Three Degrees of What? Salvation or Damnation?

One of the unique doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that of the three degrees of glory. This doctrine has some significant contrast to the more common heaven and hell dichotomy of many Christian churches.

Lately I have been thinking about this doctrine and how it can be looked at in different ways. Two of the primary ways might be optimistically or pessimistically – or whether the salvation glass is half-empty or half-full.

Glass Half-Empty

Much of my life I have viewed the three degrees of glory in a pessimistic half-empty sort of way. My view was that only the best of the best will be in the celestial kingdom, and that everyone else will be damned to some level. In this way everything below the celestial kingdom might be considered a level of hell for those who inhabit those kingdoms.

This view was expressed by Joseph Smith in some answers to sundry questions thus:

‘Will everybody be damned, but Mormons?’

Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness. (Teachings, p. 119)

Glass Half-Full

Recently my opinions regarding the degrees of glory have started to change to a more optimistic view. This view considers that even the lowest kingdom, the telestial, is salvation. That the people there have been saved from death and hell through the grace of Christ. Those who hold such a view might view the telestial kingdom as a grand place to be. This view has some support in the Doctrine and Covenants:

And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation. And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding. (D&C 76:88-89)

So how do you view the three degrees of glory? As a small group of the elite and elect in the highest portion of the celestial kingdom with everyone else damned at some level below? Or as a nearly universal salvation for all but the sons of perdition with a glory beyond our understanding?

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61 Responses to “Three Degrees of What? Salvation or Damnation?”


  1. 1 J. Stapley April 25, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Note that this TPJS quotation is an excerpt of a series of questions outlined in vol. 1 of the Elders’ Journal. It was published unsigned, but the editorship of the paper was listed as Joseph Smith. I’m not sure how definitive that it was Joseph or not, but there were other questions, e.g.:

    Question 16th. If the Mormon doctrine is true, what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles?

    Answer. All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter before they can be finally judged. (pg. 43)

    Note that many of the questions were answered sarcastically. Still, both of the quotes you mention were before the doctrines of work for the dead were given. But still in 1938, when the Elders’ Journal excerpt was written, Joseph had already recieved the revelation showing Alvin (unbaptized, not Mormon) in the Celestial Kingdom, which also included the following:

    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;

    It would seem to me that your glass-half-emptiness, is a historical anomaly (or potential sarcastic offside).

  2. 3 Mark D. April 25, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Three degrees of salvation. The idea that the terrestrial and telestial are degrees of damnation (without end) is a twentieth century invention.

    As far as the few escaping damnation quote is concerned, it seems on target to me. Suffering in the spirit world as a consequence of sin is properly speaking damnation, but it is not generally speaking damnation without end. D&C 19 makes that quite clear.

    Given that section, I do not think one can sustain the idea that damnation without end (in an unsaved state) is a real possibility for any repentant soul. Certainly not from the canon, at any rate. See D&C 138:58-59:

    The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,
    And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation. (emphasis added)

    This quote from the King Follett Discourse is also worth mentioning:

    I know the scriptures and understand them. I said, no man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, nor in this life, until he receives the Holy Ghost; but they must do it in this world. Hence the salvation of Jesus Christ was wrought out for all men, in order to triumph over the devil; for if it did not catch him in one place, it would in another; for he stood up as a Savior. All will suffer until they obey Christ himself.

    The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he would save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him. (emphasis added)

    [I imagine that should be 1838 above, not 1938, by the way]

  3. 4 Eric Nielson April 25, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Stapely:

    Much of your comment seems to speak of the ability to qualify for the CK after death. I do not dispute that in the least – clearly that is the case. I think the real question (of this post) is what of those souls who are in the lower kingdoms?

    And yes, some of the answers given were sarcastic, but there can be some truth to the sarcasm.

    So are you saying that Mormons are borderline universalists?

    Mark D:

    You bring up a great point about the preexistant souls who followed the devil and were cast out. Your quotes seem to indicate that you also believe that salvation is the way to look at the lower kingdoms.

    So does all this add up to Mormonism being a very generous religion in terms of who will be saved?

  4. 5 J. Stapley April 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    So are you saying that Mormons are borderline universalists?

    That is why section 76 was so controversial when it was revealed. Brigham Young “put it on the shelf” and missionaries were counseled not to talk about it.

    I find the George Laub account of the KFD interesting, even if it is historiographically suspect. In it Joseph describes Jesus’ vision of the plan: “he stated he could save all those who did not sin against the holy ghost” Immediately after, Satan declares “I can save all even those who sined against the holy ghost”

    Willard Richards account is similar, though, “Salvation for all men who have not committed a certain sin[.] can save any man who has not committed the unpardonable sin”

    Specifically, about damnation (which should qualify any comments in the EJ, Joseph preached (Wilford Woodruff account): “God has made provision for evry spirit in the eternal world, and the spirits of our friends should be searched out & saved, Any man that has a friend in eternity can save him if he has not committed the unpardonable sin, He cannot be damned through all eternity, their is a possibility for his escape in a little time, If a man has knowledge he can be saved, if he has been guilty of great sins he is punished for it, when he consents to obey the gospel whether Alive or dead, he is saved, his own mind damns him”

  5. 6 Eric Nielson April 25, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Yes J., This is the conclusion I am beginning to come to – that Mormonism offers one of the most generous and universal doctrines regarding salvation that there is.

