This morning the man whose office is three doors down from mine died. He was in his late-70s, had been here nearly fifty years, and was on the job until last week. I shared his office for a couple years, and those thousands of hours together were my most extensive dealings with a bitter atheist. He wasn’t bitter about things in general, just his distaste for religion.
So there he is now, less than a day among the dead. It must be quite an experience for everyone, but even more disorienting for someone approaching it from a state of disbelief. Parley P. Pratt’s conference talk from 1853 comes to mind:
I will suppose, in the spirit world, a grade of spirits of the lowest order, composed of murderers, robbers, thieves, adulterers, drunkards, and persons ignorant, uncultivated, &c., who are in prison, or in hell, without hope, without God, and unworthy as yet of Gospel instruction. Such spirits, if they could communicate, would not tell you of the resurrection or of any of the Gospel truths, for they know nothing about them. They would not tell you about heaven, or Priesthood, for in all their meanderings in the world of spirits, they have never been privileged with the ministry of a holy Priest. If they should tell all the truth they possess, they could not tell much.
Take another class of spirits—pious, well-disposed men; for instance, the honest Quaker, Presbyterian, or other sectarian, who, although honest, and well disposed, had not, while in the flesh, the privilege of the Priesthood and Gospel. They believed in Jesus Christ, but died in ignorance of his ordinances, and had not clear conceptions of his doctrine, and of the resurrection. They expected to go to that place called heaven, as soon as they were dead, and that their doom would then and there be fixed, without any further alteration or preparation. Suppose they should come back, with liberty to tell all they know? How much light could we get from them? They could only tell you about the nature of things in the world in which they live. And even that world you could not comprehend, by their description thereof, any more than you can describe colors to a man born blind, or sounds to those who have never heard.
What, then, could you get from them? Why, common chit chat, in which there would be a mixture of truth, and of error and mistakes, in mingled confusion: all their communications would betray the same want of clear and logical conceptions, and sound sense and philosophy, as would characterize the same class of spirits in the flesh.
Who, then, is prepared, among the spirits in the spirit world, to communicate the truth on the subject of salvation, to guide the people, to give advice, to confer consolation, to heal the sick, to administer joy, and gladness, and hope of immortality and eternal life, founded on manifest truth?
All that have been raised from the dead, and clothed with immortality, all that have ascended to yonder heavens, and been crowned as Kings and Priests, all such are our fellow servants, and of our brethren the Prophets, who have the testimony of Jesus; all such are waiting for the work of God among their posterity on the earth.