My Come, Follow Me lesson this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 137-138. Each section contains a vision about post-mortal life. The vision that is recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 137 was given the Prophet Joseph Smith in the unfinished Kirtland Temple at Kirtland, Ohio, on January 21, 1836. The vision that is recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 138 was given to President Joseph F. Smith, the nephew of Joseph Smith, in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 3, 1918.
The two revelations are separated by more than eighty years and fifteen hundred miles. However, the two visions belong side-by-side doctrinally. They both answer questions about the destiny of God’s children in the next life, and both have added depth when we consider the life experiences of the prophets who received them.
Joseph Smith’s vision helped him to understand the eternal destiny of his beloved brother Alvin, who died six years before the authority to baptize was restored. Joseph had many questions about Alvin’s eternal salvation, and the vision answered them. Joseph F. Smith’s vision revealed glorious truths about the spirit world. These truth’s must have been comforting to a man who had grieved the deaths of his father, mother, several wives, and thirteen children.
The two sections answer many questions about life after death. The first vision gave some light on the subject, and the second vision opened the curtains even wider. Together, they testify of “the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:3).
There are several principles discussed in the two visions, and I feel prompted to write on only one – the work of salvation is happening on both sides of the veil (Doctrine and Covenants 138:25-60). President M. Russell Ballard taught the following: “I invite you to thoroughly and thoughtfully read [Doctrine and Covenants 138]. As you do so, may the Lord bless you to more fully understand and appreciate God’s love and His plan of salvation and happiness for His children” (“The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,” Ensign, November 2018, 73).
President Russell M. Nelson taught, “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life” (“Let Us All Press On,” Ensign, May 2018, 118-19).
Doctrine and Covenants 138:25-60 explains that Jesus Christ went among the righteous spirits in the spirit world while His body lay in the tomb.
30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to the all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
32 Thus was the gospel preach to those who died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
35 And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30-35)
The message that is taught to the spirits of the dead is centered on the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and it is the same message that is taught to all the living children of Heavenly Father. All people – living and dead – who desire to enter Heavenly Father’s kingdom must receive the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In our dispensation this was made possible for the dead beginning on August 15, 1840, when the Prophet Joseph Smith introduced the doctrine of vicarious baptisms for the dead (see Teachings: Joseph Smith, 403).
Heavenly Father loves all His children, and He ensures that all of them have the opportunity to hear the gospel in mortality or in the spirit world. They can decide for themselves to accept or reject it. This means that all His children will be judged according to the same standard.