Chapter 38: The Spirit World

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 279–84


While speaking at the funeral of Elder Thomas Williams, President Brigham Young spoke of the spirit world as follows: “How frequently the question arises in the minds of the people—’I wish I knew where I was going!’ Can you find out? Well, you will go into the spirit world, where Brother Thomas now is. He has now entered upon a higher state of being, that is, his spirit has, than when in this body. ‘Why cannot I see him? Why cannot I converse with his spirit? I wish I could see my husband or my father and converse with him!’ It is not reasonable that you should, it is not right that you should; perhaps you would miss the very object of your pursuit if you had this privilege, and there would be the same trial of faith to exercise you, not so severe a path of affliction for you to walk in, not so great a battle to fight, nor so great a victory to win, and you would miss the very object you are in pursuit of. It is right just as it is, that this veil should be closed down; that we do not see God, that we do not see angels, that we do not converse with them except through strict obedience to his requirements, and faith in Jesus Christ (DNSW, 28 July 1874, 1).

Teachings of Brigham Young

The spirits of the dead go to the spirit world.

When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world (DBY, 376).

The wicked spirits that leave here and go into the spirit world, are they wicked there? Yes (DNW, 27 Aug. 1856, 3).

When the spirits leave their bodies, … they are prepared then to see, hear and understand spiritual things. … Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies, as did the servant of [Elisha] [see 2 Kings 6:16–17]. If the Lord would permit it, and it was his will that it should be done, you could see the spirits that have departed from this world, as plainly as you now see bodies with your natural eyes (DBY, 376–77).

Jesus opened the door of salvation to those in the spirit world.

Jesus was the first man that ever went to preach to the spirits in prison, holding the keys of the Gospel of salvation to them. Those keys were delivered to him in the day and hour that he went into the spirit world, and with them he opened the door of salvation to the spirits in prison (DBY, 378).

We want to sacrifice enough to do the will of God in preparing to bring up those who have not had the privilege of hearing the Gospel while in the flesh, for the simple reason that, in the spirit world, they cannot officiate in the ordinances of the house of God. They have passed the ordeals, and are beyond the possibility of personally officiating for the remission of their sins and for their exaltation, consequently they are under the necessity of trusting in their friends, their children and their children’s children to officiate for them, that they may be brought up into the celestial kingdom of God (DBY, 406).

Compare those inhabitants on the earth who have heard the Gospel in our day, with the millions who have never heard it, or had the keys of salvation presented to them, and you will conclude at once as I do, that there is an almighty work to perform in the spirit world (DBY, 377).

Reflect upon the millions and millions and millions of people that have lived and died without hearing the Gospel on the earth, without the keys of the Kingdom. They were not prepared for celestial glory, and there was no power that could prepare them without the keys of this Priesthood (DBY, 378).

Father Smith [Joseph Smith Sr.] and Carlos [Smith] and Brother [Edward] Partridge, yes, and every other good Saint, are just as busy in the spirit world as you and I are here. They can see us, but we cannot see them unless our eyes were opened. What are they doing there? They are preaching, preaching all the time, and preparing the way for us to hasten our work in building temples here and elsewhere (DBY, 378).

Every faithful man’s labor will continue as long as the labor of Jesus, until all things are redeemed that can be redeemed, and presented to the Father. There is a great work before us (DBY, 378).

The spirits that dwell in these tabernacles on this earth, when they leave them go directly into this world of spirits. What! A congregated mass of inhabitants there in spirit, mingling with each other, as they do here? Yes, brethren, they are there together, and if they associate together, and collect together, in clans and in societies as they do here, it is their privilege. No doubt they yet, more or less, see, hear, converse and have to do with each other, both good and bad. If the Elders of Israel in these latter times go and preach to the spirits in prison, they associate with them, precisely as our Elders associate with the wicked in the flesh, when they go to preach to them (DBY, 378).

Christ preaching in Spirit World

Between His death and resurrection, the Savior went to the spirit world to begin the work of salvation among the dead.

The spirit world is an active place where growth and progression are possible.

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 with one 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. You will there see that those spirits we are speaking of are active; they sleep not. And you will learn that they are striving with all their might—laboring and toiling diligently as any individual would to accomplish an act in this world (DBY, 380).

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 (DBY, 379).

