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The Spirit World

Reading Assignments for the Course

REL 431H - Doctrines of the Gospel
Prof.  Marcus H. Martins, Ph.D.


Manual - Teachings of the Presidents of the Church--Brigham Young - chapter 38 -- The Spirit World
Author Title

Elder Parley P. Pratt The Nature and Capabilities of Spirits

Elder Orson Pratt

Intellectual Capabilities of Spirits
Pres. Brigham Young Location of the Spirit World and Conditions Therein
  The Preeminence of Priesthood-Holding Spirits, and the Oppression Suffered by Non-Priesthood-Holding Ones
  Teaching the Gospel in the Spirit World
The Prophet Joseph Smith The Status of the Spirits of the Just
Elder Orson Pratt Classes and Distinctions in the Spirit World
President Spencer W. Kimball The Personality of the Spirits Resemble Their Earthly Custom
President Heber C. Kimball President Jedediah Grant's Vision of the Spirit World
President Joseph F. Smith Status of the Spirits of Children Who Die
President Wilford Woodruff Councils and Assignments in the Spirit World

The Prophet Joseph Smith  (quoted by Pres. Wilford Woodruff)

Conditions of the Next World


Elder Parley P. Pratt
On the Nature of Spirits
Journal of Discourses, Vol.1, pp.8-9,11-12

[This] ... spiritual element is endowed with the powers of locomotion in a far greater degree than the more gross or solid elements of nature; that its refined particles penetrate amid the other elements with greater ease, and meet with less resistance from the air or other substances, than would the more gross elements. Hence its speed, or superior powers of motion.

Now let us apply this philosophy to all the degrees of spiritual element, from electricity, which may ... be one of the lowest or more gross elements of spiritual matter, up through all the gradations of the invisible fluids, till we arrive at a substance so holy, so pure, so endowed with intellectual attributes and sympathetic affections, that it may be said to be on a par, or level, in its attributes, with man. Let a given quantity of this element, thus endowed, or capacitated, be organized in the size and form of man, let every organ be developed, formed, and endowed, precisely after the pattern or model of man's outward or fleshly tabernacle--what would we call this individual, organized portion of the spiritual element?

We would call it a spiritual body, an individual intelligence, an agent endowed with life, with a degree of independence, or inherent will, with the powers of motion, of thought, and with the attributes of moral, intellectual, and sympathetic affections and emotions. We would conceive of it as possessing eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to handle; as in possession of the organ of taste, of smelling, and of speech.

Such beings are we, when we have laid off this outward tabernacle of flesh. We are in every way interested, in our relationships, kindred ties, sympathies, affections, and hopes, as if we had continued to live but had stepped aside, and were experiencing the loneliness of absence for a season.

Elder Orson Pratt
On the Intellectual Capabilities of Spirits
Journal of Discourses, Vol.3, p.103 Discourse delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, October 22, 1854.

[There] is a language in the spirit world that can communicate more to the mind in one minute than could be learned here in a hundred years of intense study and reasoning. There is an eternity of knowledge. There are worlds, as it were, without number; kingdoms without number; personages without number; intellectual beings of all grades and orders without number; and all these have their laws, their governments, their kingdoms, their thrones, their principalities, their powers, all moving and acting in the sphere in which they are placed; and they all have their way of communication one with another; therefore, when the Apostle says, that tongues shall cease, he had reference to the imperfect tongues upon the earth; knowledge will not cease, but knowledge in part will be done away, not knowledge in full. Says the Apostle Paul, "We know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." these imperfect things will be done away, and we shall be able by the power of the Holy Ghost to obtain a language by which the angels speak, and by which a higher order of beings speak, and by these means attain to a greater degree of knowledge, that will produce a greater amount of happiness.

President Brigham Young
On the Location of the Spirit World and Some of the Conditions Therein
Journal of Discourses, Vol.3, p.369, June 22, 1856 Discourse Delivered in the Bowery, Salt Lake City
Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, p.174, June 12, 1859 Address delivered at the funeral of his sister, Fanny Young
Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, p.239, September 1, 1859 Remarks made in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City

 [When] the breath leaves the body, your life has not become extinct; your life is still in existence. And 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 one with 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. ...  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 ...

Are you going into Abraham's bosom? No, not any where nigh there, but into the spirit world. Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. Do they both inhabit one kingdom? Yes, they do. Do they go to the sun? No. Do they go beyond the boundaries of this organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. Where else are you going? No where else, only as you may be permitted. ...

