2010: Degrees of Glory / Levels of Heaven / Heavenly Rewards in Jewish, Christian, Latter-day Saint Tradition / Steve St.Clair (Post 3)

Degrees of Glory / Levels of Heaven / Heavenly Rewards in Jewish, Christian, Latter-day Saint Tradition
Steve St.Clair

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Post 3: 1902AD – 2002AD

1902

Theological Quarterly, Evangelical Lutheran Church

Eschatology

Yet, while we shall all be heirs of salvation, and though our bliss shall be perfect, and our glory great, in eternal life, we shall also differ from each other in various ways. In the world to come Moses will still be Moses, and Elias will be Elias, and in HIS flesh Job shall see God. Many from the east and west shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, every one ofthem, as each of the patriarchs, in his personal identity. There will be no propagation in heaven; for in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in mrrrriage. Life in the future world will be a continuation of the same life, though under different conditions, in the present world. And as men pass from this world into the world to come, their works do follow them, not precede them, to prepare or purchase a place for them in heaven; for Christ has fully accomplished this, and we must not purchase or earn, but inherit the kingdom prepared for us. But the works of every heir of salvation, which he has done in this life, shall follow him to the life beyond. Not his evil works; for they are cast into the depth of the sea, blotted out, never to be remembered. But of his good works, not one shall be forgotten, not even the cup of cold water given to one of Christ’s little ones in the name of a disciple. And it shall not only be mentioned unto him, but he shall in no wise lose his reward. Christ will make good his promise. Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be. Here we sow; there we shall reap as we shall have sown. He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Thus there shall be degrees of glory in the kingdom of glory. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also in the resurrection of the dead. Yet the greater glory of the one shall not be a cause of envy, but a source of joy to the other. Neither shall they whose crown shall shine with brighter gems exalt themselves; but every one shall say, The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. The four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.  The song of the glorified elect shall be as the new song which St. John was permitted to hear: Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wert slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests. . . .Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing! Thus shall the eternal glory of the righteous redound to the eternal glory of Him to whose cross and crown of thorns we shall owe our bliss and our crowns of glory, and whom, with immortal tongues, we shall for ever praise, our Savior and our God.

1902
Pastor D. L. Moody
Heaven: Its Riches
Chapter in book entitled “Heaven”
Heaven: Its Riches

Jerusalem, my Home,

Where shines the royal throne;

Each king casts down his golden crown

Before the Lamb thereon.

Thence flows the crystal river,

And flowing on forever,

With leaves and fruits on either hand,

The Tree of Life shall stand.

In blood-washed robes, all white and fair,

The Lamb shall lead His chosen there,

While clouds of incense fill the air–

Jerusalem, my Home!

Jerusalem, my Home!

Where saints in glory reign,

Thy haven safe, O when shall I,

Poor, storm-tossed pilgrim, gain?

At distance dark and dreary,

With sin and sorrow weary,

For thee I toil, for thee I pray,

For thee I long alway.

And lo, mine eyes shall see thee, too;

Oh, rend in twain, thou veil of blue,

And let the Golden City through–

Jerusalem, my Home!

–HOPKINS. [80]

Chapter V.

Its Riches.

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matt vi, 20.

No man thinks himself rich until he has all he wants. Very few people are satisfied with earthly riches. If they want any thing at all that they cannot get, that is a kind of poverty. Sometimes the richer the man the greater the poverty. Somebody has said that getting riches brings care; keeping them brings trouble; abusing them brings guilt; and losing them brings sorrow. It is a great mistake to make so much of riches as we do. But there are some riches that we cannot praise too much: that never pass away. They are the treasures laid up in Heaven for those who truly belong to God.

No matter how rich or elevated we may be here, there is always something that we want. The greatest chance the rich have over the poor is the one they enjoy the least–that of making themselves happy. Worldly riches never make any one truly happy. We all know, too, that they often take wings and fly away. It is said of Midas that whatever he touched turned into gold, but with his long ears he was not much the better for it. There is a great deal of truth in some [81] of these old fables., Money, like time, ought not to be wasted, but I pity that man who has more of either than he knows how to use. There is no truer saying than that man by doing good with his money, stamps, as it were, the image of God upon it, and makes it pass current for the merchandise of heaven; but all the wealth of the universe would not buy a man’s way there. Salvation must be taken as a gift for the asking. There is no man so poor in this world that he may not be a heavenly millionaire.

GOLD A BAD LIFE-PRESERVER.

How many are worshiping gold to-day! Where war has slain its thousands, gain has slain its millions. Its history in all ages has been the history of slavery and oppression. At this moment what an empire it has. The mine with its drudges, the manufactory with its misery, the plantation with its toil, the market and exchange with their haggard and care-worn faces–these are but specimens of its menial servants. Titles and honors are its rewards, and thrones are at its disposal. Among its counsellors are kings, and many of the great and mighty of the earth are its subjects. This spirit of gain tries even to turn the globe itself into gold.

It is related that Tarpeia, the daughter of the Governor of the fortress situated on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, was captivated with the golden bracelets of the Sabine soldiers, and agreed to let them into the fortress if they would give her what they wore upon their left arms. The contract was made; the Sabines kept their promise. Tatius, their commander, was the first to deliver his bracelet and shield. The coveted [82] treasures were thrown upon the traitress by each of the soldiers, till she sank beneath their weight and expired. Thus does the weight of gold carry many a man down.

When the steamship “Central America” went down, several hundred miners were on board, returning to their early homes and friends. They had made their fortunes, and expected much happiness in enjoying them. In the first of the horror gold lost its attraction to them. The miners took off their treasure-belts and threw them aside. Carpet bags full of shining gold dust were emptied on the floor of the cabin. One of them poured out one hundred thousand dollars’ worth in the cabin, and bade any one take it who would. Greed was over-mastered, and the gold found no takers. Dear friends, it is well enough to have gold, but sometimes it is a bad life-preserver. Sometimes it is a mighty weight that crushes us down to hell.

The Rev. John Newton one day called to visit a family that had suffered the loss of all they possessed by fire. He found the pious mistress, and saluted her with:

“I give you joy, madam.”

Surprised, and ready to be offended, she exclaimed:

“What! Joy that all my property is consumed?”

“O no,” he answered, “but joy that you have so much property that fire cannot touch.”

This allusion to her real treasures checked her grief and brought reconciliation. As we read in Proverbs 15, 6: “In the house of the righteous is much treasure; but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.” I have never seen a dying saint who was rich in heavenly [83] treasures who had any regret; I have never heard such a one say he had lived too much for God and heaven.

Getting Water-Logged.

A friend of mine says he was at the River Mersey, in Liverpool, a few years ago, and he saw a vessel which had to be towed with a great deal of care into the harbor; it was clear down to the water’s edge and he wondered why it did not sink. Pretty soon there came another vessel, without any help at all; it did not need any tug to tow it in, but it steamed right up the Mersey past the other vessels; and he made inquiry, and he found the vessel that had to be towed in was what they call water-logged–that is, it was loaded with lumber and material of that kind; and having sprung a leak had partially sunk, and it was very hard work to get into the harbor. Now, I believe there are a great many professed Christians, a great many, perhaps, who are really Christians, who have become water-logged. They have too many earthly treasures, and it takes nearly the whole church–the whole spiritual power of the church to look after these worldly Christians, to keep them from going back entirely into the world. Why, if the whole church were, as John Wesley said, “hard at it, and always at it,” what a power there would be, and how soon we would reach the world and the masses; but we are not reaching the world, because the church itself has become conformed to the world and worldly-minded, and because so many are wondering why they do not grow in grace while they have more of the earth in their thoughts than God. [84]

Ministers would not have to urge people to live for heaven if their treasures were up there; they could not help it; their hearts would be there, and if their hearts were there their minds would be up there, and their lives would tend toward heaven. They could not help living for heaven if their treasures were there.

A little girl one day said to her mother: “Mamma, my Sunday-school teacher tells me that this world is only a place in which God lets us live a while, that we may prepare for a better world. But, mother, I do not see anybody preparing. I see you preparing to go into the country, and Aunt Eliza is preparing to come here; but I do not see anyone preparing to go there; why don’t they try to get ready?”

A certain gentleman in the South, before the war, had a pious slave, and when the master died they told him he had gone to heaven.

The old slave shook his head, “I’s ‘fraid massa no gone there,” he said.

“But why, Ben?” he was asked.

“Cos, when Massa go North, or go a journey to the Springs, he talk about it a long time, and get ready. I never hear him talk about going to heaven; never see him get ready to go there!”

So there are a good many who do not get ready. Christ teaches in the Sermon on the Mount to–

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” [85]

TREASURES OF THE HEART.

It does not take long to tell where a man’s treasure is. In fifteen minutes’ conversation with most men you can tell whether their treasures are on the earth or in heaven. Talk to a patriot about the country, and you will see his eye light up; you will find he has his heart there. Talk to some business men, and tell them where they can make a thousand dollars, and see their interest; their hearts are there. You talk to fashionable people who are living just for fashion, of its affairs, and you will see their eyes kindle; they are interested at once; their hearts are there. Talk to a politician about politics, and you see how suddenly he becomes interested. But talk to a child of God, who is laying up treasures in heaven, about heaven and about his future home, and see what enthusiasm. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Now, it is just as much a command for a man to “lay up treasure in heaven” as it is that he should not steal. Some people think all the commandments are in those ten that were given on Sinai, but when Jesus Christ was here, He gave us many other commandments. There is another commandment in this Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you;” and here is a command that we are to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth. The reason there are so many broken hearts in this land, the reason there are so many disappointed people, is because they have been laying up their treasures down here.

The worthlessness of gold, for which so many are striving, is illustrated by a story that Dr. Arnot used [86] to tell. A ship bearing a company of emigrants has been driven from her course and wrecked on a desert island, far from the reach of man. There is no way of escape; but they have a good stock of food. The ocean surrounds them, but they have plenty of seeds, a fine soil, and a genial sun, so there is no danger. Before the plans are laid, an exploring party discovers a gold mine. There the whole party go to dig. They labor day after day and month after month. They get great heaps of gold. But spring is past, and not a field has been cleared, not a grain of seed put into the ground. The summer comes and their wealth increases; but their stock of food grows small. In the fall they find that their heaps of gold are worthless. Famine stares them in the face. They rush to the woods, they fell trees, dig up the roots, till the ground, sow the seed. It is too late! Winter has come and their seed rots in the ground. They die of want in the midst of their treasures.

This earth is the little isle; eternity the ocean round it; on this shore we have been cast. There is a living seed; but the mines of gold attract us. We spend spring and summer there; winter overtakes us in our toil; we are without the Bread of Life, and we are lost. Let us then who are Christians, value all the more the home which holds the treasures that no one can take away. Dr. Muhlenberg, a Lutheran clergyman, has written beautifully:

“Who would live alway, away from his God,

Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode;

Where the rivers of pleasure flow o’er the bright plains,

And the harps of gold pour out their glorious strains; [87]

And the saints of all ages in harmony meet

Their Savior, and brethren transported, to greet;

While the anthems of rapture unceasingly roll,

And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul?

That heavenly music, what is it I hear?

The notes of the harpers ring sweet on my ear.

To see soft unfolding those portals of gold–

The King, all arrayed in His beauty, behold!

Oh give me, oh give me, the wings of a dove,

Let me hasten my flight to those mansions above!

Ay, ’tis now that my soul on swift pinions would soar,

And in ecstacy bid earth adieu evermore.”

A BLACK-BOARD LESSON.

When I was in San Francisco, I went into a Sabbath-school the first Sunday I was there. It was a rainy day, and there were so few present that the Superintendent thought of dismissing them, but instead, he afterward invited me to speak to the whole school as one class. The lesson was that passage from the Sermon on the Mount: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”

I invited a young man to the blackboard, and we proceeded to compare a few things that some people have on earth, and a few things that other people have in heaven.

“Now,” said I, “name some earthly treasure.”

They all shouted “Gold.”

“Well, that is so,” I said, “I suppose that is your greatest treasure out here in California. Now let us go on; what is another?”

A second boy shouted, “Lands.”

“Well,” I said, “we will put down Lands.” [88]

“What else do the people out here in California think a good deal of and have their hearts set on?”

They said “Houses.”

“Put that down; what else?

“Pleasure.”

“Put that down.”

“Honor–fame.”

“Put them down.”

“Business.”

“Yes,” I said; “a great many people have their hearts buried in their business–put that down.” As if a little afraid, one of them said “dress,” and the whole school smiled.

“Put that down,” I said. Why, I believe there are some people in the world who think more of dress than any other thing. They just live for dress. I heard not long ago from very good authority, of a young lady who was dying of consumption. She had been living in the world and for the world, and it seemed as if the world had taken full possession of her. She thought she would die Thursday night, and Thursday she wanted them to crimp her hair, so that she would look beautiful in her coffin. But she didn’t die Thursday night. She lingered through Friday, and Friday she didn’t want them to take her hair down, but to keep it up until she passed away. And the friends said she looked very beautiful in the coffin! Just what people wear–the idea of people having their hearts set upon things of that kind!”

“And what else, now?” Well, they were a little ashamed to say it, but one said:

“Rum.” [89]

“Yes,” I said, “put that down. There is many a man thinks more of the rum-bottle than he does of the Kingdom of God. He will give up his wife, he will give up his home and his mother, character and reputation forever for the rum-bottle. Many a man by his life is crying Out, ‘Give me rum, and I will give you heaven, and all its glories. I will sell my wife and children. I will make them beggars and paupers. I will degrade and disgrace them for the rum-bottle. That is my treasure.'”

“‘Oh, thou rum bottle! I worship thee,’ is the cry of many–they turn their backs on heaven with all its glories for rum. Some of them thought, when that little boy said ‘rum,’ that he made a mistake, that it was not a treasure, but it is a treasure to thousands.” Another one said:

“Fast horses.”

Said I, “Put it down. There is many a man who thinks a good deal of fast horses, and he wants to go out and take a fast horse and drive Sunday, and spend his Sabbath in this way.” And after we finished, and thought of everything we could, I said: “Suppose we just take down some of these heavenly treasures.”

“And,” said I, “What is there now that the Lord wants us to set our hearts and affections on?” And they all said:

“JESUS.”

“That is good; we will put Him down first at the head of the list. Now what else?” And they said:

“Angels.”

“Put them down. We will have their society when we go to heaven. That is a treasure up there, really. What else?” [90]

“The friends who have died in Christ, who have fallen asleep in Christ.”

“Put them down. Death has taken them from us now, but we will be with them by and by. What else?”

“Crowns.”

“Yes, we are going to have a crown, a crown of glory, a crown of righteousness, a crown that fadeth not away. What else?”

“The tree of life.”

“Yes,” I said, “the tree of life. We shall have a right to it. We can go to that tree and pluck its fruit, eat, and live forever. What else?”

“The river of life.”

“Yes, we shall walk upon the banks of that clean river.”

“Harps,” one said.

Another one said “palms.”

“Yes,” I said, “put them down. Those are treasures that we will have there.”

“Purity.”

“Yes, there will be none but the pure there. White robes, without spot or wrinkle on our garments. A great many find many flaws in our characters down here, but by and by Christ will present us before the Father without spot and without wrinkle, and we shall stand there complete in Him,” I said. “Can you think of anything else?” And one of them said:

“A new song.”

“Yes, we shall have a new song. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb. I don’t know just who wrote it or how, but it will be a glorious song. I suppose the singing we have here on earth will be nothing [91] compared with the songs of that upper world. Do you know the principal thing we are told we are going to do in heaven is singing, and that is why men ought to sing down here. We ought to begin to sing here so that it will not come strange when we get to heaven. I pity the professed Christian who has not a song in his heart–who never ‘feels like singing.’ It seems to me if we are truly children of God, we will want to sing about it. And so, when we get there, we cannot help shouting out the loud hallelujahs of heaven.”

Then I said: “Is there anything else?” Well, they went on. I cannot give you all, because we had to have two columns put down of the heavenly treasures. We stood there a little while and drew the contrast between the earthly and the heavenly treasures. We looked at them a little while, and when we came to put them all down beside Christ, the earthly treasures looked small, after all. What would all this world full of gold be compared with Jesus Christ? You who have Christ, would you like to part with Him for gold? Would you like to give Him up for all the honor the earth can bestow on you for a few months or a few years? Think of Christ! Think of the treasures of heaven. And then think of these earthly treasures that we have our hearts set upon, and that so many of us are living for.

God blessed that lesson upon the blackboard in a marvelous way, for the man who had been writing down the treasures on the board happened to be an unconverted Sunday-school teacher, and had gone out there to California to make money; his heart was set upon gold, and he was living for that instead of for God. That was the idol of his heart, and do you know God [92] convicted him at that blackboard, and the first convert that God gave me on the Pacific coast was that man, and he was the last man who shook hands with me when I left San Francisco. He saw how empty the earthly treasures were, and how grand and glorious the riches of heaven. Oh, if God would but open your eyes–and I think if you are honest and ask Him to do it He will–He will show you how empty this world is in comparison with what He has in store.

There are a great many people who are wondering why they do not mount up on wings, as it were, and why they do not make some progress in the divine life; why they do not grow more in grace. I think one reason may be they have too many earthly treasures. We need not be rich to have our hearts set on riches.

We need not go in the world more than other people to have our hearts there. I believe the Prodigal was in the far country long before he put his feet there. When his heart reached there he was there. There is many a man who does not mingle so much in the world as others do, but his heart is there, and he would be there if he could, and God looks at the heart.

Now, what we need to do is to obey the voice of the Master, and instead of laying up treasures on earth, lay them up in heaven. If we do that, bear in mind, we shall never be disappointed.

It is clear that idolaters are not going to enter the kingdom of God. I may make an idol of my business; I may make an idol of the wife of my bosom; I may make idols of my children. I do not think you need go to heathen countries to find men guilty of idolatry. I think you will find a great many right here who have [93] idols in their hearts. Let us pray that the spirit of God may banish those idols from our hearts, that we may not be guilty of idolatry; that we may worship God in spirit and in truth. Anything that comes between me and God is an idol–anything, I don’t care what it is; business is all right in its place, and there is no danger of my loving my family too much if I love God more; but God must have the first place; and if He has not then the idol is set up.

All Eternity For Rest.

Not the least of the riches of heaven will be the satisfaction of those wants of the soul, which are so much felt down here but are never found–such as infinite knowledge, perfect peace and satisfying love. Like a beautiful likeness that has been marred, daubed all over with streaks of black, and is then restored to its original beauty, so the soul is restored to its full beauty of color when it is washed with the blood of Jesus Christ. The senseless image on the canvas cannot be compared, however, in any other way with the living, rational soul.

Could we but see some of our friends who have gone on before us we would very likely feel like falling down before them. The Apostle John had seen so many strange things, yet, when one of the bright angels stood before him to reveal some of the secrets of heaven, fell down to worship him. He says in the last chapter of Revelation:

“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, see thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book. Worship God.” [94]

Among the wants which we have on earth is the thirst for knowledge. Much as sin has weakened man’s mental faculties, it has not taken away any of his desire for knowledge. But with all his efforts, with all that he thinks he knows about astronomy, chemistry and geology, and the rest of the sciences, his knowledge of the secrets of nature is yet limited.

There are very many things we do not know. Thousands of astronomers have lived and died, and the ages of the world have rolled on, and it was only the other day, as it were, that they’ found out that the planet Mars had two moons. Perhaps in ages to come some one will find out that they are not moons at all. This is what most of our human knowledge amounts to.

There is not one of our college professors, and many of them have gone nearly everywhere in the world, but is anxious to learn more and more, to find out new things, to make now discoveries. If we were as familiar with all the stars of the firmament as we are with our own earth, still we would not be satisfied.

Not until we are like God can we comprehend the infinite. Even the imperfect glimpses of God that we get by faith, only intensify our desire for more. For now, as Paul says in 1st Corinthians xiii, 12:

“Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

The word Paul used, properly translated, is “mirror.” Now we see God, as it were, in a looking-glass–but then face to face.

Suppose we knew nothing of the sun except what we saw of its light reflected from the moon? Would we not wonder about its immense distance, about its [95] dazzling splendor, about its life-giving power? Now all that we see, the sun, the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, the flowers, and above all, man, are a grand mirror in which the perfection of God is imperfectly reflected.

Another want that we have is rest. We get tired of toiling. Yet there is no real rest on earth. We find in the 4th chapter of Hebrews, beginning with the 9th verse:

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”

Now, while we all want rest, I think a great many people make a mistake when they think the church is a place of rest; and when they unite with the church they have a false idea about their position in it. There are a great many who come in to rest. The text tells us: “There remaineth a rest for the people of God,” but it does not tell us that the church is a place of rest; we have all eternity to rest in. We are to rest by and by; but we are to work here, and when our work is finished, the Lord will call us home to enjoy that rest. There is no use in talking about rest down here in the enemy’s country. We cannot rest in this world, where God’s Son has been crucified and cast out. I think that a great many people are going to lose their reward just because they have come into the church with the idea that they are to rest there, as if the church was working for the reward, instead of each one building over against his own house, each one using all his influence toward the building up of Christ’s kingdom.

In Revelation xiv, 13, we read: [96]

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”

Now, death may rob us of money. Death may rob us of position. Death may rob us of our friends; but there is one thing death can never do, and that is rob us of the work that we do for God. That will live on forever. “Their works do follow them.” How much are we doing? Anything that we do outside of ourselves, and not with a mean and selfish motive, that is going to live. We have the privilege of setting in motion streams of activity that will flow on when we are dead and gone.

It is the privilege of everyone to live more in the future than they do in the present, so that their lives will tell in fifty or a hundred years more than they do now.

John Wesley’s influence is a thousand-fold greater to-day than it was when he was living. He still lives. He lives in the lives of thousands and hundreds of thousands of his spiritual descendants.

Martin Luther lives more truly to-day than he did three centuries ago, when he awakened Germany. He only lived one life, and that for a little while. But now, look at the hundreds and thousands and millions of lives that he is living. There are between fifty and sixty millions of people who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, as taught by Martin Luther, who bear his name. He is dead in the sight of the world, but his “works do follow him.” He still lives.

The voice of John the Baptist is ringing through the world to-day, although nearly nineteen hundred [97] years have passed away since Herodias asked for his death. Herod thought when he beheaded him that he was hushing his voice, but it is ringing throughout the earth to-day. John the Baptist lives, because he lived for God; but he has entered into his rest, and “his works do follow him.”

And if they up yonder can see what is going on upon the earth, how much joy they must have to think that they have set these streams in motion, and that this work is going on–being carried on after them.

If a man lives a mean, selfish life, he goes down to the grave, and his name and everything concerning him goes down in the grave with him. If he is ambitious to leave a record behind him, with a selfish motive, his name rots with his body. But if a man gets outside of himself and begins to work for God, his name will live forever. Why, you may go to Scotland to-day, and you will find the influence of John Knox over every mountain in Scotland. It seems as if you could almost feel the breath of that man’s prayer in Scotland to-day. His influence still lives. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” Blessed rest in store; we will rest by and by; but we should not waste time talking about rest while we are here. . . . .

If I am to wipe a tear from the cheek of that fatherless boy, I must do it down here. It is not said in Scripture that we shall have the privilege of doing that hereafter. If I am going to help up some fallen man who has been overtaken by sin, I must do it here. We are not going to have the privilege of being co-workers with God in the future–but that is our privilege [98] to-day. We may not have it to-morrow. It may be taken from us to-morrow; but we can enter into the vineyard and do something to-day before the sun goes down. We can do something now before we go to glory.

Another want that we feel here is Love. Heaven is the only place where the conditions of love can be fulfilled. There love is essentially mutual. Everybody loves everybody else. In this world of wickedness and sin it seems impossible for people to be all on a perfect equality. When we meet people who are bright and beautiful and good, we have no difficulty in loving them. All the people of heaven will be like that. There will be no fear of misplaced confidences there. There we shall never be deceived by those we love. When a suspicion of doubt fastens upon any one who loves, their happiness from that moment is at an end. There will be no suspicion there.

Beyond these chilling winds and gloomy skies,

Beyond death’s cloudy portal,

There is a land where beauty never dies—

Where love becomes immortal. [99]

By Timothy Poland.

Ye ken, dear bairn, that we maun part,

When death, cauld death, shall bid us start;

But when he’ll send his fearfu’ dart

We canna say,

So we’ll mak’ ready for his dart

Maist onie day.

We’ll keep a’ right and guid wi’in,

Our wark will then be free frae sin.

Upright we’ll walk through thick and thin,

Straight on our way.

Deal just wi’ a’, the prize we’ll win

Maist onie day.

Ye ken there’s Ane, wha’s just and wise,

Has said that a’ His bairns should rise,

An’ soar aboon the lofty skies,

And there shall stay.

Being well prepared we’ll gain the prize

Maist onie day.

When He wha made a’ things just right,

Shall call us hence to realms of light,

Be it morn or noon, or e’en or night,

We will obey.

We’ll be prepared to tak’ our flight

Maist onie day.

Our lamps we’ll fill brimfu’ o’ oil,

Thet’s guid and pure, that wadna spoil,

And keep them burning a’ the while,

To light our way.

Our wark bein’ done we’ll quit the soil,

Maist onie day. [100]

1913
Charles George Herbermann, Catholic Scholar
Individual Eschatology
The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, Volume 5

(1) Death, which consists in the separation of soul and body, is presented under many aspects in Catholic teaching, but chiefly (a) as being actually and historically, in the present order of supernatural Providence, the consequence and penalty of Adam’s sin (Gen., ii, 17; Rom., v, 12, etc.); (b) as being the end of man’s period of probation, the event which decides his eternal destiny (II Cor., v, 10; John, ix, 4; Luke, xii, 40; xvi, 19 sqq.; etc.), though it does not exclude an intermediate state of purification for the imperfect who die in God’s grace; and (c) as being universal, though as to its absolute universality (for those living at the end of the world) there is some room for doubt because of I Thess., iv, 14 sqq.; I Cor., xv, 51; II Tim., iv, 1.

(2) That a particular judgment of each soul takes place at death is implied in many passages of the N. T. (Luke, xvi, 22 sqq.; xxiii, 43; Acts, i, 25; etc.), and in the teaching of the Council of Florence (Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 588) regarding the speedy entry of each soul into heaven, purgatory, or hell. (See Judgment, Particular.)

(3) Heaven is the abode of the blessed, where (after the resurrection with glorified bodies) they enjoy, in the company of Christ and the angels, the immediate vision of God face to face, being supernaturally elevated by the. light of glory so as to be capable of such a vision. There are infinite degrees of glory corresponding to degrees of merit, but all are unspeakably happy in the eternal possession of God. Only the perfectly pure and holy can enter heaven; but for those who have attained that state, either at death or after a course of purification in purgatory, entry into heaven is not deferred, as has sometimes been erroneously held, till after the General Judgment.

(4) Purgatory is the intermediate state of unknown duration in which those who die imperfect, but not in unrepented mortal sin, undergo a course of penal purification, to qualify for admission into heaven. They share in the communion of saints (q. v.) and are benefited by our prayers and good works (see Dead, Prayers TOR The). The denial of purgatory by the Reformers introduced a dismal blank in their eschatology and, after the manner of extremes, has led to extreme reactions. (See Purgatory.)

(5) Hell, in Catholic teaching, designates the place or state of men (and angels) who, because of sin, are excluded for ever from the Beatific Vision. In this wide sense it applies to the state of those who die with only original sin on their souls (Council of Florence, Denzinger, no. 588), although this is not a state of

misery or of subjective punishment of any kind, but merely implies the objective privation of supernatural bliss, which is compatible with a condition of perfect natural happiness. But in the narrower sense in which the name is ordinarily used, hell is the state of those who are punished eternally for unrepented personal mortal sin. Beyond affirming the existence of such a state, with varying degrees of punishment corresponding to degrees of guilt and its eternal or unending duration, Catholic doctrine does not go. It is a terrible and mysterious truth, but it is clearly and emphatically taught by Christ and the Apostles. Rationalists may deny the eternity of hell in spite of the authority of Christ, and professing Christians, who are unwilling to admit it, may try to explain away Christ’s words; but it remains as the Divinely revealed solution of the problem of moral evil. (See Hell.) Rival solutions have been sought for in some form of the theory of restitution or, less commonly, in the theory of annihilation or conditional immortality. The restitutionist view, which in its Origenist form was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 543, and later at the Fifth General Council (see ApocaTastasis), is the cardinal dogma of modern Universalism (q. v.), and is favoured more or less by liberal Protestants and Anglicans. Based on an exaggerated optimism for which present experience offers no guarantee, this view assumes the all-conquering efficacy of the ministry of grace in a life of probation after death, and looks forward to the ultimate conversion of all sinners and the voluntary disappearance of moral evil from the universe. Annihilationists, on the other hand, failing to find either in reason or Revelation any grounds for such optimism, and considering immortality itself to be a grace and not the natural attribute of the soul, believe that the finally impenitent will be annihilated or cease to exist—that God will thus ultimately be compelled to confess the failure of His purpose and power.

1918

President Joseph F. Smith

Vision of the Redemption of the Dead

On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the Scriptures and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God for the redemption of the world, and the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world, that through his Atonement and by obedience to the principlesof the gospel, mankind might be saved.

While I was thus engaged, my mind reverted to the writings of the Apostle Peter to the primitive saints scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and other parts of Asia where the gospel had been preached after the crucifixion of the Lord. I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (I Peter 3:18-20)

For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (I Peter 4:6)

As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality, and who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy.

While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful, and there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.

But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and tho unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised, neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face. Where these were, darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace, and the saints rejoiced in their redemption, and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell.

Their countenances shone and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them and they sang praises unto his holy Name.

I marveled, for I understood that the Savior spent about three years in his ministry among the Jews and those of the house of Israel, endeavoring to teach them the everlasting gospel and call them unto repentance; and yet, notwithstanding his mighty works and miracles and proclamation of the truth in great power and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice and rejoiced in his presence and received salvation at his hands. But his ministry among those who were dead was limited to the brief time intervening between the crucifixion and his resurrection; and I wondered at the words of Peter wherein he said that the Son of God preached unto the spirits in prison who sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, and how it was possible for him to preach to those spirits and perform the necessary labor among them in so short a time.

And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them; but behold, from among the righteous he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men. And thus was the gospel preached to the dead. And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord, and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound; even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets. These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. Thus was it made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets who had testified of him in the flesh, that they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead unto whom he could not go personally because of their rebellion and transgression, that they through the ministration of his servants might also hear his words.

Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous, were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God. Abel, the first martyr, was there, and his brother Seth, one of the mighty ones, who was in the express image of his father Adam. Noah, who gave warning of the flood; Shem, the great High Priest; Abraham, the father of the faithful; Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, the great law-giver of Israel; Isaiah, who declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound, were also there.

Moreover, Ezekiel, who was shown in vision the great valley of dry bones which were to be clothed upon with flesh to come forth again in the resurrection of the dead, living souls; Daniel, who foresaw and foretold the establishment of the kingdom of God in the latter days, never again to be destroyed nor given to other people; Elias, who was with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration; Malachi, the prophet who testified of the coming of Elijah — of whom also Moroni spake to the Prophet Joseph Smith — declaring that he should come before the ushering in of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, were also there. The prophet Elijah was to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers, foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, for the redemption of the dead and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming.

All these and many more, even the prophets who dwelt among the Nephites and testified of the coming of the Son of God, mingled in the vast assembly and waited for their deliverance, for the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage. These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life, and continue thenceforth their labors as had been promised by the Lord, and be partakers of all blessings which were held in reserve for them that love him.

The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great Latter-day work, including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead, were also in the spirit world. I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God. Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits, and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.

I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead. The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, and after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.

Thus was the vision of the redemption of the dead revealed to me, and I bear record, and I know that this record is true, through the blessing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even so. Amen. — Joseph F. Smith.

1918

Joseph Casimir Sasia, S.J. (“Society of Jesus” – Jesuit Catholic)

Chapter 18 – The Various Degrees of Merit

The Future Life: According to the Authority of Divine Revelation, the Dictates of Sound Reason

Chapter 18 – The Various Degrees of Merit

368. Divine grace, by making us adoptive children of God, confers on our actions a value, which, considered in themselves, they do not possess, and renders them meritorious of eternal glory. Merit always involves some kind of claim to a recompense. When a recompense is due through strict justice, whence arises an equitable right on the part of the claimant, we have what is termed condign merit — meritum de condigno. When retribution may be claimed simply as something befitting, or as a kind of grateful return, there is then the merit of congruity —  meritum de congruo. For an act to be meritorious of heavenly glory it is required that it should be morally good, free, and supernatural; that is, elicited through motives inspired by divine faith. On the part of God the promise of a reward is always supposed. Eternal life is indeed the inheritance of adopted sons, but it is also the reward of the good deeds, which the just performed under the influence of and by the aid of divine grace.

369. As we proved above, though man cannot be said to possess a strict claim or right to divine recompense, for whatever he has is God’s gift; yet, on account of God’s explicit promises, he is entitled to a reward for his good deeds. In the present order of providence he is destined for heavenly beatitude, and it shall be bestowed on him as a recompense for his merits, if he fulfils the imposed condition, i. e., compliance with God’s holy will. In human things a kind of just proportion or equity must be observed between the merit, or the work done, and its reward. Can we say the same of the supernatural bliss bestowed by Almighty God on His loyal, faithful servants? No, by no means. There is no proportion, no comparison whatever between even the most heroic actions of men, and the heavenly reward, a happiness perfect in its object, boundless in its extent and eternal in its duration. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” says Christ in His Gospel, “because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” This most cheering truth is thus proclaimed by St. Paul: “I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” A similar sentiment is expressed by the same Apostle in his second Epistle to the Corinthians (iv. 18), which we had occasion to quote when speaking of heavenly happiness.
370. In this connection I will here reproduce a thoughtful remark of Father Tapparelli, S.J., the distinguished author of the classical “Essay on Natural Right.” In his first dissertation (n. 133), he writes: “Here some one might ask me, ‘How can man acquire any merit before God, whom he cannot at all benefit, and from whom he receives all that he possesses?’ This is my answer: It is plain that man cannot acquire, in regard to God, any merit of strict justice, as between himself and God there exists no equality whatsoever, but only some respects or relations of proportion, as St. Thomas states. But, if we take into account God’s decree creating man for natural happiness, on condition that he should tread on the appointed path, he acquires, by so doing, a kind of right to the attainment of the end proposed to him. For what kind of path would that be which did not lead to the proposed goal? On the other hand, though the good intentions and actions of man can afford no intrinsic advantage to God, yet they contribute to the increase of His extrinsic glory, to promote which man was created; and in this way he lends his share to the moral order of the universe, of which God is the Supreme Ruler; and in this sense man may be said to be in some manner advantageous to God and thereby merit a recompense for his virtuous deeds.” In the present order of providence, owing to man’s elevation to the supernatural state, we find that there exists a just proportion between human virtuous actions and the divine reward. For as adopted children of God we merit the beatific vision and the degree of beatitude corresponding to our co-operation with divine grace. It is the dignity of adoption acquired through the merits of Christ that imparts to our acts a supernatural value and makes them proportioned to the supernatural recompense. Hence the bestowal of heavenly beatitude is designated in Holy Scripture as a reward, as the inheritance of worthy sons, as a crown for lawful combats, and as the recompense or hire due to diligent laborers. We should, however, never forget the wise reflection of St. Augustine, who says that Almighty God by bestowing on the just the eternal reward only crowns His own gifts.

The following not only heretical but also supremely absurd proposition of Baius was deservedly condemned by Pius V in his Bull Ex Omnibus Afflictionibus issued October 1, A. D. 1567: N. 14. “The good works of the just will not receive in the last Judgment Day a reward greater than they deserved to receive according to the just judgment of God.”
371. It is certain that what constitutes the essential happiness of heaven; namely, the beatific vision, the ” happy-making” sight, is substantially the same for all the blessed; but at the same time, we must remember that the enjoyment of such happiness contains different degrees of intensity proportionate to the merits acquired by each individual during his lifetime upon earth. Hence the holier in heaven will receive more delight through the faculties of the soul and the glorified senses, after the resurrection, than those that have practised virtue in an inferior decree. Therefore each of the blessed shall possess that degree of happiness, which is proportionate to the supernatural perfection attained by the virtue and holiness of his life. All the just are to rise in glory, but each one according to the degree of his perfection and supernatural merit. St. Paul illustrates this truth by a fitting comparison: “Star differeth from star in glory; so also is the resurrection of the dead.” There will then be a kind of gradation in the personal beauty, grace, and splendor allotted to the saints.

372. Here we may ask: “Shall those different degrees of glory cause envy in those that possess an inferior degree of heavenly happiness?” We answer that this cannot be. There is no envy in heaven, the abode of perfect bliss, tranquility, and peace. Everyone there is completely satisfied with his own degree of glory, which he knows to be proportionate to his merits. Nay, he even rejoices at the higher degree of glory granted to others who merited it by the higher degree of holiness which they attained in their probation on earth.

1922

Melvin J. Ballard

The Three Degrees of Glory

Ogden Tabernacle

Sept. 22, 1922

This is an inspiring sight, my dear brethren and sisters, a convincing testimony of your interest in this great and important feature of the latter-day work, Genealogy, the salvation for the living and the dead, for I have remarked before that in no quarter of the Church is there greater interest and activity shown in this particular work than here in these Ogden Stakes. I commend you for what you have accomplished, and, as I said in another place in this city a few months ago, surely there is nothing that will so quickly bring you a house of God, a temple of the Lord, in your community as your intense activity in this particular work.

I rejoice with you to live in this wonderful day, the most glorious and splendid that has ever dawned in the history of man. I am exceedingly happy to be here tonight in your presence to rejoice with you on this ninety-ninth anniversary of the appearance of the Angel Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for it was just ninety-nine years ago tonight that Moroni spent the entire night unfolding to the Prophet the greatness of this latter-day dispensation and explaining to him for the first time, in this dispensation at least, the meaning of the promise that Elijah, the Prophet, should come again to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers lest the whole earth should be smitten with a curse. I know of no more fitting way to celebrate that wonderful event in this dispensation than to be here and discussing this subject. I rejoice because to us has been given the most splendid revelations God has ever given to man, and this is not discrediting anything of the past. It is full of glory, full of inspiration and grandeur, full of majesty and of truth!

The greatest revelation the Lord, Jesus Christ, has ever given to man in the history of His Church, so far as record is made, was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith on the 16th of April, 1832, known as the 76th section of the book of Doctrine & Covenants, commonly called for years and still known as “The Vision.” I say, this to my mind is the climax of all wonderful revelations that have come from the Lord from the days of Father Adam until the present moment.

Men have been groping in darkness on some subjects, even in Gospel dispensations of the past. They have not known the fullness of God’s plan and purpose for the salvation of His sons and daughters, but surely this is a glorious time, for this is the dispensation of the fullness of times and all that men have ever had in all former dispensations has been given at once in this dispensation, and much that was not had in other dispensations. Oh! how wonderful it is to live now, when we are not in doubt concerning not only ourselves, but the whole scheme and plan of salvation, not only for the living, but for the dead.

Men have been speculating as to God’s justice and provisions for the salvation of His children. There have been those in the past and some still remain who teach that if by the smallest margin one escapes or misses to meet the conditions of the Gospel as they interpret it they lose eternal salvation and are eternally damned to hell; and on the other hand, there are those who believe that certain individuals are marked and designated, predestined, to come into this life to be saved no matter what they did, and others to be eternally lost. There are those who are so narrow as to believe that if in this life men have not found the Way, the Light and Truth there is no hope for them beyond the grave. I rejoice to live, I say, when the fullness of truth has been given and when the answer has been made clearly and definitely in the word of the Lord to all queries on this subject.

I have sometimes had this question propounded to me by ministers and members of other denominations: “What matters it so long as men and women are good men, good husbands, good wives, good citizens, believers in the Bible, worshippers of God and followers of Jesus Christ according to their own conception what matters which road they take?” It is immaterial whether they are Baptist, Presbyterian, Mormon, Catholic, or what. Any road leads to the same goal, just as there are many roads leading to Ogden, and whichever road you take you ultimately get to Ogden. That is their theory.

I have said that it makes little difference in one respect whether a man has a faith and persuasion or not, or what his faith or persuasion may be. It is not this persuasion that will bring him salvation; it is his works, his faith and his devotion and his ability to comply with the terms and conditions God has provided for man’s salvation, but every man that does good is drawing toward God no matter what his faith is. That is true, therefore, whichever road he travels, according to the amount of good he does, he is advancing toward the great goal, toward God and toward salvation in His kingdom.

I recognize the fact that no man will get all the way to the end of the road and gain a fullness of salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God unless he complies with all the terms and all the conditions of salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God unless he said,

Straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

I discover in my reading of ancient and modern scriptures that the great majority of our Father’s children will only go a part of the way toward that great goal and end because they will not comply with all the terms and conditions. They will get one-third of the way, we will say, and find themselves in the Telestial Kingdom. Another group will go a little farther on the right road but they won’t comply with all the terms and conditions and will not reach the end of that journey. They may go, perhaps, two-thirds of the way to the Terrestrial Glory. And few there be who will comply and find the way by which they may make the entire journey, complying with all the terms, all the conditions and ultimately reaching the end of the road, entering into the Celestial Kingdom of God; they shall obtain Celestial Glory.

That sounds reasonable, does it not? It is true. Now without speculating, and I do not wish to speculate or theorize, but confining ourselves in our discussion or consideration of this question exclusively to the word of the Lord as it has been given us, I will begin by reading a portion of the 76th section, commencing with the 50th verse:

And again, we bear record, for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ, concerning them who come forth in the resurrection of the just.

I begin with the few that find the way and reach the end. I begin with those because I think I am talking to a body of men and women who are not concerned and anxious to know terms or conditions by which you may get into the Terrestrial or Telestial Glory.

Your minds and hearts are set upon knowing what you must do to obtain the greatest thing, the best thing, the Lord has offered. I want to talk about that more than anything else because I do not discover many of you who would be satisfied with second-hand things, and you are not contented or happy by having second best or third best. So we will begin by reading a description of the terms and conditions that we must comply with to get the best, to bring before you as the Lord has given it to us the blessings, benefits and advantages of attaining to the Celestial Glory. I think it will be worth every sacrifice required and a hundred times more if need be. Personally, I would give it to attain that which God has offered to men and women who enter into the Celestial Glory.

Continuing with the 51st verse:
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.

I now say to all the world that no man, no woman, ever shall see the Celestial Kingdom of God who is not baptized of the water and of the spirit. The Lord has specified it. He made it so binding and complete when after announcing the law he complied with every term himself, though perfect, so that no man who imagines himself to be perfect her can excuse himself or herself from obedience to the law of baptism. It is the door, the gate to Celestial Glory.

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.

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.

I would like to pause and emphasize that passage, because, while we receive at the hands of the priesthood which has the right to seal on earth and it shall be sealed in Heaven, this revelation clearly states it must be sealed by the holy spirit of promise.

A man and woman may by fraud and deception obtain admittance to the house of the Lord and may receive the pronouncement of the holy priesthood, giving to them, so far as lies in their power, these blessings. We may deceive men but we cannot deceive the Holy Ghost, and our blessings will not be binding upon us unless they are also sealed by the Holy spirit of promise, the Holy Ghost, one who reads the thoughts and hearts of men and gives his sealing approval to the blessings pronounced upon the heads of men and women. Then it is binding, efficacious and full of force.

I thank the Lord that there is this provision, so that even though men are able to deceive their brethren, they are not able to deceive the Holy Ghost and thus come into possession of their blessings unless they prove in word, in thought, and in deed their worthiness and righteousness.

Reading again from the 53rd verse:

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.

They are they who are the church of the first born.

They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.

Is there anything that you have ever dreamed of or thought of, that you wanted, that you longed for? Into the hands of those who attain this glory shall all things be given.

What a world of meaning! You can ponder over that all the rest of your lives and every thought and aspiration of the human heart in righteousness that is possible for men to conceive will be but a fraction of that which is comprehended in this statement, that ‘unto them shall be given all things,” because it is not possible for mortals to think of -a thousandth part of what that means.

Reading again:

They are they who are Priests and Kings, who have received of his fullness, and of his glory.

And are Priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchisedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son:

Wherefore, as it is written, they are Gods, even the sons of God.

We have frequently said that perhaps the grandest thought that has ever been brought forth to the children of men is the Mormon Truism, namely: “As man is God once was, and as God is man may become.” The foundation of that truism is in this revelation and these words we have just read. Let me read them again:

Wherefore, as it is written, they are Gods, even the sons of God.

Now, I would like to say a word or two about that Mormon Truism, namely: “As man is God once was, and as God is man may become.

Note that it is not to the effect that man will become, but man may become, and I wish to say that few men will become what God is. And yet, all men may become what He is if they will pay the price.

Now, I wish to say to you that the only possible candidates to become what God is are those who attain Celestial Glory, and those who fail in that will never, worlds without end, be possible candidates to become what God is. Then I wish to say to you that there are three degrees of glory in the Celestial Kingdom and only those who attain the highest degree of Celestial Glory will be candidates to become what God is, and graduate.

So you see, it is within the reach of every man and woman who lives, but only attainable by those who pay the price, who stand the test, who prove themselves, who comply with the terms and conditions that make their calling and election sure.

I wish now just a moment to diverge and turn to the 131st section of the book of Doctrine & Covenants. It is very brief and is upon the point I am just discussing. It is a revelation which was given May 16th and May 17th, 1843.

In the Celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees:

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);

And if he does not. he cannot obtain it.

He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

Those who are denied endless increase cannot be what God is, because that is what, in connection with other things, makes him God. The eternity of the marriage covenant ought to be understood by Later-day Saints clearly to be the sealing of at least one wo- man to one man for time and for all eternity.

Then do not get confused on that point and imagine that it necessarily means more than one woman. It may be, certainly, but it does mean at least that one man and one woman are sealed together by the power of the holy priesthood and by the sealing approval of the Holy Ghost for time and for all eternity, and then that they keep their covenants, before they will be candidates for the highest degree of Celestial Glory, and unto them only of all these groups of our Father’s children is the promise made of endless or eternal increase.

What do we mean by endless or eternal increase? We mean that through the righteousness and faithfulness of men and women all those who keep the commandments of God will come forth with Celestial bodies, fitted and prepared to enter into their great, high and eternal glory in the Celestial Kingdom of God; and unto them, through their preparation, there will come children, who will be spirit children. I don’t think that is very difficult to comprehend and understand. The nature of the offspring is determined by the nature of the substance that flows in the veins of the being. When blood flows in the veins of the being, the offspring will be what blood produces, which is tangible flesh and bone, but when that which flows in the veins is spirit matter, a substance which is more refined and pure and glorious than blood, the offspring of such beings will be spirit children. By that I mean they will be in the image of the parents. They will have a spirit body in the image of that parent and have a spark of the eternal or divine that always did exist, but not in that exact form.

Unto such parentage will this glorious privilege come, for it is written in our scriptures that “the glory of God is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” So, it will be the glory of men and women that will make their glory like unto His. When the power of endless increase shall come to them, and their offspring, growing and multiplying through ages that shall come, they will be in due time, as we have been, provided with an earth like this, wherein they too may obtain earthly bodies and pass through all the experiences through which we have passed, and then we shall hold our relationship to them, the fullness and completeness of which has not been revealed to us, but we shall stand in our relationship to them as God, our Eternal Father, does to us, and thereby is this the most glorious and wonderful privilege that ever will come to any of the sons and daughters of God.

Now, I wish to return to the 76th section and commence reading with the 59th verse:

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.

And they shall overcome all things.

Here is a significant statement. I have said that in addition to one’s baptism, to which I called attention, of the water and of the spirit, which is essential for admission to the kingdom of God, in the language of Peter and in the words of the fourth section of the Doctrine & Covenants, we are to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility and diligence. If these things be not in us, we are blind and cannot see far, but if they are in us they will make us so that we will be able to make our calling and election sure.

A man may receive the priesthood and all its privileges and blessings, but until he learns to overcome the flesh, his temper, his tongue, his disposition to indulge in the things God has forbidden, he cannot come into the Celestial Kingdom of God until he overcomes either in this life or in the life to come. But this life is the time in which men are to repent. Do not let any of us imagine that we can go down to the grave not having overcome the corruptions of the flesh and then lose in the grave all our sins and evil tendencies. They will be with us. They will be with the spirit when separated from the body.

I have said it is my judgment that any man or woman can do more to conform to the laws of God in one year in this life than they could in ten years when they are dead. The spirit only can repent and change, and then the battle has to go forward with the flesh afterwards. It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both flesh and spirit are combined as one. This is the time when men are more pliable and susceptible. We will find when we are dead every desire, every feeling will be greatly intensified. When clay is pliable it is much easier to change than when it gets hard and sets.

This life is the time to repent. That is why I presume it will take a thousand years after the first resurrection until the last group will be prepared to come forth. It will take them a thousand years to do what it would have taken, but three score years and ten to accomplish in this life. And, so, we are to labor and have as little to do when we get through with this life as possible.

You remember the vision of the redemption of the dead as given to the Church through the late President Joseph F. Smith. President Smith saw the spirits of the righteous dead after their resurrection and the language is the same as one of the Prophet Joseph’s revelations that they, the righteous dead, looked upon the absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.

I grant you that the righteous dead will be at peace, but I tell you that when we go out of this life, leave this body, we will yearn to do a thousand things that we cannot do at all without the body, and how handicapped we will be, and realize then like a man who has suddenly lost both arms and his legs. We will be seriously handicapped, and we will long for the body; we will crave it; we will pray for that early reunion with our bodies.

We will know then what advantage it was to have a body.

Then, every man and woman who is putting off until the next life the task of correcting and overcoming the weakness of the flesh are sentencing themselves to that many years of bondage, for no man or woman will come forth in the resurrection until they have completed their work, until they have overcome, until they have corrected, until they have done as much as they can do.

That is why Jesus said in the resurrection there is neither marriage or giving in marriage, for all such contracts agreements will be provided for those who are worthy of it before men and women come forth in the resurrection of the Lord, and those who are complying in this life with these conditions are shortening their sentences, for every one of us will have a matter of years in that spirit state to complete and finish their salvation. And some may attain, by reason of their righteousness in this life, the right to do post-graduate work, to be admitted into the Celestial Kingdom, but others will lose absolutely the right to that glory, all they can do will not avail after death to bring them into the Celestial Kingdom.

The point I have in mind is that we are sentencing ourselves to long periods of bondage, separating our spirits from our bodies, or we are shortening that period, according to the way in which we overcome and master ourselves.

Sixty-first verse:

Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet

These shall dwell in the presence of God and Christ forever and ever.

Oh! what a world of meaning! Do you comprehend it, you who gain Celestial glory, the privilege of dwelling in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever? What did it mean to have in the world, in the ministry, for three brief years the Lord Jesus Christ not the Father, just the Son? It was the most wonderful privilege the world has ever had.

What would you give tonight for the privilege of standing in the presence of the Son for five minutes? You would give all your earthly possessions for that privilege. Then can you comprehend the full meaning and significance of the statement that those who gain Celestial Glory will have the privilege of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son forever and forever?

That, in itself, will be reward enough for the struggle to obtain the prize. Yea, it is beyond price and earthly possessions. Even the giving of life itself would be a trifle for the privilege to dwell forever and forever in the presence of the Father and the Son.

Now I want to make an explanation that you may comprehend and understand God’s plan, which allows us to dwell in His presence. The Lord has created by and through His Son, Jesus Christ, according to the book of Moses, worlds without number, and numerous are they as the sands upon the seashore. In each one, undoubtedly, dwells a group of his children. Then how can he dwell in the presence of all these several groups at one and the same time? If you will read the 88th section of Doctrine & Covenants, toward the latter part of that section the Lord undertakes to explain it.

The Lord told Joseph Smith how he looks upon these, his kingdoms, worlds without number, and he said, “I know them. I count them.” And Moses wondered and wanted to know about them. Did Jesus Christ go to them and was he the Savior of these other worlds?

But the Lord said unto Moses,

Only an account of this earth give I unto you.

There is something else to learn after we leave this earth and I rejoice in the anticipation of further and greater knowledge concerning the things I do not now understand and comprehend. The Lord just touched Joseph’s understanding when he said, Behold, these are known unto me. They are like a man having a field, and he sent a group of workers to this part of the field and gave them instructions what to do and told them he would visit them in their hour and in their time. He sent out the second group into another part of the field, and another group, and unto each of them he made the promise that he would visit them in their hour and in their time and season until they all would be made glad by the joy of his countenance. He would visit them from the first to the last and from the last to the first in one eternal round, each in his time, in his hour and in his season.

I presume that is the reason that the promise is made that Christ will dwell with men on this earth for a thousand years and that will be our day, our time and then I presume he will do as suggested in this 88th section; he will visit other places and kingdoms; but while absent from this group we will, nevertheless, be in His presence, in communication with him.

Every man and woman who enters the Celestial Kingdom will find themselves living on this earth, which shall be a Celestial world, and we will identify it as the earth upon which we have lived. To each man and woman who enters that kingdom will find the earth a Urim and Thummim, looking into which one may learn about all conditions and kingdoms that are beneath and the kingdom in which we live, so that all depths are revealed to us.

The revelations referred to inform us that whosoever enters the Celestial Kingdom shall receive a white stone, a Urim and Thummim of greatest purity. Through the gift and power of God will enable the possessor to read the universe and obtain knowledge from all kingdoms, not only the one in which we dwell, so that we will comprehend all heights and all depths. Those who gain Celestial Glory, to them only comes this privilege, and though absent it is possible for the Father and the Son to commune and converse with all who are entitled to enjoy that companionship, the other Comforter, just as the Holy Ghost now has the right and power to operate and converse at once with ten thousand or ten million souls who have complied with baptism and have been brought within the circle in tune that they may receive the communication. Every man and woman will hear at once and dwell in His presence to be constantly instructed.

Well, I ought not to spend any time trying to persuade you that this is possible when you know that in this day the human voice has been magnified a thousand times by the skill of man, so that it is said that by the use of one of these thousand time amplifiers the walking of a fly in a room where such an amplifier is properly in tune would make a noise as almost to deafen a man. The human voice may be increased one hundred thousand times and encircle the globe. If we can do that, and we do it every day, what does God know about it? So much more than we know and comprehend that our advances are just a feeble opening of the great eternal truths of science and knowledge which God has.

I understand now something about that wonderful appearance of the Redeemer to the Nephites. They heard a voice and though it was not a loud voice and came from the clouds, yet it was a keen and penetrating voice so that it entered every heart and made their very frames quake. Now I understand that God knows how. Though absent, he may speak, and all the groups of his children who are entitled to hear Him, hear Him, and in their hour and in their time and sea- son enjoy His personal presence and forever and always his companionship, the companionship of His spirit and His personal ministry through His means of communication with such souls.

I cannot begin this night to tell you what that means to enjoy the blessings and privileges of dwelling in His presence forever and ever. I know how the soul is thrilled; I know the feeling that comes by being in His presence for but a moment. I would give all that I am, all that I hope to be, to have the joy of His presence, to dwell in His love and His affection and to be in favor with the Master of all things forever and ever.

These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven, to reign on the earth over his people.

These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.

These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.

These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.

These are they who have come to an in- numerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of Enoch, and of the first born.

These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.

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.

These are they whose bodies are Celestial.

I wish you to remember that because I am to return to it in a few moments, and just now I wish to say that a Celestial body is quite a different thing than a Terrestrial or Telestial body.

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.

These are the fundamental points, the great privileges, and the terms and conditions that must be complied with.

Now, I wish to turn for a few moments in comparing this and the other glories first to a brief consideration of the great provision made for the second great group of our Father’s children, and here is a description of it. Reading from the 71st verse:

And again, we saw the Terrestrial world, and beheld and lo, these are they who are of the Terrestrial,, whose glory differs from that of the church of the first born, who have received the fullness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.

Behold, these are they who died without law.

I wish to say that we do not know the terms nor the conditions that candidates for Telestial or Terrestrial Glory may have to comply with. All that we have been given in the principle of the Gospel, including baptism by water, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, are means to prepare and admit men and women into the Celestial Kingdom. We are not preparing candidates for Terrestrial or Telestial Glory. That is not the work we are doing. I presume after this life, in the spirit world, among those great hosts of our Father’s children who are candidates for this kingdom I am now talking about, we will be given clearly to understand what the principles are they must comply with. We do know, however, that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. Absolute obedience will be required. It may be they will have to have baptism. Yet I know not; the Lord has not revealed it. I think it is well we are striving exclusively for the Celestial Kingdom, not for the Terrestrial or Telestial.

Now this is the place provided for those who die without law.

I wish now to call your attention to other revelations which the Lord has given in this dispensation relative to those who have died without law.

You will recall how the Prophet Joseph was greatly concerned over his own Brother Alvin. Alvin Smith was a devout believer in Joseph’s vision, but prior to the restoration of the priesthood and the restoration of the doctrine of baptism he died. Joseph was deeply concerned over his death and the Lord gave Joseph Smith a revelation, wherein he said he saw Alvin in the Celestial Kingdom.

Alvin was not really there, it was Alvin’s right and privilege to be there, but he could not go there without baptism. The Lord said all who, had they lived, would have received the Gospel of the Son had they heard it, they too will be candidates for the Celestial Glory.

Who are they? How can they be determined?

Some folks get the notion that the problems of life will at once clear up and they will know that this is the gospel of Christ when they die. I have heard people say they believe when they die they will see Peter and that he will clear it all up. I said, “You never will see Peter until you accept the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, living or dead, at the hands of the elders of the Church.

They will meet these men to whom this right and authority has been given, for this generation shall receive it at the hands of those who have been honored with the priesthood of this dispensation. Living or dead, they shall not hear it from anyone else.

So, men won’t know any more when they are dead than when they are living, only they will have passed through the change called death. They will not understand the truths of the Gospel only by the same process as they understand and comprehend them here.

So when they hear the Gospel preached they will respond just as our fathers and mothers did, with a glad heart. They will love it and embrace it. It will then be easy to know who they are. They who have died without the knowledge of the truth, they who will receive it with glad hearts, .they also will be candidates for Celestial Glory. When you die and go to the spirit world you will labor for years, trying to convert individuals who will be taking their own course. Some of them will repent; some of them will listen. Another group will be rebellious, following their own will and notion, and that group will get smaller and smaller until every knee shall humbly bow and every tongue confess.

It may take us thousands of years to do that. But those who are of the blood of Israel, who, had they been living, would have received the Gospel and are not participators in the blessings, will in a similar manner receive it in the spirit world.

Now I want to go a little further and identify us and our posterity and our ancestors, to be able to tell you why it is that there is a great proportion of our Father’s children who die without law and why you and I come into possession of the knowledge of the law.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said you will find these words in the fourth volume of Church History, page 231. This was at the time of the completion of the baptismal font in the Nauvoo Temple. The Prophet said:

The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their own relatives who are dead whom they believe would have embraced the gospel if they had lived, if they had had the privilege of hearing it, and who have received the gospel in the spirit world through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison.

The limitation given to Latter-day Saints for baptism of their dead was to their immediate relatives who had died whom they believe would have received the gospel. That is all. And no others. Now since we are not prepared to pass judgment on our dead ancestors whom we did not know, the church has gone further and has permitted members of the church to do the work for all their immediate ancestors except they are murderers. There can be no work done for those who have committed murder and shed blood.

We are to do the work for our dead, whether we know they will receive it or not.. There is no doubt but what everyone would like to receive it, but some of them may not be worthy, and a good many will receive it. I believe in my heart that more of our dead ancestors will receive and enjoy the privileges and blessings of the gospel than their living children. That may seem strange to you, but I am afraid that the proportion of the living who are entitled to these privileges and blessings will be fewer than our dead ancestors who are also entitled to the same blessings.

Suppose that some of them will not receive the work that you do for them. Should that hinder you? No, it should not. The Lord said,

It is better to feed ten unworthy than to turn one righteous away.

If there were but a few of our ancestors worthy to have these blessings would we not do the work for the entire group in order to provide for the few?

But I tell you there will be a much larger proportion than this, and they all would like to receive it. A great majority will receive these blessings and will be glad for them and accept them.

Now, my brothers and sisters, I would like you to understand that long before we were born into this earth we were tested and tried in our pre-existence and the fact that today ten thousand children were born, and more than that, in the world, a certain proportion of them went to the Hottentots of the south seas; one thousand went to the Chinese mothers, one thousand to Negro mothers, one thousand to beautiful white Latter-day Saint mothers. Why this difference? You cannot tell me that that entire group of ten thousand or whatever that number might be was just designated, marked, to go there. That they were men and women of equal opportunities. There are no infant spirits born.

They had a being ages before they came into this life. They appear in infant body but they were tested, proven souls. Therefore, I say to you that long before we came into this life all groups and races of men existed as they exist today. Like attracts to like.

Why is it in this Church we do not grant the priesthood to the negroes? It is alleged that the Prophet Joseph said and I have no reason to dispute it that it is because of some act committed by them before they came into this life. It is alleged that they were neutral, standing neither for Christ nor the devil. But, I am convinced it is because of some things they did before they came into this life that they have been denied the privilege. The races of today are very largely reaping the consequence of a previous life.

Why was it the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation of that wonderful dream of Nebuchadnezzar, wherein Daniel was able to tell very clearly, long before they were born, when the various peoples should rise and bear rule upon the earth? And I say to you that there were tested, tried and proven souls before they were born into the world, and the Lord sent with them his choicest blessings and provided a lineage for them. That lineage is the House of Israel, the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their posterity.

Through this lineage were to come the true and tried souls that had demonstrated their righteousness in the spirit world before they came here. We came through that lineage. Our particular branch is the House of Joseph through his son Ephraim. That is the group from whence shall come the candidates in the main for the Celestial Glory. That is why we are doing the work for that group) and not for others.

Let us not imagine that in this dispensation we shall do the work for the dead Chinese or Hindus. Not at all. I expect it will take one thousand years to complete in our temples the ordinances looking to the salvation of the House of Israel. It will take all Latter-day Saints and all that we can do to take care of our own branch of our own house. While we do the work for our dead ancestors, we will reach a limit after a while. That limit will be after we have reached as far as records are kept. I have said that when any man or woman goes into this work earnestly the Lord will provide ways and means for them to obtain the information.

Our understanding will be opened and sources of knowledge will be made manifest never before dreamed of. Why? Because the dead know a great deal more than we think.

Why is it that sometimes only one of a city or household receives the Gospel? It was made known to me that it is because of the righteous dead who had received the Gospel in the spirit world exercising themselves, and in answer to their prayers elders of the Church were sent to the homes of their posterity that the Gospel might be taught to them and through their righteousness they might be privileged to do the work for their dead kindred. I want to say to you that it is with greater intensity that the hearts of the fathers and mothers in the spirit world are turned to their children than that our hearts are turned to them. And so it is that the Lord will open the way for those who seek information and knowledge.

I recall an incident in my own father’s experience. I recall how we looked forward to the completion of the Logan Temple. It was about to be dedicated. My father had labored on that house from its very beginning and my earliest recollection was carrying his dinner each day as he brought the rock down from the quarry. How we looked forward to that great event! I remember how in the meantime father made every effort to obtain all the data and information he could concerning his relatives. It was the theme of his prayer night and morning that the Lord would open the way whereby he could get information concerning his dead.

The day before the dedication while writing recommends to the members of his ward who were to be present at the first service, two elderly gentlemen walked down the streets of Logan, approached my two younger sisters, and, coming to the older one of the two placed in her hands a newspaper and said:

Take this to your father. Give it to no one else. Go quickly with it. Don’t lose it.

The child responded and when she met her mother, her mother wanted the paper. The child said, “No, I must give it to father and no one else.”

She was admitted into the room and told her story. We looked in vain for these travelers. They were not to be seen. No one else saw them. Then we turned to the paper. The newspaper was printed in my father’s old English home five days before the day it was in our hands. We were astonished, for by no earthly means could it have reached us, so that our curiosity increased as we examined it. Then we discovered one page devoted to the writings of a reporter of the paper, who had gone on his vacation, and among other places had visited an old cemetery. The curious inscriptions led him to write what he found on the tombstones, including the verses. He also added the names, date of birth, death, etcs., filling nearly an entire page.

It was the old cemetery where the Ballard family had been buried for generations and very many of my father’s immediate relatives and other intimate friends.

When the matter was presented to President Merrill of the Logan Temple he said,

You are authorized to do the work for those because you received it through messengers of the Lord.

There is no doubt but that the dead who had received the Gospel in the spirit world had put it into the heart of that reporter to write these things, and thus the way was prepared for my father to obtain the information he sought, and so with you who are earnest in this work, the way shall be opened and you will be able to gather data far be- yond your expectations, even when you have gone as far as you can go. I will tell you what will happen. When you have gone as far as you can go the names of your righteous dead who have embraced the Gospel in the spirit world will be given you through the instrumentality of your dead kindred. But only the names of those who have received the Gospel will be revealed.

Now, I wish to say to you that those who died without law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion, in the former 1 life, are obtaining all that they are entitled to. I don’t mean to say that all of them will be barred from entrance into the highest glory. Any one of them who repents and complies with the conditions might also obtain Celestial Glory, but the great bulk of them shall only have Terrestrial.

Continuing, and this is full of meaning:

Behold, these are they who died without law,

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.

This revelation clearly informs us that any man or woman, not only those in the days of Noah, who heard the Gospel and rejected it, but in this day any man or woman who has had a good chance to have heard the Gospel, to receive it and embrace it and en- joy its blessings and privileges, who lived during their life in absolute indifference to these things, ignoring it, need not to hope or anticipate that when they are dead the work can be done for them and they gain Celestial Glory. Don’t you Latter-day Saints get the notion that a man or woman can live in defiance or total indifference, having had a good chance not a casual chance or opportunity and when they die you can go and do the work for that individual and have them receive every blessing that the faithful ones are entitled to. If that becomes the doctrine of the Church we will be worse than the Catholics, who believe that you can pray a man out of purgatory. But they charge for it and we don’t, so we would be more foolish than they.

More than once I have had a mother come to me and ask if it would not be possible to have her daughter sealed to her dead husband. She had lived with him, she had prayed with him and plead with him, but he was totally indifferent, and now since he is dead couldn’t the work be done for him and the daughter sealed to him for time and for eternity? If he repents he will come up in the Terrestrial Glory and she does not want to be there. Then why be sealed to him?

Brothers and sisters, I say this to stimulate you to try and make your lives conform to the commandments of the Master, that you may work while the day lasts, for the night cometh when it will not profit a man to work. That applies to those who had a chance to receive the Gospel but rejected it. That was their day, and there comes a night when all the work they may do will be of no avail, as they cannot enter the Celestial Kingdom. I want to say this: It applies also to men and women who neglect going to the House of God, who think, “Oh, well, if I don’t do the work wife will fix it up.” I tell you they are treading on dangerous ground. They may wake up and find that their day and opportunity has gone. They had the chance. They died without accepting it. They neglected it and may lose it.

I am not judging their case; the Lord will judge every case on its merits. It is a general rule we ought to understand.

These are they who are honorable men of  the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

These are they who receive of His glory, but not of his fullness.

These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fullness of the Father;

Wherefore, they are bodies Terrestrial, and not bodies Celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.

These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.

These are Latter-day Saints, many of them, who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, though they have entered into these covenants have not kept them. They have broken their pledges and may come forth in the resurrection and find themselves wholly unworthy to be candidates for the Celestial Glory. They will come up in the Terrestrial World. It is for us to make our calling and election sure. We can do it in this life.

Now let me pass to the third and last of these groups, the Telestial.

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.

These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.

These are they who deny the Holy Spirit.

These are they who are thrust down to hell.

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.

These are they who receive not of His fullness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the Terrestrial.

And the Terrestrial through the ministration of the Celestial;

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.

And thus we saw in the heavenly vision, the glory of the Telestial, which surpasses all understanding.

And no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it.

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 might, and in dominion.

And thus we saw the glory of the Celestial, which excels in all things where God, even the Father, reigns upon His throne for- ever and ever;

Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence and give Him glory forever and ever.

They who dwell in His presence are the church of the first born, and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of His fullness and of His grace;

And He makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

And the glory of the Celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.

And the glory of the Terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one.

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;

For these are they who are of Paul, and of Appolos, and of Cephas.

These are they who say they are some of one and some of another some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esiais, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;

But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.

Last of all, these all are they who will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the first born, and received into the cloud.

These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a. lie.

These are they who suffer the wrath of God on the earth.

These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.

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,

When He shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father spotless, saying I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.

Then shall he be crowned with the crown of his glory, to sit on the throne of his power to reign forever and ever.

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 sea shore,

And heard the voice of the Lord saying these all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever;

For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared,

And they shall be servants of the Most High, but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

Now I wish to answer one or two queries that undoubtedly have arisen in your minds, and in doing so I wish to read some more scripture.

The question is often asked, “Is it possible for one who attains Telestial Glory in time in the eternal world to live so well that he may graduate from the Telestial and pass into the Terrestrial, and then after a season that he may progress from that ard be ultimately worthy of the Celestial Glory?”

That is the query that has been asked, I have just read the answer, so far as the Telestial group is concerned. “Where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end. I take it upon the same basis, the same argument likewise applies to the Terrestrial World. Those whose lives have entitled them to Terrestrial Glory can never gain Celestial Glory. 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. Let us be reasonable about it.

I wish to say in illustrating the subject that if three men were starting out on an endless race, one having an advantage of one mile, the other of two miles, and each one could run as fast as the other, when would the last ever catch up to the first? If you can tell me that, I can tell you when candidates for the Telestial Glory will get into the Celestial Glory. Each will grow, but their development will be prescribed by their environment, and there is a reason for it. When the three men start if each can run as fast as the other the last one never could catch the first one.

Applying this illustration to those who are entitled to the different degrees of glory: He who enters the Celestial Glory has the advantage over all others. He dwells in the presence of the Father and the Son. His teachers are the highest. The others will receive all they learn from the Celestial to the Terrestrial, from the Terrestrial to the Telestial. They get it second hand and third hand, and how can they ever hope to grow as fast as those who drink from the fountain head? Again, those who come forth in the Celestial Glory with Celestial bodies have a body that is more refined. It is different.

The very fibre and texture of the Celestial body is more pure and holy than a Telestial or Terrestrial body, and a Celestial body alone can endure Celestial Glory. T am im- pressed with this because I recall when a child at school I learned that if an icycle a mile square were dropped into the sun it would melt in an instant, and when I learned how intense the heat of that orb and that our sun is a Celestial world, I did not know whether I wanted to live in a Celestial world or not if it was that hot. But when I come to understand, if I have a body suitable to dwell in eternal burnings then I think I would like it. Fishes can live in the water and have bodies suited to that element but entirely unsuitable to a life outside of the water. When we have a Celestial body it will be suited to the Celestial conditions and a Telestial body could not endure Celestial Glory. It would be torment and affliction to them.

I have not read in the scripture where there will be another resurrection where we can obtain a Celestial body for a Terrestrial body. What we receive in the resurrection will be ours forever and forever.

Let me read to you from the 88th section, commencing with the 17th verse:

And the redemption of the soul is through him who quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.

Therefore it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the Celestial Glory. ”

This earth, every part of it, will be Celestial; not one-third Telestial and one-third Terrestrial. It will be Celestial and only

Celestial beings shall dwell upon it. I always thought the Lord would require a much larger world than ours for the Telestial bodies to dwell on when I consider the millions of dead who will inherit the Telestial Glory. They may need some planet bigger than this earth.

Let me read again:

Wherefore it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it:

For notwithstanding they die, they also rise again a spiritual body:

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.

Ye who are quickened by a portion of the Celestial glory shall then receive of the same* even a fullness;

And they who are quickened by a portion of the Terrestrial glory, shall then receive of the same, even a fullness;

And also they who are quickened by a portion of the Telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness.

Therefore, I say, my brothers and sisters, the Lord has distinctly settled the question of our status, as established in our resurrection from the dead, If we have earned a Celestial body, we may have Celestial glory. Yet many of the Saints will wake up and find they sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. If I should come forth and find myself in the Telestial world, or in the Terrestrial world, and look up to this earth, when it shall attain its place as a Celestial orb, shining like a sun, when this earth will no longer need the sun to shine upon it by day nor the moon by night, when it shall become the sun of a reflector of light, when it shall become the sun of another group of planets, similar to our solar system, if I should be so unfortunate as to lose my chance of obtaining an inheritance in that place, and be compelled to dwell upon a Telestial orb, I surely will feel the full force of the poet’s statement,

Of all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest of them all, it might have been.

I might have been there. I was born there. It was my right and privilege to be there, but I lost it through my own blindness, through my own wickedness; I have lost it forever. While I might have joy here, and experience and growth here, yet I have lost eternal companionship with my Heavenly Father.

Let me not only appeal to you to be greatly interested in working out the salvation of your dead, but be also intensely interested, be deeply concerned in the salvation of the living. What mortification, what humiliation would it be for me to stand before my redeemed dead, for whom I have labored in the temples, and have them say to me, “What of your sons or your daughters, your grandsons or granddaughters, those born under the covenants, born in the most glorious dispensation of the fullness of times, yet were so foolish as to lose their right to the enjoyment of Celestial Glory?” Hew great would be my mortification and humiliation! And yet, there are great numbers of our children and our acquaintances, with whom we are now associated, who are in danger of losing their eternal salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of our God.

While there is life, let us earnestly labor with all our might, mind and strength, that we may bring them to Christ in full possession of all these blessings. And we can do it. Even if we labor all our lives, we shall have great joy if we save but one, for we will be shedding an influence for good over countless thousands who shall be their posterity. But If we have not done our full duty, we shall sorrow intensely because of our neglect, and we shall stand accused by them for having failed in the performance of our duty. On the other hand, if we have labored with all our might, mind and strength, we shall stand with a clear conscience, blameless. Our status and condition will be like our Heavenly Father’s. He sent His only begotten Son to save and redeem mankind, but unless we accept the atonement and act in conformity to the laws and requirements laid down for us, even God cannot save us.

Now, brethren and sisters, let us not be discouraged in our temple work. Let us renew our diligence and determination to do this work, and what we do not understand concerning our sealings, it will be later revealed to us.

You mothers worry about your little children. We now have limited the sealing of husband and wife to thirteen years of age for girls and fifteen for boys. I know because I lost a son six years of age and I saw him a man in the spirit world after his death, and I saw how he had exercised his own freedom of choice and would obtain of his own will and volition a companionship, and in due time to him and all those who are worthy of it, they shall participate in all of the blessings and sealing privileges of the house of the Lord. Do not worry over it. They are safe; they are all right.

Now, then, what of your daughters who have died and have not been sealed to some man? Unless it is made known to you, let their case rest. They will make known to you the agreements and contracts they have mutually entered into. The sealing power shall be forever and ever with this church, and provisions will be made for them. We cannot run faster than the Lord has provided the way. Their blessings and privileges will come to them in due time. In the meantime, they are safe.

Let us be earnest in this work. It will cast an influence over your whole families. It will strengthen your faith. It will add testimony to your faith. Surely there is peace and joy in it. May you find it, and may every one under the sound of my voice this evening, go hence with a firm resolve, such as we have never had before, that we will make our calling and election sure, that at the last day our records may be clear, that there may be no clouds upon our titles, that we may receive our inheritance in the Celestial Glory of our God. If that shall be our reward, our joy will be full, beyond all my power to tell you. May the Lord help us to have a clear conscience and to do every day that which we ought to do. I am more concerned for the living than for the dead, when I realize that when the bridegroom cometh, five, or one-half, of the virgins shall be asleep, without oil in their lamps. That will not be the world; that will be the Latter-day Saints. Will you be asleep, or will there be oil in your lamps, my brethren and sisters? Let us stand in our places and not flatter ourselves by thinking, “I will take care of John and Mary when they are dead.”

Let us not procrastinate, but labor unceasingly for the salvation of our kindred, and if we succeed, oh, my brethren and sisters, if we win that prize we shall be compensated beyond all expectations. We shall receive more than we have ever dreamed of joy and happiness and eternal satisfaction, but if we miss it, if we lose it, we, whose right it is to obtain it, I cannot tell you the sting of conscience and remorse, the hell of torment we shall endure endlessly, if we miss it, through our own ignorance and foolishness. May God save us from that affliction that will be ours who are heirs to the blessings and privileges we have spoken of, if we miss it and lose our birthright.

The Lord sanctify these humble remarks and my earnest testimony and desire for your blessings and

welfare, for the salvation of the living and the dead, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

1936

Fr. Reg. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

La charité parfaite et les beatitudes (1er janvier 1936)

La Vie Spirituell  n° 196

La perfection chrétienne, selon le témoignage de l’Évangile et des Épîtres, consiste spécialement dans la charité qui nous unit à Dieu. Cette vertu correspond au précepte suprême, celui de l’amour de Dieu; il est dit aussi: « Celui qui demeure dans la charité demeure en Dieu et Dieu en lui. » « Surtout revêtez-vous de la charité, qui est le lien de la perfection. »

Des théologiens se sont demandé si pour la perfection proprement dite, non pas celle des commençants ou des progressants, mais celle qui caractérise la voie unitive, il faut une grande charité, ou si elle peut être obtenue sans un degré élevé de cette vertu.

Quelques auteurs ont prétendu qu’un haut degré de charité n’est pas nécessaire à la perfection propre­ment dite, parce que, selon le témoignage de saint Tho­mas, « la charité même à un degré inférieur peut vaincre toutes lés tentations ».

La majorité des théologiens répond au contraire que la perfection proprement dite ne s’obtient qu’après un long exercice des vertus acquises et infuses, exercice par lequel leur intensité s’accroît. Le parfait, avant d’ar­river à l’état où il se trouve, a dû être un commençant, puis un progressant. Et chez lui, non seulement la cha­rité peut vaincre bien des tentations, mais elle a triom­phé de fait de beaucoup, et par là elle a notablement augmenté. On ne conçoit donc pas la perfection chré­tienne proprement dite, celle de la voie unitive, sans une haute charité.

Si on lisait le contraire dans les œuvres d’un saint Jean de la Croix, par exemple, on croirait rêver, et l’on penserait qu’il y a eu là une erreur d’impression. Il parait tout à fait certain que de même que pour l’âge adulte il faut une force physique supérieure à celle de l’enfance (bien que, accidentellement, certains adolescents particulièrement vigoureux soient plus forts que certains adultes), il faut aussi pour l’état des parfaits une charité plus haute que pour celui des commençants (bien que, accidentellement, certains saints à leurs débuts aient une charité plus grande que certains parfaits déjà avancés en âge).

L’enseignement commun des théologiens sur ce point paraît nettement fondé sur la prédication même du Sauveur, là surtout où il a parlé des béatitudes, en saint Mat­thieu (ch. V). Cette page de l’évangile exprime admirablement toute l’élévation de la perfection chrétienne, à laquelle Jésus nous appelle tous. Le Sermon sur la Mon­tagne est l’abrégé de la doctrine chrétienne, la promulgation solennelle de la Loi nouvelle, donnée pour parfaire la loi mosaïque et en corriger les interprétations abusives; et les huit béatitudes énoncées au début sont l’abrégé de ce sermon. Elles condensent ainsi d’une façon admirable tout ce qui constitue l’idéal de la vie chrétienne et en montrent toute l’élévation.

