Perhaps more than any other area of religious theology, understandings of the afterworld have repeatedly been used by fundamentalist traditions and individuals to manipulate adherents into conformity with their assorted religious and cultural mores, laws and customs. From the practice of some Evangelical fundamentalists of condemning to Hell those who don’t “profess Jesus as Lord”, to the past practices of some Catholic literalists of condemning even children who die without baptism to Limbo—nearly all the world’s large religious traditions develop popular myths and egocentric beliefs about what it takes to go to a good place when we die. Like Muslims, Catholics and Jews, Mormonism also, has our own similar cultural teachings and mores which often suggest that only the faithful of our own religion who receive all the needed LDS ordinances (personally or vicariously) get to make it to the highest heaven.
In this article I hope to show that like most religious canons, LDS scriptures on the afterlife are deliberately ambiguous about such matters. They are designed to allow for fundamentalist interpretation from cursory readings, while at the same time hiding of a more broad pluralistic or universalist perspective within their metaphors. In this article we will show how by looking closely at LDS scripture and comparing Joseph Smith’s revelations to those of other mystics of the restorationist movement and near-death experiences, a far more open and common sense view of the afterworld in LDS scripture becomes apparent. A view showing that the same principles that make a nation or kingdom strong, advanced and free from corruption, moral decay and division in this life — are the same principles which classify nation’s in the afterworld as heavens. And conversely the same exclusivists fundamentalism which make nations and religions weak, divided and self-deceived in this world, makes those cultures hells in the afterworld.
The LDS View of the Afterlife
For the typical LDS adherent the view of eternal progression and the afterworld goes something like this. After death all souls go to either the Spirit World or Spirit Prison. In some of the more egocentric LDS views, all those who reject the LDS gospel go to spirit prison until they accept the LDS version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see Gospel Principles, Encyclopedia of Mormonism). In other more pluralistic LDS interpretations the divisions have less to do with religious affiliations and more to do with right living. In the Spirit World, both those of paradise and prison await the resurrection which reunites one’s spirit with a physical body. In the most accepted LDS theology, individuals are resurrected into one of three degrees of glory as delineated by Joseph Smith in D&C 76. The highest degree, called the Celestial Kingdom is for the faithful who receive all the necessary LDS ordinances and live the LDS commandments. The middle degree, called the Terrestrial Kingdom is more ambiguously defined as the abode of those who rejected the Gospel in life, but accepted it in the Spirit World. The lowest degree is typically defined as those who rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ in both life and after death.
In the first part of this article, I challenge some of these interpretations in order to show that placement in the afterworld has little to do with one’s religious membership—and everything to do with one’s desires, character and social connections. In the second half, I’ll attempt to show the similarities and differences of the after-world according to those who claim to have seen it. Showing how Joseph’s vision of D&C 76 is actually a dualistic reference to the spirit world as well as the future higher dimensions of earth after resurrection.
Requirements for Entrance in the Celestial Kingdom
Although I’ll show in a minute how such a belief is contradictory, it’s easy to see why many (if not most) LDS people believe that the highest heaven or Celestial Kingdom is reserved for only faithful members who receive (either in life or vicariously after death) all the necessary LDS ordinances and live the LDS commandments. In Joseph’s vision of the Celestial Kingdom given in D&C 76, it begins right off the bat by saying,
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…
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. (D&C 76:51–54)
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom. 22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. (D&C 88:21–22)
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
Although these verses contain obvious metaphors and symbolic wording, the simplest interpretation seems to be that reception of the gospel law through the church as well as baptism and confirmation by a priesthood holder is required for admittance into the highest heaven. This belief is not unique to Mormonism and is similar to Catholic doctrine requiring baptism for admittance to paradise. It’s easy to see how Joseph himself might have been troubled by these words when considering the death of his brother Alvin, nine years earlier–who died without receiving baptism or any of the LDS or christian ordinances. Perhaps in response to this apprehension, Joseph again received a vision in 1936 concerning the afterworld. Here, Joseph saw Alvin in the Celestial Kingdom with God and the Holy Patriarchs of the Bible, and was assured that all are judged and exalted “according to the desires of their hearts” and not simply according to whether they received “saving ordinances”.
The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God…
6 And [I] marveled how it was that [Alvin] had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.
7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
10 And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (D&C 137:6–10)
Despite the clear statement that men are judged and exalted according to their willingness to “receive this gospel” (note that ‘this gospel’ is not the same as ‘this church’) as well as “according to their works [and] the desires of their hearts”, some LDS people still attempt to use the verses from D&C 76:51–52, to reason that living or vicarious baptism are absolutely necessary for exaltation to the highest Mormon heaven . However, as we’ll see by the next few scriptures, such overly literal interpretation might be an example of establishing as doctrine “more or less” than what scripture says (3 Ne 11:40;18:13, D&C 10:68; 93:25; 124:120). Consider for instance the following explanation of the Bible’s true meaning of “endless torment”, where D&C 19 supports the idea that higher beings have deliberately designed the metaphors of scripture to allow over-exaggerated interpretations or even fear tactics to catch the attention of casual readers.
