2010: Degrees of Glory / Levels of Heaven / Heavenly Rewards in Jewish, Christian, Latter-day Saint Tradition / Steve St.Clair (Post 4)

Degrees of Glory / Levels of Heaven / Heavenly Rewards in Jewish, Christian, Latter-day Saint Tradition
Steve St.Clair – stclairst@ca.rr.com 2010

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POST 4:  2002AD – Present

 

2002
Asher Intrater, Messianic Jewish Leader in Isreal
Rewards in Heaven

Revive Isreal.org Website

The ultimate destiny of every man is either eternal bliss in paradise or eternal torment in the lake of fire. There is no middle ground.

Revelation 20:15

“Anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

The difference between these two final options is what motivates us to preach the gospel. Everyone will be saved or damned.

Among those who are being saved there are also different levels of reward. When Yeshua taught on prayer, fasting, and charity, he said that if we do these things with a pure heart, then we would receive reward in the world to come. If on the other hand, our motives were not pure, our reward would be canceled.

Matthew 6:4,6,18

“Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

The people he is talking about here are “believers.” This is not a difference between being damned or saved, but rather a difference as to what reward you will receive in paradise. Each time we do righteous deeds with a pure heart, we store up for ourselves reward in heaven. To the degree that we act hypocritically, our rewards are nullified.

Since each action has a cumulative reward, every person will receive a different level of reward in the world to come.

In order to be saved, we must receive forgiveness of sins by faith in Yeshua’s sacrifice for us on the cross. Anyone who rejects the saving grace of Yeshua is damned (Mark 16:16). He who does believe in Yeshua passes out of this judgment and receives salvation (John 5:24). God does not seek to damn anyone, but He who rejects the offer of eternal life is in effect damned of his own (John 3:18).

In the sense of being condemned, a true believer in Yeshua is not “judged.” However, there is another meaning to the word “judge” which is not referring to damnation or salvation, but to reward and punishment. In this sense every believer will be judged.

II Corinthians 5:10

“For we must all 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.”

This statement of the Apostle Paul was made to born-again, spirit-filled believers. He included himself in this judgment when he said, “we.”

If all saved people will live eternally in paradise, and if paradise is such a perfect place, how could there be different levels of reward there? Let us examine four areas:

1. Position of authority

The world to come is a real society. Everyone will have a job. There will be positions of leadership and government.

Luke 19:17

“Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.”

Luke 19:19

“You also be over five cities.”

Luke 19:24

“Take the portion away from him, and give it to him who has ten.”

Some people will have authority over thousands (like ten cities). Others will have lesser positions (like five cities). Others will have jobs with no authority at all (like the one whose portion was taken away).

2. Magnitude of Glory

In the world to come, we will live in resurrected bodies. These bodies will be glorified, meaning that they will shine with light like stars by the power of God. But like the stars, not every person’s body will shine with the same degree of glory.

I Corinthians 15:39-42

“There are celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.”

The difference between our bodies now and our bodies after the resurrection will be like the difference between the earth (which doesn’t shine) and a star (which does shine). However, there is another difference. “For one star differs from another star in glory (vs. 41).” Just as there is a difference in the magnitude of light coming from each star, so will it be in the resurrection. Each person’s body will have a different degree of light shining from it – some more; some less.

3. Proximity to Yeshua

While all true believers will be physically present in the world to come, and while everyone will have access to meet Yeshua, not everyone will have the same proximity to Him on a day-to-day basis. John and James’ mother once came asking a request from Yeshua.

Matthew 20:21

“Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

While Yeshua could not grant her request, He did affirm the fact that there will be a certain “assigned seating” arrangements at events in the kingdom of God. As a citizen of Israel, I have general access to meet with the Prime Minister. However, only those on his immediate staff can meet with him every day. Only those with higher positions in the government can easily obtain an appointment with him. The degree of one’s accessibility to Yeshua is considered a great reward in the kingdom of God.

4. Heavenly “Treasure”

Sometimes people say, concerning money, “You can’t take it with you.” That is not entirely true. Just as there are banks on earth, there is some type of “banking” system in heaven.

Matthew 6:20

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves do not break in and steal.”

You make a deposit in your account in heaven by giving money to others. I don’t know if there is an actual “currency” in the world to come. However, there must be some kind of “treasure” or what Yeshua said would be meaningless. Whatever that “treasure” is, there must be different degrees to which it can be “stored up.” There will be different quantitative rewards in the world to come.

When referring to rewards according to our works, we must remember that God looks at the heart and not at the outward appearance. Many things that seem to be great works in the eyes of men are nothing in the eyes of God. And many deeds that seem to be worthless in the eyes of men are of great value to God. Yeshua said of the poor widow who gave two small coins that she gave more than the great sums of money given by the wealthy (Luke 21:3). In what sense did she give more? Her gift was considered greater for its deposit in the heavenly bank because it took more faith and love to give it.

So it is with many other kinds of works. A great evangelist may be motivated by worldly ambition and even though he was used by God to save thousands, he may receive little reward in the world to come (Phil. 1:16). Another may only “succeed” in giving one cup of water, but thereby receive the same reward as a prophet (Matt. 10:41)! If you are just faithful in the very little thing that God has put in your path, you may receive an enormous reward in the world to come.

Some people think that it is unbiblical and selfish to be motivated by rewards in the world to come. But that is not true. It is wrong to be motivated by the honor of man rather than the honor of God (John 5:44), and by the carnal rewards of this life rather than the eternal rewards of the world to come (Hebrews 11:25-26).

In fact, the Bible says that we cannot even please God unless we believe that He will reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Behavioral science correctly teaches that rewards encourage certain behavior and punishments discourage. Yet the very concept of reward and punishment, both temporal and eternal, comes from God.

There will also be certain punishments among those who receive eternal life. How can there be punishments when a person is saved? Any sin that is repented of by a believer is washed by the blood of Yeshua and erased. Yet sin that is not repented of will receive punishment. Five of the seven churches in the book of Revelation received rebukes from Yeshua. He was not speaking primarily of their losing salvation, but of losing their rewards. By punishment here I do not mean damnation, but rather chastisement.

The Bible speaks of Yeshua having a “rod” that comes out of His mouth. By this I understand that the primary chastisement of believers in the world to come will not be torment by fire nor even physical beatings, but rather a firm and honest rebuke by Jesus, which will be witnessed by millions in the Day of Judgment.

Yeshua will not give us false compliments or flattery. If we have disobeyed Him, failed to fulfill our destiny, or simply led a carnal lifestyle, He will speak bluntly and authoritatively to the point. I would rather be burned with fire or receive a thousand lashes than to hear a word of disapproval from the lips of Yeshua on “that day.”

Luke 12:47-48

“That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.”

This passage is not speaking of the damned. (That is covered in verse 46.) In any case, receiving a few more or less beatings could not apply to someone who would spend eternity in the lake of fire. There are degrees of responsibility and commitment in the kingdom of God. We are held responsible for what we know. The level of punishment is meted out accordingly.

So in the kingdom of God there will be different levels of reward and punishment. Some will receive more. Some will receive less. Some will receive nothing at all.

I Corinthians 3:14-15

“If anyone’s work that he has built on [the foundation which is Jesus Christ] endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved.”

We are saved through faith in Yeshua. That is our foundation. With that foundation a person builds his life with a quality like gold or silver, wood or hay. According to the life we live, we will be rewarded or not rewarded; we will be praised or rebuked.

There is an urgency to tell unbelievers that a day of judgment is coming where they will face either eternal damnation or salvation. There is likewise an urgency to tell believers that a day of judgment is coming – not for damnation or salvation, but for reward and punishment in the kingdom of God.

2002

Wayne Jackson, Editor, “Christian Courier” (Church of Christ)

Are There Degrees of Blessedness and Punishment in Eternity?

May 14, 2002

”Will There Be Differing Degrees Of Rewards In Heaven And Different Levels Of Punishment In Hell?”

Before we address the question directly, some preliminary observations would be helpful.

(1) The Bible is very clear in affirming that God is a being of absolute goodness. The Psalmist declared: “Good and upright is Jehovah?” (25:8; cf. 100:5). Whatever God does, therefore, is good — whether or not man can understand it (Isa. 55:8-9).

(2) God is also just. Justice is one of the elements that lies at the very foundation of his sovereign rule (Psa. 89:14). The Judge of the earth always “does what is right” (Gen. 18:25). As finite beings with limited understanding, however, we are unable to appreciate fully this reality.

When Job went through his anguished ordeal, in moments of weakness, he thought that God occasionally deals unjustly with people. He charged that Jehovah is not always good; sometimes, the patriarch alleged, he mocks “at the calamity of the innocent” (9:23). Later, when confronted with the power and wisdom of the Creator (chapters 38-41), Job confessed that his uninformed accusations had obscured the true plan of the Almighty (42:2-3).

(3) Those who spend eternity estranged from the presence of the Lord (cf. Mt. 25:41; 2 Thes. 1:7-9), will do so because that is what they deserve. The “wages” of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and eternal “death” is separation from the good and gracious Maker of mankind (Rev. 20:14-15).

(4) Those who have accepted the loving favor of God, by humbly submitting to his revealed will (regardless of the time period in which they have lived), will enjoy the bliss of eternal life, i.e., everlasting communion with the Lord. The guilt of sin is removed from the submissive sinner, by virtue of the atoning death of Jesus of Nazareth (Gal. 4:4; Heb. 9:15-17).

On the other hand, those who reject the offer of salvation will not enjoy the reward of heaven (cf. Heb. 2:1ff; cf. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:17).

Let us now address the first part of our question. Will there be degrees of reward in heaven? We believe that both scripture and common sense answer affirmatively.

There is no evidence that the human spirit, as to its basic constitution, will be changed by the experience of death. If it is the case, therefore, that we are capable of different levels of satisfaction and enjoyment now, depending upon our capacity for such, it follows that such likely will be the case in the eternal order of things. This seems to be a logical inference. How could most modern Christians, with their limited range of experiences, possibly appreciate heaven to the same degree as someone like the apostle Paul, who suffered so much for his eternal crown (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24ff)?

The Scriptures, in many places, seem to imply varying levels of reward for the redeemed. Everyone in heaven will be supremely happy, but the capacity of some would appear to be greater — by virtue of their sacrifices and spiritual development. Let us consider a few passages.

Degrees of Reward

In speaking of the heavenly order of things, Daniel wrote that those who “are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (12:3). Note the term “many,” as compared to fewer. There clearly is implied a level of reward commensurate with one’s evangelistic labors.

Albert Barnes noted that the suggestion is that the righteous will “be honored in proportion to their toils, their sacrifices, and their success” (Notes on Daniel, New York: Leavitt & Allen, 1853, p. 450).

Another scholar has written that the glorious reward of the righteous “is in proportion to the works that are done” (H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969, p. 532)

In one of his parables, Jesus told of a nobleman who entrusted to each of ten servants an equal quantity of money with which to do business while he was away in a distant land (see Lk. 19:12ff). When he returned, they were called to account for their stewardship. One fellow had multiplied his investment ten-fold and was granted authority over ten cities. Another had increased his trust by five; similarly, he was rewarded with five cities. Finally, one man had done nothing with his allotment, and so lost it. For our purpose here, simply note that the two men who had increased their investments were rewarded according to their respective results.

The Scriptures affirm that Christ, at the time of his return will “repay each person according to what he has done” (Mt. 16:27 ESV). The preposition kata (“according to”) implies a norm, standard by which “rewards or punishments are given” (F.W.Danker, et al., Greek-English Lexicon, University of Chicago, 2000, p. 512). If this does not signify a proportionately fair dispersal, language scarcely has any meaning.

Paul was thrilled to know that, at the time of the Lord’s return, he would have both joy and glory on behalf of those whom he had helped in their journey to heaven (1 Thes. 2:19-20). By way of contrast, however, the apostle cautioned the Corinthians about the manner in which they seek “materials” for the make-up of the Lord’s spiritual house, the church (see 1 Cor. 3:10ff). He urged them to consider the quality of those on whose behalf they labored (i.e., ernest people, versus the superficial) for the time would come when that construction material would be put to the test, the quality being revealed.

Paul noted that if a man’s “work” (i.e., his converts; cf. 1 Cor. 9:1) did not abide, though he himself might be saved, he would suffer “loss.” The loss would be the joy and glory (cf. 1 Thes. 2:19-20) of knowing that his labor was fruitful eternally (cf. Gal. 4:11). The implication is plain — the more of our converts who endure, and finally arrive in heaven, the greater our joy and reward will be.

Degrees of Punishment

On the opposite side of the equation, there is the matter of degrees of punishment. If anything, the Bible is even more decisive on this issue.

Jesus informed the citizens of certain communities in Galilee that in the day of judgment, it would be “more tolerable” for certain people of the ancient world (e.g., Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom) than for them (Mt. 11:20-24; cf. 10:15). The word “tolerable” means “bearable, endurable.” In the Greek Testament the word represents a comparative format. The difference was in the opportunities each had enjoyed. Judgment was to be balanced against this factor.

Christ told about a certain master who took a trip. While he was away, his servants, who had been charged with various responsibilities, disobeyed him. When the Lord returned, and discovered that some had knowingly been disobedient, while others had disobeyed in ignorance, he punished them according to the level of their culpability (Lk. 12:47-48). There is perhaps no clearer passage than this, that teaches degrees of punishment.

During the course of his trial, Jesus informed Pilate: “He who delivered me unto you has the greater sin” (Jn. 19:11). Does not justice require a greater punishment for a greater sin?

A man who set aside the law of God under the Mosaic regime, was executed without mercy. The writer of the book of Hebrews declares that the one who tramples on the Son of God and who treats, as a common thing, the blood by which he was sanctified, will deserve a much “worse” punishment (Heb. 10:26-31). The principle is this: there is a greater level of responsibility for those who live under the better covenant, and there will be appropriate punishment meted out for those who, through apostasy, reject that which they previously embraced.

The apostle Peter wrote regarding those who had “escaped the defilements of the world” by virtue of their knowledge of the truth, i.e., obedience to the gospel (2 Pet. 2:20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). He warned that should they become entangled again in these defilements, and overcome, their “last state” (their apostate condition) would be “worse” than the first (the pre-conversion state). Ominously, he says it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back to their former lifestyle. This, most assuredly, teaches a greater level of punishment for apostate Christians than for those who never knew the truth.

James provides a word of caution appropriate to this topic. “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1 ESV). Is there any question about the implication of that warning?

“The main thought in vv. 1-12 is the greater responsibility of teachers and the extremely dangerous character of the instrument [the tongue] which they have to use? Greater responsibility brings greater judgment” (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976, p. 141).

Conclusion

And so, the answer to the original question is, “Yes.” There will be degrees of just reward — in terms of both blessedness and punishment. Intelligent people will endeavor to live the obedient life so as to achieve the greatest plateau of enjoyment of which they are capable, and therefore avoid the horrible alternative.

2002

Craig Miller

Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine? (excerpts)

 

Sunstone Symposium August 7-10, 2002   Part

Unique Similarities

As far as I know the following similarities appear only in the LDS religious tradition and the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg.  One or two such similarities would be an interesting coincidence, three completely unexpected, and four a strong indication that there is something much more to the similarities than mere chance.  An analogy might be that a unique gene in two otherwise very dissimilar individuals may still be an indication that common ancestry is a either a high probability or an absolute certainty.

1.There are three heavens (D&C 76, Heaven and Hell chapter 5).  Swedenborg divided the heavens into three: the celestial, spiritual, and natural heavens, with divisions so absolute that direct communication is generally not possible without divine help.  Those of lower heavens in general cannot see the inhabitants of the higher heavens.  Communication does occur between higher and lower realms, but those of the lower heavens are, in general, less aware of its occurrence.  The communication originates from what Swedenborg calls “correspondences,” which means that all things of a lower order are symbols or allegories of higher realities. God Himself, for example, can be understood through careful and reverent observation of His creations.

The LDS parallel of Swedenborg’s heavens are the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms.  Swedenborg’s terms for the heavens are all biblical, and can be found in the scriptures that Mormons believe refer to these heavens, 1 Cor 15:40-42. The counterpart of Swedenborg’s spiritual heaven is the LDS terrestrial heaven, which despite its name, is not depicted as being earthlike in LDS scripture.  To describe the lowest of the heavens Joseph Smith invented a new term, telestial.  Swedenborg stated that the heavens were arranged in layers around the central Sun of heaven, or the Lord God Jesus Christ.  The natural heaven is the furthest from the center.

3. There are three heavens in the celestial glory or kingdom (D&C 131:1, Arcana Coelestia 9993).  Swedenborg states that there are three heavens, the celestial, spiritual and natural, and two kingdoms of heaven, the celestial and the spiritual. The organizational relationship between the three heavens and two kingdoms is complex and has long been a source of discussion among students of Swedenborg.  In Arcana Coelestia 9993 [2], Swedenborg states that the celestial kingdom has three divisions, and also stated in Arcana Coelestia 5922 [2] that the celestial kingdom is the celestial heaven.  Through the Lord’s direction and by means of angels that communicate between them they act in unison.  Mormons understand D&C 131:1 to mean that the celestial heaven, “glory” in D&C 131:1, is divided into three heavens.  Swedenborg also used the word “glory” to refer to kingdoms (Arcana Coelestia 5922 [2].  While, again, the exact  interpretation of the three heavens-two kingdoms distinction remains a matter of discussion in the New Church, the parallels with LDS doctrine are still obvious.

7.  Likens the celestial, spiritual (terrestrial?), and natural (telestial?) heaven to the sun, moon, and stars (D&C 76:50,71,81, 88:7-9, Heaven and Hell 117-120, 129, Apocalypse Revealed 65).  I place this at the end of the list because there is a significant difference embedded in the similarity, namely that Swedenborg speaks of the heavens and their illumination while LDS scriptures speak of the bodies of the inhabitants of those heavens.  Nevertheless, the aspects of the teachings that are similar are unique in Christianity and not clear in the King James version of 1 Cor 15:40-42.  Allegorically, Swedenborg likens both the nature of each heaven as well as the illumination in the sky of each heaven to the sun, moon, and stars (Heaven and Hell 119).  He states that the sun of the celestial heaven and the moon of the spiritual kingdom is the Lord (Heaven and Hell 118).  Swedenborg states that the communities of the natural heaven appear as stars in the sky to inhabitants of the world of spirits (Apocalypse Revealed 65).  In the Joseph Smith translation of I Cor 14:40-42 and in Doctrine and Covenants 76:70,71,81; the resurrected bodies of those in the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial heavens are likened to the sun, moon, and stars.  In Doctrine and Covenants 88:7,8, the Lord is said to be the light of the sun and is in the sun and also the light of the moon and is in the moon.  Verse 9 states that He is also the source of the light of the stars but does not state the He is in the stars.  It could well be that these verses speak of the spiritual realms more than the physical.

 

 

2005

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Degrees of Heaven / Hell

 

Q. In our Bible study today we discussed if there are degrees or levels in heaven and hell. It was also suggested that hell is not eternal. Are there scriptural references to support these points?

 

A. In its report on The End Times,” the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations says regarding hell: “In both “body and soul” unbelievers will suffer eternal separation and condemnation in hell (Matt 18:8; 25:46; Mark 9:43; John 3:36; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 13; Rev. 14:11). Indescribable torment will be experienced consciously, the degree determined by the nature of the sins to be punished (Matt. 11:20-24; 23:15; Luke 12:47-48).”

Regarding heaven and “degrees of glory” the Commission says: “Eternal life is pictured in the Scriptures as a state of never-ending “blessedness.” This means, on the one hand, that Christians will live forever in perfect freedom from sin, death, and every evil (Is. 25:8; 49:10; 1 Cor. 15:26, 55-57; Rev. 2:7, 11; 20:14; 21:4). At the same time, they will experience the unending joy of being with God in the new heavens and new earth (e.g., Revelation 21-22; Ps. 16:11). Forever eliminated is the possibility of falling away from God. This blessedness will bring with it the joy of being in eternal communion with fellow believers, whom we have reason to believe we shall recognize (cf. Matt. 17:3). And, there will be no limitations or degrees attached to the enjoyment of the happiness to be experienced, though there will be degrees of glory corresponding to differences of work and fidelity here on earth, producing praise to God but no envy (see 2 Cor. 9:6; Matt. 20:23).”

2005

Robert L. Millet

A Different Jesus?  The Christ of  the Latter-day Saints – Degrees of Glory


This idea is not totally foreign to other Christians. In the words of popular writer Bruce Wilkinson, “Although your eternal destination is based on your belief [in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior], how you spend eternity is based on your behavior while on earth.” Thus “The Unbreakable Link” is stated as follows: “Your choices on earth have di­rect consequences on your life in eternity.” Discipleship flows from true conversion. That is, “Doing is a servant’s language of devotion.” In short, “there will be degrees of reward in heaven.”‘” Jonathan Edwards stated that “There are many mansions in God’s house because heaven is intended for various degrees of honor and blessedness. Some are de­signed to sic in higher places there than others; some are designed to be advanced to higher degrees of honor and glory than others are.”4s Sim­ilarly, John Wesley spoke of some persons enjoying “higher degrees of glory” hereafter. “There is an inconceivable variety in the degrees of re­ward in the other world…. In worldly things men are ambitious to get as high as they can. Christians have a far more noble ambition. The dif­ference between the very highest and the lowest state in the world is nothing to the smallest difference between the degrees of glory.”

2005

Dr. Richard L. Bushman

“The Vision,” in Chapter Ten: Exaltation (1832-33)

 

Joseph Smith:  Rough Stone Rolling (195-202)

The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.

Doctrine and Covenants [1835], 82:6

In the middle of February 1832, Joseph received a revelation that introduced a new understanding of what he called “the economy of God.”1 During the previous years, the revelations had dealt primarily with establishing the Church and building the City of Zion. They established policy, made assignments, or dealt with current Church problems. The emphasis was on this world. Gathering to Zion received more attention than preparing for the afterlife. The revelations promised an inheritance on earth with little mention of a reward in heaven.A long February revelation, called “The Vision,” returned to the ques­tions of human destiny initially addressed in the 1830 revelation of the Book of Moses. “The Vision” dealt with life after death for the first time since the Book of Mormon. It was the first of four revelations over the next fifteen months introducing the theme of exaltation.2 To the fundamentals of sin and atonement, the exaltation revelations added visions of life after salvation. After redemption by Christ, after death, after entry into heaven, what then? With “The Vision,” exaltation took its place alongside the Zion project as a second pillar of Mormon belief.

Until 1832, an apocalyptic message of sin and ruin had run through the revealed texts. In the Book el Mormon, two civilizations collapse. In the Book of Moses, the earth weeps for the world’s sins. The Zion revelations described devastating catastrophes in the world’s immediate future. All had a somber cast. The four exaltation revelations looked beyond the sorrows of this world to the serene expanse of “eternal wisdom.” They were more Promising than threatening, more light than dark.

Out of the exaltation revelations came a new idea of salvation. Protestant evangelicals were preoccupied with the Fall, sin, grace, faith, and redemp­tion; they said little about heaven. Salvation consisted of bridging the abyss between humans and the divine. To he accepted by God was heaven enough. Mormonism too bridged the abyss. Salvation through Christ appeared on page after page of the Book of Mormon and again in the summary of beliefs prepared at the organization of the Church.3 “The Vision” went on from there, dwelling less on reconciliation with God than on achieving the high­est realms of God’s glory. Heaven contained degrees of glory. The aim was to be exalted to the highest degree, to receive what the revelations called “the fulness,” meaning the fulness of God’s glory.4

By the standards of systematic theology, all of Joseph’s exaltation revela­tions are undisciplined and oracular, like the Bible itself. He did not address a set of outstanding issues, as Jonathan Edwards did in combating eighteenth-century Deism and Arminianism. The exaltation revelations never reply to other texts, give reasons, or make arguments. They are tangled and sponta­neous, connecting here and there with other writings like the Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s discourses on heaven or the Universalists’ doctrine of universal salvation, but without engaging in debate. They stand alone, energetic and illuminating, disorderly. Interpretation involves piecing together the pans into a coherent whole and must be undertaken provisionally with no assurance that even believing Mormons will concur.

“The Vision”

The degrees of glory revelation came in answer to a question about a New Testament passage. As he and Rigdon revised the Bible, Joseph puzzled out the plain meaning of the text. When stumped, he would ask for a revela­tion.5 In January 1832, Joseph inquired about 1 Corinthians 7:14, concern­ing the marriage of believers and unbelievers. In reply to his inquiry, a brief revelation about the effects of mixed marriages on children was received. A month later, John 5:29 posed another problem: where was the justice of God in dealing out rewards and punishments? The passage said the dead “shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” The scripture raised the question of how God could divide people into stark cat­egories of saved and damned when individuals were so obviously a mix in ordinary life. “It appeared self-evident,” Joseph wrote, “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.”6

The question Joseph posed was a classic post-Calvinist puzzle. For over a century Anglo-American culture had struggled to explain the arbitrary judg­ments of the Calvinist God who saved and damned according to his own good pleasure with little regard for human effort. In severe Calvinism, striv­ing made no difference until God bestowed grace on an aspiring soul. Moral behavior was the product of God’s redeeming race, not the reason for His forgiveness and acceptance. Human effort alone counted for nothing.

During the preceding century, the Calvinist notion of arbitrary sover­eignty had come to seem incongruous and offensive. In politics, the require­ment of reasonable authority, respectful of human rights, underlay the revolutionary movements of the eighteenth century. In religion, theolo­gians and preachers worked to make God appear just, loving, and reason­able, while preserving the semblance of traditional Calvinist doctrines. Calvinism still flourished in sophisticated forms in theological circles, but people were asking questions much like Smith’s.7 Is God’s judgment of humanity consistent with His benevolent character?

The resulting revelation was received in the usual way: in plain sight, with others looking on. More surprising, Sidney Rigdon and Joseph, according to the text, viewed the vision together. Sitting on chairs with perhaps a dozen men watching, they spoke in a plural voice:

We, Joseph Smith, jr. and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, by the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened, and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God.

Together they saw the “glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father,” and jointly bore witness.

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 lives; 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.8

Rigdon never commented on the experience, though an eyewitness writing in 1892 said Rigdon was drooping by the end while Joseph was still fresh. “Brother Sidney is not as used to it as I am,” Joseph is reputed to have said.9

The words “economy of God in his vast creation through out all eter­nity,” written in a note on the manuscript, referred to the state of human spirits after the resurrection. “The Vision” divided the spirits into four broad categories: three “kingdoms” of glory and one of no glory. The realm of no glory was the destination of the “sons of perdition,” those who had once partaken of the glory of the Lord and rebelled against it. These rebels were worse than bad. They were souls who knew God’s power, like Satan, who once “was in the bosom of the Father” and rebelled against Him. The sons of perdition suffered the devil to overcome them and “to deny the truth, and defy my power.” Sinning against the light, these were “doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity.”10

These lost ones stand in contrast to the conventionally wicked “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” These souls, the revelation said, will suffer on earth, and undergo the “vengeance of eternal fire” in hell after death, but in the last resurrection, after Christ has perfected his work on earth, they too are res­urrected into a kingdom of glory, the “telestial.”11 Theirs is to be a lesser glory, no more than the brightness of stars compared to the sun, but still a glory “which surpasses all understanding.”12

The grade above the telestial, the “terrestrial kingdom,” receives the “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 fulness.” They are the believing Christians who are not valiant in the faith. At the top is the “celes­tial kingdom,” the “church of the first-born,” for believers in Jesus who accept all the ordinances, keep the commandments, and overcome by faith. “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.”13

“The Vision” showed God to be just by granting rewards and punish­ments in three divisions, roughly corresponding to human experience. The telestial kingdom contained visible sinners who flouted God’s command­ments; the terrestrial kingdom housed good people who observed Christian conventions but failed to receive the truth in its fulness; and the celestial kingdom was for those who accepted the fulness of the Gospel. Each group had its place, with room for even finer gradations in the telestial kingdom, where glories differed as stars differ in brightness.

The three heavens scheme came from Paul’s teaching on the resurrection:

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.14

Building on Paul, “The Vision” made the three resurrected glories of sun, moon, and stars into three heavenly realms. The same scripture inspired eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg to divide the heavens into three parts, “celestial,” “spiritual,” and “natural,” equivalent to sun, moon, and stars. Like Joseph and Rigdon, Swedenborg thought the sharp division of the afterlife into heaven and hell underesti­mated God’s desire to bless his children.15 Since Swedenborg attracted the attention of New England intellectuals (his Treatise  Concerning Heaven and Hell had its first American edition in 1812), his ideas may conceivably have drifted into Joseph Smith’s environment, but it was more likely the passage from Paul sparked the revelations of both men.16 Joseph later taught that there were three “heavens or degrees” within the celestial kingdom, further dividing the economy of God.

The most radical departure of “The Vision” was not the tripartite heaven but the contraction of hell. In Joseph and Rigdon’s economy of God, the sinners ordinarily sent to hell forever remained there only until “Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet” Then they are redeemed from the devil in the last resurrection to find a place in the teles­tial kingdom. Only those rare souls who know God’s power and reject it suffer everlasting punishment. God redeems all save these sons of perdi­tion, “the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power.”17

The doctrine recast life after death. The traditional division of heaven and hell made religious life arbitrary. One received grace or one went to hell. In Joseph’s afterlife, the issue was degrees of glory. A permanent hell threatened very few. The question was not escape from hell but closeness to God. God scaled the rewards to each person’s capacity. Even the telestial glory, the lowest of the three, “surpasses all understanding.” 18

A later revelation further softened divine judgment. In December 1832 the elders were told that glory was granted according to the law each person could “abide,” whether celestial, terrestrial, or telestial. One’s glory, it was implied, was tailored to one’s capacity. “He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom, cannot abide a celestial glory.” The glory one received was the glory one found tolerable. “For what doth it profit a man,” the sec­tion concluded, “if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold he rejoices notin that which is given unto him.” One’s place in heaven reflected more one’s preference than a judgment. “Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth.” The last judgment matched affinities.”19

The three degrees doctrine resembled the Universalists’ belief that Christ’s atonement was sufficient to redeem everyone, or, alternately, that a benevolent God would not eternally punish his own children. No sinners were beyond salvation. The Universalists derived their name from the doc­trine that salvation was as universal as Christ’s atoning sacrifice was power­ful. Though sinners might be punished for a time as a form of discipline, Christ would ultimately save everyone. Joseph’s grandfather Asael Smith was among many small farmers and workers attracted to Universalist doc­trine.20  In a sense, “The Vision” perpetuated Smith family doctrine.

Strange to say, the Book of Mormon argued against universal salvation. A teacher of universalist doctrine, Nehor, was labeled a heretic in the Book of Mormon, and his followers, a band of rebellious priests called the Order of Nehor, disrupted Nephite society. Alma, a preeminent prophet, refuted universal salvation in a discourse to his son Corianton, and another prophet, Lehi, delivered an elaborate philosophical discourse to show that the law must impose punishment on transgressors or good and evil had no mean­ing.21  In opposition to universal salvation, the Book of Mormon envisioned the afterlife as heaven or hell.

In a perplexing reversal, a revelation received in the very month the Book of Mormon was published contradicted the book’s firm stand. The revelation said that the phrase “endless torment” did not mean no end to torment, but that “Endless” was a name of God, and “endless punishment” meant God’s punishment.22 Torment for sins would be temporary, just as the Universalists taught. In this mg-of-war between the Book of Mormon and the revela­tions, “The Vision” reinforced the Universalist tendency against the Book of Mormon’s anti-universalism.

Where was Joseph Smith coming down on the question of universal sal­vation? Contradictory as they sound, the universalist tendencies of the rev­elations and the anti-universalism of the Book of Mormon defined a middle ground where there were graded rewards in the afterlife, but few were damned. “The Vision” did not actually endorse universal salvation any more than the Book of ormon did. It imposed permanent penalties for sin­ning, rewarded righteousness with higher degrees of glory, and assigned the sons of perdition to permanent outer darkness. But “The Vision” also elim­inated the injustices of heaven-and-hell theology. The three degrees of glory doctrine lay somewhere between the two extremes.

Whatever these oscillations meant for Joseph, “The Vision” confused Mormons who saw only its universalist bent. For most Christians, univer­sal salvation exceeded the limits of acceptable orthodoxy. One Mormon reflected later that “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.”23  Oth­ers who were “stumbling at it” did object. At a conference in Geneseo, New York, held to deal with the controversy, one brother declared “the vision was of the Devil & he believed it no more than he believed the devil was crucified.” Ezra Landon was cut off from the Church for insisting “the vision was of the Devil came from hel[I].” Eventually, Joseph counseled missionaries against publicizing “The Vision” prematurely. The first mis­sionaries to England were told to stick to the first principles of the Gospel. Other members found it thrilling. William Phelps immediately published “The Vision” in the Church newspaper in Missouri.24

The three degrees doctrine aside, “The Vision” incorporated common Protestant beliefs about heaven. There was nothing in it like the idiosyn­cratic details the angels revealed to Swedenborg. In Swedenborg’s heaven, people were said to have a clergy and worship in churches. Maidens embroidered flowers on white linens. People lived like innocent children without clothing. They underwent growth, struggle, and change.25 Avoid­ing all such description, “The Vision” used language common to Protes­tants. The words of a Salem pastor in 1819 might have appeared in Joseph’s revelation. Because of faith in Christ, Brown Emerson wrote, “believers will share in his honor and blessedness.” Christians are “exalted, as joint heirs with the Son of God, to all the glory and felicity of the heavenly king­dom!” The saved would be raised to “celestial thrones, with crowns of glory on their heads, and unwithering palms in their hands, reigning kings and priests unto God!”26  “Fulness,” “glory” and “kings and priests,” all well-known New Testament words, were the language of “The Vision.” Joseph’s statement that the inhabitants of the celestial kingdom were those “into whose hands the Father has given all things” would not have shocked other Christians. Many could have accepted the declaration of “The Vision” that residents of heaven would be, in the words of John’s Revelation, “priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory.”27

The difference lay in the emphasis. Protestant sermons on heaven spoke mostly of surcease from sorrows and the joy of knowing Christ. “Pietists, Puritans, Methodists, and others,” two historians of heaven have written, “created a powerful model of paradise as an ethereal world filled with psalm-singing or silent contemplation.”28 The emphasis was on serenity and joyful peace. Ideas highlighted in “The Vision,” like the possibility of becoming “joint heirs with Christ” and partaking of his glory, were minor Protestant themes. Joseph’s revelation, by contrast, paraphrases one biblical scripture after mother on the exalted condition of humans in the celestial heavens. They enjoy godly power, dominion, and rank. “They who dwell in his pres­ence … know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace; and he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.” In context, “equal” implied equal with God, even though all were to bow “in humble reverence and give him glory forever and ever.” And most startling, “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.”29  “Fulness” was the criti­cal word in Joseph’s exaltation revelations. The word implied that no bless­ing, power, or glory of God would be withheld from worthy humans.

Joseph loved “The Vision.” “Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints, upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord,” he wrote later, remembering only the favorable reception,

than the light which burst upon the world, through the foregoing vision…. 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. & the punishments of sins, are so much beyond the narrow mindedness of men, that,  every honest man is constrained to exclaim; It came from God.30

His enthusiasm may have come from the altered relationship with God implied by the revelation. The perfection of the stern and mysterious Cal­vinist God distanced Him from His children. The law erected an impassa­ble barrier, requiring perfect compliance. In “The Vision” the workings of heaven were made intelligible, and the law became less a set of forbidding commandments than of instructions on how to reach heaven. The laws were helpful and informative rather than distancing. Knowledge made heaven accessible.

Notes:

1 Joseph and Rigdon were preaching against Booth until January 10,1832, when a reve­lation commanded them to return to translation. ManH A-1, in PJS, 1:370; D&C [1835], 29:2 (D&C, 73:3-4). On the “economy of God,” see Woodford, “Historical Development,” 2:935.

2 D&C’ [1835] 91, 4, 7,82 (1)6C, 76, 84, 88, 93).

3 The summary stated that “by the transgression of these holy laws, man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man. Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his only begotten Son.” BofC, 24:14-15 (D&C, 20:2021).

4 Ostler, “Mormon Concept of Grace,” 5784, esp. 70-71.

5 Grant Underwood, an editor of The Papers of Joseph Smith, hypothesizes that possibly Joseph first revised John 5:29, then received the revelation, then revised the passage further. Personal communication with the author.

6 ManH A-1, in PJS, 1:37-72; D&C [1835], 91:3 (D&C, 76:15-17).

7 The strains in Calvinist theology and in altitudes toward authority are analyzed in Wright, Universalism in America; Foster, New England Theology; and Fliegelman, Prodi­gals and Pilgrims.

8 D&C’ [1835], 91:3 (D&C, 76:11, 20, 22-24).

9 Philo Dibble said about twelve men were in the room when the vision was given. Joseph and Rigdon seemed to be looking out a window and describing what they saw. “Recollections of the Prophet,” 303-304. For a question about the authenticity of Dibble’s story, See Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 119, n. 17.

10 Woodford, “Historical Development,” 2:935; D&C [1835], 91:3-4 (D&C, 76:31-33).

11 Unlike “celestial” and “terrestrial,” words in common usage, “telestial” was not a known word. It has the ring of telos, meaning “end” or “uttermost,” a Greek word that appears in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:24, a few verses before a passage on bodies celestial and terrestrial in verse 40. Speaking of the order of resurrection begin­ning with the righteous, Paul writes, “then cometh the end [telos] when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” Jed Woodworth pointed out this connection.

12 D&C [1835], 91:8, 7 (D&C, 76:104-106, 81, 89).

13 D&C [1835], 91:6, 5 (D&C, 76:75-76, 54, 51-53, 58-59). See also Psalms 82:6, and John 1:12 and 10:34.

14 1 Corinthians 15:40-42.

15 McDonnell and Lang, Heaven, 199-200. The three heavens in “The Vision” echo
Paul’s reference to a man caught up into the “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2.

16 Although there is no evidence Joseph read the books on heaven, by 1839 he knew about Swedenborg’s ideas. Hunter, Edward Hunter, 51. On the Swedenborg connec­tion, see Meyers, “Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 58-64, and Quinn, Early Mormonism, 174, 217-18, 520, n. 319.

17 Clayton, Journal, May 16, 1843 (D&C, 131:1); D&C [1835], 91:7,4 (D&C, 76:106, 85, 37, 44.

18 D&C [1835], 91:7 (D&C 76:89). Grant Underwood has argued that Mormons disre­garded the doctrine of the three degrees of glory in the 1830s and 1840s, sticking with the standard heaven and hell. “Persistent Protestantism,” 93-97.

19 D&C [1835], 7:5, 7, 10 (D&C 88:22, 33, 40). The same sentiment is voiced in Alma’s

expostulation in the Book °Mormon: “he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires; whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.” BofM, 303 (Alma 29:5).

20 Miller, Universalist Church, The doctrine of hell was equally repulsive to the Unitarians. Channing, Works, 3:221. Universal salvation met resistance too. Saum, Pre-Civil War America, 44-47.

21 BofM, 211-23, 263, 265-67, 283, 337-40 (Alma 1:4, 16; 14:18; 15:15; 16:11; 21:4; 42), Cf. BofM, 337, 63-64 (Alma 41:10-13; 2 Nephi 2:10-13). For an elaboration of the anti-Universalism in the Book of Mormon, see Vogel, “Anti-Universalist Rhetoric,” 21-52. A rejoinder is Tanner, “Anti-Universalist Rhetoric?” 418-33.

22 BofC, 16:7,11-12 (D&C, 19:6, 10, 12).

23 Materials on the rocky reception of “The Vision” are assembled in Woodford, “His­torical Development,” 2:929-33, and Quinn, Early Mormonism, 216.

24 Murdock, Diary, 27-29; ManH B-1, 792; E&MS, July 1832, [10-11]. Probably Phelps was responsible for putting “The Vision” into poetic verse in 1843. Hicks, “Poetic Paraphrase,” 63-84.

25 McDannell and Lang, Heaven, 199-203.

26 Emerson, Departed Saints, 11.

27 D&C [1835], 91:5 (D&C, 76:56); Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6. Cf. 1 Peter 1:3.

28 Hoge, Heavenly Rest, 17-25; Nott, Future Habitation of Believers, 5-7; McDannell and Lang, Heaven, 199.

29 D&C [1835], 91:7, 5 (D&C, 76:95, 93, 58-59). Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12; John 1:17; Revelation 1:16; Psalms 82:6; John 10:34; Romans 8;16-17.

30 ManH A-1, in PJS, 1:372.

2005

Elder B. Renato Maldonado, Area Authority Seventy, South America North Area

Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants:  The Three Degrees of Glory

Ensign Article:, Apr 2005, 62–65:

More than any other book, the Doctrine and Covenants helps us understand the nature of life after death. The Savior taught, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “mansions” may be understood to mean “kingdoms”—those kingdoms in which we will dwell in the life after this. He 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. … There are mansions for those who obey a celestial law, and there are other mansions for those who come short of the law, every man in his own order.” 1

As scientific knowledge increases, it will become more evident that there is order in the universe and that all things are governed by harmonious and immutable laws. Perfect order exists in everything in nature from the nucleus of the atom to the immensity of space. This is true in spiritual things as well as temporal; therefore, blessings that are spiritual are also governed by spiritual laws. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven … , upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20–21).

In other words, there is a relationship between obedience and blessings. The Lord has said that we will be blessed and will live in a degree of glory in the next life according to the eternal laws we obey in mortality. “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22). The same holds true for the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms (see D&C 88:23–24).

As the Prophet Joseph Smith was laboring on what we now call the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, he received a vision later recorded as Doctrine and Covenants section 76. Included in this revelation is a comparison of the three degrees of glory: the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms. Following is a brief description of each.

The Celestial Kingdom

The Lord compared celestial glory to that of the sun, “even the glory of God, the highest of all” (D&C 76:70; see also D&C 76:96). Those who will inherit this kingdom must do the following:

• Receive a testimony of Jesus and believe on His name (see D&C 76:51).

• Be baptized by immersion (see D&C 76:51).

• Receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (see D&C 76:52).

• Obey the commandments and be washed and cleansed of all sins (see D&C 76:52).

• Overcome by faith (see D&C 76:53).

• Be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (see D&C 76:53).

Those who qualify for the celestial kingdom will receive, among other blessings:

• Be of a company of angels, of the general assembly and church of Enoch and of the Firstborn (see D&C 76:54, 67).

• Receive the fulness, glory, and grace of the Father (see D&C 76:55, 56, 94).

• Be priests and kings of the Most High God (see D&C 76:56–59).

• Overcome all things (see D&C 76:60).

• Dwell forever in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).

• Be with Christ at the time of His Second Coming (see D&C 76:63).

• Come forth in the First Resurrection (see D&C 76:64–65).

• Go up unto Mount Zion and unto the heavenly city of God (see D&C 76:66).

• Minister to terrestrial and telestial beings (see D&C 76:87–88).

• Be able to have offspring, or in other words, gain the right to become eternal parents (see D&C 131:4).

