The Kingdoms of Glory

This week’s lesson is entitled, “The Kingdoms of Glory” and we’re going to be reviewing the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms, as well as perdition which is sometimes called “outer darkness”. Hopefully we’ll be inspired to carefully consider the eternal inheritances that are available to us and choose to live in such a way that we will inherit celestial glory and dwell in Heavenly Father’s presence with our families.

The scriptures we’ll be using include D&C 76, 131, 132:19–24 and 137. But first, let’s talk about what 99.9% of the people on the planet believe about life after death.

The World’s Perspectives

Atheism. Atheists and secularists, represent about 7% of the world and they don’t believe in God, nor in an afterlife, but believe mortality is all there is and so why not “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” (The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199644659.)

Unaffiliated. According to the Pew Research Center, an additional 9% of the world’s population is not affiliated with a religion, but rather than being strictly atheistic, may be more agnostic. They believe there might be a supreme being, but it doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives. (Pew Forum on Religion; Public Life. “The Global Religious Landscape”. Retrieved December 18, 2012.)

Christianity. The world’s largest religion is Christianity, which accounts for about 32% of the population. With the exception of the Latter-Day Saints, most Christian sects believe that once you die you will be judged by Jesus and either go to heaven or hell. If you don’t acknowledge Christ as your Savior, and enter into a relationship with him—which varies dramatically from church to church—you will either spend eternity in a heavenly place with the angels, or spend eternity with devils in a hellish prison filled with fire and brimstone.

Islam. The next largest group is Islam, with about 23%. Like many Christians, they believe that a hell awaits not just sinners, but unbelievers as well. In fact, the extremist Islamist sect believes that heaven can’t come until all unbelievers are killed. But if you convert to Islam, sincerely repent and submit to Allah, you will be in a state of sinlessness where you can live in paradise forever, which is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure.

Hinduism. Next we have the Hindus. They represent about 15% of the world. They believe in the transmigration of souls or reincarnation, which means you pass through many cycles of birth and death in all sorts of human, animal, and vegetable forms. What you do in the present life will affect the next like—the doctrine of karma. Your goal is to escape this cycle so that your individual soul, Atman, become part of the universal soul, or Brahman (Compton’s Complete Reference Collection, 1998 Edition).

Buddhism. Coming in at 7% on our list are the Buddhists. To them, life goes on and on into many reincarnations or rebirths. Your goal, according to Buddha, it to escape from this cycle of rebirth, to stop being born as a suffering individual with selfish cravings and passions. This release is called “nirvana”, the highest bliss, the end of the self.” (Compton’s Complete Reference Collection, 1998 Edition).

Other. Which leaves about 7% for other religions, like Sikhims, Judaism, Spiritism, Jainism, Shinto, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism, etc. We won’t have time to talk about these, but they each have their own notion of life after death.

As we discussed last week when we talked about the Plan of Salvation, as Latter-day Saints we are incredibly blessed to have modern revelation from God about our eternal nature and about our eternal possibilities and destiny.

It is a humbling thing to realize that among the billions living on the earth, less than one tenth of one percent have been blessed to gain a testimony of the Plan of Salvation. I don’t know about you, but this is a compelling argument about why we need to share our testimony with everyone we meet! Or at least 1000 people because for every 1000 of them, there is one of us.

Last week we discussed our life before mortality, mortality and its purposes, and the nature of the soul between death and resurrection. In this lesson we will focus on our ultimate destiny as sons and daughters of God.

A Vision of the Kingdoms of Glory

While the Book of Mormon was a great resource to the Saints, and explains a lot about the spirit world, it doesn’t answer questions about what happens after the resurrection.

In February 1832, Joseph Smith was working on the translation of the New Testament. This has been an on-again, off-again project of Joseph over the past 22 months since the Church was organized, but now, residing at the John Johnson dairy farm about 30 miles south of Kirtland, and seeing that it was the dead of winter and there was three feet of snow outside, he resumed work with the assistance of Sydney Rigdon, one of his counselors in the First Presidency.

