Temptation in the Spirit World
by Marcus H. Martins, Ph.D.

Today a friend and I were talking and we came up with a question that no one seemed to know the answer for.  Our question is: "After we die and we are in the spirit world, either in paradise or prison, will there be temptation?"  We've heard that, yes, it will be harder to overcome things in the spirit world, but does this mean that we will still be tempted?

I don't recall reading anything that would state whether or not there is "temptation" in the spirit world.  But first let's be sure that we are speaking the same language.  In the gospel sense, we usually define "temptation" as an enticement or allurement to break one of the Lord's commandments.

We don't know to what extend spirits can break commandments in the spirit world because we don't know what commandments they have in that sphere.  President Joseph F. Smith learned that they are required to uphold the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel plus additional principles of the gospel (read D&C 138:33-34.)  We may suppose that these additional principles might be the precepts contained in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 & 3 Nephi 12-14).

But what we can't answer is:  Would they have the law of Tithing?  Over what?  We don't expect to find money in spiritual spheres.  Would they have the Word of Wisdom?  We don't even know whether there is a need for feeding a spiritual body.  Would they have the law of Chastity?  We know nothing about the physiology of a spiritual body, let alone how such a body would feel, interact, or behave.

On the other hand, while we can't provide any answers regarding "temptation" (under the above-mentioned definition), we can at least state that there is opposition and evil influences in the spirit world.  Take a look at the following quotations and they will certainly bring you a few ideas.

President Brigham Young
On the Preeminence of Priesthood-Holding Spirits, and the Oppression Suffered by Non-Priesthood-Holding Ones
Journal of Discourses, Vol.3, pp.369-371, June 22, 1856 A Discourse Delivered in the Bowery, Salt Lake City
Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, p.174, June 12, 1859 An address delivered at the funeral of his sister, Fanny Young

"Is a Saint subject to the power of the Devil in the spirit world? No, because he has gained the victory through faith, and can command Satan, and he must obey. How is it with the wicked? The Devil has power over them to distress and afflict them: they are in hell. Can the angels of heaven administer to them? Yes, if they are sent to do so. ...

The spirits of people that have lived upon the earth according to the best light they had, who were as honest and sincere as men and women could be, if they lived on the earth without the privilege of the Gospel and the Priesthood and the keys thereof are still under the power and control of evil spirits, to a certain extent. No matter where they lived on the face of the earth, all men and women that have died without the keys and power of the Priesthood, though they might have been honest and sincere and have done every thing they could, are under the influence of the devil, more or less. Are they as much so as others? No, no. Take those that were wicked designedly, who knowingly lived without the Gospel when it was within their reach, they are given up to the devil, they become tools to the devil and spirits of devils.

Go to the time when the Gospel came to the earth in the days of Joseph, take the wicked that have opposed this people and persecuted them to the death, and they are sent to hell. Where are they? They are in the spirit world, and are just as busy as they possibly can be to do every thing 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 in their fleshly tabernacles.

Joseph, also, goes there, but has the devil power over him? No, because he held the keys and power of the eternal Priesthood here, and got the victory while here in the flesh. ... When the faithful Elders, holding this Priesthood, go into the spirit world they carry with them the same power and Priesthood that they had while in the mortal tabernacle. They have got the victory over the power of the enemy here, consequently when they leave this world they have perfect control over those evil spirits, and they cannot be buffeted by Satan. But as long as they live in the flesh no being on this earth, of the posterity of Adam, can be free from the power of the devil. ...

This is an advantage which the faithful will gain; but while they live on earth they are subject to the buffetings of Satan. Joseph and those who have died in the faith of the Gospel are free from this; if a mob should come upon Joseph now, he has power to disperse them with the motion of his hand, and to drive them where he pleases. But is Joseph glorified? No, he is preaching to the spirits in prison. He will get his resurrection the first of any one in this kingdom, for he was the first that God made choice of to bring forth the work of the last days. ...

Those who have died without the Gospel are continually afflicted by those evil spirits, who say to them-'Do not go to hear that man Joseph Smith preach, or David Patten, or any of their associates, for they are deceivers.'

Spirits are just as familiar with spirits as bodies are with bodies, though spirits are composed of matter so refined as not to be tangible to this coarser organization. They walk, converse, and have their meetings; and the spirits of good men like Joseph and the Elders, who have left this Church on earth for a season to operate in another sphere, are rallying all their powers and going from place to place preaching the Gospel, and Joseph is directing them, saying, go ahead, my brethren, and if they hedge up your way, walk up and command them to disperse. You have the Priesthood and can disperse them, but if any of them wish to hear the Gospel, preach to them. ..."

Elder Orson Pratt
Classes and Distinctions in the Spirit World
Journal of Discourses, Vol.2, p.370-371, June 30, 1855

"It is true, they may have to associate in the intermediate state with beings, and powers, and principles that will not be pleasant; for the spirit world is, in some respects, like the world we live in.

Beings that enter the spirit world find there classes and distinctions, and every variety of sentiment and feeling; there is just as much variety in the spirit world as in this; consequently, they have to grapple with those powers and influences that surround them. Spirits have their agency between death and the resurrection, just as much as we have here. They are just as liable to be deceived in the spirit world as we are here. Those who are deceived may assist in deceiving others, for they have their classes, their theories, and their opinions. Almost everything that we see here is the same in the spirit world. They are mixed up with every variety, and are as liable to be deluded there as here.

Although the righteous enter into a state of rest and peace, and enjoy happiness in a great degree, yet their happiness is not complete, they are not perfected in glory. It is only their spirits that are there, and they will have to mingle more or less with inferior minds, and different dispositions; but still they will enjoy a great degree of happiness, for their own consciousness of having done right imparts pleasure, consequently it is a state of rest, of peace, free from the imperfections of mortality; but to say that they will be free from all association with beings that are sinful and inferior to themselves, we do not believe.

... Those that receive their authority from heaven, will have to magnify it, and set a good example; and every person receiving an office in this Priesthood, and afterwards dying, will have to perform all the duties and exercise the functions thereof, in order that they may be useful to those spirits in an inferior state. If they hold the Priesthood before the resurrection, do we suppose that they will sit down and have nothing to do? No: there will be other individuals that will not hold the Priesthood, and that have not had the Gospel, and they will be sent to them, to enlighten their minds, and enable them, who will, to rise in the great scale of moral and intellectual excellence."

This essay is published as a support for and an extension of classroom discussion and in no way represents an official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its General Authorities. Dr. Marcus H. Martins assumes full responsibility for the opinions, views, and interpretations contained herein.  For more information contact me at: MartinsM@byuh.edu