We have frozen this blog as a historical, yet informational view at what life is like in the West Indies Mission for all those called to serve. This blog was designed for the families and friends of those missionaries serving in the West Indies Mission from July 2006 to July 2009. Every six weeks, photos taken at zone conference as well as a new slide show including every person baptized were posted on the blog. All of the slide shows are also available on our You Tube channel. The current West Indies Mission blog can be found here. Posts on our missionary experience can be found here and earlier. And finally, if you are a returned missionary who served in the West Indies, there is a current blog for you. Click here or visit westindiesrm@blogspot.com

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teaching the Plan of Salvation

From Sept 08

Here is what I will be teaching in the upcoming series of zone conferences - just in case you want to study along with us. We will be discussing the first part of the Plan of Salvation lesson from chapter three in Preach my Gospel. The points will be: pre-mortal life, creation, and the fall. We will talk about the doctrines as they apply to ourselves and then practice how to teach them effectively to others.

Homework

This is the homework the missionaries will be given this time for the next (October) zone conferences. It's odd to put homework first, but I didn't want you to miss it clear at the bottom of this page.

1. Carefully read, study, and apply Chapter 3 in Preach My Gospel
2. Complete all activities in the first 3 lessons.
3. Intensely study The Book of Mormon, focusing on the Atonement. Highlight every reference to the Atonement. If you have done this before, do it again in a fresh Book of Mormon. If you are doing it now, continue. If you have never done this before, begin!
4. Ponder the following questions, and prepare a two minute talk on each –
a) Since last ZC, how has using the members made my finding efforts more effective?
b) How has my study of the Atonement helped me to bring others closer to Christ?

The important assignment on the atonement is based on counsel I heard from Boyd K Packer (can't find the reference yet but I am hunting). He suggested that it is far better for us to gain our own understanding of the atonement than to hear the words of others (Nephi agrees - see 1 Ne 10:17). After studying from the Book of Mormon, he suggested we summarize what we know on one sheet of paper. This is a tough assignment but it will us deepen our understanding.

"As your understanding of the atonement grows, your desire to share the gospel with increase." (Preach my Gospel, 2)

Pre-mortal life

Here is what Preach my Gospel says:

God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally his children and He loves us. We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not, however, like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him and enjoy all the blessings the He enjoys without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body.

God' whole purpose - His work and His glory - is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan before we came to the earth. (Preach my Gospel, p 48)

Here are a few thoughts on pre-mortal life I may share. Lessons don't usually come together for me until I am standing before the missionaries and I never teach the exact same lesson twice (we have six conferences). Consequently I collect lots of information.

Why is it important to understand the doctrine of pre-mortal life?

- There is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life…” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Mystery of Life,” Ensign, Nov 1983, 16)
- One-dimensional man with only a one-dimensional view of the world will surely focus upon the cares of the world, yielding to the things of the moment. (Neal A Maxwell , Premortality: A glorious reality)
- The general absence of this deep doctrine and this precious perspective has had a profound and inevitable effect upon the way in which many mortals view this life. Indeed, the loss of this doctrine in its plainness and fullness has been a subtle stumbling block to many without their even sensing it. Clearly the doctrine of premortal existence of individuals is a key to understanding the Lord's plan of salvation. Much of the human despair about the meaning of life and the perplexities of the mortal condition stems from being unaware or unbelieving of the reality of this precious doctrine. (Neal A. Maxwell "Called and Prepared from the Foundation of the World")


Why do so few people outside of the church understand the doctrine of pre-mortal life?


Most of the information from: Life Before, Brent L. Top

- Early Christian writings – it appears that it was common in the early church until about the 6th century AD
o Origen of Alexandria – wrote in the 3rd century – his writings caused a furor among early church leaders after his death

It was his belief that the many differences seen among men on earth could be traced back to the differences in rank and glory of the premortal angels. Without such a belief in a premortal existence, he maintained, it would not be possible to view God as "no respecter of persons," but rather God would seem arbitrary, cruel, and unjust. Origen believed that the differences among men on earth, as with the "angels," were based on merit. Just as there would be a judgment at the end of man's earth life, Origen believed that some sort of judgment had already taken place before we came here which was based on work done in a premortal state. In applying this principle to Jacob's being preferred over Esau, Origen wrote, "We believe that he was even then chosen by God because of merits acquired before this life.

