Section 131 is a compilation of principles taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith in various settings on May 16–17, 1843. “The vision given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 provides a great scriptural insight to the breadth of man’s potential eternal destiny. From that vision we learn that there are three degrees of glory to which the majority of mankind will eventually become heirs: Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial [see also 1 Corinthians 15:40–42; 2 Corinthians 12:2]. Our understanding of the Celestial glory is further broadened by the information contained in Section 131” (Leaun G. Otten and C. Max Caldwell, Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. , 2:348).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
There are three heavens or degrees in the celestial kingdom, and to obtain the highest, we must be married for eternity. Only those who obtain this glory can have eternal increase (see D&C 131:1–4; see also D&C 132:19–24).
There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter (see D&C 131:7–8).
Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 255–56, 260.
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 324–26.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4 (Scripture Mastery). There are three heavens or degrees in the celestial kingdom, and to obtain the highest, we must be married for eternity. Only those who obtain this glory can have eternal increase.
Ask students to name the three degrees of glory (celestial, terrestrial, and telestial). Have them read 1 Corinthians 15:40–41. Draw a sun on the board, and ask students what kingdom it represents. Discuss the following questions:
Why do you think the celestial kingdom is compared to the sun?
What does Paul’s comparing the three degrees of glory to the sun, moon, and stars teach you about the celestial kingdom? (All the kingdoms are glorious, but the celestial is much more glorious than the others.)
Why is inheriting the celestial kingdom worth all the sacrifices necessary to obtain it?
Have students draw pictures that show what Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4 teaches. Invite several students to display their pictures and explain to the class why they drew what they did. Discuss the following questions:
What have those in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom done that those in the other degrees have not? (Note: Do not speculate about what qualifies a person for the other two degrees of the celestial kingdom.)
What does “increase” mean? (see D&C 132:30–31).
To answer this question, share the following explanation by Elder Harold B. Lee, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“Increase of what? Increase of posterity. In other words, through obedience to His divine command, we … are given power to cooperate with God in the creation of a human soul here, and then beyond the grave to have eternal increase in a family relationship” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams , 238).
Ask: Why are the blessings of eternal kingdoms and increase important for you to strive for? Share the following statement by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“People who do not bring their lives into harmony with God’s laws and who do not receive the necessary ordinances … will remain separate and single in the eternities. There they will have no spouses, no children” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 245).
Arrange for a couple that has recently been sealed in the temple to come to class. Invite them to share their testimonies of Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4. Have them encourage students to prepare to marry in the temple. Read the following statement by President Howard W. Hunter:
“Let us plan for and teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and wife.
“All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. I encourage everyone to worthily attend the temple or to work toward the day when you can enter that holy house to receive your ordinances and covenants” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
Doctrine and Covenants 131:5–6. If we are faithful to all that God asks, we can receive the knowledge that we will obtain eternal life.
Note: See also the teaching suggestion for Doctrine and Covenants 132:49–50 (p. 226).
Show students a written guarantee or warranty. Ask:
What are the benefits of having a guarantee?
How does the value of a guarantee differ depending on who gives it?
How valuable would a guarantee from Heavenly Father be? Why?
Have students read Mosiah 26:20 and look for what the Lord promised Alma. Have them read Mosiah 17:2; 18:1; 24:8–12; 26:15 to learn about Alma. Ask: Based on Alma’s example, what do you think we must do to gain eternal life?
Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 131:5 and identify what the guarantee of eternal life is sometimes called. Have them read verse 6, and then share the following statement by President Marion G. Romney, who was a counselor in the First Presidency:
“Knowledge of ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ’ (John 17:3) is the most important knowledge in the universe; it is the knowledge without which the Prophet Joseph Smith said no man could be saved. The lack of it is the ignorance referred to in the revelation wherein it is written: ‘It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.’ (D&C 131:6.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1981, 18; or Ensign, Nov. 1981, 14).