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.