Gospel Doctrine for the Godless

An ex-Mormon take on LDS Sunday School lessons

D&C Lesson 19 (Plan of Salvation)

The Plan of Salvation

Reading assignment

Study the scripture passages listed in the following questions and in the scripture chain.
Moses 4:2, D&C 19:16–19, and 76:40–42.
Premortal life: Job 38:4–7; D&C 138:55–56; Abraham 3:22–28
Mortal life: Alma 42:9, 14; D&C 29:40–43; Articles of Faith 1:3
Life after death: Alma 40:11–14; Alma 42:11–13, 15; D&C 76:111; D&C 88:14–16

Links: Teacher’s manual | Student manual

It’s a busy year for Your Humble Godless Doctrine teacher. So I’m posting this lesson as kind of a rough outline, with the intention of filling in the details later. Think of this as the notes that a Gospel Doctrine teacher would walk into class with.


This blog is starting to resemble an actual Gospel Doctrine class, in that we’re talking about the same issues over and over again. This time it’s the Plan of Salvation, or as you know it from your time in church, the three-circle chart.

We’ve talked about the Plan of Salvation before in an earlier lesson. What I want to do for this lesson is show why it makes no sense on any level.

Shman of Shmalvation

Let’s get a look at the chart for the Plan of Salvation.

Whoops, not that one.

There we go.


And now, to describe the Plan of Salvation, here is a super secret transcript of the War in Heaven, smuggled from the Granite Vault.

SETTING: The Premortal Realm

GOD: Gather ’round, everybody — and I mean everybody. Humans only.

ALL: What is it, God?

GOD: I have a plan.

FEMALE EXTRA: What sort of plan?

GOD: A plan whereby you can become like me.


GOD: You’ve all been living with me and a variety of Heavenly Mothers for aeons of eternal time. You have learned much. But now it’s time to be tested.


GOD: You will need to be sent to Earth to be tested and tried.

FEMALE EXTRA 2: Why can’t we just be tested and tried here?

GOD: That would be too easy. Here, you know I exist, and we have a relationship. But on earth, your knowledge will be wiped, and then we’ll see if you’ll hearken to my words and obey me.

LUCIFER: If this test is the most important thing we’ll ever do in the eternities, why would it be a good idea to wipe our memory and then take the test? Wouldn’t it help us to do better on this test if we know what we know now?

GOD: I don’t want to know if you’ll obey me if you know stuff. I want to know if you’ll obey me, knowing nothing.

LUCIFER: That doesn’t make any sense.

GOD: Ahem. My ways are not your ways. The other thing you need is to have a body. Right now, you are spirits. But soon you will be encased in tabernacles of flesh.

ADAM: What’s a body?

GOD: Good question, Adam. Nice acting. A body is basically a version of you, but made of stuff.

LUCIFER: I don’t understand. Why would a body help us? Up here we can listen to you, ask questions, and make informed decisions — without having a body. So why are these bodies necessary?

GOD: How do you mean?

LUCIFER: Well, if our bodies get hurt and don’t work as well — or even if they’re just hungry or tired — then will it affect our ability to reason and make decisions?

GOD: (testily) Yes…

LUCIFER: And even if our bodies are working perfectly, they’ll still be only as good at reasoning as our spirits are now. It seems like these bodies only make the task harder.

GOD: Yes, but in return you get to be like me.


ADAM: How is this going to work?

GOD: You will all go to earth, in different places and at different times. A tiny fraction of you will get to hear about the Gospel in mortality, and the vast majority of you will be taught the Gospel after you die.

LUCIFER: …As spirits?

GOD: (steaming slightly) Yes, that’s right.

LUCIFER: Well, if almost all of us are going to learn about and accept the Gospel as spirits, then I still don’t see the point of having a body.

GOD: Forget about the bodies. I still haven’t told you about the other part, and that’s sin.

ADAM: What is sin?

GOD: Thanks, Adam. I can always count on you. There are things I don’t like you doing. That’s sin.

LUCIFER: Will we be able to stop ourselves from sinning?

GOD: No, not really. I’m either going to stain you with the taint of original sin, or I’ll make sure you’re born with an unpreventable tendency to want to sin — I haven’t decided which.


GOD: But don’t worry — I’ve got the perfect solution to the problem of sin.

LUCIFER: (sourly) Which you created.

ALL: To forgive us?

GOD: Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t just forgive you. How would simply forgiving you show that there are consequences for sin? I demand suffering.


GOD: No, I’m going to get someone killed. Then I’ll forgive everyone.


GOD: Except not everyone. You have to accept my moral superiority. And pay tithing. Then I’ll forgive you.

LUCIFER: And after that someone dies, there will be no more sin?

GOD: Of course there will still be sin! But I’ll feel better about having a relationship with you.

GOD: Now the purpose of this meeting is to pick a scapegoat. Someone’s got to suffer unimaginable torment for a few hours and then die, so let’s decide who gets it.


GOD: Oh, don’t worry! You won’t stay dead! A weekend, max. Then you get to sit at my right hand. Anyone?

JESUS: (puts hand up)

GOD: Right, thank you. Well, that’s about all for…

LUCIFER: I’ll do it, as long as you guarantee that everyone passes the test and gets to live with you.

GOD: Oh, and how will that work?

LUCIFER: You could just relax the constraints on sin.

GOD: (distant sound of thunder) What do you mean?

LUCIFER: Well, you’re arbitrarily designating some things as wrong, and then killing someone to fix it. So it seems like the whole problem is you. Why don’t you just circumvent the whole thing by trying to not mind sin so much? Surely you have the ability to do that.

GOD: Not with my unyielding sense of justice. I cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

EUTHYPHRO: I thought you could do anything.

GOD: Not that.

SOCRATES: (makes notes)

LUCIFER: Well then, how about if you just make it so that we can’t sin. We go down to earth, get bodies — no sin, no problem!

VOICES: (murmuring) Yes. Good idea. That would work.

GOD: That’s a terrible idea because I have to allow free will. Now off with you, Lucifer, and all those who agreed with your opinion!


GOD: That was kind of lucky, because I needed him for the plan. Right. The first of you lot will go down soon, so get ready. Oh, and Mary — stay back. I’ve got a special job for you.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Or as Redditor GreatAndSpacious put it:


  1. Emanuel Swedenborg. http://zelphontheshelf.com/a-plagiarized-plan-the-origin-of-the-3-degrees/

    If you understand this, you have the plan of Salvation, as plagiarized by Joseph Smith. Perhaps you cover this elsewhere. See also: Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine? Craig Miller. http://craigwmiller.tripod.com/interest.htm#_ftn28

  2. Perhaps if we had the full transcript, we would read someone point out that Jesus/Jehovah managed to become like Elohim before mortality, that is, before obtaining a body. Also, that the Holy Ghost attained godhood and STILL has no body. All of which calls into question the usual explanations about neeeeding a “physical body” to “be like God”.

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