Doctrine and Covenants 76: The Vision of the Different Degrees of Glory

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 86–89

Doctrine and Covenants 76was received while the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on the inspired translation of the Bible (JST). Brother Philo Dibble, who was present when this revelation was received, wrote:“The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of ‘Father Johnson,’ in [Hiram], Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time,—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not the vision. …“Joseph would, at intervals, say: ‘What do I ?’ as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not . Then he would relate what he had n or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, ‘I the same.’ Presently Sidney would say ‘what do I ?’ and would repeat what he had n or was ing, and Joseph would reply, ‘I the same.’“This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it med to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.“Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, ‘Sidney is not used to it as I am.’” (“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,”The Juvenile Instructor,May 15, 1892, 303–4). As you studyDoctrine and Covenants 76, look for what Joseph and Sidney were reading that prompted the vision. How did the vision begin, and in what order did they the kingdoms of glory? Imagine what it would have been like to have been in the room during the vision and in some small way participated in this great event.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 76

Sundry(section heading)Various 
Extent(v. 2)Scope, magnitude, size 
Naught(v. 9)Nothing 
Meditated(v. 19)Pondered, thought about 
Inhabitants thereof(v. 24)People who live there 
Perdition(v. 26)A name for Satan; destruction 
Encompasseth(v. 29)Surrounds them, round about them 
Sons of perdition(v. 32)Followers of Satan who suffer with him throughout eternity 
Vessels of wrath(v. 33)Filled with anger or rage 
Redeemed(v. 38)Delivered, ransomed, rescued 
Just men(v. 69)Individuals who have repented and been forgiven for their sins 
Firmament(vv. 70–71, 81, 109)Sky 
Valiant(v. 79)Faithful and courageous 
Through the ministration(vv. 86–87)By the direction and management 
Dominion(vv. 91, 95, 111, 114, 119)Authority, rule 
Whoremongers(v. 103)Immoral people 

Doctrine and Covenants 76—The Structure of the Revelation

Doctrine and Covenants 76provides answers to some of the most important questions mankind has ever asked. Its contents can be organized into the following categories:

  1. Promises to the faithful (vv. 1–10)

  2. The circumstances that led to this revelation (vv. 11–18)

  3. The glory of the Son of God (vv. 19–24)

  4. The fall of Lucifer (vv. 25–29)

  5. The sufferings of the sons of perdition (vv. 30–38, 43–49)

  6. Those who inherit a celestial glory (vv. 50–70, 92–96)

  7. Those who inherit a terrestrial glory (vv. 71–80, 87, 91, 97)

  8. Those who inherit a telestial glory (vv. 81–90, 98–112)

  9. How a person can understand this revelation (vv. 114–19)

Doctrine and Covenants 76:22–24—The Importance of Witnesses

It is important to note that the Prophet Joseph Smith was not the only one who received this revelation. Not only was Sidney Rigdon an eyewitness to the entire vision, but other men were in the room and testified to feeling the power, even though they did not the vision. Whenever the Lord reveals a new doctrine to His people, He sends more than one witness. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that this is a principle known as the “divine law of witnesses”:

“There is a law definitely stated in the scriptures governing testimony and the appointment of witnesses. This law the Lord has always followed in granting new revelation to the people.

“All down through the ages this law has been a fixed and definite one. If we had perfect records of all ages, we would find that whenever the Lord has established a dispensation, there has been more than one witness to testify for him. Paul in writing to the Corinthians said: ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’ [2 Corinthians 13:1]” (Doctrines of Salvation,1:203).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:29—The Battle for the Souls of Mankind

The war in which we are enlisted in this life—the battle of light against darkness, of good against evil—did not begin here on earth. Before this earth was created for us, there was “war in heaven” (Revelation 12:7). Satan was defeated and “he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (v. 9). The war did not end there, however, for here on earth Satan specifically ks to destroy those who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (v. 17).

Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

“The members of the Church hold a front-line position in the contest for the souls of men. The missionaries are on the battlefield fighting with the sword of truth to carry the glorious message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the peoples of the earth. No war has ever been free of risk. The prophecies of the last days lead me to believe that the intensity of the battle for the souls of men will increase and the risks will become greater as we draw closer to the second coming of the Lord.

