Evidence #407 | June 6, 2023

Plan of Salvation

Post contributed by


Scripture Central


The presentation of the plan of salvation in the Book of Mormon is doctrinally complex and anciently plausible.

Neither the Old nor New Testaments make any mention of the plan of salvation by name, nor is there a detailed description of this plan anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, the word plan never even occurs in the King James Bible.1 The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, has several detailed outlines of this doctrine.

For example, the plan frequently appears in the book of Alma, where Alma the Younger taught “the plan of redemption” to Zeezrom (see Alma 12), Ammon laid out this “plan” to King Lamoni (Alma 18:39), and Aaron taught “the plan of redemption” to Lamoni’s father (Alma 22:13). Later, Alma’s companion Amulek explained “the great plan of the Eternal God” to the Zoramites (Alma 34:9), and Alma testified of the “plan” to his son Corianton (mentioning the word plan ten times in Alma 39–42).2

While Alma, the High Priest of Zarahamla, made great use of the doctrine of the plan, he was not the first Nephite prophet to do so. The first explicit exposition of the plan was made much earlier by Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother and first priest of the temple in the city of Nephi. Jacob called it “the merciful plan of the great Creator” and “the plan of our God” (2 Nephi 9:6, 13). 

As Jacob described, the plan goes back to the very beginning, centering around “the great Creator” who would allow “himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him” (2 Nephi 9:5). This would be “an infinite atonement” because “save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption” (2 Nephi 9:7). 

I Will Send Their Words Forth, by Elspeth Young. 

Christ’s Atonement is necessary, Jacob explained, because “death hath passed upon all men” and thus, “there must needs be a power of resurrection.” This mortal state came about “by reason of the fall” (2 Nephi 9:6). Without an Atonement, the effects of the Fall would have “remained to an endless duration,” meaning that our “flesh must have laid down to rot and ... to rise no more” (2 Nephi 9:7). Jacob further explained that without a means of redemption, “our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil.” In other words, without the Atonement, we would have become like that fallen angel (2 Nephi 9:8–9). 

But God’s merciful plan of salvation, redemption, and happiness provides “a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell” (2 Nephi 9:10).3  That escape is through the Atonement, which forces death and hell to “deliver up their dead … by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:12). After this, “they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God” (2 Nephi 9:15). 

As Jacob concluded this part of his covenant speech, he explained that at the judgment, “they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still.” The filthy “shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them” (2 Nephi 9:16). Meanwhile, “the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever” (2 Nephi 9:18).

Tracing Jacob’s understanding of the plan back one generation earlier, it appears that his inspired summation carried forth the influence of his father’s instructions to him in 2 Nephi 2. Although Lehi never called it a “plan,” he essentially taught these same doctrines in his final blessing to Jacob. In it he declared, “the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:4). He explained the Atonement, that the Holy Messiah “offereth himself a sacrifice for sin” and “layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (2 Nephi 2:7–8). 

Lehi further explained the coming judgment, noting that after the resurrection, “all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him” (2 Nephi 2:10). Lehi taught that there are ultimately two outcomes, “liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men” or “captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27).4

Lehi is also the one who taught Jacob “that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God” (2 Nephi 2:17), and that “he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).5 These, and others, are the same doctrines taught by Jacob as “the merciful plan of the great Creator” (2 Nephi 9:6).6

Consistencies and Plausible Developments

Though they taught the same core doctrines, various authors emphasized different parts of the plan to address specific circumstances in their environment.7 Lehi, for instance, focused more on the Fall, opposition, and the agency afforded to all to choose between good and evil. This makes some sense, considering that Lehi’s final testament was given in the midst of a brewing division among his sons.8  This family strife was surely upsetting and perhaps perplexing to those—like Jacob—who were innocently caught in the middle of it, and who would soon be forced to choose a side (2 Nephi 5:5–6). By highlighting these key aspects of the plan of salvation, Lehi provided a doctrinal context that could help explain the growing rift among his people and inspire them “to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men” (2 Nephi 2:27).  

