I know that I’ve promised to do a post on predestination and the vessels of wrath in Romans 9, a post that will be at least two entries since we need to discuss how Mormons misunderstand Paul’s predestination first before we talk about important pots, but I was reading in D&C 76 today in church when I was struck again with strangeness of the description of the Terrestrial glory.
Please note that this post is listed under speculation. This is largely because I find that when I compare a close reading of the text with the understanding that I’ve garnered growing up in the church I get some mixed results and I’ve drawn a few conclusions that may not be familiar or even sit well (hopefully not) with some Saints. No faith was destroyed and no testimonies were lost in the creation of this post.
The term terrestrial is found in three pericopes. First in 1 Cor. 15: 40-42 (including the JST); second in D&C 76:71-80, 91, 97; and finally in D&C 88:21-24, 30. The bulk of our understanding of this glory, and the part that I will focus on, is found in section 76. For convenience I am going to give you the relevant verses in a block quote.
71 And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament. 72 Behold, these are they who died without law; 73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh; 74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. 75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men. 76 These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness. 77 These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father. 78 Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun. 79 These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God. 80 And now this is the end of the vision which we saw of the terrestrial, that the Lord commanded us to write while we were yet in the Spirit.
Hopefully I did that right. Now, let’s get down to business. Terrestrial folk are introduced as people not as good as Celestial folk, their glory is not as good as the Celestial glory, it’s like the glory of the moon, blah blah blah blah. We know this and I’m not going to contest it. Verse 72 is where things get interesting. Here we begin with an extended description of those who qualify for a Terrestrial glory starting with ” those who died without law.” No problem here, yet. Verse 73 continues, in the same sentence, with the phrase “and also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the Gospel unto them.” It’s quite probable that our friends in prison here are one and the same with those referred to in 1 Peter 3:19-20; 4:6. (Sorry, no tag, I haven’t learned how to do that yet) But wait, the first guys mentioned, the ones who died without law, are they the same people or a different group? Must be a different group right? After all, Noah had 120 years to preach before the flood so they could hardly be considered as having “died without law,” right? Probably, but not necessarily. It’s true that 1 Peter 3:20 says the spirits in prison were at one time disobedient but I doubt that Noah got to everyone, even with 120 years to do it, so it’s possible that some people died in the flood without having had the law. Here is the introduction to the problem: are the descriptions given in section 76 mutually exclusive or do people have to fit all of them? Can they even fit all of them? I don’t think that they can. I believe that these are descriptions of different groups of people who will qualify for the Terrestrial reward. And yes I’m sure that some people may fit into more than one at a time.
Here I have to insert the thought that really got me thinking about these verses and my understanding of them. Without this thought, I would probably have brushed over everything and never paid any attention to these verses. The thought was this: “Wait a minute. Don’t we believe that the souls visited by Christ in the spirit prison are capable of repenting and receiving a Celestial glory?”
Hmmm. Now I have to evaluate more closely what I really know about the topic. I always thought that they could become Celestial, just like anyone who died without the Gospel (a.k.a. “died without law”). The two groups are put together in the very same sentence! I’m sure that those who died without having ever heard the Gospel (again, “without law”) could definitely receive a Celestial glory. Am I misunderstanding the meaning of “without law”? It can’t mean the Mosaic Law, it wasn’t even given by then and everyone who died in the Flood died without it including Noah. So why aren’t these souls able (apparently) to receive Celestial bliss?
Let’s persevere. As we continue through the pericope we see that nearly every verse contains what could be descriptions of different groups of Terrestrial qualifiers: those receiving the testimony of Jesus in death after they rejected it in life (vs. 74), honorable people blinded by craftiness (vs. 75), those who receive not the Father but do receive the Son (questionable, vs. 77), and those not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus (i.e. didn’t endure to the end, vs. 79). So we have five, maybe six, descriptions of people who will be awarded Terrestrial glory. And they seem to continue in the pattern I noticed in verses 72 and 73: those I expected to have a chance to receive Celestial salvation (the blinded guys), those I expected to end up where they are (didn’t endure in their testimonies), and those that could go either way (don’t accept in life, do accept in death). Ummm, what gives?
The Terrestrial glory receives the shortest description of the four groups mentioned in section 76 (Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial, Outer Darkness). The other three seem fairly straightforward (I will generalize for the sake of length). For Celestial, you make and keep all of the covenants the Lord requires and endure to the end. The Telestial guys are generally bad folk who know God (by this point) and don’t deny what the Spirit tells them he is and bow the knee to Christ but are unwilling to live a holy life and make and keep covenants. OD peoples, knowing exactly who God is, tell God where to go and how to get there (the irony being they end up there themselves). But these Terrestrial ladies and gents are strange. They’re sorta good, sorta bad, basically luke-warm. So they get spewed, whatever that means.