    If this is correct then those in the lower kingdoms will not be saying stuff like ‘Gee, this really sucks’, but more something like ‘Wow, this is a lot better than I imagined’.

  6. 7 Rob Osborn April 25, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Damnation properly interpretated is the state of the condemned in hell- a place of no glory at all. So when one speaks of “degrees of damnation”, I can’t help but wonder if peoples understanding of the phrase is plain wrong!

    First off, no mention is ever made or inferred in the scriptures about one recieving damnation if he is saved from hell. No mention is made either to the tune of one recieving damnation or being in a damned state if they recieve salvation.

    Because the words damnation and salvation are opposites, one cannot possibly have both at the same time! One cannot be both damned and yet saved at the same time- it is an oxymoronic statement.

    When speaking of degrees of salvation it can be quite confusing because salvation by itself merely means that one is saved from both physical and spiritual death. One cannot thus have salvation in “degrees” (ex; what degree of immortality). We can speak though of “degrees of glory” that comes upon those who recieve salvation. Whereas all of the saved recieve salvation, a saved persons “degree of glory” might be different while their salvation is no different than the least or greatest as they are all saved from both physical and spiritual death.

    That said (whew), the scriptures need to be maintained to teach a rather simple doctrine or dichotomy of heaven or hell- saved or damned- left hand or right hand. When we start trying to preclude some of our fellow brethren on where they will end up, we start to separate peoples out in our minds on “what degree of obedience” to the saving ordinances they can adhere to!

    This is problematic though because the scriptures teach that its an all or nothing to that of being saved from hell eternally. For example- a person cannot merely accept Christ and then not accept repentance and baptism to follow- he will certainly go to hell. This is the same as if one accepts the gospel, either in this life or the next, they accept on the same exact principle of faith and obedience and thus will be rewarded with the same glory as if they accepted in mortality (remember all ordinances are done by proxy so that the dead will be judged as if they had recieved it in the flesh).

    So the bottom line is this- if one recieves salvation, it is because he has shown strict obedience to “all” of the saving principles, laws, and ordinances of the kingdom of God. The same can be said of the damned (those who go to outer darkness). If one is damned it is because of his refusal to accept Christ, repent, and show strict obedience to the saving proinciples, laws, and ordinances of the kingdom of God.

    The three kingdoms (Telestial Terrestrial Celestial) should then be viewed in their proper light. God knowing that man could not achieve perfection in one simple step, instituted the three kingdoms so that man could progress through them each on his way to perfection in the celestial kingdom- the only place where salvation is even attainable. Thus forth- this earth right now is the telestial kingdom and we are in it to learn and progress towards perfection. When Christ comes the telestial kingdom will be done away and the earth will then be the terretrial kingdom. After Christ has finished his work (perfecting all of the saved) during the millennium in the terrestrial kingdom, the earth will then be transformed into the celestial kingdom. All those who are unable at this point to achieve celestial glory will be cast aside to die the second death with the devil and his angels in outer darkness. This is because only two places will exist for the mankind to go- either this earth (celestial kingdom), or outer darkness. The telestial and terrestrial kingdoms will not exist at the final judgment.

  7. 8 Mark D. April 25, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Eric N.,

    Yes, I think Mormonism, at least as taught by Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith, is borderline universalist, and rightly so. The biggest distinction with many (quasi)universalisms, however, is the premise in Mormonism that one cannot be saved in any degree of glory until he (or she) repents, whether in this life or the next. No cheap grace here.

    Of course BRM was rather of the opposite inclination, hence the mid-to-late twentieth century saying “salvation without exaltation is damnation”. The problem is that in order to support that idea, teachers have redefined “damnation” as “being stopped in your progression”, which is a enormously watered down distortion of the scriptural concept. If one is not suffering either the wrath of God or the natural consequences of sin it isn’t damnation in any traditional sense.

  8. 9 Eric Nielson April 26, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Rob:

    whew indeed!

    I don’t know that I am ready to respond to everything you brought up. But thanks for your comment.

    I think MarkD speaks to the damnation issue. Many Mormons (like me) have viewed damnation as limitation to the progress that can be made. This goes along well with permanent lower kingdoms without progression between kingdoms. I am not saying for sure that this is the case, but many Mormons believe that it is.

    I like your thoughts on degrees refering to glory, and NOT refering to either salvation or damnation. That in itself may clear a few things up for many.

    For now I am inclined to view the lower kingdoms as permanent, and will be places we are assigned after final judgement. This is basic doctrinal belief – see this link to mormon.org.

