My Little Heresies, Part One: Renovating the Afterlife

[Note one: This week I’m going to be putting up a short series of posts about things I believe that (I think) are outside the norm for Mormonism and why I believe them. YMMV (and I hope it does because otherwise this will be a boring series). Please understand that I am not actually interested in creating a new doctrine/church/calling-for-myself. I (obviously) think these ideas are interesting and therefore seek to foist them upon you. Believe at your own risk]

[Note two: I am totally stealing this from an aborted series by Ronan and I may abort it for the same reason. We’ll see.]

We have far too many heavens in Mormonism. More than we need in eternity, at least. If we, as a church, regard the stereotypical Protestant or Catholic heaven as a bunch of people wasting a bunch of time, why is the way we envision the Terrestrial and Telestial kingdom superior? Although I tend to not think of God as an economist, it seems an awful lot of waste.

Part of the problem is that I tend to pay more attention to scripture and less attention to church history and modern revelation. So, I privilege (in my own mind) the accounts of the afterlife in the Bible and Book of Mormon over accounts in the D&C and other such (Revelations of Joseph Smith, the Journal of Discourses, etc.). In the Bible and the Book of Mormon, we get along perfectly well with a heaven and a hell. Heck, for much of the Old Testament, we don’t even have that distinction. The categories that render the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdom necessary (mostly good, mostly bad) don’t factor into the prophecies or moral instruction in any of these Testaments of Christ. You are either in or out.

A couple caveats: I know about Paul. But Paul’s description of the glories of the sun, the moon, and the stars in 1st Corinthians could as easily reflect the three heavens this one guy he knows saw in 2nd Corinthians (which we usually interpret as proof of the three degrees of glory in the celestial kingdom). Well, why do we have to have both? Couldn’t they both be referring to the same thing (gradations of some sort within the celestial kingdom)? There may not (emphasis on me) be movement between kingdoms, but within? I can work with that.

The second caveat: I know about the Doctrine and Covenants (well, mostly). Therefore I am familiar with Sections 76 and 131, which clearly delineate the three kingdoms (and the three degrees (or kingdoms) within the highest). There is nothing within D&C 131 (which, according to the D&C, came from a revelation in 1843) which prevents conflation with the heaven structure in D&C 76 (or 1st Corinthians). Sure it says “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees” which could reasonably refer to the entire afterlife. The passage itself is unclear on what it means.

Speaking of D&C 76, there is a portion of the afterlife that it clearly got wrong. It was revealed in 1832 and it puts everyone who didn’t receive the gospel in this life in the terrestrial kingdom, even if they receive the gospel in the afterlife (D&C 76:71-75). However, four years later, in 1836, Joseph received D&C 137, wherein he is surprised to find his brother, Alvin, in the celestial kingdom. Why is he surprised? Because, as I just said, D&C 76 says he shouldn’t be there. We tend to conflate D&C 76 and 137, saying that the really righteous will wind up in the celestial kingdom no matter what (because we are now, apparently, Calvinists), but still clinging to the usefulness of a kingdom where most of its members just disappeared and whose primary explanation just became mostly irrelevant due to later revelatory correction. I say just do away with the whole thing.

So, you may ask, why do we still have the thing around? Well, it comes up in General Conference (3 times in the last ten years, 11 times in the past 40 (note: numbers come from skimming a search for “terrestrial” at lds.org; trust at your own risk). However, it doesn’t come up often enough, I think, to consider it anything but a legacy belief. In fact, it is more often mentioned to explain why belief in the belief is biblical (comparing D&C 76 and 1st Cor 15) than it is ever used to explain anything about the afterlife (in General Conference (manuals do use it to explain things in the afterlife, but I’m excluding them because I think General Conference drives manuals, not the other way around)). If we lost the doctrine entirely, what would we lose?

Two things: First, we’d lose the ability to judge others based on where we think they will wind up in the afterlife. The real criminals of the last century (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Casey Anthony) will either go to heaven (with us good people) or to hell (with those bad people). We won’t get to pat ourselves on the back for extending a little compassion to Hitler (or some such), thinking about what a great person we are. It’s a lot or nothing (well, sorta I think, but that’s a heresy for later in the week).

However, we’d also lose the comfort of knowing that those we love who have made wrong choices aren’t going to “hell hell.” Our grammas, our children, our best friends from high school, lots of people we care about don’t do all the stuff that should be done (or, worse, do stuff that shouldn’t). We like the idea that, if they don’t make it to the Celestial Kingdom, at least they’ll be somewhere nice. Worst of all, we start to thinking that, although it might be a disappointment, a little cottage in the Terrestrial Kingdom might be alright, leading us to justify sinning a little here or there, digging small pits for our neighbors (a little), and so forth.

We are all internet denizens here and we all love to rank. Top 5 lists drive our little ecosystem. The three degrees allows us to rank ourselves and our neighbors and, I suspect, we do it, forgetting that it isn’t our job. Doing away with two of those degrees would take care of the problem and move us farther away from being the Zoramites we become at our worst moments.

Of course, I could be dead wrong. But, if I am, I don’t think believing in this way hurts your chances of getting into the highest glory. We’ll get into why that is tomorrow. We’ll get into why I think that you don’t have to worry about your Granpa who smoked the next day. And we’ll get into why I think that Hitler will get what he deserves on Wed. After that, I might quit. We’ll see if I can gin up a few more heresies between now and then.

In the meantime, I’m very open to being entirely wrong on this front (D&C 76 is fairly important and dismissing large chunks of it could be wresting scripture or some such). Please show me the error of my ways or, at least, provide your thoughts on the purpose of the terrestrial and telestial kingdom below.

Comments

  1. But isn’t it a pretty mainstream within Mormonism idea that the kingdoms aren’t actually places at all, but a state of heart/mind/existence–all of us together with different degrees of understanding (glory)?

    Also, Calvinists FTW.

  2. A thousand years ago, on the group soc.religion.mormon, my friend Craig Olson did an “online Gospel Doctrine” lesson about the degrees of glory. The story in the second post at this link is quite topical for YOUR post, John.

