Chapter 31: The Redemption of the Dead

Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, (2000), 85–86


Introduction

“Some of us have had occasion to wait for someone or something for a minute, an hour, a day, a week, or even a year. Can you imagine how our progenitors must feel, some of whom have perhaps been waiting for decades and even centuries for the temple work to be done for them? I have tried, in my mind’s eye, to envision our progenitors who are anxiously waiting for those of us who are their descendants and are members of the Church on the earth to do our duty toward them. I have also thought what a dreadful feeling it would be for us to see them in the hereafter and have to acknowledge that we had not been as faithful as we should have been here on earth in performing these ordinances in their behalf” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Things of Eternity—Stand We in Jeopardy?” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 7).

Doctrinal Outline

  • A.

    In accordance with the plan of salvation, everyone will at some time hear the gospel.

    See Doctrine and Covenants 1:2, 4; 90:11.

  • B.

    The way has been opened for those who die without the gospel to receive it.

    1. 1.

      After His Crucifixion and before His Resurrection, the Savior preached the gospel to the righteous in the spirit world and sent messengers to preach to the spirits of the wicked (see 1 Peter 3:18–20; D&C 138:18–21, 27–30).

    2. 2.

      The gospel is preached to the dead so that they can be judged by the same standard that will be used to judge those who hear the gospel in mortality (see 1 Peter 4:6; D&C 138:31–34, 57; 76:73).

    3. 3.

      Those who would have received the gospel in this life had the opportunity been given to them will inherit the celestial kingdom (see D&C 137:7–8).

  • C.

    Ordinances performed vicariously provide the dead with the opportunity to receive full salvation.

    1. 1.

      Those who desire to enter the celestial kingdom must receive the essential ordinances of the gospel (see Articles of Faith 1:3; D&C 138:58; 132:4–6; 131:1–4).

    2. 2.

      Ordinances performed in mortality by the power of the priesthood are valid both here and in the spirit world (see D&C 128:8–9; 132:46; Matthew 16:19).

    3. 3.

      The Lord has commanded that vicarious baptisms be performed to enable those who receive the gospel in the spirit world to enter His kingdom (see 1 Corinthians 15:29; D&C 128:1, 5; 138:32–33).

  • D.

    Latter-day Saints have the authority and the responsibility to perform temple ordinances in behalf of the dead.

    1. 1.

      Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple and restored the power to seal through priesthood ordinances the fathers to the children, both the living and the dead (see D&C 110:13–15; Malachi 4:5–6; D&C 2).

    2. 2.

      Latter-day Israel cannot be made perfect without doing the ordinance work for their dead, nor can the dead be made perfect without this work having been done for them (see D&C 128:15, 18, 22; Hebrews 11:40).

    3. 3.

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have the responsibility to keep a record of the work done in behalf of the dead (see D&C 127:6–9; 128:24).

Supporting Statements

  • A.

    In accordance with the plan of salvation, everyone will at some time hear the gospel.

    • “The Lord has made it known that his mercy extends to the uttermost bounds and that every soul is entitled to hear the gospel plan, either in this life or in the spirit world. All who hear and believe, repenting and receiving the gospel in its fulness, whether living or dead, are heirs of salvation in the celestial kingdom of God” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:133).

  • B.

    The way has been opened for those who die without the gospel to receive it.

    • “Before the crucifixion of the Lord there was a great gulf fixed separating the righteous dead from those who had not received the Gospel, and across this gulf no man could pass. (Luke 16:26.) Christ bridged that gulf and made it possible for the word of salvation to be taken to all corners of the kingdom of darkness. In this way the realms of hell were invaded and the dead prepared for the ordinances of the Gospel which must be performed on earth since they pertain to the mortal probation” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 165).

  • C.

    Ordinances performed vicariously provide the dead with the opportunity to receive full salvation.

