(Doctrine & Covenants 76)
A Significant Doctrinal Communication
"It is full of light; it is full of truth; it is full of glory; it is full of beauty. It portrays the future of all the inhabitants of the earth, dividing them into three grand classes or divisionscelestial, terrestrial, and telestial, or as compared to the glory of the Sun, the glory of the Moon, and the glory of the Stars. It shows who will be redeemed, and what redemption they will enjoy; and describes the position the inhabitants of the earth will occupy when they enter into the future state."
"Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants in its sublimity and clearness in relation to the eternal destiny of the human family, has not been surpassed. It should be treasured by all members of the Church as a priceless heritage. It should strengthen their faith and be to them an incentive to seek the exaltation promised to all who are just and true. So plain and simple are its teachings that none should stumble or misunderstand."
The Prophet Joseph Smith had been engaged "somewhat regularly" in making an inspired translation of parts of the Bible since June of 1830. That work was periodically interrupted by other duties. One such interruption was a conference of the Church held in Amherst, Ohio, 25 January 1832. Concerning his return from that conference and the reception of the revelation known to us as D&C 76, 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 Saint's eternal home must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, on the 16th of February, 1832, while translating St. John's Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision.At this time Joseph and his family were living in the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio, about 30 miles southeast of Kirtland. It was in this home that the vision was received.
The only description that has surfaced thus far of the event, in addition to the Prophet's brief introduction cited above, is the following remembrance of Philo Dibble published in the Juvenile Instructor, 15 May 1892:
The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of "Father Johnson," in Hyrum [sic], Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the timeprobably two-thirds of the time,I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.
The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.Ten years earlier (1882), "Philo Dibble's Narrative," an autobiographical sketch, was published by the Juvenile Instructor office. Concerning D&C 76 the narrative states:
Joseph would, at intervals, say: "What do I see?" as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, "I see the same." Presently Sidney would say "what do I see?" and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, "I see the same."
This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.
Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, "Sidney is not used to it as I am."
On a subsequent visit to Hiram, I arrived at Father Johnson's just as Joseph and Sidney were coming out of the vision alluded to in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, in which mention is made of the three glories. Joseph wore black clothes, but at this time seemed to be dressed in an element of glorious white, and his face shone as if it were transparent, but I did not see the same glory attending Sidney. Joseph appeared as strong as a lion, but Sidney seemed as weak as water, and Joseph noticing his condition smiled and said, "Brother Sidney is not as used to it as I am."If both of these accounts are accurate remembrances, Philo Dibble must have arrived in time to observe the latter portion ("probably two- thirds of the time," "which I think was over an hour") of the vision. No mention is made of the names of the "other men in the room, perhaps twelve." Whether any of those men wrote of the experience is not known.
Reaction of the Saints and Early Publication of the Vision
Some of the Saints had difficulty accepting the doctrine in the vision, as it was different from their traditional view of life after death. Brigham Young wrote of his own struggle with it:
After all, my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it. I then could feel what incorrect traditions had done for me. Suppose all that I have ever heard from my priest and parentsthe way they taught me to read the Bible, had been true;my understanding would be diametrically opposed to the doctrine revealed in the Vision. I used to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew, and fully understood it for myself, by the visions of the holy Spirit. At first, it actually came in contact with my own feelings, though I never could believe like the mass of the Christian world around me; but I did not know how nigh I believed as they did. I found, however, that I was so nigh, I could shake hands with them any time I wished."Eventually, as this revelation was published in the periodicals of the Church and taught to the members over the pulpit, the Saints were able to overcome their prejudice, and Section 76 is now held in high regard by the members of the Church." The revelation was first published in the Church publication The Evening and Morning Star in July 1832, and was included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
It should be noted that in the vision itself Joseph and Sidney were told what they were to write and what they were not to write (D&C 76:28, 49, 80, 113, 114-16).
Eleven years after the vision (May 1843) Joseph Smith said: "I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them." It is possible that by then he already had revealed more than is recorded in D&C 76. Robert Woodford has suggested: "His later writings on the resurrection, . . . pre-earth life, . . .astronomy, . . . and the degrees within the celestial kingdom . . . may all have reflected some of the things he learned in this vision."
If we have but a hundredth part, it seems obvious that the recorded revelation, as marvelous as it is, will not answer all the questions we may have about our eternal destinies. From what we do have, however, it is abundantly clear that there is an eternal reward commensurate with every level of obediencerewards that range from godhood to perdition.
