My talk to day covers the plan of salvation .. from where we started and to where we want to end up. Lesson #2: Plan of Salvation in the Preach my Gospel manual, the 3-5 minute short version, goes like this:
One of the earliest memories I have is of my brother Randy and I visiting the site of our future home at 4 Butte Place in Calgary, AB, as it was being built in Oct 1960, just before my sister Laurel was born. At that time the walls were not yet in place .. just the new basement and the main floor plywood deck. There was a large hole where the stairs to the basement would go, and I remember peering down into the newly poured unfinished basement, I suppose with some careful parental supervision. I was age 3 then. How far back can you remember?
I also have a detailed set of baby books with photographs and written descriptions made with care by my mother. Being the first child, my baby book was the most extensive in 2 volumes, but my 2 brothers and 2 sisters also have their own scaled back versions. Therein are photos of me as a baby, my parents first apartment, pictures of playmates and events I attended. Proof that I existed prior to Oct 1960, but I can only remember back to about age 3 .. and more recently, only bits and pieces here and there. But I did exist prior to that and even beyond and so did you.
Just because we cannot remember it does not mean we did not exist. My parents have told me many of the stories of my grand adventures from birth and onward, how I climbed to the top of the piano to poke at the 'birdie' cage at age 8 months (as confirmed by Sister Harriet Strate [Morgan Strate's mom] my then babysitter), how I used to climb the 3 foot front yard wire fence and run across the busy Calgary road to play with my friend - who patiently waited for me at the edge of his lawn (.. because his mother had told him not to go on the road), and how I used to enjoy 'borrowing' the neighbour girls doll carriages and racing them down the street as they chased after me .. Fun times, especially for my parents, since I have no recollection of these events. Despite my lack of memory, I am assured it happened. In the same way, I know we all also enjoyed a pre-mortal existence, a pre-earth life. We did not just pop into existence at birth and do not blink away at death. Even though we cannot remember it, before this life, we existed as spirits with our heavenly family. We know this because our Heavenly Father has told us it is so. It is written for us in books he has prepared for us .. not exactly baby books, but in books of remembrance .. stories we can go back and refresh our memories in. We call them; 'The Scriptures'.
Moses 6:50-51 tells us: “But God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent. And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh.”
So, we know about the pre-existance because our Father told His prophets who wrote it down for us all to read about in books called the Scriptures..
God's Purpose and Plan for Us - The Creation, Agency and the Fall, Life on Earth
“My life is a gift, my life has a plan, my life has a purpose, in Heav'n it began. My choice was to come to this lovely home on earth, and seek for God's light to direct me from birth” (Children's Songbook #164)
In my baby book there is a picture of me standing on the front walk at age 6 with a brown and white vertically striped sweater on – very Archie Andrews, waving to the camera on my first day of elementary school. Going to school is exciting and scary at the same time. You have no idea what to expect, where to go, or how you will do. You are away from your parents and siblings for the first time. You are responsible for your own work, your own decisions, the friends you make, the actions you take. I also vividly remember the outfit I put together for my first day of high school – brushed purple bell bottoms and a buttoned long sleeve shirt with large open collar. Going to a new school is exciting and scary all over again. But after a short time, you learn to cope, it all just seems normal and you have a hard time remembering what your life was like before. You learn course after course, subject after subject. You make friends, you make choices and decisions. How well you do in school greatly impacts your life after graduation. Compare the confident, capable graduate to the timid, tentative beginning student. What a difference!
Abraham 3:24-26 “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; 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.”
We are here to 'keep our second estate' .. to do well here in this earth life, and not just to do well but to excel. To be perfected. But what if we are not perfect all the time?
