Steve Evans asks a good set of questions about “second chances” over at By Common Consent. Underlying some of the comments there, and underlying much of our common understanding about receiving according to our works and desires in the next life is the assumption of a “final judgment.” This is a term we hear relatively frequently, but where did it come from? The scriptures never speak of the “final judgment.” The closest they get is referring to the judgment at “the great and last day.”
But in what sense is this judgment final? Are there really no more judgments after it? I doubt it. I think this is an interim judgment, just like the many interim judgments we have had prior to and during our earthly lives. And the “last day” referred to isn't really the last day -- there are other days that follow it; it's just “last” in a sense: in relation to a certain sphere. Similarly, I suspect that the “final judgment” is also only “final” with respect to a certain sphere, but that there are other spheres beyond.
What might these other spheres be? And isn't it just speculation that there even are other spheres beyond what we know about? I can't answer the former question, but it is not just speculation that there are spheres beyond those we know about -- it's scriptural. From Doctrine & Covenants 130:9-11 (emphasis added):
This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s. Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known; And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.
Steve asks why it is that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God,” if there really are “second chances.” I think the reason is that given in D&C 130:19: “If a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” I think it is also reflected in the parable of the prodigal son. And really, we're all the prodigals. We should be glad that there are second chances, because we all need them, and probably will for a good long time to come.