La première parole de Jésus dans sa prédication est pour promettre le bonheur, et nous indiquer les moyens pour y parvenir. Pourquoi parler tout d’abord du bonheur? Parce que tous les hommes désirent naturellement être heureux; c’est le but qu’ils poursuivent sans cesse, quoi qu’ils veuillent; mais bien souvent ils cherchent le bonheur où il n’est pas, là où ils ne trouveront que misère. Écoutons le Seigneur, qui nous dit où est le bonheur véritable et durable, où est la fin de notre vie, et qui nous donne les moyens pour y parvenir.

La fin est indiquée en chacune des huit béatitudes.; c’est, sous divers noms, la béatitude éternelle, dont les justes dès ici-bas peuvent goûter le prélude; c’est le royaume des cieux, la terre promise, la parfaite consolation, le rassasiement de tous nos désirs légitimes et saints, la suprême miséricorde, la vue de Dieu, notre Pare.

Les moyens sont à l’encontre de ce que nous disent les maximes de la sagesse du monde, qui propose un tout autre but.

L’ordre de ces huit béatitudes est admirablement expliqué par saint Augustin et saint Thomas, c’est un ordre ascendant, inverse de celui du Pater qui descend de la considération de la gloire de Dieu à celle de nos besoins personnels et de notre pain quotidien. – Les trois premières béatitudes disent le bonheur qui se trouve dans la fuite et la délivrance du péché, dans la pauvreté acceptée par amour de Dieu, dans la douceur et dans les larmes de la contrition. – Les deux béatitudes suivantes sont celles de la vie active du chrétien: elles répondent à la soif de la justice et à la miséricorde exercée à l’égard du prochain. – Viennent ensuite celles de la contemplation des mystères de Dieu: la pureté du cœur qui dispose à voir Dieu, et la paix qui dérive de la vraie sagesse. – Enfin la dernière et la plus parfaite des béatitudes est celle qui réunit les précédentes au milieu même de la persécution subie pour la justice, ce sont les dernières épreuves, condition de la sainteté.

Suivons cet ordre ascendant, pour nous faire une juste idée de la perfection chrétienne, en évitant de l’amoindrir. Nous allons voir qu’elle dépasse les limites de l’as­cèse, ou de l’exercice des vertus selon notre propre acti­vité ou industrie, et qu’elle comporte l’exercice éminent des dons du Saint-Esprit, dont le mode supra-humain, lorsqu’il devient fréquent et manifeste, caractérise la vie mystique, ou de docilité à l’Esprit-Saint.

Saint Thomas, après saint Augustin, enseigne que les béatitudes sont des actes qui procèdent des dons du Saint-Esprit ou des vertus perfectionnées par les dons.

Enfin, dans la huitième béatitude, la plus parfaite de toutes, Notre-Seigneur montre que tout ce qu’il vient de dire est grandement confirmé par l’épreuve supportée avec amour: Bienheureux ceux qui souffrent persécu­tion pour la justice, car le royaume des cieux est à eux. Il s’agit surtout des dernières épreuves, conditions de la sainteté.

Cette parole surprenante n’avait jamais été entendue. Non seulement elle promet le bonheur futur, mais elle dit qu’on doit s’estimer heureux au milieu même des afflictions et persécutions souffertes pour la justice. Béatitude toute surnaturelle qui n’est pratiquement comprise que par les âmes éclairées de Dieu. Il y a du reste bien des degrés dans cette béatitude, depuis le bon chrétien qui commence à souffrir pour avoir bien fait, obéi, donné le bon exemple, jusqu’au martyr qui meurt pour la foi. Cette béatitude s’applique à ceux qui, convertis à une vie meilleure, ne trouvent qu’opposition dans leur milieu; elle s’applique aussi à l’apôtre dont l’action est entravée par ceux-là mêmes qu’il veut sauver, lorsqu’on ne lui pardonne pas d’avoir dit trop nettement la vérité évangélique. Des pays entiers endurent parfois cette persécution, telle la Vendée sous la Révolution française, à d’autres époques l’Arménie, la Pologne, le Mexique.

Cette béatitude est la plus parfaite parce qu’elle est celle de ceux qui sont le plus marqués à l’effigie de Jésus crucifié pour nous. Rester humble, doux, miséricordieux: au milieu de la persécution, à l’égard même des persécuteurs, et, dans cette tourmente, non seulement conserver la paix, mais la donner aux autres, c’est vraiment la pleine perfection de la vie chrétienne. Elle se réalise surtout dans les dernières épreuves que subissent les âmes parfaites que Dieu purifie en les faisant travailler au salut du prochain. Tous les saints n’ont pas été des martyrs, mais ils ont, à des degrés divers, souffert persécution pour la justice, et ils ont connu quelque chose de ce martyre du cœur qui a fait de Marie la Mère des douleurs.

Jésus insiste sur la récompense promise à ceux qui souffrent ainsi pour la justice: « Heureux serez-vous, lorsqu’on vous insultera, qu’on vous persécutera, et qu’on dira faussement toute sorte de mal contre vous à cause de moi. Réjouissez-vous et soyez dans l’allégresse, car votre récompense est grande dans les cieux. »

De cette parole est née dans l’âme des apôtres le désir du martyre, qui inspirait les sublimes paroles d’un saint André, d’un saint Ignace d’Antioche. C’est elle qui revit en un saint François d’Assise, en un saint Dominique, en un saint Benoît-Joseph Labre. C’est pourquoi ils ont été « le sel de la terre », « la lumière du monde », et leur maison bâtie, non pas sur le sable, mais sur le roc, a pu supporter toutes les tourmentes et n’a pas été renversée.

Et ces béatitudes, qui sont, comme le dit saint Thomas, les actes supérieurs des dons ou des vertus perfectionnées par les dons, dépassent la simple ascèse et sont d’ordre mystique. Ce qui conduit à dire que la pleine perfection de la vie chrétienne est normalement d’ordre mystique, c’est le prélude de la vie du ciel, où le chrétien sera « parfait comme le Père céleste est parfait », en le voyant comme Il se voit et en l’aimant comme Il s’aime.

Sainte Thérèse écrit: « Il faut, disent certains livres, être indifférent au mal qu’on dit de nous, se réjouir même plus que si l’on en disait du bien, on doit faire peu de cas de l’honneur, être très détaché de ses proches… et quantité d’autres choses du même genre. A mon avis ce sont là de purs dons de Dieu, ces biens sont surnaturels », c’est-à-dire ils dépassent la simple ascèse ou l’exercice des vertus selon notre propre activité ou industrie, ce sont des fruits d’une grande docilité aux inspirations du Saint-Esprit. Elle dit encore: « Si l’on a de l’amour des honneurs et des biens temporels, on aura beau avoir pratiqué pendant bien des années l’oraison, ou, pour mieux dire, la méditation, on n’avancera jamais beaucoup; la parfaite oraison, au contraire, délivre de ces défauts. »

C’est dire que sans la parfaite oraison on n’arrivera pas à la pleine perfection de la vie chrétienne.

C’est ce que dit aussi l’auteur de l’Imitation, 1. III, ch. XXV, sur la véritable paix: « Si vous parvenez à un parfait mépris de vous-même, vous jouirez d’une paix aussi profonde qu’il est possible en cette vie d’exil. » Et c’est pourquoi, dans le même livre de l’Imitation, 1. III, ch. XXXI, le disciple demande la grâce supérieure de la contemplation: « J’ai besoin, Seigneur, d’une grâce plus grande, s’il me faut parvenir à cet état où nulle créature ne sera un lien pour moi… Il aspirait à cette liberté, celui qui disait: Qui me donnera des ailes comme à la colombe? et je volerai et me reposerai (Ps. LIV, 7)… Si l’on n’est entièrement dégagé de toute créature, on ne pourra librement appliquer son esprit aux choses divines. Et c’est pourquoi l’on trouve peu de contemplatifs, parce que peu savent se séparer entièrement des créatures périssables. Pour cela il faut une grâce puissante, qui sou­lève l’âme et la ravisse au-dessus d’elle-même. Tant que l’homme n’est pas ainsi élevé en esprit, dégagé des créa­tures et tout uni à Dieu, tout ce qu’il sait et tout ce qu’il a n’est pas d’un grand prix. » Ce chapitre de l’Imitation est à proprement parler d’ordre mystique, et il montre, que c’est là seulement que se trouve la vraie perfection de l’amour de Dieu.

Sainte Catherine de Sienne parle de même dans son Dialogue (ch. 44 à 49). Et c’est, nous l’avons vu, l’enseignement même de Notre-Seigneur lorsqu’il nous prêche les béatitudes, telles surtout que les ont comprises saint Augustin[18] et saint Thomas, comme les actes élevés des dons du Saint-Esprit ou des vertus perfectionnés par les dons. C’est là vraiment le plein développement normal de l’organisme spirituel ou de « la grâce des vertus et des dons ».

1941

C. S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory
 
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Family letters, 1905-1931 - Page 967
Clive Staples Lewis, Walter Hooper - Religion - 2004 - 1072 pages

Certainly Lewis’s most profound description of the glories of heaven.  He mentions the redeemed as having the glory of the Sun, the moon, and the stars; but in a 1931 Letter to Arthur Greeves, a scholarly friend, he writes: “Meanwhile, as tangible momentoes of your almost excessive hospitality, I have books by Richard Hooker and Jeremy Taylor (1613 - 1667; Anglican Bishop best known for his "Rule and Exercise of Holy Living" (1650) and "Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying" (1651), which Greeves had given Lewis in one volume).  I did not thank you nearly enough for them at the time.  The Taylor has been to the binders and returned very neatly mended yesterday.  I started him after church this morning.  He is severe and has little of the joyous side of religion in him; and some of his incentives (e.g. where he reminds you that there will be different degrees of glory in heaven and would have you aim at getting as high a degree as possible) seem to me unspiritual or at least highly dangerous.”
 
Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1941
Pblished in Theology, November, 1941, 
and by the S.P.C.K., 1942 
 
Address:
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. 

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too  weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink  and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a  holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. 

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has  no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. 

There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry  can tell from their own experience that this is so. The school- boy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire.  His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that he becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward. 

The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognized as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship. 

But there is one other important similarity between the schoolboy and ourselves. If he is an imaginative boy he will, quite probably, be revelling in the English poets and romancers suitable to his age some time before he begins to suspect that Greek grammar is going to lead him to more and more enjoyments of this same sort. He may even be neglecting his Greek to read Shelley and Swinburne in secret. In other words, the desire which Greek is really going to gratify already exists in him and is attached to objects which seem to him quite unconnected with Xenophon and the Greek verbs. 

Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find. 

No doubt there is one point in which my analogy of the school- boy breaks down. The English poetry which he reads when he ought to be doing Greek exercises may be just as good as the Greek poetry to which the exercises are leading him, so that in fixing on Milton instead of journeying on to Aeschylus his desire is not embracing a false object. 

But our case is very different. If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy. 

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you; the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.  We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. 

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth's expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. 

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them; and what came through them was longing. These things─the beauty, the memory of our own past─are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from
a country we have never yet visited. 

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us
that the good of man is to be found on this earth. 

And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. Hence all the nonsense that Mr. Shaw puts into the final speech of Lilith, and Bergson's remark that the elan vital is capable of surmounting all obstacles, perhaps even death―as if we could believe that any social or biological development on this planet will delay the senility of the sun or reverse the second law of thermodynamics. 

Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy. But is there any reason to suppose that reality offers any satisfaction to it? "Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread." But I think it may be urged that this misses the point. A man's physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man's hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I  did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called "falling in love" occurred in a sexless world. 

Here, then, is the desire, still wandering and uncertain of its object and still largely unable to see that object in the direction where it really lies. Our sacred books give us some account of the object. It is, of course, a symbolical account. Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience. The scriptural picture of heaven is therefore just as symbolical as the picture which our desire, unaided, invents for itself; heaven is not really full of jewelry any more than it is really the beauty of Nature, or a fine piece of music. The difference is that the scriptural imagery has authority. It comes to us from writers who were closer to God than we, and it has stood the test of Christian experience down the centuries. 

The natural appeal of this authoritative imagery is to me, at first, very small. At first sight it chills, rather than awakes, my desire. And that is just what I ought to expect. If Christianity could tell me no more of the far-off land than my own temperament led me to surmise already, then Christianity would be no higher than myself. If it has more to give me, I must expect it to be less immediately attractive than "my own stuff". Sophocles at first seems dull and cold to the boy who has only reached Shelley. If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know. 

The promises of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It is promised, firstly, that we shall be with Christ; secondly, that we shall be like Him; thirdly, with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have "glory"; fourthly, that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and, finally, that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars of God's temple. The first question I ask about these promises is: "Why any of them except the first?" Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? For it must be true, as an old writer says, that he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. I think the answer turns again on the nature of symbols. For though it may escape our notice at first glance, yet it is true than any conception of being with Christ which most of us can now form will be not very much less symbolical than the other promises; for it will smuggle in ideas of proximity in space and loving conversation as we now understand conversation, and it will probably concentrate on the humanity of Christ to the exclusion of His deity. And, in fact, we find that those Christians who attend solely to this first promise always do fill it up with very earthly imagery indeed in fact, with hymeneal or erotic imagery. I am not for a moment condemning such imagery. I heartily wish I could enter into it more deeply than I do, and pray that I yet shall. But my point is that this also is only a symbol, like the reality in some respects, but unlike it in others, and therefore needs correction from the different symbols in the other promises. The variation of the promises does not mean that anything other than God will be our ultimate bliss; but because God is more than a Person, and lest we should imagine the joy of His presence too exclusively in terms of our present poor experience of personal love, with all its narrowness and strain and monotony, a dozen changing images, correcting and relieving each other, are supplied, 

I turn next to the idea of glory. There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern. 

Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb? 

When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures; fame with God, approval or (I might say) "appreciation" by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." 

With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards. I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child child―not in a conceited child, but in a good child―as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years, prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures―nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure of a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. 

I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment a very, very short moment before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval, she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero's book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; "it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign". 

I can imagine someone saying that he dislikes my idea of heaven as a place where we are patted on the back. But proud misunderstanding is behind that dislike. In the end, that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised.

I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall "stand before" Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God―to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness―to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son―it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is. 

And now notice what is happening. If I had rejected the authoritative and scriptural image of glory and stuck obstinately to the vague desire which was, at the outset, my only pointer to heaven, I could have seen no connexion at all between that desire and the Christian promise. But now, having followed up what seemed puzzling and repellent in the sacred books, I find, to my great surprise, looking back, that the connexion is perfectly clear. Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed. By ceasing for a moment to consider my own wants I have begun to learn better what I really wanted. When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as "the journey homeward to habitual self". You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: "Nobody marks us." 

A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last. 

Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being "noticed" by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (i Cor. viii. 3). It is a strange promise. Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully re-echoed in another passage of the New Testament. There we are warned that it may happen to any one of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words: "I never knew you. Depart from Me." In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely Outside, repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache. 

And this brings me to the other sense of glory―glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more―something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can't. They tell us that "beauty born of murmuring sound" will pass into a human face; but it won't.*Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. 

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. 

But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects. 

And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind, and still more the body, receives life from Him at a thousand removes―through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God's creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountain-head that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will "flow over" into the glorified body. In the light of our present specialized and depraved appetites we cannot imagine this torrens voluptatis, and I warn everyone most seriously not to try. But it must be mentioned, to drive out thoughts even more misleading thoughts that what is saved is a mere ghost, or that the risen body lives in numb insensibility. The body was made for the Lord, and these dismal fancies are wide of the mark. 

Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown, and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. 

That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. 

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization―these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit―immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. 

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously―no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner; no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

1942

N. B. Lundwall

The Vision Or The Degrees of Glory: Eternity Sketched in a Vision from God

Being a compilation of rare and invaluable writings by Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as quotations from Eminent Historians, Philosophers, Catholic Fathers and Protestant Leaders on The Doctrine Of Salvation For The Living And The Dead.

Table of Contents Includes:
1.  The Occasion or Background for Receiving The Vision
2.  THE VISION, or the 76th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants
3.  THE VISION, a Transcript from the Records of the Eternal World
4.  Joseph the Prophet not Permitted to Reveal One-Hundredth Part of What He Saw in THE VISION
5.  The Place Where THE VISION Was Given
6.  The Importance Placed on THE VISION by President Wilford Woodruff
7.  Testimony of Orson Pratt Concerning THE VISION
8.  Testimony of Sidney Rigdon
9.  The King Follett Discourse, by Joseph the Prophet (Excerpts, footnotes by President B. H. Roberts)
10. The Three Glories, a Sermon, by President Brigham Young
11. The Three Glories, a Sermon, by Orson Pratt (excerpts)
12. The Three Glories, a Sermon, by Melvin J. Ballard (excerpts)
13. The Fore-knowledge of the Great Jehovah, by Joseph the Prophet
14. The Redemption of the Dead, by Joseph the Prophet
15. The Efficacy of the Sealing Ordinance, by Joseph the Prophet
16. The Sealing Power of Ministering Spirits by Joseph the Prophet
17. Preaching to Spirits in Prison, by President Brigham Young
18. Higher Ordinances to Operate in Next World, by President Brigham Young
19. Joseph Smith Holds the Keys of the Last Dispensation, by Brigham Young
20. “Will All be Damned Except the Latter-Day Saints?” by President Brigham Young
21. Universal Salvation, by President Brigham Young
22. The Negroes Yet to Possess the Priesthood, by President Brigham Young
23. Temple Building and Meaning of the Endowment, by President Brigham Young
24. Parental Love and Physical Perfection will Exist in the Celestial Resurrection, by President Brigham Young
25. The Salt Lake Temple Seen in Vision  in July, 1847 by President Brigham Young
26. Data on Temples Erected to Date in This Dispensation
27. “I have Been in the Spirit World Two Nights in Succession,” Jedediah M. Grant
28. The Redemption of the Dead, by Orson Pratt
29. Increased Powers and Capacities of Man in His Future State, by Orson Pratt
30. The Earth to be Celestialized, by Orson Pratt
31. Marrying Outside the Church, by Orson Pratt
32.  Instructions Received on Heavenly Things, by Parley P. Pratt
33. Joseph Smith was the Elias, the Restorer, by Parley P. Pratt
34. “If the Veil Could be Taken From Our Eyes,” by President Wilford Woodruff
35.Visions of the Resurrection of the Just and Unjust, by president Wilford Woodruff – Appearances of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and Presidents of the United States in the St. George Temple, by president Wilford Woodruff
36. Visitations of Joseph the Prophet to Wilford Woodruff
37. “The Son of Man Will Come to the Saints While in the Rocky Mountains,” by Joseph the Prophet
38. Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, by President Joseph F. Smith
39. The Wider Hope of Salvation Provided for the Dead, Four Discourses, by Nephi L. Morris
40. “I am Getting Tired and Would Like to Go to My Rest,” by Joseph the Prophet
41. The Gratitude of Those Who Have Vicarious Work Performed for them-an Open Vision in the St. George Temple
42.  Fourteen Bible Translations of I Corinthians 15:29
43. Origin and the Destiny of Woman, by President John Taylor
44. “Oh, Ye Saints of the Latter-days, do not forget the High Destiny that awaits “You,” by Orson Pratt and President Wilford Woodruff

ADDENDA
1.    The Misery of Fallen Angels, by Orson Pratt
2.    In the Lineage of Gods, by Pres. Lorenzo Snow
3.    Marrying Outside the Church, by Pres. Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt & Pres. Joseph F. Smith
4.    Eternity Sketched in a Vision from God – A Poem

1947

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. ((1877 – 1964), Philosopher / Theologian at Vatican

Degrees Of Pain In Hell; Our Immortal Soul Reunited Forever To That Body, Though In Different Degrees Of Merit & Demerit; Degree Of Our Life In Eternity Depends On Degree Of Our Merits At Moment Of Death; There Are Many Mansions In The Father’s House Corresponding To Varied Merits

Life Everlasting

Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 – 1964), the 20th century’s  greatest Thomist, taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960,and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.

Part 3: Hell

Chapter 18. Degrees Of Pain

The pains of the damned are equal as far as duration is concerned, since they are eternal, but they differ very much in degrees of rigor. God will render to each one according to his works. [299] “It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city” (which had refused to receive the apostles). [300] “Woe to thee, Corozain.” [301] The wicked servant, who knew the will of his master and has not done it, will receive a greater number of stripes. He who did not know that will, and has done things worthy of chastisement, will receive fewer stripes. [302]

We read in the Apocalypse: “As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her.” [303] Already the Book of Wisdom had said: “The mighty shall be mightily tormented.” [304]

Further, it is clear that punishment must be proportioned to the gravity of the fault. Faults differ in gravity and in number, hence the sufferings of hell must be unequal in their rigor. [305] The avaricious will not be punished in the same manner as the voluptuous. We may say that the most guilty are at the bottom of hell, though we can but conjecture the place of hell.

Can there be mitigation of the accidental pain due to venial sins, and of that due to the mortal sins, forgiven but not expiated? Many theologians admit this position as probable, because this accidental pain is in itself temporary. Thus St. Thomas says: “It is not improper to say that the pains of hell, so far as they are accidental, may diminish up to the day of the last judgment.” [306]

We saw above that, by divine mercy, the damned suffer less than they merit. [307] Nevertheless, the pain of loss, even the smallest, surpasses immensely all the sufferings of this world. Theologians commonly admit this also for the pain of sense, since it is eternal, without consolation, and in a soul which has already the pain of loss.

A very probable position, upheld by many theologians, is that God will not let die in sin those who have committed only one mortal sin, especially if there is a question of a sin of frailty. Final impenitence would thus be restricted to inveterate sinners. As St. Peter says: “God dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should return to penance.” [308] God moves men to conversion. Hell is the pain of obstinacy. [309]

Here we may dwell on the great promise of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. We quote Father T. J. Bainvel, S.J., [310] who has made a long study of this question. The promise runs thus: “On Friday, during Holy Communion, our Lord spoke these words to his unworthy slave, if she does not deceive herself; ‘I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My heart, that its omnipotent love will accord to all those who shall receive Communion on nine successive First Fridays the grace of final penance. They shall not die in disfavor with God, nor without the sacraments, since My divine heart is their assured refuge in this last moment.'” [311]

Father Bainvel adds these words: “The promise is absolute, supposing only that the Communions have been made and have been well made. The grace promised is not the grace of perseverance in good throughout life, nor the reception of the last sacraments under every hypothesis, but that perseverance which brings with it penance, and the last sacraments so far as they are necessary.” This promise is addressed to sinners more directly than to pious souls. The promise supposes that the grace of making good Communions on nine successive First Fridays is a gift reserved to the elect. If they are in sin, they will repent before they die.

Part 5: Heaven

Chapter 28. The Nature Of Eternal Beatitude

We must consider the beatifying object and the beatified subject. [548]

The Beatifying Object

St. Thomas defines the object of beatitude as follows: “It is that perfect good which completely satiates the desire of the rational being.” [549] He continues thus: “Only the uncreated and infinite good can satisfy fully the desire of a creature which conceives universal good.” Whereas truth is formally in the mind, which judges in conformity with external objects, the good which is the object of the will is in the things themselves which are good. The natural or connatural desire of the will reaches forward, then, not to the abstract idea of good, but to a real and objective good. Hence it cannot find beatitude in any finite and limited good, but only in the sovereign and universal good. [550]

It is impossible for man to find that true happiness, which he desires naturally, in any limited good: pleasures, riches, honor, glory, power, knowledge. Our mind, noticing at once the limits of these goods, conceives a higher good and carries us on to desire that higher good. We must repeat: Our will, illumined by our intelligence, has a depth without measure, a depth which only God can fill.

This truth it is which made St. Augustine say: “Unhappy he who knows all things without knowing Thee, my God: blessed he who knows Thee, even though he be ignorant of all else. If he knows Thee and knows also other things, he is happy, not by knowing them, but by knowing Thee, provided that, knowing Thee, he also glorifies Thee by thanking Thee for Thy gifts.” [551]

We must distinguish natural beatitude from supernatural beatitude. Natural beatitude consists in that knowledge and love of God which we can attain by our natural faculties. If man had been created in a state purely natural, by his fidelity to duty he would have merited this beatitude, namely, first, a natural knowledge of God’s perfections reflected in His creatures, a knowledge without any mixture of error; secondly, a rational love of God, the Creator, love composed of reverent submission, fidelity, recognition, the love, not indeed of a son, but of a good servant in relation to the best of masters.

But supernatural beatitude, which we are now speaking of, surpasses immeasurably the natural exigencies of every created nature, even the highest angelic natures. This supernatural beatitude consists in sharing the very beatitude of God, that beatitude whereby He rejoices in knowing Himself and loving Himself for all eternity. Notice the expression in the parable of the talents: “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” [552] This means: Take part in My own beatitude. We are called to see God as He sees Himself, to love Him as He loves Himself. Truly, the depth of our will is such that only God, seen face to face, can fill that depth and draw the soul irresistibly. The depth which the soul has by its very nature is augmented by infused hope and charity, which widen, as it were, our heart, increase its capacity to love, and arouse in us aspirations higher than all natural aspirations, even the most intimate and elevated. St. Augustine speaks thus: “God is the goal of our desires, He is the one whom we shall see without end, whom we shall love without weariness, whom we shall glorify forever without fatigue.” [553]

Subjective Beatitude

If such is the object of eternal beatitude, what subjective element is it that formally constitutes beatitude? All theologians admit that subjective beatitude consists in a vital union with God through the higher faculties, intelligence and will, that is, in the beatific vision and love which follows it.

St. Thomas [554] asks a question: Does beatitude consist formally in the vision of God or in the love of God? According to him and his disciples, essential beatitude consists formally in the possession of God. Now it is by the beatific vision that the saints in heaven possess God, whereas the beatific love follows this possession, since it presupposes the vision of God, seen face to face. Love, in fact, carries us on to an end that is still absent, in which state we call it desire, or toward an object which we already desire, in which state we call it joy and repose. This joy, therefore, presupposes the possession of God, and this possession is had by the vision without medium. Hence love either precedes this possession or follows it. [555] On the contrary, the intelligence receives the object into itself, becomes the object known, whereas the will remains, we may say, outside the object, which is received into the intelligence. To illustrate, to enjoy a scene we must first contemplate it, to enjoy a symphony of Beethoven we must first hear it. Knowledge takes possession of beauty, and joy follows knowledge.

Essential beatitude, therefore, consists in the immediate vision of God, and is consummated in the love which follows the vision. Love, a characteristic of vision, follows that vision as liberty, morality, sociability follow man’s rational nature.

This doctrine is in conformity with many texts of Holy Scripture. “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” [556] “This is eternal life: that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” [557] “We shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” [558] “We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.” [559]

The teaching of St. Thomas [560] is in harmony with the relations he establishes between the intelligence and the will. Intelligence is higher than the will, because intelligence has an object that is more absolute and universal, namely, being as truth, whereas the object of the will is the good, which presupposes reality and truth, without which the will would not pursue a real good, but an apparent and illusory good. [561]

Scotus and his followers, on the contrary, since they hold that the will is superior to the intelligence, maintain that essential beatitude consists formally in love, to which vision is subordinated.

To this position, Thomists reply: Scotus is considering beatitude as a concrete whole, without noticing that it has several elements. It is true that beatitude is consummated in love; but we must still ask: What is the nature of this beatitude, what is it formally, what is the principle whence its characteristics derive? Thomists maintain, with right, that the mind is higher than the will, since it directs the will. Formal beatitude, then, is the act of the mind, is the immediate vision of God, as we have seen in the texts of Scripture just cited. Thomists add: Here below indeed it is more perfect to love God than to know Him, because our knowledge is measured by our limited ideas, whereas our love, free and meritorious, goes out toward Him. But in heaven our knowledge will no longer be imperfect: it will be purely intuitive, higher than any created idea. Beatific love will flow necessarily from the vision. This beatific love is not free. It is something higher than liberty. [562]

Suarez, having examined the position of St. Thomas and of Scotus, says that essential beatitude consists formally both in vision and in love.

Thomists reply: If it were thus, the intellect and will would not be related by subordination of one to the other, but would be coordinated, equal each to the other, just as would be two individuals of one and the same species who resemble each other very strikingly. But the truth is not thus. Intelligence and will are two faculties, specifically distinct, and therefore unequal. The will is subordinated to the intelligence which directs it. The will is carried on to a true real good, but only on condition that it follows the right judgment of the intellect, a judgment conformable to reality. We desire only what we know, and we do not rejoice except in a good which we possess. Joy does not constitute the possession, but presupposes the possession. Hence intelligence and will are not equal in the possession of God. They arise in order, one after the other. By vision the soul possesses God. By love it enjoys Him, rests in Him, prefers Him to itself.

St. Augustine speaks as follows, repeating his conversation with his mother at Ostia: “All within us cries out: ‘We made not ourselves, but the Eternal One made us.’ If, after this word, all things were silent, and He Himself alone would speak to us, no longer through them, but by Himself: if then our soul, lifting itself on the wings of thought up to eternal wisdom, could retain unbroken this sublime contemplation: if all other thoughts of the spirit had ceased and this alone had absorbed the soul, and filled it with joy, the most intimate and the most divine: if eternal life resembled this ravishment in God which we experience for a moment: would this not be the consummation of that word: ‘Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord’?” [563]

In truth, celestial beatitude is the consummation of that transforming union, spoken of by St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross, the consummation of that vision wherein the just soul is deified in its very depths. In heaven this fusion will take place by immediate vision and consequent love. The soul, it is true, remains inferior to God, because only God is existent reality, He who is. Compared with Him, we are always as nothing. God preserves eternally in just souls all that they have by nature and by grace. He is eternally in them, or, to speak still more truly, they are eternally in Him.

Chapter 29. THE SUBLIMITY OF THE BEATIFIC VISION

To have a just idea of this vision, we must see its immediacy, its source, and its object, primary and secondary. [564]

This Vision Is Intuitive and Immediate

According to the definition of Benedict XII, [565] this act of the blessed intellect is a vision, clear, intuitive, immediate, of the divine essence. Without being comprehensive, it still enables us to know God as He is.

By its clarity this vision is distinguished from the obscure knowledge which we have of God, either by reason or by faith. By its intuitive and immediate character it is immeasurably superior to all knowledge that is discursive and analogical, which does not reach God except by using His effects as principle. This intuitive vision is higher than all abstraction, all reasoning, and all analogy. It is immediate intuition of the supreme reality of the living God. Hence it surpasses by far all vision, even the intellectual visions which the great mystics receive here on earth, because these visions remain within the order of faith and do not give intrinsic evidence of the Trinity. The beatific vision, on the contrary, does give this evidence, showing that God, if He were not triune, would not be God.

Hence we are called to see God, not only in the mirror of creatures, however perfect, not only by His highest radiations in the world of angels. We are called to see Him without the medium of any creature, to see Him better than we see those to whom we speak on earth, because God, being spiritual, will be most intimately present in our intelligence, which He fortifies with power to see Him.

Between God and ourselves there will be not even an intermediary idea, [566] because all created ideas, even infused ideas, however elevated, can be only limited participations in the truth, and cannot therefore represent God as He is in Himself: supreme Being, infinite Truth, Wisdom without measure, infinite and luminous source of all knowledge. No created idea could ever represent as He is in Himself Him who is thought itself. Thus the child’s cup cannot contain the ocean. [567]

Further, we cannot express our contemplation in one word, even in an interior word, in a mental word, because this word, being created and finite, cannot express the Infinite as He is in Himself. This contemplation without medium absorbs us in some sense in God, leaving us without a word to express it, because only one word can express perfectly the divine essence, namely, the Word begotten from all eternity from the Father. The divine essence itself, sovereignly intelligible, more intimate to us than we ourselves are, will take the place of all created ideas, impressed and expressed. [568] In the order of knowledge we cannot conceive one more intimate than this, even though it be distinguished by different degrees.

Here on earth, when at some sublime spectacle, we cannot find words to describe it, we say that it is ineffable. With far higher reason is this true when we see God face to face.

This vision, though it is intuitive and without medium, is still not comprehensive. God alone can know Himself to the full extent of His knowableness. This limitation involves no contradiction. Here on earth many persons may see the same scene in different degrees, according as their vision is more or less good. Many intellects see one and the same truth more or less profoundly. Each grasps the proposition, subject, verb, and attribute, but more or less perfectly. Thus in heaven all the blessed see God without medium, but with a penetration that varies in proportion to their merits, but none as profoundly as God knows Himself, all that He is, all that He can do, all that He will do. [569]

The Light of Glory

This vision, intuitive and immediate, reaches the object of that uncreated vision whereby God knows Himself. It reaches Him less perfectly than He does Himself, but it reaches Him.

How is this possible? It would be absolutely impossible for any created or creatable intelligence left to its own natural forces, because these forces are proportioned to their own natural object, which is infinitely inferior to the object proper to the divine intellect. Any created intelligence therefore needs a supernatural light to elevate it, to fortify it, that it may be able to see God as He is in Himself. Otherwise it would be before Him as the owl before the sun; it would not see Him. [570]

This light, received in a permanent fashion in the intellects of the blessed, is called the light of glory. The Council of Vienne [571] condemns those who “maintain that the human soul does not have to be elevated by the light of glory in order to see God and to have holy joy in Him.”

Thus the beatific vision arises from the intellectual faculty as its radical principle, and secondly from the light of glory as its proximate principle. This light supernaturalizes the vitality of our intelligence, as the infused virtue of charity supernaturalizes the vitality of our will.

The light of glory and infused charity, thus received into our two higher faculties, themselves arise from the consummation of sanctifying grace, which is received, like a divine graft, into the essence of the soul. How well sanctifying grace merits the appellation, participation in the divine nature! Grace is a nature, a radical principle of operations, a principle which, fully developed, makes us able to see God as He sees Himself. In God the divine nature is the principle of operations strictly divine, the principle of His own uncreated vision of Himself. In the just soul in heaven, sanctifying grace is the radical principle of the intuitive vision of the divine essence, a vision which has the same object as the uncreated vision.

The Object of the Beatific Vision

The first and essential object is God Himself. The secondary object is creatures known in God.

The blessed see clearly and intuitively God Himself as He is in Himself, that is, they see His essence, His attributes, and the three divine persons. The Council of Florence says: “They see clearly God Himself, one and three, as He is.” [572] Hence the beatific vision surpasses immeasurably, not only the most sublime human philosophy, but even the natural knowledge of the most elevated angels, even of any creatable angel. The blessed see the divine perfections, concentrated and harmonized in their common source, in the divine essence which contains them all, eminently and formally, in a far higher way than white light contains the colors of the rainbow. Thus the blessed see how mercy the most tender, and justice the most inflexible, proceed from one and the same love, infinitely generous and infinitely holy. They see how this same love identifies in itself attributes apparently the most opposed. They see how mercy and justice are united in each and every work of God. They see how uncreated love, even in decisions the most free, is identified with wisdom. They see how this love is identified with sovereign good, loved from all eternity. They see how wisdom is identified with the first truth, always known. They see how all these perfections are one in the essence of Him who is. They contemplate this pre-eminent simplicity, this purity and absolute sanctity, this quintessence of all perfection.

In this intellectual vision, never interrupted, they see also how the infinite fecundity of the divine nature blossoms into three persons. They see the eternal generation of the Word, who is the splendor of the Father, figure of His substance. They see the ineffable spiration of the Holy Spirit, who is the terminus of the mutual love of the Father and the Son, who unites the Father and Son in the most intimate and mutual self-communication. Such is the primary object of the beatific vision.

Here below we can but enumerate the divine perfections, one after the other. We do not see in what intimate manner they are in harmony. We do not see how infinite goodness harmonizes with the permission of evil, even of unspeakable malice. We know indeed that God does not permit evil except for a greater good, but we do not clearly see this greater good. But in heaven everything becomes clear, particularly the value of the trials we ourselves have suffered. We shall see how divine goodness, essentially self-diffusive, becomes the principle of mercy. On the other hand, we shall see how this same infinite goodness, having the right to be loved above all things, becomes the principle of justice. Here on earth we are like a man who has seen each color of the rainbow, but who has not yet seen white light. In heaven, seeing the uncreated Light, we shall see how the divine perfections, even the most widely different, are harmonized in Him and become one.

The blessed see in God, in the Word, also the holy humanity which the Son assumed for our salvation. They contemplate the hypostatic union, the plenitude of grace, of glory, and of charity in the holy soul of Jesus. They see the infinite value of His theandric acts, of the mystery of the Redemption. They see the radiations of that Redemption: the infinite value of each Mass, the supernatural vitality of the mystical body, of the Church, triumphant, suffering, and militant. They see with admiration what belongs to Christ, as priest for all eternity, as judge of the living and the dead, as universal king of all creatures, as father of the poor.

In this same vision, the saints contemplate the eminent dignity of the Mother of God, her plenitude of grace, her virtues, her gifts, her universal mediation as co-redemptrix.

Further, since beatitude is a perfect state which satisfies all legitimate desires, each saint knows all others who are blessed, particularly those whom he has known and loved on earth. He knows their state, be they on earth or in purgatory. [573] Thus the founder of an order knows all that concerns his religious family, knows the prayers which his sons address to him. Parents know the spiritual needs of their children who are still in this world. A friend, reaching the end of his course, knows how to facilitate the voyage of friends who address themselves to him. St. Cyprian speaks thus: “All our friends who have arrived wait for us. They desire vividly that we participate in their own beatitude, and are full of solicitude in our regard.” [574]

The beatific vision is one unique, unbroken act, measured by the one unique instant of an unchangeable eternity. It is an act that cannot be lost. It is the source of the happiness of the elect and, as we shall see later, of their absolute impeccability.

In this supernatural knowledge everything is harmonized. There is no longer danger of being too intent on secondary goods or of losing the chief good. The soul in heaven sees the corporeal world from on high, in perfect subordination to the spiritual world. The events of time are seen in their relation to the plenitude of eternity. God’s deeds, natural or supernatural, are seen as radiations of God’s action. The line of view is no longer horizontal, stretched out between past and future. It is the vertical view, which judges of everything from on high, in the light of supreme Truth.

This entire beatific world of knowledge leads the blessed soul to love God above all things, immovably, and to love creatures in Him only as manifestations of His infinite goodness.

Chapter 30. BEATIFIC JOY

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face, love Him above all things, because they see with the most perfect evidence that God is better than all creatures combined. This love will never pass away. Faith will give place to vision; hope will be replaced by possession: but “charity never falleth away. [575]

By charity, already on earth we love God, not only as a good supremely desirable, the object of hope, but because of His infinite goodness in itself, a goodness far higher than any of His gifts. Charity wills He should be known, loved, and glorified; that His imprescriptible rights be recognized, His name be sanctified, His will be done. This is the love of friendship, whereby we will unto God all that belongs to Him, wishing His happiness as He wills our happiness. Thus, even here on earth, we share in God’s intimate life, have our life in common with Him, have spiritual communion between Him and ourselves. [576]

This charity will last forever. It would be an error, even a heresy, to think that our love of God in heaven is merely the consummation of our hope, which makes us desire God as our supreme Good. Even here on earth, the act of hope, which can exist in a soul in the state of mortal sin, is notably inferior to the act of charity, and love of God in heaven is nothing but the perfect act of charity, whereby the soul transcends itself, whereby without cessation it loves God more than itself, whereby it passes out beyond itself, and enters into a state of uninterrupted ecstasy. [577]

This love implies admiration, reverence, recognition. It implies, above all, friendship, with all its simplicity and intimacy. It is love with all its tenderness and all its power, the love of a child that throws itself into the tenderness of its Father, and wills unto that Father all that belongs to Him, just as the Father takes the soul into His own beatitude. God says to us: “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” [578] Christ says: “Come, ye blessed of My Father.” [579] We shall not indeed love God as He loves us, but the Holy Spirit will inspire a love worthy of Him.

This transforming union, now in a state of consummation, fuses our life with the intimate life of the Most High. We rejoice that God is God, infinitely holy, just, and merciful. We adore all the decrees of His providence, all manifestations of His glorious goodness. We subordinate ourselves completely to Him, saying to Him: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory.” [580] This supreme act of the highest of the theological virtues is the only one that is meant to last eternally. God alone, it is true, can love Himself infinitely, love Himself as far as He is lovable, but each blessed soul will love Him with all its power, with a love that no longer knows obstacles. [581]

The Satiety of the Blessed

This state of satiety is always new and never passes away. St. Augustine writes: “All our life will be one Amen, one Alleluia. Sadden not yourselves by considering this truth in a carnal manner, as if in heaven, just as on earth, we could become weary by repeating the words: Amen, Alleluia. This heavenly Amen, this Alleluia, will not be expressed by sound which passes away, but by the emotions of love, the emotions of the soul embraced by love. “Amen” means “It is true.” “Alleluia” means “praise God.” God is the immovable truth, who knows neither defect nor progress, neither decline nor growth. He is truth, eternal and stable: truth forever incorruptible.

“We shall sing our Amen forever but with a satiety that is insatiable. With satiety, because we live in perfect abundance, but with an insatiable satiety, because this good, while it satisfies completely, produces also a pleasure ever new. Insatiably satiated by this truth, we shall repeat forever: Amen. Rest and gaze: that is our eternal Sabbath.” [582]

Greek philosophers discussed the question whether pleasure in movement is superior to pleasure in repose. Aristotle [583] shows clearly that the highest joy is that which completes achievement, is the terminus of perfect, normal activity, which is no longer in motion toward the end, but possesses the end and rests therein. This truth is realized in the highest way in celestial beatitude.

Heavenly joy has a newness which cannot pass away. The first instant of the beatific vision lasts forever, like eternal morning, eternal spring, eternal youth. It resembles the eternal beatitude of God. God’s life is one unique instant of immutable eternity. He cannot grow old. He is not past or future, but eternally present. He contains eminently all successive events, as the summit of a pyramid contains all points at its base, as the view of a man placed on a mountain embraces the entire valley. Simultaneous totality: that is the definition of eternity.

As illustration, we may point to Mozart, who heard instantaneously and completely the melody he set out to compose. Similarly, great minds embrace their entire science with one sole glance.

The beatific vision of the saints is measured by the unique instant of immovable eternity. The joy of that instant will never pass away. Its newness, its freshness, will be eternally present. As the vision will be always new, so likewise the joy which flows from the vision.

We can get some ideas of this truth by the joy we experience when we begin to relish the word of God. This joy, far from passing away, grows ceaselessly. The contrary is seen in sense goods. Avidly desired at first, they give us an ever decreasing joy.

Continuance of friendship, ten years, twenty years, and more, is a sign that this friendship has a divine origin. Divine friendship, relish for God’s word, is a lasting joy, which lifts us above embarrassed affairs, domestic needs, and useless pastimes. That which nourishes the soul is divine truth and the supreme goodness revealed therein. Bossuet says: “If this divine truth pleases us when it is expressed by sounds that pass away, how will it ravish us when it speaks in its own proper voice which never passes away! God does not use many words: He speaks one eternal word, His Word, His Verbum, and thereby says everything. In this Word we, too, see everything.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” This sweetness is the prelude of heaven’s joy: repose in an action which never ceases, in an unmediated vision which floods the soul with a joy forever new.

St. Thomas, [584] following St. Augustine, speaks thus: “We grow weary of sense goods when we possess them. Not so of spiritual goods. They do not diminish, they cannot be harmed, they give us a joy that is ever new.” This joy we sometimes have in prayer. “My Lord and my God, take from me all that impedes me on the road to Thee, give to me all that leads to Thee. Take me from myself and give me to Thee, that I may belong entirely to Thee.” God penetrates the depths of our will. God seizes and wounds the soul, that it may possess Him fully.

This doctrine finds admirable expression in The Imitation of Christ: “Repose in God, O my soul. He is the eternal repose of the saints. Beloved Jesus, let me find repose in Thee, not in creatures: not in health, in beauty, in honors, in glory. Not in power and dignity. Not in riches, honors, and knowledge. Not in merit and aspiration. Not even in Thy own gifts and rewards. Not even in the transports of spiritual gladness; not in the angels and archangels and the whole host of heaven: not in anything visible or invisible, not in anything which is not Thyself, O my God. All Thou canst give me outside of Thyself, all that Thou dost discover of Thyself to me, is too little. It does not suffice me if I do not see Thee, if I do not possess Thee fully, if I do not rest in Thee alone.” Such is the joy of heaven, always new. We speak of heaven as the future life. A better term is “everlasting.” [585]

Love beyond Liberty

In heaven charity takes on new modalities. It becomes a love higher than liberty itself, a love we can never lose.

Here on earth our love of God is free because we do not see God face to face. God is seen by us as good under one aspect and severe under another aspect. His commandments can displease that which is still to be found in us of egoism and pride. Hence our love for Him remains free and therefore meritorious.

In the fatherland, on the contrary, we shall see infinite Goodness as He is in Himself. We cannot find in Him the least aspect which can displease, nothing to drive us away, not the least pretext for preferring to Him anything whatsoever. Our eternal act of love will never suffer the least shadow of weariness. Infinite Goodness, seen without medium, fills so perfectly our capacity of love that it attracts us irresistibly more than any ecstasy that can be had on earth, where love is still free and meritorious. In heaven there will be a happy necessity of love. [586]

Here especially we see the measureless depth of the soul, in particular of our will, of our capacity for spiritual love, which God alone, seen face to face, can satisfy. [587]

But this love, though it is not free, is still not forced and compelled. Nor is this something lower than liberty and merit, as are the involuntary acts of our sense nature here below. Rather, it is something higher than liberty and merit, like that spontaneous love which God has for Himself, that love which is common to all three divine persons. As God necessarily loves His own infinite goodness, so our love, arising from the beatific vision, can never be interrupted or lose aught of its fervor.

In a manuscript written by one who lacked human culture but who was far advanced in the ways of prayer, I recently read these words: “In heaven the soul receives God into itself. Received thus by Him and in Him, it loses in Him its liberty. Entirely drawn to God, it surrenders to joy in God. It possesses God, and is possessed by Him. It knows and feels that this joy is its eternal state.” Heaven’s joy is an everlasting morning.

Impeccability

The blessed in heaven cannot sin. Their state is a state of sinlessness, not only because God preserves them from sin, as here below He preserves from sin saints who are confirmed in grace, but because one who has the beatific vision cannot turn away from it by sin, cannot feel the least pretext to love Him less for a single moment. [588]

Here on earth no one ceases to will happiness, although he may often search for happiness there where it is not, even perhaps in suicide. The saints in heaven, too, cannot cease to love God, seen face to face, but they cannot be tempted to turn elsewhere. They are indeed free to love this or that finite good, this or that soul, to prefer one soul to another, to pray for it, to follow the commands of God to assist us. But this liberty never deviates toward evil. It resembles the liberty of God Himself, which is at the same time free and impeccable. Again it resembles the human liberty of Christ, who enjoyed the beatific vision from the first instant of His conception. But in Jesus these free acts were still meritorious, because He was still a viator, a traveler, whereas the free acts of the blessed are no longer meritorious, because they have arrived at the terminus of their meritorious voyage. The soul confirmed in grace has no longer need to merit.

Beatitude That Cannot Be Lost

It follows from all we have been saying that the saints in heaven cannot lose their beatitude. Scripture calls this beatitude “eternal life.” As the wicked go into eternal punishment, so the just go into eternal life. [589] St. Peter speaks of “a never-fading crown of glory.” [590] St. Paul says that this crown is incorruptible. [591] He goes on to say that our afflictions, light and momentary, gain for us an eternal weight of glory. [592] The Creed ends with these words: “I believe in life everlasting ” [593]

The expression “eternal life,” everlasting life, means much more than future life. Future is only a part of time, which passes, which bears within itself a succession of moments. But eternal life is not measured by time, neither by solar time nor by spiritual time. Eternal life is measured by the unique instant of immovable eternity, an instant which cannot pass, which is like an eternal sunrise.

Theologians say that the eternal life of the blessed is measured by participated eternity. This participated eternity differs, without doubt, from that essential eternity which is proper to God. It differs, because it had a commencement at the moment of entry into heaven. But it will not end, and has not within itself any succession. It is truly the unique instant of immovable eternity. This instant is not dead, but sovereignly alive, because it fuses perfect intelligence and perfect love.

This vision and this love exist at the topmost point of the beatified soul. But, beneath this topmost point, there will be a region less high of intelligence and will, a succession of thoughts, of emotions, of desires, in the form of prayers addressed to God in regard to this or that soul still on earth.

The inamissibility of beatitude follows from the essence of that beatitude. Heavenly bliss, by its very nature, satisfies all aspirations of the just soul. But this satisfaction could not exist if the blessed could say to themselves: “Possibly a time will come when I shall cease to see God.” Such cessation of beatitude, after it has been possessed, would be the greatest suffering, and a suffering inflicted without guilt. If we cling so closely to the present life, in spite of all its sadness, how much more will we cling to the life of heaven? Hence nothing can bring the beatific vision to an end, neither God who has promised it as recompense, nor the soul which has reached it. [594]

The Catechism of the Council of Trent says: “He who is happy, must he not desire ardently to enjoy without end that which makes him happy? And without the assurance of a stable and certain felicity, would he not be the prey of fear?” [595]

The blessed souls live above the reach of our hours and days and years. They live in one unique instant which does not pass. This instant, when we enter heaven, when we receive the light of glory and begin to see God forever, must be prepared for. In this preparation three other instants of life have pre-eminent importance: that of receiving justification by baptism, that of reconciliation with God if we have offended Him gravely, that of a happy death, that is, final perseverance. Beatific love, we know, corresponds to the intensity of our merits. Not in heaven do we learn to love God, but here on earth. The degree of our life in eternity depends on the degree of our merits at the moment of death. There are many mansions in the Father’s house, corresponding to varied merits. [596] “He who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who soweth in blessings shall also reap blessings.” [597]

Christian life on earth is eternal life already begun. Sanctifying grace and charity endure eternally. St. John of the Cross speaks thus: “In the evening of our life we shall be judged by our love for God and neighbor.”

Eternal joy, beatific love, is ineffable. If here on earth we are enchanted by the reflection of divine perfection in creatures, by the enchantments of the visible world, by the harmony of colors and sounds, by the immensity of the ocean, by the splendor of the starry heavens, and still more by the spiritual splendors revealed in the lives of the saints, what joy shall we feel when we see God, this creative center of life and of love, this infinite plenitude, eternally self-existent, from whom proceeds the life of creation!

Each soul will rejoice, not only in the reward it has received, but also in the reward given to other elect souls, and still more in the glory of God, in the manifestation of His infinite goodness. This joy will be an act of the virtue of charity, the normal consequence of love of God and of creatures for the sake of God.

Such is the essential glory which God has reserved for those who love Him. “The eye hath not seen,” says St. Paul, “nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.” [598]

Then, too, we shall see the immense distance between goods that are spiritual and goods that are material. The same material good, the same house, the same field, the same territory, cannot belong simultaneously to many persons. Possession by one hinders possession by another. On the contrary, spiritual goods, the same truth, the same virtue, the same God seen face to face, can belong simultaneously to all. Nay, we possess these spiritual goods the more, the more others possess them. Their joy multiplies our joy.

Similarly we shall see clearly that goodness is essentially self-communicative. God the Father communicates His entire nature to His Son and through His Son to the Holy Spirit. The person of the Word communicates itself to the humanity of Jesus, and through this humanity He communicates to us a participation in divine life.

The elect in heaven belong to the family of God. The Blessed Trinity, seen clearly and loved sovereignly, dwells in them as in a living tabernacle, as in a temple of glory, endowed with knowledge and love. The Father engenders in them the Word. The Father and the Son breathe forth the personal love of the Holy Spirit. Charity renders them in a measure similar to the Holy Spirit; vision assimilates them to the Word, who Himself assimilates them to the Father of whom He is the image. They enter therefore in a sense into the cycle of the Blessed Trinity. The Trinity is in them, rather, they are in the Trinity, as the summit of reality, thought, and love. [599]

Love of the Saints for Our Lord and His Holy Mother

Beholding the three divine persons, the saints understand likewise the personal union of the Word with the humanity of Jesus, His plenitude of grace and glory, His charity, the treasures of His heart, the infinite value of His theandric acts, of His merits, the value of His passion, of His least drop of blood, the unmeasured value of each Mass, the fruit of absolution. They also see the glory which overflows from the soul of our Savior upon His body, and they see how He is at the summit of all creation, material and spiritual. In Him they see also Mary co-redemptrix, the infinite dignity of her divine maternity, her position in the hypostatic order, superior to the orders of nature and of grace. They see the greatness of her love at the foot of the cross, her elevation above the angelic hierarchies, the radiation of her universal mediation. This vision of Jesus and Mary belongs to essential beatitude as its most elevated secondary object. [600]

Hence the saints love our Lord as the Savior to whom they owe everything. They see that without Him they could have done nothing in the order of salvation. They see, down to the least detail, all the graces they received from Him: all the effects of their predestination, namely, their vocation, justification, glorification. They live by Him. Each sees in Him the Bridegroom, the Bridegroom of the Church militant, suffering, and triumphant. What love they must have for the mystical body, of which Jesus is the head! What bliss in being loved by God in Jesus Christ, whose members they are!

Such is the vision described in the Apocalypse: “I heard the voice of many angels saying with a loud voice: The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and benediction. The Lamb was slain and has redeemed us . . . in His own blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” [601] “The heavenly Jerusalem hath no need of sun, nor the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God hath enlightened it and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.” “There shall not enter into it anything defiled, . . . but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb.” [602]

Bossuet writes as follows: “Let us here below begin to contemplate the glory of Jesus Christ, to become like unto Him by imitating Him. The day will come when we shall be like unto Him in glory, when we shall be inebriated with His love. Thus will be consummated the work for which Jesus Christ came on earth.” [603]

Again [604] he writes: “Jesus says of the elect, ‘I am in them.’ [605] They are My living members, they are Myself. The eternal Father sees in them nothing but Jesus Christ, loves them by pouring forth on them the love He has for His Son. Let us, then, remain in silence with our Savior. In wonder at the grandeurs given us in Him, can we have any other desire than to render ourselves worthy of His grace?”

Here we find the true meaning of the term, “spiritual gospel.” This is written by the Spirit, not with ink on parchment but with grace on our minds and wills. This spiritual gospel is the complement of the one we read in daily Mass. It is being printed day by day, century by century, and will be finished on the last day. It is the spiritual history of the mystical body. God knows it from all eternity. The blessed read it in God. [606]

Mary is loved by all as the worthy Mother of God, mother of divine grace, the powerful virgin, mother of mercy, refuge of sinners, consoler of the afflicted, help of Christians, queen of patriarchs, of prophets, of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins, of all the saints. The love of the saints for Jesus and Mary belongs to essential beatitude. It is the highest among the secondary objects of the beatific vision.

Love of the Saints for One Another

Seeing one another in God, the saints love one another. The degree of this love is measured by nearness to God. Each rejoices at the degree of beatitude which others have received. Yet each loves with special affection those to whom he has been united on earth. [607]

What an immense throng! Here we find, not only patriarchs, prophets, the precursor, St. Joseph, [608] the apostles, but the souls of children who died after their baptism. And in this immense assembly we find harmonized the greatest variety with intimate unity, the highest intensity with the deepest repose. The saints whom we call dead, because they have left the earth, are in reality overflowing with life.

Each of the saints has his personal distinction. Each is himself, with all his natural gifts and supernatural privileges, all of them perfectly developed. St. Paul differs from St. John, St. Augustine from St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa from St. Catherine of Siena. Yet they resemble one another since each contemplates one and the same divine truth, each is on fire with one and the same love of God. Hence the masters of the spiritual life tell us: Be supernaturally yourself. That means, eliminate your faults, that the image of the Father and the Son may be formed in you. Let each reproduce that image in his own fashion. Unity in diversity is the definition of beauty. And spiritual beauty is deathless beauty.

Lastly, the blessed love us. They pray, in particular and without ceasing, for those whom they have known here below. So near the source of all good, they heap benefits upon us. They draw from God’s treasury the gifts which His goodness wishes to bestow. Further, all the saints in heaven love us, even those whose very existence we know not, because we with them are members of that mystical body of which Jesus is the head.

Hence we, too, must love the saints. This love is a sure and abundant source of spiritual progress. Who can tell the fruits of that intimacy of grace which exists between us and this or that saint in heaven whom we are moved to imitate? In each of them we find our Lord, the supreme model. [609]

This love of the saints for one another belongs to essential beatitude, because they see and love one another in the Word. What joy flows from the contemplation of uncreated good in all its radiation!

We read in The Imitation: [610] “Think, My son, on the fruits of your labors, of the end which will come soon, of the recompense and repose there in great joy. They cannot turn their heart to any other object because, filled with eternal truth, they burn with charity which cannot be extinguished. They do not glory in their merits, because they do not attribute to themselves the good they have. They attribute it all to Me, who have given them everything in infinite charity. [611] The more they are elevated in glory, the more they are humble in themselves, and their humility renders them more dear and unites them ever more closely to Me. [612] It is written: ‘They fell down before the Lamb …. and adored Him that liveth forever and ever.’ [613] O ye humble souls, rejoice! Ye poor, leap with gladness! The kingdom of God belongs to you if you walk in the truth.”

Chapter 31. ACCIDENTAL BEATITUDE

We have spoken of essential beatitude, which consists in the immediate vision of God and in the love which flows from this vision. But the Lord, so rich in mercy for His elect, adds to essential beatitude a joy in created good, a joy which corresponds to their aspirations. This is what we call accidental beatitude.

This accidental beatitude is found in the society of friends: in general joy at the good deeds done on earth: in the special recompense given to certain classes, the halo of virgins, for example, of doctors, and of martyrs: in the resurrection and in the qualities of the glorious body.

Accidental Beatitude in the Soul

In regard to those whom they have known and loved on earth, the saints receive, besides the beatific vision in Verbo, also new knowledge extra Verbum. It is an accidental joy to learn, for example, of the spiritual progress, of their friends on earth, to see them entering heaven. This knowledge extra Verbum, is inferior to the beatific vision. Hence some call it the evening vision, contrasted with the morning vision which sees created things in God. [614]

Further, each soul is happy to be honored by God, by the friends of God, especially by those who shine by wisdom. [615] Each has a special joy in seeing his own good recognized and appreciated, good which he accomplished on earth in the midst of great difficulties.

Special recompense will be given for victories gained against the flesh, the world, and the devil: the halo of virgins, for victory against the concupiscence of the flesh: the halo of the martyrs for victory over persecutors: the halo of doctors for victory over ignorance, errors, infidelity, heresy, over the spirit of division and negation. This halo belongs, not only to those who have publicly taught sacred science, by word or by pen, but also to those who have taught in private fashion when occasion presented itself. [616] “They that instruct many to justice shall shine as stars for all eternity.” [617] This halo belongs, first to the spirit, then, after the resurrection, to the body, just as the essential glory of the soul is reflected in the body raised from the dead.

Resurrection of the Flesh

To accidental beatitude belongs also the resurrection of the body and the characteristics of the glorified body. [618] The resurrection is a dogma of faith. It was denied by the Sadducees, the Manicheans, the Albigensians, the Socinians, and is denied today by rationalists.

We must say first: If a good number of those who died (e.g., Lazarus and the son of the widow of Naim) were recalled to life by our Lord, and later by the apostles and other saints, what can hinder our immortal soul, made by nature to inform and vivify its body, from being reunited forever to that body, though in different degrees of merit and demerit?

This revealed truth, defined by the Church, [619] is supported by numerous Scripture texts. The Fourth Council of the Lateran gave this definition: All will arise, each with his own body which he had upon earth, to receive what each has merited, according as his works were good or bad.

The universal resurrection, then, is of faith. This resurrection requires at least that there be essential identity between the risen body and the body which the soul had while it was still in union with the body. According to certain writers [620] this suffices, because the soul, being a substantial form, gives to the body its specific life, even the actuality which we call corporeity. Nevertheless theologians hold commonly, with St. Thomas, that it must also be individually the same body, that is to say, it must contain at least a part of the matter which was formerly in that body. Otherwise how could we say that each one will rise in his own body which he had on earth? How could we say that this individual body rises from the dead? [621] St. Paul says: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” [622] The Catechism of the Council of Trent speaks as follows: “Each of us will rise with the body which we had on earth, which was corrupted in the tomb, and reduced to dust.” [623] This is the uniform testimony both of Scripture and of tradition.

In the book of Job we read: “I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God; whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” [624] Isaias says: “Thy dead men shall live, my slain shall rise again! Awake and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust.” [625] Daniel speaks as follows: “Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach.” [626] In the Second Book of Machabees, one of the martyrs says to his judge: “Thou indeed, O most wicked man, destroyest us out of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, who die for His laws, in the resurrection of eternal life.” [627]

Jesus defends the resurrection against the Sadducees. “Fear ye not them that kill the body and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [628] Again: “Concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God saying to you: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” [629]

In the Gospel of St. John our Lord is still more explicit: “The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment.” [630] Again: “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the last day.” [631]

St. Paul [632] proves the possibility of the resurrection by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. “If the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again, and if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.” “For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive, but everyone in his own order, . . . and the enemy, death, shall be destroyed last.” [633] St. Paul announces the same mystery to the Athenians, [634] to the Governor Felix, [635] to the Thessalonians. [636]

The Fathers of the second century speak explicitly of this dogma. [637] Martyrs proclaim it at their death. [638]

Reason cannot give a demonstrative proof of this truth, but it can give high reasons of appropriateness. These reasons are thus expressed by the Catechism of the Council of Trent: “The first is that our souls, which are only a part of ourselves, are immortal, and retain forever their natural inclination to union with the body.” [639] Hence it seems contrary to nature that they should forever remain separated from their bodies. Now that which is contrary to nature is in a state of violence and cannot last long. Hence it is very appropriate that the soul be united to its body again and that the body be raised to life. [640] The soul is naturally the form of the body, hence it groans at the idea of separation. Therefore it should not be deprived forever of this body. [641]

A second reason is found in the infinite justice of God, who has established punishments for the wicked and rewards for the good. Hence it is appropriate that the souls be reunited to their bodies in order that these bodies, which have been instruments, whether of good or of evil, partake with the soul in the awards and punishments deserved. This thought was developed by St. John Chrysostom [642] in a homily to the people of Antioch.

In the case of the wicked the body has taken part in deeds of iniquity, in criminal voluptuousness. In the case of the good the body has been in the service of the soul in the accomplishment of good works, sometimes heroic works, in devotion, in the apostolate, in martyrdom. Further, the bodies of the just are temples of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says. Hence the resurrection of the body is highly appropriate, that the soul may lack nothing in its state of felicity. Here we see, together with the justice of God, also His wisdom and His goodness.

A third reason is drawn from the victory of Christ over sin and the devil, which victory consequently triumphs over death which is a consequence of sin. He won this victory over death by His own resurrection and by that of His Blessed Mother. Hence it is appropriate, since He is to be the Savior of humanity, body and soul, that He win also the definitive victory over death by universal resurrection.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent speaks thus: “O wonderful restoration of our nature, for which we are indebted to the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over death ! ” [643] Holy Scripture is explicit on this point: “He shall cast death down headlong forever.” [644] Osee says: “O death, I will be thy death.” [645] St. Paul explaining this last word fears not to say that, after all the other enemies, death itself will be destroyed. [646]

We read in St. John: “Death shall be no more.” [647] It is supremely appropriate that the merits of Jesus Christ, which destroyed the empire of death, be infinitely more efficacious than the sin of Adam. [648]

The Qualities of the Glorious Body

St. Paul speaks thus: “One is the glory of the celestial bodies and another of the terrestrial: one is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, and another the glory of the stars, for star differs

from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory; it is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power; it is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.” [649]

Following this doctrine, theologians distinguish four chief qualities in the glorified body:

•impassibility,

•subtility,

•agility, and

•clarity.

Impassibility is the gift which preserves not only from death, but also from pain. [650] It arises from the perfect submission of the body to the soul. [651]

Agility delivers bodies from the heaviness which weighs down the present life. The risen body can go where the soul pleases, with a swiftness and ease which St. Jerome [652] compares to that of the eagle.

Subtility renders the body capable of penetrating other bodies without difficulty. Thus the glorious body of the risen Christ entered the Cenacle though the doors were closed. [653]

Clarity gives to the body of the saints that brightness, that splendor, which is the very essence of the beautiful. Our Lord [654] says: “Then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their father.” To give an idea of this quality, He was transfigured before His apostles on Thabor. [655] St. Paul says: “Jesus Christ will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory.” [656] The Israelites in the desert [657] saw an image of this glory on the forehead of Moses, after He had seen God and received God’s words. He was so luminous that their eyes could not endure the splendor.

This clarity is but a reflection, an overflowing, of the glory of the soul on that of the body. [658] Hence the bodies of the saints will not all have the same degree of clarity, but each will have the degree proportioned to its light of glory. Thus St. Paul says: “Star differeth from star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead.” [659]

Lastly, our senses will find a pure and ineffable joy in the humanity of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, the choir of the saints, the beauties of the renovated world, the chants of adoration and thanksgiving in the city of God. Such will be the accidental beatitude of heaven after the renovation of the world. [660]

What fruits follow on the knowledge of this mystery to which nature gives us no right to aspire? The Lord has deigned to reveal these things to the little ones, whereas He has hidden them from the wise and prudent. [661] The first fruit is thankgiving. Second, the control of passion in the service of a holy life, such a life as the Lord expects from us in our own particular conditions. Third, consolation in seeing our dear ones die. Lastly, courage in suffering. Job consoled himself by the hope of seeing the Lord, his God, on the day of resurrection. [662] The splendor which appears at times on the face of saints, e.g., of St. Dominic and St. Francis, is the prelude to the brightness of eternity. [663]

Notes

299. Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6

300. Ibid., 10:15.

301. Ibid., 11:21-24.

302. Luke 12:47, 48.

303. Apoc., 18:7.

304. Wisd. 6:6.

305. Supplementum, q. 69, a. 5.

306. IV Sent., dist. 23, q. 1, a. 1 ad 5.

307. Ia, q. 21, a. 4 ad 1.

308. II Pet. 3:9.

309. Father Lacordaire, Conferences in Notre Dame, 72nd conference; Dict. theol.. cath., “L’Enfer”.

310. Dict. theol.. cath., “Coeur-sacre de Jesus.”

311. Vie et oeuvres, II, 159; lettre 83, p. 176.

548. Dict. theol. cath., “Beatitude.”

549. Perfect good is that which quiets and satiates the appetite. Ia IIae, q. 2, a.8.

550. Only God is the universal good, not as predicate, but as being and as cause.

551. Confessions, Bk. V, chap. 4.

552.  Matt. 25:21.

553. De civ. Dei, Bk. II, chap. 30, no. 1. This is one of the most beautiful definitions of heaven and beatitude that was ever pronounced. We know none that is more perfect. Cf. Sermo 362, 29: “Insatiably thou wilt be satiated with truth.”

554. Ia IIae, q.3, a.4.

555. The will is carried toward its end, by desiring it when it is absent, by enjoying it when it is present. But it is clear that the desire of that end is not the attainment of that end. Delight comes to the will by the fact that the end is already present. But the converse is not true, namely, that something becomes present because the will delights in it. Hence God becomes present to us by the act of intellect, that is, by vision, and then, as a consequence, the will rests with joy in the end already attained.

556. Matt. 5:5.

557. John 17:3.

558. John 3:2.

559. I Cor. 13:12.

560. Ia, q. 82, a. 3.

561. Cf. Janvier, Conferences de Notre Dame, Lent of 1903, pp. 122, 123. See also Dict. theol. cath., “Gloire de Dieu”.

562. Denz., no. 530.

563. Confessions, Bk. IX, chap. 25.

564. St. Thomas, Ia, q 12. See also the Commentaries of Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, etc. See also Dict. theol. cath., “Intuitive.”

565. Denz., no 530.

566. Ia, q. 12, a. 2.

567. Sometimes, during a storm at night, we may see a flash from one extremity of the heavens to the other. Now let us imagine a flash of lightning, not sensible but intellectual, similar to a lightning flash of genius, but one which subsists eternally, which would be Truth itself and Wisdom itself, and which at the same time would be a vivid flame of Love itself. This imagination will give us some idea of God

568. Ia, q. 12, a. 2, and the commentaries of Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, Gonet, the Salmanticenses, Billuart. The divine essence itself takes the place, both of the impressed species and of the expressed species, that is, of the mental word. Theologians often compare this intimate union in the order of knowledge to the union in the order of being brought about by the hypostatic union, the humanity of Jesus and the person of the Word, where the Word terminates and possesses the humanity. If this second union is not impossible, then the first, with still greater reason, must also be possible.

569. Ia, q. 12, a. 6, 7. God, so say the theologians, is seen in His entirety, but He is not totally seen in that entirety.

570. Ia, q. 12, a. 4, 5.

571. Denz., no. 475.

572. Ibid., no. 693.

573. Ia, q. 12 a. 10. That which the blessed see in God they do not see successively but simultaneously. The beatific vision, measured by participated eternity, does not tolerate succession. Things which the blessed see successively they see extra Verbum, by a knowledge inferior to the beatific vision and hence called the vision of evening whereas the beatific vision itself is

like an eternal morning. Cf. Dict. theol. cath., “Intuitive,” cols. 2387 ff.

574. De immortalitate, chap. 25.

575. I Cor. 13:8.

576. IIa IIae, q.3, a.1. Charity is identified with friendship.

577. Ia IIae, q.28, a.3. “Extasis” is an effect of love: “In the love of friendship affection, simply speaking, goes outside itself, because it wills and does good for a friend.”

578. Matt. 25:21.

579. Ibid., 25:34.

580. Ps. 113:11.

581. IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 2.

582. Sermon 362, no. 29. Cf. also Bossuet, Sermon 4, on All Saints.

583. Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. X, chaps. 4, 5, 8. “Pleasure follows acts as maturity follows youth.” Further above he had said that the highest joy is the joy that results from the most elevated act of the most elevated faculty, that is, the intellectual knowledge of God united to the love of the supreme Good.

584. Ia IIae, q. 2, a. 1 ad 3; IIa IIae, q. 20, a.4.

585. Imitation of Christ, Bk. III chap. 21.

586. There will no longer be indifference. This indifference exist in regard to any object which seems good under one aspect, but not good or insufficiently good under another aspect. Cf. Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 2.

587. Ia, q. 105, a.4. “The will can be moved by any good object, but cannot be sufficiently and efficaciously moved except by God. God alone is universal good. Hence He alone can fill the will and sufficiently move it as object.” Cf. Ia IIae, q.4, a.4. “Ultimate beatitude consists in the vision of the divine essence, and thus the will of him who sees God loves of necessity whatever he does love in relation to God, just as the will of him who does not see can love necessarily only under the common viewpoint of the good which it knows.” Thomists thus comment on this passage: “Upon the beatific vision there follows the happy necessity of loving its object, a necessity also as regards exercise. The will of the blessed is completely filled, is adequated, conquered by the supreme Good now clearly seen.”

588. Ia IIae, q.4, a.4. Commentaries of Cajetan, John of

St. Thomas, Gonet, Billuart

589. Matt. 25:46.

590. I Pet. 5:4.

591. I Cor. 9:25.

592. II Cor. 4:17.

593. Denz., no. 430.

594. Ia IIae, q. 5, a. 4.

595. The First Part, chap. 13, no. 3.

596. John 14:1.

597. II Cor. 9:6. Cf. Supplementum, q.93, a.3.

598. I Cor. 2:9.

609. Cf. Bossuet, Meditations on the Gospels, Second Part, 75th and 76th day.

600. On the contrary, vision extra-Verbum, and with much more reason the sense-vision of Christ and of Mary belong to accidental beatitude. There is a great difference between these two kinds of knowledge. The highest is called by Augustine the knowledge of morning, the other, the knowledge of evening, because the latter knows creatures, not by the divine light, but by the created light which is like that of twilight. We may better understand this difference if we think of two kinds of knowledge which we may have of souls on earth. We may consider them in themselves by what they say and write, studying them as would a psychologist, or we may consider them in God, as was done, for example, by the holy Cure of Ars, when he was hearing confessions. He was the supernatural genius of the confessional, because he heard those souls in God, while he himself remained in prayer. Thus he gave supernatural replies, replies not only true, but immediately suited to the question. Penitents went to him because his soul was full of God.

601. Apoc. 5:12.

602. Ibid., 5:9; 21:23; 21:27.

603. Meditations on the Gospel, Second Part, 72nd day.

604. Ibid., 75th day.

605. John 17:26.

606. Father de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence.

607. IIa IIae, q. 26, a. 13.

608. St. Joseph, though he is the highest of all saints after Mary, is often named after the prophets, the patriarchs, and the Precursor, since he belongs to the New Testament. The Precursor forms the transition from the Old to the New.

609. Life and Christian Virtue, chap. 17.

610. Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, chap. 49, no. 6.

611. Ibid., chap. 58, no. 3.

612. John 15:19.

613. Apoc. 4:10; 5:8, 14.

614. Between these two kinds of knowledge, as we have said, we find a great difference, just as we find a similar difference between the knowledge of a psychologist based on words and writings and the other kind of knowledge possessed by a holy director, like St. Francis de Sales.

615. Ps. 138:17.

616.  Dan. 12:3.

617. Supplementum q. 96, a. 5.

618. Ibid., 75-86.

619. Catechism of the Council of Trent, First Part, chap. 12; IV Council of the Lateran., Denz. no. 429.

620. Thus Durandus, who is followed by some modern authors.

621. Supplementum, q. 79, a. 1, 2, 3. From the Four Books of Sentences, dist. 44, q. 1, a. 1: “If the soul does not resume the same body, we could not speak of resurrection; we would speak rather of the assumption of a new body.” A. 2. “Numerically the same man must rise; and this comes to pass, since it is one and the same individual soul which is united to one and the same numerical body. Otherwise we would not have resurrection.” Cf. ibid., a. 3. Also Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 80; also Tabula aurea, “Resurrectio,” nos. 11, 12. Also Hugon, Tractatus dogmatici, De novissimis, p. 470. Nevertheless, just as our organism without losing its identity is renewed by assimilation and disassimilation, it seems sufficient that any part of the matter which once belonged to our body would be reanimated in the risen body. Hence St. Thomas (Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 81) replies to the ordinary objections on this point. Cannibals do eat human flesh, but human flesh is not their only food. Plants in a cemetery do assimilate matter taken from corpses, but the matter of these plants does not come exclusively from corpses. Cf. Herve, Manuale theologiae dogmaticae, IV, no. 636. Nor is it impossible for infinite wisdom and omnipotence to recover the matter of a body which has disappeared. Cf. Monsabre, Conferences de Notre Dame, La resurrection (1889), pp. 218 ff.

622. I Cor. 15:53.

623. Part I, chap. 12.

624. Job. 19:25, 27.

625. Isa. 26:19.

626. Dan 12:2.

627. II Mach. 7:9.

628. Matt. 5:29-30; 10:28.

629. Ibid., 22:23-32.

630. John 5:29.

631. Ibid., 6:54.

632. I Cor. 15:17.

633. Ibid., 15:21-27.

634. Acts 17:31-32.

635. Ibid., 24:15, 21.

636. I Thess. 4:17.

637. Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, and Tertullian speak at length on this point. Also St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory. See Enchir. patr. Index theologicus, nos. 598-600. “The dead will rise, all the dead, each with the body they had on earth.”

638. Ruinart, Acta martyrum, p. 70.

639. Our intelligence, the lowest of all intelligences, has as proper object intelligible truth known as in a mirror in sense things. Hence normally it has need of the imagination, and the imagination cannot exist actually without a corporeal organ.

640. Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 79.

641. What we are here saying refutes metempsychosis, according to which the human soul would pass from one body to another, either into the body of a beast or into another human body. This is impossible because the human soul has an essential relation to this individual human body and not to the body of a beast. Thus the separated souls remain individual, each by its relation to its own body.

642. Homilies, 49, 50.

643. Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part 1, chap. 12.

644. Isa. 25:8.

645. Osee 13:14.

646. I Cor. 15:26.

647. Apoc. 21:4.

648. Heb. 2:14.

649. I Cor. 15:42.

650. Supplementum, q. 83, a. 1, q. 84, 85.

651. De civ, Dei, Bk. XI, chap. 10.

652. Commentary on Isaias, chap. 40.

653. Supplementum, q. 83.

654. Matt. 13:43.

655. Ibid., 17:12.

656. Phil. 3:21.

657. Exod. 34:20.

658. Supplementum, q. 85, a. 1.

659. I Cor. 15:41.

660. Isa. 65:17 announces a new heaven and a new earth. The Apocalypse 21:1 repeats the same truth. The second epistle of St. Peter 3:10 explains the phrase: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. In these days the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will be dissolved, and the earth will be consumed with all the works which it encloses. We expect, according to the promise, a new heaven and a new earth where justice dwells.” Cf. Monsabre, Conferences de Notre Dame, no. 101.

661. Matt. 11:26.

662. Job 19:26.

663. Heretics, wishing to kill St. Dominic, waited for him on a road where he was to pass. But when he came near, such a brilliant light illuminated his features that they did not dare to touch him. This light was the sensible radiation of the contemplation which united him to God. With him was saved also the order which he intended to found.

1949

E. Cecil McGavin

Chapter 13: The Vision of Glories

Historical Background of the Doctrine and Covenants

Chapter 13: The Vision of Glories

After residing in Kirtland for many months, the Prophet and his wife were invited to enjoy the hospitality of John Johnson and his family. In the autumn of 1831 they moved to his home which was in the village of Hiram, about thirty miles from Kirtland. Hiram was a hotbed of “Campbellism,” where a few converts had been made. The ones who remained with the “Disciples” were so angry at the Mormons that they were deter­mined to put an end to the movement.

Among the leaders in this persecution were Jacob Scott, Ezra Booth, Symonds Ryder, and others who had joined the Church for a season and had apostatized, becoming vicious and brutal in their designs to thwart the work of the Lord in that community. Joseph Smith was headed for trouble and persecution when he rude home with “father Johnson to spend the winter in his large frame house.

Ryder had been in the Church hut a short time until the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon wrote him a letter, informing him that it was the will of the Lord that he should go on a mission. Since he did not have a strong testimony and was not anxious to become a missionary he objected to the way his name had been spelled. He spelled it Symonds Ryder, whereas it was spelled Symonds Rider in the letter that sought to call him to the ministry. The revelation that mentioned him also misspelled his name.’ He was thus con­vinced that the inspiration that resulted in his missionary call was responsible for the spelling of his name-the wisdom of men, not the inspiration of heaven. For this reason he left the Church and became a bitter enemy. The persecutions that soon followed in Hiram were a result of the pernicious activities of Ryder and his angry colleagues.

The winter months were spent in revising the scriptures. There were enough strong leaders in all the branches in northern Ohio by that time so that the Prophet could leave many responsi­bilities for others, as he devoted all his spare time to an intensive and inspired revision of the scriptures. He had scarcely arrived in Kirkland when he was instructed, “Thou shalt ask, and my scrip­tures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be pre­served in safety.”

A few days later he was advised to commence the revision of the New Testament, his study up to that time having been con­cerned with the Old Testament.3 At this time they turned to Matthew and began to revise that book. For a time they alternat­ed, reading a time from the Old and then turning to the New Testament.

In the Johnson home at Hiram they read many of the books in both testaments, making hundreds of changes in the text. The changes were not confined to grammatical corrections, but lengthy additions were supplied in several places. At the close of Genesis was added the prophecy made by Joseph in Egypt, which was pre­served in Nephi.

Hundreds of statements like “the lad hardened Pharaoh’s heart” were changed to read that “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” “It repented the Lord that he had created man,” is made to read that Noah repented of the fact. Many faulty texts were revised, such as this mysterious text, “Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien.” The inspired revision insists that such flesh should not be eaten, sold or given away.

