Some denominations, typically Roman Catholicism, recognize the doctrine of purgatory, while many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches would not use the same terminology, the former on the basis of their own sola scriptura doctrine, combined with their exclusion of 2 Maccabees from the Protestant Canon of the Bible, the latter because the Orthodox Churches consider purgatory a non-essential doctrine.
The Catholic Church gives the name purgatory to the final purification of all who die in God's grace and friendship but are still imperfectly purified. Though purgatory is often pictured as a place rather than a process of purification, the idea of purgatory as a physical place with time is not part of the Church's doctrine.
Heaven and Hell
A depiction of purgatory by Venezuelan painter Cristóbal Rojas
(1890) representing the boundary between heaven (above) and hell (below)
According to Catholic belief, death is immediately followed by the judgment in which the soul's eternal destiny is specified. Some are eternally united with God in Heaven, envisioned as a paradise of unending bliss, where Theosis is completed and one experiences the beatific vision. Conversely, others reach Hell, that is chiefly a state of eternal, irreversible separation from God often envisioned as an abode of unending torment, often characterised as a fire that may be considered metaphorical.
Role in relation to sin
In addition to accepting the states of heaven and hell, Catholicism envisages a third state before being admitted to heaven. According to Catholic doctrine, some souls are not sufficiently free from the temporal effects of sin and its consequences to enter the state of heaven immediately, nor are they so sinful and hateful of Christ as to be destined for hell either. Such souls, ultimately destined to be united with God in heaven, must first be cleansed through purgatory – a state of purification. Through purgatory, souls "achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." The Church makes a distinction between mortal sin, which incurs both temporal punishment and eternal punishment, and venial sin, which incurs only temporal punishment. Mortal sin is a "sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent." "If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back."
In contrast, venial sin (meaning "forgivable" sin) "does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God" and, although still "constituting a moral disorder," does not deprive the sinner of friendship with God or the eternal happiness of heaven. However, since venial sin weakens charity, manifests a disordered affection for created goods, and impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good, it merits temporal punishment.
The Church notes that purification from our sinful tendencies can occur during life. The situation has been compared to that of someone who needs to be cleansed of any addiction. As from any addiction, rehabilitation from the "disordered affection for created goods" will be a gradual and probably painful process. It can be advanced during life by voluntary self-mortification and penance and by deeds of generosity that show love of God rather than of creatures. After death, a cleansing process can be recognized as a still necessary preparation for entering the divine presence.
The writings of Saint Catherine of Genoa explain: "As for paradise, God has placed no doors there. Whoever wishes to enter, does so. An all-merciful God stands there with His arms open, waiting to receive us into His glory. I also see, however, that the divine presence is so pure and light-filled – much more than we can imagine – that the soul that has but the slightest imperfection would rather throw itself into a thousand hells than appear thus before the divine presence. Tongue cannot express nor heart understand the full meaning of purgatory, which the soul willingly accepts as a mercy the realization that that suffering is of no importance compared to the removal of the impediment of sin."
Pain and fire
Purgatory is commonly regarded as a cleansing by way of painful temporal punishment, which, like the eternal punishment of hell, is associated with the idea of fire. While "pain of the senses" (as opposed to "pain of longing" for the Beatific Vision) is not doctrinally defined as being a part of purgatory, the overwhelming consensus of theologians has been that it does involve pain of the senses. Several 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved. Fire was the Bible-inspired image ("We went through fire and through water") that Christians used for the notion of after-life purification. Saint Augustine of Hippo described the fires of cleansing as more painful than anything a man can suffer in this life, and Pope Gregory I wrote that there must be a cleansing fire for some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. Origen wrote about the fire that needs to purify the soul. Saint Gregory of Nyssa also wrote about the purging fire.
Another image of souls
being purified by flames in purgatory
Most theologians of the past have held that the fire is in some sense a material fire, though of a nature different from ordinary fire, but the opinion of other theologians who interpret the Scriptural term "fire" metaphorically has not been condemned by the Church and may now be the more common view among theologians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of a "cleansing fire" and quotes the expression "purgatorius ignis" (purifying fire) used by Pope Gregory the Great. It speaks of the temporal punishment for sin, even in this life, as a matter of "sufferings and trials of all kinds." It describes purgatory as a necessary purification from "an unhealthy attachment to creatures," a purification that "frees one from what is called the 'temporal punishment' of sin," a punishment that "must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin."