I can say with regard to parting with our friends, and going ourselves, that I have been near enough to understand eternity so that I have had to exercise a great deal more faith to desire to live than I ever exercised in my whole life to live. The brightness and glory of the next apartment is inexpressible. It is not encumbered so that when we advance in years we have to be stubbing along and be careful lest we fall down. We see our youth, even, frequently stubbing their toes and falling down. But yonder, how different! They move with ease and like lightning. If we want to visit Jerusalem, or this, that, or the other place—and I presume we will be permitted if we desire—there we are, looking at its streets. If we want to behold Jerusalem as it was in the days of the Savior; or if we want to see the Garden of Eden as it was when created, there we are, and we see it as it existed spiritually, for it was created first spiritually and then temporally, and spiritually it still remains. And when there we may behold the earth as at the dawn of creation, or we may visit any city we please that exists upon its surface. If we wish to understand how they are living here on these western islands, or in China, we are there; in fact, we are like the light of the morning. … God has revealed some little things, with regard to his movements and power, and the operation and motion of the lightning furnish a fine illustration of the ability of the Almighty (DBY, 380).

When we pass into the spirit world we shall possess a measure of his power. Here, we are continually troubled with ills and ailments of various kinds. In the spirit world we are free from all this and enjoy life, glory, and intelligence; and we have the Father to speak to us, Jesus to speak to us, and angels to speak to us, and we shall enjoy the society of the just and the pure who are in the spirit world until the resurrection (DBY, 380–81).

Suppose, then, that a man is evil in his heart—wholly given up to wickedness, and in that condition dies, his spirit will enter into the spirit world intent upon evil. On the other hand, if we are striving with all the powers and faculties God has given us to improve upon our talents, to prepare ourselves to dwell in eternal life, and the grave receives our bodies while we are thus engaged, with what disposition will our spirits enter their next state? They will be still striving to do the things of God, only in a much greater degree—learning, increasing, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth (DBY, 379).

If we are faithful to our religion, when we go into the spirit world, the fallen spirits—Lucifer and the third part of the heavenly hosts that came with him, and the spirits of wicked men who have dwelt upon this earth, the whole of them combined will have no influence over our spirits. Is not that an advantage? Yes. All the rest of the children of men are more or less subject to them, and they are subject to them as they were while here in the flesh (DBY, 379).

Here [the faithful] shall be perplexed and hunted by him; but when we go into the spirit world there we are masters over the power of satan, and he cannot afflict us any more, and this is enough for me to know (DNW, 1 Oct. 1856, 3).

If a person is baptized for the remission of sins, and dies a short time thereafter, he is not prepared at once to enjoy a fulness of the glory promised to the faithful in the Gospel; for he must be schooled while in the spirit, in the other departments of the house of God, passing on from truth to truth, from intelligence to intelligence, until he is prepared to again receive his body and to enter into the presence of the Father and the Son. We cannot enter into celestial glory in our present state of ignorance and mental darkness (DBY, 378–79).

We have more friends behind the veil than on this side, and they will hail us more joyfully than you were ever welcomed by your parents and friends in this world; and you will rejoice more when you meet them than you ever rejoiced to see a friend in this life; and then we shall go on from step to step, from rejoicing to rejoicing, and from one intelligence and power to another, our happiness becoming more and more exquisite and sensible as we proceed in the words and powers of life (DBY, 379–80).

When we get through this state of being, to the next room, I may call it, we are not going to stop there. We shall still go on, doing all the good we can, administering and officiating for all whom we are permitted to administer and officiate for, and then go on to the next, and to the next, until the Lord shall crown all who have been faithful on this earth, and the work pertaining to the earth is finished, and the Savior, whom we have been helping, has completed his task, and the earth, with all things pertaining to it, is presented to the Father. Then these faithful ones will receive their blessings and crowns, and their inheritances will be set off to them and be given to them, and they will then go on, worlds upon worlds, increasing for ever and ever (DBY, 376).

Suggestions for Study

The spirits of the dead go to the spirit world.

  • When the body dies, where does the spirit go? (See also Alma 40:11–14.) Where is the spirit world? Why can’t we see and converse with those in the spirit world?

Jesus opened the door of salvation to those in the spirit world.

  • What does it mean that Jesus “opened the door of salvation to the spirits in prison”? (See also D&C 138; 1 Peter 3:18–19.)

  • After Christ opened the doors of salvation in the spirit world, how has the gospel been preached there? (See also D&C 138:30.)

  • If none of the ordinances that pertain to the flesh are administered in the spirit world, why is the gospel being preached to the spirits there? (See also D&C 138:58–59.) What can we do for those in the spirit world who have not received the ordinances of salvation? How can we actively participate in the redemption of the dead, even if a temple is not nearby?

  • How does your life in mortality influence your life in the spirit world?

The spirit world is an active place where growth and progression are possible.

  • What did President Young teach about life in the spirit world? How will life in the spirit world be like earth life? How will it be different? What aspects of life in the spirit world do you look forward to?

  • What influence and power does Satan have in the spirit world?

  • Why is a person who has just been baptized not immediately ready to receive a fulness of glory? What must that person do to prepare for this blessing? Where can this be done?