Section 76: The Vision
Section 76 is indeed for us a priceless heritage! It has been called one of the greatest, if not the greatest, revelation ever received by man in this or any dispensation. It was received February 16, 1832, in a corner room of the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. The following statement of Joseph’s provides us with helpful background information:
Upon my return [to the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio] from [the] Amherst conference [held January 25, 1832], I resumed the translation of the scriptures [the revision of the King James Bible]. 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 everyone 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 Saint John’s gospel [after coming to John 5:2829: “Marvel not at this for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”], myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision (HC, 1:245).
We should note that in this corner room of the John Johnson home it was not at all unusual for elders of the Church to come to listen as Joseph and Sidney worked on the Bible revision. It must have been fascinating to watch and listen, and there were often several elders present at any one time. As Joseph and Sidney came to John 5:28-29 and were discussing it, the Spirit moved them to question the verse. They knelt in prayer seeking further light. The Spirit came upon them and they were favored with this glorious vision.
In addition to the Prophet’s brief introduction cited above, the only description of this event that has surfaced is a remembrance of Philo Dibble, a close friend and boyhood pal of the Prophet, published in the Juvenile Instructor, May 15, 1892. The following tidbits are contained in Dibble’s description of the event:
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 [the names of the others are not recorded]. 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 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 repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person, not a sound or 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.”
After probably almost two hours the vision ended. Section 76 was later dictated to a scribe. It was not recorded while they were having the experience. The revelation was first published in the Evening and Morning Star in July 1832, and it was included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
It should be remembered that Philo Dibble was a very old man when he wrote this account of events that had occurred sixty years before. In an earlier reference to section 76, Brother Dibble had indicated that he was actually present only at the end of the vision (see “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” 81). Nevertheless, as a young man he was himself an eyewitness to at least part of the vision and was there at the time to learn from other eyewitnesses exactly what had happened before his own arrival.
Has any other prophet ever seen the same or similar vision? Some are quick to mention John the Revelator or the prophet Nephi or the Brother of Jared. We must keep in mind that several men have seen a vision of the beginning of the world to the end thereof. Joseph Smith’s vision, however, went beyond the scope of this world and into the eternal worlds of varying degrees of glory. There are actually only two other men recorded in our present-day scriptures to whom this great revelation was revealed: Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel (see Genesis 28:10-12), and Paul, the apostle (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-7). And our knowledge of these two men having seen such a vision is dependent upon a statement by the prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph taught: “Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter” (TPJS, 304-05).
Although Jacob saw a vision of the degrees of glory, the present text of Genesis provides only this meager account: “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). Paul’s account is not much fuller, and although it sounds as if he is speaking of someone else, a careful reading of verses 5 through 7 reveals this man to be himself. “And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:34). Although Paul mentions a third heaven, the prophet Joseph’s explanation does much to clarify what he intended. Paul’s treatise of the three different types of resurrection, recorded in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, was undoubtedly based on his vision. Note also that Paul was forbidden to reveal his revelation. It should again be acknowledged that since Joseph and Sidney were working on “the translation of the Scriptures” when this vision was given, this knowledge could have once been in the Bible and was being restored through Joseph (see the preface to section 76). Whether Joseph was the only one who recorded it or if he was restoring knowledge that had previously been recorded, the fact remains that he is the one who has given this generation the knowledge of the varying degrees of glory.
Apparently Joseph Smith was the one privileged to record this vision for the inhabitants of this telestial world just as John the Revelator was the one ordained to record the vision to the end of the world. Although the brother of Jared also recorded his vision of the beginning of the world to the end thereof (see 2 Nephi 27:6-11), his record is apparently reserved for the Millennium, when only those of a terrestrial or celestial nature will be living on the earth.
It should be also noted that in the vision itself Joseph and Sidney were told what they were to write down while still “in the Spirit” those portions of it that could be shared with the Church and with the world. They were also told what they were not to write (verses 28, 49, 80, 113, 114-15). Their written account was then forwarded to Independence, Missouri, for church publication and appeared in The Evening and Morning Star in July 1832. Eleven years after the vision (May 1843), Joseph said “I could explain a hundred-fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them” (HC, 5:402).
While section 76 will not answer all the questions we may have about our eternal destinies, it is abundantly clear that there is an eternal reward commensurate with every level of obedience—rewards that range from godhood to perdition.
Joseph Smith’s own summation of the importance of this revelation is instructive:
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” (HC, 1:251-53).
Yet the reaction of the saints to the doctrines revealed in section 76 was not universally positive. The old orthodox belief that most of humanity would be tortured in hell forever was so ingrained in contemporary religious thinking that Joseph’s glorious message of God’s inexhaustible love and mercy was unwelcome to some. Brigham Young recalled: “When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of good, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it” (JD, 16:42).
Keep in mind that section 76 was received February 16, 1832. Joseph would yet live twelve years and would yet receive much more information regarding the concepts in section 76. If we are going to study section 76, it is important to study other revelations received following section 76 that give further light on the subjects treated in section 76. The following additional revelations are helpful: D&C 88:18-32, 95-100, D&C 130:6-11, D&C 131:1-4, D&C 132:15-26, and D&C 137.
In 1843 Joseph wrote and published a version of the section 76 in poetry. This rewriting of section 76 apparently came about when someone wrote a somewhat antagonistic letter to the editor of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo which said in effect, “In ancient times the prophets of God wrote their great prophecies in poetry. You claim that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, but we’ve never known him to write any poetry.” The editor, W. W. Phelps wrote a bit of poetry himself, then turned the letter over to the Prophet. Joseph, undoubtedly with a twinkle in his eye, took the entire section 76 and rewrote it in poetry. See a copy of that poem following the commentary for this section. In the nearly twelve years that had intervened since February of 1832, Joseph had learned more regarding the three degrees of glory. In this poetic rewriting we find new doctrine never before published such as the concept of “Kolob.” This poem was published in the Times and Seasons—our church periodical in Nauvoo on February 1, 1843, and in England in the Millennial Star in August 1843.
Section 76, though we refer to it as “the vision,” is actually a series of visions. These may be outlined according to the bolded divisions within the verse commentary. In these separate visions, little is said about what they saw; the emphasis is upon what they heard.
D&C 76 The Vision
D&C 76:22-24 After the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
D&C 76:41-46 The fate of the sons of perdition—the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows.
D&C 76:50-70 Vision of the souls in the celestial kingdom.
D&C 76:71-80 Vision of the souls in the terrestrial kingdom.
D&C 76:81-90 Vision of the souls in the telestial kingdom.
D&C 76:107 I have trodden the wine-press alone, even the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
The Prologue (verses 1-18)
1 Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior.
verse 1 “Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth” Compare Isaiah 1:2; Deuteronomy 32:1. Section 76 impacts our knowledge of both heaven and earth, of both the living and the dead, of both this life and the next. Elder Wilford Woodruff stated that this vision “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” (JD, 22:146-47).
The Lord addresses the inhabitants of the heavens as well as the earth. As to why the inhabitants of the heavens are included one can only speculate. However, inasmuch as they are invited to rejoice, it seems the Lord may be making them aware that he is revealing information to the earth’s inhabitants that has long been withheld from those mortals on earth. Certainly those in the heavens are desirous that the earth’s inhabitants know “the term ‘Heaven’ . . . must include more kingdoms than one” (preface to section 76). Another purpose for including the heavens is implied in verses 5 through 7, which state that the Lord honors those who serve him and will reward those who do so by revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to them. If the heavens, as used here, refers to beings who once lived on this earth and now serve the Lord as his messengers but have not yet received their eternal status or blessings, it may be that they are also being shown and enlightened by the power of the Lord’s Spirit (see verse 10).
“beside him there is no Savior” This is an excellent moment for the reader to contemplate the series of scriptures Acts 4:12; Mosiah 3:17; and D&C 18:23.
2 Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out.
3 His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.
verse 3 “his purposes fail not” Everything Christ undertakes will be successful (Abraham 3:17).
4 From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail.
verse 4 “From eternity to eternity he is the same” The words usually translated as eternity in the Old and New Testaments do not refer to endless time but rather to distinct “ages” of time (see the commentary on D&C 19:3, 6; 76:112). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “From eternity to eternity means from the spirit existence through the probation which we are in, and then back again to the eternal existence which will follow” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:12).
“his years never fail” He never ages, and he goes on forever.
verses 1-4 It is interesting to note that the Lord refers to himself in the third person in these verses. He switches to the first person after the opening phrase of the next verse. 5 For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
verse 5 “I, the Lord, am . . . gracious” Christ is the source of grace. The simple definition of grace is the love which God has for man—particularly that aspect of his love that inclines him to bestow upon man blessings that man does not actually merit or deserve.
“unto those who fear me” See the commentary for D&C 10:56.
verses 6-10 These verse contain marvelous promises for the Lord to each person who diligently serves the Lord.
6 Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
verse 6 “great shall be their reward and . . . their glory” A person’s glory is synonymous with that individual’s light. Spiritual light correlates directly with an individual’s revealed spiritual gifts. See The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
7 And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
verse 7 “to them will I reveal all mysteries” The Lord is speaking of “those who fear me . . . and serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (see verse 5).
“all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom” Whenever the scriptures speak of mysteries, they refer to information that can be learned only through divine revelation. The knowledge that will be revealed to Joseph and Sidney in section 76 contains knowledge that had been, prior to February of 1832, “hidden mysteries” (see verses 810). This knowledge includes things that, as far as we know, had never as yet been revealed to man—“which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man” (verse 10).
8 Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.
9 And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.
10 For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.
verse 10 “For by my Spirit will I enlighten them” Joseph Smith wrote, “Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has a testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered. It has been by testimony. Men of the present time testify of heaven and hell, and have never seen either; and I say that no man knows these things without this” (HC, 3:389-90).
verses 5-10 When coupled with verses 114 through 118, these verses teach us that the Lord is willing to reveal the “hidden mysteries” of the kingdom to those who are faithful. In essence the Lord seems to say that if we want to learn what is in the larger part of this revelation, which Joseph was prevented from writing down, it will come to us through personal revelation if, and when, we prove ourselves worthy.
11 We, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two—
verse 11 “being in the Spirit” Being filled with the influence of the Holy Ghost.
12 By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God—
verse 12 “our eyes were opened” When the power of the Holy Ghost descends directly upon an individual, the veil that normally covers sight and understanding can be temporarily drawn aside, allowing him to see and participate in things beyond this natural world (see verses 116-118, D&C 67:11-12).
13 Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning;
verse 13 “Even those things which were from the beginning” This phrase refers to things from the premortal state even before the creation of this earth. It is technically incorrect to label section 76 as a vision of the afterlife or of the three degrees of glory, for Joseph and Sidney saw much more than this. The scope of this vision spanned from the beginning of creation (verse 13) to the completion of Christ’s work (verses 106-107) to worlds without number and without end (verses 109-112). As mentioned above, this vision is similar to the grand panoramic vision of this world from its beginning to its end allowed to other prophets who stood at the heads of previous dispensations (see Moses 1:1-9, 24-41; 7:21-67; Abraham 3:5), but section 76 includes a vision of both the earth, from beginning to end, and a vision of the eternities. The poetic version of section 76 (see below) describes the content of the vision as including “what was, and what now is, and yet is to be.”
“his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning” Note that “the beginning” in this case does not refer to the creation of the earth or to the creation of the universe, but to the appearance of Christ on the scene. Christ is the beginning of all things (see D&C 19:1).
14 Of whom we bear record; and the record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision.
verse 14 The Savior himself may be referred to as the “fulness of the gospel” in that his personal example is the epitome of gospel living, and by virtue of his atoning death he made possible the ultimate fruits of the gospel—a return to our Father’s celestial presence.
15 For while we were doing the work of translation, which the Lord had appointed unto us, we came to the twenty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of John, which was given unto us as follows—
16 Speaking of the resurrection of the dead, concerning those who shall hear the voice of the Son of Man:
17 And shall come forth; they who have done good, in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust.
verse 17 The reader should review the sequence of the resurrections (See the commentary for verse 50. See also “When Are We Resurrected” in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 13, The Spirit World). When Joseph and Sidney came to John 5:29 during their “translation” of the New Testament, they stopped to ponder the nature of the two resurrections.
“the resurrection of the just” This is referred to as the “resurrection of life” in John 5:29. This is the resurrection of the celestial and terrestrial individuals.
“the resurrection of the unjust” This is the “resurrection of damnation” spoken of in John 5:29. This is the resurrection of those who will inherit a telestial glory (see verse 85) and those who live a mortal life but then, tragically, become sons of perdition.
18 Now this caused us to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit.
verse 18 “for it was given to us of the Spirit” The full significance and meaning of John 5:29 was given to Joseph and Sidney
The Vision of the Son of God (verses 19-24)
After being assured that God’s purposes do not fail and that he delights to honor the faithful with wisdom and understanding through his Spirit, Joseph and Sidney were privileged to see and converse with the Son of God in heavenly vision. The details of that conversation, or even by what means it was carried out, are not stated. The effect of it, however, is clearly stated in verses 22-24.
19 And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.
verse 19 “And while we meditated upon these things” At least two other great visions in the scriptures came as a direct result of pondering. Nephi says that he was “pondering in mine heart” the things of his father’s dream when he was “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea into an exceeding high mountain” (1 Nephi 11:1). And President Joseph F. Smith said that he received his remarkable vision of the spirit world as he sat in his room “pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting” (D&C 138:12). As Joseph and Sidney pondered John 5:29, they were enabled, by the Spirit of God, to understand and then to see.
President David O. McKay taught the importance of pondering the scriptures:
I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements. One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation.
Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as “a form of private devotion or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.”
Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord (CR, April 1967, 85).
