Upon learning about God's plan of salvation for mankind, Nephi exclaimed, "O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself" (2 Nephi 9:8,9)

Upon first glance this may seem like a strange comment. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that all of us here on earth once lived in heaven with our eternal Father. We further believe that we are the spirit offspring of God, and, as such, are children of God in a very real and literal sense. We believe that we were the angels who shouted for joy when the earth was created (Job 38:7). If all of that is true, then why would we become devils and angels to a devil "if the flesh should rise no more?"

To better understand this comment we need to understand God's plan of salvation for us.

Before the world was ever contemplated, God, our Father, called us, His children, together and presented a plan whereby we could become just like Him. The plan which He presented was not only perfect, but it was the only plan capable of allowing us to achieve an immortal, eternal life. And the reason it was the only plan capable of doing that was because there was no other possible way to satisfy all the conditions necessary to grant us that privilege.

As part of the requirement to become like God, it was necessary for us to obtain a physical body. That's because our Father in heaven has a physical, tangible body. (for a more in-depth study of this see The Spirit of God ). Furthermore, it has been revealed to us that only when our spirit and our body are inseparably connected can we receive a fullness of joy (D&C 93:33,34, 138:17). Therefore, the plan which our Father presented to us was designed to help us achieve the same fullness of joy which He possess.

Secondly, it was not only necessary for us to learn the difference between good and evil, but we had to gain that knowledge through experience. As such, we had to have the freedom to choose for ourselves whether to live righteously or follow devilish behavior. And it is in that process we learn the consequences of evil and come to appreciate the value of doing that which is good.

To help us learn these lessons more effectively, rather than providing us with a physical body that was inclined toward godliness, we were given a body whose natural desires were to be selfish and self-serving. Because of this condition, we could not afford to be lax or slothful in choosing good. If we didn't exert a constant effort to overcome these inherited tendencies toward sinfulness, we would naturally follow the easier path of evil. And it is in the struggling against these opposing forces that makes us become stronger than we otherwise might be.

However, the problem with such a plan is that, even if we made just one unrighteous choice, that would disqualified us from living with God, our Father, because no unclean thing can dwell in His presence. The only solution to this dilemma was for someone to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone else, thereby atoning for and redeeming the rest of us from the eternal consequences of our own personal sins. In that way, our sins could be erased as though we had never made them, making us clean and pure and therefore worthy of living in a heavenly environment for all eternity.

This was the plan our Father presented to us. And since there was no other plan that could accomplish such a goal, this was the one and only plan presented to us. However, in order for such a plan to work, the person who would act as our savior would have to be someone who was extremely capable of fulfilling such a task.

Although there was only one plan, the possibility existed that there could have been more than one candidate qualified to fill the position of a savior. Lucifer stepped forward and offered himself to be the redeemer of mankind. However, he felt he had a better plan; one which didn't require any sacrifice on his part. But it didn't meet all the necessary requirements to truly save God's children. Therefore, our Father rejected Lucifer's offer and instead choose Jehovah to be our Savior. Jehovah not only accepted this tremendous assignment but He also agreed to follow the plan according to the way it had been presented to us.

The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, "The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught" (D&C 33:1). Our Father in heaven leaves nothing to chance. Knowing the weakness of men, and giving man the freedom to make their own choices, God always has a back-up plan. As such, if someone fails to follow the call God gives them, He will simply choose someone else to fulfill His purposes. However, that was not the case with whomever was chosen to be the redeemer of the world. There was no back-up savior in the plan of God. If Jesus failed to carry out His mission of redemption, the entire design of God to save His children would have failed. That's why the selection of the savior was of paramount importance. Therefore, when our Father chose Jehovah to take upon Himself the role of our savior, He became the one and only authorized person through whom the one and only plan of salvation could be accomplished. That is why Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6 emphasis added). "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, the pain of the atonement was so excruciating, that even He was sore amazed. Though Jesus was God in the flesh, He was in so much agony, both in body and spirit, that He bled at every pore and pleaded with His Father that, if it were possible, He be spared from enduring the horrific suffering He was experiencing. But it was not possible to save mankind by any other means. This was the only way to do it.

