Alma wanted to know what happens to us between the time we die and the time we are resurrected. He told his son Corianton that he had “inquired diligently of the Lord” to know the answer (Alma 40:9). Here is what he learned: When we die, the spirits of all men and women, good or evil, “are taken home to that God who gave them life.” Those who are righteous then enter “a state of happiness, which is called paradise,” while the wicked “are cast out into outer darkness.” This is not a permanent state, but a temporary state “until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:11-14).
As we celebrate Holy Week, there is a gap in the record. What did Jesus do between His death on the cross mid-afternoon Friday and His resurrection Sunday morning?
Peter gives us a hint. In his first epistle, he tells us that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). Assuming that this “prison” is the same thing Alma called “outer darkness,” we learn something new about those wicked spirits: Their situation is not hopeless. They may not have entered paradise yet, but they can be redeemed. Otherwise, why would He preach to them? Peter reaffirms their opportunity for redemption later in the epistle:
For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.1 Peter 4:6
In 1918, Joseph F. Smith experienced a vision which provided further clarity to Peter’s declaration. President Smith learned that “the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them; But behold, from among the righteous, he 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, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:29-30).
So, in summary:
- There is a time between our death and our resurrection.
- When we die, we will return to God, and if we have been righteous, we will enter a state of happiness called paradise.
- If we cannot yet enter that state, our situation is not hopeless. Jesus organized His disciples in the Spirit World to preach to those who are in prison, so that they can also enter paradise.
I don’t know what holds people back from entering paradise, but I have some idea what can keep us from being happy in this life. It may include unkind feelings toward other people, lack of honesty with others and with ourselves, addictive behaviors, and harmful thought patterns. If we’re unhappy here, Mormon taught, we will be unhappy there. (See Mormon 9:14.) The good news is that even on the other side, there are people ready to help us overcome these obstacles and become happy.
Later today, I’m attending a funeral of a dear friend. I know several other people who have also passed away recently. Today, I will remember that there is a paradise in the world of spirits, a place of happiness, peace, and rest! I will be grateful that Jesus has organized His disciples to help all of God’s children, on both sides of the veil, receive His salvation.
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