Testigos de Jehovah (Jehovah’s Witnesses) got under my skin when I was a missionary. One of the things that bugged me most was the infantile delight they took in telling you that they knew what God’s name was. None of them ever could explain *why* knowing that his real name was “Jehovah” mattered and mostly they seemed surprised at the question. If I were an uncharitable man, all the evidence would have pointed to them caring about God’s real name only because, “nyah, nyah, I know something you don’t know.”
In my experience Mormons sometimes treat the more esoteric aspects of the temple experience the same way (though we are just as likely to be embarrassed about them for that reason). Mormons also sometimes treat the revealed doctrine of the three degrees of glory the same way.
Q. How many heavens are there?
A. Uh, 1?
Q. Wrong. 3! In your face!
But the three degrees of glory mean a lot more than that. This is evident in D&C 76. This is evident when you contemplate what the doctrine tells us about the nature of free will. And this is evident when you unexpectedly run across a multiple heavens framework in an unexpected part of the scriptures.
I was listening to Luke yesterday, chapter 19. We all know the parable of the talents, right? The guys who worked hard got wildly rewarded, the guy who did nothing got zip. Luke 19 has a similar parable, but with a twist.
He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
[This verse caught my attention. What does this have to do with the servants and the pounds?]
15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21 For I afeared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have arequired mine own with busury?
24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
26 For I say unto you, That unto every one awhich hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. Besides the diligent servants who get rewarded all out of expectation, and the unvaliant servant, who gets dispossessed, the Lord has rebels, whom he smashes.
I’m not saying that this parable is esoterically and precisely meant to match up with the three degrees of glory, or with outer darkness. Its a parable, not a code book. But it does suggest that human relations with God can be a little more complex than just a thumbs up or a thumbs down.