This lesson explores the vision of the telestial glory shown to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon described what they learned about those who will inherit the telestial kingdom and about the consequences of rejecting the testimony of Jesus Christ. They also described how the telestial kingdom differs from the other kingdoms of glory.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Lord shows Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon a vision of the telestial kingdom
Invite students to imagine that a friend who is a member of another Christian faith says to them, “My minister told us that after we die, we are going to either heaven or hell. I do not feel like I am good enough to go to heaven right now, but I also do not feel like I am so bad that I should go to hell. What does your religion teach about heaven and hell?”
How would you respond to your friend?
Display the diagram from lesson 78 called “Doctrine and Covenants 76: Outline of the Vision” (or invite students to take out their own copies of the diagram). As students discuss the rest of Doctrine and Covenants 76, encourage them to look for truths that might help this friend.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–83, 101, 103 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words and phrases that describe the people who will inherit the telestial kingdom.
What words and phrases in these verses describe the people who will inherit the telestial kingdom? (You may need to explain that a sorcerer is someone who participates in activities that invite the influence of evil spirits. A whoremonger is a person who participates in sexual sin.)
According to verses 82 and 101, some people will inherit the telestial kingdom because they have refused to receive great blessings offered to them. What are the blessings they have refused? (They willfully reject the testimony of Jesus and the gospel. Because they reject the Savior and His gospel, they refuse the opportunity to repent of their sins and be cleansed through the Atonement. As students discuss this question, you may want to remind them of what they learned in the previous lesson about being valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Point out that the glory we inherit will depend on the way we receive this testimony [see D&C 76:50–51, 69, 78–79, 81–82, 101].)
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:84–85, 104–106 silently, looking for what will happen to the wicked before they can receive telestial glory.
What will happen to the wicked before they will be redeemed and allowed to inherit the telestial kingdom? (Help students identify the following truth: Those who inherit the telestial kingdom must suffer in hell before they are redeemed by the Savior. You may want to write this truth on the board.)
To help students understand the meaning of the term hell, explain that the scriptures use the term in at least two ways. First, hell is the part of the spirit world inhabited by the wicked and is a literal but temporary condition of spiritual torment and suffering. Second, the scriptures sometimes use the word hell to refer to a permanent condition of torment and suffering for sons of perdition. (See Bible Dictionary, “Hell”; Guide to the Scriptures, “Hell,” scriptures.lds.org.)
What words in verses 84–85 and 104–106 describe the suffering the wicked will experience after they die? (You may need to explain that in verse 105, the phrase “eternal fire” is a figurative expression referring to the suffering of the wicked who will inherit the telestial kingdom. It does not mean that their suffering will never end. See D&C 19:4–12.)
Emphasize that the conditions in hell experienced by those who will inherit the telestial kingdom will be temporary. Because these individuals would not repent and apply the blessings of the Atonement in their lives, they will remain in hell throughout the Millennium, paying the penalty for their sins by the things they suffer.
What phrases from verses 85 and 106 teach that hell will be a temporary condition for those who will inherit the telestial kingdom?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith, and invite the class to listen for the results of the suffering that the wicked will experience in hell:
“This suffering will be a means of cleansing, or purifying, and through it the wicked shall be brought to a condition whereby they may, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, obtain immortality. Their spirits and bodies shall be again united, and they shall dwell in the telestial kingdom. But this resurrection will not come until the end of the world” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:298).
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 76:106–108 by explaining that the wicked will suffer for their sins until Jesus Christ completes His work and delivers up the kingdom of God on earth to His Father. Christ will then be crowned with glory.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:109–111 aloud. Then invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what will happen when those who are to inherit the telestial kingdom come before the throne of God to be judged.
According to Doctrine and Covenants 76:110, what will happen as these people are brought before the throne of God to be judged? (They will kneel and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Savior.)
Explain that although verse 111 refers specifically to those who will inherit the telestial kingdom, the truth taught in this verse applies to everyone.
According to verse 111, what will determine the kingdom of glory we inherit? (Help students identify the following doctrine: The kingdom of glory we inherit will be determined by our actions in this life and the desires of our hearts. You may want to write this doctrine on the board.)
How can this doctrine influence your choices?
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:86–89, 98, 112 silently and look for words and phrases that describe what immortality will be like for those who inherit the telestial kingdom. Ask students to report what they find.
How do these words and phrases show the love and mercy of Jesus Christ?
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 76:91–98. Ask the class to follow along and look for how the kingdoms of glory compare with each other.
How does the glory of the celestial kingdom differ from the glory of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms? (Students may use different words, but their responses should reflect the following truth: The glory of the celestial kingdom surpasses the glory of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms.)
According to verses 92–95, what blessings will come to those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom? How do these blessings compare with the blessings that will be given to those who inherit the telestial kingdom?
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon explain how others can receive the knowledge they received
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 76:113–119 by explaining that after describing this vision, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon stated that the Lord had commanded them not to write all that they had been shown. They also explained what we must do to be able to see and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:116–118 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how we can come to see and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
According to these verses, what must we do to be able to see and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God? (See also D&C 76:5–10.)
To help students explain and testify of the doctrines they have learned from studying Doctrine and Covenants 76, remind them of the question they discussed at the beginning of class: “What does your religion teach about heaven and hell?” Divide students into pairs, and ask them to work together to create an outline of how they could respond to this question. Inform them that after a few minutes, each pair will have the opportunity to share their responses with another pair.
