Sunday, November 30, 2008

LDS View of Heaven

Hello folks. Time to answer another of those questions.  The question was …”In your religion, are LDS the only ones going to heaven?”

The very short answer is … “no.”

The very long and detailed answer about who goes where after this life, according to our doctrine, is found in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is a canonized book of revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith from Jesus Christ.  So to Mormons, it is scripture.

Here I will give you a basic view of our understanding of heaven.  We believe that nearly everyone goes to heaven, but that there are different degrees of glory in heaven. Your works and acceptance of the grace of our Savior through repentance determine which degree of glory you inherit at the final judgment day.

AFTER DEATH AND BEFORE THE JUDGMENT DAY

Now I will note that these degrees of glory are assigned after the final judgment day. This is not where we go right when we die. Right when we die we either go to Spirit Paradise or Spirit Prison to await the final judgment day. Here is a description of those who go to Spirit Paradise: Those who are just and have been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality, who departed the mortal life firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. (Taken from Doctrine and Covenants section 138:12, 14.)

Those who go to Spirit prison are described as follows: The wicked, ungodly, and unrepentant who defiled themselves while in the flesh and rejected the prophets. (D&C 138:20-21)

Okay so after we die, good people go to paradise and wicked people go to prison. There we wait until the judgment day.

THE THREE DEGREES OF GLORY

When we are judged we can go to one of three degrees of glory or outer darkness. May I quote from the Bible Dictionary that is tacked onto the end of the LDS printing of our King James versions of the Bible;

“It is apparent that if God rewards everyone according to the deeds done in the body, the term heaven as intended for man’s eternal home must include more kingdoms than one. In speaking of man in his resurrected state, Paul tells of glories like the sun, the moon, and the stars (1 Cor. 15: 39-41). He also speaks of the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12: 2). Jesus spoke of “many mansions” or kingdoms (John 14: 2).

“Latter-day revelation confirms the teaching of the Bible on these matters and verifies that there are three general categories or glories to which the members of the human family will be assigned in the judgment following their resurrection from the grave. These are known as the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms, of which the sun, moon, and stars are spoken of as being typical (D&C 76D&C 88: 20-32D&C 131: 1-4). In addition to the degrees of glory, there is a place of no glory, called perdition, reserved for those who commit the unpardonable sin.”

Now within each of these three kingdoms there are many levels. The only place reserved for those baptized by proper authority (or in today’s world and our view, the LDS) is the highest level of the celestial kingdom.  Now, it is important to note that every soul will have the ability to accept or reject ordinances necessary to receive this glory if not in this life then the next. 

This is part of what we do when we worship in our temples.  We perform ordinances for deceased relatives to either accept or reject in the after life.  God is a just and fair God and will give all the chance to choose eternal life if that chance was not granted during mortality.


Basically, the level of heaven we believe good people of other Christian faiths will go to will be much like the heaven they are taught in their doctrine that they will go to. They will be angels and will live in peace in the presence of the Savior.

Our doctrine in the LDS church gives us a more literal reading of the commandment of Jesus for us to be even as our Father in Heaven. The highest level of celestial kingdom is reserved for those who were faithful members of the church of the Firstborn. These are faithful people baptized by the proper authority, who have made further covenants with the Father in the Temples of God and lived faithful to these covenants.

The inhabitants of this highest level of the celestial kingdom are married to the spouses to whom they have been sealed in the Temple and they become literally like our Heavenly Parents. They dwell in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

I hope that answers the question about if we think only LDS go to heaven. Joseph Smith saw a vision of all these degrees of glory and said even the least of them, the telestial, where wicked people go was so amazingly wonderful it was beyond our comprehension. The “hell” part of this kingdom will be knowing how much more they could have had and not being able to have it. That and they will not be with the Savior. Instead they will be ministered to by the Holy Ghost.

I think this is one of the most generous doctrines of heaven out there. It also is the only one I know of that teaches that it is possible for family relationships to last forever. I know many people who believe that. It seems to be within us to just know that because the love we feel for each other does not die with death that our relationship as husband or wife, mother and child, should also not cease.

But as far as I am aware, the LDS church is the only church whose doctrine specifically teaches that this is possible through participating in the proper ordinances through proper authority here on earth.

