“13. O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.”
1. I have a fam’ly here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.
Fam’lies can be together forever
Through Heav’nly Father’s plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.
The Lord has shown me how I can.
2. While I am in my early years,
I’ll prepare most carefully,
So I can marry in God’s temple for eternity.
*For Younger Children*
Parents can present Heavenly Father’s “great plan of happiness” in simple yet powerful ways.
Not long ago, I drove several young men and their leaders to the beginning of a great trail. They were headed for a 50-mile hike. As we neared the drop-off point, leaders began reminding the youth of details about their journey. Each young man was studying the map and seemed sobered by the dramatic changes in elevation along the trail. One of the leaders talked about his firsthand knowledge of the adventure and the dangers that lay ahead. He assured the boys that the plan for the trip had been carefully prepared, and that no matter what they would face—fatigue, pain, rodents, rain, and so forth—they would enjoy the experience.
One of the boys was my son. I had a father’s concern, but I was grateful that there were faithful leaders, loyal friends, and, above all, a plan. It had been taught to the boys and reviewed before the trip began. It would be reviewed and followed along the way. Understanding the overall plan, seeing how each leg of the journey helped the group reach its goal, and having trustworthy, wise, and experienced guides inspired my confidence that the hike would be successfully completed.
As I consider the confidence those boys had, I also consider the confusion and frustration faced by many who are journeying through life without a secure knowledge of the plan of life. They struggle without a sense of eternal purpose. Prophets of God have always sought to explain the purpose of life by teaching the plan of salvation, also known as “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8). Through inspiration, parents can understand and teach this road map of eternity. They can use it to guide their paths and their children’s paths through mortality.
The following is a basic outline of the plan:
We worship God as the almighty ruler of heaven and earth. He is our Father in Heaven. We lived with Him as spirits before we were born. We are His children and belong to His eternal family (see Heb. 12:9). He loves us and wants us to achieve true, eternal happiness (see Rom. 8:16–17). To enable us to become like Him, our Father in Heaven prepared a plan that allows us to come to earth and receive a physical body. This life is a time of testing to see if we will keep His commandments (see Abr. 3:24–25). Having no memory of our premortal life, we must act by faith (see 2 Cor. 5:6–7). He gives us commandments, ordinances, and covenants to point the way we should go to fulfill our eternal potential (see Moses 5:58–59). We will be held accountable for our decisions and actions (see D&C 101:78). We experience difficulties, trials, and temptations. By overcoming them through faith in His Beloved Son we develop many of the characteristics of our Heavenly Father (see Heb. 12:10–11).
The sins we commit make us unworthy to dwell in the presence of God (see 1 Ne. 15:34). But because He loves His children, our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us. Jesus fulfilled the will of the Father and voluntarily suffered and gave His life to pay for our sins. Through His Resurrection, He overcame physical death so that we can again obtain a physical body after our death. His suffering, death, and Resurrection are called the Atonement (see LDS Bible Dictionary, “Atonement,” 617). To enjoy here in mortality and hereafter all the blessings that come from Christ’s sacrifice, we are to accept Him and live according to His example and teachings (see A of F 1:3).
When we die, our spirit leaves our physical body, but the spirit is still alive and goes to the spirit world (see Alma 40:11–13). There we await the Resurrection and Judgment. In the spirit world the gospel is taught to all who died without hearing or accepting Jesus Christ and His gospel (see D&C 138:32–34).
When we are resurrected, our physical bodies and spirits are reunited, never to be separated again (see Alma 11:43, 45). The degree of glory we experience depends on our faithfulness to Heavenly Father’s teachings. If we have been faithful and worthy, we will be with our Father in celestial glory. Those who qualify to be exalted in the highest degree of this glory receive a fulness of joy (see D&C 132:19–20). There are lesser degrees of glory for those who have been less valiant in obeying His teachings (seeD&C 76:96–98).
