D&C 137 and 138 teach important and comforting doctrines: The Lord judges people according to the desire of their hearts and allows covenants to be made after death. Saints are engaged in teaching the gospel in world of spirits. These doctrines are manifestations of God’s love for us.
“Historical Context and Background of D&C 137,” Steven C. Harper and Casey Paul Griffiths, Doctrine and Covenants Central
How does one solve the problem that most people live and die without being saved by Christ? The Lord showed Joseph Smith a vision of the future and of heaven and made sure Joseph saw his brother Alvin there. Desire, not death, is the determinant of salvation through Jesus Christ.
“The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead,” George S. Tate, BYU Studies 46, no. 1
Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918), sixth President of the Church, endured the sorrow of the deaths of many loved ones, including his parents and several children. Smith also felt the horror of World War I, and his sons served in American forces. In October 1918, Smith received a comforting vision of God’s love and of Christ and saints ministering and preaching the gospel among the spirits of the dead. The vision teaches that the dead who repent will be redeemed and become heirs of salvation.
“‘And I Saw the Hosts of the Dead, Both Small and Great’: Joseph F. Smith, World War I, and His Visions of the Dead,” Richard E. Bennett, Religious Educator 2, no. 1
Joseph F. Smith’s sermons during World War I pertained to temple work, war, and other critical issues of the day. He spoke about the how the war had been predicted in prophecy but took no pleasure in seeing it fulfilled. He hoped the US could avoid involvement, but came to see US involvement as a necessity.
“The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead (D&C 138),” Robert L. Millet, Sperry Symposium Classics
In 1918, Joseph F. Smith endured several serious illnesses, and he was the recipient of numerous spiritual manifestations, including D&C 138. The insight that Christ did not personally visit the disobedient is a doctrinal matter introduced to the Church for the first time in October 1918 and does much to broaden our scope and answer questions with regard to the work within that sphere.
“From Obscurity to Scripture: Joseph F. Smith’s Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,” Mary Jane Woodger, You Shall Have My Word: Exploring the Text of the Doctrine and Covenants
The doctrines presented in D&C 138 led to increased emphasis on temple work and salvation for the dead. This article traces the history of the vision from its first announcement to the present day.