6 Nevertheless, it is not [literally] written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.
7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.
8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.
9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—
11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment. (D&C 19:6–12)
There is no doubt that throughout the scriptures, the importance of following prophets, keeping ordinances and obeying political and religious law is emphasized (Alma 13:16, D&C 84:21; 124:38-39, Isa. 24.5; Mal. 3:7, etc). However, leaders or members who take those allusions too far, and pridefully try and suggest that obedience to LDS ordinances are absolutely necessary or the primary requirement for exaltation in the highest heavens are reading undue literality into metaphorical scriptures. By teaching things that contradict the conscience of so many good people on earth, they harm the church and drive away righteous members whose hearts tell them that it makes no sense to send good people to lesser eternal abodes simply because they did not receive the ordinances of an earthly religious sect. Or as some LDS traditions suggest, to have wait outside the highest heaven until their temple work is done.
In reality Joseph Smith should have never had the concern which necessitated his vision of his brother Alvin in Doctrine & Covenants 137, because the Book of Mormon already cleared this issue up. Like most Mormons today, Joseph must not have noticed that Nephi 9:25–26, Mosiah 15:21–25 and Moroni 8:20–24 all teach clearly that those who die “without law”, are saved by the atonement. The picture painted in all three of these verses is that everyone is saved and exalted except those that have the Jewish law and then specifically transgress that law. Nephi says of those without law.
25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.
26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel. (2 Ne 9:25–26)
And Abinidi echos this sentiment in Mosiah 15 saying children and those “not having salvation declared unto them” are redeemed to eternal life in the First Resurrection.
23 They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death.
24 And these are those who have part in the first resurrection; and these are they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them. And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord.
25 And little children also have eternal life. (Mosiah 15:23–25)
Later in the Book of Mormon, Moroni sharply rebukes not only those who believe children are in need of baptism, But also those who believe baptism is required for the eventual salvation of those outside the Jewish religious law or covenant. Note verse 22, where “all they that are without the law” are made synonymous with children. Bracketed text is mine.
13 Wherefore, if little children [and also they that are without the law as per verse.22] could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell… 15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism. 19 [But] Little children [and those without the law. ibid] cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. 20 And he that saith that little children [and those without the law. ibid] need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. 21 Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works. 24 Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law. 25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; (Moroni 8:20–25)
Phrases in these verses like “dead works”, “alive in Christ”, and “without the law” are obvious parallelisms to Paul’s writings in the New Testament (footnote) which denounce the legalistic ideas of New Testament Jews who insisted salvation came by fulfilling the “outward ordinances” of ancient Jewish religious law. The same ideas that caused legalistic Christians of the middle ages to believe children or non-Christians would be damned without baptism or Christian ordinances—or legalistic Mormons to mistakenly believe that the purpose of baptisms for the dead is to fulfill the demands of religious law. Like Paul, Mormon explains that baptism is only for those under condemnation or under the curse of “dead works” or a “broken law”.
Paul emphasizes over and over in his epistles the idea that outward ordinances of religious law are not required for salvation (Gal 2:16-21, Eph 2:8–18, Rom 3-8, Acts 15:10, 1 Cor 15:56). In his epistle to the Romans he reminds the Roman Jews that circumcision (the ancient Jewish ordinance equivalent to Christian christening and baptism) was a symbol which did not have saving power in and of itself. In fact those who are “circumcised of heart” fulfill the law without the physical ordinance. While those who receive the temporal ordinance without fulfilling the spiritual counterpart, receive no saving benefit. Simply replace the word “circumcision” in the following verses with “baptism”, “confirmation”, or any of the LDS “saving ordinances” to see how what Paul says in Romans applies to LDS theology.
[Put this paragraph in a footnote? rewrite? So how do we reconcile these Book of Mormon LDS scriptures which seem to suggest salvation can come without church or christian membership with the earlier verses which seem to be a complete contradiction? They key to understanding lies in a few simple principles. 0. Christian ordinances were created to be physical symbols of spiritual realities, not the realities themselves. 1. We currently live in Hell or the telestial kingdom (explain. if you are on earth, you are in hell. the lowest of the low). 2. Everyone will continue on to live in a post mortal version of this same Hell we live in now (unless someone helps them advance far beyond the mainstream of humanity–this is the ‘salvation’ Jesus taught). 3. Paradise and prison are effectually states of mind both here and in the afterworld.]
