Many of us wonder what happens after we die. Some believe that we cease to exist, while others believe in a heaven and a hell. We lived before we came to earth, and we will continue to live after we die. We know this because God has outlined His whole plan for us in the scriptures. Knowing this plan can provide comfort and peace about death. While we mourn for those loved ones we’ve lost, there is hope—death is not the end.
When we die, our spirit and body separate. Even though our body dies, our spirit—which is the essence of who we are—lives on. Our spirit goes to the spirit world, which is divided into spirit paradise and spirit prison. For those spirits who lived good lives, paradise is a place of rest from earthly cares and sorrow.
"And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (The Holy Bible)
"And then shall it come to pass, that 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." (The Book of Mormon)
While the righteous rest, those who were unrighteous in life will live in spirit prison (often referred to as “hell”). Spirit prison is not a final judgement or eternal punishment. Because God is loving and fair, those in prison will be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and given the opportunity to accept the Savior, which can “make [them] free” (John 8:32).
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient." (The Holy Bible)
"Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection." (The Book of Mormon)
The spirit world is a waiting period until we receive the gift of resurrection, when our spirits will reunite with our bodies. Our future resurrected body cannot die and will be perfect—free from pain, sickness, and imperfections. It is because of the infinite love of Jesus Christ that everyone will be resurrected.
It is at the time of resurrection that each of us will be judged individually by Jesus, our Savior. This final judgment will be based on our desires, actions, and choices.
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." (The Holy Bible)
“And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good." (The Book of Mormon)
"But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not." (The Book of Mormon)
Only God and Jesus know our hearts and our life circumstances perfectly, so only they can judge us perfectly. This judgment will be one of mercy, healing, and love (see Revelation 21:4).
Because our works and desires vary, heaven has different kingdoms or degrees of glory. The highest kingdom, where God lives, is called the celestial kingdom, followed by the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. The Bible compares our eternal reward in one of these three kingdoms to the glory of the sun, moon, and stars. But each surpasses any form of happiness that we could possibly experience here on earth.
God's ultimate goal is to help all His children return to live with Him in the celestial kingdom. Yet, it is our choices here and now that will shape where we spend eternity. We must believe in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized in His name, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We also need to keep the commandments throughout the rest of our lives—and repent when we fall short.
Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ reside in the celestial kingdom. If you live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ and are cleansed by His great sacrifice (the Atonement), you will live in God’s presence and know complete joy (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–70).
People who refuse to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ but who live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:71–80).
Those who continue in their sins and do not repent will receive a place in the telestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–86, 98–107).
Neither the resurrection nor salvation from our sins would be possible without Jesus Christ. He suffered for our sins so that when we pray for forgiveness and try to change, we can be clean. He also died on the cross and rose from the dead. Jesus’s power over death means everyone will be resurrected, whether they believe in Him or not. Because of Jesus, death is not the end.
The Book of Mormon gives additional insight and teaches about the role of Jesus Christ in Heavenly Father’s plan for us. By reading the Book of Mormon and praying to God, you can know about the reality of God’s plan.
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