  3. Matt Thurston says:

    Good start — renovating the afterlife from four rooms to two — but I’d go all the way and knock down that dividing last wall. With two rooms (heaven and hell) we still have the ability to “rank” and “judge” our friends and neighbors. My heresy is that the afterlife is one big room, just like Earth, a place where the best and worst of humanity continue to work out their differences.

  4. MikeInWeHo says:

    It would be a terrible loss if Mormonism jettisoned the notion of degrees of glory and quasi-universal salvation therein. To wind up with just Heaven and a Bad Place (however defined) leaves little distinction from other Christians, and what’s the point of that?

    And Calvinists FTW? Seriously? How on earth do you square that with a belief in agency, this life as a probationary period, etc?

  5. Most of the biblical proof texts we tend to use for the three kingdoms (John 14, 1 Cor 15) are based on very dodgy interpretations as I understand things. Still, if you’re talking pet beliefs about the afterlife I prefer to err towards a universalist view wherein everyone will ultimately end up with as much light and glory as they are able and willing to bear, and I mean that for good people as well as bad – I live the commandments as faithfully as I can, but sometimes I think about the job God has and I think “man, who would want THAT?” I like to think that whatever happens I’ll end up happy, and for now that’s good enough for me.

  6. MMiles, I’ve never heard that view that it’s only a state of being. Certainly it is a way of being but everyone seems to also hold that it is different places. (Understandably so since it was taught that way for much of the history of the Church – the idea is that this earth will become a celestial kingdom and only those exalted get to live here) That may be wrong, but there reasons for believing it make a lot of sense given D&C 130. The idea that the kingdoms of D&C 88 are places and not just ways of being seems the natural reading as well.

    All that said the issue of what’s going on for everyone not exalted is an interesting one and one not terribly clear nor sensical. However it is, on the basis of D&C 131, a common reading that within the celestial kingdom there are degrees. I tend to see D&C 131:1 a rather poor recording and think it refers to the regular degrees – but I think among lay people the idea that there is even degrees within Celestial glory is the common one. And of course it makes a lot of sense too.

    The real issue is that if we have a “continuity of glory” either because of peoples preferences or at a minimum their progression within eternal progression then figuring out the question of place is difficult. Difficult enough that I don’t worry about it too much. After all even if we do all live on a celestialized earth can’t we have our own place somewhere else? This could just be our apartment in the city, as it were. (grin)

  7. You’ve spelled horsies wrong. And most people call them “my little ponies”. But I am proud of you for coming out and confessing about your favorite toys. Especially at your age. I’ll go back and read the post now.

  8. Interesting thoughts. I’ve often found it a bit unsatisfying that there isn’t really a hell in contemporary LDS theology. I like to use Hitler as the example (at the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law). He doesn’t meet the definition of a son of perdition, but I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of someone as evil as him inheriting a kingdom of glory. Why should he be in the telestial kingdom with the garden variety thieves and adulterers and the like? He’s so much worse. So, I guess my personal heresy is that I believe in hell.

    I’m ok with the terrestrial kingdom. (Ok with its existence; I’m aiming a bit higher in the afterlife.) It sounds like a lovely place, similar to how my Protestant friends have described their view of heaven. So, I like the idea that we believe that most people will go to heaven. I know plenty of good, upright people who probably won’t accept the gospel but who still deserve a great eternal reward.

  9. Some of us are just not celestial material. I’m OK with that.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    At first I thought you were talking about doing away with just the Terrestrial, with the two remaining being Celestial and Telestial. But as I read, I think you also want to boot Telestial, but expand Outer Darkness (i.e. Mormon Hell) to pick up what used to be Telestial. Do I have that right?

    If so, I’m with MikeInWeHo. I like our Mormon near-universalism, and I really dislike Hell.

  11. Talmage had a bit of trouble with the Terrestrial, Telestial fates in the sense of, what are they doing, ya know? On-going increasing perfection to arrive in Celestial territory was one alternative he voiced – he supplied no meaningful description of what that might be.

  12. I have really really big Heaven and a really tiny Hell. I’ll get more into that later, but it is agency-rific (sorta).

    The Calvinism is in the current Mormon belief that those who die without the law will probably get in to the celestial kingdom, unless they won’t, in which case they will go to the terrestrial kingdom, unless they don’t. It all makes us much less involved in our own salvation and much more dependent on God’s whims (in my opinion).

    Marintha,
    I’ve heard that for the Spirit Prison/Paradise thing (which I’ll get to), but never for the kingdoms. So, I dunno.

    Ann,
    I don’t like that story, because believing it is like saying “Those folks who live and poverty and don’t complain are happy because they are incapable of appreciating the things we have in the first world. They’d be happier there than here.” It strikes me as being more about dissipating guilt, than explaining God’s love.

    Clark,
    We are all lay people.

    Matt W.,
    See here.

    WVS,
    Although I solve it differently than Elder Talmage, he is my spirit guide in a lot of this.

  13. I think the degrees of glory is among the most glorious doctrines of the church. The all-or-nothing right nowness of the heaven-hell dichotomy seem horrifying to me. Give me something of an individualized afterlife every time. Mormonism is more or less right on this one. I don’t like your renovation at all. Make it back the way it was.

  14. Give me a couple days, Eric. I’ve just torn out some walls; I haven’t replaced them yet.

    That said, don’t we only get individualized afterlives in the telestial kingdom?

  15. Do whatever you want, its your theology.

    And no, I think there is a wide range in all the kingdoms. Why wouldn’t there be?

  16. I like to think that the afterlife is similar to that depicted in Mitch Albom’s fictional novel “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” where heaven is whatever makes you happy and the degrees are more in line with the living arrangements back in Jesus’s time with Outer Darkness replacing the untouchables and the Celestial Kingdom replacing the temple or center of town (this is all based on my high school World History class, so please correct me as teachers frequently get things wrong). Degrees referring mainly to one’s residency distance from the middle not necessarily entirely different planets. But I’m one of those nice people that find it hard to believe a loving God would banish us from our friends and family for eternity based on what we did in a millisecond in the grand scheme of things.

