the Family to Family Book of Mormon program.  As our family shared our testimony of the Book of Mormon and learned more about the plan of salvation the seed began to swell, and we could “feel these swelling motions” (Alma 32:28). 

President of the Kentucky Louisville Mission – During this time President Ezra Taft Benson focused the Church on the Book of Mormon and how it teaches the plan of salvation.  My April 1993 message to our missionaries in our monthly publication “The Iron Rod” was entitled The Plan, and included Outline of the Plan of Salvation – Version 1.  (See Appendix for my three outlines of The Plan).  As a mission president the plan of salvation “began to enlarge my soul; yea, it began to enlighten my understanding, yea, it began to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).

Adjunct professor at BYU – At the end of our mission I became an adjunct professor teaching the Book of Mormon and the Gospels at the BYU Salt Lake Center.  I taught once a week for 18 years until called back to Kentucky as the temple president.  I prepared for each class by studying the Book of Mormon or the Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament most every day.  I believe the reason I received the Distinguished Teaching Award was because my students knew that I love the Lord, His prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon          

In August 1993, as I began at BYU, Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a great sermon to religious educators entitled “The Great Plan of Happiness”.  He said currently his favorite scripture was “God gave unto them commandments after having made known unto them the plan of redemption” (Alma 12:32).  He repeated it three times each time emphasizing the word “after.”

Elder Packer explained that it was a favorite scripture because it reveals a divine pattern and principle, which is that the more we know about the plan of salvation the greater is our incentive to keep the commandments.  Effective parents use this pattern.  Young children are taught about Heavenly Father and Jesus, and they are also taught basic commandments like telling the truth.

Missionaries follow this pattern.  As soon as a person accepts the idea that there is a plan they are invited to keep commandments.  Knowledge of the purpose of life gives them a reason to live the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity, to attend church, and pay tithing.

Elder Packer also suggested that we prepare an outline of the plan of salvation to use with every course we taught.  I felt inspired to have prepared Version 1 as a mission president.  I then prepared Outline of the Plan of Salvation – Version 2 which I used for my 18 years at BYU.

Teaching others the plan of salvation from the Book of Mormon has, “swelled my soul, and… my understanding began to be enlightened, and my mind began to expand” (Alma 32:34).

Temple service has greatly expanded my testimony of the plan of salvation – Keeping temple covenants makes it possible for the seed that was planted in my heart as 19-year-old missionary to become “a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41).

Temple service motivated Outline of the Plan of Salvation – Version 3.  This outline has been expanded to include the pre-mortal existence, the probationary estates of mortality and the spirit world, and life after the resurrection.  This book is organized around Version 3.            

The divine pattern taught in Alma 12:32 is followed in the temple where we learn the plan of salvation by what we hear, what we see, what we experience, and by symbols.  Throughout our temple experience we are put under covenant to keep the commandments.  In the temple we learn more about the plan of salvation, and we learn in ways that we can only learn there.  Understanding the doctrines of the temple is the greatest motivator of all to keep our covenants. 

Joseph Smith spoke of the “plan of ordinances” (TPJS, p. 167).  This is an essential part of the plan of salvation, and is primarily taught in the temple.  Temple ordinances are necessary for the exaltation of both the living and the dead which is the entire purpose of the plan of salvation.

The painting of the Savior which accompanies this book – I acquired this painting in Phoenix Arizona in 1965 shortly after my mission.  Sue and I love this depiction of the Lord, and it has been in our bedroom for our entire marriage. 

We testify that Jesus Christ is central to the plan of salvation. We further testify that everything which is eternal; our marriage, our family, and all that matters, is made possible through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lesson Index


Chapter One - The Plan of Salvation Overview

1.  The Creator and Redeemer of Infinite Worlds
2.  Why Teach the Plan of Salvation
3.  Divine Pattern for Teaching the Gospel
4.  The Plan of Salvation Applies Only to the Children of God
5.  The Creation and Fall - Real Events Described Both Literally and Symbolically
6.  Marriage and Family is Central to the Plan of Salvation
7.  The Parable of the Good Samaritan Teaches the Plan of Salvation
8.  Funerals and the Plan of Salvation
9.  The Doctrine of Christian Dispensations

Chapter Two - The Doctrine of Creation and the Premortal Existense

10.  The "How" and "Why" of Creation
11.  Premortal Spirit World
12.  The Talent of Spirituality is Mastered in Mortality
13.  All Things Bear Witness of a Supreme Creator
14.  Fossils and the Doctrine of Creation
15.  The Doctrine of Creation Must be Taught at Home
16.  Heavenly Mother
17.  Our Common Family Tree
18.  The Earth was Created that Families Might Be
19.  Our Spirit Is Who We Are

Chapter Three - The Doctrine of the Fall

20.  The Fall of Adam, the Atonement of Christ, and Marriage and Family
21.  Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
22.  The Doctrine of the Fall as Taught by Lehi in the Book of Mormon
23.  Two Trees, Two Commandments, Two Falls, and the Solution

Chapter Four - Mortal Life

24.  You Passed the Mid-Term - Now it's the Final
25.  Repentance is a Great Blessing and an Essential Need in Our Lives
26.  Lessons from the Life of My Mother
27.  Our Body Provides the Perfect Spiritual Resistance Training
28.  Our Spirit Gives Us Individual Identity and Is Who We Really Are
29.  To Act and Not Be Acted Upon
30.  Satan's Plan of Unhappiness

Chapter Five - The Spirit World

31.  The Post Mortal Spirit World
32.  Lifting the Veil of Forgetfulness
33.  Life in the Spirit World
34.  The Gospel is Taught and Received in the Spirit World
35.  An Essential Reason for Temples and Temple Worship

Chapter Six - The Atonement

36.  The Eternal Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ
37.  The Plan of Redemption and the Cunning Plan of the Evil One - 2 Nephi 9
38.  Jesus was Both the Son of God and the Son of David
39.  The Unconditional Aspect of the Atonement of Christ
40.  The Conditional Aspect of the Atonement of Christ
41.  The Eye Witness of the Atonement
42.  A Summary of the Plan of Redemption
43.  Why Only Jesus Could be Our Savior

Chapter Seven - The Resurrection

44.  The Doctrine of Resurrection and Judgment
45.  The Vision of Christ and the Resurrection
46.  Membership in the Lord's Church in Time and in Eternity
47.  The Blessings of Celestial Marriage
48.  The Atonement of Christ Make the Blessings of the Holy Resurrection Possible


49.  The Iron Rod - The Plan
50.  Outline of the Plan of Salvation