Sunday, July 04, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 76 - The Vision

 Come Follow Me: D&C 76 - The Vision

 The Vision

In 1832, Joseph and Sidney received a remarkable Vision that lasted hours. They took turns describing the things they saw. D&C 76 was created from the revelation, covering many of the important truths they discovered.

The first thing to note is that BOTH Joseph and Sidney received the revelation. While many pretenders proclaimed they had revelations from God and/or angels, none had a list of others who joined in many of those revelations: the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery seeing John the Baptist, the First Presidency seeing the Kirtland Temple in vision as they began plans to design and build it, members attending the Kirtland Temple dedication, etc.  

When it came to Christianity, the Vision was revolutionary. A few had previously suggested that heaven had several levels, but no one had given as much detail as this. For most of Christianity, only a few would be saved, the rest of the world would be damned - regardless of their opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ in this life. In fact, one leading dogma for many Christians is Calvin's TULIP, which includes a limited atonement, predestination to heaven/hell, and that most will not be saved.

The Vision turns all of that on its head. Instead of a limited atonement, Christ offers a near universal salvation to humankind. Instead of predestination, there is fore-ordination and free will.It is a Vision of hope and joy.

"We, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two—

"By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God—

"Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning;" (vs 11-13)



As noted before, Joseph and Sidney received the revelation together. It lasted hours, but section 76 is not that long. Instead, we occasionally get glimpses of other things they saw. In this instance, they saw things "from the beginning before the world was," perhaps the Divine Councils in Heaven, maybe parts of the Creation itself.

"And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.

"And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;

"And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!" (vs 19-22)

Here, Joseph and Sidney have joined the Divine Council in heaven. It represents the councils held since the earliest times of Creation (Abraham 3), and include other prophets having important visions being with the Council (Isaiah 6, 1 Nephi 1, Revelation 4). Many key prophets, including Isaiah, Lehi and the apostle John, experienced the Divine Council. Joseph and Sidney join that special group.

In seeing God and Christ, they had a theophany. A theophany is where God appears before a human. The First Vision is a theophany. Scripture show Adam, Noah, Enoch, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Lehi, the brother of Jared, and many others experiencing a theophany. When the children of God prepare their hearts sufficiently, they are brought into the presence of God. They are, in that moment, redeemed from the Fall. 

"That he lives!" is one of the most important statements in scripture. Much of the world thinks, along with the philosopher Nietzche, "God is dead."  Joseph Smith proclaimed that while Nietzche may be dead, through the ever living Jesus Christ, even the philosopher will live again!

The Vision steps us through the various levels of heaven. This is similar to several ancient Judeao-Christian texts, most were not available in Joseph Smith's day. Included are the Ascension of Isaiah and the Apocalypse of Paul. In these visions, the prophets ascend through the levels of heaven, seeing the sufferings of the wicked, and the joys of the righteous.

 For active Latter-day Saints, we also experience such a practice theophany every time we attend the endowment in the temple. It is our version of the Vision.


The Telestial

In explaining the kingdoms, we get a glimpse of Outer Darkness, Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial glories. To see the glory and love of God, we only need consider that the wicked, which include murderers, will go to the Telestial Kingdom, which is a kingdom of salvation:

"These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.

"These are they who are thrust down to hell.

"These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.

"These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;

"And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.

"And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

"And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;" (vs 83-89)

The Telestial are wicked people, who barely repent of their sins, but not much more. They will suffer in hell, or Spirit Prison, for a time. As with Alma in his near death experience, they will suffer intensely, until they choose to repent (Alma 36), at which time they are released from the suffering. Note that it isn't God that causes the suffering. It is their own guilt that causes them to suffer, and the only escape is to repent.

Still, their glory and salvation "surpasses all understanding." That is how much God loves his children.



From these and other verses, a question opens up. Why are the Telestial administered to by the Terrestrial, and the Terrestrial by the Celestial? Is it a teaching/training to prepare these souls to ascend to higher kingdoms later on?  

There are two theories in the Church.

The current leading theory, pushed by Joseph Fielding Smith and others, is that there is no progression between kingdoms. There is only progression within a kingdom, but not beyond.

Meanwhile, other Church leaders, like James Talmage (who wrote, Jesus the Christ), suggested it may be possible to advance or progress through the kingdoms. (see quotes below)

Again, both of these positions are theory. We just do not know, yet.

Sons of Perdition

Only the Sons of Perdition will not be saved. Why not? Because they refuse to be saved. They reject God, Christ and the Holy Ghost. They refuse to submit themselves to the Godhead. Instead of attributes of love, patience, humility, charity, faith and hope; they are the antithesis of these things: hate, greed, selfishness, etc.

While we may look upon Outer Darkness as a terrible place, it is the only place where the Sons of Perdition will feel comfortable. It is where they will be happiest. (Mormon 9:4)

A Truly Loving God

Ours is truly a loving God. He gave us Jesus Christ to rescue us from Outer Darkness. Without Christ, we all would be subject to the devil (Jacob 3:11). Instead, we are offered near universal salvation in a kingdom of glory. The only requirements for this basic salvation are: faith in Christ and repentance. Nothing else is necessary for entering the Telestial Kingdom. 

This is called Justification. We are justified in the blood of Christ. We are made sinless in and through Him. 

Then, through Sanctification, we are made holy. Sanctification requires more than just faith and repentance on a basic level. It means putting forth effort to become holy. We exercise faith in Christ, we repent, we receive ordinances, we receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost, then we endure. This is the Doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11). Using this as a pattern, we are able to go from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace, until we obtain a fullness of God's glory (D&C 93).

To the level of sanctification we reach, determines our kingdom in the resurrection. This offers salvation to almost all of God's children. He loves us. He wants the best for us. He gives us what we are ready to receive. We are His children.

Quotes on Progression Between Kingdoms

Boyd K. Packer,
‘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, 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.”
“There is never a time,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.”’

(The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 18)

Brigham Young,
“None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods — all others would have to inherit another kingdom — they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process [progress?].”
(Brigham Young, in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 Aug 1855)

Joseph F. Smith,
“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])

J. Reuben Clark,
“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 unrighteously 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)

James E. Talmage,
“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)

John A. Widtsoe’s
Moreover our punishment stands, at least measurably, throughout the endless ages, because, as we go onward, those above us go onward also, and the relative positions remain the same..

(Widtsoe, “Fundamentals of Temple Doctrine,” 132.)

Orson F. Whitney
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1929, p. 110)

Lorenzo Snow
“If you succeed in passing through these trials and afflictions and receive a resurrection, you will, by the power of the Priesthood, work and labor, as the Son of God has, until you get all your sons and daughters in the path of exaltation and glory. This is just as sure as that the sun rose this morning over yonder mountains. Therefore, mourn not because all your sons and daughters do not follow in the path that you have marked out to them, or give heed to your counsels. Inasmuch as we succeed in securing eternal glory, and stand as saviors, and as kings and priests to our God, we will save our posterity” (in Collected Discourses, comp. Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. [1987–92], 3:364).





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