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Mormonism teaches that after death, the spirit of every man and woman goes to a place known as the spirit world. Mormon doctrine teaches that the soul of man is immortal and existed prior to this earth life in what Mormons call the pre-mortal life. The post-mortal world of spirits, according to the prophet Joseph Smith, is an actual place where deceased spirits reside and "where they converse together the same as we do on the earth" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 353). According to the Doctrine and Covenants, in heaven, "that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2). Bruce R. McConkie, a former Apostle in the Church said that, "[l]ife and work and activity all continue in the spirit world. Men have the same talents and intelligence there, which they had in this life. They possess the same attitudes, inclinations, and feelings there which they had in this life" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 762). Mormons believe that in the spirit world, men and women can continue to learn and grow, and exercise their free agency.
The post-mortal spirit world is comprised of two conditions of existence: spirit paradise for the righteous, and spirit prison for the wicked or unrepentant. These two conditions are separated by a gulf. The determination of righteousness and wickedness will be made according to the knowledge achieved on earth—a man cannot be found guilty of sin, if he has no knowledge of Christ or the commandments. However, all men bring to their mortal existence the light of Christ, which men commonly call "conscience."
Everyone will have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and accept it. During the time between Christ's death and resurrection, He organized this missionary effort in the spirit world so that all would have the opportunity to learn and choose the gospel. Spirit paradise, in contrast to spirit prison, is a place where the souls of the righteous can rest from the trials and difficulties of mortal life and continue the work of teaching the gospel. Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of the Mormon Church, saw the following vision:
- [T]he gospel [was] preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets. These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross (Doctrine and Covenants 138:32-35).
It is in this post-mortal spirit world that the spirits of all mankind await the resurrection and the judgment. When Christ comes again, all the righteous will be resurrected. The final resurrection will take place after the millennium ends, and the spirit world will no longer be needed. People will then be judged according to their works, and will be able to enter the Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms.
- Click here to read Prophet Joseph F. Smith's vision of the spirit world.