All illustrations courtesy of Alex Nabaum
Latter-day Saints know that we lived before we came to earth and that we will live again after death. But exactly how many details do we know about this spiritual existence? Find out what Church doctrine teaches us about our premortal and postmortal life.
In my nearly 40 years as a religious educator, few doctrinal topics have elicited more questions from students than the premortal existence and the postmortal spirit world. They are like bookends to our lives here on earth—inseparably connected, each one influencing the other.
Here are some common questions that people wonder about:
- What did I look like before I came to earth? What does it mean to be a child of God?
- What did we do in the premortal world? Church meetings? “Spirit seminary?”
- Were there temptations and sin there? What about faith or repentance?
- Where do I go when I die? What will I look like? Will I recognize family and friends in the spirit world? Even if I never knew them on earth?
- Can those in the spirit world see me or communicate with me?
- What do we do in the spirit world? Play harps and float on clouds?
- Can a person repent and change in the spirit world?
Even though Latter-day Saints know that we existed before we came to earth, we don’t know everything about the “other sides.” As a result, we wonder about the details of premortal and postmortal life. The Lord hasn’t seen fit to reveal all the details, but He has given us more information than we think.
Understanding these doctrines is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with thousands of pieces. Some, but not all, of the pieces have been put together for us by modern revelation. As more and more of the pieces are put in place, the picture becomes clearer. Even without all the details, we “get the picture.” So it is with these bookends of mortality—our premortal and postmortal experiences.
One of the most important truths revealed about our life before and after is that each is probably more similar to this earth life than we might think. In 1832, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “That which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual” (D&C 77:2). Our spiritual existence—before and after this life—contains many of the same kinds of conditions, relationships, and patterns as we see here on earth and experience in mortality.
Here are just a few “pieces of the puzzle”—facts we may have forgotten from our life before and glimpses beyond the veil of what we can expect in the life to come.