  17. Britt C. says:

    Great discussion. I hate the idea of assigning ourselves and others into kingdoms. My immediate family is convinced their inactive LDS (but still VERY Christ-like) lives will leave them separated from my mentally retarded sister (who, we all believe will end up with the opportunity to marry and have children, etc.). My mom has often said “Well, hopefully Sister will come say hi to us when she can!” This makes me so sad. My brother has said he is happy to live a telestial life and receive a telestial afterlife. I think this concept has hurt people who already struggle with depression and low self-worth; they don’t have a lot to look forward to.

  18. Eric,
    What about belief in three kingdoms (+ Outer Darkness) do you like so much? Why are the kingdoms necessary in your theology?

  19. I am perfectly fine with many mansions. The part that bothers me is when a proscription against moving between kingdoms is added. I’m with those who allow for unlimited eternal progression. And since I’m a moody girl and I don’t see that changing, I’d like to be able to regress at times as well. There are times when you want to dress up for dinner at the Bellagio, and others when you’re more comfortable in jeans at Joe’s Bar and Grill.

    I think I’ll end up having friends in all of the kingdoms, and I want to hang out with all of them. Can’t we just configure it sorta like Google+ ?

  20. Thomas Parkin says:

    Contemplating Sec 76 has probably done more for my outlook than any other bit of scripture than anything other than the last half of Sec 121 and a few bits of the gospels (esp John). The direction I’d prefer to go is to understand the kingdoms better. Build on understanding rather than retreat from it – I’m with Mikeinweho … haven’t we done enough retreating from our Mormonism in favor of little pseudo-Christtian orthodoxies?

    What I’d like to see is even more purging of our sensibilities of the kinds of ideas about justice that we have inherited from Protestantism … really, what could you possibly do in 70+ years that warrants any kind of permanent placement in an infinite afterlife? Nothing … there is nothing you could do. Because of this, I’m in favor of the idea of movement between kingdoms.

    But really, the whole question is: what is? Not: what makes me feel better about things? We aren’t likely to be getting any answers as long as we are using _any_ effort getting our views to conform to our preferences.

  21. Thomas, I don’t disagree. Of course we should worry more about what is than what we would like to be. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough to guide us in distinguishing between the two (I think), so barring revelation (personal or otherwise), I tend to think we all find what is right for us (which is a combination/distillation of the other two options). Unless I’m wrong. Which I could be. That said, once I get to talking about how I imagine the celestial kingdom working, you (and Eric) may not be in such disagreement with me.

    As to progression between kingdoms, I would be happy for it to work that way. Unfortunately, I believe that Elder Talmage is singular in his approval of that position (and not terribly committed to it at that). Are there other LDS thinkers (aside from Geoff J) who thus thought?

  22. Glass Ceiling says:

    The Mormon kingdoms, as an idea, are heaven-sent. In the majority of the remaining Christian world, if you are a Bushman in the Congo (with your Coke bottle ), and you never got saved because you never heard the word “Jesus,” then you are going to hell.

    There are many questions surrounding the “Three Kingdom. + OD ” philosophy, but it sure beats the alternative.

    Btw, Protestant churchs will deny their “Damned Bushman” stance by saying, “He will be judged on the knowledge he has been been given.” Obviously, they got that from Mormon rhetoric, just like they got “time and all eternity.” But as the nephew of a Southern Baptist preacher, I know they were talking hellfire for the proverbial Bushman as recently as the 80s.

  23. Eternity is an awfully long time to be locked in any one room — or mansion– especially if we really believe in eternal progression.

  24. Left Field says:

    A few months ago on Jeopardy!, one of the clues went something like this:

    “This religion, founded in 1830, holds that everyone, except a few deniers of God, will receive glory in the afterlife.”

    All three contestants stood there like stumped dummies. Then they looked even more stumped when Alex revealed the correct question.

    I like that we attribute glory to everyone, even if that’s not exactly the impression others have of us. Or the impression we have of ourselves, for that matter.

  25. Richard_K says:

    While I certainly agree that a contradiction _can_ be read into D&C 137 vs D&C 76, I do not advocate that a contradiction is the _only_ legitimate way to compare them. To me, a careful reading of the D&C 76 passage hinges on the word ‘Receive’ as it is contrasted against the word ‘Reject’ in D&C 99; in other words: The gospel — with its attendant ordinances — must be offered as a prerequisite to being received. For Alvin, it was not a question of failing to receive the gospel in this life, it was merely a fact that the gospel was not offered to him. Sure, Joseph was astonished to see Alvin in heaven, but not necessarily because of what he was privy to by virtue of D&C 76. Besides, the verse omitted from the D&C 76 passage cited above (v. 79) implies that Terrestrial glory has something to do with valiancy in the testimony of Jesus: It is a stretch to me to think that these are they who were not valiant in the post-mortal spirit world after hearing the gospel for the first time; this sound more like mortality to me.

  26. Mr. Chris says:

    Interesting post and comments! I’m no longer LDS but I’ll offer a couple comments about how I felt about the afterlife when I believed…

    The choice made in the first estate must have been an important one because if made correctly, gave you a 99% chance of receiving some degree of glory. And I always thought that that reward seemed “bigger” at the moment than the one we’ll receive after the second estate. Because, now, we’re just being tested to see how much glory we get (assuming we never come face-to-face with deity).

    As far as D&C 76 vs D&C 137, it looks like both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had a hand in 76 but 137 remains Smith’s work only. I wonder if that explains the apparent difference in doctrine.

  27. The more I study the gospel, the more I feel like God is only revealing an over-simplified view of eternity because it’s all we’re ready to handle. I think heaven and hell is the single best example of primary-style oversimplification.

    I think even the three degrees of glory are an oversimplification. It’s like dividing the earth into first world, second world, and third world countries. It’s a useful classification for some specific purpose, but in the end it’s just an arbitrary classification.

    Because when God tells us anything about the afterlife, it’s undoubtedly like me trying to explain quantum mechanics to my four-year-old. I’m going to come up with some cute metaphor that’s as much as she is ready to handle right now, but if she takes my metaphor and extrapolates her own assumptions from it, I can almost guarantee they’ll be wrong.