They had been pondering and praying over the fifth chapter of John where Jesus had taught that man is to be judged, resurrected, and assigned to a glory. Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they felt impressed to change the wording of John 5:29. The King James version said:

KJV John 5:29
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

That kind of suggests two different destinations. But the Spirit, inspired Joseph to change it to:

JST John 5:29
And shall come forth—they who have done good, IN the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, IN the resurrection of the unjust—

Which suggests two different times, rather than two different places. After they had made this change, it caused them to ponder about this idea of multiple resurrections and what it meant, and they found themselves discussing it with about a dozen of their friends in the upper room of the Johnson home.

During their discussion, Joseph and Sydney were suddenly both caught up in a vision. They both saw the same thing at the same time, but the others in the room did not see anything at all. Well, let me take that back, according to Philo Dibble, later to be one of the Prophet’s secretaries, he said he “saw the glory and felt the power” but they were not privileged to see the vision, which lasted for more than an hour. (Philo Dibble, in Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, 303–4.)

By the way, did you pick up some new information there about visions there? It seems that in some cases at least, visions are only viewable to those who are supposed to see them. Which may mean that if you and I were in the Sacred Grove, or with Saul on the road to Damascus, or with Moses in Sinai, or with Alma the Younger, we may have seen nothing extraordinary—although we may have sensed something sacred was happening.

During this vision, the Lord stopped it at least four times and told Joseph and Sydney to stop and take notes, which they did. Usually Joseph used scribes to write out his revelations, but later that night, Joseph wrote out at least part of this vision himself in a new bound journal book which he called, “Kirtland Revelations.” This is one of the few revelations written by Joseph himself. Sidney confirmed that everything that Joseph wrote was true—and so in the mouth of two or three witnesses this particular word was clearly established.

Turn with me now to Section 76, which has always been known in the Church as “The Vision” and is perhaps, one of the greatest revelations in the entire volume. It was one of the first revelations that broke with the tradition of mainstream Christianity in regards to life after death and truly separated the Latter-day Saints from the Latter-day Aints.

This was also the first time that the world in general heard about Joseph seeing Heavenly Father and Jesus as two separate beings. Up to this point the First Vision hadn’t been published, so this was new doctrine that proclaimed that they were two separate physical beings—squashing the notion of a three in one God. This was probably the main reason Joseph and Sydney were tarred and feathered the following month.

Section 76 is great not only in content, but in structure. It is loaded with layer upon layer of chiasmus—which I believe is an indicator of its divine origin. We won’t have time to talk about the poetic structure of this revelation, but let’s just say it is one of the greatest in this volume of scripture.

Speaking of poetry, in preparation for this lesson I also read the poem based on section 76, “The Vision” which is attributed to Joseph Smith but may have been written by William Phelps, Joseph’s clerk. WW was also the author of some of our most popular hymns, including Now Let Us Rejoice, O God, the Eternal Father, Praise to the Man, The Spirit of God, and Redeemer of Israel, to name a few. The metered and rhyming poem, “The Vision,” was written 11 years later. It is absolutely awesome and adds some insights that are not found in the canon. If you have some time, please read it. I’ve posted a link to it on today’s lesson at http://www.nathanbryce.com:

http://emp.byui.edu/WahlquistR/Joseph%20Smith%20Poem%20D&C%2076.pdf

The Book of Mormon mainly focused on teaching us about what happens immediately after we die, and how we find ourselves on our planet’s spirit realm, where the righteous continue the work of gathering until our work is done, and we will be judged and resurrected. But this section introduces doctrine that clarifies what the Savior taught when he said to his twelve, including his betrayer:

John 14:2
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

This vision gives us a peek of who gets the keys to these mansions—so that we may know what our inheritance will be after we have accomplished our work on the physical and spiritual realms.
While it is just a brief glimpse, it is a magnificent glimpse. Sort of like walking along the streets of Salt Lake City as a child at Christmastime, peering in the decorated windows of ZCMI seeing all of the wonderful things in the window, knowing that you desperately want what’s inside.

