My husband and I disagree about whether or not people who live/have lived on the earth but have not accepted, or heard of, the gospel and made eternal covenants can attain the celestial kingdom. I believe that everyone will have an equal opportunity to hear the Savior’s plan, make covenants, be sealed and attain all of the celestial glory available. If not, God would not be fair and missionary work beyond the veil would be limited and make no sense. My husband believes, and supports in D&C 132, that only those who join the church and are sealed in this life have any chance of celestial glory. Those who do not join ‘the church’ and get sealed in this life are, and forever will be, less than the members of the church upon the earth. Please answer with lots of doctrinal references from church leaders and scriptures.
Not only will individuals have the opportunity to accept the Gospel and repent of their sins while living here on this earth, but also in the spirit world. Prior to His resurrection, Christ went to the spirit world and according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, organized the missionary effort there. Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ he bridged the gap between those in spirit prison and those in paradise. In 1 Peter 3, Peter tells us: “19 .By which also he (Christ) 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.” Why would the Gospel be preached to those in spirit prison if they were unable to repent and accept the Gospel? The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “The Savior indicated that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men wherewith they shall blaspheme; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come, evidently showing that there are sins which may be forgiven in the world to come.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith) Further Peter explains why Christ went to the spirit world: “For 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.” (1 Peter 4: 6)
President Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation 2:134 stated: “Knowing of the love the Father has for his children, we may rightfully conclude that the Father has arranged the plan of salvation so that all his children may have the fullest opportunity of salvation. How is this opportunity coming to them? We know that millions of people have died without knowledge of the gospel, or of the name of Christ our Redeemer. Millions are now living who have never heard. Notwithstanding all the efforts that we can put forth to preach the truth, millions will die without hearing, much less receiving it. It would be foolish on our part to think that the Lord would condemn all these to eternal damnation without the privilege of a hearing. Such a thing would not be just; it would not be merciful; it would not be godlike. Yet, has not the Lord said that no man may enter his kingdom except he be born again, and that only those may enter who accept his laws and endure to the end?”
The ordinances of baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Priesthood, endowment, and sealing belong to this world. Just as it states in D&C 132, these ordinances have to be performed in the Temples here upon this earth. This is the reason we perform these ordinances in the Temple for our dead. Those who have died can accept the Gospel in the Spirit World, but are unable to receive the necessary ordinances there. President Joseph Fielding Smith stated: “Temple work is for the purpose of giving to every man and to every woman the blessings of the higher ordinances of the gospel that are essential to salvation in the kingdom of God. There is not an ordinance performed in the temple that does not pertain to this mortal life. When we go into the temple and act for somebody else, we are treating that person as though we were that person living here, doing for him just what he would have to do if he were in mortal life.”
Everyone will have the opportunity to accept Jesus as the Christ and His gospel. This will occur while living on this earth or in the Spirit World. Those who have passed away will be able to accept the ordinances performed for them in the Temples here on this earth. Once these ordinances are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, they will be binding, just as those who accept Jesus, His gospel and received the necessary ordinances while living here on this earth.