When you are in the spirit world, everything there will appear as natural as things now do. Spirits will be familiar with spirits in the spirit world—will converse, behold, and exercise every variety of communication with one another as familiarly and naturally as while here in tabernacles. There, as here, all things will be natural, and you will understand them as you now understand natural things. You will there see that those spirits we are speaking of are active; they sleep not. And you will learn that they are striving with all their might—laboring and toiling diligently as any individual would to accomplish an act in this world (Discourses of Brigham Young, 380).
As for my going into the immediate presence of God when I die, I do not expect it, but I expect to go into the world of spirits and associate with my brethren, and preach the Gospel in the spiritual world, and prepare myself in every necessary way to receive my body again, and then enter through the wall into the celestial world. I never shall come into the presence of my Father and God until I have received my resurrected body, neither will any other person. (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 3:112-113)
“This world is a very wicked world; and it is a proverb that the ‘world grows weaker and wiser’; if that is the case, the world grows more wicked and corrupt. In the earlier ages of the world a righteous man, and a man of God and of intelligence, had a better chance to do good, to be believed and received than at the present day; but in these days such a man is much opposed and persecuted by most of the inhabitants of the earth, and he has much sorrow to pass through here. The Lord takes many away even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall l soon have them again. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 196-97)
What does taken home to God mean? These words of Alma as I understand them, do not intend to convey the thought that all spirits go back into the presence of God for an assignment to a place of peace or a place of punishment and before him receive their individual sentence. “Taken home to God,” simply means that their mortal existence has come to an end, and they have returned to the world of spirits, where they are assign-ed to a place according to their works with the just or with the unjust, there to await the resurrection. “Back to God” is a phrase which finds an equivalent in many other well known conditions. …In the question of spirits returning to God, Pres. George Q. Cannon has made the following comment: Alma, when he says that “the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body…are taken home to that God who gave them life,” has the idea doubt-less, in his mind that our God is omnipresent not in His own personality but through His minister, the Holy Spirit. He does not intend to convey the idea that they are immediately ushered into the personal presence of God. He evidently uses that phrase in a qualified sense…. Solomon, makes such a similar statement: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12:7) The same idea is frequently expressed by the Latter day Saints. (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Answers to gospel questions, 2:85) see Alma 40:11.
The postmortal spirit world is an actual place where spirits reside and “where they converse together the same as we do on the earth” (TPJS, p. 353). “Life 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” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 762).
“The spirits of all men, as soon as they depart from this mortal body, whether they are good or evil, we are told in the Book of Mormon, are taken home to that God who gave them life, where there is a separation, a partial judgment, and the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they expand in wisdom, where they have respite from all their troubles, and where care and sorrow do not annoy. The wicked, on the contrary, have no part nor portion in the Spirit of the Lord, and they are cast into outer darkness, being led captive, because of their own iniquity, by the evil one. And in this space between death and the resurrection of the body, the two classes of souls remain, in happiness or in misery, until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth and be reunited both spirit and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works. This is the final judgment.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 448.)
It is a glorious thing, because when a Saint of God passes on, he is assured of eternal life … If we die in the faith, that’s the same thing as saying that our calling and election has been made sure… (Bruce R. McConkie, S. Dilworth Young’s Funeral) Also see Alma 40:11-12
When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world…Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes they do…. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not…. Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies (Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. John A. Widtsoe, pp. 376-81).
Where Is The Spirit World? President Brigham Young declared: When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not…. Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies. (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp.376 77)
There are demographics, too, to drive this doctrine: of the approximately 70 billion individuals who, up to now, have inhabited this planet, probably not more than one percent have really heard the gospel. Today no more than one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population are members of the Church. Even so, before the final judgment and resurrection all will have had an adequate opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. This underscores the mercy of God and the justice of God. (See D&C 1:2.) Infant mortality, which rages in so many parts of the world, is also placed in a reassuring doctrinal context (see D&C 137:10). (Neal A. Maxwell, But for a Small Moment [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986], 115.)
Demographers estimate that some 60 to 70 billion people have lived on this planet thus far. How extensive the work in the spirit world is we do not know, but it too is likely to number in the millions of converts. (Neal A. Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991], 91.)
