The Prisoners Shall Go Free

ShacklesI had the privilege of speaking in Sacrament meeting today on the topic of Family History. It appeared that most of the congreation stayed awake, so I will count it as a “win.”

I wouldn’t presume to include the whole talk, but there are a couple of points that I learned while doing my preparation that I like that I’m happy to share with you. These things were not fully explored in my talk, but are the result of things I considered during my preparation. The first, because it is new (to me). The second, because it is big, as in huge.


All of us who are privileged to understand the Plan of Salvation understand that after death, every one goes to the Spirit World.

Those who had accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and received the correct ordinances go what we call Paradise, while those who have not yet learned of the Gospel, or those who rejected it here on earth go to the Spirit Prison.

In order for someone who is in the Spirit Prison to bust out, and enter the Spirit Paradise, they must accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, be purified through the Atonement, and one more thing: They must receive the ordinances of the Gospel by accepting a proxy ordinance performed by one of us, here on the earth, as performed in a temple.

Essentially, those people who have accepted the Gospel and want to move forward are help captive in prison. They are literally prisoners.

Speaking about the ordinance of baptism for the dead, Joseph Smith wrote:

Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free. (D&C 128:22)

As I was reading this verse, and contemplating the idea of a prison, a very familiar, but seemingly unrelated scripture, came to my mind. I think it makes for a nicely expanded idea.

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:35-40)

I had never made the link between liberating captives from the Spirit Prison to the idea of personally serving the Savior. I like it.


There is a specific title associated with those who participate in Family History and Temple work.  It is a title that is so grand – so humbling that we don’t talk about it much. The title is one we can actually share with the Lord Jesus Christ himself –  Those who participate in temple work become saviors on Mount Zion.

Saviors? Us?

Joseph Smith asked an answered: “How are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinance…, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah. …” (Link)

Here is a deeper look at the same idea from Elder David B. Haight, quoting John Widstoe.

“In our preexistent state, in the day of the great council, we made an … agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan. … We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we became parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves but … saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work. The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation.” (link)

It seems a little uncomfortable to aspire to a title such as savior, but as we participate in Family History and Temple Work, that is precisely the role we fill.

(Note: It is savior with a small “s” – not Savior with a capital “S.” Subtle difference, but it makes me a little more comfortable.)

A couple of things to ponder for your Sabbath day pondering. Now, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll close this window and visit this link here.

Good Sabbath!

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  1. The article released by the church this week about prisoners doing indexing work for Familysearch was interesting; sort of prisoners helping out others who are in prison.

  2. When I was serving with the youth several years ago the temple president came to talk to all of us in the baptistery before we began. He taught us about being saviors by doing temple work. I had never been taught that before and have lived the idea ever since. I never made the connection with those scriptures either… So thank you!

  3. I really like the correlation that you found. It has given me a lot to think about on my lllloooooonnnnngggg drive to work this evening. It also brought to mind a piece of personal scripture that I was reading this morning. After reading this post the phrase “savior on Mt. Zion” was brought to the forefront, and has caused me to ponder something quite a bit for the last 4.5 hours.

  4. Great thoughts, which got about me thinking. I looked up the dictionary definition out of curiosity. Little s is defined as someone who saves someone from danger, while capital s is defined as the one who brings salvation.

    \ˈsāv-yər also -ˌyȯr\noun

    : someone who saves something or someone from danger, harm, failure, etc.

    Savior —used by Christians to refer to Jesus Christ

    Full Definition


    :one that saves from danger or destruction


    :one who brings salvation; specifically capitalized :jesus 1

  5. We had talks on family history today too, including one youth speaker who related how she was the 1st one in the font area of the baptistry on the recent temple trip but ended up being the last one baptized and how being passed over and the wait was starting to irritate her until she thought about the names on the cards and how long THEY had been waiting (in prison). Excellent connection on that first one- a new way to think about Matthew 25 for me too.

    On a side note- maybe as a way to bring something good out of that instagram, you could put it up as another “find a fitting gospel analogy” challenge for your readers.

    1. Ohh! I like that analogy! I think I’ll share it Wed night in our FHC w/ the scouts.

  6. At the age of 15 I was introduced to the missionaries. They taught me the gospel and I felt I understood everything they taught because from the age of 12 I had studied the Bible on my own, looking for “the true religion”. When the missionaries got to the last lesson, the plan of salvation, and taught me how families could be together forever, I had a profound experience from the Holy Spirit that what they were telling me was true. To this day I can never deny that spiritual experience. After begging to be baptized, my mother finally gave her permission. When I turned 16, 11 months later, I was able to get my driver’s license. I was allowed, once a month, to drive to the nearest family history center to start research on my family ancestors. Since I lived a long ways from the nearest temple, I was never able to go do baptisms for the dead. And, at that time it was required to have the exact date and place for each ancestor. The courthouse where my ancestors had lived had burned down in 1900 and there was no way to obtain the information. Years later the policy was changed and we could use “about” dates and places. I have lived to do temple work for the rest of my life. This year my husband and I have done 275 endowments for our familys. We also do all the baptisms, and all other ordinances. My husband is a convert as well and has no other family members who are LDS. We LOVE family history and temple work. You have stated it well. We are in a partnership with the Savior to provide salvation for our ancestors.
    Thanks for your message today.

  7. Look at the sequence of the questions – when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
    Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
    Sacrament/baptism, new name, initiatory, endowment, in order. Maybe??

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