Presenting an Overview of the Plan
Most of us have been taught the doctrines of the plan of salvation, yet we appreciate help in putting the various doctrines into a meaningful overview as we try to explain the plan to others.
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has suggested: “From time to time, I would … give an overview of the plan of salvation. I would try to do it a little different each time. You could use different scriptures. You could emphasize different things, but always remembering that the point of it is more than intellectual. It’s not just to know who God the Father is and who Jesus Christ is and who the Holy Ghost is. It’s to feel that is reality and that those individuals—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—are real, that they know [us], and they love [us] and they are attentive to [us]” (“Teaching Missionaries the Plan of Salvation,” Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 22 June 2000; emphasis added).
What are some helpful ways to present an overview of the plan to our children? The following are charts, activities, and scripture discussion ideas with which this may be done.
1. Putting the Pieces Together
President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has explained: “Individual doctrines of the gospel are not fully explained in one place in the scriptures, nor presented in order or sequence. They must be assembled from pieces here and there. They are sometimes found in large segments, but mostly they are in small bits scattered through the chapters and verses” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” 1993 Church Educational System [CES] Symposium, 1).
The challenge of identifying and assembling doctrines of the plan of salvation may be resolved by providing an overview or framework on which a person may organize the various doctrines, such as the pieces of a puzzle. Each piece could be labeled with a different element of the plan of salvation. Some of the pieces could represent parts of the plan that God has freely and unconditionally provided for us. These doctrines identify what we cannot do for ourselves and without which salvation would be impossible. You could assemble these pieces first. Other pieces could represent parts of the plan that we must choose to accept in order to take full advantage of God’s precious gifts. You could assemble these pieces last. Once the puzzle has been put together, a short scripture reference, such as the ones on the puzzle pieces, may be read and discussed as an extension of the activity. The importance of each piece to the overall plan could be discussed by asking what would happen if any piece of the plan were missing.
When we understand even a simple overview such as this puzzle, we may approach the journey of life with greater confidence. “People retain much more,” says President Packer, “when they know how all the pieces fit together, and the light of learning shines more brightly” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” 2).
2. Lines and Circles
A series of three horizontally drawn circles, representing premortal, earth, and spirit world life, with four vertically drawn circles to the right, representing postmortal degrees of glory, is often used to present an overview of the plan of salvation. Lines between the circles, representing birth, death, and judgment and resurrection, may also be drawn. Each circle and line is labeled with the name of a part of the plan.
It may be helpful when teaching with this drawing to talk about the locations (the circles) and transitions (the lines) we all experience. Causes and reasons for each transition can also be discussed. For example, instead of simply observing, “After we die, we will be resurrected,” a parent could say, “Because of the Fall everyone dies. After death, because of Christ, we will all be resurrected.”
3. The Bridge
This drawing also illustrates the relationship between what God has done for us as well as what we must do to fulfill the plan of salvation. Here the plan may be compared to a bridge with three pillars that spans a wide gulf. The bridge provides a path on which we may walk to gain eternal life. The drawing is an illustration of the truth taught by the prophet Nephi: “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).
4. Relating Scripture Discussions to Overviews of the Plan
Sometimes it can be difficult to see the relationship between doctrines on the pages of scripture and the plan of salvation. Scriptural passages can become more relevant when the ideas in them are placed into the context of a model of the plan of salvation and the learner is invited to ponder how that doctrine fits into the plan. Doing so may be the difference between reading the scriptures and searching them. For example, after studying in Moroni 2 [Moro. 2] about conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost, a parent could ask, “On what part of the bridge would you put this chapter?” and “Why would you put it there?” Discussing answers to these questions can help clarify how the words we read in the scriptures relate to the actions of our daily lives.
5. Heavenly Father’s Presence
One of the strengths of the representation on page 38 is the inclusion of the imagery of the “strait and narrow path” (see 2 Ne. 31:17–20). Note that the path that leads from Heavenly Father’s presence to spiritual death is downward, but the direction of life’s path continues forward. There is a gate across the path that leads to the house of the Lord. This suggests that there is more to returning to the presence of God than simply going through the gate. We must follow along the path if we are to progress and return to His presence.
