The featured image is entitled Moses and the Brass Serpent, painted by Judith Mehr and made available in the Images library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Serpent on the Cross is symbolism for Jesus Christ. As Nephi in the Book of Mormon was chastising his brothers for disbelief, he used the story of the serpent which Moses placed at the end of the pole. This is what he said.
1 Nephi 17:41
And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.Original story is found in Numbers 21:5-9
The story of Moses lifting the brass serpent at the end of the pole is an allegory of the coming of the Messiah who would be lifted up on the cross. All who would look to him – Jesus Christ – would be healed of their sins. This healing power would cleanse their soul, enabling them to be worthy to once again enter into the Father’s kingdom and be saved.
Everything about the Plan of Redemption is centered on Jesus Christ.
Jesus volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb to pay the price for our sins.
Jesus created the earth.
Jesus directed the prophets of the Old Testament as Jehovah.
Jesus was born of a divine birth as the literal son of the Father.
Jesus lived a sinless life.
Jesus healed many.
Jesus suffered for our sins in Gethsemene.
Jesus was smitten by the Jews and the Romans.
Jesus died on the cross furthering the suffering for our sins.
Jesus broke the bands of death and enabled the resurrection.
Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years.
Jesus will be our judge.
The doctrine of pre-earth life is not heavily expounded on in our scriptures. Yet it is an important theme taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The KJV version of the Bible records the following verses:
4 Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.Old Testament reference to Pre-earth Life
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjections unto the Father of spirits, and live?New Testament reference to Pre-earth Life.
Both of these verses point to the concept that our existence did not begin on earth. Surprisingly, the Book of Mormon does not shed any more light on the subject. Knowledge of the subject in latter days came through modern revelation in the Book of Abraham.
Book of Abraham 3
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.Pearl of Great Price is the primary reference to the doctrine of pre-earth life.
One thing that I find interesting about studying near death experiences is that several of those who have experienced this have testified of seeing their pre-earthly existence and were given knowledge of choices they made there.
The Fall – Adam and Eve Fell, We Also Fall When We Sin
The story of Adam and Eve was not insignificant. Their story is our story. We all sin. We all fall short of God’s glory. There is no need to call Adam or Eve (particularly Eve) wicked for partaking of the fruit. Had you been in their position, eventually you would have partaken of the fruit too. And mankind would never have existed were it not for the fall.
2 Nephi 2
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed, he would not have fallen; but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created, must have remained in the same state which they were, after that they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore, they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery: doing no good, for they knew no sin,
24 But, behold, all things have been done in wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell, that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.New doctrine from the Book of Mormon about the condition of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The purpose of our existence in life is to prove that we are willing to serve God.
Jesus Paid the Price for Our Sins
Doctrine and Covenants 19
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.Message given from God through Joseph Smith to Martin Harris after Martin had lost the manuscript which contained the beginning portion of the Book of Mormon.
5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.
6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.
7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.
11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.
12 But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.King Benjamin addressing the people of Zarahamla while passing his kingship off to his son.
It is because of the Sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we can be made clean from our sins. Without his sacrifice, we would all perish.
The Spirit World
11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
There is a First Resurrection – This pertains to the righteous.
There is a Second Resurrection – This pertains to the wicked.
The first resurrection took place when Jesus was Resurrected and continues to this day. The righteous who had lived and died prior to the time Jesus was resurrected rose at that time. The rest of the righteous will rise from the dead at the time when Christ comes in glory – when we will rise up and meet him in the clouds.
The wicked will have to wait until the end of the 1000 years of Christ’s reign on this earth to be resurrected. Satan will be loosed for a season, and there will be a war of Satan verses God. Christ will end the war. Then comes the Final Judgement. All of this is recorded in the Book of Revelation.
The Final Judgement
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.The Book of Life refers to all people who ever lived on the earth. Those not found in the Book of Life are Satan and the spirit followers who rebelled against God and were cast down to the earth to tempt man.
Our Consignment to a Kingdom of Glory
Doctrine of Covenants 76 gave us new revelation – even after the publication of the Book of Mormon on the state of man resulting from the Final Judgement. It is a lengthy read and here is the link to the entire chapter – Doctrine and Covenants 76. To be short, the most valiant will inherit celestial glory and will dwell eternally with God the Father and Jesus Christ. The less valiant good people of the earth will inherit a middle kingdom or Terrestial Glory where they will receive the ministrations of Jesus. Those who rebelled against God will receive a Telestial glory. Those in the Telestial glory are partakers of salvation only in the sense of their resurrection which came about because of the sacrifice of the Son of God. But they do not receive of the atoning sacrifice to heal them from their sins. For this atonement only comes through paying the price of justice for which they must deal with out of their own choice in rebellion.
The three degrees of glory are equated to the glory of the sun, the moon and the stars. Those who receive a celestial glory receive a glory similar to that of the glory of the sun. Those who receive a terrestial glory recieve a glory similar to that of the moon in brightness. Those who receive a tellestial glory receive a glory similar to that of the brightness of the stars in the sky.
Let us all be valiant partakers of the glory of our Father in Heaven by following the path paved by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The above lays out in simple terms the framework of the Plan of Salvation. The rest of this article is for deeper study on the plan.
The Book of Mormon has more than one beautiful sermon on the Plan of Redemption, also known as the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness, the Purpose of Life, or the Great Eternal Plan. The one common theme on this topic from all sermons discussed here is all centered on Jesus Christ.
This first sermon comes from the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 2. It is Lehi speaking to one of his younger sons named Jacob. This first lecture on the plan was given somewhere close to 580 B.C.; however, the exact year is unrecorded.
King Benjamin also spoke on the Plan of Redemption and the Role of Jesus Christ in this process. His final sermon to the people of Zarahemla was given about 124 B.C.
Alma spoke extensively to his son Corianton on the topic of the plan of Redemption. This is the longest of the sermons. He talks about the need to abstain from sin. He expounds on the Resurrection including his revelations on the Spirit World. Alma then talks on the principle of Restitution. And finally, he talks about the plan or Redemption which includes the fall of Adam, and its relationship to the coming atonement of Jesus Christ. This rebuke and invitation was given to his son about 74 B.C.
The Plan of Redemption as taught by Alma is broken down into four sections.