Death is the door to the spirit world


My dad passed away last week after a relatively short illness of less than six weeks. Dad’s death, about four years after my mother’s death has brought our family closer together. For example, although we always communicate via email at least weekly, I feel a greater desire to stay closer to my brother, who lived with dad over the last year and is now all alone. Death does that to you.

My sisters were wonderful all through dad’s sickness. They took time off from work to be with dad day after day, week after week. I think that’s an amazing demonstration of love on their part. My dad deserved it. I have written about him previously. He was the most unselfish, kind and gentle person I have ever known. Even when dying, he didn’t want us to fuss over him.

A priesthood blessing

As dad was passing through the last few days of his illness, he kept asking my sisters to open the door. At first, they thought he meant that literally and would open the door to the room widely. But he kept saying, “No, the door isn’t open.” Finally my one sister understood what he wanted and called on the priesthood brethren to come give him a blessing and release him from this life.

I wish I could have been there that night but distance kept me away. How grateful I am to know that there are good faithful holders of the priesthood who are willing to come bless a dying man. In less than thirty minutes after the blessing in which he was told that he had completed his mission on this earth, he breathed his last breath and then passed quietly into the spirit world.

Visits from the spirit world

I know you’ve probably read many accounts over the years of people who have been visited by loved ones from the spirit world. If not, I’ll refer you to some sources at the end of this essay. Dad told us many times that mother came to visit him after she died. He spoke often of having talked with her during the last few weeks of his illness. She was anxiously awaiting him there.

The LDS faith is not the only one that teaches of an afterlife, but I think we are fairly unique and precise in our explanations of the spirit world. We have a wealth of teachings and scriptures that attest to the reality and the purpose of the spirit world. It is a place of gathering and waiting for those who have died and have not yet learned all that is needed in preparation for resurrection.

What the spirit world is like

At the time of physical death, the spirit leaves the body and goes to the spirit world, where we will continue to learn and progress. In the spirit world, memories of this life and the knowledge we have gained on Earth will remain with us. Death will not change our personality or our desire for good or evil. We will be about as happy or as unhappy there as we are here and now.

The spirit world is not our final resting place. We are simply there for a time, learning, growing and preparing for the day when our bodies and spirits will be reunited or resurrected, never to die again. That is an amazing thought to contemplate and one that gives me great hope and joy. I am confident that the separation of death is only temporary. We will one day become immortal.

The work of the spirit world

In what is one of those unique teachings of the LDS faith, we believe that there is a great work going on in the spirit world. It is a work of gathering and organizing. It is also a work in which we can be involved here upon the earth. Of course I refer to the work of family history research. Participating in this work now can bring us close to family members living in the spirit world.

Countless thousands of individuals have testified of help they have received from beyond the veil as their hearts have been turned to their fathers in seeking them out. This desire to discover and learn more about the lives of our ancestors is called the Spirit of Elijah and refers to the mission of the prophet Elijah. This is one of the things that was restored through the prophet Joseph.

Seek knowledge of the spirit world

The prophet Joseph taught that we should study diligently about the spirit world. “It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night… If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.”

Unfortunately, most of us are so busy with the cares of this world that we rarely study or ponder what our life will be like in the spirit world. For many us, our daily work consumes way too much of our energy. We busy ourselves with tasks that have little meaning in the eternities. There is a time for everything, and that includes time to meditate about those in the spirit world.

Seeking out our ancestors

A large part of our faith is temple worship service. I like to call it that because it is a place where we go to be closer to the spirit world and to give service in providing proxy ordinances for those who are living on the other side of the veil. While we don’t worship our ancestors, we are taught that we cannot be made perfect without them. We must be sealed to them in an unbroken chain.

My mother understood this concept well. She was consumed with family history research almost from the day she joined the church. She spent more than half of her life seeking out and finding the names and pertinent dates of our family members. Most of her efforts were directed towards her maternal ancestors, and often told me of special help she received as she sought them out.

The Spirit of Elijah

As mother came closer to death, her sense of urgency in completing the ordinances for those she had discovered was profound. In an almost daily ritual she would call or email and ask me if I had completed the work for some family members that she had submitted. In all, mother was responsible for the ordinances of over 25,000 family members over a forty year period of time.

