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Sep 27, 2008

The Plan Of Salvation Part 3

As we proceed through life many questions arise in us that seek answering. Knowing that we would need direction to return to Him, our Heavenly Father prepared the Plan of Salvation to provide us guidance and answer the questions which most trouble the soul. Like a three-act play, this plan answers the three most prominent questions that may beset us: where did we come from, why are we here, and where are we going after death?

We lived with God before birth as His spirit children and we came down to this Earth to gain a body to have joy and prepare to return to God through Christ’s Atonement and abiding by His gospel. However, the most troubling question requires our present attention: where do we go after we die? So let’s jump ahead to the third act to answer this.

Although we may not understand it, physical death is actually a step on the path of becoming like our Heavenly Father. Death, a consequence of Adam and Eve’s transgression, does not change our personalities or our desires to do good or evil. This naturally makes sense considering that if death changed our personal characteristics and proclivities it would render the preparation in and the character refinement of mortality void and useless. Therefore, the knowledge and experience gained in this life will accompany us into the next.

At death our spirits separate from our bodies and go to a place called the Spirit World. For those individuals who have lived a righteous, honorable life this will be a place of happiness and peace, because they will be free from the frailties and flaws of the imperfect flesh. However, those who lived wickedly will be miserable in the spirit world. For example, an alcoholic who chooses not to overcome his addition while alive will be subject to the same engrained desire to drink after he dies. Since he will be unable to quench this carnal urge because of his present spirit condition, he will be just as miserable (if not more) as if he were unable to satisfy it in mortality.

The spirit world is also a place of learning for those who never had the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Considering that acceptance of Jesus Christ and His gospel is require for admission back to our Father, would it be just for God to shun His children who never learned His word because of the circumstances they were born into, such as the case of those born in inner Africa or China? Since God is just, “for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit,” (1 Peter 4:6, see also 1 Peter 3:18-20).

Likewise, the vicarious work of baptism by proxy for those who have died without the gospel and its ordinances—as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:29—is performed so that all of God’s children who have and will ever live upon the Earth will receive the opportunity to return to the Father. Since the Atonement of Jesus Christ was a vicarious action, because it was just as effective at saving those believers who lived before His birth as it is for us, is it very strange to accept the same principle in baptisms for the dead?

Although our spirits will be separated from our bodies while in the spirit world, this will not be permanent. With Christ’s Second Coming all will be resurrected, “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:22, see also 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 26). When we are resurrected our spirits and our bodies will be permanently reunited, in a perfect condition immune to disease and every other physical aliment (1 Corinthians 15: 53-54). Through Christ’s resurrection we will each be resurrected and receive the immortality that it brings. However eternal life, which is living forever in Father’s presence, is predicated upon the outcome of the judgment that follows.

After we are resurrected, we will be brought into God’s presence to be judged on our mortal probation. From the scriptures we learn that we will be judged not only on our works (2 Corinthians 4:10, Revelation 20:12; 22:12, etc.), but on our desires (Samuel 16:7, Romans 2:16, & 1 Corinthians 4:5) and even the words we speak (Matthew 12:36-37, Proverbs 18:21, & James 3:5-10). If we have followed the gospel of Jesus Christ, complied with its ordinances, and repented of our sins, then we will receive mercy and eternal life.

Heavenly Father loves all of His children, even those who lived wickedly, and so has prepared “many mansions” (through Jesus Christ) for His children (see John 14:2). As described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, there are three general mansions or kingdoms (compared to the sun, moon, and stars) which we may enter predicated upon the judgment given.

The lowest of these kingdoms is the Telestial Kingdom, which Paul compares to the glory of the stars. This kingdom is for those who did not repent of their sins and were wicked in mortality (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-89).
The second kingdom is the Terrestial Kingdom. In the scriptures it is compared to the glory of the moon, which surpasses the stars in illuminating the night sky. Those who inherit this kingdom are those who lived honorable, righteous lives in mortality, but who did not accept the fullness of Christ’s gospel (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:71-80).

The highest and most magnificent of God’s kingdoms is the Celestial Kingdom or the “third Heaven” described by Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). Like the brightness of the sun at noon, those who obtain this glorious kingdom will be granted eternal life, because of their acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ and their righteous lives. Along with their family members who qualify, they will live forever with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and receive “all things” the Father has prepared for them (Revelation 21:7; Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-55; 62).

Our Heavenly Father wants for each of us to have all that He has: the fullness of His joy. For this reason He presented this plan, before the foundations of the world, to give us direction in a turbulent world. He also sent His son, Jesus Christ, to overcome physical and spiritual death by ransoming His sinless, perfect life for us. An understanding that we are truly children of a God who loves us, lifts and enlivens our spirits and encourages us to press forward on the path which leads to Him. A glimpse of the ultimate prize, celestial glory, which awaits the faithful, helps us to accept life’s trials as character refinement in an act of a celestial drama that encompasses all of eternity.

Written By
Elder W. W. Pryor

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