Degrees of glory

Degrees of glory

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

Joseph Smith, Jr. described the afterlife based primarily upon a vision he claimed to have received together with Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832, and recorded as Doctrine and Covenants Section 76. According to this section of LDS scripture, the afterlife consists of three degrees or kingdoms of glory, called the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom. The few who do not inherit any degree of glory (though they are resurrected) reside in a state called outer darkness, which, though not a degree of glory, is often discussed in this context. The ones who go there are known as "Sons of Perdition".


Doctrinal origin

The three degrees of glory are described in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In the preface to Section 76 in the LDS edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the following explanatory text is given:

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

Assignment to a particular kingdom in the resurrection is contingent upon the faith and works exhibited during mortal life. The LDS Church teaches that these different kingdoms are what Jesus was referring to when he said "[i]n my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2).[2] Additionally, the LDS Church teaches that 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 (40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory) speaks of these three degrees of glory, comparing them with the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.

The LDS doctrine of the three degrees of glory is also seemingly consistent with a particular reading of Revelations 22:10-11, where John says (text in parenthesis added):

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

Celestial kingdom

The celestial kingdom is the highest of three heavens or heavenly kingdoms. It is thought to be the "third heaven" referred to by the Apostle Paul in the King James Version of 2 Corinthians 12:2 and it is said by Latter-day Saints to correspond to the "celestial bodies" and "glory of the sun" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41.


The celestial kingdom will be the residence of those who have been righteous, accepted the teachings of Jesus Christ, and made and lived up to all of the required ordinances and covenants during their mortal lives.[3] It will also be the residence of those individuals that accepted and received the ordinances and covenants in the post-mortal spirit world.[4] All children who die before the age of eight automatically inherit the celestial kingdom.[5] The celestial kingdom will also be the permanent residence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.[6]

Joseph Smith taught that "a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it."[7] This white stone will become a Urim and Thummim (or seer stone) to the recipient.[8]

Degrees within

Joseph Smith taught that the celestial kingdom itself is subdivided into three "heavens or degrees".[9] Only those individuals who are sealed in celestial marriage to a spouse in a temple while alive (or after death by proxy) will be permitted to enter into the highest degree of celestial kingdom.[10] These individuals will eventually become "exalted"[11] and will be permitted to live "the kind of life God lives" as literal gods and goddesses, as Doctrine and Covenants 132 explains.[12] The nature of the other two degrees within the Celestial Kingdom have not been described, except to say that the people who go there will become "ministering angels".[13]


Joseph Smith taught that the earth will also receive a celestial glory.[14] Some Latter-day Saints believe that the earth will be the celestial kingdom, or at least a celestial world within the celestial kingdom for humans who lived on the earth and qualified for the celestial kingdom.[15]

Terrestrial kingdom

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terrestrial kingdom is the middle of what are believed to be three heavens or heavenly kingdoms. It is said by Latter-day Saints to correspond to the "bodies terrestrial" and "glory of the moon" mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the King James Version translation of 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 15:40-41. The word terrestrial derives from a Latin word meaning "earthly".

According to the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terrestrial kingdom is the eternal destination in the afterlife to which some portion of humankind will be assigned following resurrection and the judgment day. The primary source of this doctrine is a vision recounted by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832, and recorded as Doctrine and Covenants Section 76.


According to Doctrine and Covenants section 76, those who will inhabit the terrestrial kingdom include those who lived respectably but "were blinded by the craftiness of men" and thus rejected the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ when it was presented to them during their mortal lives.[16] It also includes persons who rejected the "testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it" in the spirit world[17] and those who "are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" after having received it.[18]

Ultimately, the kingdom of glory (either the celestial or the terrestrial) received by those who accept the testimony of Jesus will be based on God's knowledge of whether they "would have received it with all their hearts" as manifested by their works and the "desire of their hearts".[19]

Those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom "receive of the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father."[20]

Joseph Smith taught that translated beings abide in the terrestrial kingdom until they are resurrected and enter the celestial kingdom.[21]

Telestial kingdom

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the telestial kingdom is the lowest of what are believed to be three heavens or heavenly kingdoms. It is said by Latter-day Saints to correspond to the "glory of the stars" mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the King James Version translation of 1 Corinthians 15:41. There are no known uses of the word prior to Joseph Smith's prophecies.


According to the LDS scripture, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76, those who will inhabit the telestial kingdom include those "who received not the gospel of Christ, nor the testimony of Jesus."[22] It also includes "liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie."[23] Because of their refusal to accept Jesus as their Savior, these individuals will remain in Spirit prison[24] for 1000 years during the millennial reign of Christ.[25] After the 1000 years, the individuals will be resurrected and receive an immortal physical body and be assigned to the telestial kingdom.[26]

Joseph Smith taught that individuals in the telestial kingdom will be servants of God, but "where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end";[27] however, they will receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost and beings from the terrestrial kingdom.[28] Despite these limitations, in LDS theology being resident in the telestial kingdom is not an unpleasant experience: "the glory of the telestial ... surpasses all understanding".[29]

Joseph Smith also taught that just as there are different degrees of glory within the celestial kingdom (D&C 131:1-4), there are different degrees of glory within the telestial kingdom. He stated that "as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in the telestial world."[30] Each person's glory will vary depending on their works while on the earth.[31]

Smith and Rigdon stated "we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore".[32] One Latter-day Saint commentator has suggested that by implication this means that "most of the adult people who have lived from the day of Adam to the present time will go to the telestial kingdom."[33]

Role in temple ordinances

During the Endowment temple ordinance, members move between ordinance rooms. Due to cost of space, in most modern day LDS temples, moving between rooms has now been replaced with changes in lighting to represent change from one degree of glory to the next. In a few older Mormon temples (e.g. Salt Lake Temple and Manti Temple), the classic version of the endowment ceremony is still done by actors (instead of motion picture) and uses multiple rooms.

