All mankind may be saved
The word to emphasize (relative to the OP’s question) from the third article of faith is may. This passage does not teach universalism, but rather, that the full, salvific effects of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice are available to everyone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ then, to a Latter-day Saint, describes the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and how we access its power. One prominent example comes from Alma 12:15
that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and
that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all
power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth
fruit meet for repentance.
Can Christ save them? Absolutely.
Will He force salvation upon them? No.
A more extended treatment of what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be found in 3 Nephi chapter 27, see verses 13-22.
I won’t segue into a lengthy discussion about the terminology “saved” and “grace”, but if any are interested, my thoughts are available in this video. For purposes of this question, suffice it to say:
- “Salvation”, in the most complete sense of the word, describes the
effect of fully participating in God’s plan of salvation
- “Grace” is Divine enabling power that is offered as a gift by God and
can only be fully accessed through covenants with God.
The Spirit World
Latter-day Saints believe that between death and the resurrection, human spirits inhabit the spirit world. That there are differing statuses within the spirit world is described by Alma 40:
11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the
resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that
the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal
body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are
taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are
righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called
paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest
from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked,
yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the
Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than
good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take
possession of their house—and 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, being led captive by the will
of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness,
and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the
wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the
righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
These divisions are usually referred to colloquially as “paradise” and “spirit prison”, but, as already noted by depperm, “hell” is often used to describe “spirit prison”.
As in the Bible, hell can be used to refer to the place where the wicked are prior to the resurrection (see Revelation 20:12). Hell is also very often used colloquially to refer to the lake of fire after the resurrection and judgement (see Revelation 20:15).
Disambiguation of hell:
- Spirit prison--the abode of the spirits who are not in paradise,
while awaiting the resurrection
- Outer Darkness--the ultimate fate of Satan and his angels, and the
sons of perdition (those who do not receive a kingdom of glory, see
That the Gospel of Jesus is taught to spirits in spirit prison is taught in great detail in Doctrine & Covenants 138 ; I’ll cite just a fraction of it here:
31 And the chosen messengers [in the spirit world] went forth to
declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the
captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins
and receive the gospel.
32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins,
without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious
baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the
laying on of hands,
(vicarious baptism because they no longer have a body and someone with a body performs the ordinance on their behalf--more details in my post here - note that Latter-day Saints practice vicarious ordinances because the practice was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith, not based simply on a deduction from 1 Cor. 15:29)
Notice that there are 2 reasons given:
- To provide the gospel message to those died without a knowledge of
the truth--Latter-day Saints believe that the billions of people who
have died without ever hearing the name of Jesus Christ, let alone
learned His gospel, will have that opportunity in the spirit world
- To provide the gospel message to those who rejected the prophets
It’s this latter point upon which many get hung up. Does this mean there is no penalty to them for having rejected the prophets? Does this mean we might as well eat, drink, and be merry, party in this life, and then wait and accept the gospel in the spirit world? Definitely not.
I’ll establish this two ways:
First, as taught by Amulek:
30 And now, my brethren, I would that, after ye have received so many
witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, ye
come forth and bring fruit unto repentance.
31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts
any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation;
and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts,
immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God;
yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their
33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many
witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate
the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life,
which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not
improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness
wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I
will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this;
for 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.
We will be the same people then as now--if we have wasted away the talents and opportunities God has given us in this life, we will be held accountable for that in the next. We will not magically be transformed into someone else, nor will our desires be different. We will have already been given a time of probation (Notice also that Amulek is speaking to people who have indeed had the gospel taught to them in this life).
For those who did not have those opportunities in this life, was their mortal life a waste? No--see below.
Second, God’s plan is not about filling out a checklist, it is about becoming. To the extent that God has given “checklists”, the checklists exist for the purpose of aiding our process of becoming. To borrow a phrase, the checklists were created for man and not man for the checklists.
God’s plan is a plan about becoming. If we use whatever portion of God’s light we are given in this life to progress, we will continue in that direction in the next life. If we reject God’s light, we may find eternally too late that we have lost opportunities that will not return, and we will limit our eternal potential.
