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Degrees of glory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A depiction of the Plan of Salvation, as illustrated by a source within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A depiction of the Plan of Salvation, as illustrated by a source within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In the theology and cosmology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), there are three degrees of glory (alternatively, kingdoms of glory) which are the ultimate, eternal dwelling place for nearly all who lived on earth after they are resurrected from the spirit world.

LDS Church members believe that the apostle Paul briefly described these degrees of glory in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, and in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Joseph Smith elaborated on Paul's descriptions based primarily upon a vision he received with Sidney Rigdon in 1832 and recorded in Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) Section 76. According to this vision, all people will be resurrected and, at the Final Judgment, will be assigned to one of three degrees of glory, called the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms. A small number of individuals who commit the unpardonable sin will not receive a kingdom of glory, but will be banished to outer darkness with Satan where they will be "sons of Perdition".

Doctrinal origin

The three degrees of glory are most clearly described in Section 76 of the D&C. In the preface to Section 76, the following explanatory text is given:

A vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832. Prefacing the record of this vision, Joseph Smith’s history states: "Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body the term 'Heaven,' as intended for the Saints' eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, ... while translating St. John's Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision." At the time this vision was given, the Prophet [Smith] was translating John 5:29.[1]

Assignment to a particular kingdom in the resurrection is contingent upon the desires and actions exhibited during mortal and post-mortal life. The LDS Church teaches that these different kingdoms are what Jesus was referring to when he said "[i]n my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2).[2] Additionally, the LDS Church teaches that 1 Corinthians [3] speaks of these three degrees of glory, comparing them with the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.

Celestial kingdom

Celestial rooms in LDS temples represent the celestial kingdom
Celestial rooms in LDS temples represent the celestial kingdom

The celestial kingdom is the highest of the three degrees of glory. It is thought by the LDS Church to be the "third heaven" referred to by the apostle Paul in the King James Version of 2 Corinthians  12:2 and it is said to correspond to the "celestial bodies" and "glory of the sun" mentioned in 1 Corinthians  15:40–41.


The celestial kingdom will be the residence of those who have been righteous, accepted the teachings of Jesus Christ, and made and lived up to all of the required ordinances and covenants.[4] Individuals may accept and receive these ordinances and covenants during their mortal lives. For those who did not have the opportunity while living, they will have the opportunity in the post-mortal spirit world, where they can accept ordinances performed on their behalf by LDS Church members in temples.[5] All children who die before the age of eight automatically inherit the celestial kingdom without the reception of ordinances.[6] The celestial kingdom is the permanent residence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.[7]

Joseph Smith taught that "a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it."[8] This white stone will become a Urim and Thummim (or seer stone) to the recipient.[9]

Relation of Highest Degree with Marriage

Smith taught that only those individuals who are sealed in celestial marriage to a spouse will be permitted to enter into the highest degree of celestial glory.[10] These individuals will eventually become "exalted".[11] It is believed that this cannot be comprehended in the world; rather, it is said that the learning and understanding of salvation and exaltation will occur even beyond the grave.[12] Like other ordinances, the sealing to a spouse may occur during mortal life or may be accepted by the parties in the afterlife and performed by proxy in a temple.


Smith also taught that the earth will also receive a celestial glory.[13] Some church members believe that the earth will become the celestial kingdom.[14] Smith taught the earth, like the planet where God resides, will be "made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon".[15]

Terrestrial kingdom

The terrestrial kingdom is the middle of the three degrees of glory. It is believed by LDS Church members to correspond to the "bodies terrestrial" and "glory of the moon" mentioned by the apostle Paul in the King James Version translation of 1 Corinthians 15:40–41 The word "terrestrial" derives from a Latin word meaning "earthly".[16]


According to Doctrine and Covenants Section 76, those who will inhabit the terrestrial kingdom include those who lived respectably but "were blinded by the craftiness of men" and thus rejected the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ when it was presented to them during their mortal lives.[17] It also includes persons who rejected the "testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it" in the spirit world[18] and those who "are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" after having received it.[19]

Ultimately, the kingdom of glory (either the celestial or the terrestrial) received by those who accept the testimony of Jesus will be based on God's knowledge of whether they "would have received it with all their hearts" as manifested by their works and the "desire of their hearts".[20]

