Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kingdoms of Glory

                    Have you ever wondered what was true about heaven and hell?  Do you have a solid foundation of knowledge about the three degrees of glory?  Have you ever pondered questions such as the following:  Where will I go after I am resurrected and judged?  Has God already determined where I will go or does what I do here on earth matter?  Can I go to the highest heaven by simply saying that I believe in Jesus Christ?  What do the scriptures mean when they say people are "damned"?  Is hell a place of never-ending suffering where sinners go?

                    One of my favorite hymns is O My Father (Hymns, no. 292) written by Karen Lynn Davidson with music by A. Laurence Lyon.  This hymn is often sung at funerals because it brings comfort to those who are left behind.  I like it simply because of its beautiful message. 

                    O my Father, thou that dwellest In the high and glorious place,
                    When shall I regain thy presence And again behold thy face?
                    In thy holy habitation, Did my spirit once reside?
                    In my first primeval childhood, Was I nurtured near thy side?

                    For a wise and glorious purpose Thou hast placed me here on earth
                    And withheld the recollection Of my former friends and birth;
                    Yet oft times a secret something Whispered, "You're a stranger here,"
                    And I felt that I had wandered From a more exalted sphere.

                    I had learned to call thee Father, Thru thy Spirit from on high,
                    But, until the key of knowledge Was restored, I knew not why.
                    In the heav'ns are parents single?  No, the thought makes reason stare!
                    Truth is reason; truth eternal Tells me I've a mother there.

                    When I leave this frail existence, When I lay this mortal by,
                    Father, Mother, may I meet you In your royal courts on high?
                    Then, at length, when I've completed All you sent me forth to do,
                    With your mutual approbation Let me come and dwell with you.

                    Just as there are different levels of righteousness in this life, it makes sense for God to have different "mansions" in heaven [John 14:2] or different places for His resurrected children to dwell.  The Apostle Paul taught that there are three kingdoms of glory in heaven:  "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" (1 Corinthians 15:40-42).

                    In the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 40, Paul also mentions "bodies telestial".  Paul described the differences between the glory of the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom by comparing the celestial to the sun, the terrestrial to the moon, and the telestial to the stars.  By these comparisons we know that the celestial kingdom is the brightest followed by the terrestrial and then the telestial.

                    We are agents unto ourselves (see Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28) and are responsible for the choices we make.  We will be judged by our thoughts, words, and actions.  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 4:30.)  Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, "Each of you will be judged according to your individual works and the desires of your hearts….  Your eventual placement in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdom will not be determined by chance.  The Lord has prescribed unchanging requirements for each.  You can know what the scriptures teach and pattern your lives accordingly" (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 35).

                    Some people believe that salvation comes simply by saying that we believe in Jesus Christ.  This is false doctrine.  We must do more than just say we believe in Jesus Christ; we must follow him.  All people, regardless of their level of righteousness, will be saved from death because of the Resurrection of Christ.  However, in order to attain the highest degree of glory in the resurrection, we need to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in him" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:32).  We come unto Christ by having faith in him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, receiving other saving priesthood ordinances, obeying the commandments, and keeping the covenants we make with our Heavenly Father.  How we live does make a difference.

                    Alma, an ancient American prophet, taught the following about a terrible and tragic war, "And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one" (Book of Mormon, Alma 3:26).

                    When we sin, we prevent our own progress.  When the scriptures say that the wicked are "damned" it means that they have been stopped or held back from blessings they might have received if they had obeyed God's commandments.  Heavenly Father wants to bless us, but He is a just God and as such can only reward us when we obey His commandments.  (See Doctrine and Covenants 82:10.)

                    Hell is not a place of never-ending suffering where sinners are sent.  It is a spirit prison, a place for people who have rejected the gospel and people who have died without a knowledge of the gospel.  The gospel is preached to them there, and those who accept the gospel and repent of their sins will be released and allowed to enter paradise until the Resurrection and Judgment (see Doctrine and Covenants 138:29-34).  Most of those who do not accept the gospel there will have to suffer for their own sins but will eventually be resurrected and go to a kingdom of glory (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-85, 98-106).

                    The Prophet Joseph Smith received a more detailed definition of the three kingdoms of glory.  Joseph was with Sidney Rigdon, who later became First Counselor in the First Presidency, when they received a vision in which they saw each of the kingdoms of glory.  They also received a revelation concerning the people who would go to each of the kingdoms.

