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What We Know About the Degrees of Glory from Joseph Smith's Visions

What We Know About the Degrees of Glory from Joseph Smith's Visions

In this excerpt from Precept upon Precept, Robert L. Millet explores the experience of the prophet Joseph Smith along with his scribe Sidney Rigdon as they received one of the most remarkable revelations from God—the vision of the degrees of glory.

VISION OF THE GLORIES

In a sense, the vision of the glories consists of six visions, each of which we will consider briefly.

Vision I: The Glory of the Son

The first vision briefly sets the stage for what follows by placing things in perspective with regard to the work of redemption and salvation—namely, that salvation is in Christ and comes through the shedding of his own blood and his glorious rise to newness of life in resurrection. The translators thus saw in vision “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, worshipping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever” (D&C 76:20–21). Similarly, John the Revelator had recorded concerning the Redeemer, “Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:11–12).

The Prophet and his scribe bore witness of the Redeemer in powerful language: “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! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24). Truly, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10), and all the holy prophets, from the beginning, have testified of the One who called and sent them (Acts 10:43; Jacob 4:4; 7:11; Mosiah 13:33).

In addition, Sidney and Joseph’s witness contains significant doctrine. For one thing, their testimony affirms the burden of scripture—that Jehovah, who is Christ, was and is the Creator of worlds without number (Moses 1:33; 7:30; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:1–2). It confirms also the infinite and eternal nature of the Atonement. Whatsoever our Lord and Master creates, he redeems. That is to say, his redemptive labors reach beyond the bounds of our earth (Moses 1:32–35). In 1843 the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in poetry an account of this vision. Verses 22 through 24 of Doctrine and Covenants 76 were rendered as follows:

And now after all of the proofs made of him, By witnesses truly, by whom he was known, This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives! And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne.
And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n, He’s the Savior, and only begotten of God— By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made, Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last, Are sav’d by the very same Savior of ours; And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons, By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.

Or, as a later apostle, President Russell M. Nelson, pointed out, “the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him.”

Vision II: The Fall of Lucifer

The Prophet Joseph and his scribe received an affirmation of a vital element of the plan of salvation—the nature of opposition through Satan and satanic influences. Lucifer is described in the vision as one “who was in authority in the presence of God” (D&C 76:25), who rebelled against the Father and the Son in the premortal council in heaven, thus becoming known as perdition, meaning “ruin” or “destruction.” Because he was indeed a spirit son of God, “a son of the morning” (D&C 76:26), the heavens wept over his defection. He coveted the throne of the Father and proposed to save all the sons and daughters of God in a way contrary to the plan of the Father (Moses 4:1–4). “The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him.” Lucifer became thereby an enemy to God and to all righteousness: “Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (D&C 76:29).

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