Is God Horribly Inefficient at Saving and Exalting People? Given the Ways in Which He Allows His Children to Participate in the Process, is He “Falling Behind”?
By Ken K. Gourdin
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that, in order for those who die having neither heard nor accepted the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to live in God’s presence and to receive a full divine inheritance, necessary saving ordinances must be performed on their behalf, and that such ordinances are earthly ordinances which must be performed here.
We believe that Christ visited the spirit world after His crucifixion and preached the Gospel there in order to give those who died not having heard it the opportunity to accept it. 1 Peter 4:6 in the Holy Bible alludes to those spirits being given that opportunity, as Paul writes, “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.”
As I’ve mentioned before on the Blog, we take literally Christ’s injunction to Nicodemus that “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). These ordinances, including baptism on behalf of one’s deceased ancestors, are performed in Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We take literally Paul’s question in 1 Corinthians 15:29 (which he, implicitly, answers in the affirmative), “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?”
We believe that, notwithstanding the efficacy of these ordinances in the world to come, still, they must be performed here, in this world. As I’ve also mentioned before on the blog, one reason for that is purely practical: How, exactly, does one baptize a spirit?
Could God institute a process that’s more “efficient,” a la Bruce Almighty answering everyone’s prayers affirmatively at once? Perhaps, but, instead, He, in His perfect mercy and patience, allows flawed, fallible, mortal human beings to participate in the process and, in so doing, allows us to draw closer to Him and closer to our ancestors as we do something for them which they cannot do for themselves.
In a similar vein to what I posted yesterday in response to a post at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion which said, in essence, “Yes, I believe God saves and exalts people, but I don’t think He’ll be able to save nor to exalt me and mine”—What part of “omnipotent” and “all-loving” do you not understand?—another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion wrote that we’re “falling behind,” as worldwide birthrates continue to outstrip the pace at which saving ordinances are performed. I responded:
I’m not terribly worried about how much we might be “falling behind,” as you put it. Exalting His children is what God does, after all. It’s all He does (see Moses 1:39). He’s very good at it. And it isn’t as though He’s going to overlook anyone (see Matthew 10:29, Moses 1:37). While God isn’t going to exalt anyone against his or her will, the good news is, He’s also very persuasive. And He has eternity to do it, which is pretty much all the time He’ll need.