Progression Between Kingdoms (An LDS Perspective)


I set out to determine whether one may progress in the hereafter between the three degrees of glory. Unfortunately, the answer seems to be that we simply don’t know yet.

There are basically three possible answers: (1) That progression between degrees of a kingdom and progression between kingdoms is possible, (2) That progression is not possible, and (3) That while progression is possible in the afterlife, that those placed in higher kingdoms initially will always be ahead of others.

Having spent many nights studying the scriptures and words of modern prophets to better understand this issue that truly is so central to Heavenly Father’s plan, I have come to believe–I think–that progression between the kingdoms will be provided for.  Ask me the same question tomorrow and I will likely have been convinced otherwise, but for now I believe it is part of Heavenly Father’s great plan.

So that the message is not lost in this rather lengthy post, I’ll summarize in a few words.  In short, there is no official doctrine on the point of whether we can progress between kingdoms in the afterlife.  Prophets and prominent church leaders have theorized on both sides of the discussion, but it remains a mystery of God.

Scriptural Insight

Not surprisingly, the scriptures lend strong support for the position that there will be no progress between kingdoms in the hereafter; however, no scripture states this position with enough specificity to rule out the notion that the scripture is only referring to those in Outer Darkness, where there is no doubt that progress is impossible.

One of many examples of this type of scripture is Alma 34:34-35, which seems to strongly assert that no progress can be made in the hereafter. Put in its context, however, verse 35 seems to imply that the passage only applies to those in Outer Darkness. The scripture reads: “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.” Alma 34:34-335 (emphasis added).

However, Melvin J. Ballard understands Alma 34:34-35 to definitively answer this question. In response to the anticipated question of whether progression between the Kingdoms can occur, he said: ” I have just read the answer, so far as the Telestial group is concerned. ‘Where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.’ I take it upon the same basis, the same argument likewise applies to the Terrestrial World. Those whose lives have entitled them to terrestrial glory can never gain celestial glory. One who gains possession of the lowest degree of the Telestial glory may ultimately arise to the highest degree of that glory, but no provision has been made for promotion from one glory to another.” Melvin J. Ballard, Three Degrees of Glory, a discourse delivered 22 September 1922 (Independence, n.d.), pp. 26-27.

Doctrine and Covenants discusses the three degrees of glory more specifically. In Doctrine and Covenants 76, Joseph Smith sees the three kingdoms. Particularly relevant to this discussion is his statement concerning those in the Telestial Kingdom: “And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.” Doctrine and Covenants 76: 109-112. This scripture goes further than saying than the Alma reference to no progress for those in Outer Darkness. This verse states that those in the Telestial Kingdom cannot
come to where God and Christ dwell.

Still, however, this leaves open the possibility that if they ceased to be Telestial beings by progressing to the glory of a Terrestrial or Celestial being, they could then move up to another kingdom. There are countless scriptural references which can be construed to lend support to one position or another, but none goes so far as to spell out whether progress between the kingdoms of Heaven is, in fact, a possibility.

Modern-Day Teachings

The Church has no official position on whether or not there will be progression between kingdoms. In response to a question regarding progression between kingdoms, the First Presidency directed their secretary In 1952 and, again, in 1965 to respond: The Brethren direct me to say that that the Church has never announced a definite doctrine upon this point, though some have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression; others have taken an opposite view.

As indicated, however, the Church has never announced a definite doctrine on this point. Cited in Dialogue, Vol.15, No.1, pp. 181-182. Although the Church has not announced an official position, many church leaders have opined on the topic because the quotes are numerous, they are included in somewhat of a chronological order in an attempt to show trends.

Franklin D. Richards kept a small book in which he recorded quotes from Hyrum and Joseph Smith. In it, he wrote, “Hiram [Smith] said Aug 1st. Those of the Terrestrial Glory either advance to the Celestial or recede to the Telestial or else the moon would not be a type, [because] it ‘waxes & wanes.’” Words of the Prophets, p. 24, Church Historians Office. Hyrum Smith’s concept is novel and insightful. Applying this interpretation of the astronomical symbols is fitting because the Sun, representing the Celestial Kingdom, neither waxes nor wanes—showing no possibility
retrogression.

Joseph Smith also adds insight to the discussion, but falls short of the type of specificity required to clearly show Joseph Smith’s belief on the topic. His famous “learn our salvation” quote shows that we can progress in knowledge in the hereafter, but not that such knowledge would propel one from a lower kingdom to a higher kingdom :”When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 348.

Brigham Young expressed the view that it may be possible for some to advance to a higher degree of glory: “He [Brigham Young] though they [those in lower kingdoms] would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial glory but it would be a
slow process.” Quoted by Wilford Woodruff in his Journal, August 5, 1855, Church Historians Office.

Lorenzo Snow’s comments on the topic are somewhat vague, but seem to provide support for progress between kingdoms.  “That sacrifice of the divine Being was effectual to destroy the powers of Satan. I believe that every man and woman who comes into this life and passes through it, that life will be a success in the end. It may not be in this life. It was not with the antediluvians. They passed through troubles and afflictions; 2,500 years after that, when Jesus went to preach to them, the dead heard the voice of the Son of God and they lived. They found after all that it was a very good thing that they had conformed to the will of God in leaving the spiritual life and passing through this world.” Lorenzo Snow, MS 56:49-53; Collected Discourses 3:364-65.

