The plan of salvation, also known as the plan of happiness, is the path the Lord has created for all of His children to return to Him.
Centered on Jesus Christ, God’s plan teaches where we came from, the purpose of life, and what happens when we die. Gaining an understanding of God’s plan of salvation is perhaps the greatest blessing one can achieve in this life.
God’s plan of salvation answers life’s great questions, such as: “Where did I come from?” “What is my purpose in life?” “What happens when I die?” Knowing the answers to these questions helps with every decision and every event life brings to us.
Where did I come from? Our lives did not begin at birth, nor will they end at death. We are made up of a spirit body (sometimes called the soul) and a physical body. Heavenly Father created our spirit bodies, and we lived with Him before we were born on earth. We knew and loved Him, and He knew and loved us. Because God created our spirit-bodies, we all are literally children of God.
There are a few references in the Bible to the realm in which we lived as spirits before we were born on earth. Specifically, there are references to a pre-existent Jesus Christ, who as the Word, created the earth. There are references to a war in heaven and the fall of Lucifer, who became Satan. (See Isaiah 14:12.)Other scriptures tell us more about what Mormons call the “pre-existence,” or “pre-mortal life.” (See Abraham 3 and Moses 4 in the Pearl of Great Price.)
Christ and Lucifer are not the only beings who pre-existed this earth. We all did. In the pre-mortal world, a plan was presented to all of us, the end-goal of the plan being to exalt all of us who would choose to follow Christ and purify ourselves enough to gain heaven.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39).
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ desired for us to become like them. This would entail being born on earth to gain a physical body, and through our guaranteed “free agency” choose Christ and desire to live His commandments. Earth life teaches us many lessons necessary for exaltation. Heavenly Father knew we would fall short of perfection, that everyone on earth would sin. Christ was chosen as a Savior for us, if we would repent. He volunteered to suffer for all of our sins, if we would rely on Him. Lucifer presented another plan—to coerce us to live the commandments and take the glory of our guaranteed salvation from God. Thus, the war in heaven. Lucifer, and the 1/3 of the pre-existent spirits who followed him, were cast out of heaven and became the devil and his angels. They will forever be spirits, will never gain bodies, and will eventually be cast down to hell.
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me–Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
The rest of us voted in a grand, pre-mortal council to uphold Christ. Everyone who has dwelt, is dwelling, or will dwell on earth upheld Christ and God’s plan in the pre-mortal world.
What is my purpose in life? Our purpose in leaving God’s presence to come to earth includes obtaining a physical body, gaining experience, and learning to make right choices. God influences us to do good and to follow Him, while Satan tempts us to ignore God and commit sin. When we commit sin, we separate ourselves to some degree from God. We cannot overcome sin and its effects without Jesus Christ. He voluntarily suffered for our sins, pains, sicknesses, and sorrows. This payment is called the Atonement. Christ’s atoning sacrifice makes it possible to be forgiven, which brings inner peace and happiness.
The atonement of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event in earth’s history, and in the plan of salvation. Mormons have a different view of the fall of Adam and Eve than do other Christian faiths. Mormons believe that Adam and Eve were among the most illustrious of the spirits in the pre-mortal life, illustrious enough to be chosen for the difficult calling of becoming our first parents on earth. God gave them two conflicting commandments in order to guarantee their free agency (not to eat the forbidden fruit; to multiply and replenish the earth). There is no choice without opposition. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were immortal and unable to bear children. When they fell, mortality and procreation began. Thus, they partook of the fruit in order to bear children. Mormons thus do not believe that we carry the “sin” of our first parents. Both spiritual death (the separation from God), and physical death (the separation of our spirits from our bodies) brought into the world by our first parents have been overcome by Jesus Christ through the atonement.
What happens when I die? Physical death is a step forward in Heavenly Father’s plan. At death, our spirits will leave our bodies and go to the “spirit world,” which is a place of learning and preparation. One of God’s gifts is the Resurrection, the reuniting of the physical body and spirit, made possible by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. After we are resurrected, we will go before God to be judged according to our works and the intents of our hearts. If we have believed in Jesus Christ, repented of our sins, and followed His commandments, we will be able to enjoy eternal life in our Heavenly Father’s presence.
This knowledge makes Mormon funerals the happiest, most inspiring funerals on earth. Mormon doctrine, revealed by Christ Himself through His prophets, teaches that death is but a temporary separation from loved ones, and that we can be reunited with our families and friends for eternity.