While I have not been as intense about this passion as my mother, I also keenly feel this sense of urgency to ensure that the ordinances are performed for family members waiting in the spirit world. This is the Spirit of Elijah that is prompting me to do all I can to fulfill my promise to my family, made before I came to this world. That spirit can help each of us if we pray for it.

The door to the spirit world

I loved my dad. I still do. I know where he is. He is with my mother and his own parents. He is nearby. We believe that the spirit world is here on this earth and that the spirits of those who have departed are not far from us. They are concerned for our happiness and welfare. I know dad is at peace now and that is not just an idle wish. I feel it deep within my heart and soul.

Dad suffered a bit before he died but endured it valiantly. He passed through death as he passed through life – without complaint. But dad knew that it was time to go and knew that there was a door through which he must pass. In his case, he needed to hear the words of the brethren of the priesthood telling him that he had completed his life’s work; that he could go through that door.

Summary and conclusion

All men must die. We know that. No matter how much we may get caught up in the things of this world while we are here, there comes a time in everyone’s life in which we contemplate death and what comes next. I am grateful for a faith that teaches me not only of the purpose of life and where I came from, but what will happen to me after I die. I will continue to live.

Death is not the end. It is only a doorway through which we must pass. It is one step in the eternal scheme of things. There is so much more to come after we get to the other side. We continue our journey, learning and preparing for that glorious day of resurrection, when we come forth as perfect, immortal and eternal beings, never to die again. I look forward to that day.

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For more about the spirit world (from my library):

1. Visits from Beyond the Veil by Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Horizon Publishers, 2002
2. Spirit World Manifestations by Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing and Publishing, 1978
3. Temple Manifestations, by Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing and Publishing, 1974
4. The Gateway we call Death, by Russell M. Nelson, Deseret Book, 1995
5. Life after Death, by Robert L. Millet, Deseret Book, 1999
6. Beyond the Veil – vol 1, by Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1988
7. Beyond the Veil – vol 2, by Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1989
8. The Journey beyond Life, by Michele R. Sorensen, Family Affair Books, 1988
9. Life Everlasting, Duane S. Crowther, Bookcraft, 1967
10. Beyond Death’s Door, Brent L. and Wendy C. Top, Bookcraft, 1993

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14 Responses

  1. Tim,My eyes were filled with tears as I read your beautiful tribute to your father. I offer my small consolation, but I also know your grief is lessened by your very deep gospel understanding.I was particularly touched by your father’s request “to open the door.” Further, I was impressed by how the priesthood blessing opened the door.Best wishes during this time…

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  2. What a wonderful and moving post; it was poignant and powerful. My condolences for your loss. It sounds like your father was a great person.

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  3. I echo the other comment that states that this is a beautiful tribute to your father. Let me add to that a compliment on your teachings of the Spirit World. I loved the Joseph Smith quote you shared.The sting of death seems much less harsh because of our knowledge that death is not the end. Best wishes at this transition time in your life.

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  4. Good post.I have died twice, and remember it well.Also I have seen the spirits of the dead. I’ve also had some try to scare me. (Actually they did raise the hair on the back of my neck even though I was ready for them).As you say, the spirit world people are just the same as when they were here. Some louts decided to scare us night patrolmen, but most couldn’t be bothered.If we put the light on they wouldn’t try. So I kept putting on the light after that.They were dressed in the clothes of their times. The place was a wool shed that had been there since the late 1800s. Some had more modern attire, and some from other periods during those years.I’m glad your father felt good about his passing, and felt his work here was finished. I’m happy for your mother also.Yet we miss those who we love that have passed on. So my condolances to you and your family.

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  5. Thanks to each of you for your kind comments. We are indeed blessed by our understanding of the gospel plan. It is amazing to see the stark contrast in reactions to death that this knowledge brings even to members within the same family. The peace that comes from that knopwledge is real and tangible at times like this, when a loved one dies.Doug, I’ve just got to comment on your observations about the spirit world and further solidify the idea that when we die, we tend to seek out those that we loved while on this earth. In the absence of love, there are those who seek to be with other spirits who had common likes and desires.Do you think those who accosted you in the wool shed had no loving ties to family members to engage their time, while they await the day of their resurrection? Why do you suppose they tried to scare you? Were they trying to communicate somehow? If so, what?I have never had a visit from the spirit world that I can recall. I cannot relate, as you have, that I have seen the spirits of the dead. I can say that I have felt the presence of deceased loved ones, especially in the temple, but I have never seen anything.I do not doubt you because my father related the same thing. That is quite a gift but makes me ask again, what was the purpose of the visit of those you saw in the wool shed? Were they just hanging out and didn’t want you there also?