So what’s inside? Honestly, we still don’t know a lot of specifics about the life of resurrected and glorified beings, even after reading through the revelations and commentary from the prophets. Again, we’re looking through a window. The Lord simply hasn’t revealed all the details yet. We have been given some tantalizing trailers of coming attractions, but like most everything else in a gospel that is rooted in faith, we have to trust all our answers will be answered in the Lord’s own time—when the movie is finally released.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t pridefully think that we have all the answers—because we do not. But we presently have, and always will have, sufficient for our needs.

Overview

Section 76 basically takes this form:

We start with a vision of the Savior, then move to a vision of Satan and the sons of Perdition. So far this is what most of the Christian world thinks of when they think about heaven and hell. Somewhere between these two extremes is a magical line, and if you’re on the wrong side of the line, well, that’s too bad for you. You either stay with Jesus or with Satan for all eternity.

But Heavenly Father developed a plan of happiness for us, which provides each of us with exactly the type of existence we desire the most, and then some extra happiness thrown in for good measure. Even for those who did more sinning than obeying. You see, only a relative handful of truly incorrigible people would be banished to a hellish existence.

Therefore, to accommodate the infinite variety of conditions that provide happiness, he has defined three general kingdoms of glory, which he now shows to Joseph and Sydney. First, they have a vision of the celestial glory, then a vision of the terrestrial glory, and end with a vision of the telestial glory.

Rather than going verse by verse through section 76, let’s talk about each of the four different inheritances that are available to us.

I have prepared a summary table of the information I’m about to present. If you would like to download a PDF of that summary chart, click the link below.

The Celestial Kingdom

The Apostle Paul, when writing to the first Christian community in Europe—the people of Philippi in Greece—explained a little bit about post-mortal life. He said that at some point in time, which we now know to be the final judgement at the end of the Spirit World, this should happen:

Philippians 2:10
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.

Everyone, who is to be resurrected will someday confess that Jesus is the Living Christ and is the Redeemer of their souls. Now whether you’ve developed the character and the desire to follow Jesus, and you wish to continue to do so in the post-mortal existence, is entirely up to you.

Naturally, you’ll surround yourselves with people who share your values and ethics. Just like we’re doing right now by sitting in this chapel. We’d rather be here than drinking beer with our friends at the lake. And those who are happier spending their time watching pornography in their darkened rooms, would probably feel rather uncomfortable in the presence of their righteous pioneer ancestors who sacrificed tremendously to get us where we are at today.

Since God also knows this, and loving us despite our weaknesses—like good parents do—an inheritance and existence has been prepared way for us where we can rise as high or sink as low as we want to go. You see, our personal happiness is, and always has been, entirely up to us.

In this revelation, after contrasting the extreme good against the extreme bad, the Lord now introduces us to three different heavenly kingdoms of glory—all of them are heavenly and wonderful beyond description, but one is absolutely the best.

The Lord calls this the Celestial kingdom. The word celestial comes from the Greek word ἐπουράνιος (epouranios, ep-oo-ran’-ee-os) which means “of the heaven” or “above the earth.”

The Celestial kingdom is typified by the “glory” or light that radiates from the sun (D&C 76:70). This realm “excels in all things” because “God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne” (v.92).

D&C 130:7 says:

D&C 130:
7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.

So the Earth will become the Celestial Kingdom and become like the Urim and Thummim.

D&C 130:8-10
8 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
9 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.
10 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;
11 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.

By utilizing the earth and the stone, celestial beings will be able to “see as they are seen, and know as they are known.”

Mosiah 8:16-17
16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

A number of years ago, my wife and I were able to travel to Paris for about 10 days. On one of those days, we made a day trip over to the Château de Versailles. This is one of most beautiful places I’ve ever been. So I naturally liken the Celestial Kingdom to this palace.

At Versailles, there are three main floors and many, many rooms, more than 700 in fact. The King was on the upper floor. In the Celestial kingdom, there are three degrees that we know about.

D&C 131:1-4
1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

So what are the minimum requirements to enter the lowest degree of the celestial kingdom? Let’s see what we find in verse 51 of section 76:

D&C 76:51
51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

First, we need to believe in Jesus Christ and have a testimony of him.

