LDS afterlife (long)Okay. Last night it was just too late. So I will summarize our understanding/belief of the steps of the afterlife. Understand that we believe in more scriptures than just the Bible, so much of our understanding is based upon the Book of Mormon, as well as revelations given to prophets including and since Joseph Smith.
When we depart this earthly life, we return to the spirit world (from whence we came, at that time in the presence of God). Our physical body remains on the earth and our spirit returns. The spirit world is divided into two areas: One is Paradise, which is where those spirits go who have been baptised by those with authority and then lived according to those baptismal covenants and "endured to the end." We believe that a "conversion" continues throughout life. These souls are at rest--they experience no pain, etc. The other area of the spirit world is sometimes called spirit prison. (Before this sounds like souls chained like Jacob Marley and rattling in cells, it is called spirit prison because they are out of the presence of God). The spirits who go here include all the spirits of people who did not have a chance while on earth to hear about Jesus Christ, as well as those who chose not to hear about and accept the message of Jesus Christ. We believe in a just God, and so the aspect of those souls who did not have a chance to hear about Jesus Christ and have the saving ordinances are accounted for.
You may have noticed or heard about Mormons' penchant for genealogical research. We believe that the saving ordinance of baptism, as well as others, must take place here on the earth in the physical body. In 1 Corinthians 15:29 Paul says:
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?
I don't know what most of Christianity does with this verse, but we collect the names of every person who has ever lived as we can and make the ordinances of baptism by water and by the Spirit (we call this confirmation), as well as other sacred ordinances, available to those souls who have died by performing those ordinances in proxy in the temple. Many of you may live near an LDS temple. This is what they are for. So I have been baptized for several people, one after another. So pretend I was baptized for Sarah Smith. Now, Sarah Smith's spirit is in the spirit prison. She has had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ from teachers in the spirit world, but she cannot perform the ordinance of baptism because her spirit is separated from her body. So once I am baptized and confirmed for Sarah, she can accept Christ and then pass over into Paradise. This is a bit simplified, but it will suffice for this explanation.
The Bible is replete with discussions of the final judgment, the bar of God, etc., and so we believe that Jesus Christ will mediate at a final judgment at the end of all things (including the Rapture, although that isn't what we call it--I mention it b/c it's been mentioned). At the final judgment, all souls will have been resurrected--spirit and body reunited. We believe that this is the free gift of Jesus' triumph over dead.
We believe in three kingdoms of glory, described very briefly in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41: There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, for one star differeth from another star in glory.
This is somewhat vague, but we understand more and better from latter-day revelation. The three kingdoms are divided as follows:
Celestial Kingdom: full access to God the Father and Jesus the Son; those who are baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit, and who are of the church of Jesus Christ, and who live righteously to the end of their lives. These are described as having the glory of the sun.
Terrestrial Kingdom: access to Jesus the Son; honorable men of the earth, but did not receive the testimony of Jesus; and they are described as having the glory of the moon.
Telestial kingdom: Did not (after having been offered) accept the gospel of Jesus. These are they who are said to be going to hell. They will not be here until at the end of all things, but prior to the end of al things, they will be under the power of the devil.
There is a fourth category, where very very few souls will go: it is called Perdition or outer darkness. These are the few souls who will not even be resurrected. They will have received all the light that God has to offer them here on the earth, and then completely turn away from it and deny the Holy Spirit.
So I guess, in answer to the question we believe that to be saved, yes, one must be baptized and accept Jesus Christ. We believe that all souls that were ever created by God will have ample opportunity to hear and accept, whether in this life or in the spirit world. We believe that at the time Christ shall come every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ (Isaiah 45:21-23):
. . . and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
This is about as concise as I can get this. There's tons more, but this is appropos to this conversation, I believe.