The Mormons - The Plan


According to doctrine of the Latter Day Saint movement, the plan of salvation is a plan that God created to save, redeem, and exalt humankind.
The elements of this plan are drawn from various scriptural sources, including The Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and numerous statements made by the leadership of the LDS Church.

Pre-mortal Existence

The concept of pre-mortal existence is an early and fundamental doctrine of Mormonism.

Joseph Smith Jr.
In 1833, early in the Latter Day Saint movement, its founder Joseph Smith, Jr. taught that human souls are co-eternal with God the Father just as Jesus is co-eternal with God the Father, "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be."
In 1844, Smith elaborated on this idea in his King Follett discourse:
"...the soul—the mind of man—the immortal spirit.
Where did it come from ?
All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation...
We say that God Himself is a self-existing being...
Man does exist upon the same principles...
The Bible does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man.
It says, "God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam's spirit, and so became a living body."
The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself..
Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning ?
The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end.
That is good logic.
That which has a beginning may have an end.
There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal with our Father in heaven."
After Smith's death, the doctrine of pre-mortal existence was elaborated by some other Latter Day Saint leaders within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Although the "mind" and "intelligence" of humanity were still considered to be co-eternal with God, and not created, Brigham Young introduced the idea that the "spirit", which he distinguished from the "mind" or "intelligence", was indeed created and not co-eternal with God.

Brigham Young
Brigham Young postulated that we each had a pre-spirit "intelligence" that later became part of a spirit "body", which then eventually entered a physical body and was born on earth.
In 1857, Young stated that every person was "a son or a daughter of God. In the spirit world their spirits were first begotten and brought forth, and they lived there with their parents for ages before they came here."
Among Latter-day Saints the idea of "spirit birth" was described in its modern doctrinal form in 1909, when the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement:
Jesus, however, is the first-born among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh.
He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God.
All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.
This description is widely accepted by modern Latter-day Saints as fundamental to the plan of salvation.
The LDS Church teaches that during the pre-mortal existence, there was a learning process which eventually led to the next necessary step in the pre-mortal spirits' opportunity to progress.
This next step included the need to gain a physical body that could experience pain, sorrow and joy and "walk by faith."
According to this belief, these purposes were explained and discussed in "councils in heaven," followed by the 'War in Heaven' where Satan rebelled against the plan.
In the 1840s, Joseph Smith Jr. stated that the human spirit existed with God before the creation of Earth. Thus, Latter-day Saints believe in a pre-mortal existence, in which people are literally the spirit children of God.
This teaching is primarily based however upon revealed doctrine by Joseph Smith and others in the early years of the Church.

The Plan

During this pre-mortal existence, the Gods prepared a Plan.
Human beings would be born on Earth.

The Council in Heaven
There they would receive a physical body necessary to exaltation and a fullness of joy.
On earth, they would be tested through trials of their faith, and be subject to mortality.
A "veil" would be set in place to obscure humankind's memory of its divine origins, thus allowing for "walking by faith" and for greater freedom of choice by enabling individuals to make their own decisions.
Latter-day Saints believe that only those who live good lives, prove themselves obedient to God's commandments, receive the ordinances of salvation, and repent of their sins will be exalted.
However, because each human being's experiences in mortality are unique to them, every individual will be judged in accordance with the opportunities they had while living on Earth.
Integral to this Plan was freedom of choice, which God considered an inviolable right of all his children; every individual would have opportunities to make certain choices that would determine the course of their life on Earth and in the Hereafter.
No human would ever have their agency taken away in an attempt to force righteous behaviour.
People would be free to do evil and good, both to themselves and to those around them.
Because such freedom would make it possible for people to break commandments and sin, a Saviour would be needed to offer them freedom from the just consequences of their sins and allow them to Repent: this figure would have to overcome both sin and death.
The pre-mortal Jesus Christ, then known as 'Jehovah', volunteered to be this Saviour  agreeing to take upon himself infinite suffering for every sin, mistake, and all pain and suffering ever to be experienced by mankind.
He also agreed to die and be resurrected, thus making it possible for all individuals (obedient or not) to be resurrected.
The Holy Spirit would be sent to encourage righteous behaviour and guide human beings towards Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, but would never interfere with the free exercise of human agency.
Also part of the plan was a fore-ordination of prophets and teachers who would have gifts and callings among men to teach and re-teach correct principles so that agency could be used wisely.
In the plan it was stressed that the important role parents would have would be to teach their children the path of righteousness, and the blessing of the holy scriptures that would give a foundation of gospel knowledge, including the knowledge of the saving role of Jesus, and the importance of 'ordinances' and 'covenants' in the gospel.
As the plan was explained, the Gods also understood that full gospel truth could be lost on the earth as men and women could choose against living by the truth at any point, and could devise other beliefs and ways to live that would be appealing to the natural mind.
Yet they also understood that there would be opportunities before the final judgement for every spirit child  to hear of Jesus and to either accept him or reject him.
Latter-day Saints believe that this plan was not contrived arbitrarily, but was designed based on eternal truths to allow for the greatest possible progress toward a fullness of joy and love for the greatest number of spirit children.

