Hannah is getting to go to the temple for the first time. As a result she has been discussing the temple prep lessons with me (McKay and Myles through Skype today). Today’s subject is The Plan. This plan was designed to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This plan includes a Creation, a Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, along with laws, ordinances and doctrine. This plan makes it possible for all of God’s children to be exalted and to live forever with God (2 Nephi 2:9). This plan has many great names: Plan of Salvation, Great Plan of Happiness, Plan of Redemption, Plan of Justice. I know most people think of this… “circle, circle, circle, circle, you are here.”
I have taught the Plan of Salvation over and over for many years. After 13 years of teaching early morning Seminary at my church, I have taught the Plan of Salvation many times. It is, by far, my favorite gospel lesson to teach. Lesson materials often refer you back that “circle, circle, circle circle, you are here” way of explaining things. Sometimes, you might teach it as 3 pillars “… the creation, the fall and the Atonement of Christ.” Another popular teaching method is President Packer’s “3 Act Play.” This year, as prescribed in the lesson material to teach The Plan at the beginning of every seminary year, I taught The Plan like this:
I love this approach because The Plan is powered by LOVE. However, after years of study and years of teaching this great Plan, I have come to an understanding… something is missing in that “circle, circle, circle, circle, you are here.”
“What is missing?” you may ask.
JESUS IS THE PLAN!
It is that simple.
There is none other name under heaven by which man can be saved (Acts 4:12).
I can’t tell you how many Plan of Salvation lessons, talks, and discussions I have participated in where Jesus Christ hasn’t even been mentioned. We tend to zero in on what, when, and where and completely miss out on WHO – who made it all possible.
I like to teach the above diagram (along with “circle, circle, circle, circle, you are here”) as the “time line” or “plot” of The Plan. Are discussions of Jesus and The Plan two separate discussions? I don’t think so. I don’t see it as a script plot vs the script theme or message vs the who. All are a part of the greater whole. The plot is important in a play because it helps us all understand what happens and when it happens. The theme helps us to understand why it happens and why the story is important enough to even share. The who helps us to understand who puts the story into action, and in some cases, may even help us to understand the plot and the theme to a greater degree. (I will get more into this script/theatre definition of The Plan at a different time, but this brief idea helps us to understand just a little more where I am coming from with my thoughts).
This past fall I had prepared to teach The Plan using the lesson material method of a mixture of “three pillars” and the version where a man (stick men are my best spur of the moment drawings) is walking down a path… (see drawing below).
First, there was a creation – a creation of us as spirit children of God and a creation of a plan to assist us in our journey to learn and to grow and to become our greatest and fullest potential.
Second, there was a Fall – part of the plan. The Fall assisted us in learning and growing and required us to act in faith. Not any old faith, but FAITH IN CHRIST and in THE PLAN.
Third, there needed to be an Atonement – something to bridge the gap and to claim victory over the effects of the Fall.
To explain all this – these “pillars” of the plan, I drew a line to represent the creation of a path, a pit, and then, for some reason, I extended the line as if to make a “higher place.” I placed a stick man on each end of the line and added “rays” on the higher stick man to signal that He was greater than the first stick man.
Anyway, stick man is wanting to go from point A to point B. Point B is a place of exaltation and a place where God dwells. The trouble is, “how does he get from point A to point B when there is a giant canyon between him and point B?
We discussed this question for a bit in class.
Now, I’ve taught this lesson before where there is a ladder in the pit but it doesn’t quite get to the top, so, stick man can only go so far with out some help since if he moves forward he will fall into the pit and get stuck. At this point I’d usually draw a new stick man at the top of the pit extending a rope down to the fallen stick man to help him get out of the pit. Stick man at the top of the pit was willing to help pull stick man at the bottom out of the pit, yet stick man in the pit has to climb the ladder and grab on to the rope, making great effort to climb up and hold tight to the rope to get out of the pit. This is all true. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, His power and mercy, extends a helping hand to us as we need help to get out of the pit. We must take a leap of faith, grab onto and hold tight to Christ’s extending hand.