“Preparing ourselves and our families for the challenges of the coming years will require us to replace fear with faith. We must be able to overcome the fear of enemies who oppose and threatenus. The Lord has said, ‘Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail’ (D&C 6:34)” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 43; orEnsign,Nov. 1989, 34)

Doctrine and Covenants 76:31–35—Who Are the “Sons of Perdition”?

Speaking of those who commit the unpardonable sin and thus become sons of perdition, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. 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 s 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,358).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:37–38—What Is the Second Death?

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the sin against the Holy Ghost, the unpardonable sin, “is a sin unto death, for it brings a spiritual banishment—the second death—by which those who partake of it are denied the presence of God and are consigned to dwell with the devil and his angels throughout eternity” (Doctrines of Salvation,1:49).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:54—What Is the Church of the Firstborn?

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Each person baptized into the Church is under obligation to keep the commandments of the Lord. He is under covenant, for baptism is a ‘new and an everlasting covenant.’ (D&C 22:1.) When he has proved himself by a worthy life, having been faithful in all things required of him, then it is his privilege to receive other covenants and to take upon himself other obligations that will make of him an heir, and he will become a member of the ‘Church of the Firstborn.’ ‘They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.’ He will receive of the Father’s fullness and of his glory. Is this worth having? It cannot be obtained without some effort” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 122–23).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:84—“These Are They Who Are Thrust down to Hell”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained the relationship between hell and those who are telestial:

“That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is calledhell.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. …

“Who will go to hell? This query is abundantly answered in the scriptures. Since those going to a telestial kingdom travel to their destination through the depths of hell and as a result of obedience to telestial law, it follows that all those who live a telestial law will go to hell” (Mormon Doctrine,349–50).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A and three of the other activities (B–G) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 76.

Activity A iconUnderstanding the Structure

  1. 1.

    Using the “Understanding the Scriptures” section forDoctrine and Covenants 76(“The Structure of the Revelation”), mark your scriptures to indicate the verses that deal with each of the categories listed there. Choose any method of scripture marking that you prefer.

  2. 2.

    Draw three columns in your notebook and title them “Celestial Kingdom,” Terrestrial Kingdom,” and “Telestial Kingdom.” ReviewDoctrine and Covenants 76:30–112and list characteristics of those who will be in each of those kingdoms of glory.

Activity B iconIllustrate the Vision

In your notebook, draw illustrations for two parts ofDoctrine and Covenants 76that impressed you. Write a short description for each illustration and tell what impressed you about those parts of the revelation.

Activity C iconWrite a Letter

  1. 1.

    SearchDoctrine and Covenants 76:1–10and list the phrases that describe what God will do “to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (v. 5).

  2. 2.

    Suppose you had a friend or family member who felt that it was too hard to be righteous and wondered if it was even worth the effort. Using your list, write a letter explaining what God has promised to the righteous. Tell which promises have great meaning to you, and explain why.

Activity D Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 76:22–24

  1. 1.

    Review the testimony recorded in 76:20–24. List what these verses teach us about the Savior.

  2. 2.

    Ponder on how the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon might have felt after this vision of the Savior. In your personal journal, write your own testimony of Jesus Christ and what you know about Him.

Activity E iconWrite a Test

Write at least one meaningful test question for each of the categories found in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section forDoctrine and Covenants 76(“The Structure of the Revelation”). Include the answer after each question and explain why you think learning the answer to that question is important.

Activity F iconUse Your Bible Dictionary

  1. 1.

    Look up the wordLuciferin your Bible Dictionary (p. 726) and, in your notebook, explain what it means.

  2. 2.

    Using that definition and the information inDoctrine and Covenants 76:25–29, write what you know about Lucifer in the premortal world and what happened to him.

  3. 3.

    Why do you think he is particularly intent on making “war with the saints of God” (v. 29; also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section forD&C 76:29for help, if needed).

Activity G iconRequirements for and Rewards of the Celestial Kingdom

  1. 1.

    FromDoctrine and Covenants 76:50–53, list what is required of those who desire celestial glory.

  2. 2.

    Why do you think we are required to “overcome by faith” (v. 53)? Why are hard work, determination, and willpower not enough? ( alsoD&C 76:69;2 Nephi 31:19–21;Moroni 6:4.)

  3. 3.

    From whatDoctrine and Covenants 76:50–70, 92–96teaches about those who go to the celestial kingdom, list at least two blessings that are meaningful to you and explain why you would want those blessings.