Author’s note: I spent most of last year writing a book of comfort for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Of course, the one to benefit most was me! Since losing my son in October of 2004 I’ve had an insatiable desire to know more about what happens after death. The most comforting thing I’ve found is documentation that our Second Estate continues in the spirit world. The rest of this article is an excerpt from my book summarizing what I’ve learned. There is comfort here for anyone concerned about the progress and well-being of a loved one in the spirit world.
One day in early July I was lying in my back yard hammock, watching summer sunlight filter through the leaves of the trees, pondering the journey I’ve taken in my quest to understand what happens in the spirit world.
From the time I was a child I heard that missionary work was going on in the spirit world. That knowledge had made me question the idea that “if you don’t understand and repent by the time you die it is too late.” I started this book with only a tentative hope that our second estate probation continues after death, because “second estate” is usually defined as our time “on this earth.” Because it seemed like such a major issue to me, I looked at that from every angle and decided that part of the assurance I was looking for might be in the documentation I’d found that the spirit world is “on this earth.”
As a robin swooped low over the hammock, then perched in the tree nearest me, I thought of the day I found those quotes. Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote that the spirit world “is here on the very planet where we were born; or in other words, the earth and other planets of like sphere, have their inward or spiritual spheres, as well as their outward, or temporal. The one is peopled by temporal tabernacles, and the other by spirits. A veil is drawn between the one sphere and the other, whereby all the objects in the spiritual sphere are rendered invisible to those in the temporal.”1
Also, Brigham Young spoke extensively about the spirit world and said it is “right here.”2 I was so excited to think of my loved ones being so near. But did that prove anything about the second estate continuing?
Another landmark was finding the article “The Spirit World, Our Next Home,” by Dale C. Mouritsen, an area director of seminaries and institutes (a must read). To summarize, he said that the spirit world is a tangible, substantial sphere incorporated with our earth, the focal point of a massive missionary effort.3
I concluded that whether we call our time in the spirit world an extension of our second estate or something else, there would be no point of preaching the gospel in the spirit world if those who heard the preaching couldn’t benefit from it. We know those in the spirit world are still able to choose to accept or reject the gospel as well as the proxy ordinances we do for them. And that was as far as I had come with the subject when I started this book.
I smiled, climbed out of the hammock, and went into the house. I was eager to get back to my computer because now I could write the best part! I had continued to search for verification that the second estate does not end when we die. This was an important issue and I wanted to know for sure! Imagine my delight when Jenny, an e-mail friend and griever, sent me a quote from President Marion G. Romney that specifically said that! In a talk titled “We Are Children of God, 4 he plainly defines the second estate as the mortality we are now experiencing AND our sojourn in the spirit after we die.
But the best was yet to come. (And hearing this you will understand better why I had to keep writing and rewriting this chapter.) During the final stages of creating this book I learned that Elder Neal A. Maxwell, in his book The Promise of Discipleship, had written an entire chapter on the spirit world! I obtained a copy of the book and read chapter 9. (It starts on page 105.) Elder Maxwell’s words are so full of hope for our departed loved ones! In that chapter called simply “The Spirit World,” I found the following quote:
We tend to overlook the reality that the spirit world and paradise are part, really, of the second estate. The work of the Lord, so far as the second estate is concerned, is completed before the Judgment and the Resurrection . . . He gave us our spirit birth, bringing the first estate to all. He gave the gift to us of mortality, or the second estate, where all might be “added upon” . . . He provides in the spirit world a continuum of mortality's probation, the great opportunity for all. 5
How could it be any different? God is both merciful and just. What else would make sense?
Joseph F. Smith's Vision of the Redemption of the Dead
For a long time, my best comfort had been President Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemption of the dead in Doctrine & Covenants 138. He said, in part:
But behold, from among the righteous, he 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, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
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.
And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. (D&C 138:30-35)
The last verses of that section summarize this hopeful doctrine:
I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.