                    According to their revelation, those who will inherit telestial glory are those who 1) reject the gospel of Jesus Christ,
2) reject the testimony of Jesus Christ, and 3) are liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers (Doctrine and Covenants 76:81-83, 98-103).

                    Those who will inherit terrestrial glory are those who 1) reject the gospel in this life but receive it in the spirit world,
2) are honorable but are blinded by the craftiness of men, and 3) are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:71-80).

                    Those who will inherit celestial glory are those who 1) receive the testimony of Jesus Christ, 2) are baptized by one with priesthood authority, 3) keep the commandments, 4) receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, 5) overcome the world by faith, and
6) are made perfect through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-70). 

There are two other groups of people who will inherit celestial glory; they are 1) those who die without a knowledge of the gospel but "would have received it with all their hearts" (Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-10) and 2) those who die before they arrive at the years of accountability" [age 8 years] (Doctrine and Covenants 137:10).

No one but Jesus Christ will ever live a perfect life.  Since the rest of us cannot be perfect on our own, we must be "made perfect."  "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, 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" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:69-70).

So how can we be made perfect in order to be worthy to dwell with God in the celestial kingdom?  The ancient American prophet Nephi taught the following to his people, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 25:23).

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was asked about the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he listed thirteen Articles of Faith.  The third one states, "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel" (Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith 1:3).

We can be made perfect only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  As we do all we can to follow the Savior, working diligently to keep the commandments and to live pure lives, we come closer to Him and become more like Him.  When we sin, we can repent sincerely and be forgiven.  Because Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself, we can be made clean, pure, and worthy to dwell in the celestial kingdom.

The Apostle Paul taught, "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 Corinthians 2:9).

We know that a great multitude of Heavenly Father's children will dwell in the celestial kingdom.  John the Revelator described his vision of the exalted sons and daughters of God in Revelation 7:9-10.

In order to receive exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, we must be sealed to our spouse in the temple.  (See Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4.)  Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made the following statement:  
"Those who have met the highest requirements for this kingdom, including faithfulness to covenants made in a temple of God and marriage for eternity, will be exalted to the godlike state referred to as the `fulness' of the Father or eternal life (D&C 76:56, 94; see also D&C 131; 132:19-20)….  Eternal life is family life with a loving Father in Heaven and with our progenitors [ancestors] and our posterity" (Ensign, May 1995, 86-87).

                    Marriage in the temple is not a guarantee of exaltation in the celestial kingdom.  Those married in the temple should strive to be exalted together in the celestial kingdom by continually growing in their love for each other and for the Lord.

                    Heavenly Father loves all his children and will give them the greatest reward that they have prepared to receive through their obedience and faith in Jesus Christ.  According to Doctrine and Covenants 76:89, the glory of the telestial "surpasses all understanding" and is a place of indescribable glory.

                    Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, "Each of you will be judged according to your individual works and the desires of your hearts….  Your eventual placement in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdom will not be determined by chance.  The Lord has prescribed unchanging requirements for each.  You can know what the scriptures teach and pattern your lives accordingly" (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 35).

I know that Heavenly Father has prepared great things for us.  I am so very grateful for His plan of salvation and for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I know that as we keep the commandments of God, repent of our sins, and are true to our covenants, we can be "made perfect through Jesus" and inherit a place in the celestial kingdom.  I know that the kingdom of glory we will receive after we are resurrected depends upon our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.  I know that the blessings of the celestial kingdom are wonderful beyond anything I can imagine.  I long ago set my goal as exaltation in the highest level of the celestial kingdom, where I can experience a fulness of happiness.  I encourage all of you to strive for exaltation in the celestial kingdom by keeping the commandments and exercising faith in Jesus Christ.


  1. Although Karen Lynn Davidson did write two beautiful hymns in the LDS hymnal, "O My Father" was written by Eliza R. Snow and the music is by James McGranahan (A. Laurence Lyon did arrange a setting for it in another book.) The mistake is an easy one to make, because "O My Father" runs onto a second page in the hymnal and one of Karen Lynn Davidson's hymns appears on that page.

  2. Thank you for that correction. Obviously, I was in too big of a hurry when I wrote the essay!