Mormon Views on Purgatory
29 SEP 2017
Although the concept of Purgatory is a Catholic convention, and thus disputed by the Church of Latter Day Saints, Mormon belief teaches a similar plane of existence — that, after an individual dies, he must wait for the resurrection and final judgement in a place called the Spirit World, which shares many characteristics with the Catholic purgatory.
1 The Spirit Body
Several prophets within the Church of Latter Day Saints have explained the nature of life after death. The church founder, Joseph Smith, first explained that human spirits continue to exist after death in a state similar to the physical one, and the Book of Mormon goes on to explain that after death, the physical body transforms into a spiritual one and moves into a new plane of existence. The plane of existence preexists before life in the physical world, and every living being, including plants and animals, have counterparts there. The prophet Alma explained the difference between the two divisions in the spirit world as Paradise and Spirit Prison.
If an individual has been righteous in the course of his life, then in the Spirit World, he will go to Paradise. This is not the same as Heaven, rather it is a place where people who embraced the teachings of Jesus and lived a holy life can rest from the suffering of mortal life until resurrection. Prophets, priests and other religious leaders continue their duties in this world, and families maintain order and structure.
3 Spirit Prison
If an individual lived a wicked life, failed to repent for his sins or didn't accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ during his lifetime, then he enters Spirit Prison in the Spirit World, where spirits are educated about Christ and enticed by both good and evil. If he accepts Jesus, he can prepare himself to leave the Spirit Prison, but if he continues to reject the teachings of the church, he will enter Hell, where he will suffer until his resurrection.
4 Relation to Purgatory
The Mormon Spirit World shares a number of characteristics with the Catholic notion of Purgatory. Both are planes of existence where an individual temporarily suffers for his sins, but the focus of the Spirit World is different. While Purgatory is about cleansing ones sins, the focus of the Spirit World is on educating individuals and helping them embrace the teachings of the church. In the Spirit World, individuals have not yet been judged and even the worst sinners have a chance to change, but in Purgatory, God has already accepted the deceased into Heaven and they are merely suffering until attaining final salvation.