Christ’s Plan for all Mankind

Nephi Received a Revelation not Mentioned in the Book of Mormon

Nephi received a revelation not mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  He, like all holy men, was promised that he will stand with Christ at the latter-day upon the earth (see D&C 45:11-14).  He repeatedly claimed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for himself and his people, as well as all mankind., They could be part of the kingdom that will “stand for ever” (see Daniel 2:45) They could participate in the dispensation of the fulness of times wherein Christ will gather all things together in one (see Ephesians 1:10).  They could come with him at his second coming and participate in the glorious millennial day.  The Book of Mormon makes more sense when we realize the ancients looked upon our day with self-interest.

Introduction

Nephi talked a lot to his people about the latter-day Zion, the gathering of God’s elect, Christ’s second coming and the Millennium.  Why would his people care?  It may help if we ask the same question about King Nebuchadnezzar. He dreamt about God’s latter-day kingdom (see Daniel 2).  Why would he care?  President Gordon B. Hinckley offered a helpful perspective. He taught,

“Ours is a vision greater than that granted any other people who have walked the earth. It encompasses all of the sons and daughters of God of all generations of time, those who have walked the earth, those now upon the earth, and those yet to come upon the earth.  For the salvation and eternal life of all of these we have a responsibility.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted by Jeffrey R. Holland, 2/5/1999, “Our Consuming Mission,” Address to CES Religious Educators, Salt Lake Tabernacle. February 5th, 1999).

We understand how our church is for all mankind. Salvation for the dead isn’t a new concept to any of us. And yet when I’ve asked knowledgeable members, “Why would Nebuchadnezzar care?” the answer invariably has been, “I’m not sure he would care.  His dream seems to be more for us than him.”  When we read the scriptures, we tend to think latter-day prophecies are for Latter-day Saints. We know better. This appears to be more of a direction thing than a knowledge thing.  When we read about our day, we tend to look in our direction.

Our God would not show someone the kingdom responsible for his salvation and not tell him that.  Daniel must have told his king he could be part of that kingdom. But the record doesn’t say. Thankfully there is an instance wherein the record does say.  The Lord told Zerubbabel that he would be an authorized member of that kingdom.

And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;

And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother (Haggai 2:20-22).

The footnote to this verse (Haggai 2:22 a) ties the destruction of these kingdoms to the kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  Haggai continues,

In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:23).

Whatever that promise entails, it suggests Zerubbabel will be there “in that day.” Actually he was promised to be there hundreds of times.  He built a temple. Every sacrifice on the altar was a promise of redemption through Jesus Christ.  The threshold to the Holy Place  represents Christ’s second coming (see Ezekiel 9:3). The Holy Place prefigured our millennial journey.  The jewels on the high priest’s breastplate represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They are not merely the twelve tribes of Israel, they are gathered Israel. On that high priest they are one.  That only happens in the last days when Christ carries his church on his shoulders next to his heart, across that threshold, through the Millennium, into the presence of God (see Malachi 3:16-18).

Whenever Zerubbabel crossed that threshold, he was, in essence, promised that he would come with Christ at his second coming.  Every time he stood in the Holy Place, he was, in essence, promised to be part of the terrestrial millennial world.  Every time he entered the Holy of Holies he was, in essence,  promised to one day be admitted into the presence of Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. Likewise the Lord promised Enoch,

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.

And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other (Moses 7:62-63)

Referring to that promise, the Lord told Joseph Smith that they (Enoch and his people) . . . were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations; And confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; But obtained a promise that they should find it and see it in their flesh (D&C 45:12-14).

All holy men sought for and obtained the promise of participating in Christ’s second coming.  Adam exclaimed, “in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).  Job testified, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).

Every faithful member of the church has been promised, “before the arm of the Lord shall fall, an angel shall sound his trump, and the saints that have slept shall come forth to meet me in the cloud (D&C 45:45).  Zachariah prophesied, “and the Lord my God shall come, and  all the saints with thee” (Zechariah 12:5). Likewise, Joseph Smith spoke of,

“Thousands who have gone before us, whose garments are spotless, and who are, like Job, waiting with an assurance like his, that they will see Him in the latter day upon the earth, even in their flesh” (History of the Church 2:15-17; “The Elders of the Church in Kirtland, to their Brethren Abroad,” Jan.22, 1834, published in Evening and Morning Star, Mar. 1834 p. 143).

Therefore if Daniel and Nephi were promised to participate in that kingdom, they must have told their people the possibilities.  When the prophets taught their people about the latter-days, it must have been because they wanted them to be saved. When Nephi told his brothers they could liken Isaiah’s latter-day message unto themselves (see 1 Nephi 19:21), it must have been because it applies to them.  He said it would give them “hope” (1 Nephi 19:23).

Like Zerubbabel, Nephi built a temple (2 Nephi 5:16)  He didn’t mention he was promised to see that “day of righteousness.”  But whenever he crossed that threshold he was promised he would.  Perhaps the greatest evidence he thought these things were for him, is that he repeatedly told his people they are for them.

All

‘As referred to above, ancient and modern temples beautifully portray the plan of salvation. That plan includes the gathering of God’s elect, the Restoration, Second Coming and Millennium.  Right before Nephi quoted Isaiah talking about the latter-day temple, gathering of Israel, Christ’s second coming and the Millennium (see 2 Nephi 12 Chapter heading), he said who these things are for.

“And now I write a some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men” (2 Nephi 11:8).

But many have a problem with calling these things “the plan.”  A peer reviewer for the Religious Educator recently wrote to me, “We really can’t call these things the plan.” Not only do we generally not include them in our discussions of the plan, many are prepared to argue that we can’t or we shouldn’t. There are many who have no problem with these things.  Church Correlation has cleared these concepts a couple times.  But I have had many respond like that reviewer.  They say for something to be part of “the plan’’ it must be for everyone and everyone knows Abraham is already exalted (see D&C 132:37).  It is hard to see how he would need our church or the Millennium.  So when President Hinckley said our church is for all, in their minds he must have meant almost all. Nebuchadnezzar needing God’s latter-day kingdom is understandable, Nephi and Zerubbabel needing it is not so clear. Elder Dallin H. Oakes taught,

Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father’s worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences.” (Elder Dallin H. Oakes, October Conference 1993 “The Great Plan of Happiness).

Abraham is one of “all of our Father’s worthy children.”  Could he be “incomplete” in some way?  Joseph Smith wrote about knowledge “Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory (D&C 121:27).

He taught that not even Adam can “receive a fullness until Christ shall present the Kingdom to the Father, which shall be at the end of the last dispensation” (Joseph Smith, The Joseph Smith Papers, History, 1838-1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838-31, July 1842, p. 17).     

When Christ comes our “redemption shall be perfected” (D&C 45:46), he will “complete the salvation of man” (D&C 77:12).  Obtaining a fullness, Joseph Smith taught, is “according to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest” (D&C 121:32). In other words it was planned.

