Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Plan of Salvation (part 1)

(click on image to enlarge)

One of the most enlightening revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith was D&C 76, sometimes called "The Vision." As most revelations given to the prophet, it came as an answer to a question regarding John 5:29. The Spirit opened their eyes to better understand the two resurrections, the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust? The revelation that followed unfolded the marvelous plan of salvation and revealed the love that our Father in Heaven has for his children and that is made possible through the atonement of his Son, Jesus Christ. All are saved except sons of perdition who make this choice of damnation for themselves. The plan is loving, generous, and all inclusive.

I love the way the Prophet Joseph Smith expressed himself on the topic of this vision,

Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the Kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the Scriptures remain unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory (of different degrees of glory in the future life) and witness the fact that the document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every man is constrained to exclaim: "It came from God." (Feb., 1832.)
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.11)

As wonderful as the plan is, we must still remember that it is a partial revelation of an even bigger picture. Several years after the revelation the Prophet made this statement,

Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob's ladder-the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter. I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them. (emphasis added)
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.304)

The descriptions of the degrees of glory are not totally definitive. There is more information needed to define some of the terms used in the revelation. Several years after receiving the revelation, the Prophet was shown, in another vision, his brother, Alvin, in the Celestial Kingdom (January 21, 1836). He said that he marveled at how Alvin was in the Celestial Kingdom not having been baptized before his death. From this context it appears that the Prophet had the understanding that Alvin would have inherited the Terrestrial Kingdom. Several months after this revelation showing Alvin in the Celestial Kingdom, the prophet had the experience recorded in D&C 110 where he meets with the Savior, Moses, Elias, and Elijah and learns about the sealing power and work for the dead. Through this experience we can see that even the Prophet Joseph Smith was taught line upon line and precept upon precept.


Richard Arnold said...

The Plan of Salvation as taught in section 76 contains some of the most simple and precious truths ever revealed to man. I have often wondered if God used a diagram to explain the Plan of Salvation in our Premortal State! All kidding aside, thanks for the post and your comments.

Doyle said...

In preparing a lesson on D&C 76, I found this:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "[T]he Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become." ("The Challenge to Become," General Conference, Oct. 2000)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie helps us understand what we should become: "To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue. It is to vote as he would vote. It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father." ("Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith," General Conference, Oct. 1974)

In some measure, D&C 76 is about what we can become.