Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where Do We Go When We Die? - The Three Degrees of Glory

This is one of my favorite topics in the gospel. What happens after we die?

Our Father in Heaven loves us all and through his Son Jesus Christ and the atonement, we are able to repent of our sins and perfect ourselves through him. The path is laid out before us so that we can follow it and return to live with our Father in Heaven. Through living righteously on earth, utilizing
the atonement daily, and receiving specific ordinances and making sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven, we can live with Him again.

In John 14:2 Jesus says, "In my Father’s house there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." When we die we enter the spirit world. The spirit world is divided into two conditions: paradise and prison (often referred to as heaven or hell). These are temporary dwelling places for spirits until the resurrection and judgement day.

- includes the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality.

son - a place in the post-mortal spirit world for those who have "died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets". This is a temporary state in which spirits will be taught the Gospel and have the opportunity to repent and accept ordinances of salvation that are performed for them in temples.Those who accept the Gospel may dwell in paradise until the Resurrection. Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory. Spirit prison is both a place and the state of the soul between death and the resurrection, for people who have either not yet received knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or those who have been taught but have rejected it.

It is a temporary state within the spirit world. Those who rejected the gospel after it was preached to them may suffer in a condition known as hell. The suffering associated with the spirit prison refers to anguish of soul because of acute knowledge of one's own sins and unclean state. This is considered to be a condition of great torment, where there will be "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth"

In Peter 3:19 we learn that after Jesus died,... he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Our loving Heavenly Father in His infinite wisdom, created a plan for us so that we could live with Him in eternity. Not everyone will follow His plan but those who do will be able to dwell with Him on high. Because our Heavenly Father is of a perfect glory, we could not last in His presence without being of that same glory ourselves. The intensity of that brightness would destroy us. Therefore God made it possible that we could obtain that same glory and forever live in His presence.

Because God loves us, all of His children are given the chance to learn about His plan (whether in this life or the next) and choose to accept it or not. Those who do accept and commit to righteousness and obedience, heavenly laws, ordinances and covenants will be permitted to enter God's presence and live with Him for eternity. Those who do not, will be unable to dwell in the presence of God, but will still receive a degree of glory. It would make sense that someone who denied God's teachings on earth would not receive the glory of God and live with Him, nor would they feel comfortable being in His presence. It would also make sense that this person would NOT be cast out into outer darkness or hell to forever live with the devil and his torment. We know that hell is a place for the devil, his angels and just a handful of souls who received a witness of Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost and then denied it. So what then is to become of those who did not commit the unpardonable sin, yet did not agree to follow or accept God's plan and gospel?

The answer is found in in
Revelation 22:10-11 when John says,

10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand (final judgment).
11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still (telestial kingdom): and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still (outer darkness): and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still (terrestrial kingdom): and he that is holy, let him be holy still (celestial kingdom).

We know that there are three degrees of glory also known as the three kingdoms of glory. The highest kingdom being the Celestial Kingdom, the place where God dwells.

2 Corinthians 2:12 Paul says,

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. Again in 2 Corinthians 15:40-41 he describes these three glories or kingdoms,

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestial is another.

41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

There is a place prepared for the filthy, the unjust, the righteous and the holy. They are:

The Celestial Kingdom (The brightness of the sun) 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 during their mortal lives. It will also be the residence of those individuals that accepted and received the ordinances and covenants in the post-mortal spirit world. All children who die before the age of eight automatically inherit the celestial kingdom. The celestial kingdom will also be the permanent residence of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Those who obtain the highest glory of this kingdom become like their Father, receive His glory and can obtain all that He has.

Terrestial Kingdom (The brightness of moon)

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. It also includes persons who rejected the "testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it" in the spirit world and those who "are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" after having received it

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".

Those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom "receive of the presence of the Son, but not the fullness of the Father."

Telestial Kingdom (Glory of the stars)

Individuals in the telestial kingdom will be servants of God, but "where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end"; however, they will receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost and beings from the terrestrial kingdom. Despite these limitations, being resident in the telestial kingdom is not an unpleasant experience: "the glory of the telestial ... surpasses all understanding".

We know from latter day revelation that the majority of man from the time of Adam until now will dwell here. I have read several accounts from NDE books that in the spirit world, the light that emulates from your clothing and spirit is a reflection of the good works you performed while on earth. Some spirits shine brighter than others. I believe the same will be after judgement day. Within the different kingdoms there will be some spirits who shine brighter than others within their same kingdom. This reflects different levels of glory within those kingdoms. At the final judgment, all except the devil, his angels, and those who become sons of perdition during mortal life will be assigned to one of the three kingdoms of glory. Because of our free agency we can choose whether or not to follow God's plan of happiness and accept a testimony of Jesus Christ. Finally, I believe that once we enter the spirit world - our memory of our pre-existence (or life with our Father in Heaven before we came to earth) is restored. We remember Him and His love. We remember promises we made to Him about things we would do to make it back to Him. It is then one will feel great suffering knowing that they rejected His plan and teaching of the gospel while on the earth. Realizing that they will not be permitted to live in His presence for all eternity is the greatest suffering of all. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ felt our pains and suffering so that we don't have to. All we have to do is repent and utilize his atonement and we can avoid that pain and suffering on judgement day. Christ himself said, "For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;" Doctrine and Covenants 19:16

Those who don't repent will have to suffer for their own sins. To live without God would be the greatest suffering of all.

I testify that this is true. To be called unto repentance is an invitation of love. The Savior himself invited all to come unto him and be clean. He wants us to come unto him and forsake our sins. He suffered so that if you choose, you don't have to. It is all up to you. The pathway that leads back to God is narrow and straight. The pathway that leads to hell is broad and windy. It isn't easy to live the celestial law while on this earth, but it is worth it. It also is very unpopular to do so. It is much easier to live by your own ideas, principles and philosophies as they are made to be convenient and justify your actions. The world will accept you if you do. After this life, what made people "popular" will bring them pain and anguish, what made people unpopular will bring them great joy and happiness. We have to keep our lives in eternal perspective. When we do, the things of this world do not matter and are not appealing. Our hearts our centered on our eternal rewards, which blesses us greatly in our day to day lives. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.

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