There has been considerable publicity and media coverage recently on the reporting of experiences that seemingly verify that “life after life” is a reality. The ancient prophet’s question asked centuries ago has been revived: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). In other words, what happens to a person once he dies? A definite answer to that question is provided by the Savior’s ministry in the spirit world following His crucifixion, death, and burial.
Even before the fall of Adam, which ushered death into this world, our Heavenly Father had prepared a place for the spirits who would eventually depart this mortal life. At the time of Jesus’ death, the spirit world was occupied by hosts of our Father’s children who had died—from Adam’s posterity to the death of Jesus—both the righteous and the wicked.
There were two grand divisions in the world of spirits. Spirits of the righteous (the just) had gone to paradise, a state of happiness, peace, and restful work. The spirits of the wicked (the unjust) had gone to prison, a state of darkness and misery. (See Alma 40:12–15.) Jesus went only to the righteous—to paradise.
Following is a portion of the glorious Vision of the Redemption of the Dead given to President Joseph F. Smith and sustained and accepted by the Church as holy scripture in April 1976:
“Gathered together in one place [was] an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality;
“And who had … suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name.
“All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection. …
“They were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand.
“They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. …
“While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;
“And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance. …
“And the saints rejoiced in their redemption, and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell.
“Their countenances shone, and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them, and they sang praises unto his holy name” (D&C 138:12–16, 18–19, 23–24).
Jesus did not go to the wicked, or to prison. They were those who were unrepentant and who “had defiled themselves while in the flesh” (D&C 138:20).
Moreover, “from among the righteous, [the Lord] 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. …
“And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (D&C 138:30, 33–34).
The spirit world is not far away. From the Lord’s point of view, it is all one great program on both sides of the veil. Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. This I know! Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.
One Church President asked, “Where is the spirit world?” and then answered his own question: “It is right here. … Do [spirits] go beyond the boundaries of this organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity.” He also said, “When the spirits leave their bodies they are in the presence of our Father and God, they are prepared then to see, hear and understand spiritual things. … If the Lord would permit it, and it was His will that it should be done, you could see the spirits that have departed from this world, as plainly as you now see bodies with your natural eyes” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 3:369, 368).
Yes, indisputably there is life after death. Mortality is a place of temporary duration—and so is the spirit world. As inevitable as death is to mortals, so also is an eventual resurrection to those in the spirit world.
On the third day following Jesus’ crucifixion, there was a great earthquake. The stone was rolled back from the door of the tomb. Some of the women, among the most devoted of His followers, came to the place with spices “and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.”
Angels appeared and said simply, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:3–6). There is nothing in history to equal that dramatic announcement: “He is not here, but is risen.”
The greatest events of history are those that affect the greatest number for the longest periods. By this standard, no event could be more important to individuals or nations than the resurrection of the Master. The eventual resurrection of every soul who has lived and died on earth is a scriptural certainty, and surely there is no event for which one should make more careful preparation. A glorious resurrection should be the goal of every man and woman, for it is a reality. Nothing is more absolutely universal than the Resurrection. Every living being will be resurrected. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
Almost immediately after the glorious resurrection of the Lord, Matthew records, “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
“And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:52–53).
Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a glorious reality. He became the firstfruits of them that slept. He truly rose from the tomb the third day, as He and His prophets foretold, and became in very deed “the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25). He broke the bands of death for all of us. We, too, will be resurrected. Our spirits will be reunited with our bodies, never to be separated.
There is abundant testimony and verification of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Witnesses are many.
The risen Lord appeared to several women, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to Peter, to the Apostles, and “after that,” as reported by Paul, “he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. … And last of all he was seen of me [Paul] also” (1 Cor. 15:6, 8).
Throughout the forty days following His resurrection, the Lord manifested Himself at intervals and gave instructions in things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Much that He said and did is not written, but such things as are of record, John assures us, “are written, that [we] might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing [we] might have life through his name” (John 20:31).
