Relief Society Lesson 3: The Plan of Salvation

In our ward we have spent the last month in Sunday School discussing the Plan of Salvation.  For this reason, I think simply going through it from start to finish might not be the most compelling approach.  However, if your ward has many investigators, new converts, or others who are not familiar with the doctrine, it might be better to do that instead.


In reading through the lesson manual I will admit that no quotes or anecdotes leapt out at me.  This seems to me to be a fairly basic and clear-cut dissection of the Plan of Salvation.  For this reason I think it would be very easy to simply read off a few lines and then jump into a broader discussion about personal experiences or testimonies.

The hardest part of a good lesson plan in my book is coming up with open-ended questions that might spur discussion, so that is what I’m trying to supply here.



Finding meaning in the Plan of Salvation

What is your favorite part of the Plan of Salvation?

What part of the Plan of Salvation do you wish we had more answers about?

What big questions do you feel the Plan of Salvation answers?


Using the Plan of Salvation to share and understand the Gospel

Have you ever had the opportunity to use the Plan of Salvation to share the Gospel with someone?

If you had to explain the pre-earth life/Spirit World/Agency to a friend, how would you do it?

Joseph Fielding Smith refers to earth life as “the great gift of mortality.” In what sense have you felt this to be a gift to you? Have you ever consciously felt grateful to be subject to what he calls “the vicissitudes of mortality?” When/why?


Dealing with doubt and uncertainty

Has knowing the Plan of Happiness ever actually made you happy? When/why?

When in your life have you struggled to understand/believe/trust the Plan of Salvation?

How can we distinguish between popular belief within the LDS community and actual doctrine about the Plan of Salvation?


Finally I wanted to include two quotes that I found meaningful as I thought about this lesson, which I think could be applied if you decided to discuss these specific principles.


On Agency:

(Bear in mind that this is from The Screwtape Letters, so the perspective is from a senior tempter to a junior tempter; it is intentionally diabolical).

“One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.  He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons . . . [He] wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.

“Merely to override a human will . . . would be for Him useless.  He cannot ravish.  He can only woo.  For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve.” [C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Harper Collins, 2001) 38-39]


On the Atonement:


It’s our faith that he experienced everything – absolutely everything.  Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief.  We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family.  But we don’t experience pain in generalities.  We experience it individually.  That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you.  He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election.  He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid.

Let me go further.  There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize.  On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy.  He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy.  He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause.  He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. He knows all that He’s been there.  He’s been lower than all that.  He’s not waiting for us to be perfect.  Perfect people don’t need a Savior.  He came to save his people in their imperfections.  He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes.  He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked.  He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.

(Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up, Preface, p 174.)


My own feeling is that we have a strong tendency to try to cover the whole Plan in one lesson.  It isn’t possible to do such an enormous topic justice with an overview, and as a result the topic can see cliché and tedious.  I think just picking a few aspects of the plan to really go in depth might yield more meaningful participation.  I personally find discussing the moments in life when we confront doubt or fear to be some of the most powerful lessons we have.
While the suggestions I offer here do not pull very much from the manual, I think the tidy organization of this lesson lends itself to easily pulling quotes about specific principles that will not seem out-of-context or need any extra explanation.




  1. Eu simplesmente amei sua explanacao sobre o Plano de Salvacao !!!! As perguntas ja sao uma aula e que nos faz pensar mais profundamente, sobre esse Plano de Felicidade. Muito obrigada !!!! Thanks !!!!!

  2. I’m working on my lesson for this Sunday. Here are questions I’ve written at this time – a couple from the manual. I looked at the Young Women lessons for February for some ideas. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

    Explain how you’ve used the plan of salvation to share the gospel with someone.

    In my home how do I show my family my love and faith in my Savior Jesus Christ?

    Do the little choices I make matter?

    How do I comfort someone who is grieving without appearing to give “pat” answers?

    Has your knowledge of pre-earth life influenced your feeling of self-worth?

    How do I handle being weighed down by my responsibilities?

    What has the Lord given us to help us pass safely through this time of testing?

    What difference does it make how I treat my body (dress, body piercing, tattoos, illicit sex, alcohol, drugs)?

    How has the gospel provided comfort to you in a time of adversity?

    What are some blessings you have received as a result of the Fall?

    Reflect on how the Savior has rescued you through His Atonement.

    • I love these questions! I actually have to teach the PoS to the YW this month and have been thinking about how I’d approach it. Your questions are great!

  3. Where I generally love reading this site to gain some additional inspiration for my lessons I feel as though I came away lacking today. Personally I feel that the entire lesson focuses on the atonement more so that the plan of salvation.

    • Elizabeth, I appreciate the feedback. I’m not totally sure which you mean by “the lesson” — that is, are you saying the manual focuses more on the Atonement and I should have too, or my lesson plan is too much about the Atonement and not about the actual Plan of Salvation?

      Part of what I was trying to do here was to give flexibility so that teachers could focus on the part of the Plan of Salvation (including the Atonement) that they felt was most important for their class. While the manual did have a long section on the Atonement, in my opinion that was not what the lesson was really about, especially as week 2 was about Our Savior Jesus Christ. For some people it might be more important to talk about the Spirit World and forgo much of the Atonement section, particularly if class members are grieving. On the other hand, if making the Atonement central to your lesson felt important I do think that most of my questions could be very easily tweaked to reflect that. In many of them you could simply replace the words “Plan of Salvation” with “Atonement” and they would work in much the same way. As always, I appreciate the comments of readers because I think additional feedback and ideas can only help make everyone’s lesson plans better.

  4. Thanks for this. I always enjoy reading these lessons, and now that they’ve just called me as a teacher (eek!) I found it particularly compelling.

    I particularly like that Chieko Okazaki quote — it seems to go very well with what the lesson says about the Atonement, and furthermore is such a woman-centric way of saying it that I just want to applaud.

    Well, actually, I love the Screwtape Letters one as well, although I’m not sure if I can get away with it in my ward 🙂

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