D&C 76 and the Telestial Kingdom, a Different Reading.

On Facebook, I’ve been in a discussion with several in regards to Pres Uchtdorf’s talk on Grace.  The discussion evolved into a disagreement on those who receive the Telestial Kingdom, whether they inherit salvation, are forgiven for their sins, etc.  I was surprised at the wide variety of views given regarding it.

So, I went back to D&C 76 to do a hard look at what it says, and to question our basic interpretation.  Here are some of my thoughts and questions. I hope you will share your additional thoughts in the comments.

81 And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.


Later, section 76 expands on this:

98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;

The telestial glory is a kingdom of glory, or perhaps we should say kingdoms of glories, as the stars/mansions differ from one another. Yet, while they differ, it still says the “glory of the telestial is one”.  How can that be? Perhaps because they fall within a bandwidth of glory that makes them far different from the two higher glories (terrestrial and celestial).

82 These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.

 They do not receive the gospel of Christ nor a testimony of Jesus, but what does that mean?  Again, let’s read further in section 76, where it expands upon this statement:

 99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.

 100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;

 101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.

This is a reference from 1 Corinthians.  Let’s see what Paul says there:

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. (1 Cor 1)

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the  increase.

83 These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 3)

 Those who know Paul, Cephas, Moses, and even Christ, are potentially included in those who do not receive the gospel, nor the testimony of Jesus.

The difference between a true follower of Christ, who accepts the gospel, and a telestial person who may follow Jesus, but does not accept the gospel comes down to the concept of contention and dissension. We read more about it in regards to the “Doctrine of Christ” in 3 Nephi 11:

29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

 31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

Christ then explains that his doctrine is that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in the Godhead ; and that we are to be one with them (and each other) through Faith in Christ, Repentance, Baptism, and Receiving the Holy Ghost (a member of the Godhead).

Clearly, a person can say they believe in Christ, read the Bible, quote Paul, and still be telestial.  If that person is contentious and stirs up controversy, as many did in Corinth, causing Paul to write them and castigate them, then that person may not have accepted the gospel.  What is the testimony of Jesus?

In Revelation 19:10, we read, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  So, a telestial person does not have the spirit of prophecy.  He may believe in Jesus on some level, but does not have a true testimony, which opens the door to the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, and as a personal revelator and testator. These do not deny the Holy Ghost, even though they do not have him as a constant companion, they still receive some light.  They are redeemable, but it isn’t an easy process.  They have to leave behind their pride and contention, and accept the testimony of Jesus.

D&C 76 continues in its description of the telestial:

84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.

The term “hell” does not mean Outer Darkness. It means Spirit Prison.  It is similar to Outer Darkness, except that it is a temporary location.  Do not think that all of hell is a terrible place, as it may not be.  Alma 36 tells of Alma’s conversion, where he experiences a symbolic trip to the Spirit World (a near death experience?). In it, he suffers extremely because of his sins and contentions. When he does choose to repent and call on Christ (accepting the gospel), he is rescued from the pain and filled with peace and joy. He can see God on his throne from a disstance, and longs to be there. In this instance, has Alma left Spirit Prison into Paradise? Or is he still in Prison, kept at a distance from God’s presence, yet not punished any longer?  This is an area I’ll have to continue considering, and would appreciate your ideas and thoughts on.

85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.

What does the term “redeemed” mean here? Does it mean the telestial will not be resurrected and atoned for until Christ’s work is finished? Or does it mean that they will not be redeemed/resurrected from death until the end? Alma’s experience suggests that he was redeemed prior to the end, even with a “death bed” repentance.  Your thoughts?

86 These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;

87 And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.

Why would those in lower glories require ministration of angels from higher realms?  The current LDS thought is that one cannot progress from one kingdom to a higher kingdom. However, some apostles, such as James Talmage, considered it possible that there may be progression between kingdoms.  Is this passage suggesting that telestial people can continue learning and changing sufficiently in the hereafter that they may someday be able to progress to a higher realm with the help of ministering angels from that realm?  It seems to me that an ever loving God would keep the door cracked open for such things.

