Does Everyone Get a Chance?

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April 5, 2011
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We recently had a comment here on What do Mormons Believe, that caught my eye. In the comment it asked the following questions.

What would happen to people who didn’t have the chance to hear the gospel, such as people in third world countries? Even if they’ve lived good lives, but never even heard the name of Christ, do they still end up in hell? What about small children who die?

The reason that these comments caught my eye is because I’ve asked these very same questions myself. Now in this article, I will share the answers I have learned with you.

Sadly, there are still places in the world, where the name of Christ is foreign and his teachings are not taught. Think of a tribe of people in sub-Saharan Africa, where they’ve never even heard of Jesus and where there are no scriptures to learn from. But they are still good people. They help their fellow men, they look after their families. They respect the earth and work hard to improve life for themselves and those around them. These are the types of people who would accept the Gospel of Christ if it was presented to them and would strive to follow Him. Is it fair that because they were born in Africa, instead of another part of the world, that they are doomed to Hell?

The answer to this question is No. We know that God is a just God. Where would the justice be if these people were assigned to eternal damnation by no act of their own?

But we also know that in order to return to God, we must have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost through confirmation.

How can God be fair, while having faith, repenting, baptism and confirmation are required?

In the scriptures we learn that everyone will have the chance to be taught and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. For some people, it will take place in this life. But for others, it will occur after they die.

The apostle Peter spoke of this in 1 Peter 3:18-19

“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 Spirt:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison”

And in 1 Peter 4:6

“For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

These people will get a chance to learn and accept the gospel while in this “spirit prison”. They can develop faith in Christ and repent of their sins. They will also be able to receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation by proxy. Here is a link to further explain that.

The last question was about small children who die. Some babies are born with severe conditions that only allow minutes of life to them. Other children pass away at an older age, but are still too young to have really understood who Christ was.

These children are also not punished for their brief lives, but are saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We learn from the scriptures that “children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 137:10) What a truly comforting promise to those who have lost young loved ones.

God is a just and loving God. He loves and cares for his children. That is why he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make it possible that we can return to live with him someday. And that is why he has given everyone a chance to learn of Christ, have faith in him, repent of their sins, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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10 Responses to “Does Everyone Get a Chance?”

  1. Chad

    Comment Removed due to violation of Comment Policy

  2. Rebecca

    This verse is taken entirely out of context. The “dead” are not those literally dead, but those dead in their faith (ie. those who do not believe in Jesus). There are no second chances after death.

    As to the question “Will those who never hear the gospel be sent to hell? Is this fair?”: Read Romans. God says that regardless of whether or not one hears the gospel, that he is still held accountable for his sin, because God has made himself manifest (or known) throughout His creation.

    We ALL are sinful and without excuse, and need a Savior. No amount of good works or self righteousness will ever get us to heaven. This is why Jesus died! He took all of God’s wrath that was rightfully against us because of our sin and he bore it himself on the cross in our place. It is not up to us and what we do, but up to JESUS and what he did. Which is the best news in the world!

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

  3. Steve

    Hi Rebecca,
    Thanks for visiting our site.  It’s a great place to learn more about what Mormons believe. 

    In response to your comment, when I read Peter 4:6, I do read it as the “dead” being literally dead.  But I can see how someone could/would view it the other way.  When I was writing this post, I should have included another paragraph speaking about this very subject (but I was pressed for time… I had a big test coming up to study for).  I’m not sure how much you’ve been able to look around the site, or how much you know about our beliefs, but a major thing we believe in is having a prophet who is on the earth today, who speaks with God and teaches us.  (Here are two links (and the other) that can further go into that.)  One thing that was taught to us by the Prophet is in the Doctrine and Convents (a book of scripture) section 138, which further expands upon those verses in Peter. In that section, it clarifies that Peter did mean literally dead when he said “dead”.

    I hope that I didn’t give the impression that people won’t be held accountable for their sins.  Except for small children, whatever sins we commit, we will be responsible for them.  We both agree, that without Jesus Christ we would all be lost.  We need him and his mercy to free us from the chains of sin.   And I agree, that is the best news in the world!  :)

  4. Tony

    Hi
    Please bear in mind when you read my post that I was not brought up a Christian and know very little about any of this. I am however receiving lessons from Mormon missionaries, but as it’s all very deep for someone new to it all, I apologise if I sound ignorant or unintelligent. 