The revelation contained in D&C 76 is a series of visions on the following topics:
- The Son of God (vv. 1-24)
- Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)
- The Celestial Kingdom (vv. 50-70, 92-96)
- The Terrestrial Kingdom (vv. 71-80, 91, 97)
- The Telestial Kingdom (vv. 81-90, 98-112)
The sequence is interesting. It must have been a profound lesson in contrast for Joseph and Sidney to see and converse with Christ (v. 14), hear "the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father" (v. 23), then to be shown the darkness of rebellion and perdition, and then again to bask in the glory and power attending the celestial kingdom.
The Vision of the Son of God (vv. 1- 24)
After being assured that God's purposes do not fail and that he delights to honor the faithful with wisdom and understanding through his Spirit, Joseph and Sidney were privileged to see and converse with the Son of God in heavenly vision. The details of that conversation, or even by what means it was carried out, are not stated. The effect of it, however, is clearly stated in vv. 22-24. "Last of all" (v. 22) does not mean there will be no future testimonies born of him, rather that these brethren could now add their personal witness to all former testimonies that had been born to that time.
Note that John 5:29 is rendered somewhat differently in v. 17 than in the Bible"just" and "unjust" replacing "life" and "damnation." Note, too, that the new rendering "was given" to them (v. 15). A careful examination of the words and their theological meanings will show that the new rendering is more in keeping with the idea of varied levels of eternal reward than are the words "life" and "damnation."
The vision came as a prophet and his scribe were marveling and meditating upon a gospel truth, which in this case they had just learned through the spirit of revelation. This seems to be a pattern. It is interesting to note how many of the great recorded visions through the ages came while prophets were engaged in "pondering," "reflecting," or "meditating" upon some principle brought to their attention by the scriptures and the Spirit. Examples include Joseph Smith's First Vision (JS-H 12), Nephi's vision of the tree of life (1 Ne. 11:1), Joseph F. Smith's Vision of the Redemption of the Dead (D&C 138:1, 2), Enos and Nephi (son of Helaman) being reassured by the voice of God of their spiritual standing (Enos vv. 3, 4; Hell 10:2, 3), and Spencer W. Kimball's revelation on priesthood (OD 2). No doubt all of us could have revealed to us deeper understanding by devoting ourselves more to "pondering" and "reflecting" upon eternal truths. Perhaps that is why we are continually reminded to "search" (D&C 1:37), "treasure" (JS-M 37), "ponder" (Moro. 10:3), and "feast" (2 Ne. 31:20) upon the words of the Lord.
Verse 24 contains a powerful statement about the infinite nature of Christ's atonement. Citing this verse and the Prophet Joseph Smith's poetic version thereof (see below), Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: "Now our Lord's jurisdiction and power extend far beyond the limits of this one small earth on which we dwell. He is, under the Father, the creator of worlds without number (Moses 1:33). And through the power of his atonement the inhabitants of these worlds, the revelation says, 'are begotten sons and daughters unto God' (D&C 76:24), which means that the atonement of Christ, being literally and truly infinite, applies to an infinite number of earths."
The Vision Of Satan and His Followers (vv. 25- 49)
"The heavens wept over him" (v. 26), and with good reason! He was an "angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God" (v. 25). He was Lucifer, which means torch-bearer, or bringer of light. He was a "son of the morning," which could mean either "son of light" or an early-born spirit child of our Father in the pre-earth life. Obviously he had great capacity and promise and influence. But in his case pride ruled predominant. He rebelled against God. By his power and influence he convinced "a third part of the hosts of heaven" to rebel with him "because of their agency" (D&C 29:36). Satan, along with his followers, was "thrust down" (v. 25) "into the earth" (Rev. 12:9), "to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto [the Lord's] voice" (Moses 4:4). The revelation (v. 29) states that "he maketh war with the Saints of God, and encompasseth them round about." Joseph Smith said, "The devil will use his greatest efforts to trap the Saints." He also told Heber C. Kimball that "The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifest by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes."
Just as those who completely follow Christ become sons of God (D&C 76:58; Moses 6:68), those who suffer "themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome" (v. 31) become sons of perdition, "Perdition" being another name for Satan (D&C 76:26). In both cases those involved make decisions with their eyes wide openit is "impossible . . . to be saved in ignorance" (D&C 131:6), and those who become sons of perditions must:
- know God's power (v. 31)
- have been made partakers thereof (v. 31)
- have suffered themselves to be overcome (v. 31)
- deny the truth (v. 31)
- defy God's power (v. 31)
- deny the Holy Spirit after having received it (v. 35)
- deny the Only Begotten Son (crucify him unto themselves) (v. 35)
- deny the Son after the Father has revealed him (v. 43)
The question is often asked, "Just how much does one have to know before one could become a son of perdition?" The following quotations from Joseph Smith and Spencer W. Kimball may help:
All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin?