So now to another preconceived notion from my upbringing: Once you’re in a kingdom, you can’t go anywhere, up or down. But then I got to thinking, who said this? It isn’t in the scriptures that I can find. I have failed to locate a prophet or apostle who said so (maybe you all can help me here). It’s just what I was brought up to believe. So why can’t people move? Have they really discovered their true selves and are unwilling to change anymore, either to improve or to regress? Is their agency limited in some way that they can’t improve? Has God forever set their bounds so that they can no longer pass them regardless of what they do? Is there any scriptural support for any of this? Will I ever stop asking rhetorical questions?
The rest of the verses concerned with things Terrestrial deal largely with law and glory. The JST of 1 Corinthians is of no help on this subject. So also the rest of Section 76. D&C 88:22-23 says that Terrestrial guys can’t abide a Celestial law but are able to live a law higher than Telestial guys. Not really a big help. They are the ultimate inbetweeners. So what is the deal with them? In wrestling with this mystery I’ve had several thoughts. I’ll share with you the one I’m currently favoring right now.
I believe that the Terrestrial glory is a way point in the path of eternal rounding. I don’t believe that anyone’s agency is ever taken away and I doubt that God would limit a person’s progression to wherever it is that they want to be. I don’t think the statute of limitations applies to the atonement of Christ and I suspect that whenever a person wishes to access it, either in this life or the next, the door is open. (This is contra Alma 34:32-35 where this life is the life to prepare to meet God. But I also think that things aren’t as cut and dry as Alma and Amulek are painting it for their new converts/reactivated backsliders. You can disagree with me here of course.) I think that souls who find themselves in Terrestrial glory are really just figuring out still who they want to be. I think that people are probably migrating north and south from the Terrestrial places all the time. I have a friend who once suggested that this is why the glory of this place is compared to the moon. Besides being between sun and stars, the light of the moon waxes and wanes, possibly like the faith of the people who are there. I took it to the next level and said perhaps the waxing and waning is symbolic of the number of people in these worlds. There is the influx of newly resurrected souls judged as worthy of this kingdom coming in and the outgoing of souls choosing to aspire to higher or to descend to lower. My observation of human nature leads me to believe that ultimately most people will eventually suck it up and claim the awaiting glory they can have in the Celestial Kingdom or lapse into passivity and descend into the Telestial. And, of course, I think that there are people who are truly flakey and luke-warm at their core and will spend an eternity in Terrestrialness, but I suspect these people are few.
This probably blatantly goes against some widely held ideas. Let me say that I have not made my bed here, so to speak. I’m willing to revise my views based on further evidence. I just thought that I’d point out that the description of Terrestrial people is a little unusual and probably deserves a closer look. Feel free now to throw your proverbial rotten tomatoes and legumes.
35 Replies to “Middle Ground or No-man’s Land?”
Sorry about there not being a cut. I tried to make one but I guess I got it wrong. Mogget, if you can fix that it would be great. Or just tell me how to do it right, that would be better.
Ha! Nevermind, I figured it out.
There were folks like Talmage who espoused graduation between kingdoms. Mostly though, I think that the confusion about those who died without the law may be the result of the date at which the revelation was given (Early 1832). I think the confusion you mention is what surprised Joseph when he got the vision of his brother in 1836. He “marveled” because Alvan “had not been baptized for the remission of sins.”
It is not until there that we get that the good that died without the law would be judged as if they had received it…then you have all the Nauvoo expansions, which don’t particularly fit into section 76 either. I think it is a mistake to expect that they would (poetic paraphrase not withstanding).
LXX, here’s something to chew on for you: ever notice that the text of D&C 76 never indicates that the terrestrial folks’ state of existence in that glory is eternal or timeless, but the others it does mention that? There’s a reason for this, methinks.
I agree with what J. Stapley said about it being due to the early date of the Vision. Going all the way back to the BofM, you can find a blanket waiver for those who “die without law” expressed in Jacob (2 Ne 9), King Benjamin, and Abinadi. Those prophets did not have salvation for the dead revealed to them so the real answer (those who die without law get to hear the gospel and judge it for themselves) could not be given. In lieu of that doctrine, they were just told that those without law would be covered by the atonement, which is far better than telling them they all go to hell (the only two options BofM prophets were aware of were heaven and hell).
In early 1832 the doctrine of salvation for the dead was not yet revealed to Joseph Smith, so a similar waiver was granted to those who died without law. Except, now that the heaven/hell dichotomy was being extended to have three degrees of glory in heaven, there was the question of which degree they would go to. The obvious choice is the middle one (again, it’s just a place holder). They don’t belong with the righteous celestials or the wicked telestials, so the default is to say they go to the terrestrial. Later, when the real doctrine of salvation to the dead was revealed, Joseph found out that they don’t actually all go to the terrestrial kingdom. As J. mentioned, Joseph was surprised to learn this (D&C 137:6).