[Is my sister's] spirit in the third heavens? No. Will it go there? Not until she again possesses her body. Can she see the Lord? Yes, if he unveils himself. Can she converse with angels? Yes if they are sent to converse with her. Is she in paradise? Yes. Where do the spirits of the wicked go? To the same place or kingdom pertaining to this earth. They do not go to the depths of hell, neither can they until they become angels of devils. ...

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. ...

President Brigham Young
Teaching the Gospel in the Spirit World
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. What can be done for them? The spirit of sister Fanny and the spirit of every man and woman who has died in the faith of the Gospel, since it has been restored, will have the power to teach those wicked spirits and all who have gone to the spirit world without having heard the Gospel in the flesh, and say to them, If you will now repent and believe, the Lord will even now provide the means that you may be officiated for on the earth in those ordinances that must be attended to here. Sister Fanny can do good in her capacity and calling as well as Joseph the Prophet can in his. He will hold the keys: he will rule, govern, and control all things in the spiritual world pertaining to this dispensation, until he has finished his work.

I do not wish to occupy much of the time; but when I am led to speak on these points I am much interested. How few there are who understand how hard it is for a man's eyes to be opened! How few of the Elders of this church prefer the interests of the kingdom of God to their worldly interests! With far too many it is, "My family!--my farm is going to wreck!--my store is neglected!--my business must be attended to!" and let the kingdom of God take care of itself. Such men will remain in darkness.

The Prophet Joseph Smith
The Status of the Spirits of the Just
Teachings, pp.325-326

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. Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones quickened by the Spirit of God, can.

Elder Orson Pratt
Classes and Distinctions in the Spirit World
Journal of Discourses, Vol.2, p.370-371, June 30, 1855
Funeral of Judge Leonidas Shaver, in the Council House, Salt Lake City

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.

President Spencer W. Kimball
The Personality of the Spirits Resemble Their Earthly Custom
Ensign, February 1975, pp.2-6

Some time ago, in deep anguish, a mother came to see me.  ...  Her son and his wife met with an accident, leaving several small children.  She ... told me that the young victims of a plane crash had not been married in the temple.  Both coming from good families, they had either ignored it or postponed it.  ... This accident left them separated.  The statement "till death do you part" left them single and their children orphans.

Of course, someone can have the work done in the temple for these young people after they have been dead a year, but will those young people accept the ordinances in death which were of such little consequence to them while they lived?  And, more important than anything else, do you think that God would be thusly mocked?

Have you ever realized that there is no magic in death, that ceasing to breathe does not make angels of careless people, does not make believers of disbelievers, does not bring faith where there was skepticism?

President Heber C. Kimball
President Jedediah Grant's Vision of the Spirit World
Journal of Discourses, Vol.4, pp.135-136, December 4, 1856
Remarks at the funeral of President Jedediah M. Grant, made in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City

I went to see him one day last week, and ... I laid my hands upon him and blessed him, and asked God to strengthen his lungs that he might be easier, and in two or three minutes he raised himself up and talked for about an hour as busily as he could, telling me what he had seen and what he understood, until I was afraid he would weary himself, when I arose and left him.

He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, through I had to do it. But oh, says he, the order and government that were there! When in the spirit world, I saw the order of righteous men and women; beheld them organized in their several grades, and there appeared to be no obstruction to my vision; I could see every man and woman in their grade and order. I looked to see whether there was any disorder there, but there was none; neither could I see any death nor any darkness, disorder or confusion. He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities; and when he looked at them he saw grade after grade, and all were organized and in perfect harmony. He would mention one item after another and say, "Why, it is just as brother Brigham says it is; it is just as he has told us many a time." ...

He saw the righteous gathered together in the spirit world, and there were no wicked spirits among them. He saw his wife; she was the first person that came to him. He saw many that he knew, but did not have conversation with any except his wife Caroline. She came to him, and he said that she looked beautiful and had their little child, that died on the Plains, in her arms, and said, "Mr. Grant, here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her; here she is all right."

"To my astonishment," he said, "when I looked at families there was a deficiency in some, there was a lack, for I saw families that would not be permitted to come and dwell together, because they had not honored their calling here."

He asked his wife Caroline where Joseph and Hyrum and Father Smith and others were; she replied, "they have gone away ahead, to perform and transact business for us." The same as when brother Brigham and his brethren left Winter Quarters and came here to search out a home; they came to find a location for their brethren.