Joseph F. Smith’s view on the topic seems somewhat illogical. He stated, “Once a person enters these glories there will be eternal progress in the line of each of these particular glories, but the privilege of passing from one to another (though this may be possible for especially gifted and
faithful characters) is not provided for.” Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 14:87 [November 1910]. This view seems illogical because, if one were especially gifted and faithful, why would they be in the Telestial or Terrestrial Kingdoms in the first place?

B.H. Roberts expressed a more complete theory on the topic. This theory is sometimes explained by the symbol of a train’s wheel. “If one point is ahead of another on a train’s wheel, then both points will advance along the track, but the point which started behind the other point will
never catch up to its predecessor. Brother Roberts stated: “[I]t is said that those of the Terrestrial glory will be ministered unto by those of the Celestial; and those of the Telestial will be ministered unto by those of the Terrestrial–that is, those of the higher glory minister to those of a lesser glory. I can conceive of no reason for all this administration of the higher to the lower, unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father’s children along the lines of eternal progression. Whether or not in the great future, full of so many possibilities now hidden from us, they of the lesser glories after education and advancement within those spheres may at last emerge from them and make their way to the higher degrees of glory until at last they attain to the highest, is not revealed in the revelations of God, and any statement made on the subject must partake more or less of the nature of conjecture. But if it be granted that such a thing is possible, they who at the first entered into the Celestial glory–having before them the privilege also of eternal progress–have been moving onward, so that the relative distance between them and those who have fought their way up from the lesser glories may be as great when the latter have come into the degrees of Celestial glory in which the righteous at first stood, as it was at the commencement. Thus: Those whose faith and works are such only as to enable them to inherit a Telestial glory, may arrive at last where those whose works in this life were such as to enable them to entrance into the Celestial kingdom. They may arrive where these were, but never where they are.” B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God 1:391-392.

Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It has been asked if it is possible for one who inherits the Telestial glory to advance in time to the Celestial glory? The answer to this question is, No! The scriptures are clear on this point.” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:31).

President Spencer W. Kimball concurred. He wrote, “No progression between kingdoms. After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the Telestial, the Terrestrial, or the Celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal! That is why we must make our decisions early in life and why it is imperative that such decisions be right.” The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 243-244. (Also cited in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.50; and Search These Commandments, 1984 ed., pp.81-82.)

J. Reuben Clark is a firm believer in the “Second Chance Theory.” He wrote, “I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can: and while, if we live unrighteous here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed to those eternities that are to come.”  J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3.

One of the most telling evidences of the differing opinions of church authorities is found in the successive editions of Talmage’s The Articles of Faith. The first edition of the book states in part:  “[I]t is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”  Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage, 1899 First Edition, pps. 420-421.

In 1917, the words “within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom,” were replaced by the words “within each of the three specified kingdoms.” Finally, in the 12th edition of 1924, this linewas changed once again. The words “from grade to grade” and “But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank shall not be stopped in their progress; and” were entirely deleted. In place of the second set the following was added: “though as to possible progress from one kingdom to another the scriptures make no positive affirmation, eternal advancement along different lines is conceivable.” Cited in Dialogue, Vol.15, No.1, pp. 181-182.

Bruce R. McConkie called the Second Chance Theory a heresy in a BYU devotional address. “Heresy five: There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were. This belief lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, ‘God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we do not gain the Celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?’ It lets people live a life of sin here and now with the hope that they will be saved eventually. The true doctrine is that all men will be resurrected, but they will come forth in the resurrection with different kinds of bodies–some Celestial, others Terrestrial, others Telestial, and some with bodies incapable of standing any degree of glory. The body we receive in the resurrection determines the glory we receive in the kingdoms that are prepared.” “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” Bruce R. McConkie, Brigham Young University Devotional Address, 1; June 1980.

Support for the Second Chance Theory comes from Boyd K. Packer in October 1995. He recounted the following story. Some years ago I was in Washington, D.C., with President Harold B. Lee.  “Early one morning he called me to come into his hotel room. He was sitting in his robe reading Gospel Doctrine, by President Joseph F. Smith (1838– 1918), and he said, “Listen to this! ‘Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission.’  The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.”  “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report October 1995.

An important note regarding the quote from Elder Packer above is that the words “redeemed and saved” are used rather than “exalted.”  Obviously, we will not stop doing missionary work until all of Heavenly Father’s children are saved from outer darkness and placed in one of the kingdoms of glory.  So sticking strictly to the quote, it neither supports nor disproves the idea of progression between the kingdoms.

Logical Arguments

Because there is no clear authority on this topic, the debate always turns to logic. One side argues that the reason that progression between kingdoms isn’t taught is because it would discourage people from repenting here on this earth.  This may seem a compelling argument, but the other side can quickly reply that the reason no progression between kingdoms isn’t taught is because it would discourage people from hoping for a complete eternal family if one family member has gone astray.