Your author has had this blessed experience. May I share with you the particulars of such an experience? In my study of the scriptures, I frequently arrive at a point where I do not understand—what I am reading does not fit perfectly onto what I already understand. I can’t quite grasp the concept. At the same time I sometimes feel a sense of real excitement, almost a quickening, that includes a feeling of hope and promise that an understanding of the thing is within my grasp if I will but spend some additional time pondering it. I am often moved to offer a silent or vocal prayer. I also sense a warning that if I do not press on now to a more thorough understanding, then I will lose the whole line of reasoning and will be required, at some time in the future, to begin the whole process again. Usually only a few minutes of pondering are sufficient, though sometimes the answer doesn’t come until days or weeks later. Then, almost as if I were granted a gift, the missing information occurs to me. My often-unarticulated questions are answered. I now see clearly the concept. When this occurs, I always feel like shouting “Yes!” and I sometimes shed a tear of joy and gratitude. I feel I must share my new understanding with someone, and I often try. Usually, however, the someone can’t appreciate the same significance I feel.
New understanding does not often come to the casual student of the scriptures. To him most of the scriptural record is difficult, confusing, and does not offer a ready promise of new understanding. He tends to see the scriptures merely as a means for reviewing familiar scriptural stories and an occasional source of inspiration. The scriptures are much more than this. They are the most fundamental and vital resource for new doctrinal understandings. The serious scripture student, on the other hand, has a firm understanding of those spiritual concepts he has studied in the past. He ponders them frequently and has defined and sharpened the edges of his understanding. He readily perceives what he does and does not thoroughly understand. His base or platform of understanding if firm and permanent imbues him with real confidence and an enthusiasm for adding significantly to his understanding. He is hungry for, and yearns for, new insights. He reads scripture with the real hope and expectation of acquiring new flashes of knowledge.
20 And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;
verse 20 We mentioned previously that in section 76 we read very little of what Joseph and Sidney saw. The emphasis is upon what they heard. What they did see, however, is important. Here we learn that Joseph and Sidney saw the Father and the Son.
“and received of his fulness” When Joseph and Sidney were in the presence of the Son, they were blessed to experience, in ways that we are not given to understand, the fulness of his glory or light (again, see The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15). We have previously learned that we fully benefit from his light only through our diligent obedience to his commands. When we do obey, then, incrementally, we are blessed to receive his glory (his light, his attributes). It then becomes our glory (our light, our attributes). In some way short of this usually lifelong process, Joseph and Sidney were blessed to benefit by his glory or light during their great vision experience.
21 And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.
verse 21 “the holy angels, and them who are sanctified” From the poetic version we learn that the “holy angels, and them who are sanctified” saw the Son “in a fulness of glory and holy applause.” Also, in that poetic version we learn that those giving the holy applause consisted of holy angels and those who were sanctified. These are two separate groups: holy angels (implying those who were assigned to this world) and “sanctified beings from worlds that have been.” Make certain that you understand the specific meaning of the term sanctified (see Justification and Sanctification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17). Thus, is it clear that these are men and women from other worlds created by Jesus Christ who have already been exalted through his atonement and dwell with the Father in his kingdom (see verse 24). The poetic version teaches:
By him, of him, and through him the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad.
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons.
By the very same truths and the very same pow’rs.
The fact that other worlds were created by Jesus Christ, under the Father’s direction, is a prevalent New Testament teaching, although it is often not recognized (see Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2). This doctrine is also confirmed in the Pearl of Great Price (see Moses 1:33-35), which source also reminds us, “Only an account of this earth and the inhabitants thereof, give I [the Lord] unto you.” Perhaps this is why nothing is said in the New Testament about the atonement covering the inhabitants of other worlds. The Doctrine and Covenants confirms that Jesus Christ atoned for other worlds as well. In speaking of the many kingdoms and the inhabitants thereof existing in the universe, the Lord likened them unto a man having a field, sending his servants into the fields, and promising to visit each man in his own hour and in his own order (see D&C 88:37, 51-61).
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all which we give of him: That he lives!
verse 22 “last of all” Meaning “the most recent” testimony rather than “the final” testimony.
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
verses 22-23 These are the sweetest words ever spoken to mankind! He who died now lives! There is life after death!
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
verse 24 We learn that the magnitude of Jesus’s creative and atoning powers extend beyond the scope of mortal understanding. His creative works include more than this world, and the power of his atonement extends also to the inhabitants of other worlds. The blood of Jesus Christ was not shed for this world alone. The sons and daughters of God on other earths also partake of its saving powers.
“That by him, and through him, and of him” See D&C 88:41; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17. The Creator of the universe and all it contains is Jesus Christ, acting in behalf of the Father.
Astronomers tell us that our solar system is located in a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, a flat disc-shaped cluster of stars approximately 100,000 light years across at its widest point. A light year is the distance light travels in one year. Moving at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, a beam of light traverses 5.7 trillion miles in 365 days. The size of our galaxy in miles, then, is a staggering 5.7 trillion times 100,000. Our galaxy is estimated to contain at least 200 billion stars, half of which likely possess solar systems similar to our own. The next closest galaxy is Andromeda, a star system much like our own Milky Way, approximately 2.2 million light years away from us. Furthermore, our best telescopes can probe outward into space to a distance of over 10 billion light years and view over 50 billion galaxies, each of which possesses billions of stars. And these galaxies are only the ones we can detect with the present state of our technology.
At this point in our existence, we are not given to understand the extent of Jesus’s creations. What comprises our “universe”? What is the extent of this round of our Father’s creations? What of all modern science can detect did Jesus Christ create? Our Milky Way galaxy? Many galaxies? All that we can see? We simply do not know!
And what is involved in the process of creation? Today a builder may build or create a home, for example, using pre-manufactured materials. Jesus Christ apparently used only two things—intelligences and unorganized matter—as his basic materials (“things to act and things to be acted upon”—2 Nephi 2:14). These were not created but have always existed (D&C 93:29). From these he made his own raw materials, the atoms, molecules, and elements. Using these raw materials he then formed the structures which we recognize to be part of our physical world. The full creative force of Christ is reflected not only in the forming of the physical world but also in its continued existence. In some way we do not yet understand, his influence—his light—gives energy and life to all things (D&C 88:13). Apparently the light of Christ imposes order and activates all things—even at the atomic or subatomic levels. We may presume that were he to withdraw, all matter as we know it would collapse into unorganized and deactivated chaos.
“the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof” Note that worlds is plural and that there are inhabitants who have lived and who now live upon those many worlds. Is there intelligent life in the universe? Of course there is! And all of these may be saved by the same Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. The poetic version of section 76 makes this even more explicit:
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,
By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.
“begotten sons and daughters unto God” Which “begetting” is spoken of here? All of the Father’s spirit children—those who inhabit all of the worlds created by the Son—were born as spirits to the Father and his female companion in the premortal world. Thus, all are begotten of the Father. Also we all may become sons and daughters of the Son. We do this through a spiritual rebirth. We are “born again” as children of Jesus Christ by accepting him, his commandments, his atonement, and entering into his covenants (see D&C 25:1; Mosiah 5:7; Ether 3:14; Moses 6:6, 62–7:1).
Since this verse makes it clear that it is by, through, and of Jesus Christ specifically that all these inhabitants of all these many worlds are begotten sons and daughters of God, this “begetting” is perhaps more likely to refer to our spiritual rebirth rather than our premortal spirit birth.
The Vision of Premortal Life, the Fall of Satan, and the Sufferings of Perdition (verses 25-49)
It is interesting that the Lord chose to show Joseph and Sidney perdition, the absence, of glory, immediately after showing them the glory of God. This was doubtless a great teaching moment—a dramatic foil or contrast—wherein Joseph learned the difference between the glory of God and the desperate lack of glory in outer darkness.
Just as those who completely follow Christ become sons of God (verse 58), those who suffer “themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome” (verse 31) become sons of perdition. Those who become sons of perdition must know God’s power, possess God’s power (verse 31), deny the Holy Spirit after receiving it, deny the only Begotten Son (“crucify him unto themselves”) (verse 35), and deny the Son after the Father has revealed him (verse 43). To become a son of perdition is to suffer a permanent second “second death” (verse 37). They are the “only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord” (verse 38). Through the power of the atonement, Christ saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition (verses 43-44).
After reading these verses which explain how a man might become a son of perdition, you might still be uncertain of the exact process. Let me again recommend that you review the commentary for D&C 132:26-27 which should be helpful.
The Lord explained to Joseph and Sidney that though some are permitted to catch a brief glimpse of perdition, no one except the sons of perdition themselves truly understand the nature, extent, and duration of the suffering there (verses 44-48).
There is an excellent teaching by Joseph about the sons of perdition in the History of the Church, volume 6, pages 461-62. Joseph related a dream, the major lesson of which is that the son of perdition places himself in such a position that no one can help him, not even the prophet. Perhaps even God is powerless to do anything.
The fall of Lucifer from the presence of God is documented in the Bible (see Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:7-9), and in the Pearl of Great Price (see Moses 4:14; Abraham 3:27-28). But there are many additional things about Satan and his fall revealed in section 76. That he was in a position of authority in the beginning is amplified in the poetic version by the descriptive “authority great.” The titles given him in section 76 are revealing. That he was called “Perdition” explains why the heavens wept over him. According to the dictionary, the word perdition means utter destruction, loss, eternal damnation, hell.” As Isaiah also said, he was Lucifer, a “son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12). According to President Joseph Fielding Smith, Lucifer means “a torchbearer” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:281), the word lucifer, itself means bearer of light. “Son of the morning” is usually interpreted to mean he was one of the early-born spirit children of Elohim. Thus, as one of the older of the children of God and someone in a position of authority, the title of Lucifer implies he was not only rebelling against God but was also leading others to do likewise. Therefore, he is designated a torchbearer or crusader against God. In fact, as both Isaiah (Isaiah 14:1314) and this section teach, he “sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ” (verse 28). To do this “he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (verse 29). In other words, his primary function of the earth is to oppose the work of the Church and its members. Therefore, we may be assured that whenever members of the Church are individually or collectively assembled to further their own spiritual progress or that of the Church, the devil will be there in opposition. In the words of Joseph Smith, “In relation to the kingdom of God, the devil always sets up his kingdom at the very same time in opposition to God” (TPJS, 365).
25 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
verse 25 “who was in authority in the presence of God” In the premortal world Satan exercised priesthood power. The poetic version calls him “an angel of light in authority great” (see Abraham 3:27-28).
26 And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
verse 26 “The heavens wept over him,” and with good reason! He was an “angel of God who was in authority [held the priesthood] in the presence of God.” He was Lucifer, which means torch bearer, or bearer of light. He was a “son of the morning,” which could mean either “son of light” or an early-born spirit child of our Father in the pre-earthly life. Obviously he had great capacity, promise, and influence (compare Moses 7:28). However, he was overcome by pride. After the Father put forth his plan for the salvation of man, Lucifer was presumptuous enough to disagree with the Father’s plan and put forth his own. There was never any question, of course, as to whose plan would be employed. I could well be that presumption and pride were not accurate descriptions of his motivation. There is good reason to believe that the Father’s plan was frightening to him. He was going to have to leave a setting of great status, be born into mortality, and earn the honor of returning to his place of notable position. You author’s suspicion is that he knew himself well enough to know that he would never make it. In essence, he was a pitiful coward who dared not take the chance of entering the test of mortality.
Who exactly is doing the weeping in this verse? Is it the hosts of heaven—the myriad premortal spirits who knew and associated with Lucifer in that sphere? Or might it be God the Father and God the Son themselves? For a defense of this latter possibility, see Moses 7:28-29 and the commentary for those verses.
Perdition means “the lost one.” It is notable that the title Lucifer occurs in only two other places in the scripture—Isaiah 14:12 and in Nephi’s quoting of this same Isaiah passage in 2 Nephi 24:12.
If you will study the commentary for D&C 132:26-27, you will learn that Satan became Perdition in the same way that a man on the earth might become a son of Perdition—he committed the unpardonable “sin against the Holy Ghost.” He openly rebelled from a position of great light and knowledge. By his power and influence he convinced “a third part of the hosts of heaven” to rebel with him “because of their agency” (D&C 29:36). We must presume that each of his followers also was guilty of the unpardonable sin. That is each fell from a position of great knowledge and foought against the Lord and his plan. Satan and his followers were “thrust down” “into the earth” (Revelation 12:9), “to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto [the Lord’s] voice” (Moses 4:4).
For further discussion of Satan, his motives, and his methods, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 16, The Role of Satan.
27 And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!
28 And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—
verse 28 “Satan, that old serpent, even the devil” The term Satan comes from the Hebrew and means “adversary,” “enemy,” or “accuser” (compare Revelation 12:10).
Devil, on the other hand, comes from the Greek word “diablos,” and means literally “one who separates or divides.” This title is especially apt as the devil separated himself and his followers from God in the premortal world. Also, he now separates those he deceives from God. While God seeks to make us all one (see D&C 38:27; John 17:20-22), the devil seeks to divide us against one another into factions and parties. The divine impulse unites, the devilish divides.
Satan is frequently identified with a serpent or dragon and particularly with the serpent in Genesis 3 (see also Revelation 20:2). In the ancient world the serpent was often a symbol for the forces of chaos and dissolution. Like a poisonous serpent, Satan injects his venom and kills with his mouth—for example, by lying, accusing, teaching false doctrine, etc.
“sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ” Satan apparently attempted something like a coup d’ état—to seize the throne of God by force (see Isaiah 14:12-15).
29 Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.
verse 29 “he maketh war with the saints of God” Satan has singled out the saints as his enemy against whom he will make war. Joseph Smith said, “The devil will use his greatest efforts to trap the saints” (TPJS, 161). He also told Heber C. Kimball that “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, the greater the power that will be manifest by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of his purposes” (Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1967, 132). Only the saints have the potential of being thrust down to the depths of misery where he dwells. Only the saints have sufficient light available to them to be “sealed up” to their exaltation by the Holy Ghost, and only those who have been “sealed up” can fall to the status of “son of Perdition.” They can rise higher or fall farther than any other of the Father’s children.
