Editor’s note: This is part 1 of an excerpt from the new book that offers comfort to Latter-day Saints, Odds Are, You’re Going to Be Exalted. Look for the conclusion in Meridian Magazine tomorrow.

As Latter­day Saints we speak freely and often about the “Plan of Salvation” or, perhaps better put, the “Plan for Salvation.” Indeed, sacred scripture gives this divine “Plan” many names. Elder Boyd K. Packer compiled the following list of scriptural titles for Heavenly Father’s Plan:

  • The merciful plan of the great Creator (see 2 Nephi 9:6).
  • The plan of mercy (see Alma 42:15).
  • The plan of mercy (see Alma 42:31).
  • The great plan of redemption (see Jacob 6:8; Alma 12:25-26, 30, 32; 17:16; 18:39; 22:13-14; 29:2; 39:18; 42:11, 13).
  • The eternal plan of redemption (see Alma 34:16).
  • The great plan of redemption (see Alma 34:31).
  • The plan of salvation (see Jarom 1:2; Alma 24:14; 42:5; Moses 6:62).
  • The plan of our God (see 2 Nephi 9:13).
  • The great plan of the Eternal God (see Alma 34:9).
  • The eternal plan of deliverance (see 2 Nephi 11:5).
  • The plan of happiness (see Alma 42:16).
  • The great plan of happiness (see Alma 42:8).
  • The plan of restoration (see Alma 41:2).
  • The plan of the Gods (see Abraham 4:21).

These many titles define the nature of the Plan. Among other things, we learn that it is great, merciful, eternal, redemptive, salvific, restorative, and greatly promoting of our happiness. It is not the “awful plan of damnation,” the “plan of misery,” or the “eternal plan of punishment.”

It was not designed for the purpose of punishing or damning us -­ nor was it implemented to bring us misery and suffering. To the contrary, the purpose of the Plan – the whole purpose for which it was created and ­introduced -­ was the salvation and exaltation of all mankind! God offered it as a gift to you and me – a token of His divine, deep, and abiding love for each of His children and for all of His creations. He sought to give us what He has by creating a plan that could make us like He is. We are the blessed recipients of this most wonderful of all designs.

Typically, when we give a gift to someone we love, we want to give the best we have. If we decide to make or create the gift ourselves, we try our hardest to make it the best our skill will allow. If we purchase it, we want to buy the best our personal finances will allow.

In this sense, the Father is no different than you and I. He has created and offered to us a great gift – eternal redemption and exaltation. Because God is perfect, His plan for accomplishing His goal is perfect -­ and thus we could not hope for a better plan. Because He is loving, the gift is given out of love and is ideal (or perfect, complete, nothing lacking), just as His love is ideal, perfect, complete, nothing ­lacking.

We must remember – and we must firmly believe -­ that the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, was designed to work. Indeed, it would not be called the eternal plan of salvation / happiness / redemption / mercy / deliverance / etc. if it did not work – particularly if its primary effect was the damnation of the vast majority of God’s offspring.

From an LDS position, to be damned is to be stopped in one’s progression (i.e., to be forever in a non-exalted state). It intuitively goes against everything we know about the nature of God to suggest that He would create and institute a plan that would, by design, damn most of His children.

Yes, agency must be preserved. But to design a plan that is so difficult to succeed at that most would fail does not preserve agency. On the contrary, such would thwart both agency and the very thing the Plan was created to accomplish – namely, our exaltation. The thought that God would promote something that would ensure that the vast majority of His children would never again be able to dwell in His presence is incomprehensible. And the assumption that our mother in heaven would idly sit back and allow such a guaranteed flop to eternally strip her of any interaction with her spirit offspring is equally unfathomable. Such could not – and did not – happen!

Additionally, we know that upon having the Plan introduced to us in the premortal world, we were so happy at what the Father was telling us, you and I shouted for joy. We often quote the book of Job, which reads:

The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7).

Of this verse, President J. Reuben Clark Jr. wrote that it “could well have been the acclaim that came in the Grand Council when the decision was reached to create an earth where those assembled might come … that they might ‘… have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.’ (Abraham 3:26.)”

Elder B. H. Roberts wrote:

It is not unlikely that the shouting of all the sons of God for joy, at the creation of the earth was in consequence of the prospects which opened before these spirits because of the earth-life and the salvation that would come to them through the gospel -­ even in the prospects of that “eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

Clearly, those of us who shouted for joy sensed that what God was telling us was good and desirable. Clearly, we felt that the odds were in our favor. There is no sense of foreboding or fear present in the language of scripture. We shouted for joy -­ not out of fear! If the Father had informed us that “there’s good news and bad news” – and had He continued, “The good news is there is a Plan, but the bad news is most of you are not going to make it back,” – surely we would not have felt reason to rejoice.

But that is not what happened. The Father literally introduced us to good news: the good news that He had a plan that would readily make us like Him, and the good news that Christ would be sent to atone for our weaknesses and failings. We saw this as a win/win
situation. We knew we wouldn’t be perfect, but we knew that the Father’s Plan would provide a remedy.

All too often we assume that only a small, select few will return to the Father’s presence, there to dwell with Him for time and for all eternity. Yes, only the select will have the honor and privilege of so doing.

But who is it that the Father has selected for this great blessing? Our answer – all of His children! The Father desires that all be exalted. Not just saved, but exalted! He desires that all return to Him to dwell with Him for eternity. He made it clear in the Grand Council before the world was that the Plan has the power and potential to exalt all of ­us – not just a few lucky ones, or a small number of the exceedingly faithful. Indeed, modern prophetic declarations make it quite clear that more of God’s children will be exalted than will be lost.

