My study for February has been on the plan of salvation. Our Heavenly Father’s divine plan has also been called the plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, the plan of restoration, the plan of mercy, the plan of deliverance, and the everlasting gospel. “Because of this plan, we can be perfected through the Atonement, receive a fulness of joy, and live forever in the presence of God. Our family relationships can last throughout the eternities.”1
Often I have said how grateful I am for the plan of salvation. Most often I say that when I am acknowledging my profound gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and for the sealing ordinances of the temple that bind me to my family. I cannot imagine living without a knowledge of these beautiful doctrines! They have given me comfort during those times when comfort would seem impossible. These are crucial to Heavenly Father’s plan. But there is so much more for us to remember and appreciate about His divine plan—here and now.
Russell M. Nelson has taught, “Before the foundation of the earth, the plan of salvation was prepared. It included the glorious possibility of a divine inheritance for us in the kingdom of God. Central to that plan of salvation is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In premortal councils He was foreordained by His Father to atone for our sins and break the bands of physical and spiritual death. … Also pivotal to God’s plan is the family. In fact, a purpose of the plan is to exalt the family. The earth was created so that we as premortal spirit children of our Father in Heaven could come to the earth and obtain physical bodies. We are here to be tried and tested. We are here to ‘choose liberty and eternal life, . . . or to choose captivity and death.’”2
We are here to choose! Do we recognize the important role agency plays in the plan of salvation? President Nelson reminds us, “A major reason for your mortal existence … is to test how you will exercise your agency. … That precious privilege of choice—man’s agency—was decreed before the world was created.”3 Even before we came to Earth, we made some very important choices. We participated in that great council in heaven when the Father’s plan was announced. We not only accepted the plan but shouted for joy. We knew then that life on Earth would be hard. We learned of commandments, covenants and commitments. We willingly accepted those. Along with happiness and success, we knew life would also be full of disappointment and failure. We still chose to come!
We are so blessed to live at a time when the fulness of the gospel is upon the Earth. If we choose, we can have daily access to the scriptures and words of the living prophets. The temples are closer to us now than at any other time. We can choose every day to draw closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We can choose to rely upon the Savior’s Atonement always. We can and must choose to have faith. President Nelson said, “The proper exercise of moral agency requires faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. Because of Him, you have your agency. He must be the very foundation of your faith, and the testing of that faith is a fundamental reason for your freedom to choose.”3
A few years ago President Nelson spoke at a devotional for young adults. His talk was titled, “Youth of the Noble Birthright: What Will You Choose?”4 He posed several questions. I will cite four. The questions and his counsel are applicable to all of us, regardless of our age.
What manner of living will you choose? Premortally, you stood by Jesus Christ during the War in Heaven. And now the conflict between the forces of good and evil continues here on earth. It is real! That conflict in which we are now engaged is still between the forces of good and the forces of evil. On God’s side is Jesus Christ, foreordained to be the Savior of the world. On the other side is Satan—a rebel, a destroyer of agency. God’s plan allows the adversary to tempt you so that you, now in this mortal world, can exercise your agency to choose good over evil, to choose to repent, to choose to come unto Jesus Christ and believe His teachings and follow His example. What a huge responsibility and a huge trust!
Will you establish priorities to help you make your choices in life? Your choices will not all be between good and evil. Many will be choices between two good options. Not all truths are created equal, so you will need to establish priorities. In your pursuit of knowledge, know that the most important truth you can learn comes from the Lord. In His Intercessory Prayer to His Father, the Savior Himself confirmed this. He said, ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’ Above everything else you are seeking to learn, seek to know God, your Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Come to know Them and love Them, as I do. … Choose to stand for the Lord and His truth.”
How will you prepare for your personal interview with the Savior? Judgment day awaits each one of us. I don’t know whether the heavenly gate is pearly or not, but I do know, as do all students of the Book of Mormon, that ‘the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employ[s] no servant there; … for the Lord God is his name.’ Yes, each one of us will have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. Each day on earth gives you time and opportunity to prepare for that interview. Please know this: As you choose to live on the Lord’s side, you are never alone. God has given you access to His help while you move along through mortality’s perilous pathway. As you diligently, earnestly pour out your heart to Him in daily prayer, He will send His angels to help you. He has given you the Holy Ghost to be by your side as you live worthily. He has given you scriptures so that you can fully feast upon the words of Jesus Christ. He has given you words to heed from living prophets.
In whom will you put your trust? You … know that God is your Father. He loves you. He wants you to be happy. Put your trust in Him. Maintain your focus on His holy temple. Be worthy to receive your endowment and sealing ordinances. Remain faithful to those covenants, and return frequently to the temple. Remember, your loftiest goal is to gain the greatest of all the blessings of God, that of eternal life. Ordinances of the temple are essential for that blessing.”
I truly am grateful for the plan of salvation, including the tests and trials. I am so thankful for covenants and commandments and the safety that comes from keeping them. And I am eternally grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ, whose Atonement makes the plan of salvation possible and the sealing ordinances of the temple efficacious.
President Nelson taught, “God wants His children to return to Him. But the amazing thing is He allows them to choose that course; He doesn’t force them. He sends His children to earth, causing a veil of forgetfulness to come upon them. They are here to gain a body, to be tested, and to make choices. The greatest of all choices they may make is to choose to return to their Father.”5
The plan of salvation is the fulness of the gospel. The more we understand our Heavenly Father’s plan, the deeper our desire will be to make and keep sacred covenants. The more we understand the His plan for us individually, the more willingly we will submit to His will and to keep His commandments. We will choose to learn and live the gospel more fully each day because we know that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.”6 God is our loving Father. He does want us to return home to Him. The choice is ours. But He has not left us alone to figure things out. He has given us His Beloved Son and His prophet. There we will find safety and security in an increasingly unsteady world.
1. Plan of Salvation – True to the Faith
2. Faith and Families – Russell M. Nelson
3. Choices – Russell M. Nelson
4. Youth of the Noble Birthright: What Will You Choose? – Russell M. Nelson
5. Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pages 48 and 49
6. Alma 34:32