Someone being a god doesn’t mean they can’t progress. Christ was God and yet, “He received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” (D&C 93:13).  In many ways Abraham and others will benefit from our day.  Elder John Taylor taught,   

The ancient Nephites who lived on the earth, those men of God who, through faith, wrought righteousness, accomplished a good work and obtained exaltation, are as much interested in the welfare of their descendants as we are, and a good deal more; and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and those ancient men of God who once lived on the earth, and who yet live, are as much interested in the accomplishment of God’s purposes as we are, and a good deal more…We are not alone in these things, others are operating with us, I mean all the men of God who ever lived, and they are as much interested as we are, and a good deal more, for they know more, and “they without us cannot be made perfect” neither can we be perfected without them. …there is a combination of earthly beings and of heavenly beings, all under the influence of the same priesthood, which is an everlasting priesthood, and whose administrations are effective in time and in eternity. We are all operating together, to bring about the same things and to accomplish the same purposes. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 17:213).

Someone being in heaven won’t exclude them from participating in our dispensation. Paul wrote, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (see Ephesians 1:10). 

For years I’ve asked colleagues and students “What will we do in the Millennium?”  The answer has invariably been, “Temple work and missionary work.”  Rarely has anyone said, “Learn from Jesus Christ.”  We know when Christ comes, he will reveal all things (see D&C 101:3-35).  We know we will see our teacher (see JST Isaiah 30:20).  But when we depict or discuss the plan that is not in the picture.  I assume those who do see these things assume everybody does.

Being taught by Jesus Christ in the Millennium is an important part of the plan. I cannot find that sentence anywhere.  But recently Elder Garret W. Gong taught, “a thousand millennial years when Satan is bound may give us needed time and surprising ways to love, understand, and work things out as we prepare for eternity” (General Conference, Oct. 2022).  What will we do in the Millennium?  Prepare for eternity.  That’s the plan.  

If we include Christ’s church, his second coming and his millennial ministry in our thoughts of the plan, the Book of Mormon makes more sense.  That requires we realize these things are for all mankind.  The Book of Mormon prophets said that repeatedly.   

A Church for all Mankind

With a vision of the last days (see 1 Nephi 8-15), a temple portraying God’s plan, along with the promise of coming with Christ at his second coming, Nephi, quoted Isaiah.

Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all our brethren who are of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:6).

Those days to come are the latter days. That standard is the restored church. Nephi was claiming it for his people (“and it meaneth us”), as well as all the house of Israel. Later Nephi asked his brother Jacob to speak to his brothers about the same prophecy.

And now, behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah. And they are the words which my brother has desired that I should speak unto you. And I speak unto you for your sakes, that ye may learn and glorify the name of your God.

And now, the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.

And now, these are the words: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders (2 Nephi 6:4-6, italics added).

Some may interpret this prophecy to mean the latter-day Zion will bless Israel’s children living in the last days, which of course is true. But that hardly constitutes “all the house of Israel.” What about Israel’s children who lived in 1492? Surely, they are part of “all.” And how could the latter-day gathering be for Jacob’s people’s “sakes”?  If that standard is not for them, then he and Nephi would be difficult to understand. On the other hand, if they saw our church the way we see our church, as really being for all, their words make perfect sense.

That reference to that standard to be raised was central in Nephi’s commentary on two chapters of Isaiah (Isaiah 48 and 49). Before reading those chapters to his brothers, he identified Isaiah’s intended audience.

Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written (1 Nephi 19:24).

Those “from whom [they had] been broken off” ended up in Babylon. They were taken into bondage because they, like the ten tribes, hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel (see 1 Nephi 22:5). The first chapter Nephi quoted (Isaiah 48) is about Israel being chosen in the furnace of affliction and eventually returning to Jerusalem.

The Lord prophesied that furnace would do its job. “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isaiah 1:25). The nightmare of being torn from home and family, scattered, and made to serve in bondage must have refined many of them. Yet most of Israel, even if penitent, would find themselves without the gospel in this life and confined to Spirit Prison in the life to come. We know if they came to their senses and would have accepted the gospel had it been available, they can be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God (see Doctrine and Covenants 137:7). We know that will require the latter-day church Isaiah spoke so much about.

This is likely why Nephi quoted the next chapter. It talks about the prisoners being freed from Spirit Prison (see 1 Nephi 21:9), the Lord assuring Israel He had not forgotten them (see 1 Nephi 21:14–16), and that standard to be raised in the last days (see 1 Nephi 21:22). Commenting on that standard, Nephi spoke of a “marvelous work,” and the Lord “bringing about his covenants and his gospel” (see 1 Nephi 22:8-11). In other words, he centered on the Restoration.

But whom he said that Restoration is intended, may be his most important teaching. After quoting those Isaiah chapters, he began by explaining, “And since they [the ten tribes] have been led away these things have been prophesied concerning them, and also concerning all those who shall hereafter be scattered and be confounded” (1 Nephi 22:5, italics added).  

Combining this with his introduction to those Isaiah chapters, it is as if he said, “The latter-day Zion is for those who have been scattered, those who are now being scattered, and those who would hereafter be scattered and confounded. It is for all the house of Israel.” He sounds a lot like President Hinckley.

When the standard (the latter-day church) is raised, and Israel’s seed is nourished, they are not all the house of Israel. They are Israel’s children living in the last days. They are the branches.  Perhaps that’s why Nephi said, “these things of which are spoken are temporal” (1 Nephi 22:6). But that standard (which includes their seed) will bless all mankind. Perhaps that’s why he said these things are “both temporal and spiritual” (see 1 Nephi 22:1–3 and 1 Nephi 15:31–32). Nephi continued with his commentary on those two Isaiah chapters.

And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.

And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed (1 Nephi 22:8–9, italics added).

We understand how Abraham’s seed will bless all the families of the earth. We understand how our mission encompasses all mankind. Nephi understood the same, evidenced by his subsequent explanation that blessing all the kindreds of the earth necessitated the Lord establishing his church in the last days.

And I would, my brethren that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:10–11).

Immediately after these verses, Nephi said, “Wherefore.” “Wherefore” means “as a consequence of.” As a consequence of God “bringing about his covenants and his gospel,” he will save the dead. Nephi continued,

Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel (1 Nephi 22:12).

Who are they? They are those who had hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel (see 1 Nephi 22:5).  They are “all the house of Israel.” Nephi said that six times before this verse (1 Nephi 22:12).

Nephi’s use of the word “captivity” seems to correspond with Isaiah’s phrase “that thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth.” We teach that has reference to salvation for the dead (see 1 Nephi 21 footnote 9a).  Isaiah taught, “to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.” Likewise, Nephi taught “and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance.” Isaiah described “them that sit in darkness.” Nephi added “they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness” (1Nephi 21:8-9 compared with 1 Nephi 22:12).

“Obscurity” can be likened to state of being unknown. We bring our ancestors out of obscurity through Family Search. We bring them out of darkness through preaching the gospel on both sides of the veil. We bring them out of captivity by doing the ordinances for them—all of them.

The Book of Mormon is for all Mankind

If Christ’s latter-day church is for all, is the Book of Mormon is also for all? Do missionaries use the Book of Mormon when they preach the gospel in the spirit world? Is the tool we use to gather here used to gather there?  Does it convince Jew and Gentile on both sides of the veil? Is that most correct book here correct there? Do its doctrines fit that realm? Jacob wrote about escaping the grasp of that awful monster death and hell.  What does that mean to those more fully acquainted with that monster?  Alma taught, “Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word” (Alma 5:7).  Does that happen in hell? Is that book there?  Does that verse from Alma have deeper meaning there?  The way the scriptures are used when we make covenants for the dead demands they have access to them.  Seeing the Book of Mormon through the eyes of someone in hell can change how we see that book. From their perspective it is a bigger, better, brighter book.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “The more clearly we see eternity, the more obvious it becomes that the Lord’s work in which we are engaged is one vast and grand work with striking similarities on each side of the veil.”[4].  How well do we suppose Mormon saw eternity?  Did he realize the bulk of mankind would receive the gospel and his book on the other side of the veil?  Did he know Christ’s church would be for the salvation of the human family; that its keystone here would be its keystone there?  Nephi said his words “teach all men that they should do good” (2 Nephi 33:10).  Did he really mean all?

