Sunday, May 31, 2009

Who goes to Heaven?

Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject. Joseph Smith Jr.
Virgil, in Dante's Inferno lamented: I’d have you know, before you go ahead,
they did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
that’s not enough, because they lacked baptism,
the portal of the faith that you embrace.
And if they lived before Christianity,
they did not worship God in fitting ways;
and of such spirits I myself am one.
For these defects, and for no other evil,
we now are lost and punished just with this:
we have no hope and yet we live in longing.6
The greater part of mankind has not had the opportunity to hear any accurate information about Christ or even hear about him at all, let alone accept and follow him, yet without Christ a man cannot be saved. Theologians over the ages have pondered this seeming injustice and come to various conclusions, some believe that God preappoints men to either salvation or damnation, others conclude that the loss of so many souls is somehow just in a way that only God can comprehend.2 There are even many who would exclude faithful followers of Christ from heaven on some technicality: lacked appropriate baptism, wrong concept of God, not really 'saved' to begin with... If all but a few of the millions who have lived on earth are forever lost, can God be considered just or merciful?

LDS Concept of Heaven

I love the LDS concept of Heaven, for it has room for everyone. Nearly all of God's children (by which I mean everyone) will have a place in the Kingdom of God. According to God's justice, we are rewarded according to our compliance to the laws of God and our desires for righteousness. D&C 137:7-9 Because of his mercy, he has provided a way for all who wish to do so to meet his requirements. The dead in the spirit world have the opportunity to be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ; and the work done in the temple on their behalf, such as baptism and the sealing of marriages, gives them the opportunity to receive necessary ordinances if they desire them. The only people who will not go to heaven and will dwell with Satan are those who have had the Holy Ghost, known God, and openly defied him. “[This] sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin.” Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 123.

We believe that when you die, you go to the Spirit World, which is a temporary place and is divided into paradise and hell. Latter-Day Saints believe that Heaven, the final dwelling place of man, comes after Christ's second coming and the Resurrection.
Paul states: “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” 1 Cor. 15:40–42.

"Paul understood, as undoubtedly did many of his fellow Saints, these vital truths that have been veiled in parabolic language. Heaven is not a single place or one single condition. It is as diverse as men’s behavior patterns are different, for men will be judged according to their deeds done in the flesh Rom. 2:6–8; Rev. 20:12–13." Spencer W. Kimball
In the LDS perspective, Heaven is divided into three kingdoms of glory, the the Celestial, the Terresterial, and the Telestial. This revelation was received as Joseph Smith pondered the meaning of John 5:29.

Telestial Kingdom The glory of the telestial kingdom "surpasses all understanding" and is compared to the glory of the stars. It is the glory that will be inherited by those who "received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus," who suffer for their own sins in hell (because they rejected Christ's sufferings for them) and who "shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord shall have finished his work." After their suffering and resurrection, they will receive a telestial glory in heaven where they will be ministered to by the Holy Spirit.

Terresterial Kingdom In the Terresterial Kingdom, which surpasses the Telestial in glory, will be those who did not accept Christ and his gospel during their lifetime, but did accept him in the spirit world. "These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men." It also includes those who were "not valiant in the testimony of Jesus." Those who receive a terrestrtial glory will "receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fullness of the Father." D&C 76

Celestial Kingdom "Those who have believed in Christ, who have forsaken the world, who have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide and been willing to lay their all on the altar, those who have kept the commandments of God—they shall go to a celestial kingdom whose glory is as the sun." Kimball

Those who inherit the Celestial Kingdom, which is the most glorious of all, will dwell forever in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. It will include those who have been faithful to Christ during their lives and have received baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, who have diligently tried to live his gospel and keep his commandments and who have become perfect through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It also includes those who would have received the gospel during their lifetimes if they had had the opportunity, as well as children who died before they reached the years of accountability.

The Celestial Kingdom is divided into three degrees. To enter the highest of these, you must be married and your marriage must be sealed by the Spirit, neither man nor woman can be there alone. There will be an opportunity for marriage for those who did not have it, for "no blessing, including that of eternal marriage and an eternal family, will be denied to any worthy individual." Howard W. Hunter Those who receive this glory will be able to have children and will
live with their families in God's presence forever.

I am so grateful for the understanding I have of Heaven. I can conceive of no plan more just than this one which permits each person to choose his eternal destiny by his desires and actions, nor one more merciful than this which provides an opportunity for all to make that choice. I am grateful for Christ's atoning sacrifice which enables us to repent of our mistakes and overcome the world. God loves all of us. Even the most wicked of men are children of God and loved dearly by him. He does not compel us by force, but calls to us with infinite love to come to him and receive all that we will of that which he has prepared for us.

1 comment:

  1. Jen I just have to say that I truly enjoy this blog and think that your doing a great work here. To understand this doctrine is a great blessing.