Chapter 30: Death and the Postmortal Spirit World

“Chapter 30: Death and the Postmortal Spirit World,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 83–84

“30: Death and the Spirit World,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 83–84

Chapter 30

Death and the Postmortal Spirit World


“All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:50).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Physical death is a universal condition and is part of the plan of salvation.

    1. Everyone must eventually die (see Romans 5:12; Alma 12:24, 27; 2 Nephi 9:6).

    2. At death the body and the spirit separate for a time (see James 2:26; Ecclesiastes 12:7).

    3. The Fall of Adam brought death onto this earth (see 2 Nephi 2:22–25; Moses 6:48; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

    4. Through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will eventually overcome death (see Alma 7:10–12; 11:42; 2 Nephi 9:6, 11; 2 Timothy 1:10; Mormon 9:13).

    5. We need not fear death (see Alma 27:28; D&C 42:46; 101:36).

  2. At death our spirits enter the world of spirits to await the Resurrection.

    1. At death the spirit returns to a spiritual realm (see Alma 40:11; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Nephi 9:38).

    2. The spirits of the righteous enter a state of paradise (see Alma 40:12, 14; 4 Nephi 1:14; Moroni 10:34; 2 Nephi 9:13).

    3. The spirits of the wicked enter a state of unhappiness, or misery (see Alma 40:13–14; 1 Nephi 15:29; D&C 76:103–6).

    4. In the postmortal spirit world the gospel is preached to “all the spirits of men” (D&C 138:30; see also 1 Peter 3:18–21; 4:6; D&C 138:28–37).

Supporting Statements

  1. Physical death is a universal condition and is part of the plan of salvation.

    • “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, 428).

    • “Death is merely a change from one status or sphere of existence to another. …

      “… This death consists in the separation of the eternal spirit from the mortal body so that the body is left to go back to the dust or element from which it was created (meaning organized), and the spirit is left to sojourn in a world of waiting spirits until the day of the resurrection. (Rev. 20:13; 2 Ne. 9:10–15.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 184–85).

    • “There was no death in the earth before the fall of Adam. …

      “The gospel teaches us that if Adam and Eve had not partaken of that fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would have remained in the Garden of Eden in that same condition prevailing before the fall. … In regard to the pre-mortal condition of Adam and the entire earth, Lehi has stated the following:

      “‘And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end’ [2 Nephi 2:22]” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:108–9).

    • “We shall turn round and look upon [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” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 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, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [6 Dec. 1955], 3).

  2. At death our spirits enter the world of spirits to await the Resurrection.

    • “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” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 448).

    • “Paradise—the abode of righteous spirits, as they await the day of their resurrection; paradise—a place of peace and rest where the sorrows and trials of his life have been shuffled off, and where the saints continue to prepare for a celestial heaven; paradise—not the Lord’s eternal kingdom, but a way station along the course leading to eternal life, a place where the final preparation is made for that fulness of joy which comes only when body and spirit are inseparably connected in immortal glory!” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4:222).

    • “That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is called hell. Between their death and resurrection, these souls of the wicked are cast out into outer darkness, into the gloomy depression of sheol, into the hades of waiting wicked spirits, into hell. There they suffer the torments of the damned; there they welter in the vengeance of eternal fire; there is found weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; there the fiery indignation of the wrath of God is poured out upon the wicked. (Alma 40:11–14; D. & C. 76:103–106.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 349).

    • “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” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:132).

Woman and children visiting a grave