When our Father in heaven chose Jesus, Lucifer rebelled against his God and Father rather than accept this decision gracefully and obediently. Worse still, in his anger he convinced one-third of our Father's children to also rebel. Since no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, these rebellious spirits left themselves no other choice than to be expelled from heaven. When that happened, their fate was irrevocably sealed. They had committed sin before the plan of salvation had been put into effect. Therefore, the atonement of Christ could have no affect upon these disobedient souls. They would forever and eternally be prevented from returning to their previous heavenly environment because there was no way for their sin of defiance to be removed from them. As a further consequence, they were also excluded from obtaining a physical body and participating in the learning experience of life in mortality. Therefore, they found themselves completely outside the bounds of salvation, even in the least degree. As such, they now are known as devils.

As sad as that was, the plan of God still needed to go forward. And the first thing that needed to be done was to create an earth upon which the children of God could dwell in mortality and learn the difference between good and evil. But before the physical earth could be constructed, there first needed to be a spiritual creation. As we learn in Moses 3:5, all things were created spiritually before they were made naturally upon the face of the earth. On this spiritual earth were placed all the things which would eventually be placed upon the natural earth. That included all manner of vegetation and animal life in all of their varieties.

The question not many people stop to ask themselves is, Why was it necessary to create a spirit world first? There are two reasons. The first is that the spirit gives life to all things. Since even the earth itself is alive, it needed a spirit counterpart to infuse life into it. Otherwise, this planet would be nothing more than a dead chunk of rock floating in the void of outer space. And the same can be said for all other forms of life, including our own physical bodies. Without our spirit to inhabit it, the body would be lifeless.

But there was a more significant reason for creating a spirit world.

Before our earth life we lived in the celestial world of our Father. And the reason we could live there is because, without a knowledge of good and evil, we were innocent and sinless. Most Mormons just assume that at the time of our natural birth here on earth we came directly from that former world into this life. I don't believe that's a correct assumption. Let me explain why.

When we die, we know that our spirit goes to the spirit world. From both religious and secular sources we also know that the spirits of those who are still yet to come to earth also inhabit this same world. That means, both pre-mortal and post-mortal spirits live in the same realm. Obviously, that spirit world cannot be the Celestial kingdom of our Father. From all indications, it appears that once the spirit earth was created, it then became our new dwelling place, from which we pass back and forth through mortality. In other words, like a child who has left home to attend college, once the earth was created spiritually, we moved our residence from the celestial kingdom of our Father in heaven to the newly formed spirit earth.

Once the spirit world was completed, the next phase of our spiritual progress was ready to begin. This not only involved the formation of the physical world, but it also included the fall of Adam. The fall was an essential part of the plan of salvation because without it we could not have the experience of choosing between good and evil. As such, it was absolutely necessary that Adam fall - by his own free will - so that all of his posterity could be born with the tendency to sin. And it is because of this inherited trait that humans have the greatest opportunity to grow in spirituality. But, we must remember that the only reason we can commit sin and still avoid the eternal consequences associated with it is because of the atonement of Christ.

The situation that now exists is that Satan and his followers have been cast out of heaven while the rest of God's children have voluntarily left their celestial home and live on earth, either in the spiritual or physical plane. In either instance, none of us live in heaven any more. And once we have obtained a mortal body and have arrived at the age of accountability, we have committed enough sin to prevent us from ever returning to heaven. If things were left at that, we would all be in the same situation as Satan and his followers find themselves. When we die, our spirits would go to the spirit world of earth and there we would live forever in our sins, unable to ever return to heaven. Just like Satan, we would be without a physical body, and, because of our sins, we would forever be cut off from God. That is what Nephi meant when he said, "if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself"

But, as he also joyously exclaimed, "O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!" It is because of the atonement of Christ that our sins can be washed away, and it is because of Christ's resurrection that our physical bodies will also rise from the grave never more to perish.

There are those who think that members of the Church of Latter-day Saints worship Joseph Smith or that we can earn our way into heaven by the works we do. There are those who claim that Mormons aren't Christians because supposedly we don't believe in Jesus as they do. However, those who hold these views completely fail to understand that our entire religious faith is based exclusively on being saved only by and through Jesus Christ. Without Him we would be no better off than the devils and would forever be cut off from the presence of God and from any hope of living in heaven with Him. More than that, without the atonement there could be no resurrection of the body. And if that happened we could never achieve a fullness of joy because our bodies would remain in the grave while our spirits lived forever in sin. Therefore, if our body and spirit were separated eternally we would become as miserable as Satan.

Joseph Smith can't save us from this fate, and there is no amount of works we can do which will take away even one of our sins. It is only because of the atonement of Jesus Christ that we can be saved from our fallen condition. Therefore, "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This was the plan from the very beginning. As such, there is no other way.

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