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  6. I ran across your blog via Bennetts. I live in Battle Ground WA. I enjoyed reading your posts; especially about your father. We have an LDS blog which my husband writes on; it’s very good also. Please come over and take a look. http://www.mytitleofliberty.blogspot.com

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  7. Yes, when a loved one enters the spirit world who has lived a faithful ife, gospel knowledge is comforting. But what of a loved one who enters unprepared? What if a formerly valiant young member becomes an atheist prior to the onset of a sudden grievous illness and death? Then comfort is not nearly as easily found.

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  8. Hi Bonnie,Thanks for your comment and for the link back to your blog. I am grateful to have been able to read about Jordan and his fight with Rhabdo. Your regular postings showed a remarkable strength as Jordan passed through and completed his journey in this life. I am encouraged in the things that I read there. Thanks so much for sharing.Who are we to judge what is a faithful life? What God requires of you may not be what he requires of a loved one, especially a son. I, too have a son who is an atheist, or so he claims. I have watched him grow over the past few years since he left our faith in ways that I never would have imagined. Is he really an atheist or just an agnostic, or is it all some sort of defense mechanism?We may never know. My son may never return to the faith of his youth, but like all of us, he will enter the spirit world to continue his journey and education there. We just cannot say what it is we are supposed to accomplish here. Our tests are different from our loved ones, even our closest family members. Perhaps our real education comes after we leave this life and learn things there.For example, my mother and father did not attend church meetings for the last fifteen to twenty years of their lives. Does that make them less than valiant in their testimonies of the gospel? I am grateful that I am not the one to make that judgment. I know them both well and know they continued to believe, even though they did not participate with the Saints.You know your son the best. And yet even you cannot say what was really in his heart when he left this life. From what I read, it appears he was surrounded by those who loved him. I imagine he was met by beloved family members there who helped him through his transition to the spirit world. Unprepared? Who are we to say? God prepares each of us for what is to come in his own way.I’m certain someone has said to you that your son is fulfilling a mission in the spirit world and that he was needed there. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps when we think of missions we dwell too much on qualifications that we would put on the individual to perform a mission. Do those who preside in the spirit world require the same preparation that we assume is necessary? What is the work they may be assigned to do? I wonder.I’m sure you’ve also read accounts of many of those who have temporarily entered the spirit world and then returned. Many tell of their interview with the Lord, or with an angel that is filled with the perfect love of the Savior. Can one be an atheist after such an experience? If the individual chooses to go to the light, they will surely come to know of this love and want to do whatever is necessary to be filled with that love forever.Yes, God honors our agency and I am certain that there are some who have not gone to the light, and who are still hanging around, bound to earthly things. But unless someone did all within their power to embrace evil while in this mortal existence, I am of the opinion that the transition to the spirit world can shed a whole lot of doubt and disbelief when it comes to the things of God.Comfort comes from the spirit of the Lord. It is an intensely personal thing. It comes from the same area in which we hold our most sacred beliefs and our most precious life experiences. I am convinced that the love of a mother has much to do with the progress a son makes in this life. I have seen it over and over again with my own wife and son. Why can’t that love reach through to the spirit world and be efficacious in their behalf there?Just a few thoughts, shared with much love. God bless you in your searching to find the answers you seek. I have many of my own and trust that the Lord will provide them when I am ready to receive them. He knows best when that time is, either in this life or the next. I will trust and be faithful until that day arrives.

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  9. Tim:Your response to Bonnie is right on target. I always have much to learn from your posts and comments. Keep posting and I will keep reading.

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  10. Tim, I’m glad I left my earlier comment here because your reply enriches my contemplations on my son’s possibilities in the spirit world. When I first learned from his wife of his atheism five weeks after his death, I was racked with pain for months, with worry and fear for his status. It’s been a rigorous journey, but I have come to a place of acceptance of things as they are and of greater reliance upon the Lord for His mercy in my son’s behalf.Thank you for reaffirming faith in the Lord, instead of the fear that sometimes resurfaces.