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the [spirit of the] law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the [spirit of the] law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. (Romans 2:25–29)
Baptism is a rich metaphor, and is meant to represent an inflection point of transformation from old to new or from dead to living in one’s personal and social evolution. Likely based on the Mosaic purification rite of Tvilah (which was especially required for those who had come in contact with a dead body), it was made to represent the point where one dies to selfishly living after the manner of the beast, the flesh, a ‘dead law’ or a religious system that had become a lifeless idol to an individual— and is then purified and reborn as the Spirit of God is breathed into their body and a new life and communion established. Christ’s sacrifice and crucifixion obviously played into this same metaphor for Israel, representing an infection point of their culture; where the dead, corrupted religious system or law of the Jewish people was destroyed and reborn into a new Christian covenant of love, openness and selfless service.
The Book of Mormon gives several examples of this group ritual where a new generation must reinvent and renew their religious system and commit to living the new transformed version (see Mosiah 6; 18; 21; Alma 7). So although the Book of Mormon emphasizes the importance of baptism within a particular religious communion or covenant (2 Ne 31-32), Mormon’s point in his letter quoted above seems to be that neither children nor those without or outside of a particular religious law are capable of repenting and renewing a covenant with God they know nothing about. So it is a mockery (defined as a misrepresentation) of the ordinance to use it to condemn them. Especially since baptism’s primary purpose was to renew and free people who were already condemned by the “dead works” of a broken, misunderstood or distorted religious law (v. 23) — by turning baptism into a ‘dead work’ itself, and completely misunderstanding its intent, followers twist its purpose into the exact opposite of its original design! Baptism, like other Jewish or Christian outward ordinances, has no saving power of itself, it is simply a symbol pointing our minds toward these sublime concepts of personal and social reform. (see Romans 3:20, 4:14-20, 5:20, 6:14, Romans 7:1–13,8:2-3, Acts 15:10, 1 Cor 15:56, 2 Cor 3:7–10).
10 The law [ie. the Jewish outward ordinances] is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices [or ordinances] repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Hebr 10:1 NIV)
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter [γράμμα: that which is drawn or written] but of the Spirit; for the letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit [meaning behind the symbols] gives life. (2 Cor 3:6 NIV, compare NLT))
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal 5:14)
72 Behold, these are they who died without law;
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;74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.
Sectarians Who Brag or Argue Over Baptism Go To Hell
Christian and LDS scripture seems to paint religion as a two edged sword. It has the ability to unite and exalt people with teachings and systems of harmony and right living. But it also has the tendency to divide people into divisive, self-righteous groups. Numerous scriptures seem to teach that the entire purpose of revealed religion on earth is to get people working together in a system which can perfect their character to the point of creating a harmonious kingdom or political group (D&C 105:3–5 for instance). Because the harmony of a group is what creates heaven both on earth and the afterworld. Anything which detracts from this goal is looking beyond the mark (Jacob 4:14), and aligns a group with the Church of the Devil. Like Paul’s teachings, Joseph Smith’s revelation of the afterworld in D&C 76 hits the point home by specifically pointing out that religious groups who accept Christ or Peter or any true prophet and their outward ordinances, but misunderstand or don’t actually follow the spirit of the unifying “gospel” those prophet’s revelations teach will take their place in the lowest afterword abode with liars, adulterers and whoremongers.
98 And the glory of the telestial is one.. 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; [might we add, some of Joseph Smith, some of Brigham Young here?] 101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant. 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. 103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. (D&C 76:98–103)
Like most of the descriptions in D&C 76, these statements concerning some “of Paul and of Apollos”, is an allusion to Paul’s writings in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians chapter 3 he chastises the Corinthians for their divisions relating to baptism, where “there is jealousy and quarreling” among them (1 Cor 3:3 NIV). Just like the modern sects of Christianity it seems that the early Corinthians were already pridefully dividing themselves according to which apostle they considered greatest or who they were baptised by. Paul says,
11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas ”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name… 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel… (1 Cor 1:11–17 NIV)
Paul seems horrified by the idea that the early Saints were using baptism of all things as a tool for divisive pride (suggesting the authority of the one who baptized them makes them more legitimate than others). His letter is a strong rebuke reminding the Corinthians that the gospel is what’s important, not baptism or sectarianism! And D&C 76 seems to use this as a perfect example of the Telestial mindset. Those individuals, churches and religions which get caught up in the mindset of divisive sectarianism cannot produce the harmony and universal love necessary for exaltation. They are counted among “liars, sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers” because their fruits are equally divisive on a society.
This important lesson is explicitly taught in the Book of Mormon’s appearance of Christ in 3 Nephi. The very first order of business in Christ’s visit to the Lehites after proving his divinity is to chastise the people for their “contentions” specifically concerning baptism. Given that pride and ‘inequality’ are said to have caused the church to be “broken up in all the land” (3 Ne 6:14), some four years earlier, we can assume that a spirit of sectarianism promoted by both politicians and the religious ‘high priests’ (v. 21,22,27) had over taken the people. Christ’s rebuke echo’s Paul’s… that disputations concerning baptism are a tool of the devil, and have no place in Christ’s spiritual church— nor anyone wishing to call themselves after his name.