Jacob then passed this sacred knowledge on, just as his father Lehi had blessed him to (see 2 Nephi 2:8). It should also be remembered that Jacob was a temple priest when he gave his rendition of the plan of salvation, likely as he spoke to his people on the Day of Atonement.9 It is therefore only natural that he emphasized the Messiah’s Atonement, the Resurrection, and the eternal outcome from choosing either righteousness or filthiness.

Alma’s explanation of the plan of salvation also reflects the needs of his time, in which counter-doctrines, such as those taught by Nehor, were confusing the people (and even Alma’s own son Corianton) about these essential truths.10 In order to combat false teachings, Alma emphasized repentance, redemption, justice and mercy, and the resultant happiness that the righteous will enjoy in the rest of the Lord. Adding in the teachings of Amulek, Ammon, Aaron, and others provides even a fuller picture of the Lord’s eternal plan of mercy, justice, redemption, salvation, love, and happiness.11

Alma the Younger Preaching. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

A Temple-Related Teaching

As made apparent through modern revelation and ancient documents, the portrayal of the plan of salvation is a key feature of the temple endowment and theology.12 This may help explain the introduction and development of this doctrine in the Book of Mormon.

Lehi’s initial knowledge about the plan of salvation was received in a divine council setting, which was anciently viewed as a temple-like sanctuary where God sat exalted upon his throne surrounded by his angels.13 Receiving sacred divine knowledge in this context accords well with numerous ancient apocalyptic documents.14 In regard to the outpouring of recently discovered Jewish and Christian texts from the ancient world, Hugh Nibley explained,

But in working through the newly found documents, one soon becomes aware of certain themes that receive overwhelming emphasis and appear not only in a few texts but in many or most of them. Such deserve our serious attention. Among the most conspicuous of these is the matter of a certain council held in heaven “at the foundation of the world” where the divine plan of salvation was presented and received with acclamations of joy; joined to this we are presented almost invariably with some account of the opposition to that plan and the results of that opposition. Around these two themes of the plan and the opposition a great deal of the old apocryphal writings revolves.15

The careful reader may also recall that both Jacob and Alma were responsible for the temples in the cities of Nephi and Zarahemla. Thus, it would be natural for them to closely align their teachings with their high priestly duties.


As mentioned at the beginning, the Book of Mormon’s presentation of the plan of salvation is not biblically derived. It arises in the Book of Mormon as a unique and multi-faceted doctrine, manifesting numerous consistencies as well as understandable developments over time.16 The Book of Mormon thus invites us to believe that the plan of salvation is one of the “plain and precious” truths that were in some way lost or taken away from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:28).

While this may seem to be a bold and unexpected claim, it is nevertheless supported by the existence of similarly articulated truths in numerous apocryphal and pseudepigraphal texts, often given in temple-related contexts.17 The development of the plan of salvation in the Book of Mormon is therefore both literarily complex and anciently plausible.

Ryan Atwood, “Lehi’s Dream and the Plan of Salvation,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 37 (2020): 141–162.

M. Catherine Thomas, “Plan,” in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2003), 642–643.

Gerald N. Lund, “Plan of Salvation, Plan of Redemption,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 4 vols. (New York, NY: Macmillian Publishing, 1992), 3:1088–1091. 

Robert J. Matthews, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ: 2 Nephi 9,” in Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 177–199.

2 Nephi 22 Nephi 9:62 Nephi 9:13Jacob 6:8Jarom 1:2Alma 12:25Alma 12:26Alma 12:30Alma 12:32Alma 18:39Alma 24:14Alma 34:9Alma 34:16Alma 39:18Alma 41:2Alma 42:5Alma 42:8Alma 42:11Alma 42:13Alma 42:15Alma 42:16Alma 42:31

