President Oaks emphasizes the role of Jesus Christ in the plan of salvation

At the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, President Dallin H. Oaks outlined the plan of salvation and how missionaries can teach that Jesus Christ’s mission is central to the plan

PROVO, Utah — The plan of salvation shows Heavenly Father’s love for all His children — and the restored Church of Jesus Christ has a unique understanding of this plan, taught President Dallin H. Oaks during the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders. 

“We look on it as a map that shows us how to chart our life’s journey through mortality to the heavenly destination He desires for us,” President Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, told mission leaders gathered at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on June 23.

God loves His children so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be a Savior and Redeemer who suffered and died for mankind.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, speaks at the Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on June 23, 2023. | Cody Bell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“God’s plan shows us how He views the purpose of mortal life and the divine judgment that follows it, and the ultimate glorious potential of all of His children,” President Oaks said.

Rather than only two destinations — heaven and hell — President Oaks said “a loving Heavenly Father has a better plan for His children” with different degrees of glory where people can abide, determined by the laws they choose to abide by. And each of the kingdoms of glory is more wonderful than people can comprehend. 

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes all of this possible,” President Oaks said.

Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan of salvation

In the second edition of “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ,”  the plan of salvation is in chapter three, lesson two, as it was in the first edition. President Oaks outlined how missionaries can learn more about the plan of salvation and teach it to those who will listen.

He said God desires everyone to use their time in mortality to strive for His highest possible blessings by keeping His commandments, covenants and ordinances — all of which culminate in holy temples.

“We are commanded to share these truths of eternity with others,” he said. “But with the love we owe to all of our neighbors, we accept their decisions.”

President Oaks read directly from the second edition of “Preach My Gospel” pages 46-48, 53 and 59 (in chapter 3, lesson 2, “Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation”) — which he called “a brilliant summary” of the most important parts of what the plan of salvation declares, and what missionaries should study and teach. 

For example, on page 46 it says, “Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through His Atonement and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for each of us to receive immortality and eternal life.”

A visual aid of the plan of salvation on page 49 can be used by missionaries in their teaching as well.

A visual aid of the plan of salvation on page 49 of the second edition of “Preach My Gospel” illustrates that Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, shared the visual aid during the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo, Utah, MTC on June 23, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The conclusion of the lesson on the plan of salvation, pages 59-60, contains 10 points in a summary titled “What You Might Teach People in 3-10 Minutes.”  

President Oaks said those 10 points are “the essentials of the plan of salvation” — but the order listed is not the required or ordinary sequence for introducing people to the restored gospel.

“We of course preach the gospel as inspired by the Spirit of the Lord, and in this rely on the circumstances and questions of the persons we are teaching,” President Oaks said.

Convert people to Jesus Christ

“Preach My Gospel” page 55 says: “Jesus Christ’s Atonement is the most glorious event in all human history. Through His atoning sacrifice, Jesus made the Father’s plan operative. We would be helpless without the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

When teaching people who are already acquainted with the fundamentals of the Christian faith, missionaries can begin by emphasizing the position and mission of Jesus Christ in the restored gospel, President Oaks said.

He spoke about how when he was a stake missionary teaching the gospel in Chicago over 60 years ago, the dominant intent of the lesson plan that was used at the time was to convert individuals to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In the years since, he has seen instances where people joined the Church and later fell away or became less active.

“I have wondered if many of these — like some of our longtime members — never came to understand the plan of salvation or their covenants under it,” President Oaks said. “I have wondered whether these persons were merely converted to the Church without being converted to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Therefore the “primary objective in preaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ today should be to convert people to Christ,” President Oaks said.

“Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” was made available on June 22, 2023. | Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The theme of Jesus Christ in the restored Church

It is helpful to remember some of the history in the restored Church while considering the order in which the different elements in the plan of salvation are currently taught, said President Oaks. The extent to which Jesus Christ is taught was far less in the first century of the restored Church than it has become today.

That is because at the time the Church was restored, America was predominantly a Christian nation and the name and mission of Jesus Christ was taught from pulpits and predominant in Christian worship, though without the additional principles revealed in the restoration. 

Early leaders of the restored Church assumed a basic faith in Jesus Christ and concentrated on the restoration of priesthood authority and principles needed to establish the Church.

“Today, as fewer and fewer citizens and even Christians understand the great mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, the theme of Jesus Christ needs to dominate our teaching,” President Oaks said.

Recent examples include President Ezra Taft Benson powerful emphasis on the Book of Mormon as a witness of Christ, President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to use the correct name of the Church, and messages delivered in the April 2023 general conference which centered on Jesus Christ and His mission, President Oaks said.  

And most recently, the First Presidency’s letter announcing the second edition of “Preach My Gospel” said the manual’s purpose is “to inspire and help members and missionaries to invite and help others to come unto Christ and be gathered to Him.”

Why missionaries should emphasize Jesus Christ in their teaching

The predominance of Jesus Christ in current missionary teaching is inspired, President Oaks said.

This is because increasing numbers — especially youth and young adults — deny the existence of God or a Savior. Or they say Jesus Christ was only a mortal or a great teacher. Others believe that while there is probably a God, He makes no commandments that require accountability, so there is no sin.

“A variation of this is that a person is free to surrender to every impulse, such as transgender transitioning, because God made them that way and therefore won’t punish them for their choices,” President Oaks said. 

Nephi taught in 2 Nephi 28:21-22 that two of Satan’s methods for corrupting the children of God are self-satisfaction — all is well in Zion — and indifference to commandments, as in there is no hell.

“The most effective method to counteract any of those anti-Christ ideas is teaching and testifying of the reality of Jesus Christ and the necessity of His mission,” President Oaks said. “Similarly, teaching the plan of salvation, as in ‘Preach My Gospel,’ is also essential.” 

The plan highlights “our restoration doctrine as focused on qualifying for exaltation in the celestial kingdom,” President Oaks said. “It also shows us to be committed to loving relations with those not committed to that doctrine, such as those pursuing policies that confuse gender and homogenize the differences between men and women.”  

But those advocates can also expect to be sent to a kingdom of glory, he said.

In this mortal life, people should concentrate on qualifying for the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom — and Jesus Christ will lovingly guide and strengthen them.  

“The covenants provided in the plan of salvation give us access to His redeeming power,” President Oaks said. “As we seek to know Jesus Christ and come to Him in that covenant relationship, He will give us the power and the guidance to make the right choices, for He is the way, the truth and the life.”

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