By Marvin W. Cowan
Mormons teach that one of the signs of the true church is that it will have prophets who provide current revelation. Since LDS claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church, they also claim to have prophets and current revelation. However, our last article pointed out that President Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 “vision” in Doctrine and Covenants Section 138 is the newest revelation in the D. & C. and it didn’t become LDS scripture until 1976. To put that in perspective, Joseph F. Smith was the sixth LDS President and Thomas Monson, the current LDS President, is the sixteenth! So, between 1918 when Joseph F. Smith died and the present time, LDS have had ten Presidents or Prophets who did not add one revelation to the D. & C.! In 1978 President Spencer Kimball added a statement saying he had a revelation which allowed black men to have the LDS priesthood, but he did not add the revelation itself. That is the only new item added to the D. & C. after 1918.
D. & C. 138 begins with Joseph F. Smith pondering over I Pet. 3:18-20 and 4:6. LDS say those verses show that the gospel is preached to the spirits of the dead in the spirit world after death. They also claim that vicarious, saving work for the dead must be done in LDS temples here on earth by those with LDS priesthood authority. If Peter said that, he contradicted what many other Bible verses teach. For example, Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” II Corinthians 6:2 also says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” And Psalms 49:7 says, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” These verses and many others do not support what LDS teach about I Pet. 3:18-20 and 4:6.
What does I Pet. 3:18-20 really teach? It says, “For Christ has 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 to the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the times of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This text does not say the gospel was preached to the dead or that the dead received the gospel. In this text the word “preached” in the original Greek language is kerusso, which means to announce. The Greek word euaggelizo, meaning to evangelize, was used in the New Testament when the gospel was preached. Both Greek words are translated “preach” in English. In I Pet. 3:19 the word “preached” is the word that means announced, so Jesus announced something to the spirits who were disobedient in Noah’s time. He announced that He fulfilled or completed all that Noah preached through the Spirit of Christ when they were alive before the flood. The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, including Noah, when they preached as I Pet. 1:9-11 says. So, the people who were disobedient in Noah’s time were not evangelized so that they had another opportunity to hear and receive the gospel in the spirit world as Mormonism teaches.
LDS also use I Pet. 4:6 to teach that the gospel is preached to the dead. But it says, “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.” But LDS often quote it: “For this cause is the gospel preached…” when it says the gospel “was” preached to them (when they were alive physically), but now they “are” dead. They heard the gospel when they were physically alive so they could be judged like all men are judged and those who received the message would live unto God in the spirit after death.
D. & C. 138 has other LDS doctrines in it, but for now notice what D. & C. 138:12 says and how the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual interprets it. That Manual is taught in LDS seminaries (high school level) and LDS Institutes of Religion (college level). D. & C. 138:12 says, “There were gathered together in one place (in the spirit world) an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality.” The D. & C. Student Manual explains that verse on pages 358-359: “Of the total number of people who come to earth, those who earn celestial glory may be a relatively small percentage, but in numbers there will be millions who inherit the glory of the sun (celestial glory)…President Spencer W. Kimball (12th LDS Prophet) said in a general priesthood meeting about the great potential for exaltation: ‘Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight (via closed circuit TV). I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000…Those who obtain their exaltation will have the privilege of begetting spirit offspring in the eternities… Those who are denied endless increase cannot be what God is because that in connection with other things, makes him God…When the power of endless increase shall come to us, and our offspring grow and multiply through ages that shall come, they will be in due time, as we have been, provided with an earth like this wherein they too may obtain earthly bodies and pass through all the experiences through which we have passed…We shall stand in our relationship to them as God our Eternal Father does to us.’” Many Mormons wouldn’t even see all of that by reading D. & C. 138:12, but LDS leaders teach it and it is what LDS young people are being taught in their Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. Interpretations like that make it difficult for non-Mormons to read Mormon literature and really understand what LDS will teach from it.