While working on the translation of the Bible on February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith made inspired changes to John 5:29 pertaining to the resurrections of the just and the unjust. After seeing visions of the glory of the Father and the Son, the fall of Lucifer, and the sons of perdition, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown visions of those who will take part in the resurrection of the just: the inhabitants of the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Lord reveals the requirements for and blessings of receiving exaltation in the celestial kingdom
Bring to class a piece of bread and the ingredients for making bread. (Or, you could use a different type of baked good that requires multiple ingredients.) Write Recipe for Bread on the board. Ask students to name the ingredients for making bread, and display the items as students mention them. (If you do not have the ingredients, you could list them on the board as they are mentioned.) Tell students that the process of making bread can help them understand the truths they will identify in their study of Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–80.
What were Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon doing prior to receiving the vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76? (Translating and pondering John 5:29. If students need help remembering this context, invite them to scan the last sentence of the section introduction.)
Invite a student to read John 5:29 aloud. Explain that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were pondering John’s description of the resurrection of those who have done good and the resurrection of those who have done evil when they received the vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:50 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown following the vision of the sons of perdition. (You may want to explain that in this verse, the word just means righteous.)
According to verse 50, whom did the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon see following the vision of the sons of perdition? (Those who will come forth in the resurrection of the just.)
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–80 describes those who will be resurrected in the resurrection of the just. Ask students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 76:70 and identify the first group of people who will be resurrected during the resurrection of the just. Ask students to report what they find.
Write Recipe for Becoming a Celestial Person on the board. Explain that as part of this vision, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon a description of those who will inherit exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:51–53 silently and look for requirements (ingredients) for becoming a celestial person. Instruct students that when they find a requirement, they are invited to come to the board and write what they have found.
After students have written the requirements on the board, you may want to help them better understand some of the terms in these verses.
What do you think it means to “[receive] the testimony of Jesus”? (D&C 76:51). (Answers might include having faith in the Savior’s divine mission and following His gospel.)
What does it mean to be “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise”? (D&C 76:53). (You may need to explain that the Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise when the Holy Ghost bears witness to Heavenly Father that the ordinances we have received have been performed properly and that we have been faithful to the covenants we have made. The Holy Ghost can also confirm to us that our faithfulness to ordinances and covenants is acceptable to God.)
Briefly summarize Doctrine and Covenants 76:54–68 by explaining that this passage lists many of the blessings the exalted inhabitants of the celestial kingdom will receive. If time permits, you might invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 76:54–68. Ask the class to follow along, looking for these blessings. You may want to suggest that students mark any blessings that are especially meaningful to them.
Which blessings are especially meaningful to you? Why?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:69–70 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else is required for an individual to qualify for the celestial kingdom.
Even if we are striving to have all the necessary ingredients in our lives, what do these verses say we still need in order to be worthy to inherit the celestial kingdom? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board under Recipe for Becoming a Celestial Person: We can be made perfect only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.)
Explain that while our best efforts to keep all the commandments do not make us perfect, our efforts do help qualify us to receive the Savior’s grace and to be cleansed by His “perfect atonement through the shedding of his … blood” (D&C 76:69). This truth can encourage us to keep the commandments and receive the ordinances of salvation so we can receive these eternal blessings. Invite students to ponder the following question and then write their responses in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
How might the doctrine in verse 69 help us overcome discouragement as we strive for exaltation in the celestial kingdom?
After sufficient time, invite a few students to share their responses. Consider sharing your testimony about the Savior’s role in helping us become perfect.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon are shown a vision of the terrestrial kingdom
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:71 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown next. Ask students to report what they find.
According to this verse, how does the glory of the terrestrial kingdom compare to the glory of the celestial kingdom?
Explain that the scriptures use the different intensities of light that radiate from the moon and the sun to symbolize the difference between the glories of the terrestrial and celestial kingdoms. While inhabitants of the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms are both included in the resurrection of the just, those obtaining celestial bodies will be resurrected with greater glory and blessings than those obtaining terrestrial bodies.
Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:72–80 silently, looking for how the inhabitants of the terrestrial kingdom will differ from the inhabitants of the celestial kingdom. After students have had sufficient time to read, ask them to describe the differences they found.
According to these verses, what are some general descriptions of those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom? (Answers may include the following: those “who died without law” [verse 72]; those “who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it” [verses 73–74]; “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” [verse 75]; and “they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus” [verse 79].)
To help students better understand the reference to those who die without the law or who receive the gospel after they die (see verses 72–74), explain that the Lord gave additional insight into these individuals when he revealed to Joseph Smith the final destiny of his brother Alvin, who died before he could be baptized. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 137:7–9 aloud. Then ask the following questions:
What additional clarification did the Lord give concerning those who would have accepted the gospel if they had been permitted to live?