The Lord further revealed the important doctrines of salvation for the dead and salvation of little children in the celestial kingdom:

“All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

“Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; …

“… All children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” (D&C 137:7–8, 10). Except for those whose mental abilities prevent them from reaching the age of accountability (see D&C 29:50), the age of accountability is eight (see D&C 68:25).

We do not know much about who will inherit two of the three degrees within the celestial kingdom. However, much has been said about the highest level in the celestial kingdom, or exaltation, because that is where the Father wants all of His children to live (see Moses 1:39). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that temple marriage is the key to obtaining exaltation:

“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).

“If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; … and if [they] abide in my covenant …

“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting … because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (D&C 132:19–20).

The Terrestrial Kingdom

The Lord compared terrestrial glory to that of the moon (see D&C 76:97). It exceeds the telestial in all things (see D&C 76:91). Those who will inherit this kingdom are those who experienced one or more of the following circumstances:

• Died without law (see D&C 76:72).

• Were in spirit prison and received a testimony there but rejected the testimony of Jesus while on the earth (see D&C 76:73–74; see also D&C 138:32).

• Were honorable people who allowed themselves to be blinded by the craftiness of men (see D&C 76:75).

• Were not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus (see D&C 76:79).

Among other blessings and limitations, those who qualify for the terrestrial kingdom will:

• Come forth in the First Resurrection after celestial beings are resurrected. 2

• Receive of God’s glory but not His fulness (see D&C 76:76).

• Enjoy the presence of the Son but not the fulness of the Father (see D&C 76:77).

• Not be able to obtain a crown in the kingdom of God (see D&C 76:79).

• Be ministered to by celestial beings (see D&C 76:87).

The Telestial Kingdom

The Lord compared telestial glory to that of the stars (see D&C 76:81). Those who shall inherit this kingdom are those who:

• Rejected the gospel, the testimony of Jesus, the prophets, and the everlasting covenant (see D&C 76:82, 101).

• Were liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers (see D&C 76:103).

• Loved “and [made] a lie” (D&C 76:103).

Among other blessings and limitations, those who inherit the telestial kingdom will:

• Suffer the wrath of God on earth (see D&C 76:104) and not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, which will take place after the Millennium (see D&C 76:85). 3

• Be denied the Savior’s fulness (see D&C 76:86).

• Be able to receive the Holy Ghost through the ministration of beings in higher glories (see D&C 76:86–88).

• Never be able to come where God and Christ dwell (see D&C 76:112).

I am grateful that the Lord revealed these eternal truths through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Such truths help us have a greater understanding of the plan of salvation and a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to know what our eternal destiny will be if we will keep the commandments and endure to the end.

Notes

1. History of the Church, 6:365.

2. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 2:296.

3. Doctrines of Salvation, 2:297.

2006

Blake Ostler

Soteriology in LDS Thought  – The Vision

 

Exploring Mormon Thought, Vol. 2
Soteriology in LDS Thought

 

LDS Soteriological Terminology (pp. 191-196)

It is necessary to engage in some scriptural groundwork and exegesis before I can elucidate a theory of atonement. To begin this discussion it is important to get some clarity on the way terms such as redemption, salvation, exaltation, works, and grace function within the LDS community of thought and scripture. My primary goal in laying out these terms is to avoid the types of confusion that lead to mindless and inaccurate charges by many non-Latter-day Saints and to assist Latter-day Saints to address issues of faith with others without creating needless confusion. The scriptures do not contain definitions of these terms and the way they are used in LDS discourse is not univocal. Nevertheless, these terms are presented carefully and meaningfully in a single revelation to Joseph Smith known as “the Vision.”

The Vision

Joseph Smith received “the Vision” on February 16, 1832, and it revolutionized LDS soteriology or theory of salvation. First, it is imperative to note that Joseph Smith’s revelations teach that we are “saved” by confessing and recognizing Jesus as the resurrected Christ and Lord through grace. It is simply that according to both Paul and LDS scripture, all persons, literally everyone born, will at some point confess Jesus as Lord. In the Vision, God declared: “All shall bow the knee, and every tongue confess to him who sits on the throne forever and ever; for they shall be Judged according to their works, and every man receive according to his own works his own dominion in the mansions prepared” (D&C 76:110-111; emphasis mine). This scripture of course quotes Isaiah 45:23 and Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:10-11 which states: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” One of the most prominent themes in the Vision is the universality of “salvation”—”that through [Christ] all might be saved whom the Father had put in his power and made by him, who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands except the sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him” (D&C 76:42-43). Virtually all will be saved—even those who are consigned to hell for a time.  The universality of salvation is extended even beyond the grave so that those who don’t hear the gospel in this life will at some time recognize Jesus as Lord and thus be saved.

The Vision is a revelation that explains the meaning of John 5:29 which states: “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.” (Emphasis mine) However, in “translating” the KJV Bible, the wording “was given unto us 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” (76:15-17). The scriptures in both the Old and the New Testaments agree universally, without exception, that judgment is based on works that one does in the body over the course of his or her entire life. KJV John S:29 challenges the Christian view of salvation because it divides those who are damned and those who have life based upon whether they have done good or evil rather than upon simply believing in Jesus Christ. Such a statement seemingly contradicts the view held by virtually all Protestants that one is saved from damnation by faith in Christ. It makes salvation dependent on what one does.

To resolve this tension, the translation of John 5:29 in the Vision excises the word “damnation” and replaces it with “unjust,” so that salvation from damnation is no longer dependent on works. It also reveals that virtually all persons are, in fact, redeemed at the time they confess Christ; however, all will also receive according to their works in the judgment. The Vision revealed that, in the resurrection, there are varying degrees of light that will quicken or give life to our bodies.

The “vessels of wrath” (D&C 76:33) are those who have no redemption,” “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 open shame” (D&C 76:35). This statement quotes Hebrews 6:4-6 which states: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and having tasted of the heavenly gift, and become partakers of the spirit . . . if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put him to an open shame.”

This text was the primary scripture cited by Arminians to demonstrate that the Calvinist doctrine of eternal security – once saved always saved – is contrary to scripture. This extremely small group of former disciples who rebel against Christ are the only ones who shall “not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after sufferings of his wrath” (D&C 76:38; emphasis mine). They are “sons of perdition:’ or adopted by the devil and sealed his (D&C 76:25-32). Those who follow Lucifer are adopted as his sons just as those who choose to follow Christ become sons and daughters of Christ. Even the “sons of perdition” at some point confess that Jesus is the Christ; however, they later reject Christ after having known him.

It is also important to note that, in the Vision, “redemption” refers to being ultimately saved from the power of the devil and evil. However, to be redeemed means to be accepted into a saving relationship with Christ through grace; it occurs at the moment one accepts Christ and his or her sins are forgiven. As Joseph Smith’s 1843 poetic rendition of the Vision stated, the sons of Perdition “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.”2 The same poetic rendition stated that Christ came: “To lay down his life for his friends and foes, / And bear away sin as a mission of love.”3

Three kingdoms of glory are revealed in the Vision, the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial. A later revelation to Joseph Smith clarified that every person will enjoy that degree of light or “glory” that he or she is willing to accept (D&C 88:22-25). Those who are in the telestial kingdom come forth in the second resurrection (the sorcerers, adulterers, liars, and whoremongers) and are those who “suffer the wrath of Almighty God on earth … who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of God until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet” (D&C 76:104, 106; emphasis mine) Thus, even these do not suffer in an eternal hell, but “suffer wrath” until Christ finally reigns and they confess that he is Lord. They do not receive Christ until the conclusion of the final resurrection when they are “saved” (D&C 76:101).

Note that there is a “hell” in LDS thought. The sons of perdition are in a state of hell eternally, and those in the telestial kingdom are in a state of hell until the second resurrection, at which time they are redeemed (D&C 76:106). To be in hell means to suffer the wrath of God.

Those in the terrestrial kingdom are those who “died without law,” who die without having received the gospel in this life but who accept it when it is taught to them in “spirit prison” after this life, or who were honorable men but were “deceived by the craftiness of men.” They do not suffer the wrath of God and they do not go to hell. Rather, they remain in “paradise” (as opposed to “spirit prison”) immediately after mortal death. They receive “his glory,” but not a fulness of glory (D&C 76:72-79).

Thus, accepting the gospel and Jesus as Lord do not mark the distinction between those who go to hell and those who don’t; rather, the basis is whether a person is “honorable” in this life. They are “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, wherefore, they obtain not the crown of the kingdom” (76:79). That is, they were honorable but their honor is not such that it merits designations of superlative honor such as a crown of kingship.

In contrast, those who accept Christ in this life and are valiant in testimony receive all that the Father has. They are those who by keeping the commandments [to be baptized] . . . might be washed and cleansed from their sins. . . They are they 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 …Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God. (D&C 76:55-58)

Now for a few clarifications.

“Salvation” in LDS thought (at least in the Vision) means being saved from God’s wrath and delivered from the devil and hell. (See also 2 Ne. 9:10-19). All will be saved at some time in this sense except sons of perdition. Salvation must be distinguished from the LDS view of “exaltation” which corresponds to what Protestants typically mean by “glorification” — to be exalted to and be glorified with the glory that God enjoys and to receive all that he has and is. In this sense, they are “sons of God” (D&C 132:19-20).

Salvation results from confessing Christ as the Son of God, while exaltation results from covenant faithfulness and judgment according to works after one has been redeemed and saved. “Redemption” occurs when one believes in Christ and is delivered from hell. We are redeemed from servitude to the devil (D&C 76:85). Note that “salvation” is not dependent on works and is not a result of judgment by works.

Further, once one has been saved, there is no way to fall from salvation except by becoming a son of perdition. Perhaps because of the Vision, LDS thought seems to focus on works rather than grace. However, the Vision never addresses the issues of grace and how one comes to believe or be accepted into the saving relationship with Christ beyond simply assuming that one is saved and redeemed by bowing the knee and confessing that Jesus is the Christ. The focus of the Vision is on the differing rewards received by those who confess Christ and are saved, for, according to this revelation, no person enters into a kingdom of glory and receives according to his or her works until after he or she has confessed Christ.

Joseph Smith’s other revelations similarly did not focus on the initial act of coming to believe in Christ or being saved by grace, but in establishing the kingdom of God on earth by a people unified as the body of Christ. Because Joseph Smith’s revelations address those who are already saved, already baptized into the kingdom, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that grace is essential to salvation and that salvation is by grace rather than by works.

The other factor that must be carefully noted is that the terms “faith:” “works:’ and “salvation” operate very differently in various communities of discourse and tradition.

“Faith in Christ” in the Vision is synonymous with “the testimony of Christ” (D&C 76:51, 74). One can either be valiant in faith or not valiant. In the Vision, salvation comes from bowing the knee and confessing that Jesus is the Christ. The reward that we receive — or the degree of light that gives life to our bodies in the resurrection — is a matter of being “valiant and honorable” as shown by the works we perform.

Kent L. Ringer has surveyed the theme of judgment in Paul and in the Hebrew scriptures, the Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He shows that judgment and reward are always by works considered over the course of one’s life in all of these sources.4 A failure to attend to the distinction between salvation by grace and judgment and reward by works has lead many to mischaracterize LDS thought as a religion of works rather than grace. We are saved by grace, but we are judged and rewarded according to our works.

Thus, the usual complaint that Latter-day Saints seek to save themselves by their works is a failure to pay attention to what the terms “salvation” and “being saved” mean.

“Salvation,” or deliverance from death, hell, and divine wrath, comes through faith in Christ. Redemption from death and hell occurs when we bow to Christ and confess that he is Lord.

Everything that we do after that deals with the reward that we will receive based upon the judgment by works. Thus, complaints that Latter-day Saints believe that one “earns salvation” by going to church, paying tithing, attending the temple, being ordained to the priesthood (for men), going on missions, observing the Word of Wisdom, sustaining the prophet, etc., etc., etc.—have misunderstood and mischaracterized LDS soteriological terminology.5 All of these “good works” relate to God’s gifts to us which work in us to grow toward sanctification rather than initial justification by grace unto salvation. In other words, these Christian works of love relate to the reward or degree of glory that we receive and are not a condition of salvation.

2006

Fr. Stephen Salaris, Father in the Antiochian Orthodox Church

“Sneak Previews” of the Heavenly Kingdom

Courtesy of the May 2006 issue of The Word magazine of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

One of my favorite things about going to a movie or renting a movie is the “sneak previews.” By giving us a foretaste or foreshadowing of the upcoming movie, the preview allows us to decide whether or not we are going to be interested in the fullness of that motion picture event. Wouldn’t it be great if the Orthodox Church offered sneak previews? Wouldn’t it be great if we could get just a peek at some of the things in our future, such as the second coming of Christ, the kingdom of Heaven, or, even more scary, the horrors of Hell? The fact is that, during the Divine Liturgies of the Church, we do get a foretaste of all of these things — yes, including Hell. To develop my thesis, I need to present some important data, much like the pieces of a puzzle. At the end, we will put all of the pieces together and we, hopefully, will understand my thesis completely. Let’s begin.

First of all, there is a curious statement that is made in the Divine Liturgy that many of us may not be aware of, yet it is absolutely fundamental to our understanding of what is happening in each and every Divine Liturgy — be it St. John Chrysostom’s or St. Basil’s. In the Anaphora (or consecration prayers) of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, right after we hear, “Take eat, this is My Body …,” and “Drink ye all of this: this is My Blood …,” the priest prays, “Having in remembrance, therefore, this saving commandment and those things that have come to pass for us: the Cross, the grave, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious coming.” The text of St. Basil’s Divine Liturgy has a similar statement. Immediately following this, the gifts are elevated and then the epiclesis, or consecration prayer, is recited, during which the Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Now, let’s return to that statement about what we are remembering. Yes, we remember the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and all of those events that happened in the past as recorded in the texts of the New Testament, but how can we remember the second coming of Christ? How can we possibly remember a future event that has not happened yet? To answer these questions, let us turn to our Bibles for the next puzzle piece.

In chapters 4 and 5 of the book of Revelation, we read St. John’s vision of the glory of God and of the Lamb. In this vision, St. John sees the twenty-four elders who fall down in worship before the throne of God. He sees fantastic angelic creatures singing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” He sees myriads of angels who say with loud voices, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,” and he hears every creature in heaven and on earth offer honor and glory to the Lamb. Many interpreters of these passages say that this vision was inspired by the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Church at the time of St. John. The bread and wine, then, as today, become the Body and Blood of Christ right there on the Holy Table. Behold the slain Lamb of God that sits upon the heavenly throne — the altar itself. (Take note of the fact that the piece of bread that becomes the Body of Christ is referred to as “the Lamb.”) In addition, in the prayer that the priest recites during the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts just before the Lord’s prayer, one reads, “ … look upon us, Your unworthy servants who stand at this holy altar as at Your cherubic throne, upon which lies Your only-begotten Son and our God, in the dread mysteries spread forth thereon ….” If we read chapter 5 of Revelation we can see the parallels between this prayer and the verses which read, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain (…) [a]nd I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, ‘To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever.’” Every time we Orthodox Christians celebrate a Divine Liturgy, even a Presanctified Divine Liturgy (where the gifts were previously consecrated during the Liturgy of either Chrysostom or Basil), we are privileged to witness the exact same vision as St. John described. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the slain Lamb of God, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, manifests Himself in the presence of His people, and God’s kingdom is made manifest upon the earth. Thus, we are remembering the second coming because our Divine Liturgies provide a “sneak preview” of what the second coming of Christ will be like when He comes to judge the living and the dead.

Our third puzzle piece also comes from the Holy Scriptures. What are the two greatest commandments? The Old Testament tells us that we are to “ … love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4) and to “ … love your neighbor as yourself ….” (Lev. 19:18). In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ re-affirms this in Matthew 22:36-24, Mark 12:28-31 and Luke 10:25-28, even stating, in the passage from Mark’s gospel, that “[t]here is no greater commandment than these.” Do we, as Orthodox Christians, follow and live these two greatest commandments? Do we truly love God and do we truly love our neighbor as Christ commands us to? We shall see shortly that how we answer these two simple questions determines what we are experiencing in the Divine Liturgy.

Our last puzzle piece is the Orthodox understanding of hell itself. First of all, let me say that hell is not some “closet” into which God throws bad people on Judgment Day, then abandoning them for all eternity. Secondly, hell is not Hades, despite the bad translations in many of our liturgical texts. Hades, the realm of the dead, where all souls went because of the curse of death brought upon us by the transgression of Adam and Even, has been completely and utterly destroyed by Jesus Christ. That’s what Holy Week and Pascha are all about. Through the cross, Jesus descended into Hades and took that place of death, dark ness, and separation from God, and destroyed it by filling it with His eternal presence, His Divine Light, and His infinite and eternal Love. Now, with death and Hades spoiled by Christ, we look forward to the resurrection from the dead, when our souls will be reunited with our new and glorious bodies and we will stand before the Light and Love of our Almighty God. Most of us think that if we are in the presence of the Light and Love of God then we must be in Heaven; the same place, however, is also Hell. Love burns. St. Isaac of Ninevah describes Hell, stating:

… I say that even those who are scourged in hell are tormented with the scourgings of love (…) that is, the scourges of those who have become aware that they have sinned against love …. The pain which gnaws the heart as the result of sinning against love is sharper than all other torments that there are. It is wrong to imagine that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God. (…) The power of love works two ways: it torments those who have sinned … but to those who have observed its duties, love gives delight.

Commenting on this text from St. Isaac, Fr. Thomas Hopko writes:

For those who love the Lord, His Presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same Presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death. (…) According to the saints, the “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendor in the saints. (…) Thus it is the Church’s spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God’s splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light. Man’s eternal destiny — heaven or hell, salvation or damnation — depends solely on his response to this love.

Simply put, Hell is standing in the presence of God’s light and love and forgiveness and not wanting it or being completely unable to comprehend it or partake of it. Nothing burns greater than love that you don’t want!

Putting all of our puzzle pieces together, we arrive at this undeniable conclusion — during every single Eucharistic Liturgy, the Lord Jesus Christ manifests Himself before us as the slain Lamb sitting upon the Holy Table that is both the altar and the throne. In doing so, God provides a “sneak preview” of the second coming and a foretaste of the Kingdom when we will be resurrected from the dead — body and soul — and all will stand in His Divine Presence. Then, Jesus will judge the living and the dead, separate the sheep from the goats, and bestow upon us the kingdom of Heaven or the fires of Hell. To determine where we stand in His judgment, each and every one of us must answer honestly, “Do I really love God?” If we don’t believe in the God of the Scriptures, if we don’t believe in the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, if we loathe coming to Church services, if we ignore the sacramental life, if we just come to Church because that is what nice people do, or because we think Church is a fashion show or that Church is a linguistic and ethnic preservation society, and if we do not actualize the evangelical and apostolic work of the Gospel that Jesus Himself committed us to do, then the answer is, “No, I do not love God.” Then ask, “Do I really love my neighbor as myself?” If we loathe anyone for any reason, if we are unforgiving towards someone for whatever reason, if we can’t stand the other person sitting two pews behind us, or if we neglect the poor, the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the sick, those in prison, and all of those whom Jesus tells us to love — if we love Him — then the answer is “No, I do not love my neighbor.” If we answer “no” to either or both of these questions, then welcome to Hell! With all its splendor! Feel the fire of the presence of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the angels, the saints, icons, incense, liturgy, that bishop, that priest, the woman who changed your grandmother’s baklava recipe last year at the annual festival, the visitor who sat in your pew, our parents, our relatives, and all of our “friends.” All are gathered together under one roof, there is nowhere to go for all eternity, and the door is locked from the inside with the key of our attitude and our conscience. Oh, the weeping and gnashing of teeth!

On the other hand, if we truly love God then we must love Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Church and Her teachings, the Liturgies and other worship services, and the Sacramental life of the Church. If we love our neighbor then we must seek humility, charity, and forgiveness amongst ourselves and with all humanity and creation, and seek to preach, teach, and spread that love of neighbor via the evangelical and apostolic work of the Church, truly seeking to bring all mankind to the love of God and the knowledge of Christ. If we do this with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our might, then truly wherever and whenever we gather together as a Church it is a foretaste of heaven. Here, the door is always opened so that God’s love can be poured out on all creation and so that all of creation may enter herein. Look around. Do we see an “icon” of heaven or of hell? It’s up to each and every one of us to make the decision for ourselves. Is this where we want to be for eternity? I hope so. If not, then let us seek during this Lenten season, and at all times, to repent of those things which keep us from the love of God and the love of neighbor, so that we can know in our hearts that our Churches are truly Heaven on Earth and a foretaste of the eternal joy of all the saints. To Jesus Christ, our Lord and God and Savior, who established His Holy Church on this earth to save us and to provide us with the knowledge of the Kingdom to come, to Him we send up glory, honor, and worship, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

2007

Marc A. Schindler

Heaven and Hell (on FAIRlds website at this link.)

McKeever and Johnson state that the LDS believe that “a person is destined for one of six places after death,” by which they mean Perdition, or Outer Darkness, the Telestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the three levels of the Celestial Kingdom. By failing at the outset to make the critical distinction that these destinies are not determined until after the Judgment, not just after death, they sow the first seeds of confusion which permeate this chapter.

On page 172 McKeever and Johnson make the first error of “preaching to the choir” in the chapter, when they write that the key to understanding LDS soteriology is to “examine the biblical proof texts the Latter-day Saints use…to support their views.” Anyone who understands the Restored Gospel will know that we do not base our doctrine upon proof texts1 from the Bible (or anywhere else, for that matter), but upon latter-day revelation. Since we do not believe our teachings contradict the Bible, it is quite normal (even normative) that we would preach from the scriptures, but they are the reflection of our doctrine, not its source-a confusion all too easy for a Biblicist to make, for whom the relationship between doctrine and scripture goes exactly the other way around.

Heaven, salvation & Exaltation

The first alleged “proof text” examined by McKeever and Johnson is 1 Corinthians 15:40, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial…”. They say that in light of verse 41, where Paul makes the comparison between the light of the sun, the moon and the stars as a simile for the difference in glories between the three kingdoms, that “many scholars believe that Paul was referring to heavenly bodies such as the moon, sun, and stars.” Well, yes-that is the whole point of a simile. If I say my true love’s eyes are like almonds, I am not writing an agronomy treatise, but, yes, I am referring to almonds. Paul’s analogy works like this: “There are A, B, and C…so too is the resurrection of the dead (verse 42)”-a classic simile. To misunderstand such a fundamental literary feature as a simile does not bode well for McKeever and Johnson’s understanding of the even more sophisticated literary forms that Paul often employs.

While McKeever and Johnson don’t mention the literature-deprived scholars they refer to by name, it so happens that there is plenty of scholarly support for a resurrection of varying degrees of glory. Orr and Walther even title the section of their commentary on this section “Analogies,” and write,

Like Immanuel Kant, Paul transfers his vision from the earth to the sky and points out that the myriad bodies there differ from each other and from the earth. Presumably he has in mind that the heavenly bodies shine with their own light while the earthly ones have only reflected light.2 He gives no further indication of his astronomical thought, and obviously his data are critically limited. Since his express purpose is only to show that many possibilities are open in the realm of reality, his analogy provides a valid illustration.3

Likewise Thiselton, pointing out a switch in language which will resonate with Latter-day Saints’ understanding of the difference between “body” in a purely physical sense (Greek sarx) and “soul” in the sense of body and spirit (Greek sóma):

The shift from [sarx; physical body] (v. 39) to [soma; soul] (v. 40) is marked by the introduction of of [doxa; glory or splendour] and the allusion to bodies that are super-earthly. Whereas flesh had emphasized the diversity of the ‘stuff’ of creation, body now calls attention to diversities of form and character. In Calvin’s words, the comparison of v. 39 serve the same purpose as those of vv. 37-38 but add the implication that ‘whatever diversity we perceive in any particular kind (in quoqua specie) is a sort of foreshadowing of the resurrection….’ Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ambrosiaster, and Augustine construe vv. 39 and 40 as clearly anticipating the distinctions supposedly implied by v. 41b, i.e., differences in ‘honor’ even between individual believers at the resurrection, but this goes beyond the explicit sense of these verses. Tertullian, too, sees Paul’s argument here (vv. 39-40) as a decisive logical repudiation of Marcion’s wish to substitute a notion of the soul’s immortality for bodily resurrection: ‘Does he not guarantee that the resurrection shall be accomplished by that God from whom proceed all the examples,’ i.e., of diversity within creation and of transformation. Tertullian rightly places the emphasis upon God and God’s’s [sic] resourcefulness as Creator as the ground of this faith.4

Incidentally, Thiselton goes on to consider the argument that McKeever and Johnson apparently refer to, that Paul is referring simply to the fact that the resurrected will dwell with God in the heavenly regions (in a cosmological sense), but dismiss it on the grounds that the word Paul uses to translate “body” when he refers to resurrected bodies-and his distinction is clear and consistent-is “soma,” a word not applicable to a mere physical body like a planet or star:

However, some interpreters object that Paul would not use [sóma] of an impersonal entity, and that to apply this to astronomical ‘bodies’ either imports a modern meaning of [sóma]or presupposes a view of astral bodies as quasi-personal, as reflected in some non-Christian first-century religions. Meyer and Findlay, among others, argue this forcefully, insisting that Paul alludes to bodies of angels in v. 40, appealing to supposed parallels in Matt 22:10 and Luke 20:36.5

Thus does this eminent Protestant scholar consign McKeever and Johnson’s defense to the scrap heap of heresy, even within Protestantism’s definition of heresy.

This leaves one possible gap, which, mind you, McKeever and Johnson don’t even try to exploit, but for the sake of completeness, and also because the reference deals with their weak parenthetical attempt to link “terrestrial bodies” to the “flesh of men, beasts, fishes, and birds,” we’ll consider it here. This whole passage in 1 Corinthians 15 talks about the resurrection, specifically, not necessarily about Heaven, per se. However, Paul is talking about the future in a general, soteriological sense (the process of salvation as a whole), and is using the resurrection as the première, or epitome for the whole post-earthly experience. Thiselton explains that Paul’s sermon is not to be taken in a strictly time-related locative way (located at a specific point in time):

On the other hand, the three pairs of contrasts-decay and its absence or reversal, humiliation and splendor, and an ordinary human body and a body constituted by the Spirit-give solid ground for conceiving of the postresurrection made of life as a purposive and dynamic crescendo of life, since the living God who acts purposively decrees this fitting mode, rather than envisaging some static ending in which the raised body is forever trapped, as if in the last ‘frozen’ frame of a film or movie. In the biblical writings the Spirit is closely associated with ongoing vitality, which Paul takes up in v. 45b…

The one necessary exegetical caveat is to note that realm of the Spirit (i.e., [pneumatikon; “spirit-directed”] does not mean primarily the nonphysical realm (although it certainly includes this), but what befits the transformation of character or pattern of existence effected by the Holy Spirit. Here the biological analogies of transforming a bare seed or grain into fruit, flower, or harvest may take on an aesthetic dimension for illustrative purposes to underline (a) contrast; (b) continuity of identity; and (c) full and radical transformation of form and character.6

McKeever and Johnson then say, “One thing for sure, there is no mention of ‘bodies telestial.'” No, not in so many words, but Paul’s simile is quite clearly tripartite, using the symbolism of the sun, the earth and the stars, so “telestial” (meaning “stellar,” or “of stars”) is hardly out of harmony with the verse. Because of their Biblicist background, they accuse Joseph Smith of a rather barefaced attempt to “bolster his erroneous doctrine” by inserting the word into the Joseph Smith Translation. However, it’s well known that people in the nineteenth century often made what are technically called paraphrases (Thomas Jefferson made one of the New Testament which reflected his proto-Unitarian beliefs, for instance). A paraphrase is not a translation in the secular sense of looking at texts in other languages and then redacting (editing and recombing) the various texts and rendering the resultant consensus in the target language, and this latter, modern sense of translation has never been claimed by Latter-day Saints on behalf of the Joseph Smith Translation-it is, in fact, not canonical for precisely that reason (that is, his paraphrase as a study project was interrupted by his martyrdom so is incomplete at best). In any case, the term fits doctrinally and in the sense of the language Paul uses here, and its insertion would be problematic only for Biblicists (in other words, this is yet another error of “preaching to the choir”).

The LDS Concept of Heaven is Biblical

The next “proof text” McKeever and Johnson consider is 2 Corinthians 12:2-4: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven…”

They start off in their usual way, with the circular assumption that we are basing our doctrines upon passages like this, rather than teaching doctrine from the scriptures, which is not quite the same thing.. They then skim lightly over the scholarly tradition of Jews in a rather evasive way with the claim:

Using these passages to validate the idea of three kingdoms making up heaven ignores the Jewish tradition Paul would have known. According to that tradition, paradise was the abode of God, the place of eternal joy for God’s people. However, Jewish custom never viewed a first or second heaven as alternative eternal destinations. Rather, these referred to the atmospheric heaven (the sky) and the galactic heaven (the universe).7

If this sounds remarkably, even anachronistically modern, it’s because it is. It turns out not to be Jewish at all: their reference is to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment-era Protestant commentator Matthew Henry, who writes:

It was certainly a very extraordinary honour done him: in some sense he was caught up into the third heaven, the heaven of the blessed, above the aerial heaven, in which the fowls fly, above the starry heaven, which is adorned with those glorious orbs: it was into the third heaven, where God most eminently manifests His glory.8

Such a glaring error leads me to believe that perhaps they don’t think people will check their footnotes-another sign of the “down-market” audience for which their book seems to be intended.

Even before we examine the Jewish custom that Paul actually would have been exposed to (we can, I trust, excuse Paul for not being exposed to Matthew Henry’s commentary), let me point out that even Protestant views about what the “third heaven” is are all over the theological map. (McKeever and Johnson here commit yet another act of co-opting, but this time at the expense of other Protestants.) According to Ronald R. Day, of “Restoration Light,”9 the first world and heaven were the pre-Flood universe, the second world and heaven are the ones we live in now, and the third world and heaven are yet to come after Christ’s second coming.10

While it is true that many conservative Protestant groups accept this modern, anachronistic view of Matthew Henry’s of an atmospheric heaven, a stellar heaven, and a divine Heaven, not all Protestants believe this is the only possible interpretation. A question-and-answer session on the Website of a relatively liberal non-denominational church known as The Rock shows that many Protestants are acquainted with the genuinely ancient traditions, as given in pseudepigraphal works such as the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Testament of Levi, to the effect that there was a kind of hierarchy of spiritual heavens.11 The New Testament pseudepigraphal work The Apocalypse of Paul also has this tradition. (See below for specific quotations.)

Glass admits that whereas “Some of the noncanonical writings give detailed descriptions of multiple heavens, up to seven more more [,] Paul was not necessarily thinking of these when he wrote of his mystical transport into the third Heaven (2 Cor. 12.2); an alternate explanation is that the expression indicates a high degree of spiritual exaltation.”12 So we can take our pick: either ancient Jews believed in a hierarchical series of heavens, and a visionary trip through them was a common theme of Jewish (and even Christian) apocalyptic writings, or Paul was using the “third heaven” as the epitome of the highest degree of exaltation-exactly as Latter-day Saints would put it.

In any case, regarding the atmospheric model espoused by Matthew Henry, while some Greeks believed in a variant of this (such as Pythagoras and others), ancient Jews believed no such thing. Did the modern, anachronistic Biblicist view come from a neo-Hellenistic (early post-Christian era Greek philosophies) source, as so much of modern creedal Christian doctrines have, or is this just a coincidence? That’s a subject for further study, and outside the scope of this review.

History of the Belief in a Three-part Heaven

Let’s take a look at what Jews and early Christians really believed. Before we start, let’s point out that simply mining the Church Fathers and pseudepigrapha for references that defend one’s point of view is akin to proof-texting and in and of itself, doesn’t prove anything. However, even finding one reference in the patristic and pseudepigraphal writings is sufficient to destroy an “argument from absence”. That is, if McKeever and Johnson say, in effect, “Jews and early Christians never believed x” and we succeed in finding even one solitary reference to x then we have proven their assertion wrong. Proving that it was a common or even normative (authoritative or orthodox) belief is something else altogether, but fortunately McKeever and Johnson’s style of criticism tends to lean towards the absolute: things are either all or nothing. And this kind of position is easy to demolish.

Having said that, it so happens that there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sources contemporary with or within a few centuries of Paul, sources that showed consistently what ancient Christians and Jews believed in-enough, as it happens, to establish not just an objection to an argument from absence, but an actual consensus. And that consensus is exactly the opposite of what McKeever and Johnson claim. The following sections examine only a sample of quotes both from modern commentaries and ancient sources to show that the normative belief of early post-Apostolic Christianity and contemporary Judaism was in a multi-tiered Heaven in the LDS sense of different mansions corresponding with the achievement of different levels of earthly valour.

Modern Christian Scholarly Commentary: The Anchor Bible

Orr and Walther have this commentary on the term “third heaven”:

The third heaven. The original text (=a) of T Levi [Testament of Levi] 2:7-10; 3:1-4 seems to have conceived of the heavenly spheres as three in number, in the third of which Levi found himself standing in the presence of the Lord and his glory. Later, however, this material was re-worked to refer to a set of four additional heavens, conforming the narrative to the common Jewish and Christian tradition about seven heavens, as in Apoc Mos [Apocalypse of Moses] 35:2; 2 Enoch 3-20; b. Hag [Babylonian Talmud tractate of Hagiga]; Ascension of Isaiah; Apoc Paul [Apocalypse of Paul] 29, etc…The otherworldly journey is a common feature in ancient apocalyptic literature.13

Modern Christian Commentary: Daniélou (Roman Catholic)

The LDS commentator Seiach14 quotes,

Jean Daniélou [a Roman Catholic theologian and cardinal] has recently shown that contemporary Jews had further developed this three-step attainment of God’s glory into a system of three heavens: the heaven of God, the heaven of stars, and the heaven of meteors.15 ….

That this three-tiered heavenly world was also recognized by the original Christians is evidenced by the Savior’s mysterious saying that the ‘seed of the Kingdom’ (i.e. the saved) would bring forth fruit ‘some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold’ (Mt. 13:8, 23). That this was also an esoteric doctrine, is suggested by the fact that it was introduced by the usual covert signal: ‘Who hath ears, let him hear’ (Mt. 13:9). As might be expected, ‘orthodoxy’ soon forgot it, either expanding the three heavens to seven (see below), or reducing them to a single place reserved for ‘all’ who are ‘saved by grace,’ without further effort on their part.

Nevertheless, for several centuries, the original Church continued to speak of a graduated system of heavens and rewards, just as the Saviour had taught (Mt. 16:27). The very early Church Father, Papias, for example, understood that the Saviour’s three degrees of ‘fruitfulness’ (Mt. 13:8, 23) corresponded to the Pauline three ‘heavens’ or ‘glories’ (1 Cor. 15:41). According to him (as recorded in the first century account of Polycarp),16 the ‘Elders’ agreed that ‘Those who are deemed worthy of an abode in Heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of Paradise, and others shall possess the splendor of the City.17 For everywhere the Saviour will be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see him. But that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundredfold, and that of those who produce sixtyfold, and that of those who produce thirtyfold; for the first will be taken up into Heaven; the second class will dwell in Paradise, and the last will inhabit the City; and that on this account the Lord said, ‘In my house are many mansions,’ for all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling place, even as his word says, that a share is given to all by the Father, according as each is or shall be worthy (Relics of the Elders, 5).

By the ‘Elders’ Papias meant the Primitive Community, including the Apostles, whose oral traditions he had diligently preserved as he himself heard them. ‘If anyone chanced to be a fellow of the Elders,’ he wrote, ‘I would enquire as to their discourse, what Andrew, or what Peter said, or what Philip, or what Thomas or James or what John or what Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples…For I did not think that things out of books could profit me so much as the utterances of a voice which liveth and abideth.’18

Modern Christian Commentary: Disley (Mainstream Protestant)

Protestant theologian Emma Disley cites many of the early Reformers and their first followers as teaching the concept of differing degrees of glory. She points out at the outset that “the writings of the Father were weightily disposed towards the concept of degrees of reward and punishment” and refers to Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, and Pope Gregory the Great. She concludes her article:

“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.”19

Modern Christian Commentary: Daley (Catholic)

Brian E. Daley, a Jesuit scholar, cites the following Church Fathers as teaching varying degrees of glory: Irenaeus, Cyprian, Ambrose, and some lesser-known fathers: Macarius, Quodvultdeus (died 453) Bishop of Carthage, and friend of Augustine; Severus, Bishop of Antioch (died 538); and Caesarius, Bishop of Arles.20

Modern Christian Commentary: Ryk (Eastern Orthodox)

Twenty-five years ago Marta Ryk wrote an article on deification in Eastern orthodoxy in which she pointed out that there are “diverse degrees of deification.”21

Modern Jewish Commentary: Dr. Eliezer Lorne Segal (Scholarly Orthodox)

Further evidence of Jewish traditions of a hierarchy of heavens (as opposed to some proto-astronomical interpretation) can be found in an interesting Website, “The Seventh Heaven,” by Dr. Eliezer Lorne Segal, who teaches a number of senior-level courses in Judaism in the Religious Studies Department of the University of Calgary (including RS 365 – Medieval Judaism; RS 463 – Jewish Mysticism; RS 465 – Topics in Rabbinic Judaism, RS 201 – World Religions: Western; RS 361 – Second Temple Judaism; RS 363 – Judaism in the Modern World; and RS 367 – Judaism of the Talmud and Midrash [commentaries by Rabbis on the Talmud]).

In his article “The Seventh Heaven”22 he takes issue with the answer given to a phone-in listener on the local CBC23 Radio One morning program feature called “Good Question.” This particular question, about where the term “seventh heaven” comes from, elicited the response that the term comes from “the popular Muslim conception of paradise, which is divided into several celestial levels, awarded according to the degree of righteousness achieved during one’s mortal lifetime.” Now that, in and of itself, is interesting, but Prof. Segal says it actually predates the rise of Islam by “many centuries” and has “deep roots in Jewish tradition.”

Segal says that the Talmudic rabbis were presumably influenced by the fact that the Hebrew word for “heavens” or “sky” appears only in a plural form, shamayim, implying a multiplicity of heavens. The number seven has special significance in Biblical writings, and Jewish sages, Segal reports, “had no trouble finding distinct functions for each of the seven levels.” While several had purely “astronomical” functions, the others had distinctly religious functions: “According to their imagery these heavens are actually palaces-‘heikhalot’-and the task of the mystic is to ascend as high as he can until he reaches the highest level, where he will be vouchsafed a peek at the throne of God.” Thus we have a direct connection with the Enochian tradition of a mystical ascent through the spiritual realms to the Throne of God, and also to the terminology “palaces” or, as the KJV puts it, “mansions.”

Modern Jewish Commentary: Tracey Richards (Popular Orthodox)

The Talmud states that all Israel has a share in the Olam Ha-Ba24. However, not all “shares” are equal. A particularly righteous person will have a greater share in the Olam Ha-Ba than the average person. In addition, a person can lose his share through wicked actions. There are many statements in the Talmud that a particular mitzvah will guarantee a person a place in the Olam Ha-Ba, or that a particular sin will lose a person’s share in the Olam Ha-Ba, but these are generally regarded as hyperbole, excessive expressions of approval or disapproval.

Some people look at these teachings and deduce that Jews try to “earn our way into Heaven” by performing the mitzvoth [the covenant to obey the commandments]. This is a gross mischaracterization of our religion. It is important to remember that unlike some religions, Judaism is not focused on the question of how to get into heaven. Judaism is focused on life and how to live it. Non-Jews frequently ask me, “do you really think you’re going to go to Hell if you don’t do such-and-such?” It always catches me a bit off balance, because the question of where I am going after death simply doesn’t enter into the equation when I think about the mitzvot. We perform the mitzvot because it is our privilege and our sacred obligation to do so. We perform them out of a sense of love and duty, not out of a desire to get something in return. In fact, one of the first bits of ethical advice in Pirkei Avot (a book of the Mishnah [part of the Talmud]) is: “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward; instead, be like servants who serve their master not for the sake of receiving a reward, and let the awe of Heaven [meaning G-d, not the afterlife] be upon you.”

Nevertheless, we definitely believe that your place in the Olam Ha-Ba is determined by a merit system based on your actions, not by who you are or what religion you profess. In addition, we definitely believe that humanity is capable of being considered righteous in G-d’s25 eyes, or at least good enough to merit paradise after a suitable period of purification.26

Modern Judaism: Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi (Conservative Mystical)

When a soul is ready to enter Gan Eden (Paradise, literally the Garden of Eden), it must first be immersed in the River of Light, created from the perspiration that flows from the heavenly hosts as they fervently sing glory to the Highest. This immersion is to empty the soul of any lingering earth images so that it may, without further illusion, see heaven for what it really is.

First the soul enters the lower Gan Eden, which is a paradise of emotional bliss. While on earth most persons are unable to experience more than one dominant emotion at a time. However, the bliss of the souls in the lower Gan Eden is likened to a majestic chord of benign emotions, which the soul feels towards God and towards other souls. In the Hasidic view, heaven is organized into societies. Those souls who share mutual interests are drawn together so they can serve His Blessed Name according to their own specialty and individuality. Each heavenly society is taught by its own rabbi and led to further celestial attainments. Thus, the lower Gan Eden is the heaven of emotional fervor.

Before a soul is raised from the lower to the higher Gan Eden, it must again immerse itself in the River of Light so that it will forget and forsake the furor of the emotions. for the even greater delights of knowing God through understanding. The serving of God with insight through the study of Torah is itself a reward. The societies of the upper Gan Eden are organized into yeshivot (schools! in which a blissful understanding of the divine mind is attained. Each midnight, the Holy One, blessed be He. Himself appears and enters Gan Eden to delight in the sharing of His blessed wisdom with the righteous who have gained the upper Gan Eden.”27

Jewish Commentary: Lurian Kabbalism (Mediaeval Mysticism)

Karen Armstrong refers to the Lurian Kabbalah tradition of the 16th century mystic Saint Teresa of Avila:

Like John of the Cross, Teresa was a modernizer and a mystic of genius, yet had she remained within Judaism 28 she would not have had the opportunity to develop this gift, since only men were allowed to practice the kabbalah. Yet, interestingly, her spirituality remained Jewish. In The Interior Castle, she charts the soul’s journey through seven celestial halls until it reaches God, a scheme which bears a marked resemblance to the Throne Mysticism that flourished in the Jewish world from the first to the twelfth centuries CE. Teresa was a devout and loyal Catholic, but she still prayed like a Jew and taught her nuns to do the same.29

This tradition of a hierarchy of celestial “halls” (or mansions?) goes back even further.

Ante-Nicene30 Church Fathers: Irenaeus

Irenaeus directly contradicts McKeever and Johnson’s theory of “earth/astronomical” heavens and then refers explicitly to the thirty/sixty/hundredfold imagery in terms of a hierarchy of Heaven:

If, then, the Lord observed the law of the dead, that He might become the first-begotten from the dead, and tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth;” then afterwards rising in the flesh, so that He even showed the print of the nails to His disciples, He thus ascended to the Father; [if all these things occurred, I say], how must these men not be put to confusion, who allege that “the lower parts” refer to this world of ours, but that their tuner man, leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place? For as the Lord “went away in the midst of the shadow of death,” where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up [into heaven], it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God.31

He goes on to say about the degrees of glory:

[They {the presbyters} say, moreover], that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that was on this account the Lord declared, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” For all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place; even as His Word says, that a share is allotted to all by the Father, according as each person is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch on which the guests shall recline, having been invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the apostles, affirm that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved.32

Ante-Nicene Church Fathers: Clement of Alexandria

Chapter XIII.-Degrees of Glory in Heaven Corresponding with the Dignities of the Church Below.