  9. 10 Eric Nielson April 26, 2008 at 8:34 am

    MarkD:

    I think you make a good point. If I am understanding right, if Mormons believe in a ‘hell’ it may likely refer to what we would normally call spirit prison. And thus it is a temporary place where they reside and suffer until they repent. They then move on to salvation and a degree of glory.

    You are quite right that many of us (myself included) have been greatly influenced by BRM’s take on the whole thing.

  10. 11 Mark D. April 26, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Eric N.,

    I would say in Mormon theology hell properly refers to two places – “spirit prison” (place for the unrepentant between the time of death and the resurrection) and “outer darkness” (residency of Satan and sons of Perdition).

    The former is a nominally temporary state, the latter a nominally permanent one. One problem is that many read D&C 76 to imply that salvation in the telestial is automatic – no repentance required. So BRM says that salvation for the telestial is nothing more than getting resurrected. But every other scripture on the topic (notably D&C 138) describes salvation as requiring repentance, a change of heart, and even baptism.

    My unorthodox take on the subject is that the scriptures fairly imply that no one will be resurrected to a kingdom of glory until they have accepted the basic covenant of baptism (or something like it – see D&C 138:58). Anything else diminishes the whole idea of a kingdom of glory. The idea of salvation in an upgraded version of hell (as many suppose) is ridiculous in my opinion.

  11. 12 Mark D. April 26, 2008 at 11:04 am

    D&C 138 verse 58, that is. [Automatic emoticon conversion causes problems – you might want to turn that off]

  12. 13 Rob Osborn April 26, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I think that all of problems with our doctrine can be summed upwith this truth-

    No man can be saved unless he becomes born again (baptized) into the kingdom of god (celestial kingdom). Unless this be the case he must be cast off forever. (paraphrasing Alma)

    Seems to be that the BoM prphets at least viewed salvation and damnation in a very traditional christian sense of one heaven and one hell. Christ came later to the Nephites and supported that same doctrine. It is interesting that Christ never speaks of being saved in any kingdom outside of the kingdom of god (celestial kingdom).

    Interesting, interesting indeed!!!

  13. 14 Eric Nielson April 28, 2008 at 8:39 am

    MarkD:

    Sorry about the emoticon thing. But how would I know if people were smiling otherwise?

    Yes verse 58 says they will be redeemed through obedience to the ordinances. But then verse 59 says they will be rewarded according to their works. This speaks of an individualized salvation and of degrees of glory.

    D&C 76:50-70 describes the celestial Kingom and those who will inhabit it. These verses list baptism as one of the requirements. The descriptions of the lower kingdoms do not list baptism.

    So I wonder what then would differentiate the lower kingdoms from the higher – if all repent and are baptized. It seems that you (and Rob) are ultimately rejecting the three degrees of glory doctrine, and preferring a heaven/hell doctrine. At least in the permanent and eternal sense. Let me know if this is not fair.

    For now I will maintain my understanding of the three degrees of glory as commonly understood and taught in the church. But this discussion has been helpful for me in thinking of these degrees not as salvation or damnation but as degrees of glory. Now what does glory really mean?

  14. 15 Rob Osborn April 29, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Eric,

    I will give you my opinion once more on the matter. I reject the three “worlds” of glory model after resurrection. A strict analysis of the gospel must also reject the model.

    Section 76:50-70 describes the condition of the “saved” at resurrection. Baptism is required in order to be saved from hell, but by doing so, one immediately qualifies himself access to the presence of God (being now clean) in the celestial kingdom.

    If we can all just agree the reality of the gospel in that repentance and baptism are “absolutely” required to break the chains of an everlasting hell and torment, then we can come more quickly to the absolute realization that salvation truly is only found in the celestial kingdom. We can also come to ulimately realize that salvation outside of repentance and baptism is just not possible!

    Glory itself equates to godliness. There really is no such thing as glory “stagnation”. The scriptures speak of having glory added upon the saved forever and ever.

    I thus reject permanent lower kingdom assignment because it is impossible to approach godliness and stagnate in that godliness forever. As people become godlike they are continually then in a state of progression (speaking glory wise).

  15. 16 Eric Nielson April 29, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Rob:

    You say – I reject the three worlds of glory model.

    I do not, nor do I believe a strict analysis must reject the model.

    You say – Section 76:50-70 describes the condition of the saved at resurrection.

    I say – No, it describes those who are celestial, see verse 70. I see nowhere where it strictly says baptism is required for the lower kingdoms. But if you do not acknowledge lower kingdoms then I can see your point, I just disagree.

    So I suppose this more-or-less ends the discussion – right? If you do not believe in degrees of glory, then for you it boils down to heaven/hell or saved/damned. At least eventually.

  16. 17 Rob Osborn April 30, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Eric,

    Let me ask you this one simple question-

    How does someone on the telestial or terrestrial kingdom get saved if they do not accept baptism?

  17. 18 Eric Nielson April 30, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Rob:

    I would say that resurrection is a gift of grace given to all. I would say that there must be some choice and merit on the individual to receive forgiveness of sins.

    On the flip side I could ask you a simple question-

    How does God force everyone (who came to earth) to repent and accept baptism? This sounds a tad like Satans plan to me.

    My only hope of answering your question is to turn to section 76:98-112. This describes those who will inhabit the Telestial Kingdom. I will highlight a few phrases:

    verse 100 speaks of those who say they are of Christ while others say they are of John, or Moses, or Elias, etc. I suspect this could extend to leaders of non-christian religions as well.

    verse 101 – received not the gospel,neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant. (period)

    verse 111 speaks of them being judged according to their own works, and shall receive acording to his own works, his own dominion, etc.

    verse 112 says that where God and Christ are the cannot come, worlds without end.

    I think these verses give us insight into the fate of those who do not accept Christ by repentance and baptism.

  18. 19 Rob Osborn April 30, 2008 at 10:15 am

    The problem with reading section 76 according to modern LDS interpretation is that it is paradoxial in nature. The problem is however that nobody seems to put the two together. Earlier in the section before any descriptions are made of the various peoples in their kingdoms, it is made clear that Christ saves all the works of his hands except for the sons of perdition. It is also made clear that all of those he saves he does so through the saving gospel and his atonement.

    Those who refuse Christ by not accepting baptism can never be redeemed from hell. Christ himself has made it very clear that unless one is born again (through baptism) he must be cast aside (cast into hell). So, if you are advocating that redemption from hell is possible without repentance and baptism, then the gospel of Jesus Christ as he taught it is not something you can adhere to.

  19. 20 Eric Nielson April 30, 2008 at 11:38 am

    So it appears that we are all wrong except you. Your ideas are obviously not as clear as you claim them to be.

    There are a lot of possibilities for what Christ was referring to in terms of being saved or cast out. He could be referring to the top level of the CK, the CK, any degree of glory, paradise, etc.

    I believe we must balance all scriptures and the teachings of the church into a great whole. Taking a strong interpretation of some scriptures while ignoring others can lead almost anywhere.

  20. 21 Rob Osborn May 1, 2008 at 1:24 am

    I disagree, Christ always spoke in very simple and easy to understand black and white terms- either heaven or hell, right hand or left, saved or damned, etc… The scriptures explaining the saving gospel is very clear on the matter! What is not so clear is how one should interpret sections like 76 because section 76 does not clarify what the kingdoms are, when they exist, or when/if they should have an end.

    That said, the truthfulness of what exactly is required to be saved eternally from hell is found in our articles of faith. Our articles of faith state factually that all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. the obvious then would be that a failure to obey the gospel laws and it’s ordinances leaves you in satan’s chains eternally in that hell which has been created. There is no other way to escape the damnation of hell without that strict obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. even just declaring Christ to be God does not mean that you can leave hell, one must put forth righteous works.

  21. 22 Eric Nielson May 1, 2008 at 8:36 am

    I believe that when God communicates to mankind he does not usually give the whole story. Milk before meat, line upon line, here a little there a little. We do not yet have the full story as we believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdome of God.

    So when ancient scriptures speak in terms of Heaven/Hell I believe this is a simplified view that suits the purposes and the audience. This does not mean that modern day revelation will not shed further light on the issue. In fact it has.

    So again, when ancient scriptures refer to heaven or the kingdom of God they could be referring to the highest level of the CK, the CK, any of the degrees of glory, paradise, etc. The spirit and the context can give us some clue to what is being referred to.

    And when ancient scripture refers to hell it could mean outer darkness, the telestial Kingdom, anything other than the CK, anything other than the highest level of the CK, spirit prison, etc.

    Modern day reveleation like section 76 and section 88 give us a more full picture of the afterlife than was had anciently. Modern day prophets give further clarification on the matter.

    So, if it comes down to modern scripture and revelation, and the teachings and doctrines of the church on the one hand. OR, your thoughts and opinions on the matter, I am afraid I am going to have to stick with the former.

  22. 23 Rob Osborn May 1, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Using your same line upon line concept i will further add that you are right! We should look at the latest revelation regarding the concept of heaven and hell. That would be found in the temple. Recently I toured the new Rexburg temple and it is no secret that the clarification regarding the three kingdoms is made perfectly clear. The tour guide even stated that the world room in the temple is the telestial kingdom. The ceremony itself even says this same exact thing.

    So building upon the line upon line concept, the temple endowment ceremony which came after sections 76 and 88 clarifies what the three kingdoms are- that they are progressive kingdoms or stages of this earth until the earth is celestialized. With that clarification, Christ’s doctrine of heaven and hell is upheld where heaven is the CK and hell is outer darkness.

  23. 24 Eric Nielson May 1, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I think you are exaggerating again.

    If the tour guide stated that the world room in the Rexburg Temple was the Telestial Kingdom then he was simply wrong.

    I do not believe the ceremony says that either, I believe the term used is telestial world not Telestial Kingdom.

    The telestial Kingdom will not start for anyone from this world until after the judgement.

  24. 25 Eric Nielson May 1, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I might also refer any readers to the Bible Dictionary entry which can be found at lds.org here.

  25. 26 Rob Osborn May 1, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    In fact, the temple specific language uses both “telestial kingdom” and “telestial world” in describing or referring to the world in which we now live in. You might also want to check in section 76 because it uses the wording- “telestial world”.

    Apparently, and according to the temple, we are now living in the telestial kingdom. Not to phrase exactly the endowment ceremony, the wording is something along the lines of-…Brothers,sisters, this (the world room in the temple) represents the telestial kingdom or the world in which we now live in…..man finding himself in the telestial world…..

    Kingdom progression in the temple endowment ceremony is what can be called part of the plan of our salvation. It is impossible for man to go from the creation room to the celestial room without first passing through and progressing through the telestial and terrestrial kingdom rooms in the temple. If that is a pattern for our eternal salvation, then it would be fair to say that we all must first pass through the telestial kingdom on our journey to the celestial kingdom. Now certainly the telestial kingdom as represented in the temple is not a future eternal kingdom after judgment or the wording is all screwed up. So many references are made to this earth right now being the telestial kingdom/world that there can be no dispute on the matter.

    Even the open house temple guides freely know this and tell the people on tour that the world room represents our world we now live in and that this world room or world we live in is the telestial kingdom.

  26. 27 Eric Nielson May 1, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Good grief. They do not.

  27. 28 Rob Osborn May 1, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Then my ears certainly do not work because that is exactly what the temple tour guide said, and there were nonmembers touring with us. Maybe we just had an exceptional tour guide who knew the truth on the matter. Anyways, that is what he said, take it for what it is worth.

  28. 29 Martin Searcy May 1, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    “Whew” to all of this. Temple tour guides are told exactly what they are to say, even memorized, and they are asked not to opine, deviate from the “script”, or even elaborate on such insignificant matters as whether the wood that certain furnishings are made of is poisonous, or how much this-or-that cost, or where this-or-that item was imported from or who it was crafted by. Unfortunately, and sadly, many (most) of the guides refused the counsel of script as provided for them under the authority of the First Presidency. Except for a select few people in select positions along the tour, guides were not even supposed to bear personal testimony. Their direction was that if they had true conviction of what they were asked to say, they would speak it with power and conviction and those taking the tour would feel the spirit of what was then their own testimony.

    On another note, it was striking for me to learn from President Monson in our recent General Conference that (if my simple date calculations are correct) on the day President Hinckley passed away, Sister Monson was lying in a state of coma. What a thing for President Monson to have to take hold of, knowing that his wife may never come to and that (if the pattern of the Lord continued) he would in all likelihood be called as the next temporal President of Jesus Christ’s Church. It was sobering for me to learn about that.

    Regarding the lengthy conversation to this point, I would recommend a reading of the first few chapters of Gerald N. Lund’s book, “How to Hug a Porcupine,” or the similarly titled audio presentation of, “How to Hug Your Teenage Porcupine.” Don’t let the titles keep you from reading / listening. The books / lectures do soon get to the point of their title, but Brother Lund lays a lot of meaningful groundwork first. Listening to just the first 45 minutes or so of the audio title, you would hear many quotes from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, several scripture references, and other statements regarding:

    1) The unlimited power of Christ’s atonement to save all, except the small number who commit the *one* unpardonable sin,
    2) The concept of not just one Plan of our Heavenly Father, but rather of an individual Plan for each of us,
    3) That if all may be saved, rather than “damned” in the sense of eternally being blocked in their progress, except those who commit the unpardonable sin, it is not the broad and general teaching of the General Authority so that we will not fritter away our time and opportunity in the mortal realm where we can progress very far by mastering our appetites, bridling our carnal natures, shunning intense temptation (as opposed to waiting to try learning that during a lengthy period when satan and his spirit followers will be bound), etc.
    4) That we “will never accomplish the Lord’s work in the Devil’s way,”
    5) That no person can ever be saved in ignorance, and therefore a state of “saved” must come after “full disclosure” (so to speak; my phrase), which very few if any mortals will ever gain; therefore, even the best and brightest of us (in the Gospel sense) will certainly have much to learn before we will ever choose or decide whether to accept salvation (my own thought is that even though a person’s election may be assured in this life, his knowledge is still not complete, and therefore he is still much farther from perfection than merely not yet being resurrected),
    6) That all sins ever committed (I’m paraphrasing here) will have to be accounted for, but that the repentence process we will go through and the learning process (the “full disclosure”) we will go through are somewhat separate things,
    7) and, again, the unlimited power of Christ’s atonement to bring all who will eventually learn *how* to follow Him, and then *choose* to follow Him, back to Him and the Father.

    Much to ponder on. Much to ease the burdened mind and heart. So much for me to consider as I seek to understand what my Heavenly Father’s plan is for me. All roads lead home, all are laid down by the Savior, but not all roads are of same length and/or difficulty. In any case, I wish all of us to “take the high road”, take the “road less traveled.” Personally, I’ve found it does indeed make all the difference when I learn to do things in the Lord’s way, not my own. It rarely enlarges my understanding of eternal doctrines, but it always increases my sense of peace.