In the past, I have always thought this a “nice” doctrine. Now … well it is the driving force behind my newly doubled efforts to live worthy of His grace and to valiantly keep all the covenants I have made with my Father. I want to raise my daughter Camille as her mother. This great trial that serves as a motivator to me has not perfected me. I still struggle to put off the natural man and live worth of the Spirit at all times. But, I will spend the rest of my life striving to live worthy so that I may claim that privilege of raising Camille and being where she, by the grace of the atonement is already assured of being. 

27 comments:

Lori said...

Wow Stephanie. You and Camille are such a missionary team already. The work you are doing in her name has the Lord smiling all over. Have a blessed day.

Steffani said...

I can't even imagine the pain of loosing a child, but as I read the thoughtful, spirit driven answers that you provide to these questions I have to wonder how many souls you are bringing to Christ, and the joy you must feel knowing that? Camille's life and death were not in vain! Thank you for your undying testimony!

Farnsworth Family said...

Thank you for sharing this. My husband is not LDS and your way of making sense of this is much better than mine. I can't wait to share it with him.

Claudia said...

I stumbled across your blog through a friend of a friend. What a strong and valiant spirit you have. I appreciate your testimony and your openness to share. God bless you and your family.

Sue said...

Beautifully explained!

What I like best about the LDS doctrine is that those who have not had a chance to accept or reject the gospel in this life will be given the opportunity after death. As the Lord is perfect and therefore perfectly fair and just, this is the only outcome that could ever make sense to me.

Amanda said...

I'm just getting caught up on you again. I'm just getting back online after a very stressful move. I just wanted to say after reading your post on tender mercies that you are one of my tender mercies.

No matter how many stressful and trying things that are going on in my life I can come each day and read your blog and be amazed by your strength and virtue. So, thank you!

I hope it's not to late to send an angel for Camille's tree. My stuff has been in storage for a week and I'm just now getting unpacked. I hope to find it and send it by the end of the week.

Kathryn_m said...

This is all very interesting, Stephanie although I am confused on one point.

If the "wicked" go to the telesial level, who goes to perdition?

Additionally, what is an "unpardonable sin"?

Thanks for taking time time to post this.

love 'n hugs,
kathryn_m

BTW, the word varification was "hyper" -- if you knew what was transpiring in our home presently, you'd see how appropriate that was! :-)

Anonymous said...

I am of the Christian faith.

Could you make a more understandable explanation of what the LDS church thinks of non-LDS members? And also, what your faith thinks will happen to them as far as eternity goes?

Stephanie said...

Kathryn M
Few people go to perdition. They are those that deny the Christ when they have a sure knowledge of Him. In essence they crucify the Christ in their own souls.

So if you had been righteous enough to have Christ appear to you and you knew Him as the Christ and then you denied Him and fought against Him, you might have to worry about going to Perdition. This is where Satan is. Most of us never have to worry about going here because we live by faith and not by a sure knowledge of the Christ. Does that make sense?

Additionally, the wicked in the telestial kingdom will have to pay for their sins since they would not accept Christ and the atonement He made for them. But once they have paid the price of their sins, they will have peace in that kingdom.

Hope that helps. This subject has a bucketful of information in it. It is hard for me to fill the tea cup of the question without overwhelming people. Whole books can be written on this. If you want to know more on it, you can go to the references in the Doctrine and Covenants listed in the Bible Dictionary quote. Just search for them in www.lds.org.

Love,
Stephanie

artybill said...

Very nice testimony Stephanie. Janet and I wish you the best in this holiday season.

Stephanie said...

Anon,

To answer your question, members of our church are taught to love all people regardless of their beliefs. This is one of the Savior's commandments, loving our neighbor. It is hard to say what any individual member of our church think of any individual non member. In general I think that is more a matter of personality than faith.

As a whole we respect the right of any person to follow the dictates of their own beliefs, whatever they may be and in so far as they do not infringe on the rights of others (i.e. suicidal terrorism in the name of religion is not okay). We don't believe in forcing anyone to believe anything. We are all free to choose and we hold that freedom to choose what we believe as a sacred right given to every human.

As for what we think will happen to non members -- this also is hard to answer. I have written a basic on it. Ultimately the Lord will judge. We are taught that everyone will be know that they end up in the best and most "just" place for them. That none of us would feel comfortable in a higher or lower kingdom. We don't have lots of specific doctrine taught in church about the kingdom where non members go. It isn't the goal for us.

For us the goal is to live in families in that highest kingdom and to become like our Father eternally progressing. We teach more about that goal and work to that end.