Knowing the Book of Mormon is also for the dead can shed light on some difficult passages.  For instance, Abinadi taught wicked priests “And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (Mosiah 15:28).  That time is our day.  Why would those priests or even Alma care?  If this passage doesn’t apply to them, it is weird for Abinadi to bring it up.  But it does apply to them.  They are a part of “every.”

Joseph Smith taught, “The things of God are of deep import, and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss,”

(History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842][b], p. 904[b], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed April 25, 2024, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/86?highlight=thy%20mind%20o%20man#source-note).

Wicked judges asked Alma and Amulek, “How shall we look when we are damned?” (Alma 14:21) Wicked priests of Noah’s court should have asked the same question. King Benjamin offers an answer.

Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever (Mosiah 2:38).

If those priests did not repent, as we “search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss” we find them there. We hand them that book and through their eyes we read,

And now, it came to pass that after Abinadi had spoken these words he stretched forth his hand and said: The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just (Mosiah 16:1).

In mortality that meant nothing to them.  In hell it means everything.  Why stretch forth his hand for emphasis if it won’t apply to them?   Like those who were disobedient in the days of Noah (pun intended, see 1 Peter 3:20), they’ll hear the gospel as Abinadi promised. But he also warned,

And then shall the wicked be cast out, and they shall have cause to howl, and weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; and this because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord; therefore the Lord redeemeth them not (Mosiah 16:2).

Abinadi wasn’t inserting in his message something applicable only to future generations.  He was talking to them.  Did he know they would hear his words again?  We can’t be sure.  But we know God knew. He knew “the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (Mosiah 15:28).  And he knew that would include that book.

Like a seer stone in a hat, that book shines brighter in darkness. From that perspective we can see things we never saw before. The first words we read from Mormon’s hand offer a good example.

And now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them (Words of Mormon 1:1-2, italics added).

Alma prophesied (and Mormon recorded) that the Nephites would become “extinct” (Alma 45:11). That is as definitive as “entire destruction.”  Any Nephites who remained in Moroni’s day were numbered among the Lamanites, meaning they were no longer Nephites (see Alma 45:11-14, see also 1 Nephi 15:5 and 1 Nephi 15:14). For Moroni to “survive them” meant they would be dead (see Mormon 6:11).

We may have previously read this passage as if Mormon was simply thinking about the future descendants of Lehi, both Lamanites and former Nephites who joined them. But in this passage Mormon doesn’t use the terms that are frequently used to describe the future remnants of Lehi’s posterity. After speaking of the Nephites about to be slain, he refers to “them.” The “them” at the end of the above passage is the same “them” at the beginning of that passage: slain Nephites. The most natural reading is that Mormon was thinking about his soon to be annihilated people, and he hoped his record would some day help them.

The Book of Mormon can hardly benefit anyone without the atonement of Jesus Christ being available to them. Reading a book about Christ in hell, without access to his atonement, would only add coal to the fire. Mormon repeatedly taught that that access requires baptism. If he knew his book would go to the dead, he knew baptism would be made available to them. This suggests Mormon recognized that the work for the dead would be underway in our day, a day in which his sacred record would benefit both the living and the dead.

When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon he didn’t know about salvation for the dead. Indeed he was surprised to learn his brother Alvin could make it to the Celestial Kingdom (see D&C 137).  Even still it took years and keys for him to understand how.  The Book of Mormon prophets gave plenty of evidence they knew God would redeem the dead.

Peter wrote, “For for this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh . . .” (1 Peter 4:6).  Men in the flesh have the scriptures, the standards for that judgment.  The Savior taught that “out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged” (3 Nephi 27:26).  Regarding the judgment, and his book, Mormon wrote,

And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore, I write unto you all. And for this cause, I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil (Mormon 3:20).

And also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus, whom they slew, was the very Christ and the very God (Mormon 3:20-21).

We may assume he was writing to the Jews in general, not to those who actually slew their Messiah.  After all, they would be dead when his book comes forth.  The Book of Mormon prophets, at times, referred to the Jews as if they were corporate Israel.  For example, Jacob prophesied that the Jews would be carried captive into Babylon (around 600 B.C.), then return to Jerusalem (around 530 B.C.), and then crucify Jesus (around 34 A.D.; see 2 Nephi 6: 8-9). We don’t assume he thought the Jews of his day would slay Jesus. Likewise, we don’t think Mormon thought the Jews of our day would see and hear and crucify Him.  We tend to think he was writing to the Jews, “the covenant people of the Lord,” who are an extension of them.

If Mormon was treating the Jews as corporate Israel, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t including those who actually killed Jesus (around 34 A.D.).  In the context of witnesses, it seems he was saying those who actually saw him would be given another witness.  He sounds like he thought his book would be as universal (“the whole human family of Adam”) as the judgment; that it would be an additional witness (maybe even an additional chance) for those who saw and heard and slew their God.  If not, it is still interesting that that passage allows for either interpretation; that book, more times than not, accommodates either side of the veil.  This passage from Nephi can also go either way.

Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.

And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.

And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come, for there should not any come, save it should be a false Messiah which should deceive the people; for there is save one Messiah spoken of by the prophets, and that Messiah is he who should be rejected of the Jews (2 Nephi 25:15-18).

The Savior himself prophesied that the people of his day would get Mormon’s book. In 34 A.D. he told the people at Bountiful how they would know the latter-day gathering had commenced.

And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place-that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion (3 Nephi 21:1, italics added).

The sign, he explained, would be the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  We know those he was talking to would be long gone when that book comes forth.  Why would they care about that sign?  The Savior told Joseph Smith why.  Around 34 A.D. he told his disciples in Jerusalem why they would be interested in the signs of his coming.

And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying: As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of heaven, to fulfil the promises that I have made unto your fathers, For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel (D&C 45:16-17).

They will know when the Book of Mormon comes forth. And they will have that book.  The Savior, at Bountiful, continued, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them [the gentiles] of the Father, and shall come forth of the Father, from them unto you” (3 Nephi 21:2-3).

This may sound like corporate Israel, but he then differentiates between them and their seed.  Concerning their seed, the Savior continued,

“For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them [the gentiles] unto a remnant of your seed . . .” (3 Nephi 21:4).

It seems clear he was saying, “This book will come unto you, and your seed.”  He then makes it clear he thinks there is a difference between “you” and “your seed.” “Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed . . .” (3 Nephi 21:4-5).

And then he told them that that sign he said they would get, would also be given to their seed.And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things-it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 21:7).

“I give unto you a sign.”  “It shall be a sign unto them.”  It seems the Savior was saying that those people and their seed would see that sign and get that book.

The Ends of the Earth

When he later spoke to his disciples about the name of his church, he switched from talking to them to the ends of the earth.  Jacob can help here.  He taught,

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 Nephi 9:21-23).

The resurrection is for all.  The judgment is for all.  The command to repent and be baptized is for all.  In this passage “all” is defined as “every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.”  In Third Nephi the Savior gives the command Jacob said he gives all men.     