 88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

 89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;

 89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;

The telestial kingdom is a place of glory. It is greater than the greatest place on earth. Such is the grace of God to those who rejected Christ, but did not deny the Holy Ghost. But what does it mean when it says the telestial “shall be heirs of salvation” through the administering of angels?  Is the telestial kingdom a kingdom of glory and of salvation?  Or is it just a kingdom of glory, but not salvation?  If not a place of salvation, does this also suggest that they may someday go to a higher realm (terrestrial kingdom), where they become heirs of salvation?

89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;

90 And no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it.

We then get to the last portion of D&C 76 in regards to the telestial:

109 But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore;

 110 And heard the voice of the Lord saying: These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever;

 111 For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared;

 112 And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

There will be many telestial beings.Where Christ and God are, they cannot come “worlds without end.”  What does that mean?  Does that mean they can never go to the terrestrial or celestial kingdom? Or does “worlds without end” mean that it is a very long process, but it is possible. If Elder Talmage was right regarding progression between kingdoms, It seems the day will come when all those in the telestial kingdom will come to the point where they will be ready to bow the knee, confess Christ, and accept the gospel. Only when they can show good works meet for a higher kingdom, would the doors be opened to them.   If there is progression in the kingdoms, it would be at this point that the telestial (as individuals who finally bow the knee) will enter into a kingdom of salvation, as well as greater glory.

Of course this is not doctrine, but just a new reading of the revelation on the degrees of glory. Perhaps it may open the door for new ways of considering the grace and infinite love of God.

Your thoughtful comments and thoughts are invited.

27 thoughts on “D&C 76 and the Telestial Kingdom, a Different Reading.

  1. As I understand it, progression from one kingdom to another would be difficult if not impossible. If you think in terms of velocitues, telestial people are on scooters, terrestrial people in cars and celestial in jet planes. We have the opportunity while in mortal and pre-judgement state to make choices that determine which kingdom we prefer. I put this in terms of preference because of my experience with people. One woman I knew years ago was somewhat louche, intelligent and charming but set on the path of sin. For a brief period she set aside her drugs and promiscuity long enough to study with the missionaries and be baptized and confirmed. She attended church and bore moving testimonies for a couple of months, then stopped attending. I visited her and saw clear evidence that her old habits had returned. She told me that she knew the Gospel was true but it was just too much work. I felt most sorry for her several children from various fathers who were the source of her support through government programs.
    I have known other less extreme examples of those who seem to exemplify those in Mark 4, 16-17 who are like seed sown on stony ground which thrive for a season then wither.
    We believe that all will have the opportunity to accept the fullness of the Gospel before judgement is complete. We receive according to who we are. Grace is there for all, but we must be willing to accept the gift and act upon it. The parable of the sower gives a pretty good summary of how various souls prove their destination.

  2. It seems to me that bowing the knee and confessing Christ is a requirement to get out of prison and in to the glory of the telestial kingdom. Alma was not saved from his torment until he cried out to Jesus.

  3. But I’m with you on the eternal ability to progress if that is what one wishes to do and is willing to work toward.

  4. The First Presidency already gave an authoritative statement on the subject of progression between the kingdoms. I can’t remember the year it was given; but they said there is no official doctrine, and it hasn’t yet been revealed to the Church. Everything McConkie, Fielding Smith, or Talmage or any others have said were speaking on their own, are none of it is doctrine.

  5. I’ve come to same conclusions reading D&C 76.

    Also, the temple plainly teaches progression between kingdoms. But people will quote X or Y authority and ignore it.

  6. The scripture tech us that once we are resurrected our spirit and body cannot or will not be separated ever again, but when we are resurrected we will have either a celestial, terrestrial o telestial body and those bodies are only equipped to withstand the glory of those particular kingdoms. It seems to me that there cannot be any further progression to a higher kingdom from telestial and terrestrial given that those bodies cannot withstand the glory of a higher kingdom.