28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Ne 11:28–30)
So although Joseph Smith seems to be specifically instructed in D&C 22 to re-baptize converts from other Christian churches, it is clear that such baptism in itself should never be a source of dispute between Mormons and those of other sects or faiths. Nor should it be a source of pride or religious exclusivism. In addition to Joseph Smith’s revelation of his unbaptised brother Alvin, the scriptural stories of the criminal on the cross in Luke 23:43 who is assured of paradise; and the beggar in Christ’s parable of Luke 16:19–31 who goes to “Abraham’s bosom” suggest no absolute need for personal or vicarious baptism or other ordinances to make it to heaven. As mentioned in the article ____ it seems more than reasonable to assume from the account of Christ’s coming to the Nephites that when Christ comes in unmistakable glory to found his kingdom both on earth and in heaven, he will gather all the righteous together and help them fulfill any needed outward ordinances of the Gospel, while making any and all needed exceptions in the name of mercy.
So what good is temple work some might ask? To give an answer to that, it might help to consider the influence of the afterworld on the mortal world.
Understanding the Afterworld
In order to understand what it means to be saved in a good place in the afterworld, its important to understand the afterworld itself, and how the scriptures symbolize the states of the soul after death. I attempt to give a more complete picture of the complexities of the afterworld in my article Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology, but here I will attempt to summarize things enough for a general understanding.
In the Universe, there are two major divisions of intelligence and matter; which to symbolize, biblical prophets used terms such as water and spirit; heaven and earth. the grave and the resurrection. The word spirit in the bible comes from the Hebrew reuch, which literally meant breath or air. Thus “spiritual” things were things which like the wind can be inferred, but not directly seen. This opposed to water or earth, which are used to symbolize our present world in its current or future state. (give an intro to the various accounts)
THIS ARTICLE UNDER HEAVY CONSTRUCTION FROM THIS POINT ON…..
Still To Do-Notes
Eman lived in…
Oahspe, a channeled text written by John Ballou Newbrough’s work in ~1870 claims to be a book of scripture revealed by higher dimensional light-beings. In its view of the afterworld, beings pass from life into a realm which he refers to as “atmospherea”. (roughly analogous to the LDS concept of the Spirit World) This realm is said to be more subtle than
John Ward, Gone West Series
John Sebastian Ward (1885-1949) was a British authority on Masonry who wrote a series of channeled texts concerning life after death. In his Book “Gone West”, he receives descriptions from his dead brother about a Spirit Realm divided into “seven planes” (p. vi). He suggests that higher beings are unwilling to communicate knowledge of the higher planes to those of the lower planes. And concerning “resurrection” and forewards a dual view where “the most exalted spirits rise [or resurrect] higher and higher without the need of reincarnation, whereas more lowly spirits need to return to earth to develop certain characteristics.” (p. vi)
Law of One
I want to show you first the differing models and scriptures… and then spend the last section clearing things up.
–Any way you look at it there is a good amount of contradiction in our understanding of these models that needs to be addressed. The LDS endowment and numerous other scriptures support paradigm #1 shown above, where the Telestial kingdom IS “the world in which we now live”. Perhaps confusingly, D&C 76:84,106 echoes this understanding by describing the Telestial World as those “who suffer the wrath of God on earth” (although it also supports model 2). Later in the Temple endowment we are taught that the earth will become a Terrestrial world when Satan “is cast out of our midst” (as in at the beginning of the Mellinium when Christ comes to reign on earth and Satan is bound and earth receives its paradisaical glory. 1 Nephi 22:15, 26; Revelation 20:1–3; D&C 88:110; 101:28. D&C 63:20–21; Articles of Faith 1:10; 2 Peter 3:10–14 ). D&C 76:77 seems to somewhat support this paradigm by saying of Terrestrial souls “these are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father” (but then it goes on to also support model 2). The doctrine and Covenents ALSO teaches that the earth WILL become a Celestial world which is “crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever” (D&C 88:17–20). When earth become a Celestial world, it “in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it”. (D&C 130:9. see also D&C 77:1)
NOW HERE’S THE PROBLEM WITH THE PREDOMINATE MODEL, AND ITS A BIG ONE. The entire vision of the Three degrees of glory in the Doctrine and Covenents is framed around the question of who would come forth in the ‘resurrection of the just’ and the resurrection of the unjust. In D&C 76 (v. 17,50,65) we are told that BOTH Celestial and Terrestrial souls will be be resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium during the resurrection of the just. But how is that possible if the earth is only to have attained a terrestrial glory at that time? Most people say, “well, they don’t get resurrected to earth, they resurrect to other worlds or reams”. But that simply does not work, it contradicts D&C 88:17–20 which says says that this earth is..
