Lesson 20: The Kingdoms of Glory

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 110–14


Purpose

To help class members carefully consider the eternal inheritances in the three kingdoms of glory and to encourage them to live in such a way that they will be able to inherit celestial glory and dwell in Heavenly Father’s presence with their families.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study Doctrine and Covenants 76; 131; 132:19–24; 137.

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Briefly remind class members of last week’s lesson. Ensure that class members remember the three parts of our eternal existence: premortal life, mortal life, and life after death.

After this brief review, explain that if we did not have the revelations in D&C 76, 131, and 137, we would know very little about what our condition will be after we are resurrected. Then share the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of the Church, about the vision recorded in D&C 76:

“I will refer to the ‘Vision’ alone, as a revelation which gives more light, more truth, and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [1946], 47–48).

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Be sure to leave enough time to have a meaningful discussion about the celestial kingdom toward the end of the lesson.

1. The kingdoms of glory and “the testimony of Jesus”

Teach and discuss D&C 76:11–24, 40–43, 119.

  • What circumstances led to the vision that is recorded in D&C 76? (See D&C 76:11–19; see also the heading to D&C 76. Note that the picture on page 114 shows the room in which the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received this vision.)

Emphasize that the entire vision testifies of Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. Joseph Smith’s description of the vision begins and ends with a testimony of the Savior. Have one class member read D&C 76:20–24 aloud and another read D&C 76:119 aloud. You may also want to have class members read D&C 76:40–43.

Doctrine and Covenants 76 shows that Heavenly Father has provided three kingdoms of glory in which most people will live after they are resurrected: the telestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the celestial kingdom. Each of us will inherit a kingdom of glory based on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51). Encourage class members to keep this in mind as they discuss this revelation.

2. Perdition

Teach and discuss D&C 76:25–39, 44–49. Begin by writing Perdition on the chalkboard. Explain that the word perdition refers to a state of loss and destruction rather than a kingdom of glory. Those who experience this are called “sons of perdition” because they follow Satan, who is called Perdition (D&C 76:25–26, 31–32). Be sure to keep this discussion brief, avoiding speculation and leaving sufficient time to discuss the celestial kingdom later in the lesson. As with other subjects, focus only on what has been taught in the scriptures and by latter-day prophets.

  • When Lucifer rebelled in the Council in Heaven, he was thrust down to earth (Revelation 12:7–9; D&C 29:36–37; 76:25–28; Moses 4:1–3). What did he begin to do when he was cast out? (See D&C 76:29; Moses 4:4.) What can we do to win the war against Satan in our lives? (For some answers to this question, see 1 Nephi 14:14; D&C 10:5; 27:15–18.)

  • What did the Lord reveal about the suffering of the sons of perdition? (See D&C 76:32–34, 36–38, 44–49.) Why are sons of perdition condemned to experience such great suffering? (See D&C 76:30–31, 35. For an explanation of what it means to deny the Holy Ghost, see the following quotation.)

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 358).

3. The telestial kingdom

Teach and discuss D&C 76:81–90, 98–106, 109–12. Begin by writing Telestial Kingdom on the chalkboard and drawing a star next to it. Explain that the telestial kingdom is the lowest kingdom of glory. The Lord compared its glory to the glory of the stars (D&C 76:81, 98; see also 1 Corinthians 15:40–41, including Joseph Smith’s translation in footnote 40a).

  • Who will inherit the telestial kingdom? (See D&C 76:81–83, 98–101, 103.)

  • What conditions or limitations will be placed on those in the telestial kingdom? (See D&C 76:84–86, 102, 104–6, 112.)

    You may need to explain that the “hell” referred to in verses 84 and 106 is spirit prison, a temporary state between death and resurrection. Those in spirit prison who do not accept the gospel will eventually be resurrected and inherit telestial glory. Have class members read verses 85 and 106 and the second paragraph in the Bible Dictionary definition of the word hell (the first full paragraph on page 700).

4. The terrestrial kingdom

Teach and discuss D&C 76:71–80, 91, 97. Begin by writing Terrestrial Kingdom on the chalkboard and drawing a moon next to it. Explain that the Lord compared the glory of the terrestrial kingdom to the glory of the moon (D&C 76:78, 97; see also 1 Corinthians 15:40–41).

  • Who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom? (See D&C 76:71–75, 79. To help class members understand these verses, share the following quotation.)

