Who is the Author of the Plan of Salvation?
By: Bruce R. McConkie
of the First Council of the Seventy
The Improvement Era
Who created and presented the plan of salvation as it was adopted in the pre-existent councils in heaven? Did Christ offer one plan which would allow men their agency, and Lucifer sponsor another founded on compulsion?
Although we sometimes hear it said that there were two plans – Christ’s plan of freedom and agency, and Lucifer’s of slavery and compulsion – such teaching does not conform to the revealed word. Christ did not present a plan of redemption and salvation nor did Lucifer. There were not two plans up for consideration; there was only one; and that was the plan of the Father: originated, developed, presented, and put in force by him. Christ, however, made the Father’s plan his own by his willing obedience to its terms and provisions.
A knowledge of these pre-existent events in God’s heavenly kingdom will help us understand the true order of things in his earthly kingdom, the Church, and also will point a course for the wise Saint to follow in all his affairs. Briefly this is what too k place:
The Father is and was a Personage of tabernacle, a Holy Man having a body of flesh and bones. To him were born the hosts of pre-existent spirit children of whom Jehovah, or Christ, was the eldest, the firstborn. Lucifer, “a son of the morning,” was among this host, as also were the spirits of all men, who have been or yet will be born on earth.
These spirits, endowed with agency and governed by law, developed a variety of talents and capacities. Some became noble and great. Lucifer attained unto a position of eminence and authority, but Christ, pre-eminent above them all, became “like unto God “.
Speaking of pre-existence, Joseph Smith said: “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, P. 354) These laws, the Father’s plan of redemption and salvation, included, among other things, the following:
At the Father’s command Christ and other noble and great spirits were to create this earth.
Then each spirit child was to be born into mortality, gain a temporal body in which to house the eternal spirit, and pass through a probationary testing to determine eventual fitness for a life of the kind the Father enjoyed.
Body and spirit were to be separated, temporarily, by death, the spirit going to a world of waiting spirits, and the body back to the dust of the earth.
The chief cornerstone of the whole plan was to be the atoning sacrifice of a Redeemer, one of the Father’s spirit sons who was to be born into the world as his literal Son in the flesh. By this means was to be effected a resurrection, a reunion of body and spirit in immortality, the two never again to be separated.
And finally there was to be a day of judgment when a just measure would be meted to every man, and when those who fully qualified by righteousness would be raised, not only in immortality, but also unto eternal life, the kind of life which the Father himself has.
Step by step this plan was unfolded, taught, and put into operation. Thus after the earth was created, after the prospect of mortality had been announced, after the prospect of death and a resurrection were known, after the need for a Redeemer had been heralded in the courts on high, the Father spoke these very words:
“Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27) That is whom shall I send to b e my Son in the flesh, to suffer both body and spirit in Gethsemane while taking upon himself the sins of the world to be lifted up upon the cross, to ransom men from the fall, to be the Redeemer?
There were two volunteers, Both said, “Here am I, send me>” (Abraham 3:27) But Christ, who was the first, also said: “Father thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2) That is: I will continue to accept your plan of redemption, accept it without change or modification. And thine be the glory!
Lucifer, the second volunteer, had no such spirit of obedience. “I will be thy son,” he said, “and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do i t; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1) That is: Lucifer favored the Father’s plan by which the spirit children were to obtain bodies of flesh and bones, were to die, were to be resurrected. But Lucifer wanted to abandon the testing or probationary part of mortality; he wanted to take away the agency of man, forestall the need of a judgment according to works, and impose salvation upon all men without effort on their part – an impossible thing since there can be no progression except by the upward pull of obedience to law. And as a final blow: Lucifer sought to obtain as his personal reward, the very power, position, and throne of the Father himself.
The issue was squarely put. A decision must be made, and the Father (always the Father!) issued the decree: “I will send the first,” (Abraham 3:27) thus choosing Christ to be the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8; I Peter 1:19-20)
Then it was that “the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.” (Abraham 3:28) Then it was that “a third part of the hosts of heaven” (D&C 29:36) were turned away from the father “because of their agency.” (D&C 29:36) Then it was there “there was war in heaven,” (Revelation 12:7) and those who were cast out became “the devil and his angels.” (D&C 29:37)
This is the story in outline form; and all the scripture bear the same testimony. Always it is the Father’s plan; always the Son is the obedient co-worker:
“I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross.” (3 Nephi 27:13-14)
“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)
“I can of mine own self do nothing: … I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)
“I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38)
“I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28-29)
From this summary of events and from these principles, we learn some great lessons. One is that the pre-existent government was not a democracy any more than the Church government today is a democracy. It was a kingdom then; it is a kingdom now. The Lord always makes the laws, issues the decrees, and invites his children to obey and progress. Because of agency the pre-existent spirits were permitted the democratic principle of accepting or rejecting Christ’s appointment as Redeemer. So today: Men may accept or reject the saving truths of the gospel. But the rejecter always pays the penalty.
Further: By following the Father’s plan, Christ went from grace to grace until he received the fullness of the Father, (D&C 93:6-17) so that now, having worked out the atoning sacrifice, “and being made perfect,” he has become “the author of eternal salvation un to all them that obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9) Thus to him is ascribed glory and honor in all things, and those who seek for joint heirship with him must, in obedience, go from grace to grace as he did. The key to perfection and progression is: “Father, thy will be done.”