Sunday, January 24, 2010

God's Plan for Us through Salvation

In continuation of our 13 week topic, this week’s topic is on the third article of faith.

3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

This topic is what causes much friction among many religions. To think that there is more to the next life than just Heaven and Hell, boggles many people’s minds. As a Latter Day Saint I am blessed to know that all righteous people will be saved from Satan after this life. God loves us all equally no matter what religion we are. However those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ have a certain obligation they are held to once they make those sacred covenants at baptism and in the temple. If they stay true to the covenants made their reward goes beyond heaven alone. This is what makes our religion so peculiar to the rest of the world.

Everything I wanted to say about this topic has been summed up perfectly in Elder Quentin L. Cook’s from the quorum of the twelve apostles, general conference talk from May 2009 – Our Father’s Plan – Big Enough for All His Children. I remember hearing this talk and beaming with joy at the television screen because I was thinking “Yes. This is what the world needs to hear! He has worded it so perfectly.” I am excited to quote my favorite parts of his talk on the topic of the plan of salvation which is what the third article of faith is all about. I hope you read it, feel the spirit testify truth to you, and ponder these words and topic deeply.

"For many of these people who are open to religious faith, one issue has been particularly troubling. They have had a difficult time reconciling the correct doctrine that we have a loving Father in Heaven and the incorrect doctrine that most of mankind would be doomed to eternal hell.

This was an issue with my great-great-grandfather Phineas Wolcott Cook. He was born in 1820 in Connecticut. In his diary he notes that he had made a covenant with the Lord to serve Him if he could find the right way. He attended many churches and at one was asked to “testify [and] join the church [and] be a Christian.” His response was he “could not tell which one to join, there were so many.” He continued to investigate several churches. One doctrine was of particular significance to him. He explained: “Sometimes they found fault with me because I wanted a more liberal salvation for the family of man. I could not believe the Lord had made a part to be saved and a great part to be damned to all eternity.”Because of this doctrine, he allowed his name to be taken off the records of one Protestant religion. When the LDS missionaries taught him the true doctrine of the plan of salvation in 1844, he was baptized.

Phineas’s faith in the loving mercy of the Lord and His plan of happiness has been shared by many honorable men and women, even when the teachings of their own churches were very bleak.

At the time Joseph Smith received revelations and organized the Church, the vast majority of churches taught that the Savior’s Atonement would not bring about the salvation of most of mankind. The common precept was that a few would be saved and the overwhelming majority would be doomed to endless tortures of the most awful and unspeakable intensity. The marvelous doctrine revealed to the Prophet Joseph unveiled to us a plan of salvation that is applicable to all mankind, including those who do not hear of Christ in this life, children who die before the age of accountability, and those who have no understanding.

At death, righteous spirits live in a temporary state called paradise. (This applies to people of all faiths who lived righteous lives) Alma the Younger teaches us “paradise [is] a state of rest, a state of peace, where [the righteous] shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” The unrighteous spirits dwell in spirit prison, sometimes referred to as hell. It is described as an awful place, a dark place where those fearful of the “indignation of the wrath of God” shall remain until the resurrection. However, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all spirits blessed by birth will ultimately be resurrected, spirit and body reunited, and inherit kingdoms of glory that are superior to our existence here on earth. The exceptions are confined to those who, like Satan and his angels, willfully rebel against God. At the resurrection, the spirit prison or hell will deliver up its captive spirits. Jesus came into the world “to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness.

The Savior said: “Let not your heart be troubled. … In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you.” A succinct summary is provided in the book of Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

After all the Savior has suffered for mankind, it is not surprising that in speaking of existing churches in the First Vision, He would instruct Joseph to “join none of them, for they were all wrong. The Savior subsequently ushered in the Restoration of His true doctrine with respect to the plan of salvation and other saving principles such as the doctrine of Christ.

But notwithstanding the significance of our doctrinal differences with other faiths, our attitude toward other churches has been to refrain from criticism. They do much good. They bless mankind. Many help their members learn of the Savior and His teachings.

A reporter for the Washington Post visited one of our Church meetings in Nigeria. The reporter interviewed one new member and told of his conversion. The reporter states:

“[He] said … he jumped off a city bus and walked into the [LDS Church building]. … He immediately liked what he heard inside [the chapel], especially that no one preached that people of other faiths were going to hell.”This echoes the feeling of numerous converts to the Church since its organization.

Our leaders have consistently counseled us “to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.

Those early European converts that Dickens met on board the ship Amazon had overcome many stumbling blocks. They had a testimony that revelation comes from heaven and that prophets and apostles are again on the earth. They had faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

They had come to understand the sublime destination that was in store for them. They were not fearful of the arduous journey they were undertaking, and their ultimate destination was not really the Salt Lake Valley. Their true destination was paradise followed by exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

A loving Father has provided a comprehensive and compassionate plan for His children “that saves the living, redeems the dead, rescues the damned, and glorifies all who repent.”

Even though our journey may be fraught with tribulation, the destination is truly glorious.

I rejoice in the great plan of salvation that is big enough for all of our Father in Heaven’s children. I express gratitude beyond my ability to articulate for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I bear my witness of Him in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

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