The vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 gives us a foundational understanding of life after death, including the degrees of glory. From it we also learn what we must do to live again in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Explain that in the 1830s many Christians held one of two general beliefs about heaven and hell, sometimes described as the “traditional” and “universal” views. The “traditional” view was simply heaven for the righteous and hell for the disobedient. The “universal” view was that God would not eternally punish sinners, for all would eventually be saved in God’s kingdom. At this time, members of the Church of Jesus Christ knew little more than other Christians about heaven and hell. In February 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon experienced a vision that significantly changed Latter-day Saints’ understanding of and belief in the hereafter. This vision, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76, revealed an intricate combination of God’s love, mercy, justice, and judgment, and it opened the door to a more perfect view of Heavenly Father’s plan. For many years, early Church members referred to this vision simply as “the Vision.” (See Matthew McBride, “‘The Vision’: D&C 76,” Revelations in Context series, Mar. 11, 2013, history.lds.org.)
Ask a student to give a brief description of what is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76. Display the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98), and invite a student to read it aloud:
“I consider that the Doctrine and Covenants [contains] the most Godlike proclamations ever made to the human family. I will refer to the ‘Vision’ [in section 76] alone, as a revelation which gives more light, more truth and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going to. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff , 120–21).
What were Joseph and Sidney doing that resulted in their receiving this revelation?
What can we learn from their experience about the value of studying and pondering scriptures? (Make sure students recognize the connection between meditating on the scriptures and receiving revelation.)
Note: Emphasize that learning to ponder the scriptures is a valuable scripture study skill that gives the Holy Ghost greater opportunity to reveal truths to us.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words and phrases that describe Jesus Christ. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find. Explain that the Savior’s attributes described in these verses are an example of a scripture list. A scripture list “is a series of related thoughts, ideas, or instructions. Looking for lists in the scriptures can help teachers and students identify key points the writer is emphasizing” (Gospel Teaching and Learning , 23). Point out that Doctrine and Covenants 76 contains a number of scripture lists.
Which of Jesus Christ’s attributes mentioned in verses 1–4 are most meaningful to you? Why?
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:5–10 silently, looking for the Lord’s promises to the faithful. Invite students to notice the list of promises in verses 6–10. You might suggest that students mark the items in this list to emphasize the Lord’s promises.
According to verse 5, what must we do to experience the Savior’s mercy, graciousness, and honor?
Help students identify the following principle from their study of these verses: As we fear the Lord and serve Him in righteousness, He will honor us and be merciful to us. Remind students that in this context, to “fear” the Lord means to reverence Him.
To help students deepen their understanding of this principle, ask the following questions:
Of the promises you identified from verses 5–10, which one would you particularly like to receive? Why?
What do you think you would need to do to receive that blessing?
Give students a moment to ponder why it would be worth pursuing these blessings and to evaluate how well they are reverencing the Lord and serving Him in righteousness and truth.
Point out to students that beginning with verse 11, the remainder of section 76 records the Lord’s revelation of the “mysteries of his kingdom,” which “surpass all understanding in glory” (verse 114). The revelation opens to our understanding the wonders of eternity, teaching us about the life to come and making known what had been previously unknown.
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 76 contains a series of visions. To give students an overview of what Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw in these visions, display the accompanying image or provide a copy to each student. Explain that each item on the diagram focuses on one vision.
Point out that one of the visions opened to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that day was a vision of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Display the following questions, or write them on the board:
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:19–24 silently and consider how they would answer the questions on the board. After sufficient time, invite students to share their responses to the questions. Student answers may vary, but be sure they understand the following principles. Jesus Christ is a living, glorified being. Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father. Jesus Christ is the Creator of this and other worlds. The inhabitants of this and other worlds are begotten sons and daughters of God.
Consider sharing your testimony of the Savior.
Explain that verses 25–113 of section 76 teach wonderful truths about the plan of salvation. Invite students to select one group of these verses as listed on the diagram and read them quickly. Divide students into pairs and ask them to discuss what they learned or what they found to be inspiring in the verses they read. Then discuss the following question as a class:
What foundational doctrines about life and death does Doctrine and Covenants 76 help us understand? (Students may use different words but make sure they understand that in Doctrine and Covenants 76, we gain a foundational understanding of life after death and what we must do to live again in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.)
Explain that one of the most important visions given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon was of the celestial kingdom. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–53, looking for a list of requirements to enter the celestial kingdom. You might suggest that students mark or number these requirements in their scriptures. After a student shares what he or she identified, ask questions like the following:
What do you think it means to receive a “testimony of Jesus”? (Have faith in the Savior’s redeeming mission and live according to His commandments.)
What does it mean to “overcome by faith”? (Overcome temptations and sins by exercising faith in Jesus Christ and faithfully endure to the end.)
What does it mean to be “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise”? (The Holy Ghost, who is also the Holy Spirit of Promise, witnesses to the Father that we have properly received the saving ordinances of His gospel and that we have faithfully kept the covenants we have made.)
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 76:54–70 by explaining that these verses list many of the blessings the exalted inhabitants of the celestial kingdom will receive. Give students a few moments to read through these verses looking for promised blessings or conditions that are particularly meaningful to them.
What is a blessing promised to the faithful that has particular meaning to you? Why?
How does verse 69 help us to understand the Savior’s role in the lives of those who inherit the celestial kingdom? (Each of us, no matter how hard we try, will fail to do everything necessary to inherit the celestial kingom. Only through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice can we be cleansed of our sins and be made perfect.)
How can knowing the truths about the plan of salvation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 help us make better choices in life?
Display the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Without a knowledge of the gospel plan, transgression seems natural, innocent, even justified. There is no greater protection from the adversary than for us to know the truth—to know the plan!” (Our Father’s Plan , 27).
In what ways can knowledge of the truths found in Doctrine and Covenants 76 help protect us from Satan’s influence?
In what ways has your knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s plan protected and blessed you?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:114–117 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the promise given to those who purify themselves. Invite students to describe the promise in that passage.
After students respond, display the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) in reference to the vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76:
“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).
To help students apply what they learned in class, display or write the following incomplete phrases on the board:
Invite students to complete these phrases on a piece of paper. Encourage them to consider whether the choices they are making will qualify them to inherit the celestial kingdom and help them qualify for other blessings promised in Doctrine and Covenants 76. Share your testimony of the truths discussed in class today.