6. Room to Room
You can use your home or another building to take those you teach on a “journey” through the plan. One room could be designated as the “premortal world,” another room could represent “earth life,” a third room could represent the “spirit world,” and the last room could represent the “celestial kingdom,” which might be where treats are located at the lesson’s end! You could talk about how we go through the doors of birth, death, and resurrection. Death could be explained as part of the plan—going from one room to the next. It might be useful to point out before anyone moves from room to room that someone had to plan and build the house we are all in. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the architects and builders of the plan of salvation (see also Christine Wright, “Walking Through the Plan of Salvation,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 72).
Creating Your Own Overviews
After studying these or other models of the plan of salvation, you will be able to discuss the strengths of each overview. One model might emphasize the importance of ordinances, while another might focus more on major transitional experiences, such as birth or death. Some models focus more deeply on the Savior’s Atonement. Wise parents might invite family members to create their own models or charts, based on sound doctrines found in the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
I picked up my van load of boys a week later. They were dirty and tired, and some had scrapes and bumps. But without exception, they were glad they had the experience. They had experienced bruises, rodents, rain (almost perpetually), and many other things. The valleys and hills had presented inclines so steep they appeared impossible to ascend. Yet they spoke of their experience with enthusiasm and wonder. They had endured to the end and reveled in the joy of accomplishing something that seemed beyond the limits of their natural abilities. They had been well prepared and had followed their plan. Loving leaders had guided them along the way.
Teaching, understanding, and following the “great plan of happiness” is a key to journeying safely through mortality. “The plan is worthy of repetition over and over again,” explains President Packer. “Then the purpose of life, the reality of the Redeemer, and the reason for commandments will stay with [those you teach]. Their gospel study, their life experiences, will add to an ever-growing witness of the Christ, of the Atonement, of the restoration of the gospel” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” 3).
Use this guide to teach the plan of happiness to children.
In 2 Nephi, Jacob teaches the basic doctrine of the plan of salvation with great clarity.
The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator
Why does life seem so difficult? Why does there seem to be so much sadness, hate, and unhappiness in the world? Why do the innocent suffer? Through the prophetic words of Father Lehi, we know the intent of the Lord is for each person to find joy; indeed “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25). Why, then, are there so many unhappy people?
Our Heavenly Father has prepared a plan for us to be happy. This plan is known as the plan of salvation. It is also mentioned in the scriptures as the plan of happiness (see Alma 42:8), the plan of mercy (see Alma 42:15), or the plan of redemption (see Alma 42:11). The Father’s objective is to grant immortality and eternal life to each of His children (see Moses 1:39). His plan includes the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement, with all the laws, covenants, and ordinances that allow us to be exalted and live forever as a family with God.
Nephi’s brother Jacob teaches us the basic doctrine of the plan of salvation with great clarity in 2 Nephi, chapter 9. He calls it “the merciful plan of the great Creator” (2 Ne. 9:6). The central figure of the plan of salvation is Jesus Christ, who made exaltation possible through His infinite and eternal Atonement. Our Heavenly Father has revealed the plan of happiness through His prophets.
The Lord created all things spiritually before He created them physically: “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. … And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them” (Moses 3:5).
Before this world was organized, we had spirit bodies and lived in a premortal world with Heavenly Father, the father of our spirits. We knew Him personally just as He knows us. He desired that we become as He is—having eternal life and exaltation. He presented His plan to us in a great council during our premortal existence. As He taught us the great plan of happiness, we learned that, as spirits, our progress was limited. We needed to obtain a physical body. God’s plan would demand much of us; some would be lost if they did not have faith or keep the commandments.
