Massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) systems have been drawing considerable interest. In the uplink, massive MIMO systems are commonly studied assuming that each base station (BS) decodes the signals of its user terminals separately and linearly while treating all interference as noise. Although this approach provides improved spectral efficiency (SE) in favorable channel conditions, it is generally sub-optimal from an information-theoretic perspective. In this work we characterize the SE of massive MIMO when the BSs are allowed to jointly decode the received signals. We consider two schemes for handling the interference, and derive their SEs for both finite and asymptotic number of antennas. Simulation tests of the proposed methods illustrate their gains in SE compared to standard separate linear decoding, and show that the standard approach fails to capture the actual achievable rates of massive MIMO systems, particularly when the interference is dominant.