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  11. Hi TimI stumbled across your blog on LDS BLOGS. I thought you might be interested in a site my wife and I just built called MormonsMadeSimple.com, which uses simple, explanatory videos to explain the Mormon faith. Feel free to feature any of these videos on your blog, or just share them with non-member friends. We're hoping these videos will be missionary tools to help members share their beliefs. Anyway, sorry to spam your comments section. I couldn't find any contact information for you on your blog. – Doug & Laurel

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  12. Hi Doug and Laurel,Larry Richman alerted me to your site a few days ago. I like it and added it to my blogroll. It reminds me of the very popular CommonCraft videos. Well done!

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  13. I think this talk might be interesting to you. I am deeply touched by what is in this article. There is something in the heart that becomes broken and searching when death strikes. Hinckley said it gnawed in his chest with a missing of his dear wife. Those that visit my blog the longest are looking for a “death poem”.May your days be filled with sweet memories of your parents!A crucial component of lifeComes at the doors of deathWhen we’ve lost a husband or wifeWe’re lonely and bereftThe separation evokes pangsOf loneliness and shockWhere this heavy door hangsThere’s an unbearable clockThe younger the greater the griefThey’re seen as a victimThe tragedy’s beyond beliefThe loved one’s far strickenYet, even when the infirm are calledThough it gives them reliefIn some way they had stalledAnd their last good-bye seems briefThe deepest expression of loveIs to mourn for those we’ve lostWe’ve divine command from aboveTo weep when there’s a lossThe only way to avoid tearsIs to remove all the loveOh, the reunion with our dearsWhen we return to home above!God’s our primary directiveWoe to them not handlingWhen we’ve eternal perspectiveWe’ve peace past understandingLife does not begin with our birthNor does it end with deathPrior to birth we had worthWe can go on without breath!As seedlings of God while on the earthWe were born to die then liveFrom blossoms to flowers of worthWe’ve a journey with motiveTo everything there’s a seasonA time, and a purposeWith numbers too scarce to reasonDaily vasts return through purchaseWe pass through- not around deaths doorsOn a returning tripTo live with the Father once moreThough trials we would to skipDeaths essential to happinessAnd there’s life beyond the veilIf we could just peek and witness-How we’d prepare there to dwell!For, this much we know withinThe real sting of death is sinAs the spirit’s mortifiedFrom God, separate, and deniedWith opportunity goneAs we see clearly each wrongThat of our sins, we’ll not be savedExcept we repent, and have them waivedThe twilight of life is longIt’s difficult to be strongWe must endure physicallyAnd learn to cope spiritually We’ve a divine injunctionTo endure till there’s no functionWith heavy hardships how we leanBut, with them much can be gleanedWe must endure our trialsAnd suffer long with kind smilesWe’ll pattern after the LordThrough suffering, He loved, adoredAnd after tribulationWe’re promised blessing’s stationOur life is temporaryThen there’s extraordinaryReturned to God and His homeWhere a state of rest is knownThis is temporary stillAccording to our Father’s willThe grave must deliver upThe body and spirit cuffTo become a living soulThat’s immortal in its new roleOur bodies will be perfectAs they are no longer subjectWith eternal laws employedThese bodies can’t be destroyedThen comes the day of our LordWhere our judgment is offeredThere we’ll be judged of our worksPresided by Christ and not clerksThose who’ve almost to death crashedReport seeing their whole life flashedHaving a rapid recallThey saw good and bad- It allThere’s a sense of returningAnd of a bright light burningSome have seen their ancestorsBut, their time was not answeredThey live to tell us of peaceWe know that life will increaseThis is our time to prepareWe can bless others with kind careBe generous and give thanksAnd seal unto your family its ranksFor with loved ones close to enjoyDeath’s door will be sweet unto joyWhen our departure’s at handMay the veil of death be thinAs loved ones on both sides standThere’s comfort to journey inDeath does not hold one hostageBut, it will come eventuallyWhen we’ve reached our time full-fledgedThen we slip away ever so gentlyRussell M. Nelson”Doors of Death”,Ensign, May 1992 pg 72

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  14. I’ve been so far behind, I didn’t see this post until today. God bless, Tim. There is power in your words and the veil is thin.

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