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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the Plan of Salvation. This is Heavenly Father's plan for His children. Understanding the plan enables one to know the place and nature of spirits in a worldly and eternal sense.
- We existed as spirits in a pre-mortal existence in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
- God the Father is the literal father of our spirits. Jesus is His first-born in the pre-mortal existence, and therefore our elder brother. Satan was a "son of the morning," in other words, one of the first born and most intelligent of God's spirit children.
- In order to prove ourselves and gain exaltation, we agreed to participate in Heavenly Father's plan, wherein we would become mortals with physical bodies and live on earth for a brief time for our faith to be tested.
- Satan disagreed with the plan, sought to coerce men into righteous behavior (thwarting the eternal principle of agency and negating any opportunity to exercise faith), and sought glory for himself. Thus, he was cast out of heaven to the earth with his followers (1/3 of the host of heaven). Satan and his followers are spirits; they will never have mortal bodies, nor will they ever be resurrected.
- When men die, their spirits are sent to the "spirit world," a place with two kingdoms: spirit paradise, and spirit prison. There, they enjoy the felicity of their deceased loved ones, and are able to exercise agency towards repentance and gospel learning. People remain in the spirit world until they are resurrected and assigned a kingdom of glory. (See Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdoms.)
Understanding the Plan of Salvation helps one understand that there are two forms of disembodied spirits: evil spirits (Satan and his followers who were cast out of heaven to the earth); and the spirits of those who have died and have not yet been resurrected. There is no such thing as a spirit of a deceased person roaming the earth with unfinished business.
The spirits of deceased persons who now live in the spirit world are interested in the welfare of their loved ones who remain as mortals on the earth. The Lord can employ them as guardian angels, or in singular circumstances, they might be allowed to visit a loved one still living on the earth to give comfort. These spirits might also deliver gospel information as part of the Lord's work on earth.
Evil spirits, Satan's followers, are ever-desirous to torment men, obtain control over the physical bodies of men, and dissuade men from following Christ to salvation. Anything they can do to achieve these aims, they will do. They can communicate through mediums, appear as ghosts, behave like poltergeists, possess the bodies of men, and even appear as angels of light. Discernment is necessary to identify these spirits as what they are in order not to be deceived. A story in the Book of Mormon presents an example. A man named Korihor (about 75 B.C.) went about among the people preaching that there would be no Christ, that there was no sin, and that a man could achieve only by using his talents, that there was no grace, and no afterlife. He and his followers used these philosophies to justify all sorts of sexual sin and dishonest behavior. When confronted by Alma, a prophet, Korihor finally confessed:
- Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.
- Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.
- Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
- And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more?
- And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.
- But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me (Alma 30:48-53).
No one should ever entice evil spirits to draw near. Oija Boards, seances, and the like, are dangerous tools. Everything possible should be done to protect oneself, including avoiding addictive substances that can weaken consciousness and will, against the power of evil spirits.
Joseph Smith was visited on a fairly regular basis by heavenly messengers who taught him and conferred authority in order to restore the gospel of Christ to the earth. His familiarity with the spiritual realm is revealed in Section 129 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
- There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—
- For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
- Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
- When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
- If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
- If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
- Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.
- If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
- These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.