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Though baptism be authoritatively administered to a living person as proxy for a dead ancestor, that spirit will derive no immediate advancement nor salvation thereby if he has not yet attained faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, or if he be still unrepentant. Even as Christ has made salvation possible to all, though few there be who accept the prescribed conditions in the flesh, so vicarious ordinances may be administered for many in the spirit realm who are not yet prepared to avail themselves of the opportunities thus placed within their reach.
It is evident that labor in behalf of the dead is two-fold: that performed on earth would remain incomplete and futile but for its supplement and counterpart beyond the veil. Missionary work is in progress there-work compared with which the evangelistic labor on earth is relatively of small extent. There are preachers and teachers, ministers invested with the Holy Priesthood, all engaged in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to spirits still sitting in darkThis great labor was inaugurated by the Savior during the brief period of His disembodiment. It is reasonable and consistent to hold that the saving ministry so begun was left to be continued by others duly authorized and commissioned; just as the work of preaching the Gospel and administering therein among the living was committed to the Apostles of old through their ordination by the Lord Himself.
Missionary service in the spirit world is primarily effective among two classes: (1) those who have died in ignorance of the Gospel-i. e., those who have lived and died without law, and who therefore cannot be condemned until they have come to the knowledge and opportunity requisite to obedience; and (2) those who failed to comply with the laws and ordinances of the Gospel in the flesh, and
who through the experiences of the other world have come to the contrite and receptive state.
It is unreasonable and vitally opposed to both letter and spirit of Holy Scripture to assume that neglect or rejection of the call to repentance in this life can be easily remedied by repentance hereafter. Forfeiture through disobedience is a very real loss, entailing deprivation of opportunity beyond all human computation. Refusal to hear and heed the word of God is no physical deafness, but a manifestation of spiritual disease resulting from sin. Death is no cure for such. The unrepentant state is a disorder of the spirit, and, following disembodiment, the spirit will still be afflicted therewith.
What ages such an afflicted one may have to pass in prison confines before he becomes repentant and therefore fit for cleansing, we may not know. The unrepentant hosts who rejected the Gospel in the days of Noah remained in thraldom until after the crucifixion of Christ. (See 1 Peter 3:18-20.) The prophet Amulek admonished the people to repent while opportunity permitted. Consider his inspired appeal:
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. . . . Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance, even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his." (Book of Mormon, Alma 34:32-35.)
Revelation in the current age confirms the earlier Scrip
tures in emphasizing the fact that mortality is the probationary state, and that the individual achievements or forfeitures in this life will be of eternal effect, notwithstanding the merciful provision made for advancement in the hereafter. The celestial kingdom of glory and eternal communion with God and Christ is provided for those who obey the Gospel when they learn of it. The lower or terrestrial state will be the inheritance of such as "received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it." Yet lower is the telestial abode of the less deserving; and deepest of all, the awful banishment of the sons of perdition. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76.)
THE SPIRIT WORLD
Paradise and Hades
T is a common practise to designate the place, the time, or the state of existence following death as the hereafter; indeed, that term is defined by lexicographers as the future life. The application is a broad one, too broad to be regarded as descriptive except in the matter of se
Nevertheless, the expression is a convenient one, and is practically synonymous with the poet's phrase "the great unknown." Its usage is a confession of uncertainty or ignorance of what awaits us beyond; and as to duration it embraces eternity, without divisions or periods either as to condition or time. Holy Scripture is more definite, and like Paul's commanding call, on Mars' Hill, to the worshipers of "the unknown God," summons us to hear and learn the truth.
The world of the disembodied was known to the Hebrews as Sheol and to the Greeks as Hades; and these terms, meaning the unseen or unknown world, are translated Hell in our version of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. In a few New Testament passages referring to the state of the damned, Gehenna is the original of the term Hell.
"Paradise" first appears in the Bible in the Savior's utterance from the cross promising the penitent thief a place there (Luke 23:43); and the word occurs subsequently but twice. Paradise is distinctively the abode of the righteous during their period of disembodiment, and is in contrast with the "prison" tenanted by disobedient spirits. (1 Peter 3:19, 20.)
The several places or states mentioned above have reference to the existence of disembodied spirits, and therefore embrace only that period of the hereafter between death and resurrection. Beyond the spirit world, with its Paradise and its prison, lies the eternity of the resurrected state, in the which men shall endure, with spirits and bodies reunited, redeemed from the thraldom of death, and, according to the record of their mortal lives, saved or condemned.
The hereafter, therefore, comprises severally the disembodied and the reembodied existences of the individual; and these must be distinctly segregated in any rational conception of the future life based on Scripture. Read the testimony of the prophet Alma:
"Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection. Behold, it has been made known unto me, by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body; yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
"And then shall it come to pass that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise; a state of rest; a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow, etc.
"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil; for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house; and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and this because of their own iniquity; being led captive by the will of the devil.
"Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked; yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful, looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection." (Book of Mormon, Alma 40:11-14.)
It is evident that the final judgment of mankind is to be reserved until after the resurrection; while in another sense judgment is manifest in the segregation of the disembodied, for in the intermediate state like will seek like, the clean and good finding companionship with their kind, and the wicked congregating through the natural attraction of evil for evil.
The essential features of the intermediate state are deducible from the Lord's parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Read Luke 16:19-31. While it would be critically unfair to affirm doctrinal principles on the incidents of an ordinary story, we cannot admit that Christ would teach falsely even in parable; and therefore we accept as true