  28. John (18)

    The degrees open up the possibility of a sort of customized afterlife. It is a giant step better than all or nothing.

  29. Eric,
    I don’t understand why that is better. What do you mean by a “customized afterlife”?

  30. Last Lemming says:

    #24–greatest Jeopardy moment ever.

    I have my own heresies on the subject, but they are very different than John C’s. I believe in individualized afterlives AND eternal progression for everybody except the sons/daughters of perdition. I believe the three-kingdom structure is just a rhetorical convenience; “many mansions” is more than three–more like billions. The trick is to stop looking at eternal progression as a strictly linear process (which drives the insistence on progression between kingdoms) and start looking at is as a multidimensional process. My model of the afterlife allows everybody to progress eternally along at least one dimension, and not necessarily the same one–which one(s) depends on our desires as manifested on earth. Higher kingdoms open up more dimensions. In the highest kingdom, all dimensions will be open for us to progress along. Also, the opportunity to progress does not imply that we will avail ourselves of it. Those who dies before becoming accountable, for instance, will not have any constraints placed on their progress, but they might choose to limit their own progress depending on their interests. (This is the only way I can reconcile the justice of that doctrine.)

  31. KerbearRN says:

    #22 — since when did Richard Bushman move to the Congo and cohabitate with a Coke bottle? And why is he getting hellfire for it??? :/

    Great post, gave me something to consider after my Sunday nap. The older I get, the less the “black and white” delineations make sense to me and the more opportunity for inclusiveness is seek. Maybe it’s just me getting lazy in my judgentalism, but I do love the idea of eternal progression. I remember reading a GA talk excerpt where he stated, and I paraphrase, ” you might be surprised by who you see in the Celestial Kingdom.”. He indicated much of what we would be judged on is our capacity to love. I found that somehow wonderful and comforting and find myself hoping he is right. I do know for darn sure most people would be pretty surprised to see ME in the CK.

  32. Glass Ceiling says:

    Kerbear,

    The Coke bottle was a reference to the movie “The Gods Must be Crazy.” :)

  33. John (29)

    Not all or nothing.

  34. #4 MikeInWeHo

    I said Calvinists FTW tounge in cheek, much like I assumed John did. The way Mormons around me talk is very Calvinesque. It doesn’t square at all with angency, but sometimes it seems we want it both ways: everything detail of our lives pre-planned in the preexistence, but then everything a choice, but nothing an accident. We can’t have it both ways.

    Clark, I guess it depends on which ward you are in, or what crowd you run in. Seperate places seems like the simple version kids are taught until their say 10.

  35. They’re 10

  36. Eric,
    Maybe we’re talking past each other, but your answers aren’t making anything clearer for me.

  37. John, I’m sure you know that there is a group of authorities in Talmage’s camp. And a group who manifestly are not. I’ll be interested in reading your followup in any case. Fun post.

  38. Section 88 is a continuation of Section 76, but it hasn’t been mention yet. The central allegory per 88:51 is about the kingdoms. In it, the lord of the field visits each of the servants, but each in his own hour, until, finally, “they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season.” It can’t happen sooner, since, per 88:33, a gift is of no use unless it is received willingly. People develop at their own pace.

    If that means what I think it means, then our concerns about the various kingdoms and barriers between them will be temporary, though perhaps lengthy for some.

  39. WVS,
    Actually, my ignorance is showing. I’d always assumed that the changes that Elder Talmage had to make to Articles of Faith indicated that he was mostly alone. So, nope. But I am aware of the authorities who are not.

  40. kerBearRN says:

    @ Glass Ceiling–

    Sorry you missed my apparently lame attempt at humor, lol. Just couldn’t resist the name-association. The Gods Must Be Crazy has been a favorite of mine since it first came out.

  41. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    I’ve understood Sec. 131 to deal with degrees within the celestial kingdom itself: “In the celestial glory, there are three heavens or degrees;”

    So, even more rooms? (Multiple degrees of multiple kingdoms)

    Pretty sure it doesn’t mean that we should rejoice in putting even more distance between the upper crust and all that come beneath, or even that it is truly numerically discrete. To me, the Christian message of that doctrine is the way it enables the righteous judge to use perfect justice and mercy in applying the full spectrum of glory at the time of judgement.

    And it’s true that our scriptural understanding of this gets a lot more sophisticated when you move from the BC stuff to #76 and from then to the later sections. Prolly means we can’t close the door on anyone’s eternal progression based on what we know now.

  42. StillConfused says:

    I just want to be in the heaven with the good christian people… I don’t really care if they are mormon or not (in most cases they are not).

  43. MikeInWeHo says:

    Re: 42 So no Jews, Buddhists, or agnostics up there with you? Count me out. On the other hand, if you want to take the Evangelicals with you to a more private part of heaven I am fine with that.

  44. Glass Ceiling says:

    Kerbear
    , It was funny, and I was lame not to have realized it till you reminded me. :)

  45. I’ve always liked the degrees of glory. I like the concept that you’ll receive as much love and grace as you would enjoy.

    I’ve never really understood the pass/fail heaven /hell thing. I can’t get out of my mind how heavenly it wouldn’t be to have the 50.1%ers in …or how it feels for the 49.9 people who just missed out…or wherever you place your line.

    I understand Doctrine and Covenants 76 like richard K….the key part of the scripture being recieve…whether a person has had an actual opportunity to hear the gospel is difficult for anyone here to know ( no matter how many 19yos want to undust their feet)…and surely does not include African Bushman.

    I’ve always assumed you could visit anywhere below where you are…and figured there must be progression and learning, or we would be damned.

  46. John (36)
    In your post, you said ‘you are either in or out’ in regards to heaven as taught in the Bible and the Book or Mormon. I feel that degrees of glory do away with the ‘you are either in or out’ mentality and I find that superior. I am not trying to be complicated in the least here.

  47. Eric,
    I don’t think you will be troubled by where this is all going.

  48. Timely post for me. Last month I convinced the men’s book group in my ward (you read that right: MEN’s book group) to read Dante’s Inferno, and we had a lively conversation about our lack of a robust theological or even imaginative notion of hell. I find the idea that hell is basically “regret over knowing what you could have had” (as one friend put it) really unsatisfying. Maybe I have an underdeveloped sense of guilt or shame, but I don’t find regret to be much of a motivator.