Prayer for the dead and indulgences
The Catholic Church teaches that the fate of those in purgatory can be affected by the actions of the faithful on earth. Its teaching is based also on the practice of prayer for the dead mentioned as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42–46, considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be part of Sacred Scripture.
In the same context there is mention of the practice of indulgences. An indulgence is a remission before God, through the mediation of the Church, of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. Indulgences may be obtained for oneself, or on behalf of the dead. Despite popular perception, the Catholic Church has never taught that indulgences forgive any sins, for this is God's jurisdiction alone. Any persons who have taught that acts of charity such as indulgences can forgive sins have been condemned as heretics by the Catholic Church. It is also a heretical position to suggest that indulgences are applied no matter how weak a Christian may be in his faith. An indulgence (or any act of charity for that matter) is dependent on the present faith of the individual Christian (see Johann Tetzel).
Prayers for the dead and indulgences have been popularly envisioned as decreasing the "duration" of time the dead spend in purgatory, an idea associated with the fact that, in the past, indulgences were measured in terms of days, "quarantines" (i.e. 40-day periods as for Lent), or years, meaning, not that purgatory would be shortened by that amount of time, but that the indulgences were equivalent to that length of canonical penance on the part of a living Christian. When the imposition of such canonical penances of a determinate duration fell out of custom these expressions were sometimes popularly misinterpreted as reduction of that much time of a soul's stay in purgatory. A prayer roll that once belonged to Henry VIII claimed that "this image of pity devotedly say 5 Pater Noster, 5 Ave Maria and 1 Credo..." gave a pardon and reduction of time in purgatory of "52,712 years and 40 days of pardon." In Pope Paul VI's revision of the rules concerning indulgences, these expressions were dropped, and replaced by the expression "partial indulgence", indicating that the person who gained such an indulgence for a pious action is granted "in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church."
Historically, the practice of granting indulgences, and the widespread associated abuses, led to them being seen as increasingly bound up with money, with criticisms being directed against the "sale" of indulgences, a source of controversy that was the immediate occasion of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and Switzerland.
As a physical place
Dante gazes at purgatory (shown as a mountain) in this 16th-century painting.
However, in antiquity and medieval times, Heaven and Hell were widely spoken of as places existing within the physical universe: Heaven "above", in the sky; Hell "below", in or beneath the earth. Similarly, purgatory has at times been thought of as a physical location. This is nowhere maintained in the Catholic Catechism of 1992.
In 1206, a peasant named Thurkhill in England claimed that Saint Julian took him on a tour of purgatory. He gave precise details, including descriptions of what he called purgatory's "torture chambers", and was widely believed, including by the Church historian Roger of Wendover.
In Dante's fourteenth-century work La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), purgatory is depicted as a mountain in the Southern hemisphere. It is apparently the only land there. Souls who loved God and man half-heartedly find themselves at Mount Purgatory, where there are two levels and then Seven Levels representing the Seven Deadly Sins with ironic punishments. For example, on the first level for Pride, the penitents are weighed down by huge stones. This forces them to look down in humility at the pavement, which depicts examples of sinful Pride such as Arachne. When they reach the top, souls will find themselves at Jerusalem's antipode, the Garden of Eden itself. Thus, cleansed of all sin and made perfect, they wait in this Earthly paradise before ascending to Heaven.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II referred to purgatory as "a condition of existence," implying that it is most likely not an actual physical location or place, but is a state wherein "those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection."
In 2011, John Paul II's successor, Pope Benedict XVI, spoke of Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510) and how, despite the view in her time that the purification of souls (purgatory) was pictured as a location in space, the saint saw purgatory as a purifying inner fire, such as she experienced in her profound sorrow for sins committed, when compared with God's infinite love. She said "The soul presents itself to God still bound to the desires and suffering that derive from sin and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the beatific vision of God." The Pope commented: "We too feel how distant we are, how full we are of so many things that we cannot see God. The soul is aware of the immense love and perfect justice of God and consequently suffers for having failed to respond in a correct and perfect way to this love; and love for God itself becomes a flame, love itself cleanses it from the residue of sin."
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, first published in 2005, is a summary in dialogue form of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It deals with purgatory in the following exchange:
210. What is purgatory?
- Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.
211. How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?
- Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.
These two questions and answers summarize information in sections 1020–1032 and 1054 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, which also speaks of purgatory in sections 1472 and 1473. Earlier statements are those of the Council of Trent in 1563 and the Council of Florence in 1439.