Despite concurring beliefs held by others, Origen's teachings were zealously attacked by his opponents and criticized as unscriptural, too speculative, and having too much the element of Greek thought. Origen had his supporters as well, but in the end the critics got their way, and the proponents of a premortal life of man and the immortality of the soul were censured. In A.D. 543, the Roman emperor, Justinian, coerced the pope to convene a council to reject the teachings of Origen (Council of Constantinople). In an edict known as the Anathemas Against Origen, the teachings of Origen, including his inspired writings on the premortal life of man, were declared heresy in the Church. From this date on, the doctrine of man's premortal state and relationship to God was viewed as heretical and unfounded in scripture of early Christian religious thought. Today conventional Christianity vehemently rejects the notion of a premortal existence but fails to remember that the doctrine was widely taught and accepted prior to the Council of A.D. 543.

- Essenes , Dead Sea scrolls – strong evidence of belief in a pre-mortal existence among Jewish sects in the Christian era
- Apocryphal writings
o D&C 91:1-2, 4-5 - some things true, some not, need the spirit to enlighten us
o Many of them refer to man’s premortal existence with God

This is an example from the Nag Hammadi Library. In the Apocryphon of James, Jesus reportedly told an afflicted Peter and James, “If you consider how long the world existed before you, and how long it will exist after you, you will find that your life is one single day and your sufferings one single hour” (“The Apocryphon of James,” in The Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed. James M. Robinson, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978, p. 31.) (from Neil A Maxwell, Premortality: A glorious reality)

In the Apocryphon of James we read that the Lord told the Apostles, "They will ask you where you are going." And He told them to answer, "To the place from which I came. I return to that place." "When they ask you who you are," it continues, "say 'I am a son and I come from the Father.' And when they ask you what sort of son and from what father, answer, 'From the preexistent Father and I am a son of the Preexistence.'"

Acts of Thomas and is known as the Syriac Hymn of the Pearl.

Joseph Fielding McConkie gave this summation of this ancient apocryphal yet inspired glimpse of the doctrine of premortal life:

This is an allegory of a king's son who is required to leave his father's kingdom, where he enjoyed great wealth, to obtain a pearl. The pearl, quite obviously, is a symbol of his own soul. His parents see that he is properly provisioned for his journey. Before leaving their presence he is required to surrender his splendid robe. This robe, or garment of light, we are told, had been woven to the measure of his stature. He also enters into a covenant with them to obtain the pearl and return that he might once again enjoy their presence and wear his splendid robe. The covenant is written upon his heart.

Though the way is hazardous and difficult, an intimate friend referred to as "an (anointed one)" warns him of the dangers that beset him. Notwithstanding all this he soon forgets his identity as a king's son and his mission to obtain the pearl. At this point a council is held; it is attended by his father, his mother, his brother (the crown prince), and many other great and mighty ones. They determine to send him a letter imploring him to awake and remember who he is and what king he serves. He is encouraged to remember his splendid robe and to so conduct himself that his name might be written in the book of heroes, and that with his brother he may be an heir to his father's kingdom.

Thus reminded, he commences again his efforts to obtain the pearl, which he must wrestle from a terrible serpent. This he is able to do only by naming his father's name, that of his brother, and that of his mother. Having obtained the pearl he flees Egypt, sheds his dirty and unclean garments, and is further guided by the letter. At this point he is greeted by messengers from his parents, who clothe him once more in his royal robe, and he returns as an heir to his father's kingdom.

Joseph Smith's metaphor of pre-mortal life

I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Joseph Smith Jr., “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, May 1971, 13

Bible references on pre-mortal life (they are few because plain and precious things were taken away - 1 Ne 13:26-27, 29)
o Jer 1:5 – knew, sanctified, ordained
o Job 38:4, 7 – foundations of the earth, shouted for joy
o Ecclesiastes 12:7 – spirit return to God who gave it
o Deut 32:8 – when most high divided to the nations their inheritance
o Psalms 82:6 – ye are gods: and all of you are children of the Most High
o Proverbs 8:22-30 – was with God from the beginning
o Hebrews 12:9 – God is the father of your spirits
o Jude 1:6 – angels which kept not their first estate
o Revelations 12:7 – war in heaven
o Zechariah 12:1 - The burden of the word of the lord for Israel, saith the lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him
o Proverbs 8:22-30 – was with God from the beginning

What will happen when we testify of doctrines of the gospel that have been lost and 'reveal things which never have been revealed' to our brothers and sisters (Alma 26:22)?

Elder Holland said,
There are several reasons for bearing testimony. One is that when you declare the truth, it will bring an echo, an unconscious memory to the investigator, that they have heard this truth before—and of course they have. A missionary’s testimony invokes a great legacy of testimony dating back to the councils in heaven before this world was. There, in an earlier place, these same people heard this same plan outlined and heard there the role that Jesus Christ would play in their salvation.

