Then there are the widespread reports of near-death experiences, with remarkable consistencies between them. And then there is the fact that human cultures all over the world have always had a concept of some sort of afterlife, another consistency that begs an explanation. The plan of salvation was first taught on this earth to Adam and Eve, our first parents.
Secular theories posit that the belief in an afterlife is an independent outgrowth of some universal psychological need. But the widespread idea of life after death instead constitutes a sort of ancestral or collective memory if not a premortal memory of what was revealed in the beginning and then passed from generation to generation.
Thus, the idea of a life beyond this one is so universal because its origin coincides with the origin of the human race itself. As Latter-day Saints, we can help bring hope into the lives of those living without God in the world by confidently bearing our witness of the truth about our existence: death is not the end.
In addition, we can answer many questions about life after death because of the plain and precious truths of the restored gospel that have been revealed. Here are brief answers to a few such questions.
At the time of death, our spirits separate from our bodies and then enter the spirit world see James ; Alma Smith , — After death, our spirits will have the same attitudes, appetites, and desires we had at the time of our physical death on earth see Alma There are two major states or divisions among the spirits in the spirit world: paradise and spirit prison.
They can still choose good or evil and accept or reject the gospel.
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- And death shall have no dominion.
Heaven is generally understood to be the place where God dwells and where righteous people may eventually dwell. In this sense, it is different from the paradise of the spirit world.
A brief history of the afterlife
Those who believe in heaven are fairly certain that they themselves are going there. Some polls have made respondents choose from a full array of possibilities of what might happen after death. Such questions force a choice between Christian views of the afterlife and alternative possibilities found in other religious traditions or in the realm of superstition. But other polling indicates that beliefs in reincarnation and ghosts are not mutually exclusive with belief in traditional Christian conceptions of life after death.
- The Routledge Handbook of Death and the Afterlife.
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In the most recent poll on the topic, nearly one in five Americans expressed belief in reincarnation, a proportion that has stayed roughly at the same level since the question was first asked in Belief in ghosts is even higher. Whether they believe those that have passed are in heaven, in another dimension, or turned into a ghost, about one-fifth of Americans believe that the deceased can communicate with those who are still alive. Only about half of Americans rule out entirely the possibility that some people can communicate with the dead. Polling to date has focused on the broadest outlines of Americans' beliefs about the afterlife.
The complex intersections of belief revealed by the findings to this point call out for a deeper exploration of how Americans have incorporated different ideas about life after death into their own beliefs about what awaits them in the hereafter.
From the Beginning
And death shall have no dominion Americans' belief in an afterlife is very stable across the decades, showing little variability since In heaven there is no beer Although Gallup attempted an open-ended question in the s about what respondents imagined the afterlife to be like, extensive polling about the public conception of heaven or the afterlife was not undertaken until the s.