What's On the Other Side: What the Gospel Teaches Us About the Spirit World (Hardcover)

by Brent L. Top


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The Prophet Joseph Smith observed that death and the spirit world are subjects "we ought to study more than any other. . . . If we have claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject."

Brent Top, a professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, highlights the wealth of information the scriptures and latter-day prophets and apostles have provided to us about death and the spirit world—its location and conditions, the nature of departed spirits, and the work performed for and by those there. Removing much of the mystery and fear associated with dying, this book demonstrates that knowing what life will be like after death can help inspire us to live better lives here and now.

Product Details

  • Published:  07/2012
  • Pages:  94

About the Author

Brent L. Top is a professor and the chair of Church history and doctrine at BYU, where he has also served as associate dean of Religious Education. Brother Top has written numerous books, including co-authoring LDS Beliefs: A Doctrinal Reference, and is a popular speaker at BYU Education Week. He served as mission president of the Illinois Peoria Mission and is currently serving as a stake president. Brent and his wife, Wendy, are the parents of four children and live in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Chapter One

Dying to Live

We live to die. In fact, the seeds of death are sown at the same instant life is conceived. That is just part of mortality, in the literal sense of that word. In the eternal scheme of things there can be no life—eternal life—without death. We must die to really live. Death is both fascinating and somewhat frightening in that there is such apprehension about it. Some look forward with great anticipation to death. Others fear the inevitable. Still others are resigned to the fact that we all die and try not to think about it much. Sometimes our fears are expressed not in whether we will die but in speculation about how we will die. “I’m not afraid of death,” a friend once said to me. “I’m just afraid of what I will have to go through to get there.” Whether we articulate it or not, all of us have an in-terest in death, whether through fear or simple curiosity or some of each. It is part of human nature. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the Lord in his wisdom has implanted the fear of death in every person that [we] might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of [our] creator.”1

Not long ago I visited a dear friend in the hospital shortly before she passed away. She had lived a great life and was certainly prepared to go on. Yet she expressed some degree of apprehension regarding the unknown. She said, “You know, Brent, this is uncharted territory for me.” It is uncharted territory for all of us. No matter what our age or circumstances, death is a new experience for each of us. Some look forward to passing to the “other side” where they can be free from pains and sicknesses, toils and troubles, or be reunited with a loved one from whom they have been separated, sometimes for decades. On the other hand, some spend their lives in search of a fountain of youth in hopes they will never die. Still others just ignore it, finding it too unpleasant to think or talk about it much. But ignoring it doesn’t eliminate it. Someone once said that life is a terminal illness—no one gets out of it alive. In fact, death is a vital gateway to immortality, an important milestone along the road of eternal progress. For this reason we should learn all we can.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. . . . It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important -subject.”2

Our Heavenly Father has indeed revealed many things to us about the great plan of happiness and the next estate. From the scriptures (both ancient and modern) and the inspired teachings and experiences of prophets, seers, and revelators, we can glimpse beyond the veil of death and gain greater understanding of the role of our death and the conditions of the spirit world. The knowledge gained from the restored gospel is both interesting and inspiring, fascinating and comforting.

While attending the funeral of a friend, President Gordon B.Hinckley penned a poem about death that speaks of this comfort and knowledge. I have loved this poem from the first time I read it, but I was deeply touched by the musical rendition of it that was sung by the Tabernacle Choir at President Hinckley’s funeral. The first sentence asks:

What is this thing that men call death,

This quiet passing in the night?3

The scriptures answer President Hinckley’s question. In Ecclesiastes we read the familiar verse: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In the Book of Mormon, Alma expanded on this doctrine. He explained that an angel had taught him that at death “the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body . . . are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). Many in the world think they cease to exist at death. Many think they sleep until the resurrection. Others speak of life continuing on but don’t know exactly how or in what form.

“To the unbeliever [death] is the end of all,” President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “associations terminated, relationships ended, memories soon to fade into nothingness. But to those who have knowledge and faith in the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ, death’s meaning is . . . a change of condition into a wider, serener sphere of action; it means the beginning of eternal life.”4 The old phrase, “there is nothing so sure and so final as death” just isn’t true. Death is not final at all.

Emanuel Swedenborg, the eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and religious philosopher who was also a faithful, Bible-believing Christian, and many others have given us accounts of their encounters with the spirit world. They tell us that departed spirits in that realm do not use the word death in describing their condition. The word that was frequently used was change. One person who had a near-death experience said, “It’s not death. It’s another kind of life.” Another described his death as “like going into another dimension. Death is simply an open door.”5

These people described from their own experiences what we understand through gospel principles taught by prophets and apostles.

We know that death is not the end but only a change, a transition from one condition to another. “Death is not as consummate as many believe,” President Boyd K. Packer taught, “it is another graduation. When you come to your commencement from life, you will find a conclusion which is another beginning, this time to have no ending.”6

Death is the opening of another door in our eternal existence. Without minimizing the sadness that occurs with the loss of a loved one, I like to think of death as walking from one room in the house to another. Doors open and doors close, but we are not really “gone” at all—we’re just in a different part of our home. The next sentence in President Hinckley’s poem captures it well:

’Tis not the end, but genesis

Of better worlds and greater light.

