*Editorial Note* Dave is inviting guest bloggers to post articles on his site. In return, he will submit one to your blog. If you're interested, follow the link! There have already been a few very interesting posts that I have enjoyed.
By Dave Loveless
Here is my return post for NoSurfGirl's excellent post on beards
I teach in priesthood, and each Sunday I find myself drawing the Plan of Salvation on the white board. It's become somewhat of a joke, and the quorum has even promised that one Sunday they are just going to draw it for me ahead of time. I'm actually glad they are threatening that; it means I'm getting through. I first drew the Plan for a very specific lesson, but since that time, I've had continued application for almost every lesson. I've found ways to incorporate the simplicity of the Plan, and there are few things that come through again and again. But first, the plan....
1. Preexistence--We lived with God as spirits before coming to this earth.
2. Veil--We pass through the Veil before coming to earth. This removes our memories of what was before so that we might be tested and proved on this earth.
3. Earth life--We live.
4. Death--We die.
5. Spirit World or Spirit Prison--After death, we go to the Spirit World/Prison where the righteous assist in the great missionary work of helping the millions who have not heard the gospel.
6. Judgment/Resurrection--I don't know how simultaneous this is, but I like to think they are pretty close.
7. Kingdom of Glory--True, there are three kingdoms of glory, but I've always only drawn the Celestial Kingdom. The other two are Plan B and C, and face it... God did not send us to earth to receive a Plan B or C. He has in mind our Eternal Salvation, which can only be had in the Celestial Kingdom. I only draw that kingdom to help others remember that we should be singular in our focus and our goals.
So there you have it. One of the connections that I've made to my class is that the Plan is infinitely personal. I think we often forget that this isn't just the Plan, this is Dave's Plan. This is NoSurfGirl's Plan. This is Your Plan. My Plan. It is tailored in such a way as to be personally saving meaning that the experiences that you have are designed for your salvation. God will allow to happen to you that which will bring about your salvation individually and independent of any other person.
I often get some odd looks when I say that. Most remind me that the marriage covenant is essential for true salvation. Others remind me of Malachi 5 and the turning of our hearts to our forbears and posterity. Others remind me also that salvation is had in family groups and that we will be eventually linked in an unbroken chain of sealing covenants from Adam to, well... I don't know who will be last, though if we were going alphabetically, I'd cast a vote for anyone named after ZZ Top. And that is also all true, but I tend to emphasize the individual nature of the Plan more to remind those I teach of the distinct care and concern the Lord has for each of us and to remind them that salvation is their own responsibility and cannot be had on the leavings on those who have gone before, stand with them now, or will come in the future.
And that being said, the Plan of Salvation requires people. Lots of people. It requires connections and relationships and friendships. The Plan functions best when there are people before to guide the way, people beside to support when weak, and people behind to push when tired.
I think the most critical earthly relationship we can have is with our spouse. More than once have I noted that my greatest weakness often coincides with my wife's greatest strengths and vice versa. Certainly such was in the mind of God when He, looking upon the Man in Eden, said "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him (Genesis 2:18)." My wife has been such a help meet for my weaknesses, my sorrows, and especially my joys. I'd sooner cry with no one than her, sooner celebrate with no one than her, and sooner be with no one than her.
Looking at the family relationship, we see a special symbolism of Godliness. My father often says that we can find earth-based examples of heavenly structures all around us, particularly the family. Nowhere does this exist more plainly than in the perfect organization of a Christ-centered marriage lived with proper understanding of the nature of the temple covenants and sealing powers. A marriage so organized is based fully on the gospel of Christ with a unified and joint understanding of powers, equality, assistance. The presence of children with the rich blessings and spirits they bring only strengthens and increases such bonds, and such a position surely increases the majesty of the Plan of Salvation and our individual positions in it.
Somewhat similar to a Spouse, a Friend is important to the success of the Plan. I'm sure many of us have experienced that wonderful sensation of knowing someone from somewhere before. My father in particular believes that many of the relationships we had prior to this earth are preserved in the relationships we build here. While this may not be true of every relationship, I can identify a goodly number of people who have been uniquely important in my life and, going back to the idea that the Plan is individually saving for each of us, I can only conclude that their presence is important in some way for my growth.
President Hinckley, in trying to improve our ability to watch over the people around us, stated that every member needs three things. One of those three was a friend. Of all the tenderest and sweetest words of scripture, some of my favorites are in Doctrine & Covenants 84:63 where the Christ, speaking to the early leadership of the church stated, "Ye are my friends." Surely little compares in majestic grace and simplicity to the declaration of friendship with the Savior.
Of all the honors any one could ever bestow on me, I would hope that I could be called a friend. I cannot remember where the thought comes from, but I've heard the concept that we can stand as Saviors on Mt. Zion through our faith and testimonies. This, to me, is a friend, and my closest friends have been such to me. People whose examples serve to inspire and strengthen me and people, who like my wife, are instantly and perfectly willing to offer the love and protection of a kind word. While there are numerous examples I could name, my home teachers come to particular memory. These two brothers are active in our lives in rich and full ways. We seek their smiles and their love. In particular, we are both grateful that our children love them, watch for them, and know that they are safe. When President Hinckley spoke of every member having a friend, surely his primary emphasis would have been on every member having home teachers as faithful and aware as our own.
Finally, we must actively pursue a relationship with our Savior. Nothing will be of greater worth in the Plan than the personal relationship we build with Him. Today during church, we talked about the Sacrament and what it means to take upon us the name of Christ. One comment that stuck with me is that the attitude of taking on His name is not just simply being known by Him, but rather it is an act of being known as Him. If we truly take upon us His name, we shall find ourselves acting and being in very deed as He is. Taking only the prayer on the bread, we learn that we "witness unto [God] that [we] are willing to take upon [us]the name of [Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us]; that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us] (Doctrine & Covenants 20:77)." Remembering, keeping, and taking upon us His name are all actions that change us in to Christ-like beings by bringing us into proximity with the Spirit which, teaches us of Christ and testifies of His reality, divinity, and saving nature.
While much more could be said on the saving nature of a relationship with the Savior, it is sufficient to note that we cannot be saved without such a relationship for salvation is found through and by Him.
When we consider the very personal and individual nature of the Plan of Salvation, I would invite us to recognize the infinite worth of the many who defend us, stand by us, and pray for us. Salvation is individual, but the road to salvation is watched over by the helping hands and faithful hearts of many who would help us along the way.
Labels: guest posts, omphaloskepsis