“I'm trying to be like Jesus, I'm following in his ways. I'm trying to love as he did in all that I do and say. At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, 'Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, for these are the things Jesus taught.'” (Children's Songbook # 78)
When I was in Grade 4 we lived only 2 blocks from Brentwood Elementary School and so every lunch we simply walked home to eat. Mom soon learned that it was best to have us eat our lunch without our good school shirts on. Invariably a spot of soup or other food item would spill onto our clothing and a fresh shirt would have to be found and the old one laundered. I vividly recall the one afternoon when I hurried back to class, went to hang up my coat at the back of the class, and suddenly realized that I was not wearing my actual school shirt .. just a plain white undershirt. In the back row a derisive laugh brought my plight to the attention of the entire class and my kindly teacher. She came back, and observing the situation, explained that it was perfectly acceptable for a person to wear a plain white shirt sometimes. “Yeah .. but, he's wearing it inside out!”, came the unwanted quick reply. The teacher let me go into the restroom next to the classroom and change my t-shirt right side out. I had made an unfortunate mistake and had to live with it for the rest of the afternoon. She had done her best to be kind and show mercy to me but there was only so much she could do.
Just as our public school experience is designed for us to learn and grow, this entire earth life experience was and is designed for us to learn and grow. In this life, we all make mistakes. Some are big. Some are smaller. Some are made by mistake. Some chosen on purpose. The consequences of our errors are not always so immediate, or public, but are always result of natural laws. If it were not so, God would be unjust, and if that were so, God would 'cease to be God'. But God is God and the law must be upheld, just try not to break the law of gravity. Since we cannot return to live with him in our imperfect state, and since very few of us are perfect in all ways every time on every day, we on our own merits would never be able to get back to live with in in Heaven. That is why we need the Plan of Salvation, or as Alma calls it, the Plan of Redemption, or sometimes the Great Plan of Mercy.
Alma 42:13-15 “Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
Heavenly Father designed this earth life experience for us to learn. Everything was created as part of the plan. He knew well that we would sometimes fall short and make mistakes, but he is both just and merciful. A way was prepared for us to get back on track. That way is called the Plan of Salvation. Jesus agreed to come down and give himself as a sinless sacrifice to atone for our sins. He would be our Redeemer. All we have to do is to demonstrate faith in him, repent of our sins, agree to be baptized by proper priesthood authority in His name, and join ourselves to His church by receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. That and endure to the end. In exchange, Heavenly Father is able to show mercy and forgive us of all our sins and bless us beyond measure. Through the Atonement of Christ, his Son, they can be both just and merciful. That was the plan. That is how it is all supposed to work. If we repent, we can and will receive mercy.
The Spirit World
Resurrection, Judgement and Immortality
Kingdoms of Glory [.. skipping ahead]
Preach My Gospel p.58 teaches: “Those who sin and do not repent will receive the telestial glory, after they suffer and pay for their own sins. Honorable people who are “blinded by the craftiness of men” and “who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus [Christ]” receive the terrestrial kingdom. Those who receive the gospel and live it valiantly throughout their lives will receive the celestial kingdom.”
How celestial will it seem if we make it up there to the celestial kingdom without our own loving family? And just who is our family? Our spouse, our children, their spouses, their children .. Where does it end? President Bennett gave a talk in Welling earlier this year (just before he was called into the Magrath Stake Presidency) that impressed me. He started by describing how he met his spouse and started their own family – all boys. Then he noted he was part of the Spring Coulee Branch family - those who attend church with him over the years. We are also part of the Magrath Stake family, the world-wide Church family, the Nation of Canada family, as well as the World and Pre-Earth families. What would it be like to get to heaven without our families? Does it encourage you to try to be a better missionary and example?
We have six daughters our family. Four daughters by birth, one by official adoption, and one more by unofficial adoption [she was 'baptized into our family' – joining the church as a roommate to two of my daughters]. On our living room wall, a large photograph of them all grace our wall. On the back of our old red van their names are all displayed as family members (along with our two cats). I cannot imagine what life would be like without them (the daughters not the cats). We must do all we can to encourage them all to live valiantly in this life and to get back home with our heavenly family ourselves.
May we all keep on 'trying to be like Jesus' and endure to the end. Amen.