We will be held accountable for what we know and the opportunities we’ve been given:
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not
himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes,
shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of
him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47-48)
As church President Russell M. Nelson has taught:
[I] question the efficacy of proxy temple work for a man who had the
opportunity to be baptized in this life—to be ordained to the
priesthood and receive temple blessings while here in mortality—but
who made the conscious decision to reject that course. (see here)
Only God can decide what constitutes adequate opportunity to accept or reject the fullness of the gospel. That all will be given a first chance to accept the gospel is clearly taught. That all will be granted a second chance is not--doesn’t sound like a gamble worth taking.
That unrepentant sin will result in suffering is clearly established in Doctrine & Covenants 19:15-19.
Eternal can refer to something that does not end--such as the permanence of the anguish associated with outer darkness.
Eternal is also a name for Christ, and can refer to something given by Him (see Doctrine & Covenants 19: 9-12).
The anguish in spirit prison is “eternal punishment” in that it is “God’s punishment”; it is not eternal in the sense that it lasts forever.
Spirit prison is a temporary abode. Will there be anguish after the spirit world, after resurrection & judgement? In outer darkness, clearly yes (see Doctrine & Covenants 76:32-38). Elsewhere? See below.
Kingdoms of glory
Latter-day Saints believe that after judgement there is more than just heaven and hell. We believe in kingdoms of glory: Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial. Since these details are not the focus of the OP, and I’ve already written way too much, I’ll refer the reader to Doctrine & Covenants 76 for the details of each. This video on my channel provides some commentary as well.
A quick summary is that only celestial glory constitutes “eternal life”, but that God has prepared for all whatever portion of glory they are prepared to receive.
I have to imagine that in the Terrestrial & Telestial kingdoms there is some sort of anguish associated with falling short of one’s potential.
Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as inspired, canonical scripture, members generally feel no obligation to prove a doctrinal position using only just one of the four. There are only a handful of passages repeated in all four, and, in fact, there are things we believe that are taught in the Bible but are not taught in the Book of Mormon!
From a Latter-day Saint perspective, this would be akin to asking Protestants to prove all doctrinal positions using only the four Gospels.
My own position is that the plan of salvation taught by the church is consistent with the Bible, but not proven by the Bible (“prove” is a strong word--if the Bible deductively proved one and only one very precise theology, we would expect only one doctrine to be accepted by those who believe the Bible. The existence of multiple Bible-based theologies demonstrates it is possible to interpret Biblical passages in more than one way).
All Biblical passages I will cite below have been interpreted by various groups in more than one way. To a Latter-day Saint, modern revelation casts a clarifying light on ancient scripture, it does not replace ancient scripture.
Evidence of sincerity--here I cannot speak for other Latter-day Saints, just for myself, but if anyone doubts my love for the Bible, please visit my YouTube channel, approximately half of which is dedicated to demonstrating the reliability and tremendous worth of the four Gospels.
All of that said, I do claim that the doctrinal views above are consistent with the Bible, and most of them are taught in the Bible. I should also point out that among the quotes in the OP, only the first one and the last 14 words of the third one come from scripture.
Biblical references (I’ll cite one for each topic, more available upon request):
All mankind may be saved
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but
also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Not all mankind will be saved:
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into
the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
Spirit World prior to the resurrection
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the
angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth
Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:22-23)
Note that the Greek word rendered “hell” here is Hades, which in scripture is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol. To Jews, Sheol described the abode of spirits prior to the resurrection. For a much more detailed discussion of the Biblical meanings of “hell”, see my post on Hermneutics here.
Note also that Sheol was generally thought of as existing in two “levels”, one for the righteous and one for the wicked.
Gospel preached to the dead
18 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 Spirit:
19 By which also he went and
preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were
disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of
Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls
were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Kingdoms of glory
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and
another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star
in glory. (1 Corinthians 15:41)
See also Luke 12:47-48 cited above.
This is a Latter-day Saint perspective--I say this as someone who believes on separate grounds that the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through a prophet in modern times. I wouldn’t expect anyone who does not hold this premise to agree with what I say next.
I do not claim that the doctrines I have outlined are proven by the Bible, but rather that they are in the Bible--and that through modern revelation their meaning is reinforced and made clear.
Disclaimer: my comments are the product of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints