“They cannot come worlds without end”

One of the methods that paleontologists use to understand the age of a fossil in relation to other fossils at a site is by looking at layers, or strata.  The basic idea is that layers build up over time, with organisms becoming part of the sediment layers as the organisms die and get buried while the sediments continue to build up, then become fossilized over time.  Since layers build upwards, older layers will generally be found lower in the strata levels, with the newer layers being superimposed on top.  Thus, each layer provides a snapshot of what was living (and dying) at a given time period, with fossils found deeper in the layers coming from earlier periods and fossils found higher in the layers coming from more recent eras.[1]  A question that become important in interpreting Joseph Smith’s revelations is whether we can approach studying the ideas presented in them in a similar way—with each revelation functioning as a fossilized snapshot of a dynamic and evolving theology—or whether every revelation should be treated as an individual presentation of a unified, unchanging theology.

A doctrinal debate in the Church that is heavily impacted by which route you take in interpreting Joseph Smith’s revelations is the idea of progression from kingdom to kingdom in the afterlife.  In other words, after resurrection and judgement, can individuals who were assigned to the Telestial Kingdom continue to progress and repent to the point that they eventually are admitted to the Terrestrial Kingdom or even to the Celestial Kingdom?  There’s not a clear answer to this question and a variety of opinions, partly because of what the revelations and the records of Joseph Smith’s sermons say.

The very idea of a tripartite heaven with the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial kingdoms is laid out in the 16 February 1832 revelation we’re studying this week (D&C 76 to Saints today, but known in its time simply as “the Vision”).  The text of the revelation is an attempt at recording a series of visions the Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon experienced, displaying four possible destinations in the afterlife (a place for the “sons of perdition” being the other option).  Conditions for entering each destination are given—sons of perdition have known the Lord’s power “and have been made partakers thereof and have suffered themselves through the power of the devel to be overcome unto the denying of the truth.”[2]  Those bound for the Celestial kingdom “received the testamony of Jesus and believed on his name were baptized after the manner of his buriel … and receive the holy ghost by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power and who overcome by faith and are sealed by that holy spirit of promise.”[3]  Those assigned to the Terrestrial Kingdom “are they who died with out Law and also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison whom the son visited and preached the gospel unto … who received not the testamony of Jesus in the flesh but afterwards received it.”  In other words, “these are they who are honorable men of the earth who were blinded by the craftiness of men.”[4]  Finally, those bound for the Telestial Kingdom are “are they who receive not the gospel of christ neithe[r] the testamony of Jesus these are they who deny not the holy ghost, these are they who are thrust down to hell.”[5]  Later in the text, it is noted that those in the Telestial Kingdom “shall be servants of the most high but where God and christ dwels they cannot come worlds without end.”[6]  This last quote would seem to indicate that there are not opportunities to transfer between kingdoms later on (or at least the Telestial to higher kingdoms), though the picture becomes more complicated.

Four years later, a separate vision shifted how we understand assignments to the Terrestrial and Celestial kingdoms.  In the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Joseph Smith experienced a vision where he saw “the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof.”  Among the people who Joseph reported seeing in that place was “my brother Alvin that has long since slept.”  He openly expressed surprise about this, stating that he: “marvled how it was that he had obtained this an inheritance <?in?> this <?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]  Based on the 1832 Vision, people like Alvin “who received not the testamony of Jesus in the flesh but afterwards received it” would be assigned to the Terrestrial, rather than the Celestial Kingdom, hence Joseph Smith’s surprise. [8]  In the 1836 vision, Joseph reported hearing the voice of the Lord explaining that: “all who have died with[out] a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it, if they had been permited to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.”[9]  This set up scenarios where individuals who would have been assigned to the lower kingdoms based on the text of the 1832 Vision would have opportunities to be assigned to the Celestial Kingdom based on God’s knowledge of those individuals.

The implementation of proxy baptisms for the dead in 1840 may have opened the possibility for fluid destinations in the eternities even further in Joseph Smith’s mind.  At the funeral of Seymour Brunson on 15 August 1840, Joseph Smith read from 1 Corinthians 15, then declared that: “It is the privilege of [members of] this Church to be baptized for all their kinsfolk that have died before this gospel came forth. . . . By so doing, we act as agents for them, and give them the privilege of coming forth in the First Resurrection.”[10]  On a later occasion Joseph Smith added that: “It is no more incredible that God should save the dead, than that he should raise the dead. There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.”[11]  He further elaborated that: “God has made a provision that the spirits of our friends and every spirit in that eternal world can be ferreted out and saved, unless he has committed that unpardonable sin which can’t be remitted to him, whether in this world or in the world of spirits. God has wrought out salvation for all men, unless they have committed a certain sin.”[12]  Through baptism for the dead, salvation seemed to be opened to almost all the unbaptized deceased.[13]

That, at least, was how many Church leaders who knew Joseph Smith personally understood the point.  Wilford Woodruff, for example, proclaimed that: “There will be very few, if any, who will not accept the gospel. Jesus, while his body lay in the tomb, went and preached to the spirits in prison, who were destroyed in the days of Noah. After so long an imprisonment, in torment, they doubtless gladly embraced the gospel, and if so they will be saved in the kingdom of God.”[14]  Lorenzo Snow echoed this sentiment, stating that: “The great bulk of those who are in the spirit world for whom the work has been done will receive the truth. The conditions for the spirits of the dead receiving the testimony of Jesus in the spirit world are a thousand times more favorable than they are here in this life.”[15]  Preaching in the spirit world and proxy work for the dead were understood by Woodruff and Snow to allow salvation in the kingdom of God for the vast majority of God’s children.

The question, of course, is whether that salvation in the kingdom of God is equivalent to exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, no matter where you start out.  In his most famous sermon, Joseph Smith taught that: “It will be a great while after the grave before you learn to understand the last [principle of the Gospel], for it is a great thing to learn salvation beyond the grave and it is not all to be comprehended in this world.”[16]  This can be interpreted to mean that even the noblest and best human would have a lot of progress ahead of them after death before they were exalted.  On another occasion, one woman recorded that Joseph Smith taught that: “After death the spirit enters the lowest [heaven], and constantly progresses in spiritual knowledge until safely landed in the Celestial.”[17]  If accurate, this statement represents a change from the limitations expressed in the 1832 vision, where those in telestial kingdom cannot come to higher kingdoms, “worlds without end” (D&C 76:112).  Instead, basically every human being could eventually progress to the Celestial Kingdom.

Again, there are early Church leaders who understood the idea this way.  President Brigham Young, for example, believed very much in the idea of progression after death:

If a person is baptized for the remission of sins, and dies in a short time thereafter, he is not prepared at once to enjoy a fulness of the glory promised to the faithful in the Gospel; for he must be schooled, while in the spirit, in the other departments of the house of God, passing on from truth to truth, from intelligence to intelligence, until he is prepared to again receive his body and to enter into the presence of the Father and the Son. We cannot enter into celestial glory in our present state of ignorance and mental darkness. …

Do not become disheartened, give up your labours, and conclude that you are not to be saved. All is yours, if you will but live according to what you know, and increase in knowledge and godliness. … Let every man faithfully stand to his post, and they will ultimately be worthy to enter into celestial glory. This is all the business we have on hand at present.[18]

On another occasion, he stated that those who initially “inherit another kingdom” instead of the Celestial Kingdom would “eventually have the privilege of proveing themselves worthy & advanceing to a Celestial kingdom but it would be a slow progress.”[19]  To Brigham Young, progression in the eternities was necessary since we do not all die ready for exaltation.

Returning to the initial thought about whether the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith should read as fossilized snapshots of a dynamic theology, with later teachings and revelations superseding earlier ones or whether everything has to align with established scriptures and proclamations of prophets, President Young was very much in favor of the living prophet trumping all that came before.  Amid one of his ongoing arguments with Elder Orson Pratt on the subject, Young recalled a time when Hyrum Smith had preached about the importance of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.  When he followed Smith in preaching, “I took the Books and piled them all up on top of Each other. I then said that I would not give the ashes of a rye straw for all those books for my salvation without the living oracles. I should follow and obey the living oracles for my salvation instead of anything Els.”[20]  This approach—relying on the current prophet and more recent revelation above all else—may have contributed to Brigham Young’s approach to ongoing progression in the afterlife in the face of the statement in the 1832 revelation to the contrary.

This idea of progression from kingdom to kingdom also had currency among the second generation of Church leaders.  For example, Elder B. H. Roberts wrote that:

The question of advancement within the great divisions of glory celestial, terrestrial, and telestial; as also the question of advancement from one sphere of glory to another remains to be considered. In the revelation from which we have summarized what has been written here, in respect to the different degrees of glory [D&C 76], it is said that those of the terrestrial glory will be ministered unto by those of the celestial; and those of the telestial will be ministered unto by those of the terrestrial—that is, those of the higher glory minster to those of a lesser glory. We can conceive of no reason for all this administration of the higher to the lower, unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father’s children along the lines of eternal progression.[21]

While he admitted that any discussion of the topic was conjecture, Roberts himself felt that the Vision put those, like Alvin, who did not receive the gospel in mortality into the Terrestrial Kingdom because “their development in spiritual knowledge and experience is not such as may warrant us in expecting that they are prepared to inherit the same degree of glory with those who have received the law of the gospel, faithfully observed all its requirements and through their obedience have become sanctified by it, and inherit the celestial glory.”  He believed, however, that they would still have opportunity for progression: “I know of nothing that is written, however, which prevents us from believing that they may, eventually, enter the celestial kingdom.”[22]  This sidesteps the statement about people in the Telestial Kingdom in the Vision: “where God and christ dwels they cannot come worlds without end.”[23]  But overall, Roberts seems to have personally been in favor of the idea of progression from kingdom to kingdom.

As these points of reference indicate, when the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith are read as fossilized snapshots of a dynamic theology, with later teachings and revelations superseding earlier ones, it can result in an expanded view of salvation. The result in this case is a theology that points towards salvation being open to almost everyone, even after death, with opportunities, even, to progress from one kingdom of glory to another.[24]

Different approaches to reading the scriptures and teachings of prophets, however, result in different conclusions.  An example of a different approach is the one Elder Bruce R. McConkie took (which aligns with many other Church leaders, like Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer W. Kimball).  Elder McConkie believed that: “Truth is always in harmony with itself. The word of the Lord is truth, and no scripture ever contradicts another, nor is any inspired statement of any person out of harmony with an inspired statement of another person. … When we find seeming conflicts, it means we have not as yet caught the full vision of whatever points are involved.”[25]   Reading with this approach to exegesis, the Book of Mormon, various visions and revelations, and other teachings of Joseph Smith are not snapshots of an evolving theology, but expressions of truth that all need to be reconciled to each other.

The results of this reading in Elder McConkie’s theology is a more limited salvation. He did accept proxy work for the dead as an opportunity for salvation, but placed limitations on those who would benefit from this work based on Joseph Smith’s earlier revelations of the 1820s and 1830s:

There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

For those who do not have an opportunity to believe and obey the holy word in this life, the first chance to gain salvation will come in the spirit world. If those who hear the word for the first time in the realms ahead are the kind of people who would have accepted the gospel here, had the opportunity been afforded them, they will accept it there. Salvation for the dead is for those whose first chance to gain salvation is in the spirit world. …

There is no other promise of salvation than the one recited in [D&C 137]. Those who reject the gospel in this life and then receive it in the spirit world go not to the celestial, but to the terrestrial kingdom.[26]

Thus, Elder Bruce R. McConkie believed that there is indeed a time when the spirit is too old to approach God and not everyone can be saved in the fullest sense of the word in the afterlife.[27]

This approach does have a decent amount of support in the scriptures.  In addition to the statement in D&C 76 and the statement from the Book of Mormon referenced in McConkie’s words, we have the statement in the last recorded revelation from Joseph Smith about those who do not have marriages sealed by the Lord’s authority:

When they are out of the world, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering Servents to minister for those, who are worthy of a far more and an exceding and an eternal weight of Glory, for these angels did not abide my law, therefore they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and Singly without exaltation in their Saved Condition to all eternity and from henceforth are not Gods, but are angels of God for ever and ever.[28]

Written in 1843, this revelation does seem to indicate that there are limits to progression in the eternities that cannot be overcome.