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works (3 Nephi 27:14-15).

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day (3 Nephi 27:20).

“All ye ends of the earth” seems to be synonymous with “all men,” even “every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.”

A Marvelous Work for all

How many people were baptized into our church last year? Probably around 200;000. And yet we know the real figure is millions more, taking into account the work on the other side of the veil.  So which church did Mormon see, the one of Joseph Smith’s day which baptized thousands, or the one gathering millions (and striving to ultimately gather all)?  When the Book of Mormon authors talked about our church, they always used that word. Of that work, the Lord at Bountiful continued, 

For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them (3 Nephi 21:9).  

And they [the gentiles] shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:23). 

And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst (3 Nephi 21:25).    

This does not sound like corporate Israel.  This sounds like Israel’s seed living in the last days.  And then the work will go to all.

And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:26, italics added).

Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name (3 Nephi 21:27, italics added).

Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance (3 Nephi 21: 28, italics added).

Christ saying the same thing three times sounds like he wants us to know his work will commence among all of his people.  Ezekiel was shown that “the whole house of Israel” will be gathered home to the land of their inheritance (see Ezekiel 37).  As we continue, we will see when the Book of Mormon mentions “the remnant of this people,” it is almost always followed by the word “all.”  Nephi finished his small plates with the following.

And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.

And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day. (2 Nephi 33: 13-14).

Like Mormon, Nephi connected his book to the judgment.  Of that judgment, Nephi wrote,

Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written (2 Nephi 25:22).

Nephi knew that the Lord would “commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (2 Nephi 30:8).  He knew his words would go to the “ends of the earth,” “as long as the earth shall stand” (2 Nephi 25:22), and so he ended his record with,

 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good (2 Nephi 33:10).

These words, that are for “all [the] ends of the earth,” teach “all men that they should do good.” It sounds like he thought they were for all.  

A Book for Lamanites and Nephites

Mormon and Moroni wrote specifically to the Lamanites of the last days (see Title page and Mormon 7), perhaps because they knew the Nephites would be entirely destroyed.  Mormon wrote Fourth Nephi.  He knew the Lamanites and Nephites had become one people.  But in his day they were once again two nations.  In the end, as a people, there were no Nephites. He wrote,

And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression and have been murdered, plundered, and hunted, and driven forth, and slain, and scattered upon the face of the earth, and mixed with the Lamanites until they are no more called the Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites (Helaman 3:16).

In our day the missionaries were called to go amongst the “Lamanites” (see D&C 32), not the “Lamanites and Nephites,” probably because there are no Nephites. Before that call, the Lord acknowledged they had been destroyed.

And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindled in unbelief because of the iniquity of their fathers, whom the Lord has suffered to destroy their brethren the Nephites, because of their iniquities and their abominations. (Doctrine and Covenants 3:16–18).

It is therefore interesting that, when Joseph Smith lost the 116 pages, the Lord told him,

Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people- And to the Nephites, and the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites, through the testimony of their fathers- (D&C 3:16-17).

Speaking of the last days when God’s word will be gathered into one, the Lord prophesied,

And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.

And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever (2 Nephi 29:13-14).

We cannot assume God will only remember Abraham’s seed living in the last days.  Regarding that gathering, and regarding inheriting the lands of their possessions, Ezekiel prophesied,

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11–12, italics added).

In this prophecy we might wonder if the gathering includes any living? It is in that context wherein the Lord prophesied, “then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions” (Ezekiel 37:16).

Mormon and Moroni wrote specifically to the Lamanites.  But they also wrote to the “Jews or all the house of Israel” (which includes Nephites, see Mormon 5:14) and the gentiles, meaning the rest of mankind (see Title page and Mormon 3:18-20), and all the ends of the earth (2 Nephi 29:2; 2 Nephi 33:10-13;  Mosiah 12:21; 3 Nephi 27:20; Mormon 3:18-22; Moroni 10:24), which apparently means the entire human family.  

Joseph F. Smith taught,

The work in which Joseph Smith was engaged was not confined to this life alone, but it pertains as well to the life to come, and to the life that has been.  In other words, it relates to those who have lived upon the earth, to those who are living and to those who shall come after us.  It is not something which relates to man only while he tabernacles in the flesh, but to the whole human family from eternity to eternity.[6]

On the subject of the gathering, President Marion G. Romney taught, “These predictions by the Book of Mormon prophets make it perfectly clear that the restoration of the house of Israel to the lands of their inheritance will signal their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Redeemer.”[7]. The following passage is a good example of his point.  Mormon explained,

And behold, they [the words of the Book of Mormon] shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go—that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant (Mormon 5:14, italics added).

Mormon seems to be saying the house of Israel will be restored to the land of their inheritance, when they accept Jesus Christ through the instrumentality of the Book of Mormon. To accept their Redeemer, they must be baptized.  That, we know, requires The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Here, of course, we must recognize that some absolute terms in the scriptures must be understood with caution, recognizing that they may sometimes be used as a figure of speech for emphasis.  Eve, after all, was not technically the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20).  She did not bear kittens.  And we do not assume “all Judaea” went out to meet John the Baptist (Matthew 3:5)  However, there does not seem to be evidence to propose significant unmentioned limitations on the intended scope of the Lord’s work to bring the Gospel message to all..

The Doctrine and Covenants begins with a seemingly impossible prophecy.  “There is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated” (D&C 1:2).  On the day that verse was given about 150,000 people on our planet died. They did not see, nor hear, nor was their heart penetrated in this life.  When section 1 was given, no one, including Joseph Smith, knew how that verse could be true.

Later, in section 1, the Lord gave a hint as to how, “Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear” (D&C 1:11).  If those ends are on both sides of the veil, everything makes sense. Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni, all said their words would go to “the ends of the earth” (2 Nephi 33:10; Mormon 3:18; Moroni 10:24). So when the Savior said “Repent, all ye ends of the earth,” it seems he was thinking more than his message would get to Australia.

Cast off Forever

Joseph Smith taught,

“All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all. . .”  We can therefore expect the Book of Mormon to apply equally to those with or without bodies, on either side of the veil.

Actually some doctrines in the Book of Mormon seem to apply more to those on the other side of the veil.  How hell is described in that book (discussed later) may be more for the dead than the living.  The same may be true of the phrases “cast off forever.”

According to Moroni, the Book of Mormon will let the remnant of the house of Israel know “that they are not cast off forever” (Book of Mormon Title Page).  That’s a strange passage.  Tell your neighbors “this book will show you that you are not cast off forever.”  Who on earth thinks they are cast off?  There may be some.  But in hell everyone feels that way.  As wayward as Laman and Lemuel were, they did not think they were cast off. Their brother Jacob taught,

“Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever”(1 Nephi 10:21).

“Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off” (1 Nephi 15: 33).

Lehi taught, “Behold, my soul is rent with anguish because of you, and my heart is pained; I fear lest ye shall be cast off forever” (1 Nephi 17: 47).

Nephi wrote, “And it came to pass after my father had spoken all the words of his dream or vision, which were many, he said unto us, because of these things which he saw in a vision, he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord” (1 Nephi 8: 36).

“And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off; yea, my father did preach unto them” (1 Nephi 8:37).

