If asked what they would call heaven, I think most people think of it as a beautiful place where they can be with their beloved family members forever. Continuing friendly associations with the people I know and love here on earth is a comforting principle.
When we pass through mortality at the end of our allotted time on earth, we will go to that space intended for everyone to wait for the final judgment and the restoration of our physical bodies. Depending on what we did with the knowledge we acquired on earth, we will either wait in spirit paradise or spirit prison.
In spirit paradise, we will rest from our labors among our friends and loved ones. There will be plenty of work to do, however, and I imagine we will be eager to participate rather than sitting on a cloud playing a harp. We will look forward to the great day of judgment when we will be perfect again. D&C 138:50 teaches us, “For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” Spirit paradise is not the place where our loving Heavenly Father dwells, however. We have learned that the location of the spirit world is on this earth. Only after the final judgment will we be able to reside with our Father and Savior.
Spirit prison will be a place where there is great sorrow. Alma 40: 13 describes the conditions for the inhabitants of spirit prison as follows: “they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.”
On the youth website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the question is asked: “What happens after we die?” The answer about spirit prison says, “The wicked will experience hell. Hell may be defined as “the torment of disappointment in the mind of man.” These people will have the opportunity to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ for themselves and they can accept or reject it to their eternal benefit or disadvantage.
From an article by Dale C Mouritsen, we learn more about the conditions of spirit prison. “The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.” He added: “These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet and shall have perfected his work.” Hell, in the spirit world, will end when all people have been resurrected. Because of the atonement which Christ made, there is an eventual release.” 1
Only through Christ will we be able to look upon our Father in Heaven in His home someday. I am grateful to know that He has organized a way for all mankind to learn and accept His gospel for themselves. May we pray for the good people of the earth to receive the light that shines in the darkness and exist in spirit paradise until each one of us is called to stand before our Eternal Judge.