For these taken up in the clouds, the apostle writes, will first minister [as deacons], then be classed in the presbyterate, by promotion in glory (for glory differs from glory) till they grow into “a perfect man.”33

One of the chapters of the Stromata is even entitled “Degrees of Glory in Heaven.” In this chapter, he writes,

Chapter XIV.-Degrees of Glory in Heaven.

Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed. To the point Solomon says, “For there shall be given to him the choice grace of faith, and a more pleasant lot in the temple of the Lord.” For the comparative shows that there are lower parts in the temple of God, which is the whole Church. And the superlative remains to be conceived, where the Lord is. These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel-the thirty, the sixty, the hundred.34

Ante-Nicene Church Fathers: Origen

And some men are connected with the Father, being part of Him, and next to these, those whom our argument now brings into clearer light, those who have come to the Saviour and take their stand entirely in Him. And third are those of whom we spoke before, who reckon the sun and the moon and the stars to be gods, and take their stand by them. And in the fourth and last place those who submit to soulless and dead idols.35

Compare this with modern LDS scripture: “These are they who receive of His glory, but not of his fulness. These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.”36

Pseudepigrapha: 2 Enoch

Enoch is a book that was held in high regard in the early Church, being quoted by Jude, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and many Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. We don’t know which, if any, of the three major textual traditions we have today is the one that Jude, for instance, would have known (Ethiopic, Slavonic and Hebrew, referred to respectively as 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch), but regardless, this pseudepigraphal work is a genuinely ancient tradition. In 2 Enoch, a first century AD work that would have been unknown to Joseph Smith, in Chapters 6 through 20, Enoch is taken on a tour of the heavens.

The First Heaven was called the “stellar order” (in LDS terminology, the “Telestial Kingdom”). In Chapter 7 he travels to the Second Heaven, where he gazes down upon those who “turned away from the Lord, who did not obey the Lord’s commandments, but of their own will plotted together and turned away with their prince and with those who are under restraint in the fifth heaven.” In Chapter 8 he goes to the Third Heaven where he gazed down upon Paradise, where the tree of life is located. Although the imagery is confusing, there appears to be a “northern” portion that is a frightful and dark place (is this paradise and the spirit prison?). In Chapter 11 he goes to the Fourth Heaven where the moon and the sun have their orbits, and which is filled with wondrous beasts. The emphasis isn’t so much on the astronomical bodies as upon the order and the timing of the universe in which we reside. Now, this does appear to be an astronomy and horological treatise of some strange, mystical kind, but it all relates to the Earth. (Could this be a reference, then, to the Terrestrial Kingdom?)

In Chapter 18 we accompany Enoch to the Fifth Heaven, which is filled with a strange contingent of “soldiers” and princes known as the Grigori. The sense is one of disappointment, of a potential not quite achieved somehow-not much detail is given (could this be the lowest level of the Celestial Kingdom?) The next chapter brings us to the Sixth Heaven where the leaders of the angels and of celestial speech and life preside. The keys of life are in their hands (the ministering angels of the second level of the Celestial Kingdom?).

Finally, in Chapter 20 we read Enoch’s vision of the Seventh and highest Heaven. Here is the throne of God Himself, surrounded by cherubim and seraphim. Enoch’s Virgilian guides desert him-they may not enter, and Enoch is left by himself, terrified at the sight. He is comforted by the archangel Gabriel who tells him to present himself to the Lord.

2 Enoch exists in two recensions (families of manuscripts), the “A” or shorter recension and the “J” or longer recension. In a brief flurry of verses in Chapter 20, after mention of the Seventh Heaven, some astrological references are given and given the names of the Eighth through the Tenth Heavens are given to these, but this exists only in the “J” recension. At present it’s hotly debated as to which recension is older, but it has been argued that “J” is a later expansion of “A”, which might account for the brief and post-first-century AD additions of the Eighth through Tenth heavens. The point isn’t to speculate as to how 2 Enoch can be made to fit into the Restored Gospel as a textual defense-that would be the Biblicist approach. Rather it is to show that there is ample precedent for LDS beliefs in the ancient world, documented in texts that would have been unavailable to Joseph Smith, and thereby refuting the claim that the Restored Gospel can’t be the original Christianity. If we can show plausible precedent, then we do not have to prove authenticity, but we do disprove our critics’ claims of impossibility. Possibility is not proof of existence, but it is disproof of non-existence.37

Pseudepigrapha: Testament of Levi

Listen, therefore, concerning the heavens which have been shown to you. The lowest is dark for this reason: It sees all the injustices of humankind and contains fire, snow, and ice, ready for the day determined by God’s righteous judgment. In it are all the spirits of those dispatched to achieve the punishment of mankind. In the second are the armies arrayed for the day of judgment to work vengeance on the spirits of error and of Beliar. Above them are the Holy Ones. In the uppermost heaven of all dwells the Great Glory in the Holy of Holies superior to all holiness. There with him are the archangels, who serve and offer propitiatory sacrifices to the Lord in behalf of all the sins of ignorance of the righteous ones.. They present to the Lord a pleasing odour, a rational and bloodless oblation. In the heaven below them are the messengers who carry the responses to the angels of the Lord’s presence.38

New Testament Pseudepigrapha: The Apocalypse of Paul

The Apocalypse of Paul, a Coptic work found in the Nag Hammadi Library39, is typical of Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic writings that feature a tour of the heavens. The earliest versions seem to have only three; later texts, under Gnostic influence, elaborated this to seven and even ten. Here is MacRae and Murdock’s introduction:

The first of the series of four apocalypses in Codex V, the Apocalypse of Paul, describes the ascent of Paul through the heavens. Though other ancient works of the same or similar name are known, the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul seems quite unique in its focus upon Paul’s ascent through the fourth to the tenth heavens [as opposed to just three heavens — MS]. The precise circumstances surrounding the composition of the document remain uncertain. Yet the polemic against the apocalyptic “old man” in the seventh heaven may indicate that the document comes from a Gnostic group with an anti-Jewish tendency. Furthermore, the portrait of Paul as one exalted above his fellow apostles resembles the portrayal of Paul in the Gnosticism, and especially the Valentinianism, of the second century C.E.

The Apocalypse of Paul opens with an epiphany scene: a little child, probably the risen Christ, encounters Paul on the mountain, provides a revelation, and guides Paul to the Jerusalem above. Clearly this scene with the heavenly child provides an interpretation of Galatians 1:11-17 and 2;1-2. Of course, the basis for the entire ascent narrative is to be found in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. As Paul ascends through the heavens, he witnesses, in the fourth and fifth heavens, a scene of the judgment and punishment of souls, a scene which is reminiscent of similar pictures in Jewish apocalyptic literature but which also illustrates popular syncretism. Paul’s heavenly journey seems to rely upon Jewish apocalyptic tradition, but the Gnostic character of the present ascent narrative is obvious. Finally Paul reaches the tenth heaven where, tranformed, he greets his fellow spirits.40

Pseudepigrapha: Vision of Ezra

It seems that, in general, one reason Biblicists have such trouble accepting the clear references to different rewards after this life is that they are hampered by post-Biblical notions which came into vogue during the Reformation; especially the idea of salvation by grace alone (sola gratia). Latter-day Saints accept that salvation in the sense of all of us receiving some level of glory (with the exception of a presumably small number of “Sons of Perdition” who actively fight the atonement-whatever that may mean), but because Biblicists have lost the doctrine of exaltation and theosis/deification, they assume these doctrines of levels of glory are wrong. And in any case, they reject the notion of works as being a prerequisite for which level of glory one is to receive-they have lost the original doctrine, especially under the influence of fifteenth- through eighteenth-century Protestant Reformers.

But we know that not everything that Jesus taught is contained in the New Testament-it explicitly says this in two places, one of which in particular has some interesting significance in light of documents that have come to light since Joseph Smith’s day.

The first passage is at the end of the Gospel of John: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”41

That should be clear enough to Biblicism, but the second, even more significant verse is also towards the end of John: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”42 In other words, John (and presumably his fellow-evangelists) wrote their books to give the basic knowledge proselytes (investigators and new members) would need to know in order to come to a belief in Christ, and excluded that which might distract from a proselyte’s education. But there was more to Christian doctrine, “signs” not to be revealed publicly.

Was this something unique to John, or is it found elsewhere in early Christian thought?

We’ve already discussed the common theme of touring up through the heavens until one finally reaches the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, a theme that runs through the ancient non-canonical works called the Pseudepigrapha, and Church Fathers. Latter-day Saints perform a dramatic (liturgical, or participatory and symbolic) form of this every time they go through the endowment ceremony, so temple worship fits well into ancient tradition. This isn’t the place to go into the details of temple worship, but the point is that not all doctrine is to be found in the gospels and epistles of the New Testament. The canonical books of the New Testament (the books which ended up becoming part of the modern-day New Testament) suffer from two limitations: a) they happen to be what survived; we know that many other writings did not survive; and b) they were directed by and large to new members and proselytes, so they deliberately avoided deeper doctrines.

Now the concept of the necessity of works is a clear theme in the New Testament, despite the best efforts of Biblicists to ignore or rationalize it, but it so happens that some of the esoteric doctrine that seems to have been revealed in these visionary tours of the heavens was the doctrine of exaltation, wherein more than mere belief is required-the building up of the Kingdom of God (works) is also a requirement over and above universal grace in order to gain a higher degree of glory.

For instance, the second- or third-century pseudepigraphal work, “Vision of Ezra,” which was traditionally considered an Old Testament pseudepigraphum, but which scholars now believe is actually of Christian provenance, has the Lord saying the following to Ezra when Ezra is finally admitted into His presence:

And after he saw this, he was lifted up into heaven, and he came to a multitude of angels, and they said to him, ‘pray to the Lord for the sinners.’ And they put him down within the sight of the Lord. And he said, ‘Lord, have mercy on the sinners!’ And the Lord said, ‘Ezra, let them receive according to their works.’ And Ezra said, ‘Lord, you have shown more clemency to the animals, which eat the grass and have not returned you praise, than to us; they die and have no sin; however, you torture us, living and dead.’ And the Lord said, ‘In my image I have formed man and I have commanded that they may not sin and they sinned; therefore they are in torment. And the elect are those who go into eternal rest on account of confession, penitence, and largesse in almsgiving.’ And Ezra said, ‘Lord, what do the just do in order that they may not enter in judgment?’ And the Lord said to him, ‘(Just as) the servant who performed well for his master will receive liberty, so too (will) the just in the kingdom of heaven.’ Amen.43

Hell: Afterworld Versus a Place of Punishment

Leaving behind the well-attested ancient belief in a tripartite heaven, let’s see if McKeever and Johnson manage to mangle the Christian view of Hell as badly as they do with the correct, authentic and original Christian view of Heaven.

They don’t start off well, confusing both the New Testament concepts of Hell in the sense of “hades” or “sheol” (spirit prison) and “gehenna” (everlasting burning)-terms with completely different meanings-and using the terms interchangeably, blissfully ignorant of the distinctions LDS (and the Bible, and most other Christians) make between the two. While it is probably true that, as they say, “…many [Latter-day Saints] find the [Biblicist] view of hell (eternal punishment with no second chances) to be both unfair and offensive,” what offends us even more is that such an oversimplification is not Christian doctrine. Oddly enough, they are not even representing normative Protestant doctrine when they fail to make a difference between hades/sheol and gehenna.

As Innes explains,

“Hell” in the AV normally renders one of the three words, Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna.

Sheol…is the word [that] is used in the Old Testament for the place of the dead. In general, we may say that it is the state of death pictured in visible terms….In the later Jewish literature we meet with the idea of divisions within Sheol for the wicked and the righteous44 in which each experiences a foretaste of his final destiny (Enoch xxii. 1-14). This idea appears to underlie the imagery of the parable of Dives and Lazarus in the New Testament.45

“Hades” is the Greek term used to translate the Hebrew word “sheol” in the New Testament. Innes again:

In the LXX46 it almost always renders sheol, and in the New Testament the Pesh.47 renders it by shyul. It is used in connection with the death of Christ in Acts ii. 27, 31, which quotes Ps. xvi. 10. In Mt. xvi. 18 Christ says that the gates of Hades (cf. Is. xxxviii. 10; Pss. ix. 13, cvii. 18) shall not prevail against His Church. As the gates of a city are essential to its power, the meaning here is probably the power of death.48

With respect to Gehenna, Innes goes on to explain,

In later Jewish writings Gehenna came to have the sense of the place of punishment for sinners (Assumption of Moses x.10; 2 Esdras vii.36) The rabbinic literature contains various opinions as to who would suffer eternal punishment. The ideas were widespread that the sufferings of some would be terminated by annihilation, or that the fires of Gehenna were in some cases purgatorial. But those who held these doctrines also taught the reality of eternal punishment for certain classes of sinners…The teaching of the New Testament endorses this belief.49

In the New Testament, the Hebrew word is usually transliterated as ge’enna, but on occasion the general (i.e., non-Judaeo-Christian) Greek word Tartarus is also used. “Gehenna” comes from the imagery of a continuously smoldering garbage pit in the Valley of Hinnom in New Testament Jerusalem. Tartarus is a classical Greek word for the son of the god Chaos but came to mean that part of the afterworld where the wicked suffered for their sins. So we have two pairs of Greek/Hebrew words used in the New Testament: Sheol/Hades for the afterworld in general, and Gehenna/Tartarus for the place of eternal punishment. But as noted, Tartarus is a rarely used word in the New Testament (originally written, of course, in Greek).

Given such a fundamental and critical failure to distinguish between very clearly different concepts in the New Testament, precious little of McKeever and Johnson’s commentary on the Gospel’s beliefs regarding Outer Darkness, Perdition, Spirit Prison and the Telestial Kingdom makes any sense whatsoever and the critic of their work wonders where to even begin to approach it. A basic primer in Christianity (let alone its restored form) is needed by McKeever and Johnson.

Just as one example: they claim the following concerning our understanding of the Telestial Kingdom:

It is said that it “surpasses all understanding”; and that even its inhabitants, the last to be redeemed, and even then deprived of the personal presence of God and the Christ, shall nevertheless receive the ministration of angels and the Holy Ghost…is completely foreign to the Bible.50

Since McKeever and Johnson make absolutely no connection between how they interpret Biblical terms and modern LDS terminology, this claim doesn’t even make sense. Their criticism could conceivably be true-if only we knew what they meant by the terms the Bible uses. Since the Bible itself so clearly teaches that Christ Himself went to minister to the souls in Hell (sheol), as referred to in 1 Peter 3:18-19 and 4:6, one can see that any serious attempt by a reviewer to take their criticisms at face value crashes upon the shoals of inconsistency and profound ignorance of the terminology used in the Bible.

Hell: The Telestial Kingdom Versus Perdition

It should come as no surprise, then, that they confuse the LDS terms of “exaltation” and “salvation,” when they criticize the Terrestrial Kingdom as being a place where only a “a measure of salvation, but not the fulness” of salvation will be given to those there. This is simply not what the Gospel teaches. We teach that all inhabitants of kingdoms of glory-let us remember that even the Telestial Kingdom is a mansion of Heaven-receive salvation by dint of the universal atonement of our Savior. The Telestial Kingdom is sometimes referred to by LDS as “hell” but only in the sense that neither Christ nor the Father will be there. Its inhabitants will have to be satisfied with the ministrations of angels sent from higher kingdoms. Needless to say, this is a point that goes right over McKeever and Johnson’s head; it’s not clear they even understand our position on it, let alone, of course, agree with it. The Telestial Kingdom is never confused with Perdition in LDS teachings-another point that goes over McKeever and Johnson’s head, it seems.

But the Savior also gave us commandments and told us to build up his kingdom, and promised concomitant rewards to those who are more or less valiant than their peers. This is fundamental and clear New Testament doctrine that is ignored in embarrassment by Biblicists.

We draw a distinction between universal salvation and exaltation, and anyone who wishes to make a credible criticism needs to understand the distinction we draw. Whether or not they believe it themselves, their failure to understand it leads them into making silly claims such as the Terrestrial Kingdom representing only a measure of salvation. In any case, since Biblicists are Trinitarian, the difference between the ministering of Christ in that kingdom and the ministering of the Father being reserved for the Celestial Kingdom is an odd thing for them to overlook. If Christ and God the Father are two different persons within the same being-as classical Trinitarianism teaches-what difference does it make, and how does it logically follow that one divine ministration is less than another? The Terrestrial and the Celestial Kingdoms would be the same. Thus, even on their own terms this criticism fails.

It is also incorrect, as they claim, that we believe that exaltation only applies to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. The highest level has the distinctive characteristic that there is no barrier there to eternal progression-what ancient Christians such as Augustine called either theosis or deification. Augustine was, in fact, an eloquent expositor of this early Christian doctrine, forgotten long before the Reformation and only restored through Joseph Smith. See for instance, Benz, whose words stand as a non-LDS rebuke to McKeever and Johnson’s comments about Restored Christianity’s concept of exaltation being “egotistical.” We’ll come to this again, but Benz shows that the kind of opinion held by McKeever and Johnson is pure mischief:

Hence, the concept of Imago Dei [literally, the image of God, but in effect divinity] does not lead toward self-aggrandizement but toward charity as the true and actual form of God’s love, for the simple reason that in one’s neighbour the image of God, the Lord himself, confronts us, and that the love of God should be fulfilled in the love towards him in whom God himself is mirrored, that is, in one’s neighbour. Thus, in the last analysis the concept of Imago Dei is the key to the fundamental law of the gospel, ‘Thou shalt love God and thy neighbour as thyself,’ since thou shouldst view thy neighbour with an eye to the image which God has engraven upon him and to the promise that he has given about him.’51

They even contradict themselves by making this claim, that there is no difference between salvation and exaltation first, and then quoting Joseph Fielding Smith as referring to the Celestial Kingdom as the place where those who gain exaltation shall dwell.

Hell: The Role of Angels in the Telestial Kingdom

McKeever and Johnson likewise tread on the quicksand of ignorance when they venture into modern nangelology, claiming that angels are a special creation of God and that humans can never become angels. They make the critic’s job too easy by quoting Psalm 148:2 and 5: “Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts…Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.” It’s all too easy to be tempted to look this up and see what’s in the intervening verses. And in fact when one actually opens up one’s Bible, rather than just throwing it upon the rostrum and thumping it for emphasis,52 one learns that verses 3 and 4 include the exhortation to praise God to the sun and the moon and the stars of light, the heavens of heavens,53 and the waters that are above the heavens. God created everything, including us, and including angels and including the physical universe. There is no one-to-one relationship here that suggests that angels are not human species, merely humans at a different stage of development or playing a different role. That many today believe angels to be a different species of some kind is not an original Christian doctrine, nor is it an original Jewish doctrine.

Dahood explains that in the OT, “‘his ministers’ [is] another expression for the angels, described as ministerial servants ready to execute the sovereign will.”54 Angels were messengers sent with a divine mission, and the parallelistic pair-structures of Psalms 148:2 indicate that in this case the angels in question were soldiers. McKeever and Johnson, as is typical of much of the modern North American Biblicist tradition that has arisen in the past century, anti-intellectual, anti-scholarly and deliberately cut off from exposure to centuries of European biblical scholarship, are confusing a general term with a specific, a title with the titleholder, so to speak.

Both the Greek angelos and its Hebrew counterpart, malak, simply mean “messenger.” Ancient Jewish custom did borrow some rather bizarre imagery from Assyrian sources for some of its demi-divine beings such as cherubim, but cherubim-which are artistic conventions common to temple worship throughout the ages, and therefore symbolic and abstract-aren’t angels, who are “real” beings. In any case, it is difficult to see how a scripture such as Psalms 148:2 would somehow limit God’s capability to create angels at will, and however He will. But Biblicists have never let their belief in a naive omnipotence stop them from contradicting themselves when simple common sense would lead them to obviously inconsistent interpretations (because their interpretations are based on inconsistent assumptions).

Hickenbotham55 demonstrates how the LDS concept of angelology is more Biblical, ironically, than is the Biblicist view:

The scriptures often identify angels with ministering spirits. Psalms 104:4 rhetorically asks, “Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire…?” (see also Heb. 1:7) and Hebrews 1:13-14 reads, “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits; sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?” As has already been shown previously, we all existed as spirits before birth (see Matt. 18:10; note angels in this verse should be spirits). And men like angels often act as messengers of God (Hag. 1:13; Mal. 2:7; 3:1; Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27). That angels are in appearance as men and were actually called men by inspired writers is also attested to in scripture (Gen. 18:1-2; 19:1, 15; Ezek. 40:1-4; Matt. 28:2-6; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:3-4; John 20:1-12; Acts 1:10; Heb. 13:2; Rev. 21:17). We are likewise instructed that we are not to worship angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9; see also Jud. 13:15-16). It is only when we read the account of an angel’s appearance to John the Revelator that this injunction is explained. John records, “And when… I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel… Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets…” (Rev. 22:8-9). The angel thus identifies himself as a righteous man who had returned as an angelic messenger even as Moses, Elias, and others have done (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:4; Lk. 9:30). He was not just man’s equal but a spirit brother (Rev. 19:10) and a son of God as man is (Num. 16:22; 27:16; Acts 17:22-24; Eph. 4:6; Heb. 12:9). Some Christians mistakenly conclude that angels are “sexless” because Matthew 22:30 seems to support this belief. This scripture implies nothing about the ability of angels to procreate but only states that they are unmarried (single). Since marriage and procreation are only part of mortal life and exaltation, it seems clear that unexalted angels, whether pre-existent spirits or resurrected beings will necessarily be single (See D&C 132:15-17).56

McKeever and Johnson’s characterization of theosis (deification, eternal progression), either in its early Christian or latter-day Christian form, as being self-centered (“more focused on personal power, gain, and sex” as they put it) is nothing more than a cheap shot. They unwittingly echo a common criticism by atheists of religion as a whole being self-centered. They contrast what they see in LDS doctrine with the image of worshipping God in Revelation, forgetting that Revelation is a canonical book for Latter-day Saints, too. They not only do not explain this contradiction, I seriously doubts it even occurred to them. In any case, for the record, all the speculations of nineteenth-century brethren aside (which, like the circular arguers that McKeever and Johnson are, they assume we lend all written material equal doctrinal weight-which we clearly do not) they assume all LDS writings are as indicative of LDS doctrine as are our canonical scriptures. This is circular because it argues a point of our doctrine based on one of their assumptions-that the written word is the Word of God, not a record of the Word of God. And in any case, uniquely LDS scripture happens both to echo the apocalyptic worshipping of God as in Revelation, along with the primacy of God in LDS soteriology (doctrines regarding salvation) and eschatology (doctrines concerning the latter days):

And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.57

…for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.58

Conclusion

Not content to treat the LDS as Biblicists by giving every speculative personal LDS commentary the same weight as scripture, McKeever and Johnson go on to draw their own conclusions and present this as if it were LDS doctrine: “Every Mormon couple who obtains exaltation has no choice but to look forward to the day when one of their own children will serve as a tempter and cause one-third of the other family members to rebel and fall into sin.” As if this non sequitur weren’t vivid enough, they bring in the names of Auschwitz, Rwanda, Tiananmen Square and Kosovo in a melodramatic attempt to paint a horrible vision of “Mormon eternity.”

I can end with no better condemnation of this kind of overheated prose than to quote McKeever and Johnson’s own words against them: “Perhaps with our sin-tainted minds, such a wondrous concept would be difficult to grasp.” Indeed. But the way to at least begin to grasp it is to ask the LDS what we believe, not presume to tell us what we believe.

Endnotes

1 In apologetic terms, a proof text is typically a scripture, often pulled out of context, used to prove a doctrinal point.

2 This is an excellent summary of the LDS view of exaltation versus salvation in lesser kingdoms, incidentally.

3 William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther, I Corinthians. Anchor Bible, Vol. 32 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976), 346.

4 Anthony C. Thiselton, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids. Michigan and Carlisle, United Kingdom: Eerdmans / Paternoster, 2000), 1267-1268.

5 Thiselton, New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1268.

6 Thiselton, New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1279-1280.

7 Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001), 172.

8 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible (McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Co., 1706), 6:641.

9 A conservative Protestant denomination, and no friend to Latter-day Saints: see http://reslight.addr.com/

10 http://reslight.addr.com/thirdheaven.html

11 http://www.rockinauburn.com/columns/thirdheaven.htm

12 Thomas Francis Glasson, “Heaven,” Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993), 271.

13 Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians. Anchor Bible, Vol. 32A, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984), 525.

14 Eugene Seiach, Ancient Texts and Mormonism: Discovering the Roots of the Eternal Gospel in Ancient Israel and the Primitive Church, Second Edition (Salt Lake City: Eugene Seiach, 1995), 572.

15 Jean Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1964), 174, quoted in Seiach, Ancient Texts and Mormonism, 571.

16 In Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Vol. 3:4.

17 Ante-Nicene Fathers, I:154, fn.

18 Quoted by Eusebius, “Preface to Papias,” Historia Ecclesia, III.39:3-4. See also “Fragments of Papias” V at http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-43.htm#P3497_597426

19 Emma Disley, “Degrees of Glory: Protestant Doctrine and the Concept of Rewards Hereafter,” Journal of Theological Studies 42 (1991), 77-105. I am thankful to Ted Jones for this citation.

20 Brian E. Daley, The Hope of the Early Church. A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). I am thankful to Ted Jones for this citation.

21 Marta Ryk, “The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Deification of Man According to Contemporary Orthodox Theology,” Diakonia 10 (Fordham University, 1975), 122. I am thankful to Ted Jones for this citation.

22 http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/891103_7th_Heaven.html

23 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; somewhat similar to National Public Radio in the United States. See also http://www.calgary.cbc.ca/

24 Olam Ha-Ba (oh-LAHM hah-BAH): literally “the world to come.” 1) The messianic age; 2) the spiritual world that souls go to after death.

25 “G-d” [sic]; many observant Jews try to avoid spelling “God” out in full in English just as they substitute the word “Adonai” (“Lord”) for the “Tetragrammaton” (YHWH, “Yahweh,” or “Jehovah.”)

26 Tracey Richards, “Judaism 101,” an Orthodox Jewish FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Website: http://www.jewfaq.org. See specifically: http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm. My thanks to René Krywult for this citation.

27 Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is Professor Emeritus, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; 1987 through the present; see http://www.elevated.fsnet.co.uk/index-page13.html; my thanks to René Krywult for this citation.

28 Teresa was a ‘conversa’ or forced convert to Christianity from Judaism.

29 Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God (New York: Ballantine, 2000), 14.

30 Ante-Nicene refers to Church Fathers who lived and wrote before the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

31 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Vol. 31:2; see also http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-63.htm#P8900_2545577, emphasis added.

32 Ibid., Vol. 36:2; see also http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-63.htm#P8900_2545577

33 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata (Miscellanies): XIII.13; see also http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-02/anf02-67.htm#P8215_2366146

34 Ibid., XIV 1; see also http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-02/anf02-67.htm#P8215_2366146

35 Origen, Commentary on John, II.3; see also http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-10/anf10-38.htm#TopOfPage. My thanks to Kevin Grahm for this citation and for drawing my attention to the comparison with the D&C.

36 D&C 76: 76-77.

37 For the complete text of 2 Enoch, see “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. 1, edited by James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, New York: Doubleday; 1983), 102-213.

38 Testament of Levi 3:1-8, in H.C. Kee, “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vol. 1, edited by James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1983), 788-789. My thanks to Michael R. Ash for this citation.

39 The Nag Hammadi library was found by an Egyptian farmer in Upper Egypt in December, 1945. It contains the library of an early Christian (Gnostic) monastery.

40 George W. MacRae and William R. Murdock, “The Apocalypse of Paul (V,2),” The Nag Hammadi Library in English, directed by James M. Robinson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977), 239. For an online text, see also http://apoc.port5.com/apocl/fgapcpl.htm.

41 John 21:25.

42 John 20: 30-31.

43 J.R. Mueller and G.A. Robins, “Vision of Ezra,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1, edited by James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1983), 590.

44 Exactly as the Restored Gospel teaches.

45 D.K. Innes, “Hell,” The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1962), 518.

46 LXX is the commonly used abbreviation for the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament written in Alexandria, Egypt, several centuries before Christ. It’s the tradition of the Old Testament Christ and the Apostles (as well as the Jews of the day) used; at the end of the first century A.D. Jewish scholars rejected the LXX tradition and developed a new one, one that took over half a millennium to compile-this new one is known as the MT, or Masoretic Text, and is the one most modern Christian Old Testaments, including that in the King James Version, are based on.

47 Pesh. is, like LXX, an abbreviation for a version of the ancient Bible. In this case it stands for “Peshitta,” the Old Syriac version still used today by Lebanese Marionite Christians and Palestinian Christians.

48 Ibid., 518.

49 Ibid., 518.

50 McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 174-175.

51 Ernst W. Benz, “Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God,” Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, edited by Truman G. Madsen (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978), 218-219.

52 Although this is couched in stronger language than the author would use himself, and it talks only about Southern Baptists, this tendency to use the Bible almost as a magic talisman brings to mind a quote by the modern Renaissance scholar, Harold Bloom, in his famous book The American Religion (New York: Touchstone, 1992), 222:

Even as Fundamentalists insist upon the inerrancy of the Bible, they give up all actual reading of the Bible, since in fact its language is too remote and difficult for them to begin to understand. What is left is the Bible as physical object, limp and leather, a final icon or magical talisman. To read Criswell [an anti-intellectual leader of the Fundamentalist faction of the Southern Baptist Convention] or any other Fundamentalist clergyman on the Bible is almost a literal impossibility, at least for me, because they are not writing about the text, in any sense whatsoever of text, or of that text. They write about their own dogmatic social, political, cultural, moral, and even economic convictions, and biblical texts simply are quoted, with frenetic abandon, whether or not they in any way illustrate or even approach the areas where the convictions center. They are quoted also as though they interpreted themselves and were perfectly transparent in their meanings.

53 I think I can understand why McKeever and Johnson decided to delicately ignore a Bible passage referencing multiple heavens.

54 Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms III: 101-150. Anchor Bible, Vol. 1970 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970), 13.

55 Incidentally, an evangelical Christian who goes under the pseudonym J.P. Holding, gave Mormonism 101 a less than sterling rating, even though one would assume they’re all on the same side. One of the reasons was McKeever and Johnson’s failure to come to grips with the new generation of amateur (that is, non-BYU professors, nor General Authorities) LDS apologists that has cropped up: [http://www.tektonics.org/BM.M101_0801063353.html#Review]

That said, I was very disappointed that there was not greater interaction with modern Mormon apologetic efforts. Names like [Richard] Hopkins and [BYU Professor of Arabic, and FARMS executive director Daniel] Peterson are barely discovered. I will grant that this was obviously intended as an introductory book….We recommend Mormonism 101 for all who are taking their initial steps into this field-but be aware of its limitations.

56 Michael W. Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1995), #54.

57 Mormon 7:7.

58 Moses 1:15.

 

 

2007

L.G., Blogger, Biola University Student

Rewards and Punishment

 

Rewards and Punishments (Thursday, May 10, 2007)

Introduction

Our paper will introduce the terms: reward and punishment. We will outline how Scripture exemplifies these in a literal and figurative manner. Then the paper will discuss the degrees of rewards and punishments, as well as the recipients.

How can you read this paper in a personal and practical manner? As you read, keep in mind that rewards are promised less as incentives to godly living for the sake of earthly prosperity. Rather, more as motivation to endure in the faith during trying times. The unseen heavenly reward for us Christians is offered as a consolation and sustaining hope—an encouragement not to lose heart. Remember that the final judgment of God does involve a punishment to the evildoers. Justice is one of the most outstanding attributes of God in Scripture as time and again God is depicted as the herald of justice. The necessary context for observing the Revelation’s context of punishment is the Bible’s persistent affirmation of God as the perfect judge.

Reward

A reward is a payment made in return for a service rendered or an act performed to strengthen an approved behavior. The concept of ‘rewards’ is woven throughout the Bible as individuals receive rewards because their actions exhibit good things required by God. These can be seen in the Old Testament in the lives of Abraham and Sarah as their life of faith and believe in God’s covenant is rewarded by the birth of a promised son (Genesis 21) and exemplified in his continual looking forward to God’s promise to be fulfilled as seen in Hebrews 11:8-10. Joseph is rewarded with political authority within Egypt, and David’s refusal to end the life of Saul is also rewarded in a similar manner of earthly gain (Genesis 39, 1 Samuel 24). Within the Old Testament many examples are evidenced in the reception of literal rewards of riches, honor, rain, crops, harvest, honor, prosperity, success (Ps. 18:20, Deut. 28:1-14, Prov. 22:4). Within the New Testament the idea of rewards shifts from the physical and temporal rewards to an increasing emphasis on spiritual and eternal (currently unseen) rewards.
When will rewards be given?

In order to receive due recompense for actions completed in the body, Paul depicts in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that every believer will stand before Christ at what is called, ‘the judgment seat of Christ,’ or the bema (Greek). It is at the bema that the good will be commended and a reward given for imperishable deeds.1 While the scope of this paper does not cover specific judgments, it is necessary to make note that the eternal rewards referred to within this paper are the ones to be received on the ‘day of judgment’ or the bema. A distinction is made between belief and actions where a persons belief on earth determines their eternal location (heaven or hell), while their actions or deeds on earth determine their reward or punishment.2 While John assures the believer they will not come under God’s judgment in John 5:24, he is referring to one’s eternal destiny and not how faithful one lives his/her Christian life.3

Jesus spoke frequently concerning future rewards: “He will reward each according to his works (Matthew 16:27), “You will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21), “You will be blessed…for you shall be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:14). The return of Jesus is imminent as stated in Revelation 22:12: “Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!” As Believers we need to be ready and thus the ideas of rewards is an important subject to study and understand.

Rewards in Scripture

Within the New Testament two different Greek words are used to describe, “rewards.” “Misthos,” implies the idea of payment or honor for a specific job (Mt 20:8, Luke 6:23)4, while apodidomai is the combination of two Greek words which means to give back in return or to repay.5 A main passage concerning rewards is found in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Within the process of the bema, deeds done in the flesh (depicted here by wood, hay or straw) are consumed with fire and thus unworthy of reward. These are deeds done for man’s personal gain or honor without regard to bringing God glory. Even ‘good deeds’ such as prayer, giving, or fasting could be consumed by fire at the bema if done with the wrong motive.6 On the contrary, that which remains after the fire (gold, silver, precious stones) represents imperishable deeds which will receive reward. These are deeds done for the glory of God and completed without regard to man’s praise (as depicted in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18). It’s not the actual deed which is judged, but it’s the motives of men’s hearts as Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 4:4-5. At the bema the motive of the heart is revealed and deeds are rewarded.

Actual Rewards

The concept of treasures in heaven is taught in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” This verse comes during Jesus’ teaching of the Sermon on the Mount upon how one should live their lives in light of God’s commandments. A heavy emphasis is given upon deeds done on earth, but it’s important to remember the consideration of the heart’s motive as discussed above (1 Corinthians 4:4-5). It is unclear from scripture the exact nature of the rewards at the bema, but whatever is received will be real and have eternal value (1 Corinthians 9:25).

The promise of a future inheritance or an admonition to hope for what is to come often precedes discussion concerning rewards in heaven. This teaching is scattered throughout the Bible as depicted in Colossians 3:23-25 when Paul reminds the Believers concerning the future reward: “Whatever you are doing,work at it with enthusiasm,as to the Lord and not for people,because you know that you will receive yourinheritancefrom the Lord as the reward. Servethe Lord Christ. For the one who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong,and there are no exceptions.” The inheritance is often understood as the inheritance of the ‘kingdom of God’ whom all believers are heirs (1 Peter 1:3-4). All believers will inherit an eternal home in heaven, given glorified bodies, and enjoy an eternal relationship with God, but those who excel in their perseverance and faithfulness to what God has given them will enjoy the fullness of inheritance.7 And Paul teaches that those who are fornicators, idolater, adulterers, homosexuals, etc will not inherit the kingdom of God.

A popular interpretation of this passage is that this list describes the unbeliever. However, Joe Wall in his book, Reward and Loss at the Judgment of Believers, asserts Paul is using the phrase ‘inherit the kingdom of God’ as one whom already has a share in the eternal kingdom (a Believer). “[Paul] is not saying that the one described will be eliminated from living eternally in heaven but that he will come up empty-handed in the messianic kingdom” (Wall, pg 83).
Crowns as Rewards

The question concerning rewards remains centered around the discussion between a literal or figurative interpretation of scripture. Most scholars determine five different types of crowns from scripture which represent five different types of deeds. Millard Erickson states, “The term crown is also used to symbolize the rewards Christians receive,” (Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, 45). The Apostles mention five crowns as rewards for service in the epistles.

Runner’s crown – Incorruptible Crown

And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath (crown), but we an imperishable (I Cor 9:25).

Soul-winner’s crown – Crown of Rejoicing

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming (I Thes 2:19).

Lover’s crown – Crown of Righteousness

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing (II Tim 4:7-8).

Shepherd’s or Pastor’s crown – Crown of Glory

Shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God…And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (I Pet 5:2-4).

Martyr’s crown – Crown of Life

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (Jam 1:12),

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:10).

The question remains if these crowns are literal or symbolic. Some scholars veer towards the side of literal interpretation of five different actual incorruptible crowns which will last for all of eternity and remain as a special mark given by the Lord to honor those who served him faithfully in this life.8 While others would claim that these crowns are merely a symbol of honor to be received by individuals and also symbolic of deeds which will be rewarded. The crowns could also represent an authority structure of some sort, as scriptures describe Believers as participating in a world government, and enjoying special privileges of service (Matt. 25:34, Col 3:23-24, Rev. 2:27; 3:21) in addition to positions as mayors, governors, and rulers.9 The evidence is simply inconclusive concerning the actual future events to unfold at the bema.

Even if the actual identity of the reward remains unknown, what is certain is the occurrence of the bema and the fact all Christ followers will be rewarded on account of their faithfulness. This has been shown through strong scriptural support in this paper. This alone should affect the way life is lived today for what is done on earth echoes in eternity. Those suffering today should be encouraged by these words to persevere for their deeds will not go unnoticed. They will be rewarded. A focus upon eternal things helps remind one of the temporary state of the life in which we live. However, the way we live this life is of great importance because it gives weight into how one will experience the rest of eternity. All Believers will inherit the Kingdom because of their faith in Christ, however not all inheritances will be equal because not all are equally faithful. Individuals should be motivated to please God and receive their full reward.
Pun-ish-ment10

Function: noun

1: the act of punishing

2: a) suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution b) a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure
3: severe, rough, or disastrous treatment

4: As defined in Hollomon: Negative consequences or sanctions that result from a finding of guilt of condemnation. Human punishment frequently aims at upholding the integrity of the rules that have been broken or restraining future law-breaking.11

Literal

To better understand ‘punishment’, we must agree that most times it follows this simple format: the antecedent (what led up to it), the occurrence (how it was done), and the consequence (what followed as a result of it). Punishment, in this manner, is a deserved result or a crime or wrongful act, and the logical understanding is: what people sow, they reap. However, more than simply being punished for a civil crime, punishment in the Bible is simply a violation of God’s moral law. Because of the impeccable nature of God, punishment is a character placed on Christ, who was wrongly punished by people but suffered justly in God’s judicial plan12. The ‘story of the Fall’ is one example of the literal accomplishment of punishment.

Prototypical Example of Punishment: Adam and Eve
1. Crime 2. Antecedent 3. Occurrence 4. Consequence
Eating the fruit that God had forbidden Subtle temptation of Eve by the Serpent Falling into the temptation and eating the fruit God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and then ultimately, the curse of sin

We are rarely allowed to forget the idea of punishment as we read the Bible. The Old Testament reveals literal punishments on numerous accounts. In order to stay focused on the eschatological view of punishment, please briefly review some of the Old Testament examples:

Wickedness of human race, punished by the flood

Lot & family punished for an ill-advised move to Sodom

Abraham & Sarah punished for their expedient act of having a child by Hagar

Jacob punished for his self-seeking behavior toward Esau

Joseph’s brothers punished for their crime

Punishment by God’s supernatural intervention into earthly affairs:

Pharaoh’s hard heart punished by 10 plagues (eventually death)

Egyptian army’s pursuit of Israelites, punished by Red Sea

Miriam’s rejection of Moses’ authority, punished by leprosy

Israelites testing of God, punished by 40-year wandering in the wilderness

…and more

Although the New Testament is not as rich in examples and images, there is definitely an articulation of the eternal and eschatological ideas of punishment. Jesus’ discourses and parables yield the most vivid images:

It is better to enter into eternal life blind and without one’s limbs than to have one’s “whole body be thrown into hell” (Mt 5:27-30)

The foolish mistake of building a house (life) on sand results in a great fall (Mt 7:24-27)

The five unprepared virgins are permanently barred from the wedding feast (Mt 25:1-13)

The wicked and slothful servant is cast “into the outer darkness” (Mt 25:15-30)

The goats will be separated from the sheet to “go away into eternal punishment” at the final judgment (Mt 25:31-46)

Those who place everyday concerns above the messianic banquet will be permanently excluded from salvation (Lk 14:15-24)

The rich man is punished in the afterlife for the lack of compassion in the present life (Lk 16:19-31) 13

…and more

Literal or Figurative

This leads us into the discussion of the future and eternal punishments and whether they are literal or figurative. The analogy of crime and punishment can also be used in an eschatological context. The crime consists of the demonic and human worlds’ rejection of Christ and pursuit of evil. The dominant images of punishment in Revelation are images of physical torment on either a cosmic scale (earthquakes, hail, fire, water turned to blood, darkness, locusts), an international scale (warfare and famine), and a personal scale (sores on people, scorching from the sun, people gnawing their tongues in anguish).14 And lastly, the constant reminder is given in scripture of the eternal punishment: hell. Here are some examples where scripture uses literal concepts to evoke figurative perspectives. (The issue of “hell” will not be discussed in this paper; refer to Final State-Hell research paper)

Scripture Literal Figurative
“gnashing of teeth”(Matt. 8:12, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, 13:28) Grinding of the teeth -Teeth are primarily used as symbols of the attempted consumption of ill-gotten gain, taken by force from the powerless15-Description of hell, the place of judgment reserved for those who do not enter the kingdom. OT and NT pictures merge: the wicked, who have gnashed their teeth in anger all their lives, will continue to do so, in hell.
“The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”(Rev 6:12-14) -Scene of final dissolution of the cosmos. Often times this leads many to believe that the breakup of the earth as part of a long-drawn-out tribulation period.-“The first heaven and the first earth pass away” (Rev 21:2) could suggest that this passage is literal. -Denotes temporal judgment or the last judgment. Through OT examples of the defeat of Babylon (Isa. 13:10-13, Edom (Isa. 34:4), Egypt (Ezek. 32:6-8), Israel’s enemies (Hab. 3:6-11), and Israel itself (Joel 2:10, 30-31), refer to the historical end of a sinful nation’s existence through diving judgment, where God conducts holy war.-Reference to “stars”, “mountains”, and “islands” as symbols of human or divine powers in the LXX, Jewish writings, and the Apocalypse itself.
“The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.(Rev. 8:7)

“Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her”

(Rev 18:8)

Literal fire, literal burning -The word “fire” is a metaphorical portrayal of a judgment by famine. Fire is also used figuratively in 4:5, 1:14, 2:18, 10:1, 19:12). The parts of the earth affected are associated with food supplies, which is clear in Exod. 9:25, 31-32. Similar reference in Rev. 6:6. Ezekial 5 concludes the prediction of coming judgment with an emphasis on famine.
“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea.”(Rev. 8:8) A volcano eruption or some other natural phenomenon occurring in the first century or predicted for later. -Catastrophes inspired by OT literary models that provide figurative perspective.-OT reference to Jeremiah 51: the burning mountain is the object of God’s judgment of a wicked kingdom.
“The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood.A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.”(Rev. 8:10-11) -Rivers and springs of water were affected similarly to Exodus 7:9 and Psalm 78:44.-“Wormwood” is a bitter herb, and water contaminated by it can be poisonous if drunk over a long period. -Continual theme of fire as a famine.-Biblical theme of “stars” representing angelic beings can lead us to believe this star is Babylon’s representative angel alluding to Isaiah 14:12-15.