    Other thoughts: Doctrines are constant and eternal, but whether, how, why, when, and with what definitive emphasis they are given does not seem to be constant for me. The result is a continual unfolding before me of increasing meaning from each doctrine of the kingdom.

    Further: Our practices and procedures may easily distract us from thinking upon the richness of the doctrines, because we become so accustomed to things being a particular way and having a particular meaning. Continual change in our (Church and personal) practices and procedures are a good thing, because it can often help us see where we have been blinded by our traditions.

    I now yield the soapbox.

    Martin

    P.S. Don’t expect my comments to be frequent, unless they are just light conversation.

  29. 30 Martin Searcy May 1, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Sorry about the emoticon thing. I *never* use those. I only use “*” for italics, and that’s about it. Rarely even a “!” from me. I intended to type a “)” where you see the emoticon, but I must have inadvertently typed a “-)” or some similar thing that got converted. Oh, and I don’t ever use the ASCII emoticon equivalents. Sorry. You either understand what I write, or I didn’t write clearly enough.

    Martin

  30. 31 Martin Searcy May 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Boy did I blow that on the author. What *was* I thinking. I don’t have the book right here in front of me, so I took a guess. Try John Lewis Lund, not G.N. Lund. Maybe J.L. Lund is a son, or cousin, or nephew five-times-removed. With all of the inbreeding going on in Utah, it’s a little confusing keeping track of who *isn’t* related to who.

    Martin

    P.S. Is G.N. Lund even still alive? Shows you how little I know.

  31. 32 Martin Searcy May 1, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Correction of my earlier comment, for clarity—

    “Other thoughts: Doctrines are constant and eternal, but whether, how, why, when, and with what definitive emphasis they are given does not seem to me to be constant. The result is a continual unfolding before me of increasing meaning from each doctrine of the kingdom when different details are emphasized or the doctrine is described in ways unusual to me.”

    A couple more points from the introductory portion of “How to Hug a Teenage Porcupine” have suddenly come to mind:

    – That foreordination and calling-and-election are premortal doctrines (occurrences),
    – That having a calling-and-election made sure is a mortal (or later) doctrine (occurrence),
    – That in the premortal realm, each of us was given the “full disclosure” of our Father in Heaven’s overall plan, and after choosing to accept it, His own unique plan for each of was crafted (possibly in council with many others) whereby we would understand its promise well enough that we would accept to take it,
    – That there were many councils in the premortal realm, the Grand Council being the one where the need for a Savior was reiterated, and Jehovah (Jesus the Christ) offered Himself and was chosen.

    Martin

  32. 33 Martin Searcy May 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Because I know I’m going to take heat– no, “Porcupine” is not my only bible. I have two or three others, mostly by Jack Weyland. I hear that the prophets (ancient and modern) wrote some pretty good “church books” too, but those are, like, way over my head.

    Martin

  33. 34 Eric Nielson May 2, 2008 at 8:39 am

    No heat from me Martin.

    It is terribly good to hear from you again. It brings back memories of Risk games, and if I remember right still frozen banana cream pies. Mmmmm.

    I will keep the porcupine book in mind, it seems an interesting thing. We have four boys now, but none of them are porcupines yet.

    I would like a restating of your point number 3 from your first comment. It is worded a little strange in the middle – but I think there is something important in there. If you get a moment.

    If I might be so bold to summarize what you have said in the simplest terms – a personalized plan of salvation for all.

    Would you say that this personalized plan would contain common elements for everyone, and differ in some of the details? For example – the principles and ordiances of the gospel – common for everyone?

    Anyway, very good to hear from you. I am glad you felt comfortable leaving comments – even on this thread (whew). Usually things are a lot more quiet around here. Frequently one can hear the crickets chirp.

  34. 35 Martin Searcy May 3, 2008 at 5:56 am

    Eric,

    It’s great to be back in touch with you. I tell my kids all the time about Risk (which they love to play) and frozen cream pies. My fave was always chocolate cream. They really get a kick out of “two-serving” half-gallon ice cream cartons, too. Comes complete with two serving bowls. Just saw in two, hand one off to a buddy, present spoons, and eat away. [For anybody who reads and decides to try this, there is one cut line that is a little more intuitive than the infinite number of other cut possibilities.]

    We have four boys and a girl. We need to eventually have another boy to somewhat compensate for that last little glitch (the gender, not the child). [Now I’ve done it– I’ll be roasted for sure over that comment, at least by my wife if not anybody else. Anybody wanting to roast me over that last comment: Lighten up. It’s all tongue-in-cheek.]

    One of our kids, our oldest in fact, is both a teenager and a porcupine. Learning how to teach him correct principles and let him govern himself has been on my mind much lately, hence my recent interest in “Porcupine”. I did very much marvel at the foundation and groundwork the author laid out before going directly at the main topic.

    #3 explained in terms of how I see it requires either a lot of boiling down or a long read for others. I’ll give it a shot sometime in the next few days. But it definitely has something to do with the “three degrees for eternity” question.

