Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Plan of Salvation

To keep you informed about the series of essays I am writing about Salvation, I've added the links on the left of the page. These are the topics that I will be covering as I write and are subject to change. If you clicked on one of them and found yourself here, it means that I haven't written the essay yet.

Also, if you have any topics that you would like me to consider, please let me know.


The Creation and the Fall

As Father had promised, He created an Earth through Jehovah. (Moses 1:32-33; John 1:3.) The nature of creation, especially the creation of Man, and the subsequent Fall are vital to our understanding Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice. The details of the creation, I leave to Genesis; rather, let’s discuss the state of the Earth after God had finished His work of creation.

After creating Man, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). The Earth was in a state of "paradisaical glory" (The Articles of Faith 1:10). Flowers, fruits, and vegetables sprouted spontaneously (see Moses 4:24). The enmity that currently exists was not on the Earth; "the cow and the bear [could] feed; their young ones [could lay] down together: and the lion [ate] straw like the ox" (Isaiah 11:7). In other words, the Earth was not subject to the curse of mortality (2 Nephi 2:22).
Most strikingly, Adam and Eve were not subject to temporal—the separation of the body and the spirit—or spiritual death—the separation of man from God. (2 Nephi 2:22). They were immortal and eternal beings living in the garden of Eden, and God the Father and Jehovah, the pre-mortal Jesus Christ, walked and talked with them in the Garden. (Genesis 3:8; Moses 4: 14-16; 5:4). Moreover, Adam and Eve did not know good from evil. As innocent as babies, they were not even ashamed of their nakedness (Genesis 2:25; 2 Nephi 2:23), nor did they know they were naked until after they partook of the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:7). Consequently, they were not subject to the physical attraction which exists between men and women, and they could not have children. (2 Nephi 2:23.) This inability to sire and bear children posed a problem: One of God’s purposes in the Plan of Salvation was to give us physical bodies as tangible as His, and Adam and Eve, the only people on Earth, were incapable of preparing any physical bodies for our spirits.
But there was a way.
God granted Adam and Eve agency—the power to act and to receive a just recompense according to that action—but it was limited. Heavenly Father commanded Adam and Eve to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Moses 1:28). And He also "commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Moses 3:16-17).
And Adam and Eve could not keep both of these commandments. If Adam and Eve were to obey the commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth, their bodies needed to undergo a change through which they would be capable of reproducing. And if they chose to remain in the Garden of Eden by not partaking of the forbidden fruit, their bodies would not have undergone that change. (2 Nephi 2:22-23.)
That is, Heavenly Father gave Adam and Eve the power to choose between a continual existence in the Garden of Eden—where they could enjoy the blessings of immortality and the presence of God—and mortality, in which they would be cut off from the Garden of Eden and the presence of God but would be capable of having children.
This choice was represented by two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve could not eat the fruit of both. The Tree of Life corresponded to the commandment not to partake of the forbidden fruit and thus remain in the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil corresponded to the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. If Adam and Eve wanted to stay in the Garden, they could eat the fruit of the tree of life or that of any other tree, except, of course, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But if they decided to enter mortality, then they needed to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and to be cut off from the fruit of the Tree of Life (see Alma 12:22-23).
Interestingly, this opposition between commandments (and trees) was not only vital to bringing about the conditions necessary for mortality but without such opposition, "all things must have vanished away" (2 Nephi 2:13; read 11-16).
Along with the opposing commandments (and trees), the devil tempted Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit for "he sought . . . the misery of all mankind" (2 Nephi 2:18). Lucifer knew that the resultant Fall would make it possible for Adam, Eve, and their posterity to be subjected to his will, thus enabling him to destroy us. Satan also knew that the plan hinged on the mission of Jesus Christ, and if he could prevent Jesus from effectuating the Atonement then all would share his misery.
Therefore, he tempted Eve by telling her a half-truth: "Ye shall not surely die [if you eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge]; For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Moses 4:10-11). Eve believed Satan but also recognized that there was no other way to bring about the necessary conditions of mortality, and she "took of the fruit . . . , and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, . . ." (Moses 4:12-13).
After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, Heavenly Father confronted them and asked what they had done. I have heard some say that Adam’s response was an attempt to put the blame on Eve. I disagree. Rather, Adam was explaining his thought process. In effect, he said, "Eve partook of the fruit, and we knew that she would be cast out of the Garden of Eden and I would not. So to keep the commandment that I should cleave unto her and that we should have children, I partook of the fruit." Both Adam and Eve confessed, and because justice must be satisfied, the consequences of their decision were outlined: They would be cast out of the Garden of Eden and would become subject to the struggles of mortality. The Earth would be cursed, or would fall to a lower sphere of existence, requiring them to work for their survival (see Moses 4:24). Father also said that their physical bodies, which had been organized from the elements of the earth, would return to the earth through death and decomposition (Moses 4:25).
In other words, the Fall subjected Adam, Eve, and their children to physical and spiritual death. One day, they would die, and all would live in a world where God no longer walked and talked with His children.

