PROVO — Even as Lawrence Flake gave his opening remarks on the topic of "Life after Life: The Postmortal Spirit World," I was nearly dead in the back of the room.
More than 500 people were crammed into the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall for Flake's Campus Education Week class. When I walked in 10 minutes early, there were only a few empty seats in the nether regions of the back wall. By the time Flake began, I was sandwiched in the middle of long row of older women on the second to last row.
The cram jam, however, was worth it.
The minutes flew by as the BYU scholar in religious education taught LDS doctrine and shared stories from church history and his life regarding the plan of salvation and the spirit world.
Flake encouraged those in the enormous crowd to study the plan of salvation and learn about the spirit world, but to be careful when talking about it.
"We don't have all the answers, but we have the overview," Flake said. "It's a subject a lot of people are deeply concerned about. Joseph Smith said, 'It's a subject we ought to study more than any other.'"
Using an old-school overhead projector and transparencies, Flake outlined the basics of the gospel plan, starting with intelligences and moving to the pre-mortal world, mortality and the post-mortal world.
"To know where we are going, why we are going and what the future holds is such a comfort," said Flake, a former mission president. "For others, death is a tragedy."
One major point Flake made was that every human living on earth is a child of God with divine potential.
"The implications of that are gigantic. There is nothing in the same category than knowing we belong to the race of God. We are always progressing to be like our Father in heaven," Flake said. "Some have a hard time removing us from the animal kingdom. Children of God are not part of the evolutionary process."
When a loved one dies, he or she goes to the spirit world, where "they are not far from us," Flake said. "It's not in outer space. There is a world on this world that contains the spirits of the dead."
Those who have experienced death and returned describe the process like walking into another room. Flake related an account recorded by President Lorenzo Snow in which a 15-year-old girl named Ella Jensen died. President Snow and another man gave her a priesthood blessing and called her back from the afterlife. Three hours later she returned to her body and asked why President Snow called her back because she had wanted to remain in heaven. The teenage girl eventually married and had eight children. She retained her memories of death and often shared them with others.
Babies who die enter the spirit world in the bloom of life, Flake said. Those who were righteous in this life go to spirit world paradise and the wicked go to spirit prison where they taught the gospel. It's very similar to a missionary teaching an investigator on earth, Flake said.
"The difference in the spirit world is you can see the evil spirits trying to keep those being taught from accepting the gospel. There is opposition in the world of spirits as well," Flake said. "We don't know how the Lord separates people. But there is a great work going on, and we can be sure no one is being short-changed."
Flake concluded his presentation by describing the scene of his grandmother's final hours. She told in detail about deceased family members who had come to take her home.
"She is as much alive now as when she fed me cookies and milk," he said. "Your loved ones are there as well, and the Lord is taking care of them."
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