He also spoke of the buildings he saw there, remarking that the Lord gave Solomon wisdom and poured gold and silver into his hands that he might display his skill and ability, and said that the temple erected by Solomon was much inferior to the most ordinary buildings he saw in the spirit world.

In regard to gardens, says brother Grant, "I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk." We have many kinds of flowers on the earth, and I suppose those very articles came from heaven, or they would not be here.

After mentioning the things that he had seen, he spoke of how much he disliked to return and resume his body, after having seen the beauty and glory of the spirit world, where the righteous spirits are gathered together. ... After speaking of the gardens and the beauty of every thing there, brother Grant said that he felt extremely sorrowful at having to leave so beautiful a place and come back to earth, for he looked upon his body with loathing, but was obliged to enter it again.

He said that after he came back he could look upon his family and see the spirit that was in them, and the darkness that was in them; and that he conversed with them about the Gospel, and what they should do, and they replied, "Well, brother Grant, perhaps it is so, and perhaps it is not," and said that was the state of this people, to a great extent, for many are full of darkness and will not believe me.

President Joseph F. Smith
The Status of the Spirits of Children Who Die
Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.5, pp.94-95,  circa February 1918
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church--Joseph F. Smith, pp.131-132
 The spirits of our children are immortal before they come to us, and their spirits after bodily death are like they were before they came. They are as they would have appeared if they had lived in the flesh, to grow to maturity, or to develop their physical bodies to the full stature of their spirits. If you see one of your children that has passed away it may appear to you in the form in which you would recognize it, the form of childhood; but if it came to you as a messenger bearing some important truth, it would perhaps come ... in the stature of full-grown manhood ...
[The] spirit of Jesus Christ was full grown before he was born into the world; and so our children were full grown and possessed their full stature in the spirit, before they entered mortality, the same stature that they will possess after they have passed away from mortality, and as they will also appear after the resurrection, when they shall have completed their mission.

Joseph Smith taught the doctrine that the infant child that was laid away in death would come up in the resurrection as a child; and, pointing to the mother of a lifeless child, he said to her: "You will have the joy, the pleasure and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit." There is restitution, there is growth, there is development after the resurrection from death.

President Wilford Woodruff
Councils and Assignments in the Spirit World
Journal of Discourses 22:334, October 8, 1881

Perhaps I may be permitted to relate a circumstance with which I am acquainted in relation to Bishop Roskelley, of Smithfield, Cache Valley:

On one occasion he was suddenly taken very sick-near to death's door. While he lay in this condition, President Peter Maughan, who was dead, came to him and said: "Brother Roskelley, we held a council on the other side of the veil. I have had a great deal to do, and I have the privilege of coming here to appoint one man to come and help. I have had three names given to me in council, and you are one of them. I want to inquire into your circumstances.

The Bishop told him what he had to do, and they conversed together as one man would converse with another. President Maughan then said to him: "I think I will not call you. I think you are wanted here more than perhaps one of the others."

Bishop Roskelley got well from that hour. Very soon after, the second man was taken sick, but not being able to exercise sufficient faith, Brother Roskelley did not go to him. By and by this man recovered, and on meeting Brother Roskelley, he said: "brother Maughan came to me the other night and told me he was sent to call one man from the ward," and he named two men as had been done to Brother Roskelley. A few days afterwards the third man was taken sick and died.

Now, I name this to show a principle. They have work on the other side of the veil; and they want men, and they call them. And that was my view in regards to Brother George A. Smith. When he was almost at death's door, Brother Cannon administered to him, and in thirty minutes he was up and ate breakfast with his family. We labored with him in this way, but ultimately, as you know, he died. But it taught me a lesson. I felt that man was wanted behind the veil. We labored also with Brother Pratt; but he, too, was wanted behind the veil.

The Prophet Joseph Smith
(Quoted by President Wilford Woodruff - 17 August 1877)

Conditions of the Next World
In Larson & Larson, "Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 1:465-466

If the people knew what was behind the veil, they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there.

But the Lord in his wisdom ... implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their Creator.

(Note: At this point it is not quite clear what the Prophet meant when he used the expression "behind the veil."  Some authors believe that he could be referring to the telestial kingdom instead of the spirit world)

This web page was published only as a support for classroom discussion.
For more information, contact Dr. Marcus Martins at: martinsm@byuh.edu