Doctrine and Covenants 76

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 125–29


Introduction

President Charles W. Penrose, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants … is one of the grandest revelations that I ever saw in my life in any book; there is nothing in the Bible that compares with it; there is nothing in any book that I ever read that compares with it, for glory, for perfection, for detail, for a revelation of the plans of the Father for the salvation of his children” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1922, 29).

When section 76 was first revealed, some members of the Church had a difficult time accepting it. President Brigham Young said, “It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 391). On another occasion, President Young explained: “My traditions were such, that when the Vision [D&C 76] came first to me, it was directly contrary and opposed to my former education. I said, Wait a little. I did not reject it; but I could not understand it.” With time President Young came to view it as “one of the best doctrines ever proclaimed to any people” (in Journal of Discourses, 6:281).

President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, said that section 76 “should be treasured by all members of the Church as a priceless heritage. It should strengthen their faith and be to them an incentive to seek the exaltation promised to all who are just and true. So plain and simple are its teachings that none should stumble or misunderstand” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:279).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 117–19.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 158–66.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 76. Overview of the visions of the three degrees of glory.

(20–25 minutes)

Share Philo Dibble’s account of how section 76 was received, from the historical background in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 158). Ask: How do you think it might have felt to be in the room when the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received this revelation?

Share the information from the introduction to section 76 above on the difficulty with which the early Saints first received this revelation. Read John 5:29 and explain that it represents what the Saints in Joseph Smith’s day knew about life after the Judgment. Discuss how the vision of the three degrees of glory would both challenge and inspire the early Saints.

Because this is such a large section, an understanding of how it is organized will help your students in their study. Using the following categories, help your students mark the different parts of this revelation in their scriptures:

Draw the accompanying diagram on the board. Point out that the vision of the Savior was followed by the visions of Satan and the sons of perdition and that this was followed by the vision of the celestial glory. Ask:

  • What effect do you think it had on Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to see the visions in this order?

  • What can we learn by reading about the visions in this order?

Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–4, 22–24, 40–43, 69, 107–8 (Scripture Mastery, Doctrine and Covenants 76:22–24). Under Heavenly Father’s direction, Jesus Christ created the worlds and provided the Atonement so their inhabitants could be saved.

(15–20 minutes)

Have students turn to the photograph of the John Johnson home in the back of their scriptures (no. 8). Ask: What significant revelation was received in this room of the John Johnson home? (Section 76.) Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 76:22–24 and look for reasons this revelation is so significant. Suggest they mark important insights as you discuss the following questions:

  • Why is it important to know that Jesus Christ lives?

  • What do you think Joseph Smith meant by “last of all”? (v. 22; see the commentary for D&C 76:20–24 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 160).

  • What does it mean to be on God’s right hand? (see Matthew 25:31–34, 41; D&C 29:27).

  • Who is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh? (Jesus Christ.)

  • What does it mean that “the worlds are and were” created by Jesus Christ? (see the commentary for D&C 76:24 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 160; see also Moses 1:33).

  • How are we “begotten sons and daughters unto God” through Jesus Christ? (D&C 76:24; see the commentary for D&C 25:1 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 50; see also Mosiah 5:7).

Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:40–43, 107–8. Mark words and phrases that describe how the Savior will save those who become “sons and daughters unto God.”

Doctrine and Covenants 76:5–10. The Lord promises wisdom, revelation, and eternal glory to those who reverence and serve Him.

(10–15 minutes)

Read with students Doctrine and Covenants 76:5 and look for the Lord’s promises to those who righteously serve Him. Invite them to search verses 6–10 and list the ways the Lord will bless His faithful servants. (See also the commentary for D&C 76:5–10 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 159.) Have students choose one of the blessings the Lord promised and write a paragraph on why they would like to have that blessing.

Doctrine and Covenants 76:15–19. Prayerfully reading and pondering the scriptures invites revelation.

(15–20 minutes)

Show the class a sewing pattern and ask what it is. Ask: What happens if you follow this pattern? If possible, show students a piece of clothing made from the pattern. Write the following scripture references on the board: D&C 76:15–19; 138:1–2, 11; 1 Nephi 11:1; Joseph Smith—History 1:11–13. Explain that each scripture describes what happened just before a revelation was received. Have students study these scriptures and discover a “pattern” for receiving revelation. Discuss why pondering, meditating, and reflecting on the scriptures can lead to revelation.

