Recently we had a very good discussion on whether or not the LDS church believes in Universal Salvation. One of the key doctrines of the LDS faith is that everyone will have a chance to at least hear about Jesus and accept Him as their Savior whether that be in this life or the next. This concept is unfamiliar to many Christians, and one of my fellow Christian friends asked where scriptures supporting this can be found in the Bible. In response to his question, I will provide Biblical scriptures that support this doctrine and also will provide additional LDS doctrines given from moder-day prophets.
Biblical Scriptures Supportind Jesus Preaching to the Dead
There are quite a number of scriptures found in the Bible that discuss Jesus visiting the “dead” spirits and also spirits in prison. Some of the scriptures that discuss Jesus preaching to the “dead” spirits can be viewed in two ways. The first way I can see people interpreting these scriptures is that the verses are discussing those who are spiritually dead, and not people who have literally died. This interpretation could be viewed by most of the scriptures I referenced in the link with the exception of those found in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 3:19-20 discusses Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison who had lived during the time of Noah. This scripture can not be interpreted as merely preaching to those who are spiritually dead because of the reference to Noah.
LDS Revelation on Jesus Preaching to those who have Died
Joseph F. Smith, the sixth prophet and president of the LDS church, and nephew of the churche’s first prophet, Joseph Smith, received a revelation on Jesus visiting spirits who had died in order to preach the gospel of salvation to them (a complete reading of this is in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, section 138)
In this account, Joseph F Smith explains of how he was “pondering over the scriptures” about Jesus’ great atonement and his mercy for all of humankind. He writes:
I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of aPeter, and as I read I was greatly bimpressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:
7 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in aprison
9 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in
the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3:18—20
10 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in
the flesh, but live according to God in
.” (1 Peter 4:6
He goes on to write that while he was pondering, he recieved a vision from God. In this vision, he witnessed that after Jesus’ death, he went and visited those who had died who had been faithful in their testimony of Jesus. He goes on to write:
28 And I wondered at the words of Peter—wherein he said that the Son of God preached unto the aspirits in prison
, who sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in
the days of Noah—and how it was possible for him to preach to those spirits
and perform the necessary labor among them in
so short a time.
29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding aquickened
, and I perceived that the Lord went not in
person among the bwicked
and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
30 But behold, from among the righteous, he aorganized
his forces and appointed bmessengers
with power and authority, and dcommissioned
them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in edarkness
, even to fall
of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
When reading the Bible, especially what is written in 1 Peter, it is clear that spirits who had died did receive a chance to learn of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some Christians
believe that Jesus personally visited these spirits. Further revelation on the subject by LDS prophet, Joseph F. Smith clarifies who Jesus visited personally. Jesus visited the righteous people who had died and he appointed angels to visit the wicked who had died and were waiting to receive the gospel.