“encompasseth them round about” It is interesting to note that a similar expression to this one, “encompassed about,” is found three times in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 4:18; Ether 3:2; 6:7). “Encompassed” means encircled or surrounded, but in this verse and in the three verses in the Book of Mormon it implies something further. It suggests being surrounded by something that is threatening or dangerous and nearly overwhelming.
30 And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame, for thus came the voice of the Lord unto us:
verse 30 “those with whom he made war and overcame” The sons of perdition (see verses 31-32).
31 Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—
verse 31 Read this verse again carefully, knowing that the Lord is speaking of the sons of perdition, “those who know my [the Lord’s] power, and have been made partakers thereof” This phrase refers to the high level of spiritual progress necessary before one can fall all the way to outer darkness (see D&C 67:10).
“suffered themselves” They knowingly allowed themselves to be overcome. Like Cain, with full knowledge of both Lords, they loved Satan more than God and deliberately choose to follow Satan (Moses 5:18).
32 They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
verse 32 “sons of perdition” Recall that perdition means “lost.” These are they who have made the devil—perdition—their spiritual father rather than Christ, and their fate is to be cast off and lost—perdition—forever. Let us review the characteristics of the son of perdition (see also verse 32). First, he knows the Lord’s power, which is the priesthood. Second, he has partaken of the Lord’s power by entering into his covenants (ordinances), particularly those entered into in the temple. Third, having received the power of God and knowing him and the truth of his gospel, he deliberately denies and defies him. He has got to say that “the sun does not shine while he sees it” (TPJS, 358).
“better for them never to have been born” Though only a hypothetical possibility, oh that they could have never even entered the premortal presence of God the Father or could never have been born into mortality. In either circumstance they lost or will lose any semblance of eternal glory.
33 For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;
verse 33 “vessels of wrath” This metaphor compares the sons of perdition to cups or other containers into which the wrath of God is to be poured.
34 Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—
verse 34 The expression that the sons of perdition have “crucified [Christ] unto themselves” (verse 35) means that Christ and his atonement are dead to them— absolutely and irrevocably inoperative in their lives. Forgiveness, of course, comes only through the Savior’s atonement.
The Prophet Joseph had some chilling things to say about the unpardonable sin and those apostates in the early days of the Church and how the spirit of murder can enter their hearts:
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. . . . When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost (TPJS, 358).
35 Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.
verse 35 “Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it” President Spencer W. Kimball explained: “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 23).
“and put him to an open shame” Sons of perdition would gladly see the Savior ridiculed, spat upon, exposed to all manner of indignity, and even destroyed.
36 These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels—
verse 36 “the lake of fire and brimstone” A hyperbolic metaphor for the fate of the sons of perdition.
37 And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;
verse 37 “second death” See the commentary for D&C 63:17. The term “second death,” as it is used in scripture, sometimes refers to that place of eternal damnation where Satan and his sons live, so-called outer darkness (see Jacob 3:11).
There are they who have “sinned unto death” (D&C 64:7). More commonly, however, the term “second death” is used to refer to the spiritual death or that separation from God which may be suffered by mortals due to their sins (see the commentary for Alma 12:16).
38 Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.
verse 38 All of God’s children will be saved in a “heaven,” that is, they shall inherit heavenly glory in one of its three degrees—telestial, terrestrial, or celestial— except for the sons of perdition. All humanity, except the sons of perdition are granted “salvation”—freedom from death, hell, and the devil (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 28:23).
39 For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.
verse 39 This verse has caused some confusion. It implies that the sons of perdition will not be resurrected. While those sons of perdition who were won over by Satan in the premortal world will never be resurrected, we know that the blessings of resurrection are extended to all those born into mortality (see D&C 88:14-16, 95-102; Alma 12:16-18) including those who live out a mortal life, suffer mortal death, and while in spirit prison steadfastly refuse to repent. They remain “filthy still,” and are banished to outer darkness where they become sons of perdition.
40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
verse 40 “And this is the gospel” What is the “gospel”? The term gospel comes from the Old English godspell which is derived from god (meaning “good”) and spel (meaning “story”). Gospel, then, literally means “good story,” “good news,” or “glad tidings.” The LDS Bible Dictionary defines the gospel: “The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind that will redeem all mankind from the grave and reward each individual according to his/her works” (682). Without his atonement, we are lost. Elder Bruce R. McConkie expanded this definition and defined the gospel as, “the atonement. But the gospel is also all of the laws, principles, doctrines, rites, ordinances, acts, powers authorities, and keys needed to save and exalt fallen man in the highest heaven hereafter” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 134).
All other things in the gospel are merely appendages to his atonement. While the doctrines—the commandments, the ordinances, the “plan of salvation”—may be considered to be appendages to the Lord’s atonement, they are, of course, vital as they comprise the plan whereby a man may be exalted. The gospel of Christ, also called the “doctrine of Christ” (Jacob 7:2, 6; 2 Nephi 31:2, 21; 32:6), then, consists of those teachings which, when adhered to, make it possible to return to live eternally in the presence of our heavenly parents and our Savior. The gospel is the “only way . . . under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 31:21). It is the only doctrine with the power to save. It is the complete formula for getting back to our celestial home.
The gospel of Christ may be reduced to a six-step formula, though certainly not a formula in the sense of a check list meant to be mechanically followed one time through in sequence. It is a formula whose steps must be all kept simultaneously in mind and worked on continuously:
- The baptism of water. We deliberately commit ourselves to him and evidence that commitment by our willingness to be baptized. In our consenting to be baptized, we humbly manifest our willingness to forsake our worldly ways. We affirm our intention and willingness to identify ourselves with his people and enter into a covenant to take upon ourselves his holy name (2 Nephi 31:13) and obey him. We evidence our sincere desire to return to God’s presence, desiring it above all else, “with full purpose of heart . . . with real intent” (2 Nephi 31:13). We also communicate our desire to actively and enthusiastically seek out the mind of God in order that we might conform to that will.
The actual ordinance of baptism of water is the physical token of this sacred commitment or covenant. An individual baptized by with the proper authority becomes a candidate for the process which will eventuate in his spiritual rebirth and entrance into the kingdom of God.
- The baptism of the Spirit. This is the receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by someone with proper authority (2 Nephi 31:12). This essential gift bestows the power of personal revelation without which there can be no spiritual progress. It also enables and authorizes an individual to participate in the third part of the ordinance of baptism, the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
The baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. This third component of the ordinance of baptism embodies the principle of repentance and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost. The baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is the very process or “ordinance” by which man progresses spiritually here on earth. Through this process he is purged of his sins and imperfections. It is an ongoing process that continues over a lifetime.
As we manifest our basic faith—our deliberate faith—by our actions through submitting ourselves to these three parts of the ordinance of baptism, we qualify ourselves to begin to receive the myriad gifts of the Spirit that gradually begin to mold us in his image. We qualify ourselves to participate in the process of spiritual growth.
How does this process actually work? How do we qualify for this sanctifying and purging by the Holy Ghost and this incremental receiving of gifts of the Spirit? The process centers on the ordinance of the sacrament. When we partake of the sacrament, we must commit ourselves to a specific goal of obedience for the coming week. We should prayerfully search our soul and ferret out a specific and small areas where we need to improve. Then we should commit—even covenant—to do better in that specific area. If we strive diligently to obey and live up to our commitment, the Spirit will acknowledge our efforts and the purity of our motivations, and he will bless us. He will extend to us the blessings of the Lord’s atonement. He will first forgive us of our sins in the particular area in which we are striving to obey (justification—he will justify us). Then he will sanctify us which is a two-part process. He will first purge out of our soul—as if by fire—the part of the natural self that led to those particular sins He will then grant us an increment of an attribute of the Savior, a gift of the Spirit. We thus take a small step toward becoming like Christ. Once we have taken a small step, then we are ready for another, and another. Becoming and remaining involved in the process of justification and sanctification is vital.
This process does not just result in a new coat of paint or a “detailing” of our exterior. Rather it produces basic and fundamental changes in us beginning from deep within. It results in a thorough and genuine change in perspective and lifestyle. Through repeated applications of this process we are “born again” (John 3:1-5; Mosiah 27:24-26; Alma 7:14)—we become literally “new creatures,” “totally converted,” “justified,” “reconciled to God,” “born again,” “born of the Spirit,” “born of God,” and “quickened in the inner man.” We might also be said to have “experienced a mighty change” or to have “received his image in [our] countenances” or to have “entered into the rest of God.” We may even be called “perfect” or “perfect in Christ.”
This brief description of the principles of faith, the three parts of the ordinance of baptism, justification, sanctification, and spiritual growth is hardly satisfactory in instilling in the reader a thorough understanding of these vital and most fundamental principles. For a more thorough grounding please see the following chapters in volume 1 of Ye Shall Know of the doctrine: chapter 9, Revealed Faith, chapter 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith, chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith, chapter 7, Spiritual Growth Gifts of the Spirit, chapter 8, The Blessings of Spiritual Gifts, chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification, and chapter 18, Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth.
- The gifts of hope and charity. These culminating gifts are available to those who are well along the path of righteousness and spiritual progress. For a discussion of these two gifts, see “The Fruits of Faith” in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith.
Enduring to the end (2 Nephi 31:20). It seems clear that spiritual progress must be an ongoing process. It must be engaged in pro-actively and not passively. There seems to be no such thing as a plateau in an individual’s spiritual maturity. When progress slows to a stop, then backsliding will inevitably begin to occur. The key to continued progression, and thus to “enduring to the end” is to maintain one’s relationship with and receptivity to the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost. Without such a relationship it seems impossible to maintain that vital eternal perspective and attitude. When the spiritual or eternal perspective is lost, then only the world and worldliness remains, and all spiritual progress ceases. We must never cease to deliberately strive to progress and improve ourselves. Only in that way does our responsiveness to the promptings of the Spirit remain fresh and alive. The principle of “no pain, no gain” certainly applies in the area of spiritual progress as much as any other. An element of personal grit, will power, and determination are essential.
Some may think of enduring to the end in terms of “hanging on” or “putting up with” or “sticking it out.” Such terms miss the spirit of real enduring. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “Patient endurance is to be distinguished from merely being ‘acted upon.’ Endurance is more than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance; it is not only acceptance of the things allotted to us (Alma 29:3, 6). . . . True enduring represents not merely the passage of time, but the passage of the soul” (CR, April 1990, 43). Scripturally, an individual who is ever-striving is said to stand “steadfastly” and “always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of [his] sins; and [he] shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created [him], or in the knowledge of that which is just and true” (Mosiah 4:11-12).
- Receiving the promise of eternal life (2 Nephi 31:20). As one’s progress continues, then his continued obedience is almost assured, and, in fact, may eventually be guaranteed by the Lord. First, the righteous and obedient individual is a candidate for an ever-increasing gift of the Spirit, the gift of hope. This is the assurance that one is right with God and that one’s behaviors are acceptable to him. Eventually A man may be “sealed up” to eternal life or have his “calling and election made sure.” Apparently, this may occur during this mortal life or at mortal death.
Please see additional material on the gift of hope and the phenomenon of having one’s calling and election made sure in volume 1 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine. See particularly “Two Little-Appreciated Gifts of the Spirit” in chapter 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith and “The Fruits of Faith” in chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith. Still further discussion of this topic is found in “The Rest of the Lord—the Gift of Hope” in chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification. See also volume 2 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, chapter 16, Calling and Election Made Sure.
We must add to this six-step formula, the principle of the Lord’s atonement which underlies and forms the basis of each principle discussed. We may also add resurrection and eternal judgment. These latter two doctrines were regarded by the prophet Joseph Smith as being among the first principles of the gospel (TPJS, 149, 365).
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
verse 41 “to be crucified for the world” It should be noted that Jesus came into the world to die for the world, the whole world, so that all the world, not just the righteous part of it, might eventually be cleansed, sanctified, and saved in some kingdom of glory (compare John 3:16). The poetic version of section 76 expresses this idea by saying that Jesus, “lay down his life for his friends and his foes.”
42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
verse 42 “whom the Father had put into his power” To which of God’s children does this phrase refer? It likely refers to those who favored Christ and his plan in the premortal world and whom Christ was then given power to save through his atonement. Christ was not given power to save those in the one-third of the hosts of heaven who were cast down to earth or those who came into mortality who will refuse to repent and who with therefore remain “filthy still.” These sons of perdition are eliminated forever from salvation, as repentance is a condition of receiving the blessings of the atonement.
“and made by him” All of the physical laws and materials and processes of our universe depend completely upon the light of Christ. Without him the organized universe could not and would not exist or function (D&C 88:13). Thus, while Christ does not father our physical bodies, the materials of which they are composed and their biological processes come from him and his creative powers. All organized physical existence depends utterly upon him.
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
verse 43 “Who glorifies the Father” We have commented previously that, in ways we don’t completely understand, each individual who is saved in a kingdom of glory somehow adds to the glory or light to the Father.
“saves all the works of his hands” Christ does not really lose the sons of perdition. Rather, they lose themselves. Ultimately all humankind, except for the sons of perdition are saved from death, hell, and the devil in a kingdom of glory. It was this glorious doctrine that caused some in the Church in 1832 to stumble because it so contradicted the traditions they had been taught and had accepted in their former churches.