    Elder Melvin J Ballard in the Three Degrees of Glory states : “When we have a Celestial body it will be suited to the Celestial conditions and a Telestial body could not endure Celestial Glory. It would be torment and affliction to them.   I have not read in the scripture where there will be another resurrection where we can obtain a Celestial body for a Terrestrial body. What we receive in the resurrection will be ours forever and forever.   Let me read to you from the 88th section, commencing with the 17th verse:   “And the redemption of the soul is through him who quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.   “Therefore it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the Celestial Glory. ”   This earth, every part of it, will be Celestial; not one-third Telestial and one-third Terrestrial. It will be Celestial and only Celestial beings shall dwell upon it.”
    “I have not read in the scripture where there will be another resurrection where we can obtain a Celestial body for a Terrestrial body. What we receive in the resurrection will be ours forever and forever.”
    “”For notwithstanding they die, they also rise again a spiritual body:   “They who are of a Celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.   “Ye who are quickened by a portion of the Celestial glory shall then receive of the same* even a fullness;   “And they who are quickened by a portion of the Terrestrial glory, shall then receive of the same, even a fullness; “And also they who are quickened by a portion of the Telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness.”   Therefore, I say, my brothers and sisters, the Lord has distinctly settled the question of our status, as established in our resurrection from the dead, If we have earned a Celestial body, we may have Celestial glory. Yet many of the Saints will wake up and find they sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.”

  7. One thing to note is that Joseph received D&C 76 before he understood about proxy ordinances on behalf of the dead. So at least one of the verses of D&C 76 is inconsistent with temple ordinances, which we demonstrably are performing for those who did not perform these works during their mortal existence.

    I will give up on no individual, not even those who go to their graves stinking of sin. Only when the Lord God Emmanuel tells me to stop (that the work is done and the seal closed) will I stop.

  8. Yes, GAs of the past had differing opinions on progression between kingdoms. There is no official doctrine one way or the other on it. But as Meg points out, the temple endowment opens the door for work for the dead. There are opportunities after mortality for repentance and change. Yes, the three kingdoms are like a scooter, car and plane (JFS reference?), however all can reach the minimal destination in the future. Not only that, but there’s nothing prohibiting someone from changing from the scooter to the car along the way. I have yet to find someone who can explain why there is ministering of angels to the lower kingdoms, or why the Lord states “worlds without end” as the ending. Why not make it more clear, if there is no progression?

    That God’s grace is infinite and all-encompassing, it seems He may leave such a door open.

    I keep an open mind on these things. I am not dogmatic on it.

  9. While Pat gave an anecdote of a woman who returned to her old ways, I’ve seen many people change and retain the change. I knew a man who was the town drunkard, later was a branch president and successful business man. So, I do not believe a person must forever remain who/what they are, especially when Christ’s grace can slowly change them over time (thousands of years even?).

  10. I will say that given the statistics on single mothers with children, the phenomenon of the welfare mother surviving off the benefits paid to her for having lots of kids can’t possibly be as prevalent as sometimes portrayed.

    Not that there aren’t such irresponsible single mothers milking the system. Just that they can’t be a large percentage of the total population of single mothers.

    While I hold out hope for all mankind, I wouldn’t personally count on endless opportunities to set things right. First, the chance for redemption might not continue to be available. Second, I might deform my soul out of wanting redemption. Third, during the time I am not consistent with being redeemable, I will harm those around me. So in a future time when I might be confronted with the consequences of my past evil, the less I walk the straight and narrow, the more likely I will have caused unnecessary harm to another.

  11. While, like Meg, I’m not willing to give up on people either, I also agree that there won’t be infinite opportunities to attain celestial glory. For instance, are we saying that the prophets in the scriptures were just giving their opinion like Alma when he said:
    “32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

    33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

    34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

    It seems from Alma’s word that mortality is the time to prepare for eternity. I understand there are terms and conditions to obtain celestial glory, but do we really have all eternity to meet them?

    It was my understanding also when the scriptures talk about who ministers to the lower kingdoms that it was related to who visited them in relation to their kingdom affairs and not to their being prepared to go on to a higher kingdom. I may be wrong. The people in the Telestial Kingdom certainly are heirs of salvation, if by salvation we understand being redeemed from the physical death, as salvation and exaltation may be two different concepts.

