Is There a Physical Separation in the Spirit World?
“There are two systems of thought in the Mormon tradition. One, espoused by Brigham, that said Hell and Paradise were geographically contiguous. Others, such as McConkie insisted that they are geographically distinct.”
I will try my best to answer this question from the words of the prophets and from scripture. As is often the case, it may be that the answer is both yes and no.
From the Gospel Principles Manual
“The spirits are classified according to the puity of their lives and their obedience to the will of the Lord while on earth. The righteous and the wicked are separated but the spirits may progress from one level to another as they learn gospel principles and live in accordance with them.”
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
1st Nephi 15.26-33
26 And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?
27 And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.
28 And I said unto them that it was an awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God.
29 And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked.
30 And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.
31 And they said unto me: Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?
32 And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.
33 Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.
In a dramatic address given in the St. George Temple, President Young exclaimed, “What do you suppose the fathers would say if they could speak from the dead? Would they not say, ‘We have lain here thousands of years, here in this prison house, waiting for this dispensation to come? Here we are, bound and fettered, in the association of those who are filthy?’ What would they whisper in our ears? Why, if they had the power the very thunders of heaven would be in our ears.” 18
In Journal of Discourses,