By the way, I don’t really buy into the whole waxing and waning idea you expressed, but at some time in the past I downloaded Lisle G. Brown’s compilation of quotes about this topic (no longer online), and one that might interest you is:
Franklin D. Richards, “Words of the Prophets,” pg. 24, Church Historians Office. (This is a small booklet kept by Brother Richards of the statements made by Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith.):
“Hiram [Smith] said Aug 1st. Those of the Terrestrial Glory either advance to the Celestial or reced to the Teletial or else the moon would not be a type, [because] it ‘waxes and wanes.’”
Interesting posts and comments. I was especially intrigued by the quote that Jacob provided. The idea that we cannot move between kingdoms was championed by Elder McConkie. I believe he listed a belief in this notion as one of “7 Deadly Heresies.”
I tend to agree with E. McConkie on this. I believe that we will be permanently resurrected with a body that matches our kingdom of glory.
If we can progress between two kingdoms, it tells us one of two things. (1) The resurrections isn’t actually permanent or (2) a resurrected body can withstand any of the degrees of glory. There seems to be explicit repudiation of both concepts in the scriptures.
Jacob – Thanks for the quote. I wondered if the whole idea could could be one explained by not enough info at the time. I am curious as to how you think Joseph would have understood the purpose of the Terrestrial kingdom or at least who would qualify for it since we still teach today that it exists and people will go there.
BR – I’d actually wondered in church whether McConkie had said something about it in “7 Deadly Heresies” but forgot to check it out before I posted. However, I’m not sure that I follow either of your reasonings. Moving up and down between kingdoms doesn’t necessarily mean being unresurrected and reresurrected. And I’m pretty sure that a resurrected body can withstand any glory for at least a short period of time. After all, everyone has to enter the presence of God long enough for a final judgement. I always understood verses about Terrestrial and Telestial souls not being able to withstand Celestial glory as referring to their consciences not physicalities.
“Hiram [Smith] said Aug 1st. Those of the Terrestrial Glory either advance to the Celestial or reced to the Teletial or else the moon would not be a type, [because] it ‘waxes and wanes.’”
And eventually the sun will burn out. Hee hee.
Aye yi yi. That was a good question on the back channel:
What do we need all these kingdoms for? I don’t feel any need for them, but apparently JS did.
Why did he feel a need for them?
I get the impression that JS was for the salvation of all who would not become sons of perdition. Kingdoms of varying glories can be used to demonstrate how Christ will save everyone to some extent. It’s more merciful than saying everyone goes to heaven or hell. Joseph clearly had a soft spot for those who died without a chance for salvation (i.e. his concern for Alvin, his concern for children who die young, eventual baptism for the dead). He wanted everyone to be saved. Who says God doesn’t feel the same way?
Obviously there is no end to the controversies surrounding the kindgoms of glory, their purpose and meaning. Several cans of worms have already been partially opened, but I’ll avoid the temptation to rip the lids completely off.
It is hard to get inside Joseph’s head to find out how he understood the kindgoms, but as has been mentioned, he was surprised to learn Alvin could go to the celestial kingdom. That suggests to me that he did the normal thing of learning line upon line; he probably understood the Terrestrial kingdom as a final stopping place for the people described by the Vision as ending up that kingdom.
Stepping back and looking at the way God has slowly expanded our understanding of salvation we can get a good perspective from which to consider this issue. To begin, we notice that the BofM prophets only knew about heaven/hell. This is the same thing Joseph would have believed when he translated the BofM.
In D&C 19 (1830) Joseph found out that hell doesn’t last forever, but people can actually escape hell.
In D&C 76 (1832) he got a whole bunch of new details and ideas. Those people who escape hell are described as going to the telestial kingdom. The heaven/hell dichotomy was rejected in favor of graduated levels of salvation to account for different degrees of knowledge and righteousness. The thing that led to D&C 76 was Joseph’s question about how heavenly reward could be portioned out according to the deeds done on earth if everyone got the same thing.
In D&C 137 (1836) Joseph learned that people who died without the gospel and had not been baptized (like Alvin) had a shot at the celestial kindgom.
By D&C 128 (1842) Joseph had come to understand the doctrine of vicarious batism for the dead. This is a crucial extention of the previous ideas because it explains how all these issues are actually resolved (see D&C 128:5). This doctrine is intimately tied with the idea that the dead are taught in the spirit world and get a chance to accept/reject it in the same way living people do.
In D&C 131 (1843) Joseph taught that the celestial kingdom is again divided into three degrees, with only those in the highest being married and having an increase.
