“The Vision (D&C 76),” Church History Topics
“The Vision (D&C 76)”
In the fall of 1831, Elsa and John Johnson opened their home in Hiram, Ohio, to Joseph and Emma Smith, setting aside an upper room as an office where Joseph and his scribes could work on his inspired translation of the Bible.1 On February 16, 1832, as Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon pondered John 5:29, a passage regarding the resurrection, they had a remarkable vision of the post-mortal life. “Through the power of the spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened,” they wrote, “so as to see and understand the things of God.”2 Philo Dibble, who was also in the translating room that day, remembered that he “felt the power, but did not see the vision.”3 Joseph and Sidney’s account of their experience was soon recorded in the Church’s revelation book, copied by missionaries to be shared in the Church’s branches, and published in the Church newspaper.
“The Vision,” as the Saints called the new revelation, described multiple heavens or degrees of glory that human beings could attain in the afterlife. It also revealed that all but a small few of Heavenly Father’s children would inherit a kingdom of glory. Some Saints were eager to spread the news. William W. Phelps, for example, called it “the greatest news that was ever published to man.”4 Others found the Vision unsettling. They thought perhaps it taught principles similar to those of Universalism, a religious movement that believed everyone would be saved, regardless of their actions. This teaching was viewed as heretical by many Christians who understood that life after death was divided only into a heaven and a hell. “It was a great trial to many,” recalled Brigham Young, who was baptized shortly after the Vision was received.5 “My traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was directly contrary and opposed to my former education.” Young was patient, however, as he sought to understand the meaning of this revelation. “I used to think and pray, to read and think,” he recalled, “until I knew and fully understood it for myself.”6
Joseph continued to seek knowledge by revelation on the nature of salvation, the degrees of glory, and the resurrection.7 In Nauvoo, his sermons on humans’ divine nature and potential, as well as additional revelation on the eternal nature of family relationships, helped the Saints understand the significance of exaltation and celestial glory and the blessing promised to those who follow Jesus Christ. Like Brigham Young, the Saints increasingly came to embrace the teachings expressed in the Vision, and today they are celebrated as distinctive Latter-day Saint beliefs.