Sometimes life seems so discouraging. Just when you think it can’t get any darker out there, it does. In the world we live in today, rules can change in the blink of an eye. But it is important to remember that, in all of the commotion, there is a plan.
There is a plan of action to hold on to when the going gets tough. There is a plan that has been put in place since before this Life began. It is a plan that, if followed, will dispel the darkness and the gloom and will let the light shine in.
It is Heavenly Father’s plan. The Great Plan of Happiness. The Plan of Salvation.
It is such a good plan that one name isn’t enough.
And it is a plan for all of us. And for one of us. If only one person was to come to this earth, the plan would still have been put into action. That’s how important this plan is.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in a pre-mortal existence. This is knowledge that we hold very dear. Even as children, we are taught about when we lived in Heaven, a long time ago:
Lived there and loved there with people I know.
So did you.
Then Heavenly Father presented a beautiful plan,
All about earth and eternal salvation for man.
Father said he needed someone who had enough love
To give his life so we all could return here above.
There was another who sought for the honor divine.
Jesus said, “Father, send me, and the glory be thine.”
Jesus was chosen, and as the Messiah he came,
Conquering evil and death through his glorious name,
Giving us hope of a wonderful life yet to be
Home in that heaven where Father is waiting for me.”
(LDS Children’s Songbook, I Lived in Heaven, #4)
The plan gave us all a chance to come to earth to gain a body and the gift of agency. With our body and agency, we have the right to choose for ourselves to follow God’s plan, or to choose a different one of our own making.
Whether we choose to follow or not, the goal of God’s plan is still the same for everyone.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—
To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
That is a powerful verse. Who has not looked around at the beauty and wonder of this earth, or gazed in awe at the vastness of the heavens and marveled at the works of God? Is it not humbling to realize, that of all of His majestic works, God cares about every single one of us?
Every human being?
And it’s not just that he cares about us. Because I care about cake and yarn and books, but I don’t necessarily care about what happens to them after I can no longer see them. He cares about what happens to us.
He wants us to be right there with Him in the end, immortal and eternal. Forever.
So, what does life eternal really mean?
Christ himself gives us a clue.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee
The only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
(John 17: 3)
Here’s another question for you. What does know mean? How can we know Christ?
Can we meet him on the street? Invite him over for a barbeque?
Is reading about him enough? Does attending church randomly, or even weekly, going to lead us to him?
To know someone is to:
- learn of them,
- study their life,
- emulate their example
- fill your life with their actions.
That is what the great Plan of Happiness is all about.
Knowing Christ. In this life.
HERE’S THE PLAN, SEE…
So…the Plan. What is it all about anyway?
If you are a member of the LDS faith, you have probably seen this symbol.
Perhaps, like me, you have stared at it in confusion trying to figure out what it said until suddenly it dawned on you. Oooooh, no duh!
If you have not had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with this image, let me enlighten you. It is the Plan of Salvation stripped down and simplified.
I like it.
Anything that reminds of us of why we are really here is well worth it. And we are really here, muddling about in the earthly life, to follow God’s plan so we can return to him.
But, I also don’t like it.
And here is why.
The circle with the star in it (earth life) is so misleading. It’s not just an empty circle with a star in it.
It is so much more than that.
And the so much more is the important part because it is the path that makes the rest of the Plan make sense.
It is the part that allows us to hope for life eternal, to know God and Jesus Christ in this life.
THE MAIN ONES:
If I had to make my own chart, here’s what I would add:
TESTIMONY, BAPTISM, HOLY GHOST
“…First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
Fourth, laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.”
(Fourth Article of Faith).
How important is it to know these things? These four things are the beginning of the path to knowing Jesus Christ in this life. Without turning our heart and soul to Him, we can’t begin to know Him.
Priesthood is God’s power.
At the right time and place, and if worthy, all male members in the LDS faith are given this power to act in God’s name. Without this power, the work of the Lord’s gospel could not go forth across the earth.
And the priesthood is not just for men. It works in favor of women as well. When a woman is set apart to do service in the Lord’s church, she is blessed by the power of the priesthood to act in God’s name. And her efforts will be magnified just as a man’s efforts would be magnified in the same way.
