**heads up. Long and very religous read. I understand if you don't think you have the time or aren't interested, but I challenge you to at least try. For me. : )**
Okay so with the new curriculum in teaching that I've mentioned before, each week a challenge is issued to the Young Women to do something with the lesson or discussion that we've had. Since I'm part of the program as an advisor, considered a leader, it would only be fair if I also took the challenges. Besides, I'm trying to like, you know, better myself and all that, so um, yeah - challenges have been accepted.
This week's was to bear our testimony to someone about the Plan of Salvation. What better way, then to put it all out on the blog? So, if this ain't your thang, feel free to move along and thanks for at least stopping by.
If you are interested in my feelings about it, please just remember that this is my OWN testimony and my OWN feelings of what I BELIEVE. I am not speaking on behalf of the LDS church. I am not speaking in any way of authority or am I presenting absolute true doctrine. This is simply what I believe. And it's for you. Someone.
Here's a diagram (I tried to hand draw on using Paint, but that didn't work out so well so I googled the image)
You might have to make the image bigger to read the descriptions but at any rate, I am gonna outline what I know and believe.
Starting with Pre-Earth Life: I believe that we are all sons and daughters created by a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. We are all literally spirit brothers and sisters created by the same Heavenly Parents. Our parents are Gods. They love us, we love them. Out of immeasurable respect for our Heavenly Mother, she is not referred to often. Our Father didn't want her name taken in vain like He knew His would so often. I love that thought. Such love and respect for a woman. Our Father in Heaven has a body and we wanted to become like Him. We wanted to have all the glories and happiness that He has. So similar to how we feel about our own children. We want them to have everything we can possibly give them. In order for us to become like Him, we needed to obtain bodies, experience earth life, be tested to prove our worthiness and obedience to eternal laws and doctrine. He couldn't just hand it over, we had to prove ourselves worthy of it. Think of it as when you make your kids earn money or earn a privilege (I know, very basic terms).
We were thrilled about the opportunity! We were STOKED! We saw how great things were for our Father and Mother and we wanted the same! We wanted bodies. We could feel His, we knew the happiness of having one, we desperately wanted the same thing. So how to go about getting everyone to earth and then back again together?
A plan was presented. Our two oldest brothers stepped forward. One being Lucifer who thought he had the perfect plan. We would each come in our time, have our experiences, but instead of risking the chance that we would make choices that wouldn't follow the necessary steps to get back to our Father, he thought it was a better idea to remove the agency and just have our experiences (sans opportunities to choose) and instead "force" everyone back the same route. It seemed safe. We would lose no one. We wouldn't risk the chance that one of our friends or loved ones would come to earth, get distracted, not learn the gospel, not take the necessary ordinances to ensure them to return home again. Collective salvation if you will. He proposed getting every single one of Father's children home safe again, but he wanted the glory.
There were some of our brothers and sisters who agreed that seemed the best option. I would think it felt safe. That plan didn't go over so well with our Father because the whole point of coming to earth, gaining the body and being tested was in fact to PROVE that we would rely on the Spirit, make choices that would prove that without being forced, we would show our love and loyalty on our own. The catch was, we were going to have mortal bodies and thus the odds of us making mistakes was 100%. Risky. We could lose some. We could lose all since the very fact of being on earth and having bodies guaranteed we would at some point screw up.
Our other older brother Jesus came forward with a different proposal. In light of the fact that we would make mistakes, He didn't think that should be the end all. But, if there were a Savior who would take upon Himself all mankind's mistakes, poor choices, sins, and properly atoned for them, and then if the offender repented, those sins/mistakes could be forgiven and the progression back home could continue. He offered to come to earth, live the mortal existence and then be that Savior for us. He loved us THAT much to be willing to do it so that all of us could return home. That kind of love is incomprehensible to me, but I KNOW it in my heart. For all of this, Jesus proposed that the glory remain with the Father.
There was a group discussion. We understood Lucifer's plan, we understood Jesus's plan. We talked, we discussed, we debated, we argued. As any family does. The arguments grew heated. So heated in fact that there was "war". Now, I don't know if it was an actual war (not likely in my book because we didn't have bodies yet) but more a war of words and ideologies. Eventually 2/3's of us chose Jesus' plan and the remaining 1/3 chose Lucifer's. Because of the exchanges, the battles, the quite-frankly-I'm-not-sure-how-it-exactly-went-down, the war, Lucifer (or Satan) was cast out of heaven for rebellion and he took his 1/3 followers with him. They were denied the opportunity to come to earth and progress with the plan of receiving a body and moving forward. They.are.pissed. And angry enough with the rest of us, that they will do anything to make sure that we don't succeed. As they are still in a spirit state, they (following their leader Satan) have the ability to test us and tempt us and try anything they can to cause us to fail.
