Summary: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that before the earth was created. God, our Father presented a plan to us whereby we could learn how to become just like him. This included us leaving heaven to live on earth where we could learn about evil. If we gave into evil, the plan provided a savior who would pay the penalty for our sins, thereby saving us from the consequences of our sins. However, this is as far as most people go in understanding the plan of salvation, yet it includes much, much more. This article helps us learn more about God’s plan for us.
Not long after Father Lehi had died, Nephi and his family fled into the wilderness along with others to escape from the anger of his older brothers. It was sometime after they had found a place where they could live in safety. that the Lord commanded Nephi to make a full account of the history of his people, including “the reign of the kings and the wars and contention of my people.” Nephi was further instructed that this record was to be passed on to each succeeding generation who were commanded to kept this historical record up to date. In addition to this, the Lord also instructed Nephi to make a second record that contained “the ministry of my people.”
In writing about this, Nephi said, “Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Nephi 9:5,6).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that before the earth was even created, we lived in heaven with God, who was our Father, because he had begotten us as his spirit children. Back then there came a time when our Father presented a plan whereby we could learn how to become just like him. This included us leaving heaven to live on earth where we could gain the same knowledge of good and evil that he had.
However, if we ever gave into the temptation to do evil, even just once, we would be barred from ever returning back to heaven because we would have become tainted with sin. Since no sinful being can live in heaven, our Father’s plan provided a way to overcome this problem, by someone offering themselves as a sacrifice to pay the price for the evils we committed. In this way our sins would be removed, thereby allowing us to once more live in heaven with God. We refer to this as the plan of salvation, but this is as far as most people go in understanding what the plan is all about. However God’s plan for us includes much, much more.
The scriptures tell us that. three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, along with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there he bestowed upon them his last blessing. “And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation” (D&C 107:55,56).
Prophecy is generally defined as telling what will happen in the future before it happens, and three years before his death, Adam was able to tell his righteous posterity what was going to happen to his posterity all the way through to the end of time. But what Adam did wasn’t unusual because in the scriptures we find numerous examples of where people prophesied about future events. These were not just mere predictions, or educated guesses of what someone thought might happen, but were explicit statements, accurately describing what would actually take place,
Many Old Testament prophets prophesied about the coming of a Messiah, what his lineage would be, and how he would suffer for the sins of the world. Isaiah especially went into great detail about the birth, life, and death of “The Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah, along with other men of God prophesied about the destruction of the house of Israel, how they would be scattered among the nations of the earth, and how God would gather them together again in the last days. The prophet Daniel and the apostle John prophesied about events that would happen in the last days, and the other apostles prophesied about Christ’s return to the earth in power and glory.
The only way prophets could know with such accuracy what would happen in the future is because God revealed to them his plan for mankind. In other words, the plan God has for our salvation, wasn’t some simple concept of us coming to earth, being tempted, and providing us with a savior. God’s plan for our salvation was very detailed, intricately designed, well prepared for, carefully orchestrated, and flawlessly executed.
The Lord told Joseph Smith, “Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men…The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught” (D&C 3:3.1). What that means is that no matter what man does, and no matter what happens in the world, nothing can disrupt, delay, nor deter what God intends to do. And the only way God can do that is by deliberately intervening and influencing the course of human events.
The American Revolutionary War is one example of this. There were many instances where God intervened to influence the outcome of that war, and those who fought in it were well aware of that and often spoke of it. They referred to it as “divine providence.”
In 324A.D. Constantine went to war against Emperors Maxentius and Licinius. It is said that before the war he had a vision and heard a voice say, “In this sign thou shalt have victory,” and he saw the symbol of a cross that was used by Christians. Because of that experience, Constantine had the sign of the cross he had seen in a vision painted on the shields of every one of his soldiers. After he had won the battle and became the sole emperor of the Roman Empire, he declared Christianity to be the state religion. This in turn allowed Christianity to spread more quickly throughout all of Europe. But that victory wasn’t a coincidence. It was orchestrated by God for the purpose of carrying out his plans.
Throughout the Book of Mormon, the Nephites were repeatedly told that if they keep the commandments of God they would prosper in the land, but if they did not keep the commandments they would be destroyed. Yet, around 600 B.C., before Lehi and his family had even begun their journey from the land of Jerusalem to the new land God had promised them, the Lord showed Nephi in a vision how his descendants would prosper and grow to become a mighty people, but the vision also showed that nearly a thousand years later they would become so wicked that God would completely destroy them as a nation.
This wasn’t a prediction of what might happen. God showed Nephi what was going to happen. This event was a foregone conclusion and there was absolutely nothing anyone could do to prevent it. No matter how many prophets God sent them, God knew that by 300 A.D the Nephites would have become so wicked that they would reject all the warnings God gave them. However, this was what God intended to happen because the destruction of the Nephite nation had to happen or it would have disrupted God’s future plans.