    I was reading Rebecca’s comment, and just wondered, in regards to these tribes for example who never have the opportunity to learn the Gospel, how has  ’God has made himself manifest (or known) throughout His creation’?
    Surely the concept of prayer has never been introduced to them and so how can they ‘know’ God? I know I never knew to instinctively pray as a child, as I know my nieces and nephews who have not been brought up religious do not pray, because they know nothing about it. I also was not born with a feeling of having God/Jesus Christ as a constant companion or feeling aware of their love and plan for me. If no Bible was ever around for certain people (like those in remote tribes) to choose to study of if they never heard Jesus’ name mentioned, how would they know that Jesus is their Saviour, therefore how could they repent, or be baptised? By your (Rebecca’s) logic, these poor people who through no fault of their own could not accept Jesus as their Saviour or follow Christianity would be damned to Hell. That does not seem just, and as far as I have grasped, God is just and fair and loves all of His children equally. Fair enough they will be taught right from wrong but to be condemned to Hell through circumstance they have no possible control over seems illogical to me. 

    Like I say this isn’t an attack, it’s a general question as I know very little of the scriptures.
    Thanks

  5. Thaddeus

    Tony, welcome to WhatDoMormonsBelieve.com! And welcome to the experience of meeting with the missionaries! Listen carefully to what they teach you, and make sure to take questions and concerns to the Lord.

    You made a terrific observation and a very civil request. In order to understand Rebecca’s comment, you need to see the world through her eyes. I’ll gladly let her explain her side, but in case she doesn’t, I’ll try to share what I understand of the evangelical worldview (please make corrections if I’m wrong, Rebecca):

    One of the central tenets of evangelicalism is called “sola scriptura,” the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. It establishes the Bible as the final authority for all Christian beliefs, practices, and church structure. It also implies that the Bible’s teachings are infallible.

    When a doctrinal question arises, obtaining the answer is simply a matter of finding a relevant verse in the Bible. That settles the matter because the Bible is the ultimate authority and nobody on earth has authority above the Good Book.

    The verse Rebecca referenced was Romans 1:20: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

    It seems to be saying something like, “God’s handiwork is readily apparent to all creatures, so no one can claim ignorance.”

    I have issues with that interpretation, but even if it were so, it wouldn’t mean that everyone has a chance to accept the gospel. It’s more like ‘nobody can claim they don’t know right from wrong.’ Or in other words, ‘your guilty conscience is your sign that you don’t deserve to enter the Kingdom.’ Nothing here about everyone having equal access to the atonement, which does seem like an unjust thing for God to establish as eternal policy. Sorry! That’s what the Bible says. And that’s that.

    Mormons do believe all people are born with the Light of Christ (a.k.a. conscience), and are accountable for their sins regardless of where and when they live on earth, so we can live with this interpretation. It still doesn’t say anything about whether all people have access to the atonement, so we like to point evangelicals to 1 Peter 3:194:6, and 1 Corinthians 15:29.

    What about sola scriptura? Don’t Mormons believe in the Bible?

    We do, but our worldview is different: our ultimate authority is God, the Father. I’m not trying to be cheeky; it’s a real difference, at least in practice. When the missionaries introduced you to the Book of Mormon, they didn’t tell you to compare its passages with the Bible to see if it’s true. They invited you to ask God yourself if it’s true and they promised that you would know by the Holy Spirit. We really believe He will provide us with revelations, both personally and to our modern living prophet. Belief in a living prophet is also a unique aspect of the LDS worldview (interestingly, this was the worldview of most people who lived during Bible times; among the first people to subscribe to sola scriptura were the scribes and pharisees from the New Testament).

    This all doesn’t mean Mormons are at liberty to flippantly dismiss the Bible. Devotion to the Bible is a natural extension of our belief in the supremacy of God and His system of calling a living prophet: Heavenly Father called Moses to lead the children of Israel. We value Moses’ words in the Bible because Moses was a prophet and had direct communication with the Lord. Same with Elijah, Daniel, John, and Paul and all the other inspired writers of the Bible. We can have faith in their words when we study them, consult with God through prayer, and apply their lessons to our lives.