In any case, because of the lack of clarity resulting from different approaches to the scriptures and words of Church leaders, we simply do not have a clear answer to the question of whether or not individuals who were assigned to the Telestial Kingdom can continue to progress and repent to the point that they eventually are admitted to the Terrestrial Kingdom or, from there, progress to the Celestial Kingdom.  As Joseph L. Anderson, Secretary of the First Presidency, wrote in 1952: “The brethren direct me to say that the Church has never announced a definite doctrine upon this point. Some of the brethren have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression; others of the brethren have taken the opposite view. But as stated, the Church has never announced a definite doctrine on this point.”[29]  Whatever approach is taken, it is ultimately conjecture, and we’ll likely have to learn the reality of the situation through personal experience.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I recognize that there are some other things that can happen to complicate studying strata, but bear with me for the analogy.

[2] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/3

[3] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 5, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/5

[4] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 7, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/7

[5] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 7, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/7

[6] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 9, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/9

[7] “Visions, 21 January 1836 [D&C 137],” p. 136, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/visions-21-january-1836-dc-137/1

[8] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 7, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/7

[9] “Visions, 21 January 1836 [D&C 137],” p. 137, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/visions-21-january-1836-dc-137/2

[10] Vilate M. Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, Oct. 11, 1840, Vilate M. Kimball letters, Church History Library; spelling and capitalization standardized.

[11] “The Doctrine of Baptism for the Dead,” A Sermon Delivered on 3 October 1841 (from Times and Seasons [Nauvoo, Illinois] 2 [15 October 1841], 24:577.

[12] Stan Larson, “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text,” BYU Studies 18, no. 2 (1978), 13.

[13] This paragraph is being recycled from a previous post I wrote to get towards a slightly different end point: https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2020/05/saving-alvin/

[14] Wiford Woodruff and G. Homer Durham (ed.), The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff: Fourth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, 1969), 158.

[15] Lorenzo Snow, in Millennial Star, Oct. 6, 1893, 718

[16] Larson, King Follet, 9.

[17] Franklin D. Richards, “Words of the Prophets,” Church History Library, Charlotte Haven, 26 March 1843, “A Girl’s Letters from Nauvoo,” The Overland Monthly 16.96 (December 1890): 626. http://www.olivercowdery.com/smithhome/1880s-1890s/havn1890.htm

[18] Brigham Young, 8 October 1859 sermon, in Richard S. Van Wagoner, editor. The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young: Volume 3, 1857 to 1861  The Smith-Pettit Foundation. Kindle Edition.  See also Journal of Discourses 7:331-334.

[19] In Kenny, Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 August 1855.

[20] From “Minutes of a Meeting of the Presidency[,] Twelve[,] Presidents of Seventies[,] and Others assembled in President Youngs Council Room at 6 oclok,” in Scott G. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: 1833-1898, 27 January 1860.

[21] B.H. Roberts, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons Company, 1893), 426-427.

[22] B. H. Roberts, The Gospel: An Exposition of its first principles; and Man’s Relationship to Deity, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Desert News, 1901), 35-36.

[23] “Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76],” p. 9, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 4, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/vision-16-february-1832-dc-76/9

[24] See, for example, Fiona Givens and Terryl Given, The Christ Who Heals (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017), 118-126.

[25] Bruce R. McConkie, “Finding Answers to Gospel Questions,” cited in Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 43.

[26] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” BYU speech 1 June 1980, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/bruce-r-mcconkie_seven-deadly-heresies/

[27] Last two paragraphs also recycled from https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2020/05/saving-alvin/

[28] “Revelation, 12 July 1843 [D&C 132],” p. [2], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 8, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-12-july-1843-dc-132/2

[29] Joseph L. Anderson, Secretary to the First Presidency in a 1952 letter.  Cited in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol.15, No.1 (1982), 181-182, https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/issues/V15N01.pdf

13 comments for ““They cannot come worlds without end”

  1. This is, once again, a fantastic post. McConkie and Roberts both seem to have strong cases and I’m inclined to agree with both – I just don’t know how to reconcile both positions.

