Virtual RS/PH #18: Beyond the Veil: Life in the Eternities

Hawkgrrrlchurch, death, eternity, Happiness, joseph, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, plan of salvation, salvation, spiritual progression, theology 18 Comments

This week’s lesson might sound like a repeat from the previous lesson on Plan of Salvation, but it is much more specifically focused on one of my favorite aspects of our theology:  the 3 degrees of glory.

The majority of the lesson centers on section 76 of the Doctrine & Covenants, which relates a vision received by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the John Johnson home in Hiram, OH (where both were tarred & feathered by the mob, injuring Sidney Ridgon’s head in the process, which always made me wonder if he was quite right after that.  But I digress.)  The photo to the right is the actual room in which they received it.  Joseph Smith had been working on his translation of the Bible in 1832 (in the actual room in the picture).

“From sundry revelations which had been received,” the Prophet later said, “it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term ‘Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one.”  (1832)

Joseph had just read John 5:29:

And shall acome forth; they that have done good, unto the bresurrection of life; and they that have done cevil, unto the resurrection of ddamnation.
When he and Sidney were pondering what this meant, a vision opened to them in which they saw God the Father, Jesus on his right hand, the three degrees of glory, and Satan separated from the rest with those who follow him.  This is an interesting example of an effort to translate resulting in an entirely new revelation, similar to the Book of Moses and Matthew 24 in the POGP.
Q:  Why do three degrees of glory make more sense than just Heaven & Hell?  (In Mormon Speak, how does this scripture restore many plain and precious truths?)
Eternal Progression
Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.  [The righteous who have died] shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more, but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.  (1844)

This manual is just chock full of King Follett discourse.  Just sayin’.

Q:  Is this idea intimidating or does the idea of progress make it easier to handle?

Q:  In our eternal progression, why do you think we need to improve “from one small degree to another”?  Is this how you learn and grow?  Why do some people stop progressing?

Celestial Seating Chart
Here’s the lowdown on who’s who in the CK from D&C 76 (quick, check your dance cards!):
  • they are they who received the testimony of Jesus, (received meaning accepted or just heard it?)
  • and believed on his name (so, must be Christian, at least eventually)
  • 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—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;  (so, correct ordinances are necessary.  Because of the rite itself or because of making a commitment and promise that changes your demeanor?)
  • and who overcome by faith (rather than by logic, brute force or personality)
  • and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. (sealed in marriage or through being endowed?  does this mean communal salvation – e.g. being sealed to all the Saints?)
  • They are they who are the church of the Firstborn(I always wonder if we’re talking about Jesus or Adam on this one).
  • They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things(given all things in this life or the hereafter?  things meaning “truths” or actual things?  This seems to contrast with the telestial people below who are getting tripped up by God; maybe this is just a byproduct of being free from the snares of our own bad behavior.)
  • they are they who are priests and kings(but HUMBLE priests & kings, priestesses & queens)
  • who have received of his fulness(what is ‘his fulness’?  shrank not to drink the bitter cup?  being aware of and accepting the fulness of truths?  something else?)
  • and of his glory(so, to receive of his glory, we have to be sanctified enough not to be consumed by it)
  • and are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.  (why does Melchizedek always get so much credit?  BOM usually just lists the order of the Son of God.  Where are the editors?)
  • Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God(does “sons of God” qualify or soften the meaning here, making it clear we are not “equal” with God?)
  • 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 (much better version of community property.  It’s all about who’s pitching in, after all.)
  • These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
  • These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.  (This doesn’t refer to men as “judges in Israel,” so maybe those guys are less empowered subordinates with a multi-level hierarchical approval process for damning people; or maybe it’s like an interview process and God & Jesus are the ultimate decision makers).
  • 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.  (I love that phrase “just men made perfect.”  Not perfect men made judges.)
  • These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.  (More on the bodies in a moment).
Q:  In the description of those who will inherit celestial, terrestrial, and telestial glory, the phrase “the testimony of Jesus” is used five times.  What are the characteristics of a person who is “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”?

Terrestrial – Pepsi Glory (We’re #2, so we try harder!)

There’s a list of those who will receive Terrestrial glory in D&C 76:  81-85, 100-106, 110-112:

  • “Behold, these are they who died without law; (so, like those guys in the Blue Lagoon? Does this mean they can’t inherit celestial under any circumstances?  That doesn’t sound quite right.)
  • 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; who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it(So, what if they never heard it in the first place or had really bad missionaries?)
  • “These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men(Unwitting dupes?)
  • These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.  (Interesting word choice.  So, what is “his fulness”?)
  • These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.  (Christians who reject theosis?  ‘Cause that’s what it sounds like.)
  • “Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.  (That makes me wonder – are our resurrected bodies better or worse based on degrees of glory – e.g. no cellulite in Celestial?  That’s motivating!)
  • These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.”  (“not valiant” means what?  And “crown over the kingdom” implies we rule rather than being subjects.)

