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Salvation for the Dead

The doctrine of salvation for the dead affirms God's fairness and liberality. The doctrine repudiates visions of everlasting damnation for people who do not meet certain religious requirements before their time on earth runs out: the "heathen," the "unsaved," and so on. Instead, our tradition anticipates that people's spiritual journeys continue beyond this life. The dead grow in character and understanding; they can change religions.

This vision offers hope that things we leave unfinished in life need not remain unfinished. Death does not close the possibilities for forgiveness and reconciliation. The doctrine of salvation for the dead, combined with the doctrine of sealing, assures us that estrangement from loved ones is not permanent. Our Heavenly Parents do not cease to draw us to themselves.

Vicarious work for the dead is potentially offensive because it implies that lives which did not end in the LDS Church were inadequate. This issue requires unstinting sensitivity. At the same time, family history and temple work have the positive effect of promoting a sense of heritage, of being connected to those who preceded us and to all their descendants (D&C 2:1-2). We see ourselves as collaborating with loved ones beyond the veil in a divine project that encompasses all time and space (D&C 128:15, 22-23). We learn that every life has ultimate significance. Every individual has a history; every individual belongs in history. No life should be forgotten.

 Some things must wait; life isn't long enough.
 Some dreams must wait to come true. . . .
 There's never enough time,
 and that is why I'm glad we go on forever.
Carol Lynn Pearson, My Turn on Earth (1977)

Brigham Young: If [parents] conduct themselves towards [their children] as they should, binding them to the Lord by their faith and prayers, I care not where those children go, they are bound up to their parents by an everlasting tie, and no power of earth or hell can separate them from their parents in eternity; they will return again to the fountain from whence they sprang.

Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1954), 208

John Taylor: Elijah has appeared that the hearts of the fathers might be turned to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers— . . . that there may be, as the Prophet Joseph has said, a welding link that will cement and bind other peoples with us and we with them, and that there may be a bond of union, also, between the people on earth and those in heaven, that we may operate together, they in the heavens and we on the earth, for the accomplishment of the purposes of God pertaining to the peoples that have lived, that now live and that will live.

Journal of Discourses 23:323-326

Orson F. Whitney: The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return.
Conference Report, April 1929, 110

John A. Widtsoe: If I read this revelation correctly [D&C 2], it points out that humanity will win no peace, nor harmony, nor salvation, as we use the word, unless we learn to love one another. . . . [I]n the spirit of brotherhood alone lies the safe future of humankind. . . . The brotherhood of this revelation is more than the brotherhood existing between living people. . . . We must establish a spirit of brotherhood among us and those who have gone before, most of whom we know only as names. The human race is one great family—all children of God.
Conference Report, April 1950, 128-129

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