Those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom "receive of the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father."[21]

Smith taught that translated beings abide in the terrestrial kingdom until they are judged at the Final Judgment, after which they will enter into the celestial kingdom.[22]

Telestial kingdom

The telestial room of the Salt Lake Temple
The telestial room of the Salt Lake Temple

The telestial kingdom is the lowest of the three degrees of glory. It is believed by LDS Church members to correspond to the "glory of the stars" mentioned by the apostle Paul in the King James Version translation of 1 Corinthians 15:41. There are no known uses of the word "telestial" prior to its use by Smith. The prefix tele- in Greek translates into far or distant, although the remainder of the word remains ambiguous.[23][24] It has also been suggested[by whom?] that the word comes from the Greek telos, meaning an ultimate end,[25] meaning that the inhabitants of this kingdom will be the last to be saved in a kingdom of glory.[citation needed]


According to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, those who will inhabit the telestial kingdom include those "who received not the gospel of Christ, nor the testimony of Jesus."[26] It will also include "liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie", as well as "murderers, and idolaters".[27] Because of their refusal to accept Jesus as their Savior, these individuals will remain in spirit prison for 1,000 years during the millennial reign of Christ.[28] After the 1000 years, the individuals will be resurrected and receive an immortal physical body and be assigned to the telestial kingdom.[29]

Smith taught that individuals in the telestial kingdom will be servants of God, but "where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end";[30] however, they will receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost and beings from the terrestrial kingdom.[31] Despite these limitations, in LDS Church theology being resident in the telestial kingdom is not an unpleasant experience: "the glory of the telestial ... surpasses all understanding".[32]

Smith also taught that just as there are different degrees of glory within the celestial kingdom (D&C 131:1–4), there are different degrees of glory within the telestial kingdom. He stated that "as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in the telestial world."[33] In the telestial kingdom, each person's glory will vary depending on their works while on the earth.[34]

Smith and Rigdon stated, "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".[35] One Latter-day Saint commentator has suggested that by implication this means that "most of the adult people who have lived from the day of Adam to the present time will go to the telestial kingdom."[36]

Role in temple ordinances

During the original endowment temple ordinance, church members moved between ordinance rooms that represented the three different kingdoms of glory. In most newer LDS temples, the majority of the moves between rooms have been replaced with changes in lighting to represent changes from one degree of glory to the next. In some of the church's older temples (e.g., the Salt Lake, Idaho Falls Idaho, Manti Utah, and Cardston Alberta temples), the classic version of the endowment ceremony is still done by moving from room to room. Every LDS temple includes a celestial room—representing the celestial kingdom—that is separate from the other ordinance rooms.

Hypothesized influence of Emanuel Swedenborg

Some, including Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn have argued that various parts of the plan of salvation were influenced in part by Emanuel Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell.[37] In Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg wrote that "[t]here are three heavens" that are "entirely distinct from each other."[38] Swedenborg called the highest heaven "the Celestial Kingdom." He also stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the "sun, moon and stars."[38]

Swedenborgian writings were spread widely in New England in the early 1800s by Swedenborgian missionaries.[39] In 1839 Smith met with a recent Latter Day Saint convert from Swedenborgianims, Edward Hunter, and told him, "Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished."[37] Others, including Smith's biographer Richard Bushman have argued it is more likely that Smith and Swedenborg developed their ideas independently based on 1 Corinthians chapter 15.[40][41]

Response by early Latter Day Saints

Universalism, or the idea that God would save all of humanity, was a prominent and polarizing religious belief in the 1830s. Many converts to the early church disagreed with Universalism and felt the Book of Mormon justified their views. When news of "the Vision" reached the branches of the church, it was not well received by all and seen by many as a major shift in theology towards Universalism.[42] An antagonistic newspaper wrote that with "the Vision" Joseph Smith had tried to "disgrace Universalism by professing ... the salvation of all men."[43][44]

The branch in Geneseo, New York was particularly apprehensive. Ezra Landon, a leader of the Geneseo branch who had convinced a number of others against the Vision, told visiting missionaries that "the vision was of the Devil & he believed it no more than he believed the devil was crucified ... & that he Br Landing would not have the vision taught in the church for $1000." Joseph Smith sent a letter to the branch making clear that disbelief in the Vision was an excommunicable offense, and after refusing to change his position Landon was excommunicated.[44][45]