The disputed text that declares that Melchizedek was “with­out father, without mother, without descent,” is made to read that the priesthood which he held was “after the order of the Son of God which order was without father, without mother, without descent.”

The Three Kingdoms of Glory

During this inspired study of the Bible there must have been a flood of wisdom upon the minds of the students that were not included in the revised text of the Bible. One such document has been preserved in the Doctrine and Covenants, the great vision of the heavenly kingdoms.

Questions arose in their minds as they considered the text that spoke of the resurrection of the good “to life and “they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”9 Since they did not fully understand this text they prayed for information regard­ing it. A vision was opened to their minds and they seemed to look into eternity as a voice explained the scenes they were shown.

It was a cold day in winter, February 16, 1832, that the two students prayed for divine information. There were many Saints in the village, some of whom came daily seeking the Prophet’s advice on various problems, or to exchange greetings with him. During this vision a few friends walked into the parlor of the Johnson home and stood in sheer bewilderment as they watched and listened. Philo Dibble was one of the witnesses and has left us a description of that wonderful scene.

The two men would stare out in space, oblivious of walls, ceil­ing, or the few friends who had entered the room unbidden and unnoticed. “I see a glorious kingdom,” Joseph would say, “and the voice tells me that this is the church of, the Firstborn… “Sidney would nod his head in approval and then remark that the scene had changed and he now saw a lesser kingdom and a voice declared it to be the terrestrial world. “These are they who are of the terrestrial,” declared the voice. “And now the scene changes.” Joseph interpolated, “and the voice declares this to be the telestial world, and these are they who receive the telestial glory.”

Philo Dibble declared that ten or twelve men crowded into the room during the vision, standing there staring at the ceiling as the two men gazed into, the heavens. These visitors did not see any of the miraculous scenes, nor did they hear the voice that explained the various kingdoms that were shown to them. The most of which time the visitors vision lasted two or three hours, stood in the room, yet seemed unnoticed by the two men who were shown the vision.

“What do I see?” was asked many times by these two men, then each in turn would explain what had been shown to him and related what the voice was saying to him. The other always agreed that he saw and heard the same things. This account is preserved in the Juvenile Instructor, volume 29, page 303, and is a valuable contribution to the understanding of the method in which this rev­elation was received.

And thus the great vision was given. When it was over Sidney was so weak he could scarcely lift a glass of water to his lips. The Prophet remarked that the early visions he received affected him that way, but he was now accustomed to them. This glorious vision was soon recorded exactly as it was given and as it is pre­served today. It is one of the greatest revelations ever given to the children of men. It came like all divine messages, in answer to prayer. Not at any time did the Lord thrust a revelation upon His servants. They always came when asked for and when needed most.

In the Camp of the Enemy

Information like this could not he kept a secret in a small commu­nity where there were many members to share the good news and many of the enemy to spread it abroad. Often from the pulpit or the press the heaven-inspired truths were announced to the world soon after they were received. Given in the presence of witnesses this remarkable vision was soon being talked about in the commu­nity. In a few days it would reach the ears of the jealous “Campbellite” leaders who were getting enraged at the way “the Mormonites were stealing their thunder.”

The irate reformers preached against the new doctrines and flooded their publications with tirades against the reformation that was sweeping far ahead of their own reform movement. The Millennial Harbinger carried such challenging titles as this, “Mormonism—the means by which it Stole the True Gospel,” in an effort to turn the public mind against the popular movement that was sweeping the frontier and seriously reducing the membership in the fold of the “Disciples.”

Hiram was the headquarters of the enemy camp. Sidney Rigdon and many of their leaders who united with the true Church had resided there and their characters and works were well known. The “Disciples” who apostatized from the Church—Ezra Booth, Symonds Ryder, Jacob Scott, and others—lived in that vil­lage or were well known there. In that hamlet a movement was brewing to drive the Mormons from the village.

The Campbells and their ministers were enraged be, cause Joseph Smith had “adopted” so many of their teachings, followed their advice and began to revise the Bible, and had convinced many people that his message was divine. In fact they insisted that every important thing that the “Mormonites” taught had been borrowed from them. They rebelled against the revision of the Bible which had made such progress in Hiram. The brilliant Campbell had made many revisions in the New Testament which the three ministers had produced in Ireland. Now the unlearned leader of the Mormons was doing far more in his biblical revision than the daring Campbell had done. At this time the enemy was angry enough to drive the Mormons from the town. They were waiting for one more crisis to arise that would kindle the flame that was ready to ignite and cause a great conflagration.

The great vision on the three degrees of glory was the issue that brought this hostile movement to a head. This message which was so well received by the Saints, kindled the anger of the enemy until it knew no bounds. This glorious revelation in the wake of an extensive revision of the Bible, brought Alexander Campbell and his father on a lecture tour to save their flock at this time of crisis. At Hiram, Mentor, Mantua, Kirtland, and many other villages their voices were raised in opposition to the new movement.

This revelation on the three heavenly kingdoms was the last straw-the straw that broke the Campbell back. One opponent complained that Joseph Smith “out-masoned King Solomon,” but the “Campbellites” complained that he had stolen their thunder and was running wild with it.

Campbell’s Three Kingdoms

This incident provoked them to the breaking point because just one year before the Church was organized, Alexander Campbell had expressed his belief in “The Three Kingdoms.”‘” If Joseph Smith had ever heard about this doctrine it certainly would not have influenced him in the least in writing the famous document he recorded on the three heavenly kingdoms. Campbell’s philosophy is a good example of the wisdom and conjectures of men. His views when contrasted with the revealed will of the Lord seem childish and worldly, yet they were responsible for the collection of a mob with intent to kill Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.

For the purpose of acquainting the reader with the worldly views of Alexander Campbell on this subject we glean a few extracts from his discussion of the three kingdoms:

The gates of admission into these three kingdoms is different —Flesh, Faith, and Works. To be born of the flesh, or to he a descendant of Abraham, introduced a child into the lust kingdom of God. To be born of water and spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ, brings men and women into the second kingdom. But neither flesh, faith, nor water, without good works, will introduce a man or woman into the third king­dom.

The nature of these three kingdoms, the privileges enjoyed by the subjects, and the terms of admission, are very imper­fectly understood in the present day. These kingdoms are unhappily confounded in the minds of many– All the descendants of Jacob, without regard to regeneration, were lawful subjects of the first kingdom. None can be subjects of the second unless born again; and flesh and blood cannot inherit the third and ultimate kingdom…. It is hut an opinion that infants, idiots, and some Jews and Pagans may without even faith or baptism, be brought into the third kingdom, merely in consequence of the sacrifice of Christ; and I doubt not that many Paido-baptists of all sects will be admitted into the kingdom of glory. Indeed, all they who obey Jesus Christ, through faith in his blood, according to their knowledge, I am of the opinion will he introduced into that kingdom….

There am three kingdoms: the kingdom of the law, the Kingdom of Favor, and the Kingdom of Glory; each has a different constitution, different subjects, privileges, and terms of admission…. But when we speak of admission into the everlasting kingdom, we must have due respect to those grand and fundamental principles so clearly propounded in the New Institution. We must discriminate between the kingdom of favor and the kingdom of glow.. (He then spoke at length as if in vision he were speaking as one who had passed from life to the realm of the departed.)

When I waited at the altar and waited in the sanctuary my conscience was often troubled. I saw that His institution dif­fered from that of Moses as the sun excelled a star. I appre­hended the reign of favor, and gladly became a citizen of the second kingdom…. I felt myself in a new kingdom, a king­dom of favor. Sin did not now lord it over me as before, and my heart heat in unison with the favor which super, abound­ed; so that in comparison with the former kingdom, my sun always shone in a bright and cloudless sky.

I ran the race and finished my course. I slept in Jesus; and lo! I awoke at the second trump, and all my deeds came into remembrance, not one of them was forgotten by God.The contrast between the kingdom of law and the kingdom of favor prepared me to enjoy and to relish the contrast between the kingdom of favor and the kingdom of glory.

I have been thrice born—once of flesh, once of water and spirit, and once from the grave. Each birth brought me into congenial society. My fellow citizens always resembled my nativity. I was surrounded once with the children of the flesh, then with those born from above, and now with those born from the ashes of the grave.

Yes, this great revelation was the straw that broke the Campbell back and turned their angry agents against the Mormon leaders. Their historian Hayden later wrote of conditions in Hiram at this critical time:

Perhaps in no place, except Kirtland, did the doctrines of the “Latter-day Saints” gain a more permanent footing than in Hiram. It entrenched itself there so strongly that its leaders felt assured of the capture of the town. Rigdon’s former pop­ularity in that region gave wings to their appeal, and many people, not avowed converts, were under a spell of wonder at the strange things sounded in their ears.

This great revelation did much to encourage and unite the Saints as it turned the enemy against them. Its value was well expressed by the Prophet in these words:

Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures, remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory (of dif­ferent degrees of glory in the future life) and witness the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: “It came from God!”

A Coat of Tar and Feathers

As this good news was noised abroad the enemy resolved to put the work down with a cruel hand. In fact they carefully planned to kill the two leaders. During a cold spell in March their wicked plan was to be carried out. A physician in the town contributed two vials of poison, one to kill the Johnson watch dog, the other to be forced down the throats of the men. Some of the poison was insert­ed in a piece of meat and fed to the dog. The great watch dog, Rover, was cold and silent when the men were ready for their well planned party. In the day time while the Johnson house was vacant, Eli Johnson and John Ural entered the house, spiked the Johnson guns so they could not be used against them when they should attack the inmates that evening. They even stole one of Joseph’s pillows so they could use the feathers to throw upon him after they covered his body with warm tar.

Everything in readiness, the guns spiked, the dog poisoned, the tar and feathers ready, the son of a “Campbellite” minister McClentic, living near Rigdon’s house, gave a barrel of whiskey to the mobbers when they were ready to kill the two leaders.  On a very cold night, after a round of drinks, the enemy was at the door of the Johnson home. There was no barking dog to sound the alarm and no weapons in the house to be used against them. These drunken fiends seized the Prophet, dragging him from his bed and carried him out into the bitter cold. Several men had their hands upon him at once until they reached the door, where only two or three could find room to hold him in their grasp.

At the doorway he broke loose and seized the largest and strongest man in the crowd, Warren Waste, a trained wrestler who was considered the strongest man on the Western Reserve. Before the crowd could seize the Prophet again he threw his full strength against Waste, but his energy was only wasted, as the gang was soon upon him. Waste later said that “Joe Smith was the strongest man I ever grappled with.”

Some of his clothes were torn from his body and he was dragged into the orchard back of the house. An open vial of poison was thrust against his lips, hut he kept his mouth closed so no poi­son would get into it. The small bottle was beaten against his teeth until it was broken, its sharp edges cutting his lips severely.

He was beat unconscious, covered with a coat of warm tar and left for dead. When his friends carried him back to the house he was told that Sidney Rigdon had received the same treatment. He had been dragged over the frozen plowed ground until he was soon knocked unconscious and serious injury was done to the base of his skull. Many people blame this accident for his future delinquency in the Church. While in Liberty Jail he acted like a mad man and was released.

The next day, being the Sabbath, the Prophet kept a preach­ing appointment in the village. In the audience were some of the mobbers and the men who helped plan the crime.

Within a few years all the men who took part in that raid had suffered a painful death. Miles Norton who poisoned the Johnson watch dog was killed by a ram in the barnyard, its spiral horn being thrust through Norton’s body. Warren Waste and Gamut Mason boasted of having bent the Prophet’s legs over his back, holding them in that position as he lay on the ground face downward. Waste was later killed by a falling log while he was building a house. Mason died from a spinal affliction that was more painful than a Boston Crab. The man who tried to pour the poison into his mouth was buried alive while digging a well.

At that time the adopted Murdock twins were suffering from the measles. The little boy was very sick, the girl having practical­ly recovered. On that particular night the boy was sleeping with the Prophet so that Emma could get some sleep. When the Prophet was dragged from his bed the little boy was left uncov­ered, caught a severe cold and soon died. This child may well be called the first martyr in this dispensation.

This was the price Joseph Smith had to pay for spending a winter in Hiram, the hotbed of the “Campbellites,” some of whom had apostatized from the Church.

The “Disciples” were so delighted to welcome Symonds Ryder and his colleagues back into their society that he was hon­ored with many positions of trust and responsibility as a reward for his return. In 1843 he employed Abraham Lincoln to institute a chancery suit in the courts, receiving several letters from the young lawyer who was destined to become the great emancipator.

Almost forty years after the incident, Ryder was invited to write an account of Joseph Smith’s activity in I Hiram during that historic winter. His epistle included these lines:

To give particulars of the Mormon excitement of 1831 would require a volume-a few words must suffice. It has been stat­ed that from the year 1815 to 1835, a period of twenty years, “all sorts of doctrine by all sorts of preachers had been heard;” and most of the people of Hiram had been disposed to turn out and hear. Ibis went by the specious name illib­eral.” The Mormons in Kirkland, being informed of this peculiar state of things, were scrim prepared for the onset.

In the winter of 1831 Joseph Smith, with others, had an appointment in the south school-house, in Hiram. Such was the apparent piety, sincerity and humility of the speakers, that many of the hearers were greatly affected, and thought it impossible that such preachers should lie in wait to deceive.

During the next spring and summer several converts were made, and their success seemed to indicate an immediate tri­umph in Hiram. But when they went to Missouri to lay the foundation of the splendid city of Zion, and also of the tem­ple, they left their papers behind. This gave their new con­verts an opportunity to become acquainted with the internal arrangement of their church, which revealed to them the hor­rid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Joseph Smith the prophet. This was too much for the Hiramites, and they left the Mormonites faster than they had ever joined them, and by fall the Mormon church in Hiram was a very lean concern.

But some who had been the dupes of this deception, deter­mined not to let it pass with impunity; and, accordingly, a company was formed of citizens from Shalersville, Garretsville, and Hiram, in March, 1832, and proceeded to headquarters in the darkness of night, and took Smith and Bigdon from their beds, and tarred and feathered them both, and let them go. This had the desired effect, which was to get rid of them. They soon left for Kirtland.

All who continued with the Mormons, and had any proper­ty, lost all; among whom was John Johnson, one of our most worthy men; also, Esq. Snow, of Mantua, who lost two or three thousand dollars.

It was a high price they were asked to pay for a few months in Hiram, but it was well worth the cost. The one majestic revelation of the three degrees of glory repaid them for all their efforts, and hardships in that village. It is one of the greatest contributions ever made in the world of religious philosophy.

1955

LaVerne Wesley Hofer, Biola University

Degrees In Reward And Punishment (Thesis at Biola University)

A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of Systematic Theology The Talbot Theological Seminary In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Bachelor of Divinity by LaVerne Wesley Hofer June 1955

Chapter I – Degrees Of Reward

For many the question of degrees in reward and pun­ishment is not a pertinent one. The reason for this is not that the Word of God is silent about it, but rather the un­willingness on their part to believe what the Scriptures clearly state relative to this Subject. The ultimate author­ity for any conclusion herein is from the Word of God.

Importance Of Subject And Meaning Of Terms

Importance of the subject. The importance of the subject is more than would appear on the surface. The con­cept of reward and punishment should be a real stimulation for thought to every individual.

Salmond senses the impor­tance of the subject when he says:

The principle of degrees in reward and punishment must be taken in all its breadth as an essential and qualifying element in the doctrine in question.

The idea of reward proportioned to the measure of ser­vice and penalty proportioned to the measure of failure, occupies a much larger place in Christ’s teaching and in the New Testament generally than is usually recog­nized. If anything deserves to be described as a lost theological principle which it concerns us to recover, it is this.1

A right presentation of the Scriptural truth concern­ing degrees of reward should give real encouragement for further faithful service to the Master. It has definite re­ference to the Christian’s responsibility in his life and conduct. For the unsaved, this truth of punishment should awaken him to the place Where he would at least begin to think of the danger of not accepting Christ for his own sal­vation. The individual ought to realize that he himself is responsible to God for his actions. It is the purpose of this thesis to prove that the concept concerning degrees of reward and punishment is worthy of consideration, being scriptural, rational and logical.

Meaning of terms.

The term degrees as relating to reward and punishment does not have reference to the length or time of duration, but rather to the intensity of the in­dividual’s experience. Strong expresses the concept as follows: “A line is infinite in length, but it is far from being infinite in breadth or thiokness.”2 So it is with the rewards and punishment, the length is the same for both, but the degree in each case vary. Salmond makes this observa­tion:

The doctrine of degrees is the relief given us by Christ Himself in thinking of the maladjustments of the present existence, the mystery of unequal circumstance, and the lot of the lost. It provide, for all possible gradations in the punitive awards of the future. It does more to lighten the problem than is done by the Roman Catholic theories of a poena damni and a variety of localities in the other world, or by the idea of a Protestant purgatory, and it does it more simply and reasonably. It is the proper corrective to the dogmas of a second probation and a universal restoration. It gives all the alleviation Which other views of the future profess to give, and it gives it without doing violence either to the power of man’s will or to the sufficiency of grace here.3

The term reward has particular significance to the believer in Christ. It has specific reference to what a Child of God may treasure up for himself after his, conversion experience. Since salvation is not a reward, but a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), it can be stated safely that one believer will have more rewards than another believer. There are no degrees of being saved or degrees of being lost. A person is either saved or lost, there being no other alternative. But with rewards it is different. It is not sufficient to say that a believer either has a reward or he does not have a re­ward. There is ample Scripture to prove that the believer will be rewarded on an individual basis, and that of neces­sity would imply variation in degree.

Punishment on the other hand deals to a greater ex­tent with the works or deeds of the unsaved. The term unsaved is used with preference to those who reject Christ for the reason that many who have not heard are still lost even though they never did knowingly reject Him. Several commentators prefer the term retribution to the term punish- ment, the former being more appropriate in relation to the wicked. MacArthur says:

The term retribution is especially and technically applied to the wicked; it refers to their punishment, rather than to the reward which the righteous shall receive.4

On this subject Proctor states;

The word “retribution” is to be preferred to “punish­ment” because the Bible teaches that the fact of the wicked is not an arbitrary (much less a vindicative) in­fliction, but the necessary consequence of their own sins. The law of retribution can no more be repealed than that of gravitation; it is fixed and unalt­erable.5

Chafer adds these words:

The term retribution is chosen in place of the more familiar word punishment since the latter implies discipline and amendment, which idea is Wholly absent from the body of truth which discloses the final divine dealing with those who are eternally lost.6

To be lost and go to a Christless grave is part of the pun­ishment for sin, but that is not all. All men do not have the same opportunities, light or environment; thus God who is omniscient can reward the individual justly. Man himself in his life upon this earth determines the degrees of suffer­ing which he must endure.

After discussing briefly the subject of reward in this first chapter, the matter of degrees of punishment will be the main concern of this thesis. The concept of rewards is stated rather plainly in the Scriptures. The degrees of punishment are also stated, but the ungodly seem to overlook or ignore that warning which is given to them.

The Scriptural Basis For Reward

Before taking up the Scriptural basis for rewards, the fundamental principle of degrees in rewards and punish­ment should be stated. It is this: God is holy and just, and it is because of His holiness that he can not receive anyone who is unholy into His presence. That anyone can enter into His presence is because that one has availed himself by faith of the holiness and righteousness that is in His son, Jesus Christ. This righteousness, being imputed to the believer, makes him acceptable to God. It is because of the justice of God, that each man is rewarded or punished accord­ing to that which he individually deserves. Prom creation man has been accountable for his actions, and what he sows, that he must also reap. This is God’s standard, and man must comply with it.

The teaching of Christ.

It is evident that Christ’s view concerning degrees in reward is definite. “For the Son. of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).

As Thiessen states,

When Christ returns the believer will be judged as to the use he has made of the talents (Matt. 25:14-­30), the pounds (Luke 19111-27), and the opportunities (Matt. 20:1-16) that have been entrusted to him.7

The Lord will then reward on the basis of how faithful the believer has been in that which has been entrusted to him. Relative to Christ’s view, Gifford makes the following statement:

The supposition of equality in rank and position in heaven is contrary to our sense of justice, the teachings of scripture, and the great law of compensation which is everywhere recognized in nature.8

The faithful service for reward is not on a competition basis as to who can obtain the most: that only God can determine. This leaves the striving for reward on a personal basis.

The teaching of John.

The Apostle John writes in the book of Revelation these words,

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from hence­forth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Here is plainly stated that the believer in this life deter­mines what he takes with him into the next world. &almond has this in mind when he writes:

It may be that there are positive rewards for good and positive penalties for evil ordained by God. But the place which these occupy in Scripture, if they have a place at all, is secondary. That there are such is thought to be implied in the terms in which at times Christ describes the awards of the Judge; as when in certain parables He speaks of the profitable servant set over many things. But these parables speak also of the joy of the Lord as the recompense of the faithful, and unquestionably the general idea which the New Testament gives of the reward of the good is that it is in the good itself, and the penalty of evil that it is in the evil itself,–the harvest of corruption, the receiving of things done in the body, the reaping of what one SOWS, the eating of the fruit of one’s deeds. The question is not what God imposes on us in the other life, but what

we take with us into it.10

The Word clearly states that man can not take any earthly goods with him into the next life. ‘Tor we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7). This is not contradictory to the con­cept of rewards. Rewards are given to believers after this life and as such they can not be taken along from this life. However, the believer is assured that he can store up treasures in heaven. Future rewards are the natural consequences of obedience. On Revelation 14:13, Barnes comments:

The rewards or the consequences of their works will follow them to the eternal world, the word works here being used for the rewards or results of their works. In regard to this, considered as an encouragement to labor, and as a support in the trials of life, it may be remarked, (a) that all that the righteous do and suffer here will be appropriately recompensed there. (b) This is all that can follow a man to eternity (c) It is one of the highest honors of our nature that we can make the present affect the future for good; that by our conduct on the earth we can lay to foundation for happiness million of ages hence.”

The teaching of Paul.

Paul, in particular, sets forth the concept of degrees in reward. One of the central pas­sages is 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Be we, as the context clearly implies, Paul has reference to all believers. The term “judgment seat of Christ” is found only twice in the New Testament, here and in Romans 14:10. This judgment must be distinguished from the judgment of the nations as related in Matthew 25:31-46 and the Great White Throne judgment. More of the latter two will be mentioned later. On the passage quoted above Bancroft writes:

This is a judgment not for destiny, but for adjust­ment, for reward or loss, according to our works, for position in the kingdom, every man according as his works shall be. There will be a vast amount of healthy work transacted at the judgment seat of Christ. The statement that the bride hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7) surely intimates that the has been at the judgment seat before the glorious blaze of the searching, revealing light of the presence of Christ; now, all having come out, she can happily .take her place at the side of her heavenly Bridegroom.12

This judgment is not to determine one’s salvation, but its purpose is to give an appraisal of the service which the individual has rendered. The believer’s judgment for salvation was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ with His atoning work on the cross. There the sin problem, as far as God was concerned, was settled. There remains now no con-damnation for the believer (John 5:24; Romans 8:1). The child of God before the judgment seat of Christ is not the picture of a court scene, but rather that of an household affair. It is his service that is at stake, not his sonship. The Greek term for judgment as used in the passage under con­sideration is Bema.  Harrison makes this pertinent observa­tion concerning this term:

In the Grecian games in Athens, the old Arena con­tained a raised platform in which the president (or um­pire) of the Arena sat. Prom here, he watched the con­testants and here he rewarded all the winners. It was called the “Bema” or, “the reward seat.” It was never used as a judicial bench.13

Since God has done his part, He now tarries with man so that he may accept that sufficient sacrifice of Christ for his own redemption. Chafer states concerning this judgment:

The saved when standing before the judgment seat of Christ at His coming, are judged according to their works, and this judgment does not determine whether they are saved or lost; it rather determines the reward or loss of reward for service which will be due to each individual believer.

Since, under grace, the character or the believer’s life and service does not, and can not, in any way condition his eternal salvation, by so much, the life and service of the believer becomes a separate and unrelated issue Ye be judged by Christ– Whose we are and whom we serve.”

Man is an accountable being. His gain or loss will be ex­actly that which he has earned in this earthly life. The searching light of Christ’s presence will bring everything to light, both the pleasant and unpleasant deeds. Hodge comments:

The punishment Which men are to receive will be what they have earned, and therefore is in justice due to them. The reward of the righteous, although a matter of grace and not of justice, yet being, agreeable to the tenor of the covenant of grace, according to their works, it is of the nature of a reward. There is no inconsistency, therefore, in the Scriptures denying all merit to believers, and yet teaching that they shall be rewarded according to their works.

Both with regard to the wicked and the righteous, there is to be a great distinction in the recompense, which different members of each class are to receive.15

It is of particular significance that Paul states that each man shall receive “the things done in the body.”

When a believer dies, he goes to be with the Lord, but awaits his resurrection body. It is the contention of several writers that each man shall receive his reward after he has his resurrection body. Thus the proper place for such a transaction is at the judgment seat of Christ. With refer­ence to “the things done in the body” Denny states:

The things we have done in the body will come back to us, whether good or bad. Every pious thought, every thought of sin; every secret prayer, and every secret curse; every unknown deed of charity, and every hidden deed of selfishness: We will see them all again, and though we have not remembered them for years, and perhaps have forgotten them altogether, we shall have to acknowledge that they are our own, and take them to ourselves.16

In 1 Corinthians 3:8 Paul refers to the individual re­ward when he says, “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” From this verse it is evident that the believer has his own specific reward. The reward will not be based on what the person intended to do, but what was actually rendered. Filson makes the following comments on this passage:

That a reward varying in each case according to the record of the workman is what Paul means can be clearly seen by the use of [Greek word], the twofold use of [Greek word], and the idea of requital which is unmistakably conveyed by the word [Greek word]. There is only one possible inter­pretation of this verse. Each workman will at the judg­ment be individually and suitably rewarded for the worthy labor of his ministry.

Every man, irrespective of his position in the social order of this life, will receive at the judgment an exact equivalent for the good he has done.

Before leaving the Scriptural basis for degrees in reward, the following is what several theologians and commen­tators conclude on the subject of degrees. Mullins says, “The principle of degrees in rewards and punishments is clearly established in the New Testament teaching.”18 Gifford comments:

There will doubtless be gradations in happiness, all the way from the dividing line between the saved and the lost, BR through the various orders of spiritual beings, till we reach the Infinite himself 19

Berkhof makes reference to the Fathers When they speak con­cerning the last judgment for believers. He says,

Most of them are of the opinion that the saints in heaven will enjoy different degrees of blessedness, commensurate with the vir­tues which adorned them on earth.20

Bancroft states:

There will be degrees of blessedness and honor, proportioned to the capacity and fidelity of each soul (Luke 19:17-19; 1 Cor. 3:13-15), yet each will receive as great measure of blessing and privilege as its capac­ity and capability make possible, and these will depend largely upon the improvement and use of God’s gifts in the present life. This final state, once entered upon, will be changeless in kind and endless in duration (Rev. 3:12; 22:11).21

The Time Op Reward

The present reward.

The time of reward is more diffi­cult and often misunderstood. God’s love is often called into question, for the ungodly seem to prosper and the godly apparently suffer loss. However, the believer is promised that the Lord will prosper him (Psalm 1:3), though it may not appear so in the physical and material realm. It must not be overlooked that the godly have a present reward (Ephesians 6:2; Philippians 4:17-19). Having these passages in view, Filson says, “it is clear that the afflicted Christian re­ceives a present compensation of a spiritual nature.”22

The future reward.

The final giving forth of rewards will take place at the judgment or Bema seat of Christ, which will take place Shortly following the rapture of the Bride of Christ, the Church. It was previously stated that the judg­ment seat of Christ is to be distinguished from the judgment of nations and the Great White Throne judgment. The judg­ment of nations is to take place at the close of the seven year tribulation. The Great White Throne, a judgment for all unbelievers, will be executed at the close of the Lord’s mil­lennial reign. The judgment seat of Christ is one of two main events which are to take place between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. The other main event is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The second coming of Christ then follows the seven years of tribulation and initiates the millennium.

It is as this judgment seat of Christ that every work shall be rewarded and those who have been unfaithful will suffer loss. The believer does not receive his reward imme­diately upon leaving this world. Those who die in Christ “are now in his personal presence; but they still look for­ward to the day of reckoning and recompense.”23 At the rap­ture the believer Shall receive his new body “like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21), and with his new body he shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ and receive his reward or realize his lose of reward.

Rewards and salvation.

Dealing with the judgment seat of Christ also involves the question what relation there is between the believer’s salvation and his reward. Salva­tion is presented in Scripture as a gift. A gift and reward are not synonymous. As a gift, salvation is not to be ob­tained by man’s payment or working for it, nor do only a cer­tain few receive it. It is a gift of God to all men. If man does not receive the gift, the fault is not in the gift or the Giver. If by any manner man works or pays for his salva­tion, it no longer retains the Scriptural meaning of the term. God bestows both the gift and the reward on the be­liever by grace. The former deals with salvation, the latter with service. Chafer recognizes the difference between gift and reward when he says:

The doctrine of rewards is the necessary counterpart of the doctrine of salvation by grace. Since God does not, and cannot, reckon the believer’s merit or works to the account of his salvation, it is required that the believer’s good works shall be divinely acknowledged. The saved one owes nothing to God in payment for salva­tion which is bestowed as a gift; but he does owe God a life of undivided devotion, and for this life of devotion there is promised a reward in Heaven.24

Salvation as a gift can not be lost; rewards for service are subject to loss. The gift is a present possession, but the finality of rewards are to be given at the judgment seat of Christ. Since man will receive according to what he has done, it is evident that the range of service among be­lievers varies as does, for example, the individual’s produc­tion in a factory. However, rewards are to be given not with respect to the quantity of work, but rather in what spirit it was rendered (Mark 12:41-44). If the believer does his works to be seen of men, he has his reward and need not look for another. It is of supreme importance that God’s people should walk worthy of their high calling (Ephesians 4;1).

The reward of the believer will be in proportion to the faithfulness of his service for God in using the talents with which God has endowed him. The rewards, therefore, will differ according to faithfulness or un­faithfulness of our life and service. Faith in Jesus Christ eaves the believer, but his position in the future life, together with the measure of his rewards will de­pend upon his works. Thus it comes to pass that a man may be saved, “so as by fire,” i.e., saved because of his faith but his life’s work lost.25

“Moreover it is required of a mat that he be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4;2). It is this principle that the concept of degrees of reward is ultimately based on, namely, faith­fulness or unfaithfulness. Whether it is salvation or re­ward, both originate from the grace of God. Having distin­guished between a gift and reward, the next subject of consideration is the nature of reward.

The Nature Of Reward

Crowns.

The nature of rewards is partly expressed in the subject of crowns. The Christian’s reward is sometimes mentioned as a “prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24), and sometimes as a “crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25). God offers five crowns or rewards for definite Christian service. Some Christians will receive no rewards While others will receive from one to five crowns. Believers are exhorted: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

The first crown is the crown of life “for faithfulness under trial–martyr’s crown, for those who live the martyr’s life and die the martyr’s death (Yams 1:12; Revelation 2:10 ).”26 Harrison called this the “Lover’s crown” for it is promised to those that love him.27

The second crown is a crown of glory; “the under-shepherd’s crown, for feeding and caring for those entrusted to his care (1 Peter 5:4 cf. Heb. 2:7; John 17:22).”28

The third is the crown of righteousness which is the “triumphant soldier’s, the successful runner’s, the faithful steward’s crown (2 Timothy 4:7,8).029 The phrase “to be laid away” says Ellicott, “is applied to both future” rewards, as here andCol. 1:5, . . and to future punishments, and in fact to anything which is set aside, as it were as a treasure, for future uses and applications.

This crown says Barnes is:

A crown won in the cause of righteousness, and conferred as the reward of his conflicts and efforts in the cause of holiness. It was not the crown of ambition; it was not a garland won in struggles for earthly dis­tinction; it was that Which was the appropriate reward of his efforts to be personally holy, and to spread the principles of holiness as far as possible through the world.

As there is a distinction between gift and reward, so also there is a distinction between the gift of righteousness and the crown of righteousness. Ironside makes this observa­tion:

There is a difference between the gift of righteous­ness and the crown of righteousness. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ receives the gift of righteousness . . . But the crown of righteousness is something quite different. It is the reward that is given to those who have lived righteous lives as they have waited expectantly for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will sit on the judgment-seat where the works of the believers will be examined.32

The fourth is the crown of rejoicing or the soul-winner’s crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; Daniel 12:1-3). The believer will know those whom he has won to the Lord and they will be his crown of rejoicing in heaven.” Those lukewarm Christians who have no love for the lost and express no de­sire to join in any endeavor to win the lost for Christ, will not receive this reward.

The fifth crown is the incorruptible crown of self-mastery (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Harrison considers this the “Runner’s crown.”34 “The two lessons” says Edwards, “the apostle wishes to teach are the difficulty of winning and the unspeakable worth of the prize.”35 There is a marked con­trast between the prize the believer receives and the one that the victors received in the ancient games. The pine crown which the judge put on the victor’s head in the Isthmian games, while it was the emblem of glory, was at the same time the emblem of the transitory character of that glory. Par the spiritual victor there is reserved an unfading crown!36

The child of God is encouraged by the hope of receiv­ing an unfading crown. There are crowns for all, but only those who meet God’s standard will receive them. Filson summarizes the thought of the nature of reward this way:

It is eternal life which brings glory, honor and peace. It is rest. It is an imperishable crown, a prize, a hope laid up for those worthy, an inheritance. All these terms refer to the blessed life of the coming Kingdom, Which is considered as a reward given at the judgment.37

Basis For The Following Chapters

The concept of degrees in rewards is readily accepted by the majority of people. As has been shown in the previous pages, the doctrine is Scriptural. The principle involved with degrees in reward is inseparably connected with that of punishment or retribution. The basis for the one is auto­matically the foundation for the other. Mullins states this fact clearly by saying:

That as there are degrees in the rewards of the righteous, so also there are degrees in the punishment of the unrighteous. The Judge of all the earth will do right. We need have no misgivings at this point. The doctrine of degrees in rewards and punishments is one of the most clearly revealed doctrines of Scripture.38

Justice of God.

Since God is just, omnipotent, and omniscient, he is able to reward every believer according to his works. The God Who deals with the works of the believ­ers, also judges the works of the unbelievers. God can not overlook sin, no matter who commits it. When a child of God sins, he has an Advocate who pleads his case before God (1 John 2:2). The unbeliever stands before God condemned.

The doctrine of punishment is inseparable from the doctrine of reward. Rewards and punishments are the necessary opposite alternatives in the experience of moral agents subject to the disorganization of moral evil.

Man’s accountability.

Man is not just a machine that God operates. Since the first man Adam, he has been a re­sponsible being and has been held accountable to God for his actions. God did not punish Adam before he sinned, but when he did sin, Adam knew it and suffered the consequences. There is not a move that man can make but that God knows all about it. The phrase “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13) embodies more truth than the average man realizes. Though the unbelievers may not accept the doctrine of degrees in punishment, that gives them no license to continue or even to indulge in sin.

God’s word does not have to receive the approval of man for it to become authority; it is authority and is final by itself. Had Christ not mentioned anything about degrees of punishment, and had it occurred but once in the Bible, it would still stand as a doctrine to be believed. “If faith predicates something of the redeemed, it must predicate some­thing also of those who spurn redemption.”40 Carman states the importance of claiming the truth of both reward and pun­ishment when he says:

Punishment and reward are co-extensive and stand or fall together. They are both in the human consciousness, the soul’s honest claim for reward, the soul’s honest call for punishment.

Separate judgments.

It has been stated that over a millennium of years separates the judgment seat of Christ and the Great White Throne judgment. Neither of these judg­ments determine the individual’s destiny: that is settled before they appear there. Since these judgments do not determine destiny, there must then be a different purpose for them. The presence of the individual at either judgment is the result of an earlier decision. There is no period of probation after death.

For the believer, his works determine the degrees of reward. Thus the purpose of the unsaved at the Great White Throne judgment is for the Lord to portion our punishment individually according to their own deserts. God will give man exactly that which man has imposed upon himself. God does not separate a man from his works, whether it be the believer or the unbeliever. Their works follow both; for the one it is reward, and the other it is punishment.

1961

Sterling W. Sill (1903—1994): Assistant to Quorum of the Twelve

The Glory of the Sun & A Journey through Hell

Chapters in book entitled “The Glory of the Sun”

The Glory of the Sun

SOME friends of ours have recently  returned from a trip abroad. Most of their time away was spent in the Holy Land. When they began planning this trip two years ago, they wrote to the steamship companies, airlines, travel bureaus and libraries for information about the places and peoples they expected to visit. Inasmuch as their special interests centered in Pales­tine they had a large map especially prepared on which the places, events and dates of their particular interest were noted. Then for nearly two years, with the help of some good reference books, they restudied every chapter in the Bible. Upon their return they indicated that this had been one of the most wonderful experiences of their lives. The benefit they had received had been in proportion to the prep­aration that they had made.

With this in mind I would like to mention another im­portant journey. In this country we pride ourselves on being extensive travelers. We like to go to new places and see new things and have wonderful experiences. Isn’t it interesting then to remember that everyone of us already has a reser­vation, for the most important and the most exciting trip that anyone will ever make? That is when we will take that final trip beyond the boundaries of mortality.

There is a very important similarity between this post-mortal journey and some others that we are familiar with, in that in each case the benefit received will be in proportion to the preparation made. In fact most all of life is prepara­tion. We prepare for school, we prepare for marriage, we prepare for our life’s work, we prepare for death. In the pre­ existence we prepared for mortality. In mortality we are preparing for eternal life.

Because of the overwhelming importance of this sched­uled journey and the new life that it will inaugurate, God himself has provided us with the sacred scriptures to serve us as an authentic guide, a kind of travel literature by which we may prepare for a magnificent experience beyond this life. The gateway to immortality is death, and because we usually think of death as unpleasant, we sometimes fail to make ade­quate preparation for it. But lack of preparation does not cancel the trip, it just changes the destination.

The school of mortality is like any other school in that only those who have made satisfactory preparation will re­ceive the highest awards. The scriptures tell us that there is one place above all others that we should plan to attain. The Apostle Paul mentioned this in an interesting letter sent to the members of the Church at Corinth. He indicated to them that they had a choice between three possible destinations, each greatly differing in desirability from the others.

He pointed out that after the resurrection those who had not “sinned unto death” would be classified into three main groups according to their preparation. He said,

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (I Cor. 15:40-42)

Other scriptures also point out the fact that the most desirable of these kingdoms is the one that Paul refers to as “the glory of the sun.” It excels the other kingdoms in glory as the blazing noonday sun excels the soft light of the moon or the twinkle of a tiny star. This is the glory that God him­self has instructed us to prepare for. Every single command­ment that he has given has to do with the celestial kingdom.

The Lord has given no direction about getting into either of the lesser kingdoms. We get into these only by the degree of our default from the celestial.

In this same letter to the Corinthians Paul said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Cor. 2:9)

We can imagine luxury, elegance and beauty costing billions of dollars. In America we speak of our rising stand­ard of living. But who can even conceive of the standard of living in this place where God himself dwells in the “glory of the sun.”

In our own day some wonderful things have happened having a direct bearing on our eternal success. Direct reve­lations from God have vastly enriched our travel literature and given us far greater knowledge about our own future possibilities. On February 6, 1832, at Hyrum, Ohio, the Lord gave to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon a vision regarding these three kingdoms of glory spoken of by Paul. He also told them about another kingdom not mentioned by Paul which is not a kingdom of glory. This vision is recorded word for word in the 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. From any standpoint it is one of the greatest documents in all human literature.

In the 51st to the 53rd verse the Lord tells us exactly how to qualify for the celestial kingdom. He tells us a great deal about what it will be like. There will be no sin there. Celestial glory is the order in which God himself dwells. The glory of God is so great that no mortal in his natural state can live in God’s presence. (D & C 67:11-13)

The Lord has also told us where this glory will be lo­cated. After the earth has filled the measure of its creation it will go through a series of changes and find its final destiny as the celestial kingdom. When God created this earth he looked upon it and pronounced it very good. Then the earth was defiled by the sins of its inhabitants. But that curse will be removed and after the millennium and the final judgment, the earth shall be purified, resurrected, glorified and celestial­ized to become the permanent abode of those who have lived here and have qualified for celestial glory. But God has made it very clear that if we desire to live here eternally we must be prepared. His exact words are, “If you will that I should grant you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourself by doing the things that I have commanded you.” This is not just some man’s idea, this is the word of the Lord. He says:

… he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come; When the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received. (D & C 63:20-21)

On December 27, 1832 the Lord added another impor­tant chapter to our great literature on this subject known as the 88th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Speaking of the earth he said:

For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;

That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may pos­sess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.

The Lord has also told us that those who are not quali­fied must be cast out. He says,

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.

For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial king­dom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

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.

And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation and transgresseth not the law—

Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstand­ing it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it.” (D & C 88:19-26)

Not only will the earth be celestialized and beautiful, but all who live upon it will be resurrected celestial person­ages capable of receiving a fulness of celestial glory. Try to understand what you, as a celestial personage, will be like, with quickened senses, amplified powers of perception, and vastly increased capacity for understanding and happiness, made suitable to live in the presence of God.

The Lord says of all such, “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.” (D & C 76:70) But a celestial person is not just a celestial body. The Lord says that the celestial excels in all things. (D & C 76:92) That means a celestial mind, a celestial personality, a celestial fam­ily and celestial friends. Beginning in the 55th verse of Sec­tion 76 the Lord says,

They are they into whose hands the father hath given all things.

They are they who are priests and kings, who have re­ceived of his fulness, and of his glory;

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.

Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God. (D & C 76:55-58)

What an inspiring portrayal of your possible dignity and destiny!

Now just suppose that we don’t qualify. Suppose that we have paid insufficient attention to our inspired literature in which the Lord is trying to give us direction. Suppose that we must then content ourselves with one of the lower kingdoms with something less fine and far less satisfying. Suppose that we are among those that must be cast out, that we must live elsewhere forever, not only away from our fami­ly and friends but also excluded from the presence of God. The scripture speaks of outer darkness. It tells of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Who can understand the depth to which our grief may go when we realize that we have missed the celestial kingdom? The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the greatest misery of departed spirits is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy that they could have had.” (H. of C., Vol. 5:425)

Some of us even in this life have known the intense regret that can come because of a wasted opportunity or some de­filing sin. “Of all sad words of tongue or pen the saddest are these, It might have been.” The most devastating of all hu­man emotions is the sense of being alone, of being unwanted, of being unworthy. We were born on this earth; we were placed here to get ready; we inherited the right to live here forever, unless through our own disobedience and sin we dis­qualify ourselves.

In conclusion I would like to read a statement made many years ago by President Charles W. Penrose about the earth when it becomes celestialized. He said,

The earth will die like its products but it will be quickened again and resur­rected to celestial glory. It has been born of the water and will be born of the spirit, purified by fire, from the corruption that once defiled it, developed into its perfections as one of the family of worlds fit for the Creator’s presence. All its latent light awakened into scintillating action, it will move up into its place among the orbs governed by celestial time, shining like a sea of glass mingled with fire. Every tint and color of the heavenly bow radiates from its surface.

The ransomed of the Lord will dwell upon it. The high­est beings of the ancient orbs will visit it. The garden of God will again adorn it. The heavenly government will pre­vail in every part. Jesus will reign as its king. The river of life will flow from the regal throne. The tree of life whose leaves were for the healing of the nations will flourish upon the banks of the heavenly stream and its golden fruit will be free for the white-robed throngs that they may eat and live forever. This perfected earth with its saved inhabitants will then be presented to the Eternal Father as the finished work of Christ.

What a thrilling experience lies ahead if we are only able to translate the word of the Lord into appropriate preparation and thereby qualify, with our families and friends to live for­ever in that wonderful place which has been so aptly de­scribed as “the glory of the sun!”

A Journey through Hell

IN THE EARLY part of the fourteenth century, the Italian poet, Dante, wrote his great literary masterpiece entitled The Divine Comedy. In those days a comedy was not something that was funny. A comedy was something with a happy ending. A more understandable title for our day would have been “The Divine Experience” or “The Divine Story.” Thomas Carlyle said that in his opinion The Divine Comedy was the most remarkable of all books. It was based on the scrip­tures, to which Dante added generously out of his own imagi­nation.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is “The Inferno.” It tells of an imaginary trip which Dante made through hell. In Dante’s story hell was the place where de­parted spirits were consigned who were forever lost. These were the ones whose lives were so warped, twisted, and per­verted, that there was no hope. Then Dante traveled through a second kingdom which he called “Purgatory.” This was a place of purification where certain spirits who had not sinned unto death were cleansed through suffering, then educated, and made worthy to ascend unto heaven. The Bible refers us to this place as the place where Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison who had been disobedient in the days of Noah some twenty-five centuries earlier. (I Peter 3:19-20)

Then the happy ending came when Dante concluded his journey in what he refers to as “Paradise” which was that place where the righteous lived forever with God. Dante believed that it was his mission in life to show men hell, and that seems to me to be a necessary and a very important mission. However, it is a pretty difficult assignment because generally we don’t like to think about things that are un­pleasant, even to avoid them. Think how reluctant we are to think or talk about death or the consequences of sin, and so we bury our heads in the sand so to speak, to hide from those truths that we do not like. But unpleasant things do not cease to exist just because they are ignored. And a far better way to avoid an unpleasant prospective situation is to do a lot of the right kind of thinking about it in advance.

One of our biggest problems so far as our eternal exal­tation is concerned is that we are such incurable optimists. We usually have an overwhelming, unshakeable belief in our own “happy ending,” regardless of what we do leading up to it. But Jesus talked about many unpleasant things such as repentance, and the possibility that even some of the elect may be lost. He probably talked as much about hell as he did about heaven. He said, “. . . wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.” ( Matt. 7:13) Yet comparatively very few people ever think of themselves as being in that particular group.

Shakespeare was probably trying to get us to think a little more realistically about our own situation as over one-half of all of his plays were tragedies. Shakespeare under­stood what is very important for us to understand, that un­less we do something specific about it, every life does not have a happy ending.

We are reminded of our natural optimism when we say that in our business affairs we work under “the profit system.” That is just not true. We work under the profit and loss sys­tem, and that is the same system that regulates our eternal welfare.

With the thought in mind of helping ourselves to avoid this useless loss, suppose that we take a mental journey simi­ lar to the one that Dante took. And a good place to begin is where Dante began—in hell.

It was reported that a certain minister once announced that his next Sunday’s sermon would be about hell. A news­paper man went to hear him and then commented that the minister was certainly full of his subject. But it is thought to be a very good idea at least to get enough of the ideas about hell into our minds that we may avoid actually going there in person. Hell must be a very exciting place, but there are a great many advantages to first making this trip in the imagi­nation. One advantage is that it is a little easier to get out if we don’t want to stay. Another advantage is that we may not want to go there in the first place.

I would like to point out in passing that hell is a divine institution. It was not established by Satan as some of our present-day institutions seem to have been. Hell was estab­lished by God for a very important purpose. You remember that in the council of heaven Lucifer rebelled and drew away one-third of all of the hosts of heaven after him. The Lord said, “And they were thrust down and thus came the devil and his angels: And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell” (D & C 29:37-38) There are some people who don’t believe in hell. Many others have just never thought about it either one way or the other.

Of course, we have the direct word of God on many occasions that there is a hell. Reason also tells us that there must be a hell. We know that the basic law of the universe is this unchangeable, irrevocable law of the harvest that says “Whatsoever a man soweth, that must he also reap.” If everyone is going to be judged according to his works, then if there is a heaven there must be a hell. In the great enter­prise of human salvation there must be different places for instruction and reformation, rewards and punishments. Un­fortunately Satan and his angels are not going to occupy hell alone. In discussing the outcome of the judgment the Lord said, “And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father. Wherefore, I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (1D & C 29:27-28)

In spite of its unpleasantness hell was established for a good purpose, just as penitentiaries are established for a good purpose, and mental hospitals are established for a good pur­pose, and reform schools and the organizations of Alcoholic Anonymous are established for a good purpose. There is a certain purification that sometimes can best be brought about only through suffering. The members of some religious or­ganizations do what they call “whipping the flesh.” They deliberately torture themselves, to help themselves under­stand the meaning of pain. They believe that a little suffering now may help them to avoid a lot of suffering later on.

But one of the most important success factors in life is to settle definitely our minds about the existence of hell. Dr. William E. Orchard, a noted religious leader, was once asked whether or not he thought the concept of hell might now be safely abandoned in this day of education and en­lightenment. With a strange quietness in his manner Dr. Orchard replied, “I would not bank on it if I were you.”

A student once asked his Sunday School teacher, “Is there a hell?” The teacher replied, “There is a hell all right, but we won’t go into that now.” But Dante thought it was important that we should go in occasionally.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “If you could gaze into heaven for five minutes, you would learn more than by reading all of the books that have ever been written on the subject.” But we might also learn a great deal by gazing into hell for five minutes. That is, human nature is often more effectively motivated by the prospect of pain or loss, than by a comparable promise of reward. But if we go about it right, we can get good from both the promise of rewards, and a foreknowledge of punishments. Of course, no one is ever sent to hell by compulsion. Everyone who goes there goes there voluntarily by his own choices. And everyone who goes to hell goes there only because he just hasn’t made definite plans not to go there. No one needs to go to hell who definitely makes up his mind to go some other place. And if the “picturing power” of our minds is sufficiently effective, we will be able to make some firm decisions about where we want to go, if as Dante did we visit all three places in ad­vance. Suppose then that we first go in imagination and stand before the great gate of Dante’s hell and consider its chal­lenging inscription which reads as follows:

Through me you pass into a world of woe

Through me you enter into eternal pain;

Through me you join with souls forever lost

All hope abandon ye who enter here.

Suppose that we become familiar with the real hell by reading the inspired words of the great scriptures and think about the importance of such messages as those contained in the 40th chapter of Alma, the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the sixteenth chapter of Luke, and many others.

It is thought that a thorough understanding of these passages pertaining to hell would forever free us from our difficult problems in obtaining eternal life. That is, it would not be very difficult to forsake our sins and get rid of our weaknesses if occasionally we could clearly see in advance the tragic consequences of our evil.

In trying to show us these kingdoms of hell and purga­tory Dante pictures a series of circles or elevations. The top levels are inhabited by the spirits who have sinned least. And then as we descend from one layer to another into the depths of hell, the corruption and consequent suffering increases. Dante tries to picture the worst conceivable suffer­ing of which his mind was capable. But the human imagination even at best is very limited in its power, and is not capable of giving more than a faint suggestion of the real experience. For example, note the difference between a toothache in your imagination and one in your tooth. For the same reason it is probable that no matter how vivid a description of hell might be, it must of necessity fall far short in its ability to convey to our minds the full impression of those who will actually suffer there. But to see it as clearly as possible in our minds can be a wonderfully helpful ex­perience.

Suppose that we could go as Jesus did and talk with these spirits who had been confined to their prison house for many centuries. Just suppose that we could feel their regret and understand their suffering. Or suppose that we could learn first hand from them what brought them to this un­happy place. We would probably recognize a great many of our own personal sins. It has been pointed out that there are no new sins, there are only new sinners. As as example, one of hell’s prisoners said to Dante, “Not what I did but what I failed to do lost me the right to live with God on high.” And then from the point of view of his own hindsight he said, “This desire for God and goodness I knew too late.”

One of heirs groups said,

Our lukewarm eagerness for doing good

brought us to this place of misery.

Another said,

We could not endure the toil unto the end

and thereby for­ever lost the glory of our lives.

As Dante went into the lower regions he visited with some of those unfortunates who had sinned unto death. These had lived such lives that they could never be redeemed. For them there was no forgiveness. We do not know how intense either mental or physical suffering can be. We know that it can be severe enough to send one insane. And Dante pic­tures some of hell’s inmates as afflicted with madness because some incurable grief had unhinged their minds.

One of hell’s spirits said to Dante,

We beg that if ever you escape from these dark places

to look again upon the stars of heaven,

see that ye speak of us to other men.

And then attempting to discharge that obligation in our interests, Dante said, “Reader, as God may grant you reason, gather wisdom from reading this and then take council with your­self.” We should also take council with God and his word, which tells us that there are at least two ways to cleanse our­selves from sin. One is by suffering. A great line in latter-day scripture says,

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink of the bitter cup, and shrink.D & C 19:16-18)

The other way is repentance, as indicated by Walter Malone’s poem entitled “Opportunity.” He said:

Art thou an idler, then rouse thee from thy spell Art thou a sinner, sin may be forgiven.

Each morning gives thee wings to Bee from hell. Each night a star to guide thy soul to heaven.

God has promised us that we may have any blessing that we are willing to live and we must pay the awful penalty of every sin. This helpful experience, of an occasional mental journey beyond the borders of mortality may help us to avoid the suffering of hell and find a happy ending in the celestial kingdom of God.

1964
Craig J. Ostler and Joseph Fielding McConkie
Section 76: Revelations of the Restoration

A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants and Other Modern Revelations   
© 1964 Deseret Book Company

Section 76
Date: 16 February 1832  
Place: Hiram, Ohio  
After returning to Hiram from the Amherst conference, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon resumed their labors on the translation of the New Testament. The vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 was received while they were translating John 5:29.  

Philo Dibble, one of a dozen men present when this vision was received, said that he saw the glory and felt the power but did not see the vision. He described the event by saying:  

"Joseph would, at intervals, say: 'what do I see?' . . . Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, 'I see the same.' Presently Sidney would say, 'what do I see?' and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, 'I see the same.'  

"This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.  

"Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, 'Sidney is not used to it as I am'" ("Recollections," 27:303-4).   

Adding to that recollection on another occasion, Philo Dibble observed that "Joseph wore black clothes, but at this time seemed to be dressed in an element of glorious white, and his face shone as if it were transparent, but I did not see the same glory attending Sidney. Joseph appeared as strong as a lion, but Sidney seemed as weak as water, and Joseph, noticing his condition smiled and said, 'Brother Sidney is not as used to it as I am'" ("Philo Dibble's Narrative," 81).  

"Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remain unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: 'It came from God.'" (Smith, History of the Church, 1:252-53).  

Initially, the revelation was not as well received by the Saints as would be supposed. Brigham Young explained, "When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of good, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not" (Journal of Discourses, 16:42).  

On 1 February 1843 there appeared in the Times and Seasons (4:81-85) a short poem by W. W. Phelps addressed to Joseph Smith, entitled Vade Mecum ("go with me"), which was an appeal that in death he and the Prophet might go together to the paradise of God to find refuge there. Accompanying Vade Mecum was a much longer poetic response by the Prophet, A Vision, which consisted of a poetic rephrasing of Doctrine and Covenants 76 with some interpretive commentary. The Prophet's poetic response is perhaps the most authoritative and helpful commentary we have on this revelation (see page 540).  

The Greatness of God  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:1-4 
76:1 Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth. This revelation is for the inhabitants of both heaven and earth. The gospel is the same among the living and the dead. God is the same, the principles of salvation are the same, the necessity of faith, repentance, and baptism are the same, and the system by which those principles are taught is the same. Thus the revelation of those principles must also be the same. As the fulness of the gospel goes forth to those of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people by the Book of Mormon, so it must go forth in the same manner among their kindred dead. Indeed, its testimony is announced to be "a voice of gladness for the living and the dead" (D&C 128:19). The dead cannot be blessed by the authority restored to the living unless they are also blessed by the doctrines restored to them. So it is that "the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free" (D&C 128:22; Isaiah 1:2; Deuteronomy 32:1).  

The Lord is God. Jesus Christ is God. The God of the prophets of the Old Testament, the Lord Jehovah, was the promised Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, and Messiah of the New Testament. He was and is the Lord Jesus Christ. This same truth is sustained by the prophets of the Book of Mormon. For instance, Nephi prophesied that when "the very God of Israel" dwelt among men, they would "set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels" and would themselves "be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel" (1 Nephi 19:7, 13). A perfect witness that Israel's God and Mary's Son were one and the same was borne by the resurrected Jesus to the Nephites in these words: "I am Jesus Christ. . . . Come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world" (3 Nephi 11:10-14).  

Beside him there is no Savior. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:14, 22, 23-24.  

76:4 From eternity to eternity he is the same. "From eternity to eternity means from the spirit existence through the probation which we are in, and then back again to the eternal existence which will follow. Surely this is everlasting, for when we receive the resurrection, we will never die. We all existed in the first eternity. I think I can say of myself and others, we are from eternity; and we will be to eternity everlasting, if we receive the exaltation. The intelligent part of man was never created but always existed. That is true of each of us as well as it is of God, yet we are born sons and daughters of God in the spirit and are destined to exist forever. Those who become like God will also be from eternity to eternity" (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:12).  

"In other words Christ, as an eternal, exalted Being, never varies; from one eternity to the next he is the same. From pre-existence to pre- existence his course goes on in one eternal round, and so will it be with all exalted beings. Those who become gods will then be from eternity to eternity, everlastingly the same, always possessing the fullness of all things and multiplying their race without end" (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 240).  

All Things to be Revealed to the Faithful  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:5-10 
76:5-10 Those who serve God in righteousness and truth become heirs to the riches of his kingdom. The rewards he promises include an understanding of those things held to be of greatest worth in the heavenly realm. No mention is made here of the kind of things so often envied by those whose hearts are set upon the honors and riches of this world. Rather, the promise of heaven centers in a knowledge of things past and future as they pertain to the kingdom of God. Such knowledge embraces the wonders of eternity and the glory of things to come. It centers in wisdom beyond that known to the wisest and most prudent of men. The treasure least known to the world, and yet that which is of greatest worth, is that knowledge that comes only by way of revelation. It is God's alone to give, and he has promised the wisdom of heaven in full measure to his faithful servants. Truly, the "glory of God is intelligence" (D&C 93:36).  

This promise extends to all faithful Saints. It stands independent of office or position, of gender or of age. Whether our position be high or low, whether we stand in the public view or are entirely shielded from it, it is the purity of our soul and of our service, not the position we hold, that opens the windows of heaven to us. To be righteous is to be justified; it is to follow a course that is approved by the Lord. It will be recalled, for instance, that Christ was baptized "to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). Those who are righteous comply with all the laws and ordinances of the gospel. They do the right thing for the right reason. They act out of a proper understanding of gospel principles. 

One cannot serve the Lord in ignorance or error. We must serve in "truth," that is, according to the light of heaven and in a course that is constant or steadfast. Those serving after this pattern will enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the spirit of revelation, and will have the heavens opened to them.  

Elder Bruce R. McConkie illustrated the principles involved by sharing this experience: "When I was a mission president in Australia, I once said to those of my missionaries in Tasmania: 'Tomorrow we shall climb Mt. Wellington and hold our missionary meeting on the top. We shall there seek to commune with the Lord and partake of his Spirit.'  

"We made the climb, and while on top of the peak we visited a television broadcasting station. A bright young man explained to us in words I had never heard, and using principles I could not and do not understand, how the sounds and scenes of television were broadcast into the valley below.  

"That night, back in the city of Hobart, my two young sons and I sat before a television set that was tuned to the proper wave band, and we saw and heard and experienced what had been described to us in words.  

"Now I think this illustrates perfectly what is involved in the receipt of revelation and the seeing of visions. We can read about visions and reve lations in the records of the past, we can study the inspired writings of people who had the fullness of the gospel in their day, but we cannot comprehend what is involved until we see and hear and experience for ourselves.  

"This Tabernacle is now full of words and music. Handel's Messiah is being sung, and the world's statesmen are propagandizing their people. But we do not hear any of it.  

"This Tabernacle is full of scenes from Vietnam and Washington. There is even a picture of men walking on the surface of the moon. But we are not seeing these things. The minute, however, in which we tune a radio to the proper wave band and tune a television receiving set on the proper channel, we begin to hear and see and experience what otherwise remains completely unknown to us.  

"And so it is with the revelations and visions of eternity. They are around us all the time. This Tabernacle is full of the same things which are recorded in the scriptures and much more. The vision of the degrees of glory is being broadcast before us, but we do not hear or see or experience because we have not tuned our souls to the wave band on which the Holy Ghost is broadcasting. . . .   

"How this is done we do not know. We cannot comprehend God or the laws by which he governs the universe. But that it does happen we know because here in the valley below, when we attune our souls to the Infinite, we hear and see and experience the things of God.  

"The laws governing radio and television have existed from the time of Adam to the present moment, but only in modern times have men heard and seen and experienced these miraculous things. And the laws have always existed whereby men can see visions, hear the voice of God, and partake of the things of the Spirit. But millions of people everywhere live and die without tasting the good word of God, because they do not obey the laws which implant the revelations of the Lord in their souls" (Conference Report, April 1971, 98-99).  

76:5 Fear me. The fear of God has nothing to do with fright. It is rather a reverential awe that elicits the highest behavior from humankind.  

Here the Lord tells us that he is "merciful and gracious" to those who fear him and serve him in "righteousness and in truth" to the end of their lives. The text attests that neither God's mercy nor his grace is unconditional. As to God's mercy, Alma testified that "whosoever repenteth shall find mercy," and again that "God is merciful unto all who believe on his name" (Alma 32:13, 22). From ancient times the Lord has promised his mercy to those who love him and keep his commandments (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10). We are told that the Lord showed mercy to David "according as he walked before [him] in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart" (1 Kings 3:6). Standing before the altar of the Lord, Solomon declared, "Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart" (1 Kings 8:23). As the Psalmist noted, "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies" (Psalm 25:10). Christ himself, speaking to his newly called apostles, said, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). Thus to enjoy the graciousness of God is to be blessed and favored by him.  

76:7 Will I reveal all mysteries. In the theological sense, a mystery is something known by revelation. In some instances rituals are also referred to as mysteries because participation in them has the effect of unlocking the heavens. Without revelation, everything that pertains to God, to his kingdom, or to the life beyond this mortal sphere remains a mystery.  

In the Prophet Joseph Smith's inspired poem A Vision, the stanza standing opposite this verse reads:  

From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth.
And for ages to come unto them I will show
My pleasure & will, what my kingdom will do:
Eternity's wonders they truly shall know. (Times and Seasons, 4:82)  

From this it would appear that the Grand Council in Heaven took place on Kolob, which we learn from the book of Abraham is the planet nearest to the throne of God (Abraham 3:3; Facsimile 2, Explanation, Figure 1). This stanza may suggest that Kolob was our place of residence during our premortal estate.  

The Resurrections of the Just and the Unjust  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:11-18 
76:13 Who was in the bosom of the Father. Christ was "Beloved and Chosen from the beginning" (Moses 4:2) because he "was in the bosom of the Father"; that is, he was perfectly at one with the Father.  

76:14 The record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All that Joseph Smith taught in his role as a prophet, seer, and revelator about Christ becomes part of his testimony of Christ. Testimony is knowledge. One's competence as a witness is predicated on his or her knowledge. The fulness of Joseph Smith's testimony of Christ embraces all that the Prophet revealed, all that he taught, and all that he understood about the Only Begotten of the Father. Thus Joseph Smith becomes the great revelator, testator, and teacher of Christ for this dispensation. No man of whom we have record has revealed and taught more truth about Christ than Joseph Smith. The composite of all that he taught constitutes his testimony of Christ. This revelation (D&C 76) adds substantially to that testimony, particularly by the manner in which it extends his saving role to the inhabitants of worlds without number (v. 24).  

With whom we conversed. To converse may also mean to dwell with or to associate with, as well as to have dialogue with.  

76:15 The work of translation. This refers to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.  

76:16 Son of Man. Jesus Christ is the Son of Man, meaning the Son of "Man of Holiness," or God the Father (Moses 6:57; 7:35).  

76:18 This caused us to marvel. As Joseph Smith worked on his inspired translation of the Bible, he read that those who had done "good" would come forth in the resurrection "of life," while those who had done "evil" were to come forth in the resurrection "of damnation" (John 5:29). At the bidding of the Spirit, the word life was changed to read just and the word damnation was changed to read unjust. Apparently it was this change that caused Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to marvel. The context of the next verse suggests that they made the change at the direction of the Spirit without knowing why. Desirous to understand the reason for this change, they "meditated upon these things" (v. 19) and were granted this revelation. This in turn indicates that the Prophet's explanation in the introduction to this revelation that it was self-evident that much had been lost or taken from the writings of the ancient prophets before the Bible was compiled and that "Heaven" must include more kingdoms than one was the result of later reflection and not necessarily clear to him when this revelation was received.  

The Atonement of Christ Applies to Other Worlds  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:19-24 
76:21 Holy angels, and them who are sanctified. In his poetic rendering of this verse the Prophet wrote:  

I beheld round the throne, holy angels and hosts,
And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,
In holiness worshipping God and the Lamb,
Forever and ever, amen and amen! (Times and Seasons, 4:82)  

The reference to sanctified beings in this text thus seems to refer to the faithful of other worlds who, in their resurrected state, continue to worship both the Father and the Son.  

76:22 Last of all. This phrase means "most recently." There is no suggestion here that this would be the last time that the Father and the Son would manifest themselves to men in the flesh. The whole purpose of the vision is to testify otherwise. It both begins and ends with the promise that the glories of eternity, including the vision of God, will continue to be manifest to those who serve him in truth and righteousness (vv. 5-10, 116-18).  

76:23-24 That Christ, under the direction of the Father, created worlds without number, which were inhabited by the sons and daughters of God, was first revealed to Joseph Smith in June 1830 when he labored on the book of Moses (Moses 1:29-35). It could be reasoned that if Christ was their Creator he of necessity must be their Redeemer also. We need not rely only on reason, however. This revelation plainly states that through Christ the inhabitants of those worlds "are begotten [born again] sons and daughters unto God" (v. 24). In his poem A Vision, the Prophet stated the matter thus:  

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav'd by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons,
By the very same truths, and the very same pow'rs. (Times and Seasons, 4:83)  

In harmony with this doctrine, this revelation also emphatically teaches that "the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior" (v. 1). The poetic counterpart (stanza 2) reads, "And besides him there ne'er was a Saviour of men." Verse 13, which refers to Christ as the "Only Begotten Son," is changed in the poem to read, "Jesus the Maker and Saviour of all" (stanza 12).  

Lucifer Fell and Became Perdition  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-27 
76:25 With this verse the scene changes from the throne of the Father and Son, where they were worshiped by holy angels and sanctified beings, to that of our premortal estate.  

In this setting in the Grand Council in Heaven, we find Lucifer, a son of the morning, rebelling against the Father and his Firstborn Son, who had been chosen to redeem men from their fallen state. Our understanding of these events has been restored to us line upon line. While trans lating the book of Genesis, the Prophet learned that Satan (here referred to as Lucifer) sought to be born into mortality as the Son of God and thus become the Redeemer of all humankind. His plan was to do so by contravening the principle of agency, promising that not one soul would be lost; then, having saved all, he would claim for himself the honor of God. In contrast, he who is referred to as the Beloved and Chosen of the Father stood forth and said, "Father thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever." Thus the Father explained, "Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him; and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten I caused that he should be cast down; and he became Satan. Yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive, and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice" (JST Genesis 3:4-5; Moses 4:1-4). In a revelation given shortly after the Prophet received this inspired translation of Genesis, attention was returned to these events when the Lord said, "He [Satan] rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; and they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; and, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell" (D&C 29:36-38).  

To that which had been revealed, this text adds the knowledge that Satan had been "in authority" in our premortal estate, meaning that an organization of some kind existed in which he held a position of considerable importance. Of this the inspired poetic version states:  

And I saw and bear record of warfare in heav'n;
For an angel of light, in authority great,
Rebell'd against Jesus and sought for his pow'r,
But was thrust down to woe from his Godified state.  

Of Christ the revelation simply says that he was "in the bosom of the Father," meaning that there was a closeness or oneness of purpose that existed between them.  

Three years later, more of the story would be revealed in the book of Abraham. Here we learn that in the heavenly council our Father, having explained the necessity of a Redeemer, asked, "Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him" (Abraham 3:27-28).  

76:26 Perdition. To be called perdition means one is hopelessly and irredeemably lost. It is to be so given up to wickedness and so filled with hatred of the gospel cause and of the Father and the Son that even the Atonement cannot extend the hope of salvation. Of those who come to the point of perdition, the Prophet said, "You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 358; D&C 132:27-28). See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:35.  

Lucifer. The name means "the Shining One" (Bible Dictionary, 726). Before his fall the devil was one of the great luminaries of heaven.  

Sons of Perdition Suffer Eternal Damnation  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:28-49 
76:29 He maketh war with the saints of God. The war that commenced in heaven now finds its battlefield on earth. Satan's animosity is toward the Saints of God, those who, like Christ, seek to do the will of the Father. One result of this ongoing war is that the truth of all things is established in the mouth of two witnesses: the quiet and peaceful whisperings of the Spirit, and, in opposition, the loud, ugly ranting of the adversary. He leaves unopposed no principle that leads to heaven.  

76:30 Sufferings. Earlier renderings of this verse read "eternal suffering." This was also the case in verse 49 (Woodford, "Historical Development," 949, 950).  

76:31 Only those who have known the power of God and once were partakers thereof can be numbered among the children of perdition. They must deny the truth, having a sure knowledge of it, and then defy or war against it. These are they who seek the blood of the Lord's anointed. They are partakers of that spirit that filled those who crucified Christ (v. 35).  

76:35 Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it. The issue here is denying the Holy Ghost. Christ said: "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:29).  

A perfect knowledge of the gospel comes only by the spirit of revelation, meaning the Holy Ghost. Those who are entrusted with such knowledge and then choose to deny it, coming out in open rebellion against God and his servants, will suffer perdition. These unite themselves with the legions of the devil who warred against God and Christ in the councils of heaven. For such a sin there is no forgiveness in this world or the world to come (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 358). So it is that the Lord told the Jews that eventuallyeither in this world or in the world to comeall sins would be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is the unpardonable sin.  

Forgiveness of sin, as this revelation teaches, does not in and of itself open the gate to the celestial kingdom. In the world to come the wicked will suffer until they choose to obey Christ, repent of their sins, and obtain forgiveness. Only then will they be resurrected, after which they will inherit the telestial kingdom (vv. 81-107). Those who have committed the unpardonable sin will not be redeemed from the devil, and after their resurrection, they will be cast out with the devil and his angels into everlasting darkness.  

To commit the unpardonable sin, a person must receive the gospel, gain from the Holy Ghost by revelation the absolute knowledge of the divinity of Christ, and then deny "the new and everlasting covenant by which he was sanctified, calling it an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 128). He thereby commits murder by assenting unto the Lord's death, that is, having a perfect knowledge of the truth, he comes out in open rebellion and places himself in a position wherein he would have crucified Christ, knowing perfectly that he was the Son of God. Christ is thus crucified afresh and put to open shame. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 132:27.  

The Prophet further explained: "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 that 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.  

"When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devilthe same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 358).  

76:36 Fire and brimstone is a figure of speech representing the anguish associated with sin.  

76:37 The second death. The second death is separation from the presence of God. The only souls throughout all eternity who will know no glory, no light, nor the presence of God in any form suffer perdition; they are hopelessly lost.  

76:38 Shall not be redeemed. To be redeemed is to be freed from the dominion and power of Satan. Only those who become children of perdition are left without redemption.  

After the sufferings of his wrath. Those who inherit the telestial kingdom will do so only after suffering the wrath of God and making full payment for their sins. All who inherit a degree of glory must eventually be free from sin. The children of perdition remain everlastingly without glory.  

76:39 For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead. This passage appears to say that sons of perdition will not be resurrected, yet that is not the case. Paul stated the matter succinctly: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). The Book of Mormon repeatedly affirms that the resurrection is universal (2 Nephi 9:15, 22; Alma 11:42; 33:22; 40:4-5). Early manuscripts resolve this difficulty. For instance, The Evening and The Morning Star, the "Kirtland Revelation Book," and the "Book of Commandments, Laws, and Covenants," Book B, all read: "Who [or They] shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead," thus affirming that those who are destined to suffer perdition will be resurrected (Woodford, "Historical Development," 949-50). The poetic version of this verse reads:  

While all the rest are, through the triumph of Christ,
Made partakers of grace, by the power of his word.
(Times and Seasons, 4:83)  

Thus, "all of the rest"those inheriting celestial, terrestrial, or telestial gloryare redeemed from the second death, even spiritual death, through the resurrection. Samuel the Lamanite explained: "For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord.  

"Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.  

"But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.  

"Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness" (Helaman 14:15-18).  

76:43 Who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him. Before a person can become one of the children of perdition, the Father and the Son must manifest themselves to them. They must have a perfect knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel which they knowingly deny. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:35.  

76:44 Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. This imagery is chosen to dramatize the endless or eternal nature of the punishment that will be known only to those who will join the devil and his angels in their never-ending punishment. This expression was used both by Isaiah (Isaiah 66:24) and by Christ (Mark 9:44-49). In this mortal world, the worms that prey upon the carcass of the dead must also die, as do fires when there is nothing left to fuel them. Conversely, in the place of eternal torment neither worm nor fire will ever die; that is, the torment will never end.  

76:48 Ordained. The meaning of the word ordained as used in this instance is "appointed" (Webster, Dictionary, 1828). See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 20:2.  

Exaltation  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-70 
76:50-70 These verses are descriptive of the rewards known to exalted beings. In a subsequent revelation it would be made known to Joseph Smith that within the celestial kingdom are three degrees of glory (D&C 131). These verses are descriptive of the highest of those three degrees (see commentary on D&C 76:71). Of the other two degrees within the celestial kingdom, we know only that their inhabitants will be ministering servants to those who have obtained the fulness of the Father, which can be done only through the ordinance of eternal marriage (D&C 132:15-19).  

76:50-53 "We are not preaching a salvation for the inhabitants of the terrestrial or the telestial kingdoms. All of the ordinances of the gospel pertain to the celestial kingdom, and what the Lord will require by way of ordinances, if any, in the other kingdoms he has not revealed" (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:329).  

76:50 We saw and heard. Not only were Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon permitted to see this marvelous vision, but they were also privileged to hear the voice of the Father testify that he who sat on his right hand was his Only Begotten Son.   

The resurrection of the just. Two great resurrections await the inhabitants of the earth: the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. These could also correctly be called the resurrection of the justified and the resurrection of the unjustified. The justified are those who stand approved of God and are thus heirs of his kingdom and his glory. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:97-104.  

These are they that arise in their bodies of flesh,
When the trump of the first resurrection shall sound;
These are they that come up to Mount Zion, in life,
Where the blessings and gifts of the spirit abound. (Times and Seasons, 4:84)  

76:51 Received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name. Two separate concepts are mentioned here. First, those who obtain a place in the celestial world will do so on the strength of their testimony of Christ. In addition to that testimony, they must also believe on the name of Christ. That is, they must also accept and reverence those who come in the authority, or the name, of Christ. They must respect the authority of the priesthood and all of its offices. Not only must they have accepted Christ, but they must also have complied with all the laws and ordinances of his gospel. They must accept and sustain the president of the Church, the Twelve Apostles, and all those who have been called to preside over them in the government of the kingdom of God. In the true and proper sense of things, one cannot accept Christ and at the same time reject those he has sent to act in his name. In the meridian day one could not truly profess to accept Christ while rejecting Peter, James, and John. Similarly, in our day people cannot genuinely profess to accept Christ but reject the testimony of Joseph Smith or his lawful successors in the presidency of the Church, nor can they reject the ordinances of salvation as they are found in that Church. Only by accepting these things can one take upon themselves the name of Christ or truly believe in his name.  

Baptized after the manner of his burial. There is no true baptism except by immersion. Paul explained the symbolism of this sacred ordinance by saying, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:3-6).  

76:52 By keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins. It is supposed by many that the remission of sins comes in the waters of baptism. Independent of keeping the commandments, this is not and cannot be the case. Moroni said in teaching this principle, "Baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins" (Moroni 8:25). Baptism of water precedes the baptism of the Spirit, in which we are sanctified or cleansed. "Be baptized in my name," the Savior said, "that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day" (3 Nephi 27:20).  

76:53 Who overcome by faith. In an earlier revelation the Lord had said, "He that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome" (D&C 63:20). Only those of proven faith will inhabit the celestial kingdom. They will have met and conquered the great challenges of this mortal probation through faith in Christ (JST Genesis 14:30-32).  

Sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. It is not enough to receive an ordinance. For any ordinance to be valid, it must be ratified by the Holy Ghost, making it of efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection. For an ordinance and its promised blessings to stand approved in the eternal world it must pass a threefold test. First, it must have a divine originit must be of God's making, not of man's; second, it must be performed by one in authority, under the direction of the keys or presidency of the appropriate priesthood; third, it must receive the seal of the Holy Spirit of promise. That is, the Holy Ghostwho cannot be deceivedmust attest that the one seeking the promised blessing lived in compliance with the terms of the covenant he or she made. "All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations" that we desire to have in a future world must be approved by the Holy Ghost (D&C 132:7).   

This principle assures that there will be no unearned blessings in the heavenly realms. One might deceive a bishop or other ecclesiastical leader and thereby obtain the promise to a blessing in mortality for which he or she is not worthy (for instance, baptism, priesthood, the endowment, temple marriage), but no one will deceive the Holy Ghost. The promises given to those unworthy to receive them will have no effect on the other side of the veil, for the performance involved will not bear the approving seal of the Holy Ghost.  

On the other hand, those who have received all the ordinances of salvationeach of them bearing the seal of the Holy Spirit of promise have the sure promise of salvation. The Holy Ghost may place his approving seal on the various ordinances of salvation as we enter into them; then when we have received all the ordinances of salvation and have received the seal on all those ordinances, we have essentially received the sure promise of exaltation.  

The poetic rendering of this verse reads: 
For these overcome, by their faith and their works,
Being tried in their life-time, as purified gold,
And seal'd by the spirit of promise, to life,
By men called of God, as was Aaron of old. (Times and Seasons, 4:84)  

Of this phrase, as it was used by Paul, Clarke's Commentary observes with surprising insight: "The Holy Spirit, which is promised to them who believe on Christ Jesus, was given to you, and thus you were ascertained to be the children of God, for God has no child who is not a partaker of the Holy Ghost, and he who has this Spirit has God's seal that he belongs to the heavenly family. It was customary among all nations, when a person purchased goods of any kind, to mark with his seal that which he had bought, in order that he might know it, and be able to claim it if mixed with the goods of others; to this custom the apostle may here allude but it was also customary to set a seal upon what was dedicated to God, or what was to be offered to him in sacrifice" (Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, 3:434; emphasis in original).  

76:54 Church of the Firstborn. As baptism is the gate to the Church, celestial marriage is the gate to the Church of the Firstborn. Its membership is spoken of as "the inner circle of faithful saints who are heirs of exaltation and the fulness of the Father's kingdom" (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 139). Members of the Church of the Firstborn are those who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit as described in the previous verse and in Doctrine and Covenants 88:3-5 (see also D&C 78:21). Those members of the Church of the Firstborn who dwell in heaven abide in the presence of God and are heirs of the fulness of the Father (D&C 107:19). They will be numbered with the church of Enoch and will "come down out of heaven" with them to possess the earth (JST Genesis 9:23).  

They are they, of the church of the firstborn of God,
And unto whose hands he committeth all things;
For they hold the keys of the kingdom of heav'n
And reign with the Saviour, as priests, and as kings. (Times and Seasons, 4:84)  

76:55 Given all things. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:59, 94-95; see also Doctrine and Covenants 93:19, 20, 28.  

