Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Two Plans

Moral (or free) agency is the gift we have been given by a loving Heavenly Father.  We have the right to choose good or evil.

The earliest record we have of its evidence is a suggestion from scripture that we were faced with a choice in the premortal realms before we came to inhabit this earth as mortals.  In the Church over the years we have heard "two plans" were presented for our consideration.  Here's an example from 1943:

President Harold B. Lee
I read in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the Lord speaks of a time when the hour shall soon come, but is not yet, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and when the devil would have power over his own dominion (see D&C 1:35). I have wondered what that meant, for the devil to have power over his own dominion.

I read in the writings of Moses that there came a time in the Council in Heaven when "two plans" were proposed, and the children of our Heavenly Father were there assembled. There was one who said: Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me — Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.

His mission, then, was to destroy the agency of man. I think when I see the hand of dictatorship laid bare and the ugly monster that would subvert all mankind to the will of such dictatorship, I fancy I see in that nation thus guided the evidence of that power of this one who would thus destroy agency. When I see in an individual one who has been overcome largely because of habits or because of his becoming a slave to his passions or his appetites, I realize as well the person thus enslaved likewise has succumbed to the dominion of Satan's power. (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 182-3; 43-03, 4, emphasis mine).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
Elder Bruce R. McConkie ten years later took exception with the characterization of "two plans" being presented in the grand council:

Who created and presented the plan of salvation as it was adopted in the pre-existent councils in heaven? Did Christ offer one plan which would allow men their agency, and Lucifer sponsor another founded on compulsion?

Although we sometimes hear it said that there were two plans -- Christ's plan of freedom and agency, and Lucifer's of slavery and compulsion -- such teaching does not conform to the revealed word. Christ did not present a plan of redemption and salvation nor did Lucifer. There were not two plans up for consideration; there was only one; and that was the plan of the Father: originated, developed, presented, and put in force by him. . .

The chief cornerstone of the whole plan was to be the atoning sacrifice of a Redeemer, one of the Father's spirit sons who was to be born into the world as his literal Son in the flesh. By this means was to be effected a resurrection, a reunion of body and spirit in immortality, the two never again to be separated. (Bruce R. McConkie, "Who Is the Author of the Plan of Salvation?" Improvement Era, May 1953, 322, emphasis mine).

We must conclude based upon a careful reading of the scriptures that Elder McConkie is likely correct. The plan presented was the Father's plan. It was introduced on the same principles by which our Father in Heaven became God. (See TPJS, 345). It was given to us as His spirit children to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). The only question was which son would the Father send to implement the plan, and even in that choice there was no question as to which it would be because Christ was the firstborn pre-eminent one.

President Boyd K. Packer
Many years later, President Boyd K. Packer harmonized this seeming dichotomy nicely in this way, suggesting the scriptures do make reference to "a very subtle plan of the adversary" intended to destroy us:

This great plan of happiness was first presented in a grand council in our premortal life. Each of us was there, a son or a daughter of God. Each had a choice to accept or to reject it. There was a rebellion, and a war erupted over the plan. Our being here with a mortal body tells us we were on the right side.

The leader of the rebellion formulated a plan of his own. It is described in the revelations as the "cunning plan of the evil one" or the "very subtle plan of the adversary" (2 Nephi 9:28; Alma 12:4-5) or the "great plan of destruction" (3 Nephi 1:16; see also Helaman 2:8; D&C 10:12).

Each of us chose the great plan of happiness. We know this because otherwise we would not be here in mortality. (The Things of the Soul, 57, emphasis mine).

While it is true Satan was in a state of rebellion, it is not completely accurate to state he had an alternative plan to the great plan of happiness as described by the Father. As a Church it seems we grew up on that tradition without giving it a second thought -- there were two plans presented in the grand council of heaven, and we were given a vote as to which plan we would accept. Joseph Smith said:  "At the first organization in heaven we were all present, and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it."  The fact we are here in mortal bodies is cited as evidence we chose correctly.  Those who followed Satan's "plan" were denied physical bodies, as explained by the Prophet Joseph Smith (see TPJS, 181, 189-90, 255, 305-6). "The punishment of the devil was that he should not have a habitation like men.  The devil's retaliation is, he comes into this world, binds up men's bodies, and occupies them himself.  When the authorities come along, they eject him from a stolen habitation." Joseph Smith never characterized the council in heaven as a choice between two plans. It seems that tradition grew up later over the years.

Because of our affirmation of Jesus Christ, our elder brother, in that grand council, we adopted the plan of the Father. That plan was to be one of agency and the possibility of failure but also redemption from our mistakes and sins. We must have had no doubt in that expression of faith that Christ could and would redeem us from our fallen state.

Each of us has been gifted time here in mortality. Our infant daughter Adrienne came for only a few weeks. Her parents live on, quickly approaching the proverbial "three score years and ten" or more. Adrienne has two great-grandparents who will turn 89 in the next two weeks. What is obvious (or should be) is the length of mortality is not as important as what you do with the time allotted.

Mortal life seems to be comprised of one decision after another. Once we overcome the basic choice between good and evil, often the allotment of our time revolves around two or more good choices, but even these must be carefully prioritized because we cannot have it all. Sometimes the weightiest decisions we face are involved with which of our many choices is good, better or best.