In the Book of Mormon a person can be cut off from the presence of the Lord (see 2 Nephi 5:20), but not be “cast off.”  That happens when you die. (see 2 Nephi 30:2; Jacob 5:7; 5:9; 5:26; 5:73; Mosiah 27:16; 27:27; 28:4; Alma 22:6; 22:15; Helaman 12:25; 14:18). King Lamoni had no scriptures, temple or prophet.  In that sense he was cut off from God’s presence.  But he was not “cast off.”  He asked Aaron,

“What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day?” (Alma 22: 15).

As missionaries we don’t suggest to people that they are cast off, but if they repent it won’t be forever.  If they are alive they are not cast off.

“For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off” (2 Nephi 30: 2).

The Jews are sinners now; we all are.  They are scattered; we are as well.  But none of us are cast off.  Jacob made that distinction.

“And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance” (2 Nephi 10:20).

On the other hand, when we share the gospel with those in Spirit Prison, we will be talking to those who have been cast off.  Our message will be that their condition need not be forever.  In hell they must be thrilled to see Moroni’s title page.

That Book in Hell

As Nephi’s record begins we learn that an angel delivered a book to his father. Imagine reading this passage in hell.

And he read saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem-that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.

And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish! (1 Nephi 1:13-14).

People in Spirit Prison would cling to every word of this passage.  No one could tell them they are not a part of “all the inhabitants of the earth.”

In those verses Lehi saw the impending destruction of family and friends.  If God’s goodness and mercy doesn’t include them, his rejoicing seems incongruent.  On the other hand, if “all” really means all, the passage makes sense. It sounds like the voice of him whose throne is high in the heavens, who is not concerned if we are in our bodies or not.

Hope

Nephi said Isaiah’s words (regarding our church) offered hope to his brothers and all the house of Israel (see 1 Nephi 19:21).  Israelites in bondage or in hell reading, “That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth” (1 Nephi 21:9) could give them hope. But can they “go forth” without baptism? Is hope possible without baptism? Nephi didn’t think so. He later wrote,

I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation (2 Nephi 33:9).

This makes most sense if viewed in light of baptism for the dead.  How else could our church offer ancient Israel hope? There is no hope in telling wayward people, “Although you’re going to (or are in) hell, at least your children (or parts of a future corporate Israel) will be saved.” Hope is deeply personal. Notwithstanding all our Savior has done for us, without access to his atonement, we are hopeless. His atonement makes salvation possible. Zion makes it available. So that although there is a strong reference to Christ’s atonement in the chapters Nephi read (see 1 Nephi 21:14-16), he centered on Zion. Even in that reference, Christ’s church is part of the picture.

Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me-but he will show that he hath not. . .Yea. . . I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (1 Nephi 21:14-16).

Those walls (as we will see) are the latter-day Zion. Surely, they are continually before him because they are his mechanism for saving the world.  Zion has everything to do with how we will be saved.

The phrase “but he will show that he hath not,” is not found in the King James version of Isaiah. That prophecy was, at least in one way, fulfilled by the drama surrounding King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  The monarch’s outlandish demands for the interpretation of that dream would have made it very public, and Daniel’s resulting interpretation would serve to remind the people that the Lord had not forgotten them, and that His kingdom yet had a destiny.   Isaiah’s prophecy coupled with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream could indeed give the Israelites hope, but only if they realized the walls of Isaiah’s prophecy have a gate, and that one day, they could go through it.

But the odds of exiles in Babylon having the words of Isaiah in this life are slim.  Nevertheless, if they received them in the Spirit World, Isaiah’s words could indeed give them hope. Nephi saying isaiah’s message could give exiled Israelites hope, seems to imply that most of them would receive his message in the afterlife.

As mentioned above, on the subject of the gathering, President Marion G. Romney taught, “that the restoration of the house of Israel to the lands of their inheritance will signal their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Redeemer.”[10]  Can they accept their Redeemer without baptism?  Jacob did not seem to think so. He connected all of Israel being gathered to lands of inheritance with them coming into God’s true church.

And now, my beloved brethren, I have read these things that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel–

That he has spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets, even from the beginning down, from generation to generation, until the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God; when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise (2 Nephi 9:1–2).

There is only one church.  There is only one fold.  There is only one shepherd.   Before Israel is gathered to the lands of their inheritance, they must join that church.  When commenting on the prophet Zenos’s allegory (which is all about the gathering), Jacob exclaimed, “how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches” (Jacob 6:4, italics added). We have no problem conceptualizing how the branches will be gathered (grafted in) in the last days.  But the word “us” includes the roots. The roots, we know are ancient Israel. “And, behold, the roots. . . are yet alive” (Jacob 5:54). Branches need roots and roots need branches. Jacob’s statement suggests we are all in this together. We all need The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which shows up in the allegory—Jacob 5:61).

Did They Know the Gospel Would be Preached to The Dead?

King Benjamin described two groups who are considered blameless after death. The first is those who die without the gospel. “For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned” (Mosiah 3:11). The second are children who die before the age of accountability. “For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy” (Mosiah 3:18).

If King Benjamin believed there was an advantage in ignorance, he would not have gone to such lengths to teach his people. He clearly did not see an advantage; instead, he taught, “and even at this time, when thou shalt have taught thy people the things which the Lord thy God hath commanded thee, even then are they found no more blameless in the sight of God” (Mosiah 3:22).

Some might have been concerned that Christ’s atonement no longer covered their ignorance, since King Benjamin, in teaching them, had taken away any “excuse.” However, King Benjamin had already addressed such concerns. Earlier he taught,

And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent (Mosiah 3:20–21).

He went from two blameless groups after death to only one. Once the gospel is taken to every people, ignorance will no longer be excusable. Little children will be blameless, but those who die in their ignorance do not remain in their ignorance. As we have seen, Abinadi made the same prophecy to the priests of King Noah.

If these things didn’t pertain to them, why bring them up? For wicked priests (Abinadi’s audience) who would likely end up in hell, and parents (King Benjamin’s audience) whose children would refuse to be baptized, that message may prove to be the most pertinent of all.

Did They Know Spirits in Hell Could be Redeemed?

Jacob told his brothers that they could “rejoice, and lift up [their] heads forever, because of the blessings which the Lord God shall bestow upon [their] children” (2 Nephi 9:3). Many of their children would perish because of unbelief (see 2 Nephi 10:2). We know—as did Jacob—that those who perish in unbelief, end up in Spirit Prison. That pertained directly to Jacob’s point—God prepared a way to get them out.

“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Nephi 9:10).

As we will see, to escape is not just keeping people out of hell, it includes getting people out. Of that deliverance Jacob continued, “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” (2 Nephi 9:12). Jacob then added that those in Paradise would also be resurrected and judged. Then he continued,

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 assuredly, as the Lord liveth . . . they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them (2 Nephi 9:15–16).

The moment Jacob taught that those in hell are brought out and judged, he was teaching there is salvation for the dead — unless after that judgement they are all sent back.  Enoch saw, “And as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Moses 7:57).

Among that “remainder” will be those who are “filthy still.” They are sons of perdition (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:35 and 102).

Sons of Perdition

There is only one obstinate group that will return to hell forever. Of them the Lord said, “they shall return again to their own place” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:32). They are those who “remain filthy still” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:35). The way Jacob described the fate of those who are filthy still (see 2 Nephi 9:16), is how the Savior described sons of perdition in the Doctrine and Covenants.

These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels-

And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;

Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.