One last argument that needs to be addressed is God’s mercy. Some argue that God would be unmerciful if the Second Chance Theory were not part of His eternal plan. This is simply unsound. All can agree that there can be no progress from Outer Darkness to any of the degrees of glory, because Satan will seal his servants his. Does God cease to be merciful because he does not give them another chance in the hereafter? Christ, the Redeemer is our opportunity for a second, third, or infinite number of “chances.” How is it that God is unmerciful if he gives unlimited chances
to change on the earth but does allow a cut-off date, which is death? What is unfair if we are all given infinite attempts at another chance while on the earth?

Conclusion

Logical arguments can be made, scriptures can be cited, and general authorities can be misquoted until the Millenium, but the fact remains that there is as much evidence on one side of this debate as the other.

However, I do believe that we can individually receive revelation on this topic.  It is something I continue to seek.  My brother died by suicide after entirely giving up his faith and thus this question is one that I want more than anything else to understand.

Jim Harmer

I own an online company where I create websites which are read by millions of people. I'm a non-practicing lawyer, husband and a father of three little kiddos. My faith in Christ is the most important aspect of my life, and this blog is where I get to share my beliefs. The rest of the time, I'm riding dirt bikes or traveling the world taking pictures. I live in Star, Idaho where I attend my local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each month, over 30,000 people come to this site to learn about the basic beliefs of my religion, and it's my privilege to share about it. The opinions expressed on this website are not necessarily those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as this blog is not an official source of church information. However, every effort is put into providing accurate information in support of the church.

23 thoughts on “Progression Between Kingdoms (An LDS Perspective)

  1. I really enjoyed the first episode. Look forward to more! Thanks for not being afraid of “deep doctrine”. I feel like the JS quote could easily apply only to spirit prison/paradise between death and judgement. Nothing about it clearly says “progression between kingdoms.” But it is great to read the brethren’s differing opinions on it, and realize it’s not as cut and dried as most people think.

    I hope you’ll have a similar discussion on evolution. It’s something which the brethren over the years have been equally divided (and possibly more heatedly so). It also seem to be a huge stumbling block for many as they go to college etc. They’re taught that evolution is of the devil, then go to school and are shown the many evidences for it’s truthfulness. Many fall away because of it, without ever realizing that many of the brethren consider it a strong possibility that evolution is the means by which God created life on earth.

    Side note (you can remove this if you like): did you realize your theme is still displaying the default “Genesis Framework” logo at the top? I can help, if needed.

  2. Well written. This is a seminal issue. It impacts on the purpose of this earth, and the potential effects of our efforts to lift others while here.

    With the notable exception of the brilliant J. Reuben Clark, the statements of the Brethren seem to have gravitated gradually to the eternal limitation of souls to the kingdom to which they graduate from this probationary state. Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer W. Kimball were particularly direct in this regard. This feels right for a number of reasons:

    The purpose of this world is proving. You cannot stop a human being from learning, but learning is not the purpose of this life. Proving=probing=problems=testing. Exam week, as it were. Not class time. Matriculation examinations which open or close certain lines of future study.

    The administration of the Terrestrial by the Celestial, and of the Telestial by the Terrestrial, makes good sense to me in the absence of kingdom-to-kingdom progression. Honest government is one of the characteristics that makes the Telestial Kingdom glorious beyond all understanding. Who else to mentor and minister to the honorable men and women of the Terrestrial than their friends and loved ones from the Celestial?

    We are told that God is unchangeable. How so? He was once a man like us, on a world like ours. How, then, can we regard Him as unchangeable? Only, I suppose, if His core nature is unchangeable. He was always Love. He always loved the appearing of the Lord Jesus. He was always perfect, as he commands us in this life to be perfect. He was always consecrated, as he commanded Israel in Lev 11:44 to be consecrated (Heb. qadash.)

    Doesn’t each of us have an unchangeable core – the core that we are here to prove? I have no doubt that Elder Packer’s brilliant talk is correct in stating that, other than the very few who will defect to Perdition after seeing the Father’s plan clearly, none are so “old” that they cannot obtain forgiveness from any sin when repentance is fully completed. I am grateful for that, because only now in my 7th decade am I coming to realize how much I need repentance and the Atonement.

    God can change human nature, but I find no evidence that He can change eternal nature – neither His own nor mine, neither Christ’s nor Satan’s, Peter’s nor Judas’s. God was always God, though once in embryo. I would be delighted to see Cain or even Satan repent, recompense his victims to the limits of his capacity, turn away from his vomit, and catapult over me to exaltation, but there is no unpardonable sin except one that is unrepentable. Unrepentable is not about the gravity of the sin, but the eternal absence of capacity to repent.

    We often hear the Brethren talk about developing our talents, exercising our faith. We do not hear about spiritual evolution. Important words, carefully chosen: develop is the opposite of envelope. the root concept is about veiling and unveiling or revealing something. E-volve is to spin off and become something else. Ex-erce-ize is about taking something out of the box. Again, we see the concept of proving what we really are, stages of gestation, not evolution into some other organism.

    It is nice to suppose that there will be progression from one kingdom to another, but if it is possible at all, I can’t see it as anything but a great rarity. I think it not worth planning for except to be ready to accept the Lord’s lovingkindness to other sinners as gratefully as that which He shows to us.

    1. The application of the non-progression-among-kingdoms conclusion is that one is not upset when others “fail” to accept the Gospel, or even when they fight against it.

      One of the primary mandates of the Church is to prepare the world for the Second Coming. Not only prepare the Saints, but the whole world. What does that look like?

      For Terrestrial souls, it is that they receive the Savior as their lawgiver. “Oh, it’s the Mormons’ Jesus – well, that’s all right.” They love God, but certainly have no desire to be like Him!

      For Telestial and Perditious souls, they have proven themselves suitable and without any question deserving to be recycled to another place. Only Celestial and Terrestrial souls will be left on the earth to begin the Millennium.

      In the end, every soul receives a reward s/he will enjoy (D&C 88:32)

      To me, that means that if a wicked, truly Satanic man says to me, “Oh, you are a servant of Jesus Christ. I hate Him and you, and I am going to kill you,” and then he does kill me – that is a success. He has proven himself the only a wicked man can: by deliberately injuring an innocent person. Is there any other way to describe wickedness? Some innocent(s) must suffer so that the wicked may exercise their agency. Whom else would I choose to have take the abuse?

      Is there really some way that the wicked can prove themselves without innocent suffering? I wish I could think of one. Am I at peace with this application of the Atonement? Moses 7:20-69 and the garden of Gethsemane suggest that tribulation is not joyous to anyone at the time, but joy is in the morning. Even the wicked will enjoy their own place – and the rest of us are saved from them forever. The Great Plan of Happiness actually means happiness for all? I come to that conclusion, and it gives me much peace when inviting all to come unto Christ and accepting their exercise of agency.

  3. The 19th Section of the D&C reveals light not previously known. Before this revelation we were taught that those who die unrepentant go to hell where they suffer endless torment. After this revelation we are told that the torment is not endless in the literal sense but rather endless in the Godly sense. The use of “express” terminology like endless and eternal torment and damnation was designed to “work upon our hearts”
    The 19th Section provides a singularly polished lens through which we may view any revelation–especially any having to do with the doctrine of atonement and the Lord’s plan for bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
    Eternal torment is not meant to permanently torture but rather to exquisitely teach, cleanse, purify, sanctify and exalt. Why would it be otherwise?
    I don’t understand how anyone can read the 19th Section and still cling to the ancient notion that the power of the atonement is not sufficient to fully redeem all the sons and daughters of God. Are we not already, all of us celestial beings?
    Our Savior’s atonement is the power through which our true foundational nature is revealed! We are not mortals sent here to have spiritual experiences. We are divine celestial beings sent here to have the mortal experience. Christ’s atonement is sufficient to smite through, penetrate and cleanse us of our mortal corruption. In addition the power of the atonement penetrates the very veil that blinds us to the reality of who we truly are. The more the atoning power of Christ touches our hearts the more it awakens our souls to a clearer and brighter sense of our true divine nature.
    As President Uchtdorf taught in April 2016 General Conference–we are by divine birthright worthy of rescue. We don’t make ourselves worthy of rescue by being better mortals than our spiritual brothers and sisters. We are already worthy of rescue because we are all the sons and daughters of God. Jesus has the power to reach and rescue all of us. That is the gospel. That is the good news.
    With the clarifying lens of D&C 19, ancient and modern scriptural references to “eternal” punishment or “eternal” kingdoms should not be narrowly construed as condemning celestial beings to live forever banished from the Celestial Kingdom. Yes we do have to learn the lessons of the mortal experience some of which may be exquisitely painful and hard to bear but through Christ we can and will overcome. All these things shall give us experience and shall be for our good.

    1. Thank you so very much for your more liberal-minded—in Joseph Smith’s sense of the term—and compassionate view of eternal progression. As a mother of 7 children—most are adults now—my views on this question have evolved greatly over time. When I was younger, I simply accepted that “life was for proving ourselves,” and “we all have our agency,” and we would be rewarded at a “final judgement” according to our unfettered choices. Now I see it differently.

      We are all at different stages of developing in our divine nature—we came to earth at different stages, were born into different circumstances and experiences, and progress at individual paces and in individual ways. This mortal life is far too short (even if you enjoy the historically rare lifespan of 70 years) and unequal in its opportunities (even if you are blessed to be born in a peaceful, prosperous and enlightened place, time and family) to be the basis for any kind of one-time-fits-all “final judgment.” Why would Heavenly Father—an infinitely loving parent—ever put an end to the progression of any child who wished to continue progressing? To what purpose is eternity, if not for progression? And why would Heavenly Father—an all powerful parent—not be able to design a means whereby all of his children could continue to grow in light, truth and righteousness? I believe He did; it is the Saviors infinite atonement (and I understand “infinite” to extend to duration as well as depth and breadth) for ALL mankind.