    I think there’s another way of thinking about the Mormon problem of hell, though, which is this: if we don’t believe in hell (or at least, not a very big one), why do we take sin so seriously? Why do we excommunicate people for doing things that we believe will earn them some temporary punishment and then an eternity of unimaginable bliss?

    As a side note, I’m more bothered by the made-up word “Telestial” than any other part of the three-kingdoms doctrine.

  49. It’s from telos, because its the goal. Right?

  50. Since it’s only one step up from the Sons of Perdition, we ought to call it hellestial.

  51. Steve_G says:

    48, I like the name Telestial. Sure its sorta made up, but tele means at a distance or far. It makes sense to call the glory furthest from God, Telestial.

  52. Steve Evans says:

    It seems to me you need a heaven small enough to incentivize you to keep the commandments and do what’s right when you’re not feeling motivated by Christian love for others. So, heaven can sometimes seem very very small (eye of a needle) or very large, depending on how good a person you are and on how you’re doing.

    The gist of this is that John C. is clearly a better Christian than the rest of us.

  53. Kevin Barney says:

    On the origin of “Telestial,” see here:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/01/27/the-etymology-of-telestial/

  54. I think the notions of heaven and hell and the notion of the 3 degrees of glory correlate nicely with an understanding of the fundamental purpose of the church. To provide the necessary ordinances for exaltation. Now, there are certainly other purposes, but the key reason from a religious perspective is exaltation. Otherwise, there are plenty of good-works clubs and associations, etc. that can help you become a better person, help the poor, etc.

    I think we don’t return to this vision often enough, and as the good book says, without vision the people perish, or I’d say dwindle in unbelief. I think in addition to focusing on doing those things that encourage or mimic celestial-like traits we need to draw clear connections to the point in the eternities and our eternal destiny, if we are faithful in all that we receive, and seek for more.

  55. I have come to believe if someone can be loving and forgiving, they can live in a celestial community with God. I no longer see this as complicated at all.

  56. “John C. is clearly a better Christian than the rest of us.”

    I demand a cross-stitch of this.

  57. Hmmm, perhaps when we die it’s just…well…over. But that doesn’t do justice for the goodies or the baddies I suppose.

    Interesting ideas. I’m definitely intrigued.

  58. Very interesting to read your take on the three degrees of glory.

    I don’t think they’re a “Legacy” belief. For me, they’re a powerful symbol that reinforces our direct and individual relationship to a father in heaven. That he is invested in our development.

    Three Degrees (Glory for All) is one of the foundations of the Mormon suspicion that religion should be about building and fulfilling as opposed to spooking and inhibiting.

    Hell has become such a cliche scare tactic that we don’t need anything to do with it.

    For those hungry for punishment of evil, I think expanding the definition of Sons of Perdition is more useful than adopting a conventional Heaven / Hell dynamic. Using the Hitler example, its pretty easy to imagine that he rejected the Holy Spirit completely. You would think that kind of true depravity necessitates a complete rejection of the Spirit in a way that forfeits the game. We can’t know for absolute certain who has passed “that place”… so… I it becomes unimportant for us to know exactly who the “evil” ones are. That’s for God to know (which isn’t the same as being subject to his “whims”).

    If it isn’t easy to neatly categorize someone as “hellbound” we aren’t aloud to smugly toss them into the bin. Thats actually kind of a healthy mystery.

  59. it's a series of tubes says:

    micah, how do you reconcile your assessment of Hitler with JS’s explanation re the SOP?

    ” “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.” (Teachings, p. 358.)”

    Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “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, p. 123).

  60. I had a missionary companion that believed that anyone who did not accept our invitation to listen to the discussions blew their chance (“no son elegidos” he would say). I never believed that because I grew up as a non-member in Utah and can’t tell you how many times I said no and even slammed a few doors into the faces of missionaries before finally saying yes.
    When I was in Afghanistan, I had a commander who was a devout evangelical Christian and always looked for opportunities to save me from sliding down that greased pole to hell. One day I was at a small outpost with him and saw this little girl taking a bucket down to the river to get some water and I asked him about her, living like this out in the middle of nowhere with almost no chance to hear about Jesus let alone accept him as her personal savior (his words). His response boiled down to “Well I guess that is her tough luck”
    I guess the point I am trying to make is that I don’t think the Lord judges on a bell curve (20% telestial, 70% terrestrial, and 10% celestial). I don’t think that Heavenly Father set up a plan where 90% of his children don’t make it back to him especially when you consider that 99.9999% of His kids will live and die without seeing those charming young men in white shirts and ties. That is what the atonement is for.

  61. Miskatonic says:

    Most religious people, including Mormons, think of Hitler as the worst villain in all of history. It’s pretty difficult to argue that point. I certainly feel that way. One of the worst aspects of declaring myself an agnostic is robbing myself the satisfaction that evil people will get their everlasting torment. But it is a very earthbound perspective to think that Hitler was the worst villain of all time. From a Mormon’s (and thereby an eternal) perspective, the mass slaughter of innocents is most certainly not the worst sin. Not even close. Leading someone away from God is much, much worse. A mormon could argue that when someones life is cut short, they are robbed of the opportunity to do good. If this were so, that would mean that anyone, ANYONE, could frustrate God’s plan. I just don’t see God reacting to a murder in this way, “Darn! I was just about to translate ol’ Harold when that doggone Satan worshipper gunned him down. He only had one more old lady to escort across the street. Now I have no choice but to send him to the Terrestrial kingdom. Foiled again!”

    In short, God knew that Hitler would be responsible for the deaths all those people way before they were killed. God has a plan for all of us, therefore they got the amount of time they needed to prove themselves. So, Hitler didn’t do anything to halt their eternal progression, he just sent them to the spirit world more quickly than we would’ve liked. Once their family members are rejoined with them, that time they spend separate from them will be a drop in the bucket; inconsequential.

  62. Miskatonic,
    I’m interested in your university!

  63. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 61

    That last paragraph creeps me out somehow.

