Doctrine and Covenants 137

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 232–35


Section 137 reveals important truths about the celestial kingdom and who will inherit that glory. Elder George Albert Smith, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:

“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. In as far as we observe to keep the laws of the Church we have equal opportunities for exaltation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1933, 25).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 41–42, 164–65.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 353–56.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 137:1–5. The celestial kingdom is a place of beauty and glory. Heavenly Father dwells there with His faithful sons and daughters.

(15–20 minutes)

Tell students: Imagine you could choose any item from anywhere in the world to help decorate and beautify the celestial kingdom.

  • What would you choose and why?

  • What do you imagine the celestial kingdom looks like?

  • Why might you enjoy the opportunity to have a vision of that kingdom?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 137:1–5. Ask:

  • What impresses you about this description of the celestial kingdom?

  • What feelings do you associate with this description?

  • Who did Joseph Smith see there?

  • In what ways is it comforting to know that God, His prophets, and righteous members of our families can dwell in the celestial kingdom?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 76:70, 96; 77:1; 130:8; 131:1 and look for other details of the celestial kingdom. Discuss what they discover. Share the following account by Elder David O. McKay, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, of an experience he had in 1921 on a ship to Apia, Samoa:

“I … fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though it was far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe and a white headdress. Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold. There was a peace about him which seemed sublime—it was divine!

“The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.

“But who were they?

“As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words:

These Are They Who Have Overcome the World—

Who Have Truly Been Born Again!

“When I awoke, it was breaking day over Apia harbor” (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. [1976], 59–60).

Doctrine and Covenants 137:5–10 (Scripture Mastery, Doctrine and Covenants 137:7–10). Those who die without the gospel who would have received it if they had been given the opportunity will inherit the celestial kingdom. Those who die before becoming accountable are saved in the celestial kingdom.

(15–20 minutes)

Choose students to read the following examples. Discuss each one as a class, and have students decide if they think that person would receive an inheritance in the celestial kingdom.

  • I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and remained faithful throughout my life. When I died, I had a testimony of the Lord, held a current temple recommend, and was trying as hard as I could to keep the commandments. (See D&C 76:51–53.)

  • I grew up in an area of the world where there were no LDS churches. I never heard of the “Mormons” but did believe in God. I tried to be a good person, read the Bible, and searched for truth by attending as many church meetings as possible. I died before I had the opportunity to be married. (See D&C 137:7.)

  • I was born into a loving family but had severe birth defects. I only lived a few weeks. (See D&C 137:10.)

  • I was taught the gospel by the missionaries, and the Spirit witnessed to me that what they taught was true. But I didn’t want to change my lifestyle, so I never got around to repenting or being baptized before I died. My family joined the Church, and they always said they would have my temple work done after I died. (See D&C 76:72–75; 137:5–9.)

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 137:5–10 and find who will inherit the celestial kingdom (see also D&C 76:50–70). As you study these verses, ask:

  • How do you think Joseph felt seeing members of his family in the celestial kingdom?

  • What did Joseph marvel over? Why?

  • What do you think the phrase “would have received it with all their hearts” means? (D&C 137:8).

  • Who are those “who die before they arrive at the years of accountability”? (v. 10).

  • How could the teachings in this section offer hope to many people?

  • How might you use these teachings in sharing the gospel with others?

Tell students that Alvin Smith was born on February 11, 1798, and died on November 19, 1823. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

“[Alvin] died with a prayer on his lips for his younger brother Joseph, and admonished him to be true to the great work entrusted to his care. Alvin is spoken of as a ‘youth of singular goodness and disposition, kind and amiable.’” (Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. [1974], 35).

Invite students to consider how many people have lived on the earth without having the opportunity to hear the gospel.

Have students also consider how many children throughout history have died before they reached the age of eight. Ask:

  • How do the teachings in section 137 show God’s love for all His children?

  • Why do you believe it is important to know that those who die without hearing the gospel have a chance to accept it in the spirit world?

  • Why do you believe it is important to know that those who die before age eight will be saved in the celestial kingdom?

Read 2 Nephi 26:33 and share your testimony of God’s love for all His children.

Doctrine and Covenants 137:9. The Lord judges us by the desire of our hearts as well as by our works.

(15–20 minutes)

Have students write answers to the following questions on a piece of paper, and invite several students to share what they wrote:

  • What does the word desire mean?

  • What do you desire most in life?

  • How can you tell how strong your desire for something is?

Share this statement by Elder Marvin J. Ashton, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve: “What we serve we learn to love, and what we love takes our time, and what takes our time is what we love” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 32; or Ensign, May 1981, 24). Ask:

  • What do you think this statement means?

  • How does this statement relate to our desires?

  • What is the relationship between what we love, what we serve, and how we spend our time?

  • If someone recorded a movie of your life, what might they conclude you desire? Why?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 and look for what it teaches about our desires. Ask: Why do you think God will judge us according to our desires as well as according to our works? Share the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“Like it or not, … reality requires that we acknowledge our responsibility for our desires. …

“Righteous desires need to be relentless, therefore, because, said President Brigham Young, ‘the men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle every day’ (in Journal of Discourses, 11:14). Therefore, true Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 27; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21–22).

Testify of the importance of having righteous desires. Share the following statements. Elder Maxwell wrote:

“One little-used way of more honestly testing the correctness of our desires is to place those desires more honestly and specifically before God in reverent, personal prayer. Why so? Because if we are too embarrassed to petition Him concerning some of our desires, this will quickly confirm their incorrectness! Desires not worthy of our asking Him for help in achieving them are unworthy of us as well. Obviously, such desires should not be further nurtured in our hearts and minds” (That Ye May Believe [1992], 112).

Elder Marvin J. Ashton wrote:

“How can we decrease our love for things not for our best good? We must examine our lives, see what services we are rendering and what sacrifices are being made, and then stop the expenditure of time and effort in these directions. If this can be managed, then that love will wither and die. Our love should be channeled into sources that are eternally oriented. Our neighbors and families will respond to our love if we will but follow through with sustaining support and self-sharing. True love is as eternal as life itself. Some callings and assignments in the Church may seem insignificant and unimportant at the time, but with each willingly fulfilled assignment, love of the Lord will grow. We learn to love God as we serve and know Him.

“How can we help a new convert to learn to love the gospel? By finding ways for him to serve and sacrifice. We must constantly emphasize the truth that we love that to which we give time, whether it be the gospel, God, or gold. Often we hear expressions of love for the scriptures, including Jesus’ teachings. Those who study, practice, and apply the truths not only know them best, but are fortified to use them for guidance all along life’s paths. The man who most appreciated the opportunity of tithe payment is he who experiences the joys and blessings that come through sacrifice, and obedience to that law. Our appreciation and love of the gospel and its teachings will always be in proportion to our service and commitment to the gospel” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 31; or Ensign, May 1981, 24).

Invite students to ponder and write on a piece of paper how they could improve their own desires.