      How does it rob justice if we are allowed eternal opportunities to develop and reach the point where we can accept higher and higher laws? The requirements have not been changed—but there is no arbitrary cut-off to the chance to keep trying, growing and developing. Yes, in morality we do “have our agency,” but common sense and life experience show that the exercise of our agency is largely dependent on our level of moral, intellectual and emotional development. The saving ordinances themselves mirror this truth: you must develop and rise through successive levels of understanding and ability as you advance in the laws and glory you can accept. We do not consign some people at the outset to baptism only, without the chance to further progress to endowment, or sealing because they are not currently able to abide those higher laws. We expect a process of growth and development. Why should eternity be any different?

      Some say that there will be those who simply will not desire to live the higher laws—but even our desires are products of our understanding and maturity. It is hard for me to conceive of anyone—free of the weaknesses, traumas, biology, blindness and misunderstandings of mortality, and surrounded by divine love, patience and entreaty—who would not respond by desiring to increase in glory and joy, although it might be a gradual process, as all growth in understanding is. Even now, when we encounter a doctrine or concept that is difficult to understand (polygamy being a prime example), we are often encouraged to consider that the understanding and desires we have now will not be the same as those we possess when free of mortality’s constraints and limitations. Why would that not also be true for those that might not desire to live the gospel law now? Can’t we imagine that their desires will also change once the “earth falls away?”

      I find Joseph Smith and some of his contemporaries often had a more generous conception of the Plan of Happiness and it’s scope than is currently considered. The King Follett Discourse (while not recorded by Joseph himself and not canonized by the Church) seems to affirm this broader view, with opportunities for exaltation for all except the sons of perdition. I wonder (lacking an official statement of policy from the Church) why we seem to have limited the application of the Saviors saving powers to a specific time frame. I also wonder if the “kingdoms” of glory seen in “The Vision” (Section 76) were actually “end states”, or whether it was a vision of the Plan and the Saviors atonement in progress—again, with parallels to the Kingdom of God on the earth—where at any given time there are some who have just entered in the gate, but not yet able to be endowed, some endowed but not yet able to be sealed, and those who are sealed, but who are still far from perfection. We are abiding at different levels of law, but each is progressing along the path to exaltation, and none are prevented from further progression as soon as they have developed to the point where they can accept a higher law and therefore abide a higher glory. This perspective brings me peace, when I consider that my Father and my Savior’s work is to help each child attain eternal life and they not only know how to do that work, but have an eternity to accomplish it. To my present way of thinking, that truly IS a Plan of hope and eternal happiness.

      1. That is said so beautiful. This is i think what our hope and Grace is built upon. I\\\’m gonna say this and don\\\’t throw a fit because I\\\’m far less intelligent than all of you all. Science tells us the smartest human or at least that\\\’s what I\\\’ve heard all these years… We only use ten percent of our brains. Could it be possible that we cannot use the rest of our brains here on Earth. There is more to us than we will ever know or learn down on this Earth. So could it be possible that our brains are reserved for something much higher that we cannot get here. So just saying if we only use that ten percent what happens to the other 80%? Is it a waste of cells matter or whatever it\\\’s made of, so is father gonna make something like our brain to only use ten and flake off the rest for nothing? Just maybe we\\\’ll need it in the kingdoms? Idk just a random thought because I\\\’d sure like to know what happens to the rest of it?

    2. THE END FROM THE BEGINNING:
      If the God of Abraham says there are some who will not progress after the Judgment of the Great Day, then that is a FACT, not a deadline.

      He knows us perfectly. He sees the heart, and the end from the beginning. He’s God. This foreknowledge is the natural, logical result. Do we doubt it?

      Regardless of which kingdom each of us is sent, all will (as far as I can tell) still be His beloved children, and ours will still be our beloved children to bless, visit, and care for eternally. Probably more than they want us to.

  4. Q. Will all humanity be given a “fair” or “equal” opportunity to hear and accept God’s plan, whether in this life or the next?
    A. Yes. Christ’s doctrine clearly states that the spirits of post-mortal, non-covenant makers can go through the process of exercising faith, repenting and ultimately receiving all the same blessings promised to those covenant makers in mortality. However, as humans we clearly are in no condition to know or judge what exactly constitutes that opportunity or timing. What if a man who turns away the missionaries at his door because his kids are screaming? What if the kids were simply watching a tv show? What if he simply wasn’t in his best spiritual mode in that particular moment? Why might some people get even hundreds of potential bites at the apple over 75 years in MORTALITY before they finally partake? Is that “fair”? Only God knows, but our eternal intelligence bound together as a living spirit might easily cry that the “fairness” doctrine would imply that every child should get at least the same maximum number of chances. But at the same time, I tell my kids all the time that life is in fact not fair, and to expect that each child will not be identically parented.

    Q. Given there is clearly allowance for the hearing and accepting of the Word, and timing of acceptance can be fluid along the continuum of mortality and immediate post-mortal life in the spirit world, is it such a terrible stretch to suppose that the same “fairness” principal applies equally to the timing of one person’s desire to fully and faithfully live the Word?
    A. I think not.