When Nephi began making a record of the history of his people, he admitted that he had no idea why God was commanding him to do so, but he knew that it was for a wise reason. A little less than a thousand years later Moroni buried a set of gold plates on which his father had made an abridgement of the Nephite records that had been kept from the time Nephi started recording the history of his people, as commanded by the Lord. And the reason why Moroni buried his father’s abridgment was because he feared that if the Lamanites found these sacred writings, they would have melted the plates and used its gold for secular purposes.
But if the Lamanites hadn’t completely annihilated the Nephite nation, then there would have been no reason for the Nephite records to be buried, and if that hadn’t happened then there would have been no Book of Mormon to help usher in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What we see is that God started preparing for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ when he commanded Nephi to keep a record of the history and ministry of his people, six hundred years before Christ was even born! And the reason he gave Nephi that commandment is because he already knew and had planned for the Nephite nation to be destroyed.
More than this, all the Nephites were killed except Moroni. That wasn’t because Moroni was such a great warrior or because he was lucky. His life was deliberately protected so he could carry out his mission of hiding the plates close to the area where Joseph Smith would be living nearly fourteen hundred years later.
However, Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont, while the plates he needed to find were in the area of Palmyra, New York, over three hundred miles away. Then how was young Joseph going to find them? God intervened and made it impossible for the Smith family to remain in Vermont, and then guided them to settle in the town of Palmyra. That move didn’t happen by accident, coincidence, or by chance. It was deliberately planned and orchestrated by God.
But the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was just one part of the plan to restore the gospel of Christ.
There was a period in world history called the Dark Ages, where only the Catholic priests were allowed to read the Bible, and the only way the average person knew what the Bible taught was by listening to what their priests told them. Then, in 1440 A.D., a man named Johannes Guttenberg discovered a way to mass print words on paper. He called his invention the printing press, which allowed books to become readily available for the average person to read. Not long after that, a movement began with Martin Luther that was only intended to reform the teachings of the Catholic church, but which quickly lead to the formation of many different religious beliefs. Because of this, and because of the printing press, people everywhere could now read the Bible for themselves in their own language.
Although the Catholic church strongly condemned this practice, all of their considerable power and influence was unable to prevent the spread of the Bible being read by anyone who wanted to. And as the Bible became a highly popular book to be read, the Reformation movement began to spawn more and more different Christian beliefs.
Around this time, a mariner named Christopher Columbus was imbued with the thought that God had chosen him to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the isles of the sea. As such, he became obsessed with making a journey around the globe to China. His intent wasn’t just to find a quicker and easier route to the Far East, but to spread the message of Christ to the world. In his quest to do this, he discovered a new land that no one knew existed, and this discovery caused other nations to begin rushing to claim parts of it for themselves.
Britain claimed the eastern coast of northern America as their own, and in 1611 they sent people to begin colonizing it. But by 1776 the British colonists revolted against England and declared themselves to be an independent nation, based partly on the idea of freedom of speech, and having the freedom to worship God as they chose. By the time Joseph Smith was born in1805, the United States of America was being governed by a constitution that protected the rights of its citizen to freely speak and worship God according to their own desire. It was in this atmosphere that young Joseph Smith was able to translate the Book of Mormon and have the freedom to share its message with others.
None of these events – from the Dark Ages, to the Renaissance, the invention of the printing press, the Reformation, the discover of America, the British colonization of North America, the American Revolutionary War, the making of the United States Constitution, the discovery, and the translation and printing of the Book of Mormon – happened by accident or coincidence. It was all part of God’s plan for the salvation of his children, and he was personally involved and instrumental in directing and orchestrating all of these events to bring about his purposes.
Christians look forward to the time when Christ returns to the earth in power and glory, and they refer to this time as “the last days,” however the scriptures tell us that in the last days there will be wars and rumors of war, famine, that men’s hearts would fail them, and they would be lovers of themselves. It tells us that wickedness will abound, and that the saints will be persecuted.
If this is a prophecy, then all of these things are part of what God’s plan calls for and are necessary in order to bring about God’s purposes. As such, these things must happen, and no amount of effort on the part of man is going to prevent what God has decreed. Of course, the obvious question is, “Why is all of this evil necessary?”
Although the Lord frequently tells us what he’s going to do, but rarely does he tells us the reasons why. However, the scriptures do give us some clues. For example, we know that whatever God does is designed to produce something good and righteous. We also know that God’s primary interest in us to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. We also know that God is able to use evil to bring about good. By putting these pieces of information together we can begin to see God’s purposes a little clearer.