The plan moved forward. Earth was created, Adam and Eve were the first occupants and with the Old Testament you can read and understand the early years. In the New Testament, Jesus' time on earth is learned. We read about His life, His ministry, His atonement for our sins, His crucifixion, and His rise from the dead. His resurrection. He showed us the way for us to follow. How to live our lives. He established His Priesthood. His church. And set up the plan for how we should live while we are on the earth and having these mortal experience.
As we each have our turn to come and receive our bodies we begin our journey of proving our faithfulness to our Father in Heaven and to His plan and gospel. We have opportunities to show Him our love, our gratitude and our loyalty to our older brother Jesus who is our Savior and makes it all possible for us to still have our free agency, fix and repent of our inevitable sins and mistakes and still return to live with our Father.
Added to all of this. I believe we knew each other in the premortal world. I believe we may even have chosen our spouses, our children, our family units. We could see the trials and challenges that we would face and we likely formed a plan and made promises to make sure we took care of each other and helped each other. I believe Splenda Daddy and I knew one another before we came to earth. I believe we knew that we were eternal partners and that we are working on that together here on earth. With our sons, their wives and their children. We saw our Father and Mother as a family unit in heaven it only makes sense that the same thing continue on earth and even after.
The line called Birth. Pretty simple. We are born with physical bodies on this earth.
The next circle titled Mortality. This is the now. Earth life. Wouldn't it be so much easier if we could just remember the pre-existence? If we could remember our Father and Mother distinctly? We could remember what the whole plan was about? It would make our choices so much easier wouldn't it? Well that would have proved nothing, so with birth, a veil was drawn in our minds and we were blessed to forget. I say blessed, because now comes the opportunity to prove. Exactly what we wanted. We knew it would be hard, we knew we would be tested. We knew bad things would happen to good people. We knew good people would make bad choices. But in the grand scheme of things we knew it would be worth the chance. We have our Savior who "paid" for those, so when we do screw it up (like daily if you're me), then we call upon our Savior, repent, ask for forgiveness and then move on working even harder to be better. We also knew that sometimes our physical bodies would fail us. There would be disease, sickness, pain, and other physical sufferings. What is glorious to think about, is that the Savior also took upon Himself those same things so that when we had to experience them, He would know how to help up. What a plan eh? The hard part is the day to day living. Trying to be a good person, follow the Savior's example and making sure we have the correct doctrine, principles and ordinances necessary to allow us to return home to our Father. Families intact. This is where I'm going to ADD-it for a minute and bring in my church.
Simply put. Jesus established His doctrine, His church, His priesthood (the ability to act in God's name), His ordinances that are necessary for one to have to return home. He did that while He was on the earth with his 12 disciples. When Jesus was crucified, resurrected and then returned home, it was left up to the disciples to continue the church and the work. Reading the New Testament, you can see that one by one they were killed, thus losing on the earth everything the Savior had originally established. When the disciples died, the priesthood left the earth. So how's anyone living since then supposed to have those blessings and ordinances?
Enter Joseph Smith. I'll save my testimony of him as a prophet for another day, but you can read on LDS.ORG more information. Through his own bible study and then simple and sincere prayer, events led to the Savior's original church, doctrine, priesthood and it's necessary ordinances being restored to the earth in preparation for the Savior's return. Right now, we are lucky enough to be living in a time when we have everything we need. I believe that when the war in heaven was going on, there many of us who were perhaps more vocal and stronger in our testimony's of what needed to happen and what plan was right. We fought hard for the right to come, experience and progress. Some of us might have fought VERY hard. I believe the most valiant of all of God's children were saved for the last days of the earth when so much wickedness was abound because they are the strongest to withstand it. I mean our generation. Our children's generations.