    Q. Are we ultimately judged and positioned by the condition and desires of our heart?
    A. Yes. We must abide a celestial law to live a celestial life. Sanctification through Christ will allow our imperfectness to ultimately be perfected.

    Q. Is it reasonable to think that any covenant maker suddenly becomes transformed and locked in as either celestial or whatever at that instant of death, after which the darkness comes and no work can be performed?
    A. I think not. But as the blog author and threads points out, there are several scriptures and GA statements that would seem to differ.

    Q. Do most LDS people like ambiguity?
    A. No. Historically our church environment has fostered a culture that relies on “certainty” and “logical doctrine” that often provide black and white answers. Just the facts, ma’am. Unfortunately when there are any “cracks” in the logic (or church history narratives), many people just break down and throw the baby out with the water.

    Q. Is it any wonder that many saints become exhausted and start to honestly believe that they are simply not capable of being “celestial material” since it is so far beyond their ability to “perform and conform”?
    A. Yes. They are missing the mark, maybe too focused on judging instead of living, but we are all human after all. The church is trying to positively impact that culture by focusing youth and now general membership on what they come to know spiritually as true, and how that truth is felt, known and experienced.

    Conclusion to rambling…..
    As covenant saints today we all can benefit from a heightened sense of urgency, just like the people listening in Alma 34. There is no excuse to delay and it hopefully helps us commit to and be better disciples of Christ, and be reminded that this life is indeed a test (not excluding the possibility that the spirit world is also a test). Context and audience clearly matter. So for me it does not necessarily logically or spiritually follow based on other firmly established LDS doctrines (excepting any future official decree of doctrine, and excluding any past or future potentially conflicting GA opinions on the topic) that we can shut the door on the “fairness” principal of loving Heavenly Parents and the eternal reaching power of Christ’s atonement across the continuum of our pre-mortal, mortal, post-mortal existence. At the end of the day, it is assuring to know that the process will be “fair” for others and for us personally.

    1. One line from the Prophet\’s HC 1:252 exultant entry about DC 76 caught my attention: \”the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee\”
      I cannot see any meaning here other than progression after the Great Judgement.
      Whether in the kingdom or out of the kingdom, I know not…

  5. Great discussion. I love reading intelligent theories concerning the application and even interpretation of doctrines. I think sections 45, 93, 137 and 138 should be added. It is interesting that the further away we get from the time of the revelation the more restrictive theses comments become, (except Boyd K. Packer quoting Harold B. Lee). The more restrictive version of the Articles of Faith is the 1990 edition…Elder Talmage was long passed away. Sometimes I feel we don’t want the progression to be possible, maybe that says more about us than we want to admit.

  6. Interesting comments/quotes!

    We read in D&C 76 regarding these separate kingdoms, and within the description of the celestial kingdom description there is a term regarding just men being made perfect (a current process (and continuing?)

    Within the terrestrial kingdom, we see descriptions of men having accepted Christ\’s teachings in what appears to be spirit prison, but symbolically could reference a prison of our own making. Verse 106 is broad and could be interpreted as a continued perfection and his (Christ\’s) work being perfected.

    We hear of an infinite atonement, but do we consider to what degree what and how \”infinite\” is applied? I\’m certainly not suggesting grace undermines the efforts and agency of all to overcome the natural man and choose to come to our Heavenly Father\’s presence, but I think relying on others\’ possibly incorrect interpretation regarding the inability to participate in eternal progression might be man\’s limits upon the salvation of Christ\’s atonement as it is applied to each of us.

    I\’d be interested in hearing of scriptural references that give a final disposition of man. As symbolically represented in the temple, each person progresses through each kingdom, with increasingly stringent requirements for entry to each. Why would we be held back from progressing outside of our own desire to stay where we want?

    Is the efficacy of our work in the temple nullified for those who have died and likely fit the mold of those in D&C 76 who died without the knowledge of Christ but accept His teaching, and seem to be described perfectly with those of the terrestrial kingdom?

    Within Abraham 3:24-28, I think you\’ll find the last few words in verse 26 to be enlightening. Verse 28 delineates the 1st estate from the 2nd (which is also referenced in vs 26).

    I think the work and glory of God as mentioned in Moses 1:39 is a beautiful pattern upon which we can compare our own lives as it relates to our own children. Would we ever give up trying to give them blessings and love? Would we welcome back a wayward child and give feast and riches as we see in the parable of the prodigal son?

    I think our Heavenly Father seeks to have ALL of His children back in his presence, but respects the agency of all to choose for themselves, and still shows love in how He wants all his children to be happy in his preparation of many mansions (of different types) for them.

    Food for thought…

    We had a long list of apostles and prophets speak of black men never receiving the priesthood. We see how that revelation was changed, and in a time of the Lord\’s choosing, likely because we as a church and people were finally able to accept that all worthy men were eligible for the priesthood, and we took it to heart that a man or woman born into a black family should not suffer the \”sins\” (curse) of their fathers to be the deciding factor for their salvation, but upon their own transgressions.