To illustrate this, suppose we want to remodel a room. When we begin such a project it usually involves making a mess as we go about making the necessary changes, but when the task is completed, the mess has been cleaned up and the room looks more beautiful than it did before. This same principle applies to God. When Christ comes again, the earth will be restored to its former paradisiacal condition, but in order for that to happen, the earth must be cleansed of sin. However, before that can happen, sin has to be exposed.
Jesus explained to his disciples that when he comes again, he’s going to separate the good from the bad like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. To the sheep he will say, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, and to the goats he will say, ‘Go away into everlasting punishments” (Matthew 25:34,46).
Jesus illustrated this principle with the parable of the wheat and the tares. The story is of a man who sowed good seed in his field but an enemy came and sowed seeds of tares. When the seeds of both the wheat and the tares began to spring up. the servants ask their master if they should pull up the tares. He answered them saying, “Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. [therefore] let both grow together until the harvest, and I will say unto the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 12:24-30).
Before the Lord comes again, he’s planning on sifting the righteous believers from the wicked and disobedient. When things are going well it’s hard to tell one from the other, but as wickedness increases soon people will be forced to align themselves with one group or the others. In this way God tests those who will truly stand with him, and he also looks to see who will abandon him and seek refuge in the world.
The way gold is purified is by heating the raw metal until it becomes a liquid. In that state, the impurities sink to the bottom and the pure gold floats to the top. The way God refines us is by putting us through “fiery trials” (1 Peter 4:12). This is one way that God uses evil to bring about his purposes to separate the good from the bad and to purify us.
Another way is that when things are going good, people think they don’t need God in their life and so they resist accepting the gospel, but as times become worse, these same people become anxious and fearful and are more likely to listen when someone shows them how to find peace in Christ during times of trouble.
Therefore, when we see evil growing in the world, and since all of this has been prophesied, then we know that this is what God has planned to happen. More than this, he has a good and wise reason for it, and ultimately it is designed to help us achieve eternal life. It doesn’t matter if we understand why things happen as they do. What matters is that, instead of being anxious, worried, or afraid, we need to realize that what we’re seeing is God at work, directing the affairs of men to bring about his purposes as he fulfills his plan for our salvation.
Since there is nothing man can do can to stop what God has decreed, does that mean we should do nothing and just let evil continue to grow unimpeded? Or should we resist evil, and do everything in our power to prevent it from becoming worse?
Most people are aware of the Serenity Prayer with reads, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Since wisdom comes from God, it is God who must tell us what we can do to change things, and to know when all efforts to do so are futile.
In many of his parables, Jesus likened heaven to a master and his servants, signifying that God is our Master and we are his servants. In fact, the apostles often referred to themselves as being “servants of Jesus Christ” (Colossians 4:12; 2 Peter 1:1; James 1:1; Jude 1:1). The word “lord” is defined as “someone having power and authority over others” therefore, when we refer to Jesus as our “Lord” we are acknowledging that he is our Master to whom we have voluntarily given permission to rule over us. In many of his parables, Jesus talked about the “lord of the vineyard,” or “the lord of the house,” while those who worked for him are his servants. And by definition, a servant is someone who does what his master tells them rather than deciding for themselves what they want to do.
If Jesus is truly our Lord and Master, then our responsibility is to do what he wants us to do. Instead of asking, “What should I do to combat the evil in the world?” the question a Christian should ask is, “What does my Lord want me to do about the evil in the world?” And the answer to that question can be different for each individual, depending on how and where God wants to use us.
When God needs someone to do something, he inspires them to action. For example, as stated before, Christopher Columbus felt very strongly that God was calling him to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of the isles of the sea.
In 1833 the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80, italics added). It was primarily a relatively few men who lead the rebellion and guided the American Revolutionary war, and who would later participate in writing the United States Constitution. By contrast, the great majority of Americans went about their normal life during these tumultuous times.
Although America’s the founding fathers prayed often for God’s help, unlike Columbus, they were not consciously aware that they were being inspired, motivated, and guided in their actions by the Spirit of the Lord. And the same can be said of Abraham Lincoln whose election sparked a secession of the Southern states, which lead to a costly and bloody Civil War. But it was no accident or coincidence that he was elected to become President of the United States at that time. In fact, if the Democrat vote had not been split between two candidates, Lincoln would have lost that election.
Since Joseph Smith had prophesied about this war almost twenty years before it happened, it’s clear that this terrible calamity was part of God’s plan, and he was instrumental in making sure that events transpired the way he desired, For example, it was God’s Spirit that influenced and guided the decisions of Lincoln and others (whether they knew it or not) that led to the abolition of slavery in America. There is little doubt that God raised up Lincoln for this very purpose, and when he had accomplished the mission the Lord had given him, he was called home.