76:56 Who are priests and kings. "Holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood have power to press forward in righteousness, living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, magnifying their callings, going from grace to grace, until through the fulness of the ordinances of the temple they receive the fulness of the priesthood and are ordained kings and priests. Those so attaining shall have exaltation and be kings, priests, rulers, and lords in their respective spheres in the eternal kingdoms of the great King who is God our Father (Rev. 1:6; 5:10)" (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 425).  

It naturally follows that if such privileges are accorded to men, women of similar faith will be endowed with similar blessings. Indeed, no man can become a king and priest without an eternal companion at his side, a wife who is a queen and priestess. President Joseph Fielding Smith observed that "women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority" (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:178). See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 132:20.  

It is in the house of the Lord that a husband and wife are prepared for such offices and callings, though the realization of the blessings will not come until after the resurrection.  

76:57 After the order of Melchizedek. See Doctrine and Covenants 107:1-4; see also commentary on Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 14:26-40, page 331. 

76:58 They are gods. This verse stands at the heart of Mormonism. It sets us apart from the world. It ennobles and exalts beyond the imagination of man. At the commencement of this revelation the Lord promised to reveal "the wonders of eternity," even wisdom and understanding that would "reach to heaven" and that would cause the wisdom of the worldly wise and prudent to "come to naught" (vv. 8-9). It is in such verses as this that the heavens are opened and we are invited to see as prophets saw. What soul can remain unstirred by such a vision! "God himself was once as we are now," declared the Prophet Joseph Smith, "and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345).  

This verse immediately brings to mind the declaration of the Psalmist, who declared, "Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High" (Psalm 82:6). And again, the Psalmist asks, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [gods], and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Psalm 8:4-6).  

So it is that we are the children of God, who is himself an exalted, glorified man. And thus it is our divine destiny as his heirs to stand at his side and become as he is. Such is the purpose of the plan of salvation, and for that purpose the faith of the ancients has been restored again in our time, in the dispensation of the fulness of all dispensations.  

76:59 All things are theirs. "All those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all; being filled with the fullness of this glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one" (Smith, Lectures on Faith, 5:2; see also D&C 84:38).  

76:60 They shall overcome all things. In and through the atonement of Christ, the faithful and obedient will overcome all that is not rightfully a part of the celestial kingdom. Christ reconciles us not only to God but also to the fulness of his glory. Thus it is said of the man and woman who obtain that glory, "Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them" (D&C 132:20).  

76:63 When Christ returns to rule and reign upon the earth, he will bring with him all who have lived upon the earth who are worthy of a celestial glory (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:1). Those living upon the earth who are worthy of that same glory will be caught up to meet them, as will their righteous counterparts in the world of spirits (D&C 88:96-98; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Speaking of this same event, Jude quoted Enoch as promising that the "Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints" (Jude 1:14).  

76:64-65 The first resurrection is synonymous with the resurrection of the just. Patriarchal blessings commonly use the expression "morning of the first resurrection" to identify those who will be exalted. Doctrine and Covenants 45:54 indicates that heathens who knew no law shall come forth in the first resurrection. This resurrection, which is spoken of as being "tolerable," could properly be thought of as the afternoon of the first resurrection.  

Abinadi said the first resurrection consisted of "all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God." These, he said, would come forth with Christ in his resurrection (Mosiah 15:22). In like manner, Alma defined the first resurrection as the "resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead" (Alma 40:16). Another resurrection, also termed a first resurrection, will include the righteous down to the time of Christ's return. Those righteous souls who are living when Christ returns, as well as the righteous who are born thereafter, will also come forth in what can properly be called a first resurrection (D&C 132:19). The idea conveyed in the use of the expression "first resurrection" is that the righteous are resurrected first. The resurrection represents the order of heaven, which demands that the just be resurrected first and only thereafter will they who have been unjust be brought forth.  

76:66 Mount Zion. In ancient days, Jerusalem, or the holy city, was sometimes referred to as Mount Zion, the place where God dwelled (Psalm 48:1-2). Thus the heavenly abode of God was also referred to as Mount Zion, or "the heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22). In the latter days the Lord revealed that he and his saints would "stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri" (D&C 84:2-3; see also  133:18).  

76:67 An innumerable company of angels. It is a false notion, one not worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that only a few of God's children will be saved in the kingdom of God. In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw an "innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality" (D&C 138:12). All these awaited a glorious resurrectionand their number was limited to those who had lived from the days of Adam to the time of the crucifixion of Christ. Similarly, Alma spoke of "many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God" (Alma 13:12). Paul told the faithful of his day that they would join "an innumerable company of angels" in the heavenly place (Hebrews 12:22), while Daniel numbered the righteous who would stand before God as a "thousand thousands" who ministered to him, "and ten thousand times ten thousand" who stood before him (Daniel 7:10).  

When Christ said, "In my Father's house [kingdom] are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2; see also Smith, History of the Church, 4:184), he was not suggesting that there were various degrees of glory. At that moment he was speaking to the Twelve, and though one of them would betray him, he was giving them the assurance that there was room for them and as many as would believe on their word in his Father's kingdom. There is no boundary to the heavenly city, no limit that needs to be put on its population. There is room in his Father's kingdom for every one of his children, if they will but choose to abide there. Were this not the case, were it true that God did not desire to save all of his children, Christ said, "I would have told you" (John 14:2).  

The general assembly and church of Enoch. All those caught up into heaven with Enoch and his city will be numbered among those who eventually inhabit the celestial world. At the same time, all those who inherit the celestial kingdom will also come to a union with the people, or church, of Enoch. 
Church . . . of the Firstborn. See commentary on verse 54.  

76:69 Just men made perfect through Jesus. A just man is one whose course is justified or approved by the Holy Ghost; in the resurrection he will be made perfect because of the atonement of Christ. Thus the inhabitants of paradise are referred to as "just men made perfect" (D&C 129:3).  

76:70 Whose glory is that of the sun. Speaking of those who will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection to inherit the celestial kingdom, Joseph Smith said, "They 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" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 347).  

Those Who Shall Inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom 
Doctrine and Covenants 76:71-80 
76:71 Fulness of the Father. This verse affirms that the description in the previous verses (50-70) applies exclusively to the highest of the three degrees in the celestial kingdom (D&C 131). Only there do we find members of the Church of the Firstborn and those who have received the fulness of the Father.  

76:72 Died without law. The law referred to here is the law of the gospel. Another four years would pass before Joseph Smith learned that the gospel will be taught to those who die without the opportunity to hear it in mortality. Among their number will be many who accept and live it. They, of course, will inherit the celestial kingdom. This phrase describes those who died without hearing the gospel and who did not accept it when it was taught to them in the spirit world, yet who lived worthy of a terrestrial glory. Every person will be rewarded according to the law he or she chooses to live. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:21-24; 137:7-9.  

76:73-74 Those who rejected the gospel in mortality will have the opportunity to hear it again in the spirit world. Thus they receive a second chance to accept it. By so doing they are, of course, blessed but not with the fulness of the Father. Rather, they receive the glory of the terrestrial order.  

They receiv'd not the truth of the Savior at first;
But did, when they heard it in prison, again.
(Times and Seasons, 4:84)  

76:73 Spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them. Peter told us that Christ preached the gospel to the "spirits in prison" who had been disobedient in an earlier age (1 Peter 3:19). He also said that the gospel was preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged by the same law or the same standard as those who heard the gospel while in the flesh (1 Peter 4:6). Notwithstanding the plainness of these expressions, most within the historical Christian world reject the idea that the gospel is taught in the spirit world. These verses, however, confirm the plain meaning of Peter's language though they are greatly amplified in Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemption of the dead. That vision affirms that all the dead, whether good or evil, are in spirit prison, for all are subject to the effects of Adam's fall, chief among them being death itself. Thus, though we learn in that vision that Christ did not go in person to the wicked, sending others in his name, he nonetheless preached to the spirits in prison, for the righteous too are prisoners who look upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage. See Doctrine and Covenants 138:50.  

76:75 Only honorable men and women will inherit the terrestrial kingdom. Among their number will be those who were blinded to the message of the Restoration, either by their allegiance to the theories of men or because both the example and doctrines of apostate Christianity closed their minds to the possibility that such a thing as true religion could exist.  

76:77 Those of the terrestrial order will be permitted to enjoy the glory of Christ's presence, but they will not have the privilege of becoming as he is.  

76:78 The nature of our glory in the eternal worlds is determined by the nature of our bodies. As a celestial body is necessary to inherit the glories of a celestial world, so a terrestrial body is necessary to enjoy the  glories of a terrestrial world and a telestial body those of a telestial world. All three degrees of glory are beyond the capacity of a mortal or fallen body to experience unaided by the power of God. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:21-32.  

76:79 It is one thing to know the truth and quite another to accord one's life with it. In like manner, it is one thing to have a testimony of Christ and quite another to live true and faithful to that knowledge. There will be those with testimonies who fail to live up to them and who find place in the terrestrial kingdom.  

To be valiant is to be courageous, brave, and bold in the testimony of Jesus. It is to be valorous, gallant, and intrepid in that testimony. It is to be fully committed to the doctrines of the kingdom and the cause of Zion. Those who are not willing to give all their heart, might, mind, and strength in the service of their God will not be numbered in the worlds to come with those who do.  

Those Who Shall Inherit the Telestial Kingdom  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-91 
76:84-85 The citizenry of the telestial kingdom will at death be consigned to hell, where they must pay in full measure for their sins. Thereafter, they will come forth in the resurrection of the unjust to take their place in the telestial or lowest of the degrees of glory. "You cannot take a murderer, a suicide, an adulterer, a liar, or one who was or is thoroughly abominable in his life here, and simply by the performance of an ordinance of the gospel, cleanse him from sin and usher him into the presence of God,"explained President Joseph F. Smith. "God has not instituted a plan of that kind, and it cannot be done. He has said you shall repent of your sins. The wicked will have to repent of their wickedness. Those who die without the knowledge of the gospel will have to come to the knowledge of it, and those who sin against light will have to pay the uttermost farthing for their transgression and their departure from the gospel, before they can ever get back to it. Do not forget that. Do not forget it, you elders in Israel, nor you, mothers in Israel, either; and, when you seek to save either the living or the dead, bear it in mind that you can only do it on the principle of their repentance and acceptation of the plan of life. That is the only way in which you can succeed" (Gospel Doctrine, 95).  

76:86-87 Those in this kingdom will be ministered to by those in the terrestrial kingdom, who will be enlightened by the Holy Ghost. Those in the terrestrial kingdom, in turn, are ministered to by celestial beings.  

76:89 The glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding. Here we are told that the glory of the telestial world will exceed anything known to this earth. In so saying, it is not the purpose of this revelation to encourage satisfaction in obtaining this rather than a greater glory. Instead, this promise evidences the love of God even for his errant children and his willingness to bless them with all that they are willing to receive. What are the blessings of this kingdom? Satan and his legions will have no power here. Death and suffering will be unknown. Hunger and pain will no longer exist. Oppression and injustices will have no place. Through Christ, all the effects of Adam's fall will have been rectified. This alone will create a world the glory and goodness of which will surpass all understanding. The nature of this world will be much like the one known to Adam and Eve prior to the fall.  

The Glories of the Telestial Terrestrial and Celestial Kingdoms Contrasted  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:94-98 
76:94-95 These verses speak of the glories to be enjoyed by all who inherit the celestial kingdom. They are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Explaining this phrase, Joseph Smith taught that they would "inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation" as that enjoyed by Christ "until [they] arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 347-48).  

76:94 Church of the Firstborn. Faithful Saints who have received the fulness of temple blessings are members of the Church of the Firstborn. They are heirs of exaltation and of the fulness of the Father's kingdom. With the faithful of ages past, they become joint-heirs with Christ in receiving all that the Father has. See Doctrine and Covenants 93:20-22; see also commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:54.  

They see as they are seen, and know as they are known. Those who obtain a celestial glory will no longer see and know in part. All things will be opened to their understanding. Developing this same thought, Paul said, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). The word glass in this text refers to a mirror, which in that ancient day was made of polished metal that often gave an imperfect or distorted image. By analogy Paul is saying that in this life we often have an imperfect or distorted view of eternal things, but in a future day we will see things as they really are. The Living New Testament renders Paul's words thus, "We can understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). In that day we will come to understand the majesty and glory with which God has endowed all his creations.  

The Telestial Kingdom  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:99-113 
76:99-101 The telestial kingdom is full of religions and priests and ministers of every kind. It is a battleground of ideas and ideologies. Professing Christians there will include self- claimed disciples of Paul declaring the gospel of salvation by grace alone; those loyal to Apollos, or the learning of men, as articulated by the suave and sophisticated; and those claiming to follow Peter (Cephas) and the church of Rome in thoughtless submission. "These are they who say they are some of one and some of another" (v. 100), some of Christor so they profess some of John and the mystery of apocalypse, others of Moses and the law that he brought, some of Elias, and of Esaias, and of Isaiah, of Enoch and still more  

These are they that came out for Apollos and Paul;
For Cephas and Jesus, in all kinds of hope;
For Enoch and Moses, and Peter, and John;
For Luther and Calvin, and even the Pope. 
For they never received the gospel of Christ,
Nor the prophetic spirit that came from the Lord;
Nor the covenant neither, which Jacob once had;
They went their own way, and they have their reward. (Times and Seasons, 4:85)  

Mischief and the profession of piety have always gone hand in hand, as has the practice of picking and choosing among heaven's truths to find those that fit the professing believer's appetites and fancies. At the same time, such people turn a blind eye to the principles of sacrifice and obedience. So it is that living prophets are ignored in preference to dead ones and the spirit of revelation denied while the Bible is enshrined.  

76:112 The question is often asked, Throughout the endless expanses of eternity will there eventually be advancement from degree to degree? That is, can those whose glory is telestial progress to a terrestrial order, while those of a terrestrial order become celestial? Though conflicting opinions have been given by men in positions of authority, the question is answered, in the judgment of the writers, by the very nature of the resurrection itself. If the resurrection is the inseparable union of body and spirit (Alma 11:45; D&C 138:17), then that which is telestial cannot be changed so that it could endure or abide a terrestrial law, "worlds without end," and that which is terrestrial for the same reason could not become celestial. See commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:17-32.  

All the Faithful May See the Vision of the Degrees of Glory  
Doctrine and Covenants 76:114-19 
76:114-19 Doctrine and Covenants 76 stands unrivaled as the greatest revelation of our dispensation. No other revelation reveals more of eternity past and eternity future than this revelation does. From it we learn of the role of Christ as creator and Savior of countless worlds, of the premortal life and the war in heaven, of the destiny of those who become children of perdition, and of the glories of the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms. This combination of visions given to the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon stands unsurpassed in teaching the doctrine of heirship, with its testimony that mortal man in the course of the eternities can become equal in power, might, and dominion with God himself! The boldness of such a doctrine assures that we as a people will forever stand alone among those professing a faith in Christ. None want fellowship with us on doctrinal grounds, nor would we have reason to seek it with them. Plainly we stand alone. Yet in it all, no doctrine in this revelation matches in greatness the promise that every faithful soul is a rightful heir to all the mysteries of the kingdom, to every revelation and vision given or shown to the prophets, even to the manifestation of Christ himself.  

There is but one gospel, and by that gospel all humankind will be saved or condemned. If that gospel allows one man to repent, it must in like manner allow all men the same privilege; and if it grants the visions of eternity to one man, it must, by the same principle, grant that same vision to all worthy Saints who seek it. Thus it is for each of us to choose that portion of heaven's light in which we will stand.  

76:115 He commanded that we should not write. Joseph Smith later explained, "I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 305).  

76:118 Bear his presence in the world of glory. This revelation, which began with the promise that the faithful Saints may have the "wonders of eternity" (v. 8) revealed to them now, concludes with the promise that they might stand in the presence of God "while in the flesh." It is fundamental to our faith that if the God of heaven extends the promise of salvation to so much as a single soul he must in justice extend it to every soul on the same terms and conditions. If one can receive a remission of sins through faith, repentance, and baptism, so can all; if one can receive an answer to his prayers, so can all; if one can entertain angels, so can all; if one can stand in his presence while in the flesh, so can all. Such is the promise of the restored gospel; such is the declaration of this text. We do not have one gospel for prophets and another for their followers. There is but one gospel, and its covenants and promised blessings are alike for all.

1971 (1830’s  Period LDS Beliefs)

Robert J. Matthews

The New Translation of the Bible 1830 – 1833: Doctrinal Developments (Degrees of Glory and the Bible Translation)

That (Joseph Smith’s) work with the Bible sometimes brought the Prophet into visionary experiences is evident from the fact already noted that the vision of the degrees of glory was received in connection with the translation of the fifth chapter of John.  (BYU Studies 11:4 (1971), Robert J. Matthews? The New Translation of the Bible 1830 – 1833: Doctrinal Developments

1974

Robert J. Woodford (Ph.D Dissertation)

Section 76, in The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants (Volumes I-III)

Section 76 Of The Doctrine And Covenants

Historical Background

Section 76 of the D&C is one of the most important revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. His of its historical background is rather lengthy, but is important enough to be given full consideration here.

Joseph Smith wrote:

Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry reve­lations which had been received, 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. Accordingly, on the 16th of February, 1832, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision: [Section 76]

Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a tran script from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order to be heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man I constrained to exclaim: “It came from God.”1

Many years after this revelation was received, Elder Philo Dibble, who was an eye-witness to the actual reception of The Vision, wrote the following account in the Juvenile  Instructor:

The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doct­rine and Covenants was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hyrum, Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, per­haps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time–probably two-thirds of the time–I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.

The events and conversation, while they were see­ing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.

Joseph would, at Intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was look­ing at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Pre­santly Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”

This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.

Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.”2

Elder Dibble intimated in this account that not all Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw in the vision was recorded.

Joseph later indicated that not a hundredth part of it was written. He said: I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.3

It would be hard at this point to determine if Joseph ever used this additional information as part of other revelations; however, such a supposition is a real possibility. His later writings on the resurrection (Sec­tion 88), pre-earth life (Section 93 and Abraham 3), astro­nomy (Section 130 and Abraham 3), and the degrees of glory within the celestial kingdom (Section 131) may all have re­flected some of the things he learned in this vision. But his knowledge on this subject was not complete after this vision, for he later wrote:

The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell. I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son. I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold. I saw Fathers Adam and Abraham, and my father and mother, my brother, Alvin, that has long since slept, and marvelled how it was that he had obtained an inheri­tance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set His hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.4

Today most Latter-day Saints find the information in Section 76 awe-inspiring and majestic in nature. However, those same concepts that are held in such high regard today were such a departure from the common thought in Joseph’s day, and were so revolutionary to the accepted Christian concept of life after death, that many members of the Church were hesitant or even opposed to accept this vision as truth.

Brigham Young wrote of its contrast with his former teachings:

After all, my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not under­stand it. I then could feel what incorrect traditions had done for me. Suppose all that I have ever heard from my priest and parents–the way they taught me to read the Bible, had been true;–my understanding would be diametrically opposed to the doctrine revealed in the Vision. I used to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew, and fully understood it for my­self, by the visions of the Holy Spirit. At first, it actually came in contact with my own feelings, though I never could believe like the mass of the Christian world around me; but I did not know how nigh I be­lieved as they did. I found, however, that I was so nigh, I could shake hands with them any time I wished.”

This experience is not an isolated case for John Murdock records:

At Lewisville we took passage on a steemer & saeled to Cincinati thence to Dayton thence to colum­bus seet of government in Ohio thence to Cleveland thence to warrenville & Orrange & the brethren had just received the Revilation called the vision & were stumbling at it I called them togather & confirmed them in the truth.6

Later on, Elders John Murdock and Orson Pratt found that the Genesco Branch were also having problems accepting this revelation. From the journals of these two men, we are able to piece together the following events:

May 1st Br L. Johnson came to me said he & 0 Pratt had visited Ezra Landing in Genesco who denied the vision & other Revelations & other members joined him & they wanted to get help. Br. Rich & my self went with  him.

We met in conference with Br Landing at 6 Oclock P.M. 4 High Priests formed the council Viz 0 Pratt L. Johnson Leonard Rich & myself Presided in the meeting I opened by dedicating our selves to the Lord in prayer Br 0 laid the case before the conference by stating that Br Landing said the vision was of the Devil & he believed it no more than he believed the devil was crucified & many like things all which Br Lyman witnessed to & that he Br Landing would not have the vision taught in the church for $1000. & was verry obstinate. Br Landing arose and thanked God with great pomposity that he was permited to speek for himself & with Sing Song tone tryed to work up Sympathy in us & those present by relating the Sacri­fices he had made the hardships he indured & the good he had done for the cause. After he was done I told him he had given us quite a relation of his Sacri­fices he had made the hardships he indured & the good he had done but what does it all amount to, perhaps I & others have made a great Sacrifice as your self but if we do not hold out to the end we donot obtain the croon. Ezra Booth likewise suffered privation & traviled two thousand miles & then denied the reve­lations & was cut off from the Church. He was ashamed. I exhorted him to repent he said he was willing to be taught We adjourned till 8 Oclock next morning. 2nd. The Church met according to appoint­ment Br Orson led in explination of the vision & other revelation followed by my self & Br Lyman. We continued til 12 1/2 Oclock & dismissed. Met in one hour Br Landing acknowledged what we taught to be true. Br 0 said he did not like his confession for it appeared to be extorted. But he acknowledged he had talked hard to the brethren & asked their for­givness Said he heartily received all we taught & would teach it to the Church & said he would not for $2000. be put back where he was before we came to him. We forgave him allowing him to Stand in his office. We taught the same things to the church they promised obedience to all the commands of God & I blessed them in the name of the Lord the Spirit atend. We visited from house to house among the Brethren.’

The 16th [September 1833] I left Bolton for Kirt­land & providentially came across Bro. Lyman in Ithica – we both took the Stage until we came near to Gen­esco. We then went to visit the church in that place some of the brethren received not our teachings among whom was Bro. Landon an High Priest.8

Su 29th [December 1833]. Br. Ezra Landon Preached but did not hold the truth in purity. We visited him . P.M. he was wicked Said the vision was of the Devil came from hel & would go there again. We preached in the evening.

30th. We notified all the official members E Landon with the rest that a council would be held next day at Br C. Avery’s on the case of E Landon

31st. Met in council 0 Pratt L Johnson A. Lyman & my self High Priests & Elders Joseph Young R. Orton 0 Granger & Hiran Stratten Priest or Decon E. Bosley The conference organized by appointing L. Johnson moderator O. Pratt clerk E. Landon refused to attend & treated the council with contempt & it unanomously voted that E Landon be no longer a member of the church & ajourned one hour. The four High Priests visited E. Landon & demanded his licence he would not give it up & according to the Law of God & the land forbade him preaching any more & told him we would advertize him.‑

2nd [January 1834]. 4 H.P. & Elders Present in church meeting about half of the church After the meeting was opened we explained the vision & gave the resons why E. Landon was cut off from the Church

6th. We met in Church meeting 4 H.P. & 4 Elders present & about half the Church & when the meeting was opened the first resolution taken was that we receive Br Joseph Smith Jun. as a servant of God to build up the kingdom in these last days & receive all the revelations that have come forth by him as being the word of God & will abid the order of this Church of Christ. The vote was unanimous by the up­lifted hand except one member.10

Joseph Smith realized the negative impact this vision could have on people well schooled in traditional Christian thought, and so he cautioned the elders who were going to England not to even mention The VIsion.11 He  wrote:

My instructions to the brethren were, when they arrived in England, to adhere closely to the first principles of the Gospel, and remain silent concern­ing the gathering, the vision, and the Book of Doct­rine and Covenants; until such time as the work was fully established, and it should be clearly made manifest by the Spirit to do otherwise.12

In spite of these instructions, the following incid­ent occurred:

The Elders at Bedford continued to lecture in the basement of Mr. Matthews’ chapel from evening to even­ing, with the most flattering prospects until this evening, when Elder Goodson, contrary to the most positive instructions of President Kimball, and with­out advising with any one, read publicly the vision from the Doctrine and Covenants, which turned the current of feeling generally, and nearly closed the door in all that region. Mr. Matthews wished the meetings to be removed from his house, but continued to attend the meetings occasionally and investigated the subject to considerable extent.13

Heber C. Kimball also recorded this incident in his journal as follows:

A minister by the name of Timothy R. Matthews, a brother in law to Joseph Fielding, received them very kindly and invited them to preach in his church, which was accepted, and in which they preached several times when a number, amongst whom were Mr. Matthews and his lady; believed their testimony. and the truths which they proclaimed. Mr. Matthews had likewise borne testimony to his congregation of the truth of these things and that they were the same principles that were taught by the Apostles anciently; and be­sought his congregation to receive the same. Forty of his members went forward and were baptized and the time was appointed when he was to be baptized. In the interval however, brother Goodson contrary to my counsel and positive instructions, and without ad­vising with any one, read to Mr. Matthews, the vision seen by Pres. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, which caused him to stumble, and darkness pervaded his mind, so much so, that at the time specified he did not make his appearance, but went and baptized him­self in the river Ouse; and from that time he began to preach baptism for the remission of sins; he wrote to Revd. James Fielding, saying that his best members had left him.14

Eventually, as this revelation was published in the periodicals of the Church and taught to the members over the pulpit, the saints were able to overcome their prejudice, and Section 76 is now held in high regard by the members of the Church.

Over ten years after The Vision was received, Joseph Smith penned a poetic version of the same at the request of Elder W.W. Phelps. Joseph wrote in his history:

In reply to W.W. Phelps’s Vade Mecum, or “Go with me,” of 20th of January last, I dictated an answer: [It consisted of the “Revelation known as the Vision of the Three Glories,” Doctrine and Covenants, section lxxvi, made into verse.]15

This was immediately published in the Times and  Seasons,16 in other periodicals of the Church,17 and in the public press.18

In this poetic version, Joseph developed more fully the concept that Jesus Christ is the Savior for more worlds than ours, as seen in the following lines from the poem:

And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n

He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God-‑

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made;

Even all that career in the heavens so broad,

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last

Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;

And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,

By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.19

Extant Copies of Section 76

Only five months elapsed between the time The Vision was received and the time it was published in the Evening and  Morning Star. This publication is the earliest identifiable copy of this revelation as can be seen in Table 76, a bibli­ography of known LDS sources for Section 76.20

As can be seen from the Millennial Star entry in Table 76, The Vision was published in England only four years after the Goodson-Matthews affair.

Text Development

One reason there are so many variations identified in the Text Analysis of the text of this revelation is because of the number of extant manuscript copies. In all of Part II of this study, those revelations that are com­pared with several manuscript copies, have, without excep­tion, more variations.

There are several changes in this section that are significant in terms of clarification or change of meaning. One such change is identified in the Text Analysis by the letters “F,.” “Y,” and “Z” on page 123 and “G” on page 124. In all of these, the suffering of the damned is the subject, and these deletions refer to the eternal nature of suffering. In light of the definitions given in Section 19 of eternal damnation, these deletions do not in actuality alter the meaning of the verses involved.

The letter “0” on page 123 of the Text Analysis is a major deletion in the text of this section as found in the Book of Commandments, Laws, and Covenants, Book B. As it is written there, those who deny the Savior, and not the Holy Ghost, are the ones condemned to dwell in outer darkness.

Another important change on page 123 is identified by the letter “R” in verse 39. The meaning of this verse is reversed by the way it is found in the Kirtland Revelation Book, the Evening and Morning Star, and the Book of Command­ments, Laws, and Covenants.

A significant mistake in the text of this revelation as it is found in the June 1841 edition of the Millennial  Star is identified in the Text Analysis by the number 30 in verse 58. According to that text, man’s destiny would not be that of becoming a god; but he would be the possession of God. Another significant mistake, this time in the Times and  Seasons and the fourteenth volume of the Millennial Star, is identified by the letter “J” in verse 85. These two copies of Section 76 have the sons of perdition coming forth in the first resurrection.

According to the text in the current editions of the D&C, the people in the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms are “ministered” to by those of higher kingdoms; however, in some manuscript copies, these two kingdoms are “administered” by these angels. These earlier texts are identified by the letters ‘7,” on page 125 and “A” and “B” on page 126 in the Text Analysis.

Finally, the letters “H” and “P” on page 126 identify a major omission in the text of the Book of Commandments, Laws; and Covenants; Book B.

Footnotes
1 HC, I, 245, 252, 253.

2 The Juvenile Instructor [Salt Lake City], May 15, 1892, pp. 303, 304.

3 HC, V, 402.

4 HC II, 380.

5 Deseret News,–Extra [Salt Lake City], September 14, 1852, p. 24.

6 John Murdock Diary (1830-1859), p. 18, located in the HDC.

7 John Murdock Diary (1830-1859), pp. 27-29, located in the HDC.

8 Orson Pratt Journal (1833, 1834), located in the HDC. See also entries in his journal for December 1833.

9 See Evening and Morning Star [Kirtland, Ohio], February 1834, p. 134.

10 John Murdock Diary, ibid.

11 A. William Lund, former Assistant Church Historian, maintained that the vision mentioned in this incident was the First Vision and not Section 76.

12 HC II 492.

13 HC II, 505.

14 Heber C. Kimball Journal, Book 94C, p. 66, located in the HDC.

15 HC V, 288.

16 Times and Seasons [Nauvoo, Illinois], February 1, 1841, pp. 81-85.

17 See Millennial Star [Liverpool, England] August 1843, pp. 50-55 and November 13, 1858, p. 599; and Deseret  News Lake City], May 14, 18561 op. 73. 74.

18 HC, V, 302.

19 Times and Seasons [Nauvoo, Illinois], February 1, 1841, pp. 82, 83.

20 The Vision was also published in: Parley P. Pratt, Key to Theology Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1855). This source is not included in Table 76 or in the Text Analysis because of its similarity to the copy in the D&C of the time.

1984

Larry E. Dahl

The Vision of the Glories (D&C 76)

Larry E. Dahl, “The Vision of the Glories,” in Kent Jackson and Robert Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture: The Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Randall, 1984), 1:279-308

A Significant Doctrinal Communication

“It is full of light; it is full of truth; it is full of glory; it is full of beauty. It portrays the future of all the inhabitants of the earth, dividing them into three grand classes or divisions—celestial, terrestrial, and telestial, or as compared to the glory of the Sun, the glory of the Moon, and the glory of the Stars. It shows who will be redeemed, and what redemption they will enjoy; and describes the position the inhabitants of the earth will occupy when they enter into the future state.” 1

“Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants in its sublimity and clearness in relation to the eternal destiny of the human family, has not been surpassed. It should be treasured by all members of the Church as a priceless heritage. It should strengthen their faith and be to them an incentive to seek the exaltation promised to all who are just and true. So plain and simple are its teachings that none should stumble or misunderstand.” 2

Historical Context

The Prophet Joseph Smith had been engaged “somewhat regularly” 3 in making an inspired translation of parts of the Bible since June of 1830. That work was periodically interrupted by other duties. One such interruption was a conference of the Church held in Amherst, Ohio, 25 January 1832. Concerning his return from that conference and the reception of the revelation known to us as D&C 76, the Prophet wrote:

Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, 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 Saint’s eternal home must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, on the 16th of February, 1832, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision. 4

At this time Joseph and his family were living in the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio, about 30 miles southeast of Kirtland. It was in this home that the vision was received.

The only description that has surfaced thus far of the event, in addition to the Prophet’s brief introduction cited above, is the following remembrance of Philo Dibble published in the Juvenile Instructor, 15 May 1892:

The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hyrum [sic], Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time,—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.

The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.

Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”

This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.

Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.” 5

Ten years earlier (1882), “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” an autobiographical sketch, was published by the Juvenile Instructor office. Concerning D&C 76 the narrative states:

On a subsequent visit to Hiram, I arrived at Father Johnson’s just as Joseph and Sidney were coming out of the vision alluded to in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, in which mention is made of the three glories. Joseph wore black clothes, but at this time seemed to be dressed in an element of glorious white, and his face shone as if it were transparent, but I did not see the same glory attending Sidney. Joseph appeared as strong as a lion, but Sidney seemed as weak as water, and Joseph noticing his condition smiled and said, “Brother Sidney is not as used to it as I am.” 6

If both of these accounts are accurate remembrances, Philo Dibble must have arrived in time to observe the latter portion (“probably two-thirds of the time,” “which I think was over an hour”) of the vision. No mention is made of the names of the “other men in the room, perhaps twelve.” Whether any of those men wrote of the experience is not known.

Reaction of the Saints and Early Publication of the Vision

Some of the Saints had difficulty accepting the doctrine in the vision, as it was different from their traditional view of life after death. Brigham Young wrote of his own struggle with it:

After all, my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it. I then could feel what incorrect traditions had done for me. Suppose all that I have ever heard from my priest and parents—the way they taught me to read the Bible, had been true;—my understanding would be diametrically opposed to the doctrine revealed in the Vision. I used to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew, and fully understood it for myself, by the visions of the holy Spirit. At first, it actually came in contact with my own feelings, though I never could believe like the mass of the Christian world around me; but I did not know how nigh I believed as they did. I found, however, that I was so nigh, I could shake hands with them any time I wished. 7

“Eventually, as this revelation was published in the periodicals of the Church and taught to the members over the pulpit, the Saints were able to overcome their prejudice, and section 76 is now held in high regard by the members of the Church.” 8

The revelation was first published in the Church publication The Evening and Morning Star in July 1832, and was included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

It should be noted that in the vision itself Joseph and Sidney were told what they were to write and what they were not to write (D&C 76:28, 49, 80, 113, 114-16).

Eleven years after the vision (May 1843)Joseph Smith said: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” 9 It is possible that by then he already had revealed more than is recorded in D&C 76. Robert Woodford has suggested: “His later writings on the resurrection, . . . pre-earth life, . . . astronomy, . . . and the degrees within the celestial kingdom . . . may all have reflected some of the things he learned in this vision.” 10

If we have but a hundredth part, it seems obvious that the recorded revelation, as marvelous as it is, will not answer all the questions we may have about our eternal destinies. From what we do have, however, it is abundantly clear that there is an eternal reward commensurate with every level of obedience—rewards that range from godhood to perdition.

An Overview

The revelation contained in D&C 76 is a series of visions on the following topics:

1. The Son of God (vv. 1-24)

2. Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)

3. The Celestial Kingdom (vv. 50-70, 92-96)

4. The Terrestrial Kingdom (vv. 71-80, 91, 97)

5. The Telestial Kingdom (vv. 81-90, 98-112)

The sequence is interesting. It must have been a profound lesson in contrast for Joseph and Sidney to see and converse with Christ (v. 14), hear “the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (v. 23), then to be shown the darkness of rebellion and perdition, and then again to bask in the glory and power attending the celestial kingdom.

The Vision of the Son of God (vv. 1-24)

After being assured that God’s purposes do not fail and that he delights to honor the faithful with wisdom and understanding through his Spirit, Joseph and Sidney were privileged to see and converse with the Son of God in heavenly vision. The details of that conversation, or even by what means it was carried out, are not stated. The effect of it, however, is clearly stated in vv. 22-24. “Last of all” (v. 22) does not mean there will be no future testimonies born of him, rather that these brethren could now add their personal witness to all former testimonies that had been born to that time.

Note that John 5:29 is rendered somewhat differently in v. 17 than in the Bible—”just” and “unjust” replacing “life” and “damnation.” Note, too, that the new rendering “was given” to them (v. 15). A careful examination of the words and their theological meanings will show that the new rendering is more in keeping with the idea of varied levels of eternal reward than are the words “life” and “damnation.”

The vision came as a prophet and his scribe were marveling and meditating upon a gospel truth, which in this case they had just learned through the spirit of revelation. This seems to be a pattern. It is interesting to note how many of the great recorded visions through the ages came while prophets were engaged in “pondering,” “reflecting,” or “meditating” upon some principle brought to their attention by the scriptures and the Spirit. Examples include Joseph Smith’s First Vision (JS-H 12), Nephi’s vision of the tree of life (1 Ne. 11:1), Joseph F. Smith’s Vision of the Redemption of the Dead (D&C 138:1, 2), Enos and Nephi (son of Helaman) being reassured by the voice of God of their spiritual standing (Enos vv. 3, 4; Hell 10:2, 3), and Spencer W. Kimball’s revelation on priesthood (OD 2). No doubt all of us could have revealed to us deeper understanding by devoting ourselves more to “pondering” and “reflecting” upon eternal truths. Perhaps that is why we are continually reminded to “search” (D&C 1:37), “treasure” (JS-M 37), “ponder” (Moro. 10:3), and “feast” (2 Ne. 31:20) upon the words of the Lord.

Verse 24 contains a powerful statement about the infinite nature of Christ’s atonement. Citing this verse and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s poetic version thereof (see below), Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: “Now our Lord’s jurisdiction and power extend far beyond the limits of this one small earth on which we dwell. He is, under the Father, the creator of worlds without number (Moses 1:33). And through the power of his atonement the inhabitants of these worlds, the revelation says, ‘are begotten sons and daughters unto God’ (D&C 76:24), which means that the atonement of Christ, being literally and truly infinite, applies to an infinite number of earths.” 11

The Vision Of Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)

“The heavens wept over him” (v. 26), and with good reason! He was an “angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God” (v. 25). He was Lucifer, which means torch-bearer, or bringer of light. He was a “son of the morning,” which could mean either “son of light” or an early-born spirit child of our Father in the pre-earth life. Obviously he had great capacity and promise and influence. But in his case pride ruled predominant. He rebelled against God. By his power and influence he convinced “a third part of the hosts of heaven” to rebel with him “because of their agency” (D&C 29:36). Satan, along with his followers, was “thrust down” (v. 25) “into the earth” (Rev. 12:9), “to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto [the Lord’s] voice” (Moses 4:4). The revelation (v. 29) states that “he maketh war with the Saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” Joseph Smith said, “The devil will use his greatest efforts to trap the Saints.” 12 He also told Heber C. Kimball that “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifest by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes.” 13

Just as those who completely follow Christ become sons of God (D&C 76:58; Moses 6:68), those who suffer “themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome” (v. 31) become sons of perdition, “Perdition” being another name for Satan (D&C 76:26). In both cases those involved make decisions with their eyes wide open—it is “impossible . . . to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6), and those who become sons of perditions must:

  • know God’s power (v. 31)
  • have been mace partakers thereof (v. 31)
  • have suffered themselves to be overcome (v. 31)
  • deny the truth (v. 31)
  • defy God’s power (v. 31)
  • deny the Holy Spirit after having received it (v. 35)
  • deny the Only Begotten Son (crucify him unto themselves) (v. 35)
  • deny the Son after the Father has revealed him (v. 43)

The question is often asked, “Just how much does one have to know before one could become a son of perdition?” The following quotations from Joseph Smith and Spencer W. Kimball may help:

All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. 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 that 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 to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence. 14

The sins unto death may be thought of as somewhat difficult to define and limit with precision. From the words of Joseph Smith quoted above we note that “. . . many apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” will fall into this category. We cannot definitely identify them individually since it is impossible for us to know the extent of their knowledge, the depth of their enlightenment, and the sureness of their testimonies before their fall. . . .

The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin. Comparatively few Church members will commit murder wherein they shed innocent blood, and we hope only few will deny the Holy Ghost. 15

The consequence of becoming sons of perdition is the “second death” (v. 37). They are the “only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord” (v. 38). Through the power of the atonement, Christ “saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition” (vv. 43, 44). “They cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall because they repent not; for they love darkness rather than light” (D&C 29:44, 45). Their determined lawlessness and its result is described in another revelation: “That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to be 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” (D&C 88:35).

The Lord explained to Joseph and Sidney in the vision that though some are permitted to catch a brief glimpse of perdition, no one except the sons of perdition themselves truly understand the nature, extent and duration of the suffering there (vv. 44-48). In an earlier revelation the Lord said: “Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from my own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power. But remember that all my judgments are not given unto man” (D&C 29:28-30). The “but remember” portion of that revelation has led some to speculate that eventually the sons of perdition may be restored, recycled, or redeemed. Concerning those who were advocating such an idea in the early Church, the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Fredrick G. Williams) wrote in 1833:

Say to the brother Hulet and to all others, that the Lord never authorized them to say that the devil, his angels or the sons of perdition, should ever be restored; for 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; consequently those who teach this doctrine, have not received it of the Spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils. We therefore command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion. We sanction the decision of the Bishop and his council, in relation to this doctrine being a bar to communion. 16

Speculation, then, about the ultimate destiny of the sons of perdition—something that was not, is not, and will not be revealed—seems fruitless.

Some have wondered if the words “for all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead” (v. 39) means that sons of perdition will not be resurrected. We are assured by scripture and by modern prophets that they will be resurrected (see 1 Cor. 15:22; D&C 29:26; D&C 88:32, 102; Alma 11:41-45). 17 The sense of v. 39 then, is that all the rest (all except sons of perdition) will be “brought forth” (i.e., redeemed or brought out of hell) by the resurrection of the dead (see D&C 29:44; 88:16, 32). 18

Satan and his unembodied followers, along with his resurrected but unredeemed followers, inherit a “kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory” (D&C 88:24), suffering “everlasting,” “endless,” “eternal” punishment (v. 44 explained to mean “God’s punishment” in D&C 19:6-12), “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (v. 44). The “worm” and “fire” represent “guilt and pain, and anguish” (Mosiah 2:38). Joseph Smith said: “The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.” 19 What a sad end. It is no wonder that the heavens wept!

The Vision of the Celestial Kingdom (vv. 50-70, 92-96)

A careful reading of the verses pertaining to the celestial glory shows that they refer to those who are exalted in that kingdom (see v. 55, “into whose hands the Father has given all things”; v. 56, “received of his fulness”; v. 58, “they are gods”). Later (see D&C 131:1-4) the Prophet explained that there were “three heavens or degrees” in the celestial glory; whether this fact was made known during the vision or whether he learned of it later is not stated. However, it seems clear that the focus of this part of the vision is upon the highest heaven or glory within the celestial kingdom.

Requirements include:

  • a testimony of Jesus (v. 51)
  • belief—faith? (v. 51)
  • baptism (v. 51)
  • receiving the Holy Ghost (v. 52)
  • keeping the commandments (v. 52)
  • overcoming by faith—overcoming sin? or the world? or whatever trial or obstacle “the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him” (Mosiah 3:19), proving to himself and to God that he is “determined to serve God at all hazards” 20 (v. 53)
  • sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise (v. 53)

The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Spirit promised the saints, or in other words the Holy Ghost. This name-title is used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost, that is, the power given him to ratify and approve the righteous acts of men so that those acts will be binding on earth and in heaven. “All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations,” must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have “efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead” (D&C 132:7).

To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done. The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive the divine approbation. They “are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (D&C 76:53). If they are not just and true and worthy, the ratifying seal is withheld. 21

Nothing specific is said in this revelation about the necessity of eternal marriage in order to achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom. That requirement is made clear in D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:15-25. Also, we learn from D&C 84:33-44 that faithfulness to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is a requirement.

Those who attain this glory are members of the “Church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn” (vv. 54, 67), and “are come unto Mount Zion” (v. 66). These are simply other ways of saying that they are exalted. 22

“Just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (v. 69) is a reminder that even though someone learns to live in perfect harmony with the laws of God (i.e., becomes a just man) he must be absolved from his earlier mistakes before he is considered perfect. The blood of Christ remits those sins of which one has repented, and thus he is “made perfect.”

Verse 94 (see also 1 Cor. 13:12) carries a powerful thought: exalted souls “see as they are seen, and know as they are known.” How marvelous to consider the idea of living in such an open society, where there are no hidden agendas, where motives, thoughts, words, and actions are pure, so that there is nothing of which to be ashamed and therefore nothing to try to hide. It is an interesting experience to try to live that way for one day, or even one hour.

Verse 95 indicates that those who achieve this glory will be made “equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.” What is probably meant is that ultimately “all that My Father hash” will be given to those who qualify for exaltation (D&C 84:38). This blessing will not necessarily be conferred simultaneously upon all at the resurrection. Joseph Fielding Smith has said: “To be ‘made equal in power, and in might, and in dominion,’ does not mean that all shall advance with equal rapidity and perfection, but that means are given to them as sons of God by which they may obtain this fulness.” 23 And the Prophet Joseph Smith taught in 1844:

When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. 24

Applying the principles contained in D&C 130:18-19, it will take some people less time than others to achieve a “fulness.” Surely as we contemplate dwelling “in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (v. 62), with all the blessings attendant thereto, we can understand Alma’s declaration: “And my soul did long to be there” (Alma 36:22).

The Vision of the Terrestrial Kingdom (vv. 71-80, 86-89, 91, 97)

Those who are to receive the terrestrial glory are described as:

  • those who died without law (v. 72)
  • the spirits of men kept in prison, who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it (vv. 73-74)
  • honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men (v. 75)
  • those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus (v. 79)

It seems clear that these categories are not absolutely definitive. For instance, all those who die without law will not end up in the terrestrial kingdom—those who would have received the gospel had they heard it are heirs of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137:7-9). And what better way is there of knowing whether they would have received it than seeing what they do with it when they do receive it, in the post-earth spirit world? Similarly all those who are “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus” will not receive terrestrial glory—some will be so “not valiant” (i.e., liars, sorcerers, adulterers, etc.) that they will be consigned to the telestial kingdom. Hence, it appears that these categories qualify one another, and taken together give us a profile of terrestrial personality.

That personality is capsulized in vv. 75 and 79 — “honorable men” who have a testimony of Jesus, but who are not valiant in that testimony. Some, evidently, settled themselves into that mold in the pre-earth life and simply maintain it through this earthly probation. Elder Melvin J. Ballard suggested:

Now those who died without law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion in the former life, are obtaining all that they are entitled to. I don’t mean to say that all of them will be barred from entrance into the highest glory. Any one of them who repents and complies with the conditions might also obtain celestial glory, but the great bulk of them will only obtain terrestrial glory. 25

Others, like some of the disobedient in the days of Noah, reject the gospel on earth, but through repentance and suffering in the post-earth spirit world raise themselves to a terrestrial level of obedience and qualify for a terrestrial reward (Moses 7:36-40; 1 Pet. 3:18-21, 4:6; D&C 138:32, 58). Still others accept the testimony of Jesus on earth or in the Spirit world and live honorable lives, but permit the craftiness of men to blind them to the higher gospel principles. Neither celestial laws nor telestial wickedness appeals to them.

By the time of the resurrection and judgment, the accumulated effect of all our decisions in the pre-earth life, mortality, and the post-earth spirit world will be an unmistakable demonstration of what we really are, what law we can and will obey, and therefore what measure of truth and light and glory we can abide (D&C 88:22-24, 40). In regard to those spoken of in D&C 76:72-74, discussion sometimes focuses upon whether rejecting the fulness of the gospel at one point in time disqualifies them from receiving it later. Perhaps more emphasis should be placed upon the idea that it is not so much a matter of God denying opportunity as it is a matter of our unwillingness or inability to repent fully and respond to higher levels of light and truth.

Those who receive the terrestrial glory will enjoy “the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father” (v. 77). Their bodies differ from celestial bodies in glory “as the moon differs from the sun” (v. 78). They will be governed by “the ministrations of the celestial” (v. 87) kingdom, and have a part in governing the telestial kingdom (vv. 86, 88).

The Vision of the Telestial Kingdom (vv. 81-90, 98-112)

Just as there are souls who love and obey the truth with all their hearts and receive celestial rewards, and as there are souls who are honorable but not valiant and who receive terrestrial rewards, there are those who live wickedly, rejecting the gospel and Christ and the prophets. These receive telestial rewards.

The word “telestial” is a uniquely Latter-day Saint term. It does not appear in the Bible and even in Latter-day scripture only appears in D&C 76 and D&C 88. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “telestial glory” as “The lowest of three Mormon degrees or kingdoms of glory attainable in heaven.” 26 Although Paul speaks of three glories of the sun, moon, and stars, and names the first two as celestial and terrestrial, he does not name the third. That name, telestial, comes from this vision to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (see 1 Cor. 15:40, 41; see also 27).

Those who will enter the telestial kingdom, where they will differ in glory from one another as one star differs from another star (v. 98), are described as:

  • they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus (v. 82)
  • they who deny not the Holy Spirit (v. 83) 28
  • they who say they are some of one, and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses—but received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant (vv. 99-101)
  • they who are liars and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie (v. 103; Rev. 22:15 adds murderers)

Verse 82 has an interesting thought—seed in it. By speaking of “the gospel of Christ” and “the testimony of Jesus” as two factors, it appears that a person could have one, or both, or neither. In the context of this revelation, such an idea harmonizes with the concept that terrestrial-type souls receive a testimony of Jesus but are not valiant enough in that testimony to receive the fulness of the gospel; celestial personalities receive a testimony of Jesus and baptism and the Holy Ghost and a cleansing from all sin (i.e., the fulness of the gospel); telestial people do not receive either a testimony of Jesus or the gospel.

However, “these all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess . . . that Jesus Christ is Lord” (v. 110; Philip. 2:9-11). This obeisance and confession will come sometime during the process of preparing to be “heirs of salvation” (v. 88). 29 This cleansing process involves their spirits’ being called up and judged unworthy of resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium (D&C 88:100-1), then spending one thousand years in hell suffering for the sins they earlier refused to repent of, and learning to obey at least a telestial law (vv. 84-85, 105-7). Once they are cleansed and prepared, they shall be resurrected and placed in the telestial kingdom, the glory of which “surpasses all understanding” (v. 89). 30 No longer liars, sorcerers, whoremongers, adulterers, “they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (v. 112). Charles W. Penrose, later to become an apostle and counselor in the First Presidency, wrote in 1897:

  • While there is one soul of this race, willing and able to accept and obey the laws of redemption, no matter where or in what condition it may be found, Christ’s work will be incomplete until that being is brought up from death and hell, and placed in a position of progress, upward and onward, in such glory as is possible for its enjoyment and the service of the great God.
  • The punishment inflicted will be adequate to the wrongs performed. In one sense the sinner will always suffer its effects. When the debt is paid and justice is satisfied; when obedience is learned through the lessons of sad experience; when the grateful and subdued soul comes forth from the everlasting punishment, thoroughly willing to comply with the laws once rejected; there will be an abiding sense of loss. The fullness of celestial glory in the presence and society of God and the Lamb are beyond the reach of that saved but not perfected soul, forever. The power of increase, wherein are dominion and exaltation and crowns of immeasurable glory, is not for the class of beings who have been thrust down to hell and endured the wrath of God for the period allotted by eternal judgment. . . .
  • Those who were cast down to the depths of their sins, who rejected the gospel of Jesus, who persecuted the Saints, who reveled in iniquity, who committed all manner of transgressions except the unpardonable crime, will also come forth in the Lord’s time, through the blood of the Lamb and the ministry of His disciples and their own repentance and willing acceptance of divine law, and enter into the various degrees of glory and power and progress and light, according to their different capacities and adaptabilities. They cannot go up into the society of the Father nor receive of the presence of the Son, but will have ministrations of messengers from the terrestrial world, and have joy beyond all expectations and the conception of uninspired mortal minds. They will all bow the knee to Christ and serve God the Father, and have an eternity of usefulness and happiness in harmony with the higher powers. They receive the telestial glory. 31

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw that the inhabitants of the telestial world were “as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore” (v. 109). Though denied access to where God and Christ dwell, they will enjoy the presence “of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial” (vv. 86, 112).

The Prophet’s Poetic Version of the Vision

On 1 February 1843 there appeared in the Times and Seasons (pp. 81-85) a short poem by W. W. Phelps addressed to Joseph Smith, entitled “Go With Me.” With it was a much longer poetic response by the Prophet. The Prophet’s piece is a poetic re-phrasing of D&C 76, with some interpretive commentary. It is interesting to compare the verses from D&C 76 with Joseph Smith’s poetic version of the same vision. The verse numbers from D&C 76 are given in parentheses following the corresponding verse in the poem.

From W. W. Phelps To Joseph Smith: The Prophet.

Vade Mecum, (Translated.) Go With Me.

Go with me, will you go to the saints that have died,—

To the next, better world, where the righteous reside;

Where the angels and spirits in harmony be

In the joys of a vast paradise? Go with me.

Go with me where the truth and the virtues prevail;

Where the union is one, and the years never fail;

Not a heart can conceive, nor a nat’ral eye see

What the Lord has prepar’d for the just. Go with me.

Go with me where there is no destruction or war;

Neither tyrants, or sland’rers, or nations ajar;

Where the system is perfect, and happiness free,

And the life is eternal with God. Go with me.

Go with me, will you go to the mansions above,

Where the bliss, and the knowledge, the light, and the love,

And the glory of God do eternally be?—

Death, the wages of sin, is not there. Go with me.

Nauvoo, January, 1843.

The Answer. To W. W. Phelps, Esq.

A Vision.

1. I will go, I will go, to the home of the Saints,

Where the virtue’s the value, and life the reward;

But before I return to my former estate

I must fulfil the mission I had from the Lord.

2. Wherefore, hear, O ye heavens, and give ear O ye earth;

And rejoice ye inhabitants truly again;

For the Lord he is God, and his life never ends,

And besides him there ne’er was a Saviour of men. (verse 1)

3. His ways are a wonder; his wisdom is great;

The extent of his doings, there’s none can unveil;

His purposes fail not; from age unto age

He still is the same, and his years never fail. (verses 2-3)

4. His throne is the heavens, his life time is all

Of eternity now, and eternity then;

His union is power, and none stays his hand,—

The Alpha, Omega, for ever: Amen. (verse 4)

5. For thus saith the Lord, in the spirit of truth,

I am merciful, gracious, and good unto those

That fear me, and live for the life that’s to come;

My delight is to honor the saints with repose; (verse 5)

6. That serve me in righteousness true to the end;

Eternal’s their glory, and great their reward;

I’ll surely reveal all my myst’ries to them,—

The great hidden myst’ries in my kingdom stor’d— (verse 6)

7. From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth.

And for ages to come unto them I will show

My pleasure & will, what my kingdom will do:

Eternity’s wonders they truly shall know. (verse 7)

8. Great things of the future I’ll show unto them,

Yea, things of the vast generations to rise;

For their wisdom and glory shall be very great,

And their pure understanding extend to the skies: (verse 8)

9. And before them the wisdom of wise men shall cease,

And the nice understanding of prudent ones fail!

For the light of my spirit shall light mine elect,

And the truth is so mighty ‘t will ever prevail. (verses 9-10)

10. And the secrets and plans of my will I’ll reveal;

The sanctified pleasures when earth is renew’d,

What the eye hath not seen, nor the ear hath yet heard;

Nor the heart of the natural man ever hath view’d. (verse 10)

11. I, Joseph, the prophet, in spirit beheld,

And the eyes of the inner man truly did see

Eternity sketch’d in a vision from God,

Of what was, and now is, and yet is to be. (verses 11-12)

12. Those things which the Father ordained of old,

Before the world was, or a system had run,—

Through Jesus the Maker and Savior of all;

The only begotten, (Messiah) his son. (verse 13)

13. Of whom I bear record, as all prophets have,

And the record I bear is the fulness,—yea even

The truth of the gospel of Jesus—the Christ,

With whom I convers’d, in the vision of heav’n. (verse 14)

14. For while in the act of translating his word,

Which the Lord in his grace had appointed to me,

I came to the gospel recorded by John,

Chapter fifth and the twenty ninth verse, which you’ll see. (verse 15)

Which was given as follows:

“Speaking of the resurrection of the dead,—

“Concerning those who shall hear the voice of

“the son of man—

“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.” (verses 16-17)

15. I marvel’d at these resurrections, indeed!

For it came unto me by the spirit direct:—

And while I did meditate what it all meant,

The Lord touch’d the eyes of my own intellect: — (verses 18-19)

16. Hosanna forever! they open’d anon,

And the glory of God shone around where I was;

And there was the Son, at the Father’s right hand,

In a fulness of glory, and holy applause. (verse 20)

17. I beheld round the throne, holy angels and hosts,

And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,

In holiness worshipping God and the Lamb,

Forever and ever, amen and amen! (verse 21)

18. And now after all of the proofs made of him,

By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,

This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives!

And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne. (verse 22)

19. And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n,

He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God—

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,

Even all that career in the heavens so broad, (verses 23-24)

20. Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,

Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;

And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,

By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs. (verse 24)

21. And I saw and bear record of warfare in heav’n;

For an angel of light, in authority great,

Rebell’d against Jesus, and sought for his pow’r,

But was thrust down to woe from his Godified state. (verse 25)

22. And the heavens all wept, and the tears drop’d like dew,

That Lucifer, son of the morning had fell!

Yea, is fallen! is fall’n, and become, Oh, alas!

The son of Perdition; the devil of hell! (verses 26-27)

23. And while I was yet in the spirit of truth,

The commandment was: write ye the vision all out;

For Satan, old serpent, the devil’s for war,—

And yet will encompass the saints round about. (verses 28-29)

24. And I saw, too, the suff’ring and mis’ry of those,

(Overcome by the devil, in warfare and fight,)

In hell-fire, and vengeance, the doom of the damn’d;

For the Lord said, the vision is further: so write. (verse 30)

25. For thus saith the Lord, now concerning all those

Who know of my power and partake of the same;

And suffer themselves, that they be overcome

By the power of Satan; despising my name: — (verse 31)

26. Defying my power, and denying the truth;—

They are they—of the world, or of men, most forlorn,

The Sons of Perdition, of whom, ah! I say,

‘T were better for them had they never been born! (verses 31-32)

27. They’re vessels of wrath, and dishonor to God,

Doom’d to suffer his wrath, in the regions of woe,

Through the terrific night of eternity’s round,

With the devil and all of his angels below: (verse 33)

28. Of whom it is said, no forgiveness is giv’n,

In this world, alas! nor the world that’s to come;

For they have denied the spirit of God,

After having receiv’d it: and mis’ry’s their doom. (verses 34-35)

29. And denying the only begotten of God,—

And crucify him to themselves, as they do,

And openly put him to shame in their flesh,

By gospel they cannot repentance renew. (verse 35)

30. They are they, who must go to the great lake of fire,

Which burneth with brimstone, yet never consumes,

And dwell with the devil, and angels of his,

While eternity goes and eternity comes. (verse 36)

31. They are they, who must groan through the great second death,

And are not redeemed in the time of the Lord;

While all the rest are, through the triumph of Christ,

Made partakers of grace, by the power of his word. (verses 37-39)

32. The myst’ry of Godliness truly is great;—

The past, and the present, and what is to be;

And this is the gospel-glad tidings to all,

Which the voice from the heavens bore record to me: (verse 40)

33. That he came to the world in the middle of time,

To lay down his life for his friends and his foes,

And bear away sin as a mission of love;

And sanctify earth for a blessed repose. (verse 41)

34. ‘Tis decreed, that he’ll save all the work of his hands,

And sanctify them by his own precious blood;

And purify earth for the Sabbath of rest,

By the agent of fire, as it was by the flood. (verse 42)

35. The Savior will save all his Father did give,

Even all that he gave in the regions abroad,

Save the Sons of Perdition: They’re lost; ever lost,

And can never return to the presence of God. (verse 43)

36. They are they, who must reign with the devil in hell,

In eternity now, and eternity then,

Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quench’d;—

And the punishment still, is eternal. Amen. (verse 44)

37. And which is the torment apostates receive,

But the end, or the place where the torment began,

Save to them who are made to partake of the same,

Was never, nor will be, revealed unto man. (verses 45-46)

38. Yet God shows by vision a glimpse of their fate,

And straightway he closes the scene that was shown:

So the width, or the depth, or the misery thereof,

Save to those that parktake, is forever unknown. (verses 47-48)

39. And while I was pondering, the vision was closed;

And the voice said to me, write the vision: for lo!

‘Tis the end of the scene of the sufferings of those,

Who remain filthy still in their anguish and woe. (verse 49)

40. And again I bear record of heavenly things,

Where virtue’s the value, above all that’s pric’d—

Of the truth of the gospel concerning the just,

That rise in the first resurrection of Christ. (verse 50)

41. Who receiv’d and believ’d, and repented likewise,

And then were baptis’d, as a man always was,

Who ask’d and receiv’d a remission of sin,

And honored the kingdom by keeping its laws. (verse 51)

42. Being buried in water, as Jesus had been,

And keeping the whole of his holy commands,

They received the gift of the spirit of truth,

By the ordinance truly of laying on hands. (verse 52)

43. For these overcome, by their faith and their works,

Being tried in their life-time, as purified gold,

And seal’d by the spirit of promise, to life,

By men called of God, as was Aaron of old. (verse 53)

44. They are they, of the church of the first born of God,—

And unto whose hands he committeth all things;

For they hold the keys of the kingdom of heav’n,

And reign with the Savior, as priests, and as kings. (verses 54-56)

45. They’re priests of the order of Melchizedek,

Like Jesus, (from whom is this highest reward,)

Receiving a fulness of glory and light;

As written: They’re Gods; even sons of the Lord. (verses 57-58)

46. So all things are theirs; yea, of life, or of death;

Yea, whether things now, or to come, all are theirs,

And they are the Savior’s, and he is the Lord’s,

Having overcome all, as eternity’s heirs. (verses 59-60)

47. ‘Tis wisdom that man never glory in man,

But give God the glory for all that he hash;

For the righteous will walk in the presence of God,

While the wicked are trod under foot in his wrath. (verse 61)

48. Yea, the righteous shall dwell in the presence of God,

And of Jesus, forever, from earth’s second birth—

For when he comes down in the splendor of heav’n,

All these he’ll bring with him, to reign on the earth. (verses 62-63)

49. These are they that arise in their bodies of flesh,

When the trump of the first resurrection shall sound;

These are they that come up to Mount Zion, in life,

Where the blessings and gifts of the spirit abound. (verses 64-66)

50. These are they that have come to the heavenly place;

To the numberless courses of angels above:

To the city of God; e’en the holiest of all,

And the home of the blessed, the fountain of love: (verse 67)

51. To the church of old Enoch, and of the first born:

And gen’ral assembly of ancient renown’d.

Whose names are all kept in the archives of heav’n,

As chosen and faithful, and fit to be crown ‘d. (verse 68)

52. These are they that are perfect through Jesus’ own blood,

Whose bodies celestial are mention’d by Paul,

Where the sun is the typical glory thereof,

And God, and his Christ, are the true judge of all. (verses 69-70)

53. Again, I beheld the terrestrial world,

In the order and glory of Jesus, go on;

‘Twas not as the church of the first born of God,

But shone in its place, as the moon to the sun. (verse 71)

54. Behold, these are they that have died without law;

The heathen of ages that never had hope.

And those of the region and shadow of death,

The spirits in prison, that light has brought up. (verses 72-73)

55. To spirits in prison the Savior once preach’d,

And taught them the gospel, with powers afresh;

And then were the living baptiz’d for their dead,

That they might be judg’d as if men in the flesh. (verse 74)

56. These are they that are hon’rable men of the earth;

Who were blinded and dup’d by the cunning of men:

They receiv’d not the truth of the Savior at first;

But did, when they heard it in prison, again. (verses 74-75)

57. Not valiant for truth, they obtain’d not the crown,

But are of that glory that’s typ’d by the moon:

They are they, that come into the presence of Christ,

But not to the fulness of God, on his throne. (verses 76-79)

58. Again I beheld the telestial, as third,

The lesser, or starry world, next in its place.

For the leaven must leaven three measures of meal,

And every knee bow that is subject to grace. (verse 81)

59. These are they that receiv’d not the gospel of Christ,

Or evidence, either, that he ever was;

As the stars are all diff’rent in glory and light,

So differs the glory of these by the laws. (verse 82)

60. These are they that deny not the spirit of God,

But are thrust down to hell, with the devil, for sins,

As hypocrites, liars, whoremongers, and thieves,

And stay ’till the last resurrection begins. (verses 83-85)

61. ‘Till the Lamb shall have finish’d the work he begun;

Shall have trodden the wine press, in fury alone,

And overcome all by the pow’r of his might:

He conquers to conquer, and save all his own. (verses 85 and 107)

62. These are they that receive not a fulness of light,

From Christ, in eternity’s world, where they are,

The terrestrial sends them the Comforter, though;

And minist’ring angels, to happify there. (verse 86)

63. And so the telestial is minister’d to,

By ministers from the terrestrial one,

As terrestrial is, from the celestial throne;

And the great, greater, greatest, seem’s stars, moon, and sun. (verses 86-88)

64. And thus I beheld, in the vision of heav’n,

The telestial glory, dominion and bliss,

Surpassing the great understanding of men,—

Unknown, save reveal’d, in a world vain as this. (verses 89-90)

65. And lo, I beheld the terrestrial, too,

Which excels the telestial in glory and light,

In splendor, and knowledge, and wisdom, and joy,

In blessings, and graces, dominion and might. (verse 91)

66. I beheld the celestial, in glory sublime;

Which is the most excellent kingdom that is,—

Where God, e’en the Father, in harmony reigns;

Almighty, supreme, and eternal, in bliss. (verses 92-93)

67. Where the church of the first born in union reside,

And they are as they’re seen, and they know as they’re known;

Being equal in power, dominion and might,

With a fulness of glory and grace, round his throne. (verses 94-95)

68. The glory celestial is one like the sun;

The glory terrestr’al is one like the moon;

The glory telestial is one like the stars,

And all harmonize like the parts of a tune. (verses 96-98)

69. As the stars are all different in lustre and size,

So the telestial region, is mingled in bliss;

From least unto greatest, and greatest to least,

The reward is exactly as promis’d in this. (verse 98)

70. These are they that came out for Apollos and Paul;

For Cephas and Jesus, in all kinds of hope;

For Enoch and Moses, and Peter, end John;

For Luther and Calvin, and even the Pope. (verses 99-100)

71. For they never received the gospel of Christ,

Nor the prophetic spirit that came from the Lord;

Nor the covenant neither, which Jacob once had;

They went their own way, and they have their reward. (verses 100-1)

72. By the order of God, last of all, these are they,

That will not be gather’d with saints here below,

To be caught up to Jesus, and meet in the clouds:—

In darkness they worshipp’d; to darkness they go. (verse 102)

73. These are they that are sinful, the wicked at large,

That glutted their passion by meanness or worth;

All liars, adulterers, sorc’rers, and proud;

And suffer, as promis’d, God’s wrath on the earth. (verses 103-4)

74. These are they that must suffer the vengeance of hell,

‘Till Christ shall have trodden all enemies down,

And perfected his work, in the fulness of times:

And is crown’d on his throne with his glorious crown. (verses 105-8)

75. The vast multitude of the telestial world—

As the stars of the skies, or the sands of the sea;—

The voice of Jehovah echo’d far and wide,

Ev’ry tongue shall confess, and they all bow the knee. (verses 109-10)

76. Ev’ry man shall be judg’d by the works of his life,

And receive a reward in the mansions prepar’d;

For his judgments are just, and his works never end,

As his prophets and servants have always declar’d. (verse 111)

77. But the great things of God, which he show’d unto me,

Unlawful to utter, I dare not declare;

They surpass all the wisdom and greatness of men,

And only are seen, as has Paul, where they are. (verses 114-18)

78. I will go, I will go, while the secret of life,

Is blooming in heaven, and blasting in hell;

Is leaving on earth, and a budding in space:—

I will go, I will go, with you, brother, farewell.

Joseph Smith.

Nauvoo, Feb. 1843.

Conclusion

Truly there are many mansions in our Father’s house (John 14:2). In his justice and mercy and love he will do all he can do for us—all we will permit him to do—for he “granteth unto men according to their desire” (Alma 29:4, 5; 41:3-8). D&C 76 bears eloquent testimony of this truth. Perhaps the Prophet Joseph Smith said it best.

Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: “It came from God.” 32

Notes

The Vision of the Glories

1. Charles W. Penrose, JD 24:92.

2. Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1953), 2:50.

3. Robert J. Matthews, A Plainer Translation: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, A History and Commentary (Provo, Ut.: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), p. xxviii.

4. HC 1:245.

5. Juvenile Instructor, vol. 27, pp. 303-4.

6. “Early Scenes in Church History,” Four Faith Promoting Classics (Salt Lake City, Ut.: Bookcraft, 1968), p. 81.

7. Deseret News—Extra (Salt Lake City), 14 Sept. 1852, p. 52, as quoted in Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974, p. 929.

8. Ibid., p. 933.

9. HC 5:402.

10. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” p. 928.

11. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 65. Cf. McConkie, “Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, p. 10.

12. TPJS, p. 161.

13. In Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967), p. 132.

14. TPJS, p. 358.

15. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), pp. 122-23.

16. HC 1:366; TPJS, p. 24.

17. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vole., comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56), 2:25, 273-78 for statements by Joseph Smith, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph Fielding Smith.

18. It is interesting to note that in the earliest available manuscripts and printings of the vision it is rendered “who” (Kirtland Revelation Book and Evening and Morning Star) and “they” (Book of Commandments and Law and Covenants) rather than “for all the rest.” See Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” p. 951.

19. TPJS, p. 357.

20. Ibid p. 150.

21. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 361-62.

22. Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:57-58; Heb. 12:22-24.

23. Smith, ibid., 2:58.

24. TPJS, p. 348.

25. “The Three Degrees of Glory,” in Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 221.

26. Unabridged (Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1969).

27. Regarding the expression “deny not the Holy Spirit”: This may seem like a strange way to speak of wicked souls. The same thing could be said of those who attain terrestrial and celestial glory. As used here (v. 83) it seems to mean that although these people may be very wicked, they did not sink so low as to deny the Holy Spirit and thus become sons of perdition, that they are somewhat above irreconcilable defiance.

28. Regarding “heirs of salvation”: Although the words “save” and “salvation” are generally used in the scriptures to mean exaltation, they are on a few occasions used simply to mean resurrection (e.g., 2 Ne. 2:4), and at other times to mean redemption from the grave and from the devil, although those thus redeemed receive different rewards, according to their works (see D&C 76:43-44, 88; 132:16, 17). Hence, by virtue of the atonement, all who have ever lived as mortals on this earth are “saved” from physical death (i.e., resurrected), and all except the sons of perdition are “saved” from death and hell or the devil; only those who obey the fulness of the gospel are “saved” (i.e., exalted) in the kingdom of God. The context in which these words are used must be considered carefully.

29. Regarding “surpasses all understanding”: A rather common notion in connection with this verse is that Joseph Smith had taught that if we knew what the telestial kingdom was like, we would commit suicide to get there. What the Prophet said was not in reference to the telestial kingdom, but to life “behind the veil,” which may mean a number of things. The Prophet’s statement (Charles Walker quoting Wilford Woodruff quoting Joseph Smith) is as follows:

Br. Woodruff spoke. . . . He refered to a saying of Joseph Smith which he heard him utter (like this) That if the People knew what was behind the vail, they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there, but the Lord in his wisdom had implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their creator. (Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, ed. by A. Karl Larson and Katherine M. Larson [Logan, Ut.: Utah State University Press, 1980], vol. 1, pp. 465-66.)

30. “Mormon” Doctrine (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, 1897), pp. 72, 74, 75.

31. HC 1:252-53.

1985 (1830’s Period LDS Beliefs)

Grant Underwood

Saved Or Damned: Tracing a Persistent Protestantism in Early Mormon Thought

(Early LDS lack of Adoption of Degrees of Glory)

“Saved Or Damned”: Tracing a Persistent Protestantism in Early Mormon Thought by Grant Underwood , BYU Studies, vol. 25 (1985), Number 3 – Summer 1985, p.85-93,95-103

In the July 1838 issue of the Elders’ Journal, Joseph Smith responded to series of questions which he said were “daily and hourly asked by all classes of people.” To the question “Will every body be damned but Mormons?” he replied, “Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent and work righteousness.”  For years, I have assumed, along with others, that Joseph’s response was rather tongue-in-cheek. Actually, as we shall see, he was very much in earnest and was simply reflecting a sentiment widely held among the early Saints. Benjamin Winchester, for example, reasoned that as “Mormonism” was the restoration of the New Testament Christianity “all who reject this will be damned, if the scriptures are true.”  Such categorical statements were indeed rooted in the scriptures, particularly passages like  Mark 16:16:  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall damned.”  One finds this verse frequently and unequivocally invoked in the early literature. In an article entitled “Gospel I,” Sidney Rigdon wrote:

And unless God had sent the apostles, or others authorized as they were, the world must have perished: every creature in it must have been damned: for they were to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, he (that is, every creature) that believed and was baptized, should be saved; but he (that is, every creature) that believed not, should be damned. Had there been one creature in all the world who has in a state of salvation, or could have attained that state without the apostles, this commission would not have been correct, that is, that every creature in all the world who did not believe them and be baptized by their direction should be damned.

But what of the honest and honorable of other churches? A Times and Seasons editorial answered bluntly that it did not matter “how often a man prayed, how much alms he gave, how often he fasted, or how punctual he was in paying his tithes, if he believed not, he would be damned.”  Such “either/or” thinking did belong to some fanatic fringe; it permeated the membership from the Prophet on down. In a Nauvoo address Joseph referred to “the various professors of religion who do not believe in  revelation & the oracles of God” and said, “I tell you in the name of Jesus Christ they will be damned & when you get into the eternal world you will find it to be so they cannot escape the damnation of hell.”  A week later, he singled out the Presbyterians as an example and declared, “If they reject our voice they shall be damnded.”

That the Saints did not balk at laying out the consequences of rejecting the message of the restored gospel is also evident from the frequency with which anti-Mormons and other observers commented on this very point, an emphasis they found suffocatingly exclusivistic. La Roy Sunderland, an active abolitionist minister who wrote one of the more widely circulated anti-Mormon pamphlets of the 1830s, decried Mormonism’s “monstrous cruelty” in “pretending to send all to hell who do not believe it.”  In Truth Vindicated, Parley P. Pratt replied:

Every dispensation that God ever sent, is equally cruel in this respect; for God sends all to hell who reject any thing that he sends to save those that believe. And I add, if Methodism be true, God will send every man to hell who rejects it. And a man must be very inconsistent, to come with a message from God, and then, tell the people that they can be saved just as well without, as with it.

For modern Latter-day Saints accustomed to extolling the vision of the three degrees of glory as the antidote to the confining polarities of Protestant conceptions of the afterlife, the idea that early Mormons spoke almost entirely in terms of either being saved in the celestial kingdom or else being damned, rather than discussing terrestrial or telestial salvation, seems foreign indeed.  Yet it is the purpose of this article to trace within Mormon thought the persisting lineaments of traditional salvationist rhetoric and to demonstrate that the vision of the three degrees of glory did not begin to alter such notions until the end of the Nauvoo period.

We begin with a word about background. After surveying the religious landscape in America in 1844, the eminent German churchman Philipp  Schaff remarked that “the reigning theology of the country . . . is the theology of the Westminster Confession.”  The Westminster Confession, a creedal delineation of faith formulated two hundred years earlier by Reformed divines from both England and Scotland, had announced that, upon death, the souls of the “righteous” are received in heaven while the “wicked” are cast into hell. “Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies,” concluded the Confession, “the Scripture acknowledgeth none.”  The final chapter of the Confession dealt with the Last Judgment and explained:

The end of God’s appointing this day, is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fulness of Joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

For centuries, the polarities of heaven and hell, election and reprobation, had informed the contours of Protestant thought. Thus, in the world into which Mormonism was born, it was customary to conceptualize man as either saint or sinner, righteous or wicked, bound for heaven or headed for hell; and this formed an important part of the cultural baggage early converts carried with them into the Church.

Significantly, such sharply contrasting categories were not explicitly contradicted either in the Book of  Mormon  or in the new revelations. One early revelation described the Last Judgment in these familiar terms: “And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand. . . . I will say unto them–Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”  On another occasion the Lord spoke of the gathering “that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory . . . while the tares shall be bound in bundles . . . that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.”  To portray Judgment Day outcomes only as either “celestial glory” or “unquenchable fire,” “eternal life” or “everlasting fire” without mentioning the intermediate glories seems incomplete from a modern perspective.  Yet, with the exception of the Vision, a subject to which we will later return, the  revelation of the Restoration perpetuated such traditional polarizations.

In fact, they seemed to strengthen the dichotomies by crystalizing into a single criterion the distinction between the two groups. That criterion was an individual’s response to the Mormon message. “Mine elect,” declared the Lord, “hear my voice and harden not their hearts.”  By divine definition, the “elect” were only those who accepted the restored gospel. The same criterion was extended to the definition of “goodness.” “And there are none that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth unto this generation.”

Conversely, the Lord defined the “wicked” just as succinctly. They were simply those “that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts.”  Even the casual observer will note that this is phrased as the exact negation of what constituted election. As if it were not already clear enough, a year later the Lord taught his Saints how to distinguish the two types of people: “Whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin. . . . And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked.”  When talking theology, then, the Saints used the word wicked as a sort of generic term for all unbelievers whether or not they were morally bankrupt. Parley P. Pratt, for instance, defined “the wicked” as “that portion of the people who were not of the Kingdom of God.”  On the other hand, believers were collectively described as “the righteous.” A Times and Seasons article explained that when a man “is adopted into the church and kingdom of God, as one of his Saints; his name is then enrolled in the book of the names of the righteous.”

In terms of these polarities, what was true for the one was also true for the many. Whole churches of non-Mormons were designated in various revelations as “the congregations of the wicked.”  “Babylon, literally understood,” wrote  John  Taylor, “is . . . the Roman Catholics, Protestants, and all that have not had they keys of the kingdom.”  Entire cities were also classified collectively. After their initial failure in London, early missionaries wrote home that though it was “the boast of the Gentiles” London contained “one million five hundred thousands souls who are ripening in iniquity and preparing for the wrath of God; and like the ox going to the slaughter, know not the day of their visitation.”  Yet, as Parley P. Pratt later explained:

The people of England may repent, and never be destroyed; but if they do not repent, they will perish, in common with all nations who are unprepared for the second advent of the Messiah: For lo! the time is near–very near, when every one who does not give heed to Jesus Christ “will be destroyed from among the people.” This applies equally to England, and all other places.

Thus, this was not just Yankee arrogance, for the American cities of Boston, Albany and Cincinnati were also promised “desolation and utter abolishment” if they rejected the gospel.  Even close friends were not exempt. Edward Partridge once penned this earnest entreaty to all his former acquaintances: “O take the advice of one that wishes you well . . . humble yourselves before god and embrace the everlasting gospel before the judgments of God sweep you from the face of the earth.”

Here we pause to notice a subtlety of early  Mormon  thought. Given its markedly millenarian character, it tended to move ahead the traditional saved-damned reckoning of Judgment Day to a saved-destroyed outcome apparent at Christ’s coming. “In the day of the coming of the Son of Man,” declared an early revelation, “cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire.”  The first Mormons spoke often of the Second Advent as a day of judgment or vengeance, demonstrating their focus on the attendant destruction of the unbelievers as much as on the salvation of the Saints.  And there was no middle ground. Only Mormons would survive the second coming of Christ. According to Sidney Rigdon, all people on the earth during this period would be Saints: “all the rest of the world will without exception be cut off.”  When in 1841 Joseph first advanced the idea that there would be “wicked” men on the earth during the Millennium, it represented an abrupt about-face from a decade’s consensus to the contrary, and it would be at least another decade before the idea really caught hold even among Church leaders.  To introduce the color gray to those so accustomed to black and white was not easy. Because of their apocalyptic orientation, then, early Saints spoke more often of a “temporal” judgment to be effected at Christ’s coming than they did of the far-off Final Judgment.

