What comes after death is perhaps man's greatest mystery.
What does happen immediately after death?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is blessed with a wealth of revelations on that subject, whereas most of the world must rely on the near death experiences of various people for their sketchy information.
First of all, ALL people who die end up immediately in the spirit world. That's an absolute, unless someone is instantly resurrected in the twinkling of an eye.
Second, where is the spirit world?
According to Brigham Young (Deseret News Aug. 27, 1856) and Parley P. Pratt, is it simply on earth.
Elder Pratt said it is in the inward, spiritual realm, invisible to mortals. He said the veil exisits to separate the two (From his "Key of the Science of Theology" book).
Today, we would probably envision the spirit world as occupying the same space, but being in a different dimension from the physical world.
Notwithstanding, it is often stated by church members in obituary notices or funeral talks that he or she "was called home."
Why is the spirit world "home"? It is not anyone's permanent realm and no one who has not died has ever been there before.
"The Vision," compiled by N.B. Lundwall in 1945 is probably the best overall source for information on the spirit world, outside the standard works.
D&C 138 is another must read to grasp the spirit world.
There is an instant judgment once you arrive in the spirit world. If you are wicked, you will be in misery and separated from the good people.
Joy and gladness dominates the attitudes of the faithful, while the opposite engulfs the evil.
The righteous church members are very soon after arrival called to preach the gospel. They meet with immediate family briefly first.
Righteous inhabitants there are organized into families.
The spirit world is also organized into two parts, paradise, for the righteous and hell for the wicked (Alma 40:11-14).
There is some intermingling going on but it is sin and false traditions that imprison people there, according to Elder Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine.
There could easily be one billion plus inhabitants of the spirit world and that's a lot of people to teach. An increasing number of people are being added now as the world has more residents and thus more daily deaths.
Proportionally, church members who can teach the gospel there is likely very small compared to total residents.
Apparently, there are NO wards or stakes in the spirit world, Church members are organized by families instead ....
Now that teaching concept brings up the issue of one of the most common myths about the spirit world -- that our knowledge of life before birth is instantly restored after death.
That is simply not true. Think about this, if it were true, why would people in the spirit world need to be taught the basics of the gospel, for they knew all this in the pre-earth life and even chose to come to earth to be tested?
Elder Melvin J. Ballard, an apostle from 1919-1939 taught that the dead don't know any more when they die then they did alive, except that they have now passed through the process of death.
A popular church video production, "Man's Search for Happiness," contains the error that knowledge of life before birth will be restored after death. Yes, it will eventually be restored, but not immediately. Such restoration is probably based on worthiness.
He said there is no shortcut to hearing the gospel -- you hear it from the elders in this life or the next, or not at all.
If you refused to hear the message on earth, it is likely you will not want to hear it there either.
Elder McConkie also said that the same attitudes, knowledge, habits, etc. a person has are all carried to the spirit world.
Joseph Fielding Smith also taught that residents of the spirit world can exercise both faith and repentance. (Church News section of the Deseret News, Jan. 5, 1935, p. 7.)
Indeed, Elder Ballard said it is 10 times harder to repent in the spirit world, because we lack our body, a more moldable element.
That's the limiting atmosphere of the spirit world, the "bondage" and absence of not having a physical body (see D&C 45:15, 138:50). We came to earth to receive a body and without it, we are not a complete soul (D&C 88:15).
We likely speak the same language in the spirit world and so perhaps the same language skills we had in the pre-earth life are restored to us.
What about age in the spirit world?
All spirit world residents are adults (Joseph Fielding Smith, "Answers to Gospel Questions," 1:60). Even those who died as babes are adult in appearance, though visions of deceased persons may make them appear as about the age when a person last saw them on earth.
Can spirit world residents see us? Brigham Young said so, but I can't believe that's always true or they would be too distracted, concerned or entertained over what we do to do much else in the spirit world.
Certainly when a person's temple work is being done, or perhaps even during a person's funeral, they may tarry nearby and see our world, but a regular and anytime-I-want-to-see-the-earth option seems far too distracting for the work to continue there.
The patriarchal blessing of a few mentions some church members having a gift to see through the veil at times.
What does the spirit world look like? An account in "The Vision" of near death experience by a church member describes it as much more beautiful than our current earth.
It contains incredible looking gardens/flowers and very well-constructed buildings.
If it does cover the entire earth space, it would be huge in size.
-AND, since God the Father and Jesus Christ DO NOT dwell in, or likely visit the Spirit World, prayer is probably an important spiritual exercise in that realm too, as on the mortal Earth.
I don't profess to know everything about the spirit world, I only know what has been revealed to church leaders and is in the scriptures.
(The above photograph is of a unusual sculpture in a St. George, Utah funeral home. One of my uncles, Harold Rigby, took the picture. Although it is NOT totally correct in LDS doctrine -- since Christ does not meet a deceased person in the spirit world -- it does show the age transformation of going through the veil.)
NOTE: This article and all of the NighUntoKolob blog are NOT an official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are the author's conclusions and opinions only.