Was the Gospel Preached to the Dead? Is It Still Being Preached?

Latter-day Saints have the unusual belief that the Gospel was preached to the dead, beginning with the visit of Christ to deceased spirits during the 3 days between His death and resurrection. It’s part of a grand view of God as a loving Father who sees that all His children will have a chance to hear and possibly accept the message of redemption through Christ, regardless of when or where they were born. It is also connected to the LDS concept of vicarious baptism for the dead, giving all who wish to follow Christ in a covenant relationship to have the chance of accepting a valid baptism done in their behalf. We believe these basic concepts – the Gospel being preached to the dead and the practice of vicarious baptism for the dead – were known among early Christians and have been lost or corrupted through centuries of human innovation without the benefit of apostles and prophets keeping the Church on track through revelation. (This is one of the few times you’ll see me use the word innovation in a negative sense.)

We are often taken to task for our use of several Bible passages that appear to support LDS doctrines in this area. The three most relevant passages are 1 Peter 3:18-20; 1 Peter 4:6, and 1 Corinthians 15:29.

1 Peter 4:6:

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 3:18-20:

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 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

If you’re interested in exploring some of the arguments made against the LDS use of these verses, especially the first two passages, a good resource is a review by John Tvedtnes, “The Dead Shall Hear the Voice.” He gets into some common anti-Mormon nitpicking and shows that the LDS view is consistent with the Bible and early Christian thinking as well.

For fascinating details from early Christianity regarding the spirit world, preaching of the Gospel to the dead, and baptism for the dead, you may enjoy Chapter 4 of Barry Bickmore’s outstanding book, Restoring the Ancient Church. Highly recommended!


Author: Jeff Lindsay

10 thoughts on “Was the Gospel Preached to the Dead? Is It Still Being Preached?

  1. Yet another extremely great post on your part Jeff. Good job in spreading the Gospel through the “innovation” of technology, while putting to rest misunderstandings and false ideas about the LDS church.

  2. Thanks for the informative post on baptisms for the dead and work that continues in the spirit world. The references you gave for some added back up are great!

  3. That was Barry Bickmore’s web page. He has a book out (to which you also link elsewhere), that can be read online at:


    I’ve wondered why mainstream Protestant churches, even the “fundamental” ones which claim to “go back to the basics” don’t use more teachings from the “early Church Fathers” (some of whom were taught by the original 12 apostles).

    The reason is that all the churches, but especially the protestant ones, have changed the teachings, from the pre-Nicene era, and even teach the opposite.

    I would say that the LDS is the most fundamental and back-to-basics church in existence today.

  4. =Adam was born sometime prior to 4000 B.C., therefore our 6000 years are almost up.==


    The genealogies of Genesis are not biological father-son relationships. Ussher’s chronology was way-of (and I say that as a fellow Irish-man). When one compares the lists from Genesis with the lists elsewhere in the Old Testament, we see that there are generation gaps between individuals listed in Genesis.

    The Bible, exegetically, with your YEC take, makes the gap between us and Adam about 10,000 years, not 6,000.

    Robert Boylan

  5. Jeff, may I move to strike and invoke the rule of very long posts towards Armeggedon? He is also painting the picture of the too common “black and white” Sheep go to Heaven and Goats go to Hell picture that you and many others on this blog have more than once discussed as not completely biblical…especially if the Gospel is being preached to the dead as we are discussing here?

  6. Darion,

    I vote to leave Armageddon Thru To You’s comment.

    It makes the rest of us look better by comparison. 🙂

  7. I wavered, but finally got so annoyed at the excessive length of that rambling, off-topic comment that I hit the delete key.

    Bookslinger, you don’t need trash around to look great. Thanks for your comments! And thanks for the suggestion, Darion.

  8. Thank you Jeff. As for preaching to the dead, I do have a question, just out of thought, if you were taught the Gospel in the Spirit World, why would choose to NOT to listen? I mean, wouldn’t it be obvious that what we are preaching right now is true?

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