-The word “wormwood” is used in Jeremiah as metaphors for the bitterness of suffering resulting from judgment.

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon”(Rev. 9:7-11) -Insect species of the order Orthoptera, family Acrididae. In the Middle East the locust periodically multiplies to astronomical numbers. As the swarm moves across the land, it devours all vegetation, high and low.16-Similar to the plague in Exodus 10:12 against Egypt. -“Hair”: antenna-“Teeth”(Joel 1:6): destructive effect of their mouths

“breastplates of iron” (Job 39:19-20): scales on thorax

-Comparison of locusts’ face to those of humans with crowns on their heads evokes their demonic nature.

17

God’s unending punishment of sinners beyond this life is known as eternal punishment. The bible teaches us that unrepentant, unforgiven sinners will be punished (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 10:15; John 5:28-29; Rom. 5:12-21)18. Punishment, as discussed above, is the consequence of a crime or wrong-doing. The punishment here in Revelation is God’s justice to a nation that has rejected Him. However, the punishments revealed in Revelation have somewhat of a redemption purpose. It is not to accomplish actual repentance among the majority. Rather, the theological purpose is that God, by providing sufficient opportunities for spiritual reform, should demonstrate his sufficient opportunities for spiritual reform, should demonstrate his sovereignty and especially his justice in finally judging the entire host of “unsealed” people at the seventh trumpet.19
Degrees

Everyone who receives salvation by God’s grace, through faith, based on Christ’s redemptive work (Holloman, 477) also receives an eternal life as a gift. However, Alden Bass writes, “It is equally important to realize that every saint will be rewarded according to his deeds.” Matthew wrote in 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.

In regards to degrees of punishments, Paul wrote in Romans 2:5-6: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds.” The key phrase in both passages is “according to his deeds.” Here lies the sense of one’s own responsibilities for the outcome, whether rewards or punishments.

In order to discuss degrees of rewards and punishments any further, we need to define the term “degrees”. Here is a definition by Laverne Wesley Hofer: “The term degree 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.” (Hofer, 2) The intensity of eschatological rewards and punishments differ according to individual’s deeds.

Rewards and Responsibilities

Degrees of rewards are closely related to responsibilities. Bass points to the parable of pounds in Luke 19:11-27 to explain their relationship.

A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called ten servants of his, and gave them each ten pounds, and said unto them, “Trade ye herewith till I come.” But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, “We will not that this man reign over us.” And it came to pass, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, unto whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. And the first came before him, saying, “Lord, thy pound hath made ten pounds more.” And he said unto him, “Well done, thou good servant: because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” And the second came, saying, “Thy pound, Lord, hath made five pounds.” And he said unto him also, “Be thou also over five cities.” And another came, saying, “Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which thou layedst not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow.” He saith unto him, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow; then wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, and I at my coming should have required it with interest?” And he said unto them that stood by, “Take from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath the ten pounds.” And they said unto him, “Lord, he hath ten pounds.” I say unto you, that unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.

All ten servants had been given a responsibility, to do business with the given pound. Some were faithful to the given responsibility, and their works produced fruit according to time and effort invested, or according to their deeds. Interestingly, the servants were rewarded based on the fruit of their labor and not on their efforts. In other words, those who worked harder and more received a larger reward, because they had produced more fruit. On the other hand, one servant had not produced any fruit, because he did not work at all. This servant did not receive any reward, and what he already had was taken away from him. Bible clearly teaches us that believers cannot earn salvation. However, Jesus gave us a command: “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.” (John 9:4) He has given us the responsibility to work, and He promises to reward those who are faithful to His command according to their deeds.

Responsibilities and Abilities

Responsibilities are also closely related to individuals’ abilities and gifts. Therefore rewards are closely related to abilities and gifts. The parable of talents found Matthew 25:14-29, one that is similar to the parable of the pounds, illustrates the point.

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

From this parable, it is clear to see that degrees of responsibilities exist among believers, according to their spiritual gifts and abilities. Because rewards depend on the fruit of the labor, rewards ultimately depend on individuals’ gifts and abilities. For example, some believers are entrusted with more on earth because they are better stewards than others. Some pastors are entrusted with more sheep because they have greater spiritual gift of pasturing. These spiritual gifts are God-given, which means God entrusts some with more responsibilities than He does with others, according to the spiritual gifts that He had given. People with greater responsibilities receive greater rewards upon their completion of the given task.

One may argue against God’s partiality in His judgment of rewards. How can a God of justice show partiality among believers, and how can God judge, based on His own partiality? One must remember that God’s justice does not equate impartiality. There is justice in God’s choosing of Abraham. There is justice in God’s choosing of Israel. God favored Jacob over Esau before their birth. God’s justice is defined in His divine and absolute authority over all things; He does everything according to His own pleasure, and that is the justice. If one is concerned about jealousy created by differentiated rewards in heaven, he/she can always recall Professor Kirk’s illustration of a Thanksgiving dinner. You will be wholly satisfied that you would not mind skipping out on another slice of that pumpkin pie!

Degrees of Punishments

According to Holloman, Scripture teaches degrees of punishment for unbelievers (Mt 10:14-115; 11:20-24; Lk 12:47-49; Jn 19:11) (Holloman, 435). Just as rewards depend on degrees of fruit of works, punishments depend on the degrees of sin. Bass writes, “when speaking of eternal torment, the Bible mentions those who will suffer to a lesser or greater degree. And each time such a reference occurs, the punishment is proportionate to the opportunities missed.” (Bass, 92) In other words, those reject the gospel despite numerous opportunities to believe it will be punished more severely than those who had fewer or no opportunities to hear the gospel. Jesus’ rebuke on the cities of Bethsaida, Chroazin, and Capernaum on the account of disbelief even after Jesus’ teachings and miracles supports the idea.

Bass also points to the parable from Luke 12:42-48 to support the degrees of punishments.

And the Lord said, “Who, then, is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that servant shall say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming,’ and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the unfaithful. And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more”
The punishments of the two servants are clearly differentiated in this parable; one received many stripes while the other received fewer. The first received more stripes because he disobeyed the Lord’s will which he knew, and the second received fewer stripes because he disobeyed on an account that he did not know the Lord’s will. The scripture teaches us that punishments, like rewards, have degrees according to the deeds of individuals.

Recipients

The recipients of rewards and punishments are evaluated at two different judgments, the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgment, respectively. For Christians, their rewards will be based on the way they have lived their lives and the service they’ve rendered to the Lord, since becoming Christians. (Herman A. Hoyt, The End Times, 218). The apostle Paul says, “The Lord will disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (I Cor 4:5).

Characteristics of the Recipient

Faithful. Two characteristics that mark those who will receive rewards are faithfulness and generosity. Faithfulness is demonstrated by following Jesus, no matter the cost. Jesus said his disciples would be hated and ostracized, but they would have a great rewad for persevering (Lk. 6: 22-23). He reminded Peter that although he was leaving everything and following Christ, he would be rewarded (Matt. 19:27-28). Also, encouragement is given to those fulfilling leadership roles in the church. They are God’s under shepherds, maintaining a good example and eagerly serving according to God’s will in faithful service. They will be rewarded for their faithfulness (I Pet. 5:2-4)

Generous. Generosity was modeled by Christ at the cross.” Christ’s impoverishment for the riches of His people and His continual liberality in the supply of all needs are Jesus’ example and incentive for the measure of Christian giving” (Robert Saucy, The Church in God’s Program, 189). Christ’s giving was motivated by love. Our response is likewise motivated by love. As Paul says, “For the love of Christ compels us” to serve the Lord (II Cor 5:14). When recipients of our generosity glorify God, we see immediate rewards, but there are also future rewards, “profit which increases to your account” (Phil 4:17).

The recipient of rewards views himself as a steward or trustee. All he has – whether it is intellectual capacity, natural gifts, physical health, spiritual gifts or wealth – is a gift of God to him (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes, 283). They are generous because all of life is viewed as a gift from God which is to be shared with others. The goal of their lives increasingly becomes all to God’s glory and all done in His power.

Such a high goal raises the question of how a believer can develop the above character. Galatians 3:20 speaks of being crucified with Christ and living our life in the flesh by faith in the Son of God. This same idea is set forth in John 15 as the “abiding life,” where Christ produces His fruit in us as we remain closely related to Him. Our righteous works must be the outworking of the Spirit having control in our lives. Because of the cross, Christians have the freedom “to walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh” (Rom 8:5).

Christians will not be recipients of punishment because “There is, therefore, now no condemnation (punishment) for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1). However, those who have refused God’s gift of salvation will receive punishment according to their works. “The books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:11-18). Those who do not accept Christ’s payment for their sin go “into the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk 9:48). Jesus spoke of unbelievers as those that will “be cast into the eternal fire” (Mt 18:8). Ultimate punishment of the unrighteous is described as “eternal destruction” (II Thes 1:9).Their final complete separation from God is called “the second death” (Rev 20:6). God will execute eternal punishment on unbelievers and Satan and his demons (Holloman, 435).

Bibliography

Ayre, Theodore, A. Win Your Race, Gain the Prize. Bellaire, Texas: Olive Press Publishers, 2000.

Bass, Alden. Are There Degrees of Punishment and Reward? Apologetic Presss: Reason Volume 20[12]: 89-93, 2000

Betz, Harlan D. “The Nature of Rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.” Diss. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974.

Butler, Trent C. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Major Bible Themes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974.

De Haan, M.R. Coming Events in Prophecy. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.

Dobbs, W.C. “The Concept of Reward in the Teaching of Jesus.” Diss. Southern Baptist Convention, December 1954.

Elwell, Walter A., Ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984.

Erickson, Millard J. The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994.

Hofer, Lavern W. Degrees in Reward and Punishment, A Thesis Presented to Talbot Theological Seminary, 1955

Hoyt, Samuel. “A Theological Examination of the Judgment Seat of Christ.” Diss. Grace Theological Seminary, May 1977.

Kroll, Woodrow Michael. It Will Be Worth It All: A Study in the Believer’s Rewards. Neptunre, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brother, 1977.

Life Application Study Bible, NIV. Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Longman III T., Ryken L., Wilhoit J.C. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1973.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. Thy Kingdom Come. USA: Scripture Press Publications, 1990

Sale-Harrison, Leonard. The Judgment Seat of Christ. London: Pickering and Inglis, Ltd., 1938.

Saucy, Robert L., The Church in God’s Program, Chicago, Ill: Moody Press, 1972.

Tenney, Merrill C. and Steven Baraabas, Eds. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol 5. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1964.

Wall, Joe. Going For the Gold. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1991.

Wilkinson, Bruce. A life God Rewards. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2002.

posted by lp @ 10:10 AM

 

 

2008

J. B. Haws

Joseph Smith, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Section 76: Importance of the Bible in Latter-day Revelation

 

J. B. Haws, “Joseph Smith, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Section 76: Importance of the Bible in Latter-day Revelation,” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context: The 37th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry, eds. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 2008), 142-167.

 

J. B. Haws is a seminary teacher in Roy, Utah

 

Influence is a slippery word in the history of ideas. Even when a researcher performs the Herculean task of reading everything that some great thinker read and wrote, contemporary context and conversation are elusive variables complicating every “influence” equation. With that said, this paper might seem inadvisable from the start, because it begins with one of those difficult “influence” puzzles: Was Emanuel Swedenborg the source of Joseph Smith’s conception of a three-tiered heaven? Questions like this almost never lend themselves to a clear- cut yes or no; yet some recent observers have firmly pushed in just such a definitive direction in their evaluation of parallels in the writings of the eighteenth- century Swedish visionary and the Prophet Joseph Smith. In contrast to those strong assertions, this paper will argue for caution and tentativeness because the differences between the two revolutionary thinkers are as telling as the possible ties. Though certain similarities are intriguing, they do not necessarily require a direct connection between Swedenborg’s writings and Joseph Smith’s revelation. Instead, it might be more reasonable to suggest that both men drew from a common well, the Bible.
Latter-day Saints are generally accustomed to regarding their beliefs about heaven as unique from those of other Christians-and rightly so, many outside observers would say. Craig Blomberg, professor at the Denver Seminary, well represents the feelings of many outside Mormonism when he comments that “Doctrine and Covenants 76 hits [evangelical Christians] like a bolt out of the blue with its elaboration of four possible destinies of humanity.”[1] But Brigham John Bowen has recently suggested that “the notion of degrees of glory,” which today is “often thought of as … uniquely Mormon,” was “not so in the nineteenth century.”[2]
Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, authors of Heaven: A History, agree. They detect in the early 1800s a change of religious climate of sorts which drew many thinkers toward a “modern perspective on heaven,” one that “[emphasized] the nearness and similarity of the other world to our own and [argued] for the eternal nature of love, family, progress, and work.”[3] As part of that theological trend, many religionists posited a multiple-degrees-of-glory conception of the afterlife and speculated about individual and personal differences in intellectual attainment or eternal felicity, based often on the Savior’s comment about “many mansions” in His “Father’s house” (John 14:2).[4] Bowen, in his review of nineteenth- century religious tracts and treatises, points out that prominent theologians such as Isaac Watts and Thomas Dick (who was a contemporary of Joseph Smith) suggested that heaven consisted of multiple levels and gradations-indeed, “the general consensus” of “numerous … visions, sermons, speculative treatises” was “that in some form, different degrees of glory do exist in the heavenly realm.”[5] According to McDannell and Lang, “the understanding of life after death in the LDS Church is the clearest example of the continuation of the modern heaven into the twentieth century” because of Latter-day Saint adherence to a theology of heaven that comprises beliefs that once were more widely held- or at least more widely considered- by others.[6] That strain of Christianity seems now mostly forgotten, such that Latter- day Saints today might be surprised to learn that a Swedish nobleman and scientist named Emanuel Swedenborg, writing in the eighteenth century, recorded his visions of a heaven consisting of three regions.[7]
At this point, one might ask, if the notion of heavenly “degrees of glory” was not uncommon in Joseph Smith’s day, why focus so much on the question of Swedenborg’s influence?[8] Two responses seem relevant. First, the Prophet apparently mentioned Swedenborg by name during an 1839 conversation with Edward Hunter, a student of Swedenborgianism who later became a Latter-day Saint. Hunter had established a seminary dedicated to the free exchange of religious ideas, and when Joseph Smith stopped at this Nantmeal Seminary in Pennsylvania during a return trip from Washington DC, Hunter reported this exchange: “I asked him if he was acquainted with the Sweadenburgers. His answer I verially believe. ‘Emanuel Sweadenburg had a view of the world to come but for daily food he perished.'”[9] If accurately remembered, this remark generates a whole range of questions.
Second, because both men described a heaven that consisted of specific and separate realms, there seems to be a greater qualitative correspondence in their respective views than in the more nebulous “many mansions”-type descriptions of heaven found in the writings of other contemporary theologians. McDannell and Lang “trace the roots of the modern heaven, at least in part, to Swedenborg” and see echoes of that “modern heaven” in Mormonism.[10] That correspondence has also been noted by Mary Ann Meyers, Craig Miller, and D. Michael Quinn.[11]
One might then ask, would Latter-day Saints even be troubled if it could be determined that Swedenborgian ideas did influence Joseph Smith? In Mormon thought, revelation is often seen as resulting from specific questions. For example, early revelations addressed the teachings of Ann Lee and the Shakers (see D&C 49) offered correctives to abortive attempts at New Testament-type communal living (D&C 42) and clarified sectarian quandaries over the nature of the Godhead (see D&C 130). Hence, a revelation sparked by questions derived from considering another tradition’s doctrinal system would not seem unprecedented to Latter- day Saint observers. Joseph Smith himself said, “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up.”[12] If, therefore, it could be determined that Swedenborgian ideas did inspire Joseph Smith’s inquiries into the nature of heaven, Latter-day Saints likely would not view that as a threat to their understanding of the development of Mormonism. As Meyers aptly notes, “To stress the parallels between Swedenborgian and Mormon beliefs is neither to deny Smith’s vision experiences nor to confirm those of the Swedish baron.”[13]
At the same time, however, some who are critical of Joseph Smith skeptically look for the presumed “naturalistic origins” behind his writings to explain away his prophetic work.[14] Therefore, if a proposed connection to Swedenborg is intended to discredit the Prophet Joseph Smith-that is, intended to insinuate that an important doctrinal revelation was instead the wholesale and unacknowledged copy of another’s writings-the question of influence bears more weight. The question of influence then gets at issues related to the very historical and religious roots of Mormonism.
What must be conceded is that most of the historical connections to be explored here-that is, those moments of opportunity when Joseph Smith might have been introduced to Swedenborgian tenets-are only speculative. The difficulty comes in determining the extent of Swedenborg’s influence (if any) on Joseph Smith by the time of his 1839 comment to Edward Hunter (assuming the comment represents an accurate recollection). The religious connections that will be discussed afterward-that is, the scriptural ties and doctrinal implications of their respective afterlife theologies-are more substantive because they say important things about the significance of the Bible in understanding Joseph Smith’s revelatory work.
Joseph Smith’s Possible Encounters With Swedenborgianism

If indeed Joseph Smith was impressed and ultimately influenced by the teachings of Swedenborg, he would have found himself in good company. Swedenborg is not exactly a household name in contemporary American society, but Ralph Waldo Emerson read Swedenborg extensively and devoted one of his “representative men” lectures to him.[15] Henry James Sr. was a convert to Swedenborgianism, as was Helen Keller.[16] John Chapman-the famous “Johnny Appleseed”-was a Swedenborgian missionary.[17] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Peirce, among others, were also openly appreciative of Swedenborg’s poetic descriptions of his visionary discoveries in the fields of both science and religion.[18]
Swedenborg was born the son of a Swedish bishop but initially pursued an academic career in mathematics and metallurgy. Scientific inquiries basically dominated the first half of his intellectual career, from 1710 to 1744, but recording his spiritual visions occupied the second half of his career, from 1745 to 1772, the year of his death. Over the pages of forty- plus volumes, he touched on subjects as diverse as chemistry, biology, philosophy, mineralogy, marriage, the afterlife, and the nature of God.[19] Considering both the variety and the volume, it is not difficult to see why a century of thinkers would have been drawn to consider Swedenborg’s often revolutionary revelations.[20]
After “a spirit … spoke with him” in 1745, he “came to believe that God had called him to bring a new revelation to the world,” such that he “claimed to have been constantly in touch with the spiritual world for more than a quarter of a century.”[21] Based on his understanding of what he witnessed during these interchanges, Swedenborg described heaven as consisting of three divisions. Joseph Smith reported that on February 16, 1832, he and Sidney Rigdon likewise observed in vision that heaven consists of three divisions or kingdoms of glory-a revelation so fundamental to Mormonism that it is often referred to simply as “the Vision.”[22]
Joseph Smith’s brief but generally complimentary assessment of Swedenborg’s visions begs some crucial questions: If Joseph Smith made this comment in 1839, when did he become acquainted with Swedenborg’s writings? What was his source of information? Miller raises an intriguing possibility. A Mormon convert, Sarah Cleveland, and her Swedenborgian husband, John Cleveland, moved to Quincy, Illinois, in the mid-1830s, while most Latter- day Saints (including Joseph Smith) were gathering to Kirtland, Ohio, or western Missouri. But in early 1839, the Quincy area became the new gathering place for the exiled Mormons, and the Clevelands became closely associated with the Smith family when “Emma Smith and her children lived with the Clevelands for a short time in 1839 while Joseph was in jail.”[23] Significantly, Joseph Smith was released from jail in Missouri in April 1839 and immediately traveled to the Quincy area, where he began to establish Nauvoo in the spring and summer of 1839. He would certainly have become acquainted with the Clevelands during those months he spent in Illinois before his November 1839 trip to Washington DC. It was during his return from Washington that he met Edward Hunter and reportedly made the remark about Swedenborg’s visions.[24]
While the Clevelands thus seem to be a potentially solid, logical source for information on Swedenborg, their informative role could only have been a relatively late one, coming seven years after the publication of Joseph Smith’s vision of the degrees of glory. If the Clevelands were his earliest source for Swedenborgian doctrine, the question of influence would be moot, and the puzzle of Joseph Smith’s conversation with Edward Hunter would be resolved. Yet this question remains: had Joseph Smith been exposed to information on Swedenborg before he and Sidney Rigdon experienced “the Vision”?
Quinn has suggested-and his suggestion has proven very influential-that Joseph Smith could have become acquainted with Swedenborgian ideas through the occasional advertising and sale of Swedenborg’s religious tracts in the environs around Joseph Smith’s Palmyra home.[25] One author, citing Quinn’s work, went so far as to declare that “Mormonism and Spiritualism share a common ancestor in Swedenborgism.”[26] Yet there are some problems with this sweeping conclusion, considering both the spottiness of the dates of the newspaper advertisements and the distances between Joseph Smith’s home and the places of publication.[27] As Miller also points out, an argument for the likelihood that Joseph Smith gained any type of thorough fluency with Swedenborgian theology through his personal study of those Swedenborgian writings that might have been available for perusal would also mean the discounting of this telling observation made by Joseph Smith’s mother: “Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had, but much more given to reflection and deep study,” such that when he was “eighteen years of age” he “had never read the Bible through by course in his life.”[28] Still, it is possible that local publications made Joseph Smith at least aware of Swedenborg’s name and reputation.[29]
Meyers presents another possible source for Joseph Smith’s introduction to Swedenborgian ideas, and her suggestion seems worthy of additional exploration. Recognizing the importance of Sidney Rigdon in the history of early Mormonism, Meyers notes that Swedenborgian evangelists were active in Rigdon’s Pittsburgh as early as 1790.[30] Because Sidney Rigdon participated with Joseph Smith in “the Vision,” Meyers’s recognition of Rigdon’s possible role in transmitting Swedenborgian ideas is intriguing. Such a connection relies on another somewhat tenuous contingency: that Sidney Rigdon was actually exposed to those evangelists and that he engaged them long enough to absorb some of their doctrines about life after death. This circumstantial connection is not without merit, because Rigdon was an avid student of religious ideas. However, an even stronger reason to believe that Sidney Rigdon was at the very least exposed to Swedenborg’s ideas comes from the writings of Alexander Campbell.
By 1830, Sidney Rigdon had been a close associate of Campbell’s for more than a decade. He had been persuaded by Campbell’s preaching in favor of the restoration of Christian primitivism, and he had allied himself with Campbell’s movement (now referred to as the “Disciples of Christ” or “Churches of Christ”).[31] Rigdon was an active preacher, leading a congregation in Mentor, Ohio. However, in the fall of 1830, his ties with Campbell were strained to the breaking point. Campbell expressed sharp disdain for Rigdon’s group’s attempts at establishing a type of “New Testament communitarianism,” such that the “differences between Rigdon and Campbell boiled over.”[32] By late October 1830, Rigdon had been introduced to the newly published Book of Mormon and was soon thereafter baptized a Latter- day Saint. A little over a year later, Sidney Rigdon was with Joseph Smith when “the eyes of [their] understandings … were opened” (D&C 76:19), and they saw the vision of the three degrees of glory.[33]
Therefore, considering Rigdon’s long association with Alexander Campbell before joining with the Mormons, the discovery that Campbell made several references to Swedenborg in the two periodicals that he edited and published seems significant.[34] In fact, in at least two instances, Swedenborg and Rigdon are both mentioned in the same issue of the periodical-once even in the same article. In the October 4, 1830, issue of the Millennial Harbinger, an article entitled “Traveller’s Reply-Excerpts from the Traveller’s Journal” contains this interesting entry: “June 21st. Read two hours in the visions of Swedenborg on Heaven and Hell; and a sketch of his life.” Then, after providing a journal entry for June 22, the “traveller,” who signs the article “Francis,” wrote a summary of his experiences: “I had the privilege of spending several days at [Alexander Campbell’s] house, of forming a very pleasing personal acquaintance with him… . I was introduced also to Walter Scott, to Sidney Rigdon, to Adamson Bentley; which three ministers have immersed, within three years, at least three thousand persons.”[35] While it is impossible to determine the chronological order of the “traveller’s” June 21 reading of Swedenborg and his undated introduction to Sidney Rigdon, at least this passage establishes that someone familiar with a specific Swedenborgian text also knew Sidney Rigdon. Because Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell is mentioned-a text which discusses the three-tiered heaven- and because of Rigdon’s own intellectual curiosity, it seems reasonable to infer that Rigdon could have possessed a basic familiarity with Swedenborg’s view of the afterlife before he began his association with Joseph Smith.
Recognizing that any further conclusion beyond this suggestive Swedenborg-Rigdon connection will be speculative, it at least seems appropriate to say something about Rigdon’s participation in the vision of the degrees of glory.[36] He had become the principal scribe for Joseph Smith’s work on a translation or revision of the Bible. When they came to John 5:29 in the translation work, Joseph Smith records that the verse “caused [them] to marvel,” and it was while they “meditated upon these things” that the vision opened (D&C 76:18-19). Could it be possible, then, that in reflecting on the nature of the Resurrection, Sidney Rigdon brought up something he had learned from Swedenborg’s idea of a three-tiered heaven or that Joseph Smith may have remembered hearing something of the same? There are other connected possibilities.
Joseph Smith worked extensively on his Bible revision and translation for the first three years after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, from 1830 to 1833. Several of his recorded revelations are directly tied to questions that arose during that translation work. It is interesting to note that there is evidence that the translation did not proceed sequentially in all cases. For example, Joseph Smith translated John 5:29, which preceded receiving the revelation now contained in Doctrine and Covenants 76, on February 16, 1832. A month previously Joseph Smith recorded what is now Doctrine and Covenants 74-a revelation directly commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:14.[37] Receipt of Doctrine and Covenants 74 suggests that Joseph Smith had been involved, in January 1832, with a study of at least 1 Corinthians 7. Interestingly, the biblical passage most directly connected to the vision of the three degrees is found in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42. Could it be that Joseph Smith was intrigued by the notion of three glories implied in these verses-perhaps even in part because of Swedenborgian doctrine-such that the traditional understanding of John 5:29, which he read a few weeks later, and its resurrection dichotomy seemed incomplete?[38]
As inconclusive as the investigation into the Joseph Smith-Emanuel Swedenborg points of contact seem to be, these questions remain open. Additionally, an examination of the similarities and dissimilarities in the visionary texts speaks even more directly to reasonable limits on the suggested extent of Swedenborg’s influence on Joseph Smith, because careful readers of Doctrine and Covenants 76 will notice that Joseph Smith’s revelation is built on a framework of direct quotations of biblical passages.
The Visions of Heaven and Their Biblical Ties

There is a sense that the Prophet Joseph Smith’s vision is a conscious and careful expansion of pertinent scriptural texts. To be sure, the revelation certainly gives to those texts a significance and meaning that they do not have in traditional Christian understanding, yet the revelation repeatedly grounds itself in the language of the Bible. This point can hardly be overstated, and because it bears on the question of the degree of Swedenborg’s influence, it demands a more extensive treatment.
The central New Testament passage that weaves itself throughout Joseph Smith’s vision is 1 Corinthians 15:40-42. The Apostle Paul wrote, “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. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” Readers familiar with Mormonism’s conception of a three-tiered heaven will recognize the points of contact between this passage and the Latter-day Saint description of that heaven. Allusions to this passage from 1 Corinthians 15 abound in Doctrine and Covenants 76: inhabitants of the highest kingdom of glory are “they whose bodies are celestial” (v. 70); the glory of the celestial kingdom is such that “the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical” (v. 70); the difference between the celestial kingdom and the terrestrial kingdom is analogous to the way that “the moon differs from the sun in the firmament” (v. 71); the summary description of the three kingdoms of glory follows-and even adopts-Paul’s language: “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 the glory in the telestial world” (vv. 96-98). It seems evident that Joseph Smith understood his visionary experience to be related directly to Paul’s description of the Resurrection and thus chose to present his vision as an expansion of that description.
It is therefore surprising to note that Emanuel Swedenborg apparently never quoted from, nor even referred to, 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 in any of his voluminous writings.[39] Swedenborg did call the highest level of heaven the “celestial kingdom,” yet because this was a common synonym for heaven in the Christian vernacular, it would seem a serious stretch to see in this shared vocabulary a direct borrowing of Swedenborgian thought in Joseph Smith’s writings.[40] Joseph Smith, based on his interpretation of the Pauline passage, called the second kingdom or heavenly level “terrestrial,” while Swedenborg called that level “spiritual.” The phrase “terrestrial bodies” and the single word terrestrial do appear in Swedenborg’s translated writings, but never do they describe or even refer to the inhabitants of the second or “spiritual” heaven.[41] The word telestial, which Joseph Smith used to describe the lowest degree of heaven, never appears in Swedenborg’s works-and indeed seems to be an invented word unique to Joseph Smith.[42]
Quinn, in his review of similarities between Swedenborgianism and Doctrine and Covenants 76, candidly admits that of “the names of the three glories (Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial) in Joseph Smith’s 1832 vision, … only the Celestial corresponded to Swedenborg’s theology of three heavens,” yet asserts that Swedenborg “stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the sun, moon, and stars.”[43] Such an assertion, if true, would seem to imply another Swedenborgian parallel in Joseph Smith’s use of 1 Corinthians 15:40-42. However, a review of Swedenborg’s writings reveals that Quinn misappropriated or at least overstated the sun- moon- star description in Swedenborg’s work, and subsequent writers may have too readily accepted Quinn’s conclusions, thus exaggerating the perception of similarity.[44]
The passage that Quinn quotes in support of Swedenborg’s sun-moon-star description is from Arcana Coelestia. Like so much of Swedenborg’s poetic and symbolic writings, the passage is complex and not easily deciphered. However, what seems most clear is that Swedenborg used the sun-moon metaphor to describe the Lord rather than the three- tiered heaven (note that the celestial, spiritual, and natural kingdoms or heavens are not even mentioned in this passage). He wrote:
The sun has a correspondence, and so does the moon; for in heaven the Lord is the Sun, and the Moon too. The fire and heat of the sun, as well as its light, have a correspondence, for it is the Lord’s love towards the whole human race that its fire and heat correspond to, and His Divine truth that its light corresponds to. The stars too have a correspondence, the communities of heaven and their dwelling- places being what the stars correspond to. Not that the heavenly communities dwell in the stars, but that they have been set in order in the same kind of way as the stars.[45]
Rather than associating stars with only the third heaven, Swedenborg apparently used the stars as a representative metaphor for all the “communities of heaven and their dwelling- places.” That analogy could be understood as implying gradations of glory, and Swedenborg does close this passage by noting that “the specific nature of each person’s correspondence therefore determines what he looks like in the next life in the light of heaven. This explains why angels have an indescribably bright and beautiful appearance, whereas those in hell have an unspeakably dark and ugly one.”[46] Yet nowhere in this passage is there the threefold division of heaven, nor any association with the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.
An interesting line in Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell describes the Lord as both sun and moon: “The Lord is seen as a sun by those who are in His celestial kingdom, where love to Him reigns, and as a moon by those who are in His spiritual kingdom, where charity to the neighbor and faith reign.”[47] Again, for Swedenborg there is certainly a qualitative difference between those in the highest and second (and, though not mentioned in this passage, the third) heavenly kingdoms, and again he used the sun and moon as metaphors for the Lord, but this is not the explicit “sun/moon/stars” triad that Joseph Smith used as an analogy for the glory of the inhabitants of the respective kingdoms, “whose bodies are celestial” or terrestrial or telestial, “whose glory is that of the sun” or moon or stars (D&C 76:70; emphasis added). The strength of this distinction seems to be highlighted by another allusion to the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial glories in a revelation Joseph Smith recorded ten months after section 76. Doctrine and Covenants 88:19-32 makes clear that the kingdoms of glory correspond to the degrees of glory which will “quicken” those resurrected souls who inherit the various kingdoms. On the other hand, the phrases the “glory of the moon” and the “glory of the stars”-Paul’s phrases from 1 Corinthians 15:40-42-never appear in Swedenborg’s translated writings.
Instead of the sun-moon-star association, it seems that a student of Swedenborg would be naturally led to choose a different analogy for heaven that is more readily apparent in his writings: the divisions among bodily organs. In three of the four passages that Quinn cites in support of the three-tiered heaven, Swedenborg mentions parts of the body in conjunction with heaven, specifically stating that “inhabitants of the Lord’s celestial kingdom all belong to the province of the heart, and those of His spiritual kingdom all belong to the province of the lungs. The influx from the celestial kingdom into the spiritual kingdom is similar to the influx of the heart into the lungs, and also to the influx of all things belonging to the heart into those belonging to the lungs.”[48] Swedenborg’s heart and lung analogy for the two kingdoms of heaven never appears in Joseph Smith’s vision. Interestingly, earlier in this same passage Swedenborg writes that “in heaven or the Grand Man there are two kingdoms, one called celestial, the other spiritual.”[49] This is not to say that he was denying the existence of the third tier, but it perhaps suggests that Swedenborg’s view of heaven was not always precisely and consistently described, so that his writings could lead to alternately a three- or two-tiered heaven, depending on which works were consulted.
No evidence therefore suggests that 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 informed Swedenborg’s vision of heaven, but this passage directly influenced Joseph Smith. Indeed, the ties to biblical passages in Doctrine and Covenants 76 extend beyond these explicit references to 1 Corinthians 15:40-42.[50] Several chief theological concepts in the revelation are explained with direct scriptural citations. For example, those who inherit hell after final judgment in Latter-day Saint theology are called “sons of perdition,” and in describing them in Doctrine and Covenants 76, Joseph Smith used Jesus Christ’s description of Judas Iscariot: “It had been better for them never to have been born” (v. 32; compare Matthew 26:24). Their sin, according to Doctrine and Covenants 76:35, is that after “having received [the Holy Spirit],” they have “crucified [the Only Begotten Son of the Father] unto themselves and put him to an open shame,” another direct quotation from the New Testament (compare Hebrews 6:6). Swedenborg never referred to Matthew 26:24 or Hebrews 6:6, nor did he ever use the phrase “sons of perdition,” verses and terminology that were integral to Joseph Smith’s understanding of the inhabitants of hell.
In defining the parameters of the telestial kingdom, and specifically the type of people whose choices would lead to an inheritance in that third kingdom of glory, Joseph Smith again turned to biblical passages, quoting Revelation 22:15 (compare D&C 76:103) and 1 Corinthians 3:22 (compare D&C 76:99). However, those verses are never cited by Swedenborg.
Finally, and perhaps most theologically important for Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith wrote in Doctrine and Covenants 76:58-59 that those who inherited the celestial kingdom would become “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.” The language Joseph Smith used to explain this celestial inheritance comes again directly from Paul-1 Corinthians 3:22-23. Neither 1 Corinthians 3 nor the central phrase from Hebrews 12:23, “church of the Firstborn,” appear in Swedenborg’s works.[51]
To be sure, Swedenborg did quote extensively from the Bible and was a devoted student of the Bible, even in its original languages.[52] What seems telling is that Swedenborg associated his three-tiered heaven with 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, in which Paul reported that he “knew a man in Christ … (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”[53] Swedenborg referred to this verse in at least two interconnected ways: first, to describe his own visionary experience of being “caught up” and hearing “unspeakable words”;[54] and second, in the context of a specific discussion of the three divisions- celestial, spiritual, and natural.[55]
This extensive list of the real, substantive differences that lie beneath the initial veneer of similarity between the respective Swedenborgian and Latter-day Saint understandings of heaven prompts several observations. First, those writers who have seemed anxious to explain away Joseph Smith’s vision as dependent on, or even a wholesale appropriation of, Swedenborgian thought might reconsider the complexity of both revelations. In reality, Meyers’s cautious proposal seems wise. She wrote of “the possibility that Joseph Smith’s picture of the realms of glory is derived indirectly from Emanuel Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell,” but the truly distinctive explanations of the two systems underscore the words possibility and indirectly.[56]
Second, two disaffected, nineteenth-century Mormon writers familiar with both Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith never hinted at any similarity in their respective conceptions of heaven. At the very least, John Hyde’s and William Godbe’s conspicuous silence on the Emanuel Swedenborg-Joseph Smith connection recommends caution before making conclusions, perhaps raising the same challenge suggested by the textual comparison of the two descriptions of heaven: the initial similarities seem more superficial after a thorough investigation into the substance of the doctrines.[57]
Conclusion

In conclusion, there are parallels, and both Quinn and Miller have noted the uniqueness of the three-tiered heaven when compared with traditional Christian eschatology. How does one account, then, for the similarities found in Joseph Smith’s and Emanuel Swedenborg’s respective descriptions of the afterlife? Believing Latter-day Saints might answer that question with an explanation that parallels Joseph Smith’s reported statement to Edward Hunter: it is possible that Swedenborg saw the heavens. Latter-day Saints readily accept that individuals outside their tradition have been given special, revealed insight into heavenly truths, and thus the points of convergence in Swedenborgianism and Mormonism could reflect accurate, though independent, descriptions of true Christian eschatology. Latter-day Saints could accept that, to a remarkable degree, Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith both experienced actual visions of the afterlife reality.[58]
Observers outside the Latter-day Saint tradition would obviously not be satisfied with this type of shared-vision explanation. Even so, there is another reasonable explanation that can account for the similarities in the two theological systems: both men studied the Bible intensively.
Swedenborg experienced a midlife change following the visionary experience in 1745 that he interpreted as a call “to bring a new revelation to the world,” and Sig Synnestvedt notes that “he spent the two years immediately following his ‘call’ in further close study of the Bible… . He perfected his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek in order to study the Bible in the original texts, and, in effect, made a new translation of many of the books of both the Old and New Testaments. In 1747 he began publication of his most extended theological work, Arcana Coelestia- Heavenly Secrets. This study of the books of Genesis and Exodus runs to more than 7,000 pages or about three million words.”[59] It is significant that while Swedenborg’s work is most often described today as mystic or even hermetic, he saw himself as unlocking the Bible.[60] His massive Arcana Coelestia commentary represents his immersion into the Bible, and, importantly, it is in this Arcana Coelestia that readers find many of the descriptions of the three levels of heaven.
In a similar way, Joseph Smith’s most prolific period for recorded revelations corresponded exactly with his translation or revision of the Bible.[61] Like Swedenborg, Joseph Smith systematically worked his way through the Bible, noting changes and doctrinal corrections or clarifications. His vision of the three degrees of glory was reported as a direct outgrowth of that translation endeavor.
Quinn and John Brooke refer to “the seven heavens of Jewish mysticism,” “angelology,” “magic books,” “a wide range of occult influences” as the possible seedbeds for Emanuel Swedenborg’s and Joseph Smith’s descriptions of heaven.[62] Perhaps their extensive and impressive sifting through this type of esoteric source material is more complicated than it needs to be. Swedenborg could have been prompted to consider a three- tiered heaven simply through reading Paul’s intriguing mention of “a third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, verses Swedenborg quoted (and personalized) on several occasions. Joseph Smith could have derived his description of three glories from Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, the very verses that he employed to explain his vision. In fact, the Bible became the source by which Joseph Smith verbalized his revelation.
In the end, then, it seems difficult to describe Joseph Smith’s recorded vision of heaven as a magical or occult exposition on life after death, if “magical” and “occult” are taken to mean extrabiblical or non-Christian. Instead, Joseph Smith’s revelation is thoroughly connected to the Bible, even if his extrapolations from those biblical passages are admittedly unique. And while Swedenborg’s writings on heaven have an undeniably distinct feel from Doctrine and Covenants 76, in that Swedenborg rarely adopts direct biblical phraseology, and the poetic freedom of his writing often feels disconnected, it still can be argued that his idea of three heavens could be primarily an expansive interpretation that begins at a biblical starting point.
Therefore, this exercise can lead us finally to consider generally the Bible and the idea of influence as it relates to early Mormonism. Jan Shipps, Richard Bushman, and Philip Barlow, in reviewing Brooke’s The Refiner’s Fire, all settled on a similar observation about his thesis of hermetic influences on Joseph Smith. In the words of Jan Shipps, “Although [Bushman and Barlow] apparently did not compare notes about what they would write, both … pointed to Brooke’s failure to recognize how much of what he described as hermetic or occult came directly from the New Testament.”[63] Shipps then adds, “Brooke concentrates too much on the recondite and radical aspects of this new faith. At no point does he acknowledge that the religious and cultural situation into which Mormonism made its way was one in which … authority continued to rest in the Bible- the Bible alone, sola scriptura.[64] The suggestion that Swedenborg appealed to Joseph Smith because of a transmitted hermeticism thus neglects a crucial aspect of Doctrine and Covenants 76: that revelation is more than anything else a blending of literal readings of the Bible into a revolutionary view of heaven. And in that quality of being revolutionary perhaps more than in anything else, Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith were alike.
Notes

1.      Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 177.

2.      Brigham John Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory: Joseph Smith and Early Nineteenth-Century Views of Heaven,” in Richard Lyman Bushman, ed., Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers, 2000-2002 (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, Brigham Young University, 2005), 102.

3.      Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 313. See McDannell and Lang, Heaven, 183, for a fuller description of what they mean by “modern heaven.” See Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 99-100, for a thoughtful summary of this portion of McDannell and Lang’s work.

4.      Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 103.

5.      Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 103.

6.      McDannell and Lang, Heaven, 320.

7.      For a summary of Emmanuel Swedenborg’s life and influence, as well as an up-to-date report on the activities and organization of one branch of his followers who comprise the New Church denomination of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, see www.newchurch.org. This Web site also has links to the church’s “affiliate organizations,” including the General Church’s Bryn Athyn College in Philadelphia. The General Church of the New Jerusalem split from another New Church organization, the Swedenborgian Church of North America. See their Web site at www.swedenborg.org. Swedenborg himself never organized a church, but the New Church movement was initiated soon after his death by those who were impressed by his writings.