But, thankfully, Eve would become a mother to bear children "in sorrow," and "[her] desire [would] be to [her] husband" (Moses 4:22), who would be given the responsibility to preside over the home and to provide for his wife and children (see Moses 4:23). Thus, making it possible for all of us to come to Earth to receive physical bodies.

Truly, "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25.)

And so Adam, Eve, and their posterity could have joy, Heavenly Father explained to them that was another consequence of the Fall (which we often overlook): the gift of a Savior. In the state in which Adam and Eve were created, there was no need for a Redeemer because neither of them could sin. (2 Nephi 2:23.) And Heavenly Father first mentioned the promised Savior as He spoke to Lucifer, after Lucifer had persuaded Eve to partake of the fruit. He said, "I will put enmity between thee . . . and [the seed of the woman]; and he shall bruise thy head. . . ." (Moses 4:21). There is only One who is the seed of a mortal woman and not a mortal father. The seed of the woman is Christ, and Heavenly Father was teaching that Christ would come to destroy the works of Satan.

After instructing Adam and Eve, Heavenly Father "drove out [Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden] and . . . placed cherubim and a flaming sword, . . . to keep the way of the tree of life" (Moses 4:31), "lest [Adam and Eve] put forth [their] hand[s] and partake also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever" (Moses 4:28). This was necessary for "if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt surely die" (Alma 12:23). "And," mercifully, "the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; . . ." (2 Nephi 2:21).

Immediately, Heavenly Father began effecting the Plan of Salvation for His children on Earth. Alma taught that God "sent angels to converse with [mankind], who caused men to behold of [God’s] glory. And they began from that time forth to call on his name; . . . Wherefore, [God] gave commandments unto men, [having placed] themselves in a state to act . . . [And] God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son; therefore, whosoever repenteth and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest" (Alma 12:29-34).

Thus, this life became a probationary state, (Alma 12:24) a time to show whether we would keep the commandments of God or not. (Abraham 3:24-25).

In conclusion, I quote the words of Eve which she said after she and Adam learned about Jesus Christ and their redemption through His merits: "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient" (Moses 5:6-12).

Therefore, the Fall needed to happen, and because Jesus Christ came, it was not a tragedy. Rather, it set in motion God’s eternal purposes for us. (2 Nephi 2:24.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Update on Essays About Salvation

This past week has been rather hectic, and I'm behind schedule on my series of essays. The next is on its way, but it may take time.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Dear Anonymous 3:40

Dear Friend,

Regarding your recent comment, I have given some thought in how to respond. And I am sure that nothing I say will convince you or anyone else that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I'm just not smart or persuasive enough. Rather, I refer you to the words of our Savior, "by their fruits, ye shall know them." (see Matthew 7:16-20).

And we have the fruit of Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon. How a 24-year-old young man with three years of formal education could produce such a book except by the power of God is beyond me. Its clarity and witness that Jesus is the Christ and Savior of ALL nations is unsurpassed. And I would encourage you to read my witness in and earlier post that the Book of Mormon is true. Because the Book of Mormon is true, its translator was also a prophet of God.

But my hope is that you will not simply take my word for it. It is for you, and you alone, to decide whether Joseph Smith saw and did what he claims to have done. Then, you must ask the only Being in whom can trust unconditionally to tell the truth, even God, whether Joseph Smith was called in these latter days to restore the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And God will bear witness to your soul of the Truth.