The fact of the matter is investigators are not only hearing our testimony of Christ, but they are hearing echoes of other, earlier testimonies, including their own testimony of Him, for they were on the side of the faithful who kept their first estate and earned the privilege of a second estate. We must always remember that these investigators were among the valiant who once overcame Satan by the power of their testimony of Christ!
Jeffrey R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Liahona, Oct 2001, 26
From a talk given at the Provo (Utah) Missionary Training Center on 20 June 2000.


Pre-mortal life scriptures we may discuss:

- Alma 12 and 13
- Moses 1, 4, 5
- Abraham 3
- 2 Ne 2 (fall, agency)
- DC 138:53-56 – lessons in spirit world
- DC 121:34-35 – may called, few chosen

Here is a link to the Teachings of the President of the Church: Joseph Smith lesson on the plan of salvation.

I keep adding - here is another great quote:
There are so many unanswered questions. Why the inequities in life?

Some are so rich.

Some so wretchedly poor.

Some so beautifully formed, and others with pitiful handicaps.

Some are gifted and others retarded.

Why the injustice, the untimely death? Why the neglect, the sorrow, the pain?

Why divorce, incest, perversion, abuse, and cruelty?

If there be order and meaning to life, they are hardly visible in what mortals do to one another and to themselves.

In counterpoint, we see love and devotion, sacrifice, faith, and humility; we see humanity in exalted expression of courage and heroism.

When at last the mystery of life is unraveled, what will be revealed?

I know a man who studied for the ministry. Then just before his ordination he dropped out because there were so many unanswered questions. He still regarded himself as a devout, if somewhat disillusioned, Christian. He found another profession, married, and was raising a family when our missionaries found him.

He made a very superficial study of the doctrines of the Church and found them tolerable enough. The fundamentals of Christianity were visible. But he was most interested in programs and activities that would benefit his family.

It was after he was baptized that he made the discovery of his life. To his surprise he found, underlying the programs of the Church, a solid foundation of doctrine. He had no idea of the depth and breadth and height of our theology. When once he moved from interest in the programs to a study of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he found answers which explained to his full satisfaction the deep questions that had left him unable to accept ordination as a clergyman.

One doctrine was completely new to him. Although he was a student of the Bible, he had not found it there until he read the other revelations. Then the Bible was clear to him and he understood.

The doctrine is so logical, so reasonable, and explains so many things, that it is a wonder that the Christian world rejected it. It is so essential a part of the equation of life that, left out, life just cannot add up, it remains a mystery.

The doctrine is simply this: life did not begin with mortal birth. We lived in spirit form before we entered mortality. We are spiritually the children of God.

This doctrine of premortal life was known to ancient Christians. For nearly five hundred years the doctrine was taught, but it was then rejected as a heresy by a clergy that had slipped into the Dark Ages of apostasy.

Once they rejected this doctrine, the doctrine of premortal life, and the doctrine of redemption for the dead, they could never unravel the mystery of life. They became like a man trying to assemble a strand of pearls on a string that was too short. There is no way they can put them all together.

Why is it so strange a thought that we lived as spirits before entering mortality? Christian doctrine proclaims the Resurrection, meaning that we will live after mortal death. If we live beyond death, why should it be strange that we lived before birth?

The Christian world in general accepts the idea that our condition in the Resurrection will be determined by our actions in this life. Why can they not believe that some circumstances in this life were determined by our actions before coming into mortality?

Boyd K. Packer, “The Mystery of Life,” Ensign, Nov 1983, 16

4 comments:

ang said...

Thank you so much for posting this information! I look forward to studying it this week. I also wanted to add that there is a wonderful lesson about the Plan of Salvation in the "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church" -- Joseph Smith. I learned so much from reading it that I am excited to continue the topic with your "homework" assignment!

Diane said...

Thank You! I'm excited for the challenge. I think we will add it to our FHE this week. It will be good for the whole family.

dr di said...

Thanks for the idea. I love the TPC Joseph Smith lesson too. I'll add a link in the blog.

Brad N said...

Sister Robison,

We so appreciate this blog. Our son has yet to arrive in your mission (Oct 15 transfer), but through your blog and the Spirit we feel more and more each day that his call is inspired. We send him snippets of your blog, and he is so excited to arrive in the West Indies. Today we sent him the homework assignment for next zone conference. Thank you.