Development of the Understanding of the Postmortal Spirit World
Joseph F. Smith : Reflections on the Man and His Times
Religious Studies Center, BYU ; Deseret Book Company
The 138th section of the Doctrine and Covenants holds the distinction of being the newest canonized section in the Doctrine and Covenants, and is accepted as a revelation by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Received by President Joseph F. Smith in October 1918, the revelation concerns the state of the spirits of those who have passed from mortality. Several important pieces have been written on the historical setting in which President Smith received the revelation, but little has been said on the doctrinal precedent of the spirit world in which D&C 138 was received by President Smith.
In this chapter, I seek to demonstrate not only how President Smith’s revelation differed from the theological, doctrinal, and developmental understanding of the spirit world prior to its reception but also how his vision crystallized existing understandings of the postmortal spirit world. I also suggest how President Smith was uniquely prepared to receive the revelation. To accomplish this, I will weave the story of President Smith’s life into the narration of the doctrinal unfolding of this topic by previous Presidents of the Church. [From the text]