It is my witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that his successors were and are prophets of the Most High.

Now, moving on to your second question. It is true that only a select few were privileged to see the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. First, I will relate the circumstances of their seeing the plates, and then I will discuss what happened to them and their relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he learned that three witnesses would be privileged to see the plates. (2 Nephi 27:12; Ether 5:4). Three men who had been involved in the translation, Martin Harris, Joseph's first scribe, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph's scribe for the majority of the translation, and David Whitmer, a young man whose family supported Joseph and his wife during the translation of the Book of Mormon, all desired to be the three to whom the plates would be shown.

After the translation was complete, an angel appeared to them while they were with Joseph Smith and showed them the plates. The following is the testimony of these three men:


Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work
shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus
Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the
people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the
people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also
know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice
hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.
And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates;
and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we
declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and
he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the
engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and
our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are
true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord
commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto
the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if
we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men,
and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with
him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris

And in addition to these three men, eight others were privileged to see the plates. But instead of an angel, Joseph Smith showed them the plates. The following is their testimony:


Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer Hiram Page

Jacob Whitmer Joseph Smith, Sen.

Peter Whitmer, Jun Hyrum Smith

John Whitmer Samuel H. Smith

This letter is getting long, so to be brief, I will only address what happened to Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer.

Oliver Cowdery served for some years as Assistant President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. He was with Joseph during some of the most important and amazing visions and revelations Joseph received. However, Oliver was an educated man and began believing he could run the Church better than Joseph. In 1838, he asked that his fellowship be removed from the Church records. He went on to practice law in Missouri for ten years. During that time, he never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Before he died in 1850, Oliver rejoined the Church, was rebaptized, and died in full fellowship.

Martin Harris also left the Church due to a financial crisis and a failed bank which Joseph had tried to start. However, he later moved to Utah, was rebaptized, and died in full fellowship. Martin never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon either.

David Whitmer, however, never rejoined the Church and died in Richmond, Missouri. Concering his testimony, I refer you to an editorial which he wrote in response to rumors that he had denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon. The editorial in full is below.

(Published in the Richmond, Mo., "Conservator" of March 25,1881)

Unto all Nations, Kindreds, Tongues and People, unto whom these presents shall come: It having been represented by one John Murphy, of Polo, Caldwell county, Missouri, that I, in a conversation with him last summer, denied my testimony as one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, To the end, therefore, that he may understand me now, if he did not then; and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once
for all to make this public statement:

That I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof,
which has so long since been published with that book, as one of the Three
Witnesses. Those who know me best well know that I have always adhered to
that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in
regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all my statements as then
made and published.

He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear; it was no delusion; what is written is written, and he that readeth, let him understand.…And if any man doubt, should he not carefully and honestly read and understand the same before presuming to sit in judgment and condemning the light, which shineth in darkness, and showeth the way of eternal life as pointed out by the unerring hand of God?

In the spirit of Christ, who hath said: "Follow thou me, for I am the life, the light and the way," I submit this statement to the world; God in whom I trust being my judge as to the sincerity of my motives and the faith and hope that is in me of eternal life.

My sincere desire is that the world may be benefited by this plain and simple statement of the truth. And all the honor to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen!

DAVID WHITMER, Sen.Richmond, Mo., March 19, 1881.

Finally, Emma Smith, Joseph's wife never saw the plates. But she acted as a scribe for Joseph before Oliver Cowdery began serving in that capacity. And during the work of translation, when the translators would take a break, Joseph would simply cover the plates with a cloth. Emma, while dusting, would run her fingers along the leaves of the plates under the cloth.

My friend, I pray this has answered your questions. My God bless you is the most sincere desire of

Your servant,

Craig Pankratz


I guess it was so late last night that I forgot to say that our meetings start at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. I'll keep you all updated as to whether the 11th is really the day that my wife and I will be speaking.



On Sunday, February 11 (this date may change), my wife and I have been invited to speak at our Church. All of you who live in the Waco area are invited to attend. So you know, my wife is a much better speaker than I.

