What happens when our mortal bodies die? Heavenly Father has not left us in the dark about the post-mortal spirit world. Heavenly Father has a plan for the salvation of all His children. His plan covers our pre-mortal life, our mortal life, and our post-mortal life. While we lived with our Heavenly Father, He helped us prepare for our life on earth. Then He sent us to live on earth in order to receive mortal bodies of flesh and blood and to prepare for our post-earth life.
When our mortal bodies die, our spirits will go to the spirit world – a place of waiting, working, and learning. Those who have lived righteous lives will have an opportunity to rest from all their cares and sorrows. The spirits of all mankind will live in the spirit world until we are ready for our resurrection. Our resurrection will unite our mortal bodies with our spirits, never to be separated again. Each of us will then receive the degree of glory we have earned.
We have received much instruction about the spirit world. According to latter-day prophets, the spirits of those who have passed away are not far from us. “Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, June 1971, 33). Brigham Young taught that the post-mortal spirit world is on the earth, around us (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 279).
Spirits and mortals have the same bodily form except the spirit body is in perfect form (see Ether 3:16). When people die, their spirits take with them the same attitudes of devotion or antagonism toward righteousness (see Alma 34:34). They also take with them the same appetites and desires as they had during their mortal lives. All spirits are in adult form – before and after mortal life, even if they die as infants or children (see Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 131-32).
According to a prophet named Alma in the Book of Mormon, there are two divisions or states in the spirit world: "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 form all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil – for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house – and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
"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" (Alma 40:12-14).
The spirits are classified as to how they lived their lives in mortality – the purity of their lives and their obedience to God. There is a division between the righteous and the wicked spirits (see 1 Nephi 15:28-30); however, the spirits may progress as fast as they learn the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and learn to be obedient to them. Those spirits who reside in paradise are allowed to teach the spirits in prison (see Doctrine and Covenants 138).
The prophet Alma also taught that the righteous spirits are given rest from earthly care and sorrow while they are occupied in furthering the work of the Lord. Joseph F. Smith saw in a vision that Jesus Christ visited the righteous spirits in paradise immediately after He was crucified. While He was there, He appointed messengers and commissioned them with the necessary power and authority to “carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30).
Jesus Christ organized His Church in the spirit world. There priesthood holders continue to carry on their duties and responsibilities (see Doctrine and Covenants 138:30). Wilford Woodruff taught: “The same Priesthood exists on the other side of the veil…. Every Apostle, every Seventy, every Elder, etc., who has died in the faith as soon as he passes to the other side of the veil, enters into the work of the ministry” (Deseret News, Jan. 25, 1882, 818).
Family relationships are also important in the spirit world. Jedediah M. Grant, a counselor to Brigham Young, saw the spirit world in a vision and described the organization that exists there to Heber C. Kimball: “He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities…. He said, `When I looked at families, there was a deficiency in some, … for I saw families that would not be permitted to come and dwell together, because they had not honored their calling here’” (Deseret News, Dec. 10, 1856, 316-17).
Ancient scriptures also tell us about the spirit world. The Apostle Peter said that the post-mortal spirit world was like a prison for some (see 1 Peter 3:18-20). The spirits who are in spirit prison are those who have not yet received the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have agency and can be tempted by either good or evil. Those who accept the gospel and the ordinances performed for them in the temples are allowed to leave the spirit prison and live in paradise.
Some of the spirits in spirit prison rejected the gospel after it was preached to them either in mortal life or in spirit prison. They suffer a condition that is known as hell. They have rejected the mercy offered by Jesus Christ, who said, “Behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-18). They must suffer for their own sins but then will be allowed – because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ – to inherit the telestial kingdom or the lowest degree of glory.