Second, we need to repent and be baptized by immersion.

Third, we must receive the Holy Ghost and be cleansed from all our sins. We find this in the next verse.

D&C 76:52
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
D&C 88:2, 18
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;

The presence of the Holy Ghost is what sanctifies us and burns out the impurities and ungodliness from our characters. As we listen to him, line upon line and precept upon precept, we become more holy and more righteous.

Fourth, we need to follow the laws of the celestial kingdom, which include the law of Christ, the law of the Gospel, and the law of Sacrifice, the Law of Obedience, to name a few. We must honestly try to keep all of the commandments of God.

D&C 88:21-22
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
D&C 78:7
7 For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.

And fifth, we must overcome the world by exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

D&C 76:53
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

So those are the five basic requirements to get into the lowest degree of glory. But there are other laws and ordinances which must be done in order to enter into the middle or highest degrees.

The second level seems to be that for ministering angels, those who did not abide the New and Everlasting covenant of Eternal Marriage.

D&C 132:15-17
15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

Joseph Fielding Smith said:

People baptized, and who are not endowed in the temple of the Lord, may enter into the celestial kingdom. But that does not mean that a baptized person is going to get the exaltation in that kingdom. He is not going to pass on to the fullness just by being baptized. He will not pass on to the fullness even after he has been baptized and received an endowment in the temple. He also has to receive the other ordinances, so that he can become, through his faithfulness and obedience, a son of God. (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:45-46)

It appears that those who do not keep their marriage covenant, but are still worthy of the Celestial kingdom, are received into the second level of the Celestial kingdom.

As we look in the scriptures, we will find little reference given as to the exact nature of the difference between the bottom two tiers, but that doesn’t stop the Saints from making conjectures. For example, some believe that children who die before the age of accountability are initially received into the lowest level of the celestial kingdom. But we just don’t know.

What we do know, is that there is some degree of advancement from one celestial degree to another as we make and keep sacred ordinances and obey higher and higher laws. Just like there are hundreds of rooms in Versailles, there is a beautiful room for you.
So what happens in the celestial kingdom? If we choose to try to become better and better, we will our character will continue to develop as we more closely follow Christ. Eventually, if we are true and faithful, we can become perfected through the atoning blood of Jesus.

D&C 76:69
69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.

In this state, we are prepared to receive from Father what he wants to give us, which is everything.

D&C 76:55
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Even though we can’t comprehend why or how, God will make us equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

D&C 76:95
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

And with that power, we will have the ability to overcome all things.

D&C 76:60
60 And they shall overcome all things.

Furthermore, if you read the poem “The Vision” you will see that we also recieve a “fullness of light” (stanza 45) and “hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (stanza 44).

The Terrestrial Kingdom

Next, let’s take a peek through the window of revelation at the Terrestrial kingdom. In Greek, the word for terrestrial is ἐπίγειος (epigeios, ep-ig’-i-os), which means “of the earth” or “on the earth”.
This degree of glory is typified by the “glory” or light that radiates from the moon.

D&C 76:71
71 And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fullness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.

While not as brilliant as the Celestial kingdom, and merely a reflection of it, it is still an amazing place:

D&C 76:91
91 And thus we saw the glory of the terrestrial which excels in all things the glory of the telestial, even in glory, and in power, and in might, and in dominion.

In The Vision, the Joseph also added to this that terrestrial inhabitants will possess “more knowledge, and wisdom, and joy” than those in the telestial world, and have greater access to the Lord’s “blessings and graces” (stanza 65).

Terrestrial inhabitants will receive “the ministration of the Celestial” sphere and will also have “the presence of the Son” of God. Which sounds to me like the Savior will appear there from time-to-time, and he will send ministering servants and others to bless the lives of the people of this glorious kingdom.

D&C 76:77
77 These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
87 And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.

So who exactly will inherit this Terrestrial kingdom?

First, it looks like those who have “died without law”.