  64. Sabrina says:

    Intriguing discussion. I kind of agree with the OP and maybe, as you flesh out your ideas, I’ll agree more. I think there is a chance of that. I see the telestial and terrestial kingdoms as both places and states of being for each individual. I think the actual places are temporary places. If you listen closely to the temple ceremony we are told this earth is already currently one of those kingdoms. I believe, though, regardless of which kingdom we’re currently in we can be living a higher law, or not living up to the law of that kingdom. So, if the earth is currently the telestial kingdom there are those who are living higher laws and could be considered terrestial or celestial beings, and vice versa.

    I also believe in the principle of eternal progression so mortality is just part of our progression and at some point in our own personal progression we will reach a state where we have received enough knowledge and have truly received the Holy Ghost / baptism by fire / mighty change and we choose to move forward and progress to a celestial state or become a SOP. So, in that way, it really is only heaven or hell – the CK or OD. That being said, I think that until we reach that point where that can be our ultimate choice God will wait. I don’t think there is some arbitrary time when your time is up and you didn’t make it. I think our final judgment will be individual and based on when we are truly ready for it. In the mean time, we will be progressing or digressing along the relative states of telestial, terrestial and celestial.

    I also have theories on what happens to the SOP’s but I’ll leave that for now. It’s all Sabrina doctrine, but so far it’s what makes the most sense to me. I am not sure I explained it well enough here for it to make sense to anyone else.

  65. Here’s my new little heresy:

    The celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms are compared to the sun, moon, and stars for practical reasons.

    When we get into the next world and we all get our own planets (because that’s what anti’s tell me I’m supposed to believe in as a good Mormon), my planet will be classified as celestial, terrestrial, or telestial based on how far away it is from the local star.

    So celestial planets are close enough to their star that we have nice, warm, caribbean days. Terrestrial planets are far enough from the star that the sun is only about as bright as our moon, and we enjoy quiet twilit walks. Telestial worlds, on the other hand, are so far away from the local star that we constantly have to use our phones as little lights to find our car keys.

    So the kingdoms are really a classification of the value of our real estate.

  66. Scott Armstrong says:

    To play devil’s advocate (pun intended), how do any of us know for a fact Hitler was worse than we are. His actions were obviously hideous and horrible, but I’ll leave the judging to Christ. I don’t think it’s possible–or useful–to judge anyone, even Hitler. I think we may be able to judge ourselves, but I think that’s about as far as it goes. I feel very uncomfortable when people start presuming to know where anyone is going to end up.

  67. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 66
    What do you mean by “worse,” Scott? Obviously his actions are worse than yours or mine. If not actions, what is there?

  68. #67 – We make exceptions all the time, gladly, for those whom we understand to be less than fully accountable for their actions – including their acceptance of Jesus and/or Heavenly Father in this life. I have no idea about any specific limitations Hitler might have had that might have limited his accountability – so, even in that case, I’ll leave the judgment to God. (For example, psychopaths are a fascinating discussion when dealing with agency and accountability, since, by clinical definition translated into Mormon-speak, they are understood to be unable to feel the type of remorse that leads to repentance. Were Hitler, Dahmer, Bundy, etc. accountable? I certainly want to believe so, but I simply have no idea when it comes right down to it.)

    I like the more complicated, multiple-glories concept specifically because it leans toward a break down of the tendency to categorize and judge others – to damn them in a real and practical way in our own minds. Sure, we still do it with three degrees of glory and Outer Darkness, but the more gradations there are the less likely we are to be positive we understand someone well enough to make that call – or, at least, I hope that is the case

    If even for no other reason than that, I like the multiple degrees of glory far more than the heaven/hell split. I prefer a simple “many mansions theology”, and I like the idea of etermal progression that ends only when each person has reached his or her ultimate potential (whatever that is individually) – so I tend to reject the idea that our final reward is determined when we leave this mortal existence. I see at least five stages of development built into our theology already – so, while I don’t believe in multiple mortal probations exactly, I certainly am open to the idea of more stages about which we simply don’t have or need information at this time.

  69. Scott Armstrong says:

    (67) Actions would be the perfect measuring stick if we all started with identical personalities, positions in place and time, family situations, chemical makeups in our brains, etc. There are also vast differences in upbringings, educations, etc. I think it’s a widely held idea in Mormonism (though not exclusive to us) that we’re judged on how well we did when all these things are taken into account.

    If there is a three degree system (although to be honest I like the proposed renovation and have always believed in some version of eternal progression, or regression, for all) I think it only makes sense that we’re all judged on scales unique to us. The idea of a one-size-fits all judgement based on actions committed doesn’t stand up.

    So, while Hitler might be a son of perdition, he might also be headed for glory. Maybe he had some crazy chemical imbalance or anomalous mental disorder we don’t know about. In any case, I think the HItler going to heaven idea is a pretty common thought experiment (I definitely didn’t make it up) and I admit it’s out there, but for me it does reinforce the idea that we ought to leave the judging to Christ. All of it.

    (I guess the converse is Mother Teresa not making the cut. Probably pretty silly, but I’m sticking with the idea that we can’t know anyone’s status for sure.)

  70. I think we can normally be safe judging a person’s actions (being responsible for the Holocaust is bad) but I try to leave the judgment of the whole person for Savior (I am hoping for some extra credit points for taking that stance). I also think that when it comes to the grace vs. works debate, we as Mormons downplay the grace part too much. I understand that we have to repent, but how can you possibly repent for ever sin you have ever committed, I mean I can’t even remember ever sin I have committed ( I am not talking about the keep you out of the temple kinds of sins but all of those sins of omission…ok, maybe some sins of commission too). If I want the atonement to work for me, I have to be willing to let it work for everybody else, even Hitler and Nehor.

  71. MikeInWeHo says:

    This conversation reminds me of a post that Ronan put up here at BCC a few years back:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/04/27/we-will-break-down-the-barriers-between-kingdoms/

  72. I’d forgotten that post, Mike. Thanks for linking to it.

  73. I can’t resist. The greater plan of salvation is to turn the infinity of dark space into light and life. Wamba #65, we will get our own universe big bang bomb, to heck with miserable planets. There is time and space.