    Well, these are some of my thoughts. Rame’s questions are excellent ones. I myself have wondered about the meaning of those same scriptures, they leave the door open for pondering.

  12. Hi Kareen,

    Note that Alma indicates that once we are out of this life, no labor can be performed *by us*.

    This is consistent with the possibility that the labor of performing proxy ordinances can still be performed by someone else. If we haven’t done all that is required, we will be at the mercy of those others in mortality who are able to perform the saving labors on our behalf.

  13. I could cite many instances of people who turn their lives around. The scriptures provide us with the examples of Paul, the two Almas, and Zeezrom. Even death does not close the book on the opportunity to repent and ‘earn a great reward’. However I believe there is a window of opportunity that we should heed. It lasts at least a thousand years. I do not deny the possibility that there could be migration between kingdoms, but I think it would be very rare. I am a fan of ‘The Great Divorce’ by C. S. Lewis and his depiction of souls who make a choice even after death to put aside sin and accept Grace. I cited the experience with my neighbor not in condemnation of single mothers or those who live with assistance from government or others, but as an example of Proverbs 26. I have read and heard people joke that they would be happy to settle for the telestial kingdom because they would be more comfortable with others like themselves. I want to be in the presence of my Heavenly Father no matter who else is there. I am not certain of my ultimate destination, but I yearn for the sweet reunion with my Savior and I am totally enchanted with hanging out with those we can expect have celestial bodies. Meanwhile I am not the judge of others and their choices.

  14. I don’t know. I think there will be progression within a kingdom, but not between kingdoms. Otherwise, we really don’t have a lot of incentive to accept Jesus in this life. We could casually live they way we want, be beat with a few stripes, and just work our way into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom over time. We certainly can’t judge in this life who will /will not inherit which kingdom since there is so much more that will occur in the next life. In handbook 2, 2.1.2 we read:
    “Some ordinances are required for exaltation in the celestial kingdom for all accountable persons. These ordinances include baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek Priesthood ordination (for men), the temple endowment, and temple sealing. Living members of the Church receive these saving and exalting ordinances themselves. Deceased persons may receive them vicariously. Vicarious ordinances become effective only when the deceased persons for whom the ordinances were performed accept them in the spirit world and honor the related covenants.” The first thought is that if you’re headed to the telestial/terrestrial kingdoms, some ordinances are not required. And for those who want the CK, they need the ordinances and have to honor the related covenants. Since work is done vicariously, the only way to honor those covenants will be in the next life.

  15. I think trying to determine what qualifies anyone to be in whichever Kingdom (in in which level of which Kingdom) is looking beyond the mark. We’re told that there will judgment at death and that there will be time and ability to change before the next judgment. We also know there are many other levels of progression beyond the judgment of the Three Kingdoms. Why should we take the scripture that now is the time of our labors to mean our current existence determines all our future existences, and not merely our state at the next judgment bar, at death? I’m not saying we should do as is warned, trying to put off our work in becoming disciples of Christ, but that we should not work in speculating how we or others rank, when we’ve so little information.

    Working toward the Celestial is looking beyond the mark. Work toward Christ and you will be on the right path.

  16. Frank, I tend to agree with you. I find discussions about the three kingdoms to be somewhat of a waste of time because I don’t think we can really comprehend what it means. We have a hard enough time comprehending what exactly will happen in the spirit world (is it Paradise? is it a spirit prison? Is it both?). And then there is a huge time between then and the judgement and the three kingdoms.

    However, the Lord has revealed the concept of the three kingdoms in great detail, so I guess He wants us to think about it. And the D&C spends a lot of time talking about who will go where. So, I am kind of torn about the issue….