Satan opposed this plan, and disregarding agency he promised that if we followed him no one would be lost (see Moses 4:1). A third of the spirits chose to follow Satan, rejecting the Father’s plan (see D&C 29:36). We, who accepted the plan of the Father, were born into this earthly existence. We agreed to do the best
we could. We knew that we would make some mistakes, and because of our mistakes, we would not be worthy to return to the presence of the Father. But as a central portion of the plan, a Savior—who would make it possible for us to repent and be forgiven—was presented to us. We rejoiced when the great plan of happiness and our Savior and Redeemer were presented to us (see Job 38:7).
Temporarily leaving our Father’s presence, we were sent to this earth. Through mortal fathers and mothers, our spirits were placed in mortal bodies. A main purpose of our mortal life is to test our willingness to do all our Heavenly Father asks of us. Obedience is essential for us to obtain exaltation and eternal life and thus become like our Father—beings of flesh and bone, immortal, exalted, and glorified. Only then will we be heirs of all He possesses.
Amulek taught that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32). With our conscience, which comes from the Light of Christ, every one of us can discern between good and evil, between truth and error (see Moro. 7:16–19). With our agency, the right to choose and act for ourselves, we can choose to do what is right or what is not. We can choose to follow the plan of happiness and obey the commandments of God, or reject the commandments of God and not be happy, for “behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). The progress we make and the happiness we attain depend upon our choices (see 2 Ne. 2:27).
Adam was the first man created upon the earth. He is the father and patriarch of the human race. Eve, his companion and helpmeet, was the first woman. Their transgression in the Garden of Eden—partaking of the forbidden fruit—caused them to “fall” and become mortal. The Fall is the process by which humankind and all things upon the earth fell and became mortal (see Alma 12:22). The Fall was a necessary step for our progress.
As mortals, Adam and Eve became subject to sin and death:
“Our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord. …
“Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from
the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death” (Alma 42:7, 9).
Death is a part of the plan of salvation. Physical death is the temporary separation of the physical body (which is mortal) from the spiritual body (which is immortal). After death, our physical body decomposes to its basic elements. As for our spiritual body, the scriptures teach:
“Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and theresurrection— … the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body … are taken home to that God who gave them life. …
“… The spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise. …
“… The spirits of the wicked … shall be cast out into outer darkness. …
“… Thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:11–14).
Atonement means reconciliation of man with God. Atoning means suffering the punishment for sin, thus removing the effects of the transgression of the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled with God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect atonement for all humankind. He was able to do this because He was chosen and foreordained in the great council held before this world was created, because He was the literal Son of God in the flesh, and because He was completely obedient to the Father’s will. His Atonement includes the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane for the sins of humankind, the shedding of His blood, and His dea
th and subsequent Resurrection. Because of the Atonement, all will arise from the grave with an immortal body. The Atonement also provides the means by which our sins may be forgiven and we may live forever with God. However, this reconciliation is possible only if we have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, receive the ordinances of salvation, and keep the commandments of God.
Because of His love for us, our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to show us the way and help us return to His presence: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection, we will all be resurrected. Jesus Christ is our Savior, for He saves us from physical death:
“For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. …
“O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
“And our spirits must have become like unto him, … shut out from the presence of our God. …
“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Ne. 9:6, 8–10).
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we may be freed from spiritual death as well as physical death. If we repent of our sins, He takes from us the s
uffering we must otherwise endure because of our individual transgressions. “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all,” said the Savior, “that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16–17).
This redemption is conditioned on our having faith in His Atonement, our repenting from our sins, our keeping the covenants we make with the Lord, our obeying all His commandments, and our enduring to the end. Obeying the sacred covenants and all the commandments qualifies us to receive the remission of our sins, allowing us to live clean and pure lives in the presence of God as resurrected and exalted beings:
“O how great the plan of our God! … The spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls. …
“… And the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (2 Ne. 9:13–14).
Why does life seem so difficult? Why does there seem to be so much sadness, hate, and unhappiness in the world? Why do the innocent suffer? Why are there so many unhappy people? Many are unhappy because they do not know the plan of salvation; others do not believe the plan of salvation; and others, although they believe, are not willing to pay the price for happiness now and for all eternity. Do you believe in the plan of salvation? Are you willing to pay the price for happiness?
