My Come, Follow Me studies took me to Doctrine and Covenants 76 this week. Millions of people ask, “What will happen to me after I die?” Most religions in the world address the question one way or another. Many Christians for centuries have looked to the Bible for their answer. Biblical teachings discuss heaven and hell, paradise for the righteous and torment for the wicked. Where is the line that divides good and bad, and what does the word heaven actually mean?
The section heading to Doctrine and Covenants 76 gives us the following information about this vision that was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832. When Joseph Smith recorded this revelation in his history, he prefaced it with the following information.
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, … while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision.” At the time this vision was given, the Prophet was translating John 5:29.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were studying this subject, and they wondered if there was more information to be revealed on it. While pondering these things, the Lord “touched the eyes of [their] understandings and they were opened” (verse 19). Joseph and Sidney received a stunning, expansive, illuminating revelation that they called “the Vision.” It opened the windows of heaven and showed a brilliant view of eternity. The vision revealed a heaven that was much different than most people thought previously. God is loving and merciful, and He wants to bless His children. Heaven is grander, broader, and more inclusive than humans can imagine, and God has prepared a glorious eternal destiny for all His children.
The Vision is actually several visions in one. In the first vision, the Savior affirmed His reality and divinity. In the second vision, He taught about the fall of Satan and the sons of perdition. He started with the best and then showed the contrast with the worst. From there, He revealed that there are three kingdoms of glory, their nature, and who will inherit each one.
The Lord revealed that God the Father will rule over the highest or Celestial Kingdom, Jesus Christ will rule over the middle or Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Holy Ghost will rule over the lowest or the Telestial Kingdom. The kingdom of glory we inherit will be determined by our works and the desires of our hearts. Since the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches only how to become worthy for the Celestial Kingdom, this post will concentrate on the highest kingdom.
51 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—
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
59 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.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
One of the requirements to enter the Celestial Kingdom is to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following explanation.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. …
“But this is not all. It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. …
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue. … It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father” (Bruce R. McConkie, Nov. 1974, 35).
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) gave the following meaning: “A testimony of Jesus means that you accept the divine mission of Jesus Christ, embrace His gospel, and do His works; it means you accept the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith and his successors” (“Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, May 1982, 62).