D&C 76:72
72 Behold, these are they who died without law;

Joseph Smith indicates in D&C 45 that this has reference to the “heathen” nations. (stanza 54)

D&C 45:54
54 And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.

These are they who lived and died on the earth at a time and location where the Gospel was not taught. They grew up in homes and cultures where they were only taught the philosophies of man.
Some have speculated that perhaps they were originally assigned to these conditions as a result of their lack of faithfulness in the premortal world, and the Father knew that if they had been taught the truth in this life it wouldn’t have changed their trajectory. But we do know that everyone gets a chance—a fair chance—to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and decide of their own free will and choice whether they want to participate. If these people from these nations didn’t have a chance to hear the Gospel in this life, but accept it in the Spirit World, then they can be adopted into the House of Israel and become inheritors of the celestial kingdom. But the choice is theirs.

The second group to inherit this kingdom are those who did not receive “the testimony of Jesus in the flesh” but did so in the spirit prison when they heard it again (stanza 56).

D&C 76:73-74
73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.

In other words, while on earth they had a fair and equal chance to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but for one reason or another, they decided not to partake of the fruit. But then, after being taught the Gospel again in the Spirit World, they accepted it.

And the third group are those who are “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.”

D&C 76:79
79 These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.

Elder Bruce McConkie believes that this last category includes:

“Those who are lukewarm members of the true church… who have testimonies, but are not true and faithful in all things.” (New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pg. 146)

President Spencer Kimball also has the same viewpoint. He interpreted verse 79 to mean that:

“Many [Latter-day Saints] who have received baptism by proper authority, many who have received other ordinances, even temple blessings, will not reach the celestial kingdom of glory unless [they] live the commandments and are valiant.” (Conference Report, April 1951, pg 104)

Like the celestial kingdom, there are undoubtedly many different levels in this kingdom. Everyone isn’t thrown into one big pot where they stew about for eternity. In fact, this was confirmed by Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency in 1922, who said of “the terrestrial kingdom” that “there are several degrees in that one glory” (CR April 1922, 29-30)

The Telestial Kingdom

Next, let’s look at the Telestial kingdom. The word telestial is not a word that was in the English vocabulary at the time Joseph and Sydney first used it. But it has its roots in Greek. The word, Καταχθόνιος (katachthonios, kat-akh-thon’-ee-os) means “under the earth, subterranean, infernal.”

The telestial kingdom is typified by the “glory” or light that radiates from the stars.

D&C 76:81
81 And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.

According to Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon, that even though the telestial world is the lowest of the three kingdoms of light its glory still “surpasses all understanding.”

D&C 76:89
89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;

I think back on the palace of Versailles, and it boggles the imagination. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Donald Trump’s lavish New York apartment, it also boggles the imagination. King Louis the Fourteenth and Donald Trump obviously have pretty big ideas of what is majestic and glorious, but even this kingdom will surpass their understanding.

It also appears that the majority of people on this earth will achieve this glory.

D&C 76:109
109 But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore;

Again, as is the pattern in other kingdoms, there will also be different levels of light and understanding in this sphere, each person will be different, just as one star’s light differs from another’s.

D&C 76:98
98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;

So now we ask the question, “Who will be the ones to inherit this kingdom of glory?” We’ll find the answer in verse 82 and 101:

D&C 76:82, 101
82 These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus. …
101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.

The first group we see are those who did not receive the Lord’s prophets and their instructions. This includes not only the scriptures, but the counsel from our living prophets as well. And less we forget, it also includes those people in the Spirit World who continue to ignore prophetic counsel.

They also did not believe in Christ or receive their own testimony of him. Perhaps they were and still remain completely devoted to Buddha or Mohammad. The do not want to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and receive the covenants that bind people to him.
In The Vision, the Prophet indicates that reference to covenants is “the covenant…which Jacob once had” meaning the Abrahamic covenant (stanza 71).

Joseph also stated that the inhabitants of the telestial world “went their own way” and “worshipped in darkness.” These people may have accepted certain biblical people—like Moses, Peter, and Paul—or even formally joined a religious denomination, but they “never received the [true] gospel of Jesus Christ” (stanzas 70-72)
Another group to inherit this kingdom are those who were horrible sinners.