Angels in lower kingdoms are single (not married) and do not live in the presence of the Father. Though they do enjoy the glory of His Son in the terrestial kingdom. More than that, you would have to contact your local Mormon missionaries to delve into. I just don't have the time to do the research on the subject. You can ask for missionaries at mormon.org or chat with them online about the subject. It is their full time job to answer questions. They have the time.

Sorry, I don't feel I was much help to you here. I hope you follow your heart in finding the Truth. I know the Lord will teach us Truth as we are ready to receive it.

love, stephanie

Mommy Poulsen said...

Thanks! I was raised LDS, but it was nice to read about this again! You are a great missionary!

Kathryn_m said...

Yes, Stephanie, that makes sense to me and I thank you for responding.

Also .. thanks for that yummy roll recipe - I will be turning my hand to those over the holidays. I am more of a cook than a baker - never had too much success with bread or rolls -- when I was in grade 7, my Home Economics teacher referred to yeast as a "baby" and when my rolls came out of the oven looking like hockey pucks, she told me I had killed my baby. However, I am told I make the best Chinese food this side of the Pecos! :-)

love 'n hugs,
kathryn_m

Erin Lafleur said...

You did an awesome job of explaining things! I am so impressed with your efforts to answer questions and not push them to the wayside. If you would like a diagram to help explain I found a great one here.... http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/The_Plan_of_Salvation.jpg

Erin Lafleur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Please remember, this post is given to help others understand LDS beliefs. It is not intended to convert of convince of truth. This blog is not a forum for debate and comments posted that take issue with the LDS view will be deleted.

This is not a place to see who is right. I respect everyone's right to disagree. I expect most non LDS to disagree. That is fine with me. But this is not a forum to discuss who is right. It is ONLY open to help others understand my view as an LDS woman.

Love to you all whether you agree or not, whether you think I am going to heaven or hell. :)
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

I posted the anonymous comment that began with, “I am of the Christian faith.”
Thank you very much for your answer, it was great.
I am a faithful member of the Lutheran Church and I have and STILL think about the LDS views and beliefs, and continue to wonder and have things that bring me to believe that this may be the religion for me. But I’m still not sure. I thoroughly enjoy studying and learning about different religions. I believe, I know that Jesus Christ will bring me into the faith that is right for me. Thank you for all of your help, once again. What do you honestly think about me reconsidering my religion, and generally thinking about the LDS church?

Stephanie said...

Dear Anon Christian,

I will try to answer as best I can here. First, the Lutheran church, from all that I know about it, is a very nice church. I have a good friend who was Lutheran and I really liked the the things they taught. She is a very good hearted, lovely Christian woman. I went to church with her once just to see what her services were like. They had a good feeling, though they were different from what I was used to.

Most christian churches teach of Christ - hence the name christian right :) - and it is the Savior we long to emulate. It is Him we worship. It is He who is our only hope of salvation through His grace.

I feel that the LDS church simply has so much more to offer. I could list all of it ... but it may be a way long comment. Top 5 for me of things the LDS church offers others do not for me and that I NEED know that I know they are true (not necessarily in order):

1) A living prophet to give us direction from the Savior for our day. This is like having living scripture. And it has the same organization that Christ's church had as He set it up with the 12 apostles.

2) The Book of Mormon. I LOVE this book. It speaks to my soul and I feel the power of the Spirit of the Lord most fully when I am immersed in its pages. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is a companion to the Bible. Why would I not want to learn more of Jesus Christ and His ministry to His followers in other parts of the world besides Jerusalem? I am a lawyer. In court the more witnesses you have the better. Especially when the corroborate evidence. The Book of Mormon corroborates the doctrines of the Bible and also clears up some of the more confusing parts.

3) The Gift of the Holy Ghost. After we are baptized, we are confirmed members of the LDS church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. While all of God's children can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost or the Spirit, having this "Gift" given to me gives me the guarantee that as long as I am worthy, this divine being will be my constant companion, comforter, teacher, and testifier. This Gift has gotten me through some very dark times of life with a peace and comfort that only heaven can provide.

4) The doctrine of Eternal Families. I want more than to be an angel in heaven. I want to continue to grow and learn and progress eternally. I want to be like Christ. And I want to be with my family and enjoy our family relationships forever. I want my husband to be my husband forever and not just till death parts us. I want to be with Camille and be her mother and raise her to her adult stature after the second coming of the Savior.

5) I have a testimony, a solid witness from God, that this church is the only church with the living Savior leading it. Others teach about Him and other preachers and people can be inspired by Him, but I have a witness that He personally directs the affairs of this church through His prophet.