D&C 76 can’t be states AFTER the resurrection if it teaches that both Celestial and Terrestrial spirits will come forth in the Resurrection of the just at the same time. But that Resurrection is said by some scriptures to be on earth (refs) and other to be in heaven (ref). In either case it occurs at Christ’s coming at the beginning of the Millennium. Joseph Smith in the x article of faith states that the resurrection is to mellenial earth.. So if the earth is going to be the Celestial glory one day “like unto a sea of glass glass”
-born again of water and spirit is refering to the two states
-when scriptures talk of flying “in the air” or “from the sea”, they are making this distinction
Look at nearly every allusion to in the description of the Celestial world of D&C 76. The “general assembly and church of Enoch and the Firstborn” is an allusion to Hebrews 12:23, which clarifies that these are “the SPIRITS of just men made perfect”. In fact D&C 76:69 quotes this phrase as well in describing Celestial Beings, “These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant”.
In the description of terrestrial world, the clarification of what type of beings we are talking about is made again. “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” (D&C 76:73). Isn’t it clear that this is equating the terrestial world to the Spirit Prison of 1 Peter 3:19, Rev 20:7, and Alma 40:14?
Even the description of the telestial world seems pretty clear that it is speaking of beings in hell or prison BEFORE the resurrection of the dead.
84 These are they who are thrust down to hell. 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. 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; (D&C 76:84–86)
However, these descriptions are dualistic…. (how do I summarize that…?)
D&C 129:1–3 explains it clearly, there are two different kinds of beings in “heaven”, resurrected angels and disembodied spirits. Both, it says, can inherit the same glory.
1 There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—
2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory [as resurrected personages]. (D&C 129:1–3)
The term “just men made perfect” in verse 3 is an allusion to both Hebrews 12:23 and D&C 76:69 which speaks of Celestial beings saying, “These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant”
D&C makes this dualistic distinction as well saying “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.” The telestial glory can receive the gospel from terrestrial ministering resurrected angels OR terrestrial ministering spirits.
-temple work’s purpose (which is an important one) is to make a “welding link” between the living and the dead. does it say it is to fulfill the law?—the law never required baptism while alive. It’s silly to suggest that baptism can’t occur in heaven just as easily as it can occur on earth.
Outline of Points
-at the end you need to summarize as succinctly as possible the symbolic nature of christian eschatology as clarified in Oahspe and the Law of One. The seven thousand years is symbolic for a complete ‘time’ or harvest from Oahspe. Cycle times in scripture is highly symbolic because of its complexity and relativity. Almost ALL the supernatural events in biblical eschatology occur in the afterworld. Even Christ’s second coming occurs predominantly in the afterworld. (don’t get caught up in timeframes). Paint the picture, we live on earth, we go to the afterworld and continue almost the exact same system of veiled progression with minimal difference. The afterworld can be seen as a composite of the earth through all its progression and times. Thus the future celestial earth, is in the afterworld now. So also the past hellish societies of earth’s past, are in the afterworld now. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVSe8JZ_eag) Societies are subject to rises and falls in heaven just as they do on earth. Christians are prodded to avoid the falls by making the small windows of resurrection which allow societies to rise to higher levels before a heavenly or earthly collapse. Resurrection is a dual term and occurs between major levels of the afterworld occur only at Dans or minor cycles. The biblical resurrection which occurs when Christ comes, is also dualistic. One meaning has to do with Christ coming in heaven, the other with the time the earth finally rises to the level of glory matching the saints in heaven (terrestrial/celestial). The nature and timing of that transition is not clear, however it appears that there will be birth but no death and thus after the transfiguration of the earth to a higher plane and different order of natural law. When it occurs, the saints will re resurrected back to earth.
-The Telestial World Church is in reality two churches. Both the Church of God and the Church of the devil—the wheat and the tares, the goats and the lambs—all huddled together in one organization. This telestial world (and the church as the living metaphor of this world) is the place where people are tested and polarized into choosing which path they will follow in the next round of progression. The church’s purpose is to train and polarize the elect of both the left and right hand path.
-Most LDS people (as well as the orthodox of every major religion) view the “faithful” of their church as being holy and good, and view the unfaithful, lackadaisical, and unorthodox as being more or less “evil”. (rewrite this paraphrased content) D&C 76 subtly alludes to the truth that the sons of perdition, or the devil and his angels, are actually among the most faithful and orthodox of the church in every dispensation. The son’s of perdition (those who will be taken with “Satan” off-planet at the judgement) are “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— They are they who are the sons of perdition” (D&C 76:31–32)…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 (D&C 76:35).
-A proper understanding of the afterlife helps us to see how the only true church doctrine (although having a semblance of truth) is actually Satan’s most important tool in creating the pride necessary for the physiological captivity which maintains the structure of the church of the devil.