  7. It would seem to me that while we may have the same spirits we chose to create through our actions while in mortality, it couldn’t continue to be so for all eternity. In order to continue a sexual addiction you would have to have the ability to commit sexual sin, however there will be no such thing in the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdoms. I don’t limit this to sexual sin, however that is the greatest threat anyone faces next to murder. However, this also may point to the reason one couldn’t progress. Say you had committed a grave sin, you couldn’t prove that you had overcome unless you had the ability to choose that option in the next life. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ could take care of that here, but not in the next life. And to live in the Celsestial Kingdom is to be trusted to live responsibly and righteous, even when no one is looking. But like the article reads, there isn’t an exact answer to satisfy.

  8. What if, in order to achieve our goal, our desire to progress to a higher kingdom, we are asked to live a life in another world to be tested again?!

  9. Something to consider is that most of the speculative statements in favor of progression between kingdoms were made BEFORE the 1918 revelation on the Spirit World. That revelation made it clear that there is progression in the Spirit World but before the resurrection.
    I wonder if President Smith’s revelation on the progression that will be possible in the Spirit World satisfies some of the speculatory statements and the logic behind them without providing a progression between the kingdoms which would happen after the resurrection–which, the way I understand, is permanent.

  10. My son passed away March 11, 2018. He had confessed Jesus as his saviour with a pastor from our old church we use to go to. I’m a convert of nine years and absolutely love learning all i can get. I’m also a person​ who has millions of questions and 100% of the time they get answered one way or another by the holy spirit will lead,guide, me to the answer. It has never failed. The most important thing as a church of Jesus Christ is excepting him as our one and only saviour, the rest of it yes we can learn and teach ourselves from the scriptures how to become a better person, there are all kinds of this and that in the Bible, but we can’t say 100% that all is correct because Joseph Smith even changed things back and forth many times. It’s kinda hard to say yes i know this is Jesus church without exactly knowing why because the spirit tells and confirms it is, but hard to explain. I wonder now about my son, where is he? We all know he’s not in the celestial kingdom, but is he in the telesstrial kingdom awaiting and learning for the day we can get him baptized? I’m kinda confused about that myself. He had an accident which the doctors gave him pain meds and he got addicted to and became a drug addict. He had a heart of gold kind considerate never hurt anyone. He prayed the prayer several times for forgiveness and excepted Jesus, he was well on his way to getting baptized but died before he did. So because of his sins of breaking the law to get drugs and i know for a fact he studied, prayed, all the time. Can someone plz plainly in terms i can understand where his soul might be? He is not evil at all, he was looking forward to getting baptized but had to go to jail for a while because a friend of his set him up with the law to save her own husband from jail and my son gave her two pills and they got it on camera as trafficking. He dies in jail because he had a bad heart and they didn’t give him his meds correctly. They toiled with his pacemaker until they had him so messed up with that not tuned right to no meds half the time. He fell over dead after having four small heart attacks and one big one that killed him. I just need to know with you all’s opinions where you might think his soul is. Thank you!

    1. Dear Sweet Sister, as I read your post my heart goes out to you in your suffering. And yet I know that those things I feel when I read your post are infinitely smaller than that which God feels for you in your pain. Please know this, that God’s love for your son is infinite and eternal and irresistible and never fails. God’s hand is stretched out still and will be forever. We all have to choose Him and follow Him along the path that leads to eternal life but that His love extends to his children and reaches out to them eternally and infinitely is true. Never allow those around you to put a limit on God’s love for His children. He will always and forever provide a way for us to receive Him and His love. God is now and forever more extending His love to your son.

    2. Sandra, I concur fully with Eric\’s July 2018 answer to your question, and I think DC 138:58-59 gives us a fundamental, universal answer.
      QUESTIONS that helped me understand these verses:
      ~ Are the spiritually dead considered \”dead\”? I believe so.
      ~ Is obedience different than performance? I believe so.
      ~ Are \”ordinances of the house of God\” merely baptisms, endowments, sealings, etc? I cannot see it. The grammar is wrong.
      ~ When Jesus spoke of many mansions in His father\’s house, was He speaking of the temple?
      ~ Does your local government have ordinances? Mine does. What are we required to do: obey them, or perform them?

      For myself, the more I study and ponder the Great, merciful Plan of Happiness/Salvation/Redemption/Exaltation, the more convinced I become that our invitation is simple and sincere, that every one of God\’s children on both sides of the veil is invited to repent, come unto Christ, and be exalted. That\’s what President Russell M. Nelson said. God and Jehovah commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. (2 Ne 26:24-28)

      I try to imagine our loving Father saying to any repentant son or daughter, \”Oh, no. Too late. The deadline was last Thursday. Sorry about that.\”

      I can\’t see it.

      THE END FROM THE BEGINNING: Now, If the God of Abraham says there are some who will not progress after the Judgment of the Great Day, then that is a FACT, not a deadline. This foreknowledge is the natural, logical result of His knowing us perfectly. He sees the heart, and the end from the beginning. Regardless of which kingdom each of us is sent, all will (as far as I can tell) still be His beloved children, and ours will still be our beloved children to bless, visit, and care for eternally. Probably more than they want us to.