The Latin Rite of the Catholic Church does not teach that the suffering of purgatory is imposed by God. Among the many theologies that attempt to explain purgatory, one might maintain that it is the burning regret one feels when one's life is revealed in full after death, and the remorse that precedes putting this behind and passing on to the state of blessedness. Knowing the acts of love that those on earth are offering for one might conceivably make more bearable the remorse.
Saints devotees of purgatory
Saint Nicholas of Tolentino is considered protective of the souls of Purgatory according to the Catholic Church.
In this list some saints appear that defended, venerated or had visions of the souls of the Purgatorio according to the catholic tradition:
The 23 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches, which are in full communion with the Pope, also have a similar concept. There are however some differences between the theologies of the Latin Church and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches on aspects of the concept, mostly relating to terminology and speculation. The Eastern Catholic Churches of Greek tradition do not generally use the term "purgatory", but agree that there is a "final purification" for souls destined for heaven, and that prayers can help the dead who are in that state of "final purification". In general, neither the members of the Latin Church nor the members of these Eastern Catholic Churches regard these differences as points of dispute, but see them as minor nuances and differences of tradition. A treaty that formalized the admission of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church stated: "We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church," implying, in the opinion of a theologian of that Church, that both sides can agree to disagree on the theological speculations and opinions of what is called purgatory, while there is full agreement on essential dogma. Between the Latin Church and some other Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, there is no variance about theological opinions of purgatory.
Eastern Catholic Churches belonging to the Syriac Tradition (Chaldean, Maronite, and Syriac Catholic) generally believe in the concept of purgatory but use a different name, like "Sheol". They claim that this does not contradict the Latin Rite doctrine.
While the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the term "purgatory", it acknowledges an intermediate state after death. It believes in the determination of Heaven and Hell as stated in the Bible and that prayer for the dead is necessary. According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:
The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. ...There is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world. Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge. The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory (a place of purging), that is, the inter-mediate state after death in which the souls of the saved (those who have not received temporal punishment for their sins) are purified of all taint preparatory to entering into Heaven, where every soul is perfect and fit to see God. Also, the Orthodox Church does not believe in indulgences as remissions from purgatorial punishment. Both purgatory and indulgences are inter-corelated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church, and when they were enforced and applied they brought about evil practices at the expense of the prevailing Truths of the Church. If Almighty God in His merciful loving-kindness changes the dreadful situation of the sinner, it is unknown to the Church of Christ. The Church lived for fifteen hundred years without such a theory.
Eastern Orthodox teaching is that, while all undergo a Particular Judgment immediately after death, neither the just nor the wicked attain the final state of bliss or punishment before the Last Day, with some exceptions for righteous souls like the Theotokos (Blessed Virgin Mary), "who was borne by the angels directly to heaven."
The Eastern Orthodox Church holds that it is necessary to believe in this intermediate after-death state in which souls are perfected and brought to full divinization, a process of growth rather than of punishment, which some Orthodox have called purgatory. Eastern Orthodox theology does not generally describe the situation of the dead as involving suffering or fire, although it nevertheless describes it as a "direful condition". The souls of the righteous dead are in light and rest, with a foretaste of eternal happiness; but the souls of the wicked are in a state the reverse of this. Among the latter, such souls as have departed with faith but "without having had time to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance ... may be aided towards the attainment of a blessed resurrection [at the end of time] by prayers offered in their behalf, especially those offered in union with the oblation of the bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, and by works of mercy done in faith for their memory."
The state in which souls undergo this experience is often referred to as "Hades".
The Orthodox Confession of Peter Mogila (1596–1646), adopted, in a Greek translation by Meletius Syrigos, by the 1642 Council of Jassy in Romania, professes that "many are freed from the prison of hell ... through the good works of the living and the Church's prayers for them, most of all through the unbloody sacrifice, which is offered on certain days for all the living and the dead" (question 64); and (under the heading "How must one consider the purgatorial fire?") "the Church rightly performs for them the unbloody sacrifice and prayers, but they do not cleanse themselves by suffering something. The Church never maintained that which pertains to the fanciful stories of some concerning the souls of their dead who have not done penance and are punished, as it were, in streams, springs and swamps" (question 66).
The Eastern Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem (1672) declared that "the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each hath wrought" (an enjoyment or condemnation that will be complete only after the resurrection of the dead); but the souls of some "depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed, especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most, which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. Of course, it is understood that we do not know the time of their release. We know and believe that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment, but when we know not."
