That Same Spirit
Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis,that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. (Alma 34:34)
This verse has really affected me lately. Do we want to change? Why are we waiting until tomorrow? If we are not the person we want to be, then what are we waiting for? Do we think that we will magically be more giving, more loving, somehow different after we die? After we get over our health problems? Make more money? Have more time?
Perhaps we (I am really talking about myself here!) need to realize that now is the time to become the person I want to become. Now is the day to be that person I want to be! The following quotes are helpful in realizing that when we leave this life, we take our inner desires, our thoughts and beliefs with us. We do not transform immediately just because we left mortality.
We desire the same things we are doing
“When we go out of this life, leave this body,” wrote Elder Melvin J. Ballard, “we will desire to do many things that we cannot do at all without the body. We will be seriously handicapped, and we will long for the body; we will pray for that early reunion with our bodies. . . . Then, every man and woman who is putting off until the next life the task of correcting and overcoming the weakness of the flesh are sentencing themselves to years of bondage, for no man or woman will come forth in the resurrection until they have completed their work, until they have overcome, until they have done as much as they can do.” (Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, 241–42; see also Ludlow, Principles and Practices, 219.)
Life in the Spirit World Is Much Akin to Life Here on Earth
As mentioned above, the spirit world is an extension of our second estate. In that world, “Life there is the spiritual equivalent of life here. The spirit world, itself, is but the spiritual equivalent of earth.” (Widstoe, Program of the Church, p. 224) The people there “converse together the same as we do on the earth.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 353) Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained, “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, 762.)
Because life in the spirit world may be said to mirror life here, the wicked there continue to fight against the truth just as they did here. “The wicked spirits that leave here and go into the spirit world, are they wicked there? Yes,” said Brigham Young. ” . . . They are in the spirit world, and are just as busy as they possibly can be to do everything they can against the prophet and the apostles, against Jesus and his kingdom. They are just as wicked and malicious in their actions against the cause of truth as they were while on the earth.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:369–70.)
While the wicked continue their works of wickedness in the spirit world, the righteous continue their works of righteousness. Wilford Woodruff taught, “All men who go into the spirit world, and who bear the Holy Priesthood, will continue their labors. Their work will follow them. Their work will not cease when they lay their tabernacles down here in the tomb.” (Quoted in West, Profiles of the Presidents, 153.)
In his testimony of a remarkable experience he had, President Wilford Woodruff explained that righteous spirits may be even busier in the spirit world than they were here on earth:
“Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time and then stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the Temple in heaven. He came and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk to me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he couldn’t talk to me because he was in a hurry. I met a half a dozen brethren who held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished.
“By and by I saw the Prophet again, and I got the privilege to ask him a question. ‘Now,’ said I, ‘I want to know why you are in a hurry? I have been in a hurry all my life, but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the Kingdom of Heaven, if I ever did.’
“Joseph said, ‘I will tell you, Brother Woodruff, every dispensation that has had the priesthood on earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom, has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when he goes to reign on earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it.’
“Of course, that was satisfactory with me, but it was new doctrine to me.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 288–89.)
The righteous in the spirit world function under the direction of the priesthood, just as they do here. Priesthood authority oversees the labors of the righteous there and blesses those who will heed the Lord’s messengers, and priesthood power protects the righteous from the evil spirits who dwell there. (See Smith, History of the Church, 4:598–99; Discourses of Brigham Young, 378, 468; McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 309.)