As you can see from this very rough sketch, it came a piece at a time and each piece opened the window a bit more. Brigham Young and others took it a step further and taught that instead of these few degrees of glory, there is actually an infinite gradation of glory. That makes a lot of sense to me. We started with one hard line between heaven/hell. Then we learned you can jump over that line. Then we learned there were actually four dark lines hell/telestial/terrestrial/celestial. Then 6 dark lines hell/telestial/terrestrial/cel/est/ial. The obvious extention, supported by a bunch of other scriptures and concepts, is that there are actually no dark lines. There is a full spectrum of infinite gradation and the point of existence is to continue growing and progressing from a lesser to a greater glory. As B.H. Roberts said:
Bradley thinks this offends the doctrine of resurrection in D&C 88, but even our current crappy body can be transfigured without dying to enter God’s presence or to live for eons (e.g. three nephites). How much more can be done to a resurrected body? My answer: plenty.
Mogs wonders what the point of all these kingdoms is; the analysis above suggests to me that it is about God’s ongoing mission to seek out new life forms and to turn them into celesial civilizations. Not everyone will be at the same stage of progression, which means there will be different degrees, because degrees of glory are actually tied to people. (D&C 88 makes this clear, and even D&C 76 says there is a lot of variation in the telestial kingdom from person to person.)
Thus, the descriptions of the different groups in D&C 76 are a schematic representation of heaven intended expand the 1830 concept of heaven/hell and paint a picture for us of graded salvation based on our actions. I don’t buy into the “7 Deadly Heresies” argument in the least.
I have to admit I have sometimes mused if the 7 Deadly Heresies were actually BRM’s 7 Heresies..
So now…here is another question:
If revelation comes line up line (yes, the original use in Isaiah is sarcastic), then what does it mean when it essentially “drys up?”
Does is mean there are no more lines?
There are periods of great innovation and productivity in scripture and periods of relative stagnation. But what makes my fur stand up with this business of final judgment / semi-final judgement / not-final judgement / no apparent judgment at all is this:
Why is such an important bit of soteriology left so vague?
If I were applying NT methods to the current debate and I was in a lenient moode, I’d conclude that the situation was ambiguous. On most days, however, I’d just stack arms.
I can’t tell, are you saying you are frustrated by doctrine coming a piece at a time and being vague, or are you saying you don’t believe that doctrine actually comes a piece at a time and remains vague after being revealed? Also, what kind of arms are you stacking? (sorry, I’m slow)
Also, I wouldn’t characterize the progression as ending with “no apparent judgment.” The point of having graded judgment is that it allows for a judgment which perfectly applies to you rather than a judgment like heaven/hell which has no hope of being fair.
And yes, I should know better than to use the phrase “line upon line” here knowing what it could lead to. Thanks for heading that off at the pass.
Jacob – Interesting development scenario. If I’m following you correctly you think that the three degrees of Celestial glory in D&C 131 are a replacement for the three degrees in D&C 76 due to increased knowledge on the issue. And further, you think that Brigham Young and others took it to the ultimate and said there are an infinite number of degrees. Am I getting this right? An interesting idea, very tempting to be sure. Why then do you suppose that Joseph never explicitly stated this and that the Church has received the further advances on this idea without getting rid of the previous now-defunct ideas? Wouldn’t it be more sensible for us to stay just with the most recent knowledge and relegate the old stuff to the “historical developments” file? Mind you, I guess we stink at that in lots of areas, don’t we?
Mogget – C’mon Mogs. Do it. For me. I was hoping all along that you’d chime in with some real text criticism sometime. So stack them arms I say! But that’s a good question about ambiguity. I’ve often felt that many seemingly critical doctrines are frustratingly ambiguous in the church. Occassionally I’ve been tempted to throw my hands up into the air and say that all that really matters is you accept Jesus and be as good a person as you can be, whatever that is. It also has given me insight into those who seem to find and then cling to non-LDS scholarship of the NT. It’s a lot more precise and stable than LDS theology is. Or at least it can be. Seems like we Saints are way overdue for the sort of systematizing that the rest of Christianity has been doing for centuries. On the other hand though, maybe that’s not such a good (or fun) idea after all. And as for no more lines, what’s wrong with that? There has to be a limit to knowledge somewhere, doesn’t there? BRM thinks that the idea that God keeps inventing new things to learn is one of the “7 Deadly Heresies”. Ha! How’s that for coming full circle? Although I agree with him here.
If I’m following you correctly you think that the three degrees of Celestial glory in D&C 131 are a replacement for the three degrees in D&C 76 due to increased knowledge on the issue.
Not quite. I think the three degrees of the celestial glory in 131 are in addition to the other degrees. I think that is also the conventional view of those verses. I tried to represent that by drawing it as “telestial/terrestrial/cel/est/ial,” by which I meant to convey 5 degrees of glory (1 tel, 1 terr, 3 cel). How many times does God need to tell us there are more degrees before we stop being shocked by it?
And further, you think that Brigham Young and others took it to the ultimate and said there are an infinite number of degrees.
Why then do you suppose that Joseph never explicitly stated this and that the Church has received the further advances on this idea without getting rid of the previous now-defunct ideas?