8.      It should be noted that Fawn Brodie proposed that Joseph Smith’s vision of heaven drew on one of the aforementioned theologians, Thomas Dick (see Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 105n11, where he cites both Brodie’s No Man Knows My History [New York: Vintage Books, 1995], 172-73, as well as Edward T. Jones, “The Theology of Thomas Dick and Its Possible Relationship to That of Joseph Smith” [master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1969], “for a thorough discussion and refutation of Brodie’s claims”; see also Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], 458, 648n81).

9.      William E. Hunter, Edward Hunter: Faithful Steward (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1970), 316; original spelling retained. The quote comes from the typescript of the “Autobiography of Edward Hunter” included in the final chapter of the book.

10.   Bowen, “Present in the World of Glory,” 105n2. Chapter 7 of McDannell and Lang’s Heaven is entitled “Swedenborg and the Emergence of a Modern Heaven.”

11.   Mary Ann Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” Dialogue 14, no. 1 (Spring 1981): 58-64; D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 217-19; Craig W. Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” unpublished paper. Miller has posted his paper at craigwmiller.tripod.com with a note that the page was last updated on June 4, 2000. Miller also gave presentations on Mormon-Swedenborg parallels at the 1998 and 2002 Sunstone symposia in Salt Lake City. His approach is the most extensive and comprehensive, and he deals with remarkable parallels that extend beyond the three-tiered heaven doctrine considered here. His analysis and attention to detail are impressive. I would argue that many of the parallels he discusses (marriage, for example) could be treated in a manner analogous to the treatment of the three heaven parallels we receive here: Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith both had the Bible as their theological starting point, and their revelations represent expansions of biblical passages.

12.   Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 316.

13.   Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 59.

14.   Robert D. Anderson, Review of Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick, “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Mormon History 33, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 244. Though Anderson’s comments apply to “the valid quest” for the “skeptic” to seek the “naturalistic origins” of the Book of Mormon, his assertions seem to characterize more general criticism of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

15.   Sig Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg: Basic Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Scientist, Philosopher, and Theologian (The Swedenborg Foundation and Twayne Publishers, 1970), 5-6; Colin Wilson, “Introduction,” in Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, trans. George F. Dole (West Chester, PA: The Swedenborg Foundation, 1979), 10; see also Robert D. Richardson Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 667, 670, where the number of references to Swedenborg in the book’s index exceeds the number of references to Plato by one.

16.   Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001), 82; Wilson, “Introduction,” 21; Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 7.

17.   N. J. Paterson, Johnny Appleseed: A Voice in the Wilderness: The Story of the Pioneer John Chapman (The Swedenborg Press, 1947).

18.   Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 6; Menand, The Metaphysical Club, 275.

19.   See Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 16-35, for both a succinct chronology and biographical sketch of Swedenborg’s life.

20.   Mary Ann Meyers makes an argument for Swedenborg’s appeal to readers who were well educated-especially in the sciences-and affluent, suggesting that Swedenborg’s background and career, the complexities of his doctrine, as well as his emphasis on education, contribute to his appeal (Mary Ann Meyers, A New World Jerusalem: The Swedenborgian Experience in Community Construction [Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983], 15-16).

21.   Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 25; Meyers, A New World Jerusalem, 17 (caption to the illustration). Swedenborg’s own description of his visionary experiences comes in his work Arcana Coelestia, trans. John E. Elliott, 5; accessed on March 11, 2008, at http://theheavenlydoctrines.org/static/d8086/ 5.htm: “I have been allowed constantly and without interruption for several years now to share the experiences of spirits and angels, to listen to them speaking and to speak to them myself. I have been allowed therefore to hear and see astounding things in the next life which have never come to any man’s knowledge, nor even entered his imagination. In that world I have learned about different kinds of spirits, about the state of souls after death, about hell (the miserable state of people who do not have faith), about heaven (the very happy state of those who do have faith), and above all else about the doctrine of the faith that is acknowledged in the whole of heaven. In the Lord’s Divine mercy more will be told about these matters in what follows.” It should be noted that Swedenborg’s works are numbered by passage rather than by page, so that all editions and translations correspond by passage number. Thirty-five of his most important religious texts have been digitized and are provided in a searchable format on the internet at http://theheavenlydoctrines.org. That resource has proven invaluable to this study. All of Swedenborg’s writings cited in this paper come from that digitized collection. Often, more than one translation from Swedenborg’s Latin is included on the Web site.

22.   On the publication of the vision, see Robert J. Woodford, Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 934, where he notes that “the Vision” was published in the Evening and Morning Star five months after the February 1832 receipt of the revelation. Woodford’s extensive documentation of textual changes in all editions of this revelation underscores the fact that, minus some spelling and grammar changes and other minor editing, the revelation published today is substantially and doctrinally the same as in its earliest 1832 published form. All references to canonized Latter-day Saint writings (the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price) will be to the 1981 editions of those scriptures, unless otherwise noted.

23.   Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 10. Richard Bushman mentions Emma’s residency with the Clevelands, but he does not mention Judge Cleveland’s religious background (Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 376).

24.   Hunter, Edward Hunter, 51.

25.   Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217-18; see also John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 205: “Michael Quinn 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… Swedenborg’s cosmos was summarized in various short texts available in Palmyra, and translations of his original texts would not have been too difficult to locate in the 1830s.” Brooke’s book received wide acclaim as a winner of the Bancroft Prize.

26.   Michael W. Homer, “Spiritualism and Mormonism: Some Thoughts on Similarities and Differences,” Dialogue 27, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 174n16.

27.   Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217-18. He mentions a summary of those beliefs published in an 1808 Canandaigua, New York, newspaper (although Joseph Smith’s family did not move to New York from Vermont until 1816) and a summary “in a book owned by Smith’s hometown library since 1817.” Finally, “in 1826 the Canandaigua newspaper also advertised Swedenborg’s A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell for sale.” Canandaigua is about twelve miles from Palmyra.

28.   Lucy Mack Smith, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 111; see also Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 11.

29.   Michael Quinn added a new reference to an 1830 Palmyra publication mentioning Swedenborg in his 1998 revised edition of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 176, that did not appear in his original 1987 edition. Interestingly, though, Quinn does not refer to this 1830 account in his notes related to Swedenborg’s vision of heaven (Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, rev. ed., 520nn319-29). Because of its geographic and temporal proximity to Joseph Smith, this new discovery seems the most promising in support of Quinn’s suggestion that Joseph Smith at least could have been aware of Swedenborg through local newspapers.

30.   Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 64. Compare also Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 9-10, where he explores the possibility that other Swedenborgian evangelists may have been active in cities seventy-five miles from Palmyra. One Swedenborgian apparently lived in Rochester, twenty-four miles from Palmyra, but Miller notes that he could find no evidence of contact between this Mr. Harford-or between other Swedenborgian evangelists, for that matter-and any in the Palmyra Latter-day Saint community.

31.   See Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 26. See pages 18-23 for a summary of Rigdon’s decision to join Alexander Campbell.

32.   Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 53-54.

33.   The most detailed account of the actual receipt of this revelation was given sixty years later by Philo Dibble, who reported that he was present when the vision was given, although he himself did not see the vision. His recollection was published in the Salt Lake City periodical The Juvenile Instructor, May 15, 1892, 303-4.

34.   The two periodicals are the Christian Baptist (published from 1823 until 1830) and its successor, the Millennial Harbinger (first published in 1830). Both periodicals are part of the digitized collection of restoration movement religious texts provided by the Memorial University of Newfoundland at www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/people/acampbell.html.

35.   Millennial Harbinger, October 7, 1830, 447-48; http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/acampbell/tmh/MH0110.HTM.

36.   Sidney Rigdon had a falling out with Joseph Smith in the 1840s but did not officially break with the Church until after Joseph Smith’s death. He was subjected to repeated accusations that he had been the primary writer of the Book of Mormon, yet even though he had broken with the Church, and even though he “never showed an inclination to relinquish his due, [he] vigorously maintained throughout his life that he had no part in the production of The Book of Mormon and never saw it until it was published” (Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, reprint [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 104). Significantly, and in a similar way, even after his trouble with Joseph Smith, and soon after Joseph Smith’s death, Rigdon still witnessed of his participation in the vision of the degrees of glory (Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 337).

37.   Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 34-35.

38.   See Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 196, about the Prophet’s encounter with John 5:29: “The scripture raised the question of how God could divide people into stark categories of saved and damned when individuals were so obviously a mix in ordinary life. ‘It appeared self-evident,’ Joseph wrote, ‘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.’ The question Joseph posed was a classic post-Calvinistic puzzle. For over a century Anglo-American culture had struggled to explain the arbitrary judgments of the Calvinist God who saved and damned according to his own good pleasure with little regard for human effort.”

39.   This assertion, and subsequent assertions about the use of certain words, phrases, and scriptural passages in Swedenborg’s writings, are based on the searchable database of Swedenborg’s religious works at theheavenlydoctrines.org. Although Craig Miller, in the body of his paper, seems to imply that Swedenborg did draw on 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, in an endnote Miller provides the important clarification that Swedenborg never referenced 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 and that “his followers generally don’t see the three heavens in the words of these scriptures” (Miller, “Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?” 14n8).

40.   For example, the searchable database Early English Books Online lists seventy-three seventeenth-century works-including the writings of John Foxe, Richard Baxter, and early translations of Augustine, Jerome, Eusebius, and John Calvin-that contain the phrase “celestial kingdom,” all of which predate Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings (http://eebo.chadwyck.com).

41.   In all seventy-six passages containing the word terrestrial, Swedenborg uses it interchangeably with the associated (and most often listed) synonyms worldly, corporeal, or material-in other words, terrestrial always refers to the present life, and never the afterlife.

42.   Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 602n11: “‘Telestial’ was not a known word. It has the ring of telos, meaning ‘end’ or ‘uttermost,’ a Greek word that appears in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:24, a few verses before a passage on bodies celestial and terrestrial in verse 40.”

43.   Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217, 219.

44.   See, for example, Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire, 205: “Michael Quinn 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.” See also Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 198: “Building on Paul, ‘The Vision’ [of Joseph Smith] made the three resurrected glories of sun, moon, and stars into three heavenly realms. The same scripture inspired eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg to divide the heavens into three parts, ‘celestial,’ ‘spiritual,’ and ‘natural,’ equivalent to sun, moon, and stars” (emphasis added). Bushman cites Quinn’s work in his notes (Rough Stone Rolling, 602n16), but he then adds this important caveat, which parallels the argument of this paper: “Since Swedenborg attracted the attention of New England intellectuals�his ideas may conceivably have drifted into Joseph Smith’s environment, but it was more likely the passage from Paul sparked the revelations of both men” (Rough Stone Rolling, 198-99).

45.   Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, trans. Elliott, 5377; http://theheavenlydoctrines.org/static/d8086/5377.htm.

46.   Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 5377.

47.   Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, trans. John C. Ager, 118; http://theheavenlydoctrines.org/static/d5399/118.htm.

48.   Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 3887; http://theheavenlydoctrines.org/static/d8086/3887.htm. See again Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 5377: “The subject at the end of the previous chapter was the correspondence of certain internal organs of the body with the Grand Man, that is to say, the correspondence of the liver, pancreas, stomach, and certain other organs with it. In this present section the same subject moves on to the correspondence of the peritoneum, kidneys, ureters, bladder, and also the intestines with it. Whatever exists in the human being, both in the external man and in the internal man, has a correspondence with the Grand Man. Without that correspondence with the Grand Man-that is, with heaven, or what amounts to the same, with the spiritual world-nothing can ever come into being and remain in being.” See also Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, 60.

49.   Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, 3887; emphasis added.

50.   For a thoughtful (and more thorough) discussion of the biblical passages outlined here, and their continued expansion into the doctrinally important revelations which soon followed “the Vision,” see Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 195-214.

51.   I am indebted to Greg Simpson for pointing out the repeated connection between Doctrine and Covenants 76 and Hebrews 12:22-24. On the doctrinal importance of Doctrine and Covenants 76:58, see also Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 531: “This verse stands at the heart of Mormonism.” While Joseph Smith did not explicitly teach the doctrine of deification-the potential for humans to become gods-for another decade, it is significant that he would thus expand upon early revelations (D&C 76:58-59, 95, for example, and related passages like D&C 88:107 and 93:19-20) and carry the implications of those passages in this doctrinal direction, a direction in which Swedenborg did not go. I appreciate Lori Nelson for providing the perspective of a Swedenborgian on this point (e-mail from Lori Nelson, October 3, 2007). Importantly, McDannell and Lang make this comment about Latter-day Saint distinctiveness: “While even nineteenth-century spiritualists were reluctant to predict that spiritual growth in the other world could eventually end with human deification, LDS theology took spiritual progress after death to its logical conclusion. The possibility of people evolving into gods is a Latter-day Saint tenet” (Heaven, 321-22). On this question of human deification, see Richard Bushman’s review of John L. Brooke’s The Refining Fire, “Mysteries of Mormonism,” Journal of the Early Republic 15, no. 3 (1995): 503. Bushman notes that since, for John Brooke, “the goal of hermeticism was to recover divine power and perfection; ‘divinization,’ is Brooke’s word for it,” and since “Mormonism promised that the faithful would become gods,” these “parallels lead Brooke to argue that Mormonism should be understood as more of an hermetic restoration than a return to primitive Christianity.” For a differing view of parallels in the Mormon doctrine of exaltation and the early Christian (and contemporary Eastern Orthodox Christian) belief in human deification, see Jordan Vajda, “Partakers of the Divine Nature”: A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization (Berkeley, CA: master’s thesis, Graduate Theological Union, 1998); see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 60-65, 68, 70.

52.   Michael Stanley, Emanuel Swedenborg: Essential Readings (Wellingsborough, England: Crucible, 1988), 23.

53.   In later sermons, Joseph Smith also referred to this “third heaven” passage from 2 Corinthians 12 and connected it with “the Vision” and the three degrees of glory (see, for example, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304-5, 311). Although the “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2) passage does not appear in the language of Doctrine and Covenants 76, the Prophet does use a phrase from 2 Corinthians 12:4 in Doctrine and Covenants 76:115 (“not lawful for a man to utter”). Compare also Doctrine and Covenants 137:1, where the phrase, “whether in the body or out I cannot tell,” from 2 Corinthians 12:2 is used in a description of the Prophet’s later (1836) vision of the celestial kingdom. It seems apparent that, like Swedenborg, Joseph Smith saw 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 as implying that heaven consisted of multiple kingdoms or glories.

54.   See, for example, Emanuel Swedenborg, De Verbo, 3.

55.   See, for example, Emanuel Swedenborg, Conjugial Love, 328.

56.   Meyers, “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology,” 59.

57.   John Hyde Jr. was a teenager when he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England in the early 1850s. He served a mission in France, immigrated to Utah, left for a mission to Hawaii, and there, at age 23, became disaffected and separated himself from Mormonism. In fact, for several months thereafter, he launched some vicious attacks on the Church. He published in 1857 a stinging expose entitled, Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs, in which he portrayed Joseph Smith a charlatan and the Book of Mormon a sham. The expose was published while Hyde was living in New York. He soon returned to England and there, in 1858, wrote a novel (never published) about Mormon conspiracies and crimes. But soon thereafter he became a follower of Swedenborg and eventually a well-known exponent of his teachings (Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, “John Hyde, Jr., Mormon Renegade,” Journal of Mormon History 17 [1991]: 134-36). Even today he is renowned among Swedenborgians for his groundbreaking bibliography of Swedenborg’s works. Hyde himself also wrote several books and pamphlets and articles on the tradition’s theology. Grateful acknowledgement is given to Carroll Odhner, head librarian at the Swedenborg Library of Bryn Athyn College, Pennsylvania. I am indebted to Ms. Odhner for the insight about John Hyde’s current reputation and notoriety among Swedenborgians (conversation with Carroll Odhner, May 4, 2005). It might seem natural, therefore, that a man in Hyde’s position-one who had already criticized Joseph Smith for his unoriginality and deceit-could use his familiarity with Swedenborgian theology to bolster his accusations against Mormons by suggesting that they deceptively co-opted Swedenborg’s teachings on heaven. Yet Hyde apparently never mentioned Mormon doctrines in connection with any of his writings on Swedenborg, even though one of his extensive pamphlets dealt specifically with the afterlife. He did criticize Mormons in 1868 for what he saw as their political attempts to establish an Old Testament-type theocracy, yet he never mentioned the doctrine of the degrees of glory (see John Hyde, “Adaptation,” The New Jerusalem Magazine [Boston], August 1868, 89). Carroll Odhner brought this reference to my attention.

58.   Likewise, William Godbe was a Mormon who was drawn to Spiritualism, and eventually he left the Church to pursue his spiritualist interests. In doing so, he actively persuaded other Church members to join him. Before his final break with the Church, however, Godbe published Utah Magazine. During its three-year run, the periodical featured a smattering of articles related to spiritualism and the occult. Two of those dealt with Swedenborg. The first, “Swedenborg’s Curious Powers,” was an excerpt from a biography of Swedenborg that chronicled his most famous manifestations of spiritual communication: directing a widow to find the secret drawer of her deceased husband; and describing a fire in Stockholm, as it happened, while he was in a city three hundred miles away (see “Swedenborg’s Curious Powers,” Utah Magazine, March 7, 1868, 104-5). But the second article, “Emanuel Swedenborg,” not only provided a glowing biographical sketch but also an excerpt from his teachings (see Utah Magazine, October 16, 1869, 380). Copies of Utah Magazine are housed in Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah. If Godbe wanted to win followers to his spiritualist cause, and his reading audience consisted mostly of Latter-day Saints, one might expect that he would want to impress them with Swedenborg’s prefiguring of Joseph Smith’s vision of heaven. But as with John Hyde, Godbe is apparently silent about those suggested similarities.

59.   See this representative passage in Spencer J. Palmer, Roger R. Keller, Dong Sull Choi, and James A. Toronto, eds., Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1997), 249: “Latter-day Saints believe that the spiritual influence which emanates from God is not confined to selected nations, races, or groups. All people share an inheritance of divine light. Christ himself if the light of the world… If people act according to this inspiration, they progress from grace to grace, learning precept upon precept, until they receive full enlightenment” (see D&C 93:19-20; 98:11-12).

60.   Synnestvedt, The Essential Swedenborg, 25-26; see also Stanley, Emanuel Swedenborg, 23.

61.   See, for example, Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire, 205: “Swedenborgian theology … provided one direct connection to the high hermetic tradition, and its system of a triad of heavens reflected a wide range of occult influences.”

62.   See Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 256: “The Prophet [Joseph Smith] was actively engaged in making the translation of the Bible from June 1830 until July 1833. Examination of the chronological table in the forepart of the Doctrine and Covenants will quickly show that most of the doctrinal revelations were received during this period. I believe this is not a coincidence but a consequence. It was Joseph Smith’s study and translation of the Bible that set the stage for the reception of many revelations on the doctrines of the gospel. There is an inseparable connection between the New Translation of the Bible and many of the revelations that constitute the book of Doctrine and Covenants.”

63.   Quinn, Early Mormonism, 217, 219; Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire, 205.

64.   Jan Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 205. Compare also Richard Bushman, “The Mysteries of Mormonism,” Journal of the Early Republic 15, no. 3 (1995): 501-5, and Philip Barlow, “Decoding Mormonism,” Christian Century, January 17, 1996, 52-53.

65.   Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land, 210-11; see also Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), especially his introduction, “The Bible in Antebellum America.”

 

 

2008

Casey Paul Griffiths

Universalism and the Revelation of Joseph Smith

 

Casey Paul Griffiths, “Universalism and the Revelations of Joseph Smith,” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context: The 37th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 2008), 168-187.

 

Casey Paul Griffiths is a seminary teacher in Sandy, Utah.

The revelations of Joseph Smith cast a startling ray of light into the theological world. Foreordained in the eternities, raised in a spiritual environment, and schooled by divine messengers, the Prophet set the religious world on fire. Yet no fire begins in a vacuum. The intellectual climate of the time, influence of his immediate family, and spiritual background of his ancestors all nurtured the divine spark of the Restoration. This study intends to answer three questions. First, what was the religious background of the Prophet’s family? Next, how did it prepare him for his labors? Finally, how did this background frame the work of his prophetic career?

While the truths of the Restoration can only be explained in the context of eternity, it is useful for us to understand the background of those who received the revelations. The Lord comments in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants that He taught His disciples “after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). The language the Lord mentions refers not only to the vernacular of the day but also to the language of ideas in which the Prophet and his contemporaries were fluent. From this perspective, the Lord prepared the mind of the Prophet not only through the teaching of heavenly messengers but also in the religious philosophies of the day. In all things, Joseph was prepared not only to receive revelation but to accept it. This in turn helped him to assist others in making the transition from their own theological backgrounds to the restored doctrines of the true Church. A simple case study might best illustrate the value of the Prophet’s religious background in his labors.

Early Reactions to Doctrine and Covenants 76

Doctrine and Covenants section 76, commonly called “The Vision,” was a milestone in the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Today there is rarely a course taught in the Church without at least one discussion showing the familiar circles representing the three degrees of glory. This profound outline, presented with such grace in the descriptions given by the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon, provides eternal perspective and a convenient roadmap for Latter- day Saints. However, while the vision is accepted today as one of the crowning jewels of our theology, it initially received a mixed reception by the early Saints. The reaction to this stunning revelation says more about the diverse religious backgrounds of the early adherents of the Church than about the revelation itself. How one reacted to the vision was a kind of litmus test, acting as a measure of the hearer’s ability to comprehend and incorporate new ideas into their perception of God and salvation. Many wrestled to reconcile these concepts with their theological backgrounds. Others, however, sprang from backgrounds that allowed them to see the power of this new revelation and gave them the will to nurse these profound truths until they became fully integrated into Latter- day Saint thought.

Foremost among those who embraced the revelation was the Prophet himself. Joseph was jubilant upon the reception of the vision. Looking back on the experience, he wrote:

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 punishment for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: “It came from God.”[1]

While Joseph marveled at the “sublimity of the ideas,” others in the Church struggled to accept the new revelation. Brigham Young gave a summary of the general feeling in the Church toward the vision:

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. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it.[2]

Records of the time verify the truth of Brigham Young’s observations. Orson Pratt and John Murdock both recorded several incidents where members of local branches rebelled against the teachings contained in the vision. In one branch a certain brother rose up and declared that the revelation was from Satan, and he “believed it no more than he believed the devil was crucified” and “would not have the vision taught in the church for $1000.”[3] Elders Pratt and Murdock worked patiently to help the man accept the doctrine but were ultimately unsuccessful.

Realizing new converts may not be ready for the profound message of the vision, the Prophet counseled missionaries traveling to England not to mention it before the proper foundation could be built. 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.”[4]

Why did so many stumble to accept what today is taken for granted as one of the most appealing parts of Latter- day Saint theology? It must be remembered that when the vision was received there was no one in the Church who had been a member for more than three years. The most devoted followers struggled with the dramatic new ideas of the vision. Even a stalwart such as Brigham Young could not conceal his difficulties in understanding the revelation. He recalled, “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.”[5] Though he would later be one of its greatest proponents, at the time he first heard of the vision, Brigham was a new and tender convert wrestling to grasp concepts diametrically opposed to everything he had known. Like Brigham, most of the converts of early Mormonism came from a background of what might be called “heaven and hell” Protestantism. Taught so long of the firm dividing line between the saved and the damned, they struggled to comprehend the largesse of God’s plan of salvation, where even a murderer could inherit a kingdom glorious enough to surpass all understanding (see D&C 76:89). Brigham Young’s brother Joseph perhaps best captures the spirit of the mood: “When I came to read the visions of the different glories of the eternal world, and of the sufferings of the wicked, I could not believe it at the first. Why the Lord was going to save every body.”[6]

If so many members recoiled at the liberal nature of salvation as revealed in the vision, why did Joseph Smith seem to immediately embrace the revelation? No single answer may suffice, but the reason may be traced in part to his religious upbringing and the religious heritage of his ancestors.[7] Many streams of religious thought seemed to flow into the Smith household, but in the writings of family members and those who knew them, the theology of Universalism appears more prominently than the others. Starting with Asael Smith, the Prophet’s grandfather, and continuing down to Joseph and his family, the spiritual tenets of Universalism provided fertile soil in which the Prophet’s religious feelings began to grow and bloom.

What Is Universalism?

Before the connection between Universalism and the Smith family can be explored, it may first be helpful to explain, in a general sense, what Universalism is. By the time Joseph entered the Sacred Grove and began his prophetic career, the Universalist movement was already widespread in New England. Its popularity may have stemmed from its optimistic appraisal of the human nature and the loving kindness of God. In layman’s terms, Universalism was the belief that all men will eventually be saved. A Universalist declaration of faith adopted in 1803 read, “We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.”[8]

Universalism in America was a diverse movement, but its principal founder in the United States was John Murray. In England, Murray was initially one of its harshest critics. Encountering a Universalist preacher and seeking to rebuke him, Murray was in turn confounded by the logic and power of the preacher’s scriptural arguments. He then launched into an intense regimen of study designed to disprove the Universalists but found his antagonism waning into tolerance and blossomed into full acceptance. He soon became an influential leader in the new faith in England. After a series of financial and personal setbacks, Murray departed from England in 1770 to start fresh in America. He did not come to the New World intending to spread the teachings of Universalism, but a series of fortunate events led him to begin preaching, and soon he developed a sizable number of disciples.[9]

Murray embraced America as a new homeland, becoming a passionate advocate for American independence, even serving as a chaplain in the Continental army. He counted among his closest connections prominent figures such as George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, John Hancock, and Benjamin Rush, who was also a Universalist. For Murray, Rush, and other followers of the faith, Universalism captured the millennial promise of the revolution. They felt it would transform the religious world, while the spread of democracy would transfigure the secular. After the American Revolution, Murray and his followers continued to prosper. Their ideals seemed to fit particularly well with the ideals of the Founding Fathers. As the new republic championed the equality of men in this life, Universalists trumpeted the equality of men in the salvation of God’s plan.

The Smith Family and Universalism

Murray preached for many years in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Only fifteen miles away was Topsfield, where Joseph’s grandfather Asael lived. Latter- day Saint historians Richard L. Bushman and Richard Lloyd Anderson have pointed out the philosophical similarities and geographical proximity of Asael Smith and John Murray.[10] Like Murray, Asael had served during the revolution, sacrificing to ensure the birth of the new nation, and both were deeply enmeshed in the ideals of the revolutionary generation. Whether because of direct contact or filtering through the local community, Asael came to accept a conception of universal salvation very similar to Murray’s.

Asael eventually came to settle in Vermont, one of the Universalist strongholds in New England. In 1797, Asael and his two oldest sons, Jesse and Joseph Sr., the father of the future prophet, organized a Universalist society in Tunbridge, Vermont.[11] The society itself was short-lived, but for the rest of his life, Asael adhered to the principles of Universalism. His grandson George A. Smith recalled that “not long before his death he wrote many quires of paper on the doctrine of universal salvation.”[12] In an address written to his family, Asael devoted the larger part of his letter toward his views on religion. He wrote, “And if you can believe that Christ [came] to save sinners, and not the righteous, Pharisees, or self righteous; that sinners must be saved by the righteousness of Christ alone, without mixing any of their own righteousness with his; then you will see that he can as well save all, as any, and there is no respect of persons with God, who will have all mankind to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”[13]

How successful was Asael in passing his beliefs on to his children? The two sons who joined Asael in founding the Universalist society followed divergent spiritual paths.[14] Jesse Smith rejected it outright and instead became a devoted Calvinist, while Joseph Sr. seems to have maintained a philosophical, though not an institutional, tie to the faith. George A. Smith recalled his grandfather as “too liberal in his views to please his children, who were covenanters, Congregationalists and Presbyterians, with I think the single exception of his son Joseph [Sr.].”[15] William Smith, brother of the Prophet, also believed Father Smith’s convictions leaned toward Universalism. He wrote, “My father’s religious habits were strictly pious and moral, his faith [was] in the Universal restoration doctrine [which] often brought him in contact with the advocates of the doctrine of endless misery.”[16] Father Smith was not a formal member of any particular religious sect until the Restoration, and Universalism may have been a good fit for those put off by the religious contentions of the time. Lucy Mack Smith recalled that “he would not subscribe to any particular system of faith, but contended for the ancient order, as established by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and his Apostles.”[17]

Another significant factor in the Prophet’s religious background was the impact of his mother. Lucy’s father, Solomon Mack, showed no inclination toward any particular religion for much of his life. He underwent a remarkable conversion of faith later in his life, well after Lucy had married and begun her own family. He experienced and knew of Universalist doctrine early on, but he later denounced it as “building on sand.”[18] Lucy’s leanings when it came to religion seem to have been inherited from her mother, who taught her piety but established no formal church connections.[19] Though she affiliated with several churches before her son’s ministry, for the most part she remained aloof from close affiliation with any single group. Lucy and several of her children did begin attending a Presbyterian church in 1820, but Joseph was not among the children joining her.[20] In religious matters, he seems to have been more inclined to follow his father.[21]

Though the Smiths were not part of any Universalist organizations during the Prophet’s formative years, the doctrine may have formed a rough outline for Joseph’s religious thinking. There were many aspects of Universalist beliefs which may have helped prepare the Prophet and his family for the times they faced ahead. First, Universalism emphasized the loving nature of God’s personality more than most of the religions of the day. The doctrine of universal salvation brought its followers to see God as a loving father figure, not an arbitrary sovereign or an angry God bent on the punishment of mankind. One of Murray’s followers, Hosea Ballou, summarized the Universalist concept of God in homely language: “Your child has fallen into the mire, and its body and its garments are defiled. You cleanse it, and array it in clean robes. The query is, Do you love your child because you have washed it? Or, Did you wash it because you loved it?”[22]

At best, Universalists may have erred on the side of mercy; at worst, such an argument could be used to deprive men of their agency. But such a simple analogy helps capture the appeal of this faith- their concept of God was that of an approachable, loving father. Raised in an environment where these teachings were present, it is not surprising that a passage like James 1:5 would have stood out to the young Joseph. The Prophet had this kind of being in mind when he concluded that God answers prayers “liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5). Walking into the Sacred Grove, the Prophet expected an answer from a concerned parent, not a rebuke from a distant ruler.

Second, the Prophet grew up in a home outside the realm of religious orthodoxy. Universalism was a radical departure from the creeds and sects of the day, and partly because of Father Smith’s affiliations with it, his family found itself outside of mainstream Christianity. Universalists were outspoken critics of the priestcraft and pretense found in many religions. They saw their system of belief as tied into the rights of the individual, and many felt the growing power in sectarianism in America was leading to the submission of individual rights. Many Universalists were concerned with the shameless emotional and psychological manipulation that took place in the revivals of the day,[23] a concern shared by the young Joseph as he attended revivals and noted that “the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real” (Joseph Smith- History 1:6). The generous nature of salvation in Universalist thought was well suited to many, like Father Smith, who continued to search for the true faith amidst the sectarian strife surrounding them. The broadness of the ideas of the movement allowed a great degree of theological flexibility and openness to new views. While Jesse Smith became so entrenched in his belief in Calvinism that he rejected the gospel and ordered his brother “not to talk ‘about the Bible at all in his home unless it was upon Limited Election,'”[24] Joseph Sr. remained open to new ideas and revelations. Lucy Mack Smith recognized the blessings of this attitude. She once described a dream in which she saw two trees, one gracefully and gently moving with the wind, and another standing stiff and unmoving. When she sought an interpretation of the dream, it was revealed to her “that the stubborn and unyielding tree was like Jesse; that the other, more pliant and flexible, was like Joseph, my husband; that the breath of heaven, which passed over them, was the pure and undefiled Gospel of the Son of God, which Gospel Jesse would always resist, but which Joseph, when he was more advanced in life, would hear and receive with his whole heart.”[25] The Lord also recognized the malleable nature of the father of the Prophet. After the first visitation of Moroni, the first person the young prophet was directed to confide in was his father (see Joseph Smith- History 1:49-50).

The influence of Universalism was not confined solely to the Prophet’s family either. The pliancy of Universalist doctrine and its emphasis on God’s love made it an ideal philosophical home for many who were religiously minded but concerned with the failings of the churches of the day. Many of the small circle of believers which formed around the Prophet in the infant days of the Church were adherents of Universalism, most notably Martin Harris, the Joseph Knight family, and the Hezekiah Peck family.[26]

Last, Universalism had prepared the Smiths to live in the face of religious persecution. As would be imagined, the doctrine of universal salvation was such a departure from conventional Christian thinking that it often raised the ire of the sectarians of the day. Universalism was spurned as a destroyer of morals, an insult to common piety, and the first cousin of atheism.[27] One minister wrote, “What has a Universalist, who really and sincerely believes that doctrine, to fear? … Just nothing at all; for this flesh- pleasing, conscience soothing doctrine will not only justify him in his neglect of God and man, but gives fallen nature an unlimited license to serve the devil with greediness in any and every possible way.”[28] When most of their contemporaries referred to Father Smith, Martin Harris, the Knights or any other member of the early Church as Universalist, it was intended as an slander on their character.[29] Asael Smith, who apparently possessed a deformation of the neck, was derided by one member of the community who said “some regarded his sentiments as more distorted than his neck.” A more sympathetic recollection of him called him “a man of very liberal views … which he would not yield to bigotry nor opposition.”[30]

As the only son of his father to remain close to the tenets of Universalism, Joseph Smith Sr. seems to have inherited the persecution Asael had dealt with. William Smith recalled that Father Smith often faced persecution because of his Universalist beliefs: “The belief in the ultimate and final redemption of all mankind to heaven and happiness, brought down upon my father the approbrium or slur of Old Jo Smith.”[31] The Prophet’s courage in the face of persecution, even at a young age, is not surprising since both his grandfather and father before him had chosen a less popular road. When he wrote that experiencing persecution was second nature to him and that “deep water is what I am wont to swim in” (D&C 127:2), he was upholding family tradition. The Prophet’s progenitors had been treading water in a sea of persecution for years before his first revelations came.

Was Universalism the Smith family religion? In the strictest sense, it was, as one historian has called it, an important overlay of the family’s spiritual values. Early in the Prophet’s life, his family’s beliefs provided Joseph with a conception of God as an approachable, loving, and concerned father. The open nature of Father Smith’s beliefs, combined with his suspicion of feigned religion, gave the young Joseph the freedom to explore religious beliefs and a critical eye toward hypocrisy. Not only was Universalism important in the Prophet’s early life, it also played an important role during his work as the head of the Church. The debates raging over the implications of Universalist doctrine and its rapid spread through the new republic also influenced Joseph’s later prophetic career.

Universalism and the Restoration

The peak period of Joseph Smith’s revelations coincided with the apex of Universalist activity in America. By 1833 the movement had grown to include three hundred official preachers, six hundred societies, and membership numbered at three hundred thousand. Adherents to the faith could be found in locations as distant as Georgia and Michigan, though it remained the strongest in the northeast United States, the area in which the Latter- day Saints were geographically centered at the time.[32] The discussion on Universalism was also growing. The period from 1820 to 1850 saw an explosion in the number of books and articles produced on the movement. These publications peaked in the 1830s, the same period in which the majority of Joseph’s revelations were received.[33] Whether followers or detractors of the movement, most Americans in the Restoration period found themselves caught up in the discussion about the movement, and the Saints were no exception. The theological questions raised by the Universalists provide the context for many of the most crucial revelations of the Restoration. A comparison of the spiritual system constructed from the revelations retained the true elements of Universalism while highlighting and eliminating many of the movement’s shortcomings.

While the teachings of Universalism may have provided questions leading to many of the revelations given to the Prophet, the power and authority with which the revelations were received highlighted many of the problems of the Universalist movement. The revelation found in section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a good example of this. Given to Martin Harris, a former Universalist, the revelation quickly settled an argument that had rent the unity of the Universalist movement in America nearly from the beginning. Even while John Murray was alive, a vigorous debate erupted among the Universalists concerning the punishment for sinners. Some, including Murray, taught that souls would be saved through a mystical union with Christ, while others taught that souls would be saved after a long period of suffering for sin, and some taught that suffering for sin would be confined solely to earthly life. The division caused by this one doctrine was such that most churches could not ratify any type of unified profession of belief without filling it with numerous concessions to make all parties happy. One such creedal statement reads, “We regard all as Universalists who believe in the final salvation of all men through divine grace, however they may differ in opinion as to punishment or discipline extending into the future state and as to progressive improvement and different degrees of happiness in the future world.”[34] Such wide- ranging and vague statements led to the unraveling of any sense of doctrinal unity, and social cohesion of the Universalist movement suffered because of it.

In section 19 the conflict rending the Universalist movement was settled for good. The Lord simply declares, “It is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. . . . I am endless, and the punishment which is given at my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore- Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment” (D&C 19:6, 10-12). This episode serves to indicate how Universalism, which was originally intended to simplify the gospel, found itself caught in the endless theological wrangling of the day. This incongruence was partly because its doctrine, however well intended, was produced by scriptural reasoning and debate, not revelation.

The main source of contention concerning Universalism stemmed from the fact that it offered a broad form of salvation without giving accountability for sin. Universalists frequently cited such scriptures as Romans 5:18-19, which speaks of the Savior’s sacrifice as bringing salvation unconditionally, but they had a difficult time squaring this notion with such scriptures as Mark 16:16, where the Savior declared that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” While universal salvation fit the picture of loving God, it did not fit well with the concept of a just God. While some decried its Universalist overtones, the revelation declaring the three degrees of glory did not align well with universal salvation when it was carefully analyzed. Salvation was still graded, devotion was still required, and ordinances of the gospel still provided the gateway to the kingdom of God. Later revelations, such as the vision that became section 137, offered a liberal view of salvation but not without acknowledging commitment on the part of the followers. Later revelations offered salvation to all men while still acknowledging the necessity of the ordinances and covenants of the gospel.

The debate over Universalism was also used by the critics of the Church as a framework for attacking the authenticity of the Prophet’s work. For example, the Book of Mormon has frequently been denounced as an attack on Universalism in the Prophet’s day and into our time as well.[35] Even recently these arguments have been revived and cited as evidence for a modern origin for the book. Critics cite such passages as 2 Nephi 28:7, which criticize those who say “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” as an implicit indictment of the Universalist doctrine. Other frequently cited examples include the story of Nehor in the first chapter of Alma with his teaching that “all mankind should be saved at the last day” (Alma 1:4). Such criticisms reveal ignorance of the book’s themes. It would be just as easy to pick out certain other passages such as 2 Nephi 2:4, which reads that “salvation is free” and argue that the Book of Mormon is a pro-Universalist tract! Moreover, it is curious that the critics of the Book of Mormon have always criticized it for doing exactly what it claims to do. Alexander Campbell, one of the earliest critics of the book, lambasted the book and Joseph Smith for deciding “all the great controversies” of his time when the book claims it was meant to do exactly that.[36] Nearly all the major writers of the Book of Mormon stated that they were writing for generations yet to come (see 2 Nephi 25:21; Jacob 1:3; Enos 1:15-16; Jarom 1:2; Mormon 7:1; 8:34-35). If Mormon and Moroni saw our day, as they claimed, wouldn’t we have expected them to write on topics related not only to us but to those of Joseph Smith’s day? As one of the burning issues of the day, if the book did not deal with Universalism, it wouldn’t be fulfilling its promises.

Not only were Joseph’s revelations designed to deal with the religious culture of the time, but they provided a firm organizational structure for the Church also. This allowed the movement to form an institutional home, something the Universalists struggled to accomplish. While Universalism may have provided fertile philosophical ground for the Prophet to grow up in, its open theology tended to lead its followers away from unified organizations and toward private devotion. Most converts to the movement were interested in the propagation and defense of a rational faith, not in the organization and administration of an ecclesiastical body.[37] To become a viable and lasting organization, an ideal needs to provide institutions, and the free nature of Universalism did not easily lend itself to organization. Asael Smith and the father of the Prophet are prime examples of this difficulty. Both moved to form a Universalist society in 1797, but within two years it had been disbanded. Asael remained devoted to the doctrines of the movement long beyond this period, though his feelings seemed to remain private, without any further attempts at public unity with fellow believers. Joseph Sr. may have been less devoted to the movement, but it still provided the theological framework for his search for the true faith. In spite of his devotion, Asael’s writings indicate that he felt a desire for something more. One of his grandsons recalled a prophecy by Asael that “God was going to raise up some branch of his family to be a great benefit to mankind.”[38] Shortly after the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, Joseph Sr. took a copy to Asael. Asael received it gladly and read it through, declaring that the prophet he had predicted would come had at last arrived. Unfortunately, Asael passed on before he could receive the ordinance of baptism.[39]

While Universalism may have played an important role in the development of the Prophet and his family, it did not provide the answers that could only be found in revelation from God. What it did do was give the Smiths a spiritual foundation, encourage them in their study of the scriptures, and cultivate in them a belief in a merciful God who would be willing to answer their questions.

Are Mormons Universalists?

While the teachings of his fathers concerning universal salvation may have prepared Joseph Smith for the radical concepts of the vision of the degrees of glory, it took time for the rest of the Church to accept this new concept of the afterlife. The revelation was published five months after it was received in the Evening and Morning Star. Most of the controversy surrounding it seems to have come during the first two years after it was made known to the Church. Throughout the rest of the 1830s and into the early 1840s, it was rarely mentioned in the publications of the Church or the private writings of Church members during the time.[40] The first substantive discussion on the vision is found in Joseph Smith’s 1843 poetic version. Written to W.W. Phelps, the entire revelation was rewritten as an epic poem, a work that may have caused him to ponder the doctrinal significance of the revelation. During the last eighteen months of his life, the Prophet issued a number of revelatory statements concerning the doctrine of the afterlife. The King Follett discourse delivered in 1844 contains a number of points relating to a different concept of the afterlife. During this landmark speech, the Prophet 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.”[41] Several other important sermons from this time mention the degrees of glory, providing doctrine which would later form part of Doctrine and Covenants 131.[42]

The revelations of the Nauvoo period represent the pinnacle of Joseph Smith’s labors. During this time, the Lord completed the bridge between the expansive view of salvation that Joseph’s grandfather held and the concept of a just God taught in the scriptures. He wrote, “But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes, ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.'”[43] Views like this line up surprisingly well with Asael Smith’s, who warned his children not to conclude that God loved them more than “the worst heathen in the darkest corner of the deserts of Arabia” but that “there is no respect of persons with God, who will have all mankind to be saved.”[44] Further visions and revelations confirmed the Prophet’s teachings of a kind and generous God. The January 1836 vision contained in Doctrine and Covenants 137 gave the Prophet the knowledge that God would “judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9).