The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pain¬ed therewith. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.325)
“A wonderful work is being accomplished in our temples in favor of the spirits in prison. I believe, strongly too, that when the Gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our Elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the Gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable” (Lorenzo Snow, Millennial Star, Jan. 22, 1894, 50).
“I expect to meet the same individual that I knew here. I expect to be able to recognize her just as I could recognize her tomorrow if she were living. I believe I will know just exactly whom she is and what she is, and I will remember all I knew about and enjoy her association in the spirit as I did in the flesh; because her identity is fixed and indestructible as the identity of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. They cannot be changed; they are from everlasting to everlasting, eternally the same; so it will be with us. We will progress and develop and grow in wisdom and understanding, but our identity can never change.” (Joseph F. Smith speaking at the funeral of Rachel Grant, mother of Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, vol. 12, no.7. May 1909, pp. 585-99)
“Sometimes we seem to get the idea that in the spirit world, we will be completely different individuals; we will suddenly undergo a miraculous change in our character when we die. But nothing could be further from the truth. We our spirits, do not change at death; we are the same.” (Hartman Rector Jr. Conference Report, October, 1970 p.74)
In a funeral sermon, Joseph Smith declared that the spirits of righteous people who have died “are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and are often pained therewith” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 326).
“Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 18; or Ensign, June 1971, p. 33).
“Every man born into the world will die. It matters not who he is, nor where he is, whether his birth be among the rich and the noble, or among the lowly and poor in the world, his days are numbered with the Lord, and in due time he will reach the end.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 428.)
“We shall turn round and look upon it [the valley of death] and think, when we have crossed it, why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body. My spirit is set free, I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I hunger no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me, nothing like pain or weariness, I am full of life, full of vigor, and I enjoy the presence of my Heavenly Father.” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 17:142.)
“All fear of this death has been removed from the Latter-day Saints. They have no dread of the temporal death, because they know that as death came upon them by the transgression of Adam, so by the righteousness of Jesus Christ shall life come unto them, and though they die, they shall live again. Possessing this knowledge, they have joy even in death, for they know that they shall rise again and shall meet again beyond the grave. They know that the spirit dies not at all; that it passes through no change, except the change from imprisonment in this mortal clay to freedom and to the sphere in which it acted before it came to this earth.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 428.)
“If we say that early death is a calamity, disaster or a tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration but the Gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Tragedy or Destiny, BYU Speeches [Provo, 6 Dec. 1955], p. 3.)
“In the justice of the Father, he is going to give to every man the privilege of hearing the gospel. Not one soul shall be overlooked or forgotten. This being true, what about the countless thousands who have died and never heard of Christ, never had an opportunity of repentance and remission of their sins, never met an elder of the Church holding the authority? Some of our good Christian neighbors will tell you they are lost forever, that they cannot believe in the grave, for there is no hope beyond. “Would that be fair? Would it be just? No! The Lord is going to give to every man the opportunity to hear and to receive eternal life, or a place in his kingdom. We are very fortunate because we have had that privilege here and have passed from death into life. “The Lord has so arranged his plan of redemption that all who have died without this opportunity shall be given it in the spirit world. There the elders of the Church who have died are proclaiming the gospel to the dead. All those who did not have an opportunity here to receive it, who there repent and receive the gospel, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” (Joseph F. Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:132.)
The postmortal spirit world is a place of continued preparation and learning. In this sense, it is an extension of mortality. Those who have died without an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ will have opportunity to hear and accept it in the spirit world. “The great work in the world of spirits is the preaching of the gospel to those who are imprisoned by sin and false traditions” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 762). The faithful elders and sisters who depart this life “continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption…Among those who are in darkness” (D&C 138:57; Smith, p. 461; see also Salvation of the Dead).
An important LDS doctrine states that Jesus Christ inaugurated the preaching of the gospel and organized a mission in the spirit world during his ministry there between his death and resurrection. This is the substance of a revelation recorded as Doctrine and Covenants section 138. Since Jesus’ visit there, the gospel has been taught vigorously in the spirit world (see Spirit Prison). The relative conditions and state of mind in the two spheres of the postmortal spirit world are described by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith” (TPJS, p. 326). On the other hand, “The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 310-11).