Our Father in Heaven designed a perfect plan for the happiness and salvation of His children. His work and His glory focus on that plan (see Moses 1:39). It stands to reason, then, that everything we teach should focus on the plan of salvation as well. Teaching about the priesthood? Teach it in the context of the plan. Discussing the importance of living prophets? Discuss it in the context of the plan.
The adversary is the master of the here and now. He wants to distract us with current social issues, trends, and perspectives. But the plan of salvation broadens our view, clarifies doctrine, and helps us see through temporary issues. When we teach gospel principles in the context of the plan of salvation, our students can receive broader insights and deepen their understanding.
A Physical Representation
I like to use a physical diagram of the plan of salvation when I teach. When I have a dedicated class space, I keep a visual of the plan on the wall. But I have pulled one out many times in other settings too. I have a mini version with magnet tape on the back for easy use with a chalkboard.
During lessons, I like to point out different parts of the plan and ask questions relevant to our discussion. Seeing the visual diagram helps students understand the bigger picture for why we have certain commandments or what a certain doctrine means.
When I first started teaching with a plan of salvation visual, mine looked like this.
A New Perspective
Then one day in an inservice training, I had an “aha” moment. A fellow teacher prefaced a comment with the familiar words, “The family is central to the Creator’s plan” (The Proclamation to the World: The Family). He continued to make his point, but my mind went directly to the diagram on my wall. If family is central to Heavenly Father’s plan, why didn’t I have one reference to the family in my version of the plan? I immediately added the missing pieces.
Now my plan of salvation visual looks like this.
It includes Heavenly Parents of a heavenly family in the pre-earth life, individual male and female figures throughout the plan, a family unit on earth, and a husband and wife, bound together by temple covenants, moving toward the celestial kingdom. These added elements put current questions about marriage, family, and gender into a broader perspective—heaven’s perspective.
When I point out the plan now, I try to emphasize how it works with the family and whatever principle we are discussing.
An Example: Agency and the Plan
Let me share an example of using this family-centered plan of salvation to teach a principle. In one gospel doctrine class, we discussed our role as parents in teaching children the truths of the gospel. As we talked about parents’ responsibilities versus children’s agency, I held up the individual girl. I said, “This is me. I’m working really hard to teach my kids the gospel. But sometimes, I mistakenly assume that how they act is a reflection on me and my teaching—that their choices impact my journey through the plan.”
I then held up the boy and said, “But this is my son. He’s on his own journey through the plan. He’s not just an appendage of me or my journey. I have the responsibility as his mother to teach him all I can. But, ultimately, he’s making his own choices on his own path, and I’m not responsible for those.”
With the family-centered plan as a backdrop, we discussed our responsibility to teach our children. “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion … that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, … the sin be upon the heads of the parents” (Doctrine & Covenants 68:25).
But we also discussed how in the end, we don’t get to choose if or how they accept those teachings. “They are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27). It’s up to them. It’s their plan.
As we talked about teaching the gospel in the context of the family-centered plan, the Spirit bore witness to me that not only is this true with our children, but with everyone we teach. The plan broadened my perspective.
Outside the Class
Ultimately, we want to get gospel doctrine and principles down into the hearts of those we teach. We want to help our students frame the questions they have outside the classroom in the context of the plan of salvation. They will be more prepared to do that if they see, hear, and talk about the plan often.
I once had an adult class member say to me, “Now, every time I even hear a reference to the plan of salvation, I picture this diagram in my head.” That’s my goal. I want each of us, teacher and students alike, to evaluate our decisions, perspectives, and understanding with a clear view of the plan of salvation. I believe that as we do, the Spirit will help us discern truth and avoid the adversary’s deceptions.
Questions to Consider
- Do you use a visual representation of the plan of salvation when you teach?
- What parts of the plan do you emphasize?
- As you think about the lessons you teach, what are some principles that could be clarified by teaching in the context of the plan of salvation?