The following is excerpted from President Nelson's book The Gateway We Call Death.
Each time I attend a funeral, I see tears of sadness occasioned by separation from a loved one. Especially am I touched by the weeping of children in demonstration of their sweet special love and pure grief. How I long to comfort them! Often they ask questions pertaining to the whereabouts of their dear one. There seem to be more questions than answers. How thankful we are that the Lord has revealed important information to satisfy our yearnings to know more about the future—act three of our drama of life.
Job also asked the ultimate question: "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14.) The answer is a resounding yes! That gift was provided by the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. His atonement literally made the resurrection a reality. He pronounced a promise: "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Without the infinite atonement of Christ, "this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more" (2 Nephi 9:7). . . .
Obvious is the fact that elements of the physical body decompose and return to the earth. Less obvious is the fact that "the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
"And then . . . 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 shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:11-12).
A verse of Old Testament scripture capsulizes these two concepts: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Of course no one knows exactly where the spirit world is located. At the funeral of patriarch James Adams, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that "Brother Adams has gone to open up a more effectual door for the dead. 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." 1
Other prophets and Church leaders have also stated that the spirit world is on or near the earth. Its location may be less important than its actuality. All who pass through the gateway of death go immediately into the spirit world. This was true of Jesus and the penitent thief who also expired on a cruel cross. Prior to their passing, Jesus said unto him, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
There each spirit continues to live and is busily engaged. Shortly before the end of his mortal life, President Joseph F. Smith announced in general conference his remarkable vision of the redemption of the dead. Revealed to him was information regarding activity in the spirit world: "I beheld that the faithful elders [and sisters] of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are . . . in the great world of the spirits of the dead" (D&C 138:57). 2
President Smith explained: "The righteous spirit that departs from this earth is assigned its place in the Paradise of God; it has its privileges and honors which are in point of excellency, far above and beyond human comprehension; and in this sphere of action, enjoying this partial reward for its righteous conduct on the earth, it continues its labors, and in this respect is very different from the state of the body from which it is released. For while the body sleeps and decays, the spirit receives a new birth; to it the portals of life are opened. It is born again into the presence of God." 3
We know that those spirits are capable of choice, of repentance, and of preparation for the day of resurrection. They remain "in paradise, until the time of their resurrection" (Alma 40:14). Then "the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form" (Alma 11:43).
1. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 326.
2. The bracketed phrase has been added because President Smith wrote that sisters will also be accorded the privilege of ministering and preaching in the world of spirits as are the elders referred to in this revelation. See Gospel Doctrine, p. 461.
3. Gospel Doctrine, p. 440.
Lead image from Wikimedia Commons
Get more in-depth insights from President Nelson in The Gateway We Call Death.
“Our ultimate and highest destiny is to return to our heavenly home. When that times comes, it can be as momentous as the time of birth. Birth is the gateway to mortal life; death is the gateway to immortality and eternal life.”
In The Gateway We Call Death, President Nelson, a surgeon by profession and now a special witness of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, approaches the subject of death from both a medical and a theological point of view to discuss such topics as these: The purpose of life and of death; the purpose of mourning; when death comes without warning; factors of choice, such as suicide, euthanasia, and use of mechanical means to extend life; and life after death.
“As I have come to comprehend more about life in all of its phases,” President Nelson writes, “I no longer feel that death is always that foe to be feared. Instead, I view it as a potential friend to be understood.”