“will we be able to associate with our friends in the hereafter?” New Era, Oct. 1975, 37–38
Answer/Brother Harold Glen Clark
The first hereafter to which we all go when we die is the world of disembodied spirits. (Alma 40:11.) Here our relatives and friends may converse together under certain circumstances somewhat the same as we do here on earth. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 353.) This spirit world is a waiting, working, resting, learning place. Here most of us will reside until we are ready for our resurrection, our final redemption and judgment. When we finally move from this spirit world experience, we will go to man’s ultimate and eternal abode. This abode will be in that kingdom by whose laws we have lived. It might be called the rest of our hereafter. (D&C 76:89, 107–112.)
Who then, associates with whom in this first part of our hereafter—the spirit world?
The Bible tells us that the spirit of Jesus went to this spirit world after he died on the cross. The penitent thief who died on a cross at the same time was told that on that day he would be in paradise with Jesus. (Luke 23:42, 43.) Hence, it appears that the righteous, the not-so-righteous, and the downright evil all go to the same spirit world. This world has different dwelling places in it. For example, those who were disobedient in the days of Noah went to this world. Peter tells us that after Christ suffered death and his body was placed in the tomb, he went to these spirits who were in prison and preached to them. (1 Pet. 3:18–20, 1 Pet. 4:6; Gospel Doctrine, pp. 472–76; D&C 76:73–74.)
We know, then, that the righteous can associate with the righteous in the spirit world and also visit with and teach the gospel to friends who may not have lived righteously. However, the unrighteous cannot come where the righteous dwell. There is a restraining or a confinement of our friends who have been disobedient or evil until such time as they show faith in Christ, repent, accept vicarious baptism, and are made worthy of a better place than the prison. President Joseph F. Smith said that he saw in vision the spirits in prison who were drowned in the flood in the days of Noah. They were visited by faithful priesthood members who taught them the gospel under the direction of the priesthood of God. The temple work for the disobedient and others was to be done on this earth. Thus, they would have an opportunity to accept or reject these bonafide and necessary ordinances of God.
The answer to the question about our friendships in this spirit world is that the righteous who die have the privilege of wider association in the spirit world than those who have not lived righteously. We will be able to associate with all our friends for good purposes, if we have been righteous. The unrighteous may, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and good works, including the acceptance of vicarious baptism, break off the bonds of evil and join a more righteous circle of friendships in the spirit world. Until this occurs they are confined to a certain state.
When we move from the spirit world to the final abode to which we will be assigned following our resurrection, we will all have a fixed dwelling place. Those who merit a fullness of what our Father in heaven has offered through the gospel on earth and in the spirit world will dwell personally with him in the highest kingdom of the celestial glory. Those meriting a kingdom less than this cannot ever dwell in his presence. If our friends are in a lesser kingdom and we dwell in the presence of the Father, we may minister to them, but they cannot come, worlds without end, to where our Father in heaven dwells. (D&C 76:77–88, 109–112.) The finality of the range of associations for those in the lower kingdoms leaves the sobering thought that our attitudes and feelings really possess us. Our deeds condition what we think and, consequently, what close associates we will have in eternity. The feelings we have in this life do not change because we die. Wherever we are, it requires self-effort to build character. There is no royal road to faith, repentance, and good works. (Alma 34:34.) How important this sliver of time is upon this earth!
These confinements or freedoms spoken of by the Lord are natural ones. Our attitudes and our deeds give us a tone or spirit that conditions and determines our state far more than stone walls. This spirit frees us or makes us indifferent or confines us. For example, the prophet Mormon says that the filthy would be more miserable trying to live with the holy and just than they would be in associating with those who are filthy. (Morm. 9:4.) It seems only natural that we would be more comfortable and happy with those with whom we have much to share. This is akin to the sociability we enjoy here on earth. (D&C 130:2.) Astronauts can lumber about for a limited time in uncomfortable circumstances on the moon, but they are always glad to be back on earth.
Christ told us about the tie that binds true friendship. He gave the words to us that day when he was interrupted in a conference with his disciples by an announcement that his mother and brethren were looking for him. “Who is my mother and my brethren?” he said. Then looking at his disciples before him, he said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:31–35.) Though we have blood relationships along with obligations to our kin, we do not really become eternal brothers and sisters and, may we add, true friends until we do the will of our Father in heaven. Doing his will is the tie that binds eternal friendships with God and the noblest of his children.
As for families in the hereafter, the family unit is ordained of God and has the potential for the widest circle and highest kind of friendship and love. Only a faithful temple marriage can bring the fullness of friendship. Only through the privileges and obligations of true family life can one inherit the highest degree of friendship and glory in the celestial kingdom. (D&C 132:19–24.) Our Father is our greatest friend. He is the Father of our spirits. We, therefore, have a mother of our spirits and spirit brothers and sisters. To be like him, we too must be fathers and mothers, married in the way he has ordained in his holy temple. Living the way God has told us to live in a family means having the greatest number of good friends and good things to talk about and share eternally.
Friendship, then, is a grand fundamental principle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, designed, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “to revolutionize the world and cause wars to cease and men to become friends and brothers.” The greatest friend is the one who has something good and eternal that he shares with others. The Prophet said again, “if he’s my friend—a true friend, I will be a friend to him and preach the gospel of salvation to him and give him good counsel.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316.)
The truth is, none of us can ever be saved or made truly happy or perfect without doing all we can to bring the gospel or the will of our Father to our loved ones and our friends, living or dead. (D&C 128:18.) Part of this doing includes work that we might do only in the temples of God. Think of the ever widening circle of associates we can have in those who overcome darkness and unbelief here or in the hereafter because we brought them faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! What a friend is he who brings good news, hope, consolation, and sound counsel that lead an individual to life eternal with our Father in heaven!