D&C 137 records a vision of Joseph Smith “in the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, January 21, 1836. HC 2: 380–381. The occasion was the administration of the ordinances of the endowment as far as they had then been revealed.” [Preface]. There are 2 important pieces of Mormon doctrine to consider here: (1) baptism for the dead, and (2) children that die before the age of accountability (and baptism at age 8 ) will inherit the Celestial Kingdom. Since it is a short section, let me quote it entirely. This section is only in the LDS version of the D&C, but other accounts of this revelation can be found in the History of the Church.
1 THE heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.
2 I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire;
3 Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.
4 I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.
5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;
6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.
7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: 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;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
10 And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.
Since God is the ultimate judge, and “who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God “, the LDS baptize all and let God be the judge. (I previously discussed baptism for the dead from a non-LDS Irish writer.)
So, this phrase “if they had been permitted to tarry”, got me thinking. Following my mission, another guy about my age returned home. I believe he got home on a Thursday and was slated to give his homecoming address on Sunday. (I’ll call him Ted.) He went out with some friends on Friday or Saturday night, and was involved in a serious car accident. Sitting in the back seat, his car was t-boned at an intersection. The woman sitting next to him was killed, and he received some fairly serious injuries, resulting in a delay of his homecoming address for about a month (which he gave standing on crutches.)
While it is probably a bit morbid to think about, a few people speculated that if he had been killed the day after his mission ended, he was probably very righteous and would have gone straight to the Celestial Kingdom. After all, he was probably living more righteously at that point in his life than at any other time.
Ted went on to college on the east coast (I stayed in the west), he majored in art, I majored in math, and our paths really never crossed much. I ran into his parents a few times, and they told me about his art exhibits, but neither one of us really made much of an effort to maintain contact. Enter Facebook. I noticed that he was friends with some of my friends, so I thought I would “friend” him and see what he was up to. To my surprise, he had posted his letter of resignation from the LDS church. There were many messages congratulating him for his courageous decision.
So, it got me thinking, what happens to those that perhaps died on a mission or similar circumstance, but “if they had been permitted to tarry”, they might have become wicked. (I’m not saying Ted is wicked—I’m not the judge, but just saying, “what if”?) Can we really be so certain of anyone’s final judgment?