138 – “I saw the hosts of the dead.”
Alma taught his son Corianton that there is a period of time between death and the resurrection, in which we will dwell as spirits. He further explained that we will be in one of two states: paradise, which is a state of rest and peace, or outer darkness (which we commonly call spirit prison), a state of “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth” and of fear. (See Alma 40:6, 11-14.)
Peter wrote that Jesus preached to spirits in prison, specifically spirits of people who had lived many years earlier, including in the time of Noah. (See 1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:6.)
In October 1918, Joseph F. Smith had questions about Peter’s teachings. If Jesus was crucified on a Friday and resurrected days later, on a Sunday, how could He possibly have time to preach to so many spirits? As he pondered, he saw a vision which helped him understand the organization of the work in the spirit world. Jesus “went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient,” he learned, but rather “organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30).
Here are some of the principles I have learned from this revelation:
- As we study the scriptures, we should ask questions and investigate gospel concepts deeply, following them wherever they might lead: What Does It Mean to Ponder?
- After we die, we will feel incomplete, and we will long for the time when our spirits might be reunited with a body, never again to be separated: The Loosing of the Bands of Death – Alma 11:40-41.
- The work of salvation moves forward in the spirit world just as it does in the mortal world: Paradise.
- Spirits in paradise are not just waiting for the resurrection, they are actively engaged in the Savior’s work: preaching the gospel to the spirits of men and women who are not yet in paradise: What Happens After We Die?
- We should be grateful for the people who have lived before us and paved the way for us: The Ancient of Days.
- The Savior presides over vast armies of angels who provide assistance and guidance to us when we need their help: What Is the Meaning of the Title “Lord of Hosts?”
137 – “I saw the celestial kingdom of God.”
Alma also taught Corianton that God’s judgment is completely fair, that He is “a just God and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).
In January 1836, Joseph Smith saw a vision which emphasized this point. He saw the celestial kingdom, where the righteous will live with God forever. He saw ancient prophets there, including Adam and Abraham, and he saw his own parents. He was surprised to see his brother Alvin, who had died without being baptized. Even though Joseph didn’t yet know about the doctrine of baptisms for the dead, he learned at this time that his brother would be judged fairly, and would not be penalized for opportunities he lacked.
Here’s how God explained this principle to Joseph: “I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9).
Here are some things I’ve learned from this revelation:
- We need to give other people the benefit of the doubt, to assume positive motivations for their behavior, and to trust that they can do much more than their current circumstances may allow: Only According to That Which Is True – Alma 32:24-25.
- When we fall short of our own expectations, we need to remember that God blesses us not only for our actions but also for our desires: “According to His Desires” – Alma 41:5-6.
- “Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service, and each act of worship, however small and incremental, adds to our spiritual momentum” (Neal A. Maxwell): “Ask with a Firmness Unshaken, that Ye Will Yield to No Temptation” – Mormon 9:28.
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