Chapter 33: Kingdoms of Glory and Perdition

Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual, (2011), 119–23


Introduction

Elder Sterling W. Sill told a story that you could use to lead the class into a discussion of the kingdoms of glory:

“We might learn a great many important lessons from the story told many years ago by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick entitled ‘On the Wrong Bus.’ It tells of a man who got on a bus with the intention and desire of going to Detroit. But when he arrived at the end of a long trip, he found himself in Kansas City. At first he would not believe it. When he asked for Woodward Avenue and was told there was no Woodward Avenue, he was indignant—he knew there was. It was some time before he could face the fact that in spite of his good intentions and his earnest desire, he was not in Detroit at all but in Kansas City. Everything was fine except for one little detail; he had just caught the wrong bus.

“Isn’t it interesting that so many human beings arrive at some port in life where they never intended to go. We pick out goals of honor and success and happiness, and then we sometimes get on the buses that take us to destinations loaded with dishonor, failure, and unpleasantness. A primary purpose of our mortal existence is to prepare for the life that lies beyond. And our possible destination has been separated into three great subdivisons, which Paul compares in desirability to the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars. …

“We may have the highest objectives in our hearts, but when we get on that bus that takes us to the wrong destination, we can’t very well change our situation merely by pointing out to ourselves that we had the best of intentions. It will then be the facts that will be important. We are going to be judged by our works, not by our intentions, and it may seem pretty empty then to hear the old cliche that ‘the path to hell is paved with good intentions.’ …

“And so we come back again to this great idea which is one of the most important in the world: first, that we know where we want to go; and second, that we get on the bus that will take us there.” (“On the Wrong Bus,” New Era, July 1983, pp. 4–6.)

Ideas for Teaching

  1. A.

    There are three kingdoms, or degrees, of glory, which are compared to the sun, the moon, and the stars.

    1. Ask the students to name three persons in the Bible who saw or testified of the degrees of glory.

      • Jacob (see Genesis 28:12–16). “Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 304–5).

      • Jesus Christ (see John 14:1–2; see also History of the Church, 6:365). The Prophet Joseph Smith changed John 14:2 to read, “In my Father’s kingdom are many kingdoms.”

      • Paul (see 1 Corinthians 15:40–42; 2 Corinthians 12:1–4). Why is the information in the Bible concerning the degrees of glory so scanty? To whom did the Lord again reveal the information concerning the destiny of mankind? (Joseph Smith; see D&C 76.)

  2. B.

    The Lord has prescribed requirements for eternal life in the celestial kingdom.

    1. Make it clear that we rely upon the mercy and atonement of Jesus Christ in order to obtain the celestial kingdom, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

    2. Have the students read Doctrine and Covenants 131:1 and the scriptures in Doctrinal Outline B on page 90 of the student manual. Use the statements by Elder Bruce R. McConkie and President George Q. Cannon in Supporting Statements B on pages 91–92 of the student manual to help the students understand why they must strive always to achieve exaltation (see McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 116; Cannon, in Conference Report, Apr. 1900, pp. 55–56).

  3. C.

    Great opportunities and rewards have been promised to those who inherit the celestial kingdom.

    1. Ask the students what they think the celestial kingdom will be like. Read Doctrine and Covenants 137:1–4, in which the Prophet Joseph Smith described his vision of the celestial kingdom.

    2. Using Chalkboard 1, discuss the conditions and rewards of those who inherit the celestial kingdom. Read with your students the verses of scripture listed on Chalkboard 1.

    3. From Supporting Statements C on page 92 of the student manual, read and discuss President Lorenzo Snow’s overview of what our Heavenly Father wants for each of his children and what we must do to obtain it (see Journal of Discourses, 5:313).

  4. D.

    The Lord has described those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom.

    1. Refer to Chalkboard 2 to describe the kind of people who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom.

    2. Read in Supporting Statements D on page 92 of the student manual President Joseph Fielding Smith’s definition of what it means to “die without law” (see Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:287–88). In a poetic version of Doctrine and Covenants 76, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:

      Behold, these are they that have died without law;
      The heathen of ages that never had hope, …
      These are they that are hon’rable men of the earth;
      Who were blinded and dup’d by the cunning of men:
      They receiv’d not the truth of the Savior at first;
      But did, when they heard it in prison, again.

      (“The Answer,” Times and Seasons, 1 Feb. 1843, p. 84.)

      Do not be afraid to admit that we do not know all there is to know about each of the kingdoms. We are certain, however, that those who did not receive the gospel in this life, but who would have received it had the opportunity been given, will be heirs of the celestial kingdom (see D&C 137:7–8).

    3. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:79. Ask what it means to be valiant in our testimony. After a brief discussion, read Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s thought-provoking explanation in Supporting Statements D on page 92 of the student manual (see Conference Report, Oct. 1974, p. 46; orEnsign, Nov. 1974, p. 35).

  5. E.

    The Lord has told us some of the conditions in the terrestrial kingdom.

    1. Using Chalkboard 2 and the scripture references listed on it, help the students understand what has been revealed about the terrestrial kingdom.

  6. F.

    The Lord has described those who will inherit the telestial kingdom.

    1. Have the students search Doctrine and Covenants 76:99–103 and identify the kinds of people who will receive a telestial inheritance. Compare the students’ discoveries with what is listed on Chalkboard 3.

  7. G.

    The Lord has outlined the conditions and limitations of the telestial kingdom.

    1. Using Chalkboard 3 as a guide, discuss what has been revealed concerning the telestial kingdom.

  8. H.

    The scriptures explain who the sons of perdition are and what their fate will be.

    1. Use Doctrinal Outline H and Supporting Statements H, on pages 91 and 93 of the student manual, to help explain what we know about the sons of perdition. Since little is said or known about the fate of the sons of perdition, stay with what is suggested in the student manual. Remember that the emphasis in this chapter is on the celestial kingdom.

Conclusion

A critical purpose in our coming to earth was to determine what level of law and glory we would abide in eternity. Elder Sterling W. Sill made a statement that magnifies our personal responsibility to strive for exaltation: “There is no power in the universe that can come between us and the celestial kingdom, except our own power” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 42; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 30).