“who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him” Whenever the Father’s voice has been heard by man on earth, it has been to identify and testify of his Only Begotten Son (see verse 23; Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17; 2 Nephi 31:11, 15; 3 Nephi 11:7; JS-H 1:17). It is not possible for most of us to become sons of perdition. A special testimony and a special witness are required before a man can become a son of perdition.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—
verse 44 “everlasting punishment . . . endless punishment . . . eternal punishment” The Lord’s use of these terms in association with the concept of the sons of perdition has caused some confusion among the saints. Recall that these terms in section 19 do not mean punishment that lasts forever. Rather, they mean God’s punishment (see D&C 19:10-12 and the commentary for these verses). Do the sons of perdition suffer a punishment that goes on forever or do they suffer a punishment designed by God which may even have a finite end? Does this verse open the door to a doctrine of eventual redemption for the sons of perdition? In a letter to W. W. Phelps, Joseph Smith wrote in 1833: “Say to the brothers Hulet and to all others, that the Lord never authorized them to say that the devil, his angels, or the sons of perdition, should ever be restored; for their state or destiny was not revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, save to those who are made partakers thereof: consequently those who teach this doctrine have not received it of the Spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils. We, therefore, command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion” (TPJS, 24).
It is clear we are not given to know the nature of punishment afforded the sons of perdition. My own particular bias is that the Lord seems more likely to banish them to eternal ennui and lassitude than agony that lasts forever.
“to reign with the devil and his angels” It has been common in the Church to think that those who pass through mortality and resurrection to become sons of perdition may reign or rule over Satan and his unembodied angels in eternity (see Moses 5:23; TPJS, 181). Some have supposed that the resurrected bodies of the former will produce an everlasting advantage over the latter.
There is another suggestion in scripture, however, that the resurrected bodies of those condemned to outer darkness will eventually undergo dissolution. They may even return to the form of naked intelligence. The prophet Lehi, for example, teaches in 2 Nephi 1:22: “That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body.” As is often the case in the Book of Mormon, the word “soul” is best interpreted here as spirit. As mentioned, some have seen this verse as evidence that certain of the children of God, namely those who become sons of perdition, may, after their resurrection, not live forever with their resurrected bodies or even their spirit bodies.
Brigham Young, referring to the sons of perdition, made a chilling comment:
They will be decomposed, both soul and body, and return to their native element. I do not say that they will be annihilated; but they will be disorganized, and will be as though they never had been, while we will live and retain our identity, and contend against those principles which tend to death or dissolution. I am after life; I want to preserve my identity, so that you can see Brigham in the eternal worlds just as you see him now (JD, 7:57-58).
Presumably, this dissolution of the bodies of the sons of perdition is to include the dissolution of the resurrected bodies for those who had a mortal experience. And it may even include dissolution of the spirit bodies of Satan and his “third part” of the hosts of heaven. This would leave all sons of perdition without any embodiment whatever. Each would have nothing remaining except for their individual naked intelligence, in which they would be cast into outer darkness, perhaps never again to be picked up in another round of creation. This final dissolution of the bodies may be termed the “third death” (the “first death” is the spiritual death of each man due to the fall of Adam. The “second death” is the second spiritual death of each man due to his own sins).
“where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” The phrasing follows Mark 9:44-48. The ancients believed that a toothache was caused by a worm eating the inside of a tooth just as a worm eats the inside of an apple. A cavity, they believed, marked the place where the worm had entered, and the phrase “the worm turns” described a sudden sharp pain in a bad tooth. When a bad tooth finally stopped aching, it was believed that the worm eating it had died. “Where their worm dieth not,” then, described an endless excruciating toothache with no hope of relief. Of course the language is figurative, as is the reference to fire, but the imagery is meant to convey some idea of the unending, inextinguishable, and self-inflicted torments of perdition.
45 And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
46 Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;
47 Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again;
48 Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation.
verse 48 “those who are ordained unto this condemnation” Smith and Sjodahl in their Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants wrote of this phrase: “Not foreordained, in the sense of pre-elected by God, to condemnation. . . . He has not foreordained anyone to that fate” (455).
49 And we heard the voice, saying: Write the vision, for lo, this is the end of the vision of the sufferings of the ungodly.
The Vision of the Celestial Kingdom (verses 50-70, 92-96)
Those who inherit this degree of glory are “exalted.” They are those “into whose hands the Father has given all things” (verse 56) and those who have “received of his fulness” (verse 58). They “are Gods.” Later (see D&C 131:1-4), the Prophet explained that there were “three heavens or degrees” within the celestial kingdom (see section 131). It seems clear that the focus of this part of section 76 is upon the highest “heaven” within the celestial kingdom.
Those accepted into the celestial kingdom must have a testimony of Jesus (verse 51); be baptized (verse 51); have received the Holy Ghost (verse 52); keep the commandments (verse 52); overcome sin and the world by faith—also overcome any trial or obstacle “the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him” (Mosiah 3:19); prove to himself and to God that he is determined to serve God at all hazards (verse 63); and be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (verse 53)—that is; be ratified or approved as worthy of the celestial kingdom by the Holy Ghost (see also the commentary for D&C 132:7).
Though nothing specific is said in this revelation about the necessity of eternal marriage in order to achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom, that requirement is made clear in D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:15-25. Also we learn from D&C 84:33-44 that faithfulness to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is a requirement.
Those who attain this glory are members of the “Church of Enoch” or the “Church of the Firstborn” and “are come unto Mount Zion” (verse 66). These are simply other ways of saying that they are exalted. As we contemplate dwelling “in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (verse 62), with all the blessings attendant thereto, we can understand Alma’s declaration: “and my soul did long to be there” (Alma 36:22).
The word “Firstborn” in the phrase “Church of the Firstborn” was never capitalized in the Doctrine and Covenants until the 1921 edition. “Church of the firstborn” is also found in Hebrews, and “firstborn” is not capitalized there. In fact, in the early Greek text the term “firstborn” is plural, meaning the “firstborn ones.” Although “firstborn” certainly may refer to the Savior, it also may have reference to those who are firstborn into the kingdom of God—those who will come with him at his second coming and those who will rise up from the earth and be resurrected from their graves at his coming. These are the ones who come forth in the morning of the first resurrection.
President Harold B. Lee Spoke of those who would inherit celestial glory and explained that they must be converted: “Conversion must mean more than just being a ‘card-carrying’ member of the Church with a tithing receipt, a membership card, a temple recommend, etc. It means to overcome the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances” (CR, April 1971, 92).
50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
verse 50 “resurrection of the just” Please recall that questions about the resurrection of the just had been part of Joseph and Sidney’s original inquiry prior to their receiving section 76 (see verses 15-19). The “resurrection of the just” is the morning of the first resurrection. All men are not resurrected at the same moment. There exists a pre-defined order and sequence in which man is resurrected. Let us summarize this sequence. The apostle Paul said, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23; italics added).
Actually there are two separate resurrections, the first resurrection (also called the “resurrection of the just”), and the second resurrection (also referred to as “the resurrection of damnation” or “the resurrection of the unjust”).
The first resurrection is divided into two parts: the “morning of the first resurrection” and the “afternoon of the first resurrection.” Those who merit a celestial body come forth in the “morning” of the first resurrection. These are they who once resided in paradise, those who bore the title “just men made perfect,” those referred to as “the just” (D&C 76:17), meaning that they are justified, ratified, sealed, and approved of God. These are they who have had their calling and election made sure—they who have received the promise by revelation that they shall be equal with him in “power, might, and dominion” (see D&C 76:95). Those who come forth in this resurrection will live with God and enjoy eternal life which is God’s life.
The morning of the first resurrection began at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is likely continuing at the present time. The final phase of the “morning” is the major resurrection that will occur at the time of Christ’s Second Coming just prior to the Millennium. Of course, those who live during the Millennium and merit celestial glory will receive their celestial bodies during the millennial period (see D&C 132:19).
Those who will inherit a terrestrial body arise in the “afternoon” of the first resurrection. The afternoon of the first resurrection begins some time after the onset of the Millennium and ends before the end of the one thousand years. As mentioned, it is during this phase that those bound for the terrestrial glory will receive their bodies. These are called “Christ’s at his coming” (D&C 88:99). These are they “who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh” (Ibid.). These have accepted Christ but not to the degree that would result in their exaltation.
The second resurrection begins at the end of the Millennium. The first to come forth in the second resurrection are those who have been cleansed of their sins and have thus earned the telestial glory. Then, finally, those who have earned no glory and who are destined to spend the rest of eternity with Satan in outer darkness come forth with their bodies. Even “hell” or the spirit prison cannot purge these of their filth. They were given a sure witness and knowledge of heaven’s secrets, but they denied it all and came out in open rebellion striving to destroy the church. Thus they “crucify Christ afresh.” Their fate is unknown, but, as we have already discussed, some have speculated that they may eventually experience dissolution of their resurrected bodies and exist forever as naked or disembodied intelligences in outer darkness.
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—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
verses 51-52 Those who inherit celestial glory must have a testimony of Jesus, and they must accept the fulness of his gospel including the ordinances of his Church. Joseph Smith taught: “A man may be saved, after the judgment, in the terrestrial kingdom, or in the telestial kingdom, but he can never see the celestial kingdom of God without being born of the water and the Spirit” (HC, 1:283).
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
verse 53 “who overcome by faith” It is clear that those who inherit celestial glory must “overcome all things” (compare verse 60). But what do they overcome, and how do they do it? How does faith enter in?
The celestial-bound individual must subdue or overcome all aspects of his natural self or natural-man self. Inevitably, as we endeavor to obey the Lord’s commands, we encounter resistance from our natural self. Initially we must exert our deliberate will in order to obey. We must summon the strength and decide to obey and then obey. This willful and purposeful doing is a manifestation of “deliberate faith” (see the three chapters on faith in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapters 9, 10, and 11). With each act of deliberate obeying there follows the blessing of being granted gifts of the Spirit—increments of the attributes of Christ. These are granted by personal revelation and are received partly because the Spirit judges the obedient individual’s efforts worthy of such a blessing and partly because the Lord is able to mercifully grant such blessings by virtue of his atoning sacrifice. As we receive gifts of the Spirit, we may be said to be acquiring “revealed faith.” This acquisition results in a lessening or softening of the pulls and tugs of the natural self. An individual who has acquired, through his obedience, much revealed faith—many gifts of the Spirit—thus has less trouble obeying. We thus see the interplay of deliberate effort (deliberate faith), spiritual growth (revealed faith), and the Lord’s grace and mercy in our “overcoming” our natural self.
“sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” In this particular verse the expression “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” likely means sealed up to eternal life.
The Holy Spirit of promise is none other than the Holy Ghost. This is a title used for the Holy Ghost when he performs a particular type of function. A covenant is a contract or a mutual promise between two parties, and it becomes valid or binding when it is “sealed.” Anciently contracts were sealed in wax or clay with the impression of a signet ring or an official seal. Today we seal most contracts by signing them, though official seals are sometimes still used. Covenants or contracts made with God may be sealed by the power of the Holy Ghost. This occurs when a man has successfully kept his part of the covenant. The Spirit then ratifies, approves, and seals the promised blessings upon the individual. The Holy Ghost ratifies and approves the righteous acts of men so that the covenants—according to which those acts were performed—will be binding on earth and in heaven (D&C 132:7). When a covenant with God is sealed, then God will surely keep his end of the bargain. Covenants with God may be entered into but not sealed. Then the contract or covenant is not binding upon the Lord—we “have no promise” (D&C 82:10). We ensure that the Holy Ghost seals or ratifies the contract by our keeping our part of the bargain. Then the Lord is bound.
Ultimately the end result of a lifetime of covenant ratifying (or unratifying) or sealing (or unsealing) is to be “sealed up” to a certain fate or destination, such as the celestial kingdom or exaltation in that kingdom, although people can also be sealed up to wrath (see D&C 1:8-9; 133:71-73) or even be sealed by the devil (see Alma 34:35).
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
verse 54 “the church of the Firstborn” The Firstborn of God (in the premortal world) is Jesus Christ. Thus, the “church of the Firstborn” is the Church of Jesus Christ. However, the term “The Church of Jesus Christ” is used to refer to his earthly Church, and the term “church of the Firstborn” is used to refer to his eternal heavenly Church— the celestial kingdom. Those on earth referred to by the title “church of the Firstborn” are those in his earthly Church who will still be members in the eternities. They are the faithful—the Church within the Church—those who keep their covenants, who are loyal and serve God with all their hearts. Even though a person’s name may have been found upon the rolls of the Church in mortality, he who takes his covenants lightly will no longer be a member of Jesus’s Church in eternity (see verses 79, 94-95).
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
verse 55 See verses 59-60. The poetic version adds, “For they hold the keys of the kingdom of Heav’n.”
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
verse 56 “priests and kings” They will have all authority as priests and kings unto God. Though kings themselves, they will still serve him who is the King of kings.
“who have received of his fulness” The antecedent of “his” is “the Father,” and the fulness spoken of here is the fulness of the Father (see verse 71). Those who become heirs of the celestial kingdom are joint heirs with Christ and eventually receive the same glory (light) which the Father has given the Son, becoming like the Father and the Son in glory. The poetic version specifies, “Receiving a fulness of glory and light.”
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
verse 57 “priests of the Most High” Usually “the Most High” refers in scriptures to Jehovah who is Jesus Christ (for example, Psalm 83:18). However, Jesus at times introduces us to the Father who is even greater than himself (see John 14:28). Thus the title “Most High” may correctly be applied to either the Father or the Son, or even to the Godhead collectively.
“after the order of” The order or type of priesthood necessary to achieve the kingdom of God—the earthly Zion or the celestial kingdom—is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Anciently this was called “the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” (D&C 107:3). Because Melchizedek, and before him Enoch, had held this same priesthood and had utilized it to establish Zion, the order of the Son also became known as the order of Enoch and the order of Melchizedek. Both anciently and today, out of respect for the sacredness of its full title, this priesthood is called the Melchizedek Priesthood (see D&C 104:4).
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
verse 58 “as it is written, they are gods” This is likely a reference to Psalm 82:6, which is also cited by Jesus in John 10:34. In John it is clear that Jesus understood the psalm to say that those who receive the “word of God” can be called gods (John 10:35), and in the fullest sense Christ is the Word of God (see John 1:1, Revelation 19:13) which must be received to bring this about.