For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.(Doctrine and Covenants 76:33-39; see also D&C 88:35 and 88:102)

President Spencer W. Kimball noted, “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file [members of the Church] to commit such a sin.”[11]  President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles similarly reassured Church members: “Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.”[12]

If defecting to perdition is rare, then why does the Book of Mormon, more times than not, describe hell as being permanent?  In other words, if perdition is almost impossible for members, why is a permanent hell described so often in the book only they read? 

In that book hell is usually described as forever, an everlasting fire from whence we cannot return.  That is probably because if you harden your heart in that realm, that’s your last chance. On this subject, that book seems to be more for those in hell than us.  It can apply to us.  We can end up in hell forever.  But for them, that is likely their only alternative.  And considering all who have died since Adam, that book may be more for them than us.

A few rebellious souls will die being enemies to God.  Of them, King Benjamin taught, “mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment” (see Mosiah 2:36-39).  Of such, the Savior revealed, “there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:34).  The exception highlights the rule, suggesting everyone else has a chance.  The Book of Mormon makes that abundantly clear by saying “all” all the time and then giving the exception by how it describes hell.  All will be saved to some degree except sons of perdition.  

Mormon wrote of the power of God’s word in getting people out (or keeping them out) of hell. Imagine reading the following in hell.

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out (Helaman 3:27-30; Compare with Moses 7:57).

Did They Know God Would Save Those Who Die in Unbelief?

Nephi taught,

After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles . . . and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten (2 Nephi 26:15).

After their seed have dwindled in unbelief and after they are dead (“brought down low to the dust, even that they are not,”) they shall not be forgotten. Indeed “all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.” They are unmistakably dead (see Genesis 42:13 with Genesis 44:20; or Jeremiah 31:15). They died in unbelief. But none of them will be forgotten. All we need know is first, who will remember them, and second, what it means to be remembered.

In the first instance, it is God who will remember them (see 1 Nephi 21:14–16; 2 Nephi 29:2; Jacob 6:4). We cannot assume that he, at some point in eternity, will remember them, but do nothing on their behalf.  If the words of the righteous and prayers of the faithful can yield no more than that, then it is hard to see the purpose of such a promise. To remember them either means to save them to some degree, or it means nothing at all. Isaiah prophesied,

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.
For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. O house of Israel.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me (1 Nephi 21:14–16).

Wilford Woodruff, referring to this passage, said, “Any man who has ever read the book of Isaiah . . . can see that he, with other prophets, had his eye upon the latter-day Zion of God.”[13] Hence, the Lord connects remembering Israel to his Atonement (palms) and his church (walls). To remember them is to save them.

Long before any of Lehi’s seed dwindled in unbelief, God promised Abraham He would remember them. “I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever” (2 Nephi 29:14). Evidently, He remembers all His children. ”and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). We cannot assume he remembers only the lucky heathens living in the last days. Indeed “he rememberth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all” (Mosiah 27:30).

Jacob spoke of many of his people perishing in unbelief, but he knew they would be restored to the knowledge of Christ.

For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer (2 Nephi 10:2, italics added).

The word “many” seems contrary to Jacob’s teaching that all the house of Israel will be restored to the true church and fold of God. It seems contrary to Nephi’s teaching that all who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. Both brothers constantly wrote “all.” But this time Jacob wrote “many.” The context of that verse helps. In the preceding verse we read, “And now I, Jacob, speak unto you again, my beloved brethren, concerning this righteous branch of which I have spoken” (2 Nephi 10:1).

This is a promise “according to the flesh.” Not all, in the flesh, will be that righteous branch, albeit many will be. The result of that branch being righteous is “our children, [all of them], shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer” (2 Nephi 10:2). God will be merciful unto as many as will accept his latter-day gospel and they in turn will help bless those who perished in unbelief.

“That which will give [them] the true knowledge of their Redeemer” (see 2 Nephi 10:2)  was the Book of Mormon when Mormon wrote about these same things (see Mormon 5:14).

As noted earlier, Nephi taught that when that standard is raised, and Israel’s seed is carried, they will, in turn, bless all the house of Israel. Concerning that righteous branch, Lehi prophesied they would be grafted in, in the last days (see 1 Nephi 1-14).  Then Nephi added,

Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed (1 Nephi 15:18).

Almost always in the Book of Mormon, when it speaks of that remnant in the last days, it is followed by the blessing of all (see 1 Nephi 13:39–40; 1 Nephi 22:6–9; 2 Nephi 3:5–13; 2 Nephi 21:11–12; 2 Nephi 30:3–8; 3 Nephi 5:23–26; 3 Nephi 16:4–5; 3 Nephi 20:25–30; 3 Nephi 21; Mormon 3:18–22; Mormon 5:9–14; Ether 13:6–11). God being merciful unto “many,” but all of them being restored, seems consistent with that.

The Mind of God  

About thirty years ago a great teacher told me, “You need to understand they (the prophets) all saw the same movie.”  I’m sure many have noticed that, but for me that was an epiphany.  The movie consists of six doctrines: the scattering and gathering of Israel, the atonement of Jesus Christ, the latter-day Zion, Christ’s second coming and his millennial ministry.  

My teacher would say, “In the church we have a tendency to pigeonhole our doctrines.  We need to see the big picture.”  With that I combed through the scriptures looking for that movie. I confirmed that virtually every prophet discussed those doctrines.. I also found that many of the stories in scripture portray those same themes.  It was as though my teacher gave me the picture of the puzzle on the box.  Everything fit.  

Then in 1993 President Boyd K. Packer charged Church Educators to find a doctrinal framework for our students.  I realized I had already seen that framework.  He said it would show the relationships of doctrines, which offered a solution for “pigeonholed doctrines.”  But he surprised me.  He said we could call that framework, “The plan of salvation.”[2]

It became obvious to me that a framework that doesn’t include the most talked about doctrines in scripture can never work.  And yet I couldn’t see how we could call the movie (which makes the most excellent scriptural framework) “The plan.” So I asked myself a simple question, “What is a plan?”  I got a simple answer, “A plan is how.” For me that was a revelation. It became clear that God was showing his prophets how he plans to save the world.  Christ teaching us in the Millennium is how he prepares us for eternity.  His second coming is how we get into the Millennium.  His latter day church prepares us for his coming.  The gathering is how we get into his church.  His atonement makes all of this possible.  

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “Keep before you the big picture, for this cause is as large as all mankind and as broad as all eternity. This is the church and kingdom of God.”[3]. The big picture/framework/movie/plan must include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

I then found that Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave us a framework for the book of Isaiah . According to him, Isaiah’s “…chief doctrinal contributions fall into seven categories:

  1. Restoration of the gospel in latter days through Joseph Smith, (Zion)
  2. Latter-day gathering of Israel and her final triumph and glory, (the Gathering)
  3. Coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a new witness for Christ and the total revolution it will eventually bring in the doctrinal understanding of men, (the gathering)
  4. Apostate conditions of the nations of the world in the latter days, (the scattering)
  5. Messianic prophecies relative to our Lord’s first coming, (the atonement of Jesus Christ)
  6. Second coming of Christ and millennial reign, (Christ’s second coming and the Millennium)
  7. Historical data and prophetic utterances relative to his own day.[18]

Bruce R. McConkie, Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah, Ensign, Oct. 1973, Page 80, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1973/10/ten-keys-to-understanding-isaiah?lang=eng).