Such an apocalyptic scenario infused the saved-damned dichotomy with an imminence and a tangibility that provided both motivation and rationale for missionary outreach. Orson Hyde, in what is recognized as the earliest LDS missionary tract, urged: “Pray, therefore, that God may send unto you some servant of his, who is authorized from on high, to administer to you the ordinances of the gospel. Except you do this, you . . . must fall victims to the messengers of destruction, which God will soon send upon the earth.”  And in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith petitioned the Lord thus:

And whatsoever city thy servants shall enter, and the people of that city receive not the testimony of thy servants . . . let it be upon that city according to that which thou hast spoken . . . terrible things concerning the wicked, in the last days–that thou wilt pour out thy judgments without measure.

If in the early years the phrase “voice of warning” carried very literal connotations, it must be balanced with an acknowledgment that the elders were occasionally counseled to avoid overzealousness in declaring judgments against the wicked.  As W.W. Phelps advised:

Warn in compassion without threatening the wicked with judgments which are to be poured upon the world hereafter. You have no right . . . to collect the calamities of six thousand years, and paint them upon the curtain of these last days to scare mankind to repentance; no; you are to preach the gospel . . . even glad tidings of great joy unto all people.

In the same dedicatory prayer, it was remarked, “O Lord, we delight not in the destruction of our fellow men; their souls are precious before thee; but thy word must be fulfilled.”

It is not surprising that people weaned on the Bible and steeped in its literal interpretation would feel there were simply too many graphic passages predicting “wo” upon unbelievers to have the notion “spiritualized” or “explained away.” Time and again in early  Mormon  periodicals and pamphlets one encounters references to Moses’ prophecy that all who will not hearken to Christ will be cut off form among the people or to Paul’s portrayal of a Savior descending in flaming fire to take vengeance “on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel.”  No Bible verse, however, more effectively bolstered the saved-destroyed dichotomy that  Luke 17:26:  “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” This scripture told the Saints two things. First, the majority of mankind in their day would reject the message; and second, such people would therefore be destroyed. “Just precisely as it was then,” wrote the editors of the Times and Seasons,” ‘so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man.’  Revelation  shall precede his coming, the whole world shall ridicule them and cast them off, for so it was in the days of Noah, and the consequences were, inevitable destruction; and so it will be with this generation, the righteous only, will be saved.”  That this would leave few men to enjoy the Millennium merely accorded with their understanding of Isaiah’s prophecy that “the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” “This destruction,” explained Parley P. Pratt in his Voice of Warning, “is to come by fire as literally as the flood in the days of Noah; and it will consume both priests and people from the earth . . . or else we must get a new edition of the Bible, leaving out the 24th of Isaiah.”  For literalist Latter-day Saints, it was no more difficult to conceive of the earth being swept clean of every single non-Mormon at the Second Coming than it was to accept the fact the the Flood had destroyed all but the eight believers then in existence. As Parley P. Pratt explained to Queen Victoria, “As Noah was a survivor of a world destroyed, and himself and family the sole proprietors of the earth, so will the saints of the Most High possess the earth, and its whole dominion, and tread upon the ashes of the wicked.”

From all that has been presented thus far, it seems clear that a saved-damned duality was deeply entrenched in early  Mormon  thought. But what about the vision of the three degrees of glory? Did it not immediately uproot all the old “either-or” notions? Did not the Saints quickly discard their former thinking as theologically naive when presented with this vision of a pluralized rather than a polarized afterlife? The answer is “no”, and that should not come as much of a surprise to those aware of the historical development of ideas within the Church. Nonetheless, that early Mormons neither understood the implications of the vision of the three degrees of glory nor lampooned notions they still retained is significant enough to merit careful consideration.

First, a brief history. The “Vision”, as it was commonly called in the early years, was received by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in February 1832. Five months later what appears to be the earliest identifiable copy of the  revelation  was published in The Evening and the Morning Star.  The Vision seemed to attract some attention for the first year or two. Though a few “Stumbled at it”, at least one individual considered it “the greatest news that was ever published to man.”  Some developed strange ideas about it that required reproof, but even legitimate comments were sufficiently superficial that they offered no real interpretation or elucidation of the Vision and certainly no repudiation of the traditional Christian cosmos.  A specific search of presently available periodicals, pamphlets, and tracts, as well as hundreds of unpublished diaries, journals, and letters from this time period reveals that throughout the rest of the decade and on into the early 1840s, the Vision was virtually ignored.  Admittedly there were numerous references to the celestial kingdom, but that term for most Mormons seems to have been just another name for the heaven Christians had always talked about, and it required no new mental framework to adopt it. Celestial, after all, was a common synonym for heavenly. Discussion, even mention, of the terrestrial and telestial glories, however, which might have hastened the demise of dualistic thinking, appears to have been almost nonexistent.  The only example of anything like a substantive commentary on the Vision was Joseph Smith’s 1843 poetic version.  Perhaps the experience of reissuing the  revelation  as a kind of epic poem stimulated the Prophet’s pondering of the overall significance of the Vision, for in the remaining sixteen months of his life he discussed in new ways the nature of hell and the torment of the damned. Furthermore, he specifically ridiculed the pervasive Protestant rhetoric that in the hereafter there were only two possible outcomes–heaven or hell.  This represents a watershed in  Mormon  thought.

Until the time, if the Vision were discussed at all, it was done from within an interpretive framework that was still patently polarized. Even the Prophet himself, when describing the thinking which led to revelation, wrote:” It appeared self-evident from what truths were left in the Bible, 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.’  There is a subtle difference between saying that there are divisions within heaven and saying that there are different heavens, and the Saints had not yet shifted to the latter position. W. W. Phelps felt that the great value of the Vision lay in providing details on the various heavenly mansions.  To be sure, those mansions were distinguished as “the great, greater, [and] greatest,” but conceptually they all blended into one “heaven.” As Joseph Smith put it:

The glory celestial is one like the sun;

The glory terrestrial is one like the moon;

The glory telestial is one like the stars,

And all harmonize like the parts of a tune.

“Men are agents unto themselves,” declared an early Saint, “and they can prepare for a kingdom of glory, or, for one without glory” — as much as if to say, though clothed in new terminology, men can prepare for heaven or for hell. Even part of the poem’s final quatrain summed up the entire  revelation  in dualistic terms: “The secret of life is blooming in heaven, and blasting in hell.”

Telling evidence that the Vision did not immediately force an abandonment of traditional notions of damnation and hell is manifest in the  Mormon  reaction to Universalism. Universalism reflected the optimism of the Age of Enlightenment from which it emerged and, as its name implies, taught that all men would ultimately be redeemed, that damnation would be done away, and that the notion of eternal torment in a lake of sulfurous fire was superstition.  Modern Mormons might find much that is appealing in such ideas, believing, as they do, that the vast majority of mankind will ultimately receive some degree of salvation. Early Saints, however, did not react this way. When a Universalist preacher came to Kirtland in 1835, Oliver Cowdery withstood him with the same zeal that Gideon did Nehor, a Book of  Mormon  “Universalist.” What incensed Oliver Cowdery was the audacity of asserting, in the face of overwhelming scriptural proof to the contrary, that there would be no damnation: “If no such principle exists as damnation, and that eternal,” Oliver exclaimed,[“[God] certainly has spoken nonsense and folly.”

It must also be remembered that before the late Nauvoo period there was little explanatory discussion of the term unpardonable sin. Therefore, even if the early Saints had talked of damnation coming in its fullest sense only to “sons of perdition,” there were then no conceptual restraints limiting that category to apostate Mormons alone.  Again we see that circumstances and understandings in the 1830s did not require interpretations of the Vision that undermined the old saved-damned dichotomy.

As for hell itself, Joseph’s belief in its reality, and his use of traditional jargon to describe it, is conspicuous as late as his 1843 poem. Whereas in the original scriptural text of the Vision the word hell is found only once, the Prophet uses it six times in his poem. In terms familiar to any evangelical Protestant, he talks of the ungodly suffering “in hell-fire, and vengeance, the doom of the damn’d.” No passage, however, is more striking than this quatrain describing the fate of the sons of perdition:

They are they who must go to the great lake of fire,

Which burneth with brimstone, yet never consumes,

And dwell with the devil, and angels of his,

While eternity goes and eternity comes.

If to later Saints a hell that is continually burning but never consumes is a mass of confusion, such was not always the case.

That the Vision is not mentioned in the earliest anti-Mormon works is further evidence that it was not initially seen as subversive to contemporary Protestant thought. Given the tenor of their writings, it is hardly conceivable that such men as Philastus Hurlbut, Origen Bacheler, or La Roy Sunderland would not have eagerly seized the chance to ridicule the Vision had they known about it and perceived its eschatological implications.  Yet the earliest I have found mention of the doctrine is in ex-Mormon  John  Corrill’s A Brief History published in 1839. Though Corrill had been a leading elder almost from the first, his comments evidence little more than a mere awareness of the revelation.  Furthermore, later anti-Mormon commentators like Henry Caswall or J. B. Turner seem only to be borrowing from Corrill.  The question that follows, then, is why did all these early anti-Mormons overlook that which would later be stock-in-trade for such polemicists if the Vision’s revolutionary significance were widely perceived?

Also significant is the case of former  Mormon  William Harris. In his expose, he claimed that the Saints felt that their idea of heaven “shows the superiority of their system over all others” and that they “ridicule as absurd the notion generally entertained of the location and nature of heaven. As a matter of curiosity, then,” William Harris continued, “. . . I will here insert a description of the  Mormon  Paradise.”  What follows is not a recapitulation of the Vision, as might be expected from his lead-in, but rather an excerpt from Parley P. Pratt’s Voice of Warning showing heaven would be material, not spiritual, and here on earth, not out in the ethereal blue.  This recollection from Harris’s seven years in the Church as to what the Saints actually ridiculed about contemporary notions of heaven further confirms the minimal role of the Vision in early LDS thought.

That which persisted, however, eventually began to break up. Just four months after the Prophet versified the Vision, he began to publicly and repeatedly denounce the heaven-hell dichotomy. Wilford Woodruff recorded this comment, for example: “Says one I believe in one hell & one heaven all are equally miserable or equally happy, but St Paul informs us of three glories & three heavens.”  Later, Joseph reiterated, “I do not believe the methodist doctrine of sending honest men, and noble minded men to hell, along with the murderer and adulterer.”  In the 1844 King Follet discourse we find the culmination of his latest thinking about salvation and damnation. During recent months hell had been acquiring an explicitly nonphysical dimension, and he here announced, “I have no fear of hell fire, that doesn’t exist, but the torment and disappointment of the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.”

If salvation or damnation still revolved around one’s reaction to Mormonism, there was now a qualifier attached: “I call upon all men– priests, sinners and all . . . [to] obey the gospel. For your religion won’t save you, and if you do not, you will be damned, but,” he added, “I do not say how long.”  Though the concept of a terminable hell was provided for in  revelation  received even before the Church was organized  (D&C 19),  not until Joseph led the way interpretively did others begin describing hell as a purgatory for unrepentant sinners.  At the same time, he acknowledged that those who had committed the unpardonable sin “must dwell in hell, worlds without end” and that “they shell rise to that resurrection which is as the lake of fire and brimstone.”  Only the sons of perdition would be damned in the fullest and most traditional sense. Toward the close of this life, then, Joseph Smith began to emphasize a pluralized, rather than a polarized picture of eternity. He symbolized hell, diminished damnation’s domain, and expanded salvation.

The fact that he repeatedly discussed these concepts the last months of his life did not, however, guarantee that they were instantly internalized by the Saints. This is perhaps best illustrated in the case of  John  Taylor. Throughout this period,  John  Taylor was closely associated with the Prophet both as editor of the Times and Seasons and, from September 1843, as a member of the Anointed Quorum, a select group who had received their temple endowments from the Prophet.  John  Taylor was thus well exposed not only to Joseph’s public but also his private teachings. Yet, in a Times and Seasons editorial published less than a year after Joseph’s death,  John  Taylor declared that “hell” is literally “in the midst of the earth, and when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed they sunk down to hell, and the water covered up the unhallowed spot. . . . No wonder we have earthquakes, hot springs and convulsions in the earth,” he continued, “if the damned spirits of six thousand years . . . have gone down into the pit. . . . No wonder the earth groans and is in pain to be delivered as saith the prophet.”

If a man as intelligent and literate as  John  Taylor either did not understand or ignored the Prophet, one can imagine to what degree the finer doctrinal subtleties that Joseph was introducing in the late Nauvoo period actually settled into the conscious understanding of the ordinary member. It is a truism that what one who speaks (or writes) intends to convey is not necessarily what the man who hears (or reads) understands. We simply cannot assume that once an idea was revealed or once it was taught by the Prophet the Saints immediately assimilated it into their mental world. “Mormon thought” was the sum total of the thinking of individual Mormons rather than some creedal collectivity.  Thus it is difficult indeed to assert that the Prophet’s ideas or even revealed ideas were “Mormon” ideas equally ascribable to leader and layman alike. As Darrett Rutman pointed out some years ago in his study of the Puritans:

The idea that filters past the preconceptions, values, and particular concerns of the imparter, travels the sound waves or light rays to the recipient, filters past the recipient’s own preconceptions, values, and concerns, mixes in the melting pot that constitutes the recipient’s mind with all the other notions and impressions stored there.

The point here is that even though Joseph opened the door for a further break with traditional Protestant views, the old saved-damned dichotomy did not die out immediately. If by the 1850s some leading Mormons grasped and elaborated on what the Prophet was saying a decade earlier, it should not be assumed that as of 1844 the entire Church shelved “sectarianisms” in favor of less Calvinistic conceptions of salvation and damnation.  Nonetheless, Joseph’s late Nauvoo teachings did signal the beginning of the end, even if that end came gradually.

Conclusion

If it is true that the saved-damned dualism persisted, if indeed the Vision was not initially appreciated for its revolutionary significance, then it remains for us to consider briefly two questions: “Why?” and “So what?” In responding to the first question, we can hardly overemphasize the biblicism and literalism of the early Saints. In his study of antebellum Protestant theology, George Marsden discusses the period polarities of exegesis then known as “spiritualist” and “literalist” hermeneutics. For those who applied a strictly literal hermeneutic to the scriptures, the numerous graphic descriptions of the physical destruction of the wicked and a plethora of passages basing salvation on belief and damnation on disbelief had to be taken at face value. There was little interpretive leeway.  With early Mormons coming from such a tradition, it would have been almost inconceivable that they would immediately drop their polarized perceptions of life and afterlife because of a single revelation, especially when so many other passages in modern scripture seemed to support the age-old dualisms. As the prophets, however, led out in metaphorical and figurative interpretation of certain portions of the Word of God that had usually been interpreted literally and as they explicitly rejected certain facets of contemporary theology, the people generally began to follow suit.

Furthermore, the early Saints had different notions about latter-day revelation. Calling them “commandments” as often as they called them “revelations” evidences a subtle distinction. They utilized these messages more for their directional rather than for their doctrinal value. The excerpts most frequently cited in the periodical literature dealt with some task to be performed rather than some truth to be taught.

Closely related, and also helpful in explaining our findings, is the manifest millenarianism of the early Church. It was truly “a day of warning, not a day of many words.” It was a day for first principles, not far-reaching theology. Even if they had been wont to discuss new and unique doctrines not central to the message of the Restoration, how much could an individual have assimilated in the brief transition from hearer to herald? For it was not uncommon that a man who heard the message of the Restoration one day would be out preaching it the next, and with good reason.  They felt the end was imminent. All had to be warned and that warning was to come both “by word and by flight.” There simply was no time to extensively catechize prospective converts and no systematic creed with which to do it.

So what is the significance of all this? In the first place, it confirms what Brigham Young later said when reflecting on those early years: “I never could believe like the mass of the Christian world around me; but I did not know how nigh I believed, as they did. I found, however, that I was so nigh, I could shake hands with them any time I wished.”

Aside from the core concepts of the message of the Restoration, the early Saints do seem handshakingly close to contemporary Christianity. Realizing their proximity to Protestantism also helps explain why some anti-Mormons could charge that the elders “dwell upon the common topics of Christianity” or that “they preach the doctrines they held in other churches, slightly modified by some of their new notions.”  Even Joseph Smith himself admitted, “It is often the case that young members in this church, for want of better information, carry along with them their old notions of things and sometimes fall into eggregious errors.”

More importantly, however, is that we are a step closer to what LDS church historian  James B. Allen called for when he said, “Only recently have  Mormon  historians begun to study in detail the historical development of ideas within the Church but such a study, if complete, could provide valuable insight into why some concepts have changed from generation to generation while others have remained constant as pillars of the faith.”  Absolutely essential to a proper understanding of  Mormon  thought is that one recognize the “line-upon-line” principle, that is, the construct which allows for a gradual focusing and refining of doctrine based on both human capacity and divine design. From those who would hamstring us with our history, we have little to fear. The more it is studied, the more we realize the naivete of intersecting our past at any given point in time and expecting to hold the Church accountable for the finality of all views there discovered. Indeed, to pursue Paul’s metaphor, the Church is like a body, and all bodies go through successive stages of development from infancy to adulthood. A wise and loving father does not immediately correct all his children’s mistaken notions nor attempt to teach them all truth at once. Rather, he closely monitors their development, adding, subtracting, and refining until they reach maturity. Would a perfect Father in Heaven be less wise? Continuous revelation is merely his method, the “light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” For now, however, the Saints must be content to say with Paul:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  (1 Cor. 13:11-12)

1986

Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie

Many Mansions  (Chapter)

Life Beyond (Book)

Many Mansions  (Chapter)

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.   -John 14:2

Even as all die, so all must rise from the dead, each in his own order, each to his own glory. No righteous deed will go unrewarded and no dark act undetected. The just Paymaster will give to each in full measure, rewarding the small and the great according to their works and the desires of their hearts, even to the granting of all that the Father hath. To the meridian Twelve, as they sat at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you”  (John 14:2).  That is to say, if judgment were not by works and the rewards of eternity as diverse as the works and desires of men, it would be so completely contrary to everything that I have taught you, and to everything in the revealed word, that I would be obligated to announce this great inconsistency to you.

Surely the rewards that come from God will be worthy of the majesty and power of God. It would be ungodly to grant to man that for which he was unworthy; it would be less than godlike for the divine Father of us all to refuse to share all that he had with those who had laid their all upon his altar. A theology that refuses God the right to make of his children joint heirs, and yet expects the sacrifice of all things by mere mortals, is a theology which demands of men greater magnanimity than of God from whom the very virtue is to have come. The glory of God, which is manifest in all that he does, is nowhere more evident than in the order and nature of the resurrection and the eternal rewards granted to his children.

Resurrection

The Bible can be searched in vain for a definition of resurrection. Once again it is to the  revelations  of the Restoration that we must turn to part the veil and know of future eternities. And how simple the matter when the Spirit speaks-resurrection is the inseparable union of body and spirit. Amulek stated it thus, “This mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption”  (Alma 11:45).  Or, as Joseph F. Smith declared in his Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, “Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy”  (D&C 138:17).

A loving father does not withhold from his children, he does not seek that they be less than he, nor did he choose to father them for the purpose of their becoming his servants. Our God is a corporeal physical being and in the resurrection it is our privilege to become like him. While body and spirit are separated “man cannot receive a fulness of joy”  (D&C  93:34); it is in and through the resurrection that such fulness comes.  Alma  expressed it beautifully: “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a  hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame”  (Alma 40:23).

The Order of the Resurrections

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”  (1 Cor. 15:22  – 23; italics added.) Though the resurrection is a free gift to all, men come forth from the grave as they have merited the right-from Jesus Christ, the firstfruits, to those who remain filthy still, or from the most righteous to the least righteous, each man in his appointed time and order.

The First Resurrection or the Morning of the First Resurrection

The scriptural phrases first resurrection or morning of the first resurrection (which is common to patriarchal blessings) are frequently used interchangeably. The phrases are descriptive of those once in paradise, those who bore the title “just men made perfect,” those referred to as the just (D&C 76:17), meaning that they are justified, ratified, sealed, or approved of God. These are they to whom the promise has been given that they shall be equal with him in power, might, and dominion (see  D&C 76:95).  Those coming forth in this resurrection will inherit the celestial kingdom and will enjoy eternal life, which is God’s life. Thus the first resurrection is a celestial resurrection.

The Book of  Mormon  speaks of a first resurrection which included the righteous and faithful from the time of Adam to the time that Christ came forth from the grave. Abinadi described it thus: “And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ-for so shall he be called. And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection; therefore, they are the first resurrection.”  (Mosiah 15:21-22.)  This first resurrection is not to be confused with the first resurrection spoken of in the Doctrine and Covenants, which has reference to the coming forth from the grave of the faithful Saints from the time of Christ to the time of his second coming (see  D&C 88:96-98).  Those living in the Millennium are also spoken of as coming forth in a first resurrection, for they too obtain an exaltation (see  D&C 132:19).

The Afternoon of the First Resurrection

“And after this [the morning of the first resurrection or the sounding of the first trump] another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh”  (D&C 88:99).  These are heirs of the terrestrial kingdom, those who accepted Christ but not in that faith that would have exalted them. Of the time of Christ’s coming we read, “Then shall the heathen nations be re deemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them”  (D&C 45:54).  That redemption that requires “no law” (meaning that they have not accepted the gospel) and extends a reward that is “tolerable” cannot be confused with the blessings associated with the morning of the first resurrection as previously described.

The Resurrection of the Unjust

“And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation; and these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth. And another trump shall sound, which is the fourth trump, saying: There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still.”  (D&C 88:100-102.)After  the celestial and terrestrial resurrections, after the thousand years, or the millennial era, has ended, comes the resurrection of the unjust-those who will inherit the telestial kingdom and those who have become the children of perdition. Order still prevails; the telestial resurrection precedes that of those whose wickedness places them beyond the power of Christ’s redemption. Even hell cannot purge the filth of those who, having had a sure witness and knowledge of heaven’s secrets, have denied all and actively sought to crucify Christ afresh.

The Degrees of Glory

The Savior promised that he would teach the gospel to those who were dead. “The hour is coming,” Christ said, “in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 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”  (John 5:28-29).  It was while Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon pondered the implications of John’s statement that there would be a resurrection of life and a resurrection of damnation, that they received the great vision known to us as the Vision of the Glories. Joseph said: “From sundry  revelations  which had been received, 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.”1  A series of visions were then opened to the eyes of Joseph and Sidney in which they learned of the division of kingdoms, or the degrees of glory, that will exist in the worlds to come. The highest of these kingdoms was called celestial, and was likened to the glory of the sun; the next was called terrestrial, and was likened to the glory of the moon; and the third, or the lowest of these heavenly glories, was called telestial, and was likened to the glory of the stars. We will briefly describe each.

the Celestial Kingdom

In a subsequent  revelation  Joseph Smith learned that the earth was a living entity, having both body and spirit; that it, like man, would yet die and be resurrected; and that in the resurrection it would be “sanctified from all unrighteousness” and become the kingdom upon which those who were to be exalted would live. “For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; that bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent,” the Lord said, “was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.”  (D&C 88:17-20,   26.)  Thus, to obtain the celestial kingdom one must come forth in the morning of the first resurrection and must lay claim in the resurrection to a celestial body. One obtains a celestial body by developing celestial interests, appetites, propensities, desires, attitudes, and inclinations-that is, by living the gospel of Jesus Christ in full. “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory”  (D&C 88:22).

The celestial kingdom is divided into three heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest, one must be married by the power and authority of the priesthood for time and eternity. Only those who are so married and live true to their marriage covenants continue in the marriage and family relationship in the worlds to come.  (D&C 131:1-4.)  These become “joint-heirs with Christ”  (Rom. 8:17),  “into whose hands the Father has given all things-they are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory”  (D&C 76:55-56),  and indeed “are gods, even the sons of God”  (D&C 76:58),  for they are to be equal with him in power, might, and dominion  (D&C 76:95).

Describing the nature of their society, Joseph Smith stated that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy”  (D&C 130:2).  Of the other two degrees, or glories, within the celestial kingdom we know only that their inhabitants did not enter into eternal marriage and thus “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”  (D&C 132:17).

The Terrestrial Kingdom

The terrestrial or middle kingdom consists of those who come forth in the afternoon of the first resurrection. Four classes of people are given in the Vision of the Glories to represent the nature of souls that will comprise this king dom. First, there are those who died without the gospel law and obviously did not accept it when it was taught to them in the world of the spirits (v. 72). Second, there are those who had the opportunity to accept the gospel in this life and did not do so, but did when the opportunity came to them the second time in the spirit world (vv. 73-74). Such are not celestial because they rejected the gospel in mortality in circumstances in which they were obligated to accept it; nonetheless, they are blessed by their acceptance of it in the spirit world in that they can inherit the terrestrial kingdom. Third, there are “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (v. 75). As moral and honest people they establish the standard for all that inherit the terrestrial glory and show by way of contrast how much more is expected of those who aspire to be celestial. And fourth, “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God” (v. 79). To be valiant in testimony is to be courageous, brave, bold, or valorous. By implication, this number will embrace many Latter-day Saints who could stand and bear a powerful testimony but who failed to serve with all their “heart, might, mind and strength,” and thus did not “stand blameless” in the day of judgment  (D&C 4:2).  A testimony of the gospel, independent of faithful service, is not sufficient to save one in the kingdom of God.

The Telestial Kingdom

As baptism is the door through which one enters the earthly kingdom of God and the gate to the heavenly kingdom, so hell is the gate to the telestial world. None will inhabit this kingdom who did not first suffer for their own sins in that part of the spirit prison known to us as hell. Having done so, having “paid the uttermost farthing”  (Matt. 5:26),  they then come forth clean from sin to the least of the kingdoms of glory, but a kingdom of glory nonetheless. Dramatizing the glory of this, the least of God’s kingdoms, the  revelation  states that it “surpasses all understanding” (v. 89). In so saying, it is not the purpose of the Lord to encourage any to seek after or be satisfied with such a glory, but rather to show again by contrast the marvel of the celestial realm and to indicate the mercies and blessings that the Lord will give even to the wicked. Indeed, all that the God of heaven need do to create a world that surpasses all earthly understanding would be to alleviate death, hunger, pain, and evil. Such a state would surely transcend the imagination of men.

Those inheriting the telestial world constitute two major classes. First, there are those who declare allegiance to false religions, who used their pretended devotion to some principle, cause, or prophet, as an excuse to reject the fulness of the gospel when it was brought to them (vv. 99-101). Had their rejection of the gospel not been the result of their unwillingness to repent of their sins, or because they were honestly deceived, they would have come forth in the terrestrial resurrection. The second class of people comprising the telestial kingdom are “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie,” as well as idolaters and murderers (v. 103;  Rev. 21:8;  22:15).  These are they of whom  Alma  said, “They have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good”  (Alma 40:13).  Of these the  revelation  declares: “Where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (v. 112).

Conclusion

The reader is reminded that everything that we have been able to say about the nature and order of the resurrection has latter-day  revelation  as its source. The same is true of all that we know of the various degrees of glory; our knowledge of this doctrine is also entirely dependent on modern revelation. On these matters the Bible as it has come to us is either ambiguous or silent. This is a rather surprising thing, in view of the importance of these doctrines as a source of faith, understanding, comfort, and encouragement. It is even more surprising when it is remembered that the verity of the Christian belief that Jesus is the Christ is fully dependent on the reality of the resurrection. Christianity rises or falls on the doctrine. If there was no resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ and our bodies will be consigned endlessly to mortal dust and our spirits will be forever divorced from the presence of God (see  1 Cor. 15:12-17).

It is also significant that the testimony of the New Testament disciples of Christ’s resurrection, like that of our dispensation, was wholly dependent on revelation. The resurrected Christ manifested himself to “above five hundred brethren”  (1 Cor. 15:6)  in the hills of Galilee  (Matt. 28:16-18),  along with numerous other appearances in the Old World. “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly,”  Peter  testified, “not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God”  (Acts 10:40-41).  The system of testifying of Christ in the New World was the same. Again Christ showed himself openly to a multitude, “and the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children”  (3 Ne. 17:25).

From the early hours of that Sunday morning, when Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene and then the other women, to the time of his return, when he will be attended by “ten thousands of his saints”  (Jude 1:14),  those men, women, and children who bear a proper testimony of him must testify also of the principle of current revelation. We can know Christ and the doctrines of the afterlife in no other way. Our testimony must be one of the opening of the heavens, the manifestation of Christ, the calling of prophets, the dispensing of revelation, and the granting of the gift of the Holy Ghost; the knowledge of Christ and the nature of the worlds to come can be had in no other way. Such is our testimony.   (Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond, p.129-1,131)

1987

D. Michael Quinn

“The Vision”

Notes from Blog:  Historian D. Michael Quinn in his book Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, has speculated that various parts of the plan of salvation were taken by Joseph Smith, Jr. from Emanuel Swedenborg‘s book Heaven and Hell. In the book, Swedenborg wrote that “There are three heavens” that are “entirely distinct from each other.”[citation needed] He called the highest heaven “the Celestial Kingdom,”[citation needed] and stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the “sun, moon and stars.”[citation needed] Swedenborg’s book also mentions a veil, spirit prison and celestial marriage.[citation needed]

Quinn further argues that the book was available to Smith, and that he was familiar with it. One account claims that Smith told Latter Day Saint convert Edward Hunter that “Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished.”[citation needed] Additionally, Quinn asserts that the book was in the Palmyra public library (Joseph Smith’s hometown) beginning in 1817, and that “[n]ine miles from Smith’s farm, in 1826 the Canandaigua newspaper also advertised Swedenborg’s book for sale. The bookstore offered Swedenborg’s publications for as little as 37 cents.”

Mormonism and the Magic World View (pp. 172-175)

Two years after the revelation of Moses, one of the most central revelations of Mormon theology was announced in what was commonly referred to as “The Vision” of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, recorded on 16 February 1832 (D&C 76). The text of this revelation stated that God would save all persons “except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him,” (D&C 76:43-44), and described those who are saved as they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun” (D&C 76:70), as the terrestrial, whose glory differs even as that of the moon differs from the sun” (D&C 76:71), or as glory of the stars” (D&C 76:81). More than ten years later Smith added, “In the celestial glory there are [also] three heavens or degrees” (D&C 131:1).

This view of the afterlife challenged traditional Christianity in two ways. First, the 1832 vision propounded a theology of nearly universal salvation; second, it proposed a three-tiered gradation of salvation “glory” which contemporaries in 1832 could have understood only as describing three heavens. For traditional Christians, any concept of universal salvation was a dangerous heresy akin to Universalism and was regarded as undermining the fabric of moral conduct in society. Moreover, for traditional Christians, heaven was a unitary, singular place (E. Chambers 1728, 1:228), despite Paul’s reference to “the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2).

Consequently, early Mormon converts from denominational Protestantism faced a crisis when they learned of the 1832 vision of the three degrees of glory. Brigham Young’s brother Joseph, who had been a Methodist minister prior to converting to Mormonism, reminisced: “Then when I came to read the vision of the different glories of the eternal world, and of the sufferings of the wicked, I could not believe it at first. Why, the Lord was going to save every body!” (Deseret News 7 [18 March 1857]:11). Brigham Young himself recalled: “When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of god, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it” (JD 16:42, emphasis added). The diaries of Orson Pratt and John Murdock from the 1830s record their efforts to reassure Latter-day Saints who questioned the 1832 vision and described the excommunication of Mormons, including branch presidents, who denounced “the degrees of glory” as a revelation from Satan (0. Pratt 1833; John Murdock 1833; Rathbone 1986).

On the other hand, the 1832 vision’s description of multiple heavens was compatible with widely published occult views. A multi-volumed encyclopedia noted that the originator of ABRACADABRA believed in “seven Angels who presided over the seven Heavens” (E. Chambers 1728, 1:7), and Sibly’s Occult Philosophy (a source for the Smith family’s magic parchments) stated in thirteen editions from 1784 to 1826 that “these seven evil angels, before their fall, enjoyed the same places and degrees of glory, that now belong to the seven good angels or genii” (Sibly 1784, 1094, emphasis both original and added). Two pseudepigraphic works, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (a forty-third edition published in New York in 1712, with U.S. printings to 1827) and The Ascent of Isaiah, presented the Jewish occult view that there were seven heavens (Grosthead 1712, 23; NUC 55:322-24; Laurence 1819, 159-60).

Although this non-traditional belief in seven heavens was not unknown, the only pre-1830 advocate of three heavens was apparently Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg The apostle Paul had spoken of the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12;2), but scholars regarded Paul’s expression as a reflection of the Jewish mystical belief in seven heavens (Laurence 1819, 159-60). Swedenborg’s publications in England since 1784, and in the United States since 1812, affirmed, “There are three heavens,” described them as “intirely [sic] distinct from each other,” called the first heaven the celestial kingdom,” and stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the sun, moon, and stars (1784, nos. 684, 3887, 5377; 1812, 60). These views were summarized in a front-page article of 1808 at Canandaigua, New York, and in a publication that had been in Joseph Smith’s hometown library since 1817 (Western Repository, 6 Dec. 1808; H. Adams 1817, 203; Paul 1982, 347). Twelve miles from the Smith farm in 1826, the Canandaigua newspaper also advertised Swedenborg’s A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hen for sale (Ontario Repository, 30 Aug. 1826). With an even closer connection to the Smith family, Sibly’s Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences, a source for the family’s magic parchments, stated, “There are three degrees in man corresponding to the three heavens,” as part of its twenty-page summary of Swedenborg’s teachings about “spirits and departed souls of men,” and heaven and hell (Sibly 1784, 1062-81, esp. 1071n). Early Mormonism’s only convert from Swedenborgianism, presiding bishop Edward Hunter, repotted a comment by Smith in 1839 that indicates Smith was familiar with Swedenborgianism, at least by the late 1830s: “Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished” (Hunter 1970, 51; see also Meyers 1981).

Despite Swedenborg’s condemnation of magic as “merely a perversion” and “abuses of divine order” (1784, nos. 5223, 7296), writers of Joseph Smith’s generation tended to regard Swedenborg as an occult theologian (Jon Butler 1983, 71). In 1791, the English Conjuror’s Magazine included Swedenborg in its article on “Lives of Eminent Magicians” (1 Nov 1791):130). In 1821, the North American Review (frequently advertised for sale in the Palmyra area) explained Swedenborg’s appeal to converts by observing, “There is still, we believe, among the vulgar, some remnant of belief in witchcraft and divination” (“Swedenborgianism” 1821, 96; Ontario Repository, 12 Dec. 1820). For Protestant American clergy. Swedenborg was nothing less than a religious magician. One minister wrote in 1846, “I would not undertake to disprove the authenticity of the stories related of Swedenborg. And why then? In all ages wizards and witches have said and done things seemingly preternatural, and very astonishing.” In warning Protestants not to follow Swedenborg, the minister concluded, “And who thinks of yielding himself to a fortune-teller, or a juggler, or a magnetized woman, as a religious guide-a teacher of new doctrines, or new moral precepts” (Woods 1846, 143-44). A decade later, another author characterized Swedenborg as “a Hermetic philosopher” and “an adept in the fullest sense” (Hitchcock 1858, 3, 21, 204, emphasis in original).

The names of the three glories (Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial) in Smith’s 1832 vision, of which only Celestial corresponds to Swedenborg’s theology of three heavens, shared some similarity with angelology. The Encyclopaedia Britannica’s article on angels stated that in early Jewish theology there were “two kinds of daemons, celestial and terrestial [sic)” (Smellie 1798, 1:804). Although traditional Christianity divided angels into numerous categories (G. Davidson 1967, 336-37), some of the most frequently cited magic books divided angels and gods into three: celestial, terrestrial, and infernal (Agrippa 1651, 535; Abano 1655, 85; Turner 1657, 73). The popularity of this classification is indicated by its frequent appearance in magic manuscripts (e.&, Abano MS, (33-34]; Arsenal MS 2350, f.59; Sloan MS 2731, £10; Sloan MS 3851, £107), and Robert Burton’s seventeenth-century work on magic observed, “Fiery spirits or devils … counterfeit suns and moons, stars oftentimes” (1628, 122). This classification was so rare in traditional Christianity that only the 1582 Rheims Bible used the phrase “celestial% terrestrials, and internals” to translate Philippians 2:10. This phrase was absent in the 1525 Tyndale Bible, the 1539 Great Bible, the 1560 Geneva Bible, the 1568 Bishop’s Bible, and the 1611 King James Bible (Weigle 1946, 1114-15). The identification of the Telestial glory in Joseph Smith’s 1832 revelation as those “who are thrust down to hell” for a period of time, might have contributed to the apparent substitution of Telestial for infernal. Thus the celestial, terrestrial, and infernal of magic literature echoed the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial in Mormon revelation.

1991

Dr. Emma Disley

Degrees of Glory: Protestant Doctrines and the Concept of Rewards Hereafter

© Oxford University Press 1991

Journal of Theological Studies, VoL 43, Pt. 1, April 1991

In the sixteenth century, western Christianity divided not over the image of heaven but over getting there’.1 Such a statement can only be accepted with reservations. It is true that the doctrine of ‘eternal life and eternal joys’, as Melanchthon explained,2 remained, for the most part, outside the area of debate, or was at least subordinate to the main issues of the controversy. But that very debate, and in particular the Protestant rejection of the merit of works in respect to justification, necessitated a radical revision of the reformed Christian perspective of the hereafter, and it inaugurated a debate which produced some degree of Protestant consensus, but by no means unanimity. Moyse Amyraut, writing in 1646, saw both the importance and the complexity of the debate:

Certainement si les fideles seront inegalement partages en la iouissance de la felicite de la haut, c’est chose qui pourroit meriter vne consideration bien attentiue. Et la diuersite des opinions des grands personnages sur ce sujet, monstre bien que les preuues qu’on allegue de part & d’autre, ne sont pas d’abord extremement euidentes.3

Such diversity of opinion arose from differing perspectives of the soteriological significance of works. The Protestant rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory, and the concomitant affirmation of the existence of ‘only two places’ after death,4 raised questions concerning the intricate Dantean gradations of rewards and punishments envisaged by medieval scholasticism.6 If works played no part in justification, Protestants would surely find difficulty in speaking in terms of specific or individual rewards after death. If election or reprobation depended solely upon the will of God, good or bad deeds were presumably irrelevant to the ultimate destination of the faithful. On the other hand, some Protestants found it possible to maintain that while justification was a matter of faith, good and bad works could secure various degrees of glory or damnation within the two destinations—heaven and hell— without implying unacceptable notions of merit. Others retained the concept of degrees of reward, but saw them as unrelated to works: God, who showed his favour in election, regardless of works, could presumably further manifest his generous munificence in bestowing upon his elect unearned degrees of glory in the hereafter. The Arminian divine, Thomas Jackson, posed these questions in his treatise of 1615, Iustifying Faith: . . . if we affirme . . . righteousnesse more necessarie after . . . a man is iustified, then before, we should in congruitie grant that workes win heauen, and faith only deliuers from hell: or granting justification to be the passage from death to life eternall, the addition of such workes subsequent, as were not precedent, could be auaileable onely to supererogate some excesse of glory; for though wee stood still at the same point where Justification found us, wee should be infallible heires of glorie. Or if faith without workes obtaine justification, having iustified us, shall it degrees of ioy that do accompanie it?*

Such questions concerning the hereafter were closely linked with the clarification of reformed doctrines of justification. The position frequently adopted by the majority of Protestant theologians who expressed a view on the subject was as follows: It was conceded that there were, indeed, degrees of reward and punishment, and that these degrees were in some way related to our works in this life; but exponents of this position strictly denied that degrees of reward were merited, affirming the gross inequality between the works of which we are capable and the heavenly gift which exceeds our comprehension. That is to say that the Scriptural notion of reward does not imply condign merit; it refers, rather, to God’s free gift which he bestows upon us because he has promised so to do. The notion that we can earn any reward, either eternal life itself, or rewards within eternal life, was absolutely rejected by orthodox Protestants.

The large degree of Protestant consensus was due mainly to the abundance of Scriptural references to rewards and punishments hereafter. Rewards and punishments received a prominent place in the Old Testament; the lists of blessings and cursings at the end of Leviticus and Deuteronomy had been interpreted by Philo, who in turn was read by the Fathers, as rewards and punishments.7

In the New Testament, the theme recurred, when various rewards were explicitly attached to specific works (cf.Matt. 5). The house of God has ‘many mansions’ (John 14: 2)—(which may or may not imply a heavenly hierarchy)—and Paul appears to indicate that the elect shall differ from one another—’as one star differeth from another’ (1 Cor. 15: 41)—in heavenly glory. Against this concept of degrees it was possible to set the lesson propounded by the parable of the Vineyard (Matt. 20: 1-14)—in which the workers were given equal wages, regardless of the amount of time they had spent labouring—but Christ’s retention of the Judaic language of rewards and punishments rendered it very difficult indeed to deny that judgement would be by works.

Added to this Scriptural evidence was the weight of Church tradition; the Church of the fourth century had been quite clear that her doors must remain open to men and women who lived in the world, as well as to ascetics, and recognized that

it is impossible to draw the line that separates the Church from the world, the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, so as to exclude all grades of merit on the one side, and grades of guilt on the other. The moon is not as bright as the sun, but still it shines; silver is not as precious as gold, but it is worth more than base lead. A place had to be found in the Church for virtuous married life—inferior to celibacy if you wish; but still on a wholly different plane from unbridled lust.8

From the fourth century, arguments were developed which offered a valid and sure place in the Church for the earnest Christian who could not disentangle himself from worldly affairs, thus cultivating what K. E. Kirk refers to as a ‘double moral standard . . . a lower and a higher grade of Christian achievement’—a distinction which reconciled within the Church the otherworldly and the secular— and thereby ‘saved Christianity’.’ The writings of the Fathers were weightily disposed towards the concept of degrees of reward and punishment,10 and the tradition thus established was continued through the Middle Ages, largely through the agency of Peter Lombard’s Sentences,11 which transmitted the ideas of Augustine on the matter, and was accepted by a Church which tended to think in hierarchic terms.

Men’s ideas of a hierarchic heaven seem to have been constructed to reflect social patterns on earth:12 The notion of an equality of heavenly bliss, or of hellish torments, seems to have played no part in the medieval picture of the hereafter. Jovinian’s ideas, that all sins are equal and that there is but one grade of punishment and one of reward in the future states, seem to have been effectively silenced after their condemnation at the synods of Rome and Milan (c.390).

Jerome’s refutation of Jovinian had been constructed upon the argument that all sins are not equal, and that degrees of holiness (Jerome referred specifically to chastity and martyrdom) attained in this life, are intimately linked with our future position within the hierarchy of heaven. It seemed self-evident that some sins were graver than others, that a truly evil man would receive severer punishments in the depths of hell than one who had committed sins of a more ‘trivial’ nature. Hence the Church’s division of sins into classes of ‘venial’ and ‘mortal’. 1 John 5: 16—17 appeared to distinguish between pardonable sins and ‘that sin which cannot be forgiven’, and Christ himself had spoken in terms of lesser or more tolerable punishments (Matt. 10: 15, cf. 11: 24; Mark 6: 11; Luke 10: 12). Once the notion of varying degrees of torment in hell had been accepted, it seemed logical to extend the idea to heaven and to varying degrees of reward, associated with the

varying degrees of holiness achieved in this life.

If degrees of glory were attained by good works, the system seemed to allow for a hierarchy of condign merit—of exact rewards and punishments in accordance with man’s good or bad deeds in

this life. Such a system conflicted with the Lutheran insight— that eternal life can be achieved or merited by no human work; that in the sight of God, all men are sinners and continue to be so after justification, since all sin, ‘venial’ or ‘mortal’, deserves damnation; men are saved by the sheer mercy of God—upon which we can but throw ourselves. If eternal life itself is beyond our reach and deserving, the degrees of glory within that kingdom are surely even more unattainable.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of those Protestant theologians who addressed themselves to the issue affirmed the concept of degrees of reward in heaven, and set themselves to prove that although Jesus and early Christians had spoken quite freely of reward, the old Jewish idea of reward had been completely transcended, and its concept of merit radically removed from the teaching of Jesus regarding the love of God:1′ God’s justice is not like that of a judge or of an employer who pays a merited recompense; the calculating view of a merited reward is completely ruled out, since God’s lavish rewards are incomparable and coram Deo there is no possibility of human achievement. Reward is simply an undeservedly received divine gift.

I. Degrees Of Punishment In Hell

The French cleric Jean Veron,14 who preached in London in the 1560s, resisted the idea of degrees of reward in heaven, but nevertheless appears to have had no such doubts about degrees of punishment. In his Overthrow of the Iustification of Workes, (1561), written in the form of a dialogue, such a diversity is readily granted:

. . . there is adiversity [sic] in the punishementes of the reprobate. And why? Because, that they do by theyr unbeliefe and frutes of the same, deserue those punishementes of hell fyer.16 The damned shall pay for their sins and be punished according to the gravity of their trespasses.

Theodore Beza, evidently aware of the problems surrounding the doctrine of gradations of punishment of the damned and advising that ‘this matter bee to be inquired of very soberly’, deems it nevertheless to be worthy of tentative examination within his Qvaestionum & Responsionum Christianarum Libellus (1571), which was translated into English and published in 1572. He bases his surmise that degrees of punishment do exist upon the argument that there are varying levels of sin:

Praeterquam enim quod ipsa iustitiae ratio poscit, vt quum peccata omnia inter se paria non sint, nisi quatenus in genere conueniunt, qui grauius peccauit, grauius plectatur: Stoicorum enim est) [sic] non Christianorum paradoxon, quo paria esse peccata statuuntur) id etiam expresse testatur Christus, tolerabiliorem fore dicens Sodomorum conditionem in die iuditij, quam eorum a quibus ipse reijciebatur [sic].1′

Thus, although the medieval distinctions between mortal and venial sins had been rejected by Protestant reformers,17 the notion that distinctions existed between sins was often retained. John White, chaplain in ordinary to James I, clarified this position in his Way to the True Church:

We hold all sinne to be mortall of it selfe, and not veniall. And we readily confesse indeed that this distinction in that sence is false, . . . And though we thus reiect this distinction, yet it is not our meaning hereby that all sinnes are equall and of like deformitie, or have the same effects, or stand in one degree of contrarietie to grace . . .18

The doctrine of distinctions between the gravity of sins was quite Scriptural. Protestant commentators expounded i John 5: 16-17, ‘the sin of death’, in the light of such gradations. Thus Tyndale in 1538 defined ‘sin to death’ as resisting grace, and fighting against mercy, and open blaspheming of the Holy Ghost, affirming that Christ’s miracles are done in Beelzebub, and his doctrine to be of the devil.19

But the most commonly quoted passage of Scripture in this connection, and the one which Veron cited, was Matt. 10: 15:

It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city’.

When the Rhemists’ Bible comments that it is ‘hereby . . . evident there bee degrees and differences of damnation in Hell fire according to men’s deserts’, Cartwright, in his Confutation, prints a mark beside their annotation to the effect that in this particular instance there is ‘nothing materiall in the note to bee suspected’. Cartwright expands upon his concept of degrees of damnation in his annotation on Matt. 5: 23, where he explains that

It shall be dealt with sinners in the iudgment of God, which according unto the staiers whereby they have descended in offending the Lord, shall descended also [sic] (as it were) into the depth of hell fire.10

Beza, Veron, and Cartwright apportioned the gradations of punishment according to the grievousness of sin. But good works were also deemed to affect the position of reprobates in hell, by alleviating their punishments. The strictest Protestant was thus able to assign a positive role to good works—if only to the good works of the damned. Thus William Perkins writes that

The reprobate may leade such a life here in this world, that although he cannot attaine to salvation, yet his paynes in hell shall bee lesse; which appeareth, in that our Saviour Christ saith: it shall bee easier for Tyrus & Sydon, for Sodome and Gommorrah; than for Capernaum, and other Cities vnto which hee came, in the day of judgment.11

George Abbot, writing in 1600, reiterates that if good works do nothing else, they can relieve punishments in Hell, although one’s general destination hereafter has been predestined:

But suppose that thou belong not to him . . . yet flie from sinne, and do moral vertues, . . . that at least shall ease some part of the extremity of those torments, which thou shalt have in hell fire. Although thou gaine no ioy by it, yet thou shalt escape much evill.12

Richard Crakanthorpe, formerly a tutor of Thomas Jackson at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, agrees that

even in . . . eternal death, there are diversities and degrees of punishments, for some fewer, for others moe [sic] and more hellish stripes, the more they restraine themselues from sinne, and the more they practice those workes of iustice and temperance . . . their stripes and punishments shall bee farre more easie, then if by their wallowing in sinne, and letting loose the reines to impietie, they had treasured up wrath against the day of wrath.13

But although good works on the part of the damned were deemed to alleviate their sufferings, even more emphasis was placed upon their refraining from evil. In a sermon of 1592, Tobie Matthew expounded the notion of the alleviation of torment according to the degree to which the reprobate refrains from evil:

If the reprobate find not himself to be predestinate yet may he not loose the reins to the lusts of concupiscence . . . but rather bridle and restrain both his actions and passions, yea his very affections and perturbations  that he receive not . . . deeper damnation . . . and that it may be easier for him in the day of judgment, being ascertained that in the world to come there are degrees as well of torment as reward.14

The principle behind this concept is expressed by Abbot:

Thy pain shall be the lesse; not because thou hast done well, but because thou hast less declined from vertue.16

Aside from the problems surrounding rewards and their implication of merit, this Augustinian conception of sin as a negative force, i.e. as a falling away from the good,8* seems to have had some bearing upon Protestant opinion that one’s station in the hereafter is determined more by the extent of one’s ‘declining from vertue’ than by one’s positive good works.

II. The Problem of Merit

While it was conceded that the position of the damned was determined by the gravity of their sins and, to some extent, by the counteractive force of their good works27—upon the basis that punishments are deserved—it was far more awkward, theologically, to maintain similar distinctions in heaven; by doing so it seemed to open the door to unwelcome ideas concerning merit.

Jean Veron, David Pareus, and John Cameron all insisted that an analogy should not be drawn between the unequal punishments in hell and rewards in heaven, which, if they exist at all, are not allotted according to merit.18 Protestants were divided with regard to their teaching about degrees of reward, some preferring to abandon the concept altogether, although the majority retained the concept, integrating it successfully with reformed soteriological doctrine.

The issue seems first to have been raised within reformed circles in England by exiled members of continental churches. Peter Martyr, expounding i Cor. 15: 41, admits that

Patres cum interpretantur hunc locum, eum exponent, quasi attingatur praemiorum diversitas, ita ut post beatam resurrectionem aliqui futuri sint illustriores alijs.1*

but himself denies that this verse can sustain such an exposition. protesting that he does not define anything certain as to ‘whether here be degrees of glory in life everlasting’, he appears to lean to he negative opinion. Ten years later, another continental theologian, Jean Veron, the French preacher who had lived in England since about 1536, explicitly rejected the idea of distinctions of heavenly glory. One spokeman in his Overthrow asks Sith that

God in giving us unto life everlasting, doeth not respect or regard the dignitie of our good workes: howe can the doctrine of them stande, which do appoint degrees of ioye and felicitie in heaven affirming that we shal there excel one an other in glorye?*0

Veron feared that by conceding degrees of reward the way was open to doctrines of merit ex condigno and he thus set out to prove from Scripture that the saints will have equal reward and status in heaven; he notes that each labourer in the parable of the Vineyard received one penny, regardless of the amount of time he had worked (Matt. 20); that the righteous, i.e. those in heaven, shall all shine like the sun (Matt. 13: 43); he concurs with Calvin’s interpretation of 1 Cor. 15: 41, arguing that it refers not to differences in glory among the saints, but rather to the differences between our earthly bodies and those with which we shall be furnished hereafter,81 and asks ‘what diversitye of glorye . . . can there be, when all our bodyes shall be made like unto the gloryous bodye of Christ’; he rejects Jerome’s interpretation of Dan. 12, insisting that to ‘be as the brightness of the firmament’ and ‘to shine as the stars’, implies no difference in status; he refuses to

allow that it is possible to argue from ‘contraries’ that degrees of reward exist in heaven just as degrees of punishment exist in hell;31 those passages which seem to imply greatness in heaven, Veron refers instead to greatness within the Church Militant; the ‘many mansions’ of John 14: 2 simply means that ‘there is rowme ynoughe for all hys elect and chosen bee they never so manye’; he asserts that the differences between saints in this life are the result of their varying addiction to the flesh, and that once in the land of the living, all corruptions of the flesh shall be abolished, and, with them, all such differences; similarly, the angelic hierarchy, the principalities, dominions, and powers, which are designed to oversee the present temporal order, shall be abolished as superfluous in the Kingdom.33

The most detailed refutation of the concept of degrees of heavenly reward came from the pen of John Cameron, the influential Glaswegian Professor of Divinity at the University of Saumur. In his Praelectiones, of 1632, he sets out, at some length, fifteen arguments in favour of heavenly degrees of glory, each of which he carefully refutes, and twelve arguments against, which he defends, concluding that the elect in heaven are equal in glory.

These are worth summarizing for the purposes of this article:

He dismisses as specious a number of scripturally based arguments which he sees as attributing to heaven a fallacious diversity of rewards among the saints, whereas the scriptural references, he argues, maintain rather the division between the saved and the damned: Thus, the contrast implied in the statement, ‘God returns to each according to their works’, based on Rom. 2: 6 (cf. 2 Cor. 5: io), does not exist within the assembly of the pious themselves, but distinguishes the pious in heaven from the impious without.

Likewise, he dismisses the notion that the 144,000 virgin followers of the Lamb of Rev. 14: 1-4 imply that there are others who are not of this number and must therefore have less glory: the 144,000 comprise all the elect of God, and the rest are damned; the idea that 2 Cor. 9: 6—’He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully*— implies varying rewards is dismissed in favour of an interpretation which differentiates not between greater and lesser heavenly rewards, but between a reward in heaven and an empty reward in hell; and the idea that punishment is imposed according to merit in hell does not affect the fact that reward for the pious is free (gratuita), for nothing stops punishments being unequal, since not all are equally impious, whereas the same rules of merit do not apply to heaven, since the pious do not earn their reward.

Such an idea will not have the unfortunate practical effect of diminishing enthusiasm for good works, since, Cameron believes, those who are not deterred from evil by the love of God or the horrors of hell will not be allured by the hope of differing rewards within heaven.

Cameron rejects a number of scripturally based arguments which appear to indicate varying degrees of reward in heaven by arguing that such passages pertain to this life, rather than to the next. Into this category falls the parable of the Word of God as the seed which produces in some thirtyfold, in some sixtyfold, and in some a hundredfold. Cameron insists that this parable refers to the efficacy of the Word in this life; similarly, the idea contained in Luke 9: 47, that he who makes himself most like a child will be ‘maximus in regno coelorum’, is refuted, since Cameron argues that the Apostles understood hereby not heaven ‘quale est in coelis’, but ‘regnum coelorum, quale est in terris’; likewise, the Lord’s promise that the Apostles would sit in judgement over the twelve tribes of Israel, is referred by Cameron to the Apostles’ position within the constitution of the Church, rather than to heavenly status.

With Calvin, Veron, Cartwright, and his colleague Amyraut, Cameron refers 1 Cor. 15:41 to the difference between our earthly bodies and those with which we shall be furnished at the general resurrection, rather than to differences between those resurrected bodies.*4 He refuses to admit any qualitative distinction between the brightness of the stars and the brightness of the firmament of Dan. 12: 3; that there are ‘many mansions’ in God’s house does not prove a distinction of inheritance, but indicates rather the wealth and size of eternal life; he reminds his readers that Matthew’s version of the parable of the Talents (Matt. 25: 14—30) tells of an equal reward given to each servant; he counters several arguments which are based upon the necessity of order and hierarchy; we will be similar to the angels, but we, as the limbs of Christ, shall not resemble them in their different ranks; the distinctions which exist among the pious in this life result either from their sins (which will not exist in heaven) or from their varying styles of daily living, which will not pertain to their heavenly existence; those who are equal in love will be endowed with the same dignity in body.36

However, the majority of Protestants who expressed convictions on the subject were convinced by the weight of Scriptural evidence which appeared to indicate that there are degrees of reward hereafter, just as there are degrees of punishment. When Calvin rejected the common interpretation of 1 Cor. 15: 41 which applied the verse to the existence of different degrees of honour and glory among the saints, he assures his readers that such a doctrine is nevertheless perfectly true, and is proved by other declarations of Scripture, although it has nothing to do with Paul’s objective at this point.36 Even Cameron seems to believe that equality does not betoken loss of distinction, and goes so far as to suggest that equal rewards and equal happiness and glory do not negate ‘ordo’, since rank is not a feature of unequal things but of distinct things; this argument he bases upon Trinitarian theology—maintaining that in the Trinity, where there is ‘ordo’, there is no inequality.

Moyse Amyraut, Cameron’s colleague at Saumur, suggests that there may be ‘prerogatiue d’honneur reseruee’ for the saints, as implied by Paul’s addressing the Philippians as ‘my joy and my crown’ (Phil. 4: 1), although this idea contradicts Cameron’s notion of equality based upon 2 Tim. 4: 8, wherein Paul asserts that the crown of righteousness which he will receive will not be given to him alone, but to ‘all them also that love his appearing’. Amyraut is careful to add that

Au lieu que pour en obtenir les plus hauts degres, il luy est plus agreable que nous ne les esperions pas, & pour ce que l’humilite qui nous empesche de les esperer est vne des plus excellentes vertus, moins nous croirons de les obtenir, plus sera t’il certain que nostre humilite en sera remuneree.”

At the end of Veron’s discussion of the subject it is conceded that there may indeed be a ‘higher glory’ for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and Martyrs, although the subject is relegated to the ‘unsearchable iudgementes of God, who (if it had been necessary for our salvation) would have certified us of it in his word’. But the proviso is added that

If in the lyfe to come any do excell other in glori, it is not by reason of their workes merites or deservinges, but the same doth altogether come of the mere mercye, grace and goodnesse of God, who doth most liberallye crowne in them hys owne gyftes . . .38

Thus Veron, by using Augustine’s oft-quoted formula, maintained his position that works, in that they are not ‘ours’, cannot be condignly meritorious, although distinctions of glory might possibly be assigned to the saints through the sheer mercy of God.

Thus the debate is shifted from the rewarded to the rewarder; as David Pareus, drawing upon Peter Martyr, commented:

Quando quidem poene quidem inaequales infligentur pro inaequalibus peccatorum meritis: praemia vero magna, vel parva ex nullo operum merito, sed ex mera gratia distribuentur.38

Tyndale had assumed a similar line in 1532 when expounding Matt. 5: 12—’. . . your reward is great in heaven’:

Though God, when he promiseth to bless our works, do bind us to work if we will obtain the blessing or promise; yet must we beware of this pharisaical pestilence, to think that our works did deserve the promises . . . [which] cometh of the pure mercy of God . . . the promise cometh of the promiser; and not of the deserving of those works, of which God hath no need.40

Tyndale’s interpretation of God’s promise of reward thus avoids any hint of works-righteousness by emphasising that rewards originate with the giver, rather than with the receiver; they are ‘given freely of the goodness of the giver, and not of the deservings of the receiver’,41 and are in fact undeservable, since they are manifoldly disproportionate to the works performed. He speaks of the Christian’s relationship with God as resembling that which exists between a child and his parents; the child ‘is not able to recompense that which it oweth to father and mother by a thousand parts’, yet his parents promise gifts ‘without ceasing’; these rewards are unconditional and ‘cometh of the love, mercy, and truth of the father and mother, as well when the child keepeth the appointment, as when . . . it hath broken the appointment; and not of the deserving of the child’.41 He sets his discussion of the soteriological significance of works within the context of his concept of covenant, which was in no way contractual, despite the strongly moralistic manner of his presentation.43

John Hilsey, in his Primer of 1539, takes up Tyndale’s theme of the complete inadequacy of works (and quotes from Tyndale’s Matthew those passages of Scripture which can be interpreted as connecting covenant and the notion of reward):

God shall reward not for the dignite or worthines of the worke but for his covenaunts sake, for the worthyness of the worke doth not receyve such a reward when the rewarde is an hundreth folde better then the worke in this convenaunt of Christ; . . . Wherfore yf thou delyte to worke for a reward, be of good chere and cease not to worke, thou shalt haue a rewarde, not for thy merites desertes or worthynes of thy worke . . . but for thy couvenauntes sake.44

This interpretation of works as irrelevant in respect of the magnitude of the reward, the reward being firmly placed within the scope of the munificence of the benefactor, is echoed by Perkins, who explains that

In this covenant we do not so much offer, or promise any great matter to God, as in a manner onely receive: even as the last will and testament of a man is not for the testators, but for the heires commodity.46

Bullinger also employs the language of inheritance, and insists that rewards, in that they are already prepared for the sons of God, precede good works, and therefore cannot be earned:

Cogitabimus regnum coelorum & praecipua alia Dei dona non esse mercedem seruorum, sed haereditatem filiorum Dei. Quanquam enim multa opera iudex in extremo iudicio enumeraturus sit, propter quae uitam quasi rependere uidetur electis, praemittet tamen omnibus operibus, haec, Venite benedicti patris mei, possidete regnum paratum uobis ab exordio mundi.4″

This solution—that rewards do not imply merit but are simply the over-generous wages promised by God—was likewise expounded by Cartwright when dismissing the Rhemists’ interpretation of Matt. 5: 12:

The word [reward] signifieth the reward that is due by covenant of him that giveth it, unto him unto whom it is given: whether the paine which he hath taken deserve it or no. If I promise a man as much for making a paire of shooes, as he should deserve in building me a house; yet it is called his reward or hire, that he doth so receive. And that the Scripture doth so use the word, it is manifest of the Parable of the Vine-gardiners, where the peny given to those who had wrought but one onlely houre, . . . is as well called by this word of Reward and hire, as the peny given to them which had borne the . . . travell of the whole day. And St Paul declareth that this word of Reward is as well verified of that which is freely given, as of that which is due debt.47

Cartwright hereby retains the principle of congruence. Bishop John Buckeridge expounds the notion of congruence in his funeral sermon for Lancelot Andrewes of 1628.

Brass or copper money may be made current by the King’s proclamation, but still it is but brass and copper, and wants of the true value of gold and silver; and good works . . . may go for current by God’s promise, and receive a reward out of justice, but justice with mercy. For there is justitia in reddendo, ‘justice in giving’ the crown of glory according to His promise; but there is misericordia in promittendo, ‘mercy’ that triumpheth over justice, ‘in promising’ to give an infinite reward to a finite work, as heaven for a cup of cold water, or bread, or drink, or clothes, and the like; and between the kingdom of heaven and the crown of glory and eternal life which is infinite, and a few crumbs, or drops or rags which are scant so much as finite, there is no equality. Inter finitum et infinitum nulla est proportio, ‘There is no proportion between that which is finite and that which is infinite’. So that as much as infinite doth exceed that which is finite, so much do God’s infinite rewards exceed the best finite works of the best man. And the rule of the school in this is true: God punishes citra condignum, ‘less than we deserve’—so there is mercy in God’s justice and punishments; and God rewards ultra meritum, ‘beyond our merit or desert’, and so eternal life is the grace and free gift of God.48

Some Protestants observed the similarity between God’s bountiful gifts in this life and his rewards hereafter. Just as God’s liberality is variously bestowed here on earth, so are his gifts lavished upon his children in heaven—with no attention paid to merit. William Fulke writes:

As the starres differ in glory, not according to there [sic] merites, but according to Gods gift in there creation: So the bodies of saincts shall differ in glory, not according to there merites, but according to Gods free gift in the resurrection.*’

This concept is also expressed by George Downame, who expands upon Augustine’s idea that God crowns his gifts in us, and proceeds to support it with some of the same patristic sources that his adversary, Bellarmine, has quoted:

As the merit of Christ is equally imputed to all that beleeve; so the reward in respect of the substance, which is eternall life, shall be equally given to all that beleeve: yet I doubt not, but that whom God in this life hath adorned with greater graces, he will in them crowne his greater graces with greater glory.60

John Cameron, however, seems to have found difficulty with this very aspect of the concept of reward—that the inequality of God’s gifts should result in an inequality of rewards in eternal life; he noted that the servants of the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19: 11-27) received their rewards in proportion to what they had done with their pounds, although their industry was equally employed, and the only inequality was in the gifts. But he argues that it is absurd to say that it is the actual gifts and not what we do with them that achieve reward in heaven:

Itaque si hoc argumentum aliquid efficeret, hoc efficeret, dona, non vsum donorum, esse que nos reddunt gratos Deo, quod absurdum est.61

John Davenant, similarly, strove to maintain some sort of connection between rewards and works by insisting that the proportional relationship between them could be affirmed without the association of merit:

When God . . . bestows an eternal life of happiness upon each of the soldiers of Christ who maintain their conflict bravely; yet, in that eternal life of happiness, bestows on some of them a different and pre-eminent measure of glory, in proportion to the different measure of grace which they have pre-eminently improved, he avoids that respect of persons which the Scriptures put far away from God, and maintains a proportion between the works and the rewards of different individuals: and yet this is no proof that the valour of any, even the most distinguished soldier, is fully equivalent to the reward of a life of blessedness, or to the rank which he holds in that life, if the equality of the one to the other were regarded.”

He makes the analogy of soldiers who are rewarded for their military feats by elevation to the peerage—instead of receiving the far more suitable and adequate recompense of knighthood!

I I I . The Danger of Spiritual Commercialism

Bishop Buckeridge, when expounding the parable of the Talents of Matt. 25: 18 in his funeral sermon for Lancelot Andrewes, expressed his opinions about degrees of reward in terms of usury:

The evil servant of the parable forgot the true and lawful usury, to ‘give it to the poor’, and so to ‘lend it to the Lord’, Who would surely have paid both principal and interest also; both the substantial reward of eternal life, and also the accidental degree and measure of glory.”

Andrewes himself preached the scriptural concept of laying up treasures in heaven, employing the terminology of finance, suggesting that ‘laying up’ comprised a system of exchange not unlike that used by the merchants of Europe.54 Such a use of the language of commercialism within the context of theology raises deep questions concerning the legitimacy of heavenly prizes as a motive for godly living.

The theology of future reward and punishment represents a constant latent propensity of the Christian faith to lapse into formalism, or spiritual commercialism, or legalism, which, in themselves, strike at the very heart of Christian disinterestedness and self-forgetfulness. This mercenary tendency of apocalyptic is described by K. E. Kirk as a ‘damnosa hereditas’ wherein:

Communion with God, present and future, is relegated into the background; salvation and recompense become the main objects of the Christian’s desire . . . the only rationale for obedience . . . [is] the hope of future reward. The law does not carry its sanctions in itself; it makes no appeal to the progressive response of conscience. It is an arbitrary rule set out by an arbitrary ruler, to be obeyed without question, comprehension, or assent, and to be crowned by the promised guerdon . . . Amiable, harmless and even beneficent though the habit of codification may sometimes be, the issue to which it leads if unchecked is wholly un-Christian. In it a defective theology and a defective experience of God combine with an unintelligent misapprehension of the essence of morality and a stereotyped ethical code to undo the entire work of revelation.”

C. S. Lewis, in his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century,5′ observes that Christianity is in constant danger of relapsing into ‘theological hedonism’. He cites two periods of English history which witnessed such a descent. The eighteenth century saw Anglicanism reach such a point that Boswell could say that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments comprised the very essence of Christianity; likewise, the Middle Ages saw a similar attitude prevailing. Heaven, hell, and purgatory, Lewis argues, had been ‘too long and too vividly presented’. This had led to a spiritual commercialism which expressed itself in a distorted emphasis upon fasts, pilgrimages, penances, and ‘treasuries of merits’—a system in which ‘the natural and economic man could be as natural and economic about religion as about anything else’.

This tendency to substitute motives of self-interest for the vision of God has always found opponents; among the alleged errors of Eckhardt condemned by Pope John XXII in 1329 was the proposition, ‘God is honoured among those who aim neither at property, nor honour, nor expediency, nor inner devotion, nor sanctity, nor reward, nor the kingdom of heaven, but have abjured them all’,67 and the Council of Trent endorsed the hope of heaven and the fear of hell as legitimate motives of right conduct.68

Certain reformers of the sixteenth century saw an inherent threat posed to Christian disinterestedness by the theology of rewards and punishments—and went to considerable pains to

explain scriptural references to rewards and punishments in the light of their antipathy towards the formalism of the later Middle Ages. One such was Bullinger, who affirmed that

Quanquam Deus humano more praemijs nos alliciat, mercede trahat & in opere bono retineat, praemium tamen & merces non debet in operante bona opera esse praecipuum, ut magis nostram spectemus utilitatem & gloriam, quam amorem & honorem diuinum. Gratis uult Deus coli, gratis amari. Nam ut hilarem datorem requirit: sic filiarem amorem & spirirum spontaneum atque liberalem probat.”

Of the early English reformers, William Tyndale was perhaps the most acutely aware of the need for such a corrective. By nature, he perceived, men ‘understand not’ and ‘talk and think of the reward even as they do the work; neither suppose they that a man ought to work, but in respect to the reward’;60 that the profit should be located in the next world makes no difference: ‘theological hedonism is still hedonism’;81 whether the man is seeking heaven or a hundred pounds, he can still ‘but seek himself’.62 (Perkins was later to categorize a love of God based upon the benefits bestowed by God as a characteristic of the reprobate.)83

Of freedom in its true sense—of spontaneity or disinterestedness, Nature knows nothing; yet such disinterestedness is exactly what the moral law demands. ‘. . . With all our works,’ writes Tyndale, ‘[we] may not seek our own profit, neither in this world nor in the world to come’; still less are we permitted to seek ‘an higher place in heaven’, the which presumption should send us ‘down far beneath the bottom of hell’.64

The solution to this dilemma is provided by the ‘transition effected by the gift of faith which immediately passes into love’. Whereas, prior to conversion, a man ‘wrought all manner evil and wickedness, not for hell’s sake, which is the reward of sin, but because [he] . . . was heir of hell by birth and bondage to the devil’, henceforth, a believer has the power ‘to love that which before he could not but hate’. The ‘fretting’ voice of the law is now the will of the Beloved, and is ‘graved in [the believer’s] heart’. Henceforth, a man could do good works regardless of future rewards and without a business motive, for the sheer love of God. Once the tree had been made good, (by no merit of its own), it would bear good fruit, almost as a by-product—’naturally’, ‘freely’, ‘of his own accord’, without commandment, ‘even of his own nature’, and ‘not for heaven’s sake’.66

The problem of the legitimacy of reward as a motive for the works of Christians continued to interest theologians. William Forbes insisted that Protestants, ‘even the more rigid’, had never denied that it is lawful to do good works with a view to eternal wages, and cites in his favour Bucer, Davenant, and the Remonstrants:

etsi in bene operando praecipue Deum ejusque gloriam, tanquam ultimum finem, spectare debeamus; quia tamen subordinata non pugnant, et nostra salus cum Dei gloria arctissime conjuncta est, idcirco ad excitandum socordiam nostram, omnino licitum sit etiam mercedem promissam, ut finem secundarium.”

He adds that it is neither slavish nor mercenary that we should be moved by the same arguments which God uses throughout the Scriptures to move and to persuade.

IV. Rewards And Sanctification

Just as Tyndale and others saw that good works followed naturally upon the unmerited gift of faith, so eternal life and rewards in heaven were judged to follow close upon the heels of good works:

Likewise as good works naturally follow faith . . . even so naturally doth eternal life follow faith and good living, without seeking for, and is impossible that it should not come, though no man thought thereon.’7

Thus the idea of merit was not only dissociated from reward by placing the latter firmly in the realm of God’s gifts and promises, a position expressed by Augustine in his famous dictum— ‘God crowns his gifts in us’—but the implication of merit was also avoided by assigning to good works an automatic reward. St

Bernard provided another phrase which was popular with Protestant writers: Works are the ‘via regni, non causa regnandi’—or, as Downame expounded this saying, ‘the way which leadeth to the

kingdome, but not the cause of our comming unto it’;88 there is nothing meritorious in them; reward simply emerges as the effect organically connected with the deed, as its cause or condition, or as the natural consequence of holiness, just as holiness is the natural consequence of faith.*9 Thus for Luther, rewards and punishments follow good and evil actions naturally and necessarily; listing those Scriptural passages which refer to rewards he argued that

In meritis et praemiis inutiles cogitationes et quaestiones versamus de dignitate, quae nulla est, cum de sola sequela disputandum sit. Manet enim impios infernus et iudicium Dei, necessaria sequela, . . . Ita manet pios regnum . . . iis omnibus nihil probari quam sequelam mercedis et nequaquam meriti dignitatem, Scilicet quod ii qui bona faciunt, non servili et mercennario affectu propter vitam aetemam faciunt, quaerunt autem vitam aeternam, id est, sunt in ea via, qua pervenient et invenient vitam aeternam, ut quaerere sit: studio niti et instanti opera eo conari, quod sequi solet ad bonam vitam.70

Luther defines natural consequence thus:

Si in aquam mergaris, suffocaberis, si enataveris, salvus eris . . . In merito vel mercede agitur vel de dignitate vel sequela. Si dignitatem spectes, nullum est meritum, nulla merces. Si enim liberum arbitrium se solo non potest velle bonum, per solam vero gratiam vult bonum . . ., quis non videt, solius gratiae esse bonam illam voluntatem, meritum et praemium? . . . Si sequelam spectes, nihil est, sive bonum, sive malum, quod non suam mercedem habeat.71

Luther’s concept of reward as natural consequence, and Tyndale’s insistence upon the inner working of the Spirit, are echoed by Davenant who writes in 1631 that

Habitual grace itself is a disposition, not a merit, as regards future glorification; so the works of grace, wrought by the children of God, are means, not merits; prerequisites, not causes, of the reward received.71

In other words, without works man, though saved or justified by the imputation of Christ’s merits, cannot attain to heavenly status; sanctification is the only means by which we may approach God.

Calvin, basing his argument on Rom. 8: 30, sees this process in terms of an ‘order of sequence’:

Quod vnicuique dicitur redditurus Deus secundum opera [Rom. 2: 6], paruo negotio dissoluitur. Ordinem enim consequentiae magis quam causam indicat locutio. Extra dubium autem est, Dominum his misericordiae suae gradibus salutem nostram consummare dum electos ad se vocat, vocatos iustificat, iustificatos glorificat. Tametsi ergo sola misericordia suos in vitam suscipiat: quia tamen in eius possessionem ipsos deducit, per bonorum operum stadium, vt quo destinauit ordine suum in illis opus impleat: nihil mirum si secundum opera sua dicuntur coronari: quibus haud dubie ad recipiendam immortalitatis coronam praeparantur.”

John White approached the question in a similar manner in his 1613 sermon at the Spittle, in which he reiterated Bernard’s words:

Almes, and mercie, and all good workes, are so commended in the Scripture, and in the Fathers, and have those high titles given unto them, because they are the things which God hath appointed us to walk in for the working out of our salvation.74

The rewards promised by Scripture thus assume the nature of the proverbial carrot; they are the means by which God induces holiness, which is in itself the real or true reward. Tyndale subscribed to this conception of covenant when employing his father-child analogy:

The scripture speaketh as a father doth to his young son, Do this or that, and then will I love thee; yet the father loveth the son first, and studieth with all his power and wit to overcome his child with love and with kindness, to make him do that which is comely, honest, and good for itself.75

That works received some sort of unmerited recompense hereafter was quite reconcilable with orthodox Protestant doctrines concerning justification, since these doctrines made a systematic distinction between justification (the external act by which God declares the sinner to be righteous) and sanctification or regeneration (the internal process of renewal within man).76 This notional distinction distinguished Protestant doctrines from medieval and Tridentine doctrines and rendered it quite possible to speak in terms of the relation between rewards and works without implying that the latter had anything to do with the formal cause of justification (i.e. the alien righteousness of Christ).

Hugh Latimer expressed Protestant doctrine with regard to the distinction between initial justification and subsequent sanctification in a succinct formula, which he used on more than one occasion during his preaching:

We must first hear the word of God and know it; and afterward we must believe the same; then we must wrestle and strive with sin and wickedness, as much as it is possible for us, and so live well and godly, and do all manner of good works which God hath commanded us in his holy laws; and then we shall be rewarded in everlasting life, but not with everlasting life; for that everlasting life is a gift of God, a free gift given freely unto men through Christ.77

Melanchthon, in his Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531), made this distinction when accounting for the position of works in Lutheran teaching. He retains the word ‘merit’:

We teach that good works are meritorious—not for the forgiveness of sins, grace,or justification (for we obtain these only by faith) but for other physical and spiritual rewards in this life and in that which is to come, as Paul says (1 Cor. 3: 8), ‘Each shall receive his wages according to his labour’. Therefore there will be different rewards for different labours . . . There will be distinctions in the glory of the saints.78

William Covell refers to works which ‘although not so required of necessity that to leave them undone excludeth from Salvation’ are nevertheless ‘of so great dignity and acceptation with God,that most ample reward in heaven is laid up for them’.79 Covell’s actions which ‘make to the accessory augmentation of our bliss’ savoured too much of the Roman doctrine of supererogatory works for his opponents to abide happily. Davenant employs the same distinctions, insisting that the Scriptures, when they deny the meritoriousness of works for receiving reward, have not in view any measures . . . of superadded glory; but that very essential reward, that is, the glory itself.80

Although he used the term ‘merit’, Melanchthon insists that eternal life is a gift of God (cf. Rom. 6: 23) and quotes Augustine’s maxim that ‘God crowns his gifts in us’ to this effect; he argues that the concept of condign merit is a misinterpretation of the word ‘reward’—which thereby does ‘violence not only to Scripture but also to the very usage of the language’.81 In 1586 Hooker appealed to the interpretation of the Wittenberg Confession:

The ancient Fathers use meriting for obtaining, and in that sense they of Wittenberg have it in their Confession: ‘We teach that good works commanded of God are necessarily to be done, and that by the free kindness of God they merit their certain rewards.82

Bishop Buckeridge interpreted the word ‘promeretur’ after the same fashion; the Fathers, he argued, used the word in the sense that merit is ‘via obtinendi’, ‘the way and means of obtaining’:

To return to the use of the word, promeretur. In antiquity I remember St Cyprian useth it not for the dignity and merit of the best work, but only for the way or means of obtaining. For reading that place of St Paul, ‘But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief [1 Tim. 1: 13], he reads it thus Sed misericordiam merui, ‘But I merited mercy’. What was merui in St Cyprian’s sense but ‘I obtained mercy’? and so the Vulgar reads that place.83

The notion of heavenly rewards, in so far as they could be viewed as the natural consequences of good works, or as comprising the fruition of our growth in holiness (since holiness is its own reward) was an integral part of the doctrines of sanctification and glorification. As White explains,

The elect are brought to glorie, not by justification alone, but by vocation and sanctification also . . . though the workes themselves iustifie not, . . . they have their proper use to sanctifie us’.84

Sanctification, whereby the inherent holiness of the justified sinner is gradually augmented and enlarged in this lifetime, was the beginning of transformation into the image of the Son of God; glorification comprised the perfect transformation of the saints into that image, which begins in death but is not made perfect until the last day of judgement;86 but although this process shall be ‘made perfect before the last day’,86 and ‘God shall be all in all, in all his elect’,87 perfect glorification does not entail equality among the saints.