“they are gods, even the sons of God” Note that the two terms “gods” and “sons of God,” are synonymous here, for to be one is also to be the other. Children grow up to be what their parents are. If, through the gospel, we have truly become the sons and daughters of God as the scriptures insist (see verse 24; D&C 11:30; 25:1; 50:41; 4 Nephi 1:17; Mosiah 5:7; 27:25; Ether 3:14; Moroni 7:19; Moses 6:68; 7:1; Matthew 5:9, 45; John 1:12; Romans 8:16-17, 21; 9:8, 26; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:910), then it follows that as we grow “from grace to grace”—following the example of Jesus himself—we also become more like God (see 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 3:21).
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.
verse 59 “all things are theirs” See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 (see also D&C 84:37-38; Revelation 21:7). What isn’t included in “all things”? For the celestial saints, every righteous desire will be granted; every goal achieved; every need satisfied; every hope fulfilled. It is impossible to adequately describe the gifts and bounties of God toward those who love him. They are truly beyond our present comprehension. Those who receive the celestial kingdom belong to Christ and are in his special care, just as Christ belongs to the Father and is in his special care. And as the Father gives all that he has to the Son, so the Son shares all that he has with us, his children of the covenant (see Romans 8:17; Revelation 3:21). Like a kind and good man who wins a fortune and shares his bounty with needy friends, so Christ receives all things, and then he invites us to partake with him in his victory.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
verse 60 See the commentary for verse 53.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
verse 61 “let no man glory in man” As hard as we may be striving to keep the commandments, we must never assume that it is by our own merits that we grow spiritually and by our own merits that we are saved. We must rely “wholly upon the merits” of Christ (2 Nephi 31:19; compare 2 Nephi 2:8; see also 1 Corinthians 1:31).
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
verse 63 “These are they whom he shall bring with him” At his second coming, Christ will bring with him the spirits of “the dead in Christ,” who have rested in paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, since their death (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Before any of those living upon the earth are caught up, these dead in Christ will be resurrected and will join their Savior in the clouds for his descent to the earth. Only then will the righteous mortals upon the earth be caught up—transfigured but not yet resurrected—to meet the Lord in the clouds and will also join him in his glorious descent (see D&C 88:96-98; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
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.
verses 64-65 “first resurrection . . . resurrection of the just” See the commentary for verse 50.
66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
verse 66 “Mount Zion” The language of verses 66-69 is paralleled in Hebrews 12:22-24. According to D&C 84:2-3; 133:56; Moses 7:62, and Articles of Faith 1:10, Mount Zion is the millennial New Jerusalem that is to be built upon the American continent beginning in Independence, Missouri. It was this very city that the saints in February of 1832 were attempting to build and whose location had been revealed to them barely seven months earlier (see D&C 45:64-71; 57:1-3).
“the city of the living God, the heavenly place” While Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem, is the millennial city of God, that city itself is symbolic of another, heavenly Jerusalem, a cosmic holy of holies, where the Father dwells in celestial glory. Descriptions of this Mount Zion sometimes blend with descriptions of the earthly New Jerusalem.
67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
verse 67 “an innumerable company of angels” Those who inherit the celestial kingdom will find themselves in communion and fellowship with many, perhaps billions, of celestial beings like themselves—the hosts of heaven—from billions of other worlds all created and glorified by the same Jesus Christ who created our world and who will glorify us.
“the general assembly and church of Enoch” The English word church actually translates from Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible meaning “assembly” or “congregation.” Thus, general assembly and church are parallel terms here meaning roughly the same thing. Because Enoch and his people established Zion and were taken up into heaven, they are a type or symbol for all those later saints who are worthy of Zion and, therefore, comprise part of the church of the Firstborn (see verse 54).
68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
verse 68 “whose names are written in heaven” See Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 20:12. There are actually two sets of church records. One is kept on earth for use by the earthly Church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and one is kept in heaven, where no mistakes are made, for the heavenly Church—the church of the Firstborn, or the faithful saints who keep their covenants and magnify their callings (see D&C 88:2). Being recorded in the earthly records does not guarantee being recorded in the heavenly record.
69 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.
verse 69 “just men made perfect” One may well argue that man, in absolute terms, can never be perfect since he will always be growing and progressing. Even when we reach the celestial kingdom we will have great distances to go before we are like God. But the scriptures say that “no unclean thing can enter the presence of God” (1 Nephi 15:34; Alma 11:37). How can a man be imperfect—still committing sin—and enter into the celestial kingdom? The answer is that here on earth and in heaven God does not hold us to an absolute standard. He does not require absolute perfection. What he does require is that we are earnestly and diligently and constantly striving toward absolute perfection. When we are, then he regularly and mercifully extends to us the blessings of his atonement and justifies or cleanses us of our sins—to the point where he classifies us as being perfect. Therefore, for us, absolute perfection is not possible, but “through the merits, and mercy, and grace of Christ the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8) we may become “perfect in Christ.” The poetic version of this verse reads, “These are they that are perfect through Jesus’s own blood.”
“Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” When two parties are at odds or can’t deal with each other face to face, a mediator—a negotiator or go-between—is often called. Because sinful, fallen humans are estranged from their perfect, celestial Father (see Romans 8:7; Mosiah 3:19), we also need a mediator to act as a go-between and to work out an agreement.
The “old” covenant arranged between God and Israel was the law of Moses with its preparatory gospel, its carnal commandments, and its lesser priesthood (see D&C 84:23-27; JST Exodus 34:1-2). Because of Israel’s iniquity at Sinai, knowledge of the Father and access to him were severely limited under this old or lesser covenant, because these are exclusive privileges of the fulness of the gospel and of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which had both been taken away (see D&C 84:25). Under the old covenant of Moses, Jehovah or Jesus Christ represented the Godhead, and his Father remained largely unknown to Israel. The prophet Moses became the mediator or go-between between the Godhead—represented by Jehovah, the Son—and Israel, and this lesser covenant was named after its mediator “the law of Moses.”
In the “new” and everlasting covenant, which is the fulness of the gospel, Jesus Christ once again reveals his Father to Israel and once again seeks to bring us into his Father’s presence, as he once did with Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. In so doing, the Son himself now replaces Moses as mediator between the Godhead—now represented by Elohim, the Father—and Israel or the Church. This new and better covenant, which once again brings us a knowledge of and access to God the Father, is also named after its mediator, “the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
70 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.
verse 70 “whose bodies are celestial” Bodies resurrected to celestial glory are qualitatively different from those resurrected to a lesser kingdom in that they can abide greater glory—greater divine energy. Thus, a celestial body can tolerate or “abide” the very presence of God and the fulness of his glory while a terrestrial or telestial body cannot.
“whose glory is that of the sun” The relative glories or light of the sun, moon, and stars are only symbolic of the differences between the heavenly kingdoms. It is in this sense that the expression “is written of as being typical” is used—the sun is a “type” or symbol of the celestial glory. Bear in mind that even the telestial glory is beyond our present powers of perception and appreciation (see verse 89), and that the actual glory of the celestial kingdom is infinitely greater than the brightness of the sun which symbolizes it.
The Vision of the Terrestrial Kingdom (verses 71-80, 85-89, 91, 97)
Those who receive the terrestrial glory are:
- those who died without law (verse 72). This category needs modification and amplification. These are those who died without the law who would not have accepted the fulness of the gospel if it had been available to them. Those who would have accepted the gospel had they heard it are heirs of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137:7-9).
- the spirits of men kept in prison who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh (they had heard and denied it in the flesh) but afterwards received it (verses 7374).
- honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men (verse 75). These also would not have accepted the fulness of the gospel if given the opportunity.
- those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus (verse 79). This category likely consists of church members who did not live the gospel fully.
Taken together, these qualities give us the profile of the terrestrial personality. That personality is capsulized in verses 75 and 79—“honorable men” who have a testimony of Jesus, but who are not valiant in that testimony. Neither celestial law nor telestial wickedness appeals to them.
The question often arises as to whether or not rejecting the gospel at one point in time disqualifies an individual from receiving it later. Perhaps the terrestrial individual earns his stripes not so much by missing one opportunity to accept the gospel but by manifesting repeatedly an unwillingness or inability to repent fully and respond to high levels of light and truth. Many church members also fit into this description of the terrestrial personality. They espouse the gospel ostensibly and may even talk as if they intend to fulfill all the spiritual obligations the gospel imposes on them, but never measure up to their stated intentions.
71 And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.
verse 71 “terrestrial” Outside sections 76 and 78, the word terrestrial occurs in scripture only in 1 Corinthians 15:40, where it is used to mean “of the earth” in contrast to celestial, which means “of the heavens.” The root of terrestrial is the Latin terra, which means “earth.” This derivation has troubled some students who associate the earth with Babylon, or the fallen, telestial world. But Paul made it clear he was speaking of the earth from which Adam was originally made (see 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), that is, the earth as Eden, or paradise. And the Edenic state, or paradisiacal glory, is what this earth will receive again during the Millennium, when it will be returned to the terrestrial glory in which is was first created (see Articles of Faith 1:10).
72 Behold, these are they who died without law;
verse 72 We must be careful to not affix, in our minds, glib and simplistic criteria for assignment to this or that kingdom of glory. We must keep in mind, first of all, that the Savior himself will make the decision for each and every individual. He is the perfect judge and will render his decisions based upon an infinitely perfect knowledge of the characteristics, desires, intentions, and mitigating circumstances of each individual. He sees and understands men’s hearts intimately, and his judgments will all be incontestably fair. Secondly, a terrestrial person is one who cannot and will not abide the celestial law, but is also not of telestial quality. He would be unhappy eternally in either the celestial or telestial kingdoms. He is, at heart, thoroughly a terrestrial person, and he will eventually come to fully realize and acknowledge that fact. Similar principles apply to those found worthy of celestial or telestial glories.
“these are they who died without law” While it is true that a large portion of those who inherit terrestrial glory will be righteous individuals of the heathen nations who never heard the gospel, we must remember that there will be many exceptions. A couple of important principles apply to those who did not hear the gospel. First, “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3). The Lord will hold those who had ample opportunity to hear and accept the gospel to a higher standard than he will those who did not. Also, the Lord is clearly able to judge those who did not hear the gospel as if they had heard it (see D&C 137:5-9). Thus, there will also be many among the heathen nations who will inherit either the celestial or telestial glory.
73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
verse 73 “the spirits of men” This expression, of course, refers to individuals of both sexes.
“kept in prison” A prison is any place you can’t leave when you want to, and in the spirit world even the righteous are held captive by the chains of death (see D&C 138:16-18). The spirits of the righteous cannot leave paradise. Rather, they wait for deliverance from death, and they look upon absence from their bodies as bondage (see D&C 138:15, 49-50). Thus, the phrase “spirit prison” applies to the entire spirit world, including “paradise,” and not merely to that part of the spirit world where the wicked suffer in hell. “Spirit world” and “spirit prison” are synonymous terms. The spirit prison includes both paradise, where the spirits of the righteous rest and wait in pleasant surroundings for their glorious resurrection, and hell (see D&C 76:84), where the spirits of the wicked suffer for their sins until their resurrection.
“whom the Son visited” See the account of President Joseph F. Smith of this great event—section 138. We actually learn from section 138 that the Savior taught the spirits in paradise but not those in the spirit prison. This verse may be explained, however, by the fact that even those spirits in paradise looked upon their condition in paradise as a bondage from which they yearned from release through their resurrection.
“that they might be judged according to men in the flesh” Both the mortal phase of man’s existence and the spirit world are parts of man’s second estate. The spirit world allows people a continuation of man’s probationary state. The Lord’s hope for the spirit world is that many might receive a greater eternal reward than their performance in mortality would otherwise merit. Joseph Smith praised this “continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee” (HC, 1:252). Any additional progress made in the spirit world, including acceptance of vicarious ordinances, may then be credited to an individual just as though it had been achieved while still in the flesh. The poetic version reads, “And then were the living baptiz’d for their dead, That they might be judg’d as if men in the flesh.”
Let us be clear. Each and every individual will end up being assigned for all eternity that place where they will be everlastingly happy and fulfilled. The Lord sees the “heart” of each individual—he knows perfectly the “desires” every individual (Alma 29:4). But the word “desires” here does not refer merely to preferences. It refers to what the person actually is. If a man is of celestial quality, he will be granted celestial glory. The same principle holds true with the terrestrial being or the telestial being. The simple fact is that the terrestrial individual would simply not be happy in the celestial heaven. Celestial life will not be simply a life of bliss. There will be obvious and great challenges. There will be successes and failures. We only need to attempt to identify with the Father as he watches the results of this mortal trial on his sons and daughters. The celestial being is one who will accept and be fulfilled with all that they face in the celestial heaven. The terrestrial individual is one who will prefer the terrestrial life to the celestial life.
74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
verse 74 The poetic version does much to explain this verse: “They received not the truth of the Savior at first [though they had the opportunity]; but did, when they heard it in prison again.” Thus, it would seem that those honorable people who reject the basic testimony of Jesus when they hear it in the flesh but later accept it in the spirit world, will inherit eternal glory, generally terrestrial glory wherein they may enjoy the presence of Jesus forever as he administers that kingdom (see verse 77; D&C 88:32;33; 138:32-33, 58-59). But again, it is not the timing of their accepting the Savior that is the important factor in the judgment. It is the extent to which they are willing and inclined to modify their lives by their acceptance of Christ and his gospel. It is really just exactly who and what they are in their hearts. Are they celestial? Or, are they terrestrial?
75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.
verse 75 Here is the very essence of the terrestrial individual: He is a good, honest, and honorable person—a good neighbor—but he chooses to be misled on some aspects of the gospel by human arguments and reasoning and by his own natural inclinations.
76 These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.
verse 76 Terrestrial beings will bask in the glory of Jesus Christ, but they will never be able to make his glory their own. They will enjoy the presence of Christ, but they will never become like him.
