What are the elements of The Plan of Salvation?

March 3, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 11:51 am   Category: Plan of Salvation

In my last post I stated that the “Plan of Salvation,” as Mormons use it, provides the framework to include all the elements necessary to create a compelling worldview.

According to Leo Apostel, a worldview should comprise seven elements:

  1. An ontology, a descriptive model of the world
  2. An explanation of the world
  3. A futurology, answering the question “where are we heading?”
  4. Values, answers to ethical questions: “What should we do?”
  5. A praxeology, or methodology, or theory of action: “How should we attain our goals?”
  6. An epistemology, or theory of knowledge. “What is true and false?”
  7. An etiology. A constructed world-view should contain an account of its own “building blocks,” its origins and construction.

When my wife and I sat down to write our children’s book, we asked ourselves what the plan of salvation consisted of. The following outline is what we came up with:

  1. Council in Heaven
    1. Spirit children of God
    2. Plan for creation
    3. Purpose of entering mortality (veil)
  2. War in Heaven
    1. Satan’s plan
    2. He was Lucifer, then Satan the Accuser; how He thought Christ would fail (too speculative?)
    3. Requirements of the Atonement (Perfect Love, Sinless)
    4. War about whether Christ could fulfill role of Savior
  3. Creation
    1. Made for God’s children
    2. Will be renewed
  4. Adam & Eve
    1. God’s children
    2. Garden of Eden, not accountable, no knowledge, couldn’t have kids, married, tempted,
    3. Eve’s choice and why the situation was set up
    4. The Fall (mortal, cast out; taught about plan by angels, symbols point to Christ) agency, faith, symbols behind ordinances
  5. Atonement
    1. Christ’s condescension into mortality
    2. Jesus’ sacrifice, magnitude of His love, what He felt, overcoming physical & spiritual death
    3. Judgment
    4. Glory
  6. Principles and Ordinances (being a covenant person)
    1. Need for a covenant
    2. 4th article of faith
  7. Endure to the End
    1. Discipleship: prayer, scripture study, service and charity
    2. Sanctification

Each number represented a “chapter” to us. Now remember, the purpose of the book was to write a picture book for our children that would EXPLAIN the entire plan of salvation to them (not just list the elements) and help provide them a doctrinally correct, simple, and practical worldview (with our own take on some things). Basically our goal was to provide the essence of the gospel for an 8-12 year old understanding that will still have relevance (and provide insights and reflections) for an adult.

Looking at the outline and comparing it to Leo’s worldviews list, I think that some things may be missing in order to provide a complete worldview. So, what is missing and what isn’t necessary in the outline? Future posts will deal with the content of each of these “chapters”.


  1. I think you get 1-4 in your script, but don’t get 6 or 7. 5 is actually iffy, depending on how you think about it (as Jacob and I discussed in the previous post).

    It’s interesting how different essential ingredients in what the Plan Of Salvation is are different person to person.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 3, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  2. Matt, that is interesting. I think the need for 5 is absolutely relevant since it is what led to the War in Heaven. Tell me what you don’t get about 6 and 7, since the way I view it they are the ways you make the atonement effective in your life.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 3, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  3. I am sorry, I meant worldview parts 1-4 and so on, as opposed to the chapters of the children’s book. In other words your children’s book is inclusive on an ontology, an explanation, a futurology, and values. It may be inclusive of a praxeology, depending on how you define it (as Jacob and I dicussed in the previous thread). and it does not, to me, seem to have much in the way of epistemology or etiology. (I may be misunderstanding etiology here though, as I am thinking of Joseph Smith receiving the plan as the origin, rather than HF formulating the plan)

    Comment by Matt W. — March 3, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  4. Matt, that is a great point. As far as etiology goes, I think that the answer is “revelation” and is absorbed into epistemology. I agree that my chapters (and the way we use the Plan of Salvation generally) do not deal with epistemology. Would that be beneficial to my children? Probably, but I think a book on how people have and recognize spiritual experiences would be needed. I don’t know if I can treat the topic effectively enough, since I am assuming belief (which my children currently have). At what age would a child need information about Mormon epistemology?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 3, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  5. Seems like a decent set up for a childrens book to me. It is a pretty good outline of what I have called the “My Turn On Earth” version of the plan of salvation. But my issue is that being ok for children isn’t necessarily literally accurate view of the universe. In other words, it seems to me suspiciously like the “baby stories” version of the universe that Brigham Young talked about.

    In my mind there is very little that I actually take literally in your 1-4 here for instance. I suspect almost all of those components are allegorical in nature. But of course I have no beef with allegories.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 3, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  6. If you have an idea for the plan of salvation that doesn’t rely on allegory I’d love to know what you think. I’m not interested in dumbing it down at all, just simplifying it.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 3, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  7. Well I think we have to remain open to some radical departures from the theology we inherited from creedal Christianity. For instance if we take Joseph Smith’s comments in 1844 about everything that has a beginning must have an end literally we have a earth-shaking change in theology we must deal with. I posted on that here. Also, if we take the idea that our spirits are co-eternal with God it significantly affects the “child of God” concept as well as the concept of a council in heaven. See our spirit birth discussions here.