Sanctification determines the degree to which we are capable ofreceiving that which God has in store for us; as Amyraut expressed it:

Qu’encore que diuers vaisseaux que Ton plonge dans vne riuiere en mesme temps, se remplissent tous egalement, en ce qu’il n’y en a pas vn qui ne prenne de l’eau tout autant que porte l’etendue de sa capacite, si en prennent ils inegalement pourtant, en ce que cette etendue de leur capacite n’est pas egale.88

Amyraut here yet again disagrees with his mentor, Cameron, who had written that the elect are not like unequal vases, since they are all by nature the same, and must therefore fill up to the same degree.89

George Downame, perceiving that Roman polemic was misdirected in respect to Protestant doctrine concerning good works and rewards,90 adamantly upholds the idea that there are inequality and degrees of sanctity and of subsequent glorification, and actually throws back at Bellarmine (against whom he writes) the charge that it is rather the Roman doctrine of infused righteousness that implies equality:

All his proofes are to prove the inequality and degrees of sanctity or inherent righteousnesse; as though we denyed the same, or held that paradox, which may in respect of habituall righteousnesse more justly be imputed to the Papists. For if incipients in Religion, yea, infants in age, be justified or made just, as they teach, with perfect righteousnesse infused, what difference shall there bee betwixt Baptized infants and the greatest Proficients among them (who dreame of perfection) in regard of habituall righteousnesse? saving that the infants justice may seeme to bee more pure from actual] concupiscences.’1

The concept of degrees of glory was part of the process by which Protestant theology retained the idea that individual identity is preserved beyond death; the elect shall all be conformed unto Christ, but shall by no means be subsumed into one amorphous mass. Luther thus interprets i Cor. 15: 41:

Des gleichen sol auch inn leben mancherlen untersheid sein der klarheit odder herrligkeit und doch alzumal inn einerlen himlischem wesen als ein leib und gelieder Christi, Wie denn auch inn einem naturlichen leib viel und mancherlen gelieder sind, deren iglichs seinen eigen namen und brauch odder ampt hat und doch gleichwol alle einerlen wesen und natur des einigen leibs haben.”

Just as heavenly bodies emit varying degrees of light, so shall the risen elect enjoy varying degrees of glory, ‘making each nicely distinct from the other’.93 These differences will be determined

by our works in this life-time, or in other words, by our progress in sanctification:

Und sol dennoch also zu gehen, das wir unternander mancherlen unterscheid odder klarheit haben werden, Als Petrus und Paulus eines Apostels, dieser eines Merterers, der ander eines fromen Bisschoffs odder predigers klarheit haben wird, ein iglicher nach seinem werck, das er gethan hat.84

Francis White propounds the doctrine of degrees of glory as an alternative to the Roman doctrine of the treasury of merits for the satisfaction of other men’s sins, substituting instead the ‘treasury of God’s eternal memory’. Superabundant satisfaction on earth accrues in Heaven as superabundant glory:

Even as God in this World appointed . . . Afflictions, to be matter and occasion of greater Sanctitie and Vertue in them, and proposed these Persons to be Lights and Examples to others, in their Actions and Sufferings: so likewise he layd vp these things in the Treasurie of his eternall Memorie, that he might crowne and dignifie them aboue other Saints, with a large augmentation of Glorie and Blisse.”

Yet differences in glory do not entail degrees of happiness; in heaven all shall partake of eternal joy and shall want for nothing; all shall behold the face of God and all shall be ‘like unto Christ’.68 All will be completely happy in their station. Augustine, basing himself on i Cor. 15, had argued that degrees of glory did not entail degrees of happiness, since ‘love will bring it about that what is possessed by each will be common to all’, and that there will thus be no ‘envying amid this diversity of brightness’.97

Luther also maintains an equality of happiness amid this diversity of glory:

Also das alles sein unterschiedlich und doch nach der person gleich und einerlen wesen, und alle gleiche freude und seligkeit haben werden inn Gott, Eben wie die stern allzumal am himel leuchten und helle sind, ob wol einer mehr, denn ander weniger klarheit odder liecht von sich gibt.98

For the majority of Protestant writers who addressed the issue, belief in degrees of reward in heaven thus did not conflict with the Protestant insight of justification freely attained through the merits of Christ, since rewards resulted naturally or automatically from good works, which were part of the elect’s sanctification.

Neither did heavenly rewards imply a recurrence of the medieval doctrine of condign merit, since Protestant writers who admitted the concept of degrees of glory hereafter were careful to attribute them not to the merit of works, but rather to the bountiful mercy of God.

The essential Protestant response to the issue of degrees of glory, however, is well expressed by Amyraut, who, having concluded that ‘it is difficult to conceive how some shall be more advanced than others’ hereafter, when God who is all in all shall fill the faithful with his Spirit, concludes his discussion of the subject with a comment which serves to set the problem in perspective:

Ce n’est pourtant pas mon intention d’en rien decider icy, & il est beaucoup plus a propos de s’exercer a embrasser la Croix de Christ, par laquelle seule nous auons le droit de partager l’heritage des cieux auec luy, que de nous amuser a supputer le nombre de nos belles actions, ou a mesurer les degres de nos vertus, pour voir quelque iour la haut aux cieux si nos recompenses y seront proportionnees.”

Dr. Emma Disley

Notes:

1 C. McDannell and B. Lang, Heaven: a history (1988), 150.

2 Philip Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, xvii; T. G. Tappert, The Book of Concord (1959), 224.

3 Moyse Amyraut, Discours de Vestal des Fideles apres la mart, Saumur (1646), 171. Cf. Bishop William Forbes of Edinburgh, Considerationes modestae et pacificae conlroversiarum dejustificatione, Purgatorio, Invocatione Sanctorum, Christo Mediatore et Eucharistia, published posthumoujly in 1658, 297—9, wherein he complains of Protestants who question the doctrine of heavenly rewards, and attributes their opinions to their ‘being too fond of novelty’. Uncertainty about the Protestant

position on the subject continued throughout the period covered by this article and Deyond; in 1692, the writer of The Glory and Happiness of the Saints in Heaven, 139-40, accepts the arguments on both sides of the argument, relinquishes the debate, and embraces a position of complete agnosticism with regard to the issue.

4 Reference to ‘only two places’ after death was a frequent cry of earlier Protestants, who saw no difficulty in referring to heaven and hell as ‘places’; cf. John Hoper, A funerall oratyon made the xiiii day of January 1549, Parker Society Works, 567—8, and Edmund Grindal, A Sermon at the funeral solemnitie of the most high and mighty prince Ferdinandus, the late Emperour (1564), in P.S. Works, 25. Milton’s concept of heaven and hell as a quality of the mind (cf. Paradise Lost (1667), 1668 edition, i. 1. 249) does not seem to have gained currency in early Reformation debates on the subject.

5 Although it had been translated into neither English nor Latin at this period, contemporaries were familiar with Dante’s work, occasionally quoting him for his anti-papal stance; criticism of his depiction of Purgatory is lacking and was probably tolerated as poetic license. The anonymous author of Tarlton’s Newel out of Purgatorie (1590), 2—3, however, argues for the existence of a ‘meane betwixt heaven and hel’, namely, ‘Quoddam tertium, a third place that al our great grandmothers have taJkt of, that Dant hath so learnedly writ of, and that is Purgatorie’. The Roman doctrine of Purgatory might seem to imply equality in heaven, if purged souls are deemed to achieve a uniform purity. Such a notion is touched on by the conservative lawyer, John Rastell, whose New Boke of Purgatory (1530) included a long debate linking the idea of degrees of glory with the doctrine of Purgatory; one of his spokesmen argues that the existence of degrees of glory renders unnecessary the doctrine of purgatory, since all levels of purity are accommodated in a hierarchic heaven. This idea is refuted by his advocate of purgatory, who insist* that although degrees of purity and joy exist in heaven ‘nothynge unpurged and unpure may remayne and abyde in heuen’, fos. fir-g2. John Frith, in his refutation of Rastell’s book, passes over this argument, commenting only ‘let us graunte these degres [in heaven] for Rastels pleasure although the questyon be so dysputable that I am sure he can not defende it’, A Disputacio of Purgatorye (1530?), fo. C4r.

6 Thomas Jackson, Justifying Faith, or the faith by which the just do live (1615), c. 6. 207.

7 Philo, nepi A9Xtov KOU Eitranicov passim.

8 K. E. Kirk, The Vision of God (1928 Bampton lectures; published, 1931), 239-4O.

9 Ibid. 240.

10  Cf. Ambrose, Expotitio Evangelii secundum Lucan, lib. 7, 220; id., Ep. 42 ad Siridum; Chrysostom, Ad Thtodorum Laptum, I; id., Homily 41 on 1 Corinthians, Jerome, Adversus Jovimanum, II; Augustine, De Spiritu et littera, cc. 41, 48; id., De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, c. 5; id., Tractatus in Joannis, 67.2 and 68.3; id., De Baptismo, II, 2 and IV, 19; id., De Cwitate Dei, XXII, 30; id., De Sanaa Virginitate, c. 26; Gregory, Expositio in Librum lob, sive Moralium Libri XXV, lib. iv. 70.

11 Peter Lombard, Sentences, iv. dist. 49, c. 1; cf. Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences, dist. 49, q.5, art. 1.

12  Cf. Augustine, De Cwitate Dei, and Jerome, who argued that the ecclesiastical hierarcy reflected the heavenly order, Adversus Jovinianum, ii; but cf. also Martin Luther, Das 15. Capitel der 1 Epistel S. Pauli an die Corinther, see Werke, Weimar edition, 36, pp. 568 and 595, on w. 24 and 27—8, wherein he maintains that although male and female shall remain hereafter with regard to nature and person, the married estate, and all that proceeds from it, such as government, subjects, and whatever other estates and offices there may be on earth and which pertain to the government of the world shall be terminated; even the pastor’s or preacher’s office shall cease. He hereby expresses the opposing tradition—represented, for example, by the fifteenth-century cadaver tombs—of Death the leveller. This notion contradicts the words put into Elizabeth I’s mouth by Thomas Bentley, at the end of a long prayer to be used by the Queen in his Monument of Matrones (1582), 272, wherein the Queen expects ‘with all the holie Patriarches, Judges, Kings and Queenes, yea with all the Archangels, Angels, Saints, Martyrs, Confessors, Uirgins, and the whole companie of thy celestiall and blessed spirits, to reigne with him over spirituall powers and principalities for ever …”

13  The problem presented by Jesus’ teaching about rewards in the Gospels is stated simply by Kirk ‘. . . assuming disinterettedness to be the Christian ideal, how comes it that the idea of recompense features so largely in the gospels’, The Vision of God, 140—6 and 143 n.; cf. Baron Friedrich von Hugel’s discussion of the subject in The Mystical Element of Religion as studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and her friends ii (1923), 154—8.

14 Cf. P. Denis, ‘John Veron: The first known French Protestant in England’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London 22 (1970—6), 257—63, and Henry Machyris diary, 1550—1563 (Camden Society 1848), passim.

15 Jean Veron, The Overthrow of the Iustification of Workes and the vain doctrin of the Merits of Men (1561), fo. 65′.

16 Theodore Beza, Quaestionum & Responsionum Christianarum Libellus (1571), 85.

17  Cf., for example, Thomas Cartwright, A Confutation 0/ the Rhemists translation, glosses and annotations on the New Testament (1618), 25, on Matt. 5: 23: ‘All sin deserveth death, as the Apostle saith, and that everlasting . . . all sinne, except that against the Holy Ghost, is veniall in Christ: so without him it is all mortall and deadly . . . away therefore with this filthie distinction, so foolishlie gathered . . .’; cf. also William Guild, A Compend: Controversies of Religion (1639), cap. 8, 96—7: ‘. . . all Sinne is mortall by nature, and none are veniall, but onlie by Grace, to those that are penitent . . . at the day of judgement those sinnes which Papists call Veniall, will proove then Mortall; because they will t>ee punished with eternall death, seeing no temporall or lighter punishment is to bee then inflicted, or thereafter sustained’.

18 John White, Way to the True Church (1624), 130.

19 William Tyndale, Exposition of the First Epistle of Saint John (1538) Parker Society Works ii (1849), 212; in part, such an exposition of this passage was influenced by the Roman interpretation of the epistle’s teaching—i.e. that a ‘sin to death’ is ‘that mortall sin onely, whereof a man is never penitent before his death, or which he continueth until death and dieth in it’, cf. Rhemists’ Bible, annotation on 1 John 5: 16—17, and cannot therefore be said to define mortal sins in general. This interpretation allowed Roman commentators to argue that if we may not pray for those among the dead who sinned unto death, we may, conversely, pray for those among the dead who did not ‘sin unto death’. Thus William Fulke, The text of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated out of the vulgar Latine by the Papists of the traiterous seminarie at Rhemes . . . whereunU) is added the translation out of the original Creeke, commonly used in the Church of England, with a confutation of all such arguments, glosses, and annotations, as conteine manifest impietie, etc. (1589), 45S*-456T, and Thomas Cartwright, A Confutation of the Rhemists translation, glosses and annotations on the New Testament (1618), 699-700, restrict sin to death to sin against the Holy Ghost referred to in Mark 3: 29; cf. Luke 12: 10.

20 Cartwright, Confutation, on Matt. 10: 15 and 5: 23, pp. 48 and 25—6.

21  William Perkins, Treatise tending unto a declaration whether a man might be in the estate of damnation or in the estate of Grace (1590?), 14.

22 George Abbot, An Exposition upon the prophet Jonah (1600), lecture 25, 532-3-

23 Richard Crakanthorpe, Sermon of Predestination (1620), 38—9.

24 Tobie Matthew, cf. ‘Two sermons hitherto unpublished, of Dr Tobie Matthew . . .’, in The Christian Observer, 47 (1847), 728, 777-8; cf. N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists (1987), p. 19 and 19 n., for Matthew and Perkins references.

25 Abbot, ibid.

26  Cf. Augustine, Confessions, vii. 12; id., De moribus ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum, 11. ii. 12: ‘Evil . . . is that which falls away from essence and tends to non-being. It tends to make that which is cease to be’; cf. G. R. Evans, Augustine on Evil (1982), 34-5.

27 One dissenter from the generally accepted notion that there are degrees of punishment in hell appears to have been the fifteenth-century common lawyer, Sir John Fortescue, who omits hell from his picture of universal order in his De Natura Legis Naturae, cap. LIX, in Works, edited by Lord Clermont (1869), i. 175 ‘Hoc ordine preest angelus angelo, ordo ordini in regno caelorum, homo homini, bestia bestiae, avis avi, et piscis pisci, in terra, aere, et in mari; ut non sit repens ymo vermiculus, celse volans avis, aut profunde natans pisciculus, quern non constringit hujus ordinis series consonantissima armonia. Solum Jnfernus quern tantum peccatores colunl hujus ordinis amplexus vindicat declinare.’

28 Veron, Overthrow, fos. 65—6; David Pareus, Roberti Bellarmini . . . De Justificatiom impii. lib. V, Explicati et casligati (1615), iii, c. xvi. 917; John Cameron, Praelecliones, ii. (1632), 325—6.

29 Peter Martyr, In selectistimam S. Pauli Priorem ad Corinth. Epistolam (1551), 4*5-

30 Veron, Overthrow, fo. 59.

31 Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of St Paul to the Corinthians (1546); see Calvin Society edition ii. (1848), 48—0; cf. Cartwright, who, in his Confutation, 438, concurs with this interpretation of I Cor. 15: 41; cf. also Amyraut, Exposition du Chapitre xv. de la Premiere Epistre de St Paul aux Corinthiens (1659), 76, wherein he suggests that ‘. . . il [St Paul] compare, non les corps des Fideles glorifiez avec les corps des autres Fideles aussi glorifiez, avec quelque notable disparite dans les degrez de leur gloire: mais les corps des Fideles, tels qu’on les seme en la mort, avec eux-mesmes quand ils ressusciteront a la venue du Sauveur du monde’.

32 Cf. Beza, who does argue from ‘contraries’ in his Quaestionum Sf Responsionum, 85.

33 This paragraph summarizes Veron’s arguments presented in fos. 59r-6oT of his Overthrow.

34 Cameron, Praclectiona, ii, 326; cf. Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of St Paul to the Corinthians; Veron, Overthrow, fo. 61; Cartwright, Confutation, on 1 Cor. 15: 41; Amyraut, Exposition dv Chapitre XV. de la Premiere Epistre de St Paul avx Corinthiens, 74—6.

35 Cameron, Praelectiones, ii, 325-34.

36 Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of St Paul to the Corinthians.

37 Amyraut, Discours de Vestal des Fideles apres la mart (1646), 171, 172—3; cf. Cameron, Pratlectionum, 332.

38 Veron, Overthrow, fo. 72; cf. Augustine, De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, c. 15 and On the Proceedings of Pelagius, c. 35.

39 David Pareus, Roberti Bellarmini Politiani Societatis Jesu Theologi Cardinalis, De Justificatione Impii. libri V, Expicati et Castigati (1615), lib. I l l , cap. XVI, p. 917; cf. Peter Martyr, In Selectissimam S. Pavli Priorem ad Corinth, Epistolam (1551), 424-5; cf. Bellarmine, De Justificatione, lib. I l l , c. XVI.

40 Tyndale, An Exposition uppon the V. VI. VII. Chapters of Matthew (1532), P.S. Works ii. 30-1.

41 Tyndale, Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1527), P.S. Works i (1848), 116; cf. Alexander Nowell’s Catechism (1570), P.S. (1853), 63: ‘Merces ilia non pro dignitate . . . operibus tribuitur, et illis quasi gratia pro mentis refertur, sed Dei benignitate gratis praeter mentum, in nos confertur.’

42 Tyndale, Exposition uppon . . . Matthew, P.S. Works ii, 74—5; cf. Heinrich Bullinger, who uses the same analogy in his Sermonum Decades Quinque, de Potissimis Christianat Religionis Capitibus (1562), Decad. I l l , Sermo IX, p. 159′: ‘Imitatur hie Deus benignus, patres secundum carnem, uel in hoc seculo benignos. Donant enim hi quoque liberis suis munera ueluti laboris mercedem, & his ad

ampliores uirtutes ipsos prouocant, cum tamen iure haereditatis ad filios omnia pertineant, & uera propriaque caussa mercedis uel recompensationis non sit obedientia filij, sed magis mera parcntis gratia.’

43 Cf. M. McGiffert, ‘William Tyndale’s Conception of Covenant’, JEH (19S1), 167—84. Professor McGiffert’s article rescues Tyndale’s covenant theology from allegations that his stress on works endangered Reformed theology by positing a conditional covenant; cf. W. A. Clebsch, England’s Earliest Protestants, 1520—35 (1964), 191, 138, 146, 154; J. G. Moller, ‘The beginnings of Puritan covenant theology’, JEH, xiv (1963), 51—2; D. B. Knox, The Doctrine of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII (1961), 6, 19—20.

44  John Hilsey, Manual of Prayers (1539), fo. Gg. ii. r; reprinted in E. Burton, (ed.), Three Primers put forth in the Reign of Henry VIII (1834), 43°-i; cf. McGiffert, ibid., 182-3.

45 Perkins, Works, i. 70b.

46  Bullinger, Sermonum Decades, Decad. I l l , Sermo IX, 159; cf. Matt. 25: 34 and Col. 3: 24; cf. also Fulke, A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures into the English Tongue, against the Cavils of Gregory Martin (1583), P.S. 1843, c. 9, p. 370: ‘In the testimony of St Paul, the word of “inheritance” following immediately after the word of “reward” or “retribution”, excludeth merits: for the inheritance dependeth of God’s free adoption, by which he maketh us his sons, that he may give us that inheritance which we can never deserve.’

47 Cartwright, Confutation, 23 on Matt. 5: 12, Cartwright hereby retains the principle of congruence, (cf. late medieval doctrine of ‘faciens quod in se est’); cf. Fulke, A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures, c. 9, p. 369: ‘. . . the full reward is given, according to the most bountiful promise of God, to our good works, of his mere mercy and grace, and not by desert of our works. And the parable of the labourers, whom God hired into his vineyard, declareth most evidently, that the reward is of grace, not of m e r i t . . . he promiseth greater reward to his workmen, a thousand fold and more, than their labour dothdeserve . . . “

48 John Buckeridge, funeral sermon for Lancelot Andrewes (1628), in Andrewes, Ninety-six sermons, vol. 5, Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology (1843), 282—3. Cf. Robert of Holcot (d. 1349), In Itbrum Sapientiae Regis Salomonis praelectiones CCXIII, c. 3, lect. 36, (1586 edition, p. 126): ‘. . . sicut parua pecunia cupri ex natura sua, siue naturali uigore non ualet tantum, sicut unus panis, sed ex institutione principis tantum ualet.’ Also James Ussher, An Answer to a Challenge made by a lesuite in Ireland (1624) (1625 edition, pp. 519—20) ‘. . . our workes haue thisvalue in them, not naturally, as if  there were so great goodnesse in the nature or substance of the merit that euerlasting life should bee due vnto it, but legally, in regard of Gods ordinance and appointment. Even as a little peece of Copper of its owne nature or naturali value, is not worth so much as a loafe of Bread; butby the institution of the Prince is worth so much.’

49  William Fulke, The text of the New Testament . . . translated . . .by the papists . . . at Rhemes . . . with a confutation of all such arguments, glosses, and annotations, as conteine manifest impietie (1589), on 1  Cor.15: 41, p. 300V.

50 George Downame, A treatise of Unification (1632; 1639 edition), lib. 4, c. XIII, II, p. 259; cf. Bellarmine, De justificationc, lib. 3, c. XVI, in Opera ontnia, 4 (1858), 564—6; Cardinal Bellarmine differentiates the position of the Lutheransfrom that of Jovinian on this matter, by  observing that whereas Jovinian taught that all virtues and sins are equal and are therefore equally rewarded, the Lutherans affirmed an inequality of virtues and sins, but nevertheless taught one and the same justification apprehended by faith, the righteousness of Christ being imputed to believers. Thus, he notes, the Lutherans, using different premisses, reached the same conclusion as the heretic, Jovinian. In this respect, Downame either fails to appreciate, or misrepresents Bellarmine’s argument: ‘. . . faine would hee have the world to thinke, that we are like to Iovinian, or the Stoiks, calumniating us against the light of his owne conscience. For he cannot be ignorant, but that wee doe acknowledge degrees of righteousnesse inherent and of the graces of sanctification. . .’ He goes on, however, to correct Bellarmine’s misrepresentation of Protestant views regarding degrees of reward.

51 Cameron, Praelectiona, ii, 328. The proportional rewards of Luke 19 contrast with the equality of rewards implied in Matt. 25.

52 John Davenant, Dilputatio de lustitia habituali el acluali ii (1631), (trans. J. Allport, 1844-6), 146-7.

53 Buckeridge, in Andrewes, Ninety-six sermons vol. 5, 278.

54 Lancelot Andrewes, ibid., 45-6.

55 Kirk, The Vision of God, 138-9.

56 C. S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1944 Clark lectures, published, 1954), 187-9.

57 Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum no. 508: Article 8 of the Errors of Eckhardt, examined and condemned in the edict, ‘In agro dominico’, 1329.

58 Ibid., nos. 804, 836, 841: Session 6 of the Council of Trent (1547), Decree of Justification, c. 11; canon 26—’si quis dixerit justos non debere . . . expectare et sperare aeternam retributionem’; 31—’si quis dixerit justificatum peccare dum intuitu aeternae mercedis bene operatur’.

59 Bullinger, Sermonum Decades, Decad. I l l , Sermo. IX, p. 159′.

60 Tyndale, Wicked Mammon (1527), P.S. Works i. 63.

61 Lewis, Engish Literature, 188.

62 Tyndale, Prologue to Numbers (1530), P.S. Works i. 435.

63 Perkins, . . . declaration . . . whether a man . . . be in the estate oj damnation or . . . of Grace, 14.

64 Tyndale, Wicked Mammon, P.S. Works i. 62, 98, 117; cf. A Pathway into the Holy Scripture (1525-32), ibid. 20.

65 Tyndale, Pathway, P.S. Works i. 21-3 and Wicked Mammon, ibid. 53-5; cf. Lewis, English Literature, 188.

66 Forbes, Considerationcs modestae et pacificae controversiarum de Justificatione (posthumously published, 1658; Library of Anglo-Catholic theology, 1850), 466-70. Cf. Davenant, An Exposition of the Epistle of St Paul to the Colossians (1627) (1831 edition, i, pp. 82—4): ‘God himself is the reward promised to the faithful; therefore whilst they expect and regard an eternal reward, they expect nothing but God. But if we understand the reward to be not God himself, but the very act of enjoying God; then it must be answered otherwise, viz. that this reward is not to be so regarded that it should be the end for which we love God, but only that it should be the end of our action, i.e. of our affection and love: And this is allowed; because a less good is lawfully made subordinate to a greater, as to its end; yet the enjoyment itself of God at home is a greater good than faith or the

love of God by the way; therefore faith and love are lawfully subordinate to that as to the end.’

67 Tyndale, Wicked Mammon, P.S. Works i. 64.

68 Bernard of Clairvaux, De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, XIV, 51; Downame, A Treatise of Justification (1639 edition), lib. 2, c. VI, xii, p. 79.

69 Ibid.

70 Martin Luther, De servo arbitrio (1525), W.A., 18, 694.

71 Ibid. 693—4; for the clearest modern account of the idea of ‘natural consequence’,see C. S. Lewis’ essay, ‘The Weight of Glory’, Theology (November, 1941).

72 John Davenant, Disputatio ii, (trans. J. Allport, 1846) 85. Cf. Francis White, A replie to Jesuit Fishers anstcere to certain questions propounded by his most gracious Ma””: King lames (1624), 517, wherein he  argues that good works ‘may be used and referred to life eternal!, as dispositions and causes impetrant, and not as causes properly or condignely meritorious’.

73 Jean Calvin, lnstitvtio Chrutianae Religionis (1559), lib. I l l , c. 18, p p . 295-6.

74 White, A sermon preached at the Spittle in London. Easter Monday, 1613 (1615), 77-

75 Tyndale, Wicked Mammon, P.S. Works i. 107; Bullinger also sees in the promise of reward the means by which God induces holy living: cf. his Sermonum Decades, Decad. Ill, Sermo IX, p. 159′: ‘Deus humano more praemijs nos alliciat, mercede trahat & in opere bono retineat . . .’

76 Cf. A. E. McGrath, lustitia Dei ii, (1986), and E. G. Rupp, Studies in the Making of the English Protestant Tradition (1966) c. VIII.

77 Hugh Latimer, Lincolnshire Sermon (1552), P.S. 11 Lalimer (1845), 74; cf. his Grinthorpe sermon (1553) 140; also P.S., / Latimer (1844) his sixth sermon on the Lord’s Prayer (1552), 410.

78 Philip Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531), iv. 193—4 and 355—6 in The Book of Concord, ed. T. G. Tappert, 133 and 161.

79 William Covell, A Just and Temperate Defence of the five books of ecclesiastical policie by R. Hooker (1602), in Hooker, Ecclesiastical Politic and other works ii, (1830). 493.

80 Davenant, Disputatio, ii. 106.

81 Melanchthon, Apology, 356—7, in Tappert, Book ofConcord, 161—2.

82 Richard Hooker, A learned discourse of justification, works, and how the foundation of faith is overthrown (preached, 1586; published, 1612); cf. Works, iii. (1830), 396; cf. Syntagm. Confession, pars.  106, Gen. 1654; ‘Docemus bona opera dwinitus praecepta necessario facienda esse, el mereri gratuita Dei dementia sua quaedam sive corporalia sive spiritualia praemia.’ Also Covell, A Just and Temperate Defence, in Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity and other works, ii. 487: ‘. . . the heathen Masters ofthe Latin tongue, and the Fathers for antiquity, nearest unto those times, have used the word [merit] far in another sense than that whereunto the violence of some constructions have wrested it at this day. And Aquinas himself understandeth by the name of Merit, not a Work not due, which should deserve a reward; but a Work which mercifully, and by the goodness of God, a reward followeth.’

83 Buckeridge, funeral sermon, in Andrewes, Ninety-six sermons, vol. 5, pp. 282 and 286; cf. Cyprian, Epist. 73 (AD. 256). The word ‘promeretur’ is used by the Vulgate at Heb. 13: 16, about which Buckeridge is preaching.

84 White, The Way to the True Church (1624), Workes, 137.

85 William Perkins, A Golden Cham (1600), cc. 38 and 48.

86 Ibid., c. 48.

87 Ibid., c. 50.

88 Amyraut, Discours de I’estat da Fideles apris la mart, 230. The writer of The Glory and Happiness of the Saints in Heaven (1692) employs the same analogy.

89 Cameron, Praelectiones, ii. 331.

90 Cf., for example, William Malone, A Reply to Mr lames Ussher (1627),709—10 on Protestant  belief in the equality of saints in heaven.

91 Downame, A treatise of iuitification, lib. 4, c. XIII. Ill, p. 260; cf. Bellarmine, De Juitificatione, lib. 3, c. XVI, Opera omnia, vol. 4, pp. 564—6. See n. 50.

92 Luther, Das 15. Capiul der Ertten Epistel S. Pauli an die Corinther (1534), W.A. 36, p. 652.

93 Ibid. 653.

94 Ibid. 653.

95 Francis White, A Replie to Ietuit Fishers Answere, 552.

96 Cf. Perkins, Golden Chain, c. 50.

97 Augustine, Tractate 67.2 in Joamtit, 67.2; cf. Gregory, Exporitio in Librum lob, sive Moralium Libri XXV, lib. IV, 70.

98 Luther, W.A. 36, p. 653.

99 Amyraut, Discours de I’estat des Fideles apris la mart, 233—4.

1992

John MacArthur Jr.

Different Degrees of Reward in Heaven and Punishment in Hell

Tape, GC 70-13, titled “Bible Questions and Answers”

Question

The Bible teaches that as a Christian, when we die we receive different degrees of rewards in heaven. And, I’d like to know if you could expound on those different degrees, but also, if there are different degrees of suffering in Hell?

Answer

I think “yes” to both of those questions. There will be varying degrees of reward in heaven. That shouldn’t surprise us: there are varying degrees of giftedness even here on earth. To get a good glimpse of what heaven might be like, look at the church. From the moment of your redemption, the Lord put His Holy Spirit within you, and according to I Corinthians 12, He gave you certain spiritual gifts, right? He gave gifts to all of His church. They differ. What are gifts? They are varying capacities for ministry, varying capacities for service to God in His church. And I think the same thing will be true eternally; I think in eternity, we will all be given according to our abilities and according to our faithfulness–varying capacities for glorifying, serving, and worshipping God.

So, I think that it’s going to be based upon two things. One would be the sovereignty of God, who will choose to give as He wills, as in I Corinthians 12, as He gives spiritual gifts in this life to the church, in whatever way He chooses to do that–that’s a sovereign thing. And secondly, I think there is another component, and that has to do with faithfulness here. I believe our eternal reward will be in some way determined by the level of faithfulness we have had here.

Now, there are a number of reasons why we assume this. One of them was this conversation that Jesus had with the mother of James and John, who said, “My boys want to sit on your right and left hand when you come into the kingdom,” and He said, “It’s not for Me to give that; it’s for my Father to give that.” And there He said, there are going to be some people elevated. Somebody’s going to be on my right, somebody’s going to be on my left, and some others are going to be down the line here–It’s not for Me to decide that; It’s the Father. But, then He went on to say the criteria by which that is going to be decided is faithfulness unto death. So, I think the greatest reward in the future is awarded for the most faithful people, and that probably plays itself out in those who were faithful unto death: the martyrs, those who gave their life. You could give your life in living, as well as give your life in dying, couldn’t you? And you know what I mean by that. You could make the self-sacrifice to the maximum extent even while you’re alive, where you sacrifice everything else and be what Paul called a “living sacrifice.”

So, I think there is definitely going to be, in heaven, varying levels of service, just as there are with the angels: there are archangels, and there are cherubim and seraphim, and principalities and powers and rulers, and all of those varying levels of angelic hierarchy. I think in eternity, we are all going to be sorted out within that eternal worshipping community and given varying capacities and varying responsibilities, which are determined by the sovereignty of God and our faithfulness here. That’s why John says, “Look to yourselves that you lose not the things you have wrought, but that you receive a full reward.” It is possible that you could be faithful, and the Lord be ready and prepared to give you a full reward, but by some sin in your life towards the end of your life, you could begin to forfeit and those things would be taken back off the list, added to the “wood, hay, and stubble” kind of thing, and your reward would be less.

What is it? Is it going to be some people with bigger crowns? No. We’re not going to be going around saying, “Hah! I got a big one; you got a little one!” It’s not going to be that. Whatever we get, I believe in the picture of the 24 elders, we take our crowns and cast them at the feet of the Lord. But, I don’t believe they’re going to be anything that’s visible. I think it’s going to be a capacity for serving God fully and completely. I don’t think you’ll have any sense of loss or any sense of missing anything, because each individual’s capacity will be reached to its maximum. But, I think what we want to do is have the greatest capacity for worshipping God, as His sovereignty would give us and as our faithfulness would warrant.

Now, in terms of the other, there will be degrees of suffering. Hebrews 10 says, “How much greater suffering will come to the one, who has trodden underfoot, the blood of the covenant, and counted it an unholy thing, done despite to the Spirit of grace.” To put it simply, it means this: the more people know about the gospel and reject, the greater degree of suffering they will experience–when they trample underfoot the blood of the covenant. That is to say, the pagan who never heard anything about the gospel of Jesus Christ will not suffer the degree that the apostate would, who heard it all, understood it all, and blatantly rejected it all.

1992

Larry E. Dahl

Degrees of Glory (Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an optimistic view of the eternal rewards awaiting mankind in the hereafter. Members of the Church believe that there are “many mansions” (John 14:2) and that Christ’s Atonement and resurrection will save all mankind from death, and eventually will reclaim from hell all except the sons of perdition (D&C 76:43-44). The saved, however, are not placed into a monolithic state called heaven. In the resurrection of the body, they are assigned to different degrees of glory commensurate with the law they have obeyed. There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial. The apostle Paul spoke of three glories, differing from one another as the sun, moon, and stars differ in brilliance. He called the first two glories celestial and terrestrial, but the third is not named in the Bible (1 Cor. 15:40-41; cf. D&C 76:70-81, 96-98.) The word “telestial” is an LDS term, first used by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in reporting a vision they received on February 16, 1832 (D&C 76; Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines telestial glory as “the lowest of three Mormon degrees or kingdoms of glory attainable in heaven”; see also Celestial Kingdom; Terrestrial Kingdom; Telestial Kingdom).

At the final judgment, all except the devil, his angels, and those who become sons of perdition during mortal life will be assigned to one of the three kingdoms of glory. The devil and his followers will be assigned a kingdom without glory (D&C 76:25-39;88:24, 32-35).

LDS Scripture Sources.

Although the Bible contains references to varying levels of resurrection and heaven (1 Cor. 15:39-58; 2 Cor. 12:2), LDS understanding of the subject comes mainly through revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The first revelation dealing directly with this matter was received February 16, 1832, and is called “The Vision” (D&C 76). Concerning the circumstances of receiving this revelation, Joseph Smith explained: Upon my return from Amherst [Ohio] conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, 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. Accordingly…while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vison” [HC 1:245: see also Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST))].

Later revelations, especially Doctrine and Covenants 88, 131, 132, 137,and 1 38, have added information on this subject.

The Celestial Glory.

The Celestial Kingdom is reserved for those who receive a testimony of Jesus and fully embrace the gospel; that is, they have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, are baptized by immersion by one having authority, receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and endure in righteousness. All who attain this kingdom “shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (D&C 76:62). There are, however, different privileges and powers within this kingdom. “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; 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); and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1-4). “Increase” in this instance means the bearing of spirit children after mortal life (see Eternal Lives, Eternal Increase). Joseph Smith explained, “Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity…by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection” (TPJS, pp. 300-301). Latter-day Saints believe that those who attain the highest level in the Celestial Kingdom become gods, receive exaltation, and are joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father has (cf. Rom. 8:14-17; D&C 76:50-70;84:33-39;132:19-25).

There is no scriptural explanation of those who go to the two lower categories of the Celestial Kingdom except that they “are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever,” ministering servants who “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity” (D&C 132:16-17).

The Terrestrial Glory.

The inhabitants of the Terrestrial Kingdom are described as the honorable people of the earth who received a testimony of Jesus but were not sufficiently valiant in that testimony to obey all the principles and ordinances of the gospel (D&C 76:71-80). Also, those of “the heathen nations” who “died without law,” who are honorable but who do not accept the fulness of the gospel in the postearthly spirit world, are candidates for the terrestrial glory (D&C 45:54;76:72). In the hereafter, they receive the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father. The glory of the Terrestrial Kingdom differs from the celestial as the light we see from the moon differs from that of the sun in glory. There is no mention of different degrees or levels in the Terrestrial Kingdom, but it is reasonable that there, as in the celestial and telestial kingdoms, individuals will differ from one another in glory (see D&C 76:97-98).

The Telestial Glory.

Those who on earth are liars, sorcerers, whoremongers, and adulterers, who receive not the gospel, or the testimony of Jesus, or the prophets, go to the Telestial Kingdom. They are judged unworthy of being resurrected at the second coming of Christ and are given additional time in “hell” to repent and prepare themselves for a later resurrection and placement into a kingdom of lesser glory. During this period, they learn to abide by laws they once rejected. They bow the knee and confess their dependence on Jesus Christ, but they still do not receive the fulness of the gospel. At the end of the Millennium, they are brought out of hell and are resurrected to a telestial glory. There “they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112). However, they do receive “of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial” (verse 86). Though differing in glory from the terrestrial and celestial kingdoms as the light we perceive from the stars differs from that from the moon and the sun, the glory of the Telestial Kingdom still “surpasses all understanding” (verse 89; see D&C 76:81-90, 98-112;88:100-101).

Opportunity For All.

The Church holds that all mankind, except the sons of perdition, will find a place in one of the kingdoms of glory in the hereafter and that they themselves choose the place by the lives they live here on earth and in the post-earthly spirit world. Even the lowest glory surpasses all mortal understanding. Everyone is granted agency (D&C 93:30-32). All have access to the revelatory power of the Light of Christ, which, if followed, will lead them to the truth of the gospel (John 1:1-13; Alma 12:9-11; Moro. 7:14-19; D&C 84:45-48). Everyone will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, either on earth or in the postearthly spirit world, and have ample opportunity to demonstrate the extent of their acceptance (D&C 138; cf. 1 Pet. 4:6). Those who do not have a chance to receive the gospel on this earth, but who would have fully accepted it had they been able to hear it, and who therefore do receive it in the spirit world, are heirs of the Celestial Kingdom of God (D&C 137:7-8). They will accept the saving ordinances performed for them by proxy in a temple on the earth (see Salvation of the Dead). Christ, victorious and gracious, grants to all the desires of their hearts, allowing them to choose their eternal reward according to the law they are willing and able to abide.

1992

Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Then CES Coordinator, Irvine, California

“Eternity Sketch’d in a Vision”: the Poetic Version of Doctrine & Covenants 76

Byron R. Merrill et al., comps., The Heavens Are Open: The 1992 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, p.141-152

Early 1843 was a busy season for the Prophet as he, along with his clerks William Wines Phelps and Wilford Woodruff, began reading proofs of a second edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph was also involved in preparing his personal history for publication, portions of which were already appearing serially in the Times and Seasons. In particular he was reviewing the period of February and March 1832 for Richards and Phelps as they began to compose this portion of his history. That period was, of course, the time when the Vision (D&C 76) was received in Hiram, Ohio.

The Prophet and his people also had cause at this time for great celebration. An Illinois court had advised Governor Thomas Ford that a writ issued for Joseph Smith’s extradition to Missouri was illegal, and a federal district judge discharged the Prophet on 7 January 1843. While accompanying the Prophet home from Springfield, Wilson Law and Willard Richards sang A Jubilee Song in honor of Joseph’s newfound freedom. A day of fasting, prayer, and thanksgiving was held in Nauvoo on 17 January to express gratitude for the Prophet’s “release and delivery.” Next day a group assembled at Joseph’s home for “a day of conviviality and rejoicing, and [that] might properly be called a day of jubilee or release.” A printed handbill with several songs, including one composed by Eliza R. Snow, was distributed, and the songs were sung to the Prophet. At the end of the festivities, Wilford Woodruff noted, “We returned to our homes rejoicing that [we] could again have the privilege of enjoying the society of our prophet seer.” Two days later, W. W. Phelps presented Joseph a poem entitled Vade-Mecum, or Go with Me, as part of the jubilee celebration.

It was in this setting in February 1843 that a poetic version of the Vision entitled The Answer was first published, under Joseph’s name, in the Times and Seasons as a rejoinder to Phelps’s jubilee poem, Vade Mecum.The History of the Church states: “In reply to W. W. Phelps’s Vade Mecum, or “Go with me,” of 20th of January last [1843], I [Joseph] dictated an answer: [It consisted of the “Revelation known as the Vision of the Three Glories,” Doctrine and Covenants, section lxxvi, made into verse].”

Naturally, the question of authorship of this poem arises. Did Joseph write it himself, or did someone else write it? Can we be sure the ideas communicated represent the Prophet’s own expression?

It is certain that Joseph often depended upon others to produce material under his direction. At one time, he may have simply asked someone to compose an item for him; at another time he may have given someone the main ideas; in other instances, he was involved heavily in the final literary creation. Although Joseph’s ideas are present in these documents, the particular literary structure (grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other aspects of style) often depended upon who was writing for him at the time.

Many of the editorials in the Times and Seasons were not Joseph’s own words, although he took over as editor of the newspaper in March 1842. The Prophet indicated that only those editorials “having my signature” were those for which he was personally responsible. It is therefore highly significant that the 1843 poem ends, “Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, Feb. 1843.” The first-person singular “I, Joseph, the prophet” in stanza 11 of the poem itself also seems to confirm his acceptance of the material, even if it had been drafted by someone else.

John Taylor, a close associate with Joseph at the time and the new editor of the Times and Seasons, indicated that in his most recent legal contest Joseph’s defense attorney had made some comments about biblical poetry. For Taylor, the poetic rendition of the Vision was ample proof that “modern Prophets can prophecy in poetry, as well as the ancient prophets and that no difference, even of that kind any longer exists.” He believed Joseph was responsible for the poem, and he emphasized “the ideas” as the most significant aspect when he stated in the published introduction to the poem: “The following very curious poetic composition, is at once both novel and interesting; for while the common landmarks of modern poetry are entirely disregarded; there is something so dignified and exalted conveyed in the ideas of this production, that it cannot fail to strike the attention of every superficial observer.”

Whether W. W. Phelps, Parley P. Pratt or someone else helped Joseph compose the poetic rendition may be difficult to prove. On the other hand, that Joseph accepted it as representing his own ideas seems a reasonable proposition. It therefore can be argued that the poetic rendition can give us insight into how Joseph understood the implications of the Vision, or alternatively, as he was willing to reveal it to the Saints in 1843.

The Answer

to W. W. Phelps, Esq.

A Vision

1.  I will go, I will go, to the home of the Saints,

Where the virtue’s the value, and life the reward;

But before I return to my former estate

I must fulfil the mission I had from the Lord.

2. Wherefore, hear, O ye heavens, and give ear O ye earth;

And rejoice ye inhabitants truly again;

For the Lord he is God, and his life never ends,

And besides him there ne’er was a Saviour of men.

3. His ways are a wonder; his wisdom is great;

The extent of his doings, there’s none can unveil;

His purposes fail not; from age unto age

He still is the same, and his years never fail.

4. His throne is the heavens, his life time is all

Of eternity now, and eternity then;

His union is power, and none stays his hand,-

The Alpha, Omega, for ever: Amen.

5. For thus saith the Lord, in the spirit of truth,

I am merciful, gracious, and good unto those

That fear me, and live for the life that’s to come;

My delight is to honor the saints with repose;

6. That serve me in righteousness true to the end;

Eternal’s their glory, and great their reward;

I’ll surely reveal all my myst’ries to them,-

The great hidden myst’ries in my kingdom stor’d-

7. From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth.

And for ages to come unto them I will show

My pleasure & will, what my kingdom will do:

Eternity’s wonders they truly shall know.

8. Great things of the future I’ll show unto them,

Yea, things of the vast generations to rise;

For their wisdom and glory shall be very great,

And their pure understanding extend to the skies:

9. And before them the wisdom of wise men shall cease,

And the nice understanding of prudent ones fail!

For the light of my spirit shall light mine elect,

And the truth is so mighty ‘t will ever prevail.

10. And the secrets and plans of my will I’ll reveal;

The sanctified pleasures when earth is renew’d,

What the eye hath not seen, nor the ear hath yet heard;

Nor the heart of the natural man ever hath view’d.

11. I, Joseph, the prophet, in spirit beheld,

And the eyes of the inner man truly did see

Eternity sketch’d in a vision from God.

Of what was, and now is, and yet is to be.

12. Those things which the Father ordained of old,

Before the world was, or a system had run,-

Through Jesus the Maker and Savior of all;

The only begotten, (Messiah) his son.

13. Of whom I bear record, as all prophets have,

And the record I bear is the fulness,-yea even

The truth of the gospel of Jesus-the Christ,

With whom I convers’d, in the vision of heav’n.

14. For while in the act of translating his word,

Which the Lord in his grace had appointed to me,

I came to the gospel recorded by John,

Chapter fifth and the twenty ninth verse, which you’ll see.

Which was given as follows:

“Speaking of the resurrection of the dead,-

“Concerning those who shall hear the voice of the son of man-

“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.

15. I marvel’d at these resurrections, indeed!

For it came unto me by the spirit direct:-

And while I did meditate what it all meant,

The Lord touch’d the eyes of my own intellect:-

16. Hosanna forever! they open’d anon,

And the glory of God shone around where I was;

And there was the Son, at the Father’s right hand,

In a fulness of glory, and holy applause.

17. I beheld round the throne, holy angels and hosts,

And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,

In holiness worshipping God and the Lamb,

Forever and ever, amen and amen!

18. And now after all of the proofs made of him,

By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,

This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives!

And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne.

19. And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n,

He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God-

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,

Even all that career in the heavens so broad,

20. Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,

Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;

And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,

By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.

21. And I saw and bear record of warfare in heav’n;

For an angel of light, in authority great,

Rebell’d against Jesus, and sought for his pow’r,

But was thrust down to woe from his Godified state.

22. And the heavens all wept, and the tears drop’d like dew,

That Lucifer, son of the morning had fell!

Yea, is fallen! is fall’n, and become, Oh, alas!

The son of Perdition; the devil of hell!

23. And while I was yet in the spirit of truth,

The commandment was: write ye the vision all out;

For Satan, old serpent, the devil’s for war,-

And yet will encompass the saints round about.

24. And I saw, too, the sufficing and mis’ry of those,

(Overcome by the devil, in warfare and fight,)

In hell fire, and vengeance, the doom of the damn’d;

For the Lord said, the vision is further: so write.

25. For thus saith the Lord, now concerning all those

Who know of my power and partake of the same;

And suffer themselves, that they be overcome

By the power of Satan; despising my name:-

26. Defying my power, and denying the truth;-

They are they-of the world, or of men, most forlorn,

The Sons of Perdition, of whom, ah! I say,

‘T were better for them had they never been born!

27. They’re vessels of wrath, and dishonor to God,

Doom’d to suffer his wrath, in the regions of woe,

Through the terrific night of eternity’s round,

With the devil and all of his angels below:

28. Of whom it is said, no forgiveness is giv’n,

In this world, alas! nor the world that’s to come;

For they have denied the spirit of God.

After having receiv’d it: and mistry’s their doom.

29. And denying the only begotten of God,-

And crucify him to themselves, as they do,

And openly put him to shame in their flesh,

By gospel they cannot repentance renew.

30. They are they, who must go to the great lake of fire,

Which burneth with brimstone, yet never consumes,

And dwell with the devil, and angels of his,

While eternity goes and eternity comes.

31. They are they, who must groan through the great second death,

And are not redeemed in the time of the Lord;

While all the rest are, through the triumph of Christ,

Made partakers of grace, by the power of his word.

32. The myst’ry of Godliness truly is great;-

The past, and the present, and what is to be;

And this is the gospel-glad tidings to all,

Which the voice from the heavens bore record to me:

33. That he came to the world in the middle of time,

To lay down his life for his friends and his foes,

And bear away sin as a mission of love;

And sanctify earth for a blessed repose.

34. ‘Tis decreed, that he’ll save all the work of his hands,

And sanctify them by his own precious blood;

And purify earth for the Sabbath of rest,

By the agent of fire, as it was by the flood.

35. The Savior will save all his Father did give,

Even all that he gave in the regions abroad.

Save the Sons of Perdition: They’re lost; ever lost.

And can never return to the presence of God.

36. They are they, who must reign with the devil in hell,

In eternity now, and eternity then,

Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quench’d;-

And the punishment still, is eternal. Amen.

37. And which is the torment apostates receive,

But the end, or the place where the torment began,

Save to them who are made to partake of the same,

Was never, nor will be, revealed unto man.

38. Yet God shows by vision a glimpse of their fate,

And straightway he closes the scene that was shown:

So the width, or the depth, or the misery thereof,

Save to those that partake, is forever unknown.

39. And while I was pondering, the vision was closed;

And the voice said to me, write the vision: for lo!

‘Tis the end of the scene of the sufferings of those,

Who remain filthy still in their anguish and woe.

40. And again I bear record of heavenly things,

Where virtue’s the value, above all that’s pric’d-

Of the truth of the gospel concerning the just,

That rise in the first resurrection of Christ.

41. Who receiv’d and believ’d, and repented likewise,

And then were baptis’d, as a man always was,

Who ask’d and receiv’d a remission of sin,

And honored the kingdom by keeping its laws.

42. Being buried in water, as Jesus had been,

And keeping the whole of his holy commands,

They received the gift of the spirit of truth,

By the ordinance truly of laying on hands.

43. For these overcome, by their faith and their works,

Being tried in their life-time, as purified gold,

And seal’d by the spirit of promise, to life,

By men called of God, as was Aaron of old.

44. They are they, of the church of the first born of God,-

And unto whose hands he committeth all things;

For they hold the keys of the kingdom of heav’n,

And reign with the Savior, as priests, and as kings.

45. They’re priests of the order of Melchisedek,

Like Jesus, (from whom is this highest reward,)

Receiving a fulness of glory and light; As written:

They’re Gods; even sons of the Lord.

46. So all things are theirs; yea, of life, or of death;

Yea, whether things now, or to come, all are theirs,

And they are the Savior’s, and he is the Lord’s,

Having overcome all, as eternity’s heirs.

47. ‘Tis wisdom that man never glory in man,

But give God the glory for all that he hath;

For the righteous will walk in the presence of God,

While the wicked are trod under foot in his wrath.

48. Yea, the righteous shall dwell in the presence of God,

And of Jesus, forever, from earth’s second birth-

For when he comes down in the splendor of heav’n,

All these he’ll bring with him, to reign on the earth.

49. These are they that arise in their bodies of flesh,

When the trump of the first resurrection shall sound;

These are they that come up to Mount Zion, in life,

Where the blessings and gifts of the spirit abound.

50. These are they that have come to the heavenly place;

To the numberless courses of angels above:

To the city of God; e’en the holiest of all,

And to the home of the blessed, the fountain of love:

51. To the church of old Enoch, and of the first born:

And gen’ral assembly of ancient renown’d.

Whose names are all kept in the archives of heav’n,

As chosen and faithful, and fit to be crown’d.

52. These are they that are perfect through Jesus’ own blood,

Whose bodies celestial are mention’d by Paul,

Where the sun is the typical glory thereof,

And God, and his Christ, are the true judge of all.

53. Again I beheld the terrestrial world,

In the order and glory of Jesus, go on;

‘Twas not as the church of the first born of God,

But shone in its place, as the moon to the sun.

54. Behold, these are they that have died without law;

The heathen of ages that never had hope,

And those of the region and shadow of death,

The spirits in prison, that light has brought up.

55. To spirits in prison the Savior once preach’d,

And taught them the gospel, with powers afresh;

And then were the living baptiz’d for their dead,

That they might be judg’d as if men in the flesh.

56. These are they that are hontrable men of the earth;

Who were blinded and dup’d by the cunning of men:

They receiv’d not the truth of the Savior at first;

But did, when they heard it in prison, again.

57. Not valiant for truth, they obtain’d not the crown,

But are of that glory that’s typ’d by the moon:

They are they, that come into the presence of Christ,

But not to the fulness of God, on his throne.

58. Again I beheld the telestial, as third,

The lesser, or starry world, next in its place,

For the leaven must leaven three measures of meal,

And every knee bow that is subject to grace.

59. These are they that receiv’d not the gospel of Christ,

Or evidence, either, that he ever was;

As the stars are all diff’rent in glory and light,

So differs the glory of these by the laws.

60. These are they that deny not the spirit of God,

But are thrust down to hell, with the devil, for sins,

As hypocrites, liars, whoremongers, and thieves,

And stay ’till the last resurrection begins.

61. ‘Till the Lamb shall have finish’d the work he begun;

Shall have trodden the wine press, in fury alone,

And overcome all by the pow’r of his might:

He conquers to conquer, and save all his own.

62. These are they that receive not a fulness of light,

From Christ, in eternity’s world, where they are,

The terrestrial sends them the Comforter, though;

And minist’ring angels, to happify there.

63. And so the telestial is minister’d to,

By ministers from the terrestrial one,

As terrestrial is, from the celestial throne;

And the great, greater, greatest, seem’s stars, moon, and sun.

64. And thus I beheld, in the vision of heav’n,

The telestial glory, dominion and bliss,

Surpassing the great understanding of men,-

Unknown, save reveal’d, in a world vain as this.

65. And lo, I beheld the terrestrial, too,

Which excels the telestial in glory and light,

In splendor, and knowledge, and wisdom, and joy,

In blessings, and graces, dominion and might.

66. I beheld the celestial, in glory sublime;

Which is the most excellent kingdom that is,-

Where God, e’en the Father, in harmony reigns;

Almighty, supreme, and eternal, in bliss.

67. Where the church of the first born in union reside,

And they see as they’re seen, and they know as they’re known;

Being equal in power, dominion and might,

With a fulness of glory and grace, round his throne.

68. The glory celestial is one like the sun;

The glory terrestrial is one like the moon;

The glory telestial is one like the stars,

And all harmonize like the parts of a tune.

69. As the stars are all different in lustre and size,

So the telestial region, is mingled in bliss;

From least unto greatest, and greatest to least,

The reward is exactly as promis’d in this.

70. These are they that came out for Apollos and Paul;

For Cephas and Jesus, in all kinds of hope;

For Enoch and Moses, and Peter, and John;

For Luther and Calvin, and even the Pope.

71. For they never received the gospel of Christ,

Nor the prophetic spirit that came from the Lord;

Nor the covenant neither, which Jacob once had;

They went their own way, and they have their reward.

72. By the order of God, last of all, these are they,

That will not be gather’d with saints here below,

To be caught up to Jesus, and meet in the cloud:-

In darkness they worshipp’d; to darkness they go.

73. These are they that are sinful, the wicked at large,

That glutted their passion by meanness or worth;

All liars, adulterers, sorc’rers, and proud;

And suffer, as promis’d, God’s wrath on the earth.

74. These are they that must suffer the vengeance of hell,

‘Till Christ shall have trodden all enemies down,

And perfected his work, in the fulness of times:

And is crown’d on his throne with his glorious crown.

75. The vast multitude of the telestial world-

As the stars of the skies, or the sands of the sea;-

The voice of Jehovah echo’d far and wide,

Ev’ry tongue shall confess, and they all bow the knee.

76. Ev’ry man shall be judg’d by the works of his life,

And receive a reward in the mansion prepar’d;

For his judgments are just, and his works never end,

As his prophets and servants have always declar’d.

77. But the great things of God, which he show’d unto me,

Unlawful to utter, I dare not declare;

They surpass all the wisdom and greatness of men,

And only are seen, as has Paul, where they are.

78.  I will go, I will go, while the secret of life,

Is blooming in heaven, and blasting in hell;

Is leaving on earth, and a budding in space:-

I will go, I will go, with you, brother, farewell.

Joseph Smith

Nauvoo, Feb. 1843.

A careful study of the poetic rendition of the Vision demonstrates that it is more than a reworking of the message of the 1832 revelation; indeed, it is a one-of-a-kind commentary. Surprisingly, few gospel scholars have explicitly used this poetic writing to help interpret the Vision itself. That the poem did not receive much attention during the last half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century may be because the early printed sources of the poem were not easily accessible. When the History of the Church was published in 1909, the text of poem was not included, a significant lapse in making the document available to a wider audience in the beginning of this century. It was not until N. B. Lundwall reprinted it in 1951 that the poem generally became available. Several important twentieth century studies neglect the poem altogether. A few more recent works make slight reference to it. A final group reproduce the poem in its entirety as an addendum but do not specifically cite it in their commentary.

The poetic version of Doctrine and Covenants 76 emphasizes several helpful points relating to the premortal experience; the Savior’s mission and power; Satan and his kingdom; the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms; and Joseph Smith’s life and mission.

The Premortal Experience

That individuals existed as premortal spirits either was not known or not understood during the first years after the Church’s founding in 1830. Possibly the first hint of such a knowledge came in 1833, when Joseph received a revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 93. Privately, as early as 1839, Joseph began teaching that there was a mother in heaven-the mother of our premortal spirits. By 1841, Joseph publicly declared, “Spirits are eternal.” When the Book of Abraham was published in March 1842, the doctrine was further clarified (see Abraham 3:18).

The connection between a foreordained mission and the premortal life is stated positively in the poetic rendition:

I will go, I will go, to the home of the Saints,

Where the virtue’s the value, and life the reward;

But before I return to my former estate

I must fulfil the mission I had from the Lord.

(Stanza 1; emphasis added)

Joseph emphasized the doctrine of the premortal existence when he stated on 12 May 1844, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world, was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before this world was-I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.”

The Prophet expanded the Saints’ understanding of the importance of Kolob (already known to the Saints as a great governing star-see Abraham 3:1-3) and the connection it had with the premortal council. A great “council in Kolob” was held before the earth was created. He wrote, “From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth” (stanza 7). The implication is, of course, that at least part of the premortal experience occurred in Kolob.

The Savior’s Mission and Power

Joseph revealed to the Saints the power of Christ’s atonement. In the poetic rendition of Doctrine and Covenants 76, he proclaimed:

Wherefore, hear, O ye heavens, and give ear O ye earth;

And rejoice ye inhabitants truly again;

For the Lord he is God, and his life never ends,

And besides him there ne’er was a Saviour of men.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . Jesus the Maker and Savior of all;

The only begotten, (Messiah) his son.

Of whom I bear record, as all prophets have,

And the record I bear is the fulness,-yea even

The truth of the gospel of Jesus-the Christ.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God-

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,

Even all that career in the heavens so broad,

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,

Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;

And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,

By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.

(Stanzas 2, 12-13, 19-20; emphasis added)

Joseph Smith taught that the redemption of Christ was not limited to this world nor to a specific period of time. It reached backward in time and forward into the future, and just as it had crossed the oceans and continents during the first century to bless the lives not only of those at Jerusalem but also of the Nephites and Lamanites in America, the Atonement spread across the vastness of space. It was a final act that did not necessitate another sacrifice in the future.

Satan and His Kingdom

One of the most startling passages from the poetic rendition of Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the knowledge revealed concerning Lucifer’s position in the premortal life. Joseph wrote:

And I saw and bear record of warfare in heav’n;

For an angel of light, in authority great,

Rebell’d against Jesus, and sought for his pow’r,

But was thrust down to woe from his Godified state.

And the heavens all wept, and the tears drop’d like dew,

That Lucifer, son of the morning had fell!

Yea, is fallen! is fall’n, and become, Oh, alas!

The son of Perdition; the devil of hell!

(Stanza 21-22; emphasis added)

The 1842 publication of the Book of Abraham apparently taught that many of the premortal “intelligences” reached a spiritual stature of “godhood” (see Abraham 3-4). That these premortal spirits would eventually take a body was stated by the Prophet just a few months after the publication of the poem. In August 1843 Joseph stated, “But the Holy Ghost is yet a spiritual body and [is] waiting to take to himself a body, as the Savior did or as God did, or the gods before them took bodies.”

That Lucifer held a position of prominence in the premortal life is certain, but here and only here does Joseph identify Lucifer’s “godified state” before he fell to the earth to become the devil. Shortly after the publication of the poem, Joseph said: “In the other world [spirit world] there is a variety of spirits-some who seek to excel-and this was the case with the devil when he fell, he sought for things which were unlawful, hence he was cast down and it is said he drew away many with him” (some punctuation added).

The Kingdoms of Glory

The central facet of both the poem and the original revelation is the series of visions of the eternal kingdoms of glory. The poem compares the kingdoms in an interesting fashion:

The glory celestial is one like the sun;

The glory terrestrial is one like the moon;

The glory telestial is one like the stars,

And all harmonize like the parts of a tune.

As the stars are all different in lustre and size,

So the telestial region, is mingled in bliss;

From least unto greatest, and greatest to least,

The reward is exactly as promis’d in this.

(Stanzas 68-69; emphasis added)

The Telestial Kingdom

To emphasize the final results of accepting and believing in creeds of postbiblical Christianity, Joseph noted that the telestial kingdom will include:

These are they that came out for Apollos and Paul;

For Cephas and Jesus, in all kinds of hope;

For Enoch and Moses, and Peter, and John;

For Luther and Calvin, and even the Pope.

(Stanza 70; emphasis added)

The 1843 poem underscores that the acceptance of creeds instead of covenants is the real issue. Joseph added to the original revelation a significant phrase:

They never received the gospel of Christ

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Nor the covenant neither, which Jacob once had;

They went their own way, and they have their reward.

(Stanza 71; emphasis added)

In addition to those already cited as being those who will inherit telestial glory, the Prophet added “hypocrites” to the list (stanza 60). That seems to refer to those pretending to be religious or believing in a false creed but whose hearts are far away from God. While it is a “lesser, or starry world, next in its place,” the telestial kingdom is a place where the Lord sends “the Comforter [Holy Spirit]. . . / And minist’ring angels, to happify there”; it is a kingdom of “glory, dominion and bliss” (stanzas 58, 62).

An often repeated story associated with the telestial kingdom deals with something Joseph Smith was purported to have said: “The telestial kingdom is so great, if we knew what it was like we would kill ourselves to get there.” Wilford Woodruff recounted a comment by the Prophet that may be the basis of that apocryphal story. According to Charles Lowell Walker, Wilford Woodruff “refered to a saying of Joseph Smith, which he heard him utter (like this) That if the People knew what was behind the vail, they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there, but the Lord in his wisdom had implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their creator.” What he may have meant by this statement may never be known, but we do know that the happy state of those who inherit the telestial kingdom is emphasized in the poem.

The Terrestrial Kingdom

Those who receive a terrestrial glory seem to fit into four categories. The first are those “that have died without law”-the gospel law- and did not receive it in the spirit world. The Prophet further noted they are

The heathen of ages that never had hope,

And those of the region and shadow of death,

The spirits in prison, that light has brought up.

(Stanza 54)

Another group is represented by those

. . . spirits in prison the Savior once preach’d,

And taught them the gospel, with powers afresh;

And then were the living baptiz’d for their dead,

That they might be judg’d as if men in the flesh.

(Stanza 55)

A third group

. . . are they that are hon’rable men of the earth;

Who were blinded and dup’d by the cunning of men:

They receiv’d not the truth of the Savior at first;

But did, when they heard it in prison, again.

(Stanza 56)

The fourth and final category are those

Not valiant for truth, they obtain’d not the crown,

But are of that glory that’s typ’d by the moon:

They are they, that come into the presence of Christ,

But not to the fulness of God, on his throne.

(Stanza 57)

The Celestial Kingdom

By capitalizing the word Gods in stanza 45 of the poetic rendition of Doctrine and Covenants 76, Joseph may have attempted to be more precise regarding the stature of those who obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom: “As written: They’re Gods; even sons of the Lord.” In the original publication of the Vision in 1832, the word gods was not capitalized. Reorganized Latter-Day Saint apologists used the 1832 version, which uses the lowercase gods, during the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century as a means of countering the full implications of the doctrine of eternal glory. Thus, in this poem, which uses the uppercase Gods, Joseph may have attempted to reveal in a plainer fashion his intention.

In 1844 William Law, formerly a counselor in the First Presidency, formed a new church, which accepted the Book of Mormon and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants as standard works but rejected Joseph Smith, claiming that he was a “fallen Prophet.” In their newspaper on 7 June 1844, Law and his associates accused Joseph of teaching “false and damnable doctrines . . . such as plurality of Gods above the God of this universe.”

Nine days later, the Prophet responded to their charges: “Oh Apostates did ye never think of this bef[ore] these are the quotations that the apostates take to the scrip[tures]-they swear that they bel[ieve] the Bible [and] the Book of Mormon [and etc.].” Joseph continued, “Go [and] read the vision [Section 76]-there is glory [and] glory- Sun, moon & Stars-& so do they differ in glory & every man who reigns is a God-[and] the text of the Do[trine] & Cov[enan]t damns themselves.” For Joseph, the doctrine had always been present since the 1832 revelation was first printed and if the apostates had only just discovered it, then they never truly understood the implications of the Vision.

Although the 1832 revelation used the phrase “kings and priests” to describe celestial beings, the full implications of such titles certainly were not understood by the Saints until Joseph began to reveal the ordinances of the holy endowment to the “Quorum of the Anointed” in 1842. The 1832 revelation indicated that these righteous Saints “are they who are the church of the first-born: They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things: they are they who are priests and kings.”

The 1843 poetic rendition clarifies and expands upon several aspects of this description. Joseph indicated that the “church of the firstborn” is “of God.” He also indicated what is meant to have the Father place into one’s hand “all things” when he said: “For they hold the keys of the kingdom of heav’n” (stanza 44; emphasis added).

As early as April 1842, Joseph began introducing a theme regarding the “keys of the kingdom” in his public and private discourses. During an early Relief Society meeting he “exhorted the sisters always to concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in, those who God has appointed to honor, who God has placed at the head to lead [Church leaders]-that we should arm them with our prayers- that the keys of the kingdom are about to be given them.” The “keys” referred to were given in the endowment, when the term took on greater meaning than before.

The poetic rendition emphasizes the stature of the celestial Saints and indicates that the spirit of promise can be sealed upon an individual by a living agent of God:

For these overcome, by their faith and their works,

Being tried in their life time, as purified gold.

And seal’d by the spirit of promise, to life,

By men called of God, as was Aaron of old.

(Stanza 43; emphasis added)

While the glorious doctrines of exaltation were being opened to them, Joseph cautioned the Saints:

‘Tis wisdom that man never glory in man,

But give God the glory for all that he hath.

(Stanza 41)

Joseph Smith’s Life and Mission

Just a few days before Joseph published the poem, he stated, “I know what I say; I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield, and what can man do if God is my friend. I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes-then I shall be offered freely.” Contemporary sources confirm the Prophet’s sense of mission and his knowledge regarding his death. Joseph began his poetic rendition:

I will go, I will go, to the home of the Saints,

Where the virtue’s the value, and life the reward;

But before I return to my former estate

I must fulfil the mission I had from the Lord.

(Stanza 1)

A foreboding feeling is found in the words “I will go, I will go.” This theme is emphasized again:

I will go, I will go, while the secret of life,

Is blooming in heaven, and blasting in hell;

Is leaving on earth, and a budding in space:-

I will go, I will go, with you, brother, farewell.

(Stanza 78)

Early in his mission, Joseph felt confident of the protection God had promised him. In Nauvoo, he began to discover for himself and reveal to the Saints his mortal destiny-martyrdom. In two dramatic prophecies, the first dated 9 April 1842 and the second just a few weeks later, on 28 April, Joseph began to prepare the Saints for his early departure. During a funeral address, he reflected upon the sadness of parting prematurely from family and friends. He then stated:

“Some have supposed that Brother Joseph could not die, but this is a mistake. It is true there have been times when I have had the promise of my life to accomplish such and such things, but having accomplished those things I have not at present any lease of my life, and am as liable to die as other men.”

The minutes of an early Nauvoo Relief Society noted:

“[Joseph] did not know as he should have many opportunities of teaching them, that they were going to be left to themselves; they would not long have him to instruct them; that the Church would not have his instructions long, and the world would not be troubled with him a great while and would not have his teachings.”

These sources, along with many others, demonstrate the Prophet’s foreknowledge of his impending death. The poetic version of Section 76 is another contemporary source that details Joseph’s own sense of mission and his knowledge concerning his own mortal destiny. That a knowledge of his martyrdom made him somewhat melancholy on occasions is revealed in the emotionally charged phrase, “I will go, I will go, with you, brother, farewell.”

Additional Insights

The poem also includes a number of additional insights. For example, the Prophet clarified the phrase, “meridian of time,” when it was noted “he [Christ] came to the world in the middle of time” (stanza 33). The destiny of those who had turned from the truth was emphasized in these words:

And which is the torment apostates receive,

But the end, or the place where the torment began,

Save to them who are made to partake of the same,

Was never, nor will be, revealed unto man.

(Stanza 37)

And the eternal nature of the gospel was reemphasized:

Who receiv’d and believ’d, and repented likewise,

And then were baptis’d, as a man always was,

Who ask’d and receiv’d a remission of sin,

And honored the kingdom by keeping its laws.

(Stanza 41; emphasis added)

Conclusion

Over the Prophet’s signature, a commentary on the Vision was published in Nauvoo. That poetic rendition of Doctrine and Covenants 76 adds to our understanding of the original principles communicated in the revelation as Joseph understood it or, alternatively, as he was willing to reveal it to the Saints in 1843. And, as the poem stated:

I, Joseph, the prophet, in spirit beheld,

And the eyes of the inner man truly did see

Eternity sketch’d in a vision from God,

Of what was, and now is, and yet is to be.

(Stanza 11)

Notes

1. See Wilford Woodruff Journal, 1 Feb. 1843, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives.

2. On 10 February 1843 Joseph reviewed the mobbing of 24 March 1832; see Joseph Smith Diary, 10 Feb. 1843, LDS Church Archives.

3. Joseph Smith Diary, 7 Jan. 1843; Wilson Law’s poem, “All hail to our Chief! Who has come back to us in honor” was published in Times and Seasons, 4 (15 February 1843): 112.

4. Woodruff Journal, 17 Jan. 1843.

5. In Times and Seasons, 4 (1 February 1843): 96.

6. Woodruff Journal, 18 Jan. 1843.

7. See Joseph Smith Diary, 20 Jan. 1843. Following Joseph’s death in 1844, Phelps changed the title and added several new stanzas; see Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2d ed. rev., edited by B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 193251), 5:253-54.

8. In Times and Seasons, 4 (1 February 1843): 81-82.

9. Smith, History of the Church, 5:288; see also “Joseph Smith’s History,” Deseret News (14 May 1856): 1-2. This entry was probably composed by Willard Richards after the Prophet’s martyrdom. Exactly what is meant by “I dictated an answer” may be impossible to determine. What is significant, however, is that this date was chosen as the day of composition, not on or before 20 January, the same day Phelps gave Joseph his poem. The Deseret News version also included the poem, which B. H. Roberts did not include in the 1909 edition of the History of the Church, probably as a result of space constraints.

10. Several individuals have argued for Phelps’s authorship; see A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints, ed. Richard H. Cracroft and Neal E. Lambert (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1979), p. 184; and Bruce A. Van Orden, “William W. Phelps’s Service in Nauvoo as Joseph Smith’s Political Clerk,” Brigham Young University Studies, 32 (Winter and Spring 1991): 94.

11. Smith, History of the Church, 4:551.

12. John Taylor, “Ancient Poetry,” Times and Seasons, 4 (1 February 1843): 81.

13. In Times and Seasons, 4 (1 February 1843): 82-85.

14. See N. B. Lundwall, comp., The Vision; or, The Degrees of Glory (Kaysville, Utah: Inland Printing Co, 1951), pp. 156-64.

15. See Hyrum M. Smith, The Doctrine and Covenants (Liverpool: Hyrum M. Smith, 1916), the precursor to the classic 1923 Smith and Sjodahl commentary; Sidney B. Sperry, Doctrine and Covenants Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960); Roy W. Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964); Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978); and The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Religion 324-325) (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981).

16. See L. G. Otten and C. M. Caldwell, Sacred Truth of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. (Springville, Utah: LEMB, 1983), 2:27-28, 34; Richard Cowan, The Doctrine and Covenants: Our Modern Scripture, rev. and enl. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), p. 115; and Monte Nyman, “Six Visions of Eternity: Section 76,” in the proceedings of the 1984 Sperry Symposium, Hearken, O Ye People: Discourses on the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Randall Book Co., 1984), pp. 105-18.

17. See Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), pp. 158-66; Michael J. Preece, Learning to Love the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: MJP Publishing, 1988), pp. 152-63; and Larry E. Dahl, “The Visions of Glory (D&C 76),” in Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., The Doctrine and Covenants, vol. 1 of Studies in Scripture (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1984), pp. 295-305.

18. William Clayton’s Private Book, 5 Jan. 1841, LDS Church Archives, as cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph (Provo: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1980), p. 60.

19. Thomas Bullock Report, 12 May 1844, LDS Church Archives.

20. When the poem has been cited, it has usually been these two stanzas; see, for example, Edward Wheelock Tullidge, Life of Joseph the Prophet (New York: n.p., 1878), p. 361; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), p. 66; Truman G. Madsen, Eternal Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966), p. 34; L. G. Otten and C. M. Caldwell, Sacred Truth of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:27-28, 34; and Richard Cowan, The Doctrine and Covenants: Our Modern Scripture, p. 115.

21. In Eugene England, ed., “George Laub’s Nauvoo Journal,” Brigham Young University Studies, 18 (Winter 1978): 176; see also George Laub Journal, 27 Aug. 1843, LDS Church Archives.

22. The phrase “godified state” has been changed to “glorified state” in several twentieth-century versions of the poem; see, for example, Cracroft and Lambert, A Believing People, p. 186.

23. Woodruff Journal, 14 May 1843.

24. Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, ed. A. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1980), p. 465; see also Charles Lowell Walker Diary, 19 Aug. 1877, LDS Church Archives.

25. It is evident that the use of uppercase and lowercase for many words was not consistent in manuscript and printed sources of the period, and it would be difficult to determine with certainty whether Joseph was directly responsible for typesetting the 1843 poem for publication. That it was intentional may be argued, however, because of a participant in its publication: Wilford Woodruff. He was working at the Nauvoo printing establishment during this period and two years later used the uppercase Gods for this verse in the first European edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (1845); see The Book of Doctrine & Covenants (Liverpool: James and Woodburn, Printers, 1845), p. 267. This capitalization continued in the next five European editions (1849, 1852, 1854, 1866, and 1869). The 1844 American edition was reprinted in 1845 and 1846, unchanged, from the same plates. Eventually, the third American edition (1876) was prepared for publication by Orson Pratt, under the direction of Brigham Young. This edition changed the word gods to Gods following the lead of Wilford Woodruff’s 1845 European edition; see The Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Office, 1876), p. 248. Later, Pratt prepared a new European edition in 1879, and this edition’s plates were used to print an 1880 American edition in Salt Lake City. Pratt retained the capitalization of Gods in both editions. From 1880 to 1920, the Church produced at least twenty-eight printings of this edition. The lowercase gods was reintroduced in the text of the 1921 edition.

26. See Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Cincinnati: Publishing Committee of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1864), p. 213.

27. Nauvoo Expositor, 1 (7 June 1844): 2.

28. Bullock Report, 16 June 1844.

29. Variations of this phrase were used by these Saints to describe their group. For a fuller discussion, see Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Jeni Broberg Holzapfel, Women of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1992), chap. 1, n. 9.

30. Section 91, Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Kirtland, Ohio: F. G. Williams & Co., 1835), p. 228.

31. A Record of the Organization and Proceedings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, 28 April 1842, LDS Church Archives; hereafter cited as Relief Society Minutes.

32 . Woodruff Journal, 22 Jan. 1843 .

33. See, for example, Ronald K. Esplin, “Joseph Smith’s Mission and Timetable: ‘God Will Protect Me until My Work Is Done,'” in Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988), pp. 280-319.

34. Woodruff Journal, 9 Apr. 1842.

35. Relief Society Minutes, 28 Apr. 1842.

1992

Craig Blomberg

Degrees Of Reward In The Kingdom Of Heaven?

Journal of Evangelical Theological Society (excerpts)

The lordship-salvation debate rages on. In the recent pages of this Journal, John MacArthur pursues his thesis first laid out in detail in The Gospel According to Jesus, considering it now in light of the epistle of James.  One of the respondents to the article, Earl Radmacher, declares MacArthur’s view to be one of three examples of contemporary evangelicalism’s return to a view of authority akin to Roman Catholicism. A more balanced assessment, and one of the finest brief reviews of the debate, appeared already in an article by Darrell Bock.

Whatever else one thinks of arguments against lordship salvation, one ought to acknowledge their commendable concern to preserve a full-orbed Biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. But ironically it is precisely in those circles—largely but by no means exclusively dispensationalist in heritage—that rightly seek to preserve the strong Reformation tradition of God’s freely granted justification apart from any human merit that often a contrary doctrine is also vigorously promoted: the doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven. Believers may enter into God’s family entirely apart from their own good works, but the degree to which they will enjoy heaven is said exclusively to depend on how they live out their Christian life—to what extent they obey God’s commandments and mature in the faith. In short, though few would put it so baldly one is left with justification by faith and sanctification by works.

In the twenty years of my adult Christian life I have grown progressively more uncomfortable with any formulation that differentiates among believers as regards our eternal rewards. Several recent, lengthy conversations with students and pastors who have been equally troubled about this issue and about some of its very practical consequences in ministry have heightened my concern. Joe Wall’s new book, Going for the Gold: Reward and Loss at the Judgment of Believers, troubles me greatly. On virtually every major passage he treats concerning the topic of rewards I find his exegesis unconvincing. I will state my thesis at once and then briefly defend it. I do not believe there is a single NT text that, when correctly interpreted, supports the notion that believers will be distinguished one from another for all eternity on the basis of their works as Christians. What is more, I am convinced that when this unfounded doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven is acted upon consistently—though, fortunately, it often is not—it can have highly damaging consequences for the motivation and psychology of living the Christian life.

I begin with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1–16). The story is well known: Employees hired at many different times throughout the day all receive equal pay despite unequal work. I have recently defended in book-length form the hypothesis that many of Jesus’ parables make three main points, one per main character. In my study of this passage I conclude:

The three main points which the three groups of characters [in this parable] suggest…all deal with the status of individuals before God at the final judgment. (1) From the earlier groups of workers, one learns that none of God’s people will be treated unfairly (cf. v. 4—”whatever is right I will give you”); that is, no one will be shortchanged. (2) From the last group of workers comes the principle that many seemingly less deserving people will be treated generously, due to the sovereign free choice of God. (3) From the unifying role of the master stems the precious truth that all true disciples are equal in God’s eyes. “All true disciples are equal in God’s eyes.”

One does not have to accept my theory for interpreting the parables to find similar statements among commentators on this passage from a wide variety of theological persuasions. Expositors debate whether the different laborers represent people coming to Christ at different times of life, in different eras of world history, or at different stages in Jesus’ ministry. They do not agree as to whether those first paid represent Pharisees, who are excluded from the kingdom, or disciples, who are included. But almost everyone agrees that Jesus is teaching about a fundamental equality here among those who are truly his disciples. All are rewarded alike.