77 These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
verse 77 “These are they who receive of the presence of the Son” The usual non-LDS concept of heaven pretty closely matches the LDS understanding of the terrestrial kingdom—a place where good people dwell in joy with Jesus forever but without family ties and without the possibility of actually becoming what Jesus is. Ironically, the righteous among the so-called orthodox Christians in this world, largely the evangelical or conservative Protestants, will get pretty much what they expect. If they accept Christ—“receive of the presence of the Son”—and reject the principles and ordinances of the fulness of his gospel, they will likely inherit the terrestrial glory. In order to receive more than the terrestrial, to return to the presence of the Father and to receive, as joint heirs with Christ, all that the Father has, it is necessary to receive a testimony of Jesus Christ and then strive diligently to accept and obey the fulness of the gospel—the principles and ordinances of Christ’s gospel. The poetic version reads, “They are they, that come into the presence of Christ, But not to the fulness of God, on his throne.”
78 Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.
verse 78 “they are bodies terrestrial” Tererestrial bodies cannot abide or tolerate celestial glory—it would burn them up.
79 These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.
verse 79 What does it mean to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”? Certainly it means to act on that testimony—to join with his people by covenant (baptism); actively seek to be obedient and to comply with all the laws and ordinances of his gospel; serve him with all our heart, mind, and strength; and endure pro-actively to the end.
Hence, those who receive a terrestrial reward will do so, not so much because of what they do, but because of what they don’t do. In the words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Members of the Church who have testimonies and who live clean and upright lives, but who are not courageous and valiant, do not gain the celestial kingdom. Theirs is a terrestrial inheritance” (CR, October 1974, 44). The essential ingredient of the celestial being is the character, courage, and determination live and be fulfilled by the requirements of the life in the celestial heaven.
80 And now this is the end of the vision which we saw of the terrestrial, that the Lord commanded us to write while we were yet in the Spirit.
The Vision of the Telestial Kingdom (verses 81-90, 98-112)
The word “telestial” is a uniquely Latter-day Saint term. It does not appear in the Bible, and even in latter-day scripture it only appears in D&C 76 and in D&C 88. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “telestial glory” as the “lowest of the three Mormon degrees or kingdoms of glory attainable in heaven.” Thus, Joseph Smith added a new word to the English language. Although Paul speaks of three glories of the sun, moon, and stars, and names the first two as celestial and terrestrial, he does not name the third.
Heirs of this glory are they who receive not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus (verse 82); they who deny not the Holy Spirit (verse 83) [this expression seems to refer to those saints who had been sealed up to their exaltation by the Holy Ghost but fell through sin; they did not, however, come out in open rebellion against the Church]; they who are liars and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and murderers (verse 103, Rev. 22:15).
However, “these all shall bend the knee and every tongue shall confess . . . that Jesus Christ is Lord” (verse 110; Philippians 2:9-11). This obeisance and confession will come sometime during the process of preparing to be “heirs of salvation” (verse 88). This cleansing process involves these spirits’ being called up and judged unworthy of resurrection during the Millennium (D&C 88:100-101), then spending one thousand years “in hell” or the spirit prison learning to obey at least a telestial law (verses 84-85, 105-07). Once they are cleansed and prepared, they shall be resurrected and placed in the telestial kingdom, the glory of which “surpasses all understanding” (verse 89). No longer liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, and murderers, “they shall be servants of the Most High” but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come” (verse 112).
Joseph and Sidney saw that the inhabitants of the telestial world were “as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore” (verse 109). Though denied access to where God and Christ dwell, they will enjoy the presence and ministrations of the Holy Spirit (verses 86, 112).
81 And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.
verse 81 “the glory of the telestial” See the introductory commentary for this section above. It is possible that the term telestial is derived from the Greek prefix tele which means “at a distance” or “far away.” That would make the telestial kingdom mean something like “the farthest or most distant” kingdom of glory.
82 These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.
verse 82 Again, “received not” here probably means “rejected” or “would not receive,” that is, when they had the chance. The poetic version reads, “These are they that receiv’d not the gospel of Christ, Or evidenced, either, that he ever was.”
83 These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.
verse 83 Though the telestial beings have been wicked, they are not guilty of the unpardonable sin—that of denying the Holy Ghost.
84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.
verse 84 “Hell” here is the spirit prison. What is hell? In Mormonism is hell a place or a state of mind? It is both. Hell may refer to either “outer darkness” or the spirit prison—specific places. Infrequently, the term may be used to refer to the telestial kingdom. Also hell is the state of mind or the pain caused by sin—the sorrow, anguish, torment, and anxieties when one is not right with God. One may wonder: Does this latter type of hell exist in the terrestrial or telestial kingdoms? Probably not. Those in the telestial kingdom, for example, are happy to be there—it is where they belong, and they know it. The telestial heaven is where they will be comfortable, and they will live among people with whom they are comfortable. They would be unhappy and uncomfortable anywhere else. Recall that, as taught in section 19, there is no such thing as punishment that goes on forever and that the terms “eternal or endless punishment” refer to God’s punishment—not punishment that never ends (see also James E. Talmage, Vitality of Mormonism, 264-65).
Perhaps the most common meaning of the word hell is the spirit world. And this label would not refer to those paradisiacal spirits who are already sealed up to eternal life. We might say that hell refers to the “spirit prison.” But why is life in the spirit prison hell? Consider the state of those who are there. It is likely that it is made known to them that they must be brought to a state where they will sincerely confess Christ and covenant to live by his teachings. The alternative to accepting Christ is to remain “filthy still” and end up becoming subject to Satan in outer darkness. And, furthermore, it’s likely that they will come to know that this change, which for some will be very difficult, will have to be accomplished before the resurrection and final judgment. All things considered, there will obviously be some in the spirit prison for whom this change will be exceedingly painful. It will be hell!
Hell will eventually give up its captive spirits at the resurrection (see D&C 19:6; 2 Nephi 9:12; Revelation 20:13).
Thus, a loving God does not—as the religions of men insisted in Joseph’s day— torture the wicked and the unbaptized forever and ever. Eventually, Christ redeems all human beings, including the wicked, rebellious, and unbelieving, from death and from hell, upon the condition of repentance. Elder James E. Talmage taught: “Hell . . . is a place prepared for the teaching, the disciplining of those who failed to learn here upon the earth what they should have learned. . . . No man will be kept in hell longer than is necessary to bring him to a fitness for something better. When he reaches that stage, the prison doors will open and there will be rejoicing among the hosts who welcome him into a better state” (CR, April 1980, 97). See also D&C 29:38.
85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.
verse 85 “the last resurrection” The telestial-bound souls will be resurrected at the “second resurrection” following the millennial thousand years—see the commentary for verse 50 above.
“until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work” The “until” is further evidence that hell does not go on forever (see also verse 106). The last redeeming or “buying back” from the devil that Christ will do is to extend the blessings of his atoning blood to the telestial souls.
86 These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;
verse 86 “who receive not of his fulness . . . but of the Holy Spirit” Telestial beings will never really know the Son. Though they will finally acknowledge Jesus’s lordship, they will not enjoy his direct presence in eternity, as will terrestrial beings. The Godhead will administer the affairs of the telestial world through the person of the Holy Spirit and through ministering angels sent to them from the terrestrial world. The logic of this is impeccable. The telestial beings rejected both the fulness of the Father, which is accessible through the gospel, and the fulness of the Son, which comes through the testimony of Jesus (see verse 82). They did not, however, deny the Holy Spirit (see verse 83). Thus, they may receive “of the Holy Spirit,” but not the presence or power of the Father or the Son.
This does not mean that the Son or the Holy Spirit will permanently inhabit the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. Both these members of the Godhead will be exalted, celestial beings in eternity, and will enjoy all the blessings of exaltation, including the company and fellowship of other exalted beings. It is likely, however, that the Son and the Holy Ghost will administer the affairs of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, respectively, just as they administer affairs upon the earth right now, through chosen intermediaries and perhaps, at times, through personal contact.
“through the ministration of the terrestrial” The many kingdoms of our Father’s house will be governed and will enjoy communication with their presiding authorities in ways very much like the present priesthood government of the Church upon the earth. As the Lord reveals his will to the prophets, and they to the General Authorities, and they to area authorities, and they to stake and mission authorities, and so on, so heaven’s lower kingdoms will be governed by communication and instruction from higher kingdoms in an orderly manner from the top to the bottom. And the will of God will be done in all things and in all kingdoms.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard has written, “We must not overlook the fact that those who attain to the higher glories may minister unto and visit and associate with those of the lesser kingdoms. While the lesser may not come up, they may still enjoy the companionship of their loved ones who are in higher stations” (Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 257).
87 And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.
verse 87 “the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial” See the commentary for verse 86.
88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.
verse 88 “the telestial receive it of the administering of angels” See the commentary for verse 86. Ministering angels will function under the direction of the Holy Ghost to govern the telestial kingdom.
“they shall be heirs of salvation” A reminder that the telestials are saved in a kingdom of glory, the telestial heaven.
89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;
verse 89 “the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding” Elder John A. Widtsoe explained:
The book [Doctrine and Covenants] explains clearly that the lowest glory to which man is assigned is so glorious as to be beyond the understanding of man. It is a doctrine fundamental in Mormonism that the meanest sinner, in the final judgment, will receive a glory which is beyond human understanding, which is so great that we are unable to describe it adequately. Those who do well will receive an even more glorious place. . . . The gospel is a gospel of tremendous love. Love is at the bottom of it. The meanest child is loved so dearly that his reward will be beyond the understanding of mortal man (Message of the Doctrine and Covenants, 167).
90 And no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it.
verse 90 “no man knows it” Among mortals, no one can know the glory of even the telestial kingdom except through direct revelation.
91 And thus we saw the glory of the terrestrial which excels in all things the glory of the telestial, even in glory, and in power, and in might, and in dominion.
verse 91 “in might, and in dominion” The terrestrials have more intelligence (more spiritual gifts), more authority, more strength, and a larger expanse in which to operate than the telestials.
92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
verse 93 “and give him glory forever and ever” We have commented before that as we progress spiritually and add to our own light (glory), we somehow add to the light (glory) of the Father (TPJS, 347-48).
94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
verse 94 “church of the Firstborn” See the commentary for verse 54.
“they see as they are seen” Because God through his grace has given these individuals his fulness and has brought them into his very presence, they interact with him there directly—not as equals, for he still reigns over them, but on equal terms, face to face. It would also seem that celestial beings interact with one another on the same terms, knowing as they are know, without guile or hidden agenda.
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
verse 95 “he makes them equal” All the sons and daughters of God who are exalted in the celestial kingdom are equal with each other and with Christ in receiving all the power and might and dominion of that kingdom (see D&C 88:107). This is the celestial principle upon which the law of consecration rests. In order to establish Zion upon the earth, “every man [must be] equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” (D&C 51:3; see also D&C 70:14; 78:5-6; 82:17-19). This celestial principle is the same in eternity.
This does not necessarily mean that celestial beings will all be the same or that their situations in eternity will be identical, for there, as here, one individual’s family, wants, needs, and other circumstances may differ from another’s. Consequently, their individual, celestial stewardships or kingdoms may likewise be different. All will have, however, equal access to all the corporate resources of the exalted family.
The Lord Jesus Christ also observes the eternal principles of the law of consecration. His eternal consecration is essentially himself—his own perfection, his own merits, his own righteousness. In sharing these, his “earnings,” with us, he raises us to his level, thus making us equal to himself as well as to each other, and making us joint-heirs with him of all that the Father has (see D&C 88:107; Romans 8:17). In consecrating ourselves and our resources for the establishment of Zion here in mortality, we are following the example of Jesus Christ who has consecrated himself and the “earnings” of his infinite atonement for the good of all in eternity.
96 And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.
97 And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one.
98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;
verses 96-98 “the glory of the celestial / terrestrial / telestial is one” That is, celestial glory is one distinct level or class of glory. Terrestrial glory is another distinct type of glory, and telestial glory is yet a third distinct type. Each glory is separate and unique. Even though individuals within the telestial kingdom may differ from one another in glory as much as one star differs from another in size or brightness, they are all still of the same order, class, or type of glory (see 1 Corinthians 15:39-41). No one mistakes a star for the moon or the moon for the noonday sun.
99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
verses 99-100 The divine impulse is unity. The satanic impulse is division (compare D&C 38:27). Zion is established when the saints are of one heart and one mind (see Moses 7:18), and Zion is lost when the saints divide up into individual special interests.
In the New Testament church this wicked impulse for division was manifested by those in Corinth who accepted some church leaders while rejecting others or who accepted some doctrines while resisting others as they pursued their own individual agenda (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-12; 3:3-9). Thus, they divided the unity of the church and of the gospel into rival factions and parties—of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and such. The Old Testament names in D&C 76:100 witness to the same wicked impulse toward factionalism among the members in earlier dispensations. Similarly, there are some in the Church today who will sustain some leaders but not others and who treat the restored gospel as though it were a buffet lunch—accepting the leaders, doctrines, and policies they like and rejecting the ones they do not. But if the saints cannot learn to become one in Jesus’s Church upon the earth, we need not suppose we will do so in eternity.
101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.
verse 101 Given the setting created by verses 99-100, this verse might well refer to some within the Church today. There are some telestial persons in the LDS Church and in other Christian churches who do not really have testimonies of the fulness of the gospel or even of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, though they would appear to. In reality, these persons are followers of men and believe in the teachings of men. They strive to turn the Church to the prevailing views of Babylon. Such persons merely use the church membership as a mask while they pursue their own individual ends in the service of a different master. The poetic version of the vision says of them, “They went their own way, and they have their reward,” and “In darkness they worshipp’d; to darkness they go.”
102 Last of all, these all are they who will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the Firstborn, and received into the cloud.
verse 102 See verses 63-67; D&C 45:45; 78:21.
103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.
verses 103 A parallel list of characteristics of telestial souls in the book of Revelation adds: the fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, and idolaters (see Revelation 21:8; 22:15).