2 Nephi 2

2 Nephi 9:6

2 Nephi 9:13

Jacob 6:8

Jarom 1:2

Alma 12:25

Alma 12:26

Alma 12:30

Alma 12:32

Alma 18:39

Alma 24:14

Alma 34:9

Alma 34:16

Alma 39:18

Alma 41:2

Alma 42:5

Alma 42:8

Alma 42:11

Alma 42:13

Alma 42:15

Alma 42:16

Alma 42:31

  • 1 This doctrinal concept, however, may correspond with an original Greek phrase in Acts 2:23: “counsel and foreknowledge of God.”
  • 2 See Alma 39:1841:242:542:8, 11, 13, 15 (2x), 16, 31. Ten was an important number in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, where it often signified perfection or completeness. See John W. Welch, “Counting to Ten,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12, no. 2 (2003): 42–57, 113–114. See also, Book of Mormon Central, “Why Does Alma Mention ‘the Plan’ Ten Times in His Words to Corianton? (Alma 42:13),” KnoWhy 150 (July 25, 2016).
  • 3 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Primordial Monsters,” Evidence 0066, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 4 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Two Ways,” Evidence# 0342, May 23, 2022, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 5 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Lehi’s Conception of Satan,” Evidence# 0157, March 1, 2021, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 6 Lehi’s teachings about the plan of salvation are also discernable in his famous dream of the Tree of Life. See Ryan Atwood, “Lehi’s Dream and the Plan of Salvation,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 37 (2020): 141–162.
  • 7 See Book of Mormon Central, “Why Are There So Many Different Names for the Plan of Salvation? (Alma 42:5, 8, 13, 15 ),” KnoWhy 312 (May 12, 2017).
  • 8 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Testament of Lehi,” Evidence# 0068, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 9 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Autumn Festival Context (Jacob’s Sermon),” Evidence# 0065, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 10 See Book of Mormon Central, “Why Was Corianton So Concerned About The Resurrection? (Alma 40:9),” KnoWhy 148 (July 21, 2016).
  • 11 This continues as we move on into modern revelation and other restoration texts which clarify important parts of the plan, such as the premortal life and the degrees of glory (see Doctrine and Covenants 76Moses 4Abraham 3).
  • 12 See, for instance, “Temple Prep Lesson 3: The Plan of Salvation,” online at templeendowment.wordpress.com.
  • 13 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Lehi’s Prophetic Calling (Overview),” Evidence# 0345, June 7, 2022, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 14 See Book of Mormon Central, “Why Are Lehi’s First Visions So Similar to Much Later Apocalyptic Writings? (1 Nephi 1:8),” KnoWhy 459 (August 16, 2018).
  • 15 Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, CWHN Volume 12 (Salt Lake City/Provo, UT: Deseret Book/FARMS, 1992), 179; cf. 305–313. See also, William J. Hamblin, “The Sôd of YHWH and the Endowment,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 4 (2013): 147–154. The idea of key features of the plan of salvation (such as creation, resurrection, and essential ordinances) being anciently taught in earthy temples finds support from ancient Egypt. See Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd edition (Salt Lake City/Provo, UT: Deseret Book/FARMS, 2005).  
  • 16 See Book of Mormon Central, “What Unique Doctrines Did the Lord Reveal through the Book of Mormon? (2 Nephi 3:11),” KnoWhy 293 (March 29, 2017). Book of Mormon Central, “Where Can You Best Learn about God’s Plan of Salvation? (Alma 24:14),” KnoWhy 272 (February 8, 2017).
  • 17 Here a just a few examples of such texts which more directly mention the plan itself: A document among the pseudepigrapha, known as the Testament of Adam, repeatedly mentions God’s “plan” in various relevant contexts. It speaks of the heavenly powers and how they relate to the “plan of this world.” It mentions orders of angelic beings, culminating with those who support “Jesus the Messiah.” This “plan” was revealed to the angels by God, and a specific order of angels were to direct “everything in this creation according to the plan of God.” It also mentions the “plan of the angels” in connection with the temple imagery, including God’s throne and the “holy of holies.” James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), 995. In 2 Enoch, God explains his creations to Enoch, declaring, “by my supreme wisdom all these things I planned to accomplish. And I created them from the highest foundation to the lowest, and to the end.” Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1, 156. In connection to the Flood (which itself connects to the creation account), we learn in the Sibylline Oracles that the destruction of the wicked and the preservation of Noah was “indeed the plan of the heavenly God.” Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1, 340. In The Fourth Book of Ezra, the Lord declares that before all of the details of the Creation came to be, “I planned these things, and they were made through me.” Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1, 534.
Plan of Salvation
Book of Mormon

© 2024 Scripture Central: A Non-Profit Organization. All rights reserved. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-5294264