The following guest post comes from Tex Benson.
I have lived in the south-eastern United States my entire life including my mission which was in Houston Texas. God bless Texas. Currently I am in my fourth year of school studying Civil Engineering and Military Science (Army ROTC). At church I serve as the Stake Young Single Adult Representative, which I hate, and I teach Elders Quorum once a month(ish), which I love.
Ok, not the whole Church, just the Mission Department and the Church Education System. I wanted an edgy title.
I realized this while I was on my mission but wasn’t really sure how to address it and the reason I am ranting about it now is because I am ashamed of myself. Recently I attended a Young Single Adult fireside and honestly this one was quite good, however it hit on a pet peeve of mine. Towards the end the Bishop who was teaching asked for a volunteer to come up and draw the Plan of Salvation on the board with the rest of the group assisting them on what to put in. Before the young man drew the Pre-Earth Life I knew what would happen, but I let it go to see if someone said something. I had enough confidence in this bishop to think that if no one else pointed out the problem he would at the end. Sadly, my faith was in vain. The typical Sunday school Plan of Salvation was put on the board complete with Outer Darkness, the War in Heaven, and the Veil. The only time Christ was mentioned as part of the plan was when a woman said “put an A by the Earth for the Atonement”. Sadly she was shouted down by an argument about the Veil of Forgetfulness and her A was never drawn. I had a difficult decision to make, do I call out a Bishop and everyone else or do I stay silent? I chose to stay silent.
For a room full of very bright and talented men and women, many of whom are return missionaries, to all make the same mistake is not a reflection of the individuals but a reflection of the society that raised them. The mistake was to forget Christ, our redeemer. A soul could follow the very journey that was laid out on that chalk board and end up in the highest levels of The Celestial Kingdom of God, Outer Darkness, or somewhere in between. The outline is not about salvation, it is about possible outcomes.
Another example of this happened during my freshman year of college while I was preparing to serve a mission. A Protestant friend of mine asked me how we are saved. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was asking but I heard the word “saved” so I thought I should tell him about the Plan of Salvation. Sadly the Plan of Salvation as presented in the Church manuals has nothing to do with salvation so he was just confused and I couldn’t figure out what he was asking about.
The fault in both these instances lays in the lesson manuals of the Church. The lessons that are titled “The Plan of Salvation” do not teach anything to do with our salvation. It instead teaches the eternal journey of the soul. We, as a Church, have affixed the concept of Salvation to a doctrine that is not about salvation. To refer to something as “The Plan of Salvation” and make no mention of Him who saved, or even the actual steps that lead to our salvation, is blasphemous and unscriptural. In the following scriptures Aaron is teaching King Lamoni’s Father about the Plan of Redemption.
13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.
14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.
Notice that when Aaron taught the Plan of Redemption, also known as the Plan of Salvation, he doesn’t talk about the spirit worlds or suns, moons, and stars. He talks about Christ and His Atonement because that is where Salvation truly lies.
This journey of the soul is important enough to be taught. It teaches us the purpose of life; who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. What it doesn’t do is teach us God’s plan for his children to receive salvation through the Atoning power of His Son. I am not saying that the Sunday school Plan of Salvation is incorrect, only that it is miss-labeled, because it does not teach the source of our salvation or the plan that has been carried out to bring us that salvation
If the Church wants to have a place based lesson for “The Plan of Salvation” it can title the lesson “The Plan of Salvation- the Story of Three Gardens” because that is where salvation really occurred, and the actions in these gardens are what brings us our salvation.
The first garden of course is The Garden of Eden where the journey of our salvation began and mankind transgressed the law and in so doing became as God knowing good and evil (see Gen. 3:22). When this original sin occurred mankind found himself in a fallen state needing to be saved from death, both physical and spiritual (see Gen. 2:17). As tragic as these consequences are if it wasn’t for this the Journey of the Soul would have never begun and that Sunday school Plan of Salvation would have started and stopped with the antemortal existence of spirits.
The next garden would of course be the Garden of Gethsemane, where the first of the two deaths was overcome. Christ our Lord offered Himself up as a great sacrifice for all sin. This allowed all mankind to be cleansed of sin and, if we chose, to return to the presence of the Father (see A of F 1:3). This sacrifice began in Gethsemane and was sealed with His holy blood on the cross at Golgotha when he “descended below all things” (D&C 88:6) again but this time without the support of the Holy Spirit and finally gave up the ghost. If not for the events in this garden and on the cross the Sunday school plan of salvation chart would end with the Spirit World but have not Paradise, only Prison.
The third and final garden would be the Garden Tomb where Christ’s body laid until he broke the bands of physical death, fully redeeming us from the Fall when He rose on the third day. Because of the actions in this garden the rest of the Sunday school plan of salvation was made possible.
I think it is safe to assume that every person attending the fireside knows where salvation lies. No one is going to argue that Christ is not Salvation, but suns, moons, and stars are. If the question was worded “Why did Christ die?” they would all answer with some variation of “for the sins of the world”. However when asked about what God’s plan to bring us salvation is no one can get it right. How can they get it right when they have been taught all their lives that a picture on the chalkboard of suns, moons, and stars is God’s plan for our salvation rather than being taught that God’s Son is that plan?
And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
-2 Nephi 2:4