Consider the following catena of quotations from disparate sources:

In the parable of Jesus, the labourers who were engaged last show nothing to warrant a claim to a full day’s wages;…in this apparently trivial detail lies the difference between two worlds: the world of merit, and the world of grace; the law contrasted with the gospel.  To insist, as the parable does, that invitation, not justice, is the way of the kingdom radically subverts the kingdom of God as a reward for a faithful and just life.

The parent-God evidently wishes to relate to all the children with a radical equality…Once individuals and groups of people realize that they have their place in this community and that they can neither lose nor earn more of their acceptance, they begin to be freed from the need to compete with one another for what they most need in life.

Because God is so good, the principle of grace triumphs. The principle in the world is that he who works the longest receives the most pay. That is just. But in the kingdom of God the principles of merit and ability may be set aside so that grace can prevail.  It is hard to see how one can take the imagery of the parable in any other way. In fact so clearly does this story demonstrate grace and equality that most nonevangelical commentators dismiss v. 16 at once as a redactional conclusion that misses the whole point of the passage. Yet there are at least three ways of understanding “the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

To be sure, this maxim could be an attempt to reinstate a system of ranking people within the kingdom, albeit on a radically new basis. But it may also be a vivid equivalent to the more prosaic truth that all numerical positions are interchangeable. What is more, Jesus has probably repeated this refrain to tie the parable back in with 19:16–30, which concludes with nearly the identical words (v. 30) and in which “the last” are those excluded from the kingdom.

A similar use of this proverb appears even more plainly in Luke 13:30. In any event, no ranking need be seen among genuine believers. The imagery of the laborers in the vineyard also squares well with the more abstract concepts of “grace,” “heaven” and “perfection.” The vast majority of Scriptural texts that encourage people to prepare for judgment day refer simply to two options: eternal life, or eternal death.

Salvation is consistently said to be by grace, damnation by works (cf. esp. Rom 3:21–5:21 with 1:18–3:20 respectively). There is an important asymmetry here that preserves the sovereignty of God, giving him all the credit for redemption, alongside the accountability of men and women, giving them all the blame for being “lost” (cf. esp. 9:22–24).

There does seem to be Scriptural support for the doctrine of degrees of punishment in hell, according to the extent of one’s conscious transgression of God’s laws (see esp. Luke 12:47–48; cf. Matt 10:15; 11:22, 24; cf. also possibly Rom 5:13),15 but precisely by this very lack of symmetry between works and grace we would not expect endless gradations of reward within heaven. And when one reflects soberly on the vast gulf that separates even the most righteous of believers from God’s infinitely perfect standards it is hard to see how the differences among Christians that seem to loom so large in this life could figure significantly in God’s eternal reckoning. The differences in elevation between Mount Everest and the Mariana Trench seem negligible when the earth is viewed from Mars.

The Biblical data concerning heaven, sparse though they are, seem in concord with thesesuppositions. The most extensive teaching passage on the topic is Revelation 21–22, and the clearest nonmetaphorical statement in these chapters is 21:4b: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain”—absolutely nothing to make one sad. But surely people would live with some unending sense of regret and sadness if they realized that they had not attained to as high a level of enjoyment or privilege in heaven as they might have, had their lives on this earth proved more meritorious. Theologians often sense this problem and dismiss it by assuming that we will not be conscious of such distinctions or that the great happiness of heaven will outweigh whatever small sense of regret remains.  But these concessions, unsupportable by any Biblical texts, give away precisely what the doctrine of degrees of reward is supposed to ensure: a powerful motivation for living a life that pleases God now. If such gradations are not perceptible or do not matter, why introduce them in the first place?

Other inconsistencies abound as theologians try to make sense of a doctrine of varying rewards for Christians. Just what will they involve? Suggestions include capacity for service, added responsibilities, degrees of bliss, an enriched relationship with God. The most honest writers admit they are speculating at this point, as with Millard Erickson, who nevertheless goes on to ask: “May it not be that the difference in the rewards lies not in the external or objective circumstances, but in the subjective awareness or appreciation of those circumstances?” In other words, heaven is really the same for everyone, but not everyone experiences it equally well. This explanation stands on its head the more popular view noted above that, subjectively, we all equally appreciate differing objective realities. One cannot have it both ways—though Erickson, no doubt unwittingly, tries, when he goes on to add that no one will be aware of these subjective differences anyway.

A final logical question could be asked: If the heavenly aspect of eternal life represents perfection, is it not fundamentally self-contradictory to speak of degrees of perfection? Surely theologians ought to reconsider a doctrine that involves an elementary lexical and conceptual fallacy.

But what of the Scriptural data? 1 Corinthians 3:11–15 clearly distinguishes between the qualities of believers’ works and their rewards on judgment day. Five key passages speak of believers’ crowns (1 Cor 9:25; 1 Thess 2:19; 2 Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4) and are often interpreted to mean that some Christians will receive more of them than others. Revelation 4:10 seems to pick up on this imagery, depicting the twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne. Various texts identify people who are “least” or “greatest” in the kingdom (e.g. Matt 5:19; 11:11; 18:4; Mark 9:34–35; Luke 9:48). And numerous other passages are often cited. Does not Scripture itself force one to believe in eternal differentiations among Christ’s followers?

The crowns are most easily dispensed with. A majority of commentators agrees in each of thefive instances that our texts are not at all talking about degrees of reward in heaven but simply about eternal life. In 1 Cor 9:25, Paul compares our perseverance to the athlete striving after an Olympic crown. But unlike a race on a track in which there can be only one winner, “we” [Christians] all should compete for “the crown that will last forever.” This “crown” is the same as the “prize” of vv. 24, 27, which one fails to receive if one is “disqualified” (adokimos). Paul is not concerned to compare first place with second or third but to contrast finishing the race with not finishing at all. In the words of Gordon Fee, the crown “is not some specific aspect of the goal but the eschatological victory itself.” Being declared “approved” (dokimos) or “not approved” (adokimos) is also the imagery of pottery fired in kilns to see if it will survive or not. Eternal life and death are at stake here, not gradations of reward.

A too simplistic understanding of “eternal security” has probably led many Christians to doubt that Paul could have seriously considered not “making it to heaven.” But true Reformed doctrine recognizes that saints are those who persevere. No Biblical text offers assurance of salvation for people who flagrantly repudiate Christ without subsequent repentance. Anthony Hoekema captures the sense of 1 Cor 9:26–27 quite well: “Only as he thus continued to discipline himself did Paul feel justified in claiming his spiritual security in Christ. He did not dare to claim this blessing while being careless and indolent in his daily battle against sin. And neither may we.”

“The crown of boasting” of 1 Thess 2:19 proves no different. It appears in synonymous parallelism with the “hope” and “joy” of eternal life itself, the pleasure of unending fellowship with other believers whom we have played some role in helping to nurture. As Howard Marshall explains, the expression is a Hebraism (cf. Prov 16:31), equivalent to “a crown to boast of “or rather “a crown to exult in”; from what Paul says elsewhere about the impossibility of men boasting of their own achievements before God (Rom. 3:27; 1 C. 1:29) it may be taken for granted that Paul is not looking forward here to any sort of proud display of his apostolic achievements before the Lord Jesus, but is rather thinking of the joyful exultation which he will be able to feel when the work which God has done through him (1 C. 15:10) is recognized. All true believers will experience some such exultation, no doubt in varying ways, but the passage says nothing of different crowns for different quantities of joy.

In 2 Tim 4:8 commentators debate whether dikaiosyns in the expression “crown of righteousness” is an appositional genitive or ablative of source. But either way it can hardly be a reward that distinguishes one believer from another, in view of the conclusion of the verse: “which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Surely one who has never wished for Christ’s return cannot have truly been his disciple.

In Jas 1:12 the “crown of life” almost certainly employs an appositional genitive, inasmuch as it applies to those who have persevered under trial, who are in turn taken to equal all who love God. Again, although not all believers always respond properly to God or to trials, all do so sometimes. In the larger context of James it seems clear that such predicates refer to all Christians, not just to some specific category of them (cf. 1:2–4; 2:5; 3:17–18; 5:7–11).

1 Peter 5:4 leaves fewer contextual clues to help us interpret the “crown of glory that will

never fade away,” which faithful elders receive. But in view of the recurring pattern in the previous four passages it is probably most natural to take this crown too as a metaphor for eternal life. Every other reference to believers’ “glory” in 1 Peter confirms this presumption (1:7; 4:13–14; 5:10), so that the elders’ crown is nothing other than that which “all who share in the Christian hope” can expect.

The twenty-four elders who cast their crowns before God’s throne probably remain irrelevant to the topic at hand. The most likely interpretation of Revelation’s symbolism at this point takes must carry over to the latter. And both of these texts speak only of judgment day, not of an everlasting hierarchy in heaven.

There remain those passages that speak of individuals who are “least” or “greatest” in God’s kingdom. The crucial question here, however, is this: Which of the two temporal aspects of the kingdom is in view—present, or future? In Matt 11:11 (par. Luke 7:28) only the present aspect of the kingdom makes any sense. If “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist,” and “yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” it cannot be because every Christian who has ever lived, however carnal, has proved more virtuous than John the Baptist. Rather, Jesus must mean that John, despite being the greatest of prophets of the OT age, lost out on an incredible privilege by not living long enough to see the new covenant inaugurated with the complex of events including Christ’s death, resurrection, exaltation and sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. Matthew 11:11 should thus be allowed to influence our understanding of similar sayings of our Lord.

In 5:19, those who practice and teach God’s commands are “great” in the kingdom while those who break them and teach others to do likewise are “least.” As an isolated saying this could be taken to refer to rewards in the eschaton, but it is at least equally appropriately interpreted as referring to those whom God deems more or less pleasing to himself now in this life even as they perform their teaching ministries. A careful reading of 18:4 in context confirms this suggestion. There Jesus declares that “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” But in the previous verse he has stated equally forcefully that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So the criterion for greatness is precisely the criterion for entrance.  Meiz_n is clearly a superlative used as an elative, as was common in Hellenistic Greek. The present tense “is” probably also is significant. As in the partial parallel in Luke 9:48 (“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is greatest”), it is status within the present aspect of the kingdom that Jesus has in mind (so also in Mark 9:34–35). Whereas the world glorifies those who exhibit the character traits of machismo, God deems most worthy, now in this same world, those who remain humble and unassuming (cf. Matt 5:3, 10; cf. vv. 4–9).

Numerous other texts might be cited in defense of rewards, but none bears the weight of the doctrine. Matthew 19:28 promises the twelve that they will judge the tribes of Israel, but 1 Cor 6:2–3 reminds even the carnal Corinthians that they will judge the whole world and even angels.

It is hard to see the apostles’ “privilege” as any greater honor, if indeed it is even limited to the twelve. The final Matthean beatitude promises a great reward in heaven to those who endure persecution (Matt 5:12), but this text simply repeats the theme of v. 10 in which the blessing for endurance is “the kingdom of heaven.” The “great reward” of v. 12 must therefore refer to the kingdom itself rather than some special status within it. What is more, in the context of the beatitudes God’s reward is more a promise of “future recompense for a present condition of persecution and reproach” than a response to piety.

The same must be said of the other Matthean “reward” passages. The reward that those who do their “‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them” (6:1) fail to acquire, in view of the parallel with hypocrites and pagans (in vv. 5, 7), must be heaven itself. The reward that those who appropriately minister to prophets, righteous people, and “little ones” (10:41–42) receive is reception by God (v. 40; cf. also Mark 9:41).

“Treasures in heaven” (Matt 6:20; par. Luke 12:33; Matt 19:21) appears in synonymous parallelism with “getting eternal life” (Matt 19:16) and “entering the kingdom of heaven” (19:23). In 1 Tim 6:19, those who “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” are coterminous with those who “take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Several NT texts warn believers that they must give an accounting to the Lord for every deed performed (Rom 2:6; Rev 22:12) and word uttered (Matt 12:36; Luke 12:2–3), but nothing in the contexts of any of those passages suggests varying degrees of reward or the perpetuating of distinctions beyond the Day of the Lord. The purpose of Christians’ standing before God’s bar of justice is to declare them acquitted, not to embarrass them before the entire cosmos for all their failings (Rom 2:7; Rev 22:14; Matt 12:37a).

The contrast in each of these three passages is between the saved and the lost, not between two or more different kinds of believers.

In Matt 10:35–45 and parallels, James and John ask Jesus if they may sit at his right and left hands when he comes into his glory. Undoubtedly, in view of the standard Jewish doctrine of rewards they were hoping for the highest status possible in the coming age, though in view of conventional Jewish messianic expectation they may well have conceived of an earthly kingdom and temporal glory. Jesus’ reply in 10:40 leaves the door open for some people to receive such a higher status, but tellingly Christ refuses to discuss that option, redirecting his disciples’ attention to servanthood instead and employing the language of present rather than future greatness (vv. 43–44) already observed in Luke 9:48.

If I am wrong and the typical evangelical doctrine of reward is correct, that doctrine still may not be used as a motivation for “empirebuilding.”

But fresh on the heels of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (cf. the sequence of passages in Matt 20:1–16, 20–28) it is hard to imagine that Jesus is here reinstating heavenly hierarchies at all. The shorter parallel in Luke 22:26–27 seems more clearly to limit differentiation of status to the present age: “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” This synonymous parallelism identifies “the greatest” as those who are currently ruling over God’s people with appropriate servant-leadership.

The parables of the talents (Matt 25:14–30) and the pounds (Luke 19:11–27) are often cited as teaching the doctrine of varying heavenly rewards. But this is to press the imagery of the parables beyond what even a controlled allegorization warrants. In each passage three servants appear. Two reflect faithful stewardship, one depicts gross negligence. In each case the solitary talent or pound is taken from the faithless servant and given to the first of the two faithful investors. But Jesus has drawn such careful parallelism between each of the first two servants, having their master praise them with identical language (Matt 25:21, 23), that it is impossible to conceive of the extra talent/pound as a reward that distinguishes the one faithful servant from the other. Either the economy of parabolic narrative has prevented Jesus (or the evangelists in their

reporting) from repeating the same reward verbatim for the second servant, or else this detail is not to be allegorized at all but viewed simply as a necessary part of the story line in which the master must continue to keep his money distributed among those charged with its oversight.

And if the reward of a talent or pound may not be allegorized, then logically neither may the imagery of ruling over cities, which functions in the parable in the identical way as the master’s redistribution of his money. The contrast in both Matthew and Luke is between the two faithful servants on the one hand and the unfaithful servant on the other—that is, between believers and unbelievers. No distinctions between categories of believers are introduced. To argue with Wall that the “darkness” of Matt 25:30, which is “outside” and in which there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is simply a less desirable compartment in heaven defies all credulity.

Matthew uniformly applies such language elsewhere to hell (8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51). One might continue at some length. 1 Corinthians 4:5 talks of each person receiving his or her “praise from God” when the Lord returns. But “praise” more naturally suggests a temporary response than permanent differences in status. Philippians 3:14 finds Paul pressing on “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” But in context that prize is no more or less than “to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (v. 11). As in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul wants to make sure that he perseveres in his faith so that he does indeed receive eternal life.

2 John 8 warns against losing “what you have worked for,” so that “you [or, moreprobably, “we”] may be rewarded fully.” The better textual reading, “we,” by itself cautions against a doctrine of individual rewards. John is anticipating the same reward as the Ephesian Christians. But even if “you” be accepted and interpreted as a distributive rather than collective plural (also less likely), the reward in context can be nothing other than seeing the work of the ministry at Ephesus endure against false, gnostic teachers.

From several angles the same conclusion recurs again and again. There is no unambiguous NT doctrine of varying eternal rewards for believers.

But it is time to conclude and to discuss some of the significance of this study. We live in a culture that grows ever more performance-centered with each passing year. Competition infects children’s spirits from far too early an age— in sports, in school, at play. Adults face longer hours on the job with less job security and more performance-based evaluation (merit pay, commission, pressures for promotion, and the like) than was ever anticipated a generation ago when labor-saving devices were being heralded as ushering in the age of the thirty-hour work week with manifold opportunities for leisure and recreation. Not surprisingly—but nevertheless tragically—the spirit of competition, comparison with one another, and rewards on the basis of merit have overwhelmed many aspects of Christian living as well, both corporately and personally.

The NT manifesto of grace stands out in stark contrast, calling believers to exhibit the countercultural character traits of living apart from the basis of varying rewards, to provide much-needed relief from the symptoms of a sick society. Far too many Christians whom I have personally encountered think that God relates to them just like the taskmasters they have known in their families and at their work. If only they can be a little more obedient today, God will like them more and deal with them more favorably. Conversely, when they fail, especially when repeated failures plague them over a short period of time, they are convinced that God will be quick to punish them. Even a cursory survey of Christian counselors and psychologists reveals how endemic this problem remains in North America.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ ought to liberate believers from all such performance-centered conceptions of the Christian life. An important step in that direction would be to jettison this misguided and discouraging doctrine of eternal rewards that distinguish one believer from another. The important counterquestion may then be posed: What motivation remains for obeying any of God’s commandments? Why not become a Christian and then expend as little effort as possible serving Christ? The very fact that the counterquestion follows naturally encourages us that we are on the right track: It is the very question Paul himself anticipated in Rom 6:1 after he articulated his theology of justification by faith.

The correct answer would seem to have at least two prongs to it. First, to continue following closely Paul’s own train of thought, the person who comes to such a conclusion demonstrates that he or she has not truly appreciated or appropriated salvation at all. In other words, one of the main reasons for trying to live as good a Christian life as possible is to make sure that we do in fact persevere, so that we do not lose out on eternal life altogether (as in 1 Cor 9:24–27; Phil 3:10–14, discussed above).

Second, and even more fundamentally, proper Christian motivation for pleasing God should stem from a profound sense of gratitude for what Christ has already done for us. The complete salvation that he has already acquired for us leaves no room for further human merit. The person rescued from near drowning does not need to be given additional reasons for expressing deep and heartfelt thanks to his or her rescuer. Children who fully appreciate the sacrifices their parents have made to give them an expensive education or a secure inheritance will want to please them even apart from the promise of further gifts. In the language of the conclusion to the parable of the unprofitable servant: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’ “(Luke 17:10).

Nothing we could ever offer to God could begin to repay him for the immense gift of forgiveness he has wrought on our behalf through the death of his dear Son. John Donahue nicely encapsulates this truth:

cGod’s justice is different from human justice. It forgives unpayable debts and summons the disciples to live a life of forgiveness to others as an expression of gratitude. To do otherwise is to risk the ultimate (i.e., eschatological) judgment pronounced on the unmerciful servant. God’s justice is also not to be limited by human conceptions of a strict mathematical judgment where reward is in exact proportion to merit. Mercy and goodness challenge us, as in the Laborers in the Vineyard, to move beyond justice, even though they do not exist at the expense of justice.

God’s ways are not human ways. Why then do we hear so little of the full-orbed Biblical doctrine of grace? I suspect it is because grace offends the sensibilities of the “natural man” that remain deeply imbedded in all ofus. Grace by definition is not fair. As Donahue concluded, “God’s ways are not human ways.” If one of the primary uniquenesses of Biblical Christianity vis-à-vis other world religions is salvation by grace rather than works, then it is not surprising that even within Christianity the biggest danger to keeping the faith pure would be a reinstatement of works-righteousness, even if more subtly disguised under the garb of “sanctification by works.”

As one of my students aptly phrased it, in most of the conservative Christian circles of which he had been a part the Christian life was like a free, trial membership to an elite country club: The first year is wonderful, but after that you pay through the nose.

There is at least one evangelical tradition, however, in which grace without any variation according to merit remains deeply imbedded. That tradition is the Lutheran tradition. Martin Luther often shied away from speaking of Christians even standing before God’s judgment seat, preferring instead to call it his mercy seat. It was a bar of judgment only for unbelievers. In his sermon on “The Sum of the Christian Life” preached in Wörlitz on November 24, 1532, Luther declared:

If we are ever to stand before God with a right and uncolored faith, we must come to the point where we learn clearly to distinguish between ourselves, our life, and Christ the mercy seat… The man who can do this will be the justified man. All the others operate with a feigned faith.  They talk a lot about faith but they mix things together, as a barkeeper mixes water and wine, by saying if you live in such and such a way God will be gracious to you, and they turn the mercy seat into a judgment seat and the judgment seat into a mercy seat…Therefore, keep these two widely separated from each other, as widely as ever you can, so that neither can approach the other.  See, if that is the way faith were preached, men would be justified and all the rest; a pure heart and good conscience through genuine, perfect love, would follow. For the man who through faith is sure in his heart that he has a gracious God, who is not angry with him, though he deserves wrath, that man goes out and does everything joyfully. Moreover, he can live this way before men also, loving and doing good to all, even though they are not worthy of love… This is the highest security, the head and foundation of our salvation.

No doubt Luther has overstated himself. This study has surveyed numerous texts in which the mercy seat is also a judgment seat for Christians. But it agrees with Luther’s profound insights concerning the motivation for Christian living. Judgment for true believers poses no threat for them precisely because whatever shame they variously experience at the great assize is then over and done with and does not persist into the new heavens and the new earth. The only threat is that one’s profession of faith might prove entirely vacuous so that one is excluded altogether from the company of the redeemed.

Here is the crucial contribution of those who today advocate lordship salvation. Ironically, those who seek most strenuously to preserve justification by grace may lead professing believers to think they are saved when in fact they are not. Grace will have been preserved—but not justification. God assures salvation only to those who presently believe in Jesus as Son of God (1John 5:13). Claims of commitment, long since abandoned, may not be salvaged by any appeal to a category of “carnal Christian,” though Paul does use that term for those who continue to believe but remain unduly immature in their faith (1 Cor 3:3).

The major spokespersons for historic Calvinism and Arminianism agree that people commit apostasy and are lost for all eternity. They merely disagree as to what that proves about their prior state (cf. e.g. 1 John 2:19 with Heb 6:4–6). The greatest danger of the doctrine of degrees of reward in heaven is that it has misled many people into thinking that the very nominal professions that they or their friends have at one time made will be sufficient to save them, even if they fail to receive as high a status in heaven as they might have.

This is in no way to argue for works-righteousness. It is merely to remind us of the consistent Biblical theme that true, saving faith does over time lead to visible transformations in lifestyle and to growth in holiness (Matt 7:15–27; Gal 5:6, 19–24; Jas 2:14–26; 1 John 3:4–10). Without such evidence that God’s Spirit has truly taken up residence and begun to work within a person, Biblical Christianity is absent. But even with the help of God’s Spirit, no believers ever so approach the standards of God’s holiness that it would make sense to eternally reward them differently from their Christian peers.

May all evangelicals recover this precious legacy of the Protestant Reformation and do away with the depressing and damaging notion of eternal degrees of reward in heaven once and for all.

1993

J .I. Packer

There Will Be Different Degrees Of Blessedness And Reward In Heaven

Mortality; Judgement; Heaven: hell

from “Concise Theology”


There will be different degrees of blessedness and reward in heaven. All will be blessed up to the limit of what they can receive, but capacities will vary just as they do in this world. As for rewards (an area in which present irresponsibility can bring permanent future loss: 1 Cor. 3:10-15), two points must be grasped. The first is that when God rewards our works he is crowning his own gifts, for it was only by grace that those works were done. The second is that essence of the reward in each case will be more of what the Christian desires most, namely, a deepening of his or her love-relationship with the Savior, which is the reality to which all the biblical imagery of honorific crowns and robes and feasts is pointing. The reward is parallel to the reward of courtship, which is the enriching of the love-relationship itself through marriage.

1993

Alister McGrath

Whether There Are Relative Grades Or Ranks Among Those In Heaven

Christian Theology:  An Introduction

p. 484

Other debates include the question of whether there are relative grades or ranks among those in heaven.  The fifth century writer Theodoret of Cyrrhus argued that, since there are many rooms in the Father’s house (John 14:2) it followed that the relative fortunes and privileges of those in heaven are determined by their achievements during their lives.  This doctrine of “status by merit” was continued in the writings of Ambrose, and echoed in medieval theology.

At the time of the reformation, this doctrine came into disrepute, partly due to the Protestant dislike of the idea “merit” in general.  However, the notion of various degrees of blessedness seems to have lingered on in the Puritan devotional writings of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  Thus in 1589 William Fulke recognized a variation of degrees in glory in heaven, but put this down to God’s gracious ordering, rather than any merit on the parts of those specially favored:  “As the stars differ in their glory not according to their merits, but according to God’s gifts in their creation, so the bodies of the saints shall differ in glory, not according to their merits, but according to God’s free gifts in the resurrection.”

1994

Wayne A. Grudem (Calvinist Evangelical Theologian)

Degrees of Reward in Heaven

Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine

506

Moreover, when we sin as Christians we suffer a loss of heavenly reward.  A person who has build on the work of the church not with gld, silver, and precious stone, but with “wood, hay, stubble”(1 Cor. 3:12) will have his work “burned up” on the day of Judgment and “he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:15). Paul realizes that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that eachone may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10). Paul implies that there are degrees of reward in heaven, andthat sin has negative consequences in terms of loss of heavenly reward.

Get the section of this book on this subject on pages 1143-1144, get from Biola Library, since it does not show up in Google Book

The Nature of the Final Judgment

Jesus Christ will be the Judge.

Paul speaks of “Jesus Christ who is to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1).  Peter says that Jesus Christ “is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42; compare 17:3; Matt. 25:31-33) This right to act as judge over the whole universe is something that the Father has given to the Son: “The Father .. has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:26-27).

2. Unbelievers will be Judged.

It is clear that all unbelievers will stand before Christ for judgment, for this jusgement includes “The dead, great and small” (Rev. 20:12), and Paul says that “on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed,” “he will render to every man according to his works … for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom: 2:5-7)

This judgment of unbelievers will include degrees of punishment, for we read that the dead were judged “by what they had done” (Rev. 20:12-13), and this judgment according to what people have done must therefore involve an evaluation of the works that people have done  Similarly, Jesus says:

And that servant who knew his masters’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating.  But he who did not know, and didwhat deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating” (Luke 12:47-48).

When Jesus says to the cities of Chorazim and Bethsaida, “It shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you” (Matt. 11:22; compare v. 24), or when he says that the scribes “will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20:47), he implies that there will be degrees of punishment on the last day.  In fact, every wrong deed done will be remembered, and taken account of in the punishment that is meted out on that day, because “on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter” (Matt. 12:346).  Every word spoken, every deed done will be brought to light and receive judgment: “For God will bring every deedinto judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl 12:14).

As these verses indicate, on the day of judgment the secrets of people’s hears will be revealed and made public.  Paul speaks of the day when “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom 2:16; compare Luke 8:17). “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefor Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3)

Believers Will be Judged.

In writing to Christians Paul says, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of  God … Each ofus shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10,12). He also tells the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2Cor 5:10; cf. Rom. 2:6-7; Rev. 20:12, 15) In addition, the picture of the final judgment in Matthew 15: 31-46 includes Christ separating the sheep from the goats, and rewarding those who receive his blessing.

It is important to realize that this judgment of believers will be a judgment to evaluate and besow various degrees of reward (see below), but the fact that they will face such a judgment should never cause believers to fear that they will be eternally condemned. Jesus saiys, “He who hearsmy word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).  Here “judgment” must be understood in the sense of eternal condemnation and death, since it is contrasted with passing from death into life. At the day of final judgment more than at any other time, it is of utmost importance that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ

P 1110

According to the amillenialist position, the present church age will continue until the time of Christ’s return . Believers will also stand before the judgment seat of Christ, but this judgment will only determine degrees of reward in heaven, for unbelievers will becondemned eternally.

1994

John Brooke

Chapter 8: The Mysteries Defined (Including Section 76)

The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844

Chapter 8: The Mysteries Defined

They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands that Father has given all things – They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; 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. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God —Vision of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1831

In the spring of 1830, Joseph Smith offered himself to the people of the Burned-over District as a prophet of a new dispensation. He was restoring not only the true church but the age of miracles, an age that orthodox religion assumed lay closed in the antiquity of the prophets. In this assertion, Smith not only placed himself in the same posture toward orthodoxy taken by earlier radical and hermetic sectarians but began to replicate the core of their doctrine. Mormonism powerfully rearticulated the fusion of hermetic divinization and millenarian restoration first forged in the fires of the Radical Reformation and the English Revolution.

The restoration of a miraculous connection between heaven and earth, between spirit and matter, was the most powerful attraction drawing adherents to Smith’s new church. But miraculous, spiritual powers were a dangerous commodity, constantly in danger of slipping out of control. The first nine years of the history of the Mormon church brought impor­tant doctrinal developments, as Joseph Smith began to institutionalize the Mormon path to the divine mysteries. It also brought explosive episodes of conflict and dissent, as people attracted to a church of miracles de­manded the right to directly experience the numinous connection between spirit and matter. During the 1830s, periods of relative calm and doctrinal development were twice disrupted by strife—reminiscent of the dyadic conflicts of Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Mormon—ending in the near dissolution of the Mormon movement in Missouri in 1839.

This chapter and the next detail the emergence of Mormon doctrine over this decade, looking in sequence at what may be called purities and dangers, against the background of the political strife buffeting the new church. The following two chapters carry the story through a final cycle of doctrinal construction, again moving from purity to danger, with the framing of a classic Mormon cosmology of plural marriage and ritual divinization at Nauvoo, Illinois, between 1841 and the Mormon exodus for the Great Basin in 1846.

The miraculous was very much on Joseph Smith’s mind in the final months of the transcribing of the Book of Mormon. In the Third Book of Nephi Christ is described as a master alchemist in powerful imagery drawn from the Book of Malachi: “Like a refiner’s fire,” he would “purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver.”2 After the climactic battle at the Hill Cumorah, the surviving prophet, Moroni, spoke in similar language of the righteous surviving “the fiery furnace” and the final day when “the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” He also spoke of “a God of miracles” continuing to act in palpable ways in the world. “And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? .. And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being?” Smith’s God con­formed to a uniformitarian principle; his powers in the present day were no different than in distant antiquity. And one of his powers was that of acting through human intermediaries. As promised in the biblical Book of Mark, righteous believers would “cast out devils” and “speak with new tongues”; they would “take up serpents” and “lay hands on the sick.”3

The miraculous was also central in Joseph Smith’s imagination when, on March z6, 1830, between notices of state lotteries, bank payments, and canal tolls, he advertised the Book of Mormon in the Wayne Sentinel. The book was “written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophecy and Revelation”; it was “to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” The Lord spoke through the Book of Mormon.4

This God of miracles would set the immediate agenda for the early Mormon church. News of miraculous events spurred conversion among a distinctly prepared people, hungering for a religion of immanent divine presence. The first miracle was the witnessing of the Golden Plates, the Urim and Thummim, the sword of Laban, and the directors that Smith had found in the Hill Cumorah. In June 181.9 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved from Pennsylvania to the town of Fayette in Seneca County, where on the Whitmer family farm they finished translating the Book of Mormon. During this summer Smith saw the necessity of sharing his charisma with a selection of his growing audience. The first witnesses were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. After fervent prayer, Cowdery and Whitmer believed they saw an angel descend on a light bearing the plates, and confirming the authenticity of their translation. Harris did not claim to have had the vision but accepted that Smith had seen the angel. Several days later eight men, four Whitmer brothers and their brother-in-law Hiram Page, with Joseph Smith Sr. and his sons Hyrum and Samuel, were shown the plates, which they “did handle with our hands.” “Seen and hefted,” the plates were taken up to heaven by an angel .9

The account of Smith’s visions and the revelations of the Book of Mor­mon, supported by the testimony of the witnesses, worked to bring con­versions in the Whitmers’ circle in Fayette and among the money-digging families in Manchester. These early believers assembled at the Whitmers’ farm on April 6, 1830, to participate in the formal organization of the church. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had baptized each other in the Susquehanna River in May r 8z9; they and other Smiths, the Whitmers, Martin Harris, and Orrin Porter Rockwell, a close friend of Joseph’s among the money-diggers, were baptized on April 6, followed by a dozen others on subsequent Sundays.”

Another miracle would bring conversions in Colesville, on the Sus­quehanna River, when Joseph Smith returned the next month to the scene of his divining adventures of t 8z6. Gathering prayer meetings at Joseph Knight’s, Smith’s preaching had a powerful effect on Knight’s son Newell. Under the stress of these meetings, Newell “began to feel uneasy” and, returning to his house, fell into convulsions. “His visage and limbs were distorted and twisted in every shape and appearance possible to imagine; and finally he was caught up off the floor and tossed about most fear­fully.” Smith was called to “cast the devil out of him,” which immediately happened; Newell later testified in court that he saw the devil leave him, “a spiritual sight and spiritually discerned.” With this miraculous exor­cism Newell began to have visions; he and many witnesses claimed that he was levitated by “the Spirit of the Lord” off the floor to the beams of the dwelling house. Many in the Knight neighborhood — including Aaron Culver, nephew of the visionary Nathan—were converted to the new faith in the following days and weeks. 7

The exorcism and levitation of Newell Knight would be the first of many miraculous manifestations of divine power in Mormon lore.” The core of Smith’s message was that of a restoration, hut Smith was restoring not simply the apostolic church but the spiritual powers of ancient prophets to men acting as divine agents in a Kingdom of God. Smith’s God was a God of miracles, but so too were his agents, his priests, men of miracles. Spiritual power descended from the heavens, hut it was directed through divinely anointed humans, bearing powers not far removed from the diviner’s touch. Here the supernatural powers of the pre-Reformation Catholic church — and the Muggletonian prophets — were being restored, conditioning and deflecting the power of the Calvinist God of the ortho­dox churches. In the years to come this conditioning of divine power would be amplified greatly, as Mormon priests assumed higher and higher powers.

A church of miracles attracted a particular kind of convert. As in Ver­mont, hermetic culture provided an important background for the New York converts. More than half came from towns with Masonic lodges or divining histories, and about a third came from towns with Methodist societies.” Unlike in Vermont, settlement in Seneca County from Pennsyl­vania meant that the large body of converts from Fayette (at least twenty-one people) were exposed to Pennsylvania German culture, institutional­ized in four German churches, including the Zion church that the Whitmers had attended.[‘ Diedrich Willers, the minister of this church, noted that the Whitmers had moved between German Reformed services and the Mennonites, Methodists, and Baptists. In a summary of the Mor­mon converts — who were calling themselves “The True Followers of Christ” — he noted that most “were apparently General Baptists,” a com­ment that carries us back to the sectarian axis linking southeast New England and southeast Pennsylvania.” This may have been more of a broad disposition rather than an institutional presence in the Burned-over District, but the General Baptist notion of a universal redemption com­ported well with subsequent Mormon doctrine.

As we have seen, many of the Mormon converts had long been involved in the magical spiritualism of divining and exposed to belief in witchcraft. Certainly they were hostile to the Calvinist doctrine of election and to the doctrine of original sin advanced by Calvinists and Methodists alike. They often came from families of “Seekers” spinning off from sectarian com­munities, refusing to accept the authority and legitimacy of existing denominations, hopeful for the restoration of the “ancient order of things.” Often they came from experiences of poverty and hardship, find­ing release and empowerment in a message of millenarian restoration and in a church where there would be no educated and salaried ministry.12 Smith’s visions, his translated text, his witnesses, and his miracles all provided the seal of prophetic authority.” Many of these early follow­ers, however, had quite different visions of the restoration than did the prophet, visions much closer to biblical sources than Smith’s di­vergences.” Such converts would not be easy for a young prophet to control. His followers were not content to leave spiritual power in his hands alone; they demanded the right to touch the world of spirit. For the next decade Smith would have to struggle with his people over his authority and the terms of a broader sharing of charismatic power.)

The first explicit challenge came in July 183 o, when Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers objected that one of his revelations governing admis­sion to baptism contradicted the Book of Mormon and came close to the orthodox requirement of relating an experience of grace to a minister. By the following September Cowdery and the Whitmers were beginning to accept revelations made by Hiram Page through the use of a seer-stone and written out on “a roll of papers.” But if anyone with a seer-stone could claim the power of revelation, the church was doomed to chaos and dissolution. At a conference called later that month, with Newell Knight at his side, Smith questioned Page’s authority to receive revelation and managed to assert his own supreme authority. After considerable debate, the conference announced that Smith alone was “to receive and write Revelations and Commandments for this Church.” The vote was con­firmed by a revelation that God had given Smith “the keys to the myster­ies, and the revelations which are sealed.” Page renounced his stone, just as Smith had set aside his stone, and all claims to the Urim and Thummim, a year before. Rather than from magic artifacts, revelation would rise from prophetic authority. With this break with the popular magic of Mormon beginnings, an authority structure began to take shape in the church. 1

At the same time, Smith announced new doctrines that served to deflect attention from the challenge of the seer-stone dissenters. A few days be­fore the conference he produced a powerfully worded revelation on the imminence of the millennium, a revelation that ended with the comforting universalist note that children were innocent of original sin. Within months he would totally abandon the doctrine of original sin, contradict­ing passages in the Book of Mormon.17 But in the fall of 1830 the millen­nial thrust was most important, establishing the westward dynamic of Mormon history for decades to come: the restored kingdom was their refuge from a coming millennial destruction. 1e The July revelation on the “keys to the mysteries” also ordered Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page, later replaced by David Whitmer, to begin a western missionary journey to convert the Lamanites (the Indians) and it announced that the millennial city of Zion, the New Jerusalem, would be built “on the borders by the Lamanites.” 19

The journey of the western missionaries would open a new chapter in Mormon history, that centering on Kirtland, Ohio. The missionaries set out in October, with western Missouri as their intended goal. But on the

way they were diverted to northeast Ohio, where one of the missionaries, Parley Pratt, knew they would find a prepared people. Pratt, born in a Baptist neighborhood in Canaan, New York, had spent several years in the frontier settlements, in search of work, a competency, and the true primi­tive gospel. Settling in Ohio, he found this gospel in the summer of 18 29 in the preaching of Sidney Rigdon of Mentor. Once a Baptist preacher, and then a Campbellite restorationist, Rigdon broke with Alexander Campbell in the fall of 183o, holding that a restoration involved not only the apostolic church but “supernatural gifts and miracles.” In August 1830 Pratt had journeyed east and had been converted by the Mormon bible; three months later he led the missionaries hack to Mentor to see Rigdon. Impressed by their announcement of the miracles of the Mormon emergence, Rigdon visited the Smith household in Manchester, New York, that December and was converted. With anti-Mormon sentiment rising in New York, Rigdon offered the opportunity to move the Mormon com­munities west to Ohio, where he had established his former Campbellite following into a communal society based in Mentor and Kirtland. The following January the first westward Mormon exodus began.20

The conversion of Sidney Rigdon was of critical importance to the new movement. Rigdon became a close associate of Smith, and he offered both a field of hundreds of potential converts among the restorationists of Ohio’s Western Reserve and property upon which to build a new start. The new start began almost immediately, with the emigration of the New York Saints to Ohio and the conversion of many of Rigdon’s followers. Once again Smith faced challenges to his monopoly over charismatic power. During the spring of 183 r many among the new Ohio converts experienced spiritual events, seeing “wonderful lights in the air and on the ground,” falling into fits, speaking in tongues, and claiming revelations and visions. In May 1831 Smith was able to suppress these “false spirits” with a new revelation, but the problem of an orderly sharing of charisma remained to be solved.21

The eventual success of Mormonism lay in the embedding of a shared charisma in the institutional fabric of the church. Joseph Smith would not maintain an absolute monopoly over spiritual power but rather doled it out in an evolving system of inclusive priesthoods, governed by an increas­ingly elaborate hierarchy. Church institutions began to take shape in r 829 and grew in _complexity over the early 183os both as membership grew and as Smith negotiated his way through a series of political crises. In May 1829, when John the Baptist appeared to Smith and Cowdery, they re­ceived divine appointments as First and Second Elders of the new church. Smith’s authority as Seer and Revelator was announced in April 1830 and confirmed in September. In February and March 183r, Smith issued a Series of revelations that began to establish sacramental and institutional structures, including the collective economy called the United Order of Enoch, or the Law of Consecration. The following January Smith was named President of the High Priesthood, and in March t833 a First Presi­dency was established, including the president and two counselors. Stake councils were established in Kirtland and in Missouri in 1834, in a reorga­nization that saw the suspension of the communal United Order. The Council of Twelve Apostles was established in February T 835, and a month later a Quorum of Seventies was organized.22

These various offices met both the governance needs of the church and the political requirements of sharing responsibility with an often unruly band of leading followers. As did the collective economy of the United Order, this hierarchy of offices had parallels in other millenarian groups such as the Ephrata celibates and the Shakers, for whom collective order represented life in the Kingdom of God. Hierarchy and collectivity had been features of the millennialist sects of the Radical Reformation, most notably the Munster Anabaptists.23 But the most interesting parallel was with the priestly hierarchy of the sixteenth-century Familists’ House of Love, in which an Oldest Elder in Holy Understanding presided over ranks of Old Elders, Priests of the Throne of God, and four orders of lesser priests, the lowest of which included the entire membership.24 In the Mormon hierarchy, this lowest, most inclusive rank was the Aaronic Priesthood, through which the Mormon believer would pass before enter­ing the more powerful and charismatic Priesthood of Melchizedek. In­stitutionalizing the anticlericalism of his following, Smith established the ideal of universal priesthood among the believing men of the church, sharing charismatic power and organizational responsibility while retain­ing prophetic authority.

After their mutual baptism in May 18/9 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed that John the Baptist had conferred on them the Leviti­cal, or Aaronic, Priesthood. Conferred on “every worthy male member,” eventually starting with boys of twelve years of age, these offices provided the semblance of an equalitarian order for white males in the church. Ranked as deacons, teachers, and priests, the Aaronic Priesthood held “the keys of the ministering of angels”; they were to watch over the church, teach the gospel, and perform baptisms.25

Some doubt exists as to the conception of this Aaronic Priesthood in the early years, and even more doubt exists about the timing of the announce­ment of the higher Melchizedek Priesthood. Smith claimed that the restor­ation of the Melchizedek was announced in May 18/9 by the appearance of the archangels Peter, James, and John, following the type of Christ’s vision of Moses and Elias. But the first references to these angels in Mor­ mon texts did not come until T 835, and it appears that the high priesthood was not actually established until June 1831, as Smith was building his authority over the Kirtland settlements.26

If the high priesthood was not actually a reality before the summer of 1831, it certainly was implied in Smith’s revelations. For the next fifteen years the key to the attraction of early Mormonism — and to the survival of Smith as a prophet — lay in his promises of the future revelation of the secret workings of God’s Kingdom. In ten revelations issued between the summer of 18/8 and February 1831, Smith promised that “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded,” leading to “eternal life.” In January 1831 he tied this promise to the call to “gather a righteous people” in Ohio: it was in this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high.”27

On June 3, r831, at a General Conference in Kirtland, twenty-three men were ordained into the high priesthood, which that November was identified with the biblical Priesthood of Melchizedek. Where the Aaronic Priesthood was limited to “outward ordinances,” the Melchizedek Priest­hood would hold “the key to the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.” Unlike the lower priesthood, the high priests were to “administer in spiritual things,” in a specific sharing of spiritual power with the prophets

This diffusion of spiritual powers coincided with more miraculous events. Sometime during the summer of 1831 Smith succeeded in healing the lame arm of an elderly Mrs. Mary Johnson, whose family soon joined the church. And at the June 3 Kirtland conference, when “false spirits” stopped the voices of several of his new high priests, Smith drove them out, though according to one account he then failed in efforts to heal a crippled hand and a lame leg and to revive a child from death.29 The high priests would be capable of “wonderful works” of exorcism, faith-healing, resistance to poisons, and handling snakes. Certainly the high priests used these powers: Newell Knight — before and after his ordination—drove out evil spirits and healed the sick, and missionaries in northern Vermont and New York drew converts with stories of their healing powers.30

Such healing powers clearly had biblical antecedents (specifically in Christ’s address to his apostles) that would have been familiar to primitiv­ists searching the Bible for signs and miracles:31 But the greatest powers of the high priesthood lay in their sharing in the “keys to the mysteries,” previously granted only to Joseph the Prophet. Smith first articulated these powers in October 1831, at a General Conference meeting in Or­ange, Ohio. “The order of the High-priesthood,” he announced at the Orange conference, “is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto Eternal Life.” He repeated this language in a revelation the next month. In effect, Mormon high priests were given the authority to grant salvation through a ritual — an authority that orthodox Christians reserved to God, working through grace.32 This idea of an earthly sealing was first introduced in the Book of Mormon, when Nephi was granted powers of salvation and damnation: “Whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”33

Here, then, was a fundamental theological departure, clearly inspired by the experience of magic. The Mormon high priests would in effect be magi, with powers extending up from the visible world on earth to the invisible world of the heavens, controlling and delimiting the power of a God whom the Calvinist tradition had made omnipotent. The next step, an even more fundamental departure, would be to join that limited God in divinity. Hinting at this promise in the early 1830s, Smith would not establish this path to divinization until 1843, at Nauvoo, Illinois. But the groundwork for this departure was laid in Ohio in a description of a new cosmos emerging in parallel with the new priesthood. Both had common roots reaching back into the hermetic tradition of the primal divine Adam.

The Old Testament Priesthood of the Melchizedek, endowed with great, magus-like powers and identified with Christ in the Book of Hebrews, was not unique to the emerging Mormon theology. Ninety years before the high priesthood ceremony at Kirtland in 183t, the celibate choirs at Ephrata sang of the restoration of the Melchizedek, as well as the unity of the primal Adam. More recently Shaker Benjamin Youngs, in his 18o8 Testimony of Christ’s Second Coming, had invoked the Melchizedek or­der in his account of a hermaphrodite Christ, and in 1814 George Rapp of the German Harmonist Society settled in southern Ohio and saw in the Melchizedek the model for millennial, communitarian selflessness. In r 840 Orestes Brownson, another son of Royalton, Vermont, in his second essay on the “Laboring Classes,” demanded the replacement of human priesthoods with a divinely ordained “order of Melchizedec.” Six years later Brownson’s brother Oran joined the Mormons 34

But the most widely diffused use of the Melchizedek was in the ritual of Royal Arch Freemasonry, which, as we have already seen, was of great significance in the framing of early Mormonism. In the ceremonies install­ing the High Priests of the Royal Arch, the Masonic manuals uniformly borrowed from Hebrews 5:6 to tell the candidate that “thou art a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedec.”35 Just as the Royal Arch tale of Enoch’s treasures appears to have had a formative influence on Smith’s account of the discovery of the Golden Plates, so too, this mythology had powerful resonances in the new Mormon cosmology sketched between 1830 and 1833, in over a hundred revelations and a revision of the biblical Book of Genesis. A spiritually powerful high priesthood, a concern for a primal language, and a plan for the construction of temples were the underpinnings of this cosmic system, the realization that the Mormon faithful would be “endowed with power from on high.”

The central statements of this cosmology were first laid out in Smith’s revision of Genesis, the Book of Moses, and in revelations on the priest­hood and temples. Smith wrote his revision of Genesis between June 1830 and February 1831, and his key revelations date from November 1831 to May 1833. From December 18 30 Smith worked closely with Sidney Rigdon, the former Campbellite, who served as his scribe and confidant. Rigdon, renowned throughout the Western Reserve for his command of the Bible, was thought to have had a decisive influence on Smith in these years. (Rigdon had Masonic connections of his own, becoming a Mason later in life. His cousins Thomas and John Rigdon were both Campbellite ministers and Thomas was a Royal Arch Mason.)36 David Whitmer, later a dissenter, claimed that Rigdon “soon worked himself deep into Brother Joseph’s affections,” and that it was at his “instigation” that the high priesthood was adopted. Perhaps that was so, but certainly Smith had the idea of the Melchizedek Priesthood in mind at least since the summer of 1819, when he — with Oliver Cowdery — wrote the priesthood into the Book of Alma .37

Many of the most important sections of the Book of Moses were writ­ten before Rigdon arrived in New York in December 1830, but Rigdon was with Smith when he wrote passages that had direct analogues to the mythology of a pure primitive Freemasonry. In the sixth and seventh chapters of the Book of Moses the prophet Enoch had a long vision of the days of Adam and of the future. Adam was described as having been “after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.” This was the order of Melchizedek, as identified with Christ; this connection of Adam with Christ had long been an important dimension of radical universalism. Looking into the future, Enoch was shown the “seed of Adam” and the “seed of Cain,” echoing hermetic and Masonic references to the two seeds.38 And at the beginning of the sixth chapter of Moses, the descendants of Seth began to keep “a book of remembrance” written in “the language of Adam,” which was equated with the priesthood: “And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and un­defiled. Now this was the same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also?” The book of remembrance, written in the primal “language of Adam,” in this account was passed down to the prophet Enoch; in September 1831 Smith claimed to have heard the “pure Adamic language” for the first time, when Brigham Young spoke in tongues at their first meeting. That same September Smith traced by revelation the lineage of the priesthood back from the sons of Moses to Melchizedek, Noah, Enoch, Abel, and eventually to “Adam, the first man.”40

Thus, with Rigdon at his side, Smith added themes to the Genesis story that were directly analogous to Masonic myths describing priestly genealogies running back to Adam. The references to Adamic language were equally important, pointing to another critical link with the intellec­tual world of seventeenth-century hermeticism. At the core of the magic beliefs about correspondences lay the dream of a universal language, capturing the signature or inner essence of all things, understandable to all people if the key to its grammar could be discovered. The inspiration for ideas about this language lay in the second chapter of Genesis (repeated verbatim in the third chapter of Smith’s Moses) where Adam gave names to the animals that God paraded before him.41 Preserved after the Adamic exile from Eden, this language had been lost at the Tower of Babel. Cabal­ists and hermetic philosophers hoped to recover this natural, or Adamic, language through magical manipulations of Hebrew letters and Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the world of the English revolutionary Instauration, Jan Comenius and Samuel Hartlib, following Francis Bacon, led the search for a universal language. In the wake of the revolutionary epoch, John Web­ster’s hope that Jacob Boehme’s mysticism would provide the key to the universal language was scorned by men of science connected with the Royal Society. And — just as it became the repository of other fragments of hermetic lore — eighteenth-century Freemasonry was reputed to be hiding the secrets of this “universal language.” Closer at hand, newspapers in Palmyra in 1819 and 18z3 reported efforts to translate hieroglyphic in­scriptions found on rocks in Pompey, New York, east along the Erie Canal in Onondaga County, and in Dighton, in Massachusetts’s Bristol County.42

From 1817 into the it 840s, Joseph Smith was vitally interested in an­cient languages. The Golden Plates were supposed to have been covered with ancient writing, which Smith translated into the published Book of Mormon; at the end of the Book of Mormon, Smith identified this lan­guage as a “reformed Egyptian,” which had been “handed down and altered” among the Nephites.43 This passage was written in the summer of r 8 In, over a year after Smith had sent Martin Harris all the way to New York City to consult with two learned professors, Samuel L. Mitchell and Charles Anthon, on the origins of a list of figures that Smith had copied from the plates. As one historian has argued, the failure of these famous scholars, and the success of an unschooled Smith, in translating these supposed ancient records with his seer-stone and the Urim and Thum­mim, fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah.44 Magical implements were critical to the translation process because the ancient language had been “altered”; they were described as God’s “means for the interpretation” of the “re­formed Egyptian.”45 These concerns with language were repeated in the subsequent Book of Ether, where the family of Jared escapes from the destruction of the Tower of Babel with their primal language “not con­founded.” Later in the story God “confounded” their written language but left interpreter-stones so that men of spirit might eventually decode their engraved plates.46 Similarly, in his advertisement in the Wayne Sen­tinel in March 1830, Smith emphasized that the Book of Mormon in­cluded this record of the Jaredites, “scattered at the time the Lord con­founded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven.” This attention to sacred language resonated among the converted Ohio restorationists in the spring of 1831. In common with both earlier perfectionists and later Mormons, some of them spoke “in tongues,” while others claimed to see gold, lighted letters, written by angels, showering down on the fields around Kirtland 47

These, then, were the broader connotations and contexts for Smith’s attention to a “pure and undefiled” language of Adam in his revelation of Enoch, written out in the winter of 183o to 1831. The concept of an Adamic language was central to the hermetic quest for perfect knowledge, it was the essence of the pure Freemasonry handed down from Adam, and it was certainly on Joseph Smith’s mind throughout this period. Quite simply, the Adamic language was the royal road to perfection, the “key to the mysteries.” Equated with the priesthood in Moses 6:6-7, the Adamic language was given ecclesiastical form in the priestly order of the Melchizedek.

Language was a central theme in Smith’s emerging theology, and so too were temples. The restored Kingdom would not only save the Adamic language, but it would have a temple, rebuilt at a revealed location on the type of Solomon’s temple, the Hebrew house of the Lord. Here the bound­ary between spirit and matter, heaven and earth, would be definitively transcended: “the glory of God” would “fill the house.”48 God would materialize among his saints in his tabernacle, achieving the union of all things that the Mormon Kingdom promised. By 1831 the Old Testament priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek had been restored; now a temple was needed to provide an architectural and ritual focus for their authority. And, just as these priesthoods had Masonic equivalents, the most widely was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.” Raised to the celestial kingdom, the Mormon Priesthood of the Melchizedek would rank as gods.

Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of 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. And they shall overcome all things.61

Smith’s theology thus promised a radical departure from traditional Protestant Christianity. The Mormon cosmos announced universal salva­tion for humanity and promised divinity to the Mormon faithful. Human salvation and Mormon divinity would be structured in a radically new configuration of the invisible world, three ascending kingdoms replacing the duality of heaven and hell.

This challenge to traditional Christianity was not easy to swallow Many in the Mormon ranks resisted the new doctrine, and in this re­sistance lay the seeds of later dissent. Some seceded from the church in the spring of 183z, and a month after they had their vision, Smith and Rigdon were attacked by a mob in Hiram, including the Johnson brothers, with whose family they had been staying. This mobbing was not directly re­lated to the Smith—Rigdon vision, but that vision did nothing to deter the rioters, and it took months of exhortation before doubts about the new revelation began to subside.62

These doubts about the Hiram vision focused on its most highly elabo­rated element, the restructuring of the invisible world into three king­doms, telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. Smith’s promise of divinity did not receive the same attention; perhaps it was more oblique, and it was based on canonical language in the Bible, specifically in the Book of Psalms and the Gospel of St. John.63 But the three Mormon heavens would ultimately only provide the backdrop for Mormon godhood, which gradually would emerge as the central theme of the new theology. It would be here that Mormonism would offer the same restoration of the godlike powers of the primal Adam that hermeticism offered as the re­ward to the true adept. This doctrine of eventual divinity would not be fully spelled out to the Mormon rank and file until April 1844, in Joseph Smith’s funeral oration for King Follett, following two years of doctrinal and ritual development among the Nauvoo Mormon elite that in­controvertibly demonstrates the hermetic contributions to Mormon the­ology. But the hermeticism of the Nauvoo theology was anticipated by and grounded upon the early revelations in Ohio, that at Hiram in 1832. and another at Kirtland in 1833.

Smith’s 1833 Kirtland revelation came at a juncture of great stress and turmoil. Finding the Missouri settlement threatened by armed attack by hostile opponents in April 1832, Smith abandoned hopes for a quick establishment of a unified Mormon stronghold on the frontier. He turned his attention to Kirtland, declaring it a “Stake” of the Mormon tent, and began to take measures to strengthen it, which by the spring of 1833 included the construction of a templc.” The Ohio Mormons were scat- tered through towns around Kirtland, and Smith proposed to bring them together in a new city established on the hilltop farm of Frederick G. Williams, a recent convert who would rise to high position in the church. After a very slow start, work began on a new temple at the center of the site on May 4, 1833, and two days later Smith issued another doctrinally central revelation.

The language of the February I83 z Smith—Rigdon vision at Hiram had equated Adam (the “Firstborn”) and Christ (the “Only Begotten Son”). In the May 1833 Kirtland revelation, this equation became a fused Adam—Christ figure (again the “Beloved Son” and the “Firstborn”) appearing in a vision to Saint John.65 This Adam—Christ figure announced himself to be “the Firstborn” and all of his descendants to be “the church of the Firstborn.” Most importantly, both he and his descendants “were in the beginning with the Father.” These phrases became the core of the Mor­mon doctrine of preexistent souls: human spirits were not created but eternal, coexistent with the divinity.66 This doctrine of a pre-Creation existence was reinforced several verses later.

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.67

Human spirits had coexisted with God as a primal intelligence for eternity, rather than being created from nothing at a biblical beginning. This spirit was integrally connected to matter, the elements, and this connection was at the epicenter of the Mormon project of temple building.

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy. And when sepa­rated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even tem­ples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple. The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth 6s

Ten years later he would restate this thesis more plainly, as he sketched out the doctrinal basis for the covenant of celestial marriage, or polygamy: `There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All Spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure.”69

These doctrines were anticipated in Smith’s Book of Moses, in which he describes two creations, one spiritual and one material. God had “created all things … spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth?” But the Kirtland revelation was more developed than the Book of Moses: in one a God was still creating both spiritual and material things; in the other, spirit and matter were both eternal substances, pre­sent through eternity and at “the Beginning.”

Thus, by the spring of 1833, Joseph Smith had arrived at the most critical themes of hermetic theology. Clearly he had been influenced by hermetic culture throughout his life, but with the Hiram and Kirtland revelations he arrived at the essence of the hermetic divergence from orthodox Christianity. All things were dually spiritual and material, a concept that would have emerged naturally from an immersion in divining magic, where stones grew alchemically into silver and gold, to be buried in the ground and protected by volatile spirits. God had not created the world and humanity from nothing, ex nihilo, but from preexisting sub­stances. If the new Mormon creation story did not quite match the her­metic ideal of creatio ex deo, creation from a division of divinity itself, it came quite close, arriving at a creatio ex materia, certainly within the conceptual bounds of the hermetic notion of a prima materia. In an exag­geration of hermeticism, humans were turned into gods, and God’s power was diminished from infinite to finite. Spirit and matter were pervasively linked rather than divided by a chasm negotiated only by grace and atone­ment’)

In effect, Smith had arrived at the outlines of the Egyptian Genesis of the “Pimander,” the central text of the Corpus Hermeticum. Both versions of Genesis diverged fundamentally from the Mosaic Genesis in positing a harmony between matter and spirit — and the restoration of divine powers to humanity. And they both centered on the mediating figure of Adam and his fortunate Fall.

Orthodox Christianity in one form or another interpreted Adam as the source of all evil in the human condition — his original sin in eating of the Tree of Knowledge brought sin, sorrow, and death to successive genera­tions. But in Mormon theology Adam was the revered “father of all, prince of all, the ancient of days”; he was the archangel Michael.72 As in the “Pimander,” his Fall from Paradise was — if not voluntary — then fortunate. The Hermetic Adam by his own choice leaves heaven to mate with Nature. Given this Fall, the spiritually aware of later generations might recover the knowledge and powers of their inherited divine es­sences, as descendants of Adam 73 Similarly, Smith had changed the story of the Fall in his biblical revision in 183p: it was both fortunate and forgiven. Spelling out a hint of the future coming of Christ (Genesis 3:15),

Smith introduces the promise of Christ’s redemption with the Fall from Paradise. Smith has Adam and Eve offer animal sacrifices to God; an angel tells them that this is a “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father.” Then “the Only Begotten of the Father” (Christ) in the form of the Holy Ghost envelops Adam, telling him that he. and all humanity will be redeemed. Adam and Eve rejoice in their fortunate Fall, Adam “because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God,” Eve because “were it not for our transgression we should never have seed, and never should have known good and evil.”74

The Mormon Fall is fortunate, and it was forgiven. The Lord reminds Adam that “I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden.” Eventually Adam is baptized, in which he “was born of the spirit, … quickened in the inner man,” made one of the order of Melchizedek, and made “a son of God” — with the promise of the same for all his posterity. In effect, Christ’s atonement for Adam’s original sin begins not at Calvary but in Genesis: the children of Adam were free of original sin, “whole from the foundation of the world.”75 In his i833 Kirtland temple revela­tion, Smith reiterated this theme of a liberation from original sin. “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.”76

The obvious corollary to such a theology of a limited God and an innocent humanity, untouched by primal sin and progressing toward divinity, was the devaluation of the doctrine of grace. Mormonism was indeed moving in this direction. In its final form the Mormon doctrine of salvation made the gift of grace through faith in Christ’s atonement a necessary condition for salvation hut not a sufficient condition. Salvation — admitting all but the “sons of perdition” to at least the lowest, telestial kingdom — was made possible by divine grace and Christ’s sacrifi­cial atonement and earned by personal merit. But mere salvation, offered to all humanity, was not the ultimate Mormon priority. Exaltation to godhood in the celestial kingdom would be fundamentally based on merit, rooted in a firm advocacy of moral free will. The faithful Mormon, inher­iting an innocent condition from Adam, was to remain sin free — and to obey the sacred ordinances of the church.” This obedience to law — not the free gift of grace—would be the deciding factor in the soul’s entry into the celestial kingdom. And Mormon ordinances were to be administered by the Priesthood of Melchizedek, who Smith announced in October 1831 had “power given them to seal up the Saints unto Eternal life.“78

The changing language of the revelations in the Doctrine and Cove­nants provides a rather precise view of the shifting ground of Mormon with brute pre-Adamites that were slowly transformed by divine emana­tions into a perfect Adamic race in Paradise, from whence they fell. Some­time in the late 183os Joseph Smith is reported to have admitted his knowledge of Swedenborg, telling a Mormon convert from Sweden­borgianism that “Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of things to come, but for daily food he perished.””

Smith’s use of the term “intelligence” for the untreated spiritual material — a central hermetic theme running back literally to the “Pimander” —could have come from Thomas Dick or Emmanuel Sweden­borg, but it could also have come from Andrew Michael Ramsay. Cer­tainly Ramsay would have been an excellent source for the concept of a spiritual preexistence.

Shaped by the hermetic culture of the Philadelphian Society, as was his contemporary Conrad Beissel of Ephrata, Andrew Ramsay became both the theoretician of high-degree Freemasonry and an ardent defender of revealed religion. In two long texts, Ramsay attempted — in classic Ma­sonic fashion — to demonstrate the compatibility of Christian revelation and ancient mystery religions. The first, The Travels of Cyrus, was pub­lished in 1738 and republished in Boston and New Jersey in the 1790s, and was available to the Smiths at a library in Manchester, New York, and before that at a bookstore in Hanover, New Hampshire. Ramsay’s Travels described the fictional conversations of King Cyrus of Persia with a host of ancient magi and theologians, from Egyptian priests who told him of Hermes Trismegistus, to Zoroaster and Pythagoras, and to Eleazer and Daniel at the court of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. Along the way Cyrus learns about the primal ether and solid matter, the alchemical secrets of the “occult sciences,” the primal fallen angel Typhon, who “broke through the egg of the world” to spread evil and death, and Hermes Trismegistus’s concealing of “the mysteries of religion under hieroglyphics and allego­ries.” From Eleazer he learns a theory of preexistence, in which lesser fallen angels are reincarnated in human bodies, which “were all shut up in that of Adam.” Eleazer also describes the Messiah, “the head, and con­ductor of all intelligent natures, the first-born of all creatures,” whose body serves as a tabernacle — “a portion of matter” — for the divinity. In his own summation of his work, Ramsay announced the hermetic doctrine that “Mankind are all but one family of an immense republic of intelli­gences of which God is the common father.” Each soul “is as a ray of light separated from its source,” enduring a mortal existence until “it becomes like a subtle vapour reascending to the superior regions from whence it fell.” Ramsay’s posthumously published The Philosophical Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion includes long discussions of the ethereal fluid, of two Creations (spiritual and material), and of the scriptural basis of a doctrine of spiritual preexistence.”

These sophisticated texts from the eighteenth-century resynthesis of the hermetic tradition could have contributed to Smith’s new cosmology. There are some hints in the evidence, however, suggesting that it was Sidney Rigdon, and not Joseph Smith, who was more conversant with such texts.

Smith, although certainly possessed of great powers of intellect and persuasion, did not have unlimited resources at his command in the 1820s. His family was poor and struggling, without much money to spare on expensive volumes of theology. None of the Smiths or their circle were members of the Manchester Library, so it is unlikely that they could have used its resources.” Rigdon, on the other hand, was a sophisticated bibli­cal scholar and had a wide experience in theological questions. He had debated Alexander Campbell, and he knew the details of the communal order of Harmonists, a German hermetic sect settled in western Pennsyl­vania, whose leader, George Rapp, was a practicing alchemical philoso­pher. It was Rigdon who quoted Thomas Dick on material heavens in r 836.” And on a number of critical theological points, including the Fall, predestination, the role of grace, and the account of the millennium, Smith’s position in the Book of Mormon differed significantly from that developed between 1831 and 1833 in the Doctrine and Covenants.89

With the arrival of Rigdon late in 1830 there seems to be a subtle change in the focus of the revelations, with the “mysteries” being fleshed out with detail about priesthoods and temples, and a new language of sealing, binding, purity, and “fulness” becoming more and more pro­nounced. It may be simple coincidence, but it is interesting that it was the Kirtland converts, and not the New York Saints, who saw golden letters falling from the hands of angels, suggesting that ideas about the Cabala may have circulated in Rigdon’s “Family?” As of T830, if anyone had read Andrew Michael Ramsay’s The Philosophical Principles (published in Glasgow), with its detailed defense of the doctrines of preexistence and of an ethereal fluid as the essence of life, it would have been Rigdon and not Smith. It is very interesting that it was Parley Pratt, the conduit be­tween Smith and Rigdon, who in his Key to the Science of Theology, first published in T 855, used the language of a “spiritual fluid,” a “heavenly fluid,” or a “holy fluid” to describe the “essence” of spirit diffused among the elements, giving them “life, light, power, and principle.” The refer­ences to “life and light” resonate with passages in the Gospel of John, but they also have a hermetic history running back to the “Pimander,” and much of Pratt’s text is strikingly similar to Ramsay’s language, both in the The Philosophical Principles and in The Travels of Cyrus. Of course, by 1855, popular Mesmerism had swept across the United States, and Pratt could have been drawing on that tradition, as strongly suggested in his reference to the “modern magnetic term” of “communication.” But Pratt had dwelt on the conquest of Babylon by King Cyrus of Persia in his millennial tract A Voice of Warning, and in his Autobiography he an­nounced that “the characters of a Daniel and a Cyrus were wonderfully blended” in the prophet Joseph Smith.9′

Certainly Joseph Smith was predisposed to a hermetic interpretation of sacred history and processes from his boyhood in New York’s Ontario County. But it may well be that David Whitmer was not far off when he complained that it was Rigdon who provided much of the marrow of the mysteries “sealed . . . from the foundation of the world” that Smith began to unfold in the early 1830s.92

In less than three years, between September 1830 and May 1833, an outpouring of revelation framed the broad scheme of the Mormon restor­ation. Mormons were endowed with the assurance of being sealed to eternal life by spiritually powerful priesthoods, they were offered the promise of the opening of the keys to ancient sacred mysteries, they were given a new map of the invisible world, and they were ordered to build the literal meeting place of God and humanity. They were also promised the hermetic dream of divinity and given a sketch of a hermetic conception of the origins and future of the earth and the universe. Priesthoods, an­nouncements of keys, kingdoms, and temples: these were the stuff of Mormonism in the early 1830s. Human divinity, and its hermetic sources, was a much more obscure area, easily overlooked by the Mormon rank and file. A series of factors mitigated against the ordinary Mormon having a full conception of the new theological directions that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were exploring. First, much of the new doctrine was not widely available: the Kirtland revelation was not published until 183 5 and the Book of Moses was not published until 1851. And second, despite the experience in treasure-hunting and Freemasonry of many early Mormons, their frame of reference was overwhelmingly traditional and biblical. The hermetic implications of his theology may not even have been clear to Smith himself in 1833. And the rush of events overwhelmed any coherent presentation of doctrine. Particularly over the next five and a half years, the pace of new revelation would slow, as Joseph Smith and the young church struggled to survive in the face of external hostility and internal dispute, and as the boundaries between purity and danger began to collapse.

1994

Dr. Michael Hicks

Joseph Smith, W. W. Phelps, and the Poetic Paraphrase of “The Vision”

Journal of Mormon History (Vol. 20 Issue 2 (Fall 1994)

Dr. MICHAEL HICKS is an associate professor of music at Brigham Young University and author of Mormonism and Music A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1989). In addition to scholars acknowledged in the notes, the author thanks Douglas Donaldson, who offered Insights and suggestions throughout the writing of this paper.

Recently, an unusual text has emerged In the Joseph Smith canon—a seventy-eight stanza poem which paraphrases Doctrine and Covenants 76, originally known as “the Vision: because it recounted the vision of the three degrees of glory received by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. First published in 1843 over Smith’s signature, the poem was almost forgotten for more than a century. During the last two decades, however, it has achieved considerable attention, being reprinted in anthologies and scriptural commentaries, and cited in dissertations, articles, and conference papers.’ Those sources seldom question its attribution to Smith.

But to assess the poem’s authenticity. we must consider its cultural context—the literary habits of early Mormons, their methods for producing poems, and this poem’s specific background. We must also scrutinize the structure and diction of the poem. Does it ring true to Joseph’s already established voice? Finally, we must sift through whatever manuscript sources might answer a fundamental question: did Joseph have both the occasion and the ability to write the poem? As it turns out, virtually all of the evidence in these matters weighs against Joseph Smith as the poem’s author and points instead to W. W. Phelps.2

I

Nineteenth-century American poetry was seldom written by poets.” Like most arts In the New World, poetry was a democratic enterprise. Homespun, didactic, and sometimes ungainly, vernacular poetry crowded into the pages of letters, diaries, newspapers, and primers. For many Americans, making a poem to teach a principle was like making a wash to clean clothes—common, necessary, quick, and only slightly premeditated. Either read or sung, as the occasion dictated, much of this poetry consisted of rhymed reworkings of scriptures or revisions of already popular poems and songs. To understand the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision,” we need to understand two popular nineteenth-century genres—scriptural versi­fication and song adaptation.

Many Protestant sects’ believed that a Christian should sing nothing but God’s word. Thus, they needed paraphrases of biblical verses to fit musical meters; most of the earliest specimens of poetry produced in the United States were actually metrical paraphrases of psalms. 3 Furthermore, hymn-writers often based their narrative texts on scriptural stories. A good example is John Newton’s versification of the story of Joseph of Egypt meeting his siblings during the famine. It began:

When Joseph his brethren beheld,

Afflicted and trembling with fear,

His heart with compassion was fill’d,

From weeping he could not forebear.

Latter-day Saints understood and imitated this method of creating sacred poem/song texts. They included “When Joseph His Breth­ren Beheld” in the first Mormon hymnbook and made their own poetic paraphrases of the prodigal son story and Isaiah 60.4  More­over, the Saints had a special form of sacred versification, which they called “Songs of Zion.” These consisted of songs sung in tongues and interpreted. with the interpretation  coming either in rhyming verses or in prose that was later paraphrased into rhyme. 5 One of the best examples is a song about Enoch sung in tongues in the Kirtland Temple, interpreted, versified (probably by Phelps), and published In The Evening and the Morning Star. 6 These passages show the process:

Kirtland Revelation Book

and with his finger he [God] touched his eyes and he saw  heaven, he gazed on eternity

and sang an  angelic song

.           .           .

Hosanna! To God who dwells above the sky  Hosanna! The sound of the trump! around the throne of God

echoed and echoed again and rang and re-echoed until eternity was filled with his voice.

Poetic Paraphrase

With finger end God touch’d his eyes

That he might gaze within the skies:

His voice he raised to God on high,

Who heard his groans and  drew him nigh.

Hosanna, he aloud did cry,

Again, Hosanna did resound

Among the heavenly hosts around­.

His voice he rais’d in higher strains,

Echo’d and re-echo’d again,

Till heaven and earth his voice did hear;

Eternity did record bear.

Another way of creating sacred poem/song texts was to adapt an existing one, by changing the words either to fit a particular doctrine or to suit a special occasion. Many songs that appeared in hymnbooks and in secular songsters had long lives, reappearing in numerous adapted forms. One well-known song, for example, be­gan “This world is all a fleeting show / For man’s illusions given,” and ended every verse with the line ‘There’s nothing true but heaven.” Revivalists created many variants, including a direct re­sponse. “This world’s not all a fleeting show / For man’s illusions given  … There’s something here of heaven.”7 Early Mormons continued the adaptation. Phelps took “There’s nothing true but heaven” as the basis for his “Adam-ondi-Ahman” (“This world was once a garden place / with an her glories common”8), which other Mormon writers then adapted and readapted (“This land was once a glorious place / With all its verdure common”;  “This earth shall be a blessed place / To saints celestial given”; and so forth).9

Such Mormon adaptations followed a well-established pattern in Christendom. They also corresponded to the Saints’ strong sense of community—their desire to conceive of their works as efforts of the group rather than of individual members. Fellowship and com­mon consent were among the highest values in the Church, The Mormon law of consecration allowed the community to absorb goods from all of its members and reassign them to the needy. Mormons also believed in an investiture of authority, by which one person could be ordained to do a work in someone’s behalf or speak as the voice of another. All told, intellectual property in early Mormonism was an almost unheard of commodity. Any sort of text might be made by many and belong to all.

Joseph Smith was often the beneficiary of the community’s Literary talents. Throughout his career, he depended on scribes who edited and refined his manuscripts. Seminal Joseph Smith docu­ments  like the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ” and the “Articles of Faith” apparently were based on earlier drafts by Others.10  The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, published under Joseph’s name, appears to have been written by a committee.11  Howard Corey recalled that, in writing Joseph Smith’s personal history. Smith was to “furnish all the materials; and our busi­ness, was not only to combine, and arrange in chronological or­der, but to spread out or amplify not a little.”12  During the last two years of his life, Joseph increasingly attached his name to documents written largely by others. As fame, legal battles, and the growing population of the Church threatened to drain all of his time, literary delegation became crucial. The presence of his name on any document from his last years is not an answer but a question.

II

On the day after Christmas 1842. Smith was arrested and taken to Springfield, Illinois, on a charge of conspiring to murder Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs. Twelve days later, having won his petition of habeas corpus, he was released, His release reminded Wilson Law and Willard Richards of the Scottish song “Nae Luck About the House,” whose chorus opined, “there’s nae luck and little pleas­ure in the house / When our goodman’s awa’.” Its first verse began:

And are ye sure the news is true?

And are ye sure he’s well?

Is this a time to tawk of wark?

Make haste! set by your wheel! 13

The presence Law and Richards wrote an adaptation of the song, calling it “The Mormon Jubilee.” It began:

And are you sure the news is true?

And are you sure he’s free?

Then let us join with one accord

And have a jubilee! 14

This adapted song set the tone for a series of celebrations of the Prophet’s return —public meetings on Tuesday, 17 January, and an invitation-only feast at the Mansion House the following day. For the feast Eliza Snow produced her own adaptation of “Nae Luck.” Both it and the Law-Richards version were printed on cards, distrib­uted to the guests at the feast, and published in Nauvoo newspapers.15

W. W. Phelps was not invited to the feast. Phelps had had a difficult relationship with the Prophet, who needed Phelps’s talents and experience but scorned his pride. He assigned Phelps many tasks and exploited Phelps’s skills in writing, editing, and publishing but privately joked about his eccentricities and never allowed him past the fringes of his social life. 16  Phelps, like many other Saints, aspired to closer intimacy with his leader. One method he used was to compose and present unsolicited poetic thoughts to the Prophet, sometimes even calling them ‘revelations” for added authority. 17

When Smith visited Phelps two days after the feast, Phelps presented him with yet another tribute on his release, adapted from a song specifically about imprisonment and homecoming. Purport­ing to be a paraphrase of the words of Chief Black Hawk to his captors, “The Indian Hunter” began and ended every verse with a plea to “let me go” to his home “in the west … [where] the bright waters flow … where parents will greet me … Let me go to my father [and] dear mother whose heart will o’er flow at the sight of her child [and] to my own dark-eyed maid who taught me to love in my early days.”18 As the textual model for the poem Phelps would present to the Prophet, “The Indian Hunter” fit the situation well,

But Phelps thoroughly rewrote “The Indian Hunter.” He changed the leitmotif from “let me go” to go with me,” transforming “The Indian Hunter” into an invitation from the narrator (an idealized Phelps) for the Prophet to accompany him to “the next, better world. where the righteous reside in the Joys of a vast paradise,“ free from “tyrants [and] mobbers,” where “the system is perfect.”  There in “the mansions above,” “the bliss and the knowledge, the light and the love, and the glory of God [will} eternally be.”

Although poetry generally was published on the back page of the Times and Seasons, this poem appeared on the front page. It was one of a set of three items that opened the 1 February 1843 issue (I) an essay entitled “Ancient Poetry,” credited to the editor, John Taylor, (2) Phelps’s four-stanza poem, labeled “From W. W. Phelps to Joseph Smith: The Prophet” titled “Vade Mecum,” (Translated.) “Go With Me,” and dated (at its end) “Nauvoo, January, 1843”; and (3) a 312-line poem labeled “The Answer. To W. W. Phelps, Esq.,” titled (in italics) “A Vision” signed “Joseph Smith” and dated “Nauvoo, Feb. 1843.”

“A Vision” was by far the longest poem ever published in a Latter-day Saint newspaper and the only rhyming poem ever published over Joseph Smith’s name. It was in some respects a song adaptation: it picked up where “Go With Me” left off, continuing the theme in the same dactylic meter, although. unlike the Phelps, the number of syllables per line occasionally varied: usually eleven, It was some­times ten or twelve. But it was also a scriptural paraphrase, a metrical version of the revelation commonly called “The Vision.“19  Here is a sample of the paraphrase technique:

“The Vision”

For thus sayeth the Lord —

I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those

Who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

Great shall be their reward and Eternal shall be their glory.

And to them will I reveal all mysteries, Yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom.

Poetic Paraphrase

For thus sayeth the Lord, in the spirit of truth;

I am merciful, gracious, and good unto those

That fear me, and live for the life that’s to come;

My delight is to honor the Saints with repose;

That serve me in righteousness, true to the end.

Eternal’s their glory, and great their reward;

I’ll surely reveal all my myst’ries to them —

The great hidden myst’ries in my kingdom stor’d.

The paraphrase expanded on some points in the original reve­lation, but omitted other points. Generally, the poem elaborated on the prose in its earlier parts, but did so progressively less as it wore on. By its final stanzas, the poem actually skipped over much of the prose. Thus, the poem devoted nine full stanza (nos. 2-10 as pub­lished) to the first ten verses of “The Vision,” but only four stanzas (nos. 74-77) to the last fifteen verses. 20  Perhaps the poem’s most obvious departure from the prose was the change of Its point of view. While “The Vision” always spoke in the first person plural, from the perspective of both Smith and Rigdon, the poem was entirely in the singular, speaking as Joseph alone. Thus:

Prose Vision

Of [Christ] we bear record; and the record which we bear is the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who Is the son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision.

Poetic Paraphrase

Of [Christ] I bear record, as all prophets have,

And the record I bear is the fullness—yea, even

The truth of the gospel of Jesus—the Christ,

With whom I conversed in the vision of heav’n.

Prefacing both poems, the essay entitled “Ancient Poetry” tried to explain “the following very curious poetic composition.” The article explained that, although “the common landmarks of modern poetry are entirely disregarded” in what followed, “there is some­thing so dignified and exalted conveyed in the ideas of this production, that it cannot fail to strike the attention of every superficial observer.” The article went on to extol the ideas—though not particularly the style—displayed by “our poet.” It explained that what fol­lowed was typical of ancient poetic prophecy. Imagery, insight, and vision distinguished it, not the “dry forms, and simple jingling of poetry, alone.”

