Sunday, January 17, 2010

Are Non-Believers Going to Hell?

Many people think that all that is required to be saved is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. They believe that those who do not accept Him, will go to hell. This, however, is not our view. There are many who never had the chance to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that God, the Eternal Father, is in reality, our Father; He is the literal father of our spirits. As such, He loves us, and wants salvation for us all. He prepared a plan whereby we might be saved. His son, Jesus Christ, volunteered to play the crucial part in this plan by being our Savior. But many people are born in to this world to situations that prevent them from hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Little children die before having a chance to be converted. Would it be fair to doom them all to hell when they never had a chance to hear the gospel and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior? Out of fairness to all, the plan of salvation was prepared by God to give the opportunity for everyone to be saved. Since God is truly our father, He surely wants salvation for every one of His children.. Peter taught, "... Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:" Acts 10:34. He loves us all, no matter to what situation we were born, and wants us all to be saved.

One of the important ways of helping others to gain salvation is the great work of taking the Gospel to all the world. Missionaries go to all nations that will allow. They teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ which includes the fundamental principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. But we also believe that this same missionary work is also carried out in the spirit world. There are many who have lived on this earth that did not have a chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ while in mortality. Christ Himself leads this great missionary work, as explained by Peter:

" For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." 1 Peter 3:18-20

This scripture teaches that after Jesus died, He went to the world of spirits and preached to those who had died, including those who lived at the time of Noah. While it is more difficult to repent in the spirit world, it is still possible up until the time of the judgment. Otherwise, why would there be a need to preach to them in the spirit world. If their fate is sealed, why was there a need to continue proselyting in the hereafter? This scripture teaches that even those who had been disobedient in this life were given the opportunity to repent and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in the hereafter

Faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance are only part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who accept Him as their Savior, must also enter in to a covenant with God by being baptized. In sacred temples, baptism for the dead by proxy is performed to allow those who have already died, the chance to make the covenant of baptism. Paul, in an effort to explain the reality of the resurrection asked, " Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" 1 Cor. 15:29 The Saints of old practiced the
ordinance of baptism for the dead. They knew that baptism is essential for our salvation, and wanted this for their deceased loved ones.

But let's examine the idea that non-believers will go to hell. What is hell? Our belief about a "hell" is somewhat different from others' views. Some believe heaven to be an ultimate paradise, and hell as a burning pit. Our view is guided by this scripture: "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory." 1 Cor. 15:40,41 And Jesus taught, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2 Rather than a "all or nothing", heaven/hell view, these scriptures teach there are different levels of heaven. The highest is referred to in this scripture as the "Celestial kingdom". This is the heaven where God dwells. The middle heaven is the Terrestrial. The lower heaven is the Telestial. But even the lowest of these three heavens is a place of glory. There is another place prepared for the devil and his angels, and it is referred to in the scriptures as "outer darkness". It is often figuratively spoken of as a lake of fire and brimstone, but we believe this "burning" is more of an internal torment that one feels knowing they have been cut off from God, and that their eternal progression is damned.

When people speak of being saved, to what are they referring? We believe that all men will be resurrected, even the evil and wicked., so Jesus Christ has saved us all from death. But repentance through the atonement of Jesus Christ is what saves us from spiritual death. What is spiritual death? Spiritual death is being cut off from the presence of God. The prophet Alma taught, " Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned. And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness. " Alma 12: 13,16 The apostle Paul also spoke of this spiritual death: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23 Some might think that the phrase "eternal life" means immortality. But clearly, in this scripture it means something more, because all of us will be resurrected. In John 17:3 we read, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." To be able to live in their presence, is what is referred to as eternal life. This is what some in the world think of as heaven. It is only through our faithfulness and repentance through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we can qualify ourselves for this salvation. Christ, Himself, set the terms. He commanded, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16. And, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. 4:17

Will non-believers go to hell? The question that should be asked is, will non-believers repent and accept the gospel when it is preached to them? Will those who already believe in Jesus Christ repent and accept the covenant of baptism?

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