This freedom to decide for ourselves is perhaps the greatest blessing we could receive from a gracious Heavenly Father. Our growth and development through the sunshine and shadows of life could never be achieved if everything were forced upon us and all that were required of us is to blindly follow a preordained course of meaningless conformity. It seems government solutions take this path to our detriment.

The freedom to express and live by our choices is the basic issue we faced in the grand council of heaven.  Christ represented the embodiment of the Father's plan because only He qualified as the Firstborn, the Redeemer, the Mediator, and the Messiah.  Before we ever came to earth that seminal idea had to be defended by a "war in heaven."  The forces of truth have been defending this right ever since right here on earth, and the struggle gets no easier. 
The adversary continues to speak in very subtle but counterfeit languages to our spirits. He takes many prisoners in this war of attrition between good and evil. The deceptions grow stronger and more bold with each passing year. To the younger generation, my children and grandchildren, I suggest staying close to your parents, your file leaders in the Church, your bishop and other priesthood leaders. There is great safety and wisdom in their admonitions to you. When they wear the priesthood mantle, they speak with the voice of the Savior for your blessing. Their counsel is to be valued. If followed, they will not lead you astray. Align yourselves with them as they in turn point you to Heavenly Father and the Savior. Remember, true revelation never comes from the sides -- it comes from above in a vertical, not horizontal, line. Don't ever let anyone else offer you a revelation to direct your thinking without making certain your "alignment" is correct.

I offer the words of the great prophet Samuel the Lamanite: "And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits. . . And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.  He hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you." (Helaman 14:13; 30-31).

It is not enough to say all the right things with our lips. We must act upon our choices. Each of us has agency. Each is free to choose. Nothing is left undone for our ultimate joy and happiness if we choose it. What frees us -- ironically to some -- is careful adherence to our Heavenly Father's plan, and that means repentance. Nothing is more liberating spiritually than having heavy burdens of sin lifted from our shoulders by loving priesthood leaders acting in the stead of the Savior whose atonement made it all possible. He does not just make up the difference between our lapses and what we know is right -- He IS the difference. When we "retain a remission of our sins" by ongoing worthiness it is only achieved through constant and careful repentance.

We are constantly exposed to a lot of "shoulds" in the Church -- we should keep the Word of Wisdom, we should  pay tithes and offerings, we should sustain our leaders, we should study the scriptures, we should attend our meetings, we should go home and visiting teaching, we should pray often, we should live the gospel, we should teach our children, we should bake bread for our sick neighbors, we should attend the temple, we should love our enemies, we should forgive seventy times seven the trespasses against us, and the list goes on and on. Everyone, it seems, is "shoulding" on everyone else. What we must be careful about is not to do too much shoulding on each other. I promise not to should on you if you won't should on me. What we must come to realize for ourselves and others is this simple dictim: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

The plan of happiness is not obvious in the Holy Bible. Only after one studies The Book of Mormon, particularly, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, and then revisits the Bible, does one see elements of the great plan of happiness scattered throughout from beginning to end. Our enemies would accuse us of promulgating "another gospel" but what we have IS "the gospel" in its fulness and in its complete form.

We were involved in a premortal existence before we came to live on earth in mortality. It's hard to find a way to make sense out of this life without that knowledge. We lived as spirit children. We were individual intelligent sons and daughters of God. Our gender was an established fact before this world rolled into existence.

Our spirit existence spans a long, long period of time. Joseph Smith once gave us a working number, according to William W. Phelps: 2,555,000,000 years!  He said Joseph learned from the Egyptian papyri that life has been going on in this system of planets (not the world) for that long.

Here's where it came from: Seven days in a week, times 365 days in a year = 2,555. We learn in Abraham 3:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 that one day with the Lord is 1,000 years in man's reckoning. So, 7,000 x 365,000 = 2,555,000,000. (See 
Times & Seasons 5 no. 24 [1 Jan. 1844], 758).

It helps me to explain how two children born of the same earthly parents, so alike in physical appearance, frequently are so different in personality, temperament, and disposition. As parents of thirteen we have seen it play out again and again. Their individuality is innate. They came as a complete and unique package from the moment they were laid in our arms. Truth is, they remained in the presence of Heavenly Father longer than we did. Prophets throughout our dispensation have taught the more valiant spirits were held in reserve to come forth now. We've done all we can to foster and champion their individuality ever since they were born, while teaching them correct principles and leaving individual choice and accountability in tact. As their mortal parents we are merely the coaches of an "all-star team."

There is an expression that "all men are created equal" (not scriptural, by the way) and we attempt to reconcile it. Why is there so much inequity and unfairness in life? Why is there such a disparate distribution of talents and gifts, of advantages and disadvantages?

Without a knowledge of the pre-existence and the great plan of happiness how would you even attempt an answer?

We chose Christ in that pre-mortal world, and we chose the one and only plan offered to us. We chose the chance to fail and thereby learn from our own experiences how to discern good from evil. We opted in. We wanted exaltation. We wanted redemption from our fallen natures. We believed it was possible to transform our fallen natures into something extraordinary, even beyond our ability to imagine with our finite minds.

And the choices continue. Choose well.

No comments:

Post a Comment