It’s fairly obvious that this is talking about those faithful enough to have been made “partakers” of God’s covenant and power. Those who have received the Holy Ghost, which is a conscience that has been properly informed as to right and wrong by God’s law. But the part here which is most important to church goers is the reference to “having crucified [the Son] unto themselves and put him to an open shame”. So in figuring out what type of individual this is talking about just ask yourself who did that historically? Was it the Samaritans? Was it the harlots? Was it the Romans? No, it was Judas Iscariot and the Jewish priesthood. It was those who by every indication where the elect of God, and yet they denied what the Spirit or Holy Ghost told them was right (that Christ was a good man and that to kill him was completely unjustified), and they had him, his gospel and his followers shamed and killed.
LDS people generally believe that the three realms or degrees of glory spoken of in D&C 76 are separate planets or realms of sorts–separate from the Spirit World—which the righteous will inherit AFTER the “resurrection of the dead”; the first of which is said to occur at Christ’s return to the mortal earth. Comparison with other available revelatory texts suggest this is in some ways a misunderstanding of our own revelations. We see this not only from Oahspe and other more descriptive texts, but by the revelation itself (as we will address in a moment). Comparative analysis shows that the three degrees of glory shown in Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s vision, are actually just a more detailed description of the earth’s spiritual dimension or “Spirit World” where souls await the various resurrections. Although, because of the fractal relationship (see main article) they could also be used as dualistic descriptions of a future state of earth when it will obtain these glories by virtue of its orientation in the galactic energy field (see main article for details). Oahspe and JS Ward’s works spend hundreds and hundreds of pages describing these same 3 degrees of glory in detail, making it clear that they are principally realms within the current ‘spirit world’ or spirit dimension of earth.
The fact that Joseph Smith’s vision is speaking principally of souls in the spirit world before the physical resurrection is clear from a careful reading of the revelation, as it consistently speaks of “those who SHALL [at a point future to the revelation] hear the voice of the Son of Man; and SHALL [at a future point] come forth in the resurrection” (D&C 76:15–17). The entire vision is of the inhabitants of the heavenly realms BEFORE their resurrection at Christ’s second coming and is correspondingly framed with the resurrection in future tense. Notice for instance at the end of the description of the Celestial Glory, it says that this was a description of “they who SHALL [in the future] have part in the first resurrection.” or “they who SHALL come forth in the resurrection of the just” (D&C 76:63–65).
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 [not those who “have” come forth, but those who shall come forth at a point future to this revelation] in the resurrection of the just—
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever [after they are resurrected].
63. These are they whom he shall bring with him [not those whom he did bring], when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people
64 These are they who shall [in the future] have part in the first resurrection.
Not those who have come forth or did come forth or do come forth, but those who shall in the future. As opposed to the next verses which explain that these celestial spirits “are those who ARE [currently] come up to Mont Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all” (D&C 76:66). Which Oahspe explains in detail is the name to the highest realm of earthe’s Spirit dimension where the currently acting god of earth dwells (see next section for misunderstandings in the concept of resurrection). Likewise in the description of the inhabitants of the telestial kingdom it says its inhabitants are “they who ARE thrust down to hell” (D&C 76:84).
81 And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser…
83 These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.
84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.
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.
It does not say the Telestial Kingdom is those who were or shall be, but instead speaks of those who “ARE” [currently] in the telestial realm—which IS hell or spirit prison. It continues to say that those in hell or the telestial kingdom “are they who SHALL [future tense] not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection” (D&C 76:85) which is after the millennium. There are literally dozens of references where the verb tense shows clearly that these visions were not so much of a future state of people after the resurrection, but the current state of those in the Spirit World awaiting the resurrection; the time in which they are raised or will come back to a physical plane of earth when it has attained a glory equal or greater than their own.
Now this is where the confusion comes in, because these realm names are often used dualistically. They can refer both to a realm within the earth’s spirit world (as in D&C 76) OR to the earth itself at a future state when it reaches that same glory (as in D&C 77:1, 88:18-31, D&C 130:9). In fact the term resurrection (which comes from the latin, ‘raise or appear again’) can also be used dualistically. It can refer to an ascension within the earth’s spirit planes (as in Alma 40:15, or Oahspe which ubiquitously uses it in this sense.). Or to the return of an individual to the physical dimension of earth, which occurs when earth has risen to a density/glory or vibratory level which matches that of their spirit world abode. For instance, terrestrial souls would wait in the terrestrial realm of the Spirit World until a Physical Dimension of the earth attains an equal energy density; which then allows them to be either resurrected (in the case of the 4rth density earth plane) or reincarnated (in the case of the 3rd density earth plane) back to earth’s “physical plane” or dimension (for more information on reincarnation, see the article, To Go No More Out).
Hopefully this will all become a bit more clear in the next sections, where we will describe how for the last few thousand years, the earth has been at or below a telestial glory. But it is currently moving into a terrestrial level as well as activating a physical 4th density (or a parallel physical plane that is roughly a Terrestrial glory) which will climax during the prophesied “millennium”. This will be followed by other raises and falls, until the earth one day far in the future is irradiated sufficiently to contain a dimension where it is a celestialized star (D&C 88:18–20, 130:9).
