May 17, 2015

God's great Plan of Salvation

To begin let us turn to Ecclesiastes this scripture we find out our nature and where we came from. We are literal sons and daughters of God. We lived with Him in heaven, learning, growing, and having experiences with the ultimate goal of becoming like our Heavenly Father. But there was a major difference between us and our Heavenly Father. He has a body of flesh and bones (Philip. 3:21 and Doctrine and Covenants 130:22) and we did not; due to this fact without obtaining our own bodies we could never reach our full potential, or in other words become like God. So God created a plan (normally referred to as the Plan of Salvation or Plan of Happiness). In this plan God presented to us that he would provide a world for us to live on and a way for us to obtain mortal bodies. He also explained that part of this mortal experience was to allow us to exercise free agency or make our own decisions for ourselves. Because of this we would pass through a veil of forgetfulness and not be able to remember our life before our time here on earth. In this way our choices, and agency to choose, wouldn't be forfeit by the knowledge we previously had but we could all choose for ourselves if we would follow God or not. But he also made some very significant promises. First, He would provide a Savior, one who would live a perfect life, give us an example to follow, and ultimately who would suffer and atone for the sins of all mankind so that we all, through Him, could have the opportunity to repent of our mortal shortcomings and be able to return to live with our Heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:5 and 1 Nephi 10:21). Second, he promised to give us guidance and direction through revelation, prophets, the scriptures, and the Holy Ghost. Thus the roles of the three, separate, distinct, and unique members of the godhead (or Trinity) were defined. Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits, Christ committed to be our Savior and example, and the Holy Ghost is our link between heaven and ourselves through thoughts and feelings of guidance. But in this council there was also another son of God, Lucifer, who volunteered to be our Savior, but he promised to bring ALL of us back to God through force (forfeiting our agency) and said that if he did this he wanted the glory for himself (Abraham 3:22-26). Thus God chose Christ to be our Savior. As a result, Lucifer decided to rebel against God and was thus cast out of Heaven along with all his followers, without bodies and without any means of returning. Thus the origins of temptation and opposition to God's will were on earth. Each of us who have received bodies were among those in this premortal council who chose to follow and accept God's plan, challenges and all. As a result, we have received mortal bodies and been placed on earth to gain experience, knowledge, and ultimately through our decisions be able to return to live with God. To accomplish these goals, God, as we were promised, has provided us with prophets in times past whose teachings we find in the scriptures as well as prophets today in our time who speak and give us guidance and direction specifically for the unique challenges of our day. But fundamentally there are 5 simple steps we must accept and follow to return to our heavenly home. They have been taught by every prophet in every era of time, including today. First, faith in Jesus Christ. Second, repentance (made possible through the atonement of Christ). Third, baptism (by immersion for the remission of sins). Fourth, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (through the laying on of hands and as our constant companion as we are faithful). Fifth, enduring to the end (including all the covenants and promises in the temple, receiving the priesthood for men, and living faithfully, following all of God's commandments). Through it all we are always given the opportunity (and responsibility) to choose for ourselves. Ultimately, we all must die both physically (separation of body from the spirit as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve) and spiritually (separation of us from God because we are not perfect). But through Christ's atonement we can gain victory over both. Now with this foreknowledge, to attempt to shed some light and understanding on the question at hand of what happens or where we go after this life, between this life and living with God in heaven. In "True to the Faith" when discussing the Plan of Salvation and life after death it states, "When you die, your spirit will enter the spirit world and await the resurrection." So the simple answer is we will all go to the spirit world to wait, but what does this really mean? In the spirit world there are are two parts, Spirit Paradise and spirit prison. Spirit Paradise is a place of peace and happiness reserved for those who have been baptized by proper authority and who have remained faithful (Alma 40:12). Those in spirit prison have the opportunity to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and receive the ordincances of baptism and confirmation through the work we do in temples (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30-35). Those that follow this course will then be able to enter spirit paradise. Thus all of God's children, living and dead, who have lived on earth will have the opportunity to choose to accept the gospel of Christ. One significant comment to make because you're probably thinking, "Who wouldn't accept the gospel of Christ when they're dead and find themselves in heaven?" There is a fundamental fact that is crucial to us keeping our free agency, and that is nothing can be forced upon us (this doesn't mean that natural consequences for our decisions won't happen, but that we will never be forced to make one decision over another against our will). Death, thus, does not change our personality nor our desires to do good or evil. Thus if we chose (or would have chosen) the follow Christ in this life, we will accept and follow Christ in the life to come. Next, comes the resurrection and final judgement. Through the atonement of Christ we will all be resurrected (our spirit and our physical mortal bodies (in its perfect form) will be reunited never to be separated again). After we are resurrected we will all stand before the Lord to be judged (Revelations 20:21). We will each be assigned to an eternal dwelling place in a specific kingdom of glory. There are three kingdoms of glory. First, is the celestial kingdom. This kingdom is the highest of the three kingdoms. Those who live in this kingdom live forever in the presence of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and together with their families. (To explain WHO receives this kingdom of glory refer to Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-70, 92-96 and Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-9, 10) (Basically all those who received, honored, and kept all the necessary saving ordinances and lived lives in the manner God directed). Second, is the terrestrial kingdom. Those in this kingdom are those individuals, honorable people, "who were blinded by the craftiness of men" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:75). They were those who did not enter into all the necessary covenants, accepted some but not all as well as not being true to the testimony of Christ. Those who received this degree of glory are also defined as those people who accepted the Gospel of Christ, but did not live lives honorable of receiving a place in celestial glory. (Doctrine and Covenants 76:71-80, 91, 97) Third, is the telestial kingdom. This degree of glory is reserved for those that continued in their sins and who did not repent. In the Doctrine and Covenants it defines these individuals as those who "received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus" (DC 76:82). (DC 76: 81-90, 98-106, 109-112) Thus instructed and presented there are two crucial questions to be asked...First, which kingdom of glory is YOUR goal and with that goal what choices must you make in this life to achieve this goal? (Hopefully your goal is the same as mine, the Celestial Kingdom, which means that I (and you) must follow the 5 essential steps I have outlined) Second, how can YOU know, for yourselves personally, that what I have explained and presented is true? That this truly is the plan God presented and has given? It is quite simple, ASK HIM. The Savior has commanded us to pray always (Doctrine and Covenants 10:5), and who better to ask than the all-knowing, all-powerful, and your eternally-loving Heavenly Father. I promise if you will humbly approach your Heavenly Father in prayer, with a sincere heart and real intent (truly wanting to know and follow whatever answer you receive), you will receive a witness (personally and specifically for you) through the promptings and feelings of the Holy Ghost (because that is one of his duties, to testify of truth). I am so grateful for the knowledge I have received personally that I have a loving, living Heavenly Father, who created a marvelous plan, a plan of happiness and salvation, that allows for me to come to earth, receive a body, and gain experience. I know that only through the example, teachings, and atonement of Christ can I, and you, be forgiven of our sins and shortcomings and return to live with God and our families. I know these this are true! And I know that you can come to know these things are true for yourself, if you will ask. I know He will answer and give you the knowledge and understanding you desire. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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