Being able to rely upon the Priesthood is an essential part of this mortal life.
Sacrament is next.
The administering of the sacrament reminds us each week that Christ died for us and atoned for our sins. It is in the reminding that we remember that we can repent and forsake our sins. It is in the reminding that we are strengthened to try anew. It is in the reminding that the atonement can work for us, each and every one.
In fact, I would argue that it is probably the most important part of God’s plan here on earth.
It is in the temple that we covenant with the Lord to do his will and to remember him in all things.
It is in the temple that we are sealed for time and all eternity to those we love yesterday, today, and forever.
It is in the temple that we are reminded again and again why we are here and how we can return back to him.
It is in the temple that we can draw closest to Heavenly Father and Jesus and learn to be comfortable in their presence.
THE NOT-SO MAIN ONES BUT EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT
STUDY AND SERVICE
Study and Service are also important elements of the Plan.
As we study Christ’s life so we can know him better, it is important to put his teachings into action. Study and service are often not convenient. There are so many other things vying for our attention. But we must make time. We cannot know Christ unless we have walked a mile in his shoes.
Missionary work is important. It offers an eye witness account of how the gospel can change lives. It also provides insight into how others live, and an understanding that differences make us unique. It gives the elder or sister a chance to fully put the Lord first in his or her life, something that is not possible at any other time.
LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE
Love and Acceptance should not be forgotten as well.
Christ loved others and accepted them for who they were. He did not accept their sins as unchangeable, but treated each person with the quiet confidence that all could be overcome if they turned their hearts to the Father.
We can love the sinner and hate the sin and still be friends with those who do not share our beliefs. In fact, I am almost certain that this is one of the best ways to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who wants to be a part of something when they feel judged and hopeless?
Some of my best friends are not members of my faith, and I love them all dearly.
THE BOOK OF MORMON
The Book of Mormon kind of falls into the category of study and service, but I think that there is more to this book than just plain studying can touch. As I have poured over the pages of this inspired work, I have felt assured that this is a guide for this latter-day. As you pray for guidance and direction during your studies, your mind will be drawn to verses that offer understanding and protection for the times we live in. The more you pray for this guidance, the greater will be your awareness of the parallels within this book and in our own society.
PROPHETS AND APOSTLES
Prophets and Apostles can provide great insight and direction, as well, for modern times. In fact, sometimes as I listen to their words, my own thoughts and feelings are legitimized and questions are answered.
All around us, the world’s moral fabric is twisting and rearranging, but if we listen to the words of leaders who have been called of God to guide us in these latter-days, we can gain the courage to follow God’s plan.
Please note that while God’s plan has very specific elements to it, such as baptism, temple, priesthood, etc., and some not so specific elements—service, acceptance, study, etc., we have all been given the power of agency. That means that we can follow this path in the way we choose for ourselves. For some, that might be following it to the T, but for others, they might choose their own time and way.
The important thing is that we follow it at some point in our lives and try our best to stick to it when we do.
There will be times of failure and times of overwhelming success. But if we find ourselves turning again and again to the Lord, and holding on to the Plan, we will find ourselves on the other end just where He intended us to be—enjoying immortality and eternal life with Him.
Never assume that your method for following the path is the right one for someone else. Each person has to gain a testimony and learn to rely on Christ and His atonement for themselves.
Love is the greatest gift you can give to anyone on their path to knowing Christ.
The world is turning faster and faster every day.
DO NOT FEAR.
Trust in God’s plan. If you find you are struggling with one of the elements of it, challenge yourself to a duel—choose that element and study it out in your heart and mind and ask the Father if it is just and true.
If you are not struggling with the elements, but feel scared and confused, know that this Plan was laid down before this world began. This Plan is the reason for this world. Hold to it. Cling to it like your life depends upon it. Because it does.
The days ahead will only get darker. But following a plan gives us something to hold on to while the mists of darkness swirl around us. The Plan might lead us away from the world, but this Plan was never intended to end here and now. Take courage in following where the Master leads.
“…All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
(Gandalf—The Return of the King)
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.