[Put in footnote. Misinterpretation of D&C 76:106–112 is a big part of LDS people’s incorrect views. verse 106 steps out of the vision and begins to talk about the telestial glory (a state which the physical realm of our earth currently exists) after the fulness of times or the end of the millennium. It is after that future date that Christ shall deliver His kingdom to the Father (at which time all remaining terrestrial glory people of earth will be “caught up” or translated to the “new” 4rth density parallel “heaven and earth”. Leaving the Telestial glory inhabitants of earth’s corporal and spirit dimensions to be judged and transplanted or “cast out” to a telestial sphere in the Galaxy which because of laws of divergence will entail that “where [our] God and [his] Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112, Rev 12:10). ]
[Also might want to note the discrepancy between sources concerning whether our current 3rd density/telestial earth will fluidly transition into the 4th density/terrestrial world (as oahspe suggests) or whether the 4rth density is activating in parallel with this 3rd density existence and all will have to die or be translated to make the transition. (Law of One states this emphatically and LDS suggests it with scriptures such as “there will be a new heaven and new earth, like unto the old, save that the old has passed away”. There are far more witnesses suggesting the latter, which also seems more logical. This is where many of the misunderstandings in Christianity come with groups mistakenly believing they will suddenly disappear in a “rapture” or that Jesus will come flying through heaven with his Saints in a grand mystical experience which defies all the current laws of physics. ].
Misunderstandings in the Concept of Resurrection
There are a few complicated concepts which make understanding the earth’s Spirit World and the Christian “Resurrection” very difficult. The first has to do with the ambiguous meaning of the words “physical” and “spiritual” in relation to bodies and realms. Most Christians view the “Spirit World” as somehow inferior to the “Physical World” (because people only have spirits there). Mormon’s especially, because of statement like those in D&C 45:17 & D&C 138:50, see the Spirit World as an inferior “state of bondage” where beings live in constant anticipation of “resurrection” back to earth–or some separate planet/realm. Both LDS scripture, other descriptive revealed texts and numerous life after death experiences suggest this to not exactly be the case. For example, Christ took his resurrected “physical body” back to heaven, showing that resurrected bodies are not just about returning to earth, but can live in heaven. Likewise many angels in the Old Testament (such as the one who wrestled with Jacob or wrote on Nebacanezzers wall; see) apparently had bodies just as corporal as Jesus’s or any mortal on earth. Moses and Elijah were both translated to heaven in their bodies without tasking death (ref). So what was so special about Christ’s resurrection which made him the “first fruits”? (see 3 Ne 28:36–40) And what really is the difference between a spiritual body and a physical body?
Joseph Smith himself seems to have tried to address misunderstandings in these concepts by explaining that “there is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes” (D&C 131:7–8). This idea that the spirit dimension is made of perceptively palpable or “physical” matter just as this dimension, is verified in other religious accounts of the after world as well as life after death experiences. All the accounts cited in this work assert that, despite the many different descriptions of the places people find themselves after death, they all seem to agree that they still have a “body” very similar to the one they possessed in mortality (most agree it is a better body than their earth body). They also suggest they live on an improved version of “earth”. It is simply an earth in a parallel reality which has little interaction with our own. As we shall see in a moment, the only individuals to whom the spirit world is a “bondage” or inferior state to that of earth, are those who level of personal glory or righteousness causes them to inherit a realm of the Spirit Dimension which is below the earth’s level of glory at their death. For example, since the earth is currently nearing the threshold of Telestial/Terrestrial glory (3rd/4rth Density in other texts), then any one who dies and has failed to raise their spirit to that median level–will find themselves with all the other like-minded people in a less comfortable or “hellish” type of society and environment after death. 3 Ne 28:36–40, Oahspe and the Law of One also detail that the times of resurrection (called times of Dan in Oahspe) entail a “greater change” of the physical reality and thus constitute major jumps in the “glory” or core vibrational frequency of matter.
The Dualistic Meaning of the world Resurrection
Another complicated concept which causes confusion concerning the Spirit World, has to do with the dualistic meaning of the word “resurrection”. As mentioned above, Oahspe and many other texts give strikingly similar accounts of the earth’s heavenly kingdoms. They also talk about the principles governing movement (ascension and declension) between these realms. In Oahspe this movement is confusingly called resurrection, which is the same term it and the biblical canon use for movement to other higher dimensional locations in the galaxy, as well as the prophesied return of souls to the millennial “terrestrialized” or “celestialized” earth when the physical dimension of earth raises to a level of vibration or glory matching those found in the spirit world and the temporary abodes of the estranged heavenly travelers (more on this later). Alma speaks of the confusion caused by this terminology in the ancient texts when we speaks to his son Corianton about paradise and prison in earth’s spirit dimension.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
15 Now, there are some that have understood that this state of happiness and this state of misery of the soul, before the resurrection, was a first resurrection. Yea, I admit it may be termed a resurrection, the raising of the spirit or the soul and their consignation to happiness or misery, according to the words which have been spoken. (Alma 40:14–15)
The Gospel of the Holy Twelve also speaks of these dual resurections
2. As all creatures come forth from the unseen into this world, so they return to the unseen, and so will they come again till they be purified. Let the bodies of them that depart be committed to the elements, and the Father-Mother, who reneweth all things, shall give the angels charge over them, and let… their souls awake to a joyful resurrection.