In its final paragraph, “Ancient Poetry” took an interesting turn, suggesting a reason for the whole presentation: ‘Whatever may have been the preconceived opinion of Justin Butterfield Esq., we are pursuaded [sic] that he will now be convinced that the modern Prophets can prophecy in poetry, as well as the ancient prophets; and that no difference, even of that kind any longer ex­ists.” Justin Butterfield was the attorney who represented Smith at his recent trial. 21  During breaks in the proceedings, Butterfield, Smith, and others discussed the nature of prophets and prophecy. Perhaps as a result of these discussions, Butterfield observed to the court that “if there is a difference between [Joseph Smith] and other men, it Is that this people believe in prophecy, and others do not” But, for some unknown reason, he added: “The old prophets prophesied in poetry and the modern In prose.” 22 The “poetic composition” that accompanied the editorialized explanation was thus intended to refute Butterfield’s assertion.

III

Anyone who had read Joseph Smith’s letters or heard him speak knew that he had a gift for crisp images and pithy turns of phrase. But there is only slight evidence that he ever wrote poetry; virtually nothing foreshadows a massive poetic paraphrase like “The Vision.” In a 1903 letter, Benjamin Johnson reported that Joseph loved to engage in pastimes such as “Jokes, Rebuses, Matching Cuplets to Rhymes &c.” 23 In a personal entry in the “Book of the Law of the Lord” 23 August 1842, Joseph wrote two passages—the first on his father and the second on his brother, Alvin—that, while not actually metered or arranged in lines. contain clear rhyme schemes:

Joseph Sr.

Sacred to me is his dust, and the spot where he is laid.

Sacred to me is the tomb I have made to encircle o’er his head.

Let the memory of my father eternally live.

Let his soul, or the spirit my follies forgive.

With him may I reign one day, in the mansions above;

and tune up the Lyre of anthems, of the eternal Jove….

Alvin

In [Alvin] there was no guile.

He lived without spot from the time he was a child.

From the time of his birth,

he never knew mirth,

He was candid and sober and never would play;

and minded his father. and mother, in toiling all day. 24

The only Other known example of Smith’s writing purposeful poetry is a stanza in the autograph book of Barbara Neff, dating from May 1844. Curiously, the stanza is a response to W. W. Phelps, who had first written this quatrain for Neff:

Two things will beautify a youth

That is Let virtue decorate the truth

and so you know; every little helps.

Yours-W. W. Phelps

Smith responded:

The truth and virtue both are good

When rightly understood

But Charity is better Miss

That takes us home to bliss

and so forthwith

remember Joseph Smith

During the early 1840s, W. W. Phelps was Joseph’s most prolific ghostwriter. In 1842  he took on what he called ‘”the largest amount of business that 1 have ever undertaken, since I have been in the Church: it is to write and compile the history of br. Joseph embracing the entire history of the church & it will occupy my time and talents for a long time, should nothing intervene.”26  According to his diary, he did not actually begin writing until the day after Smith’s January 1843 feast and the day before he presented “Come with Me” to Smith.27 As Smith ventured into national politics, Phelps also began to author some of his letters, speeches, and pamphlets, including Smith’s official “platform” document, “Views on the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States.”28  Phelps had many occasions to accustom himself to writing in Joseph Smith’s voice.

Phelps was simultaneously honing his skills at poetic para­phrases of the scriptures. Just after the 19 January 1843 entry in his diary, Phelps drafted a metrical version of the Lord’s Prayer, publish­ed later that year, and several unrhymed passages from Isaiah, revised into florid prose. 29  Evidence from later years shows that Phelps continued this practice to some degree for the rest of his life.30  f it was unique for Joseph Smith to write a poetic paraphrase of scrip­ture, it was not at all unusual for Phelps, who in early 1843 was also helping Joseph compile a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.31

Perhaps not surprisingly, the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision” contains many passages that read more like Phelps than Smith.32  Consider the following points:

1. The prose version of “The Vision” refers to terrestrial inhabi­tants as those “who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus,: while the poem changes the reference to those who were “not valiant fo r truth.”  It is hard to imagine Joseph would have changed the original wording here, since he was very particular about the phrase the testimony of Jesus.’33

2. The poem (stanza 58) alludes to the parable of the leaven (Matt 13:33), likening the “three measures of meal” to the three kingdoms of glory. Joseph Smith, however, always interpreted the “three measures” as referring to the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon or to the three members of the First Presidency.34

3. The seventh stanza refers to “the council in Kolob.” Except for his translation of the Book of Abraham, no record exists that Smith ever alluded to Kolob as the site of the heavenly “council.” Phelps, however, had an abiding interest in this subject, as with other arcane ideas linked to his work on the so-called “Kirtland Egyptian Papers.” (His well-known poem that begins “if you could hie to Kolob” is a good example.)

The twelfth stanza refers to a time “before the world was or a system had run.” The allusion here to a cosmic/planetary system differs from every other instance of Smith’s use of that word, which he reserved for religious and political systems. Phelps, however, used system frequently to denote cosmic things. In his poem “The Sky,” for example, he observes that “there [in the sky] systems roll in endless light”; in his funeral sermon for Joseph and Hyrum Smith he speaks of the souls of men passing “from system to system”; and In an 1844 letter to William Smith he mentions having gleaned from Joseph’s Egyptian documents the precise age of “this system, (not this world).”36

The poetic paraphrase is filled with characteristically Phelp­sian usages and constructions: the exclamatory “alas!” inserted twice in the text (stanzas 22 and 28), phrases such as “eternity’s heirs” (46) and “the archives of heaven” (51), and parallelisms such as “eternity goes and eternity comes” (30) or “in darkness they worshipp’d; to darkness they go” (72).

In the poem’s last stanza, the poet writes:

I will go, I will go, while the secret of life

Is blooming in heaven, and blasting in hell;

Is leaving on earth, and a budding in space:

I will go, 1 will go, with you brother, farewell.

Not only Is the floral Imagery more compatible with Phelps’s style than Smith’s, but the use of the word “space” is peculiar. While Phelps often used the word to denote universal space, Smith never did in any of his available writings and speeches. He reserved it for its more mundane applications—a space in which to put something, or a space of time.

Finally, the poem contains two similar references to virtue, the first in stanza I (“virtue’s the value, and life the reward”, and the second In stanza 40 (“virtues the value, above all that’s priced”). Not only did Phelps use the word “virtue” in his essays and letters far more than Smith, but also, in his autograph book response to Phelps, Smith made it clear he thought virtue something less than “the value above all that’s priced”— charity was greater.37

There are two other considerations: meter and point of view. The strict meter of “Vade Mecum” differs slightly from the somewhat freer meter of the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision.” At least one scholar has proposed that the practicing poet Phelps would naturally be more scrupulous In his attention to meter, accent, and syllabifica­tion than the fledgling poet Joseph Smith. 38

But in the Neff autographs, Smith’s poem is a quatrain in common meter (8-6-8-6), while Phelps’s is quite irregular (8-10-9, with a rhyming signature of 4, 6). In fact, except for hymns, which had to fit a tune, metrical freedom characterized most of Phelps’s work. Thus, the metrical raggedness of the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision” cannot argue for Smith’s authorship.

Although the vision of degrees of glory was an experience jointly experienced and recounted by Smith and Rigdon and Is thus recorded as “we Saw,” etc., the poetic paraphrase uses first person singular (“I saw,” etc.) throughout. The change may be due to the rhetorical context of the poem: if it were published specifically to vindicate his prowess as a bona fide post-biblical prophet, Its voice might well be that of Smith alone. Some might also see the change as a reflection of the strain that had arisen between Smith and Rigdon. Much of that strain, however, seems to have been overestimated.39 In any case, on 11 February 1843, Smith and Rigdon were fully reconciled. According to Smith’s diary, he “had been conversing with Elder Rigdon and he and his family were willing to be saved. Good feelings prevailed and we have shaken hands together.”40  Thus, bitterness should not have been a factor in excising Rigdon from the verse account, particularly if Smith “dictated” the poem on 24 February 1843, as the official History of the Church claims. (See discus­sion below.)

Another reason why such an excision seems unlikely is Smith’s scrupulousness about testimony regarding supernatural events, in part because he accepted the scriptural law of “two or three witnesses.”41 Like most Mormon leaders, he appealed to multiple wit­nesses of religious phenomena whenever possible. The prose ac­count of Smith and Rigdon’s vision even alludes to “the many testimonies which have been given” of Christ, calling their own testimony the “last of all” (D&C 76:22). Because this revelation was hugely an expansion and clarification of the apostle Paul’s discussion of the resurrection, their statement clearly is an addendum to the catalogue of witnesses Paul enumerates (1 Cor 15:5-8, where he lists his own testimony as “last of all”). So it seems doubtful that Smith would have negated an additional testimony of the vision by removing all refer­ence to Rigdon in a poetic version.42

Unfortunately, no manuscript version of the poem in Smith’s or Phelps’s hand has been found. Smith’s papers include a holo­graph of the two poems, but the two run continuously one to the other, suggesting that this version is a copy from other sources.43 The exact date of composition Is also blurry. Willard Richards kept Smith’s diary during this period, filling it with accounts of mundane happenings or notes on sermons. He recorded the entire “Mormon Jubilee” text that he had co-written with William Law, but the only mention of “Come with Me” is the entry for 20 January 1843: “Phelps presented some poetry to Joseph Smith the Prophet—‘Will you go with me in.” 44 (The garbling of the first line suggests that Richards did not read the poem closely.) There is no mention in the diary that Smith ever composed a poem in response, let alone one so vast as “The Vision”

The diary Richards kept for Joseph Smith provided the basis for the corresponding passages in the official “History of Joseph Smith,” serialized in the Deseret News and the Millennial Star, and later published as the History of the Church. The rough draft of this history for the date 20 January 1843 originally read “Bro Phelps presented me with the following,” after which was a citation to the Times and Seasons publication of “Go With Me.” The in­troductory words were later crossed out and inexplicably replaced by: “I received the following communication.”  For the date of 24 February 1843, however, the published history made a crucial emendation. The diary entry closed after mentioning that the Prophet “walked a way with Elder Young at about 3 P.M.” The printed version of the history added: “in reply to W. W. Phelps’ Vade Mecum, or ‘Go with me,’ of 20th of January last, I dictated the following answer,” after which appeared the entire text of the poetic paraphrase.46 No plausible basis has been found for this emendation, apparently intended as a correction by one of the workers in the Church Historian’s Office.

Willard Richards seems an unlikely source. He had kept the original diary himself, contem­poraneously recording the receipt of a poem from Phelps, the pro­duction of a poem by Eliza Snow, and the entire text of his own co-written poem, Would he have neglected to mention Smith’s composition of a very long poem, one probably requiring a great deal of time to compose, and one contributing new and unique doctrine? And if Smith simply “dictated” it in the Late afternoon or evening of a single day, that would have been a feat rivalling his dictation of prose revelations. Far less significant literary endeavors received attention in the diary and far more humdrum matters were dutifully noted (such as the reference to Smith “walking a way” with Brigham Young). Why not the poem?

Several points, then, argue for Phelps’s authorship of the poem. First, much of the poem’s diction and imagery is more characteristic of Phelps than Smith. Second, the poem seems to deny Rigdon his irrevocable place as a witness to the vision. Third, Smith’s diary inexplicably makes no mention of his creation of so weighty a document. Fourth, Phelps was authorized to write for Smith. Fifth, he was practiced in poetic paraphrases of scripture.

How and why did the poem probably come to be? The Phelps “Go With me” is scarcely a self-contained work, Rather, It seems little more than a pretext for the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision.” Although Phelps might have given “Go With Me” to Smith, expecting him to respond in kind, it is unlikely. Phelps, of all people, knew well the demands on the Prophet’s time: Smith needed Phelps to write for him, not the other way around. It is more plausible that the poem presented to Joseph Smith on 10 January 1843 and mentioned in his diary was already in two parts—the invitation and the response. This scenario is even implied by “Ancient Poetry,” which consistently refers only to a “poetic composition” (not compositions) authored by “our poet” (not “poets”).47 This two-part poetic composition would have arisen from Phelps’s affection for the Prophet, his joy at Smith’s release, his renewed interest in scriptural paraphrase, his assignment as Smith’s ghostwriter, and his work on the new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Epilogue

Shortly after Smith’s death, Phelps revised “Go With Me” from a plea to the Prophet into a plea from the Prophet. The revision (with four new stanzas added) was called “A Voice from the Prophet: Come to Me.” A rather strange invitation to join Smith in the spirit world (presumably by dying), it was published as a song on the back page of the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor. “Come to Me” included a note that the words were to be sung to the tune of “The Indian Hunter,” but made no reference to its earlier incarnation as “Go With Me.”

Like most songs linked to Smith’s martyrdom, “Come to Me” became a sentimental favorite. Many Saints copied it into their journals or fashioned their own homespun adaptations of the song. Eliza Snow wrote at least two versions. One was an exhortation to flee to the West, ending with the stanza:

Let us go, let us go to the far western shore,

Where the blood-thirsty Christians will hunt us no more;

Where the waves of the ocean will echo the sound,

And the shout of salvation extend the world round.48

The second version celebrated the return of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848 (“You have come, you have come to the valley once more.”)49 Levi Hancock wrote a version to his children, a plea for them to visit him (“Come to me, will you come, all my children forlorn”).50  From 1849 to 1927 Phelps’s “Come to me” appeared In Mormon hymnbooks. Specially composed musical settings of the text were featured In the Latter. day Saints’ Psalmody of 1889 (#298) and in Latter-day Saint Hymns of 1927 (#157). In 1905 the Improvement Era published four verses of the text under the heading “Voice from Joseph.”

But unlike “Come to Me,” the poetic paraphrase or “The Vision,” never fully captured the Saints’ affection. There are perhaps two reasons for this. One is that “The Vision” itself remained for many years a troublesome doctrinal statement for the Saints.52  Another reason may be found in the mediocrity of the poetry. Consider the reception of the poem in Great Britain. Six months after the Times and Seasons printing of “Ancient Poetry” and Its accompanying poems, all three items appeared in the Millennial Star. The editor, Thomas Ward, took occasion to comment:

We have thought fit to publish the Piece entitled “Ancient Poetry,” from the pen of our beloved president Joseph Smith, because of the intrinsic merit of the subject matter, the glorious doctrines and sublime truths which it comprises. We are well aware that the construction of the verse may be subject to criticism, but we should certainly pity the Individual who would make the inequalities of measure, or whatever else he may deem faults, an extinguisher of the rare and sublime doctrines it contains.53

Thirty-five  years later, Mormon writer Edward Tullidge similarly criticized the poem while in the process of defending it. In his life of Joseph the Prophet, he noted that Smith had expanded “the Messianic subject, not only to the including of a host of nations, but a host of worlds!” He then cited Smith’s “poem, vast in compass of idea, if not strictly artistic in versification,” and quoted three and a half stanzas to bolster his point. After the quotation, however, he felt compelled to reiterate his criticism: “Whatever may be said of the versification, the subject is infinitely vast.”54

B. H. Roberts was even less kind to the poem. In his multi-vol­ume collation of the History of the Church (1902), for the date of 24 February 1843, Roberts altered the statement that had appeared in the Deseret News and Millennial Star publications of the “History of Joseph Smith.” He included the words “in reply to W. W. Phelps’ Vade Mecum, or ‘Go with me; of 20th of January last, I dictated” but changed “the following” to “an answer.” He then omitted the entire poem, noting in brackets, “It consisted of the ‘Revelation known as the Vision of the Three Glories,’ Doctrine and Covenants, section Lxxvi, made into verse.” He gave no further information for the reader who might be interested in reading it.55  So deliberate an omission suggests that Roberts considered the poem unrepresentative, embarrassing, or both. His annotated copy of the Millennial Stars “History of Joseph Smith” gives no indication of why he might cut the poem. He even marked two stanzas (19-20), as though with appro­bation, probably because of one unique doctrine there: all inhabitants of the universe, “from the first to the last, /Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours.”  It is clear from the body of his work, however, that Roberts revered the Prophet and would never have omitted anything he thought Smith himself had authored. He also had little tolerance for the more loquacious contributions of Phelps, which he exposed wherever he could. He chided Phelps’s ghostwriting for its “displays of pedantry … in no way germane to the subjects of which they treat,” insisting that they “mar” the Prophet’s work. 57

Except for Roberts’s edition of History of the Church, the poem received no mention in all of the standard biographies of Joseph Smith through the mid-twentieth century. In the 1930s I. B. Ball published essays in the Improvement Era on poetry in Joseph Smith’s writings, but did not cite the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision.”58 It was not until 1951 that the poem was reprinted, in Nels Lundwall’s book entitled The Vision.59 In 1958 Bruce R. McConkie quoted four stanzas In his popular Mormon Doctrine under the heading “Atonement of Christ.” He called it an “explana­tion” of Smith’s and Rigdon’s vision in Doctrine and Covenants 76.60. In 1967 a facsimile reprint of the Times and Seasons made the poem more accessible to students of Mormon history and lit­erature. Since then, it has received more attention than in all the years since its first publication. But the question of authorship seemed to have become moot.

Authorship should not be an insignificant question to those who want to understand the legacy of Joseph Smith. If he wrote the poem, then it would indeed he an important text. It would show the Prophet endeavoring to expand his literary powers into a new genre. It would feature some new word patterns and interpretations that may im­pinge on other texts of the period. It would connote a radical and very public change in his attitude toward shared visionary experience. It would also cast some doubt on the reliability of his diary concerning what he did and when he did it. But Phelps’s probable authorship of the poem, and Smith’s tacit acceptance of it as his own, raise additional questions. Why would Smith allow it to be published over his name How vague did he want the boundaries of his written canon to be? Did he actually welcome the creation of an apocrypha around his name? The authorship of the poetic paraphrase of “The Vision” is another piece in the puzzle of Joseph Smith—who he was, how he worked, what he aspired to be, and how he hoped to be remembered.

Notes:

1. see Richard H. Cracroft and Neil E. Lambert, A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1974), 258-66; Robert 3. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” 3 vols. (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 19740, 2:933-34: Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo. Utah: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1981), 158-66; Roger K. Petersen, “Joseph Smith Prophet-Poet; A literary Analysis of Writings Commonly Associated with His Name” (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1981), 151-52; Karl Best, “Changes in the Revelations,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 2S (Spring 1992): 106; Richard N. Holzapfel, “Joseph Smith’s Psalm: The Poetic Version of Doctrine and Covenants Section 76,” paper read at the Sperry Symposium, 26 September 1992, Brigham Young University and published with considerable revision as  “Eternity Sketch’d in a Vision: The Poetic Version of Doctrine and Covenants 76,” in The Heavens Are Open: The 1992 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. compiled by hymn R. Merrill et. al. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1993), 141-62. The Merrill volume also cites other recent references to the poem.

2.  At least two scholars have already informally come to this conclusion. Cracroft, A Believing People, 258 note, writes: “Close textual comparisons … lead one to suspect that W. W. Phelps was the author;” Bruce A. Van Orden, “William W. Phelps’s Service as Joseph Smith’s Political Clerk,” Brigham Young University Studies 32 (Winter/Spring 1991): 94 note 29. concludes, “I strongly suspect that it was Phelps who wrote ‘The Answer’ himself.”

3. For more on the History of psalmodies In the New World, see Alburt Christ-Janer, et. al,, American Hymns Old and New (New York,  Columbia  University Press, 1980), 3-16.

4. These appeared In The Evening and the Morning Star 1 (November 1837), 8,  and Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints I (November 1837): 31.32, and the Elders Journal, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints, 1, (November 1837), 31-32, respectively. The former, entitled The Younger Son,” Is labeled “Selected hymn;” a designation that usually suggests a borrowing from a Protestant source. But certain aspects of the text suggest it is indigenous Mormon. Also,  a search of the massive microfilm set “Dictionary of American Hymnology First Line Index (New York: University Music Editions. 1984) reveals no hymn with an identical or similar first line (“Behold the Son that Went Away”),

5. See my Mormonism and Music A History (Urbana: University of Ilinois Press, 1989). 35-38.  Other examples of “Songs of Zion” with that connotation may be found in the Thomas Bullock Papers, Historical Department Archives, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives).

6. The prose version of what follows may be found in Fred Collier, comp., Unpublished Revelations of the Prophets and Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints (Salt Lake City: Collier’s Publishing Co. (1981), 61-63. The poetic  version is published under the rubric of “Songs of Zion” in The Evening and the Morning Star,May 1833. t ma Indebted to Lynn Carson for showing me the connection between the two.

7. Other adaptations went ‘The faithless world promiscuous flows / Enwrapp’d in fancy’s vision … There is a brighter haven”, and “There is an hour of peaceful rest / To mourning wand’rers given … Tis found above in heaven;” “There’s nothing true but heaven” appears in Charles Warren’s The Missouri Harmony (1836). The variants cited are from, respectively,  from William Walker’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1835). 110 and 24; and The Baptist Harmony, 433. My thanks to Cheryl Christensen for providing this source. Because the meter of the basic text (8,7,8,8,7) Is unique among hymn texts, it is relatively easy to trace the adaptations.

8. “This world,” as originally published In Latter Day Saint Messenger and Advocate 1 (June 1835): 144; it was changed to “this earth” in all later publications. For a broader sandy of the phenomenon of Mormon song adaptation, See my “Poetic Borrowing In Early Mormonism” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 (Spring 1985): 132-42.

9. The first variant given is from Brigham Young et al., comps, A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints In Europe (Manchester, Eng., W. R. Thomas, 1840), 277; the second is from David W. Rohm, comp., A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints (New York: C. Vinten. 1838), 105.

10. David J. Whittaker, “The Articles of Faith in early Mormon literature and  Thought,’ in New Views of Mormon History: A Collection of Essays in Honor of Leonard J. Arrington, edited by Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (Salt lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 83-92.

11. Peter Crawley, “A Bibliography of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” in New York, Ohio, and Missouri” in Brigham Young University Studies 12 (Summer 1972): 507-08.

12. In Dean Jessee, “Howard Cony’s Recollections of Joseph smith,” Brigham Young University Studies, 17 (Spring 1977): 346.

13. This version is taken from the two-volume facsimile edition of James Johnson’s 1853 four-volume set, The Scots Musical Museum (Hartboro, Pa.: Folklore Associates, 1962), 1:4

14. Published in the Wasp, I, no. 37 (14 January 1843): 1. The manuscript version is transcribed in Scott Faulring. ed.. An American prophet’s Record: The Diaries and journals Joseph Smith (Salt take City: Signature Books. 1989) , 287-89.

15. The Eliza R. Snow version appeared in the Times and Seasons 4 (1 February 1843): 96, For the guest list and an account of the feast, see Joseph Smith, Jr.. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by B. H. Roberts., 7 vols.. 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book, 1964), 5;248. 252-63.

16. For Phelps’s relationship with Smith, see Hugh Nibley, “The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, Brigham Young University Studies, 11, (Summer, 1971): 391-96.

17. W, W. Phelps, Letter to Brigham Young, 25 September 1860, wrote that he was sending Young a “revelation” (a short homily) “as I used to with Joseph.” My thanks to David C Whittaker for sharing his notes on the Brigham Young Papers, LDS Church Archives. and several other sources in this paper.

18. These phrases appear in a version of the song in Solomon Hancock, Biography, microfilm of typescript, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah  A slightly different version with a tune, appears in Gale Huntington, Songs the Whalemen Sang (Barre, Mass: Barre Publishers, 1964: 180-81. In Times and Seasons 6 (15 January 1845): 783, Phelps designates “The Indian Hunter” as the tune to which his revision of “Go With Me” should be sung.

19. “The Vision” section 91; in the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (1835); it was section 92 in editions from 1841 to 1869, and section 76 from 1876 to the present.

20. “The Vision” as originally published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, had only eight very tong verses. The verse numbers I use here are those of twentieth-century editions. I am Indebted to Matthew Donaldson for providing me with a parallel column arrangement of the prose and the poem.

21. Dallin H. Oaks and Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and the Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Winter 1979): 181-91.

22. 1n History of the Church 5:222. For Smith’s discussions on the nature of prophecy, see 215-16, 231-32.

23. Dean R. Zimmermann. I Knew the Prophet: An Analysis. of Ike letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976). l9.

24. In Dean C. Jessee, comp, and ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984) 535. I thank Richard Neitzel Holzapfel  for bringing this and the following passage to my attention.

25. In Jessee,  Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 575-77.

26. W. W. Phelps, Letter to Parley P. Pratt. 16 June 1842, Parley Pratt Papers. LDS Church Archives.

27. W. W. Phelps, Diary, 19 January 1843, holograph, LDS Church Archives.

28. See Phelps’s comments in a letter. to Brigham Young. 6 August 1863, Whittaker notes Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: 1833-1898; edited by Scutt G. Kenney. 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983).2:349; Van Orden. “William W. Phelps’s Service”, 81-94; .Consider also the quite obvious correspondences between passages in a letter of Joseph Smith to James Arlington Bennett, dated 17 November 1843 (History of the Church 6:73.78), and passages in Phelps’s funeral sermon for Smith, published In Richard Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker, “The Joseph/Hyrum Smith Funeral Sermon,” Brigham Young University Studies 23 (Winter 1983): 9-18.

29. Phelps, “The Lours Prayer,” Times and Seasons 4 (I September 1843): 319.

30. Phelps, Letters to Brigham Young. 16 January 1860 and 29 September 1862, Whittaker notes.

31. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 305.

32. I an basing statements about Smith’s typical usage on the entries In Truman Madsen, ed., Concordance of Doctrinal Statements of Joseph Smith (Salt lake City: I.E.S. Publishing, 1985). which indexes the History of the Church, jessee’s Personal Writings, and Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps and eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980). My conclusions about Phelps’s usage derive from a less systematic but still thorough examination over the past ten years of his published and unpublished works—poetry, essays, letters, editorials, sermons, and almanacs.

33. See his comments in History of the Church 3:28, 226, 239, 5:215…

34. History of the Church, 2:270 and 5:207.

35. Nibley. “the Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers”; 359-62, 369, 391.

36. Phelps, “The Sky,” Times and Seasons 6 (1 May 1845): 895; Van Wagoner and Walker, “The Joseph/Hyrum Smith Funeral Sermon”, 11; Phelps, Letter to William Smith, 25 December 1844, Times and Seasons 5 (1 January 1845): 758.

37. 1t is possible, of course. That by the time of his 1844 quatrain, Smith had changed his mind. He seldom used “virtue” as an abstract value, and  it appears primarily in formulaic expressions like “by virtue of”. See Madsen’s concordance.

38. Richard Holzapfel, in personal conversation and in earlier drafts of his “Eternity Sketch’d in a Vision.”

39. History of the Church, 5:121-23.

40. In Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 302.

41. Even Brigham Young. who was later hostile toward Rigdon, took care to attribute the vision to both See Journal of Discourses 6:293, 9:107.16:42.

42. It is unclear how Phelps felt about Rigdon; after Smith’s assassination he argued for Rigon’s expulsion from the Church and alluded to a passage in “The Vision” (D&C 76:99-100). “Brother Sidney is endeavoring to draw off a party, and he will be like those who were spoken of the vision: some for Paul, some for Apollo, some for Cephas &c ” Continuation of Elder Rigdon’s Trial,” Times and Seasons 5 (1 October 1844): 633.

43. Joseph Smith, Papers, Miscellany, Box 5, Folder 18, LDS Church Archives.

44. In Faulring,  An American Prophet’s Record, 293.

45. Early Drafts of the History of the Church; C.R. 100 92, holograph In LDS Church Archives.

46. This emendation  first appeared In “History of Joseph Smith,” Deseret News, 14 May 1856. Unfortunately the corresponding page of the rough draft of the history is missing. Woodford, “Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants: cites the same passage as published in History of the  Church 5:288, as authority for attributing the poem to Smith.

47. Phelps may even have written the preface; compare Phelps’s essay, “Sacred Poetry,” Evening and Morning Star 1, no. 6 (November 1832): [5].

48. “Let Us Go,” in Eliza R. Snow, Poems, Religious, Historical, and Political, Vol. 1 (Liverpool, F. D. Richards, 1856), 146-47.

49.  This song, under the heading “To Pret, B. Young & Councillor H. C Kimball” is in folder of manuscript songs in the Thomas Bullock Papers, MS 12475, LDS Church Archives.

50. Levi Hancock, Poetry Book, holograph. LDS Church Archives.

51. The Improvement Era, 9 (December 1905): 93.

52. James B. Allen, Ronald K Esplin. and David Whittaker, Men with a Mission. 1834-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles (Salt lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992): 241.

53. Editorial, Millenial Star 4 (August 1843): 62-63.

54. Edward Tullidge, Life of Joseph the Prophet, (New York: Tullidge and Crandall, 1878), 361-62.

55. History of the Church, 5:288.

56. The annotations on the poem consist only of several pencilled check marks and n orange crayon bracket to the right of stanza’s 20,21—the stanzas most often cited by later scholars became they clearly say that Christ is the savior of the inhabitutta of All other worlds. See the bound Millennial Star volumes in the Brigham Henry Roberts Collection. LDS Church Archives.

57. History of the Church 6:78 note; see Also Truman G. Madsen, Defender of On Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 291-92.

58. I. B. Bull, “The Poetic Quality to the Writings of Joseph Smith, Improvement Era 37 (December 1934): 717, and 38 (December 1935):734-35.

59. N. B. Lundwall, comp., The Vision, Or. the Degreee of Glory (Kaysville, Ut.: Inland Printing, 1951). 154-64—and many subsequent printings, many of them without dates. the book is a compendium of doctrinal comments related to the vision of the degrees of glory.

1994

William J. Hamblin, George L. Mitton, and Daniel C. Peterson

A Review Of “The Refiner’s Fire: The Making Of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844” By John L. Brooke

Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge

FARMS Review: Volume – 6, Issue – 2, Pages: 3-58

Professor Brooke’s sweeping pronouncements about the development of Mormon theology—asserted rather than demonstrated—appear to be untrue. And the evidence adduced to refute them was gathered by one of the present reviewers, without the aid of any computerized concordance, in about a half hour. Subsequently, a quick computer search for the words “atonement,” “atone,” and “atoned” revealed that much more might, in fact, be done. Those terms occurred thirty-nine (39) times in the Nauvoo newspaper Times and Seasons (published 1839-1846), fourteen (14) times in the Messenger and Advocate (1834-37), and twelve (12) times in the Evening and Morning Star (1832-34). They occurred thirty (30) times in the so-called “Documentary History of the Church,”58 which relates mostly to the period of Joseph Smith, and two hundred and six (206) times in the Journal of Discourses, which, covering the interval from 1854 to 1886, accounts for most of the period when, according to The Refiner’s Fire, Mormonism “came very close to . . . denying the necessity of grace and atonement in any form” (p. 259) Perhaps such entries, and others related to them, require closer study. Certainly they have received none from John Brooke.

It is hardly surprising that Professor Brooke’s contention on this matter should prove false. Joseph Smith had never devalued or come close to denying Christ’s atonement. For example, the great revelation on the three degrees of glory and eternal progression that is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76—surely, by Professor Brooke’s standards, one of the most “hermetic” of Mormon documents—identifies the deified inhabitants of the celestial kingdom as “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.”59 And, in a statement dated 8 May 1838—well into the period when, The Refiner’s Fire assures us, no such statement could or would have been made—the Prophet remarked that

The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.60

The context of Joseph’s statement was a kind of extended self-interview. “I published the foregoing answers,” said the Prophet of this exercise, “to save myself the trouble of repeating the same a thousand times over and over again.” Unfortunately, The Refiner’s Fire demonstrates that certain things cannot be repeated too often.

Since there appear to be no explicit references to things hermetic or alchemical in early LDS writings, we would expect Professor Brooke to undertake careful exegesis of those LDS texts in which he claims to find his vague metaphorical allusions.61 In fact, quite the opposite is true. Brooke has not read Mormon scriptural texts with anything approaching sufficient care. A large number of his alleged examples of hermetic influence are plagued by tendentious misreadings of LDS texts and history that completely undermine his thesis.

Brooke consistently maintains that Joseph thought he was establishing the “third dispensation” (pp. xv, 3, 13, 22, 41, 45-46, etc.). This is in order to draw a parallel to Joachim of Fiore’s concept of the Three Ages or dispensations, the first two of which were “the dispensations of Moses [Judaism] and Christ [Christianity]” (p. 3)—an idea which Brooke says influenced later hermetic and occult thinking. In fact, Brooke makes no attempt to provide evidence that Joseph or any early Latter-day Saints ever thought in terms of three dispensations. Rather, Joseph specifically spoke of the seven dispensations familiar to modern Latter-day Saints, and Mormon usage can admit an even higher number.72 And, since the idea of dispensations is prominent in the Bible (e.g., at 1 Corinthians 9:17 and Ephesians 1:10, which served as the source for Joachim’s concept), why should we suspect that Joseph’s seven dispensations were influenced by Joachim’s three?

According to Brooke, Joseph “reproduced the three heavens of the Cabala and hermeticism in the three Mormon heavens, the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms” (p. 12, cf. 199, 205). Here Brooke ignores the obvious antecedent in Paul (1 Corinthians 15:40-42),73 which is extensively paraphrased in Doctrine and Covenants 76. But, just as important, he misreads the text: Where is the telestial kingdom described as a “heaven” in the Doctrine and Covenants? In fact, the three references to “heaven” in Doctrine and Covenants 76 (vs. 63, 68, 109) refer either to the sky or to the place where God and Christ judge (D&C 76:68). The “heavens” are called upon to “hear” (76:1), the heavens weep (76:26), and they bear record (76:40); but nowhere in this revelation are the three degrees of glory themselves called “heavens.” Quite the contrary, the telestial kingdom is explicitly associated with “hell” (76:84, 106), not “heaven.” In fact the terrestial and telestial glories are called “worlds” (D&C 76:71, 98, 109). But even if we allow Brooke the latitude to interpret Doctrine and Covenants 76 as referring to three “heavens,” we must then ask: Precisely how many heavens do we actually find in hermeticism? In fact, the usual number is not three, as Brooke claims, but seven!74 So why should we think that Joseph got his concept of three heavens from the seven heavens of hermeticism, instead of from the three heavens so prominently mentioned by Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2)?

Brooke’s understanding of contemporary Mormonism fares no better. Many endowed Latter-day Saints will no doubt be bemused to learn that, since the early twentieth century “only the dead who had died outside the faith explicitly required the saving powers of temple ordinance [sic]” (p. 292). And readers of the Ensign may be excused for doubting Brooke’s claim that “since 1950 references to Joseph Smith have declined just as fast as references to Jesus Christ have grown” (p. 305). Following O. Kendall White,75 Brooke sees the contemporary Church as being pushed by “neo-orthodox” thinkers into abandoning its true, hermetic roots (pp. 296-97; cf. 283, 305). In fact, he says, because of “significant departures from its nineteenth-century origins” (p. 293; cf. 295) “modern Mormonism may well soon become essentially indistinguishable from conservative Christian fundamentalism” (p. 282; cf. 284, 295, 303-5, 404)—a trend that our numerous, vocal, evangelical Protestant critics seem to have overlooked. Yet he acknowledges that there is opposition to this supposed tendency, identifying Hugh Nibley and D. Michael Quinn as allies who “see the survival of Mormonism in the embracing of this hermetic tradition” (p. 301). But this identification exposes the problematic nature of Brooke’s depiction, since—however dubiously—his source, Kendall White, singles Hugh Nibley out as one of the leaders of the purported “neo-orthodox” party in modern Mormonism.76 Both White and Brooke have seriously misunderstood Nibley on these matters.

As a matter of fact, Brooke seems to have read little or nothing of Nibley, nor of the unidentified writers to whom he refers as “Nibley’s students” (p. 301). In a cavalier passage—less than a paragraph—he characterizes in the narrowest way Nibley’s entire work (about 20 volumes!), showing no real acquaintance with his significant contribution to the study of Mormonism, much of which is quite germane to the issues Brooke is discussing (p. 301). He never cites the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and shows little awareness of faithful Latter-day Saint scholarship. He mentions passingly only one book from the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, despite the publication of several books and articles related to his topic.77

It is striking, too, that Professor Brooke seems to have sought no feedback from reputable Latter-day Saint scholars before going public with his work. “The first test that a research project undergoes,” he comments in his preface (p. xix), “is the scrutiny provided by public presentations. I am very much indebted for the opportunity to develop my ideas and my evidence—and for commentary and critique given free of charge—at a variety of forums.” He thereupon lists a number of places at which he has presented his theories of Mormonism, some of them quite prestigious (e.g., the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Viola Sach’s Colloquia at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme at the University of Paris, the Andover-Harvard Divinity School Church History Seminar, and the Atlantic History Workshop at Johns Hopkins University.) But, one wants to ask, why did he evidently never submit his speculations to the evaluation of informed Latter-day Saints at the Mormon History Association or, even, at a Sunstone Symposium? Why, when, on the same page, he thanks scholars like Jan Shipps, Larry Moore, David Hall, and Jon Butler, who read his manuscript in whole or in part, are there no thanks for reading the manuscript to respected Latter-day Saint historians such as Thomas Alexander, James Allen, Richard Lloyd Anderson, Leonard Arrington, Milton Backman, Davis Bitton, Richard Bushman, or Grant Underwood, etc.? (How would Cambridge University Press regard a Christian or Muslim writer who had submitted to them a major revisionist work on Judaism, but who had egregiously failed to engage in dialogue with contemporary Jewish scholars?) Yet Professor Brooke could have avoided many embarrassing errors had he opted to take a look at current Latter-day Saint scholarship, or to submit his musings to competent Latter-day Saint evaluation. Thus, to choose just one example from scores that could have been selected, when he alludes in passing to “the already shaky edifice of the Book of Mormon, a historical revelation far too accessible to the historian’s prying eyes” (p. 304), his is an uninformed judgment that relies far too confidently on the work of professional anti-Mormons like Jerald and Sandra Tanner (pp. 363, 380), to say nothing of Walter F. Prince’s widely-ridiculed speculations about the origins of Book of Mormon names (pp. 169, 368).78

Professor Brooke’s ignorance of contemporary Mormonism hurts him in amusing ways. Even the cold fusion claims made at the University of Utah a few years ago are pressed into service as illustrations of Mormon hermeticism: They are interesting, Brooke declares, “given Mormon doctrines on the nature of matter” (p. 299). He never troubles himself, though, to explain how the experiments of the two non-Mormon chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman are even remotely helpful as indicators of Latter-day Saint attitudes and beliefs.

It is probably significant that Brooke’s mistakes are not random; rather, his presentation consistently misrepresents LDS scripture, doctrine, and history in ways that tend to support his thesis by making LDS ideas seem closer to his hermetic prototypes. These are not minor errors involving marginal characters or events in LDS scripture and history; nor are they mere matters of interpretation. Rather, for the most part, they are fundamental errors, clearly demonstrating Brooke’s feeble grasp of the primary texts. By analogy, if a biblical scholar were to discuss John’s vision on the road to Damascus, or Peter’s revelation on the isle of Patmos, he would be laughed out of the American Academy of Religion; such work would certainly not be published by Cambridge University Press. “This book,” says Harvard’s David D. Hall, praising The Refiner’s Fire on its rear jacket cover, “changes the shape of American religious history.” He is absolutely right, though probably not in the sense he intended. It is a sad reflection on the sorry state of knowledge of Mormonism among non-Mormon scholars that errors of such magnitude could pass undetected in the writing, reviewing, and editing process of The Refiner’s Fire.

Biblical vs. Hermetic Antecedents

Brooke recognizes that the question of “how to specify the role of hermeticism in relation to the many obviously Christian elements in Mormon theology” (p. xiv) is one of his major methodological problems. Yet the solution to this problem is, in fact, quite simple: Brooke must provide evidence for uniquely hermetic or alchemical terms or ideas in Mormonism—terms or ideas which are not paralleled in the Bible. Ignoring this principle, though, Brooke consistently downplays, and frequently altogether suppresses, the obvious and explicit biblical antecedents of Mormon thought in favor of obscure and vague parallels to hermetic, alchemical, Masonic, and occult texts and ideas, which themselves often derive from the Bible.

It is universally acknowledged that biblical quotations, paraphrases, and imagery fill all early LDS scripture, writings, and sermons. Time and again early Latter-day Saints explicitly point to biblical precedents for their doctrines and practices. Joseph Smith and all the early Mormon elders taught and defended their doctrines from the Bible. Even in the great King Follett discourse—which Brooke sees as a cornucopia of “hermetic” doctrine—Joseph declared “I am going to prove it [the doctrine of multiple gods] to you by the Bible.”79 The text is filled with biblical quotations and allusions. Never do the early Saints claim they are following hermetic or alchemical precedents. Brooke, however, generously sets out to correct this lapse for them, as the following examples will demonstrate.

• Anabaptists “posit Christ as . . . the Second Adam” (p. 14), as do Mormons; likewise, “touched by hermetic thought, the revolutionary [Protestant] sects interpret Christ as a Second Adam” (p. 204). No mention is made of 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 as the clear source for this idea.

•”Michael Quinn,” Professor Brooke reports, “has noted that the idea of three heavens, or degrees of glory, was available in Emmanuel Swedenborg’s cosmic system, in which three heavens—topped by a “celestial kingdom’—were associated with the sun, the moon, and the stars” (p. 205). But Michael Quinn also knows that “the idea of three heavens, or degrees of glory, . . . associated with the sun, the moon, and the stars” can be derived from 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 and 2 Corinthians 12:2. Is Professor Brooke unaware of this?

• The Paracelsan and Joachimite “hope that an Age of Spirit [the third dispensation] would commence with the second coming of Elijah” (p. 15) is posited as a source of “the visions of Elias and Elijah received by Joseph Smith” (p. 28). Brooke fails to mention Malachi 4:5 and Mark 9:11 as obvious sources for this idea.

• “The godly Monarchy prophesied in the Book of Daniel [is] a typology popular among both the chiliast Munster Anabaptists and the Latter-day Saints at Nauvoo and in early Utah” (p. 24)—and, we might add, with every other Christian and Jewish millenarian group in history.

• The “visions and revelations” and “powers of healing and exorcism” of early Mormons are “like those of early Quaker leaders” (p. 28). No mention is made of the fact that these precise supernatural powers existed in the apostolic church, the obvious source for both Quakers and Mormons.

• Mormon “baptism for the dead [is based on] Spiritualist doctrine” (p. 28) and on the “radical heritage” of “the German pietist mystics at Ephrata” (p. 243). Why does Professor Brooke make no reference whatsoever to 1 Corinthians 15:29 as the unquestionable source for this idea in all of these movements?

• “In words replicated in Mormon doctrine, the high priest in the Royal Arch [Masonry] was to be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedec'” (p. 101). Professor Brooke omits mention of Hebrews 5:6 as the indisputable source for this precise quotation. Although he is elsewhere aware of Hebrews as the source for the Masonic material (p. 194), Brooke still perversely argues that Mormons got the idea from Masonry rather than from the New Testament.

• Brooke helpfully suggests that, “for a description of the biblical tabernacle and temple probably available to Smith, [his readers should] see The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus . . . (New York, 1821)” (p. 376 n. 49). However, a description of the biblical tabernacle and temple that was most certainly available to Smith was the Bible (e.g. Exodus 25-36, 1 Kings 6-8, 1 Chronicles 21-28).

Given this consistent pattern of ignoring biblical antecedents for Mormon ideas, we are left to wonder whether Brooke is merely ignorant of the Bible, or whether he has consciously suppressed biblical parallels in order to bolster his weak case. His recognition that “proto-Mormon families were certainly immersed in the language and the promise of the Bible” (p. 72) indicates that he should have been aware of possible biblical antecedents. However, his acknowledgment, on one issue, that he is “obliged to Jan Shipps” for a point having an obvious biblical basis (pp. 72; 341 n. 45) leads us to suspect he may simply be biblically illiterate. At any rate, his case for hermetic influences on early Mormonism can only be made if he can demonstrate unique hermetic ideas in Mormon thought that have no biblical antecedents. This he utterly fails to do.

1995 (1830’s  Period LDS Beliefs)

Daniel Peterson

Review Of Grant Underwood, Saved Or Damned? Regarding Belief In Degrees Of Glory By Some Early Converts To Mormonism

Daniel Peterson? Review of Grant Underwood, Save or Damned?    BYU Studies, 35:2 (1995)

Readers also need to cautiously explore Underwood’s account of how the revelation  of the three degrees of glory gradually impacted early  Mormon  thought prior to the early 1840s. While the dualism of heaven and hell continued to be found in early Mormon writings following the 1832 publication of what is now known as  D&C 76, writings of early Latter-day Saints-such as W. W. Phelps, Warren Foote, Philo Dibble, Wilford Woodruff, Levi Hancock, George Laub, Zera Pulsipher, and George Morris-provide examples of converts who rejected the traditional belief in hell and readily accepted the Prophet’s vision of glories. Thus, although a belief in heavenly mansions was not emphasized in the 1830s by Latter-day Saint missionaries, it was a belief understood and embraced by many early converts. Additional study of the impact on early Latter-day Saints of the doctrine of the three degrees of glory is still needed.

1996

Bob Wilkin, Executive Director, Grace Evangelical Society

The Biblical Distinction Between Eternal Salvation And Eternal Rewards:  A Key to Proper Exegesis

Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1996 — Volume 9:16 (excerpts)

I. Introduction

A number of books have been written recently which attempt to harmonize two NT themes: judgment according to one’s works and justification by faith.

Sometimes the explanation given is hard to follow. Some authors seem to feel that justification is by faith apart from works and yet final salvation is by faith plus works.

For example, Judith Gundry Volf writes, “Paul’s certainty that God will faithfully accomplish God’s purpose to save Christians completely and finally does not mean, however, that he views this process as “automatic.” The present is characterized by the eschatological tension. Both the reality of salvation and the power of evil await the completion of their salvation while enduring testing and afflictions in the present. Subjection to antagonistic forces at work in such tribulation can even threaten their salvation. Moreover, they have yet to appear before the judgment seat at which occasion their final destiny will be made manifest. Will they be accused and condemned after all?”

It is in the very context of these dangers that Paul affirms the certainty of Christians’ final salvation… Christians are more than conquerors in tribulations and will come through the final judgment unscathed (Rom 8:28-39).

This is confusing. How is it possible that Paul “affirms the certainty of Christians’ final salvation” and yet as the same time asserts that Christians await a final judgment in which they may be “condemned after all”?

The problem here is a failure to recognize a distinction between eternal salvation and eternal rewards. This is a widespread today. Blomberg, who feels that there is no distinction between eternal rewards and eternal salvation, writes concerning five texts which deal with the possibility of receiving crowns (1 Cor 9:25; 1 Thess 2:19; 2 Tim 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4):  “A majority of commentators agree in each of these five instances that our texts are not at all talking about degrees of rewards in heaven but simply about eternal life. “

It is my contention that we will often miss the meaning of the text if we fail to recognize the distinction between eternal salvation and eternal rewards.

V. Theological Principles Which Grow Out of This Distinction

The following are a number of points which naturally follow if there is indeed a distinction between eternal salvation and eternal rewards:

  • Believers can and sometimes do fall away.
  • All will not have an equal experience in the kingdom. Some will have more abundant lives than others.
  • Salvation is a gift, but rewards are earned.
  • Salvation can’t be lost, but rewards can be.
  • Assurance of salvation is absolute, but assurance of rewards is not absolute.
  • There is no future judgment of believers to determine their eternal destiny. There is a future judgment of believers to determine the quality of their eternal experience.

II. Two Test Passages

A. First Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1.      The eternal salvation view

Blomberg argues that Paul was here speaking of eternal salvation and that he was uncertain that he possessed it. He writes:

In 1 Cor 9:25, Paul compares our perseverance to the athlete striving after an Olympic crown. But unlike a race on a track in which there can be only one winner, “we” [Christians] all should compete for “the crown that will last forever.” This “crown” is the same as the “prize” of vv. 24, 27, which one fails to receive if one is “disqualified” (adokimos)… Eternal life and death are at stake here, not gradations of reward.

A too simplistic understanding of “eternal security” has probably led many Christians to doubt that Paul could have seriously considered not “making it to heaven.” But true Reformed doctrine recognizes that saints are those who persevere. No Biblical text offers assurance of salvation for people who flagrantly repudiate Christ without subsequent repentance. Anthony Hoekema captures the sense of 1 Cor 9:26-27 quite well: “Only as he thus continued to discipline himself did Paul feel justified in claiming his spiritual security in Christ. He did not dare to claim this blessing while being careless and indolent in his daily battle against sin. And neither may we.”3

2.      The eternal rewards view

There is a major difference theologically and practically between the eternal salvation view and the eternal rewards view. According to the latter view, Paul was sure he had eternal life, but he was not sure he would be approved by Christ at His Judgment Seat and receive the rewards that go along with that approval.

Hodges writes concerning this passage:

Paul compares the Christian life to a racecourse in which winning is not automatic for any runner, not even for himself…

Again, there is no thought here of the loss of eternal life. Such a loss is impossible, as our Lord Himself made clear. But the apostle can indeed envision the possibility that even he—a preacher to others—might lose the reward that God grants to successful runners…

No Christian life can be pronounced a success until it ends successfully. The race is not over simply because we have been running it for years.”4

B. Philippians 3:11, 14

If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead… I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

1.      The eternal salvation view

“The Problem of Doubt in Philippians 3:11” is the title of a thesis written at Dallas Seminary adopting this perspective.5 The author, William R. Johnson, says: “One can never be absolutely sure that he will persevere to the end until the end.”6

He goes on: “There can be relative assurance of such perseverance. Paul expresses this in Philippians 3:11. He had seen what Christ had done in his life so far.”7

Since he is writing from the Reformed perspective, Johnson then assures the reader that “the loss of assurance as treated in this thesis could never indicate more than that an individual never possessed salvation to begin with.”8

Johnson concludes, “Paul seeks sanctification if perhaps he may attain to the resurrection of the dead. As long as his attitude is always on the goal and the striving required to reach it, he may have relative assurance of reaching it. Should he ever stop running, resting on his present achievements, or should he begin a lifestyle of habitual sin, such would be an indication that he might not truly know God.”9

2. The eternal rewards view

A thesis entitled “The Out-Resurrection of Philippians 3:11” adopted the rewards interpretation.10 In it the author, Phil R. Williams, says:

Exanastasis occurs in three other places [in the NT], in addition to Philippians 3:11. In each of these three instances…it [speaks] of a special, select, limited resurrection. It is used metaphorically with this same significance in Philippians 3:11. It is the same as the “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11:35, and is resurrection to greater glory and higher reward, won on the basis of faithfulness to Christ, and likeness to Him.11

There is a variation on this interpretation. I have argued elsewhere (The Grace Evangelical Society News, August 1991) that v 11 does not deal directly with eternal salvation or eternal rewards. Paul was hoping to attain to a quality of life here and now which manifested resurrection power. He was seeking to live now in the same manner in which he would live forever (cf. Heb 12:14).

According to this view the theme of eternal rewards is still present. In v 14 Paul indicates that he is striving to know Christ in his experience and to attain now to a resurrection type of life, so that he might receive the prize (brabeion, cf. 1 Cor 9:25) of the upward call of God in Christ. That prize, as in 1 Cor 9:24-25, is the approval of Christ and the rewards that attend such approval.

C. Which View Does the Text Support?

There are several strong reasons to conclude that the rewards view is the best understanding of the texts in our test passages.

First, the salvation view demands the conclusion that Paul was unsure of his own salvation. That is, however, impossible apart from clear evidence of a complete mental breakdown on Paul’s part. There is, of course, no evidence in the NT or in extrabiblical literature of Paul having experienced a major breakdown.

Paul came to faith in Christ by a dramatic encounter with the risen Lord (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-16). He made it clear that he received the Gospel from Jesus Himself (Gal 1:12). He repeatedly asserted in his epistles that he believed in Christ and that he had eternal life and could never lose it. His certainty of his standing with God was based on his faith in the promises of God:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rom 8:38-39

“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law” Gal 2:16

“you all are partakers with me of grace” Phil 1:7

“giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light”  Col 1:12

“I know whom I have believed” 2 Tim 1:12

“To Titus, a true son in our common faith” Titus 1:4

“according to His mercy He saved us”  Titus 3:5

See also Rom 4:23-25; 1 Cor 3:9-15; 2 Cor 5:1-21; Gal 1:12; 2:4-10; 1 Thess 2:4; 2 Tim 2:11-13.

In addition, in his letters to churches Paul called himself an apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; etc.). Surely he knew that there were no unsaved apostles (cf. 1 Cor 12:1-31, esp. v 28)! Equally certain is that he wouldn’t have called himself an apostle if he had any doubt about whether he was saved or not!

Any view that requires the conclusion that Paul was uncertain of his salvation should be rejected on that basis alone.

Second, the term brabeion, used in the NT only in our two test passages, most naturally fits with the eternal rewards interpretation. Brabeion means a prize. This prize can be compared with those won by competitors in an athletic contest (cf. 1 Cor 9:24-25). Competitors in a race who lost were not executed. They were not excluded from the kingdom in which they lived. They did not forfeit their citizenship. They did, however, miss out on the prize and the special privileges attendant to it.

Third, to suggest that “striving [is] required to reach [the goal of eternal salvation],” as the salvation view suggests, requires that Paul completely contradict his doctrine of justification by faith apart from works. Surely Paul would not contradict the Gospel which he preached. He was adamant to maintain its purity (cf. Gal 1:6-9; 5:12).

Fourth, the salvation view appeals to theology before exegesis. Blomberg admits that his understanding of 1 Cor 9:24-27 is influenced by dogmatic concerns: “True Reformed doctrine recognizes that saints are those who persevere.” This leads him to the following syllogism:

  • All Christians persevere.
  • Paul wasn’t sure he would persevere.
  • Conclusion: Paul wasn’t sure he was a Christian.

The syllogism appears airtight. However, it is flawed because one of the premises is wrong. All Christians do not persevere. In fact, 1 Cor 9:24-27 suggests that perseverance is neither automatic nor guaranteed.

We thus turn now to consider the various problems which result from misinterpreting passages which deal with eternal rewards.

III. Difficulties Which Arise from Failing to Recognize this Distinction

A. Distorting the Gospel Message

If passages like 1 Cor 9:24-27 and Phil 3:11-14 refer to obtaining eternal salvation, then believers must work to obtain it:

“Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”

1 Cor  9:24

“I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
1 Cor 9:27

“I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 3:14

However, we know from many NT passages that this is not the case. Eternal salvation is absolutely free to the recipient (John 4:10; Rom 3:24; 4: 3-8; Eph 2:9; Rev 22:17). Jesus paid the whole price. We pay nothing. We are saved the moment we believe Jesus’ promise to give eternal life to all who trust Him for it (John 5:24; 6:47).

Unlike eternal salvation, eternal rewards are not free. They are earned by work done. Paul said in 2 Cor 5:10 that “all [believers] must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Similarly, the Lord Jesus said the He will “reward each according to his works” (Matt 16:27, emphasis added). Eternal salvation is not “according to what [one] has done” and is not “according to [one’s] works.”

In some places eternal salvation and eternal rewards are contrasted in the same paragraph. For example, in 1 Cor 3:14-15 Paul said: “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” The unproductive believer is saved even though his works are burned up. However, if a believer’s works endure the test of fire, then in addition he will be rewarded. Compare also Rom 14:8-12; 2 Tim 2:11-13; Rev 22:14-17.

Since eternal rewards are not the same as eternal salvation, there is no contradiction of the Gospel in passages conditioning eternal rewards on perseverance in good works.

To understand passages like 1 Cor 9:24-27 and Phil 3:11-14 as being Gospel passages is to distort the Gospel by suggesting that ongoing good works are a requirement for obtaining eternal salvation.

B. Undermining Assurance

Obviously if the apostle Paul could not be certain he had eternal life, neither can anyone.

Reformed exegetes do not view this as a problem. In fact, they view ongoing doubt about one’s standing with God as an important impetus to perseverance. For example, MacArthur writes, “Periodic doubts about one’s salvation are not necessarily wrong. Such doubts must be confronted and dealt with honestly and biblically” (The Gospel According to Jesus, revised edition, p. 214). Shortly thereafter he writes:

It has become quite popular to teach professing Christians that they can enjoy assurance of salvation no matter what their lives are like. After all, some argue, if salvation is a gift to people who simply believe the gospel facts, what does practical living have to do with assurance? That teaching is nothing but practical antinomianism. It encourages people living in hypocrisy, disobedience, and sin by offering them a false assurance (p. 215).

Since assurance in the Reformed view is conditioned upon ongoing perseverance, assurance is something less than certainty.

As long as one looks to his works to discern whether he is saved or not, he will never be sure he has eternal life. If one fails to recognize the distinction between eternal salvation and eternal rewards, certainty is lost.

C. Improperly Motivating Obedience

As mentioned above, doubts about one’s salvation are viewed as an important motivation for those who do not distinguish between eternal salvation and eternal rewards. However, such a motivation is seriously flawed.

Believers should not fear going to hell. Jesus guarantees to give eternal life to all who trust Him for it (John 6:47). Paul proclaimed that there is nothing which can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom 8:38-39). It is impossible to trust Christ for eternal life and at the same time fear going to hell. The two are incompatible.

This is not to suggest that one who doubts his salvation is necessarily unsaved. It is sadly possible for genuine believers to lose their assurance (though not their salvation).

To be motivated to obey God out of fear of hell is to return to Rome. Such a motivation is not pleasing to God for He promises that those who believe in Christ will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny (John 5:24).

In addition to adopting an improper motive, those who miss the distinction between eternal salvation and eternal rewards jettison a proper motivation. Eternal rewards are held forth in Scripture as a powerful motivation for believers to obey God. Believers should set their hearts on laying up treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19-21) and on ruling with Christ (1 Cor 9:24-27; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:21). While eternal life is an absolutely free gift, eternal rewards are earned by work done. Only by remaining faithful and diligent can any believer earn the right to rule with Christ forever (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:21).

IV. A Grace Gospel Hermenuetic

If a given interpretation of a passage requires that eternal salvation is earned or preserved by works which the believer must do, then that interpretation should be rejected as impossible. The analogy of faith requires that we understand difficult texts in light of the simple ones. There are many simple texts which assert that eternal salvation is neither earned nor preserved by works which the believer does (cf. Rom 4:4-8; Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

If a passage clearly conditions something upon good works which a person must do, then the passage is either showing the impossibility of salvation by works (e.g., Romans 2), or is not dealing with the Gospel at all (e.g., the two sample passages).

John 6:28-29 appears to be an exception, but it isn’t. There the expression “good work” (singular) is used rhetorically to refer to believing the Gospel. The Jews thought they had to do good works (plural) to obtain everlasting life. Jesus said the work (singular) they needed to do was to believe Him. Jesus was not talking about good works in the Pauline sense. He was talking about obeying God’s command to believe in His Son (cf. Acts 5:32; 6:7; 1 Pet 2:7). Eternal salvation is conditioned upon faith, not upon good works.

Words like salvation (sozo, soteria), inheritance (kleronomeo, kleronomia), and even eternal life (aionion zoe) are not technical terms which always refer to eternal salvation from hell. On some occasions they refer to eternal rewards which believers can earn. See, for example, 1 Pet 1:5,9; Gal 5:19-21; 6:7-9.

Exegetes should be open to the possibility that a given text may be dealing with eternal rewards and not eternal salvation.

VI. Conclusion

Two NT themes, justification by faith and judgment according to one’s works, can best be understood and harmonized by realizing that there is an author-intended distinction in the NT between eternal salvation and eternal rewards. The former is a free gift, is apart from works, and is received by faith alone. The latter is earned, is conditioned upon ongoing good works, and is received by faith plus works.

If we fail to recognize the distinction between passages which deal with eternal salvation versus those which deal with eternal rewards, we will misunderstand quite a large number of NT texts. In addition, a number of practical difficulties will result. The Gospel becomes garbled. Assurance of salvation is eliminated. And motivations for obedience are muddled.

First Corinthians 9:24-27 and Phil 3:11-14 show the importance of this study and strongly support the thesis of this article. The biblical distinction between eternal salvation and eternal rewards is a key to proper exegesis.

1998

R. C. Sproul

There Will Be Degrees Of Blessedness In Heaven

Essential Truth of the Christian Faith:  100 Key Doctrines in Plain Language

There will be degrees of blessedness in Heaven.

Paul uses a metaphor of the stars of differing brilliance shining in the same heaven to illustrate this.  There are, however, several clarifying points that need to be made.  First, all the stars will shine.  That is to say, there is no unhappiness in heaven.  All are blessed beyond our most insightful imaginations.  Second, the atoning work of Christ has the same saving efficacy for all saints.  Finally, the works “of the believer” which “merit” greater or lesser blessedness are not good in themselves.  Rather, it is the sovereign pleasure of God to regard these works as meritorious.  He does so for Christ’s sake only.  While the great horror of Hell is its eternality, one of the greatest joys of Heaven is the assurance that it will never end.  The last enemy, death, will be no more.  Luke 20:34-38 assures the believer that this reward of Heaven is everlasting.

(The provided “Biblical passage for Reflection” are 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Peter 1:3-9, and Revelations 21 and 22)

1998

Robert L. Millet

Chapter 2 – More Kingdoms Than One

Life After Death

Chapter 2 – More Kingdoms Than One

While meeting with his chosen disciples at the Last Supper, the Master said: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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” (John 14:1-2). This is a most intriguing statement. The Savior seems to have been saying, in essence, that it should be obvious, self-evi­dent, to anyone that life hereafter consists of more than merely a heaven and a hell; if it were not so, he would have told us otherwise. Reason suggests that not all people are equally good and thus not all good people deserve the same reward hereafter. Likewise, not all bad people are equally bad and surely ‘some are so bad they deserve to sink to the lowest pit in hell. Something so fundamental, so central to salvation as this principle of justice would surely be a part of what God would make known during the times of restitution.

Background

In June 1830 the Prophet Joseph Smith began an inspired translation of the King James Version of the Bible, a labor to which he was divinely directed and appointed, a work he con­sidered to be a “branch of [his] calling.”‘ The Prophet and his scribes progressed through the book of Genesis until 7 March 1831, when the Lord commanded the Prophet to turn his attention to the New Testament (D&C 45:60-61). On 12 September 1831, to escape persecution, Joseph Smith relo­cated to Hiram, Ohio, to live with the John Johnson family.

By 16 February 1832 the Prophet and his scribe, Sidney Rigdon, had translated much of the fifth chapter of John. In verses 28 and 29 the Savior indicates that the time will come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and will come forth from the graves: “They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” The Prophet felt impressed to alter the text as follows: “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” (JST John 5:29; D&C 76:17). “Now this caused us to marvel,” the Prophet stated, “for it was given unto us of the Spirit. And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about” (D&C 76:18-19). The alteration in the text, though interesting, is not earthshaking or over­whelming. But truly, “out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). There came to Joseph Smith and his scribe on this occasion one of the most remarkable oracles ever given to men on earth, one we have come to know simply as the vision, or the vision of the glories, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76. This grand revelation stands for Latter-day Saints as an interpretive commentary upon the Savior’s words concerning “many mansions” in the world to come.

Philo Dibble, one who was present at the Johnson home when this vision was received, has left us the following fasci­nating account:

The vision of the three degrees of glory which is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of ‘Father Johnson,’ in Hiram, Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the Spirit and saw the heavens open there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time. I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.

Joseph wore black clothes, but at this time seemed to be dressed in an element of glorious white, and his face shone as if it were transparent, but I did not see the same glory attend­ing Sidney….

Joseph would, at intervals, say: ‘What do I see?’ as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at.

Then Sidney replied, ‘I see the same.’

Presently Sidney would say, ‘What do I see?’ and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing.

And Joseph would reply, ‘I see the same.’

This manner of conversation was repeated at short inter­vals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound or motion was made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.

Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, ‘Sidney is not used to it as I am.

After the vision and while still in the Spirit, the Prophet and his scribe were permitted to record a hundredth part of what they saw and experienced.’ In fact, the vision actually consists of six visions, each of which we will now consider briefly.

Vision I: The Glory Of The Son

The first vision briefly sets the stage for what follows by placing things in perspective with regard to the work of redemption and salvation—namely, that salvation is in Christ and comes through the shedding of his own blood and his glo­rious rise to newness of life in the resurrection. The transla­tors thus saw in vision “the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; and saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, wor­shiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever” (D&C 76:20-21). Similarly, John the Revelator had recorded concerning the Redeemer, “Ten thousand limes ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12).

The Prophet and his scribe bore witness of the Redeemer in powerful language: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he ilves! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22-24). Truly, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10), and all the holy prophets, from the beginning, have testified of the One who called and sent them (Acts 10:43; Jacob 4:4; 7:11; Mosiah 13:33).

In addition, the Prophet Joseph’s witness contains significant doctrine. For one thing, his testimony affirms the burden of scripture—that Jehovah-Christ was and is the Creator of worlds without number (Moses 1:33; 7:30; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:1-2). It confirms also the infinite and eternal nature of the Atonement. Whatsoever our Lord and Master creates, he redeems. That is to say, his redemptive labors reach beyond the bounds of our earth (Moses 1:32-35). In 1843 the Prophet Joseph Smith rewrote this vision in poetry. Verses 22 through 24 were rendered as follows:

And now after all of the proofs made of him,

By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,

This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives!

And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne.

And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n.

He’s the Savior, and only begotten of God—

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,

Even all that careen in the heavens so broad,

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,

Are sav’d by the very same Savior of ours;

And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,

By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.°

Or, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Christ created worlds without number whose inhabitants are adopted into the family of God by the atoning sacrifice wrought on our earth. The faithful on all worlds are spiritually begotten in the same way as on our earth.”

Vision II: The Fall Of Lucifer

Having been shown that the foundation of our faith is redemption in Christ, the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon learned a vital element of the plan of salvation—the nature of oppo­sition through Satan and satanic influences. Lucifer is described in the vision as one “who was in authority in the presence of God” (DEC 76:25), who rebelled against the Father and the Son in the premortal council in heaven, thus becoming known as perdition, a word meaning “ruin” or “destruction.” Because he was indeed a spirit son of God, our spirit brother, “a son of the morning” (DEC 76:26), in fact, “one of the early born spirit children of the Father,”6 the heav­ens wept over his defection. He coveted the throne of the Father and proposed to save all the sons and daughters of God in a way contrary to the plan of the Father (Moses 4:1-4). “The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand coun­cil, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him.”7 Lucifer became thereby an enemy to God and to all righteousness: “Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (DEC 76:25-29).

Vision III: The Sons Of Perdition

Doctrine and Covenants 76:30-49 describes those who have once known light and truth and the revelations of heaven and who choose knowingly to deny the light and defy God and his work. These are the sons of perdition, “vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity” (DEC 76:33). The apostle Paul observed that “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6; compare 10:26-29).

“What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin?” Joseph the Seer asked rhetorically in the King Follett Sermon. 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 that 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 to be an enemy.” He continued: “When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence.”‘

All of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve will come forth from the grave in the resurrection, including sons of perdition (DEC 88:32). The sons of perdition are guilty of the unpardonable sin (Alma 39:6), a sin not covered by the atonement of Christ, a sin for which no amount of personal suffering will right the wrongs done. There is no forgiveness for them, neither here nor hereafter, for “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” (DEC 76:34-35), they are guilty of shedding innocent blood, meaning the inno­cent blood of Christ.9“The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” a later revelation affirms, “which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God” (D&C 132:27).

The sons of perdition are the only ones who shall be sub­ject to the second spiritual death, the final expulsion from the presence of God. They, after being resurrected and standing before God to be judged (2 Nephi 9:15) shall be consigned to a kingdom of no glory.

In the midst of this gloomy scene the Lord provides one of the most beautiful descriptions of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the “glad tidings” that “he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrigh­teousness; that through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; 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” (D&C 76:40-43).

This third vision ended with a sobering reminder that the particulars of the fate of the sons of perdition have not been revealed (D&C 76:45-48). In 1833 the Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “the Lord never authorized [certain individu­als] to say that the devil, his angels, or the sons of perdition, should ever be restored; for 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: consequently those who teach this doctrine have not received it of the Spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils.””

Vision IV: The Celestial Glory

The scene shifted as the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were permitted to study and learn by contrast—from perdition to exaltation. They beheld the glories of the highest, or celestial, kingdom and provided broad descriptions of those who inhabit the same. They beheld the inhabitants of the “res­urrection of the just” (D&C 76:50) which is what we call the first resurrection (Mosiah 15:21-25), the resurrection of celestial and terrestrial persons. Celestial persons are those who receive the testimony of Jesus and accept the terms and conditions of the gospel covenant. They are “baptized after the manner of his burial” and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, thereby becoming “cleansed from all their sins” (D&C 76:51-52). Those who inherit a celestial glory are they who “overcome by faith” (D&C 76:53), who “withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Alma 37:33). They over­come the world in forsaking worldliness and carnal attractions and give themselves to the Lord and his work. These are “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (D&C 76:53). The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit promised to the Saints. Because “the Comforter knoweth all things” (D&C 42:17; Moses 6:61), the Holy Ghost is able to search the souls of men and women and to ascertain the degree to which they have truly yielded their hearts unto God, the degree to which they are “just and true” (D&C 76:53). Thus to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is to have the ratifying approval of the Holy Ghost upon our lives and upon the ordinances and covenants into which we have entered. It is to have passed the tests of mortality, to have qualified for celestial glory hereafter.

For these overcome, by their faith and their works,

Being tried in their life-time, as purified gold,

And seal’d by the spirit of promise, to life,

By men called of God, as Aaron of old.”

Celestial men and women are “the Church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76:54). The Church of the Firstborn is the “inner circle” of faithful Saints who have proven true and faithful to their covenants. As baptism is the gate to membership in the Church of Jesus Christ on earth, so celes­tial marriage opens the door to membership in the heavenly church.12 The Church of the Firstborn is the Church beyond the veil, the organized body of Saints who inherit exaltation. It is made up of those who qualify for the blessings of the Firstborn. Jesus is the Firstborn of the Father and as such is entitled to the birthright. As an act of consummate mercy and grace, our blessed Savior makes it possible for us to inherit, receive, and possess the same blessings he receives, as though each of us were the Firstborn. Those who come into the Church and live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost are born again; they become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ by adoption (Mosiah 5:1-7). If they continue faithful, receive thereafter the covenants and ordinances of the temple, including the endowment and celestial marriage, and are true to those higher covenants, they will eventually become the sons and daughters of God, meaning the Father.” They become heirs of God and joint-heirs, or co-inheritors, with Christ to all that the Father has, including eternal life. “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God” (D&C 76:58). President Brigham Young therefore stated that “the ordinances of the house of God are expressly for the Church of the Firstborn:”

“They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory” (D&C 76:56). That is, they are kings and queens, priests and priestesses, men and women who through their steadfastness and immovability in keeping their covenants have received what the prophets call the “fulness of the priesthood” (D&C 124:28). The Prophet Joseph explained in 1843 that “those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.”” These are they who will accompany the Master when he returns in glory, those who, if they have already passed through the veil of death, will come forth from the grave in glorious immortal­ity. The first resurrection, which began at the time of Christ’s resurrection, will thus resume. These are they whose names are written in heaven, in the Lamb’s book of life (D&C 88:2), “where God and Christ are the judge of all (D&C 76:68).

And then, lest we should conclude that such persons have attained to this highest degree of glory on their own, through their own merits and mortal accomplishments or without divine assistance, the holy word attests: “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” (DEC 76:69). They are made perfect—whole, complete, fully formed, spiritually mature—through their covenant union with the Savior.

Vision V: The Terrestrial Glory

The next vision represents a continuation of the first res­urrection, or the resurrection of the just. A broad description of terrestrial beings is given: “Behold, these are they who died without law” (D&C 76:72). We know from Joseph Smith’s vision of the celestial kingdom that those who did not have the opportunity to receive the gospel fulness, including little children who die before the age of accountability, but who would have done so if that opportunity had been extended to them, are heirs of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137:7-10). Those who “died without law” are the heathen nations (D&C 45:54), as explained in the poetic version:

Behold, these are they that have died without law;

The heathen of ages that never had hope.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard described this group as follows: “Now, I wish to say to you that those who died without law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion, in the former life, are obtaining all that they are entitled to. I don’t mean to say that all of them will be barred from entrance into the highest glory. Anyone of them that repents and complies with the conditions might also obtain celestial glory, but the great bulk of them shall only obtain terrestrial

glory.””

The Prophet and his scribe witnessed the final state of those who chose to abide by goodness and equity and decency in their second estate but chose also not to receive and incor­porate the fulness of that light and power that derive from the receipt of the everlasting gospel. The terrestrial glory is made up of those who in this life did not receive the testimony of Jesus–the testimony that he is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind—but afterward received it; that is, they received that witness in the postmortal spirit world (D&C 76:73-74). The terrestrial world is also inhabited by those who knew in this life that Jesus was the Christ but who were not valiant enough in that witness to receive the fulness of the gospel when it was presented to them. Or, as the Prophet rendered it poetically:

Not valiant for truth, they obtain’d not the crown,

But are of that glory that’s typ’d by the moon:

They are they, that come into the presence of Christ,

But not to the fulness of God, on his throne.”

For that matter, those who have received the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ—in our day, those who have joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and then do not prove to be valiant in their testimony, are candidates for the terrestrial degree of glory hereafter. 19

Vision VI: The Telestial Glory

Remembering that celestial persons receive the testimony of Jesus and also the gospel covenant and that terrestrial per­sons receive the testimony of Jesus but not the gospel covenant, we now learn concerning the inhabitants of the telestial world: “These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:82; see also D&C 76:101). They “deny not the Holy Spirit” (D&C 76:83). That is, their wickedness is not such as to lead to complete perdition; they do not qualify to become sons of perdition, but they “are thrust down to hell” (D&C 76:84); at the time of their mortal death, they enter into that realm of the postmor­tal sphere we know as hell and are confronted with their sin­fulness. These do not come forth from the grave until the “last resurrection,” until the end of the Millennium, “until the

Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work” (D&C 76:85).

As is the case with the other kingdoms of glory, there are broad classifications of telestial people. These are they “who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; but received not the gospel, neither the testimony of

Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant” (D&C 76:99-101). Or, as the Prophet wrote in poetry,

These are they that came out for Apollos and Paul;

For Cephas and Jesus, in all kinds of hope;

For Enoch and Moses, and Peter and John;

For Luther and Calvin, and even the Pope.

For they never received the gospel of Christ,

Nor the prophetic spirit that came from the Lord;

Nor the covenant neither, which Jacob once had;

They went their own way, and they have their reward.1°

Further, the telestial kingdom is the final abode of liars, sor­cerers, adulterers and whoremongers, and, as John the Revelator learned, of murderers (D&C 76:103; Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

Finally, the vision adds the sobering detail that the inhab­itants of the telestial world, “as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore,” shall be “servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:109, 112). In short, the celestial body is qualitatively different from the terrestrial or the telestial body. Elder Melvin J. Ballard pointed out 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. . . [T]hose who come forth in the celestial glory with celestial bodies have a body that is more refined. It is different. The very fibre and texture of the celestial body is more pure and holy than a telestial or terrestrial body, and a celestial body alone can endure celes­tial glory…. When we have a celestial body it will be suited to the celestial conditions and a telestial body could not endure celestial glory. It would be torment and affliction to them. I have not read in the scripture where there will be another resurrection where we can obtain a celestial body for a terrestrial body. What we receive in the resurrection will be ours forever and forever.””

President Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the teles­tial, the terrestrial or the celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal! That is why we must make our decisions early in life and why it is imperative that such decisions be right.”22

Although the telestial kingdom is the lowest of the king­doms of glory, the inhabitants of that glory shall be “heirs of salvation” in a world that “surpasses all understanding” (D&C 76:88-89). Generally speaking, the word salvation means in scripture exactly the same thing as exaltation or eternal life (D&C 6:13; 14:7; Alma 11:40). There are a few times in scripture, however, when salvation refers to something less than exalta­tion (see, for example, D&C 132:17), and this is one of those times. In this expansive sense, our Lord seeks to save all of his children with an everlasting salvation. And he does so, in that all but the sons of perdition eventually inherit a kingdom of glory (D&C 76:43). In fact, Elder Charles W. Penrose observed about the telestial kingdom:

While there is one soul of this race, willing and able to accept and obey the laws of redemp­tion, no matter where or in what condition it may be found, Christ’s work will be incomplete until that being is brought up from death and hell, and placed in a position of progress, upward and onward, in such glory as is possible for its enjoy­ment and the service of the great God.

The punishment inflicted will be adequate to the wrongs performed. In one sense the sinner will always suffer its effects. When the debt is paid and justice is satisfied; when obedience is learned through the lessons of sad experience; when the grateful and subdued soul comes forth from the everlasting punishment, thoroughly willing to comply with the laws once rejected; there will be an abiding sense of loss. The fullness of celestial glory in the presence and society of God and the Lamb are beyond the reach of that saved but not perfected soul, forever. The power of increase, wherein are dominion and exaltation and crowns of immeasurable glory, is not for the class of beings who have been thrust down to hell and endured the wrath of God for the period allotted by eternal judgment….

Those who were cast down to the depths of their sins, who rejected the gospel of Jesus, who persecuted the Saints, who reveled in iniquity, who committed all manner of trans­gressions except the unpardonable crime, will also come forth in the Lord’s time, through the blood of the Lamb and the ministry of His disciples and their own repentance and willing acceptance of divine law, and enter into the various degrees of glory and power and progress and light, according to their different capacities and adaptabilities. They cannot go up into the society of the Father nor receive of the presence of the Son, but will have ministrations of messengers from the ter­restrial world, and have joy beyond all expectations and the conception of uninspired mortal minds. They will all bow the knee to Christ and serve God the Father, and have an eternity of usefulness and happiness in harmony with the higher pow­ers. They receive the telestial glory.”

The vision is a remarkable oracle. “Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the Kingdom of the Lord,” Joseph Smith stated, “than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every com­mandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, .. . witness the fact that the document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faith­fulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every man is constrained to exclaim: It came from God.-24

Conclusion

The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received the vision of the glories in 1832. God continued to reveal himself, his plan, and the doctrines of salvation during the next twelve years of the Prophet Joseph’s mortal ministry and subse­quently to his successors. Some time after the coming of Elijah and the restoration of the fulness of the priesthood in April 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith introduced the Saints to the doctrine and practice of celestial marriage. He taught that “in the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; 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]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (DEC 131:1-4). Or, as the Prophet stated another way, “except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.””

Truly there are many mansions of the Father (John 14:1-2), and the Holy One of Israel has made provision for his people to attain to that level of glory hereafter that they are willing to receive. The Prophet quoted the Savior about many mansions and said: “It should be—’In my Father’s kingdom are many kingdoms, in order that ye may be heirs of God and joint-heirs with me.’ I do not believe the Methodist doctrine of sending honest men and noble-minded men to hell, along with the murderer and the adulterer. They may hurl all their hell and fiery billows upon me, for they will roll off me as fast as they come on. But I have an order of things to save the poor fellows at any rate, and get them saved; for I will send men to preach to them in prison and save them if I can.”26 Here is a message of hope, a breath of fresh air amid the fiery winds of sectarian theology, a doctrine that manifests the mercy and wisdom of our Divine Redeemer. Thanks be to God for th