Share the following statements. President David O. McKay, who was then a counselor in the First Presidency, said:

“Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. Jesus set the example for us. As soon as he was baptized and received the Father’s approval, ‘This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’ Jesus repaired to what is now known as the mount of temptation. I like to think of it as the mount of meditation where, during the forty days of fasting, he communed with himself and his Father, and contemplated upon the responsibility of his great mission. One result of this spiritual communion was such strength as enabled him to say to the tempter:

“‘… Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’ (Matt. 4:10.)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1946, 113).

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:

“By pondering, we give the Spirit an opportunity to impress and direct. Pondering is a powerful link between the heart and the mind. As we read the scriptures, our hearts and minds are touched. If we use the gift to ponder, we can take these eternal truths and realize how we can incorporate them into our daily actions” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 24; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 20).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:25–49. Sons of perdition will be resurrected but will not inherit a kingdom of glory. They will be cut off from the presence of God forever.

(25–30 minutes)

Write on the board “Lucifer” means ____. Have students look up Lucifer in their Bible Dictionary and fill in the blank. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:25–28 and find what Lucifer came to be called. Discuss how he became Perdition (see also Isaiah 14:12–17; Moses 4:1–4).

Invite students to give an example of a time one nation declared war on another. Ask: How does declaring war affect the nations’ relationship with each other? Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:29 and look for another declaration of war. Discuss the following questions:

  • Who has Satan declared war on?

  • How does this influence Satan’s motives toward us?

  • How was Satan defeated in the battle in heaven? (see Revelation 12:11).

  • Why are those who have a testimony of the Savior and who try to keep the commandments a threat to Satan?

  • What can you do to guard against Satan’s attempts to destroy you? (see Ephesians 6:11–18; Revelation 12:7–11).

Read the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mists of darkness. He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod. When Laman and Lemuel asked, ‘What meaneth the rod of iron?’ Nephi answered, ‘It was the word of God; and [note this promise] whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.’ (1 Ne. 15:23–24; italics added.) Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries. …

“… This is an answer to the great challenge of our time. The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 80).

Have students search Doctrine and Covenants 76:30–49 to learn about sons of perdition. (Note: Be careful not to speculate about Satan or people who might or might not become sons of perdition.) Ask:

  • What have people done to become sons of perdition?

  • What happens to them?

  • How is that different from being “begotten sons and daughters unto God”? (v. 24).

Read Mosiah 5:7; Doctrine and Covenants 25:1 and remind students how one becomes a son or daughter of Jesus Christ. Encourage students to follow this path.

Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–119. Those who receive a celestial or terrestrial glory will come forth in the First Resurrection, or the Resurrection of the Just. Those who receive a telestial glory and the sons of perdition will come forth in the Last Resurrection, or the Resurrection of the Unjust.

(40–45 minutes)

Tell students: Imagine you are having a religious discussion with a friend who is not a member of the Church. The friend says: “At church last Sunday my minister told us that in the end we are either going to heaven or hell. I don’t feel I’m good enough to go to heaven right now, but I also don’t feel like I’m so bad that I should go to hell. What does your religion teach?”

Discuss how the doctrine of the three degrees of glory might be helpful to this friend.

If you have not already done so, help your students find and label the verses that apply to the different degrees of glory (see the teaching suggestion for D&C 76, p. 126). Write on the board the following three headings: Celestial Kingdom (D&C 76:50–70, 92–96), Terrestrial Kingdom (D&C 76:71–80, 87, 91, 97), and Telestial Kingdom (D&C 76:81–86, 88–90, 98–112). Have students search the verses that describe each vision (have them work as a class or in groups). Invite them to list the characteristics of each kingdom, and write their findings under the appropriate headings. Discuss any or all of the following questions:

  • In what order will these groups be resurrected? (see the commentary for D&C 76:50 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 163; see also D&C 45:54; 88:96–102).

  • What does it mean to be “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise”? (D&C 76:53; see the commentary for D&C 76:53 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 163–64).

