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Sep 5, 2008

The Plan Of Salvation part 2

Our Heavenly Father desires for each of us, His children, to have the fullness of His joy. Hence, He created a plan by which we could receive direction to return to Him. Comparable to a three-act play, the Plan of Salvation answers the three questions that each soul desires answers to including, where did we come from, what purpose does life serve, and where are we going after death?
Knowing that we lived with our Heavenly Father before birth as His spirit children answers where we originated, but what of our life’s purpose? Why were we so anxious to leave our Father’s presence, and why is it that we remember nothing of this previous life?
The second act of the Plan of Salvation provides the answers to these fundamental questions. Since “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) the memory of our premortal existence was withheld from us so that we could learn and grow by searching for our life’s answers, instead of having them implanted in us. Although we may not fully realize or appreciate it, this life is both a blessing and an opportunity to have joy and prepare to return to our Heavenly Father. As a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we live in an imperfect world subject to both physical and spiritual death—the separation of mankind from deity so-named because, “the wage of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
During this mortal period we have been given the precious gift of agency to choose between right and wrong so that we could learn to overcome our flaws and imperfections. Although, “we believe that man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (2nd Article of Faith) we know that, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In addition to the effects of physical death (the separation of spirit and body), we are helpless to the consequences of spiritual death induced by willful disobedience to God’s laws (sin), without the intercession of a Savior.
Our Savior is Jesus Christ and it is only through His atoning sacrifice that we can be reconciled from the Fall to the Father (i.e. John 14:6). Through His death on Calvary’s cross and subsequent resurrection on the third day, He overcame physical death ensuring that the grave would have no victory and that we would all be resurrected (see 1 Corinthians 15: 20-23, 26). Likewise with His incredible suffering beginning in Gethsemane and concluding upon the cross, where in agony, “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground,” for the sins of the world (Luke 22:44), He overcame spiritual death. This atoning sacrifice makes it possible for all those who are willing to be cleansed through the blood of the Lamb (see Revelations 1:5, 12:11, etc).
Since our Heavenly Father is perfect and consequently cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, it is vital that we be spotless from sin’s stains if we hope to return and live with Him forever. However, God will not force anyone to accept His son’s Atonement; this is something that must be accepted voluntarily. Therefore, how do we utilize the saving power of the Atonement in our lives?
The scriptures are quite explicit that it is only through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning grace that man can be cleansed from sin (see Romans 3, Galatians 2, & Ephesians 2: 8-9). However James informs us that, “faith if it hath not works, is dead” (James 2:17) implying that there is more behind faith than a declared belief. Furthermore in order for faith to be acceptable to God, men must be, “doers of the word, not hearers only” (James 1:22). Faith cannot be a passive belief, but an active one leading men to do good and keep God’s commandments, if it is to be effective for salvation. If this were not the case then the hypocrisy of a professed belief in Christ without living a Christ-like life would be acceptable admission to God’s Kingdom. Hence the verse, “not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 7:21, emp. added).
A study of the concept of “grace” produces a similar outlook, which does not negate our personal responsibility and obedience to God, but enhances it. According to one source the main idea of the word “grace” suggests a, “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ,” it being, “an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (LDS Bible Dictionary).
It is this divine grace or enabling power which allows us to, “work out [our] salvation” (Philippians 2:12) and be reconciled to the Father by our active faith in His son and obedience to the commandments He has set. Thus, “it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do,” knowing that it all would be in vain without the Atonement (2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon).
Knowing this our Heavenly Father has given us the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we could show our faith in Him and willingness to follow His commandments. Since the Savior taught that if we truly love Him, we will “keep [his] commandments” (see John 14:15, 21), what greater motivation do we have to follow Him than by keeping His gospel? Additionally we are promised not to be burned at the Lord’s Second Coming if we are obedient to it (see 2 Thessalonians 1:8). As a part of the gospel we must have faith in Jesus Christ, repent and ask for forgiveness from God of all our sins (1 John 1:9), be baptized by immersion after the manner of Christ’s baptism (Matthew 3: 13-17), and receive the Holy Ghost (or baptism of the Spirit) by the laying on of hands.
The Savior expressly taught in John 3:6 that one must be baptized by water and the spirit if one desires admission into the Kingdom of God. The actual ordinance of baptism through which we are figuratively reborn (see 2 Corinthians 5: 17) is worthless without the Atonement. However the covenant or two-way promise we make with God through that ordinance ensures us, predicated upon our faithfulness, exaltation. Otherwise, God would be a promise breaker and a liar, two characteristics that would prevent Him from being God.
These four principles coupled with continuously seeking to obey God and utilizing the Atonement through repentance when we stumble on the path ensure that we can be washed clean of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, so that we might be able to dwell in Father’s presence for eternity.
Although life may seem almost unbareable at times, an understanding that life’s trials are intended to refine our characters (see Isaiah 48: 9, Zechariah 13: 9, & Malachi 3: 2-3) makes hard times seem more valuable. The realization that the true purpose of life is to have joy and to prepare to meet God through life’s refinement causes our perspective to shift from egocentric to exocentric, from ourselves to those around us. Knowing that it is only through the Savior’s atoning blood that we can be given divine grace fills us with the love of God and makes us want to work out our own salvation by doing His will, following His gospel, and serving others. We do not worry what life brings, or even death, as much as we worry about pleasing God. We simply look forward to the dropping of the curtain for Act II and its rising for Act III.

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Elder W. W. Pryor is a local missionary for the Church. All scriptural citations can be digitally found at

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