    • “And so we have two great churches, one in heaven, the other upon the earth. They are moving along parallel lines, and the temple of God, it appears to me, is the connecting link that connects the heavens with the earth, because it is through the temple that we will be able to reach our dead, and not otherwise. To pray for the dead may not be of any real assistance to them. To actually help them we must do a work for them” (Rudger Clawson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1933, 77–78).

    • “We have been authorized to perform baptisms vicariously so that when they hear the gospel preached and desire to accept it, that essential ordinance will have been performed. They need not ask for any exemption from that essential ordinance. Indeed, the Lord Himself was not exempted from it” (Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 147; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 99).

    • “We know by the scriptures that the gospel is preached to the dead and the dead are to be judged according to men in the flesh and live according to God in the spirit. Thus baptism is necessary for those who, during their lifetime, had not opportunity for this ordinance of baptism by immersion for the remission of sin” (N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1979, 20; or Ensign, May 1979, 15).

  • D.

    Latter-day Saints have the authority and the responsibility to perform temple ordinances in behalf of the dead.

    • “The third point included in the mission of the Church is our responsibility to redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth.

      “Our members need to be taught that it is not sufficient for a husband and wife to be sealed in the temple to guarantee their exaltation—they must also be eternally linked with their progenitors and see that the work is done for those ancestors. ‘They without us,’ said the Apostle Paul, ‘cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect’ (D&C 128:15). Our members should therefore understand that they have an individual responsibility to see that they are linked to their progenitors” (Ezra Taft Benson, regional representatives’ seminar, 3 Apr. 1981, 2).

    • “Elijah! what would you do if you were here? Would you confine your work to the living alone? No: I would refer you to the Scriptures, where the subject is manifest: that is, without us, they could not be made perfect, nor we without them; the fathers without the children, nor the children without the fathers.

      “I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you will receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:252).

    • “It is not only necessary that you should be baptized for your dead, but you will have to go through all the ordinances for them, the same as you have gone through to save yourselves” (Smith, History of the Church, 6:365).

    • “The responsibility [of doing work for our dead] rests with equal force on all, according to our individual ability and opportunities.

      “It matters not what else we have been called to do, or what position we may occupy, or how faithfully in other ways we have labored in the Church, none is exempt from this great obligation. It is required of the apostle as well as the humblest elder. Place, or distinction, or long service in the Church, in the mission field, the stakes of Zion, or where or how else it may have been, will not entitle one to disregard the salvation of one’s dead.

      “Some may feel that if they pay their tithing, attend their regular meetings and other duties, give of their substance to the poor, perchance spend one, two, or more years preaching in the world, that they are absolved from further duty. But the greatest and grandest duty of all is to labor for the dead” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:148–49).

    • “Those who are acquainted with Latter-day Saint scriptures and the process of genealogical research will recognize that the extraction program is but a first step in the overall program of preparing a Church book of remembrance ‘worthy of … acceptation.’” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1978, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 30).

    • “Our responsibility to compile our books of remembrance, including the submission of the names of our ancestors for at least the first four generations, and to have the temple ordinances performed in their behalf has not changed” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1978, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 30).

    • “There are other things we can do collectively as a church. We microfilm records worldwide. We establish libraries for use of members and nonmembers. We build vaults to store records. As a Church we develop forms and procedures to help in research. We prepare research manuals. We program conferences, meetings and seminars to motivate, instruct and inspire.

      “Nevertheless genealogical and temple work are basically individual responsibilities” (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, 227).

    • “We know that the spirit world is filled with the spirits of men who are waiting for you and me to get busy—waiting as the signers of the Declaration of Independence waited. ‘Why,’ they asked President Wilford Woodruff, ‘why do you keep us waiting?’ That question continues to be asked of us also, by our own people.

      “We wonder about our progenitors—grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, etc. What do they think of you and me? We are their offspring. We have the responsibility to do their temple work, and the beautiful temples of the Lord stand day after day, yet we do not fill them always. We have a grave responsibility that we cannot avoid, and may stand in jeopardy if we fail to do this important work” (Kimball, “Things of Eternity,” 5).