He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devilthe same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Lifethe same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence.The consequence of becoming sons of perdition is the "second death" (v. 37). They are the "only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord" (v. 38). Through the power of the atonement, Christ "saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition" (vv. 43, 44). "They cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall because they repent not; for they love darkness rather than light" (D&C 29:44, 45). Their determined lawlessness and its result is described in another revelation: "That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to be a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still" (D&C 88:35).
The sins unto death may be thought of as somewhat difficult to define and limit with precision. From the words of Joseph Smith quoted above we note that ". . . many apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" will fall into this category. We cannot definitely identify them individually since it is impossible for us to know the extent of their knowledge, the depth of their enlightenment, and the sureness of their testimonies before their fall. . . .
The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin. Comparatively few Church members will commit murder wherein they shed innocent blood, and we hope only few will deny the Holy Ghost.
The Lord explained to Joseph and Sidney in the vision that though some are permitted to catch a brief glimpse of perdition, no one except the sons of perdition themselves truly understand the nature, extent and duration of the suffering there (vv. 44-48). In an earlier revelation the Lord said: "Wherefore I will say unto themDepart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from my own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power. But remember that all my judgments are not given unto man" (D&C 29:28-30). The "but remember" portion of that revelation has led some to speculate that eventually the sons of perdition may be restored, recycled, or redeemed. Concerning those who were advocating such an idea in the early Church, the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Fredrick G. Williams) wrote in 1833:
Say to the brother Hulet and to all others, that the Lord never authorized them to say that the devil, his angels or the sons of perdition, should ever be restored; for their state of destiny was not revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, save to those who are made partakers thereof; consequently those who teach this doctrine, have not received it of the Spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils. We therefore command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion. We sanction the decision of the Bishop and his council, in relation to this doctrine being a bar to communion.Speculation, then, about the ultimate destiny of the sons of perditionsomething that was not, is not, and will not be revealedseems fruitless.
Some have wondered if the words "for all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead" (v. 39) means that sons of perdition will not be resurrected. We are assured by scripture and by modern prophets that they will be resurrected (see 1 Cor. 15:22; D&C 29:26; D&C 88:32, 102; Alma 11:41-45). 17 The sense of v. 39 then, is that all the rest (all except sons of perdition) will be "brought forth" (i.e., redeemed or brought out of hell) by the resurrection of the dead (see D&C 29:44; 88:16, 32).
Satan and his unembodied followers, along with his resurrected but unredeemed followers, inherit a "kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory" (D&C 88:24), suffering "everlasting," "endless," "eternal" punishment (v. 44 explained to mean "God's punishment" in D&C 19:6-12), "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (v. 44). The "worm" and "fire" represent "guilt and pain, and anguish" (Mosiah 2:38). Joseph Smith said: "The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone." What a sad end. It is no wonder that the heavens wept!
The Vision of the Celestial Kingdom (vv. 50-70, 92-96)
A careful reading of the verses pertaining to the celestial glory shows that they refer to those who are exalted in that kingdom (see v. 55, "into whose hands the Father has given all things"; v. 56, "received of his fulness"; v. 58, "they are gods"). Later (see D&C 131:1-4) the Prophet explained that there were "three heavens or degrees" in the celestial glory; whether this fact was made known during the vision or whether he learned of it later is not stated. However, it seems clear that the focus of this part of the vision is upon the highest heaven or glory within the celestial kingdom.
- a testimony of Jesus (v. 51)
- belieffaith? (v. 51)
- baptism (v. 51)
- receiving the Holy Ghost (v. 52)
- keeping the commandments (v. 52)
- overcoming by faithovercoming sin? or the world? or whatever trial or obstacle "the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him" (Mosiah 3:19), proving to himself and to God that he is "determined to serve God at all hazards" (v. 53)
- sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise (v. 53)
The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Spirit promised the saints, or in other words the Holy Ghost. This name-title is used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost, that is, the power given him to ratify and approve the righteous acts of men so that those acts will be binding on earth and in heaven. "All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations," must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have "efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead" (D&C 132:7).
To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done. The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive the divine approbation. They "are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true" (D&C 76:53). If they are not just and true and worthy, the ratifying seal is withheld.Nothing specific is said in this revelation about the necessity of eternal marriage in order to achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom. That requirement is made clear in D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:15-25. Also, we learn from D&C 84:33-44 that faithfulness to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is a requirement.