  • What is the “church of the Firstborn”? (D&C 76:54; see the commentary for D&C 76:54 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 164).

  • What does the phrase “just men made perfect” mean? (D&C 76:69; see D&C 129:3–6; 138:12).

  • What does it mean to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”? (D&C 76:79; see the commentary for D&C 76:79 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 165; see also D&C 58:27–28; note that this topic is discussed in more detail in the following teaching suggestion).

  • If it is possible to receive the gospel in the spirit world, why shouldn’t a person wait until then to be righteous and not worry about trying so hard in this life? (see the commentary for D&C 76:72–74 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 164–65).

  • Who are the only ones who will be able to live with Heavenly Father? (see D&C 76:62, 77, 86).

  • How do these kingdoms and the people who go there differ in glory? (see D&C 76:70, 78, 89–98).

  • What is the relationship of the three kingdoms to the members of the Godhead? (see D&C 76:62, 77, 86, 112).

  • Why are telestial beings “thrust down to hell”? (D&C 76:84). What does that mean? (see the commentary for D&C 76:81–85 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 165–66).

  • Why do some who go through hell still receive a kingdom of glory? (see the commentary for D&C 76:89–106 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 166).

  • What makes the celestial kingdom the most desirable to you?

Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–70, 74, 79, 82, 92–96, 101. Those who are valiant in the testimony of Jesus and obedient to the principles and ordinances of the gospel will be exalted in the celestial kingdom as gods.

(20–25 minutes)

Show students a piece of raw iron (or draw a representation on the board). Ask:

  • Iron bar
  • What would this be worth in its present state?

  • How would its value change if you made it into a horseshoe? a cooking utensil? a scientific instrument?

Share this statement by President Spencer W. Kimball, then Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Apparently the value of … raw iron is only what it costs to process it from the hill. Its greater value is determined by what is made of it. People are much the same as iron. You or I can remain nothing more than raw material, or we can be polished to a high degree. Our value is determined by what we make of ourselves” (“On Cheating Yourself,” New Era, Apr. 1972, 32).

Discuss the following questions:

  • In what ways are people like raw iron?

  • What do you think people can do to improve themselves?

  • How does this relate to the doctrine of the three degrees of glory?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:51, 74, 79, 82, 101 and look for a phrase that each verse has in common. Ask: Why do you think “the testimony of Jesus” plays such an important part in which kingdom we inherit?

Discuss the following questions as you study Doctrine and Covenants 76:52–60, 92–95 with your students:

  • What blessings come to those who inherit the celestial kingdom?

  • What requirements are necessary to obtain the celestial kingdom?

  • Review verse 79. What do you think it means to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”?

Read Revelation 3:15–16; Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–28. Have students describe the level of valiancy they think the Lord expects of them. Share the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“[Those who are] valiant in the testimony of Jesus … are courageous in defending truth and righteousness. These are members of the Church who magnify their callings in the Church (see D&C 84:33), pay their tithes and offerings, live morally clean lives, sustain their Church leaders by word and action, keep the Sabbath as a holy day, and obey all the commandments of God. …

“… Not to be valiant in one’s testimony is a tragedy of eternal consequence. These are members who know this latter-day work is true, but who fail to endure to the end. Some may even hold temple recommends, but do not magnify their callings in the Church. Without valor, they do not take an affirmative stand for the kingdom of God. Some seek the praise, adulation, and honors of men; others attempt to conceal their sins; and a few criticize those who preside over them” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 89; or Ensign, May 1982, 63).

Invite students to answer the following questions on a piece of paper:

  • How valiant is my testimony of Jesus?

  • What can I do to become more valiant in my testimony?

Doctrine and Covenants 76:112. This life is the time to prepare to live with God.

(10–15 minutes)

Ask students to explain what they think the following statement means: “When the game begins, the time for practice ends.” Read Alma 34:32–33 and invite a student to explain how these verses relate to the statement. Ask: How do our choices in this life affect what will happen to us in the next?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 76:112; 131:1–4; 132:15–16 and identify the doctrine that is taught in these verses. Discuss how the choices we make in this life affect how we will live in eternity.