Doctrine and Covenants 137: A Vision of the Celestial Kingdom

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 156–157


In 1832 the Prophet Joseph Smith had a series of visions in which God revealed to him much about the kingdoms to which we will be assigned after mortality and the judgment (D&C 76). From those visions he learned that those who inherit the celestial kingdom must do such things as receive the testimony of Jesus Christ, be valiant in that testimony, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. But what about those who never had the opportunity to receive a testimony of Jesus Christ because they had not even been taught about Him? What about those who never had the opportunity to receive baptism or other ordinances at the hands of authorized servants of God? A revelation the Prophet Joseph Smith received in January of 1836 helps answer those questions.As you readDoctrine and Covenants 137, you will notice that the Prophet saw something that he wondered about. The Lord responded to that wondering and clarified important doctrine relating to the salvation of all of His children. What he learned in this revelation also helped the Prophet when he received important priesthood keys about three months later in the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110:11–16).The revelation contained inDoctrine and Covenants 137was presented for the sustaining vote of the Church in the April 1976 general conference, to be included in the official scriptures of the Church. It was first published as part of the Pearl of Great Price and later, beginning with the 1981 edition, printed as section 137 in the Doctrine and Covenants. ( Conference Report, Apr. 1976, p. 29; orEnsign, May 1976, p. 19; also “Three Additions to Be in Doctrine and Covenants,”Ensign, Aug. 1979, p. 75).

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 137

Transcendent(v. 2)Glorious, extraordinary 
Paved(v. 4)Covered with a firm, level surface 
Marveled(v. 6)Wondered 
Tarry(v. 7)Stay, remain 
Years of accountability(v. 10)Age of eight 

Doctrine and Covenants 137:1—“Whether in the Body or out I Cannot Tell”

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “all things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has n fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and … are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,355). Such visions involve a spiritual transformation that makes the connection with earthly things m far away. The Apostle Paul described a similar experience in2 Corinthians 12:2–4, and other prophets have noted the transforming effects of visions (Moses 1:10–11).

Heavenly vision

Doctrine and Covenants 137:5—“My Father and My Mother; My Brother Alvin”

It must have been interesting for the Prophet Joseph Smith to have n his father, his mother, and his older brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom. His father, Joseph Sr., was in the same upstairs room of the Kirtland Temple when the Prophet had this vision; his mother was also still alive. This obviously meant that the Prophet was ing something that would be in the future.

Doctrine and Covenants 137:6records that the Prophet wondered how his brother Alvin could obtain the celestial kingdom since he had died before the Restoration of the Church. Alvin Smith died in November 1823, shortly after the angel Moroni visited the Prophet and long before the power to administer saving ordinances was restored. On one occasion, the Prophet said that Alvin “was the oldest and the noblest of my father’s family. He was one of the noblest of the sons of men. … In him there was no guile [deceit]. He lived without spot from the time he was a child. … He wasone of the soberest of men, and when he died the angel of the Lord visited him in his last moments” (History of the Church,5:126–27). A minister who preached at Alvin Smith’s funeral indicated that he had gone to hell because he had never been baptized or joined a church ( “Another Testimony: Statement of William Smith, Concerning Joseph, the Prophet,”Deseret Evening News,Jan. 20, 1894, p. 11).

Doctrine and Covenants 137:9—“According to the Desire of Their Hearts”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reminded Church members of a truth that gives us both accountability and comfort:

Desire… relates so directly to our moral agency and our individuality. Whether in their conception or expression, our desires profoundly affect the use of our moral agency. Desires thus become real determinants, even when … we do not really want the consequences of our desires.

Desiredenotes a real longing or craving. Hence, righteous desires are much more than passive preferences or fleeting feelings. Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability.

“Therefore, what we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 26; orEnsign,Nov. 1996, 21; alsoAlma 41:3–6).

Doctrine and Covenants 137:10—Little Children Are Saved in the Celestial Kingdom

Little children are saved

Some have wondered if little children who die before the age of accountability—eight years old—need temple ordinances. The Lord made it clear that they do not need baptism (Moroni 8:10–13). The only temple ordinance that needs to be performed for them is to seal them to their parents, if they were not born under the covenant.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 137.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 137:7–10

  1. 1.

    List the groups of people thatDoctrine and Covenants 137:7–10teaches may inherit the celestial kingdom.

  2. 2.

    What mustwedo so that those people spoken of in verses 7–9 may be prepared for the celestial kingdom?

  3. 3.

    What do these verses teach us about God?

  4. 4.

    What do these verses teach us about our responsibilities?

Activity B iconGood News or Bad News?

  1. 1.

    According toDoctrine and Covenants 137:9, what two things will the Lord take into consideration when He judges us?

  2. 2.

    Consider the second item the Lord mentioned. Give an example of a situation in which knowing that truth about the judgment might be good news to someone. Also give an example of a situation in which it might be bad news.

Activity C iconWhat Would You Say?

Imagine you knew a family who was mourning the accidental death of their seven-year-old son. The father wondered if someone would need to be baptized in a temple for his son. From what you learn inDoctrine and Covenants 137:10, what might you say to the father to help him understand that baptism for the dead is not necessary for little children ( alsoMoroni 8; “Understanding the Scriptures” section forD&C 137:10).