Oh, I don’t know. Why didn’t Joseph Smith say a lot of things? Why didn’t more conteporaries of Joseph Smith ask him the details of how the translation process went? It seems he didn’t get time to say all he knew, so I don’t generally through ideas out simply because he never said them directly.
As to why we don’t teach my version in the church, it seems to be because the JFS/BRM wing of Mormon theology has generally won out over the BH Roberts wing. There is a big divide over this issue with General Authorities coming down on both sides. Some of those general authorites wrote books that were more popular than others. 🙂
“though out” — I am smart.
You are a brave man Jacob. A very brave man. Bless you for being so bold.
To stack arms is a way to refuse to engage the issue:
I’m about to muse out loud…so get the salt handy and let’s stay reasonably playful!
To say that revelation comes “line upon line” seems not a very good description and even less a good theology of revelation. I know, I know, everybody uses it, though. It’s an obligatory gripe on my part.
We have a bit of a saying in NT exegetical circles: what was implicit in the first generation of scripture becomes explicit in the following. IOW, there is diachronic progression. It is not, however,uniform. Some items are drawn out, others are not. The divinity of Jesus makes real progress across the Gospels. His status as son of David is dead except in Matthew.
So why do some things get a second edition and others not? This seems very like redaction criticism. Why did Luke just copy that bit, but change this bit? Is it God driving the redaction or are we?
If post-mortal progression was subverted by the BRM/JFS school of thought, why shouldn’t I accept that subversion as an indication of divine intention? Most folks accept precisely that sort of argument in NT theology. Adoptionist theologies are declared inadequate in light of the revelation that Jesus was born the Son of God. And birth narratives are rendered passe by notice of the Word made flesh.
We have some expectations about to whom and under what circumstances revelation will come. These are not generally applicable to ancient scripture, but they are part of the scenario of our centralized ecclesiastical structure. The work with post-judgment progression does not fit this scenario. It’s mostly a hodge-podge of one bit after another, strung together.
I am really, really, really leery of points that are made via a string of reports of what Elder John Q. ChurchLeader said while dining at a 24th of July picnic at Pioneer Park in 1902.
Yes, that’s hyperbole.
Vague and ambiguous have to be dealt with all over. My sense of JS’s theological innovations is that they were unfinished rather than just vague or ambiguous. If he hadn’t finished his work, why did he die? If he had finished his work, why do I have a such a profound sense of incompleteness?
I daresay my sense of incompleteness is shared by others. That being the case, why wasn’t it finished by someone else? And if it wasn’t important enough to finish, why is it important for me to care about it?
Although these sound rather petulant, I think a good theology of revelation would address them — more formally, of course.
And on the business of “fair” and the after-life:
One of the pearls that dropped from the lips of our budding LXX scholar last weekend was the observation that every Mormon he’s ever known who was seriously conversant with Paul loves him unreservedly.
Do you know why that is? I think I do. I think it’s because in Paul we learn to drop all that crap about worthiness. We’re not and it’s a very liberating concept. And right after that comes an awareness of the love of God, cause there’s literally nothing else left to distract us from that most important of important things.
“Worthy” gets you the things that are controlled by the community. “Unworthy” gets you to the throne of Grace.
That said, a “fair” afterlife is not really a big draw. Hopefully, it’ll not be fair. I’d be just fine with the way Revelation does it: one’s affiliation determines one’s final state. No matter how imperfect that affiliation, as long as it’s sincere it’s fine with me.
And one more thing. I’m quite happy to leave it all, lock, stock, and barrel, up to God. I really dislike debates over which kingdom someone might go to. Section 76 embodies so many of the elements in LDS theological discourse that I find distressing that I really dislike even reading it.
I have no present need for a bazillion kingdoms, let alone to know about them. It is sufficient to deal with the love of God, the wrath of God, the uprightness of God, Jesus as God’s agent, some sort of restoration, and a future full of totally excellent things — the “riches of His grace,” so to speak. Any more than this just generates argument and more pointless speculation.
Kind of, er…like the one we’re having now, I guess. And if any of this bothers me in the AM, I will just remove it because I am, after all, Super-admin Mogget!
Mogs, you are brilliant. Unbelievably so. Delete it if you have to but I’m copying this for my personal files.
I think it’s because in Paul we learn to drop all that crap about worthiness.
This is a thougth that strikes me every time I think about it yet I forget it all the time. Just hasn’t sunk in I guess.
“Unworthy” gets you to the throne of Grace.
(O)ne’s affiliation determines one’s final state. No matter how imperfect that affiliation, as long as it’s sincere it’s fine with me.
Are you sure you don’t like Stephen Robinson? This is his asertion lock, stock, and barrel. Maybe it’s not in print.
Wow, did my last comment get deleted?
If it did, it was by accident and I do apologize. I go through the spam trap carefully but I cannot claim infallibility.
