The three degrees of glory is a central tenet in the LDS Church, and shapes many aspects of LDS doctrine. But how closely does the theology we are taught actually agree with the scriptures upon which it is supposedly based? This week we search the scriptures to understand what they actually say about the celestial and terrestrial categories of people. Prepare to have your traditions challenged by scripture.
2 Nephi 9:15-18
D&C 29:27-28, 43-45
3 Nephi 26:4-5
3 Nephi 27:14-19
3 Nephi 28:7-8, 36-40
Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46
1 Nephi 14:10
1 Nephi 22:24-26
D&C 76:15-17, 50-80, 94-95
D&C 88:4-5, 94-99
1 Thessalonians 4:16
D&C 45:8, 16, 45-47, 54-59
Revelation 20:4, 6
D&C 63:20-21, 49-54
You both mentioned at min 46 that man wasn’t predestined and that agency was given in the Garden of Eden. As soon as I heard this Alma 13 came to mind.
3And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
4And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
This scripture brings up two scenarios. Either we were predestined based on God’s Infinite foreknowledge or we had agency in heaven and proved worthy of the priesthood there.
I see a third scenario that, in my opinion, honors the text better. God used his foreknowledge to know who would exercise exceeding faith and good works while in mortality, and called them from the foundation of the world. Those people, who arrived on the earth with the same opportunities as others, chose not to harden their hearts while in mortality and thereby merited the blessing of the calling. Others, had they also chosen to exercise faith, would have also been pre-called according to the foreknowledge of God.
Notice in verse 5 the calling is prepared for those who “would” not harden their hearts, not those who “had” not hardened their hearts. Their good behavior is in the future, not the past. Before we came to the earth, God already knew how we would act when we would be here in the future. He didn’t choose our actions, he simply foresaw us using our agency in the future and knew beforehand who would use that agency wisely and who wouldn’t. Verse 10 reiterates that it was on account of faith, repentance, and righteousness that they were called. If we weren’t given our agency until the garden, and repentance wasn’t necessary until after the Fall, and you can’t have righteousness without sin, and sin wasn’t introduced until the Fall, we have three major objections to saying the good behavior happened in the pre-existence. Abraham 3:24-25 says that the earth was created so that man could be proved to see if they would do all that they were commanded. If we were able to be tested in the pre-existence, there was no need to create the earth and place us on it.
There is a difference between foreknowledge and predestination. God knows all things, including all scenarios that do NOT take place based on choices we make.
The verses in Alma 13 speak of a calling, I think it’s important that many are called but few are chosen. I believe verses 4-5 are right along these lines of the differences between being called and being chosen. I don’t see evidence this is due to any agency exercised by us in heaven. Rather, the calling – the holy priesthood – was part of the plan and has existed longer than we have.
Interestingly, if we go back in Alma 12:31
Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good—
It’s after partaking of the forbidden fruit, in having exercised the agency they were given in the Garden of Eden, that they then placed themselves in a state to act which is related to becoming as gods. This is further evidence that there are gods in the Council in Heaven who are free to act — they have agency. I find this passage quite interesting as it relates to the work of Dr. Heiser.
However, man was given agency in the Garden of Eden. Upon misuse of that agency we became just like those gods. I haven’t been able to find any scriptures that really supports the idea that we had to choose in Heaven, before the world was, whether to follow God or Satan. We didn’t have the ability to act until we had been given our agency.
Verse 5 says in the first place, it’s hard to read that as not being pre-mortal.
But putting that aside, let’s address the agency issue. Is Lucifer a god? I know section 76 says he was an angel with much authority who rebelled. How is the term angel being used here? I know this reference is from instruction given by JS in 1843, but he says that “There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones— (D&C 129:1).
That can’t be right, since Lucifer doesn’t have a body.
So just when did this rebellion happen? Who would be able to rise up in rebellion if there was no agency to use to rebel?
Is Lucifer not a spirit offspring of God? Is he something else if we, God’s offspring, didn’t have agency in heaven? What about the third host of heaven?
Just trying to wrap my head around the issue.
2 Nephi 32:9
I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Is Nephi referring to the pre-mortal existence here? I’m not aware of any scripture that links “the first place” to the pre-existence. Look at how “in the first place” is used in the rest of the scriptures, it’s consistently used to mean “to begin with” or “the most important reason”. What is the scriptural basis for linking “in the first place” to the pre-existence? And why only in Alma 13 and not the other places it is used?