To help students in their preparation, distribute copies of the following questions or write the questions on the board before class:
What has the Lord revealed about heaven and hell in Doctrine and Covenants 76?
What are the differences between each kingdom of glory?
What are the differences in the choices made by those who inherit these kingdoms and those who do not inherit a kingdom of glory?
What do you know to be true about the Savior and His role in our salvation?
Suggest that students consider these questions as they prepare to explain what the Church teaches about heaven and hell. In addition, ask students to use at least two scripture references from Doctrine and Covenants 76 as part of their explanation.
After sufficient time, invite each pair to work with another partnership. Invite one pair to teach the other two students using their outline. When the first pair of students has had an opportunity to explain the doctrine, invite the second pair to teach. After students have finished teaching, you might invite them to share with the class what they learned.
To help students apply what they have learned from studying about the kingdoms of glory, write the following incomplete sentences on the board and invite students to complete them in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
As a result of what I have learned from studying about the kingdoms of glory in Doctrine and Covenants 76:
I know …
I want to …
I will …
After students have had sufficient time to complete this activity, encourage them to consider whether the choices they are making will qualify them to inherit the celestial kingdom. Also encourage them to seek the Lord’s help to make any changes they feel they need to make. Consider sharing your testimony of the truths you have learned from studying Doctrine and Covenants 76.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 76:84. Hell
The Guide to the Scriptures explains the use of the term hell in the scriptures:
“Latter-day revelation speaks of hell in at least two senses. First, it is the temporary abode in the spirit world for those who were disobedient in mortality. In this sense, hell has an end. The spirits there will be taught the gospel, and sometime following their repentance they will be resurrected to a degree of glory of which they are worthy. Those who will not repent, but are nevertheless not sons of perdition, will remain in hell throughout the Millennium. After these thousand years of torment, they will be resurrected to a telestial glory (D&C 76:81–86; 88:100–101).
“Second, it is the permanent location of those who are not redeemed by the atonement of Jesus Christ. In this sense, hell is permanent. It is for those who are found ‘filthy still’ (D&C 88:35, 102). This is the place where Satan, his angels, and the sons of perdition—those who have denied the Son after the Father has revealed him—will dwell eternally (D&C 76:43–46)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Hell,” scriptures.lds.org).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said the following about hell:
“That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is called hell. Between their death and resurrection, these souls of the wicked are cast out into outer darkness, into the gloomy depression of sheol, into the hades of waiting wicked spirits, into hell. There they suffer the torments of the damned; there they welter in the vengeance of eternal fire; there is found weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; there the fiery indignation of the wrath of God is poured out upon the wicked. (Alma 40:11–14; D. & C. 76:103–106.) …
“After their resurrection, the great majority of those who have suffered in hell will pass into the telestial kingdom; the balance, cursed as sons of perdition, will be consigned to partake of endless wo with the devil and his angels. …
“Thus, for those who are heirs of some salvation, which includes all except the sons of perdition (D. & C. 76:44), hell has an end” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 349, 350, 351; see also Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2001], 165–166.)
Doctrine and Covenants 76:85, 106. The redemption of the wicked
President Brigham Young explained how some people in his day responded to the truth that most of the wicked would eventually be redeemed and not suffer in hell forever:
“When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of good, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 292).
Doctrine and Covenants 76:92–95. “The glory of the celestial … excels in all things”
Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught of the difference between being saved in the celestial kingdom and inheriting other kingdoms of glory:
“There is quite a difference between being saved in some kingdom, where there is some glory, some happiness, and being saved in the kingdom where our Father resides. …
“Our Father who dwells in yonder heavens, and his Son Jesus Christ, inhabit the highest degree of glory in eternity. They are possessed of all the fulness of glory. They have a fulness of happiness, a fulness of power, a fulness of intelligence, light and truth, and they bear rule over all other kingdoms of inferior glory, of inferior happiness, and of inferior power. … The gospel is intended to exalt the children of men to that same degree of glory, where our Father and where his Son resides” (Deseret News, Nov. 10, 1880, 642).
Doctrine and Covenants 76:99–101. “They who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas”
To condemn disunity, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, … that there are contentions among you.
“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11–13).
Similar wording in Doctrine and Covenants 76:99–101 refers to those who are not in harmony with Jesus Christ or His prophets. Some will say that they follow Jesus Christ or particular prophets, yet these people willfully reject the Savior and refuse to accept His gospel or follow His prophets.
Doctrine and Covenants 76:113–116. Joseph Smith saw more in this vision than what is written
Referring to the vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76, the Prophet 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” (in History of the Church, 5:402).
Supplemental Teaching Idea
Doctrine and Covenants 76. The Lord teaches what He has done to help us inherit the celestial kingdom and what we must do in return
To help students understand both the Savior’s role and our own responsibility in making it possible for us to obtain the celestial kingdom, conduct the following activity:
Invite half of the class to read one set of verses silently and the other half to read the other set of verses silently. Instruct students to look for a common idea in their set of verses. After sufficient time, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the words the Lord used to describe Himself. Then ask students the following questions:
Based on the verses you read, why do you think the Savior began this section by proclaiming that “the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior”? What is the Savior’s role in helping us obtain the celestial kingdom?
Based on the verses you read, what influence does a person’s response to the testimony of Jesus Christ have on which kingdom he or she will inherit? Why do you think our response to the testimony of Jesus Christ influences which kingdom we will inherit?