  6. Rebecca

    You’re right, Thaddeus, I do believe that the Bible is God’s revealed Word to us, and that it is the ultimate authority. I know that there are a lot of hard theological concepts in it (including what’s been mentioned here, “do all people have a chance?”) that I don’t entirely understand. But I do believe that God is good, sovereign, wise, and just. 

    The argument of “do all people have a chance” rests on the assumption that people are inherantly good, or that we all deserve a chance. The Bible says that this is not the case, and that we are all born sinners. Because God is holy and just, what we deserve is to spend eternity in hell. This sounds harsh, but it is the right and just consequence of our sin against Him. This is what the person in a tribe who has never heard the gospel deserves, and this is what I deserve. No one deserves heaven, no one deserves a chance. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, His righteous standard. 

    That’s why the concept of God’s grace is so amazing! I, an awful sinner against the true and holy God of the universe, bring nothing to God. Nothing. None of my good works can ever earn me salvation. That’s how big of an offense my sin is to Him! But Jesus, God in human form, came and died on the cross for me! He loved me so much that he died in my place, absorbing all of God’s just wrath against me. I deserve hell, and I deserve that wrath! But Jesus paid my penalty on the cross so that I can live with Him forever in heaven. I don’t deserve this. There’s no way I could ever earn it with my good works. It’s God’s free gift, to give to whomever He choses. It’s incredibly wonderful, and incredibly humbling!

  7. George

    Just wanted to clarify the evangelical position a little bit. We believe that there are several forms of revelation. Special revelation is specific. It is the Word of God or the Bible and is the final authority. Natural Revelation is broad and to the whole world. These are natural revelation and historic revelation. Historic revelation teaches that you can see God’s sovereign hand in History. Natural is the idea that the heavens (or all nature around us) declare the workmanship of God. The idea here is that all people who have come of an intelligence level capable of it know in their hearts that there is a God, whether that is through seeing it in nature or because of the image of God being within them. The teaching would go on from there that because all men know that there is a God (ex. Every culture has a religion) they can seek Him. The Bible teaches that all people who seek God will find Him so we are all without excuse. The person who was born in a place that does not know the name of Christ, if they seek to know God, they will find Him (maybe God will send a missionary). If they don’t seek God they won’t find him.

  8. Kassie

    Rebecca- I am curious as to why you believe God brings us all into the world as horrible sinners who deserve to go to hell from the minute we are born. Why would he bother is my question? What would be His point? To create nothing but “scum” (as my teenage son says) and doom us to hell from Day 1 seems a bit far fetched to me. Yes, I do believe we are sinners and need the atonement to forgive us of our sins. I also believe in the ordinances of the gospel for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. People often say that we LDS are trying to “work our way into heaven.” This is simply not true. I will leave it to Thaddeus to discuss this better than I can! Thanks for listening. Kassie

  9. Bill

    Hey,

    I know this is an old post, but I just found it, so I thought I’d add my two cents. First of all, Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing your testimony with us. I feel blessed to hear your gratitude for the grace of Christ. I agree with your point completely. As a Latter-day Saint, I find it fits very well with what I know about God. It is true that nothing we can do deserves salvation. It is truly by the grace of Christ, bought with the infinite price of His suffering and death, completed by His resurrection the third day. He does this because of His infinite love for us (1 John 4:19).

    Our works do nothing to deserve grace. Like you said (and like King Benjamin said), there is nothing we could do to deserve grace. But all he asks us to do is to keep His commandments (John 14:15, John 15:10, Mosiah 2:22).

    I don’t think He is really all that interested in abject obedience to random commandments, but I think He is very interested in what that obedience helps us become. Like a perfect doctor (or shall I say “physician“?) who knows what treatment will bring about a cure for the vile disease which we have brought upon ourselves, He prescribes His perfect treatment [Faith: apply continuously; Repentance: Use daily, more frequently as needed; Wash up and be ready for heart transplant, other directions as given, and call Me every morning (and evening too); Follow-up visits scheduled throughout eternity]. This treatment, if followed, will bring us to be as He is.

  10. Bill

    And, you are right, it truly is so “incredibly wonderful, and incredibly humbling!” Thank you again for your inspired words.

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