He told His followers that He must soon ascend to His Father in Heaven. As the time of His ascension drew nigh, the Lord, in that last solemn interview, gave His parting instructions to His disciples.
When Christ and the disciples had gone “as far as to Bethany,” where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived, He “lifted up his hands, and blessed them” (Luke 24:50). And when He had spoken, He was taken up until a cloud received Him out of their sight. As the Apostles stood gazing toward heaven, two personages clothed in white apparel appeared. They spoke to the eleven, saying, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9–11).
Worshipfully and with great joy, the Apostles returned to Jerusalem. The Lord’s ascension was accomplished. It was truly a literal departure of a material being, as His resurrection had been an actual return of His spirit to His own physical body. Now the disciples began to comprehend more fully some of His last words—“Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Because of Christ, the grave had no permanent victory. Death was overcome!
He lives today! Of that I bear solemn witness. This same Jesus has already come to earth in our day. The resurrected Christ—glorified, exalted, the God of this world under the Father—appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1820. This same Jesus, who was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses, the Creator of this earth, has come in our day. He was introduced by our Heavenly Father to Joseph Smith with these words: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:17).
There are some in our midst who sponsor the sophistry that this appearance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, was not literal, that it was probably a product of Joseph Smith’s own imaginings. That is not true. This is an attempt to discredit the testimony of Joseph Smith. It is also an attempt to discredit the testimony of Jesus Himself, who came to Joseph as a witness of His own resurrection.
The appearance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith is the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of the Master. As the restored Church of Jesus Christ, we humbly and gratefully bear this witness to all men. It is the truth, intended for all of our Father’s children. Here is the further testimony of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, who received this glorious vision in February 1832:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).
Yes, Jesus is the Christ! He broke the bands of death. He is our Savior and Redeemer, the very Son of God. And He will come again as our resurrected Lord. That day is not far distant. It is evident to all who accept the Savior’s literal resurrection that life does not end at death. Our Lord promised, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
There is additional significance of His resurrection to those of us who believe and accept latter-day revelation. It was through Joseph Smith that the God of heaven revealed the truth that the family may endure beyond the grave—that the sympathies, affections, and love for each other may exist forever. One of the early Apostles of this dispensation, Elder Parley P. Pratt, wrote:
“It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.
“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity. …
“It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his [family]. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband. …
“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1968, pages 297–98).
We qualify for these blessings when we go with a companion to the house of the Lord and receive the sealing ordinances that bind the family unit beyond the grave. These blessings are received in no other way, for as the Lord has decreed, “Except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory” (D&C 132:21), which glory is an eternal increase. (See D&C 132:19.)
But there is another responsibility we have in binding our family units together—this, too, revealed through the Prophet of this dispensation. Jesus said to His Apostles, “The works that I do shall [ye] do also; and greater works than these shall [ye] do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
One of the works He has commissioned in these latter days is that we who have received the ordinances of exaltation do the ordinance and sealing work for our progenitors who have not had the opportunity to receive the gospel while in mortality. Ours is the privilege of opening the doors of salvation to those souls who may be imprisoned in darkness in the world of spirits, that they may receive the light of the gospel and be judged the same as we. Yes, “the works I do”—proffering the saving ordinances of the gospel to others—“shall [ye] do also.” How many thousands of our kindred yet await these sealing ordinances?
It is well to ask, “Have I done all I can as an individual on this side of the veil? Will I be a savior to them—my own progenitors?”
Without them, we cannot be made perfect! Exaltation is a family affair.
Yes, because He lives, we shall also. Because He lives, the love and family association we cherish on this side of the veil may be perpetuated into the eternities. Because He lives, we may share in the glory that is enjoyed by the holiest of all—our Father in Heaven.
There is life after death. Testimony is abundant regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Lord has commissioned us to do the ordinance work for our progenitors who have not had an opportunity to receive the gospel while in mortality.