This is a guest post by Derek Christian Lines. If you have a guest post feel free to submit it. We try to get a wide range of voices here and enjoy hearing different perspectives.
My friends and I have long debated a bit of speculative theology concerning the plan of salvation. Namely, what percentage of Heavenly Fatherâ€™s children on this earth will end up in the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms? The question goes to the heart of Godâ€™s plan for us; how many of our Heavenly Fatherâ€™s children will be with him again?
The scriptures often speak of mortality as a test. This academic analogy can help in approaching the question. Certainly God has some hefty grading standards for us. â€œBe ye therefore perfectâ€ (Matt. 5:48 ) in any class syllabus might be a bit discouraging. Of course we know the Savior came to help us with all the mortal class work and can make up for failing grades if we do what he asks of us. But is the classroom of mortality conducive to giving A-grades and getting students to the celestial kingdom? The scriptures might lead us to believe there will be few A-students. â€œBecause strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find itâ€ (Matt. 7:14 ). From this and similar scriptures, it seems that only a few of us will really understand the curriculum and do what it takes to get the celestial grade. Taking this into account, a friend of mine argued that a percentage breakdown of the kingdoms might be 5% celestial over-achievers, 20% terrestrial, and 75% telestial slackers.
Maybe it is the slacker in me that thinks these numbers are way off. I firmly believe in grade inflation at the judgment day. There will be far more of Godâ€™s children back in his presence, than will be shut out of the celestial realms. What will the final grade report look like? I believe there will be 85% celestial A-students, 10% terrestrial, and only 5% in the telestial kingdom. I have four reasons why:
1. Godâ€™s plan provides numerous celestial-grade guaranteesâ€”Godâ€™s children can be assured of a celestial glory in many ways. The first, and largest, is that all children who die before the age of accountability will be saved in the celestial kingdom, as well as those with mental challenges who never become accountable. It has been estimated that 70 billion people have lived on this earth. I have read estimates of average historical infant and childhood mortality rates being as high as 40%, which means that as nearly 30 of those 70 billion people who have lived on this earth are automatically in the celestial kingdom. We also have the millennium, which is designed to give celestial grades to nearly every student. Bruce R. McConkie has said â€œthe purpose of the millennium is to save souls…Billions of spirits will come to earth andâ€¦grow up without sin unto salvationâ€ (Millennial Messiah, p. 660-1). If we allow
that a paradisiacal earth could support another 30 billion over a thousand years that is already a 60% celestial-pass rate. God has already stacked the odds for celestial success in his childrenâ€™s favor.
2. All the bad students were not even allowed to enroll in this mortal classâ€”We are taught that a third of the host of heaven followed Lucifer in the pre-mortal world (D&C 29:36) and will not be taking this mortal test. Every other person on earth has chosen to enter mortality, presumably with the desire to return to live with God again.
3. God will be grading on a very generous curve for this most-wicked worldâ€”According to Moses 7:36 this is Godâ€™s most wicked world (or at least it was during the time God spoke to Enoch). We live in a time of wickedness rivaling that of Enochâ€™s day, when it seems even our best efforts for ourselves and our families are sometimes overwhelmed by the tides of rebellious disregard for the commandments of God. It certainly seems that there might not be 85% of the current world who are acing this mortal test. For those of us who are not given a celestial-guarantee, I do not doubt that our loving Heavenly Father will be mindful of this and grade on a very high mercy-scale. This certainly does not mean God can excuse unrighteous behavior, it just means he will take all factors into consideration when he renders his merciful judgment.
4. God would not create this mortal test for us to failâ€”Why would our Heavenly Father guide our spirits through countless eons of progression only to create a plan for mortality that insures the large bulk of his children could never be with him again? I think we have to give our perfect Father in Heaven more credit for developing a plan that would help us succeed rather than fail. Unique to Mormonism is the idea of post-mortal opportunities to hear the gospel of Christ, accept it, and be saved. I truly believe most people have good hearts. When everyone is given a fair chance (and that doesnâ€™t mean one knock on the door by some missionaries) to hear the gospel of Christ presented in its fullness, I believe most will accept and do what it takes to get the celestial grade. God wouldnâ€™t design a plan any other way. It is called the â€œplan of salvationâ€ after all, not the â€œplan of damnation.â€
So what do we make of the scriptures which seem to indicate there will be few celestial grades given? Like any good professor, the Lord certainly does not want to announce in the syllabus that most students will get an A. This might not elicit our best efforts. To maximize our progression and learning in this mortal test, the Lord sometimes chooses to explain his plan in stark and forceful language. However, with further insight these forceful ideas can be understood in their proper context. For example, when the Lord talks about â€œendless punishment,â€ a strong and even fearful notion, he does not mean punishment of eternal duration. He teaches that â€œnevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this tormentâ€¦wherefore it is more express than other scriptures that it might work upon the hearts of the children of menâ€ (D&C 19:6-7). Thus, I believe the Lord tells us how difficult it is to return to him so as to work upon our hearts and help motivate us to follow him. It is also accurate to say that â€œfew there will be that findâ€ celestial glory during the most wicked times. It is not meant to describe how many of his children will ultimately make the grade.
We must be willing to escape the mindset that limits the celestial kingdom to a privileged club of A-student elitists. We should rejoice that the Lord wants all his children back in his presence and has designed a plan so most will be with him again. I echo Nephi, another believer in grade inflation, when I say I expect to see that â€œmany, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last dayâ€ (2 Ne. 33:12).
D. Christian Lines is a dentist living in Albuquerque , New Mexico. He is married and has three boys. He loves sports and hot dogs and hates beets and country music.