The War in Heaven

After this plan was proposed, Lucifer volunteered to save mankind by taking away man's agency.
Nobody would be able to fail the test and so, Lucifer claimed, everyone would be able to return to the celestial realm.
As recompense for the implementation of his plan, Lucifer demanded that the power and the glory which  his father possessed be transferred to him, effectively making him God, however, as Lucifer alone would have complete freedom of choice under his plan, no other spirit could achieve exaltation.

God countered that this would make the test worthless, and knew Lucifer sought only power and glory for himself - as a result he rejected Lucifer's plan.
Enraged, Lucifer chose to rebel and rallied to him "a third part" of the company of heaven, who also preferred Lucifer's plan.
The two factions warred, and Lucifer and his followers were cast out of Heaven; Lucifer became Satan, and those who followed him became fallen and his servants.
They were denied the right to have their own physical bodies (and, consequently, the ability to procreate) but were not affected by the "veil".
Latter-Day Saints believe that Satan and his servants have since sought to undo or counteract the plan by tempting mortal individuals to evil actions, gaining power over them and their bodies, and by attempting to restrict their freedom of choice by whatever means possible.

Spirit World

Latter-day Saint beliefs include the belief in a 'Spirit World' between death and the resurrection.
They believe that they will pass through the "veil of forgetfulness" again before they are judged thereafter, therefore gaining a remembrance of their pre-mortal existence, and that the spirits of all of mankind continue to prepare for judgement day, and their eventual resurrection, where they will receive a reward according to their faith and works.
They believe that righteous individuals continue to proclaim the gospel in the Spirit World, teaching others and offering them the opportunity to follow the plan.

Degrees of Glory

In Mormon theology, there are three degrees of glory which are the ultimate, eternal dwelling place for nearly all who lived on earth after the Spirit world.

Doctrine and Covenants
Joseph Smith Jr.
Joseph Smith, Jr. described the afterlife based primarily upon a vision he claimed to have received together with Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832, and recorded as 'Doctrine and Covenants Section 76'.
According to this section of Mormon scripture, the afterlife consists of three degrees of glory, called the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial.
The few who do not inherit any degree of glory (though they are resurrected) reside in a state called outer darkness, which, though not a degree of glory, is often discussed in this context.
The ones who go there are known as "Sons of Perdition".

In the preface to Section 76 in the LDS edition of the 'Doctrine and Covenants', the following explanatory text is given:
A vision given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832. Prefacing his record of this vision the Prophet wrote: "Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term 'Heaven,' as intended for the Saints' eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, while translating St. John's Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision."
It was after the Prophet had translated John 5:29 that this vision was given.
Assignment to a particular kingdom in the resurrection is contingent upon the faith and works exhibited during mortal life.
The Mormon Church teaches that these different kingdoms are what Jesus was referring to when he said "in my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2).
Additionally, the Mormon Church teaches that 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 (40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory) speaks of these three degrees of glory, comparing them with the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.
The LDS doctrine of the three degrees of glory is also seemingly consistent with a particular reading of Revelation 22:10-11, where John says:
10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still (telestial kingdom): and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still (outer darkness): and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still (terrestrial kingdom): and he that is holy, let him be holy still (celestial kingdom).