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve explained: “Those destined to inherit the terrestrial kingdom are: (1) those who died ‘without law’—those heathen and pagan people who do not hear the gospel in this life, and who would not accept it with all their hearts should they hear it; (2) those who hear and reject the gospel in this life and then accept it in the spirit world; (3) those ‘who are honorable men of the earth, who [are] blinded by the craftiness of men’; and (4) those who are lukewarm members of the true church and who have testimonies, but who are not true and faithful in all things” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 146).

  • What conditions or limitations will be placed on those in the terrestrial kingdom? (See D&C 76:76–78.)

  • How can we keep ourselves from being “blinded by the craftiness of men”? (For some answers to this question, see Ephesians 4:11–15; 1 Nephi 15:24; Helaman 5:12; D&C 3:7–8; 21:4–6; 52:14–20.)

5. The celestial kingdom

Teach and discuss D&C 76:50–70, 92–96; 131:1–4; 132:19–24; 137. Begin by writing Celestial Kingdom on the chalkboard and drawing a sun next to it. Explain that the celestial kingdom is the highest kingdom of glory. The Lord compared its glory to the glory of the sun (D&C 76:70, 78, 96; see also 1 Corinthians 15:40–41).

  • Who will inherit the celestial kingdom? (See D&C 76:50–53, 68–69. To help class members understand verse 53, you may want to explain that the Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost, who confirms that the priesthood ordinances we have received and the covenants we have made are acceptable to God. This approval depends on our faithfulness.)

  • About four years after the vision in D&C 76 was revealed, Joseph Smith received a vision in which he saw his older brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom (D&C 137:1–5). Alvin had died in 1823, before the Church was restored. What did Joseph learn from seeing Alvin in the celestial kingdom? (See D&C 137:7–9.) What else did the Prophet learn about who inherits celestial glory? (See D&C 137:10.) How can these truths bring us comfort?

  • What blessings will we receive if we inherit the celestial kingdom? (See D&C 76:54–67, 94–95.)

  • How does our testimony of Jesus determine the kingdom we will inherit after we die? (See D&C 76:31, 35 [perdition]; D&C 76:82, 101 [telestial]; D&C 76:79 [terrestrial]; D&C 76:51–53, 69; 121:29 [celestial].) What does it mean to you to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”? (D&C 76:79).

    In addition to discussing class members’ responses, you may want to share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

    “What does it mean to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus?

    “It is to be courageous and bold; to use all our strength, energy, and ability in the warfare with the world; to fight the good fight of faith. … The great cornerstone of valiance in the cause of righteousness is obedience to the whole law of the whole gospel.

    “To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him’; it is to deny ourselves ‘of all ungodliness,’ and ‘love God’ with all our ‘might, mind and strength.’ (Moro. 10:32.)

    “To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. It is to know of the verity and divinity of the Lord’s work on earth.

    “But this is not all. It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. …

    “To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.’ It is to ‘endure to the end.’ (2 Ne. 31:20) It is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments. It is the manifestation of ‘pure religion’ in the lives of men; it is visiting ‘the fatherless and widows in their affliction’ and keeping ourselves ‘unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27.)

    “To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to bridle our passions, control our appetites, and rise above carnal and evil things. It is to overcome the world as did he who is our prototype and who himself was the most valiant of all our Father’s children. It is to be morally clean, to pay our tithes and offerings, to honor the Sabbath day, to pray with full purpose of heart, to lay our all upon the altar if called upon to do so.

    “To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue. It is to vote as he would vote. It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 45–46; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 35).

  • Eleven years after the vision in D&C 76 was revealed, the Prophet Joseph taught that there are three degrees within the celestial kingdom (D&C 131:1). Who will be exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom? (See D&C 131:1–3; 132:19.)

  • What blessing is available only to those who are exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom? (See D&C 131:4; 132:19–20. You may need to explain that the phrases “an increase” and “a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” mean that those who abide in the covenant and are exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will have spirit children in the eternities.)

  • President Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants … 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” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:279). How can this revelation strengthen our faith and inspire us to seek exaltation? How can we overcome any discouragement we may feel as we strive for celestial glory?

Conclusion

Emphasize that the great blessings of exaltation in the celestial kingdom are available to all people. Each of us can be made perfect through Jesus Christ and be exalted with our families in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. The revelation in D&C 76 should encourage us to keep the commandments and receive the ordinances of salvation so we can receive these great blessings.

As prompted by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.

Additional Teaching Idea

Divide the class into four groups. Assign each group one of the following scripture passages. Give the groups time to read and discuss the passages. At appropriate times during the lesson, have the groups share what they learned from their assigned passages.