  35. 36 Martin Searcy May 3, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Eric N:

    Yes, I think you hit the nail squarely on the head re: a personalized plan for each soul. It seems to me that for each of us to fully follow our own plan, we must all learn to abide by the same principles and receive the same ordinances, *and* we must learn to be governed by the same eternal laws. How, when, and through what experiences we learn those things is personally crafted according to some sort of “greatest likelihood of success” measure. We can of course frustrate our specialized plan and the Lord, but as often as we will return to Him, he will re-craft our plan based on time left ’til zero hour, so to speak.

    He handles this re-crafting in realtime, because otherwise we would all be only under the delusion of having agency. Sure, He knows what we’re going to do, because time is all at once before His eyes, but He lets us do it anyway. Sometimes He teaches us before we do a thing what the outcome will be if we do it, and other times He sets up or allows an experience to teach us. I believe good experiences are His craft, or are crafts of our goodness or the goodness of other people. Further, I believe that “bad” experiences are His craft if necessary to turn us around or try us, or they are the craft of our own badness or foolishness, or they are the craft of other bad or foolish people, or just plain accidents that the Lord doesn’t directly intervene in.

    *Fully* following the plan brings men to a perfect state of godliness. What of those who don’t / won’t *fully* follow the plan? Is there a minimal amount that will be done either by them or by others for them that will bring them to a state of glory? I choose to think so, so I like the Glass Half-Full thoughts.

  36. 37 Eric Nielson May 5, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Excellent Martin.

    This is a pretty small time blog, so chances of being roasted are slight.

    I really like your thoughts here – the combination of common elements in this individualized plan, and personalized experiences to help us complete it successfully. Very well done.

  37. 38 LDS Anarchist May 15, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Eric asked, “So how do you view the three degrees of glory? As a small group of the elite and elect in the highest portion of the celestial kingdom with everyone else damned at some level below?”

    My answer is yes, with a qualifier. I don’t believe it will be a small group.

    Eric also asked, “Or as a nearly universal salvation for all but the sons of perdition with a glory beyond our understanding?”

    My answer is yes to this question, also.

  38. 39 Eric Nielson May 16, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Hehehe.

    Nice answer Anarchist.

  39. 40 helaman May 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I thought it was exactly that way, everyone save the sons (and by sons, I means sons and daughters) of perdition get into one or the other kingdoms.

    Here’s another question though, are only Mormons capable of ending up son & daughters of perdition?

  40. 41 Eric Nielson May 27, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for your comment helaman.

    Personally, I think that only, er, ‘superstar’ Mormons are capable of ending up sons of perdition.

  41. 42 helaman May 27, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    I thought that too, but have a read over the King Follett discourse and see if you still think it’s reserved for ‘superstars’.

    (I actually posed this question over at my blog – with a couple of others, due to this post)

  42. 44 helaman May 28, 2008 at 8:31 am

    HAHAHAHA…yeah I actually didn’t realize till this morning…

    It’s a scheduled post for today, in a couple of hours…DOH!

  43. 45 Robert June 15, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Perhaps, these kingdoms of glory aren’t merely to be understood in the ‘you get there and that’s it’ light – but are open and overlapping kingdoms where there is constant opportunity for ‘movement’ and ‘glorification’ – and even ‘falls’? Afterall, these kingdoms are present right now and, as we can see from where we currently ‘stand’, they all overlap with the inhabitants of each in a constant state of transitioning ‘up and down’ according to their natures.

  44. 46 Eric Nielson June 16, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I think there is something to a dynamic nature involved in the kingdoms. If free agency continues, one would expects possible changes to take place.

    I am a little confused by the kingdoms present right now. It is my understanding that the kingdoms are for resurrected beings after final judgement.

    Certainly we can see different levels of spirituality or righteousness, and changing levels to boot.

  45. 47 ama49 June 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I like this post and like your approach of the “half-full” concept. Your comment about “gee, this isn’t as bad as I thought” made me smile, but I think it’s true. I also think this universalistic type of approach is one of the beauties of Mormonism because it shows how truly merciful God is, yet also gives us accountability to make what we want out of our lives. It’s amazing!

    thanks for the post!

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

  46. 49 Robert June 25, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Yes, it is a bit confusing as to how the kingdoms are operating in the ‘now’ – even though we are right in the middle of it all. I think some of this confusion stems from the way in which the Truth is typically presented to people in ‘linear time’ – that the focus seems to be grounded on ‘the future’ or ‘the past’ – rather than ‘the now’ – which is actually both of these realities meeting ‘in the middle’, so to speak.

    Not that’s it’s wrong to present our ‘movement’ in ‘from the past to the future’ terms, as the Truth has to be tailored so that at least most will begin to get a grasp of it and be able to begin the process of exaltation where they are. As we know, not everyone is in the same position of spiritual development, so it only makes sense that a ‘basic’ presentation would be there for the default, fallen’s perception of their condition.

    There’s an interesting statement in one of the gnostic gospels, the Gospel of Philip – that says: “Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.”