Celestial Kingdom

The celestial kingdom is the highest of three levels of exaltation and it is said by Latter-day Saints to correspond to the "celestial bodies" and "glory of the sun" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41.
The celestial kingdom will be the residence of those who have been righteous, accepted the teachings of Jesus, and made and lived up to all of the required ordinances and covenants during their mortal lives.
It will also be the residence of those individuals that accepted and received the ordinances and covenants in the post-mortal spirit world.
All children who die before the age of eight automatically inherit the celestial kingdom.
Joseph Smith taught that "a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it."
This white stone will become a Urim and Thummim (or seer stone) to the recipient.
Joseph Smith taught that the celestial kingdom itself is subdivided into three "heavens or degrees".
Only those individuals who are sealed in celestial marriage to a spouse in a temple while alive (or after death by proxy) will be permitted to enter into the highest degree of celestial kingdom.
These individuals will eventually become "fully exalted", and will be permitted to live as literal gods and goddesses, as 'Doctrine and Covenants' 132 explains.(see Plurality of Gods)
The nature of the other two degrees within the Celestial Kingdom have not been described, except to say that the people who go there will become "angelic spirits".
Joseph Smith taught that the earth will also receive a celestial glory.
Some Latter-day Saints believe that the earth will be the celestial kingdom, or at least a celestial world within the celestial kingdom for humans who lived on the earth and qualified for the celestial kingdom.

Terrestrial Kingdom

The terrestrial kingdom is the middle of what are believed to be three heavens or heavenly kingdoms.
It is said by Latter-day Saints to correspond to the "bodies terrestrial" and "glory of the moon" mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the King James Version translation of 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 15:40-41.
The word terrestrial derives from a Latin word meaning "earthly".
According to the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terrestrial kingdom is the eternal destination in the afterlife to which some portion of humankind will be assigned following resurrection and the judgement day.
The primary source of this doctrine is a vision recounted by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832, and recorded as 'Doctrine and Covenants' Section 76.
According to 'Doctrine and Covenants' section 76, those who will inhabit the terrestrial kingdom include those who lived respectably but "were blinded by the craftiness of men" and thus rejected the fullness of the gospel of Jesus when it was presented to them during their mortal lives.
It also includes persons who rejected the "testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it" in the spirit world and those who "are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" after having received it.
Ultimately, the kingdom of glory (either the celestial or the terrestrial) received by those who accept the testimony of Jesus will be based on God's knowledge of whether they "would have received it with all their hearts" as manifested by their works and the "desire of their hearts".
Joseph Smith taught that translated beings abide in the terrestrial kingdom until they are resurrected and enter the celestial kingdom.

Telestial Kingdom

The telestial kingdom is the lowest of what are believed to be three heavens or heavenly kingdoms.
It is said by Latter-day Saints to correspond to the "glory of the stars" mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the King James Version translation of 1 Corinthians 15:41.
There are no known uses of the word prior to Joseph Smith's prophecies.
According to the LDS scripture, 'Doctrine and Covenants', Section 76, those who will inhabit the telestial kingdom include those "who received not the gospel of Christ, nor the testimony of Jesus."
It also includes "liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie."
Because of their refusal to accept Jesus as their Savior, these individuals will remain in Spirit prison for 1000 years during the millennial reign of Christ.
After the 1000 years, the individuals will be resurrected and receive an immortal physical body and be assigned to the telestial kingdom.
Joseph Smith taught that individuals in the telestial kingdom will be servants of God, but "where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end"; however, they will receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost and beings from the terrestrial kingdom.
Despite these limitations, in LDS theology being resident in the telestial kingdom is not an unpleasant experience: "the glory of the telestial ... surpasses all understanding".
Joseph Smith also taught that just as there are different degrees of glory within the celestial kingdom (D&C 131:1-4), there are different degrees of glory within the telestial kingdom.
He stated that "as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in the telestial world."
Each person's glory will vary depending on their works while on the earth.
Smith and Rigdon stated "we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore".
One Latter-day Saint commentator has suggested that by implication this means that "most of the adult people who have lived from the day of Adam to the present time will go to the telestial kingdom."