I’ve been thinking about this passage from D&C 137: “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.”
This scripture is a hallmark of what mormonism offers to the world: a reasonable Deity, who affords to all the chance to listen and choose the Gospel. It sets us apart from religions that cannot offer anything to those who die without a knowledge of God, or who damn those who could not receive God’s sacraments. It’s also a challenge to members, I think, in that it suggests an afterlife of teaching and proselytizing that is very unconventional. But the scripture leaves me with a couple of questions, which maybe you can help me answer:
1. What constitutes “a knowledge of this gospel”? It seems to refer to some common-sense notion of a turn at bat, but it’s fairly ambiguous. If I knocked on someone’s door in France, and they slammed it in my face, did they reject the gospel? Alternatively, if someone has received the missionary discussions but dies uncertain in their convictions, have their had their chance? At what point do we have the knowledge requisite to damn or save us?
2. What’s the purpose of this life’s “probationary period” if we can get multiple bites at the gospel apple? Doesn’t this idea of the unrighteous dead getting saved devalue the efforts of the people who have had to endure to the end?
I realize we know very little about what happens when we die, and this is largely speculative stuff. But I’d appreciate your insights.