I’m studying with two Mormons currently and a question was brought up that
stumped me. I was asked “what happens to people who haven’t heard about
Christ”. They weren’t referring to individuals today but to the time
before Christ and even people on different continents. After reading the
book of Mormon I see they believe that parts of the western world was
populated, so I have a couple of questions for you: a. When Christ was
crucified, did the rest of the world know about it? My assumption is
probably not b. If a person died at that time, or died even hundreds of
years before Christ came to earth, how would he be saved? Here is my
assumption, in 1 Peter it says that Jesus died and preached to the dead.
There was a reason for that, that didn’t just happen by chance. It’s
possible, although speculative that Jesus preached to all those who died
before him without hearing the gospel message. Any thoughts would be

First, it is true that the Book of Mormon implies that many people lived
in Central America at the time of Christ as well as well before that time.
Archaeologists and Paleontologists believe that the New World has been
populated for at least about 30,000 years, so this is no revelation. You
should be advised that the archeological claims of the Book of Mormon are
completely unfounded. There is not a shred of evidence which supports the
bogus supposed history recorded in the Book of Mormon. There is a Power
Point presentation on Mormonism at this site which I invite you to view
(click here: MORMONISM or here: MORMONISM1) which will support this claim.
The Book of Mormon records huge cities, dozens of wars, and many other
claims which are totally unsupported by evidence. You should take any
claim based on the Book of Mormon with a very very big grain of salt!

Second, at the time Christ was crucified, only a few thousand people were
aware of the fact. Within the next fifty years or so, the claim that Jesus
Christ was crucified and later resurrected from the dead had traveled over
most of the Roman Empire, as well as into parts of North Eastern Africa
and Central Asia. Even at this time, however, only a relatively small
proportion of the entire population of the world had heard of Jesus
Christ. Such, of course, is not the case today. This naturally can cause
one to ask the question you raise: what about those who did not hear about
Jesus? Besides, one might ask, what about the millions of people who lived
and died before Christ was even born? Were any of these people saved? I
have already answered this question. In fact, believe it or not this is
the most often asked question I receive at this web site, which is
especially surprising since this is a Christian Evidence web site!

Finally, let me deal with your speculation about 1 Peter chapter three.
The passage you refer to does indeed say in 1 Peter 3:19,20 “… in which
also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison who once
were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of
Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is eight
persons, were brought safely through the water.” This is one of the most
difficult passages, indeed in the entire Bible, to understand fully. By
the way, 1 Peter says that he went and proclaimed to these people “in the
spirit,” but it does not necessarily imply that this happened during the
time his body was in the tomb. Who exactly Jesus preached to, what he
preached and the results of his preaching are not even mentioned in 1
Peter 3. For this reason, whatever conclusion you reach about this passage
it would be a huge leap to reach the conclusion that people who were alive
in the time of Jesus and who did not hear about him were included in this
group. 1 Peter 3 says that Jesus preached to those who were alive during
the time that the ark was built. Again, exactly what this means in not
clear, but it would be a great leap to assume that Jesus preached to all
those who died without knowing about him (which would imply to some that
they might have a second chance to repent and be saved). Anyone seeking to
support a doctrine of how people who never heard of Christ might be saved
would be well advised to look elsewhere than in 1 Peter 3.

John M. Oakes, PhD

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