D&C 76:103
103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.

Joseph Smith adds upon this that hypocrites, thieves, the mean-spirited, the materialistic, and the proud will share the same fate as the “sinful” and the “wicked” in the lowest kingdom of glory (stanzas 60, 73). I’d probably add professional politicians to this list. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith says that those who attain this glory will find themselves burned at the second coming of Christ and will not be allowed to remain on the earth during the Lord’s millennial reign. We find this in several passages from the Doctrine and Covenants:

D&C 76:104-105
104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
D&C 29:9
9 For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth;
D&C 64:23-24
23 Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.
24 For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.

They are put into spirit prison after they die and are not redeemed from the devil until after the resurrection.

D&C 76:84-85, 105-106
84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.
85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.
105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fullness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work;

Nevertheless, the Telestialites did not deny the Holy Spirit, so they are not confined to Outer Darkness after their resurrection. They have paid the price the price for their sins.

D&C 76:83, 88
83 These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.
88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

It is stated that they will receive “Of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial” kingdom; they will “receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them.”
According to this section, those who reside in the Telestial world will still be allowed to serve God. But their abilities and opportunities will be considerably limited. They will not be allowed or able to go where God and Christ dwell.

D&C 76:112
112 And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that “…One who gains possession of the lowest degree of the telestial glory may ultimately arise to the highest degree of that glory, but no provision has been made for promotion from one glory to another.”

Of course, other church leaders have also given us their opinion on this matter. Some disagree with Elder Ballard. Others agree. You see, we haven’t received specific answers and declarations on this topic that we have canonized.

Perdition

In Greek, the word perdition is απωλειας (apóleia, ap-o’-li-a). It means destruction, ruin, loss, perish. So our last stopping place is the dwelling place of those miserable beings who are in open rebellion against the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and instead hold up Satan as their god.

Satan was once known as Lucifer—a name which means “the shining one.” But here, in this place, light and truth are not found. Only darkness, only lies, only misery, only hatred, only loathing, only misery. It is no wonder we sometimes call it outer darkness.

But its official name is Perdition. It is both a place and a spiritual condition. It also means that you are hopelessly and irredeemably lost, spiritually ruined, and damned from progression.

D&C 88:24
24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

Those who are condemned to outer darkness will remain in a state of filthiness. And will go away into that awful state of endless torment; and their torment will be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascended up forever and ever and has no end. Please notice the “as of” in there. This is a metaphor, not literal fire and sulphur. It is mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish so severe that it feels like you are being roasted alive.

D&C 88:35
35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
2 Nephi 9:16
16 And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.
Alma 12:17
17 Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will.
Alma 34:35
35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
In this place, there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
D&C 101:91
91 Even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

Just as you need to work towards work towards inheriting the celestial kingdom, you also need to work to become a Son of Perdition. You just don’t fall into it. It takes some serious rebellion.
Here’s what you need to do if you want to become a Son of Perdition.

What are the requirements of becoming a Son of Perdition?

D&C 76:31
31 Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—

So first, you need to know God’s power and be made a partaker of it. Then you need to allow yourself to to be overcome by the power of the devil. Then you need to deny the truth—even though you absolutely know it to be true. And then you need to defy God’s power and work against him.

But that’s not all. Here’s some more:

D&C 76:35
35 Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.

You also need to have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and then deny that you ever had any feelings from him. You also need to deny that the atonement of Jesus Christ matters. In fact, you would have loved to have played a part in his crucifixion.

D&C 76:35
35 Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.

And then, even after the Son has been revealed to you by the Father, you need to deny him.