The final great phase of the Prophet’s work consisted of bringing about a successful marriage of the munificent view of salvation given in the vision with the system of covenants and ordinances found in the ancient scriptures and revealed anew to the Prophet in our dispensation. When he learned that proxy work for the dead could be performed, a view of salvation was opened up that would allow all men who so desired to be saved, even if they had never heard the gospel or received the ordinances in this life. In essence, the revelations of the Restoration allowed for a merciful God, while not taking away from the need for order and justice. Joseph came to know God as a kind, fair being. His views may be best summed up in his own words: “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.”[45]

In time the vision was recognized as one of the greatest revelations received by the Prophet. Brigham Young, who had initially struggled to accept it, became one of the most fervent teachers and admirers of its doctrine. Speaking in 1860 he said,

I can truly say that, in my estimation, no other revelation so glorious was ever given. You may read the character of the Deity as portrayed in all that has ever been revealed, until you come to this vision [D&C 76], in relation to his justice, his judgment, his power, his life, his glory, his excellence, his goodness, his mercy, and the fulness of every gift, of every trait, of every principle inherent in the character of the Supreme Being, and it is not equal in magnitude, in my reflections, to that which God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon.[46]

Any hesitation which may have come from the doctrines of the vision being associated with Universalism seems to have abated as well. Rather than seeking to distance themselves from Universalists, Latter-day Saints began to recognize the similarities in belief. Speaking on the doctrine of universal resurrection, Parley P. Pratt said, “This salvation being universal, I am a universalist in this respect,-this salvation being a universal restoration from the fall.” While pointing out similarities, Elder Pratt also recognized that universal doctrine did not paint a complete picture of salvation.[47] What remained from the Universalist background of the Restoration was an emphasis on the goodness of God. On another occasion President Young read the revelation in its entirety then summarized its lessons by saying, “He is compassionate to all the works of His hands, the plan of His redemption, and salvation, and mercy, is stretched out over all; and His plans are to gather up, and bring together, and save all the inhabitants of the earth, with the exception of those who have received the Holy Ghost, and sinned against it. With this exception, all the world besides shall be saved.-Is not this Universalism? It borders very close upon it.”[48] Within one generation the Saints had not only come to accept the vision but also to rejoice in its meaning and beauty.

Religious Yearnings Fulfilled

In truth, disillusionment with the churches of the day kept most of Joseph Smith and his progenitors from fully embracing any system until the true Church could be restored again to the earth. But it is clear that the ideals and doctrines of Universalism played an important role in the development of the Prophet’s spirituality. If Brigham Young’s upbringing made it difficult to understand the great generosity of God’s plan, something in the Prophet’s background made him embrace and rejoice in it. We are fortunate that Joseph was taught upon his father’s knee of a generous and kind God, one that would give liberally if asked. Recognizing this, it must also be acknowledged that Universalism only provided a temporary shelter for the Smiths, while they sought the true Church of Christ. For all the comfort Universalism’s doctrines may have given members of the family, only the true gospel could bring everlasting joy. No event better exemplifies this than the baptism of the Prophet’s own father, on April 6, 1830, the day of the organization of the Church. Lucy Mack Smith records this touching event: “Joseph stood on the shore when his father came out of the water he cried out Oh! my God I have lived to see my father baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ and he covered his face in his father’s bosom and wept aloud for joy as did Joseph of old when he beheld his father coming into the land of Egypt.”[49] This moment was the culmination of the religious yearnings long felt by both father and son. The work of John Murray, the beliefs of Asael Smith, and the heritage of Joseph Smith Sr. were all important events leading to this moment. Just as the Prophet was led by the hand of the Lord, it is clear that his ancestors were also led into the right paths. As Brigham Young taught, “The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, and from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam.”[50]

Notes

1.Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:252-53; brackets and emphasis in original.

2.Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1874-86), 16:42.

3.John Murdock Diary (1830-59), 27-29, Orson Pratt Journal (1833-34), cited in Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 2:930-31.

4.Smith, History of the Church, 2:492.

5.Deseret News, September 14, 1852, 24, cited in Woodford, “Historical Development,” 2:929.

6.Deseret News, March 18, 1857, 11.

7.Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 199-200.

8.Profession of Faith of the General Convention of Universalists, 1803, Winchester, New Hampshire, Article II, citing Rev. A. B. Grosh, “Universalists” and I. Daniel Rupp, An Original History of the Religious Denominations (Philadelphia, 1844), 727, cited in Milton V. Backman Jr., American Religions and the Rise of Mormonism, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1965), 219.

9.Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope: The First Century of the Universalist Church in America, 1770-1870 (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979), 8-12.

10.Richard Lloyd Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 136; see also Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 27-28.

11.Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996), 1:633-34.

12.Anderson, New England Heritage, 133.

13.Anderson, New England Heritage, 161-62; punctuation modernized.

14.A Tunbridge, Vermont, declaration of membership in the Tunbridge Universalist Society contains the signatures of Asael Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., Jesse Smith, and thirteen others (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:633). Jesse’s later devotion to Calvinism and the doctrine of election suggests that he may have only joined the Universalist Society for tax purposes.

15.Anderson, New England Heritage, 68; emphasis added.

16.Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:487; punctuation modernized.

17.Anderson, New England Heritage, 279n203.

18.Anderson, New England Heritage, 62.

19.Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 5.

20.Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 140.

21.An excellent summary of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith’s background may be found in Richard L. Bushman and H. Rodney Sharp, “Joseph Smith’s Family Background,” in Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, ed. Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 1-16.

22.Ernest Cassara, Hosea Ballou: The Challenge to Orthodoxy (Boston: Universalist Historical Society, 1961), 150.

23.Ann Lee Bressler, The Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 62.

24.Jesse Smith, as quoted in Anderson, New England Heritage, 141. “Limited Election” refers to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, or the notion that God had already selected the saved, and thus salvation was unconditional and the Atonement of Christ applied only to that group.

25.Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001), 293-94.

26.Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 3:29-30, 4:21, 110.

27.Bressler, The Universalist Movement, 40.

28.Miller, The Larger Hope, xv. For a good summary of the arguments against Universalists during the early years of the Restoration, see Bressler, The Universalist Movement, 37-40.

29.See Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:29, 4:110.

30.Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (New York: Doubleday, 1977), 17; see also Anderson, New England Heritage, 267-68.

31.Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:487; spelling and grammar modernized.

32.Bressler, The Universalist Movement, 32.

33.The number of American publications relating to Universalism rose dramatically from 54 during the 1800-9 decade, to 134 in 1810-19, 304 in 1820-29, peaked at 378 in 1830-39, fell slightly to 351 during 1840-49, and then dropped off generally for the rest of the nineteenth century (Bressler, The Universalist Movement, 55).

34.Miller, The Larger Hope, 49.

35.Critics advocating this view can be found as early as 1835. Most recently Dan Vogel has taken up this view and written about it extensively in an essay entitled “Anti-Universalist Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon,” in Brent L. Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 47. A good summary and response to these arguments may be found in Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 164-66.

36.For Campbell’s arguments, see Milton V. Backman Jr., The Heavens Resound (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 54-55.

37.Bressler, The Universalist Movement, 58.

38.Anderson, New England Heritage, 148.

39.Anderson, New England Heritage, 149. Further details surrounding Asael’s feelings about his grandson’s works may be found in Anderson, New England Heritage, 288. One account reads, “Father Asael Smith … on his deathbed declared his full and firm belief in the everlasting gospel and also regretted that he was not baptized when Joseph his son was there and acknowledged that the doctrine of universalism, which he had so long advocated, was not true. For although he had lived by this religion 50 years, yet he now renounced it as insufficient to comfort him in death.”

40.A more detailed history of the movement of Doctrine and Covenants 76 toward acceptance in Latter-day Saint thought may be found in Grant Underwood, “‘Saved or Damned’: Tracing a Persistent Protestantism in Early Mormon Thought,” BYU Studies 3 (Summer 1985): 95-100.

41.Stan Larson, “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text,” BYU Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 205.

42.See Smith, History of the Church, 5:392-93, 6:363-67, 6:473-79.

43.Smith, History of the Church, 4:595.

44.Anderson, New England Heritage, 161-62; spelling and capitalization modernized.

45.Smith, History of the Church, 5:136.

46.Young, in Journal of Discourses, 8:153.

47.Parley P. Pratt, The Essential Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 57.

48.Young, in Journal of Discourses, 3:92; emphasis added.

49.Anderson, Lucy’s Book, 477; capitalization modernized.

50.Young, in Journal of Discourses, 7:289.

2008

Dr. David Reim, Lutheran Pastor and “Confessional” (Traditionalist) LutheranTheologian, B.C., Canada

Examining and Applying the Scriptural Teaching of Rewards

 

Journal of Theology, Volume 48 Number 1 (March 2008)

 

“St. Paul” is a confessional Lutheran Church, a member of the  Church of the Lutheran Confession “CLC” – The CLC consists of other congregations, pastors and lay people who have separated from every major Lutheran synod as the cancer of error and disobedience to the Word of God continues to permeate Lutheranism.

 

Heavenly Rewards from God

Most of what was said about God’s earthly rewards also applies to our reward in heaven. Especially the fact that it is a reward of grace, for we are saved from sin, death, and hell by grace alone in Christ. Nevertheless, a few questions come to mind about the heavenly rewards from God through Christ to us.

One of the primary questions is: What are they?

What are the heavenly rewards?

It is clear in some passages that the reward spoken of is the gift of heaven itself. The Apostle Paul says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). Here the reward is defined as the “inheritance” of eternal life. So also in Romans 2:6-7: God “will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality. . . .” The Greek word for “render” in Romans 2:6 is the same as “reward” in Matthew 16:27; both use the future indicative form avpodw,sei, to give back (what is due). Jesus says in Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Jesus is describing what He will do when He comes again on Judgment Day. Therefore the “reward” He gives will be the same as the one described in Romans 2: either eternal life or eternal condemnation.

In recognizing this truth, however, a key follow-up question comes to mind.

How can the God of grace say that He will reward us with eternal life according to our works?

Jesus says this very thing in Matthew 25:35, referring to those who will be on His right side. On the last day He will say to them, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in.” We know it’s been said many times before that such passages do not teach that we are saved by the works we do.

The Bible is very clear we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. But these passages do teach that we are judged according to our works. In other words, the works are the visible evidence which proves that one either has or does not have saving faith in Christ. The Lord says, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matt. 7:17-18). Faith naturally produces works of love to God and to others. Therefore if the works are present in one’s life, these testify in a visible way that faith is present in his heart. Thus it is true that each individual will be judged according to his works, but those who believe are nevertheless saved by faith alone.

 

Why does God speak of eternal life as a reward?

On the one hand, when said this way, it is a strong warning to blatant unbelievers, and to those who think they can be God’s children by a professed faith without any works or while living in a state of unrepented sin. God gives notice that He will judge us on the basis of our works. He seeks to warn us in advance that “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26) and that the life without works will be condemned, even though one claims to have faith.

Yet on the other hand, God uses the reward as a comfort and encouragement for true believers. God wants us to know the value of the Christian life of faith, for living as a child of God in this world is going to bring heartache and opposition. We face the temptations of the world which lure us and say, “All these laws in the Bible are depriving you of the real pleasures of life!” So God reminds you that those “pleasures of life” are the very things which bring God’s condemnation and eternal punishment. When by faith we live a godly life and endure to the end, we have God’s promise of rewarding us with true “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

Living as a child of God in this world also means conflict with family and friends (Matt. 10:34-36), being hated by all men (Matt. 10:22), suffering persecution (2 Tim. 3:12), and enduring much tribulation (Acts 14:22). One would naturally wonder: Is it really worth it? God reassures us with these promises that following Him will be more than worth all these troubles combined. As Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Jesus uses the promise of the reward of heaven in the same reassuring way when He says, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

In his exposition of Matthew 5-7, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Martin Luther observes the reassuring impact of God’s rewards with these words:

Merit is here altogether excluded. Any attempt to introduce it should be trampled on and consigned to the abominable devil in hell as a thing that destroys my faith and denies Christ. . . . But how, then, do you explain the many passages which speak of reward and merit? Of that we say to the common people that the promises of a reward are mighty consolations to the Christians. For after you have become a Christian and now have a gracious God and the remission of all your sins, both your past sins and those which you daily commit, you will find that you must do and suffer much because of your faith and Baptism. For the abominable devil in company with the world and the flesh will be on your trail and plague you on all sides, as Christ has shown sufficiently throughout these three chapters; you will feel as though there is no room left for you in the world. If, now, He would let us remain without a word of consolation, we would despair because of this persecution and say: Who wants to be a Christian, preach, and do good works? Is this to last eternally? Is it never going to change? Here He steps up to us, consoles, and strengthens us, and says: You are now in grace and God’s children; although you must on that account suffer in the world, be not terrified, but be firm, do not permit these things to tire and weaken you, but let every man perform his duty; he may fare badly, but that shall not be his loss; let him know that the kingdom of heaven is his and that he shall be richly repaid for it. What? Repaid? Has it not been given us already, through Christ, without and before all our work? God will repay in this manner that, as St. Paul says, He will make a great, bright star of you and give you particular gifts, already in this life. . . . Not that the works deserve it because of their worthiness, but because He has promised it for our strengthening and consolation, that we might not think that our labor, burden, and misery were in vain and forgotten. . . . When Christ says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and “Blessed are ye if men persecute you for My sake, for great is your reward in heaven,” etc., He does not teach me to make this the foundation of my salvation, but He gives me a promise, namely, what is to be my comfort in my suffering and Christian life.”10

 

Are There Other Rewards in Heaven?

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to the one persecuted for His sake, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12). Is that something above and

beyond or in some way different from receiving heaven as your eternal reward? In other words, are there different rewards given to different believers in heaven, based on the works they have done here on earth?

Within the realm of confessional Lutheranism a number of prominent theologians have said yes, including Martin Luther. The above quote from Luther’s Works continues:

Since they [believers] are unwelcome on earth, they shall be the more richly rewarded in heaven; he that works and suffers the most will also get the greater reward. For though, as I have said, all are alike in Christ, and grace bestows on each one the whole salvation as the highest good, possessed by all, so that he who has Christ has everything, nevertheless there will be a difference in the brightness and glory with which we shall be adorned. Just as there is a difference in the gifts which we have now, one laboring more and suffering more than the other, so in the future life it will all be made manifest; all the world will see what everyone has accomplished, and he that has accomplished more will receive greater glory to the joy of the entire heavenly host. Let this now suffice. God keep us in His grace which He showed us in Christ! Amen.

Francis Pieper states his agreement with Luther in these words:

There are no degrees of bliss, because all the blessed are perfectly happy, that is, every one of them will find full contentment for himself in beholding God. However, Scripture does teach that there are degrees of glory (do,xa, gloria) corresponding to differences of work and fidelity here on earth.11

Pieper quotes Luther again on this subject:

It is true, there will be a difference in yonder life, according as they have labored and lived here. For example, St. Paul was an Apostle, Samuel or Isaiah a Prophet, etc. One will have greater brightness than the other because he worked or suffered more in his office. . . . Thus everyone will have his distinction and glory according to his office, and still one God and Lord will be in all, and one and the same joy and bliss. In his person none shall be more or have more than the other, St. Peter no more than you and I. None the less there must be a difference because of the works. For God did not do through Paul what He did through Isaiah, and vice versa. For that reason everyone will bring along his works, through which he will shine and praise God so that people will say: St. Peter has done more than I or another. This man or this woman has led such a fine life and done such great things. In short, all are to be alike before God in faith and grace and celestial bliss, but they are to differ in their works and their honor.12

Lutheran commentaries on the pastor’s bookshelf have interpreted in a similar way. Lenski, for one, speaks of the rewards in heaven as being different from the reward of heaven. In his exegesis of Matthew 5:12 he describes the reward mentioned there by saying:

It consists, not in salvation, which becomes ours by faith before we ever do or suffer anything for Christ’s sake, but in the greater glory that shall be ours in heaven.” Also in explanation of the phrase, “for thus they did persecute the prophets before you,” Lenski states: “In one and in only one way may we join this most illustrious company in heaven—by joyfully suffering persecution for Christ’s sake. Beyond question the highest glory in heaven belongs to the martyr prophets, and next to them stand in due order all others who suffered in their various stations for Christ.”13

Likewise, G. Jerorme Albrecht and Michael J. Albrecht, co-authors of the People’s Bible commentary on Matthew, say this about the great reward in heaven given to those who suffer for Christ’s sake:

These rewards will be of grace, not merit, and they will be in addition to the salvation that is theirs by Christ’s merits alone.”14

After hearing the consensus of those who have gone before us, one is very hesitant to question the idea accepted by them. To this writer, however, there are concerns to address. The idea of differing rewards in heaven for differing degrees of service on earth is quite popular also among heterodox writers of our day. From their writings especially we note some dangers to avoid.

First of all, it is easy to slip back into the idea of human merit when it comes to reward from God. Much of the language used sounds like there is personal merit in suffering for Christ or in bringing many to faith. We need to remember that we do not choose to suffer. If it comes upon us and we are able to bear it, that is only because the Holy Spirit has given us the strength to do so. If you bring many to Christ, that is also the work of the Holy Spirit working through you. It is not you yourself. Hence there is no personal merit to be rewarded, for God deserves all the glory. No one will be able to say, or even dream of saying, that he has this reward because he willingly suffered shame for Christ’s sake, or because he worked so hard in God’s kingdom. Rather, we all will praise the glory of God’s grace.

In addition, the idea of bonus rewards in heaven for certain works on earth can lead to a false motive, namely, that of doing extra works to seek a greater reward. There is a difference between edifying encouragement for our fight of faith by God’s assurance of our eternal reward and doing certain works to gain a greater reward in heaven. Having the goal of heaven before our eyes is always good encouragement to endure. But if we do some charity work or spread the gospel so as to stock up extra bonus rewards for eternity, can one really say that these are the works of faith?

In his popular marriage book Love & Respect Dr. Emerson Eggerichs seems to use “The Rewarded Cycle,” as he calls it, in a proper way at first. He encourages Christian husbands and wives to continue to give love and respect, even if their spouses do not reciprocate. He says, and rightly so, that you give love or respect to your use for Jesus’ sake. Even if you don’t see any good from it now, you will be rewarded in heaven. That line of thinking seems to be using the reward of eternal life to help Christians look past their present troubles and keep doing God’s will. But then he goes on to say:

When you make a decision to love or respect your spouse, the dividends are without end. Jesus is offering you a bargain. Do a few things on earth in this life and get many things forever in heaven.

He calls it the “cha-ching! effect” and further describes:

It’s as though a billion angels are holding a gigantic handle. Each time you do something loving or respectful toward your spouse, the angels pull down on that handle. A secret treasure dumps into a colossal golden bowl and cha-ching! The lead angel exclaims, ‘He did it again! He put on love toward that disdainful woman!’ . . . ‘She did it again! She put on respect toward that pathetic man! Okay, everyone, hit it again! Cha-ching!’15

He bases his assertions on Ephesians 6:8, which he quotes in the NASB: “Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord.” He then claims, “The Lord is keeping track somehow.” He clearly takes this passage and others to mean that every good work you do, God is keeping track of it and will pay you back for it in heaven. These will be extra special blessings beyond the simple privilege of being in heaven.

Doesn’t such teaching encourage us to do our good works in order to gain a greater reward? Doesn’t it suggest that if you work hard now and suffer for Christ, you can store up for yourself a greater amount of treasure in heaven? Are we thus collecting more bonus points to cash in later? Is that what Jesus was telling us to do when He said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20)?

If works are being done for that kind of motive, are they really good works before God? God says that “without faith it is impossible to please” Him (Heb. 11:6). Faith works spontaneously because God has created it to do so.

Faith seeks to glorify God without any special incentive. If you do a work seeking a greater reward in heaven, is it a work of faith? Or is it simply another way of serving yourself? Isn’t that what James and John, along with their mother, were trying to do by asking Jesus if they could sit on His right and left hand in the kingdom of God? Jesus explained that greatness in God’s kingdom comes through serving others. But shall we serve them only that we may become great? Isn’t that really serving ourselves? Lenski says,

As vicious as is the secret desire for the praise of men, so vicious is the secret mercenary desire to trade our good works for far greater rewards from him.16

I had the opportunity to have several good discussions with a very committed Pentecostal. She may believe that she was saved by faith in Christ alone, by God’s grace, and not by her works. Yet she was driven by fear and desire. She was driven by fear, thinking that every sin she commits will be brought out in the open and exposed for everyone to see on Judgment Day. She said she believed she would be forgiven, but she still feared the embarrassment of such exposure. She was also driven by her desire to do more works to gain greater reward in heaven. I was concerned that she really didn’t understand the nature of God’s forgiveness. I explained to her that all our sins are “blotted out” (Isa. 44:22) of God’s book and forgotten, never to be remembered again (Jer. 31:34). Her desire for greater reward also concerned me because it almost seemed as though salvation in Christ was not enough, that we need to work for something greater and better. Isn’t this the devil’s subtle way of putting the sufficiency of Christ into doubt once again and adding in the value of human merit?

We do not shy away from a scriptural teaching simply because it can be and has been abused by others. Instead, we strive to teach it more clearly and warn against the abuses. With that perspective in mind we ask once more:

 

Does Scripture teach that there are special rewards in heaven for works done on earth?

Pieper says that the teaching of special rewards in heaven “is proved by Scripture texts such as 2 Cor. 9:6 f. and Dan. 12:3.”17 These we consider below:

2 Corinthians 9:6-11:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

In a footnote Pieper quotes Calov, who says of the promise and reward mentioned in the above passage: “It is to be referred not to eternal life as such, but to the rewards in eternal life, not to the essence of blessing and glory, but to the degrees of glory.”18 Does this passage definitively say anything about eternal rewards? The whole context points more to the idea of God’s earthly providence sustaining and blessing our stewardship. We may be able to apply it to the reward of heaven given to believers, but is there anything in the context that would compel us to understand that God is teaching us about degrees of glory in heaven?

What of the other text referred to by Pieper? Daniel 12:2-3:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.  shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.

Here Pieper says in the same quoted footnote: “Those who have led many to a knowledge of salvation and to righteousness are specially mentioned among the risen saints.” Though we agree that this is true, does this passage say that they will shine brighter than all the other saints? Couldn’t it mean that in contrast to those raised “to shame and everlasting contempt,” those who have the wisdom of faith will truly shine brightly?

Pieper also makes reference to 1 Corinthians 15:35ff. in this same footnote. That section includes the familiar words:

There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory (1 Cor. 15:40-41).

That example could be used to show the differences in glory of the saints in heaven. But that does not seem to be the way Paul is using the example. Paul is answering the questions, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” (v. 35). Then he gives several examples. A seed is planted; it comes up a far more glorious plant. There are different types of flesh with differing glory on earth. Then in verses 42-44 Paul gives the explanation of the examples:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

Paul’s point is that our resurrected body will be more glorious than our earthly body, not that one believer will be more glorious than another.

Other passages have been likewise used to support the teaching of varying rewards in heaven for certain works done on earth. We consider again Matthew 5:12: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” Much is made of the wording “your reward in heaven.” As if it is saying that once you get into heaven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, you will get an even greater reward if you have suffered persecution here on earth. But haven’t we noticed how several passages speak of the divine reward of grace as being the gift of heaven itself? Is there anything in the context of Matthew 5:12 that compels us to take this reward any differently? Is Jesus saying anything more than this: Rejoice if you are persecuted for My sake, for that shows clearly that you are on My side and eternal life is yours as promised? Heaven will be a great reward that will more than repay you for any suffering you endure here on earth.

The same could be said in the interpretation of passages like Matthew 16:27, Revelation 11:17-19, and 22:12. In regard to Matthew 10:41-42 it would be most natural to understand the reward given as the reward of eternal life. What of 1 Corinthians 4:5: “Then each one’s praise will come from God”? Must that imply that each believer will receive a different level of praise from God?

The idea of special rewards given to believers based on their works seems to go against what Jesus teaches in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16). Jesus told this parable in direct response to Peter’s question, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Jesus assured him that the apostles would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:28-29). Then Jesus told the parable of the workers in the vineyard, in which He specifically showed that it doesn’t matter how long or how hard you work in God’s kingdom; it doesn’t matter how much you suffer, bearing the heat of the day, for all people working in God’s vineyard will receive the same pay or reward. The gift of eternal life is more reward than the greatest apostle could ever deserve. Jesus was telling Peter and all who give up things for His sake: You will receive eternal life.

But He also warned them not to think that they have deserved more than others because they gave up more or suffered more or worked more. The reward for all believers who suffer much or little, who work long or short will be the same reward from a gracious and generous God.

 

Different Rewards or Different Ranks?

There are a number of passages which suggest there will be different ranks in heaven. Indeed, it would not be strange to have different ranks among the saints in heaven, for aren’t there ranks among the angels? God has established rank and order here in this world. It would seem natural for Him to establish rank among the saints in heaven also.

Jesus told the twelve apostles that they would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). The Apostle John saw a visible representation of that in the vision of Revelation 4 and 5, where he saw 24 elders sitting on 24 thrones around the throne of God in heaven. When James and John came asking to sit at not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Matt. 20:23). Those positions of honor will be given to someone, Jesus says. They could even be given to James and John, for all we know. The point here is that those are not positions we can seek or work for. God alone determines who will be given such honor. Will those positions be given to two people who lived very humbly in devoted service to God and suffered much for Christ’s sake? Perhaps. That would be a logical deduction from all that Jesus taught about greatness in the kingdom of God. But only God knows.

That really is the final conclusion we must come to in the end. Only God knows, and therefore it is not something that we need to worry about or fuss over. Since every good thing from God is a reward of His grace,

He alone must determine who shall receive it and what they shall receive, whether honor or rank or some other blessing. If God chooses to give a greater blessing or some special honor to those who have labored harder and suffered more, that will be wonderful. As Luther points out, all heaven will rejoice in it. No one will feel slighted or be envious of another. No one will boast or show off his medals. All will rejoice in what God has done and praise and glorify His name forever and ever.

To God Alone the Glory!

2009

www.gospeldoctrine.org (Outstanding Independent Site for Gospel Doctrine Teachers)

DC 76   Historical Background

The Amherst conference has just closed. Many brethren had been called upon to serve missions, and the Prophet returned to his work of translation. While working on the gospel of John, he read of the resurrection of the just and unjust as spoken of in John 5:28-29. This passage prompted the inquiry which led to the vision. The importance of this revelation cannot be overstated. While Christianity struggles to make sense of the concepts of salvation and heaven, the Latter-day Saints are blessed with a clear picture of the destiny of mankind after the resurrection of the dead.

Joseph Smith

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.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 252 – 253.)

Philo Dibble

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.

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 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.” (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 68.)

DC 76:1-10 Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory

Winslow Farr Smith

Marvelous promises, beyond our comprehension, so deep and so unfathomable in their nature that we can not comprehend them, have been made to us, if ye will live according to his law and keep his commandments and do the things that he has commanded.

I want to read to you just a few verses from the D&C, and I want you to ponder over them, think about them, and study them, and I beg of you to make them a part of your lives. If you will do it, out of this study and this application will come the joy that is yours. In 1832 the Father gave to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, a man who fell away, this wonderful promise: (quotes D&C 76:1-10)

1675My brethren and sisters, to me the most glorious promise that we can expect here as mortals on earth is the promise that God gave in that revelation. I declare unto you in humility and in candor that this subject is so vital, so big, so all-embracing, that unless we take held of it, study it, and make it part of our lives, we are losing the opportunity knocking at our door today. (Conference Report, October 1919, Out-Doors Overflow Meeting 189.)

DC 76:7 to them I will reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom

Bruce R. McConkie

There are added revelations we could receive, and I hope will receive as we manage to get in tune with the Spirit…. This reaffirmation is what brings this subject down to us as individuals. Every man is supposed to be a prophet for himself. Every head of a house should be the revelator for his family. Joseph Smith said these glorious words as he talked about the Second Comforter: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.” (History of the Church, 3:380)….

What I am saying is that the ultimate end of spiritual progression is not only to know that the revelations are true, but also to see visions and feel the Spirit and get the added light and knowledge which it is not lawful to utter and which was not recorded in the revealed record. What a glorious dispensation we live in. We live in a day when the Lord desires to confirm his word in the hearts of all who will heed his voice, and it is our privilege so to obtain. (“This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” Ensign, June 1980, 58-59)

DC 76:7-8 all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old…

We should not miss the significance of the promises contained in this preface to the revelation. The Lord, in effect, is saying, “I am about to give you a great and glorious mystery (D&C 76), but I have many more in store for you. Eventually you will be given to know all my mysteries.” When will this added knowledge be revealed? Bruce R. McConkie said there would not be “great added reservoirs of substantive revelation…before the Second Coming because of the wickedness of the world.” (“This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” Ensign, June 1980, 58)

The scriptures declare the same thing. Yet great volumes of revelation await us: the record of the Ten Tribes, the sealed portion of the gold plates which contains the vision of the Brother of Jared, and more. “All the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old” must include more scripture about Adam, Noah, Melchizedek, Elias and others. These great mysteries are to be withheld until the righteous are sanctified and exert enough faith, “They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord. And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations…and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared” (Ether 4:6-7,4).

Moroni further explains that the righteous will be sufficiently faithful and sanctified at the same time the wicked are ripening for destruction. “Great and marvelous things…have been hid up from the foundation of the world.” (Ether 4:15) These are to be revealed when the House of Israel, “shall rend that veil of unbelief…when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit…then shall my revelations which I have cause to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people.” (Ether 4:15-16) Note that Moroni ties new revelations with the events described by John, or the destruction of the wicked and the Second Coming, as contained in the book of Revelation. “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” (Rev 10:7)

Furthermore, in the Millenium, we are told that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) And from section 121, we have a promise which is most likely Millenial as well:

God shall give unto you knowledge…that has not been revealed since the world was until now;

Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;

A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest.

All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. (D&C 121:26-29)

DC 76:9 the wisdom of the wise shall perish

Ezra Taft Benson

The wisdom of the wise shall perish. The prophecies of economists, would-be statesmen, and military experts fail, while those of the Lord through his prophets are vindicated. (So Shall Ye Reap, compiled by Reed A. Benson [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1960], 65 – 66.)

George Albert Smith

The wisdom of the world is failing, the scripture is fulfilled, and today the wisest of all men are seeking, by means of legislation, to bring about a better condition and a more wholesome life among the human family. They may strive in that way, but unless men have faith in God, unless they understand the purpose of life, they will not go very far. The people of the world must repent of their sins before the Lord can give to them the peace and happiness desired. No other plan will succeed. (The Teachings of George Albert Smith, edited by Robert McIntosh and Susan McIntosh [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 185.)

DC 76:10 those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man

 

LeGrand Richards

“…when you kneel around the altar in the Holy Temple of God and have sealed upon you kingdoms and thrones and principalities and powers and dominions and exaltation, you can receive blessings that you could not purchase with all the wealth of this world—and these are not idle words. They are the things that God has prepared for them that love him.

“No wonder Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven, and the paradise of God, and saw things he was not permitted to write, 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.’ (1 Cor. 2:91 Cor. 2:9)” (October 29, 1963, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1963 11.)

George Q. Cannon

“In our present condition we cannot conceive of these things because they are beyond our comprehension. But we have a foretaste of that glory given unto us in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when it rests upon us. You have felt, no doubt, many times in your lives as though you were filled to overflowing and had no room for another drop of happiness. The peace and love of God have filled your hearts. Of course, we are but mortal beings at the present time, and we are not prepared for that glory and immortality that God has in store for us. But we will grow up to it, and we will be prepared for it when it comes.” (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, selected, arranged, and edited by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 84.)

DC 76:13 those things which were from the beginning…which were ordained of the Father

The doctrine of foreordination is usually applied to an individual, chosen and ordained before the world was. But more than just individuals were foreordained. The Father’s Plan of Salvation, His Plan of Happiness was foreordained as well. His doctrine, scriptures, and gospel are “those things which were from the beginning…which were ordained of the Father”. Why else would Joseph Smith refer to this revelation as “a transcript from the records of the eternal worlds”? (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 252 – 253.) So we learn that the plan of three degrees of glory, including the exaltation of the saints in the celestial kingdom, was part of the plan from the very first—indeed it was the very purpose of the plan from the beginning. (See Moses 1:39)

Joseph Smith

The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever “the morning stars sang together” for joy; the past, the present, and the future were and are, with Him, one eternal “now;” He knew of the fall of Adam, the iniquities of the antediluvians, of the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family, their weakness and strength, their power and glory, apostasies, their crimes, their righteousness and iniquity; He comprehended the fall of man, and his redemption; He knew the plan of salvation and pointed it out; He was acquainted with the situation of all nations and with their destiny; He ordered all things according to the council of His own will; He knows the situation of both the living and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redemption, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 220).

DC 76:17 the resurrection of the just; and…the resurrection of the unjust

Joseph Smith reminds us when studying scripture to consider the question being answered, “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer…?” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 276-7) Interestingly, after we finish reading section 76, we still might be unsure as to what constitutes the resurrection of the just and what constitutes the resurrection of the unjust.

The Prophet clearly states that those who attain celestial glory are part of the resurrection of the just (D&C 76:50, 64-65), but what of the rest? The answer can be clear to us if we go back and answer the question which drew out the answer. The resurrection of the just must include those souls destined for celestial and terrestrial glory—whose resurrection will occur in the morning and afternoon of the first resurrection at the commencement of the Millenium (D&C 88:98-99). The resurrection of the unjust must include those souls destined for telestial glory and perdition—whose resurrection will occur after the Millenium and at the great and last day, respectively (D&C 88:100-102).

“There are two major resurrections: the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. The resurrection of the just includes those who will receive celestial glory and terrestrial glory.” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981], 163)

DC 76:19 while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understanding

“Prophets have used the words diligently, pondering, meditating, and feasting to explain how we should approach the scriptures. Clearly we should read with careful thought and much pondering. Even when we are not reading we should reflect constantly on God’s word. The prophets have promised that this will lead to new spiritual insights and to greater righteousness.

“The scriptures show us that we can ponder in two ways: we can meditate on the scripture itself, or we can relate what we read to our personal lives.

“This kind of reflection can help all of us make commitments that will decrease darkness and increase light. We must ask questions as we read, questions such as, How does this apply in my life today? or What lesson can I learn from this?” (Dean Jarman, “Well of Living Water,” New Era, Nov. 1973, 29)

David O. McKay

I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion… Meditation is the language of the soul… Meditation is a form of prayer… 4068Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. (Conference Report, April 1946, Afternoon Meeting 113.)

DC 76:22 this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him

In 1832, the Prophet said his testimony was the “last of all” testimonies given. While that may have been true in 1832, his testimony is no longer the last of all. Nor is he the last who can declare that he has seen the Lord. The apostles and prophets of our dispensation are careful in their language, humble in their testimony, but they have seen the Lord. The discerning listener can tell that their testimony is no less sure than that of Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon. Consider the following statements from some latter-day apostles. Elder James E. Faust said, “I understand that a chief requirement for the holy apostleship is to be a personal witness of Jesus as the Christ and the Divine Redeemer. Perhaps on that basis alone, I can qualify.” (“Response to the Call,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 20) Similarly, Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared, “Humbly, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I say to you not only that Jesus lived, but that he lives—with all that those words imply!” (“Our Acceptance of Christ,” Ensign, June 1984, 69)

We should feel privileged to hear the testimony of those who have seen with their eyes and heard with their ears. Even now, we can hear the witness of Joseph Smith echoing in the testimonies of the latter-day apostles and prophets.

Ezra Taft Benson

As one of His latter-day witnesses, I testify that He lives today. He is a resurrected Being. He is our Savior, our Lord, the very Son of God. I testify that He will come again as our glorified, resurrected Lord. That day is not far distant. (“The Meaning of Easter,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 4)

Howard W. Hunter

As an ordained Apostle and special witness of Christ, I give to you my solemn witness that Jesus Christ is in fact the Son of God. He is the Messiah prophetically anticipated by Old Testament prophets. He is the Hope of Israel. (“An Apostle’s Witness of Christ,” Ensign, Jan. 1984, 70)

Spencer W. Kimball

I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I know that. I know that the gospel which we teach is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church to which we belong is the church of Jesus Christ. (Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 113.)

Heber J. Grant

We have this testimony to bear to the world, that men in our day have seen Jesus Christ; that he has restored to the earth the gospel of life and salvation. (Conference Report, October 1926, 5.)

Gordon B. Hinckley

To all of these testimonies we add our own. He is Jesus the Christ, the Firstborn of the Father, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, the Jehovah of ancient Israel, the promised Messiah born in Bethlehem of Judea, the healer of the sick, the teacher of the doctrine, the Redeemer of the world, the author of our salvation, the resurrected Lord who sits on the right hand of the Father. (“Do Ye Even So to Them,” Ensign, Dec. 1991, 2)

Gordon B. Hinckley

In solemnity, and with understanding of the gravity of that which we say, we add our witness to all the world of the reality of the Resurrection, that this same Jesus who rose from the grave ascended into heaven… This is our testimony, which we bear in the name of Jesus Christ, and we invite all mankind to learn it so that they may rejoice in the blessings that come from following the teachings of our resurrected Lord, the Savior of Mankind. (“The Victory over Death,” Ensign, Apr. 1997, 5)

DC 76:24 the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God

Joseph Fielding Smith

Man is the greatest of all the creations of God. He is his offspring. We are all his children. It was made known through the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, who saw it in vision, that the inhabitants of this earth and other worlds are begotten sons and daughters unto God. That ought to put an end—so far as Latter-day Saints are concerned—to all this nonsense prevailing in the world regarding the origin of man.

Man, I say, as the offspring of God, is the greatest of all his creations. He is greater than the moon, the sun, and the stars, which are the work of the fingers of God, and are made for the benefit of man. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 63.)

Gordon B. Hinckley

Man is in reality a child of God. Nothing in the universe is more important than the individual. His spirit was begotten of God; consequently all men are brothers in the literal sense. In the Mormon concept the phrase, “the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” takes on a new and powerful meaning…

There is a mighty strength that comes of the knowledge that you and I are sons and daughters of God. Within us is something of divinity. One who has this knowledge and permits it to influence his life will not stoop to do a mean or cheap or tawdry thing. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 159.)

Marion G. Romney

The theory that man is other than the offspring of God has been, and, so long as it is accepted and acted upon, will continue to be, a major factor in blocking man’s spiritual growth and in corrupting his morals…

That man is a child of God is the most important knowledge available to mortals. Such knowledge is beyond the ken of the uninspired mind. Neither logic, science, philosophy, nor any other field of worldly learning has ever been, or ever will be, able to find it out. (“Man—A Child of God,” Ensign, July 1973, 14)

Harold B. Lee

Open your Bible or your triple combination or your Book of Mormon and in the most prominent place you write, “I must not forget that I am a son of God, or I am a daughter of God.” You write that and every time you open your book you look at that, “I must never forget that I am a child of God.” That’s the idea. (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 162.)

DC 76:26 He was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him

Hugh Nibley

Perdition means lost. It means losing something that you had. It means one fallen from high estate. You can’t be Perdition; you can’t be lost unless you were found. And you can’t be fallen unless you were high, fallen from high estate. (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 10.)

DC 76:26 he was Lucifer, a son of the morning

“Literally the Shining One; also Lightbringer or Son of the Morning. Lucifer is also known as Satan or the devil…Apparnetly Lucifer is the name of the devil before his rebellion and the fall.” (Bible Dictionary, Lucifer)

Jeffrey R. Holland

Light, like truth, forsakes the evil one, that prince of darkness who was cast out of heaven into the earth. The casualty of that rebellious son’s fall is glimpsed at least partially in the meaning of his name Lucifer, literally “a bearer of light,” a son of the morning. Having lost that fresh radiance of an eternal dawn and destined to dwell in a kingdom without glory (i.e., light), Satan now consciously seeks to take away light from the children of men. We are able to elude such lifeless desolation, however, because God once again looked upon a darkened world and said, “Let there be light.” He gave his Only Begotten Son that whosoever would believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (See John 3:16.) I am the Light and the Life of the world. (“Whom Say Ye That I Am?” Ensign, Sept. 1974, 9)

DC 76:28 the devil…rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom

“Having been told in Doctrine and Covenants 76:25–26 that Lucifer, a son of the morning, was an angel in authority in the presence of God, we may read Moses 4:3–4 with renewed clarity and personal application.

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 (emphasis added).

“Here we are told explicitly of Lucifer’s great crime; he ‘rebelled’ against God, or, in other words, he apostatized from God’s established order. He did so by seeking to change the plan of the Father and then audaciously attempting to usurp God’s own power, prerogatives, and glory. Though he did not start out as Satan, he became Satan through opposition. (The original Hebrew word satan means ‘adversary.’) He drew away his own cadre of disciples who refused to follow the Father and the Son. He and his followers were then expelled from the heavenly realms, free for a time to lay hold on the minds and hearts of willing rebels in every earthly dispensation. As expressed by John the Revelator, ‘It was given unto him [Satan] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them’ (Rev. 13:7). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘the moment [Latter-day Saints] revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.’” (Andrew C. Skinner, “Apostasy, Restoration, and Lessons in Faith,” Ensign, Dec. 1995, 27)

Joseph Smith

The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he would 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. (History of the Church,  6:314.)

Mark E. Petersen

It will be noted in Moses’ record of these events that Lucifer said: “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1Moses 4:1.)

Here is illustrated two dreadful things: One was the unmitigated and colossal egotism of Lucifer. The other was his determination to save people by force “that one soul shall not be lost.” He would have destroyed free agency and thus made slaves of us all, his slaves, forever doomed to obey his wicked commands. (Abraham: Friend of God [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 142.)

DC 76:29 he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about

Perhaps one of the most dramatic evidences of the war between Satan’s forces and his servants can be seen in the compelling story of the early missionaries to Great Britain. In the summer of 1837, Elders Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Isaac Russell were serving together as missionaries. Their miraculous success was noted by Satan who rallied his forces to stop the work.

Heber C. Kimball

One Saturday evening I was appointed by the brethren to baptize a number the next morning in the River Ribble which runs through that place. By this time the adversary of souls began a rage and he felt a determination to destroy us before we had fully established the gospel in that land; and the next morning I witnessed such a scene of satanic power and influence as I shall never forget while memory lasts.

About daybreak, Brother Russell (who was appointed to preach in the marketplace that day), who slept in the second story of the house in which we were entertained, came up to the room where Elder Hyde and I were sleeping and called upon us to arise and pray for him, for he was so afflicted with evil spirits that he could not live long unless he should obtain relief.

We immediately arose, laid hands upon him and prayed that the Lord would have mercy on his servant and rebuke the devil. While thus engaged, I was struck with great force by some invisible power and fell senseless to the floor as if I had been shot, and the first thing that I recollected was, that I was supported by Brothers Hyde and Russell, who were beseeching the throne of grace in my behalf. They then laid me on the bed, but my agony was so great that I could not endure, and I was obliged to get out, and fell on my knees and began to pray. I then sat on the bed and could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth upon us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half, and I shall never forget the horror and malignity depicted on the countenances of these foul spirits, and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself, or portray the malice and enmity depicted in their countenances would be vain.

I perspired exceedingly, and my clothes were as wet as if I had been taken out of the river. I felt exquisite pain, and was in the greatest distress for some time. However, I learned by it the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God and got some understanding of the invisible world. (Mark E. Petersen, Moses: Man of Miracles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 170.)

Wilford Woodruff

Brother George Q. Cannon… said that one third of the hosts of heaven were cast out because of their rebellion. I suppose we may say that at least one hundred thousand millions were cast down from heaven to earth… Do you suppose these devils are around us without trying to do something? Are they asleep? Have they not a work to perform? I say to my brethren who bear the priesthood, we have got a mighty warfare to wage with these spirits. We cannot escape it. What will they do to you? They will try to make us do anything and everything that is not right. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 239.)