  2. If God has a sense of humour, and I hope she does, McConkie along with ETB will be sent to a lower kingdom for reeducation, where they will be helping conspiracy theorists accept truth, before they go eventually to the Celestial.

    To reconcile, one has to be wrong, and repent.

  3. I very much enjoyed the ideas and your organization of them here — you have sorted out positions I’ve heard before, but have not adequately wrestled with. The conflicting positions are like so many other theological confusions that have made me suspect that nobody really knows what they are talking about, so why would I want to wade into the mire? Having the positions organized gives two coherent views for consideration, instead of an incoherent tangle.

    JFS was such a believer in the notion that you must accept the gospel in this life “or else,” that he freely and semi-publicly consigned named individuals to lesser kingdoms. I have a letter written to someone who inquired about doing temple ordinances for Herbert Auerbach, the Salt Lake businessman. JFS said his correspondent could do those ordinances if he wanted to, but it would be a waste of time. Those ordinances were only for those destined for the Celestial kingdom, a place Auerbach could never enter because he had lived among the Saints for years without taking any interest in the gospel. The freedom and certainty with which he could damn any specific person took my breath away. I’m not inclined to catch my breath now, but at least you have put JFS and his views into context — he wasn’t just a merciless dictator expressing his personal authoritarian views in isolation; his views had a pedigree that give them a place in our theology, even if I reject them. Thanks.

  4. Just waiting for some enterprising Saint to invent a Celestial Kingdom board game for those looooong Monday nights.

  5. Some have sensed a relationship between the two views of progression/non-progression between kingdoms and the conflicting views among various Church leaders on whether God continues to progress. The latter was at the heart of Eugen England’s attempt to reconcile perfection and progress as two ways of speaking about God. That attempt led to the now infamous Bruce McConkie letter to England with its claim of authority to declare Brigham Young simply wrong.
    I appreciate Chad’s analogy and clear identification of two different ways to approach the recorded revelations of Joseph Smith. Those two contrasting approaches have also been used with respect to scripture generally and with respect to the uncanonized words of various general authorities of the restored Church. It would seem, however, from McConkie’s letter to England, that he did not choose to apply the “unified, unchanging theology” approach to words of general authorities.
    There was a time in my youth when I thought one could somehow derive a unified, unchanging theology from our scriptures and teachings of general authorities. But that effort results in the incoherent tangle Ardis pointed out. With Ardis I find it helpful to recognize that some competing “views [have] a pedigree that give them a place in our theology, even if I reject them.” More often lately I don’t find a need to accept or reject various competing views of the hereafter, having become accustomed to the idea that all human attempts to express a revelation from God are going to contain some elements of human understanding that are merely human. As someone remarked recently (or I just finally came across the remark), even scripture (which has that status solely because of human consent to canonization) cannot be more than the philosophies of men mingled with revelation. :)
    A great deal of scriptural and speculative theology does not in the end have much to do with my too feeble efforts to live in accordance with the teachings of Christ.
    Thanks, Chad and Ardis.

  6. … to wit: Who Goes to the CK? Priesthood Holder #1, an equity trader for Goldman-Sachs who own 3 vacation homes and takes month-long vacations each year to Disneyland with his 12 children; or PH#2 a surgeon with Doctors Without Borders who frequently works in war zones … but drinks coffee!

  7. Jonathan, the closest I could come to a compromise or reconciliation between McConkie’s and Roberts’s points of view was to think that people in the Telestial Kingdom are stuck (since those are the ones that the Vision specifically states cannot come into the Celestial Kingdom) while those in the Terrestrial Kingdom can eventually progress to the Celestial Kingdom. Not sure that I find that particularly satisfying, but it was one idea I thought about.

