Many of us wonder what happens after we die. Some believe that we cease to exist, while others believe in a heaven and a hell. We lived before we came to earth, and we will continue to live after we die. We know this because God has outlined His whole plan for us in the scriptures. Knowing this plan can provide comfort and peace about death. While we mourn for those loved ones we’ve lost, there is hope—death is not the end.
When we die, our spirit and body separate. Even though our body dies, our spirit—which is the essence of who we are—lives on. Our spirit goes to the spirit world, which is divided into spirit paradise and spirit prison. For those spirits who lived good lives, paradise is a place of rest from earthly cares and sorrow.
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” —(Luke 23:43, The Holy Bible)
“And then shall it come to pass, that 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 from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” –(Alma 40:12, The Book of Mormon)
What happens after the resurrection?
Do Mormons believe in heaven and hell? The short answer is yes. Mormons—properly referred to as Latter-day Saints or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—base their understanding of heaven and hell on teachings from the scriptures and from modern prophets of God. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul taught that all people will be resurrected after death, meaning the spirit and body will be reunited.
For members of the Church, “hell” does not necessarily mean a place of punishment; it can refer to two different places.
One is spirit prison—the temporary waiting place for people who disobeyed God’s commandments in life or who died without a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. People in spirit prison have the opportunity to repent and accept or reject the gospel. Depending on their choices, most people will eventually receive one of the degrees of glory.
The other place that “hell” can refer to is called “outer darkness,” which is not a kingdom of glory. It is where Satan lives, and it is reserved for only the most wicked people who deny Jesus Christ.
Because our works and desires vary, heaven has different kingdoms or degrees of glory. The highest kingdom, where God lives, is called the celestial kingdom, followed by the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. The Bible compares our eternal reward in one of these three kingdoms to the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.
People will attain a level of glory based on their actions during their life on earth. The highest degree of glory, symbolized by the sun, is the place where God the Father and Jesus Christ live. This state of being is sometimes referred to as exaltation. But each surpasses any form of happiness that we could possibly experience here on earth.
It is comforting to remember that Jesus Christ will judge all people according to their own actions, desires, and understanding and that He is both just and merciful.