So we go along this earth life, having earthly experiences all while also having a spiritual self. We are dual beings in a sense. Part of what makes earth so challenging. So many of the physical attractions or physical aspects are in direct conflict with who we are as spiritual sons and daughters of God. Things like: gossip, judgmental minds, physical appetites for potentially harmful things for our bodies both with food, drink and sex, low self esteem, depression, pride, the list could go on. The challenge for us is to allow our Spiritual selves be strong enough to overcome the physical selves that want to dominate. Make sense? A daily challenge to be sure. Sometimes just to be a nice person for the day is a challenge. Add in those who also suffer physical ailments and well, you can see that this earth life is not easy, nor was it meant to be. And moreover, we knew it. We knew it would be hard and yet, we chose it. Every single person on this earth who has ever lived, or will ever live is part of that 2/3's of our brothers and sisters who chose this plan. Sometimes thinking about that blows my mind. Most times though, it softens my heart towards others.
The next line is death.
Death comes to every single one of us that has a body. Pure and simple. No escaping it. Sometimes it comes after a long and fruitful life, other times it strikes someone in their prime. Oftentimes infants, young children, or at other completely unexpected times. The physical body dies. Our spiritual self lives on though. So our body is put in to the ground, or in some cases, a vault, to sea, in ashes....... either way, the physical body is dead. Our spirits then go to the next circle on the graph which is the Spirit world.
Let's talk the Spirit world. Good time for me to remind you that I am not speaking doctrine on behalf of the LDS church, I am speaking my belief's and my testimony. The Spirit world is divided in a sense into distinct places. Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison. I believe that the Spirit world is really here on earth, but the veil divides us. I believe those who have passed on are among us. They are busy with things that need to be done for their own salvation and missionary work for others, but I also KNOW that there are times, when someone who has passed on, is very very close to us. I have felt it myself and I have known it for others. I find that a HUGE blessing and tender mercy from our Father who loves us more than we can comprehend.
Spirit Paradise is where most of us go. It is a place of pure happiness and glory. In fact, that it is such a place of such beauty and peace that most of us would take our own lives just to be there. We are reunited with family members and friends who have passed on before us. Any physical pains are gone. We are free with our spirits and are happy beyond description. Glenn Beck, while investigating many different religions, asked the question in an LDS Sunday School class. "Where would Ghandi be right now?" The answer that he would be in Spirit Paradise rung true to him and he investigated more. Spirit Paradise is where all good people, with good hearts, who lived lives of goodness and served others would be. A place of rest and happiness. A place for righteous people.
Spirit Prison would be those who chose to live lives of darkness, evil and harm to others. The one thing we take with us is our intelligence and our minds/thoughts. If we lived lives of sin we carry over those same feelings, belief's and thoughts. So I imagine that when we die, we go to that part of the Spirit world that feels comfortable to us. Make sense?
Okay so what happens there? We just float around as spirits, kickin with our ancestors and sleeping on clouds? I think not. If our Father in Heaven is anything, He is fair and just. We've established that there is a doctrine and ordinances that need to happen in order for us to return to our Father in Heaven and become like Him, receiving all the same blessings and glories that He has. So.....what about all those billions of his Spirit children who never get the opportunity to have those in this life? Or even get the ability to choose for themselves? I mean c'mon, there are third world countries populated with people (our spiritual brothers and sisters) whose day to day existence is simply getting water and food to eat. No thought of a God or religion. Would it be fair for them because their earthly experience didn't allow them the same opportunities and some of the rest of us to get those ordinances or learn the gospel and then prove our faithfulness by choosing it?
Nope. Not fair. Not just. Enter in missionary work. That is why my church is big on missionary work. It's only fair and right that everyone gets the chance to hear the gospel and choose for themselves. Those who have passed on already, are getting that chance in the Spirit world. There is missionary work going on there just as there is here. I doubt that we would see the young men in white shirts and ties knocking on clouds, but you get the idea. Every single one of our Heavenly Parents children (our brothers and sisters) will get the chance to hear the gospel plan. Accept it or they have the free agency to not accept it. Either in this life, or in the Spirit world. Everyone gets a chance. Period. Also, what about the necessary ordinances such as baptism, temple endowments, sealing of families? That is why we do the work for those that have passed on. They can't get the ordinances in the Spirit World because they require a physical body. But they can accept the doctrine, and then we here on the earth must perform the ordinances for them. They can then accept or reject those as well. Isn't that the coolest thing ever? FREE AGENCY!! I had someone ask me once why we felt like we needed to do temple work for someone who clearly did NOT believe and even belonged to another religion when they were living. My answer is , but what if they changed their mind? What if they were taught, accepted and desperately wanted to move forward? I could at least do this for them since they can't for themselves. If they accept it great, if they don't....no harm done. It doesn't mean anything to them anyway. Make sense?
