- Christian theologians have long wrestled with the question, What is the destiny of the countless billions who have lived and died with no knowledge of Jesus? With the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has come the understanding of how the unbaptized dead are redeemed and how God can be “a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.”
Although there are many unanswered questions in the world about what happens to those that have not heard of Christ, we as members of the church have knowledge from our prophets about the need for this soul saving work.
- The doctrine that the living can provide baptism and other essential ordinances to the dead, vicariously, was revealed anew to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He learned that the spirits awaiting resurrection are not only offered individual salvation but that they can be bound in heaven as husband and wife and be sealed to their fathers and mothers of all generations past and have sealed to them their children of all generations future. The Lord instructed the Prophet that these sacred rites are appropriately performed only in a house built to His name, a temple.
By preforming soul savings ordinances, we are showing our commitment to Christ that we will follow His example and help others come unto Christ.
- Our anxiety to redeem the dead, and the time and resources we put behind that commitment, are, above all, an expression of our witness concerning Jesus Christ. It constitutes as powerful a statement as we can make concerning His divine character and mission. It testifies, first, of Christ’s Resurrection; second, of the infinite reach of His Atonement; third, that He is the sole source of salvation; fourth, that He has established the conditions for salvation; and, fifth, that He will come again.
Let's look at each of these points in more detail.
The Power of Christ’s Resurrection
- It matters tremendously what we do in relation to those who have gone before, because they live today as spirits and shall live again as immortal souls, and that because of Jesus Christ.
The Infinite Reach of Christ’s Atonement
- By identifying our ancestors and performing for them the saving ordinances they could not themselves perform, we are testifying of the infinite reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Christ“died for all.” “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Elder Chistofferson notes the unfairness of withholding eternal blessings to someone because they didn't have a chance to hear about Christ in this life:
- It is inconceivable that this invitation, universally extended in life, would be rescinded for those who had not heard it before they died.
Jesus Christ, the Sole Source of Salvation
- Our anxiety to ensure that our kindred dead are offered baptism in Jesus’ name is testament to the fact that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Him].”
Conditions of Salvation Set by Christ
- Because we believe that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer, we also accept His authority to establish the conditions by which we may receive His grace. Otherwise we would not concern ourselves with being baptized for the dead.
Elder Christofferson notes the perfectness of the plan. No changes are needed as God saw that this would happen and created a perfect plan to redeem all of his children in this life or the next.
- There are no exceptions granted; none are needed. As many as will believe and be baptized—including by proxy—and endure in faith, shall be saved, “not only those who believed after [Christ] came in the meridian of time, in the flesh, but all those from the beginning, even as many as were before he came.” It is for this reason that the gospel is preached “also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
- Our work for the dead bears witness that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth.
- The vicarious ordinances we perform in temples, beginning with baptism, make possible an eternal welding link between generations that fulfills the purpose of the earth’s creation.
- We are anxiously about the task of searching out our fathers and mothers of generations past and binding them to us and us to them. Is not this the strongest possible evidence of our conviction that Jesus Christ will come again to reign upon the earth? We know He will, and we know what He expects we will have done in preparation for His return.
Finally Elder Christofferson notes that our commitment to Christ is shown by our efforts to help redeem the dead. Christ's mission was to fulfill the great plan of God. He did this and it is our obligation to help that plan move forward.
- Our charge extends as far and as deep as the love of God to encompass His children of every time and place. Our efforts on behalf of the dead bear eloquent witness that Jesus Christ is the divine Redeemer of all mankind.
Helping save those that have passed on will allow us to participate in God's sacred plan of happiness. What I find is that when I attend the temple, although I am doing it for those that have passed on, I am truly blessed with things far beyond. I know that as I attend the temple, I find my life to be more manageable, my perspective on life changes, and I am more patient with those around me. I know that participating with Christ in this sacred work will bless those that need these sacred ordinances but also bless my life with peace and joy. I am going to set a goal to get to the temple this week. I need that peace in my life and I know a great way to find that peace is by being in the house of the Lord.