    I also can’t imagine life without the computational wet-wear. What will we be like? Not like us, wandering around in the smoke and haze. I absolutely agree with the previous poster who said that the scriptures are a vast approximation. Some people need to be scared crapless, some need to be easily led. Some need the key to knowledge and revelation.

    As to Hitler, how about all of those lousy Germans and Austrians who voted for him? He did not do this in a vacuum, for sure. Do we blame all the enablers? Or how about the French who imposed impossible burdens on Germany for reparations for the 1st War? Or the Great Depression?

    A reading between the lines one might assume that we are all beloved children of God and our goal in life is to see it that way, as the Savior did, suffering and dying for all equally, the good and the bad, so that they could enter glory after this life.

  74. Here’s my little heresy…

    What if this is the Telestial kingdom and we will stay here until we are ready to move on to something more like the terestial kingdom and on and on? I think the three kingdoms were introduced to give us a concept of something more than a universe of duality (heaven and hell) there is plurality and eternal increase. In order to move on you need to perfect yourself through your experiences. I am, of course, talking about reincarnation but it’s the only way I can see that we can learn all of life’s lessons.

    I’ve heard rumor that Joseph Smith toyed with the idea before his death and it makes more sense to me than a lot of other notions.

  75. Interesting ideas… but I wouldn’t dismiss ‘The Vision’ just yet.

    The doctrine of degrees of glory accommodates the reality that there are degrees of goodness – or godliness. The notions of there just being a heaven or a hell (or even just a universal heaven) do not make as much sense.

    The phrase ‘eternal progression’ is not found in the scriptures and the notion that we can move up kingdoms denies the reality of the doctrine of probation (and ‘a time to repent’…). Additionally, that idea denies the revelations that we get about resurrection in Alma 11; Doctrine and Covenants 88 and 138. Sections 76 and 131 are clear that there are covenants we must enter (and faithfully ‘endure to the end’ of our probation) or we will be cut off from certain degrees.

    Section 76:85-87 also holds out the promise that those in higher kingdoms can visit (or minister) to those in lower kingdoms (again, within bounds). I think that might help appease the concern over eternally separated family members.

    However, it is clear that we have much more revelation to receive on the afterlife.

  76. If we are using the phrase ‘eternal progression’ to advocate a concept of ‘eternal probation’ then we are denying one of the pillars of the plan of salvation. Of course, we know that probation extends into the next life for some (not all though – compare Alma 34 and D&C 137).

    The ‘many mansions’ comment by Jesus refers to the room in the highest heaven not the concept of multiple degrees. We was speaking to his disciples at the time. There is room for all of God’s children.

    The doctrine of perdition certainly implies the concept of an eternal hell…

    To extend probation into the eternities (contra the Book of Mormon and D&C 76) is to put God himself at risk of regression. Does is not similarly imply that Satan make one day cease to be ‘lost’? I don’t buy it.

    It is not our place to judge but it is our place to teach there is a Judgement.

    I look forward to more revelation to fill in the gaps… but we do have some clear absolutes already.

  77. Can’t wait to see Hitler’s little bunker on the day of resurrection – maybe he’ll get his own little concentration camp!

    Imagine his surprise when he sees 6 millions jews with perfected bodies and assigned to a higher kingdom than himself?

    Still he is clearing NOT a son of perdition because he wasn’t baptised and didn’t hold the priesthood.

    We don’t need to get queasy about the justice in punishing the very wicked… or in them losing out on ‘eternal’ blessings.

  78. Jenkins,
    Allow me to introduce you to Geoff J and New Cool Thang.

  79. #76 – D&C 19 is interesting when it comes to this discussion. It adds another possible dimension that is fascinating to discuss.

    There’s enough conflicting or differing revelation on the subject that it’s hard for me to say with confidence exactly what is immutable Truth.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the early Mormon understanding of these things changed and evolved throughout Joseph’s lifetme. I think it’s pretty clear, if one accepts the D&C as revelation, that God explained exaltation and salvation and eternal progression in varying ways – or, perhaps, explained parts of the Plan in various sections that only appear to us to be differing descriptions. I believe that the revelations Joseph received with regard to the post-mortal life were given according to his ability to grasp and convey the incomprehensible to those in his time who couldn’t see or understand what he saw (and, in some cases, that even he didn’t fully understand) – and I view most of our ancient scripture in the same way (as the closest those prophets could come to seeing, and explaining what they saw, to those who couldn’t see or understand it fully).

    Thus, I am hesitant to reach a conclusive decision about exactly what constitutes Truth when it comes to the things which I believe we see through our glass the most darkly. I’m open to a lot of possibilities, and I think there is great worth in contemplating and pondering them – as long as that does not distract us from the fundamental focus of loving others in the here and now.

  80. It's Not Me says:

    A bit of a diversion here, but for those who fear that (persons like) Hitler will not suffer sufficiently and then be given a kingdom of glory, let’s assume that he suffers 1000 years and is then resurrected and goes to the Telestial Kingdom. We may think 1000 years is clearly not enough for what he did, but do we really know what he experiences? When I sleep and dream a lifetime’s experience in a few minutes, is it not possible that a person could experience an eternity of torment in a thousand years?

  81. Jenkins says:

    John C.,
    Thanks for the link, just what I need, another blog to read :)

  82. It’s true – Section 19 teaches that the word ‘eternal’ can refer to quality not quantity so that I can suffer eternal torment etc in a definite period of time. That is, endless punishment can end. (But can eternal life come to an end?)

    That can answer why two people who both go to the telestial kingdom may have suffered to different degrees in ‘hell’ and then differ in glory as two stars differ in glory.

    But the doctrine of the resurrection as the union of spirit and body never to be divided in addition to the notion that we get the kind of body that matches our spirit means we can’t suggest that Terrestrial being can become celestial eventually.

    However there is still scope for growth and interaction.