Our Church is located at 7201 Viking Dr, Waco. For directions to our Chapel, click here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Premortal Existence and the Plan of Salvation

We lived with our Father in Heaven before we came to this Earth as His spirit sons and daughters. While there, life was similar to what we experience here: We had friendships; we learned; we progressed, and, although we cannot remember, we developed a very personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. In fact, President Ezra Taft Benson said, "Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us" (Ensign, Dec. 1988).
Our proximity to our Heavenly Father also taught us that we were not like Him. He possessed a perfect, immortal, physical body (D&C 130:22), but we were spirits. He had a fulness of joy and glory that we did not. And He was perfect in every way, unlike us.
But as our children have the capacity to become like us, Heavenly Father knew that we had the capacity to become like Him: perfect. And He wanted us to receive the fulness of joy that He had. So Father called a council and outlined a Plan, the Plan of Salvation, through which we could become like Him. We would come to Earth for a body and to be given agency—the power to choose—whereby we would be tested if we would choose to follow God (see Abraham 3:24-26).
The power to choose for ourselves was central to this Plan. We could not become like God at once. We would need to learn from our choices to be obedient (Hebrews 5:8). Only by obeying could we progress until we became who our Father knew we could be. Without agency, no growth or progress would be possible.
Heavenly Father also told us of obstacles that would impede our progress. Although He would create a paradisiacal Earth free of sickness, suffering, sin, and death, He taught that its first inhabitants would be given a choice to either remain in paradise or pass through mortality, and if they chose mortality, mankind would be lost unless He sent a Savior, "[His] Beloved and Chosen from the beginning" (Moses 4:2), Jehovah, who would be known in the flesh as Jesus Christ. Furthermore, because we would have the power to choose, at times we would choose to sin. Our sins would also cut us off forever from the presence of our Heavenly Father. And without Jesus, we had no hope to overcome them.
Our Heavenly Father’s Plan hinged on the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ which would overcome death and sin. Father testified that "there [would] be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation [could] come unto [us], only in and through the name of Christ, . . ." (see Mosiah 3:17).
Heavenly Father gave each of us the choice to accept His plan for us. And to accept the Plan of Salvation required faith in our Father’s promises and in the ability of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, to effect the Atonement.
Lucifer, one who was in authority among the hosts of heaven (D&C 76:25), offered a variation to the Plan: He would take away our agency to prevent us from sinning so that none of us would be cut off. But he wasn’t interested in helping us to progress until we became like God with a fulness of joy. In fact, the only one he cared about was himself (see Moses 4:1-3). Lucifer’s plan enticed some to follow him even though it would not allow us to become like our Heavenly Father.
And war erupted, polarizing the hosts of heaven.
The war that ensued wasn’t fought with sword and shield but with words. And even though Heavenly Father had gathered us together in the Great Pre-mortal Council to present the Plan of Salvation, I do not believe that it was first time that we had heard it; nor do I believe that it was a surprise that He presented His Firstborn, Jehovah, to be our Savior. I am certain that there were those among us who were already exercising great faith in Jesus Christ and who took every opportunity to learn the exalting doctrines of the Plan of Salvation, among whom were you and I. And when we heard Lucifer attack God’s plan and His Anointed, we stood and testified that Jehovah would do the Father’s will as He had promised. We were victorious, and Revelation 12:10-11 teaches that "[we] overcame [Lucifer and his legions] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of [our] testimony [of the Atonement of Jesus Christ]. . . ."
Many feel that those who chose to follow Lucifer did so because they doubted their ability to follow the Plan to become like our Heavenly Father. Certainly, Lucifer must have cited our weakness to discourage us, but I do not believe that it was his most potent weapon. We need to remember that without the Atonement, the "corruption [of mortality brought on by the future fall] could not put on incorruption . . . [and our] flesh must [lie] down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. . . . And we [would] become devils, . . . to be shut out from the presence of our God, . . . in misery, . . ." (2 Nephi 9:7-9).
If the Savior failed, all would be lost, and Lucifer did everything he could to destroy faith in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, those who had faith in Christ followed God’s Plan, and those who did not were cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:7-10).

I know that we lived with our Father in Heaven before we came to Earth, and I know that we accepted His Plan for us, including the appointment of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
That is why we are here.