When an airplane leaves an airport, the complete journey has been mapped out. The pilots and crew know where they are going, and they won't get off course and fail to reach their destination once in 50,000 times, unless weather or mechanical troubles interfere. Now, imagine an airplane with a captain and crew but no flight plan. The engines are started, and the plane moves down the runway. Yet as it begins to climb, the crew doesn't know whether to turn east or to turn west. If you are on that airplane, you will have almost no chance of arriving at your destination. It is clear to each of us that an airplane crew needs a flight plan.
So it is with our lives. We cannot make wise, long-range decisions unless we understand that there is purpose here and recognize and understand at least some aspects of the merciful plan of the great Creator.
It is clear that our Heavenly Father had a plan laid out for the accomplishment of His purposes. In the scriptures we read of the many names of the plan: "the great plan of happiness," "the plan of redemption," "the merciful plan of the great Creator," "the plan of salvation," "the plan of justice," and "the great plan of the Eternal God."
Each name emphasizes one aspect or another of the plan. But in reality there is only one plan called by many names through which God means to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
The Lord has given us instructions and commandments to help us fulfill the destiny which He envisions for us. Commandments are best understood after one knows something of the plan. Alma taught this principle when he said, "Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God" (Alma 12:32).
A very important part of the plan is the right of personal choice. The Lord calls it moral agency. We may choose as we desire, but we may not avoid the consequences of our choices. We are permitted to make our choices in life, but we ought not then call the plan unfair because we must accept the results of our choices.
The center of the plan is the Lord Jesus Christ. Reject or ignore Him, and the great plan of happiness cannot function in your behalf. His life was dedicated in His premortal existence, through mortality, and even on into the eternal worlds to establishing the Father's plan to our blessing and benefit. The cost to the Master was monumental. Think of the pain of Gethsemane and of His suffering on Calvary. This should give us some concept of the enormous importance of the plan of redemption.
Pride, pursuing the vain things of the world, unchastity, misunderstanding gender roles, greed, and a disregard for the sacredness of human life are just a few of the obstacles in mortality. They can hinder us or prevent us from reaching our destination. The plan allows for repentance, but it does not allow for acceptance of self-destructive behavior.
"For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
"Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven" (D&C 1:31-32).
Understanding the plan can give us great consolation in the severe tests that come to humankind. Further, that understanding will strengthen our faith. One of the most difficult tests is separation from loved ones through death. The plan is a great comfort if we understand the following words of scripture:
"For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord" (2 Ne. 9:6).
We are literally sons and daughters of God. That reality should permeate every fiber of our beings. Knowing this one truth will greatly influence the decisions of life that can bring us either great joy or bitter regret.
Many who design the philosophies of men know little or nothing of the purposes of God. Their secular concepts are often woefully inadequate for eternal purposes. If, for instance, you believe that man's existence on earth is an accident of nature--your judgment will be flawed. These modern-day philosophers do not know of the premortal life of mankind, nor are they aware of the eternal destiny of man. How could they possibly build principles that will endure the tests of centuries?
Some complain that when the prophets speak with clarity and firmness they are taking our agency away. We are still free to choose. But we must accept the consequences of those decisions. The prophets do not take away our agency. They simply warn us of what the consequences of our choices will be. How foolish to fault the prophets for their warnings.
Develop faith in the prophets and their admonitions. Seek the confirmation of the Spirit that they are inspired. Then when they speak and you respond positively to their counsel, you will find comfort, peace, and even joy.