Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
The Kingdoms of Glory
The kingdoms of glory and the testimony of Jesus.
The telestial kingdom.
The terrestrial kingdom.
The celestial kingdom.
A study of this lesson will help us carefully consider the eternal
inheritances in the three kingdoms of glory and encourage us to live in such a
way that we will be able to inherit celestial glory and dwell in Heavenly
Father’s presence with our families.
Scripture references for study:
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 20 Handout (PDF)
Life After Death
Throughout the world there are a variety of beliefs regarding the ultimate
destiny of man following the death of the physical body. Below are a
few statements regarding beliefs on the afterlife. These are not
comprehensive, but provide a flavor of the diversity of belief on this
Hindu: "A distinctive feature of Hinduism
is belief in the transmigration of souls, or reincarnation. Associated
with this belief is the conviction that all living things are part of the
same essence. Individuals pass through cycles of birth and death. This
means that an individual soul may return many times in human, animal, or
even vegetable form. What a person does in the present life will affect
the next life. This is the doctrine of karman, the law of cause and effect.
The goal of the individual is to escape this cycle, or wheel of birth and
rebirth, so that the individual soul, Atman, may eventually become part
of the absolute soul, or Brahman." (Compton's Complete Reference
Collection, 1998 Edition)
Buddhism: "To the follower of the Buddha,
life goes on and on in many reincarnations or rebirths. This wheel of rebirth,
known as samsara, condemns the individual to the suffering of being alive
and striving. Life's goal, according to the Buddha, is to escape from this
cycle of rebirth, to stop being born as a suffering individual with selfish
cravings and passions. This release is called Nirvana, the highest bliss,
the end of the self." (Compton's Complete Reference Collection,
A "belief in Hell where unbelievers and sinners
spend eternity. One translation of the Qur'an 98:1-8 states: 'The unbelievers
among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn for ever in the
fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures.' 'People
of the Book' refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims."
"Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God
return to a state of sinlessness."
A "belief in Paradise, a place of physical and
spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death." (Religious
Tolerance.org - website)
Judism: "Traditional Judaism firmly believes
that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism
is primarily focused on life here and now rather than on the afterlife,
Judaism does not have much dogma about the afterlife, and leaves a great
deal of room for personal opinion. It is possible for an Orthodox Jew to
believe that the souls of the righteous dead go to a place similar to the
Christian heaven, or that they are reincarnated through many lifetimes,
or that they simply wait until the coming of the messiah, when they will
be resurrected. Likewise, Orthodox Jews can believe that the souls of the
wicked are tormented by demons of their own creation, or that wicked souls
are simply destroyed at death, ceasing to exist....
"The place of spiritual
reward for the righteous is often referred to in Hebrew as Gan Eden (GAHN
ehy-DEHN) (the Garden of Eden). This is not the same place where Adam and
Eve were; it is a place of spiritual perfection. Specific descriptions
of it vary widely from one source to another. One source says that the
peace that one feels when one experiences Shabbat properly is merely one-sixtieth
of the pleasure of the afterlife. Other sources compare the bliss of the
afterlife to the joy of sex or the warmth of a sunny day. Ultimately, though,
the living can no more understand the nature of this place than the blind
can understand color." (Judaism
Christianity in general: As members of the Church, we are generally
familiar with the teachings of other Christian faiths regarding life after
death. Elder LeGrand Richards made the following statement: "One
of the greatest errors in the teachings of the Christian religions is the
doctrine of one heaven and one hell, so that all who go to heaven share
and share alike, and all who fail to go to heaven are sent to hell where
they share and share alike.
"This thought has
led many to feel that while their lives may not be all they should be,
they are as good as, or better than, the average. Thus they feel that all
will be well with them. If this doctrine be true, it is obvious that a
line would have to be drawn somewhere, and the closer one came to the line
the less would be the difference or distinction between those who would
cross the line and enter heaven and those who would not quite qualify,
and therefore would be sent to hell. Such a doctrine does not have the
motivating and stimulating power to impel or encourage men to do the best
they can, but rather to satisfy themselves by doing as well as the average
man. Such a doctrine places no value on anything more than average devotion
and obedience to the commandments of the Lord, or the development of one's
talents and their useful devotion to his service." (A Marvelous
Work & A Wonder, p253)
As discussed in Lesson 19,
we are incredibly blessed in our day to have modern revelation from God
about the eternal nature of man and about our eternal possibilities and
destiny. The thoughts above represent major religious philosophies
believed by literally billions of people throughout the world. What
a humbling thing to realize that amongst these billions, we have been so
blessed to gain a testimony of the plan of salvation. Such a realization
should compel us to share our testimony with those we come in contact with.
