My beloved brothers and sisters and friends, I invite you to join with me in a prayer that I may enjoy the Spirit of the Lord while I speak and that you may enjoy it while you listen. I am going to talk about some of the very fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ of great importance, and I will use considerable scripture which we’ll have to have the Spirit to help us appreciate.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms as its Third Article of Faith:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” [A of F 1:3]
In these remarks I shall set forth some views of the church of Jesus Christ on this subject.
Saved as here used means resurrected and returned as a sanctified, celestialized, immortal soul to the presence and society of God, there to pursue an endless course of eternal progress.
To get a glimpse of what this means requires a knowledge of the form and nature of God and of man and their relationship to each other.
Man is a soul, that is, a dual being, a spirit person clothed in a tangible body of flesh and bones. God is a perfected, saved soul enjoying eternal life. He is both immortal and exalted to the highest glory. He is enjoying that blessed condition which men may attain to by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
The Almighty is not alone in his eternal glory. Myriads of saved souls enjoy his society. Family relationships prevail there; spirit offspring are born there; our spirits were born there. Modern revelation affirms the fact that all the inhabitants of the worlds are the “begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:24.) God our Heavenly Father is in fact and reality the father of our spirits. We are “his offspring” (Acts 17:28) as Paul declared in his great speech on Mars’ hill.
God the Father is an immortal soul. Man is not yet an immortal soul. He is a human mortal soul subject to death. Man’s body will upon death return to the earth from whence it sprang, and the spirit of man—what happens to it? Many people have pondered this all-important question. Shakespeare raised and commented upon it when he put into the mouth of Hamlet his famous “To be, or not to be” speech.
To be, or not to be—that is the question. …
To die, to sleep—
… and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep—perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Hamlet, 3, i, 56, 60–82
Shakespeare in these lines dramatically poses the question as to what happens to man’s spirit after death, but he leaves it unanswered. He did not know that the Lord had given a direct answer to the question.
About 75 years b.c. there lived in America a prophet of God by the name of Alma who was so concerned about what happens to the souls of men after death that he sought the Lord in prayer with such mighty faith that the Lord sent an angel who revealed to him that “the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, … are taken home to that God who gave them life.
“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked … shall be cast out into outer darkness; …
“… this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.” (Alma 40:11–14.)
The Church accepts this scripture as a statement of fact.
These words of Alma presume a literal, universal resurrection such as declared by Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians:
“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.)
The Church believes the scriptural doctrine that Jesus Christ through his victory over death opened the grave for himself not only but for all mankind. It believes that the resurrection is an indispensable step on the way to salvation.
The Church also accepts the scriptural doctrine that following the resurrection each person—then an immortal soul—will be arraigned before the bar of God’s justice and receive a final judgment based on his performance during his mortal probation, that the verdict will turn on obedience or disobedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. If these laws and ordinances have been complied with during mortal life, the candidate will be cleansed from the stain of sin by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and be saved in the celestial kingdom of God, there to enjoy with God eternal life. Those who have not complied with the laws and ordinances of the gospel will receive a lesser reward.
Alma speaks of this final judgment as follows:
“And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.
“But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; … and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.” (Alma 40:25–26.)
In about 550 b.c. an earlier American prophet treated this whole subject of how “through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3) in such a masterful fashion that I have chosen to conclude these remarks with a rather long quotation from his record. It will take about six minutes to listen to it, but it will be well worth our time.
The reward for understanding and implementing what I will read will be eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God. Addressing his brethren, he said:
“I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come; wherefore I know that ye know that our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God.
“Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem [he was talking, as I said, some nearly 600 years b.c.] from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.
“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.
“Wherefore, it [meaning the atonement which Christ was to make for man’s transgressions] must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
“O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
“And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; …
“And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, … death, … which is … temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
“And … death … which is … spiritual … shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; [that’s an interesting definition, to be shut off from the presence of God is literally hell] wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.
“O how great the plan of our God! For … the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
“Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.
“And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God.
“And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, … they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; … and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.
“But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
“O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
“O how great the holiness of our God! …
“And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
“And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.
“And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Ne. 9:4–9, 11–16, 18–23.)
On the other hand, those who will “repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end” shall be saved. (2 Ne. 9:24.)
Such, my beloved brothers and sisters and friends, is the way prescribed by the Lord in which all may obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel and thereby be saved through the atonement of Christ.
I bear you my personal witness to the truth of these teachings and to the further fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s church established, endowed with the authority, and commissioned by him to teach and administer the saving principles and ordinances of his gospel to all mankind.
In all humility, kindness, love, and sincerity, we invite you to carefully listen to and prayerfully investigate our message. If you will do so, you shall receive a like witness and be on your way to salvation, to being saved in the kingdom of God. That it may be so with all of us, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.