How blessed we are to have the restored gospel that teaches us of these “better worlds and greater light” as pertaining to what our spirits are like, where the spirit world is, what it is like, and what goes on there. Knowing what death really is (and isn’t) and what role it plays in our eternal existence helps us put things into proper perspective. Revelations of the restored gospel teach us, at least conceptually, that death is nothing to be feared if we have lived and loved according to the best we knew.

In our dispensation the Lord declared, “And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them” (D&C 42:46).

President Brigham Young said of death: “We shall turn round and look upon it and think, when we have crossed it, why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body.7

The more we come to understand and appreciate the meaning of death in our eternal existence, the more we will appreciate life and use this mortal probation to prepare for “better worlds and greater light.” No wonder the Prophet Joseph said this is a subject we ought to study more than any other.


Chapter 1: Dying to Live

^1. Larson and Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 1:465–66.

^2. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:50.

^3. Hinckley, “The Empty Tomb Bore Testimony,” 66.

^4. Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 39.

^5. Morse with Perry, Transformed by the Light, 64.

^6. Packer, address at funeral of Gary Willis, June 4, 1971, in Mine Errand from the Lord, 34.

^7. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 17:142.

Life after this life....

by  Stephanie  -   reviewed on  October 07, 2012

Life after death has been a popular topic on the store shelves over the last couple of years. Books about children returning from the dead with amazing and detailed stories of who and what they saw while on the other side of the veil are intriguing. Are they true? Or fanciful dreams? Brent Top has spent much of his adult life researching what happens on the other side. This book serves as a compilation of several talks, papers and requests. Gathering information from scripture, words of the prophets and near-death experiences from others, Top sheds light on dying, death and what may happen after this mortal life is over. This book was a welcome read. I don't really like to think about death. When I do I immediately feel insecure and worried. I think it is this insecurity that has always kept me from reading or pondering life after this life. This compilation of talks and thoughts by Top has saved me from struggling to find answers on my own and has brought me a measure of peace when I learn what the gospel teaches us about what happens in the Spirit World. I highly recommend this book!

What great comfort & hope this CD gave me

by  Flora  -   reviewed on  September 21, 2008

My husband was killed in an accident a few months ago. To deal, not only with the temporary separation and painful loss of my eternal companion, I began searching for sources to learn how to grieve. This CD gave me comfort and peace, in what was now my world of tears, pain, fear, and turmoil. I listen to it in my car and repeat verses from the prophets, in my mind, daily. These words and thoughts, of where my husband is now have help to melt the cold pain from a sudden tragic death and have given me comfort, joy, peace, and most of all a confirming knowledge of: where my dear husband is, and what he is doing.

Very very good!

by  Stefania  -   reviewed on  September 10, 2009

It brings a much deeper understanding of the Spirit World, and a great sense of comfort and peace.


by  Bertha  -   reviewed on  July 16, 2010

Brent L. Top shares remarkable, awe-inspiring insights and stories that expand your understanding of what lies ahead, and provides greater perspective on what this life is really all about. Excellent!


by  Jace  -   reviewed on  August 26, 2012

An absolutely amazing explanation of what awaits us in the spirit world. I've been an LDS member all my life but didn't know so much of what was said in this talk. I listened to this as an audio talk all in one long sitting and know everything herein to be absolute truth, with no exception. Very much recommended to all! Stop worrying about death - just listen to or read this book and your entire outlook on life changes completely, and all for the better. So much to look forward to. This book/talk is yet another source of proof that our Heavenly Father is all-loving and leaves you in a joyful state, and wondering about His infinite intelligence and love for everyone and everything. Stop reading my review that does this book/talk no justice and grab your copy. Guaranteed you will be left in awe, possibly even more so than I.

Exceptional talk!

by  Erick  -   reviewed on  February 08, 2012

I cannot say enough good about this talk by Brent L. Top. He has opened my eyes and changed the way I think about life and death. Don't miss out on this CD.

A wonderful book!

by  Sandee  -   reviewed on  August 24, 2012

I purchased this book last week and couldn't put it down. The quotes, personal accounts, prophets words and the scriptures cited provide great inspiration and insight to what we have to look forward to. It is a great reminder for all of us to keep focused and to truly prioritize what is important in this life in preparation for the next.

Fabulous, thought-provoking message. Life-changing (hopefully!!).

by  Customer  -   reviewed on  December 30, 2012

Reading this book made me take stock of my own life, and how I was living the gospel day to day. I gave this book to four of my friends at work, because most people are interested in life after death, and it is thought-provoking. Makes you have an eternal perspective on life, motivates you to be a better person. Everyone will take away what they need from this book. I highly recommend it!!! I have purchased 7 copies of it so far. What a great gift to give to someone, and to yourself!!

Amazing well documented words of comfort and peace in a time of grief and pain.

by  Paula  -   reviewed on  June 26, 2012

A friend gave this CD to me following the recent death of my husband. I wondered about his "new" life beyond the veil and continually thought about what he might be doing. After listening to this amazing CD I could actually envision my husband on the other side doing his eternal work. Listening to Brent Top's words gave me such a sense of peace and comfort and helped to lessen my grief and pain. I no longer wonder about what life is like after death. His words eased my burdens.

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