In Lesson 19 we primarily
discussed our life before mortality, mortality and its purposes, and the
nature of the soul between death and resurrection. In this lesson
we will focus on our ultimate destiny as sons and daughters of God.
A Vision of the Kingdoms of Glory
Section 76, the revelation on the kingdoms of glory, is one of the most
important latter-day revelations regarding the eternal destiny of man. This revelation has provided us with information that helps us better understand
our destiny as eternal beings and gives added insight and meaning to our
Section 76 was not revealed until February 1832, almost two years of the
Church was organized. The Book of Mormon provided additional insight
into life after death, but not did expound on the wide scope of eternal
life as revealed in Section 76. The Book of Mormon teaches:
Those that keep the commandments will be received into heaven and dwell with God
in never ending happiness (Mosiah
The great pit (hell) is for those led away by the devil (1
Men to be judged by their works and to be resurrected to everlasting life or
eternal damnation (3 Nephi
It is by grace that we are saved after all that we
can do (2 Nephi 25:23).
Alma gives a discourse on the state of the soul between
death and the resurrection. Men to be received into paradise or outer darkness
(spirit prison). This is a state of happiness or misery where the souls
of men dwell until the final judgment (Alma
Mormon teaches that little children do not need baptism,
but are made alive in Christ (Moroni
A conference was held in Amherst, Ohio on January 25, 1832. At this conference
the Prophet was sustained as President of the High Priesthood.
After returning from the conference Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon continued
the retranslation of the Bible. At this time the Prophet was living in
the home of John Johnson, about 30 miles southeast of Kirtland. The
Prophet wrote: "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."
An account of this revelation as recorded by Philo Dibble:
"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
"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'." (quoted in
Studies In Scripture, 1:280)
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "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." (Church History
& Modern Revelation, 2:50)
"For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful
and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve
me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their
reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal
all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of
old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure
of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even
the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show
them, even the things of many generations." (D&C 76:5-8)
The Lord has promised great wisdom and knowledge to those who serve him. Section 76 is only a peek at what we can receive if we are faithful and
true to every commandment. Elder Orson Pratt: "We
can only go about so far with our natural sight; but there is a faculty
in every man and woman which is now sleeping in a dormant state; and as
soon as it is touched by the Spirit of the Lord, we shall be enabled to
see a new world of things as it were, mysteries will be opened up, and
we will perceive naturally as if they were written, and in this way we
shall be able to learn very rapidly indeed. If we want a knowledge of this
world or of ourselves, when our spirits were born, or if we desire to know
things that took place before the foundations of the world were laid or
the nucleus was formed, when the sons of God shouted for joy, if we desired
to know these things it would only be necessary for the Spirit of the Lord
to touch the vision of our minds and light up our understanding, and we
could gaze upon things past for thousands of generations of worlds before
the earth was made, and we could see the succession of worlds that have
been and were in existence long before this earth was formed; we could
see the ordeals through which they had passed, see them brought into existence
and passing through their several changes and finally become glorified
celestial mansions in the presence of God." (JD, 19:178)
Joseph Smith stated in May 1843 regarding this revelation: "I
could explain a hundred fold more that 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." (TPJS, p304)
Without question, there is much yet to be learned when we are spiritually
prepared. Section 76 is like the windows on a great department store. The windows give us just a hint of what is inside the store. Likewise,
Section 76 gives us just a peek into the grand eternal plan
According to Section 76, Joseph and Sidney had been working on the inspired
retranslation of the Bible, in particular John 5:29, where it talks about
"And while we meditated upon these things, the
Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the
glory of the Lord shone round about. And we beheld the glory of the
Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; And
saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping
and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever. 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." (D&C 76:19-24)
To know that God lives, that we are his children,
and to know that the Son of God has fulfilled his mission, gives us a comforting
assurance about our eternal nature and destiny. This knowledge motivates
us to live worthwhile lives, to keep the commandments, and to serve God
with all our might, mind, and strength.
For additional background information on Section 76, see
"The Vision" and
Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation at LDS.org.
Photographs of from my trip to Hyrum, Ohio, in 2010.
John Johnson home in Hyrum
Room where Section 76 was revealed to Joseph and Sydney
D&C 76:25-29. Vision of Lucifer, son of the
The heavens wept. Here was a son of great promise who allowed pride to rule. As
we know, he convinced a third of the hosts of heaven to follow him (v26).
"Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints
of God, and encompasseth them round about" (v29)
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS VERSE?
Joseph Smith: "The devil will use his greatest
efforts to trap the Saints." (TPJS, p161)
The Prophet told Heber C. Kimball: "The nearer
a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifest by the adversary
to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes." (Life of Heber
C. Kimball, p131)
D&C 76:30-38. Vision of the sons of perdition.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME A SON OF PERDITION?