Some Orthodox believe in a teaching of "aerial toll-houses" for the souls of the dead. According to this theory, which is rejected by other Orthodox but appears in the hymnology of the Church, "following a person's death the soul leaves the body and is escorted to God by angels. During this journey the soul passes through an aerial realm which is ruled by demons. The soul encounters these demons at various points referred to as 'toll-houses' where the demons then attempt to accuse it of sin and, if possible, drag the soul into hell."
In general, Protestant churches reject the doctrine of purgatory. One of Protestantism's central tenets is sola scriptura ("scripture alone"). The general Protestant view is that the Bible, from which Protestants exclude deuterocanonical books such as 2 Maccabees, contains no overt, explicit discussion of purgatory and therefore it should be rejected as an unbiblical belief.
Another view held by many Protestants is sola fide ("by faith alone"): that faith alone, apart from any action, is what achieves salvation, and that good works are merely evidence of that faith. Justification is generally seen as a discrete event that takes place once for all during one's lifetime, not the result of a transformation of character. However, most Protestants teach that a transformation of character naturally follows the salvation experience. Instead of distinguishing between mortal and venial sins, Protestants believe that one's faith dictates one's state of salvation and one's place in the afterlife. Those who have been saved by God are destined for heaven, while those have not been saved will be excluded from heaven. Accordingly, they reject any notion of a provisional or temporary afterlife state such as purgatory.
Some Protestants hold that a person enters into the fullness of one's bliss or torment only after the resurrection of the body, and that the soul in that interim state is conscious and aware of the fate in store for it. Others have held that souls in the intermediate state between death and resurrection are without consciousness, a state known as soul sleep.
As an argument for the existence of purgatory, Protestant religious philosopher Jerry L. Walls wrote Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (2011). The book evoked reviews and news stories. It received a positive review in the Roman Catholic University of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
Historically informed, philosophically competent, and theologically alert, . . . as careful
and fair a discussion of the doctrine of purgatory as one is likely to find.
The Christian Century suggested that, if Protestants followed Walls’ logic, they might accept his view of an intermediate state without calling it purgatory. Within early Christianity, he finds "biblical hints of purgatory" and examines them. In a survey of Christian writers, whom he calls the "Fathers and Mothers of Purgatory", Walls finds the beginnings of the doctrine of purgatory in their writings. These three sources led up to the "birth of purgatory" in the 12th century. The 13th century saw the beginnings of purgatory’s adoption and its adoption as doctrine in 1274. Walls does not base his belief in purgatory primarily on Scripture, the Mothers and Fathers of the Church, or the Magisterium (doctrinal authority) of the Roman Catholic church. Rather his basic argument is that, in a phrase he often uses, it "makes sense." For Walls, purgatory has a logic as in the title of his book. Walls documents the "contrast between the satisfaction and sanctification models" of purgatory. In the satisfaction model, "the punishment of purgatory" is to satisfy God’s justice. In the sanctification model, Wall writes that "Purgatory might be pictured . . . as a regimen to regain one’s spiritual health and get back into moral shape." In Roman Catholic theology, Walls finds that the doctrine of purgatory has "swung" between the "poles of satisfaction and sanctification" sometimes "combining both elements somewhere in the middle." He believes the sanctification model "can be affirmed by Protestants without contradicting their theology" and find that it "makes better sense" than an instantaneous purging of sin at the moment of death.
While purgatory was disputed by the reformers, the Early Patristic Theologians of the Eastern Church taught and believed in "apokatastasis", the belief that all creation would be restored to the original perfect condition after a remedial purgatorial reformation. St. Clement of Alexandria was one of the early church theologians who taught this view through key scriptures. Many today are discovering that the reformers did an injustice to Early Christian understandings concerning purgatorial restoration. Protestants have always contended that there are no second chances. However, Lutherans have a similar doctrine of what may happen to the unevangelized in a book titled What about those who never heard. Also several Apologists of both Protestant,Universalist and Catholic backgrounds dig deeper into the subject in the book, "Four Views of Hell". Thomas Talbott and David Burnfield both wrote books defending the Early Church view of the unlimited atonement, and the ultimate salvation of all mankind.
Purgatory was addressed by both of the "foundation features" of Anglicanism in the 16th century: the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.
Article XXII of the Thirty-Nine Articles states that "The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory . . . is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God." Prayers for the departed were deleted from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer because they suggested a doctrine of purgatory. The 19th century Anglo-Catholic revival led to restoring prayers for the dead.