  83. When you combine Abraham 3:25-26 with D&C 132:13-19 you the the clear impression that some endowments of glory are ‘forever and ever’. That is the only way to preserve the sense in the concept of probation. There is a time to prepare and it is by its very nature temporary (Alma 34). Even for those whose probation is extended into the spirit world in eventually comes to an end (D&C 137 & 138). After that, the kingdom is assigned. But as D&C 131 (and D&C 76) hint there are degrees within the various degrees. So there is room for progression within kingdoms.

    I don’t see how we can justify anything else unless we do a complete revision of our revelations. Still we can hope that the lower kingdoms are relatively empty.

    But if all men will be saved … eventually … how’s does that plan differ essentially from the one suggested by satan?

    I like to think that God’s mercy and grace will pleasantly surprise us but I also accept the doctrine of the degrees of glory and the existence of an eternal outer darkness. I’m not particularly pushed to see it renovated.

    Plus I agree with Ray that as it stands it is less judgemental than a binary system of heaven and hell.

  84. RW #73, when we get to the other side, we will find that a Big Bang is just one of a myriad of methods that can be used to create a universe.

    And getting a universe is the grand prize. There’s no Telestial universe. Telesties just get a small rock in an Oort cloud.

    But for the grand prize winners, you get to create your own Universe, but you don’t get the Big Bang Bomb. You get a specific amount of matter unorganized. It’s kind of like getting a new acre of farmland, but it’s never been cleared so you have a lot of prep work.

  85. Neo Kon says:

    ‎”If we lost the doctrine entirely, what would we lose?”
    To the Prophet Joseph it was quite important. One of the fascinating things about prophets (that we especially see in Joseph Smith) was the amazing vision they have of things godly that we don’t. They have a whole other level of understanding because they commune with Jehovah (Moses 7:4). So while we mere mortals can chit-chat, contemplate and ponder about how many kingdoms there are, or what angels look like, or how crowded it gets on the head of a pin, it’s all much more clear to the seers and revelators.

    The Prophet wrote: “Upon my return from Amherst [Ohio] 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: [D&C 76].” (History of the Church, 1:245.)

    Philo Dibble was an eyewitness to the reception of this revelation. He wrote that “the vision which is recorded in the Book of 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.

    “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 reported 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.’” (Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, pp. 303–4.)

    The Prophet Joseph Smith 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 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, 1:252–53.)

    President Wilford Woodruff said of the vision that it “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 to. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be. For all men know what laws they keep, and the laws which men keep here will determine their position hereafter; they will be preserved by those laws and receive the blessings which belong to them.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:146–47.)

  86. Thanks for adding that, Neo.

  87. Raymond Takashi Swenson says:

    The more I think about the traditional LDS understanding of the layout, the more fair and just and merciful it looks to me.

    In most of our discussions about the culpability of people in mortality, we forget the doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon that every person is born with the Light of Christ, something innate in us (perhaps partly our buried memories of the pre-mortal existence) that will, if we listen for it, guide us toweard things that are good, and specifically toward Christ. Save for little children and those with mental disabilities, we do not make our life choices in total ignorance of right and wrong. We can see the opposition in all things and choose, and we can fairly be held accountable for how we choose.

    And then there is the important doctrine that our probationary period, our window of choice, continues in the spirit world until our resurrection. We are all going to be there in the same world, some ten billion of us from earth, the righteous preaching to the rest. Just because we are still walking and talking after the events we remember as our own deaths, does not mean that everyone will believe in God and Christ, or the prophets. People who don’t like the implications of Christ as the Son of God will buy into some alternate rationale to explain what they are experiencing, sort of like the alternate explanations for the events in the TV series Lost. The buddhists have been there since 600 BC working up theories to fit the spirit world into their theology, and the same will be true for Muslims since the late 600s AD. I think convincing people is going to depend to a great extent on them seeing people they know who have accepted the Gospel, and that will require a wave of conversions passing through personal links from those who had the Gospel and the priesthood on earth, converting first hand contacts, who in turn convert their friends and family, and so on through hundreds of generations and a hundred degrees of separation from Joseph Smith. It is going to be a person-to-person slog, just like on our missions. And it will require using different languages, again because we are stuck with our mortal memories. We are going to still have a veil over our memories of the premortal life, so the test of what we really want to believe, what we want to be reality, will continue, and no one will be forced to accept the Gospel by obvious and undeniable facts.

    Once we have a clearer picture of the spirit world, where people sort themselves out, the different degrees of glory make better sense, in my opinion. And I am sure that God will find things for the Terrestrial and Telestial folks to keep busy with, within their capacities.

  88. I agree with Neo Kon with one proviso – section 76 makes the promise that each saint can see the same vision as Joseph himself. This is the same as the promise that we can see the saviour. They are extensions of the promise that we can receive the Holy Ghost – ie, just as real. So we can know the gospel just as deeply as prophets, seers and revelators.

    I also agree with Raymond Takashi Swenson that probation (for most people) extends into the spirit world. Probation does end for some at death (see 2 Nephi 31 and Alma 34) which makes mortality very crucial for them.

    I feel the same way as Raymond and Jacob (2 Nephi 9) about the plan of God – it is great, glorious and full of grace.

  89. 3 Kingdoms, 4 rooms, 2 rooms, kingdoms as separate places or states of minds…etc. is all blah blah blah. Face it: scriptures have a few words and verses that refer to the afterlife. If you take just a little step back, it is all either ambiguous or contradictory or both. Pontification over it is useless. We don’t know, we just like to fantasize about it being something that we will like.

    It’s not about faith either. You are just imagining. Real faith is trusting that if God cares about you and will reward you according to your deeds, then the reward will please you. The reward will be much better than you can imaging in your limited human capacity. So…Now get back to doing something nice for someone and stop spending so much time talking about it…or pontificating over stuff you don’t know, will never know, and cannot change about the afterlife.

  90. Craig,
    While I agree that we should be spending more time in acts of Christian charity than in speculation, I think that speculation informs why we engage in those acts of Christian charity. While we cannot say with certainty that we are right and while we will always make a God in our preferred image, that God demonstrates the ideals that we aspire to. That is pretty important, in my opinion. Giving consideration to how our beliefs about God and the afterlife shape the motivations behind our actions is not wasted effort, unless it prevents us from doing.

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