I went through the chapter headings of Isaiah and found about 75% fit that framework.  I also found that 100% of the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon fit that framework.  I then found a framework given to us by Jesus Christ.  Elder John A. Widtsoe explained,

The “Appendix” [D&C 133], supplements the introduction [D&C 1]. The two sections together encompass the contents of the book in a condensed form. An appendix is something which the writer thinks should be added to amplify that which is in the book, to emphasize it, to make it stronger or to explain the contents a little more completely.”

In those sections, Christ discusses:

  • His Atonement – 8 times
  • The latter-day Zion meaning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 23 times
  • The Gathering (which implies a scattering) – 30 times
  • His Second Coming – 25 times
  • The Millennium – 9 times

There are other doctrines in those sections.  But these are the only repeating ones; and they are repeated to a point of exaggeration.  I then went through the Doctrine and Covenants and found the Savior gave us an amazing framework. I also found this verse.      

Teach ye diligently and my grace my shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand” (D&C 88:78).

All things pertain (relate to) the kingdom.  Therefore if we want a framework for the doctrines of the kingdom, we ought to include the kingdom.  If we want a framework that shows the relationships of doctrines, we ought to include the kingdom.  What blew me away is that sections 1 and 133 were given when the D&C was only half written, good guess Joseph!

I then found that Moroni offered the same framework to the seventeen year old Joseph Smith. In 1990 Kent P. Jackson wrote an Ensign article that examined the verses Moroni quoted to Joseph Smith on 21–22 September 1823. After examining those verses, Brother Jackson concluded they fall into the following categories.

  1. Apostasy and scattering (the scattering)
  2. The calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Zion)
  3. The opening of the heavens during the restoration (Zion)
  4. The coming forth of The Book of Mormon (Zion)
  5. The restoration of the priesthood and the sealing keys (Zion)
  6. The gathering of the elect (the gathering)
  7. Destruction and purification prior to and during the Second Coming (the Second Coming)
  8. Deliverance of the faithful (the Second Coming)
  9. The Second Coming (the Second Coming)
  10. The pre-millennial and millennial state of the faithful. (Zion and the Millennium) 

(Kent P. Jackson, The Ensign, August 1990, Pages 13-16 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1990/08/moronis-message-to-joseph-smith?lang=eng).

So with that framework, I went through the scriptures again and again. I found that many did indeed see and talk about the same movie.  I also found that many of the stories in scripture were given to illustrate God’s plan.  I will show one.

Elijah’s Contest With the Prophets of Baal is a Model of the Plan

Elijah built an altar and offered sacrifice. No doubt the bullock he slew represents the atonement of Jesus Christ. Fire from heaven consuming that sacrifice and the destruction of the wicked, along with the people saying, “the Lord he is the God, the Lord he is the God” (every knee shall bow and every tongue confess), sounds like Christ’s second coming.  And so we should ask, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the gathering of Israel in the story?

“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down” (1 Kings 18:30).

“Come near” sounds like gathering.  “Repaired” sounds like restoration. The word “all” is unnecessary for the verse to make sense.  But  doctrinally, as we have seen, it makes beautiful sense. Saying it twice is a nice touch. “And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name” (1 Kings 18:31).  Like the Lord told Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11).  Is the Millennium in his story?

“And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain” (1 Kings 18:41). Abundant rain after a prolonged drought could represent the earth being renewed to a paradisiacal glory.

And [Elijah] said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand (1 Kings 18:43).

“Seven” sounds Millennial.  The Lord told Joseph Smith,

“We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man” (D&C 77:12).

And he [Elijah] said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel (1 Kings 18:44-46).

It is eleven miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel. Anciently Baal was believed to run very fast. Elijah’s race may have suggested that in every way he (or his God) beats Baal. But it may suggest more.

Isaiah taught, “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” (Isaiah 40:28)  God runs without getting weary.  He walks without being faint.

In mortality “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isaiah 40:30). “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (see Isaiah 40:31).

“Wait upon the Lord” may refer to watching for his coming. In the Millennium resurrected beings will run and not be weary and walk and not faint. They will be like God who is faster and stronger than any false god.

Elijah prayed, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:37). This seems to prefigure Elijah’s mission in the latter-days.  

Six pieces of the puzzle showing up in his story suggests Jesus Christ was once again portraying his plan.. And Elijah said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and thatI am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word” (1 Kings 18:36),  It seems he was following a script.

That script is the mind of God.  He was setting this up.  We teach that Christ’s coming to the Americas in the Book of Mormon is a type of his second coming.  We teach that the centuries of peace that followed is a type of the Millennium.  Remember how adamant he was that the dead rising be part of the story (see 3 Nephi 23:8-13).  Our resurrection is a huge part of Christ’s second coming.  If that were not included we might wonder if his visit was a type at all.

When we realize how interested our God is in showing us how he plans to save us, when we see it everywhere in scripture, when virtually every story seems to have been given to illustrate the same, when we see him in the details, it is more than a good guess as to what Elijah’s story is about.

Reading the Book of Isiah Through the Eyes of an Exile in Babylon

Nephi told his brothers that Isaiah’s message could give them and those carried off to Babylon, hope (see 1 Nephi 19:24).  His message centered on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The following suggests how our church could give them hope.  

Life in Babylon must have been hell. “And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, . . . thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 39: 16-20). Imagine the head of the eunuchs saying something like, “You young men wait here.  You are going to be castrated today.  If you try to run you will be cut into little pieces.”  Apparently that furnace of affliction (Isaiah 1:25; 48:10) was extremely hot.  And yet Isaiah also prophesied,

Sing O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.

For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me (1 Nephi 21:13-16).

We know what the palms represent.  We are not so clear about the walls.  Wilford Woodruff suggested they represent  our church.  Just before quoting Isaiah 49:16, he taught,

“…Any man who has ever read the book of Isaiah, …can see that he, with other prophets, had his eye upon the latter-day Zion of God.” He continued,

“The Lord never created this world at random; he has never done any of his work at random. The earth was created for certain purposes; and one of these purposes was its final redemption, and the establishment of his government and kingdom upon it in the latter days, to prepare it for the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose right it is to reign.” (Wilford Woodruf, in Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day saints’ Book Depot, 1855-86), 15:7-8).

A passage from the apocrypha, attributed to Baruch (a scribe for Jeremiah), is consistent with the idea that the Lord had his eye upon the latter-day Zion of God. Speaking of both the temple and the Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s day, he recorded the following,

The Lord said unto me, this city will be delivered up for a time, and the people will be chastened for a time, and the world will not be forgotten. Or, do you think that this is the city of which I said: on the palms of my hands I have carved you? It is not this building that is in your midst now; it is that which will be revealed, with me, that was already prepared from the moment that I decided to create Paradise. I showed it to Adam before he sinned… After these things, I showed it to my servant Abraham in the night between the portions of the victims. And again I showed it also to Moses on Mount Sinai when I showed him the likeness of the tabernacle and all of its vessels. Behold, now it is preserved with me–as also Paradise… (Baruch, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Edited by James H. Charlesworth, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.), Vol. 1, p 622).

Enoch saw the Holy city and “the day of the coming of the Son of Man, in the last days, to dwell on the earth in righteousness for the space of a thousand years” (see Moses 7: 59-67).  Peter spoke of “…the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). The Lord himself revealed that this city was “…sought for by all holy men ” (D&C 45: 12-14).