Are you sure that Lucifer doesn’t have a body? Do you have a scriptural reference for that? Isaiah 14 / 2 Nephi 24 says that Lucifer (v. 12) will die but not be buried like other tyrants (v. 15-20). In Psalm 82 YHWH tells the unjust elohim on his council that “ye shall die like men”.
As Searcher said in the episode, a lot of times we don’t even know the basis for what we believe…we’ve just heard it enough times we assume it’s true and more forward based on those assumptions. It can be difficult to detect, process, and move past those false assumptions we have. And we all have them!
I agree we all have blind spots.
As for Lucifer not having a body, I refer to JS. Now this teaching comes from 1843 after his eyes were covered, so you may take issue with that…
“Lucifer when he fell… sought for things which were unlawful. Hence he was sent down, and it is said he drew many away with him; and the greatness of his punishment is that he shall not have a tabernacle. TPJS p. 297
Now just by itself, it could be argued that his punishment is that he would not have a tabernacle or be allowed to keep his if he indeed had a body in the resurrection because he would be banished to outer darkness and lose his body.
But JS clarifies this even more.
“The Devil’s Punishment
The spirits in the eternal world are like the spirits in this world. When those have come into this world and received tabernacles, then died and again have risen and received glorified bodies, they will have an ascendency over the spirits who have received no bodies, or kept not their first estate, like the devil. The punishment of the devil was that he should not have a habitation like men.” TPJS p. 305-306
And this final one.
“The devil steals a tabernacle because he has not one of his own” TPJS p. 298
Now these could have been misquoted or heard by the scribes in 1843 or JS eyes may have been covered. However, taking it at face value it seems to point to the fact that Lucifer is t going to get a body.
I was hoping for a response on Jospeh’s words about Lucifer not receiving a body. Maybe for another day or podcast topic.
I suspect that we all agree that Satan will not have a physical body in the after-life.
The question is whether Satan did have a body at one time.
The apparent discrepancy comes when reading some of the statements attributed to Joseph Smith on this topic.
Another issue IMO has to do with the interpretation of “first estate” and “second estate“.
I cannot speak for MD and Searcher on this since I did not participate in the podcast and don’t know the exact statement that you are referring to. But my opinion is that Satan did have a physical body (first estate) at one point in time but that he will not have the “fulness of joy” that comes from having his “spirit and element inseparably connected” for eternity. (D&C 93:33)
One of the quotes you provided which is attributed to Joseph Smith IMO is stating that Satan kept not his first estate (physical body)
Clearly there are differing ways that one can interpret the scriptures and the words of Joseph Smith. I believe that when all of the data is considered in scripture, the evidence shows that Satan did have a body at one time. Isaiah claims that Satan will be or was cast out of his grave. How is that possible if he never had a body?
Two articles that address some of these issues are as follows:
These are both fascinating reads. It was good to read them again.
It brings up a good question that I really don’t know much about.
What happens to the rebellious spirits when they die? Do they go to spirit prison, outer darkness, or are they free to roam and torment others?
If Satan has a body and died, is he still running the show from the inside, meaning from spirit prison or does he have freedom to roam the earth as in Job?
It’s a triviality, but shouldn’t your description for this episode employ the word “tenet” rather than “tenant”? Lol.
Concerning “the testimony of Jesus”, perhaps most people don’t really understand the true meaning of this phrase, because they don’t seek, or knock, or ask, of God. I agree with the following quote: “the testimony of Jesus is His testimony, not our testimony of Him. To receive the Testimony of Christ is to hear from His voice “This day you are my son.” It is His solemn declaration or affirmation…. In this case the fact declared before the Father is that you are spiritually begotten of Jesus and are His child….sealed to Him……He becomes your Eternal Father and you become His son, adopted and sealed to Him by His word. Thus your salvation is made sure by the Holy Spirit of Promise (His promise).”
This quote is from http://www.chronicleofnations.com/The-Testimony-of-Jesus.html . Also see Moroni 7:33-39. God is the one who saves, shows incredible mercy and amazing grace, takes away all our sins & flaws, and in their place covers his children with the robes of His own righteousness, and imparts into us particles of his Holy Spirit bit by bit, which Spirit IS and contains all virtues and knowledge and perfections, light & truth, being full of his grace and power. It is his mind & heart, which he will share with us.