D&C 76:43
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

President George Q. Cannon taught:

A man must have attained to considerable knowledge about god and eternal things before he is in a condition where he can commit the unpardonable sin… There are comparatively few who get this far. A man must have sufficient knowledge to make him a god in order to be a devil. (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star 53:577‑80)

Brigham Young taught the same thing. He asked;

How much does it take to prepare a man, or woman, or any being, to become angels to the devil, to suffer with him to all eternity? Just as much as it does to prepare a man to go into the celestial kingdom, into the presence of the Father and the Son, and to be made an heir to His Kingdom, and all His glory, and be crowned with the crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v3, p.93)

So these people are not merely wicked—they are incorrigibly evil. They do not want to be saved and thus, will have their desires fulfilled. As a result of their choices, they die the second death, and experience total banishment not only from God’s literal presence, but also from the influence of his Spirit.

The Prophet Joseph said this about these miserable souls. He said:

What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (TPJS, p358)

It is not just these people of course, but here was also find the unembodied Satan and his host of unembodied followers who were kicked out of Father’s presence for rebellion.

But there is a new pecking order here. While Satan certainly wants to be the number one guy, the Don Corleone, remember he doesn’t have a physical body of his own. He never received his second estate. But Cain certainly did, and he was the first one that we know of who was given the name of Perdition (Moses 5:23-24). I suspect Cain and other mortal Perditionites will have an advantage over the devil and his third part, because they have received an unglorified resurrected body in the final judgement.

We find this in section 88. As a matter-of-fact, let’s hop over there.

D&C 88:28
28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain (that would be the Perditionites) shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

How long will this go on? Is this an infinite state? Will they every come around? Is there any hope for them? Does their spirit eventually die? Do the just devolve into matter unorganized? Are their Daughters of Perdition? We just don’t know for sure. According to verse 45 and 46, only those who “are made partakers thereof” will know what will happen. Joseph Smith said, “…their state of destiny was not revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, save to those who are made partakers thereof.” (HC, 1:355)

Conclusion

There has been a lot written on the topic of the Plan of Salvation and the Kingdoms of Glory. The Church has produced some wonderful resources for us. Hundreds of books and thousands of essays have been written by inspired men and women on the topic. There is much more we can learn from the efforts of others. But there is also lots of false doctrine and false teachings out there—things that the Spirit will tell you are false.

Studying this particular topic has been a hobby of mine since I was in my youth. I have studied and read many things about it. Some of it has been inspirational and enlightening, but a fair amount of it is also full of conjecture and speculation. There are so many things which we haven’t had revealed to us yet.

Where I see people get into trouble, particularly on blogs and comments on those blogs, is that they often they forget that the bottom line is Heavenly Father loves us all perfectly. He, and his beloved Son, will do absolutely everything they can to ensure to our ultimate happiness and joy. No one will be treated unfairly. No one will be left behind.

So try not to be caught up in speculation. Focus on the scriptures, bring your question to Heavenly Father and receive your own revelations, then make sure they align with the revelations given to the Church. One day, the truth of all things will be revealed to all of us. Meanwhile, we walk by faith. And that, my friends, is a tremendous blessing.

I conclude this essay with my personal belief that we are indeed children of loving Heavenly parents who want nothing more than for us to return home to their presence. But they also want us to become better than we were when we left—having had the experience of mortality to test our greatest weaknesses. This requires more faith and more obedience and more sacrifice than we could ever hope to accomplish on our own.

But our older brother Jesus saw this as well, and offered to pay our debts and rescue us from spiritual and physical death. He has already ransomed us. If we let him, he will lift us, he will heal us, he will strengthen us. And if we listen to the Holy Spirit—sent directly from the presence of God to us—and immediately obey his promptings, one day we will most certainly find ourselves back in the celestial kingdom and our heavenly homesickness will finally be healed. And what, brothers and sisters, could be more happy and joyful than that?

D&C20 The Kingdoms of Glory-Table

I am a teacher in my local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint congregation. This lesson is based on D&C 76, 131, 132:19–24 and 137. The objective is to inspire us to carefully consider the eternal inheritances that are available to us and choose to live in such a way that we will inherit celestial glory and dwell in Heavenly Father’s presence with our families. This lesson was presented on 11 June 2017 and corresponds with lesson 20 in the LDS Gospel Doctrine: Doctrine and Covenants and Church History class.

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