Jacob described those who are willing to pay this price: “Behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever” (2 Ne. 9:18).
Our Heavenly Father wants each one of us to receive a fulness of His blessings. Will we become discouraged because of the adversities of the world? No! Let us be optimistic. Let us have faith in the future, knowing that the plan of salvation is true. Let us trust the Father and endure to the end. Let us never forget that we are children of Heavenly Father and that each one of us has the potential to become like Him. Let us have faith in Jesus Christ; let us have faith in ourselves. Then we will have joy in this life and throughout eternity.
Talk about how patriarchal blessings can be a guide in our lives, and Important personal revelation.
Dirt Cake or Watermelon Cake
- Dark Chocolate Cookie Layer
Crushed Chocolate Cookie Crumbles 2 cups
Unsalted Butter (melted) 6 tbsp
In food processor, pulse the cookie crumbles together with melted butter till its ground down to a sandy consistency.
- Dark Chocolate Mousse Layer
Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Pudding 3 cups
- Whipped Cream Layer
Heavy whipping cream 2 cups
Powder Sugar (sifted) 1/4 cup
Vanilla Bean 1 pod scraped
- Inside a large glass bowl or 2-3 medium size mason jars you will first layer the dark chocolate cookie crumbles, then chocolate mousse and lastly the whipped cream
alternating the three components till you reach the top of the bowl or jar. You want to end with whipped cream and top it off with a few sprinkles of the dark chocolate cookie crumbles.
- 1 large seedless watermelon
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk (left in fridge for 6 hours or more)
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp. raw honey
- 1 cup sliced raw almonds
- Seasonal fresh fruit (for topping)
- BO MAKE THE COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM
1. Make sure to place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (or overnight). This will cause the cream to separate from the milk. The cream will be at the top of the can.
2. Open the can of coconut milk and scrape out the cream into a medium sized bowl. Hint: I always open the can from the bottom and pour the milk out into a separate container before scraping out the cream. You can use the saved milk for smoothies and other recipes.
3. Add the vanilla and raw honey to the mixture. Whip the cream with a hand mixer on medium speed and work your way up to high speed until the cream is fluffy. Place the bowl of whipped cream in the fridge until ready to use.
- TO MAKE THE TOASTED ALMONDS:
1. Place a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat and allow the pan to get hot.
2. Add the sliced almonds and toss in the pan until they are toasted and turn a light brown color. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.
- TO ASSEMBLE
1. Remove the top and bottom from the watermelon and remove the rind from the middle section. You should be left with a cake-shaped piece of watermelon. Cut the watermelon “cake” into the number of wedges/slices you want. I recommend 6-8 slices depending on the size of the watermelon. (See below for a visual on how to cut the watermelon!)
2. Pat the outside of the watermelon dry with paper towels (this is important because it will help the coconut whipped cream adhere better).
3. Dip the outside edge of each slice into the coconut whipped cream and then into the toasted almonds, and reassemble the wedges into the cake shape on a serving platter. Top with more whipped coconut cream and your favorite fresh fruit (I used blackberries, strawberries and kiwi). Serve or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
1- A taste of degrees – To give children a “taste” of the differences between the degrees of glory, offer them bites of chocolate and ask which they’d prefer for eternity:
No Chocolate = Outer Darkness
Unsweetened Chocolate = Telestial Kingdom
Bittersweet chocolate = Terrestrial Kingdom
Milk Chocolate = Celestial Kingdom
2- I’m Going to Earth– talk about how exited we must have been to come to earth to live! To play: The first person says, “I’m going to earth, and I’m taking a (name something like a flashlight)” The next person say the same thing but ads another item. The following person repeats everything previous and adds one more. Keep going until someone messes up.
(Activities from Dad’s Nights)
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.