    My point is that the model you are using here is built on some foundational theological assumptions that I question.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 3, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

  8. Geoff, I want you to understand that I am completely open (and even on your side of the fence) on those issues you brought up. I think that there are many ways of dealing with these issues that avoid the need to define things I want to leave open-ended. The big issue as I see it is how you deal with Adam and Eve. I have thought about starting the book with this:

    The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legends fade to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the third age by some, an Age yet to come, an age long passed, an eternal intelligence (who recognized his eternal gendered nature) realized he was in the midst of other intelligent beings and he called the most intelligent one his Father. This realization by this spirit was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 3, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  9. I think the use of the term “plan of salvation” as a synonym for “Mormon cosmology” is unfortunate. The plan of salvation as far as I am concerned is the atonement of Christ and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Basically I think “plan of salvation” is best used as a synonym for “the Gospel.”

    Mormon cosmology obviously has some influence on our perceptions of the Gospel, but it seems like a needless conflation otherwise.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 3, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  10. Kent:

    Your beginning seems very “Robert Jordan” to me for some reason.

    Anyway, maybe for a simplified into to epistemology, you could talk about HF giving the GOHG to us to help us make correct choices in life as part of 7 and 6?

    Comment by Matt W. — March 3, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  11. J. Stapley, I think the plan really starts at the Council in Heaven because that is where you understand the need for the atonement. I agree that before that there is really not much to talk about. The currentJoseph Smith manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society also pulls in quite a bit of the Council in Heaven in the treatment. Where would you start?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 3, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  12. Yea, the whole idea of a plan of salvation seem to require us to define what we are being saved from, how we got in such a predicament, and what salvation entails, so I don’t know how to separate the plan of salvation from some of the basic elements of our cosmology.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 3, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

  13. Good points.
    It’s no wonder that the secular world sometimes accuses us of “double-talk”. :)
    Indeed, “salvation” can mean anything from barely escaping being a son of perdition to obtaining the greatest degree of exaltation….depending on the context.
    I do wish sometimes that we could rename it something like “plan of exaltation” since most everyone is “saved” from spiritual death.

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — March 3, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  14. Kent (#8),

    Dude, that is your beginning for a kids book? I can see it as a sweet voice-over to the beginning of a children’s movie but I think you may lose some kids there. Or maybe your kids are a lot smarter than mine.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 3, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  15. I think that a “plan of salvation” presupposes certain cosmology. But take the dramatic ritual endowment of the temple. I submit that it teaches the plan of salvation. It requires the following be extant:

    – Premortal existance.
    – An organization of physical existence.
    – The reality that sin keeps us from God and
    – consequent need of a savior
    – to return to the presence of the Lord.
    – We make covenants to mediate our relationship with the divine.

    I submit that while nice and wonderfully helpful, the idea of a premortal life isn’t necessary for the later points. What the details of any particular Mormon Cosmology do do is help us flesh out a particular narrative, whether, theological, devotional or philosophical. For example, I like atonement theory, and advocate ideas based on particularly Mormon cosmology; however, you don’t have to accept my views on atonement theory (or Mormon cosmology) to receive the saving power of Christ.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 3, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  16. Understood J. Stapley.

    Jacob, maybe using that introduction would be an infringement on an existing copyright.

    Geoff, I’m still hoping for a response to #8. How would you deal with Adam and Eve?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 4, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  17. I am not sold on a literal Adam and Eve here on earth so I doubt my take would work for an LDS childrens book.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  18. My section on Adam and Eve don’t describe them as the only or, necessarily, first people on earth, so I’m not tied to a fundamentalist view.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 4, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  19. First, I think of “The Plan of Salvation” as essentially an umbrella title for “The Atonement” – the first focused on God, the Father, and the second focused on God, the Son. Iow, The Father was the creator of the “Plan of Salvation”, and the Son was the implementer / administrator of it through what we term “The Atonement”. [Kind of like the dual (planning and physical) creation narrative.] This would affect directly my title for Chapter 5.

    Second, I also see lots of this as figurative, including the entire Garden and Fall stories and much of how we talk of the Godhead. My current take would make it very difficult to separate the War in Heaven story from the Garden narrative, which would impact significantly how I would address each of the points in Chapters 1-4 – and especially the treatment of Eve in the Garden narrative.

    I also have a relatively heterodox view of the importance of Jesus’ life as compared to the importance of his death, so my Chapter 5 would be written quite differently than a “standard” telling of the points you list. Mine would cover the general points of your 5a and some of your 5b. I would combine Chapters 5 (c & d), 6 & 7 into one chapter on becoming like Jesus and moving toward perfection (becoming complete, whole and fully developed as godly beings).

    Having said all of that, I can’t write for older kids, so I have little idea how I would arrange a book for them. I probably would make it one of those pre-school story books, with one or two sentences per page and picture. It probably would be about 12-15 pages long – so about 15-20 sentences, total.

    Comment by Ray — March 4, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  20. Ray, that was a very helpful post. I’ll have to think about how I deal with Christ’s atonement much more in depth. I basically subscribe to Blake’s compassion theory of atonement, but I’d love to hear your (allegedly) heterodox view!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 4, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

  21. Ha! I totally missed it, sorry. I keep telling my wife that I won’t start reading that series until it is finished. I guess it would have helped to have read it in this case.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 4, 2009 @ 5:46 pm