DC 76:31 suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome

Reading the description of the fate of the sons of perdition, some would begin to feel sorry for them. This is entirely appropriate as long as we don’t begin to question the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner. If so, we become as Corianton, mere babes in our understanding of the justice of God. As Alma explained, the whole plan of salvation depends on repentance, but “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be” (Alma 42:16). Perdition is that punishment which is as eternal as the life of the soul. We see that it is necessary component, “affixed opposite to the plan of happiness” (Alma 42:16). Therefore, we can repent or suffer. What happens if we don’t repent? Alma says “justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed and God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:22, see also D&C 19:16-19)

Besides, these individuals suffered themselves to be overcome. They have no one to blame but themselves. Having the choice between life and death, they chose death. Such an individual does not sin in ignorance, rather “he has got 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.“  (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6: 314 – 315.)

DC 76:35 having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it

Can the average latter-day saint be guilty of this horrible sin? President Kimball replied, “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 123)

Joseph Smith

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 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. (“The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, May 1971, 16)

DC 76:35 having denied the Only Begotten Son…having crucified him unto themselves

One common misconception is that the unpardonable sin can only be a sin against the Holy Ghost. Such is not the case. The unpardonable sin can be a sin against the Holy Ghost or it can be a sin against the Only Begotten Son. Perhaps you remember the words of the Savior, “whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.” (Matt 12:32). Some have concluded from this passage, that sinning against the Son is forgivable, but sinning against the Holy Ghost is not. This conclusion is incorrect. All manner of blasphemies against the Son of God will be forgiven, but denying the Son and crucifying him is an unforgivable sin. This is why the Savior was careful to ask the Father to forgive the Roman soldiers who put him to death, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He was saying, “these have not committed the unpardonable sin even though they are crucifying me.”

Others have thought that Judas Iscariot was not guilty of this sin because he may not have had a sufficient endowment of the Holy Ghost to warrant such a punishment. But Judas’ sin was against the Son, and he is clearly referred to as warranting perdition. Speaking of Judas and the Twelve, Jesus said, “none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” (John 17:12)

The scriptures clearly teach this principle. Those who, if they had the opportunity, would crucify Christ again are guilty of this sin. Hereby, they become ex post facto accomplices to the murder of Jesus Christ and receive judgment as if they had personally nailed Jesus to the cross.  “They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Heb 6:6) The Lord says to them, “ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant.” (D&C 132:27, italics added)

Charles W. Penrose

Those who have followed [Satan]… become imbued with his spirit, which is the spirit of destruction, in opposition to the spirit which brings life, are his. The spirit of murder enters their hearts; they are ready to put to death even the Son of God, if His existence in life comes in their way. They received light and truth and then altogether turned therefrom. They gain power to attain to the highest altitude of light and truth and glory, then they turn around and through falsehood and wickedness and corruption in their nature and in their works, they become servants unto Satan, sons of perdition. (Conference Report, October 1911, Second Day—Morning Session. 51 – 52.)

DC 76:36 they…shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone

The lake of fire and brimstone mentioned is a figurative description of the eternal punishment of the sons of perdition. Their suffering shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone. Part of this suffering comes as a punishment from God—eternal separation from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; part of it comes from within—from the remorse of one’s conscience.

Joseph Smith

A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6: 314.)

Harold B. Lee

The greatest hell that one can suffer is the burning of one’s conscience. The scriptures say his thoughts will condemn him, he’ll have a bright recollection of all his life (see “#alma 12:14Alma 12:14;”#alma 11:43 11:43)… there will be a burning of the conscience that will be worse than any physical kind of fire that I assume one could suffer. (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 67.)

Joseph Smith

Those who commit the unpardonable sin are doomed to Gnolom to dwell in hell, worlds without end. As they concocted scenes of bloodshed in this world, so they shall rise to that resurrection which is as the lake of fire and brimstone. Some shall rise to the everlasting burnings of God; for God dwells in everlasting burnings and some shall rise to the damnation of their own filthiness, which is as exquisite a torment as the lake of fire and brimstone. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6: 317.)

DC 76:37-38 the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power

The second death, or spiritual death, is defined as being cut off from the presence of God. This means that you cannot see the face of God, you cannot withstand the presence of God, you will not enjoy the visitation of the Son, and you are not worthy of the smallest portion of the spirit of the Holy Ghost. It is a total and complete separation from God. As described in scripture, spiritual death is the temporary punishment of those who suffer in hell. It also describes the state of the sons of perdition who are cast out after the last soul is resurrected, ‘These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels—And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power’ (DC 76:36-37).

One might be inclined to think that the “first death” must be the death of the mortal body. This is not the case. The Lord explains that the first death is also spiritual and occurs when we leave his presence and come to earth. This is symbolized by the fall of Adam, ‘I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death (or second death), which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed’ (DC 29:41).

We all need to be redeemed from this first spiritual death. Every individual who inherits one of the three kingdoms of glory is redeemed from this separation from God. Even those in the telestial kingdom enjoy the influence of the Holy Spirit (v. 86). Hence, they are both resurrected and redeemed. The sons of perdition are resurrected but not redeemed; they are saved from physical death but not spiritual death. The natural consequences of the fall of Adam continue to apply to them. Without redemption, they “become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery.” (2 Ne. 9:9) “All other persons will be saved by the grace of God from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.” (Theodore M. Burton, “Salvation and Exaltation,” Ensign, July 1972, 78)

Joseph Fielding Smith

The second death is not the destruction of the body and the spirit, but a banishment into outer darkness away from the presence of the Lord, where they who partake of it are without the light, and dead as to all things pertaining to righteousness. They cannot be led by the Spirit of the Lord, their advancement is shut off, for they become followers of, and subject to, the will of Lucifer, once Son of the Morning, but now Perdition, the father of lies, because he rebelled against the Father and sought to destroy his work.

Let us be thankful, indeed, that the number who shall thus be punished are very, very few, and only those who wilfully place themselves beyond the power of redemption will partake thereof. (Improvement Era, 1918, Vol Xxi. January, 1918. No. 3)

DC 76:39 all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead

George Q. Cannon

In many minds there has been a great misapprehension on the question of the resurrection. Some have had the idea, and have taught it, that the sons of perdition will not be resurrected at all. They base this idea, and draw this conclusion, from the 38th and 39th paragraphs of “#D&C 76:1Section 76 of the book of Doctrine and Covenants. . . . careful reading of these verses, however, and especially of the preceding paragraphs, will show that the Lord does not, in this language, exclude even the sons of perdition from the resurrection. It is plain that the intention is to refer to them explicitly as the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power: “for all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb.” This excluded class are the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power, and “the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord after the sufferings of his wrath.”

This is by no means to say that they are to have no resurrection. Jesus our Lord and Savior died for all, and all will be resurrected—good and bad, white and black, people of every race, whether sinners or not; and no matter how great their sins may be, the resurrection of their bodies is sure. (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 2: 445 – 446.)

DC 76:42-43 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power

What a grand and glorious doctrine! Almost all of the inhabitants of the earth will be saved! Saved from what? Saved from the fall of Adam. In this sense, salvation means to inherit one of three kingdoms of glory. The miracle of the “gospel, the glad tidings,” is that the redemption of Christ atones for the fall on behalf of almost everyone. To a latter-day saint, salvation in the telestial kingdom sounds terrible, but it will be a marvelous and glorious reward for those who expect nothing more. We should rejoice in the mercy of God’s incredible plan to save his children.

Brigham Young

Behold the goodness, the long-suffering, the kindness, and the strong parental feeling of our Father and God in preparing the way and providing the means to save the children of men—not alone the Latter-day Saints—not alone those who have the privilege of the first principles of the celestial law, but to save all. It is a universal salvation—a universal redemption. Salvationa-Young, BrighamTP(Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 388.)

Dallin H. Oaks

The theology of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is comprehensive, universal, merciful, and true. Following the necessary experience of mortal life, all sons and daughters of God will ultimately be resurrected and go to a kingdom of glory. The righteous—regardless of current religious denomination or belief—will ultimately go to a kingdom of glory more wonderful than any of us can comprehend. Even the wicked, or almost all of them, will ultimately go to a marvelous—though lesser—kingdom of glory. (“Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995, 87)

Brigham Young

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. (Karl Ricks Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 96.)

DC 76:43 Jesus…saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition

Joseph Smith

I have a declaration to make as to the provisions which God hath made to suit the conditions of man—made from before the foundation of the world. What has Jesus said? All sins, and all blasphemies, and every transgression, except one, that man can be guilty of, may be forgiven; and there is a salvation for all men, either in this world or the world to come, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, there being a provision either in this world or the world of spirits. Hence God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin which cannot be remitted to him either in this world or the world of spirits. God has wrought out a salvation for all men, unless they have committed a certain sin. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6: 313 – 314.)

DC 76:45 the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows

Brigham Young

If people could see [the fate of the sons of perdition], as Joseph and Sidney saw it, they would pray that the vision be closed up; for they could not endure the sight. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 386.)

DC 76:46-48 Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man

“It is important to note that although no human knows the eternal state of these people, it would be incorrect to teach that there is possible redemption for them at some future time. In response to such doctrine taught by a Brother Hulet, Joseph Smith wrote:

Say to the brothers 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. . . . We, therefore, command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 24)” (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Alma, the Testimony of the Word [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1992], 161.)

DC 76:50-70 The Celestial Kingdom

Rudger Clawson

Section 76 is a great revelation. We can sit down by ourselves and determine just which glory will satisfy us and how we can obtain it, and we are left without excuse. This great revelation appears in the book, and it is worthy of study and deep reflection. (Conference Report, October 1937, Church of the Air Broadcast 111.)

Thomas S. Monson

The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our home port is the celestial kingdom of God. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed. (“Sailing Safely on the Seas of Life,” Ensign, July 1999, 2)

Glenn L. Pace

Knowing the shortest distance from the world to the celestial kingdom is a straight line, the Lord has restored his gospel, which contains the truth and guidance we need to make the journey as smooth as possible. We can avoid unnecessary detours by reading the scriptures and listening to the Lord’s current prophets. (“Follow the Prophet,” Ensign, May 1989, 25)

Thomas S. Monson

What we need, as we journey along through this period known as mortality, is a compass to chart our course, a map to guide our footsteps, and a pattern whereby we might mold and shape our very lives. May I share with you a formula that in my judgment will help you and help me to journey well through mortality and to that great reward of exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father.

First, fill your mind with truth; second, fill your life with service; and third, fill your heart with love. (“Formula for Success,” Ensign, Mar. 1996, 2)

Joseph Fielding Smith

All of the ordinances of the gospel—baptism, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the work in the temples for the salvation of the living and the dead—these ordinances, everything else, all of the ordinances of the gospel pertain to the celestial kingdom of God.

We are not preaching the gospel with the idea of trying to save people in the terrestrial world. Ours is the salvation of exaltation. What we are trying to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring people back again, through the power of the priesthood and the ordinances of the Church, as sons and daughters of God, receiving a fulness of the Father’s kingdom. That is our endeavor. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 190.)

Neal A. Maxwell

Righteous desires need to be relentless…because, said President Brigham Young, “the men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle every day” (in Journal of Discourses, 11:14). Therefore, true Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors. (“According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 22)

DC 76:51 They are they who…believed on his name and were baptized

Melvin J. Ballard

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 here can excuse himself or herself from obedience to the law of baptism. It is the door, the gate to Celestial Glory. (Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], 236.)

Joseph Smith

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This eternal truth settles the question of all men’s religion. A man may be saved, after the judgment, in the terrestrial kingdom, or in the telestial kingdom, but he can never see the celestial kingdom of God without being born of the water and the Spirit. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 283 – 284.)

Joseph Smith

It is a sign and a commandment which God has set for man to enter into His kingdom. Those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain; for God will not receive them, neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not obeyed the ordinances, nor attended to the signs which God ordained for the salvation of man, to prepare him for, and give him a title to, a celestial glory. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4: 554 – 555.)

DC 76:53 those who are just and true

Ezra Taft Benson

“Those who are just and true.” What an apt expression for those valiant in the testimony of Jesus! These are members of the Church who magnify their callings in the Church (see “D&C 84:33Doctrine and Covenants 84:33), pay their tithes and offerings, live morally clean lives, sustain their Church leaders byword and action, keep the Sabbath as a holy day, and obey all the commandments of God. They are courageous in defending truth and righteousness. To these the Lord has promised that “all thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (“D&C 121:29Doctrine and Covenants 121:29.) (Come unto Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 13.)

Rudger Clawson

Now, we see from this that it is only possible to attain to so great a degree of glory in the presence of God by keeping His commandments, yielding obedience to the ordinances of the Gospel and walking in the light continually and being just and true. This is the price we have to pay for it, but if we are willing to make the sacrifice, if it can be called a sacrifice, our highest ambition, our fondest hopes, our most earnest desires will be realized to the very fullest extent. (Conference Report, October 1914, Second Day—Morning Session 80.)

DC 76:53 who overcome and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise

Melvin J. Ballard

We may deceive men, but we cannot deceive the Holy Ghost, and our blessings will not be eternal until 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 their heads. Then it is binding, and of full force. (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 53.)

Bruce R. McConkie

All things that are not sealed by this power have an end when men are dead. Unless a baptism has this enduring seal, it will not admit a person to the celestial kingdom; unless an eternal marriage covenant is sealed by this authority, it will not take the participating parties to an exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world.

All things gain enduring force and validity because of the sealing power. So comprehensive is this power that it embraces ordinances performed for the living and the dead, seals the children on earth up to their fathers who went before, and forms the enduring patriarchal chain that will exist eternally among exalted beings. (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 683).

DC 76:54 they…are the church of the Firstborn

What do you think the name of the Church will be after the resurrection of the just? Will it be called the Church of Jesus Christ of Millennial saints? That sounds funny, but we do know the name of the Church once the earth is celestialized, it is “The Church of the Firstborn.” Elder McConkie said it this way, “The Church of Jesus Christ is his earthly church, so The Church of the Firstborn is his heavenly church.” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 46.) Once God’s government is brought to earth, once the heavenly Jerusalem descends from heaven, and once the tabernacle of God dwells with men (Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 21:1-3), the Church of the Firstborn will be the only Church on the earth. Our goal should be to become a member of this church. Admission, of course, depends on our faithfulness in keeping all the required ordinances. We are assured that “all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 93:22). They are those “who overcome by faith and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise” (D&C 76:53).

DC 76:55-56 They are they who are priests and kings

Joseph Fielding Smith

Comparatively few of the children of men will find the salvation which is found in the celestial kingdom, or in other words the exaltation which will make of them heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ-even sons of God. Those who gain this exaltation receive the fulness of the power, might, and dominion of that kingdom. They overcome all things. They are crowned as priests and kings and become like Jesus Christ. While this doctrine is taught in the Bible, the majority of mankind have lost sight of it, and it has become one of the peculiar teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… Since the majority of men refuse to take the course in righteousness, or enter the strait gate into the narrow way, which would make them heirs in the household of God, it will be a select few who receive these crowning blessings. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 24.)

DC 76:57 priests…after the order of Enoch

What is the order of Enoch? Prior to the days of Melchizedek, we conclude that the priesthood was called the Holy Priesthood after the order of Enoch. The purpose would have been to avoid the too frequent repetition of the formal name:  “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (D&C 107:3-4)

Melchizedek…having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

It being after the order of the son of God…

For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. (JST Gen. 14:26-32)

DC 76:58 they are gods, even the sons of God

“Note that the two terms gods and sons of God, are equated here, for to be one is also to be or to become the other. Children grow up to be what their parents are. If, through the gospel, we have truly become the sons and daughters of God as the scriptures insist.” (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:307)

Joseph Fielding Smith

Now they who enter into the terrestrial kingdom, and they who enter into the telestial kingdom will not be sons of God in the sense in which this term is used here. Of course we are all the children of God, every soul on the earth; we are His offspring, but in the great kingdom that shall be established in exaltation, all who receive exaltation will become sons of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ and entitled to all the privileges and all the blessings of the Fathers kingdom. What a wonderful privilege that is! This blessing will not come to the inhabitants of the telestial and the terrestrial worlds. (Conference Report, April 1942, Afternoon Meeting 28.)

Joseph Fielding Smith

How could this doctrine be stated plainer? This is the doctrine taught by the Savior to the Jews, by David in his psalms and by others of the prophets. Here it is stated emphatically that they who are of the Church of the Firstborn (i. e., those who keep the whole law) even “as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God!” Where is it written? In this section; and in the words of the Savior wherein He says, refering to David’s Psalm, the Scriptures “cannot be broken” (“John 10:34″John 10:35″John 10:36John 10:34-36). Doesn’t this teach plainly the doctrine of plurality of Gods? Does it not teach the fact that the children shall, through obedience, sometime obtain the exaltation of the Gods themselves? If not what does it mean? (Origin of the Reorganized Church and the Question of Succession, 106)

Joseph Smith

Every man who reigns in celestial glory is a God to his dominions… They who obtain a glorious resurrection from the dead, are exalted far above principalities, powers, thrones, dominions and angels, and are expressly declared to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, all having eternal power.

The scriptures are a mixture of very strange doctrines to the Christian world, who are blindly led by the blind. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6: 477 – 478.)

Joseph Smith

Stand firm, my friends; never flinch. Do not seek to save your lives, for he that is afraid to die for the truth, will lose eternal life. Hold out to the end, and we shall be resurrected and become like Gods, and reign in celestial kingdoms, principalities, and eternal dominions. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6:500)

DC 76:60 they shall overcome all things

George Albert Smith

How careful we as Latter-day Saints ought to be to live every day of our lives that we may be influenced by the power of the Lord, and that we may be able to turn aside from those things that have a tendency to break down our power to earn the celestial kingdom. The fact that we have been baptized into the Church is not sufficient. The fact that our names are on the Church records is not sufficient. The Redeemer himself has said that “not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (“#matt. 7:21Matthew 7:21). That is well defined, therefore we cannot drink with the drunken, we cannot debauch our lives, we cannot be dishonorable in our dealings with our fellowmen and gain celestial glory. We must keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father. (Conference Reports, October 1926, p. 103.)

DC 76:62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever

Melvin J. Ballard

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, during his 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 ever? 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 ever in the presence of the Father and the Son. (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], 242 – 243.)

DC 76:66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place

Mount Zion and the city of the living God are two different places. Mount Zion refers to the New Jerusalem; the city of the living God is a heavenly Jerusalem which will come out of heaven when the earth is celestialized to become the residence of God. John described this city as follows: “[the angel] carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (Rev. 21:10-22)

David O. McKay

I…fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously-tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe, and a white headdress. Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their Leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold! There was a peace about him which seemed sublime — it was divine!

The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.

But who were they?

As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words:

“These Are They Who Have Overcome The World — Who Have Truly Been Born Again!” (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, rev. and enl., compiled by Clare Middlemiss [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1955], 102.)

DC 76:70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun

Sterling W. Sill

We know quite a lot about celestial beings, as we have had a number of them appear to us upon this earth. And each time they have come, those who have received them have said that they are impossible to describe.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith had his vision of the Father and the Son, he said, “[Their] brightness and glory defy all description.” (JS—H 1:17) That is, we don’t have any background of knowledge; there isn’t a vocabulary to use in describing a celestial accomplishment. (“To Die Well,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 47)

Joseph Smith

We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181.)

Joseph Fielding Smith

Some will gain celestial bodies with all the powers of exaltation and eternal increase. These bodies will shine like the sun as our Savior’s does, as described by John. Those who enter the terrestrial kingdom will have terrestrial bodies, and they will not shine like the sun, but they will be more glorious than the bodies of those who receive the telestial glory. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 287.)

Brigham Young

Those who attain to the blessing of the first or celestial resurrection will be pure and holy, and perfect in body. Every man and woman that reaches to this unspeakable attainment will be as beautiful as the angels that surround the throne of God. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 10: 24 – 25.)

DC 76:69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant

Bruce C. Hafen

Those who inherit the celestial kingdom 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.” (D&C 76:69.) As Moroni put it, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him … by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ.” (Moro. 10:32–33.)

These scriptures make it clear that we do not achieve perfection solely through our own efforts. Knowing just that much is a source of new perspective. Because we feel overwhelmed with the scriptural injunction to seek perfection, the idea that divine grace is the final source of our perfection may seem too good to be true. That is how Christ’s grace appears to those carrying the burden of truly serious sins. Honest people called “Saints” may feel the same way as they stumble daily through the discouraging debris of their obvious imperfections. But the gospel has good news not only for the serious transgressor, but for all who long to be better than they are.

Through the Holy Ghost, the Atonement makes possible certain spiritual endowments that actually purify our nature and enable us to live a more “eternal” or Godlike life. At that ultimate stage, we will eat the fruit of the tree of life and partake of God’s divine nature. Then we will exhibit divine character not just because we think we should, but because that is the way we are. (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, 12)

DC 76:71-79 The Terrestrial Kingdom

Many have wondered what will happen with the faithful Christians throughout the ages. Many missionaries have met genuine followers of Jesus—those who live according to the light of their understanding but reject the message of the Restoration. They have been baptized but not according to the law of God by one “who is ordained and sealed unto this power” (v. 52). What will happen to them? Where will they go?

They will rise in the resurrection of the just to enjoy the felicity of the Millenium. They will enjoy the presence of the Son. Their reward will be great. Perhaps, you might think that they are worthy of a greater reward—that some of them should inherit a celestial glory and perhaps some of them will. However, consider their understanding of heaven. They deny the doctrine that man through the atonement of Christ can become as God. They deny the doctrine of eternal marriage. They deny the doctrine of eternal families. In effect, they deny the possibility of a celestial reward. What do they expect of heaven? They hope to be live eternally with Jesus. They want to be saved! They don’t care about exaltation, they just want to be saved! In effect, they believe in a heaven like the terrestrial kingdom. Will they get what they want? Absolutely. Will their reward be greater than they could ever imagine? Absolutely. Will they go to heaven? Yes, they will go to the second heaven—the terrestrial kingdom.

Brigham Young

Will the Methodists be saved? Yes. Will other sects? Yes. I think you could not now find an Elder in this Church who would rise up in a congregation and tell you that John Wesley (founder of the Methodists) is weltering in hell. Have the Elders ever preached such a doctrine? Yes, some of them have preached that all the Reformers, from the days of Christ and the Apostles until Joseph Smith received the Priesthood, must be damned. I do not think that you could now hear such doctrine from any of them. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 8: 36.)

DC 76:72 these are they who died without law

The atonement has power to save those in a state of innocence. In particular, this applies to two main groups, children and “those who have not the law given to them.” (2 Ne. 9:26) This principle is taught in the law of sacrifice as found in the law of Moses, “If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord…. [the priest] shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering…the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them” (Lev 4:2,20).

The Book of Mormon teaches this principle in several different locations. King Benjamin’s sermon includes the following, “his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned” (Mosiah 3:11).

Joseph Fielding Smith

“We may be sure that the Lord would do all things according to the law of eternal justice and that he would not punish people who in ignorance sinned and violated his commandments. It is one of the most glorious principles of truth and justice that was ever revealed that men are to be punished according to their disobedience to divine commandments, but not when they have acted innocently in ignorance of those divine edicts.” (Answers To Gospel Questions, 4:77)

John Taylor

There are heathen nations enveloped in idolatry; and if millions of people come into the world in these places surrounded with idolatry and superstition, it would be unjust for them to be punished for what they did not know, hence, if they have no law, they will be judged without law; and God in his own wisdom will regulate their affairs, for it is their misfortune, not their individual offense, that has placed them in their present position. (Government of God, p. 52.)

Joseph F. Smith

There will be redemption for the heathen—those that know not God. Those that have no law are not judged by law; and they will come forth in the first resurrection—not perhaps in the morning of the first resurrection, but they will come forth in that resurrection—and they will sit down with Abraham and partake of glory for they lived and died without law. They will not be judged as those will who have received the light and the law and have rejected them. You and I have received the light. We have received the Holy Priesthood. We have received the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and have been brought from death unto life. Therefore, we are now on very safe or on dangerous ground,—dangerous if we are trifling with these sacred things that have been committed to our care. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 4, January 20, 1895.)

DC 76:73 the spirits of men kept in prison

Our understanding of the spirit world is that it is divided into two parts: spirit paradise and spirit prison. This understanding helps us to comprehend what the world of spirits might be like. However, the term prison can be used to refer to the entire spirit world, especially before Christ’s ministry there. Why would the righteous spirits be in prison? They felt they were in prison because they “had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (D&C 132:50). “A prison is any place you can’t leave when you want to, and in the spirit world even the righteous are held captive by the chains of death.” (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:315)

We should not conclude that those who inherit a terrestrial glory have to suffer a terrible punishment in “hell” or “spirit prison” as we commonly refer to it. Rather, they receive “their part in that prison (i.e. the spirit world) which is prepared fro them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.” (D&C 88:99, italics added)

DC 76:74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it

Bruce R. McConkie

Well, to me and to you, and to those to whom our missionaries go, this is a great warning. It is a warning that now is the time for us to keep the commandments of God. I do not know any reason for believing that a man who has belonged to this Church, and has then rebelled against the truth, who has forsaken it and gone his own wilful way, will have another chance to be an heir to that kingdom. (Conference Report, April 1948, Afternoon Meeting 51.)

Spencer W. Kimball

They had had their opportunity; they had wasted the days of their probation; they had ignored the testimonies of the servants of God; they had followed the world and lived a worldly life. Perhaps many of them had taken the attitude, “I am not the religious kind.” “I do not like to go to meetings.” “I’m too busy; I can’t be bothered.” “I had other things of more interest.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 20)

Spencer W. Kimball

Too late! The terrestrial for them! It could have been the celestial, and it could have been exaltation! But they procrastinated the day of their preparation. The same lamentable cry of “Too late!” will apply to many of today’s Church members who did not heed the warning but who proceeded-sometimes carelessly, sometimes defiantly-to bind themselves through mortality to those who could not or would not prepare for the blessings which were in reserve for them.

The Lord’s program is unchangeable. His laws are immutable. They will not be modified. Your opinion or mine does not alter the laws. Many in the world, and even some in the Church, seem to think that eventually the Lord will be merciful and give them the unearned blessing. But the Lord cannot be merciful at the expense of justice. (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 17)

DC 76:75 these are they who are honorable men of the earth

Spencer W. Kimball

They must have been “honorable men of the earth.” Perhaps many of them were honest, good neighbors, good citizens, and committed no heinous crime, but were not valiant. Are not the scriptures very clear that they have lost their opportunity for exaltation? Is it not clear that it was everlastingly too late for them…

The terrestrial kingdom will not be enjoyed by the very wicked, for they shall obtain only the telestial. Neither will the terrestrial be given to the valiant, the faithful, the perfected, for they will go into the celestial kingdom prepared for those who live the celestial laws. But into the terrestrial will go those who do not measure up to the celestial. Speaking of one category of terrestrial people, the Lord says: “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” (“D&C 76:79D&C 76:79.) The “unvaliant” Latter-day Saint will find himself there. (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 20)

DC 76:79 they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus

Dallin H. Oaks

What does it mean to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”? Surely this includes keeping his commandments and serving him. But wouldn’t it also include bearing witness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, to believers and nonbelievers alike? As the Apostle Peter taught the Saints of his day, we should “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us].” (1 Pet. 3:15.)

All of us need to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus. As believers in Christ, we affirm the truth of Peter’s testimony in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12; see also D&C 109:4.)…

To those who are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, I say there has never been a greater need for us to profess our faith, privately and publicly. (“Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 31)

Ezra Taft Benson

Not to be valiant in one’s testimony is a tragedy of eternal consequence. These are members who know this latter-day work is true, but who fail to endure to the end. Some may even hold temple recommends, but do not magnify their callings in the Church. Without valor, they do not take an affirmative stand for the kingdom of God. Some seek the praise, adulation, and honors of men; others attempt to conceal their sins; and a few criticize those who preside over them. (“Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, May 1982, 63)

DC 76:79 they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God

Orson F. Whitney

These voyagers paid only for second-rate privileges. They “drew the line,” giving a part but not all of their allegiance to Him who hath said: ”Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The things of this world were more precious in their eyes than the riches that perish not and that thieves cannot steal. They loved Truth, but not whole-heartedly. They loved money and pleasure more, and strove for fame and the applause of this world, rather than for the approval of heaven. Though clean of conduct and honorable in deal, they were not zealous for Christ, and knew not the meaning of self-sacrifice. These are worthy of the Kingdom, but not of the Crown; and they shine, not like the golden sun, but like the silvery moon, with a diminished or secondary radiance, with reflected rather than with original light. (Saturday Night Thoughts [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1921], 319 – 320.)

DC 76:81-90; 98-112 The Telestial Kingdom

“We are living in a telestial world, complete with telestial arts and entertainment which can fill our minds with telestial images. Those telestial images often stimulate telestial thoughts, which, if not rejected, will lead to telestial behavior. The eventual result can be a telestial person. We would be more healthy spiritually if we never consumed any evil. Every bit harms us.

“The prophets of the Lord understand this process and have given us this sharp admonition: ‘Come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things.’ (Alma 5:57.) (Lex de Azevedo, “A Closer Look at Popular Music,” Ensign, Mar. 1985, 40)

Spencer W. Kimball

It often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world—that which is telestial—that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.

In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord. (“The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, 6)

DC 76:83 these are they who deny not the Holy Spirit

Brigham Young

There will not so many people go into that awful place that burns with fire and brimstone, where they sink down, down, down to the bottom of the bottomless pit, as the Christians say,—not near so many as the Christian world would have go there. That gives me great joy, notwithstanding all the perils and persecution we have suffered through the wickedness of the wicked. Liars, sorcerers, whoremongers, adulterers, and those that love and make a lie will be found on the outside of the walls of the city; but they will never get into the bottom of the bottomless pit. Who will go there and become angels of perdition and suffer the wrath of an offended God? Those who sin against the Holy Ghost. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 7: 144.)

DC 76:84 These are they who are thrust down to hell

“Just as paradise is not the eternal abode of the righteous, hell in the spirit world is not the eternal abode of the wicked… Hell in the spirit world will end when all people have been resurrected. Because of the atonement of Christ, there is an eventual release. (See 2 Ne. 9:6–12.) Those who remain “filthy still” (the sons of perdition) will remain in hell, but it will be a place separate from the hell of the spirit world…

“In short, the spirit world is the temporary home of the spirits of all mankind, be they good or evil. Thus Joseph Smith could declare that “the righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.” (Teachings, p. 310.) (Dale C. Mouritsen, “The Spirit World, Our Next Home,” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 49)

DC 76:86-88 the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them

One popular notion is that celestial beings will be able to visit friends in the other kingdoms but those of a lower kingdom cannot visit a higher one. This notion, while popular, is not entirely scriptural. This passage tells us that those of a celestial glory will not minister to the telestial kingdom, for they receive their ministrations through the terrestrial. Furthermore, celestial beings may not be able to visit even the terrestrial at their own will, for it appears that these ministrations are limited to those “angels who are appointed to minister for them.” Perhaps, the Lord will call friends, family members, and close associates to be the ministers for those of a lower kingdom, but if you have not been appointed to visit a lower kingdom, you may not be able to go there. This is just one more reason to get all our friends and family in the celestial kingdom.

DC 76:89 the glory of the telestial…surpasses all understanding

“Many of us have heard the statement made—and ascribed to either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young—to the effect that if a person could see the glory of the telestial kingdom he would commit suicide to get there. If only we could get the fundamental doctrines across to Church members as rapidly as we get across rumors, everyone would be saved. Am I saying that’s a rumor? Well, I am saying this, that over a period of many years I have combed everything Joseph Smith said and wrote, and I can’t find it. Hugh Nibley has done the same with Brigham Young’s words, and he can’t find it. It is hard to prove a negative, of course. What I can say is that we have found a statement from Joseph via Wilford Woodruff that says something else that is close, and I suspect it is the origin of the alleged statement (see Diary of Charles C. Walker, August 1837, in Church Historical Department).” (Truman G. Madsen, The Radiant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], chap. 8)

“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.)” (Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], footnote 29, chapter 27, p. 307-308)

DC 76:90 no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it

The glory of the telestial kingdom is said to surpass all understanding. This is one of the Lord’s secrets—one of the mysteries of godliness. Ask the average, non-religious individual to describe what would be heaven to him.  He might describe a place of great beauty, perhaps a tropical paradise, in which he is relieved from all the troubles of this world. Does he expect to be a god, a king, or a priest unto the Most High? No. Does he expect to live in the presence of Jesus? No. He just wants to live in some place that is better than this world? Is he going to get what he wants? Absolutely. He will be pleased, or even thrilled, to inherit the telestial kingdom! He won’t think of it as a punishment, but as a great reward. To him it will be heaven—beyond his wildest imagination. Without a revelation from God, he could never have imagined such a wonderful place.

What then is the great secret? The secret is that the final destination of all except the sons of perdition is heaven. There are three heavens and the first one, the telestial, is a great place to go. This doctrine “still eludes some of the Saints…All humanity is saved from sin, death, and hell at the resurrection—except the sons of perdition. All human beings are eventually redeemed from the custody and power of the devil—except the sons of perdition. What a glorious doctrine!” (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:299)

Brigham Young

Many of those who, through ignorance, through tradition, superstition, and the erroneous precepts of the fathers, do not receive them, will yet inherit a good and glorious kingdom, and will enjoy more and receive more than ever entered into the heart of man to conceive, unless he has had a revelation. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 8: 36.)

Neal A. Maxwell

The blessings of our Heavenly Father to all of us are surely those of a very generous God. Even the much lesser telestial kingdom will be a place “which surpasses all understanding” (D&C 76:89D&C 76:89). God is quick to give us large blessings for our small obedience! (One More Strain of Praise [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 111 – 112.)

DC 76:96-98 the glory of the celestial is one…and the glory of the terrestrial is one…and the glory of the telestial is one

Joseph Fielding Smith

When a person rises in the resurrection, his body will be perfect but that does not mean that he will be perfect in faith. There will be different kinds of bodies in the resurrection—celestial, terrestrial, and telestial—and they will not be alike any more than whites, browns, and blacks are alike in this life. Every man will receive according to his works.

Bodies will come up, of course, as they were laid down, but will be restored to their proper, perfect frame immediately. Old people will not look old when they come forth from the grave. Scars will be removed. No one will be bent or wrinkled. How foolish it would be for a man to come forth in the resurrection who had lost a leg and have to wait for it to grow again. Each body will come forth with its perfect frame. If there has been some deformity or physical impairment in this life, it will be removed.

The Lord is not impotent to heal and restore the dead to their perfect frame in the resurrection. If the Savior could restore withered hands, eyes that had never had sight, crooked bodies, in this mortal life, surely the Father will not permit bodies that are not physically perfect to come forth in the resurrection. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 292.)

DC 76:98 as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another…

One of the great lessons of this vision is that the Lord has prepared more than two rewards for his children. There is more than just heaven and hell. But if everyone in every kingdom had exactly the same glory and reward, how is that any better? If we can’t put all God’s children into just two categories, how can we put them into four?

The point is that four destinies is not much better than two unless there can be a difference in glory within those four kingdoms. Then is the justice of God complete. One star differs from another in glory because not all in the telestial kingdom deserve the same reward. Some were better than others.

What about the other kingdoms? Are there differences in glory there? We know there are three degrees of glory within the celestial kingdom (DC 131:1-4). However, we know nothing of different degrees of glory in the terrestrial kingdom, but we can assume that the same principle applies. Herein is the great justice of our God. The Lord has prepared as many different rewards as there are different degrees of righteousness—otherwise the justice of God would be destroyed.

DC 76:99-101 these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas

In 1 Corinthians, Paul responds to reports he has heard that the saints are divided. Apparently, great contentions flourished and factions had developed within the church. Some of the Corinthian saints had been converted by Paul, some by Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew and an eloquent speaker who had much success among the Jews in Corinth (Acts 18:24-28), and some by Cephas or Peter, who had apparently traveled there with his wife (1 Cor 9:5). Elder Neal A. Maxwell noted:  “Paul actually grieved because some members of the Church of Jesus Christ in the meridian of time wrongly thought of themselves as being Paul’s or Peter’s or some other’s converts. (See 1 Cor. 1:12–13.) True Christians, then and now, are converts to Christ and should not be known by the name of even his most devoted follower.” (“Our Acceptance of Christ,” Ensign, June 1984, 70)

Why would the Lord refer to these individuals as inheriting the telestial kingdom?  The implications of this are rather frightening. Paul had referred to these Corinthians as “saints” and as those “called unto the fellowship of his Son” (1 Cor. 1:2,9). They were members of the church, who without repentance, could expect to receive no more than a telestial glory. They had received baptism, the key to entrance into the celestial kingdom, but that ordinance would not be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise because of their contention and strife. This is a frightening reminder to church members of all dispensations that “unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (DC 82:3). They were members of the church who “received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant” (v. 101). Is it possible to be a Mormon and still reject all these? The Lord has warned, “O ye my people…ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings.” (D&C 41:1)

While we might imagine less faithful members of the church inheriting a terrestrial glory, this passage indicates that their destiny is the telestial kingdom. Indeed, these are those who appear religious, but in their hearts, they reject the Lord.

“There are some telestial persons in the LDS Church and in other Christian churches who do not really have testimonies of the fulness of the gospel or even of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, though they would appear to. In reality, these persons are followers of men and believe in the teachings of men. They strive to turn the Church to the prevailing views of Babylon. Such persons merely use the church membership as a mask while they pursue their own individual ends in the service of a different master. The poetic version of the vision says of them, ‘They went their own way, and they have their reward,’ and ‘In darkness they worshipp’d; to darkness they go.’” (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:325)

Bruce R. McConkie

It matters not that people simply say they believe in Christ or think they are followers of Moses, Peter, Paul, or any of the ancients. What counts is the reality. If they truly believe in Christ and correctly understand the revealed word that has come down from them of old, they will believe the restored gospel, gain the testimony of Jesus by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and abide in the everlasting covenant. (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 24.)

DC 76:103 liars… and whosoever loves and makes a lie

Gene R. Cook

The Lord told us that in the telestial kingdom, the lowest of the three kingdoms of glory, will be found the murderers, the adulterers, and the liars. Lying is that serious! We may temporarily deceive our fellowman, but we will never deceive the Lord. We will suffer agony and misery until the truth is finally known. However smart, educated, or talented you may be, you cannot fool the Lord. (“Worthy to Serve,” New Era, May 1994, 6)

DC 76:103 adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosever loves and makes a lie

The First Presidency

The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. Each has fallen under His solemn and awful condemnation.

You youths of Zion, you cannot associate in non-marital, illicit sex relationships, which is fornication, and escape the punishments and the judgments which the Lord has declared against this sin. The day of reckoning will come just as certainly as night follows day. They who would palliate this crime and say that such indulgence is but a sinless gratification of a normal desire, like appeasing hunger and thirst, speak filthiness with their lips. Their counsel leads to destruction; their wisdom comes from the Father of Lies.

You husbands and wives who have taken on solemn obligations of chastity in the holy temples of the Lord and who violate those sacred vows by illicit sexual relations with others, you not only commit the vile and loathsome sin of adultery, but you break the oath you yourselves made with the Lord Himself before you went to the altar for your sealing. You become subject to the penalties which the Lord has prescribed for those who breach their covenants with Him.

Of the harlots and those who visit them, God speaks in terms of divine contempt. They are they who have bargained away an eternity of bliss for the momentary pleasures of the flesh.

The Lord will have only a clean people. He has said, “I, the Lord, will contend with Zion, and plead with her strong ones, and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me.” (“D&C 90:36D&C 90:36.)

But they who sin may repent, and, they repenting, God will forgive them, for the Lord has said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (“D&C 58:42D&C 58:42.)

By virtue of the authority in us vested as the First Presidency of the Church, we warn our people who are offending, of the degradation, the wickedness, the punishment that attend upon unchastity; we urge you to remember the blessings which flow from the living of the clean life; we call upon you to keep, day in and day out, the way of the strictest chastity, through which only can God’s choice gifts come to you and His Spirit abide with you. (Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 6: 177, HEBER J. GRANT, J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency.)

DC 76:106 These…suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times

Joseph Fielding Smith

It will be impossible for the people of this class to remain on the earth during the millennium, for they would be as much out of their element as a fish out of water. The changed condition of the earth, which will be a terrestrial order during this thousand years, will be suited to the capacity of those of the terrestrial world as well as those who have kept the celestial law; and they will have part in the first resurrection.

But with those of the telestial order, this will not be so. These are they who are as stubble, who will be consumed when Christ comes. They will know that Christ has come and that on the earth he reigns in peace and righteousness. They will know that they have lost all of this because of their wickedness; and during the thousand years they will be in torment with their sins, looking forward to the final judgment with fear and trembling.

Yet their punishment will be for their good. The Lord will not punish them merely because he is angry and delights in their suffering. Their suffering must be met, for they will have denied the mercies of Jesus Christ and therefore must suffer, even as he suffered for the sins of the world, for his suffering will not cleanse them. It will be a punishment of cleansing; and when they have paid the price—and it will be a most dreadful, painful ordeal—then will they be prepared to receive such blessings as the Lord, in his great mercy, is prepared to give to them. That is, they must learn to serve him and be obedient to his laws, such as they are worthy to receive. Those who receive punishment in this manner will constitute a countless multitude. And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end, 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. (Seek Ye Earnestly [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970], 90-91.)

DC 76:111 every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion

Marion G. Romney

How blessed are Latter–day Saints to be assured by the revealed word of God that there will be no capriciousness in the world to come; that the rule of law is irrevocable; that every soul will be rewarded according to the law he has obeyed; that all divine law is as immutable as the law of gravity; that it is the same yesterday, today, and forever; that judgment will be mercifully administered, but that it will be administered pursuant to law, and that it will not rob justice. Not only are Latter-day Saints blessed by having this knowledge concerning “the rule of law”; they are twice blessed by having both a knowledge and an understanding of the laws by which they are to be judged.

In light of our knowledge of “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25), how shortsighted, how foolish, how tragic it would be if we were to fail to obey that law. (“The Rule of Law,” Ensign, Feb. 1973, 2)

Orson F. Whitney

Thirty years ago I was crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner. I was a first cabin passenger, and besides myself there were forty or fifty others in that part of the vessel. The second cabin had about twice as many passengers, and in the steerage were several hundred more. I found that the first cabin berths—secured by a fortunate few—were not only the best furnished, but the most favorably situated for comfort, convenience, and safety. The food was of the choicest, every possible courtesy was shown to the passengers, and they had the full freedom of the ship. They might go down into the second cabin, or lower down, into the steerage, at will, and return without hindrance or question. They had paid for these privileges, and were therefore entitled to them. The captain and other officers were their associates.

It was different in the second cabin. There the food was not so good, the berths were not so comfortable, and the privileges were fewer. The passengers there might descend into the steerage, but were not permitted upon the upper deck. In the steerage, conditions were even less favorable. The food was still poorer, and the restrictions yet more rigid. The occupants of that section were not allowed even in the second cabin. Having paid only for steerage accommodations, these were all they could consistently claim.