The lesson was moving along as planned… until I suddenly had a deeper understanding and words I had never thought of before started to come out of my mouth and I began to add to the picture. (Again, see the picture below).
JESUS IS THE PLAN!
Jesus is involved in every step of the way of getting from point A to point B.
Jesus is the path – the Way, the Truth and THE LIGHT.
I still need to make an effort.
Stick man must choose for himself… to follow the Path or to make his own way.
“Ye are free to act for yourselves – to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.” (2 Nephi 10:23).
Stick man still needs to have Faith in Christ – that He will be there, that His power can overcome the effects of the pit and that His strength, mercy, and love as sufficient for all that stick man lacks.
By grace you are saved through faith (Eph. 2:8).
Stick man needs to seek The Light and have courage to follow The Light – like a light house in the distance pointing the safest route to take or a light in the darkness chasing the shadows of doubt and fear from before our face.
“Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isa. 2:5).
“Christ is the life and the light of the world…” (Alma 32:35).
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105).
Stick man needs to trust that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ the gaps of life are covered.
“God delivers his servants that trust him.” (Dan. 3:19-23).
“Whoever will put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials.” (Alma 36:3,27).
Stick man needs to trust the path – The Way – that is strait (a safe passage through dangerous waters) and straight (a narrow passage with no curves or deviations).
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
“Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few be there that find it. (Matt. 7:14)
At this point I started adding a kneeling figure, larger that life, spanning the gap in the pit that separated stick man from exalted stick man.
Jesus created the world – a proving ground and school for God attribute learning. His creation put the Plan into action as is moved from “paper” to “reality.” This was part of the Plan – created by the Father for His spirit children to help them get from point A to point B. Jesus created the bridge that spans the gulf and misery that was created by the Fall (also a part of the Plan to get stick man from point A to point B). Jesus “takes a knee” to “save” us from the effects of the opponent. As I understand it, the quarterback can “take a knee” near the end of the game when your team has possession of the ball and holds a narrow lead. The game is at risk if the quarterback were to execute a pass or a run play. It is a move that requires humility and a definite lack of pride.
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:29).
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greastest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men (D&C 19:18-19).
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sickness of his people.” (Alma 7:11).
At this point in the lesson I pointed out how the arms and the kneeling posture of this new stick man resembled a cross and yoke. The cross was heavy to bare. Jesus stumbled. Jesus struggled. The pressure was great, yet He continued… even when He was left alone in His final moments… He chose to carry the weight of bridging the gap of the awful gap of death and hell (separation us from God and our spirits from our bodies) that we all might have the opportunity to live again, to gain eternal life and exhalation. He knelt in the Garden as He “redeemed” (to pay for and thus reclaim) our souls. Jesus Christ was willing to descend below all things for you and for me, climbing into the pit to lift us from our deepest despair, brightening our darkest days, giving light and life to all that receive the gift of The Plan.
“The Son of Man hath descended below them all…” (D&C 122:8)
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12).
Now at this point, I could go on for days about all the different ways Jesus Christ is The Plan in each and every step of the way.
Jesus came to earth to get a body – just like us – was tried and tested and PASSED!
Jesus died for the sins, pains, and injustices of the world.
Jesus visited the Spirit World, organised His work (to bring to pass the eternal life and immortality of all mankind), and opened the gate between Paradise and Spirit Prison.
Jesus was the First fruit of the Resurrection, bring about the resurrection all off mankind.
Jesus Christ acts was Mediator, Judge, Friend, Savior, Redeemer, The Lamb, The Word, the tree of Life, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Creator, the Father and author of Salvation through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Any discussion of The Plan of Salvation is incomplete without Jesus Christ at the center of The Plan. He POWERS the Plan… He puts the Plan into ACTION… without Jesus Christ, without His life, His words, His death, His resurrection, His Atonement, there is no Plan.
This is the true picture of the Plan of Salvation.
I am not alone in how I feel about The Plan. Here is another great blog (from which I borrowed this awesome picture), that bares testimony of the principles I believe… change that, that I know…
JESUS IS THE PLAN!