3. There is a resurrection from the body, and there is a resurrection in the body. There is a raising out of the life of the flesh, and there is a falling into the life of the flesh. Let prayer be made For those who are gone before, and For those that are alive, and For those that are yet to come, for all are One family in God. In God they live and move and have their being.
4. The body that ye lay in the grave, or that is consumed by fire, is not the body that shall be, but they who come shall receive other bodies, yet their own, and as they have sown in one life, so shall they reap in another. Blessed are they who have worked righteousness in this life, for they shall receive the crown of life. (See the article “To Go No More Out” for more details on the relationship between resurrection and the eastern notion of reincarnation).
So although there can be some confusion when certain texts speak of resurrection, when the bible and LDS cannon speak of resurrection, they are sometimes referring to the return of souls to the physical dimension of earth, and sometimes referring to the periodic ascensions which occur between the various sublevels of the earth’s spirit world or spiritual dimensions. For instance, both Abinadi and Alma in the Book of Mormon define the “first resurrection” as occurring at the time of Christ’s mortal resurrection (Mosiah 15:21–26; Alma 40:15–17). But Joseph’s Doctrine & Covenants define the first resurrection as occurring at Christ’s Second Coming (D&C 45:54; 63:18, 132:19-26). This discrepancy can be harmonized by understanding the dual nature of the term resurrection.
Time translation & movements between dimensions
[to finish… wrap it up…..]
All of these concepts are simplified by understanding that time is measured differently in the earth’s spiritual dimensions than it is here in the mortal dimension. The spirit world is a fractal of the earth and contains its entire history from beginning to end. All points in times exist simultaneously there.
Perhaps explain the cosmically induced cycles, how they relate to the solar cycles and solar max. How the current reversing of the earth’s magnetic field relates. Go through examples of scriptural references to resurrection and show how some are in heaven, some are on earth… Or just link back to the christian eschatology section of the main article?
A Lesson From Jesus- Condemning Him to Hell
As a segway to a discussion on the afterlife, I think it’s important for Christians of every flavor to begin with the mental exercise of imagining themselves to be a religious Jew at Jesus time, and asking ourselves if our personal theology would have him going to Hell (or the Telestial kingdom in the case of Mormonism). The scriptural record makes it clear that the Jewish Orthodoxy almost certainly fully expected Jesus and his followers would go to hell for his disobedience to their religious law. Just like many modern religious traditions, the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ time had created a complicated system of beliefs, rules and religious mores that the people felt obedience to would determine their place in heaven. And although He was true to the Spirit of the Law (loving each other) Jesus however, seems to have taken every chance to defy those cultural regulations in everything from the Rabbinical law concerning correct behavior on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1–14, Luke 13:1–17), to defying the Mosaic Law itself concerning the punishment of sinners (Levit 20:10, John 8:7).
In fact not only is there no evidence that Jesus participated in the revered Jewish ordinance of temple animal sacrifice, but his unorthodox teachings and behavior got him and his followers excommunicated from the Church and banned from the temple (or put out of the synagogue. Luke 4:29, John 16:2). Eventually he was denounced and condemned to death by the highest authorities of the Jewish religious priesthood and political state. As we reread LDS scriptures which define our understanding of what it takes to get to heaven, let’s ask ourselves, would Jesus and his unorthodox followers really have qualified?
In Mormon cosmology these divisions are somewhat mistakenly referred to as the spirit world and the resurrected worlds. In scientific terms, we can use what we currently know of the atom to paint a more complete picture. Atoms are composed of matter existing in two very different states, the nucleus and the electrons. The nucleus of an atom can be compared to the physical realm of the universe which we presently occupy. Nucleic particles exist as material objects in space and time, and have scientifically measurable dimensions and mass. Electrons are far more illusive, having properties of both an intangible wave and a particle. Because they vibrate at close to the speed of light, they exist in a probability array around each atom, which although indirectly observable is not directly measurable. I believe the electron rings of an atom exist as a fractal or microcosm for the universes spiritual realm or world of spirits.
Other Articles In This Series
Article 1. Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine.
Article 2. A Doctrinal Look at The Universal Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to LDS exclusive truth claims.
Article 3. Re-examining the LDS adoption of the protestant fundamentalist view of the “Great Apostasy”.
Article 4. Clearing up Misunderstandings in the LDS View of the Afterlife (The 3 Degrees of Glory and their support for religious pluralism)