Know God's power (v31).
Have been made partakers thereof (of his power) (v31).
Have suffered themselves to be overcome (v31).
Deny the truth (v31).
Defy God's power (v31).
Deny the Holy Spirit after having received it (v35).
Deny the Only Begotten Son (crucify him unto themselves) (v35).
Joseph Smith: "What must a man do to commit the
unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened
unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned
against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say
the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ
when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation
with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins be
an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints." (TPJS, p358)
President Spencer W. Kimball: "The sin against
the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible
for the rank and file to commit such a sin." (Teachings of Spencer
W. Kimball, p23)
D&C 76:44-49. Extent of the suffering of
the sons of perdition.
The end and torment of suffering will only be revealed
to those who "are made partakers thereof"
Joseph Smith: "...their state of destiny was not
revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, save to those
who are made partakers thereof." (HC, 1:355)
The Telestial Kingdom
D&C 76:81-89, 98-112. Description of those
who reside in the telestial glory.
The term telestial is a uniquely Latter-day Saint term and only appears
in Sections 76 and 88. Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary defines
"telestial glory" as "the lowest of three Mormon degrees or kingdoms
of glory attainable in heaven."
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE TELESTIAL KINGDOM?
Received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus (v82)
They who deny not the Holy Spirit (v83)
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
They who are liars and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and
whosoever loves and makes a lie (v103)
"And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the
glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding" (v89).
This is a great reward for those who attain this degree of glory, though
it is far from what they might have attained.
President Charles W. Penrose: "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." (quoted in Studies in Scripture,
Unfortunately, the inhabitants of this kingdom will be "as innumerable
as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore"
The Terrestrial Kingdom
D&C 76:71-80. Those who inherit the Terrestrial
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE TERRESTRIAL KINGDOM?
Those who died without the law.
The spirits of men kept in prison, who received not the testimony of Jesus
in the flesh, but afterwards received it (v73-74).
Honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men (v75).
Those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus (v79).
Elder Melvin J. Ballard: "Now those who died without
law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion
in the former life, are obtaining what 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." (Sermons of Melvin J. Ballard, p251)
"These are they who are not valiant in the testimony
of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our
President 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." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p392-393)
A solemn warning to the Saints.
The Celestial Kingdom
D&C 76:50-53. Those who come forth in the
resurrection of the just.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE CELESTIAL GLORY?
A testimony of Jesus (v51).
Receive the Holy Ghost (v52).
Keep the commandments (v52).
Overcome by faith - whatever obstacles or trials may be encountered (v53).
Sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise (v53).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"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." (Mormon Doctrine, pp361-362)
D&C 76:54-70. Description of the inheritors
of this Kingdom.
These are they that shall overcome all things (v60).
D&C 76:92-96. The Celestial Kingdom.
"And he makes them equal in power, and in might,
and in dominion" (v95).
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "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."
(Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:58)
Joseph Smith: "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." (TPJS, p348)
Elder Orson Pratt: "The earth will have
to pass away the same as our bodies do, and the dust thereof be mingled
in a chaotic form. But that same being who organized the earth will again
speak, and eternity will again hear his voice, and the materials of our
earth will come together again, and when it unites them in one, and forms
them into a world, it will be a glorious world, a habitation for immortal
beings; for kings and for priests, and for those that have been faithful
to the end." (JD, 20:155)
"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."
This subsequent revelation on the celestial kingdom was given to the Prophet
in 1843 at Ramus, Illinois.
Joseph Smith: "Except a man and his wife
enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in
this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they
will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children
after the resurrection." (HC, 5:391)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard: "What do we mean by endless
or eternal increase? We mean that through the righteousness and faithfulness
of men and women who keep the commandments of God they 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."
(Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, 1949, pp239-40)
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "Section
76 of the Doctrine and Covenants … 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" (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:279).
- As we look at the different religious beliefs throughout the world, how
grateful we should be that we have been blessed with modern revelation
that tells us so much more about the world to come, thus giving us purpose
and meaning in life.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the vision of our afterlife as recorded in D&C 76.
How does this knowledge affect your daily life? What can you change to better
prepare you for celestial glory?
Resources Used In This Lesson
A Marvelous Work & A Wonder by LeGrand Richards.
Church History & Modern Revelation by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Compton's Complete Reference Collection, 1998 Edition, on CD-ROM.
History of the Church (HC).
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney.
Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.
Tolerance.org - website.
Sermons of Melvin J. Ballard.
Studies In Scripture, Volume 1, edited by Robert L. Millet
and Kent P. Jackson.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson.
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS).
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
20 March 2017