The Redemption of the Dead Lesson 55: Sections 137-38

Doctrine and Covenants Instructor’s Guide: Religion 324-325, (1981), 109–10


All accountable individuals must hear and obey the gospel in order to obtain celestial glory.

Theme Analysis

  • A.

    Heirship in the celestial kingdom is based upon knowing and obeying the gospel

    1. 1.

      Everyone will receive the opportunity to hear and obey the gospel.

    2. 2.

      Those who do not have opportunity to hear the gospel in mortality will hear it in the spirit world.

  • B.

    The righteous dead have the commission to preach the gospel in the spirit world.

    1. 1.

      Those who repent will be redeemed by accepting the vicarious ordinance work performed in the house of God.

    2. 2.

      Members of the Church have the responsibility to perform these ordinances vicariously for their dead.

Study Sources

Student Manual

Sections 137-38; Enrichment O, “Salvation for the Dead”

Use material from Historical Background and Notes and Commentary to teach each revelation in its historical context.

Standard Works

  • D&C 137-38. Keeping in mind the theme of this lesson, read and ponder these sections.

  • D&C 18:42. Who is required to be baptized?

  • D&C 20:71. What quality is necessary for baptism besides age?

  • D&C 88:95-102. A description of the various times of resurrection is presented here, supplying important clues about how long some people must remain in the spirit world.

  • D&C 68:25-27. What is the normal age of accountability?

  • D&C 128:1, 5. How did the Lord provide for the performance of this ordinance for those who do not have the opportunity in mortality?

  • D&C 76:73. Who are among those the Savior visited or authorized to be visited in the spirit world?

  • Alma 40:9-13. What is the state of man between death and resurrection?

  • John 5:25. What promise was given to the dead?

  • 1 Peter 3:19; 4:6. What bearing do these scriptures have on Doctrine and Covenants 138?

For additional references see topical guide, s.v. “Accountability, Age of”; “Genealogy and Temple Work”; “Paradise, Paradisiacal”; “Salvation for the Dead”; “Spirits in Prison”; “Spirits, Disembodied.”

Basic Library

  • Teachings, p. 191. How did the Prophet Joseph Smith connect work for the dead with the resurrection?

  • Teachings, p. 222. What authority presides and administers in the world of spirits?

  • Teachings, p. 308. How does anyone obtain the fulness of the priesthood?

  • Teachings, p. 356. What is the “greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us”?

  • Teachings, pp. 362-63. What must a proxy do for his family in order for the ordinances to be acceptable for them?

  • Teachings, pp. 330-31. How do the Saints become saviors on Mount Zion? How much time is there to complete the work?

  • Discourses, pp. 393-410. Excellent series of items on temple work and vicarious work for the dead.

  • Discourses, pp. 376-81. An excellent summary of what the spirit world is like.

  • Gos. Doc, pp. 469-72. How are those in the spirit world released from bondage? What bondage?

  • DS, 2:141-43. What are the principles of vicarious salvation?

  • DS, 2:171-80. An overview of the temple ordinances and their importance.

  • DS, 2:20-34. Instruction on the celestial kingdom.

Additional Sources

  • Theodore M. Burton, in CR, Apr. 1977, pp. 38-41. What is the urgency of the work?

  • A. Theodore Turtle, in CR, Apr. 1980, pp. 57-59. What are the joys of temple work?

  • Bruce R. McConkie, “A New Commandment: Save Thyself and Thy Kindred!” Ensign, Aug. 1976, pp. 7-11. An excellent overview of the background and content of Doctrine and Covenants 137 and 138.

  • Bruce R. McConkie, “The Salvation of Little Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1977, pp. 3-7. An Apostle’s review of this gospel question.

  • Spencer W. Kimball, “ ‛We Feel an Urgency,’” Ensign, Aug. 1980, pp. 2-3. How important is temple work today?

Some Suggestions for Presentation

(Ideas Other Teachers Have Used)

Men Must Hear the Gospel before They Can Obey It (Scripture Analysis)

Point out that before men can obey the gospel and its ordinances they must hear and learn it, yet many live and die without this privilege. Have students read and mark Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-8. Note that one must be the type of person who would have received the gospel with all his heart if he had been given the opportunity. “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 308.)

Ask the question: Must the dead comply with gospel ordinances the same way the living do? If they must, how can they? And how do they hear the gospel message first?

Read, mark, and chain the following scriptures: 1 Peter 3:8-20; 4:6; Doctrine and Covenants 138:19-21, 29-33; 138:57-58. Analyze these scriptures with your students by asking them to summarize the main thought of each scripture. Be certain that the point is clear that the gospel provides a way for those who are dead to hear the gospel and comply with its principles.

All Men Are Saved by the Same Principles and Ordinances (Teacher Presentation)

Begin the lesson by writing the words baptism, confirmation, ordination, endowment, marriage, and sealing on the chalkboard. Point out that these are the ordinances of salvation. Then give the following statement from Joseph Smith: “The question is frequently asked, ‛Can we not be saved without going through with all these ordinances?’ I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation … Any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law tod.” (Teachings, p. 331.) Point out that this pertains to all accountable people, both living and dead. Whereas the living who have the opportunity can comply with their own ordinance requirements, the dead cannot. This is one of the reasons we build temples.

Now write the words accountable persons on the chalkboard. Indicate that Joseph Smith’s statement applies only to accountable persons. (Sealing is the only ordinance required for the exaltation of persons who are not accountable.) To emphasize this point, read Doctrine and Covenants 29:46-50 where the principle of redemption for little children is explicitly stated. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-27 and point out that eight years of age is the time set by revelation as the age of accountability.

The Spirit World (Scripture Analysis)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the few Christian religions which teaches that there is a place where the spirit goes after death and spends a significant amount of time there prior to the resurrection and final assignment to an eternal reward. Through the scriptures and the writings of the prophets we know a good deal about the spirit world. Using the sources given in this lesson, you may wish to lead a discussion on the spirit world. (For scriptures see the topical guide, s.v. “Spirits in Prison”; “Spirits, Disembodied”; “Paradise, Paradisiacal.” Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 376-81; Gospel Doctrine, pp. 429-32, 439-43; and Doctrines of Salvation, 2:157-61 will also be helpful.)