    Is this completely accurate? I would say yes for those who are ‘awakening’ in the ‘now’ – and no for those that may need more ‘lessons’ beyond ‘this life’. But it does highlight that there is a ‘resurrection is received and realized in the now’ reality at play, too – which adds even more dynamism to the path of the Restored Gospel and our participation in the unfolding, eternal progression of creation.

  47. 50 Eric Nielson June 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Robert:

    To me, this statement is not consistent with what I understand resurrection to be. I would therefore be suspicious of some type of translation error in the word resurrection.

  48. 51 Robert June 25, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    That’s a good possibility. The way I’m understanding the use of the term in this passage – it has to do with awakening to the Truth of yourself as eternal, immortal ‘Intelligence’ (resurrection may be equated with ‘remembering’ here?) which takes place prior to leaving one’s current body. This, then, would allow for living the fullness of the Gospel with ‘eyes eide open’, so to speak. If one does not awaken to this or remember this, then they do not have the possibility of being exalted in the Celestial Kingdom and will enter a different one.

  49. 52 Joe September 15, 2008 at 5:39 am

    Degrees of Damnation

    Sorry folks, the half-empty perspective is doctrine:

    “[Damnation:] The state of being stopped in one’s progress and denied access to the presence of God and his glory. Damnation exists in varying degrees. All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and they will be damned to that extent.” (Guide to the Scriptures: Damnation.)

    Church Doctrine is that damnation will in fact exist even among the saved:

    D&C 132:16-17
    “Therefore, 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 servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, 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 forever and ever.”

    If damnation is a stoppage of Eternal Progress (read: Godhood), ministering angels are both saved (being admitted to the Celestial Kingdom) but damned (lacking the privilege of Eternal Progress). in this way, there is one degree of ultimate salvation but 7 degrees of damnation, including the heirs of eternal life who received baptism but did not execute the remaining covenants and ordinances of Exaltation, namely marriage within the New and Everlasting Covenant.

    Joe

  50. 53 Eric Nielson September 15, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Joe:

    You have made a legitimate point here, based on scriptures. Well done.

    I guess the next question might be – just how bad is this damnation? Particularly for folks who are used to a heaven/hell explanation.

  51. 54 LDS Anarchist September 16, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Joe, how do you get 7 as the number of degrees of damnation?

  52. 55 Tim W December 9, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Rob Osborn stated:

    “Maybe we just had an exceptional tour guide who knew the truth on the matter. Anyways, that is what he said, take it for what it is worth.”

    Rob Osborns comments/beliefs on this subject and others border on lunacy. I find it ironic that he can come up with the most ubsurd theories on the degrees of glory and actually referencing what he thought he heard from a tour guide in a temple open house but fails to believe in Joseph Smith’s explanations (who had the vision).

    The list of quotations, scriptures and statments by the Prophets contraticting this point of view and defining thisis too long to enumurate here. I suggest you do some serious study on such an important matter. It reminds me of the scripture in 2nd Nephi which disusses the apostate feelings of some who teach to ‘eat drink and be merry’ and how we will only be beat with a few strips but in the end be saved. I tend to stick with the D&C 76 speaking of the Telestial kingdom and how it will be as numerable as the stars in the skys and that where god and Christ are, they cannot come WORLDS WITHOUT END.

    It is no more unjust that all people will not to reach the Celestial kingdom than the fact that a third of the host of heaven became devils through their agency in the first estate. This is a glaring fact.

    Lastly, Joe said it perfectly. Damnation by definition is an end to your progression, so unless you are sealed to your spouse in the third degree of the Celestial Kingdom, your progression is stopped or damned.

  53. 56 ji December 19, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    The purpose of D&C 76, as I see it, is to show that God loves all his children and saves all of them (except for a few that refuse to be saved). Some are saved in great glory, some in less glory, but all are saved in a kingdom of glory.

    Why do some Latter-day Saints (usually those who are already sealed in the temple) seem to take such delight in turning this into meaning that God damns almost all of his children (except for those very few, like themselves, who are sealed in the temple)?

    Shouldn’t our message be that God intends to save all his children, to whatever degree of glory they can abide? The message of the scriptures as a whole is clear: God will save all of his children, and will forgive all of the seins of all of his children, except those few who commit the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Even most of those who suffer the pains of hell will be redeemed and saved eventually, right?

  54. 57 Eric Nielson December 20, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I agree with you ji. I might not hae a few years age, but you are expressing how I have felt lately.

  55. 58 garth April 15, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Heretics, all of you. Heretics.

  56. 59 garth April 15, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    The worst, most vilest enemy is within the lds church. Its called gossip and procrastination. I imagine that many church members will be shocked to discover they failed to gain access to the top kingdom. And why? Simple. Behind the smart suites, ties and dresses lie feeble hipocrytes, who would rather trust in there own values than the lords.

  57. 60 Eric Nielson April 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Yeah. If only we could all be more like garth.


  1. 1 The Kingdoms and Questions | Helaman’s Army Trackback on May 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

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