The scriptures contain so many examples and patterns. Many persons have become born again, born of God, begotten of him, thus becoming new “creatures” (creations). Mosiah 27:25-26; Alma 7:14-16; Moses 6:58-61; John 3:3-7. Enos is one who followed this pattern. Joseph Smith is another. Abraham. Moses. Elijah. Isaiah. Paul. King Lamoni. Lehi. Nephi. Alma the Younger. Ammon. Many holy women as well, who regrettably are almost entirely ignored in the scriptures even though to be fair they should be spoken about and portrayed as patterns equally as often as men. Idk why they aren’t. But perhaps it’s actually a blessing in disguise because it’s thereby easier for women not to become puffed up in pride egotism self-righteousness & self-justification here in mortality. Apparently women must become “sons” of God too, and eventually must become exactly like Christ since he is the sole blueprint/prototype of a saved being (Lectures on Faith 7:9). At any rate, we can’t be a Zion society until we are all equal, and become literally of one mind & one heart in God, through his Spirit: black & white, bond & free, women & men, etc. I don’t think God is sexist or racist or ageist or classist; it is men who are such and who need to repent of this egotism if they look down on or despise women, people of color, older people, poor people, homeless & ragged & dirty people, uneducated people, etc. None of us should suppose that we are better than anyone else, because we’re not. There is NONE good but one, that is God. We are all equally fallen, equally nothing, until we are redeemed of God. Jesus told all his followers, “be one, or ye are not mine.” Those who are brought in to his Church of the Firstborn will definitely have to become “one” with each other as well as with God, in perfect harmony and unity.
God is the same yesterday today and forever, therefore today just as in times of old, he himself can & will pour out the gift of the Holy “Ghost” (the baptism of fire, the endowment of power from on high, and later the Holy Spirit of Promise, which is the testimony of Jesus) upon the heads of whomever he chooses: all those who truly come down in the depths of humility, exercising faith in Jesus Christ the Only Begotten of the Father, by seeking him & seeking to follow him sincerely with all their heart, might, mind, & strength of being, repenting & casting off all their sins & frivolity, surrendering (sacrificing) everything they have & are, or suppose that they are, even their false ego-selves they have invented here in mortality, …and pouring out their heart & soul (crying out to God) in mighty prayer, acknowledging their own nothingness, and being baptized (in two parts, by water & then by Spirit/fire), and thereby dying and being spiritually reborn, and then continuing in prayer always, listening for his voice continually, and holding onto THAT iron rod by hearing & following (acting in accordance with) that voice. God’s words are Spirit (=his voice=living waters), & they flow from God himself, and are certainly not limited to his words that have been written down in the scriptures. He is the vine & we are the branches if we seek & obtain that direct connection & conduit to hear him always and follow the voice of that inner light (his Spirit) day by day and moment by moment, in all our interactions with our fellow beings: doing what Jesus would do, saying what Jesus would say, etc. In this way even people who are illiterate and/or unable to read & search the written scriptures may still learn, hearken, and follow his words/voice/will, & bear good fruit, by following the pattern as explained in the Lectures on Faith. In & through the Only Begotten of the Father, we in turn can be literally begotten of him and by him (the Son, Jesus Christ) when, after complying with his commandments (the simple doctrine of Christ), his Spirit comes & penetrates us, into every fiber of our being both body & spirit, when he sends it. His Holy Spirit is & contains & endows pure love, pure light, pure truth, all knowledge, every good thing & every good gift & every virtue, the mind and voice and word of God into our mind & heart, as his Spirit radiates out continually from his own eternal presence. If we deny that God himself has the power to personally save (give the gift of the Holy “Ghost”) to whomever he will at any time, in any place, aren’t we saying that today God has ceased to be a God of miracles, and has given his power unto men (2 Nephi 28:5-6), if we say that he only gives the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands of men? Surely this is false.
Joseph Smith said this (Lectures on Faith 6:11): “All the saints of whom we have account, in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight through the sacrifice which they offered unto him; and through the knowledge thus obtained their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life (for themselves, directly from God).
Thank you for sharing this is very insightful.
We’re taught in the LDS church that being born again is a gradual, almost imperceptible experience. Many times 3 Ne. 9:20 is used to explain the experience by stating that “because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”
From your quote it would seem that being born again isn’t a process, but a one time event.
I’m not sure that those who are caught up are actually resurrected to a celestial body at that time. I believe the first death is conquered and all men arise from the dead. At that point we are all immortal. There is a second time when the second death is conquered and those who are celestial are judged as such.
It may just be semantics, but I don’t view it as multiple judgments. I think there is one real judgment. The rest are what I would call decision points. It is when the first trump sounds that those who are to be caught up rise from their graves. I think the decision point is who hears or recognizes the sound of the trump. We might call that a type of judgment, but I like to use a different word to help me differentiate.
To consider it a judgment and getting a celestial body at that time, seems to contradict other scriptures:
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For I live, saith the Lord, as it is written: And every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall swear to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
2 Nephi 9:
22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.