Viewing the situation, I said to myself, What a striking analogy of the final destiny of the human race, as set forth in the revelations of God! All men rewarded according to their works, and saved according to their merits in the eternal mansions of the Father! And I then and there resolved anew that I would be a first cabin passenger on the good ship Zion, over the ocean of life, into the haven of celestial glory. (Gospel Themes [Salt Lake City: n.p., 1914], 43.)

DC 76:112 they shall be servants of the Most High

Telestial souls are considered “servants of the Most High.” For latter-day saints, just being a servant of God is not good enough. To receive the inheritance desired, we must be a son or daughter of Christ. This is why Paul said, “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Gal 4:7) “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom 8:14,17)

DC 76:112 where God and Christ dwell they cannot come

Melvin J. Ballard

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 and 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. (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], 255.)

DC 76:114-115 great and marvelous are the works of the Lord…Which he commanded us we should not write

M. Russell Ballard

What a wondrous experience for the Prophet Joseph and Sidney. For more than an hour, the Lord showed them our premortal life, earth life, and life after death. As a result of that revelation, mankind’s understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness and peace was expanded and enhanced to a remarkable degree. Of course, it should be noted that Joseph was instructed not to record everything that he saw in vision. The Saints at the time were not prepared to receive all of the new information that he was given. But as we look at the Prophet’s later teachings, we see what appear to be bits and pieces of this great revelation being taught—here a little and there a little—as the Saints grew in their spiritual understanding. (“Marvelous Are the Revelations of the Lord,” Ensign, May 1998, 32)

Glenn L. Pace

The last verses of section 76 are some of the greatest scriptural beckonings to a higher spiritual plateau in holy writ. Unfortunately, in many of our gospel discussions we never reach the end of that section. One reason may be that too often we get into a debate as to whether or not one can progress from one degree of glory to the other. We also tend to think up every hypothetical situation possible and argue over to which degree of glory each person would be assigned. In other words, we delve into the speculative mysteries—and while thus engaged, we don’t catch the vision of supernal truth available to us if we are willing to pay the price.

After disclosing the vision of the Father and the Son, the three degrees of glory, and many other beautiful truths that had previously been mysteries to all mankind, Joseph Smith concluded the revelation as follows: “Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter.” (D&C 76:114-15.)

The Prophet almost seems to be teasing us by saying, in effect, “If you think what we’ve written is exciting, you should have seen what else we saw, but we can’t tell you.” (Spiritual Plateaus [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 126.)

Joseph Smith

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. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 305)

2009

Brandon Washington, Outstanding Black Pastor and Theology Student at Denve Seminary

Eternity, Life After Death – pt. 3 of 4 © 2009 The Lamppost

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:1-4

For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee…” – 2nd Corinthians 5:1-5

 

Recapitulation

In Essay #1 we addressed the Old Testament understanding of death and the afterlife. We concluded that sheol and hades are one and the same and they were the place of all departed souls. The body abided in the grave while the spirit abided in sheol/hades and the two await the resurrection where they will be reunited. This was the case for both believers and non-believers. The place of departed souls was divided into to compartments. Believers entered the paradise compartment (a.k.a. Abraham’s bosom)I and non-believers entered the torment compartment (a.k.a. tartarus).II There was a momentous change to this practice after the crucifixion of Christ. After he died on the cross Christ declared condemnation to those in the tartarus compartment of hades.III Essentially, He told them of His work on the cross and because they were not recipients of His salvific labor, they would be condemned to eternal judgement in the Lake of Fire (hell).IV He then turned to those in “Abraham’s bosom” and he ushered them into heaven.V For this reason, it is no longer true that the souls of both believers and non-believers abide in hades. Today, only non-believers occupy hades.1 For Christians, to “be away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord.” Christ’s death is a model for all believers to appreciate. When we die, we do not simply reach a moment of cessation, instead we experience an exit. Luke 9:31 refers to Jesus’ death as a “departure.” The Greek word for departure is exodus, from which we get our English word exit.2 The Bibles understanding of death assumes a change in location, not a change in consciousness. We are simply transferred from our bodies into a state of bliss and communion with our God.

If all Christians go to heaven, then one must wonder what heaven is like. Is it a place or is it a state of mind? Will we know one anther there or will we experience a revised consciousness. While the Bible does not give exhaustive information on heaven,3 it does give us enough insight to gather an appreciation of the eternal state. We can know in part what the heavenly experience will be like and we can take joy in the fact that heaven will far exceed our expectations.

The Homecoming Party

The idea of dying well is usually a peculiar concept for us. Ironically, if we had an appreciation for what awaits us, we would stumble over the idea of dying poorly because we would know that loving communion with God should be craved, not feared. The apostle Paul had just such an understanding when he said, “I am hard pressed between the two *life and death+. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” He had an appreciation for the bliss that is intrinsic to Christ’s presence. He could not wait until his death because it would allow him to commune with the Master. He was not suicidal, he was anxious. He was an excited child who restlessly anticipated the grand party that would allow him the privilege of unwrapping his gift and he knew that the party began at the moment of death. If Luke 16:22 is any indication, angels will be dispatched to us and fulfill the role of ushers. They will escort us to our heavenly destination, where we will experience the face of Christ. Or maybe Acts 7:55 is an accurate portrayal of our future experience. Christ may stand up from His throne and welcome us into His kingdom firsthand.4 Whatever the experience, there is one thing that the Bible is clear on; the first objective of the departed is to experience the face of Christ. This experience is known as the beatific vision. We have been given an innate desire to get a glimpse of God. We desire to know and commune with Him. This was Moses’ sentiment when he presented his request to God, “Please show me your glory.”VI During the last supper the disciples of Christ expressed this same sentiment. Philip requested of Christ, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”VII This request on behalf of Philip was probably the result of not fully appreciating the supremacy of Christ. His human cloak was interfering with a true appreciation of His magnificence so it allowed for an undervaluing of His person. He responded to this offence by saying,

Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?

Essentially, He was telling them that He and the Father are of the same essence and to see one is to have an understanding of the other. The disciples will not make this mistake in heaven because the Jesus that we will see then will be in His full majesty. He will not have the appearance of the broken and battered victim that we inappropriately identify with the cross. He will be the unmistakable King of the universe and those who see Him will be blessed with the overwhelming desire to give worship and praise. Jesus Himself identified this moment as a blessed occasion.

 

The Beatific Vision

The beatific vision refers to the first hand, unhindered gaze at God. In Matthew 5:8 Jesus says of the beatific vision, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In contrast to hell, heaven is the place where there is no wall between God and man. His presence is the very definition of eternal rest. Philosopher Mortimer Adler says, “…heaven is the presence of God,5 where the souls of the blessed enjoy the beatific vision.”VIII On the day of our death believers are welcomed into heaven and embraced by Jesus. Theologian R.C. Sproul gives the greatest summery I have ever read when he says,

The beatific vision is so called because it is the promise of the vision of God that carries with it the ultimate blessedness of the human soul. The highest benediction of Israel was, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). John promises us that though mystery attends much of what lies before us in heaven, of this much we can be sure: that “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1st John 3:2). This promise assures us that in heaven God will display Himself to us in a way that will go beyond a theophany (an external manifestation of God’s glory such as the burning bush). The vision will transcend that of a burning bush or a pillar of cloud. We will see more than an outward representation or a reflected image. We will see Him “as He is.” We will peer, somehow, into His very essence. Then there will be no need for skin.IX

 

What Will We Be Like?

There are many ideas concerning man’s nature in heaven. I once had a conversation with a very dear friend who had been told by a young pastor that when we get to heaven we will have no memory of our time on earth and we won’t recognize one another. He said we would all be brilliant bodies of light, identical in every way. There will be no distinction of personalities and we will have no interaction with one another. She was grieved by this teaching because when we were very young her brother had died and she was looking forward to seeing him again in heaven. She came to me and told me what the pastor had told her and she pleaded with me to tell her that he was wrong. It brought me great pleasure to tell her that he was horribly mistaken. There is a one to one correlation between who we are now, and who we will be then. Erwin Lutzer says, “Heaven is the earthly life of the believer glorified and perfected.”X In other words, the life, senses, memories, and understanding that we experience in heaven will be the same as those experienced on earth, but we will not have the presence or the consequences of sin. What does that look like?

Perfection

The inherent perfection of man in heaven is the most misunderstood aspects of our departure. We sometimes misunderstand perfect to mean infinite. John MacArthur says this mistake is driven by man’s difficulty in “envisioning anything truly perfect. Everything in our earthly experience is flawed, imperfect.”XI Since we can understand the concept of perfection but still have difficulty imagining what it will look like, we assume that we will be like the Perfect Being. This is a mistake because God is perfect in the sense that he possesses all possible perfections (we will address this in more detail when we consider communicable and incommunicable attributes) and He possesses them perfectly. In other words, God possesses every good conceivable attribute (i.e. power, knowledge, holiness) and he possesses them perfectly, to the greatest degree. This is not the case for man. For us, perfection in heaven refers to the removal of sin and its consequences and we will have the opportunity to learn endlessly and unhindered and achieve perfect understanding. The perfection that we will experience is one in which “sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”XII The universe will no longer “groan”XIII because the assaults of sin will be removed.

There will be another sense of perfection that we will experience in heaven. We will achieve glorification. From the moment of our rebirth (conversion) God began the process of causing us to be like Christ. Paul said, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”XIV He has already begun this work and he will complete it on the day of our departure. It is for this reason John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”XV John is referring to Christ’s current state of glorification. We will receive a body like His and it will allow us to behold Him. Jesus is the perfect example of sanctification. MacArthur says, “He *God+ is not merely making us better than we are; He is conforming us to the image of His Son.”XVI He is making us the perfect disciples. “Heaven is the perfect place for people made perfect. Perfection is the goal of God’s sanctifying work in us.”XVII

 

Our Knowledge Of Relationships Will Continue

In Luke 16 we reviewed Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man. In it we find that after the rich man died he made reference to his earthly “father’s house.”XVIII He also pleaded for mercy on behalf of his “five brothers.”XIX This evidences the fact that the memories of his earthly family have not been lost in death. And such is the case for all information that we have gathered here in time. Lutzer says,

Death does not change what we know; our personalities will just go on with the same information we have stored in our minds today. Think back to your background: your parents, brothers, sisters, family reunions. Of course, you will remember all of this and more in heaven. Do you actually think that you might know less in heaven than you do on earth? Unthinkable!”XX

I wholeheartedly concur with Lutzer’s point. The pastor who told my friend that she would never see her brother again was making one of two mistakes. He was either speaking without studying Luke 16, or he was affording a privilege to the condemned rich man that will not be afforded to blessed believers. This is inconceivable! In fact, in the absence of sin we will know one another better than we do now! There will be no shameful desire or thoughts that we feel compelled to hide so we will have conversations that are absolutely open. In addition to that, the noetic effects of sin7 will be removed when we are glorified so we will have the ability to understand everything perfectly. We will not be omniscient because to be all-knowing is an attribute that can only be possessed by God, but we will have perfect understanding of that which we do know and we will be in a perpetual state of education. We will be in a constant state of perfect learning. This means that the fellowship in heaven will be so remarkable that the interaction that we experience now will pale in comparison.

Our Emotions Continue

We will not be emotionless automatons in heaven. The affection that we experience here will carry over into heaven but they will not be hindered by sin. We will experience a sincere joy that will be selfless and driven by perfection. Just as the knowledge of the relationships continues, the affection for loved ones continues as well. The rich man selflessly, probably for the first time in his life, requested that Abraham save his five bothers from the torment of tartarus. He did so because his love of his brothers followed him into eternity. This is an important thing for us to note because it gives us insight into the thoughts of our departed loved ones. They think about us, they love us and they look forward to seeing us again. Lutzer says,

Of course, dear widow, you husband who is in heaven continues to love you as he did on earth. Today he loves you with a fonder, sweeter, purer love. It is a love purified by God. Your child loves you; so does your mother and father.8 There is no more a break in love than there is in continuity of thought. Death breaks ties on earth but renews them in heaven.XXI

Our Personal Crafts Will Continue

There is much emphasis on the “rest” that we will experience in heaven. Our common understanding of rest is often interpreted to mean that we will experience no activity. This is a flawed view. We are still bearers of God’s image so there are certain behaviors that will persist after we enter eternity. To appreciate this we must review our understanding of the Imago Dei (image of God). Man has the unique privilege of being the Imago Dei; no other animal bears God’s image. According to Wayne Grudem, “The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God”XXII (emphasis mine). When Genesis 1:26 says, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness…” it reveals God’s plan to make a creature similar to himself. “Both the Hebrew word for ‘image’ (tselem) and the Hebrew word for ‘likeness’ (demût) refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an ‘image’ of.”XXIII Man is thereby distinguished from all other inhabitants of this world, and raised immeasurably above them. “He belongs to the same order of being as God Himself, and is therefore capable of communion with his Maker.”XXIV This may seem to be a haughty statement, but further evaluation will give clarity.

God’s attributes can be classified into two categories. Some are incommunicable.XXV These are the attributes that God cannot impute to someone else. Examples of these would be His eternality (God has always existed, but we have not), His immutability (God is unchanging, but we are not), and His omnipotence (God is all-powerful, but we are not). Other attributes can be categorized as communicable.XXVI These are attributes that God imputes to us. Examples of these would be love (God is love and we are capabl e of loving), knowledge (God is knowledgeable, and we can posses knowledge), and mercy (God is merciful and we are able to extend mercy). This is significant because it gives insight into what it means to be created in the image of God. In a nutshell, Man is created in the image of God in that he is able to posses, and display, the communicable attributes of God.XXVII

God did not give us these communicable attributes just to have them die once we enter eternity. We will display them in heaven because we are made to exhibit the image of God. This display will be perfect (sinless) in heaven. In heaven we will be all that we were made to be. This means that we will be busy displaying mercy, love, and artistry.9 We will be philosophers and scientists and we will not have sin to interfere with these practices. Lutzer says,

The artist will do art as never before, the scientist just might be invited to continue his exploration of God’s magnificent creation. The musician will do music, all of us will continue to learn. We are, says Maclaren, saplings here, but we shall be transported into our heavenly soil to grow in God’s light. Here our abilities are in blossom; there they shall burst forth with fruits of greater beauty.XXVIII

 

The Resurrection (Our Glorified Bodies)

Earlier we addressed the perfection of man in heaven. The perfecting process is not complete until our souls are reunited with our bodies in the resurrection. MacArthur said, “God made man body and soul – we consist of an inner man and an outer man (Gen. 2:7). Therefore our ultimate perfection demands that both body and soul be renewed.”XXIX Heaven, like earth, appears to have physical qualities.10 As we discussed in week one, upon death the body of the believer goes to the grave and the spirit goes to the Lord. Jesus spoke of the moment when the body and soul would be reunited when He said, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”XXX

The first thing we need to note is that our resurrection bodies are our earthly bodies, glorified. The body that we receive in the resurrection will have the same nature as that of Christ. 1st John 3:2 says, “…we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him…” This is important because His resurrection body was the same as His earthly body. He had a bodily resurrection. After He arose the tomb was empty. MacArthur says,

The body itself was resurrected – the very same body, but in a glorified state. The wounds from His crucifixion were still visible (John 20:27). He could be touched and handled – He was not merely an apparition or phantom (Luke 24:39). He looked human in every regard…He ate real earthly food (Luke 24:42-43). Yet his body also had other-worldly properties. He could pass through solid walls (John 20:19). He could appear in different forms so His identity was not immediately obvious (Mark 16:12). He could suddenly appear out of nowhere (Luke 24:36). And He could ascend directly into heaven in bodily form (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9).XXXI

This is descriptive of our future bodies. They will be the same as our current bodies but they will receive evident glorification. The apostle Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”XXXII 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17 says,

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

In this passage Paul says that believers who are dead will be united with perfected bodies, then those who are still alive will be caught up (raptured) and instantly “changed” – glorified. The important point is that both the living and the dead will have their old bodies made new and glorified. The apostle Paul assumes this understanding of glorification when he gives an illustration of the resurrection. He says,

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.XXXIII

Commenting on this illustration, MacArthur says, “The process of fermentation and decomposition is what triggers the new life. Similarly our bodies will die, be placed in a grave, and then be raised, just as the seed dies and produces a plant that is far more glorious than the seed.”XXXIV

 

Perfect Communion With God

Perfect sanctification will inevitably result in one thing, perfect communion with God. For the first time in our existence we will understand what it was like for Adam and Eve to commune with God in the Garden. There will be no sin or shame to shield us from Him. He will look on us and smile and we will look on Him and praise. 2nd Thessalonians describes hell as the place of eternal separation from God. Contrastingly, John identifies heaven as the place of eternal communion with God. He says, “…indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”XXXV We can get a glimpse of this today when we pray, study His word, worship and praise Him, but great as these things are, they fall woefully short of the heavenly experience. We will call Him Abba (Daddy) and He will speak to us face to face and share His person with us. He will adore us for who we are, and we will praise Him for who He is. Revelation 21:22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” This is important because it speaks to the type of access we will have. There are two assumptions that can be drawn from John’s statement. First, there is no place in heaven that is void of God. Our earthly experience treats the Church as the voice and embassy of heaven. The Universal Church is the voice and body of Christ. Heaven will have no need for an embassy because we will have firsthand access to the homeland. It is remarkably inundated with God’s presence and all sights are explicit declarations His holiness! Albert Barnes says,

They [The Father and The Son] are present in all parts of it in their glory; they fill it with light; and the splendor of their presence may be said to be the temple. The idea here is that it would be a holy world – all holy. No particular portion would be set apart for purposes of public worship, but in all places God would be adored, and every portion of it devoted to the purposes of religion.

The radiance of His glory will be without shadow and we will have unrestrained access to the God of our salvation. Because He is boundless, He will be able to entertain all of us at once and we will be in His presence at all times. The temple was the earthly place that represented the presence of God. In heaven, we will need no such place of representation because we will be able to go directly to God.

 

Eternal Rewards

Just as there will be varying degrees of torment in hell, there will be varying degrees of reward in heaven. I would be remiss if I did not mention the logical concern that comes to mind when it comes to varying rewards in heaven. Dr. Craig Blomberg, a brilliant New Testament scholar and esteemed theologian, presents and argument against this teaching. He concedes that there will be varying degrees of torment in hell. He says, “There does seem to be Scriptural support for the doctrine of degrees of punishment in hell, according to the extent of one’s conscience transgression of God’s laws (see esp. Luke 12:47-48; cf. Matt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; cf. also possibly Rom. 5:13)…”XXXVI In his view, the justice of God would require that God punish the most evil to a greater degree than others who are found in hell. He does not, however, concede that such a distinction will take place in heaven because we are all covered by the sacrificial work of Christ. That sacrifice has made all believers perfect and it is impossible to give varying degrees of reward to universal perfection. If both Deb and Andrea were made perfect by the work of Christ, then, according to Blomberg, it would be unjust to reward Andrea to a greater degree. Equality of perfection requires equality of reward. On this matter Blomberg says, “Grace, by definition, is not fair.” In other words, God has covered us with righteousness that will persist throughout eternity and the good or bad works of the believer will be irrelevant. There will be no “fair” distribution of rewards because the grace of God has declared us all perfect in spite of our works.

I can appreciate Blomberg’s view. I concede that in the matter of justification, all believers are made perfect. But in my estimation (and I am not alone) his view is not fully recognizing the fine distinction between justification and sanctification. For the believer, the moment that they come to Christ is commemorative because it nullifies the eternal consequences of all sin. We experience eternal justification in the eyes of God. This, however, is not the end of the process. We have the call to become surrendered, broken disciples (sanctification) and the commitment to good discipleship is what God will judge as it relates to believers. In other words, the pre-salvation works become irrelevant,11 they have no bearing on our eternal justification, but the post-salvation surrender is relevant because it will determine one’s heavenly reward. I want to be very intentional so there is no misunderstanding of my words. The believer is saved by grace alone, through faith alone (apart from works), but the believer is called to sanctification after having experienced the justification that God freely gives. Scholar Norman Geisler says, “We are not saved by works, but we are saved for good works.”XXXVII In other words, salvation is a gift that is freely given to those in Christ (justification), but God desire that we display evidence of the work that God has done within us (sanctification). Contrasting the Reformed understanding of the Gospel with that of the Roman Catholic Church will give some clarity. The Catholic Church adds works to the justification process, so their salvific formula would be:

 

FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION

We know that this is a flawed understanding of the gospel because the apostle Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”XXXVIII In other words it is in appropriate for works to be on the left side of the equation. But we know that works are important to God because the apostle James told us that “faith without works is dead.”XXXIX The reconciliation between Paul and James results in the following formula:

FAITH = SALVATION + WORKS

The works are the result of salvation, not the cause of it. While God does not require works prior to salvation, He desires works after salvation. And he will reward us for our work by giving us the appropriate reward in heaven.

Millard J. Erickson endorses this understanding when he says,

That there apparently will be degrees of reward is evident in, for example, the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27). Ten servants were each given one pound by their master. Eventually they returned differing amounts to him and were rewarded in proportion to their faithfulness. Supporting passages include Daniel 12:3 (“Those who are wise will shine like the righteousness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever”) and 1 Corinthians 3:14-15 (“If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames”).XL

Wayne Grudem addresses this matter as well when he says,

It is important to realize that this judgement [The Judgement Seat of Christ] of believers will be a judgement to evaluate and bestow various degrees of reward, but the fact that they will face such a judgement should never cause believers to fear that they will be eternally condemned. Jesus says, “He who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Here “judgement” 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 judgement more than at any other time, it is of utmost importance that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Thus the Day of Judgment can be portrayed as one in which believers are rewarded and unbelievers punished.XLI

I wholeheartedly concur with Grudem’s understanding. In Christ all are made perfect so the believer “does not come into judgement,” but he still stands before the judgement seat of Christ to give an account of his sanctification. Of believers, the apostle Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.XLII

The judgment is going to be a public gathering. All will be judged on the same occasion. It is for this reason that the departed spirits are waiting in heaven and tartarus. On the day of the resurrection we will be reunited to our bodies when believers will stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ and non-believers will stand before the Great White Throne of Judgement. At this moment, every work the non-believer has ever done since birth will be evaluated and they will receive the appropriate punishment. For believers, every work we have ever done from the moment of conversion (rebirth) will be reviewed and we will receive the appropriate reward. Being that God is the perfect judge, we can trust that our reward will be just and in accordance with our sanctification. This will be a public hearing and everything that we have thought, done, or said will be publicly addressed. The apostle Paul says,

I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.XLIII

In this passage, Paul is referring to himself so it would follow that this statement applies to all believers. Notice that he says that God will publicly review the works of believers and he will give them the appropriate “commendation.” This is an explicit reference to the judgement and appropriate reward of believers.

I need to make a final note concerning the nature of these rewards. We do not know how they will manifest. The word “crown” is often used but I believe that it is metaphorical, not literal. It may not be the case that we will have objective circumstances that declare our various rewards (i.e. more jewels or a larger mansion). In my estimation, the revelation we have concerning heaven does not reveal such blatant distinctions. Again I say that we will not know the nature of the various rewards until we get to heaven, but I have noticed a consistent speculation that comes from notable theologians. Millard Erickson says,

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? Thus all would engage in the same activity, for example, worship, but some would enjoy it much more than others…An analogy here is the varying degrees of pleasure different people derive from a concert. The same sound waves fall on everyone’s ears, but the reactions may range from boredom…to ecstasy. A similar situation may well hold with respect to the joys of heaven, although the range of reactions will presumably be narrower. No one will be aware of the differences in the range of enjoyment, and thus there will be no dimming of the perfection of heaven by regret over wasted opportunities.XLIV

While Erickson’s statement is speculative, it is not an unreasonable assumption. In this view, the universality of heaven will stand, but the appreciation of it will vary. XLV No one will be jealous of another’s bliss because they will never recognize the difference. I would make one revision to Erickson’s statement by mentioning that in heaven, we will have a perfect sense of justice so even if the rewards are objective and external, we would not be jealous. We would rejoice over the blessing of another. Sinful jealousy is an earthly trait not a heavenly one.

Theologian R.C. Sproul mentions something that I believe is essential to this point. He says,

There will be degrees of blessedness in heaven. Paul uses a metaphor of the stars of differing brilliance shining in the same heaven to describe this…however…*it is important to note that] all the stars will shine. That is to say, there is no unhappiness in heaven. All are blessed beyond our most insightful imaginations…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 the sake of Christ only.XLVI

Sproul’s point is two-fold. First, even though there will be varying degree of reward in heaven, it will still be heaven for everyone. The least rewarded person in heaven will still have the remarkable bliss of God’s presence and will be immeasurably more joyous than the least punished in hell. His second point is that our works do not make us better. God sovereignly decided to reward them because it gives Him the opportunity to display His justice even in heaven.

Bibliography And Notes

I Luke 16:19-31; English Standard Version (Many Bible translations mistranslate the word hades as “hell”).

II 2nd Peter 2:4-9; Modern King James Version (Many Bible translations mistranslate the word tartarus as “hell”).

III 1st Peter 3:18-19; English Standard Version

IV Revelation 20:14; English Standard Version

V Ephesians 4:8-10; English Standard Version

VI Exodus 33:18; English Standard Version

VII John 14:8; English Standard Version

VIII Mortimer J. Adler, Adler’s Philosophical Dictionary, (New York, NY: Scribner, 1995), pg. 106.

IX R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), pg. 282.

X Erwin W. Lutzer, One Minute After You Die, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1997), pg. 63.

XI John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1996), pg. 117.

XII Isaiah 35:10; English Standard Version

XIII Romans 8:22; English Standard Version

XIV Romans 8:29; English Standard Version

XV 1st John 3:2; English Standard Version

XVI John Macarthur, The Glory of Heaven, pg. 118.

XVII Ibid., pg. 118.

XVIII Luke 16:27; English Standard Version

XIX Luke 16:28; English Standard Version

XX Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die, pg. 63.

XXI Ibid., pg. 64.

XXII Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), pg. 442.

XXIII Ibid., pg. 442

XXIV Ibid.

XXV Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg. 156.

XXVI Ibid., pg. 156.

XXVII Hodge, C. 1997. Systematic Theology. Originally published 1872. Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

XXVIII Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die, pg. 67.

XXIX John Macarthur, The Glory of Heaven, pg. 129.

XXX John 5:28-29; English Standard Version

XXXI John Macarthur, The Glory of Heaven, pg. 130.

XXXII Philippians 3:21; English Standard Version

XXXIII 1st Corinthians 15:35-38; English Standard Version

XXXIV John Macarthur, The Glory of Heaven, pg. 132.

XXXV 1st John 1:3; English Standard Version

XXXVI Craig L. Blomberg, “Degrees of Reward in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 35, No. 2, (June 1992): pg. 161.

XXXVII Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology Vol. 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub., 2005), pg. 303.

XXXVIII Ephesians 2:8-9; English Standard Version

XXXIX James 2:17-20; English Standard Version

XL Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology 2nd edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), pg. 1241.

XLI Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), pg. 1144.

XLII 2nd Corinthians 5:10; English Standard Version

XLIII 1st Corinthians 4:5; English Standard Version

XLIV Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, pg. 1242.

XLV In addition to Erickson see Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology Vol. 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub., 2005), pg. 303. and J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), pgs. 447-459.

XLVI R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, pg. 280.

2009 (December)

John Tvedtnes

Three Degrees of Glory

 

Meridian Magazine Website

[Supplement to Gospel Doctrine New Testament lesson 34]

From the vision in D&C 76, Joseph Smith understood that there were three kingdoms of glory, called the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. In his revision of the Bible, he reworded 1 Corinthians 15:40 to reflect all three, noting that there were “also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, and bodies telestial; but the glory of the celestial, one; and the terrestrial, another; and the telestial, another” (JST 1 Corinthians 15:40).

Critics have contended that Paul had reference only to heavenly (celestial) and earthly (terrestrial) bodies and reject the concept of a “telestial” order, despite the fact that it reflects Greek etymology. 1 Joseph Smith’s interpretation of Paul’s discussion of the resurrection is identical to that of the second-century Christian theologian, Origen.

In order to understand his teachings on this subject, we must examine 1 Corinthians 15:39-44:

All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

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. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 2

Of this passage, Origen (A.D. 185-232) wrote that “certain beings are said to be super-celestial, i.e., placed in happier abodes, and clothed with heavenly and resplendent bodies; and among these many distinctions are shown to exist, the apostle, e.g., saying, ‘That one is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory’” ( De Principiis 2.9.3). 3 After citing 1 Corinthians 15:39-42, he declared:

Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, ‘One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars.’ And wishing again to teach us the differences among those who shall come to the resurrection, without having purged themselves in this life, i.e., sinners, he borrowed an illustration from earthly things, saying, ‘There is one flesh of birds, another of fishes.’ For heavenly things are worthily compared to the saints, and earthly things to sinners. These statements are made in reply to those who deny the resurrection of the dead, i.e., the resurrection of our bodies. (De Principiis 2.10.2) 4

Clement of Alexandria (died A.D. 217), referring to Paul’s comment about differing glories in 1 Corinthians 15:41, compared three priesthood offices to the glory found in the resurrection: “Since, according to my opinion, the grades here in the Church, of bishops, presbyters, deacons, are imitations of the angelic glory, and of that economy which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who, following the footsteps of the apostles, have lived in perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel. For these taken up in the clouds, the apostle writes, will first minister [as deacons], then be classed in the presbyterate, 5 by promotion in glory (for glory differs from glory) till they grow into a ‘perfect man’” ( Stromata 6.13). 6

Tertullian (ca. A.D. 160-230), commenting on Paul’s description of the three glories, noted that there are different levels of reward that God will give to men. He wrote:

Or how will there be many mansions in our Father’s house, 7 if not to accord with a diversity of deserts? 8 How will one star also differ from another star in glory, unless in virtue of disparity in their rays? But further, if, on that account, some increase of brightness also was appropriate to loftiness of faith, that gain ought to have been of some such sort as would cost great effort, poignant suffering, torture, death. (Scorpiace 8) 9

John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) had a similar understanding of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15. After discussing verses 38-41, he wrote, “And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, ‘There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon.’ For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God’s kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment. Wherefore he added, Vers. 42. ‘So also is the resurrection of the dead’” (Homilies on First Corinthians 41). 10

The fourth-century A.D. Christian historian Eusebius also commented on 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, comparing the three levels (sun, moon, stars) to the three members of the Godhead, ranking them in that order (Preparation for the Gospel 7:15). 11 His analysis reminds us that D&C 76 indicates that those who are worthy of the celestial kingdom enjoy the presence of the Father, while those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom receive the presence of the Son but not the Father and those who are assigned to the telestial kingdom have neither the Father nor the Son, but the Holy Ghost only (see verses 62, 77, and 86).

The Three “Heavens”

The apostle Paul is our only biblical source for the existence of three heavens. In 2 Corinthians 12:2, he referred to being taken to the third heaven. Commenting on this passage, Joseph Smith said:

Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder — the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter. 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 (History of the Church 5:402).

A medieval Jewish text, Zohar Exodus 30b, also compares the different heavens to “rungs of a ladder.” 12Zohar Numbers 159a-b notes that God is enshrouded in three worlds, 13 then adds:

Similarly man has three worlds. The first is the one which is called “the world of separation,” in which man both is and is not; as we look at him he departs and vanishes. The second is the world which is linked with the higher world, being the terrestrial Garden of Eden, while the third is a hidden recondite and unknowable world. Now the first world is a stepping-stone to the others, and did not man sin he would not have a taste of death when he is about to enter those other worlds and when the spirit is divested of the body.” 14

The fourth-century bishop St. Basil asked, “Are there two heavens?” then went on to write, “As for myself, far from not believing in a second, I seek for the third whereon the blessed Paul was found worthy to gaze [2 Corinthians 12:2]. And does not the Psalmist in saying ‘heaven of heavens’ [Psalm 147:4] give us an idea of their plurality?” (Hexaemeron 3.3). 15 In another of his works, he wrote,

For who is so ignorant of the good things prepared by God for them that are worthy, as not to know that the crown of the righteous is the grace of the Spirit, bestowed in more abundant and perfect measure in that day, when spiritual glory shall be distributed to each in proportion as he shall have nobly played the man? For among the glories of the saints are “many mansions” in the Father’s house, that is differences of dignities: for as “star differeth from star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead.”

They, then, that were sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption, and preserve pure and undiminished the first fruits which they received of the Spirit, are they that shall hear the words “well done thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” (On the Spirit , xvi [40], citing John 14:2, 1 Corinthians 15:41-42, and Matthew 25:21) 16

The Syriac version of Apocalypse of Paul 11 indicates that Paul was carried by the spirit to the third heaven; the Greek versions says simply that he was carried to heaven. His visit to the third heaven is mentioned in Apocalypse of Paul 3, and his visit to the second and third heavens is in Apocalypse of Paul 21. 17 Sedrach, too, is said to have been taken by an angel to the third heaven to appear before God (Apocalypse of Sedrach 2:1-5). 18

A medieval Gaelic (Irish) text has God telling the angel Michael 19 “‘Do not be remiss in taking great care of the soul of Adam, which has placed itself here in Paradise. Take with the hosts the bright pure soul of noble Adam, and place it in the peaceful gathering in the third royal section of Paradise.’ God said: In tertio caelo [“the third heaven”], which is called Ficconicia, there let him be, without sign of pain, until the time of the resurrection” (Death of Adam 44-46).20The Apocalypse of Moses also places Paradise in the third heaven (The Apocalypse of Moses 37:5; 40:1). 21

The Christian Arabic Book of the Rolls f.91b acknowledges the existence of three heavens and notes that the top two are full of light and fire, making it impossible for mortals to look on them. 22 This parallels Joseph Smith’s observation that these are kingdoms of “glory,” differing in glory as the sun, moon, and stars differed (D&C 76; cf. 88:29-32). He noted that even “the glory of the telestial world … surpasses all understanding” and that it is excelled in turn by the glory of the terrestrial and celestial worlds (D&C 76:91-92).

A Mandean text, The World of Light , mentions “the Lord of all the upper, middle, and lower worlds of Light.” 23 An early Gnostic Christian document known as Pistis Sophia describes Jesus’ ascent into the various heavens, called “the first sphere,” “the second sphere,” and “the aeons,” each of which is forty-nine times brighter than the previous level (Pistis Sophia I.12). 24 It further notes that, during his ascent, there were three different types of light that surrounded him. 25

Testament of Levi 2:8-10 has Levi being shown the three heavens and declaring that the second heaven was “much brighter and more lustrous” than the first and that the third was even “more lustrous and beyond compare.” 26 The lowest, he noted, was dark because it sees the wickedness of men on the earth ( Testament of Levi 3:1). This correlates well with the description of the telestial kingdom as the abode of the most sinful of human beings (D&C 76:98-106).

The Falasha or “Black Jews” of Ethiopia 27 have preserved ancient texts that provide support for the concept of three heavens likened to the sun, moon, and stars. One of these, 5 Baruch (borrowed from the Christian Ethiopians, who also have the book), speaks of three trumpet blasts by the archangel Michael, 28 at the third of which “all the dead will be resurrected in the twinkling of an eye. The glory of some of them will be greater than the sun, others will stand up in honor, still others in misery. Then the King of Heaven and Earth will come and will reward all men according to their deeds” 29

In the same text, an angel shows Baruch the heavenly Jerusalem, containing

a golden column on which was engraved an inscription in a thin writing (brighter) than the sun, the moon, and the stars of the sky. I asked him: “What is this golden column and what is this writing on it (that has) the likeness of the sun, the moon, and the shining stars?” He answered me: “The names of the just are written for eternal life on this golden column, where they wax not old or corrupt.” … Then he took me to the west. There I saw a column of fire on which was writing by a pen of fire. The writing was thin and compact [and the column of fire] was greater than the column of gold. I asked him: “What is that written [on the column of fire?]” He said to me: “The names of the sinners.” 30

Another Falasha text, Te’ezezat Sanbat , suggests three levels of reward after this life:

God said to Michael: “Go and bring the souls of the just into the garden, at the ninth hour on Friday!” Michael went as God commanded him. He gathered the souls of the just and brought them before God. God said: “Be blessed,” and the Lord of Heaven and earth blessed them, gave them favor and grace, dressed them in garments of life, and brought them into the Heavenly Kingdom. And as for those of the just who had committed no sins when their souls left the body, God gathers them each according to His justice; He appears to them in His glory while their faces shine seven times brighter than the sun. Those who turned to God and repented of their sins have the appearance of the stars, of Orion, and of the lightning. 31

Though sometimes discounted by critics, Joseph Smith’s teachings about the three kingdoms of glory has firm support among early Christian writers, who understood the meaning of Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 15 in the same way Joseph Smith did. 32 The Falasha texts, possibly borrowed from the Christians of Ethiopia, provide additional support. This strongly suggests that the prophet restored ancient beliefs about the subject. 33

For further reading:

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

Larry E. Dahl, “Degrees of Glory,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, gen. ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992)

——————————————————————————–

Notes

1 Most Latter-day Saint scholars who have dealt with the topic consider that telestial derives from the Greek telos , “last.” In a private communication, John Gee has noted that, while the terms rendered celestial (“heavenly”) and terrestrial (“earthly”) are often paired in the New Testament, only in Philippians 2:10 do they form a trio of terms. The third term used in that passage is katachthonios , literally “under the ground.” Since the terms “celestial” and “terrestrial” derive from Latin rather than Greek (caelum , “heaven,” and terra , “earth”), Gee suggests that a Latin term may lie behind “telestial” as well. He proposes the Latin word tellus , “earth, globe, land, ground.” In light of this, it is interesting to note that the earth was a terrestrial sphere prior to the fall, that it will regain its terrestrial state during the millennium (Articles of Faith 10), and that in the meanwhile it is a sphere of the telestial order (see the description in D&C 76:98-103).

2 An early Coptic document, Pistis Sophia , thought by some scholars to have been translated from an original Greek text dating as early as the second or third century A.D., reflects Paul’s idea of different types of bodies rising in the resurrection according to one’s merits. Speaking of the soul of a deceased person, it says, “And the Virgin of Light sealeth that soul and handeth it over to one of her receivers and will have it cast into a body which is suitable to the sins which it hath committed.” Pistis Sophia 111, in G. R. S. Mead, Pistis Sophia (London: John M. Watkins, 1955 [orig. 1896]), 238.

3Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994, 4:290. Origen had his detractors, of whom he wrote, “There are numerous individuals . . . who object to us, that it cannot consist with the justice of God in creating the world to assign to some of His creatures an abode in the heavens, and not only to give such a better habitation, but also to grant them a higher and more honourable position; to favour others with the grant of principalities; to best powers upon some, dominions on others; to confer upon some the most honourable seats in the celestial tribunals; to enable some to shine with more resplendent glory, and to glitter with a starry splendour; to give to some the glory of the sun, to others the glory of the moon, to others the glory of the stars; to cause one star to differ from another star in glory. And, to speak once for all, and briefly, if the Creator God wants neither the will to undertake nor the power to complete a good and perfect work, what reason can there be that, in the creation of rational natures, i.e., of beings of whose existence He Himself is the cause, He should make some of higher rank, and others of second, or third, or of many lower and inferior degrees?” (De Principiis 2.9.5, ibid., 4:291).

4 Ibid., 4:294.

5 The Greek term presbyteros (whence the name of the Presbyterian Church) means “elder” and is so translated in the New Testament.

6 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers , 2:505. Paul uses the term “perfect man” in Ephesians 4:13 and Colossians 1:28; cf. 2 Timothy 3:17 and James 3:2. Clement’s discussion of other New Testament evidence for three heavens in the next section (Stromata 6.14) was discussed in chapter 37, Three Levels of Reward.

7 This is an allusion to Jesus’ words in John 14:2.

8 The word “desert” here refers to what one deserves (whence dessert) and not to sand dunes and lack of water.

9 Ibid., 3:639.

10 Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers , first series (reprint Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 12:251.

11 E. H. Gifford, trans., Preparation for the Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1903), 351-2.

12 In this Jewish text, there are seven heavens rather than three. The passage reads: “There are on high seven firmaments, and seven zones of earth. Correspondingly, in the lower world there are seven graded firmaments and seven zones of earth. These, as the Companions have expounded, are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, rising one above the other, and each zone has ten divisions, so that there are seventy in all. Each of these is presided over by a Chieftain, and these seventy Chieftains have under their charge the seventy nations of the earth.” Harry Sperling et al., The Zohar (New York: The Rebecca Bennett Publications Inc., 1958), 3:99.

13The three heavens may be suggested in Zohar Numbers 196b, referring to the sparrows of Psalms 84:4: “This does not mean all souls, but the souls of the righteous whose abode is there with Him. We have learnt that there are three walls to the Garden of Eden, and between each pair many souls and spirits walk about and enjoy the perfumes from within, though they are not permitted to enter . . . The ‘sparrows’ are the holy spirits that are privileged to enter and then come out again, and these ‘find a house,’ each one its appropriate chamber.” Harry Sperling et al., The Zohar , 5:281.

14 Ibid., 5:226.

15 Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers , 8:66.

16 Ibid., 8:25.

17 Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), 526, 529, 536.

18 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha , 1:610.

19 In early Christian literature, Michael and Adam are not identical.

20 Máire Herbert and Martin McNamara, eds., Irish Biblical Apocrypha: Selected Texts in Translation (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 15-16.

21 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha , 2:291.

22 Margaret Dunlop Gibson, Apocrypha Arabica (Studia Sinaitica No. VIII; London: C. J. Clay and Sons; Cambridge Univ. Warehouse, 1901), chapter on “Kitâb al Magâll, or The Book of the Rolls,” 4.

23 E. S. Drower, The Secret Adam: A Study of Na § oraean Gnosis (Oxford: Clarendon, 1960), 12; also cited in Werner Foerster, Gnosis: A Selection of Gnostic Texts , translated by R. McL. Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974) 2:148. The Mandaeans, who live in parts of Iraq and Iran, claim to be descendants of the disciples of John the Baptist.

24 Carl Schmidt and Violet MacDermot, Pistis Sophia , 43-47.

25Pistis Sophia I.4, in ibid., 7.

26 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha , 1:788. Fragments of the text were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, though the full text was already known to scholars prior to the discovery of these scrolls.

27 This people is known as Falasha by Christian Ethiopians, but they call themselves Children of Israel.

28 Christians traditionally hold that Gabriel will blow the trump that announces the last day, but most ancient texts agree with D&C 29:26-27 and D&C 88:112 that it is Michael who will blow the trump announcing the resurrection.

29 Wolf Leslau, Falasha Anthology (New Haven: Yale, 1951), 76.

30 Ibid., 68-70.

31 Ibid., 18.

32 Twentieth-century Protestants were divided on the issue of multiple degrees of glory. For arguments in favorr, see Elizabeth Disley, “Degrees of Glory: Protestant Doctrine and the Concept of Rewards Hereafter,” Journal of Theological Studies 24 (1991): 77-105. For arguments against Disley, see Craig L. Blomberg, “Degrees of Reward in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35 (1992):159-72.

33 Much more could be said about ancient Jewish and Christian texts that describe multiple heavens or three levels of reward after the resurrection, but this would detract from our study of Paul’s teachings about the three degrees of glory.

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