Q:  How can we avoid being “blinded by the craftiness of men”? What can we do to help others avoid being blinded?

Telestial – Back of the Bus!

Here’s the description of Telestial glory folks from D&C 76:

  • These are they who are liars, (Are they all going to be confused when they start talking to each other and don’t know who is lying and who’s not?  Will it be like a cutthroat soap opera?)
  • and sorcerers(Like David Copperfield?  What about Houdini?)
  • and adulterers(Wouldn’t it be weird if you’re all saving your DH’s seat in the CK, and he just doesn’t show, and then you find out this way?)
  • and whoremongers(Pimps? Words like “whoremonger” make me think we could use a NIV of LDS scriptures)
  • and whosoever loves and makes a lie(I always wonder if that means “loves a lie” or “lies about love”?)
  • These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth(So, God’s tripping them up on earth?  Is that because they lost the light of Christ and had to deal with the natural consequences of their bad choices?)
  • These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire(Although, as we’ll see below, this is more like “they feel horrid” than Hell = Guantanamo 2).
  • These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work.  (So, they just suffer until then.  There’s an end in sight apparently.)

Q:  Is this a better alternative to traditional notions of “Hell”?

The True Nature of Hell

“The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers.”  (1843)

“A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man.  Some shall rise to the everlasting burnings of God, for God dwells in everlasting burnings, and some shall rise to the damnation of their own filthiness, which is as exquisite a torment as the lake of fire and brimstone.”  (1844)

Q:  How can a man be “his own tormentor and his own condemner”?   Does this make Hell seem more just?

To the teachers:  Please share any other thoughts or tips you have for fellow teachers out there.  Most of this lesson is just reading from D&C 76 about the different kingdoms; it might be fun to do a puzzle to get through the material (e.g. a “fill in the blanks” as you read through D&C together or a “sorting” puzzle to put the descriptions in the right kingdoms).

To the rest of you:  What are your thoughts about the 3 degrees of Glory and the insights from D&C 76?  Personally, this is one of my favorite aspects of our theology because everyone’s a winner (comparatively)!  Discuss.

Comments 18

  1. 1) Its impossible to get through all the class in the little time available.

    2) I’ve often thought about all this since none of use will die perfect, ie celestial, we all need time in the spirit world and in the millennium to overcome many things and fix many issues -like marriage for some, child rearing for others, psychological scars and wounds for most, genealogy for all to reach back to Adam-.

    So I think that IF we can at very least fall into the millennium, we’re doing OK. The point is for members to reach the celestial level at the END of it, when that final judgment actually happens. The ‘back of the bus people’ won’t have a part of that millennium at all but most who are today without law but honorable etc, may actually have a part of it and a chance of going up to the front of the bus, I guess.

    So I really can’t see how the ‘pepsi people’ fit in during the millennium. They will be worthy of a resurrection into that kingdom -by very definition a terrestrial one and they have terrestrial bodies- so its these people who may have problems here with section 76. Or will they resurrect into that millenium with an everlastingly terrestrial body? I’m not sure.

  2. “Q: How can a man be “his own tormentor and his own condemner”? ”

    People who have been excommunicated and regretted it the sin committed, can surely explain what this means, and how true it is.

  3. Actually in re-reading my comment I can see the link I was missing. Its that the honorable of the world will come forward at or near the start of the millennial with an everlastingly terrestrial body while the saints will resurrect with an eternal celestial body. Thanks for writing this post, its answered this question I’ve had in my head for years.


    Anyway, about ‘who have received of his fulness’, isn’t it in the Temple sense up to celestial marriage?

    “priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek,”: for the endowment and celestial marriage.

    Its what I believe but i don’t have hard references to back this up, sorry 🙂

  4. Post

    Stephen M – thanks for the additional info on sorcery. That’s helpful.

    CarlosJC – good points all, and I agree, this is a lot of material to cover in one lesson.

  5. Nice, Hawk. I especially like the commentary. The following one is my favorite:

    and adulterers, (Wouldn’t it be weird if you’re all saving your DH’s seat in the CK, and he just doesn’t show, and then you find out this way?)

    I was laughing at some of the others, but this one . . .

    Oh, and the Rigdon speculation at the beginning. Classic.

  6. “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God— (does “sons of God” qualify or soften the meaning here, making it clear we are not “equal” with God?)”

    I think the more relevant distinction is the use of “gods” and “God”.

  7. Ray #8, Hawkgrrl,

    “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God— (does “sons of God” qualify or soften the meaning here, making it clear we are not “equal” with God?)”

