Celestial World vs Celestial Kingdom
vs 2: "...and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world."
Is there a difference between the celestial "world" and the celestial "kingdom" (see vs 4)? Are they the same?
There are some LDS, including some scholars, who believe there is a difference. The term "celestial" can be both a term referencing physical or spiritual things. So, God is a Celestial Being, but Saturn is a celestial (heavenly as in cosmos) orb.
Then there are the terms world and kingdom. As we see in the world we live in now, there are a variety of peoples with varying levels of spirituality. On this one planet, we see sons of perdition (Cain), as well as saints (the prophets). On this planet, we often see separations between groups, such as when Cain was separated from Adam, or Lehi leaving wicked Jerusalem, yet they are still on the same world.
There is a possibility that on a celestial world there is room for a celestial kingdom, as well as other kingdoms. If this is the case, then our reading of D&C 131:1 "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees...." be not be entirely correct. Does a celestial glory (note lower caps) refer to the Celestial Kingdom, or does it refer to a heavenly cosmos location? This could mean there are three levels in the Celestial Kingdom and/or there are three major divisions in a celestial world, where celestial, terrestrial and telestial beings dwell near each other on the same planet(s).
Light of Christ
Continuing in verses 3-4, we learn about "another Comforter" that promises celestial glory. Is this Holy Spirit of Promise the 2nd Comforter (Jesus Christ)? Or is it a stronger manifestation of the Holy Ghost itself.
Continuing, the section then describes the Light of Christ. This light is the "light of truth" and is the power by which the sun, moon, earth, and all things operate. It is this light which enlightens each person on earth.
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—It is possible that this light is what creates or forms Intelligences (D&C 93:36). If it fills all things, then perhaps it is the power that organizes and determines the functions of each atom, and when atoms are combined, to give greater ability to the molecules that are formed. So, while oxygen and hydrogen have important qualities, when combined into water they suddenly have remarkably new qualities that neither atom has on its own.
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (vv 12-13)
These verses also have us ask some questions. This light is the law by which all things are governed. Does this include God? Is this "power of God"/light of truth a power God has within him because he is God, or is he God because he has full access to this power and light?
And the spirit and the body are the soul of man. (v 15)
Is this tied to the previous concept of the light of truth and Intelligence? Are spirits created from smaller parts or intelligences, just as our physical bodies are made up of atoms, molecules, and larger components (intelligences)? Does creating a soul (spirit and body) create the next generation of Intelligence?
Resurrection and the Kingdoms
And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
"And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.Here is an interesting concept in regards to resurrection and atonement. There is a resurrection and THEN a sanctification through the atonement. The section continues stating that every kingdom of glory has a law attached to it, and to live in that kingdom, a person must abide that law.
Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father" (vv 17-19)
There comes the question, can a person later choose to abide a higher law and be allowed to dwell in a higher kingdom? The scriptures and prophets are not clear on this one, but there are some suggestive concepts given to us.
"These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;Why else do those in higher kingdoms minister, except to guide them to a higher kingdom?
And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial." (D&C 76:86-87)
“It 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.”
-James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421
"The question of advancement within the great divisions of glory celestial, terrestrial, and telestial; as also the question of advancement from one sphere of glory to another remains to be considered. In the revelation from which we have summarized what has been written here, in respect to the different degrees of glory, it 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 terrestrialâ€”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 partakeConclusions
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 gloryâ€”having before them the privilege also of eternal
progressâ€”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 kingdomâ€”they may arrive where these were, but never where they are.”
B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God 1:391-392
The things I've discussed are concepts to consider. They are not doctrine, but are possible things from the scriptures we currently have. It is possible that our understanding of our doctrine may partially be based on tradition, and not fully on what the scriptures actually intend. Does Eternal Punishment mean a punishment with no ending? Or is Eternal one of God's names, and so "Eternal Punishment is God's Punishment" (D&C 19)? Digging a little deeper into the scriptures may create more questions than answers, but some of those questions may be worth keeping.