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