I assume that it did get deleted and I/we are very sorry that it happened.
And since it was probably a very good one, I’m even more chagrined.
OK! Here’s Jacob’s post that got deleted:
THIS IS JACOB’S POST, NOT MINE!!!!
Wow, Mogget, that was fun. I see now that you were going to stack your own arms. That’s good. For a second I wasn’t sure if you were going to pull an Ammon on me and make a pile of arms from the bodies of your enemies.
Permit me a few actual responses to what you have said.
If you want to consider the BRM/JFS school of thought to be a divinely inspired subversion you are welcome to that view. You will have lots of company. For me, the JFS/BRM school of thought represents a profound step backward in theology (on this and a whole host of other issues). Luckily, we are granted enough latitude to allow us to make up our own minds on things that have not yet been revealed (or to choose to not make up our minds, which can be good too).
Your comment about “a string of reports of what Elder John Q. ChurchLeader said while dining at a 24th of July picnic at Pioneer Park in 1902″ lost me. What are you referring to (even hyperbolically)? The argument I put forward was based on a string of scriptures. Which point, specifically, are you leery of?
I understand what you mean about Joseph Smith’s theology being unfinished. As to why you should care about it if it wasn’t important enough to finish, I am not sure how to answer that. You can choose to care about whatever you want. For me, if Joseph Smith’s theology was truly based on divine revelation, then how can I not care? Perhaps Joseph was killed before laying out a complete theology because that wasn’t the work God was waiting for him to finish. Can any theology really be finished? There is always more to learn and more to be revealed.
I admit that my use of the word “fair” was a poor choice. I retract it. I didn’t mean that it would be “fair” but that it would have some correlation with who we are and what we freely choose to become. It is Joseph Smith himself who reasoned 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” (see the header of D&C 76 for the reference). You don’t seem to like that argument or the theological implications about salvation. You’ll have to take that up with Joseph Smith when you meet him. I do like the implications. It is not that I think I am worthy, of course I am not worthy (and I like Paul even without knowing all the stuff you do). However, one of the most important doctrines Joseph Smith ever declared is that God actually intends to make something good out of us. He doesn’t just want to bring us up to heaven based on our affiliation–he actually intends to help us become celestial. As D&C 88 makes abundantly clear, you can’t take up your abode in a celestial kingdom without becoming celestial yourself. I love that doctrine. I don’t expect to become celestial in this life, but I am flattered that God thinks that much of me.
Like you, I am happy to leave judgment lock, stock, and barrel, up to God. I would never try to suggest we can say where this or that person can go. No one has done that here in this discussion, so I don’t know where that particular rant is coming from. I hope you don’t mean we can’t describe what types of people go where (as in, wicked people will go to hell).
I don’t know why discussing the meaning of the three degrees of glory is pointless speculation. Asking what this-or-that verse from this-or-that book of the Bible means leads to pointless speculation far more readily than the discussion we are currently having. The discussion we are having here has profound implications on our view of God, what he is trying to accomplish, what he expects of us in this life, and what we can expect to happen in the hereafter. From a person who files so many blog posts under “Speculation” I am surprised to see this rant against speculation.
If it is sufficient to deal with the love of God (by the way, doesn’t this discussion relate directly to our understanding of God’s love for us), the wrath of God, the uprightness of God, etc., why do you have so many posts that don’t deal with those things?
Some people prefer to believe that God sticks us in some kingdom based on what we did for 10 or 50 or 90 years and then we get to sit there for the rest of eternity without a chance to progress past some artificial barrier. I prefer to believe that God will continue to work with us, worlds without end, and that the only thing preventing us from becoming celestial is our own will.
Very nice Jacob, well articulated. I think you’ve hit at least one nail on the head by taking the “rewarded as you act” position contrary to Mogget. Paul and the Book of Mormon don’t agree on this point. It drives me nuts. I’ve seen a lot of people try to balance the two and I’ve never been completely satisfied by their attempts.
Like Mogs, it scares the hell out of me to think that I and everyone else will get exactly what they deserve, I don’t deserve anything. And ultimately, I’m not convinced that anyone else does either. In the book of Mormon, there is definitely a consistent thought that God will judge, maybe has to judge people by their works (1 Ne. 15:32, etc) but there is also the idea that absolutely no one can merit anything but only through Christ’s merits are we able to be reconciled to God (Moro 6:4). And I get the sneaking suspicion that what the Book of Mormon calls mercy is really something close to grace. Especially in Alma 34 where Amulek has his big discourse on justice and mercy. Maybe we need to make the distinction that mercy is wholly a product of grace. I don’t know, that sounds fairly Pauline to me but so much else doesn’t.
The Mormon obssession with works and fairness is real, and if it appears I may have flipflopped from my previous position in the post, I probably have. In a lot of ways I hope that Paul/Mogget are right.