Brigham Young said: “I have Zion in my view constantly.” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day saints’ Book Depot, 1855-86, 9:284). President Hinckley, speaking of our day, said, “This is the focal point of all that has gone before… We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This it the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, “At The Summit of The Ages,” Ensign, November 1999, 74).

When Christ told his disciples “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31), he was describing the kingdom Nebuchadnezzar dreamt about.  Paul taught “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10).  Someone being in heaven will not keep them from participating in and benefiting from the dispensation of the fulness of times.    

Joseph Smith taught that “the building up of Zion has interested the people of God in every age.”  He said it would help “renovate the earth and bring about the salvation of the human family” (Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith Papers, History 1838-1856, Volume C-1 [2November 1838-31 July 1842], p. 1328).

That’s what God thinks about all the time.  So when we find a couple pieces of the puzzle it is a good idea to look for more pieces.  When a piece fits it fits. This picture can be enlarged.

 

 

The dots on the continents represent scattered Israel.  The cross represents the life and atonement of Jesus Christ.  The missionaries represent the gathering of God’s elect.  Zion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Savior in the clouds represents his second coming. Christ teaching in that second realm represents his millennial ministry.

Elder Kim B. Clark charged church educators to rethink the plan of salvation.  He said,

The Church is the kingdom of God on the earth. Through the Church the Lord and Savior supports individuals and families in their quest for eternal life and prepares the earth for His Second Coming. The Church—the Lord’s true and living church—is a critical part of the Father’s plan for the salvation of His children. [20]

In 2006 Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “We are part of a great movement—the gathering of scattered Israel. I speak of this doctrine today because of its unique importance in God’s eternal plan” [21] 

A framework for scripture that doesn’t contain those six elements cannot work.  A framework for scripture that has a place for those elements works amazingly well.  If we do not realize it is the plan of salvation we cannot use it.

Seeing the Movie

Joseph Smith taught, “And, fellow sojourners upon earth, it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves, and know for yourselves.”

I have seen the movie.  Well actually I read the book.  With dozens of descriptions of the same vision, along with pictures (stories) that illustrate the same, I think the book (the scriptures) may be better than the movie.  No one who described that common vision reported seeing the Savior walk on water or restore a severed ear. The ancients may not have seen all that the four gospels describe. The book probably does offer more than the movie as books usually do.

Even if we had actually seen the vision there would be things we would miss. We could see Israel being scattered. We could even see God weep over their plight.  But the book tells us more.  He, in essence, told Hosea “When your wife betrays you, you’ll know how I feel.” “And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). Through Hosea we see the heart of a broken-hearted God—something the vision might not fully convey.

Nephi’s father missed something in the vision they both saw. “. . . and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water” (1 Nephi 15:27).  Nephi provided added details.  With dozens of prophets adding their views of the same movie, combining their visions may be better than seeing it ourselves.  This is not suggesting we shouldn’t try to see what they saw.  Indeed, combining their views could help us see it in reality.  But even if we saw the movie, it may not be as helpful as the book.  Responding to a man who claimed he had no time for theology because he had a spiritual experience, C. S. Lewis wrote,

If a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.[22] 

That framework is an excellent map.  It combines all the scriptures together.  But some may find it difficult to recognize it as the plan of salvation.  Shouldn’t the pre-mortal and post-mortal spirit worlds be included in the picture?  It would be helpful to remember this is not our framework. 

The Savior’s framework is the plan of salvation, not the plan for our eternal progression.  For instance, the fall was planned, but it is not part of the plan of salvation.  It is the reason for the plan.  William James wrote, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”[23]

With his charge, President Packer added, “At first you may think that a simple assignment. I assure you, it is not. Brevity and simplicity are remarkably difficult to achieve. At first you will be tempted to include too much. The plan in its fullness encompasses every gospel truth.”[24]

The following are video links on the plan.

https://youtu.be/_E0aK7FuXmo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGUSX7VCVyM https://youtu.be/1yoe9Ztj1z8 https://youtu.be/CVwDwRAZ6OU https://youtu.be/BuTh3gzd4EI https://youtu.be/-uIogCRNxbA https://youtu.be/RuUAAYFodXk https://youtu.be/cfJsrNdwuIk https://youtu.be/NXFW81BIkTw https://youtu.be/NcrSd0VZtac https://youtu.be/TudowZiw9zQ https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NMrUkrjpXRM&feature=youtu.be https://youtu.be/z3zcWUfpbUU https://youtu.be/9vrI6FkTFKYhttps://youtu.be/-C416q5M1Ko

About the Author

Steve Fotheringham teaches at the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). He has been a teacher since 1982. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Weber State University, a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and a Doctoral Degree in Educational Administration from The University of Arizona. He is married to the former Kaylene Pace. They have six children, one of which is a famous wheelchair athlete. They call him “Wheelz.” Steve is on the High Council in his stake. And he invented lunch.

Email: FotheringhamSC@ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Endnotes

  1. Jeffrey R. Holland, Prophets, Therefore What?, August 8, 2000.
  2. Boyd K. Packer, Doctrine And Covenants/Church History Symposium Speeches, 1993, “The Great Plan of Happiness”, Delivered at a symposium on 10th August, 1993, Brigham Young University, p. 2.
  3. Gordon B. HInckley, Ensign, May 1982, 46)
  4. Spencer W. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, “The Things of Eternity — Stand We in Jeopardy?,” Ensign, January 1977, 3, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1977/01/the-things-of-eternity-stand-we-in-jeopardy
  5. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 355.
  6. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], p.481.
  7. Marion G. Romney, The Restoration of Israel to the Lands of Their Inheritance,” Ensign, May 1981.
  8. Gordon B. Hinckley quoted by Jeffrey R. Holland, “Our Consuming Mission,” Address to CES Religious Educators, Salt Lake Tabernacle. February 5th, 1999.
  9. Gordon B Hinckley, General Conference May 1982,, p. 46.
  10. Marion G. Romney, “The Restoration of Israel to the Lands of Their Inheritance” Ensign, May 1981).
  11. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 123.
  12. Boyd K. Packer, The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness, Oct. 1995 General Conference.
  13. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 15:7-8
  14. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 17:213
  15. Joseph Smith, The Joseph Smith Papers, History, 1838-1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838-31, July 1842], p. 17.
  16. Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith Papers, History 1838-1856, Volume C-1 [2November 1838-31 July 1842], p. 1328.
  17. Packer, Boyd K. Doctrine And Covenants/Church History Symposium Speeches, 1993, “The Great Plan of Happiness”, Delivered at a symposium on 10th August, 1993, Brigham Young University, p. 2.
  18. Bruce R. McConkie Ten Keys To Understanding Isaiah, Ensign, Oct. 1973, 80.
  19. Kent p. Jackson, Ensign, August 1990, pp. 13-16.
  20. Kim B. Clark, The Plan of Salvation and the Rising Generation, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Annual Training Broadcast • June 12, 2018
  21. Russell M. Nelson, Oct. 2006 General Conference
  22. C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis on Theology.  Or see Mere Christianity.
  23. William James, search for “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”
  24. Boyd K. Packer, Doctrine And Covenants/Church History Symposium Speeches, 1993, “The Great Plan of Happiness”, Delivered at a symposium on 10th August, 1993, Brigham Young University, p. 2.
  25. Daniel Simmons and Christopher Chabris, Dansimons.com
  26. Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Nov. 1983.

 

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