  11. This is a great resource, especially with the David lesson this week that caused all High Priests to explode when I mentioned the possibility of eternal progression. All things are not revealed…yet, however the fact that in scripture God says that David will not remain in hell forever, is proof enough the there is progression. I think the question that is not answered is how that occurs.

    Salvation is free to all-Christ paid for that.
    Exaltation is still mostly Christ’s mercy and a tiny speck of our own actions. The scriptural term after all we can do is not a chronological if, then it is almost said that regardless of all that we do.

    The main point is that if Christ’s atonement is indeed infinite, than those who have sinned here, even knowingly, will have the opportunity to obtain exaltation (of life with God) Moses 1:39 this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life (exaltation-life with God) of man. Christ’s mission and his atonement has no ends.

    While I appreciate previous prophets idea on the matter, since there is no official point on this matter, I choose Grace over Justice.

  12. There seems to be a couple of lenses through which to view this matter: one perspective is the legalistic perspective where families are eternally divided into different levels. There is abundant support for this view from some authorities and some scriptures. This view has been echoed by some members here.

    Of course, not everyone in the church has a legalistic view. This has been expressed by members, and by authorities, as noted above.

    Gr8fulmi certainly presented a compelling perspective in her post.

    Then there the recollections of those attending the King Follet Discourse mentioned above, Again, while not canonized, Smith is quoted as saying, just two months and days before he died:

    \”When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world\”

    I think it is interesting that Smith\’s is quoted as using the word \”learn\” rather than \”earn\”, that the timeline for this learning of both salvation and exaltation is extended and not a fixed event in time, and that he asserts we do not have a full comprehension of these matters.

    The church\’s teachings are not static. We will continue to learn more, both in this life and beyond, it seems. I do not profess to know much, but I do know that the definition of grace is is \”unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification\” (Mirriam Webster)……and I believe that the atonement of Jesus is very great.

    Our bishop asked the question to a missionary before our congregation in sacrament meeting: \”who is going to the Celestial Kingdom?\” The missionary replied, \”everyone\”. That moment gave me considerable hope.

    1. I’m interested in knowing how we can progress in a lower Kingdom , without opposition
      Opposition as we know it
      There is a theory out there but haven’t tied all of it together yet

  13. The argument of moving from Kingdom to Kingdom ,though not settled ,has validity on both sides
    It is how they are able to do so ,is the territory that hasn’t been explored much that I’m aware of
    Given the audience I would believe exposure to MP or SP would not be new

    With that said and given the possibility of a “sliding scale” of words ,having multiple meaning from Gods perspective ( eternal damnation for example) the landscape of how to interpret or see things ,changes
    MP
    Growth takes opposition -in the spiritual realm
    Limited as our understanding is Opposition, as we know it ,only occurs in a fallen world with a fallen nature

    The spirit world would not seem to allow for this possibility
    It is a place to rest for some, to learn ,to be called our chosen even place to decide ,perhaps if given other options
    What options?

    To go back down and perhaps to eventually never have to “go no more out “- whatever that phrase means- it is mention 5 times in BOM

    We already know that it is possible to go from one glory to less glory and still maintain one’s identity
    Pre- mortal to Mortal
    From gender to character nothing is lost in this transfer except memories and memory
    We are here to be added upon!

    “Time is not measured unto God only man, “is a priceless treasure but given our nature we can only see time
    In time ,who really wants to be stagnated or damned ?
    What father would not provide a way for his children ,who are ready and qualify ,to do just that
    It may takes 1000s of yrs , as measured by man
    It surely would be a choice and to make it easier on those who choose to do so ( and our work isn’t over nor His until all who want salvation and exaltation is over and perhaps it is never over – works without end)
    By allowing what every degree of intelligence and glory your attain to -during your next life -would rise with you in the next glory – you would never lose whatever glory you had attained to
    That would be more appealing, no risk
    Could take 1000s of yrs to get there for some

    The struggle that hasn’t fit is the Resurrection
    But in reading Alma 40;4— He seem to be struggling to explain that the Resurrection Day isn’t fixed, it isn’t the same for everyone
    It can be read and seen many different ways but it seems to imply that it isn’t fixed , allowing that gap in MP to have at least an option

    Some may choose to stay in whatever kingdom they are assigned or given- given what JS said about the lowest, it isn’t bad
    But in time (and it may involve family members and their circumstances ) all will want to “go down “ not to start over but really in some ways to start where they left off
    Maybe there is far more to déjà vu then just fiction or fantasies
    Far more to a night sky than just one feeling homesick to one place but too many places out there
    “worlds without numbers “and perhaps you and I have lived on more than just this one of them

    For me it makes HF plan far more glorious ,for more achievable- filling me with wonderment of the atonement that now would really -have intergalactic relevance in such context, having application to all worlds then- but having to die only on-this one

    It doesn’t lessen my desire to do less now but to do more!!!

    I believe JS knew this. Fits into KFD easily
    Little wonder
    What we have is but a outline of the Great Plan Of Happiness not the blue print
    I’m beginning to believe we only have cliff notes!!

    I do have an idea about the other concern about this idea and sealings
    But I’m tried now

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