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BOM Issues


The Juvenile Instructor


Vol. XXVI, No. 11, pp. 353-354

[on Alma 40:11-12]

The World of Spirits

Page 353

ONE of our correspondents writes to obtain information concerning certain passages of Scripture.  He seems to entertain the idea that there is a conflict between them, and wishes to have them explained.  He calls attention to the words of Alma, in the 11th and 12th verses of the 40th chapter of his book, in which that prophet states "that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body; yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.  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, etc."

We are asked how this can be reconciled with the statement of the Savior, in the 43rd verse of the 23rd chapter of Luke, when He told the penitent thief on the cross, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise;" and His other statement in the 17th verse of the 20th chapter of John, where He says to Mary, after His resurrection, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:  but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."  In this connection also our correspondent refers to the statement of Peter, where he says that "Christ also * * * went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. "

Though there may seem to be, as our correspondent appears to think, some conflict between these passages, it is only seemingly so; for there is no real conflict between these various statements.  Alma, when he says that "the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, are taken home to that God who gave them life," has the idea, doubtless, in his mind' that our God is omnipresent -- not in His own personality, but through His minister, the Holy Spirit.

He does not intend to convey the idea that they are immediately ushered into the personal presence of God.  He evidently uses that phrase in a qualified sense.  Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 12: 7, makes a similar statement: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was:  and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."  The same idea is frequently expressed by the Latter-day Saints.  In referring to a departed one, it is often said that he has gone back to God, or he has gone "home to that God who gave him life."  Yet it would not be contended that the person who said this meant that the departed one had gone where God, the Father Himself is, in the sense in which the Savior meant when He spake to Mary, in the words recorded by John in his 20th chapter, as quoted above.  Neither is it to be supposed that Alma made this declaration in such a sense.  In fact, this is demonstrated by what he says afterwards.  Verses 12 and 13 ought to be taken in connection with verse 11, in order to make the matter plain.  In verse 12 Alma says plainly that the spirits of the righteous go into a state of happiness, etc.  In verse 13 he says the spirits of the wicked are cast into outer darkness, etc.  Now, then, how can those spirits who are east into outer darkness be in the personal presence of God?  God does not dwell where they are, and they certainly do not go where He is.

And yet He is there by His Spirit and by His power, for as the Psalmist David beauti-

Page 354

fully expresses in the 7th to the 12th verses of his 139th Psalm:

    ''Whither shall I go from thy spirit ? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
    "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there,
    "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
    ''Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
    "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
    "Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; hut the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."

Now, respecting the words of the Savior to Mary, which our correspondent quotes, recorded by John, to the effect that He had not yet ascended to His Father, even though He had been resurrected, it is plain that He meant, in this expression, that He had not met His Father personally.

Alma understood this matter and makes it very plain in this 40th chapter.  Alma harmonizes with Christ.  Christ harmonizes with Alma.  Alma says the righteous go to paradise.  Christ said the thief would go to paradise.  Whether the thief, because of his penitence, may be classed with the righteous or not is not altogether clear.  Probably the Savior considered him worthy to go to paradise.  At any rate, it is evident that He accepted the thief's humble petition:  "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," and He gave him the assurance that he should be with Him in paradise.  It may be possible that the word "paradise," in this instance, is a mistranslation, and that the spirit world is meant.  An evidence in favor of this is the statement by Peter that Jesus, while His body lay in the tomb, went and preached unto the spirits in prison.  Be this as it may, however, there is no doubt that Alma perfectly understood that there were places prepared both for the righteous and the wicked, and that the latter class, at least, would not go where God is as soon as they departed this life.