So, once that has happened, everyone has had the opportunity to be taught and choose, then comes the next line judgement and resurrection.
At this point, the Savior has returned to earth. The earth has been cleansed and prepared to become the Celestial Kingdom (more later). Each of us has the opportunity to meet with our Father in Heaven again, I imagine the Savior will be there too, and discuss our earthly existence. We'll review our lives. The good, the bad, the ugly and we'll have an opportunity to answer for ourselves. Both in the good choices and the bad. We'll be able to show whether or not we've been faithful to the plan to the best of our ability. We'll show whether or not we have received the necessary ordinances. I think of it as a one-on-one with my Father where He knows me better than anyone (He created me for pete's sake), He knows my thoughts, my heart's intents, my challenges, my everything. We can talk it through and then I am given all that I have earned. He will give me every last iota that I have proved myself worthy of. The resurrection is where we are reunited with our physical bodies. The cool thing about this is, that our physical bodies will be perfected. Any limitations, defects, imperfections we had on the earth with those bodies will be gone. They will be perfect. No physical deformities of any kind. Think of how a person who has lived their life on the earth as blind, or bound to a wheelchair, or stricken with painful disease will feel to be completely whole again! Oh, I LOVE that promise! Judgement and resurrection. Not a thing to fear, but an event to eagerly prepare and look forward to.
The final column has three circles and then a bottom area. That bottom area is referred to as Outer Darkness. It is where those who rebelled in heaven and followed Satan, as well as a very few who lived on the earth will exist for eternity. They are not allowed the presence of our Heavenly Parents or the Savior Jesus Christ. They will not be with their families nor allowed their presence. They knew the plan, they chose to rebel. As for those who lived on the earth. My understanding is that Outer Darkness is reserved for the very few who have direct, absolute knowledge of the Holy Ghost and then deny it. Rare. I don't completely understand it, but I believe it.
The three circles represent the three kingdoms of glory that we can achieve. I'm going to refer you to the official website for specifics as to who would achieve and receive what. As children of our Heavenly Father, we wanted to be just like Him and have everything He has. That is available only in the Celestial Kingdom. Where we can live for eternity with our family units. (doesn't that just seem right? we love our spouses and our children and wouldn't we want to be with them forever?) Splenda Daddy and I of course will be our family unit in a long chain all connected together in families with our sons and their spouses and children etc.....kind of overwhelming if you think about it, but on the other hand, it just makes so much sense to me. In my heart and soul - I feel it. Because our Heavenly Parents are Gods and have the ability to create worlds and spirit children and all that I've already explained, we too are granted that same blessings if we have earned it. So in short, we too can become Gods just like the God who created us.
And it's an eternal round. Again and again and again and again, for all living souls. Sometimes it is hard to wrap my head around. But it always feels right and rings true in my heart and soul.
My testimony of this didn't happen over night. It comes day by day. Experience by experience. And with work on my part. I studied, I researched, I attended meetings and listened to speakers, I prayed. And then I prayed some more. And I continue praying each day that I will remember what I know. That I won't let the day to day distractions of the physical life make me forget what my ultimate goal is and that truth that I know inside.
Again, I don't claim this to be complete doctrine of my church. It is MY testimony of what I believe about the plan of salvation, or as we also call it, the plan of happiness.
If you've made it this far, you deserve some kind of award. Like some skittles and a diet coke or something. If you have questions, feel free to ask me but I'm not an authority, I will share what I know but will always refer you back to the official church website. If you have something to add, please do so, but can ya not crush my self esteem by showing off how little I might know? And finally, I would love to hear YOUR testimony on the same thing. If you feel like sharing.
Finally, this is my truth. As I know it. It might not include everything but it's real to me. It's not up for debate to me. My testimony is personal, close to my heart and all mine.
And I love it enough to take the hard challenge and share it with complete strangers who may stumble on this post. Please accept it with the love that it was shared.
Peace and blessing yo
**ps - other than a quick spell check, I am late getting into the shower to get ready for church, so if there are grammer errors or otherwise, please ignore and don't beat me up to harshly in your comments**