“The Kingdoms of Glory”
Lesson 20 – D&C 76; 131; 132:19-24; 137
Last week’s lesson on the Plan of Salvation reviewed teachings on three stages of our eternal existence: premortal life, mortality, and life after death. We would remain woefully ignorant about the third stage—life after death—if it were not for D&C sections 76, 131, and 137. President Wilford Woodruff said: “I will refer to the ‘Vision’ alone, as a revelation which gives more light, more truth, and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham , 47-48). Today, we will review teachings about the eternal inheritances in the kingdoms of glory and seek to understand how we might merit that inheritance along with our families.
The kingdoms of glory and “the testimony of Jesus” D&C 76:11-24, 40-43, 119.
D&C 76:11-19 and the heading to D&C 76 provide a look at the circumstances that led up to the reception of D&C 76 – “The Vision”—by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. This vision, from start to finish, is a testimony of Christ and His mission and Atonement. Look specifically at 76:20-24 and 76:119 for strong testimony of the Savior. Look also at D&C 76: 40-43.
As we discuss the three kingdoms or “degrees” of glory—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial—in which most people will have an inheritance, consider how you have received “the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51) to see which kingdom you think your choices will entitle you to inhabit for eternity. Remember that your reward will depend on not only what you do here, but also why you did it. Doing the right things for the right reasons is required to merit celestial glory.
D&C 76:25-26, 31-32. This state of existence after mortality is the consequence of choosing to follow Satan rather than the Savior in this life. The “sons of Perdition” will dwell in this state because they chose the enticings of Satan over the invitation of Christ. (Note: We are counseled by our leaders to avoid speculation on this subject and focus only on what has been taught in the scriptures and by latter-day prophets.)
· D&C 29:36-37; 76:25-28; Moses 4:1-3 record Lucifer’s expulsion from the Council in Heaven and his banishment to earth.
· D&C 76:29 and Moses 4:4 indicate that after being cast out, he made war on the saints.
· D&C 10:5; 27:15-18 tell us that we will win the war with Satan and his forces if we will pray always, be faithful and believing, prepare and protect ourselves, put on the whole armor of God, and do all that we can to stand firm in the gospel. We must be righteous, truthful, devoted to the gospel of peace, shielded with faith, partakers of salvation, armed with the Spirit and the word of the Lord, and endure faithfully to the end. (Teacher’s note: He cautions us to prepare for the battles and the war—he does not say that we will not have to struggle in that conflict—he only promises that we can win.)
· D&C 76:32-34, 36-38, and 44-49 reveal the suffering of the sons of perdition. They are condemned to experience this eternal punishment and tremendous suffering because they allowed themselves to be overcome in the war with Satan’s armies; denying the Holy Ghost and having crucified the Lord (see D&C 76:30-31, 35). The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say 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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 385).
· The criteria for those who will inherit this lowest kingdom of glory are recorded in D&C 76:81-83, 98-101, 103. They did not receive the gospel of Christ, the testimony of Jesus, the prophets, or the everlasting covenant, but neither did they deny the Holy Spirit. Theses are the liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, and those who love and make lies.
· The limitations on those in this kingdom are found in D&C 76:84-86, 102, 104-106, 112. (Note: The “hell” referred to in verses 84 and 106 is defined as the temporary spirit prison.) Telestial beings will suffer conditions including being cast into hell, waiting till the last resurrection, not receiving “of his fullness”, not being gathered with the saints, suffering the wrath of God on earth and eternal fire, and suffering until the fullness of times when they will become servants outside the presence of God.
· The terrestrial kingdom will be the inheritance of those who are described in D&C 76:71-75, 79. These died without law, received the testimony of Jesus only in the spirit world, were honorable people deceived by men, and were not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.
· Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Those destined to inherit the terrestrial kingdom are: (1) those who died ‘without law’—those heathen and pagan people who do not hear the gospel in this life, and who would not accept it with all their hearts should they hear it; (2) those who hear and reject the gospel in this life and then accept it in the spirit world; (3) those ‘who are the honorable men of the earth, who [are] blinded by the craftiness of men’; and (4) those who are lukewarm members of the true church and who have testimonies, but who are not true and faithful in all things” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 146)
· In D&C 76:76-78 we find that conditions and limitations on the terrestrial inhabitants include: receive visits from the Savior but not the Father, and have less than a fulness of glory.
· Guidance on how to avoid “the craftiness of men” is given in D&C 3:7-8; 21:4-6; 52:14-20. (1) fear (respect) God more than man, (2) be faithful—relying on God in times of trouble, (3) give heed to the prophets, (4) walk in holiness (live righteously), (5) pray, (6) obey the Lord’s commandments, (7) have a contrite spirit, (8) use meek and edifying language, and (9) bring forth good fruits (works).
· Those inheriting this highest degree of glory are described in D&C 76:50-53, 68-69. Note that the Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost who functions in his capacity as the confirmer and witness of validity of the ordinances and covenants we have received and fulfilled honorably. They received the testimony of Jesus, were baptized and cleansed of sin, received the Holy Ghost, overcame the world through faith, are just and true, are known by Christ and the Father, or are “just men made perfect”.
· Not quite four years after receiving D&C 76, “The Vision”, the Prophet Joseph Smith received another vision, recorded in D&C 137, in which he beheld Alvin, his other brother who had died a dozen years earlier—seven years before the Church was restored in this dispensation. He recognized that Alvin was in the celestial kingdom. From this (D&C 137:7-9), he learned of the mercy of Christ and the benefit it has for those who did not hear the gospel in this life, but who—if they had been privileged to hear it—would have accepted it with all their hearts. Next, in D&C 137:10, he saw the condition of children who die before the age of accountability. These teachings bring us comforting doctrine that is not taught by many other churches.
· Blessings received in the celestial kingdom include those recorded in D&C 76:54-67, 94-95: Membership and fellowship in the Church of the Firstborn; the trust of their Father; ordination as priests and kings; reception of the fullness of the Father’s gospel, his glory, and his priesthood power; godhood; the ability to overcome all things; dwelling with God forever; coming forth in the first resurrection; and fellowship with prophets and holy men (and women).
· Our testimony of Jesus is a determining factor in our assignment to a kingdom of glory. We must be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”. According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, that means:
· Some eleven years after D&C 76 was revealed, the Prophet taught us in D&C 131:1 that there are three degrees within the celestial kingdom. The highest degree of glory is reserved for those who are exalted… D&C 131:1-3; 132:19. Celestial beings inherit thrones, kingdoms, …powers… and eternal increase.
· Only those in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will have “eternal increase”—spirit children in the eternities. D&C 131:4; 132:19-20. They will be gods because they have no end ..and all power.
· President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “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, 2 vols. , 1:279)
The great blessings of exaltation in the celestial kingdom are available to all people through the mercy and suffering of Jesus Christ. We can be perfected and be exalted with our families in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom if we are willing to obey the commandments, receive the ordinances of salvation, and keep all of the covenants we make with our Heavenly Father.
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