How often do we think about the spirit world? If you are a typical adult, you lead a very busy life. Our families, our jobs or our educational pursuits take up the majority of our time. In fact, most of us are hard pressed to find time to read the scriptures, pray, visit others or fulfill church assignments. This is especially true when our families are young and demand so much of us.
Such things can seem like a burden in today’s busy, even hectic world. Who has time to ponder about the spirit world? Because we are so busy, when we do sit down to think, we are bombarded by mental lists of things to do. Yet, Joseph Smith said that the study of the spirit world is a subject that should occupy our minds more than any other. He taught:
The most important subject to study
“All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more?
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, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation [to God]. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.”
Sources: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p 211 or Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 324, or History of the Church, 6:50; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Oct. 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois.
The spirit world is greatly misunderstood
The spirit world is indeed a subject that fascinates many members of the LDS Church. There have been numerous books written about it over the years. It is a topic of study in many of our adult, youth and even children’s Sunday classes. It is commonly addressed by our leaders in general Conference. And yet, what do we really know or believe about the spirit world?
For example, I have written previously about the amazing survey a few years back (2001) in which 41% of the members of the LDS Church do not believe that the devil is a real person. Why is that? I believe it is because they have not pondered the spirit world and the inhabitants there. It is a basic doctrine of our church that the adversary and his followers dwell in the spirit world.
The spirit world is here among us
Brigham Young taught, “Where is the spirit world? It is right here…Do [spirits of the departed] go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not…Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies.”
The prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The spirits of the just…are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.” Most LDS do not have a problem with understanding the doctrine of the post-mortal spirit world with paradise designated for the righteous and spirit prison as the destination for the ungodly.
The inhabitants of the spirit world
So just what kind of spirits can we find in the spirit world? I think we are all clear that the spirits of the departed who have not yet been resurrected dwell there. Although they are separated, we can find both the righteous and the wicked there. It is my understanding that those in Paradise are not troubled by the influences of the adversary or evil spirits; it is a place of rest.
However, we have been taught that we who remain here in mortality are subject to the influence of both spirits who have never been mortal as well as those who have passed through this life. Unless you have never really studied LDS doctrine, you know that one third of the spirits that were supposed to come to this earth as mortals, arrived here instead without a physical body.
The influence of evil spirits
Now, back to that survey – I doubt that anybody who reads this has ever seen the devil. And although I might be surprised, I also doubt that very many of you have seen an evil spirit. But I have no doubt that if you are a faithful Later-day Saint or just a good Christian person, you have seen the influence of the adversary either in your own life or in the life of someone you love.
In fact, there may be someone reading this who is not a member of our faith that has a story to tell about how they came under the influence of an evil spirit or two at sometime in their life. Why do we shy away from this topic? The sophisticated among us like to mock and point out how foolish it is to believe such stuff. But then, they mock our faith in God and Jesus as well.
The influence of righteous spirits
Not wanting to leave this essay on a negative note, let’s focus for a moment on the doctrine that we can have and should seek the influence of our departed loved ones upon us in this life. Why? To assist with family history research, of course. Like many of you, I can share experiences of impressions I have felt from beyond the veil when I am engaged in researching my ancestors.
I know that those who are living on the other side of the veil in the spirit world are anxious to help us find their records. There are too many stories that have been shared over the years to believe that our departed family members are not allowed to visit us and help us in our quest. It is a sweet spirit that comes upon us as we seek to know our ancestors and be sealed to them.
Summary and conclusion
I am convinced that there is so much more to understanding the influence of the spirit world than we normally think about in our day-to-day lives. Isn’t the whole purpose of scripture study and prayer to bring us into a frame of mind to feel the influence of the spirit? Isn’t that why the Brethren invite us over and over again to pause and listen to the impressions of the spirit?
It is my personal belief that our Heavenly Father can answer our prayers any way He wants to. Sometimes that means he may send departed ancestors to deliver messages and help us in our journey. The whisperings of the spirit are very quiet and require careful pondering to feel. If we are too busy to stop, ponder, read and pray, we can miss out on much needed direction.