Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wheat and Tares

For in that day, before the Son of man shall come, he shall send forth his angels and messengers of heaven, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them out among the wicked; and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. For the world shall be burned with fire. JST Matthew 13:42-44

What does it mean to be wicked or righteous? When the Savior taught the parable of the wheat and the tares and other parables about the kingdom of heaven, he said that at His coming, he would send angels and messengers to separate “all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” and “cast them out among the wicked.”

The Spirit World – levels of righteousness

In the Gospel Principles manual, we can read a little more about where those that “offend” and those “which do iniquity” will be sent. We know that during this life, those who have not accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ (whether or not they even had the opportunity) will be sent to Spirit Prison. “In the spirit prison are the spirits of those who have not yet received the gospel of Jesus Christ… also in the spirit prison are those who rejected the gospel after it was preached to them either on earth or in the spirit prison. These spirits suffer in a condition known as hell.” (p.244) In Alma we read, “ the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil – for behold they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord… these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity.” So does this mean that everyone who has not received the gospel in this life is “wicked”? We could assume that, since they are in “spirit prison” with those who suffer because they will not accept the gospel. But there is more to spirit prison than just suffering. “The spirits in paradise can teach the spirits in prison” (p.243) and “if [the spirits in prison] accept the gospel and the ordinances performed for them in the temples, they may leave the spirit prison and dwell in paradise.” (p.244) So being in spirit prison doesn’t automatically pass a judgment of “wicked” on a person. The wicked go to spirit prison and suffer in condition known as hell, while those who were righteous go to spirit prison to wait for an opportunity to accept the gospel, and to wait for their temple work to be done.

The spirit world, then, is just like the mortal world we live in right now. There are levels of righteousness and spirituality, and there are levels of suffering. In this life, when we are righteous and live the gospel, we have peace – we also experience suffering, because that is the nature of this world; however, we can experience peace as well. Those who do not have the gospel, yet live righteously, are also living in a measure of peace and happiness. Just because they don’t have the gospel does not mean they need to be tormented. There are those who have an even greater measure of the spirit and peace, those who believe in Christ, but do not have the fullness of the gospel. I think that when we realize how the spirit world is set up – that there are righteous people even in spirit prison, we can understand that there are righteous people on this earth who do not have the fullness of the gospel. This understanding of wicked and righteous helps me to be less judgmental of those I associate with.

Many of us have heard Christians who say anyone who has not accepted Christ is going to “hell” – and that they will be burned and all that. Thankfully we have a more understanding view of how the spirit world works, and those who are righteous, even if they have not had an opportunity to accept the gospel, will not suffer in “hell”, although they will dwell in spirit prison. But sometimes I think we are misguided in our understanding of what is wicked and what is righteous, and there are members of the Church who will tell you that those not of our faith will be going to hell.

The Second Coming of the Savior Jesus Christ gives us another opportunity to study the “wicked”and the “righteous”. “When Jesus comes again… the wicked will be destroyed.” (p.257) Again, who will the wicked be at the time of the Savior’s coming? Probably more those who are in the second category of the spirits who will be in spirit prison – those who reject the gospel after it has been preached to them, whether in this life or in the next. The Gospel Principles book gives us a little more insight into who will be left during the Millennium (after the Second Coming – remember, at the second coming the wicked will be destroyed, and the righteous will live on the earth during the Millennium). Who will be “the righteous”? “They will be those who have lived virtuous and honest lives. These people will inherit either the terrestrial or celestial kingdom.” (p. 263)

Will only members of the Church be living during the Millennium? No – all people who have lived virtuous and honest lives will be on the earth during the Millennium. I know many people not of our faith who are virtuous and honest people. They will all live with Christ as well. “Eventually everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is the Savior.” But until then, it will be just like living with our kind Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, black, Asian, Republican, and Democrat neighbors as we do today.

Puts it into perspective now, doesn’t it? If we cannot live in happiness and in harmony with people who are different than us now, what makes you think you will be able to live that way in the Millennium? It makes me want to be more kind and charitable to people I don’t agree with, especially if they are kind and charitable people. I want to be able to live during the Millennium, but I know that I won’t be able to if I don’t learn how to get along with people right now, in this life.