What we see in all of this is that “the plan of salvation” contains much more to it than being sent to earth to see if we will do all things that the Lord our God commands us (see Abraham 3:25). When we examine all the various events that have taken place over millennia of time and how they fit together like puzzle pieces, we begin to see a larger picture of what God is trying to accomplish.
On the other hand, when we look at individual events in history, it’s easy to lose that perspective. It’s like looking at individual pieces of a puzzle. It’s only when we see the connection between historical events, that we begin to see more clearly God’s hand in all things.
The ultimate objective of God’s plan is to provide us with every opportunity to inherit eternal life. If that is true then how does God’s intervention in human affairs help him achieve that goal? Or put a different way, why must God direct the history of the world in order to help save us? Can’t he just give us instruction on how to behave and then leave it up to us to either follow his commandments or disregard them?
To understand the answer to this question, we must look at things from an eternal perspective.
The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor, yet most people only think of them as pertaining primarily to the way we’re supposed to live our life here on earth. However, theses commandment are eternal in nature. To understand why, we need to go back to our very beginnings.
Before coming to earth we loved God and we loved all of our brothers and sisters. When we came to earth we were commanded to continue doing that, and this same principle will apply when we die and enter into the spirit world, and it will continue to apply even after we become resurrected. Thus, the commandment to love God and our neighbor is an eternal law.
When we think of loving our neighbor, we tend to interpret it as meaning that we have to look for ways to be of help to those who we see are in need, but there is another way that this principle is applied. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, everyone is given an assignment or task to perform. This is known as a calling, and every calling, in one way or another, is an opportunity to serve others. Therefore, in Christ’s church we are required to develop our own spirituality by keeping God’s commandments and, at the same time, we are also given specific assignments meant to be of service to others.
If this is an eternal principle, then in our pre-mortal life, we not only were concerned about our own spiritual growth, but we were also given assignments, or callings in heaven that were meant to be of service to others in helping them to spiritually progress. We see this same principle being applied in Christ’s restored church, but it also applies to other people as well.
For example, America’s founding fathers were sent here with an assignment to perform a work that would be of great benefit to the welfare of all Americans who would come after them, and that seems to be true of Johannes Guttenberg, John Wycliff, Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims who came to America, Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Smith, and many others. In fact, there is reason to believe that all of us came to earth with a specific assignment, calling, or mission that we were personally given to fulfill while here in mortality.
In Christ’s church we see callings of great importance such as that of an apostle, general authority or a mission or temple president. The calling of a stake president or bishop is also one of great importance. But we also see callings that many feel are of a lesser status, such as being a ward librarian, or a nursery worker, or being in charge of cleaning the ward building, yet, in their own way, each of these callings are just as important as any other.
And this same principle applies to callings we were given before coming to earth. Some have been foreordained to become apostles while others may simply be called to raise up their children in righteousness. Others may be given the assignment to be an example of righteousness and to act as leaven in helping to raise the level of peace and love in their community. The scriptures tell of a man who was deliberately born blind so that “the works of God should be manifest in him” (John 9:1-3). That was his mission in life.
Our duty as servants of God is to do what he wants, and not everyone will receive the same calling. Some may be called to lead a great movement, while others may be called to comfort those in need, while others may be called to lead people through the darkness into the light, while still others may be called to raise up a son or daughter whose destiny is to become a great leader.
Not everyone can be a Captain Moroni, or an Alma or Nephi, or Joseph Smith. The people of Ammon chose not to take up arms in defense of their country, but the mothers among them instilled in their children a faith that helped two thousand of their children turn the tide of a war. In war, the role of the foot solider who fights in the trenches is every bit as important as the general who commands them To be a good Samaritan, neighbor, Primary worker, mother, or father often contributes more to the cause of righteousness than the person who is an apostle.
The reason why God intervenes in the affairs of men, is to give each of us an opportunity to serve one another, sometimes in great ways, and sometimes in small, seemingly insignificant, yet important ways. As such, he tailors events to provide his children with the opportunities they need to serve others.
Unfortunately, because we have our agency, not everyone fulfills the assignment they’re given as they should. Just like in the church, some people serve diligently and faithfully while other put in very little effort into their callings. There are also those who fall away from the church and no longer have any desire to live according to its teachings.
And the same applies with the callings we received prior to coming to earth. There are those who faithfully fulfill the assignment they were given, while other choose to follow the ways of the world rather than follow God and therefore fail to live up to what was expected of them.
But, even when this happens, man cannot frustrate the plans of God. We can only succeed in frustrating our own spiritual growth, but when that happens, God will call others to fulfill what needs to be done. The reason why God gives us callings prior to coming to earth is to provide us opportunities to serve others for their temporal and spiritual benefit, and in so doing, we assist him in carrying out his work of salvation As servants of God, our responsibility is to perform the work we’ve been assigned in helping to fulfill God’s plan
Related articles can be found at The Nature of God