I’m coming in late and have to admit I’ve not read anything but LXX’s last comment, but…
I’ve always seen the Book Of Mormon as depicting God’s judgement of people for their works as more of a self-judgement. We come before God and our guilt etc. causes us to Shrink away. Christ buoys us up though, and we are enabled by him to remain. Also, I’ve always seen “works” as an expression of Faith and thus have always been confused by the false dichotamy of faith/works.
I would like to have a word or two here- good post by the way!
I have studies this exact topic for many years and it has always troubled me. Over at my blog “rock of salvation”, this is the very topic I post on mostly, if you like a good read go over there and check it out.
I have progressed my thinking to the point of understanding that makes this statement- “In the end, (great last day of judgement) we all will either be saved in the Celestial Kingdom or we will be cast out into outer darkness”. Now let me explain. Joseph Smith probably saw the vision of 76 from a pre-earth life perspective. That said, the vision he saw was the actual progression of this single earth as it fell from Adam’s time and fell into a Telestial state (the one in which we now live), it then progressed from that Telestial Kingdom into the Terrestrial Kingdom where Christ will reign in the millenium. After that it will progress into the Celestial Kingdom.
To verify this account we turn to the Temple where we indeed find out that the world on which we now live is the “Telestial Kingdom”, all of us start here in this Kingdom. We then progress into the Terrestrial Kingdom where we learn how to live Celestial law, this happens during the millenium. We then progress from there into the Celestial Kingdom. The key words are from Lucifers mouth himself- he states that if every covenant made in this temple this day is not met (futuraly speaking of coarse) he will be in his power. All of mankind must enter into these covenants and laws and then keep them or they will fall prey to Satan’s power.
I further believe that where it says that there are those who “died without law” that it is specifically refering to the mentally handicapped because in Moroni it states that they are outside the law and repentance availeth them nothing as they are incapable of sin. So I thus see that mentally handicapped people will have another go at life during the Terrestrial reign in order that they too can enter into the covenants that must be made in order to inherit Celestial glory,
Further speaking, we know that the Kingdom of God is the Celestial Kingdom. We also know that in the end we will either be saved in the Celestial (heavenly) Kingdom or we will be cast off from God’s presence.
LXXLuthor, my response was a bit long and was getting off topic, so I responded to your last comment over at NCT.
To “stack arms” is to lean three rifles up against each other so as to create a stable structure. It is a traditional way of accounting for weapons during a surrender.
Now…just to be clear, I am NOT writing this to Jacob cause I already made him feel the need for more nice, chaste, Mogget kisses once and I felt bad about it all day and it made me write grouchy things about Revelation.
I’d just like these issues to be posed more widely, if I could. And before I start, let me send some nice, chaste, Mogget-kisses to everyone.
Something like the post-mortal condition can only be known by revelation. If it hasn’t been revealed, claims to know the situation are specious. And why debate it?
Ditto for arguments about the post-mortal life based on logic or logic derived from ideas about what God is wont to do. There are too many canonical indications that suggest that God’s approach is unlike ours to make that avenue persuasive.
And it’s definitely not my job to sort out competing claims of revelation from different church authorities who claim to speak for the church. That’s a leadership responsibility.
I’m leery of pretty much every word-of-mouth report rendered without critical analysis when topics such as the post-mortal condition comes up. That includes section and chapter headings. It goes double for JS anecdotes.
One good way to deal with an unfinished theology is to admit that it is, in fact, unfinished. Then there are decisions.
Is it something that we can finish without revelation? Let’s get on with it. But if it’s not something that we can do without revelation, then that’s another matter.
Can we work on the post-mortal condition without revelation? Nope. It’s just speculation.
But let’s say we want to speculate, anyway, just because we can and we’re interested in where the results will lead us.
Now…there’s speculation and there’s speculation. I post under speculation because I am not an authority in the community. But I can distinguish between what I do and what comes up in unstructured discourse.
The point is that we don’t have the theological structure and methods to make our speculation coherent. It doesn’t all hang together When you see real theologians do it, the difference is clear.
Theology in the LDS community is unfinished and unstructured. It might be wonderful, but it’s certainly painful as well.
It’s also young. Earlier attempts were apparently smothered at birth. Since there are almost 80 LDS grad students in religious studies fields, I’d say we’re about to start another cycle.
I hope it goes better than the last time.
I’m sorry if I made you feel bad all day, and moreso if led to you writing grouchy things about Revelation. I didn’t think that was possible.
I assume the anecdote comment is a reaction to the quote I put in my first comment on this thread. I want to point out that although I did relay that quote (because it seemed to be in line with the idea expressed in the original post), I did lead into it with the fact that I don’t agree with it. So, none of my analysis was hanging on Franklin D. Richard’s notebook. Quite the opposite.
