Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Plan for Salvation – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the Plan for our Salvation. 
    Because there is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life, we begin this continuation with two equally important understandings: 1) “The idea that mortal birth is the beginning of our existence is preposterous, since there is no way to explain life if you believe that; and 2) “The notion that life ends with mortal death is ridiculous, since there is no way to face life if you believe that.
    “When we understand the doctrine of premortal life, then things fit together and make sense. We then know that little boys and little girls are not monkeys, nor are their parents, nor were theirs, to the very beginning generation. We are the children of God, created in his image” (Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 22; Ensign, Nov. 1983, p18).
    This, then makes our child-parent relationship to God clear, and the purpose for the creation of this earth clear, as well as the testing of our obedience and righteousness that comes in mortality is clear. And, according to Elder Packer, this makes “The need for a redeemer clear.”
    According to Elder Packer, when we do understand that basic and overall principle of the gospel, “we see a Heavenly Father and a Son; we see an atonement and a redemption. We understand why ordinances and covenants are necessary. We understand the necessity for baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. We understand why we renew that covenant by partaking of the sacrament” (Ibid).
    This means then that the Lord made it known to Moses (Moses 3) and also to Abraham (Abraham 3) as well as expressing in several revelations, that man was in the beginning with God. In that day, however, man was a spirit unembodied (without body, not yet organized). The beginning was when the councils met and the decision was made to create this earth that the spirits who were intended for this earth, should come here and partake of the mortal conditions and receive bodies of flesh and bones.
In fact, God the Father provided the plan of salvation by which His spirit children could eventually become like Him. This plan had several main parts:
1. God’s plan of salvation was taught to His spirit children (Abraham 3:24-27);
2. Jesus Christ was chosen and foreordained to come to earth to perform the atoning sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19-20; Moses 4:2; Revelation 13:8); Abraham 3:27);
3. Lucifer, a spirit in authorithy in the presence of God, sought the glory and honor of God and the elimination of the agency of the children of God (Moses 4:1-3; D&C 76:25-28; Isaiah 14:12-14);
4. Lucifer’s rebellion against God caused a war in heaven (Revelation 12:; D&C 76:25-29);
5. One-third of the spirits were cast out of heaven because they chose not to keep their first estate (Abraham 3:27-28; D&C 19:36-38; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:8-9);
6. All who kept their ‘first estate” (premortal life) were promised that they would “be added upon” (which includes receiving mortal bodies). All who keep their second estate will have “glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abraham 3:26).
    Thus, our Heavenly Father provided the Plan of Salvation by which His spirit children, all of us, could eventually become like Him. It would not be a free gift. We would have to prove ourselves that we were worthy of such a result through our performance on Earth. As the Lord told Abraham, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:25-26)
“When the great War in Heaven was fought, Lucifer, the son of the morning, came forth with a plan that was rejected. The Father of us all, with love for us, His children, offered a better plan under which we would have freedom to choose the course of our lives. His Firstborn Son, our Elder Brother, was the key to that plan. Man would have his agency, and with that agency would go accountability. Man would walk the ways of the world and sin and stumble. But the Son of God would take upon Himself flesh and offer Himself a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all men. Through unspeakable suffering He would become the great Redeemer, the Savior of all mankind” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 107; or Ensign, May 2002, 90).
    “Christ made the Father’s plan his own by adoption. But what is basically important in this respect is to know that the power to save is vested in the Father, and that he originated, ordained, created, and established his own plan; that he announced it to his children; and that he then asked for a volunteer to be the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Messiah, who would put the eternal plan of the Eternal Father into eternal operation” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 1:48–49 note 3).
    However, Satan’s counter-plan was the opposite. In it, man would have no agency, no free will, but be forced to be good and righteous. As J. Reuben Clark said, “What Satan wanted, quite evidently, was the full possession, ownership, of this creation of spirits that is involved in the peopling of this earth; so he tried to get them by gift, and that being denied, he is following along and trying to get us through the commission of sin. If we sin sufficiently we become his subjects. As I read the scriptures, Satan’s plan required one of two things: Either the compulsion of the mind, the spirit, the intelligence of man, or else saving men in sin. I question whether the intelligence of man can be compelled. Certainly men cannot be saved in sin, because the laws of salvation and exaltation are founded in righteousness, not in sin” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1949, 193).
In this war in heaven, there were no “fence sitters,” no on-lookers, none who did not participate—none were punished for their performance. We all took sides. We championed God’s Plan or sided with Satan. As Joseph Fielding Smith said, ”There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65–66). In fact, not only were none punished for any reason who sided with God and his Plan, but were rewarded by keeping that First Estate and advancing into Earth Life.
    “The punishment of Satan and the third of the host of heaven who followed him, was that they were denied the privilege of being born into this world and receiving mortal bodies. They did not keep their first estate and were denied the opportunity of eternal progression. The Lord cast them out into the earth, where they became the tempters of mankind—the devil and his angels” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65).
Thus, we see, that we came into this world without blemish, having earned the degree and circumstances to which we were born by our development and performance during our First Estate in the spirit realm of our Heavenly Father. It is not that God placed us here or there, it is that we earned the right to come into this life, this Second Estate or Earth Life, as we did, from our experiences and development in the First Estate, or Spirit World. And that clearly means that we will earn the result of our next or Third Estate, the Eternal Life and realm of our Heavenly Father by our obedience and performance in this Earth Life.
(See the next post, “A Plan for Salvation – Part III,” for more on this pre-mortal to mortal existence as we carry out our development under the Father’s Plan for our Salvation)

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