In 1976, one of the most doctrinally conservative voices to bear the prophetic mantle in this dispensation, 8 Elder Bruce R. McConkie, said the following to a group of Church Educational System employees gathered in Salt Lake City:

You tell your students that far more of our Father’s children will be exalted than we think!

Many present were surprised, as was evidenced by the audible eruption that immediately rippled through the room. The response was not a negative one – just one of surprise. Most were elated. And yet most had traditionally not thought in such optimistic terms, even though by profession it was their job to spread the “good news” of Christ’s saving ministry. Elder McConkie was asked by one then present to explain what exactly he meant by this comment, to which he replied:

All faithful Latter­day Saints – those who chart their course toward eternal life, receive the ordinances of salvation, and strive with all their hearts to be true to their covenants – will gain eternal life. Even though they are certainly not perfect when they die, if they have sought to stay on course, in covenant, in harmony with the mind and will of God, they will be saved in the highest heaven … We ought to have hope, [and] we [need] to be positive and optimistic about attaining that ­glory.

Indeed, time and again, Elder McConkie made similar comments about his optimistic view of God’s Plan for our exaltation. He said: “If we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed – there is no question whatever about it -­ we shall gain eternal life.” He also taught:

If we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course. We will no longer be subject to the passions and the appetites of the flesh. We will have passed successfully the tests of this mortal probation and in due course we’ll get the fulness of our Father’s ­kingdom -­ and that means eternal life in his everlasting presence.

Addressing a large audience of practicing Latter­day Saints, Elder McConkie once said: “I would suppose … that I am now looking out upon a group of men and women who will all go to the celestial kingdom.” He also rhetorically asked, “Who can count the number of saved beings in eternity? Our God, who is triumphant in all battles against the forces of evil, will surely be victorious in the numbers of his children who will be saved.”

Time and again Elder McConkie declared: “Good and faithful members of the Church will be saved [by which I mean exalted] even though they are far from perfect in this life.”

It should be noted that Elder McConkie is not the only Latter­day Saint with a witness of this optimistic view of the Father’s Plan and its power to save us. Robert L. Millet, former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, wrote:

There is no ceiling on the number of saved beings in eternity, no cap, no quota by which the Father of us all must and will be governed. Like any parent, he surely desires that all of his sons and daughters receive the message of salvation, work righteousness, and return to him honorably. Not all will, it is true. But many will – a great many.

Along with Brother Millet, Brent L. Top (former associate dean of Religious Education at BYU), and Joseph Fielding McConkie (professor of ancient scripture at BYU) penned this:

Let us reason for a moment. In comparison to the number of wicked souls at any given time, perhaps the numbers of faithful followers seem small. But we must keep in mind how many of our spirit brothers and sisters -­ almost an infinite number -will be saved.

Brother Joseph McConkie once wrote: “Of those who kept their first estate and gained the privilege of being born into mortality the vast majority will return to the presence of their heavenly parents to receive the fulness of their divine inheritance.” Indeed, simple logic would suggest: “Our God and Father is a successful parent, one who will save far more of his children than he will lose!”

Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett wrote: “Those who inherit the celestial kingdom will find themselves in communion and fellowship with billions upon billions of celestial beings like themselves – the hosts of ­heaven -­ from billions upon billions of other worlds all created and glorified by the same Jesus Christ who created our world and who will glorify us.”

In the book Revelations of the Restoration we find the following insight:

It is a false notion, one not worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that only a few of God’s children will be saved in the kingdom of God. In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw an “innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality” (D&C 138:12). All these awaited a glorious resurrection -­ and their number was limited to those who had lived from the days of Adam to the time of the crucifixion of Christ.

Similarly, Alma spoke of “many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (Alma 13:12). Paul told the faithful of his day that they would join “an innumerable company of angels” in the heavenly place (Hebrews 12:22), while Daniel numbered the righteous who would stand before God as a “thousand thousands” who ministered to him, “and ten thousand times ten thousand” who stood before him (Daniel 7:10).

When Christ said, “In my Father’s house [kingdom] are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2; see also Smith, History of the Church, 4:184), he was not suggesting that there were various degrees of glory. At that moment he was speaking to the Twelve, and though one of them would betray him, he was giving them the assurance that there was room for them and as many as would believe on their word in his Father’s kingdom.

There is no boundary to the heavenly city, no limit that needs to be put on its population. There is room in his Father’s kingdom for every one of his children, if they will but choose to abide there. Were this not the case, were it true that God did not desire to save all of his children, Christ said, “I would have told you” (John 14:2).

In Revelation 19:1 we read: “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God” (see also Revelation 5:11; 7:9). Note that John says that there were many, or “much people in heaven.” Clearly, we should not assume that most of God’s children are going to be damned. Indeed, those of us who truly believe in Christ and have faith in His atoning sacrifice must believe that many, many of God’s children will be exalted in the celestial kingdom!

Of course we do not dismiss scriptural declarations that clearly and accurately describe our personal pathetic circumstances. For example, the apostle Paul informed us: “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12).

Similarly, in Mosiah 2:21 we read: “I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another – I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

Truly, as human beings saturated in weakness (see Ether 12:27) simply by virtue of the mortal experience, we are inconsequential in and of ourselves. But the Plan does not leave us to ourselves. We are partnered with Christ. And that alone gives us infinite worth. Thus, although we may be imperfect, unimpressive, or incapable of saving ourselves, God and Christ are not incapable of doing for us what we cannot do ourselves. And we have their love, power, and promises to both guide and preserve us.

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