In our ward we have spent the last month in Sunday School discussing the Plan of Salvation. For this reason, I think simply going through it from start to finish might not be the most compelling approach. However, if your ward has many investigators, new converts, or others who are not familiar with the doctrine, it might be better to do that instead.
In reading through the lesson manual I will admit that no quotes or anecdotes leapt out at me. This seems to me to be a fairly basic and clear-cut dissection of the Plan of Salvation. For this reason I think it would be very easy to simply read off a few lines and then jump into a broader discussion about personal experiences or testimonies.
The hardest part of a good lesson plan in my book is coming up with open-ended questions that might spur discussion, so that is what I’m trying to supply here.
Finding meaning in the Plan of Salvation
What is your favorite part of the Plan of Salvation?
What part of the Plan of Salvation do you wish we had more answers about?
What big questions do you feel the Plan of Salvation answers?
Using the Plan of Salvation to share and understand the Gospel
Have you ever had the opportunity to use the Plan of Salvation to share the Gospel with someone?
If you had to explain the pre-earth life/Spirit World/Agency to a friend, how would you do it?
Joseph Fielding Smith refers to earth life as “the great gift of mortality.” In what sense have you felt this to be a gift to you? Have you ever consciously felt grateful to be subject to what he calls “the vicissitudes of mortality?” When/why?
Dealing with doubt and uncertainty
Has knowing the Plan of Happiness ever actually made you happy? When/why?
When in your life have you struggled to understand/believe/trust the Plan of Salvation?
How can we distinguish between popular belief within the LDS community and actual doctrine about the Plan of Salvation?
Finally I wanted to include two quotes that I found meaningful as I thought about this lesson, which I think could be applied if you decided to discuss these specific principles.
(Bear in mind that this is from The Screwtape Letters, so the perspective is from a senior tempter to a junior tempter; it is intentionally diabolical).
“One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons . . . [He] wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.
“Merely to override a human will . . . would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve.” [C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Harper Collins, 2001) 38-39]
On the Atonement:
It’s our faith that he experienced everything – absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. He knows all that He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.
(Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up, Preface, p 174.)
My own feeling is that we have a strong tendency to try to cover the whole Plan in one lesson. It isn’t possible to do such an enormous topic justice with an overview, and as a result the topic can see cliché and tedious. I think just picking a few aspects of the plan to really go in depth might yield more meaningful participation. I personally find discussing the moments in life when we confront doubt or fear to be some of the most powerful lessons we have.
While the suggestions I offer here do not pull very much from the manual, I think the tidy organization of this lesson lends itself to easily pulling quotes about specific principles that will not seem out-of-context or need any extra explanation.