Hypothesized influence of Emanuel Swedenborg

Some, including historian of Mormonism D. Michael Quinn in his book Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, have argued that various parts of the plan of salvation were influenced in part by Emanuel Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell. In Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg wrote that "There are three heavens" that are "entirely distinct from each other."[34] Swedenborg called the highest heaven "the Celestial Kingdom," celestial being the Latin word for heavenly. He also stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the "sun, moon and stars."[34] While some historians believe Smith was familiar with Swedenborg's theology at least by 1839[citation needed], others have argued that he did not have access to the writings of Swedenborg.[35] One of Smith's preeminent biographers has argued it is more likely that Smith and Swedenborg developed their ideas independently based on 1 Corinthians 15.[36] This argument was more closely examined by William J. Hamblin as he explains that Quinn turned to Swedenborg as an indirect source, whose three heavens are not called "degrees of glory" and are themselves clearly derived from the Pauline passages in question. But Quinn insisted that Joseph was not influenced by the original idea from Paul (whom he certainly read), but rather by Swedenborg—whom Quinn agreed Joseph had not read, claiming instead that Joseph had heard of Swedenborg's ideas secondhand via Sibly (see pp. 217—18)[37]. But Sibly spoke of seven archangelic degrees of glory and not of three heavens as degrees of glory in the resurrection.[38]

See also


  1. ^ History of the Church 1: 245—252
  2. ^ LDS Church, Gospel Topics: Kingdoms of Glory.
  3. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book) p. 309: "All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fulness of that glory"; see also p. 362 where Smith said that without temple ordinances "we cannot obtain celestial thrones."
  4. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 137:5-9.
  5. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 137:10.
  6. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:62.
  7. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 130:11.
  8. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 130:10.
  9. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 131:1.
  10. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 131:2–4.
  11. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book) p. 348: "It will be a great while after you have [died] before you will have learned [all the principles of exaltation]. 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."
  12. ^ LDS Church, “Chapter 47: Exaltation”, Gospel Principles, 301.
  13. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 132:16–17
  14. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book) p. 181: "This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God, and crowned with celestial glory."
  15. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 88:14-26
  16. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:75.
  17. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:74.
  18. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:79.
  19. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 137:8-9.
  20. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:77.
  21. ^ Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book) p. 170: "Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fulness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order ...."
  22. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:82.
  23. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:103; see also Revelation 22:15.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:84, 105-106; LDS Church. “Chapter 46: The Last Judgment”, Gospel Principles, 294.
  26. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 88:100-101.
  27. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:112.
  28. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:86.
  29. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:89.
  30. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:98; see also 1 Corinthians 15:41.
  31. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:109-111; see also Bruce R. McConkie (1966). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft) p. 778-79.
  32. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 76:109.
  33. ^ Bruce R. McConkie (1966). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft) p. 778.
  34. ^ a b Emanuel Swedenborg, "Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen". ISBN 0-87785-476-9 (2001 translation) and ISBN 0-85448-054-4 (1958 translation).
  35. ^ Hamblin, William J. "That Old Black Magic." FARMS Review 12.2 (2000): 225-394. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Web. 01 December 2009.
  36. ^ Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), p. 198-99
  37. ^ Early Mormonism and the Magic World View
  38. ^ Hamblin, William J. "That Old Black Magic." FARMS Review 12.2 (2000): 225-394. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Web. 01 December 2009.


  • Book of Mormon - 2 Nephi 2:5–30; 10:23–25; Alma 12:24–37; 22:12–14; 42;
  • Pearl of Great Price - Moses 6:47–62
  • Damiani, Adhemar. "The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator", Ensign, March 2004, pp. 8–12
  • Lee, Robert England. "Teaching Our Children the Plan of Salvation", Ensign, September 2001, pp. 33–39
  • Gerrard, Duane B. "The Plan of Salvation: A Flight Plan for Life", Ensign, November 1997, pp. 77–78
  • Scott, Richard G.. "The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness", Ensign, November 1996, pp. 73–75
  • Ballard, M. Russell, "Answers to Life's Questions", Ensign, May 1995, pp. 22–24
  • Edwards, Judy. "Sharing Time: The Plan of Salvation Offers Me Peace", The Friend, March 1994, pp. 14–15[unreliable source?]
  • Oaks, Dallin H.. "The Great Plan of Happiness", Ensign, November 1993, pp. 72–75
  • Maxwell, Neal A.. "The Great Plan of the Eternal God", Ensign, May 1984, pp. 21–23

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