According to Doctrine and Covenants 137:9, who will judge us according to our works and the desires of our hearts?
Read aloud the following statement: “Remember that only God, who knows each individual’s heart, can make final judgments of individuals” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 90). Emphasize that because only the Lord can know our hearts, we should not make judgments about which kingdom we believe others will inherit.
What do you think it means to be “blinded by the craftiness of men”? (D&C 76:75). (Some people are blind to the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ because of worldly influences.) How are some people today blinded by the craftiness of men?
To help students understand the phrase “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79), invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“What does it mean to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus? …
“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 believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. …
“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 … ‘endure to the end.’ (2 Ne. 31:20.) It is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments” (“Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1974, 35).
Think of someone you know who you would consider to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ. What characteristics and actions demonstrate their valiance?
What has helped you be valiant in your testimony of Jesus Christ?
If we are valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ, what will we obtain? (As students respond, they should identify the following principle: If we are valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ, we can obtain the celestial kingdom of God. Add this truth to the Recipe for Becoming a Celestial Person on the board.)
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals one thing they can do to be more valiant in their testimony of Jesus Christ. Share your testimony that each of them has the potential to obtain the celestial kingdom.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 76:51–53, 69–70. Becoming celestial people
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the role of obedience and the Atonement in enabling us to become worthy of the celestial kingdom:
“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. …
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become. This spotless and perfected state will result from a steady succession of covenants, ordinances, and actions, an accumulation of right choices, and from continuing repentance. …
“… I testify with gratitude of the plan of the Father under which, through the Resurrection and Atonement of our Savior, we have the assurance of immortality and the opportunity to become what is necessary for eternal life” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32, 33, 34).
Doctrine and Covenants 76:67. The “church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn”
Enoch and his people, who can be referred to as the church, assembly, or congregation of Enoch, successfully established Zion and were taken up into heaven. Becoming a member of the church of the Firstborn requires us to be worthy of dwelling in Enoch’s society, which is possible only through personal righteousness, obedience to the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what it means to be a member of the church of the Firstborn:
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who so devote themselves to righteousness that they receive the higher ordinances of exaltation become members of the Church of the Firstborn. Baptism is the gate to the Church itself, but celestial marriage is the gate to membership in the Church of the Firstborn, the inner circle of faithful saints who are heirs of exaltation and the fulness of the Father’s kingdom” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 139).
Doctrine and Covenants 76:69. Perfection
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the meaning of perfection in the Lord’s plan:
“The perfection that the Savior envisions for us is much more than errorless performance. It is the eternal expectation as expressed by the Lord in his great intercessory prayer to his Father—that we might be made perfect and be able to dwell with them in the eternities ahead [see John 17:23–24]. …
“… Perfection consists in gaining eternal life—the kind of life that God lives. …
“… As begotten children of heavenly parents, we are endowed with the potential to become like them, just as mortal children may become like their mortal parents.
“The Lord restored his church to help us prepare for perfection. …
“The perfect man … is the completed person … the glorified soul! …
“We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments. It includes thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, and dominions [see D&C 132:19]. It is the end for which we are to endure. It is the eternal perfection that God has in store for each of us” (“Perfection Pending,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 87, 88).
Doctrine and Covenants 76:69–70. All members of the Church have the potential to obtain exaltation in the celestial kingdom
President George Albert Smith taught of the potential for everyone to obtain the celestial kingdom:
“One of the beautiful things to me in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it brings us all to a common level. It is not necessary for a man to be a president of a stake, or a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, in order to attain a high place in the celestial kingdom. The humblest member of the Church, if he keeps the commandments of God, will obtain an exaltation just as much as any other man in the celestial kingdom. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it makes us all equal in as far as we keep the commandments of the Lord. … We have equal opportunities for exaltation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1933, 25).
Bishop Joseph L. Wirthlin of the Presiding Bishopric testified: “We are all candidates for the celestial kingdom” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1952, 118).
Doctrine and Covenants 76:58, 71. Becoming gods and receiving of the fulness of the Father
As literal offspring of God the Father, our potential is to become as He is. To receive the fulness of the Father is to receive the full measure of His glory and blessings. If we live the Savior’s teachings, keep His commandments, and apply His Atonement in our lives, the Father can elevate us to be like Him, live the type of life He lives, and enjoy the eternal happiness He enjoys.
Doctrine and Covenants 76:79. “Valiant in the testimony of Jesus”
President Ezra Taft Benson described what it means to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus in the April 1982 general conference of the Church. See “Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, May 1982, 62–64.