    I understand it that we are ‘men’ who after accepting the Lord become ‘Sons of God’ who are untitled to everything He has including his equal in power and ability but He is still our parent so we are under His presidency (and his wife) for ever. In that sense -parent/child relation- we aren’t his equal and never can be just like we aren’t with our earthy parent although we may become fitter, stronger and more powerful than them in this life.

  8. Carlos, I read it as saying that, although we will be considered gods in every meaningful way, He always will be our God. I’m not sure if that is the same thing you are saying or not, since I have heard multiple meanings put forward for what you said. Can you elaborate a little more?

  9. Thanks Hawk. Always insightful. As to the Church of the Firstborn. The firstborn in this case would be Christ. He was the firstborn spirit child, firstborn from the dead, and the first person ressurected from the dead. If we want to secure the blessing of this order we must live the celestial law to the degree the we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

  10. ThomasB – Thanks for the clarification. I suppose that’s what I ultimately thought, but it just makes me wonder because of our occasional Adam focus.

    Ray – My favorite Ridgon story is about his play for the succession (against successful BY), and how due to his unwillingness to submit to the decision of the Qof12, they ex’d him. So, then he turned around and ex’d all of them. Classic! Sometimes church just doesn’t seem nearly as exciting now as it did back then. 🙂

  11. “so we are under His presidency (and his wife) for ever”

    I like how you worded this Carlos. I’ve wondered what the use of the term “king” means in relating to the Celestial Kingdom. We know so little about the CK, about the only thing one can do is to look at some earthly models of royalty titles. Does anyone really desire to be a king, however, based upon the earthly models? Nephi didn’t want it, so there is also a negative to being a king learned from BofM study.

    Also, how can one be a “king” to a higher nobility? I was unfamiliar with terms of nobility and was thinking that king/queen were the highest forms of nobility. Emperer and Empress are generally considered the highest of monarchical titles. If you are thinking of Emperor Palpatine, then this doesn’t inspire ;).

    According to Wikipedia, under the Holy Roman Empire, Emperors were crowned as emperor by the Pope several years after they had ascended to the office of king in their home country. It was intended to be the highest office, although, politically, it didn’t always turn out that way.

    So by this earthly model, being a king or queen could be viewed as attaining the second highest level of monarchy.

  12. Ray #10,

    Elaborate? Not really. I think we see it the same though; only difference may be that he’s God and eternal parent too?

    Rigel #14,

    I think we’re safe in saying that “king” is one of the titles associated with the highest level in the CK -and hence Jesus is King of Kings ie us (eventually), but I wouldn’t look to earthly models as relevant at since the very first kings were probably modeled on Jehovah himself, and then they evolved the concept.

    But then again there isn’t much revealed on the CK, just a few versus, so I feel like I’m guessing when talking about this 🙂 Maybe someone out there knows of a GA talk which sheds more light on the matter.

  13. “Maybe someone out there knows of a GA talk which sheds more light on the matter.”

    Since this is a topic which is accompanied generally by “things which cannot be written”, I would take any such talk with a full salt block. 🙂

  14. Carlos,

    It is, indeed, hard to find an earthly model of a Kingdom where every member is King/Queen–or at least multiple King/Queens exist. That model really needs the Zion concept of one heart/one mind/no poor–taken to the ultimate end. I love the fit of the title “King of Kings” to Jesus as you described it.

    So if an earthly model of a king is not helpful, what about the connection between king and priest? This also leads to Hawkgrrrl’s question about why Melchizedek always get so much credit?

    Melchizedek was King of Salem AND a High Priest. (The name Melchizedek according to the footnote of Genesis 14:18 means King of Righteousness). These offices in the times of Israel were separated. Kings came from the tribe of Judah and Priests came from the tribe of Levi. In a non-denominational Christian web article by Jack Kelley, it is pointed out that never since the founding of Israel had one man been King and Priest, but that the reunion of these two offices would occur by the Messiah as prophesied in Zechariah 6:9-13. This was possible through Jesus because He was a Priest in the higher order of Melchizedek AND descended from the kingly lineage.

    Jack Kelley uses Revelations 1:5-6 to point out that the faithful followers of Jesus become kings and priests unto God, and he uses the KJV to discuss this verse because modern translations change this to say instead that the followers of Jesus become “a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father”. His answer to the question “king of what?” is still limited, but he does have this interesting idea:

    “Maybe the rest of the universe is waiting for us so it’s purpose can be fulfilled. Maybe we’re each going to be ruling part of it. Not as gods, as my Mormon friends would have us believe, but as kings and priests of the one true God.” 🙂

    Here is the link to his interesting article, if the link is accepted:

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