John Henry Newman, in his Tract XC of 1841 §6, discussed Article XXII. He highlighted the fact that it is the "Romish" doctrine of purgatory coupled with indulgences that Article XXII condemns as "repugnant to the Word of God." The article did not condemn every doctrine of purgatory and it did not condemn prayers for the dead.
As of the year 2000, the state of the doctrine of purgatory in Anglicanism was summarized as follows:
Purgatory is seldom mentioned in Anglican descriptions or speculations concerning life after death, although many Anglicans believe in a continuing process of growth and development after death.
John Henry Hobart, an Anglican bishop, writes that "Hades, or the place of the dead, is represented as a spacious receptacle with gates, through which the dead enter." The Anglican Catechist elaborates on Hades, stating that it "is an intermediate state between death and the resurrection, in which the soul does not sleep in unconsciousness, but exists in happiness or misery till the resurrection, when it shall be reunited to the body and receive its final reward." This space is divided into Paradise and Gehenna "but with an impassable gulf between the two," Souls, with exception of martyrs and saints, remain in Hades until the Final Judgment and "Christians may also improve in holiness after death during the middle state before the final judgment."
As such, the Book of Common Prayer includes prayers for the dead, both that they may be "purged" of "defilements . . . contracted" in their "earthly life" and that they may increase in the "knowledge and love" of God.
Leonel L. Mitchell (1930-2012) offers this rationale for prayers for the dead:
No one is ready at the time of death to enter into life in the nearer presence of God without substantial growth precisely in love, knowledge, and service; and the prayer also recognizes that God will provide what is necessary for us to enter that state. This growth will presumably be between death and resurrection."
Anglican theologian C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), reflecting on the history of the doctrine of purgatory in the Anglican Communion, said there were good reasons for "casting doubt on the 'Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory' as that Romish doctrine had then become" not merely a "commercial scandal" but also the picture in which the souls are tormented by devils, whose presence is "more horrible and grievous to us than is the pain itself," and where the spirit who suffers the tortures cannot, for pain, "remember God as he ought to do." Lewis believed instead in purgatory as presented in John Henry Newman's The Dream of Gerontius. By this poem, Lewis wrote, "Religion has reclaimed Purgatory," a process of purification that will normally involve suffering.
Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church, believed that it was of no avail to pray for the dead. Nonetheless, a core statement of Lutheran doctrine, from the Book of Concord, states: "We know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit; but we disapprove of the application ex opere operato of the Lord's Supper on behalf of the dead. ... Epiphanius [of Salamis] testifies that Aerius [of Sebaste] held that prayers for the dead are useless. With this he finds fault. Neither do we favor Aerius, but we do argue with you because you defend a heresy that clearly conflicts with the prophets, apostles, and Holy Fathers, namely, that the Mass justifies ex opere operato, that it merits the remission of guilt and punishment even for the unjust, to whom it is applied, if they do not present an obstacle." (Philipp Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession). The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, however, believes in the doctrine of purgatory, as well as papal infallibility and all Roman Catholic dogma. Additionally, High Church Lutheranism, like Anglo-Catholicism, is more likely to accept some form of purgatory.
Methodist churches, in keeping with Article XIV - Of Purgatory in the Articles of Religion, hold that "the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory ... is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God." However, in the Methodist Church, there is a belief in Hades, "the intermediate state of souls between death and the general resurrection," which is divided into Paradise (for the righteous) and Gehenna (for the wicked). After the general judgment, Hades will be abolished. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, "made a distinction between hell (the receptacle of the damned) and Hades (the receptacle of all separate spirits), and also between paradise (the antechamber of heaven) and heaven itself." The dead will remain in Hades "until the Day of Judgment when we will all be bodily resurrected and stand before Christ as our Judge. After the Judgment, the Righteous will go to their eternal reward in Heaven and the Accursed will depart to Hell (see Matthew 25)."
Mormonism, the group of beliefs espoused by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches of an intermediate place for spirits between their death and their bodily resurrection. This place, called "the spirit world," includes "paradise" for the righteous and "prison" for those who do not know God. Spirits in paradise serve as missionaries to the spirits in prison, who can still accept salvation. In this sense, spirit prison can be conceptualized as a type of purgatory. In addition to hearing the message from the missionary spirits, the spirits in prison can also accept posthumous baptism and other posthumous ordinances performed by living church members in temples on Earth. This is frequently referred to as "baptism for the dead" and "temple work." Mormons believe that during the three days following Christ's crucifixion, he preached his gospel to inhabitants of spirit prison.