As to the section heading of D&C 76, it comes from the History of the Church 1: 245–252. I see no reasonable argument for ignoring Joseph Smith’s comments about the circumstances leading up to his revelation. If you have a reason to suspect this part of the History of the Church is unreliable, then let’s here it. If not, why wouldn’t you consider this important context from which to understand section 76?
I totally understand and agree with you about needing revelation to sort out the post-mortal condition. I also agree that Joseph Smith’s theology is unfinished, but I don’t agree that we are left to pointlessly speculate in the dark. We do have revelations about the post-mortal condition, and we can study them and reason upon them.
D&C 88 has a lot of very important things to say about the nature of things in the after-life. If we didn’t have D&C 19, 76, 88, 128, 131, 137, 138 et al., then you would have a more forceful point. As it is, we don’t have enough to answer everything beyond dispute, but we certainly have something to go on. Ignoring these revelations just because we want it to be spelled out more clearly would seem irresponsible to me. Your admission that you dislike reading D&C 76 makes me wonder if there is more to it than just your caution regarding speculation. What causes you to dislike it?
I don’t know who these “real theologians” are who are able to make everything “hang together.” (Examples please?) If there is something incoherent in the view I’ve expressed here, I’d love to hear it. I am open to being wrong and to learning.
Jacob, Jacob! Stop making me feel bad. I assure you when I posted that, I had long since stopped thinking about you!
I’ll have to ask your pardon on this one. I simply do not trust section headings, chapter intros, footnotes, the BD, or even the HC. I know of too many alterations to trust them without checking positively.
So I’m more like this: if you want to use it, first assure me that nobody has tinkered with it. That’s a pretty standard approach elsewhere, where there’s long experience with pious emendation.
That said, I don’t remember why I was even interested in the heading of Section 76. I don’t think I was. I was thinking about the inelegant use of primary sources in general.
Two points about our info on the post-mortal existence:
If it’s something that is known only by revelation, then let’s admit that it’s so.
If we’re going to speculate about it, then it needs structure and organization.
Now it seems that there are folks that think three kingdoms, and folks that think “many kingdoms.” Interestingly enough, both sides seem to think they have logic, exegesis, and revelation on their side.
So let’s take a step back in the whole process and talk about how to distinguish between competing claims in general before we work on this issue. It would seem that the tough one is competing claims of revelation, no?
Anybody got any ideas? Something reasonably objective?
I have an idea to solve the whole bit if you have an ear and a reasonable mind.
First look at section 76 heading (I too agree that headings, BD, etc.. do not have authoritive power) Joseph Smith said that “`Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one”.
Now if we take heaven to mean really only one kingdom as it speaks of in Alma 11:37- 37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.” then there maybe truly only 1 kingdom of heaven. I know this might seem contrary to some revelation in the D&C, but when we talk of “being saved”, we are really talking about inheriting the kingdom of God.
On that basis we can state that there really only is “one kingdom”, and that is where both the Father and the Son will reside. Think of it this way- If we are not found to dwell with God and the Son in the end, it must be because unrepentant sin has ruled that we cannot be saved and thus we must be cast off. Look at D&C 29:43-44, “43 And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation—that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe;
44 And they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not”
Clearly it speaks of only two conditions just as Alma spoke of- either saved in heaven or damned to hell. Now if we take the Kingdom of Heaven/ God to mean only the Celestial Kingdom then we are truly only saved into that Kingdom. So what of the other two kingdoms then? Well, to be quite blunt, the plan of salvation does not save people into either of the two kingdoms. In fact, nowhere can it be found in the scriptures where people get saved outside of Celestial principles!
Now to revisit section 76. If as I have plausibly stated before that the only kingdom of heaven one can be saved into is the Celestial Kingdom and JS assumed there must be more than one kingdoms let us look at the only ones mentioned in 76 as being saved- verses 50-70 describe those who are saved at the great last day of judgement. Verse 95 is quite peculiar- 95 “And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.” So much for receiving different awards! Sounds more like the patriarchal order and an order of the law of consecration top me.
This all ties back to the many kingdoms theory. We are told repeatedly what we must do to be saved. Articles of faith 3-4 tell us exactly. They are Celestial principles. I think a stronger case can be made that the two lower kingdoms are not future kingdoms but may indeed just be temporary kingdoms as one cannot be saved into one of those.
Mogget: So let’s take a step back in the whole process and talk about how to distinguish between competing claims in general before we work on this issue. It would seem that the tough one is competing claims of revelation, no?
Anybody got any ideas? Something reasonably objective?
Interesting idea. Perhaps I’ll take you up on that in a post. (I have found a little time to blog this weekend after being locked up for the last month or so.)
after being locked up for the last month or so
You don’t mean Guantanamo, do you Geoff?
Geoff, hook me up with a job like yours. To be able to blog all the time and spend countless hours on the web whilst receiving full-time pay would be great. I don’t know how you (all) do it. I’m so busy at work I don’t have time to even eat lunch most days.