    Ardis, I’d agree that it feels a bit like no one truly knows what they’re talking about (I considered throwing in a quote attributed to J. Golden Kimball along the lines of finding out how much he was preaching was actually true when he was old and close to death). I liked how Wondering put it: “All human attempts to express a revelation from God are going to contain some elements of human understanding that are merely human.” Joseph Fielding Smith doesn’t sit particularly well with a lot of us these days, but he did draw a lot on the scriptures to reach the conclusions that he did. In any case, I suppose these types of things are the puzzles I enjoy trying to piece together.

    p, if you come up with a board game like that, I’d be interested. I collect games. As far as actual judgement, I’m glad I don’t have to decide who goes where.

    Wondering, that was an area I considered going into here (God’s progression), but there just wasn’t room. I’m still contemplating a post comparing Brigham Young and Orson Pratt’s disagreements with Eugene England and Bruce R. McConkie’s disagreements.

  8. I’ve tried this before on various blogs and utterly failed each time. But I’ll try one more time.

    Eternal progression does not necessarily imply progress between kingdoms.

    There are two ways that I can rationalize that statement, but I will limit myself to the one that I actually believe. First, we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that progress is unidimensional–that everybody is on the same progressive path and that at some point along that path there are boundaries that either halt our progress (the JFS view) or that we can cross from one kingdom to the next (the BY view). My view is that we (with the exception of sons of perdition) are each on our own progressive path that extends into eternity. Our “kingdom” determines the choices we have in selecting that path.

    As an analogy, consider the novel “Flatland.” (This is where I always get into trouble–people want to take the analogy literally.) The narrator encounters Pointland, Lineland, and Spaceland in addition to his native Flatland. Inhabitants of each realm are simply unable to conceive of higher realms. I would liken Pointland to outer darkness, Lineland to the telestial kingdom (and our current existence), Flatland to the terrestrial kingdom, and Spaceland to the celestial kingdom. You might want to read the Wikipedia summary of the book to understand how inhabitants of the various realms relate to one another. But remember, it’s just an analogy.

    In my view, everybody in the telestial kingdom will have a “line” along which they can progress eternally. Everyone will get a unique line that they determine by their choices on Earth. It will look and feel very much like the progressive line they are following now, but without the constraints of illness, death, and unworthiness. Like the inhabitants of Lineland, they will have no concept of higher realms and will not deem themselves to be under any kind of punishment.

    Everybody in the terrestrial kingdom will have a plane within which they can progress eternally. They will be able to progress along the same line they are progressing in this life, but will have the option of progressing along other lines contained on their plane. Many of the telestial “lines” will lie within their plane and, as B.H. Roberts suggests, terrestrial beings will thus have the opportunity to “minister” to the people following those lines and help them progress. (And in doing so, only that particular linear aspect of themselves will be perceived by the telestial beings.) As with lines in the telestial kingdom, each plane of the terrestrial kingdom is unique, although they may intersect with one another along a line giving them limited opportunities to progress together.

    Everybody in the Spaceland of the celestial kingdom will be able to progress eternally in any direction they want. Everyone’s progression space is the same, meaning that they have the choice to progress individually or jointly with any other celestial being. Furthermore, their space will contain all planes and all lines, so they can minister to any inhabitant of any other kingdom. Note that there is no “sad heaven” in my scenario. Celestial parents can minister to their children in any kingdom. Children in lower kingdoms will experience their parents as if they inhabit the same kingdom.

    So although I think the argument between the “line-upon-line” and the “everything-can-be-reconciled” views of revelation is an interesting intellectual exercise, I don’t think it a necessary one in this case. Both sides were arguing within a “progression is linear” framework. Just break free of that framework and it all makes a lot more sense–at least to me.

  9. This is fascinating stuff. Without getting into the weeds too much, I’ll just say that I have thought for years that the scriptures reveal very little about what the afterlife is really like. I believe that when the Savior visited the Nephites in 3 Nephi and prayed things that are unlawful to utter, he was showing them things pertaining to eternal life.

  10. Resurrection & The City of Enoch

    -The doctrine of atonement (at-one-ment) is informed by baptism and by the sealing ordinance. Both baptism and the sealing ordinance are informed by the covenant expressed in the oaths between Enoch and Jehovah in the visions of Moses.