104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
verses 104-105 The reference here is to the wicked who will be living on the earth and who will be burned to death at the second coming of Christ (see also verse 106). Their physical suffering from this very real and very literal fire will last, however, only until they are dead. It is called “eternal” fire because it is the just punishment of an eternal God (see D&C 19:6-12). Additionally, once the wicked are dead, their spirits will be consigned to hell, and “eternal fire” is also used as a figurative expression for the spiritual suffering they will experience in hell between their death and their resurrection. This hell is also located “on earth,” though separated by a veil from the mortal and temporal world of our experience.
106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work;
verse 106 “until the fulness of times” Once again, this verse teaches us that there is an eventual exit from hell. When Christ has completed all his work, the captives in hell will be set free and will be resurrected to the telestial kingdom. This will take place only after the great Millennium and after Satan has been put in chains and cast out forever.
“Christ . . . shall have perfected his work” Perfected is used in its biblical sense to mean “completed.” The Greek and Hebrew words sometimes translated as perfect in the Bible usually mean “complete,” “whole,” or “mature.”
107 When he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father, spotless, saying: I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
verse 107 “he shall deliver up the kingdom” When Jesus Christ has completed his stewardship assignment and has redeemed all that was fallen and has redeemed and reconciled it all to God, he will then turn all things over to his Father and render the glory of his accomplishments to the Father (see D&C 19:19; Moses 4:2; Revelation 1:6). The Father will thus be further glorified and enlarged by the immortality and eternal life brought to pass for so many of his children (see Moses 1:39). Christ will be installed upon the throne of his Father, where the righteous will reign with him as joint-heirs, and the glorified Father will assume an even more glorious state (TPJS, 34748).
“I have . . . trodden the wine press alone” The winepress is a double symbol representing the dual roles of Christ as both judge and Savior. As a symbol of divine justice, the winepress represents Christ’s work in crushing all his enemies beneath his feet as if they were grapes in a vat and directing them to drink the wine or the results of his victory over them. The poetic version says, “Till Christ shall have trodden all enemies down.” In this role as conqueror and judge, the redness of Jesus’s garments (see Isaiah 63:1-4; D&C 133:48, 50) comes from the blood of the wicked whom he justly tramples down at his second coming “like him that treadeth in the winefat” (Isaiah 63:2) and who are forced to drink the bitter wine of his victory and his justice by suffering for their sins in hell.
As a symbol of Christ’s saving atonement and his role as Savior, however, the winepress represents the Savior himself being pressed therein until his blood is shed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gath in Hebrew means “winepress,” and semane means “oil” or “richness.” Thus, Gethsemane means “winepress of richness.” Jesus as the “true vine” (John 15:1, 5; 1 Nephi 15:15; Alma 16:17) enters the garden of the winepress, Gethsemane, and there is pressed like grapes in a vat with the hideous weight of the sufferings and pains of the world. Under that tremendous load, his blood, like the juice pressed from grapes, is squeezed through his very skin, and he bleeds at every pore (see D&C 19:18; Mosiah 3:7; Luke 22:44). In his role as Savior, the redness of Jesus’s garments comes from his own blood, shed in the garden and on the cross in our behalf so that we might not suffer (see D&C 133:48). In partaking of the sacrament, the early saints drank wine squeezed in a press in remembrance of the symbolic wine of his blood that was squeezed from his body and shed for us in the press of Gethsemane.
Further, Jesus is described as having “trodden the wine-press alone” because on the one hand he alone conquers all things as victor, and because on the other hand he alone suffered all things as victim. Beyond this, we must remember that the Savior endured his infinite agony in the garden alone. When the worst came, there was no one to help him or comfort him—the Spirit left him, and even his Father withdrew from him, to leave him utterly and horribly alone in his infinite agony (Matthew 27:46).
“the fierceness of the wrath of almighty God” Finally, we are reminded that the suffering of the Savior in Gethsemane and on the cross was orchestrated by the Father. Though it was made necessary by the sins of men, it was not caused by them. Nor was his suffering of Satan’s design. And there was nothing of arbitrariness in his suffering; the Father had him suffer—just enough—no more and no less than was necessary. Yet his suffering was unimaginable, as he had to come to know the pains, the temptations, the sufferings of every man, that he might know how to judge with perfect fairness (Alma 7:11-12; Hebrews 2:18). See the important discussion in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 19, The Essence of the Lord’s Atonement.
108 Then shall he be crowned with the crown of his glory, to sit on the throne of his power to reign forever and ever.
109 But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore;
verse 109 “they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven” Which kingdom—celestial, terrestrial, or telestial—will, in the eternities, be the most populous? If we were to take D&C 137:10 at face value, that is that all who die before the age of accountability automatically return to God’s presence, then perhaps the celestial kingdom would be. It seems more likely that those in the telestial kingdom will outnumber all others.
110 And heard the voice of the Lord saying: These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever;
verse 110 “These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess” These seems here to refer specifically to the heirs of the telestial kingdom, a view supported by the poetic version. All those in the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms would by this time have been raised in the first resurrection and would have already acknowledged Jesus as their Lord. Of those who will be saved, all that are left at this point, at the second resurrection, the resurrection of the unjust, are these telestial rebels—who must accept Christ as their ruler and acknowledge his power in order to be redeemed at last from the power of the devil.
Among all the innumerable hosts of the saved in all the kingdoms of glory, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that his is the only name in eternity through which they may be saved. One may well argue that such bowing and confessing is not the same as having a testimony of Jesus and being valiant in that testimony. Rather it merely recognizes the practical necessity of submission to his power. The celestial and terrestrial heirs will have made their confession and obeisance before or at the first resurrection. The telestial beings will do it before or at the second resurrection. Note how radical this doctrine would have seemed in 1832. When the Christian world insisted that the wicked would burn in hell forever, Joseph Smith revealed that they will all finally bend the knee and confess the Savior and then be redeemed in heavenly glory.
111 For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared;
112 And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.
verse 112 “And they shall be servants of the Most High” All those saved in any degree of glory, including the telestial, will be servants of God in eternity.
“where God and Christ dwell they cannot come” This limitation or restriction on the telestials is not the result of statute. There is no written law somewhere which is enforced by angels standing guard. Rather this restriction is the natural result of what they have become. “For where I am they cannot come, for they have no power” (D&C 29:29). The telestial body simply cannot tolerate a celestial environment, and it is likely that the telestial soul would never have the ability to travel to the celestial realm.
There is no indication in scripture that progress is possible from one state to another—from one kingdom to another—once resurrection has occurred. President George Albert Smith observed: “There are some people who have supposed that if we are quickened telestial bodies, that eventually, throughout the ages of eternity, we will continue to progress until we will find our place in the celestial kingdom, but the scriptures and revelations of God have said that those who are quickened telestial bodies cannot come where God and Christ dwell, worlds without end” (CR, October 1975, 172). Elder Spencer W. Kimball agreed with this when he declared: “After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal!” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 243-44).
“worlds without end” Forever and ever. In Hebrew and Greek the same words are used for eternity, age, and world. In the idiom of the ancient scriptures, a “world” is as much, if not more, a period of time than a place.
Epilogue and Conclusion (verses 113-119)
A fitting conclusion to section 76 was written by Otten and Campbell:
The fundamental question with which we are confronted is as follows: How do we stand in our relationship to a testimony of Jesus Christ? Sons of Perdition deny him. Telestial people receive not the testimony of Jesus. Terrestrial people reject the testimony of Jesus in mortality, but afterward receive it and/or fail to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Celestial saints receive the testimony of Jesus and are true and faithful to it. Our eternal destiny is dependent upon our faithfulness to a testimony of Jesus Christ (Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, volume 2, 35).
Again, however, please be reminded that our eternal reward depends on just who we are, and not on the timing of our conversion.
113 This is the end of the vision which we saw, which we were commanded to write while we were yet in the Spirit.
114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;
verse 114 “the mysteries of his kingdom” See the commentary for verse 7.
115 Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;
verse 115 “not lawful for man to utter” Joseph and Sidney saw much more in this great vision than is recorded in section 76, and much of what they saw was not to be published to the world or even to the membership of the Church. A later comment of Joseph’s to this effect is recorded in his History of the Church: “Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder— the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter. I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them. The Lord deals with this people as a tender parent with a child, communicating light and intelligence and the knowledge of his ways as they can bear it” (5:402).
“Not lawful . . . to utter” indicates knowledge received by one individual that he or she is then prevented by covenant or by commandment from revealing to others, even if they are also faithful members of the Church. In 1832 this would have included, but would not be limited to, most of the information Latter-day Saints now receive lawfully in the temples of God.
The Prophet Joseph also taught:
Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject (HC, 6:50).
116 Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
117 To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;
118 That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.
verses 117-118 “this privilege of seeing and knowing . . . while in the flesh” This is referring to the privilege granted here to Joseph and Sidney. This passage refers to receiving first-person experience of God rather than only having faith in the words or experiences of others. It is knowing the Father and the Son directly, personally, and empirically through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. This is the great privilege of those for whom the veil is parted because of their faith, that they may see God and come into his presence while yet in the flesh. For this experience it is necessary to be filled with the Holy Spirit, whose indwelling presence changes our nature and preserves our mortal bodies in their contact with divine glory (compare D&C 130:22).
119 And to God and the Lamb be glory, and honor, and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Joseph Smith’s Poetic Version of Section 76
In early 1843, the prophet Joseph, aided by his clerks W. W. Phelps and Wilford Woodruff, was preparing his personal history for publication. Portions of that history were already appearing serially in the Times and Seasons. In particular he was reviewing the period of February and March 1832. It was during this period that section 76 (“The Vision”) had been received in Hiram Ohio.
January and February 1843 was also a time of celebration and conviviality for the saints. An Illinois court in Springfield, Illinois, had just advised Illinois Governor Thomas Ford that a writ issued for Joseph Smith’s extradition to Missouri was illegal, and a federal district judge discharged the Prophet on January 7, 1843. Joseph had been in Springfield during the hearings. He returned to Nauvoo, as might be expected, as a hero. The saints would continue to enjoy the blessings of Joseph’s society. Two days after his return from Springfield, W. W. Phelps presented Joseph a poem entitled Vade Mecum, or Go with Me, as part of the jubilee celebration. It was in this setting in February 1843 that a poetic version of section 76 entitled The Answer was first published, under Joseph’s name, in the Times and Seasons. It was a rejoinder to Phelps’s jubilee poem, Vade Mecum.
During those intervening eleven years between Joseph’s receiving section 76 and the writing of his poetic version, Joseph had learned much. His added insights are included in the poetic version. Hence, Joseph’s poetic version serves as an important commentary on section 76.
Some examples of the additional information afforded by his poetic version include:
- The premortal experience and nature of spirits. The concept of premortal spirits was not well understood during the first years after the Church’s founding in 1830. The first hint of such knowledge came in 1833, when Joseph received Doctrine and Covenants section 93. Privately, as early as 1839, Joseph began teaching that there was a mother in heaven—the mother of our premortal spirits. By 1841, Joseph publicly declared, “Spirits are eternal” (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph [Provo: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1980], 60.). When the Book of Abraham was published in March 1842, the doctrine was further clarified (see Abraham 3:18).
- The universality of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. In the poem, Joseph emphasizes that the redemption of Christ was not limited to this world nor to a specific period of time. It reached backward in time and forward into the future. It blessed all who ever have and who ever will live upon this earth and its effects spread across the vastness of space. It was a final act that did not necessitate another sacrifice in the future.
- Lucifer’s remarkable position of prominence in the premortal world. Only in his poem does Joseph identify Lucifer’s “godified state” before he fell to the earth to become the devil.
The kingdoms of glory. Joseph clarified the identity of those who would inherit the individual kingdoms of glory.
He also emphasizes the happy state of those who will inherit the telestial kingdom. An often repeated story associated with the telestial kingdom deals with something Joseph Smith was purported to have said: “The telestial kingdom is so great, if we knew what it was like we would kill ourselves to get there.” Wilford Woodruff recounted a comment by the Prophet that may be the basis of that apocryphal story. According to Charles Lowell Walker, Wilford Woodruff “refered to a saying of Joseph Smith, which he heard him utter: That if the People knew what was behind the vail [sic], they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there, but the Lord in his wisdom had implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their creator” (Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, ed. A. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson [Logan: Utah State University Press, 1980], 465). What he may have meant by this statement may never be known, but we do know that the happy state of those who inherit the telestial kingdom is emphasized in the poem.
The poem also clarifies the fate of those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom—that they will become gods.
- Joseph Smith’s life and mission. Just a few days before Joseph published the poem, he stated, “I know what I say; I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield, and what can man do if God is my friend. I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes—then I shall be offered freely” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 22 January, 1843). Contemporary sources confirm the Prophet’s sense of mission and his knowledge regarding his death (see, for example, Ronald K. Esplin, “Joseph Smith’s Mission and Timetable: ‘God Will Protect Me until My Work Is Done,’“ in Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 280-319.). In this regard, note particularly the first stanza of Joseph’s poem.
Vade Mecum (Go with Me) From W. W. Phelps to Joseph Smith the Prophet
Go with me, will you go to the saints that have died,–
To the next, better world, where the righteous reside;
Where the angels and spirits in harmony be
In the joys of a vast paradise? Go with me.
Go with me where the truth and the virtues prevail;
Where the union is one, and the years never fail; Not a heart can conceive, nor a nat’ral eye see What the Lord has prepar’d for the just. Go with me. Go with me where there is no destruction or war; Neither tyrants, or sland’rers, or nations ajar; Where the system is perfect, and happiness free, And the life is eternal with God. Go with me. Go with me, will you go to the mansions above,
Where the bliss, and the knowledge, the light, and the love, And the glory of God do eternally be?–
Death, the wages of sin, is not there. Go with me.
Nauvoo, January, 1843.