Those who attain this glory are members of the "Church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn" (vv. 54, 67), and "are come unto Mount Zion" (v. 66). These are simply other ways of saying that they are exalted.
"Just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant" (v. 69) is a reminder that even though someone learns to live in perfect harmony with the laws of God (i.e., becomes a just man) he must be absolved from his earlier mistakes before he is considered perfect. The blood of Christ remits those sins of which one has repented, and thus he is "made perfect."
Verse 94 (see also 1 Cor. 13:12) carries a powerful thought: exalted souls "see as they are seen, and know as they are known." How marvelous to consider the idea of living in such an open society, where there are no hidden agendas, where motives, thoughts, words, and actions are pure, so that there is nothing of which to be ashamed and therefore nothing to try to hide. It is an interesting experience to try to live that way for one day, or even one hour.
Verse 95 indicates that those who achieve this glory will be made "equal in power, and in might, and in dominion." What is probably meant is that ultimately "all that My Father hash" will be given to those who qualify for exaltation (D&C 84:38). This blessing will not necessarily be conferred simultaneously upon all at the resurrection. Joseph Fielding Smith has said: "To be 'made equal in power, and in might, and in dominion,' does not mean that all shall advance with equal rapidity and perfection, but that means are given to them as sons of God by which they may obtain this fulness." 23 And the Prophet Joseph Smith taught in 1844:
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 Gospelyou 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.
Applying the principles contained in D&C 130:18-19, it will take some people less time than others to achieve a "fulness." Surely as we contemplate dwelling "in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever" (v. 62), with all the blessings attendant thereto, we can understand Alma's declaration: "And my soul did long to be there" (Alma 36:22).
The Vision of the Terrestrial Kingdom (vv. 71-80, 86-89, 91, 97)
Those who are to receive the terrestrial glory are described as:
- those who died without law (v. 72)
- the spirits of men kept in prison, who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it (vv. 73-74)
- honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men (v. 75)
- those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus (v. 79)
It seems clear that these categories are not absolutely definitive. For instance, all those who die without law will not end up in the terrestrial kingdomthose who would have received the gospel had they heard it are heirs of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137:7-9). And what better way is there of knowing whether they would have received it than seeing what they do with it when they do receive it, in the post-earth spirit world? Similarly all those who are "not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" will not receive terrestrial glorysome will be so "not valiant" (i.e., liars, sorcerers, adulterers, etc.) that they will be consigned to the telestial kingdom. Hence, it appears that these categories qualify one another, and taken together give us a profile of terrestrial personality. That personality is capsulized in vv. 75 and 79 "honorable men" who have a testimony of Jesus, but who are not valiant in that testimony. Some, evidently, settled themselves into that mold in the pre-earth life and simply maintain it through this earthly probation. Elder Melvin J. Ballard suggested:
Now those who died without law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion in the former life, are obtaining all that they are entitled to. I don't mean to say that all of them will be barred from entrance into the highest glory. Any one of them who repents and complies with the conditions might also obtain celestial glory, but the great bulk of them will only obtain terrestrial glory.Others, like some of the disobedient in the days of Noah, reject the gospel on earth, but through repentance and suffering in the post-earth spirit world raise themselves to a terrestrial level of obedience and qualify for a terrestrial reward (Moses 7:36-40; 1 Pet. 3:18-21, 4:6; D&C 138:32, 58). Still others accept the testimony of Jesus on earth or in the Spirit world and live honorable lives, but permit the craftiness of men to blind them to the higher gospel principles. Neither celestial laws nor telestial wickedness appeals to them.
By the time of the resurrection and judgment, the accumulated effect of all our decisions in the pre-earth life, mortality, and the post-earth spirit world will be an unmistakable demonstration of what we really are, what law we can and will obey, and therefore what measure of truth and light and glory we can abide (D&C 88:22-24, 40). In regard to those spoken of in D&C 76:72-74, discussion sometimes focuses upon whether rejecting the fulness of the gospel at one point in time disqualifies them from receiving it later. Perhaps more emphasis should be placed upon the idea that it is not so much a matter of God denying opportunity as it is a matter of our unwillingness or inability to repent fully and respond to higher levels of light and truth.
Those who receive the terrestrial glory will enjoy "the presence of the Son, but not the fulness of the Father" (v. 77). Their bodies differ from celestial bodies in glory "as the moon differs from the sun" (v. 78). They will be governed by "the ministrations of the celestial" (v. 87) kingdom, and have a part in governing the telestial kingdom (vv. 86, 88).