Brigham Young said,

It was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it. ... My traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was directly contrary and opposed to my former education. I said, Wait a little. I did not reject it; but I could not understand it.[46][47]

Joseph Young, Brigham's brother, said, "I could not believe it at first. Why the Lord was going to save every body."[48][44]

"The Vision" was not published until five months after it was received, and after the first two years was rarely mentioned in the 1830s or early 1840s.[46] After the tepid reception of "the Vision", Joseph Smith gave instruction to missionaries to "remain silent" about it, until prospective converts had first believed the basic principles.[44][49]

See also


  1. ^ History of the Church 1:24–52.
  2. ^ "Gospel Topics – Kingdoms of Glory",, LDS Church
  3. ^ 1 Corinthians 15:40–41
  4. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) p. 309: "All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fulness of that glory"; see also p. 362, where Smith said that without temple ordinances "we cannot obtain celestial thrones."
  5. ^ D&C 137:5–9
  6. ^ D&C 137:10
  7. ^ D&C 76:62
  8. ^ D&C 130:11
  9. ^ D&C 130:10
  10. ^ D&C 131:2–4
  11. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) p. 348: "It will be a great while after you have [died] before you will have learned [all the principles of exaltation].
  12. ^ "Chapter 47: Exaltation", Gospel Principles, pp. 275–80.
  13. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) p. 181: "This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God, and crowned with celestial glory."
  14. ^ D&C 88:14–26
  15. ^ D&C 130:6–9
  16. ^ wikt:terrestrial
  17. ^ D&C 76:76
  18. ^ D&C 76:74
  19. ^ D&C 76:79
  20. ^ D&C 137:8–9
  21. ^ D&C 76:77
  22. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) p. 170: "Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order".
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ D&C 76:82
  27. ^ D&C 76:103; see also Revelation  22:15
  28. ^ D&C 76:84–106; "Chapter 46: The Final Judgment", Gospel Principles, p. 294.
  29. ^ D&C 88:100–101
  30. ^ D&C 76:112
  31. ^ D&C 76:86
  32. ^ D&C 76:89
  33. ^ D&C 76:98; see also 1 Corinthians 15:41
  34. ^ D&C 76:109–111; see also Bruce R. McConkie (1966). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) p. 778–79.
  35. ^ D&C 76:109
  36. ^ Bruce R. McConkie (1966). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) p. 778.
  37. ^ a b Quinn, D. M. (1998). Early Mormonism and the magic world view. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. e-Book location 15236 of 23423
  38. ^ a b Emanuel Swedenborg, "Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen". ISBN 0-87785-476-9 (2001 translation) and ISBN 0-85448-054-4 (1958 translation).
  39. ^ Meyers, Mary Ann. “Death in Swedenborgian and Mormon Eschatology.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 14, no. 1, 1981, pp. 58–64
  40. ^ Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), p. 198–99.
  41. ^ Hamblin, William J. "That Old Black Magic." FARMS Review 12.2 (2000): 225-394. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. 1 December 2009.
  42. ^ Brooke, J. L. (1996). The refiner's fire: The making of Mormon cosmology, 1644-1844. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. e-book location 1149, 1320, 2858 of 6221
  43. ^ "Changes of Mormonism," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, vol. 3, no. 11 (Mar. 17, 1832)
  44. ^ a b c d McBride, M. S., & Goldberg, J. (2016). Revelations in context: The stories behind the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants: Including insights from the Joseph Smith papers. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. chapter "The Vision"
  45. ^ "Letter to Church Leaders in Geneseo, New York, 23 November 1833," p. [2], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed August 24, 2020,
  46. ^ a b Casey Paul Griffiths, “Universalism and the Revelations of Joseph Smith,” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 168–87.
  47. ^ Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1874–86), 16:42.
  48. ^ Joseph Young, "Discourse," Deseret News (Mar. 18, 1857), 11.
  49. ^ "History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838]," p. 762, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed August 8, 2020,

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This page was last edited on 13 April 2021, at 02:51
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