I hope it is easier for you now to understand the difference between “wicked” and “righteous” – and that not all those in spirit prison are horrible people – some of those people may even be resurrected during the Second Coming with the other righteous during the First Resurrection. (see Gospel Principles p. 260)

A sister in our Relief Society made this very profound statement, “Each person will be taught the gospel in a way that they perfectly understand what they are accepting or rejecting.” When someone rejects the gospel, we have a tendency to judge them as “wicked” – but as this wise sister said, they will have the opportunity to understand perfectly what it is they are rejecting or accepting, and maybe they don’t understand it perfectly.

How do you understand wickedness and righteousness as it pertains to the Spirit World and to the Savior’s Second Coming? Can you look around you now in your life and see people who you think might actually live during the Millennium that before you maybe thought wouldn’t? Does having a better understanding of who the righteous are help you desire to get along and associate with people you may not have before because of their beliefs?


  1. Becca
    Thank you for this enlightening post. This something that I have been concerned about since I have joined the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS.
    My question is this, When we perform ordinances for our dead ancestors,those who may or may not have accepted the gospel in life,is this another opportunity for them to reconsider? Can they reject the ordinaces performed for them?
    I suppose that they can still exercise their agency at this point also. Imagine, that at that point, when the gospel is once again being offered to you, will your life flash before you, can you then learn from mistakes made?

  2. Romona, I strongly suggest reading about the post mortal Spirit World in the Gospel Principles manual - you can find it online at lds.org

    But to answer your question here: Yes, those who may not have accepted the gospel in this life will have the opportunity to accept it in the next life.

    The most glorious thing about the gospel and the plan of salvation (to me) is that we have every chance to accept the Gospel. Until the final war with Satan, where many of the righteous will turn away from Heavenly Father, and the final judgement which will follow, we have every opportunity to accept Christ and the ordinances of the gospel, and align our lives with His will.

    The important thing to remember, though, is something Alma taught concerning our spirits in the post mortal world - "that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." Which is why it is so important to develop the right attitudes and perspectives in this life. But that does not mean that when we die our personalities are set in stone. Just as we can change our attitudes and perspectives in this life, we will be able to change them in the next life. However, we also learn in the scriptures that spirits in Spirit prison "have agency and may be enticed by both good and evil." So I don't think that just because you are in the spirit world you will be any more likely to accept the gospel. Maybe once you see that there really is life after death, that might help - but I think there will still be a lot of mystery about what comes after this world (the spirit world is technically on this earth, this world, around us - by "after this world" I am referring to after the Second Coming of the Savior). I don't think that we will have everything revealed to us immediately when we die. We will still be living on this earth. We are taught that the spirit world is all around us on this earth, not somewhere else. So, to me, the spirit world is going to be a lot like this world, except we will be spirits instead of mortal beings.

    I do not believe that our lives flash before us until the final judgement day (after the Millennium and the final battle with Satan)when, as President John Taylor taught, "That record is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who shall sit as judges." Up until that point, we are still living our lives - I do not believe that our lives end when we die - we keep living as Spirits, and we can still make choices and mistakes and repent, even as a spirit. Until we are judged and assigned a kingdom, there is potential for growth and learning.

    Which gives me hope, because the more I learn, the more I realized how little I know, and I can't imagine being able to learn everything in 80 or 90 short years. And that's if I get to be that old. What if I die young? Thankfully, we still get to learn and grow in the spirit world.

    I hope that answers your questions :) Feel free to ask more questions about this topic. I feel like I learned so much when we studied this topic in Relief Society, and it is fascinating.

  3. PS - thanks so much for your comment and your question :)

  4. I read with interest your comments on the spirit world. I have had a little more personal experience through my oldest daughter. She was greviously injuried by a drunk driver and remained in a coma for 5 months. I used to pray to Heavenly Father about where she was as she seemed to not meet the definition of dead or alive. She started responding to people giving her commands and was able to begin the process of learning to sit up, eat and after ten more months, to speak. My prayer was answered when she told us that for those five "coma" months, she was doing missionary work in spirit prison with her grandfather. Even though she is unable to care for herself and depends on me to meet her basic needs, I have come to love and appreciate the teaching moments I have gained over the past 22 years while in her sweet presence.


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