    -The states of glory are states of individual resurrection, not places of separation. The covenant of Creation binds Creation to eternity, heaven to earth, mankind to one another. Separation is not atonement, all priestly work is aimed to cleanse and purify in order to justify union. To think of being resurrected to different “places” is to negate the atonement motif and to disempower the sealing ordinance. We stick together, adopt and graft.

    -The mortal experience of a temple recommend holder is likened unto a celestial glory; the mortal experience of a member of the common congregation is likened unto a terrestrial glory; the mortal experience of those outside the congregation is likened unto a telestial glory. Separation is only proximity of light and shadow. Genesis.

    -Vicarious temple work symbolizes transcendence, transmigration, twillight, transfiguration–movement and proximity in shadow and light–all fashioned after the pattern of covenant; Sun, Moon, and the Constellations are expressions of the [covenant] relationship of shadow to light, light to shadow.

    -The Earth is a celestial glory awaiting for the coronation of her inhabitants. Those ushered by the archetypal “Keeper,” the boy-Shepherd King, the Enoch-Metatron [Thoth], the Latter-Day prophet Joseph Smith, are as the City of Enoch [resurrected into these Latter Days].

    -The idea that we resurrect into a future aeon or age of the earth, expresses the motif of “eternal covenant,” linked by dispensations of Divine Investiture. Thus we “inherit” the Earth we help Create, we participate in Creation resurrection upon resurrection. Bit of Egyptian cosmology, bit of Kabbalah. City of Enoch stuff.

    -Restoring Eden is a returning to the proxmity of the eternal covenant (everlasting covenant of peace), which covenant is expressed by responsibility for Earth and dominion over its life forms. This is the context for “temporal salvation.” The covenant is about responsiblity: to each other for righteous economy, and to Mother Earth [Eve] for the gift of eternal resurrection (Zion).

    -Eternal life through resurrection is a pattern of “Eternal Lives.” Temporal salvation is the path Eve opened when she chose responsibility [covenant] over obedience [commandment].

  11. I’ve considered reading the word “received” in the D&C as “accepted”. I can’t remember why, but I believe I heard that there is a reason to believe this interpretation. I might be wrong. But if “accepted” is more accurate, that would reconcile some of the situation with Alvin. In other words, Alvin never had the opportunity to accept the Gospel, but he would have. Others who have opportunity and reject it, may be in more peril from a salvation point of view. But that of course, gets very complicated, as we cannot judge who had opportunity to hear the Gospel and truly understand it to accept or reject it. Clearly someone who studies it deeply, is a good person, but finds some theological concern and passes on it, cannot be given the same punishment as someone who studies it, rejects it, and openly mocks the church to try to get other people to avoid it.

    There’s the quote that JS said that he could reveal 100x more than D&C 76 if the church were ready to receive it. I suspect a good portion of that would be legalistic discussion of who does and does not qualify for each kingdom.

    As far as the progression issue: I’m just keeping my mind open. Whether I’m for or against it depends on which scripture I read last, or what horrible injustice I’ve read about in the news most recently.

  12. All these questions are kind of moot in light of the eternities of time and space. If anything, BRM should be exiled to “point land” for his lack of vision and imagination.

    The entirety of this life is the working out of God’s revelation from the very beginning. The billions of years of life trying to get even single cell life right. And the 100s of millions of years of cells trying to figure out how to work together.. And then, the tens of millions of years of trying to figure out how to be conscious. Then the million years of trying to figure out how to work together, communally. What will the next hundreds of thousands of years bring? Things are accelerating, timewise.

    This is God revealing themselves.

  13. “but where God and christ dwels they cannot come worlds without end.”

    So a telestial person can’t go where God and Christ’s kingdoms are, which are worlds without end. As a telestial being, that makes perfect sense. But if a telestial person graduates to a terrestrial and then to a celestial body, then they can dwell with them. I just don’t see the problem.

    If there is no opportunity for someone to advance in kingdoms after they die, then the best thing we can do is not share the gospel with anyone, at the risk of putting their eternal exaltation at risk, and instead let people be taught and embrace it in the spirit world.

Charitable Comments Welcome. Please follow our comment policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.