Modern Commentary Related to Chapter XIV
THE WORLD OF SPIRITS.
Ye worlds of light and life, beyond our sphere;
Mysterious country! let your light appear.
Ye angels, lift the vail, the truth unfold,
And give our Seers a glimpse of that bright world;
Tell where ye live, and what are your employ,
Your present blessing, and your future joy.
Say, have you learn’d the name, and tun’d the lyre,
And hymn’d the praise of him—the great Messiah?
Have love’s emotions kindl’d in your breast,
And hope enraptur’d seiz’d the promis’d rest?
Or wait ye still the resurrection day,
That higher promise of Millennial sway?
When Saints and angels come to earth again,
And in the Mesh with King Messiah reign?
The spirits answer’d as they soar’d away—
“We’re happy now, but wait a greater day,
When sin and death, and hell, shall conquer’d be,
And earth, with heaven, enjoy the victory.”
The spirit of man consists of an organization, or embodiment of the elements of spiritual matter, in the likeness and after the pattern of the fleshly tabernacle. It possesses, in fact, all the organs and parts exactly corresponding to the outward tabernacle.
The entrance of this spirit into its embryo tabernacle of flesh, is called quickening. The infallible evidence of its presence is voluntary motion, which implies a degree of independent agency, or inherent will, which individual identity alone possesses.
When this spirit departs, the outward tabernacle is said to be dead, that is, the individual who quickened and imparted voluntary motion to the said tabernacle is no longer there. This individual, on departing from its earthly house, repasses the dark vale of forgetfulness, and awakes in the spirit world.
The spirit world is not the heaven where Jesus Christ, his Father, and other beings dwell, who have, by resurrection or translation, ascended to eternal mansions, and been crowned and seated on thrones of power; but it is an intermediate state, a probation, a place of preparation, improvement, instruction, or education, where spirits are chastened and improved, and where, if found worthy, they may be taught a knowledge of the Gospel. In short, it is a place where the Gospel is preached, and where faith, repentance, hope and charity may be exercised; a place of waiting for the resurrection or redemption of the body; while, to those who deserve it, it is a place of punishment, a purgatory or hell, where spirits are buffetted till the day of redemption.
As to its location, it is here on the very planet where we were born; or, in other words, the earth and other planets of a 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 vail 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.
To discern beings or things in the spirit world, a person in the flesh must be quickened by spiritual element, the vail must be withdrawn, or the organs of sight, or of hearing, must be transformed, so as to be adapted to the spiritual sphere. This state is called vision, trance, second sight, clairvoyance, &c.
The elements and beings in the spirit world are as real and tangible to spiritual organs, as things and beings of the temporal world are to beings of a temporal state.
In this spirit world there are all the varieties and grades of intellectual being, which exist in the present world. For instance, Jesus Christ and the thief on the cross, both went to the same place, and found themselves associated in the spirit world.
But the one was there in all the intelligence, happiness, benevolence, and charity, which characterized a teacher, a messenger, anointed to preach glad tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort those who mourned, to preach deliverance to the captive, and open the prison to those who were bound; or, in other words, To preach the Gospel to the spirits in prison, that they might he judged according to men in the flesh; while the other was there as a thief, who had expired on the cross for crime, and who was guilty, ignorant, uncultivated, and unprepared for resurrection, having need of remission of sins, and to be instructed in the science of salvation.
The former bid farewell to the world of spirits on the third day, and returned to his tabernacle of flesh, in which he ascended to thrones, principalities, and powers, while the latter is, no doubt, improving in the spirit world, and waiting, believing, hoping for the redemption of the body.
In the world of spirits there are Apostles, Prophets, Elders, and members of the Church of the Saints, holding keys of Priesthood, and power to teach, comfort, instruct, and proclaim the Gospel to, their fellow-spirits, after the pattern of Jesus Christ.
In the same world there are also the spirits of Catholics, and Protestants of every sect, who have all need to be taught, and to come to the knowledge of the true, unchangeable Gospel, in its fulness and simplicity, that they may be judged the same as if they had been privileged with the same in the flesh.
There is also the Jew, the Mahometan, the infidel, who did not believe in Christ while in the flesh. All these must be taught, must come to the knowledge of the crucified and risen Redeemer, and hear the glad tidings of the Gospel.
There are also all the varieties of the heathen spirits; the noble and refined philosopher, poet, patriot, or statesman of Rome or Greece; the enlightened Socrates, Plato, and their like; together with every grade of spirits, down to the most uncultivated of the savage world.
All these must be taught, enlightened, and must bow the knee to the eternal king, for the decree hath gone forth, that unto him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.
O what a field of labour, of benevolence, of missionary enterprise now opens to the Apostles and Elders of the Church of the Saints! As this field opens they will begin to realize more fully the extent of their divine mission, and the meaning of the great command to “Preach the Gospel to every creature.”
In this vast field of labour, the Priesthood are, in a great measure, occupied, during their sojourn in the world of spirits while awaiting the resurrection of the body; and at the same time they themselves are edified, improved, and greatly advanced and matured in the science of divine Theology.
In the use of the keys of this science, by them administered, and in connexion with the ministration of certain ordinances, by the Priesthood in this mortal life, for, and in behalf of, those who are dead, the doors of the prisons of the spirit world are opened, and their gloomy dungeons made radiant with light. Hope then springs afresh. Joy and gladness swell the bosom accustomed to anguish, and smiles assume the place of tears, while songs of triumph, and the voice of melody and thanksgiving occupy the hearts, and flow from the lips, of those who have long dwelt in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death.
The times of sojourn of a spirit in the world of spirits, and also its privileges and degrees of enjoyment, or of suffering, while there, depend much on its preparations while in the flesh.
For instance, the people swept off by the flood of Noah, were imprisoned in the world of spirits, in a kind of hell; without justification, without Priesthood or Gospel, without the true knowledge of God, or a hope of resurrection, during those long ages which intervened between the flood and the death of Christ. It was only by the personal ministry of the spirit of Jesus Christ, during his sojourn in the spirit world, that they were at length privileged to hear the Gospel, and to act upon their own agency, the same as men in the flesh; whereas, if they had repented at the preaching of Noah, they might have been justified, and filled with the hope and knowledge of the resurrection while in the flesh.
When Jesus Christ had returned from his mission in the spirit world, had triumphed over the grave, and re-entered his fleshly tabernacle, then the Saints who had obeyed the Gospel while in the flesh, and had slept in death, or finished their sojourn in the spirit world, were called forth to re-enter their bodies, and to ascend with him to mansions and thrones of eternal power, while the residue of the spirits remained in the world of spirits to await another call.
Those who obeyed the Gospel on the earth, after this first resurrection, will also be called from their sojourn in the spirit world, and re-united with their tabernacles of flesh, at the sounding of the next trump, and will reign on the earth in the flesh, one thousand years, while those who rejected the Gospel will remain in the spirit world without a resurrection, till after the thousand years.
Again, those who obey the Gospel in the present age will rise from the spirit world, and from the grave, and reign on the earth during the great thousand years; while those who reject it will remain in condemnation in the spirit world, without a resurrection, till the last trump shall sound, and death and hell deliver up their dead.