Saturday, May 23, 2009

When is a Plan not a Plan?

Class, the Teacher has been very busy at work lately. I realize that this post is coming too late to help anyone teaching the lesson tomorrow, and I apologize. I will try to do better in the future.

Lesson 19 is a little unusual in the Doctrine & Covenants curriculum in that, well, it does not really come from the Doctrine & Covenants. The lesson is on the Plan of Salvation, and while it quotes from the D&C, it contains a lot of material from other sources, including the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I got wondering about why this was and realized something about the Plan of Salvation that I had never really focused on before: The Plan of Salvation is the great framework of our belief system. But, it was never really presented to Joseph Smith as a framework. He did not receive a revelation on “The Plan of Salvation.” It was never presented to him (that we know of from his writings and statements) as a coherent system of doctrine. It was never presented as a plan.

Sure, the Book of Mormon talks about the plan of salvation (or happiness, or redemption, or mercy). But the “plan” in the BoM is about the fall and the atonement. There is a suggestion of some kind of premortality, because this “plan” was laid from the foundation of the world. The BoM also talks about foreordination (Alma 13), and certainly covers death, judgment and resurrection fully.

There are other sources of material for the the Plan of Salvation, too. When Joseph received the Book of Moses over a series of months in 1830, he learned a lot about the creation, the fall and the atonement. There was even a passing discussion of the War in Heaven and premortality. “The Vision” (Section 76, received in 1832) spells out the three degrees of glory, one of the defining characteristics of the LDS view of Salvation. Section 93 of the D&C (received in 1833) expressly states that “[m]an was also in the beginning with God,” making clear that we lived before we were born into mortality. The Book of Abraham, translated in 1835, provides details about the War in Heaven, the pre-existence and foreordination. Salvation of dead surfaces in 1836 with Section 136, and in the 1840s, when Joseph starts discussing baptism for the dead and temple work.

From all these disparate parts emerges a plan. At some point, Joseph perceived these mosaic pieces as the Plan of Salvation, “one of Heaven’s greatest gifts to mankind,” and taught that it “should occupy our strict attention.” (See Sunday School Manual at 106). This makes it all the more interesting to me that the Plan of Salvation came to us the way it did. A piece at time. Maybe line upon line?

I love the Plan of Salvation. It is one of those bedrock beliefs that is foundational to my world view. I would wager that most members of the Church feel that way. So, what do you make of this funny way of presenting The Plan? What does it say about revelation? About the restoration? About the Plan?


  1. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this insight! I read it the morning of, and used it's ideas to start the class. It really got people thinking differently and started the class off right. THANKS!!

  2. Caroline: Sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you. I am glad the ideas worked in your class. Thanks for leaving a comment.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.