The Vision of the Telestial Kingdom (vv. 81-90, 98-112)
Just as there are souls who love and obey the truth with all their hearts and receive celestial rewards, and as there are souls who are honorable but not valiant and who receive terrestrial rewards, there are those who live wickedly, rejecting the gospel and Christ and the prophets. These receive telestial rewards.
The word "telestial" is a uniquely Latter-day Saint term. It does not appear in the Bible and even in Latter-day scripture only appears in D&C 76 and D&C 88. Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "telestial glory" as "The lowest of three Mormon degrees or kingdoms of glory attainable in heaven." Although Paul speaks of three glories of the sun, moon, and stars, and names the first two as celestial and terrestrial, he does not name the third. That name, telestial, comes from this vision to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (see 1 Cor. 15:40, 41; see also 27).
Those who will enter the telestial kingdom, where they will differ in glory from one another as one star differs from another star (v. 98), are described as:
- they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus (v. 82)
- they who deny not the Holy Spirit (v. 83)
- they who say they are some of one, and some of anothersome of Christ and some of John, and some of Mosesbut received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant (vv. 99-101)
- they who are liars and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie (v. 103; Rev. 22:15 adds murderers)
Verse 82 has an interesting thoughtseed in it. By speaking of "the gospel of Christ" and "the testimony of Jesus" as two factors, it appears that a person could have one, or both, or neither. In the context of this revelation, such an idea harmonizes with the concept that terrestrial-type souls receive a testimony of Jesus but are not valiant enough in that testimony to receive the fulness of the gospel; celestial personalities receive a testimony of Jesus and baptism and the Holy Ghost and a cleansing from all sin (i.e., the fulness of the gospel); telestial people do not receive either a testimony of Jesus or the gospel.
However, "these all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess . . . that Jesus Christ is Lord" (v. 110; Philip. 2:9-11). This obeisance and confession will come sometime during the process of preparing to be "heirs of salvation" (v. 88). 29 This cleansing process involves their spirits' being called up and judged unworthy of resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium (D&C 88:100-1), then spending one thousand years in hell suffering for the sins they earlier refused to repent of, and learning to obey at least a telestial law (vv. 84-85, 105-7). Once they are cleansed and prepared, they shall be resurrected and placed in the telestial kingdom, the glory of which "surpasses all understanding" (v. 89). 30 No longer liars, sorcerers, whoremongers, adulterers, "they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end" (v. 112). Charles W. Penrose, later to become an apostle and counselor in the First Presidency, wrote in 1897:
While there is one soul of this race, willing and able to accept and obey the laws of redemption, no matter where or in what condition it may be found, Christ's work will be incomplete until that being is brought up from death and hell, and placed in a position of progress, upward and onward, in such glory as is possible for its enjoyment and the service of the great God. The punishment inflicted will be adequate to the wrongs performed. In one sense the sinner will always suffer its effects. When the debt is paid and justice is satisfied; when obedience is learned through the lessons of sad experience; when the grateful and subdued soul comes forth from the everlasting punishment, thoroughly willing to comply with the laws once rejected; there will be an abiding sense of loss. The fullness of celestial glory in the presence and society of God and the Lamb are beyond the reach of that saved but not perfected soul, forever. The power of increase, wherein are dominion and exaltation and crowns of immeasurable glory, is not for the class of beings who have been thrust down to hell and endured the wrath of God for the period allotted by eternal judgment. . . .Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw that the inhabitants of the telestial world were "as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore" (v. 109). Though denied access to where God and Christ dwell, they will enjoy the presence "of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial" (vv. 86, 112).
Those who were cast down to the depths of their sins, who rejected the gospel of Jesus, who persecuted the Saints, who reveled in iniquity, who committed all manner of transgressions except the unpardonable crime, will also come forth in the Lord's time, through the blood of the Lamb and the ministry of His disciples and their own repentance and willing acceptance of divine law, and enter into the various degrees of glory and power and progress and light, according to their different capacities and adaptabilities. They cannot go up into the society of the Father nor receive of the presence of the Son, but will have ministrations of messengers from the terrestrial world, and have joy beyond all expectations and the conception of uninspired mortal minds. They will all bow the knee to Christ and serve God the Father, and have an eternity of usefulness and happiness in harmony with the higher powers. They receive the telestial glory.
Truly there are many mansions in our Father's house (John 14:2). In his justice and mercy and love he will do all he can do for usall we will permit him to dofor he "granteth unto men according to their desire" (Alma 29:4, 5; 41:3-8). D&C 76 bears eloquent testimony of this truth. Perhaps the Prophet Joseph Smith said it best.
Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow- mindedness of men that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: "It came from God."