  17. I think we can “dream of our mansions on high” while still doing the work of building the kingdom, can’t we?

  18. Bruce McConkie said if we are on the correct path when we die we will continue on the correct path.

  19. Geoff, for my next post, I’ll discuss what 666 means in the Book of Revelation. 🙂

    Seriously, for such as this, there are no definite answers until the Lord reveals/clarifies it through the living prophet. That said, we tend to be lazy or sloppy in our scripture study, accepting the first thought that comes to mind or accepting whatever our Sunday School teacher taught us. As I noted, there was a long discussion (still going on) on Facebook on an LDS Discussions site, regarding Pres Uchtdorf’s talk on grace, which expanded to discuss what the telestial kingdom may be like. I saw at least 4 or 5 different viewpoints, and a few considering others as being “apostate” or at least wrong on how they understand it.
    We have members that quote dead apostles and seminary teachers on why evolution is of the devil, why blacks had a curse on them, why the Book of Mormon had to occur in the New York area, Jesus being born on April 6 1BC, or why men should never go to the moon.

    We need to learn how to separate conjecture, even if stated by an apostle, and the actual doctrines of the gospel. It is okay to discuss and speculate, as long as we all understand what we are doing. The danger comes when we take something that someone said and make it our own dogmatic doctrine, even when our reading of it may only be one interpretation. Such discussion can expand our ability to learn and understand the gospel on many levels, and to realize the possibilities that the Lord may offer to us.

    New revelation cannot come, if we do not come up with new questions. If we blithely accept every wind as a doctrine, then we make ourselves ineligible for revelation, as the Lord has told us we must “study it out in [our] mind” first, and then ask if it is right.

    I do not know if what I wrote in the OP is right, wrong, or even something interesting to consider. I do know that it is important for the saints to deeply study the scriptures, and question many of the things they think they understand. In condemning the Corinthians, Paul noted that he taught them milk, because they were not ready for the meat. Yet, he hoped they would someday be ready for the meatier doctrines. I hate to think I would have not listened to the LDS Church’s message, simply because I was happy with a Bible and only needed a Bible.

  20. From an experience I had in my youth, I mainly know that in my life before God set me free into spiritual life that I was as nothing.

    I greatly value, therefore, the great work of bringing individuals into spiritual life.

    Therefore, I see celestial glory not so much about rewarding the children of God, but as a place where only those who are purified and completely dedicated to God’s work will be permitted, much the way that only those who have appropriately prepared themselves are allowed in clean rooms, or in operating rooms, or other places where skill and cleanliness are paramount.

    In heaven, I believe the required “skill” is absolute love, honesty, and willingness to submit to that which must be for these new ones to thrive.

    This, in my opinion, is why those who are not completely clean and purified must be barred from that portion of heaven. Not because God (mother and father) love any of their children less, but that there is a work being performed in that most holy of holies. Thus just as it is evil to do certain things to infants, it would be evil of God to permit corrupting influences into that portion of heaven.

  21. Meg, great thought. I also think that those in the lower kingdoms are not prepared for the greater glory, to stand in eternal burnings. Alma 12 and Mormon 9:4 suggest that also.

    But the gospel suggests that many will get ready, if not in this life, then in the Spirit World. Why else do baptisms, endowments and sealings for the dead, if they cannot accept those ordinances and receive exaltation?

    And if such a change can occur now or then, it is possible such could occur later. While others may continue progressing in their own kingdoms, some may accept a higher kingdom by changing/becoming, being filled with the love and kindness you speak of. I hope this is so, and it seems that a God of infinite love would keep such a door cracked open.

  22. I like this description,

    “In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.

    Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.”

    Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it.

    But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.” ”

    Brad Wilcox https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/brad-wilcox_his-grace-is-sufficient/

  23. I think we will all be begging our loved ones to choose to become purified, to choose to put away the stains and anger and pain that separate us from God.

    To use a kitchen metaphor, are the children of men like remaining cookie dough or scraps of biscuit dough, fit to be shaped into an ideal form even after the first “batch” has gone on to eternal glory? Perhaps.

    I am content to love everyone and hope that all with desire to gather to God. Even [insert name of heinous sinner]. Exactly how they might be returned to God’s presence, or how long God will labor with them is a mystery that I choose to leave to God and His infinite love, justice, and mercy.

  24. I don’t mind some speculation on the three kingdoms, it’s just when we start taking them as a checklist (not married? ministering angel for you!) that we’re missing the point; taking our eye off the target in front of us – becoming disciples of Christ.

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