3 Nephi 28:
31 Therefore, great and marvelous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day when all people must surely stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;
The way I see it, is that we are raised from the dead at different times, but all of us will eventually be raised from the mortal body to an immortal body. At the last day, all of us stand before the judgment-seat of Christ and are given the final judgment. The immortal bodies are then changed to their appropriate glorified state.
6 And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.
The resurrection happens to bring us before the judgment-seat. It seems odd to me that people would already be raised to the glorified body and then stand before the judgment-seat.
I also think that there is a difference between the mortal body raised to immortality and a celestial body. I would love for you guys to do a podcast on becoming one flesh and the difference between Adam’s original creation in the image of the Only Begotten and then having his rib removed to form Eve, but I digress.
As far as my question, I didn’t see in the scriptures you used anything that clearly indicated those who are caught up in the cloud would already have their glorified celestial body. It is clear to me who those are – those of the celestial kingdom – but it isn’t clear to me when they would have celestial bodies. I think it’s plausible that they are caught up in the cloud in immortal bodies, but are still awaiting the last day of judgment to stand before Christ and receive their final reward. What do you think, are there scriptures I’m missing that better clarify it?
This is something I was pondering yesterday during my drive home from Utah. The first problem, as you stated, is vocabulary. We’ve been conditioned through repetition to use certain words, even when they aren’t the best choice (resurrection, exaltation, perfection, etc.). When I get some time, I’m going to see if I can create a more consistent framework for the vocabulary around resurrection/restoration/quickening.
Judgment is one of those challenging words. Alma 40:11-13 describes some sort of preliminary judgment – immediately upon death we are taken home to God and then assigned to paradise or outer darkness. Someone makes a decision on who goes where. It would probably help us to have a unique term to describe that decision while keeping it separate from the final judgment.
During the drive, I also realized that even though those who are caught up to meet Christ are quickened by a celestial glory, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the final state of resurrection. That final “upgrade” does seem to happen at the last day. Which also opens the door for those who have attained a celestial status to fail to endure to the end (the last day) and defect back to Satan (D&C 76:31-33).
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have it all figured out yet. That’s why it’s nice to have others weigh in with their perspectives.
And to solidify in my mind that you may be absolutely correct in this line of thought:
Doctrine and Covenants 88:28-32
28 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.
29 Ye who are quickened by a PORTION of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a FULNESS.
30 And they who are quickened by a PORTION of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a FULNESS.
31 And also they who are quickened by a PORTION of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a FULNESS.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
…OR am I interpreting these scriptures incorrectly???
Secret combinations, Masionic handshakes, Masionic brotherhood,= Money, World Power, Controlling the Masses, & Indoctrination. These tokens are only supposed to be shared in the temple, right? Why do they do it with World leaders? Free Masons are a Secret Society. As Mormons we do secret handshakes, secret oaths. Everything we have for symbolic purposes is Masionic! The Compass, The Square, the All Seeing Eye, ect. Christ’s ministry didn’t didn’t teach these symbols. Neither did his Apostles wear these on their garments. Think about the blood oath & changing the temple endowment 6 times. If these things were made for salvation why would God change them? Makes me think the day after Joseph became a 33 degree Mason, he taught this. We’ve added & added to God laws. God himself said do not add or take away. Why does the Church? Christ thru His ministry taught us all we needed. Baptism, Repentance, 10 Commandments, & Doing good to our fellow man. He gave us free will. He came for the poor and wicked. Those who believed in him were saved. Why do I have to put myself thru all the extra covenants & secret rituals for Salvation. If I ask questions I’m outcast & immediately discounted or worse labeled as an apostate! Of course nobody is going to answer my questions. The truth & the reality of history is eye opening. They are afraid for us to look at it. Nobody can clarify why polygamy! It’s an abomination to God. Yet it’s still okay for men to be sealed to multiple women in the temple. What if everything I’ve been taught was indoctrination & precepts of men. Obey or be disfellowshiped. Christ forgave sin. He didn’t shame for months or a year. ” Go & sin no more ” . We are 150 Billion dollar corporation. 33 degree Masons are in covenant for power weath & to control the masses. 7th day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness & a few other main steam religions were all started about the same time & every leader was a 33 degree Mason. Read Isaiah, it’s about all the corrupt churches!
-You’ve answered all these questions in most your podcasts. I love you guys. These are some of my personal thoughts I’ve had for years & years. I feel so free now & the dots connect spiritually now…. Thank you for all you guys do. Truly amazing work! Plus you guys are hilarious, your humor kills me !!!!