The Answer. To W. W. Phelps, ESQ.
I will go, I will go, to the home of the Saints, Where the virtue’s the value, and life the reward; But before I return to my former estate I must fulfill the mission I had from the Lord. Wherefore, hear, O ye heavens, and give ear O ye earth; And rejoice ye inhabitants truly again; For the Lord he is God, and his life never ends,
And besides him there ne’er was a Saviour of men. (verse 1) His ways are a wonder; his wisdom is great;
The extent of his doings, there’s none can unveil; His purposes fail not; from age unto age
He still is the same, and his years never fail.
His throne is the heavens, his life time is all
Of eternity now, and eternity then;
His union is power, and none stays his hand,–
The Alpha, Omega, forever: Amen.
For thus saith the Lord, in the spirit of truth,
I am merciful, gracious, and good unto those
That fear me, and live for the life that’s to come;
My delight is to honor the saints with repose;
That serve me in righteousness true to the end;
Eternal’s their glory, and great their reward;
I’ll surely reveal all my myst’ries to them,–
The great hidden myst’ries in my kingdom stor’d–
From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth.
And for ages to come unto them I will show My pleasure & will, what my kingdom will do:
Eternity’s wonders they truly shall know. (verse 7) Great things of the future I’ll show unto them,
Yea, things of the vast generations to rise; For their wisdom and glory shall be very great,
And their pure understanding extend to the skies: (verse 8) And before them the wisdom of wise men shall cease,
And the nice understanding of prudent ones fail! For the light of my spirit shall light mine elect,
And the truth is so mighty ‘twill ever prevail. (verses 9-10) And the secrets and plans of my will I’ll reveal;
The sanctified pleasures when earth is renew’d, What the eye hath not seen, nor the ear hath yet heard;
Nor the heart of the natural man ever hath view’d. (verse 10) I, Joseph, the prophet, in spirit beheld,
And the eyes of the inner man truly did see Eternity sketch’d in a vision from God,
Of what was, and now is, and yet is to be. (verses 11-12) Those things which the Father ordained of old,
Before the world was, or a system had run,– Through Jesus the Maker and Savior of all;
The only begotten, (Messiah) his son. (verses 13) Of whom I bear record, as all prophets have,
And the record I bear is the fulness,—yea even The truth of the gospel of Jesus—the Christ,
With whom I convers’d, in the vision of heav’n. (verses 14) For while in the act of translating his word,
Which the Lord in his grace had appointed to me, I came to the gospel recorded by John,
Chapter fifth and the twenty-ninth verse, which you’ll see. (verse 15) Which was given as follows: “Speaking of the resurrection of the dead,– “Concerning those who shall hear the voice of “the son of man– “And shall come forth:– “They who have done good in the resurrection “of the just. “And they who have done evil in the resurrection “of the unjust.” (verses 16-17) I marvel’d at these resurrections, indeed!
For it came unto me by the spirit direct:–
And while I did meditate what it all meant,
The Lord touch’d the eyes of my own intellect:–
Hosanna forever! they open’d anon,
And the glory of God shone around where I was;
And there was the Son, at the Father’s right hand,
In a fulness of glory, and holy applause.
I beheld round the throne, holy angels and hosts,
And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,
In holiness worshiping God and the Lamb,
Forever and ever, amen and amen!
And now after all of the proofs made of him,
By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives!
And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne.
And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God–
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,
By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.
And I saw and bear record of warfare in heav’n; For an angel of light, in authority great, Rebell’d against Jesus, and sought for his pow’r,
But was thrust down to woe from his Godified state. (verse 25) And the heavens all wept, and the tears drop’d like dew,
That Lucifer, son of the morning had fell! Yea, is fallen! is fall’n, and become, Oh, alas!
The son of Perdition; the devil of hell! (verses 26-27) And while I was yet in the spirit of truth,
The commandment was: write ye the vision all out; For Satan, old serpent, the devil’s for war,– And yet will encompass the saints round about. (verses 28-29) And I saw, too, the suff’ring and mis’ry of those,
(Overcome by the devil, in warfare and fight,) In hell-fire, and vengeance, the doom of the damn’d;
For the Lord said, the vision is further: so write. (verse 30) For thus saith the Lord, now concerning all those
Who know of my power and partake of the same; And suffer themselves, that they be overcome By the power of Satan; despising my name;–
(verse 31) Defying my power, and denying the truth;– They are they—of the world, or of men, most forlorn, The Sons of Perdition, of whom, ah! I say,
‘T were better for them had they never been born! (verses 31-32) They’re vessels of wrath, and dishonor to God,
Doom’d to suffer his wrath, in the regions of woe, Through the terrific night of eternity’s round,
With the devil and all of his angels below: (verse 33) Of whom it is said, no forgiveness is giv’n,
In this world, alas! nor the world that’s to come; For they have denied the spirit of God, After having receiv’d it: and mis’ry’s their doom. (verses 34-35)
And denying the only begotten of God,–
And crucify him to themselves, as they do,
And openly put him to shame in their flesh,
By gospel they cannot repentance renew. (verse 35) They are they, who must go to the great lake of fire,
Which burneth with brimstone, yet never consumes, And dwell with the devil, and angels of his,
While eternity goes and eternity comes. (verse 36) They are they, who must groan through the great second death,
And are not redeemed in the time of the Lord; While all the rest are, through the triumph of Christ,
Made partakers of grace, by the power of his word. (verses 37-39) The myst’ry of Godliness truly is great;– The past, and the present, and what is to be; And this is the gospel—glad tidings to all,
Which the voice from the heavens bore record to me: (verse 40) That he came to the world in the middle of time,
To lay down his life for his friends and his foes, And bear away sin as a mission of love;
And sanctify earth for a blessed repose. (verse 41) `Tis decreed, that he’ll save all the work of his hands,
And sanctify them by his own precious blood; And purify earth for the Sabbath of rest,
By the agent of fire, as it was by the Flood.
The Savior will save all his Father did give,
Even all that he gave in the regions abroad, Save the Sons of Perdition: They’re lost; ever lost,
And can never return to the presence of God. (verse 43) They are they, who must reign with the devil in hell,
In eternity now, and eternity then, Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quench’d;– And the punishment still, is eternal. Amen. (verse 44)
And which is the torment apostates receive, But the end, or the place where the torment began, Save to them who are made to partake of the same,
Was never, nor will be, revealed unto man. (verse 45-46) Yet God shows by vision a glimpse of their fate,
And straightway he closes the scene that was shown: So the width, or the depth, or the misery thereof,
Save to those that partake, is forever unknown. (verse 47-48) And while I was pondering, the vision was closed;
And the voice said to me, write the vision: for lo! `Tis the end of the scene of the sufferings of those,
Who remain filthy still in their anguish and woe. (verse 49) And again I bear record of heavenly things,
Where virtue’s the value, above all that’s pric’d– Of the truth of the gospel concerning the just,
That rise in the first resurrection of Christ. (verse 50) Who receiv’d and believ’d, and repented likewise,
And then were baptiz’d, as a man always was, Who ask’d and receiv’d a remission of sin,
And honored the kingdom by keeping its laws. (verse 51) Being buried in water, as Jesus had been,
And keeping the whole of his holy commands, They received the gift of the spirit of truth,
By the ordinance truly of laying on hands. (verse 52) For these overcome, by their faith and their works,
Being tried in their life-time, as purified gold, And seal’d by the spirit of promise, to life,
By men called of God, as was Aaron of old. (verse 53) They are they, of the church of the firstborn of God,– And unto whose hands he committeth all things; For they hold the keys of the kingdom of heav’n,
And reign with the Savior, as priests, and as kings. (verses 54-56)
They’re priests of the order of Melchizedek, Like Jesus, (from whom is this highest reward,) Receiving a fulness of glory and light;
As written: They’re Gods; even sons of the Lord. (verses 57-58) So all things are theirs; yea, of life, or of death;
Yea, whether things now, or to come, all are theirs, And they are the Savior’s, and he is the Lord’s,
Having overcome all, as eternity’s heirs. (verses 59-60) `Tis wisdom that man never glory in man,
But give God the glory for all that he hath; For the righteous will walk in the presence of God,
While the wicked are trod under foot in his wrath. (verse 61) Yea, the righteous shall dwell in the presence of God,
And of Jesus, forever, from earth’s second birth– For when he comes down in the splendor of heav’n,
All these he’ll bring with him, to reign on the earth. (verses 62-63) These are they that arise in their bodies of flesh,
When the trump of the first resurrection shall sound; These are they that come up to Mount Zion, in life,
Where the blessings and gifts of the spirit abound. (verses 64-66) These are they that have come to the heavenly place;
To the numberless courses of angels above: To the city of God; e’en the holiest of all,
And the home of the blessed, the fountain of love: (verses 67) To the church of old Enoch, and of the first born:
And gen’ral assembly of ancient renown’d. Whose names are all kept in the archives of heav’n,
As chosen and faithful, and fit to be crown’d. (verse 68) These are they that are perfect through Jesus’ own blood,
Whose bodies celestial are mention’d by Paul, Where the sun is the typical glory thereof, And God, and his Christ, are the true judge of all. (verses 69-70)
Again, I beheld the terrestrial world, In order and glory of Jesus, go on; `Twas not as the church of the first born of God,
But shone in its place, as the moon to the sun. (verse 71) Behold, these are they that have died without law;
The heathen of ages that never had hope. And those of the region and shadow of death,
The spirits in prison, that light has brought up. (verses 72-73) To spirits in prison the Savior once preach’d,
And taught them the gospel, with powers afresh; And then were the living baptiz’d for their dead,
That they might be judg’d as if men in the flesh. (verse 74) These are they that are hon’rable men of the earth;
Who were blinded and dup’d by the cunning of men: They receiv’d not the truth of the Savior at first;
But did, when they heard it in prison, again. (verses 74-75) Not valiant for truth, they obtain’d not the crown,
But are of that glory that’s typ’d by the moon: They are they, that come into the presence of Christ,
But not to the fulness of God, on his throne. (verses 76-79) Again I beheld the telestial, as third,
The lesser, or starry world, next in its place. For the leaven must leaven three measures of meal,
And every knee bow that is subject to grace. (verse 81) These are they that receiv’d not the gospel of Christ,
Or evidence, either, that he ever was; As the stars are all diff’rent in glory and light,
So differs the glory of these by the laws. (verse 82) These are they that deny not the spirit of God,
But are thrust down to hell, with the devil, for sins, As hypocrites, liars, whoremongers, and thieves, And stay ‘till the last resurrection begins. (verses 83-85)
`Till the Lamb shall have finish’d the work he begun;
Shall have trodden the wine press, in fury alone,
And overcome all by the pow’r of his might:
He conquers to conquer, and save all his own.
(verses 85 and 107)
These are they that receive not a fulness of light,
From Christ, in eternity’s world, where they are,
The terrestrial sends them the Comforter, though;
And minist’ring angels, to happify there.
And so the telestial is minister’d to,
By ministers from the terrestrial one,
As terrestrial is, from the celestial throne;
And the great, greater, greatest, seem’s stars,
moon, and sun. (verses 86-88)
And thus I beheld, in the vision of heav’n,
The telestial glory, dominion and bliss,
Surpassing the great understanding of men,–
Unknown, save reveal’d, in a world vain as this.
And lo, I beheld the terrestrial, too,
Which excels the telestial in glory and light,
In splendor, and knowledge, and wisdom, and joy,
In blessings, and graces, dominion and might.
I beheld the celestial, in glory sublime;
Which is the most excellent kingdom that is,–
Where God, e’en the Father, in harmony reigns;
Almighty, supreme, and eternal, in bliss.
Where the church of the firstborn in union reside,
And they are as they’re seen, and they know as they’re known; Being equal in power, dominion and might,
With a fulness of glory and grace, round his throne. (verses 94-95) The glory celestial is one like the sun;
The glory terrestr’al is one like the moon;
The glory telestial is one like the stars,
And all harmonize like the parts of a tune.
As the stars are all different in lustre and size, So the telestial region, is mingled in bliss; From least unto greatest, and greatest to least,
The reward is exactly as promis’d in this. (verse 98) These are they that came out for Apollos and Paul;
For Cephas and Jesus, in all kinds of hope; For Enoch and Moses, and Peter, and John;
For Luther and Calvin, and even the Pope. (verses 99-100) For they never received the gospel of Christ,
Nor the prophetic spirit that came from the Lord; Nor the covenant neither, which Jacob once had;
They went their own way, and they have their reward. (verses 100-01) By the order of God, last of all, these are they,
That will not be gather’d with saints here below, To be caught up to Jesus, and meet in the clouds:–
In darkness they worshipp’d; to darkness they go. (verse 102) These are they that are sinful, the wicked at large,
That glutted their passion by meanness or worth; All liars, adulterers, sorc’rers, and proud;
And suffer, as promis’d, God’s wrath on the earth. (verses 103-4) These are they that must suffer the vengeance of hell,
‘Till Christ shall have trodden all enemies down, And perfected his work, in the fulness of times:
And is crown’d on his throne with his glorious crown. (verses 105-8) The vast multitude of the telestial world– As the stars of the skies, or the sands of the sea;– The voice of Jehovah echo’d far and wide,
Ev’ry tongue shall confess, and they all bow the knee. (verses 109-10) Ev’ry man shall be judg’d by the works of his life,
And receive a reward in the mansions prepar’d; For his judgments are just, and his works never end, As his prophets and servants have always declar’d. (verse 111)
But the great things of God, which he show’d unto me, Unlawful to utter, I dare not declare; They surpass all the wisdom and greatness of men,
And only are seen as has Paul, where they are. (verses 114-18) I will go, I will go, while the secret of life,
Is blooming in heaven, and blasting in hell; Is leaving on earth, and a budding in space:– I will go, I will go, with you, brother, farewell.
Nauvoo, Feb. 1843.
- Michael J. Preece