As part of #5 - the LDS church invites everyone to get their own testimony, their own witness from God, about what is True. Each person can pray and find their own witness of Truth. Missionaries teach and inform people but they do not convert people. They invite people to ask God if the messages they share are true. People who join our church are converted of the Lord as they pray and ask the Lord what is true. If they do not feel they get an answer they do not join. And that is okay. We must all follow the answers we receive from the Lord. He will teach us His truth in His time and according to our readiness to accept it.

So - I think you should contact your local missionaries and learn more. Listen to their message. If your heart is seeking something more, I would say to you as I did to Kathryn -- I love you whether you are Baptist, Jewish, Lutheran, Buddist, or Catholic. It doesn't matter to me. But if you are seeking more, SEEK it. Learn more. Then KNOCK. Do the work to find your own truth. Read the scriptures, live the teachings you learn and try them out. And most important ASK! Ask God to lead you to truth and ASK HIm to let you feel His witness of it when you find it. I know as long as your heart is open to it and you SEEK KNOCK and ASK you will find the truth that the Lord wants to show you.

If you were totally satisfied with your faith, I wouldn't tell you to seek more. But if you feel a yearning for more, I encourage you to search out more.

May the Lord bless you and guide you.
Love,
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

From Anon Christian-

Thanks again for your help. I ask in my prayers for the Lord to bless me in all decisions and keep watch over me as I journey into searching for different faiths. You are a very understanding person and I'm glad that you'd never put down another religion, which I wouldn't expect. I'm glad that you have much respect and understand where I'm coming from, and thanks for that :)

Anonymous said...

What do you think when people say that those of the Mormon religion aren't Christians?

Stephanie said...

Dear Anon,
I think this is a case of "defining" the word Christian. If you define a Christian as one who believes in Jesus Christ from the Bible, that He is the Son of God and is our key to salvation. If you define a Christian as one who worships this Jesus Christ written of in the Bible. Well we are without qualification Christians.

Those who say we are not Christian, if I understand their view correctly, believe this because we believe that Jesus Christ and God the Father are two distinct beings. One is literally the Father of the other. They believe in a more trinity type theory where Christ is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost all in one being. We believe they are one in purpose and thought and will but not in personage. Because of this difference of opinion, some believe we worship some different being than they do and say we are not Christian.

It is interesting to note the origin of the doctrine of the trinity. In the year a.d. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, imminent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

Still saints who did not hold this belief, those who voted the other way, were still worshipers of that Christ who was crucified. Were they also not Christians?

I understand the point of view of those who hold the stance that we are not Christian. We do differ in our doctrine on the nature of the Godhead. But really I think it is just a matter of definition. We worship Jesus Christ. The same Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazerath, crucified on Golgotha, and who now reigns in the heavens. The same Christ on whom we all must believe and accept in our hearts to find salvation. Thus we call ourselves Christians. We define Christian as one who believes in, trys to live like, and worships Jesus Christ.

There is a great talk on this subject given by one of our apostles if you want to read more on the issue. You can read it here: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=d2552bce258f5110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

Hope this helps you understand this difference of opinion.
Love,
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply about the LDS faith being Christians or not. I have always believed that they are. Just like you said, we all believe, love, and worship the same God, The Father Almighty and that it what truly matters.

Leslie said...

Stephanie, I'd like to add to something you said. You said, "To answer your question, members of our church are taught to love all people regardless of their beliefs. This is one of the Savior's commandments, loving our neighbor."

I felt moved to say more because I've heard so much the saying "Love the sinner, hate the sin" which I've always had a hard time with because a lot of the people that say this aren't always really loving in the first place, they can be very bigoted and hurtful. I also think relying on an explanation that includes the word "hate" is a bad idea.

But, more than that, it's not just that we love our neighbors. We believe we were brothers and sisters in Christ already before we came to this earth. We believe there was a war in heaven where 1/3 of the hosts were thrown out along with Satan, who will never have the privilege of living this mortal life and thus Satan and his followers are relegated to living as spirits and working through we mortals -- ie. "using" us -- to have their way. All of us that come to this earth already once before made the choice to follow Christ. We stood up for him, choose to follow him, in that war. Some of us were likely more valiant than others during that time, but nevertheless there is a real sense and understanding from LDS doctrine that we are all truly sons and daughters of God. It's not just a trite saying, there's an explanation for why that is and we believe or even *know* it to be true.

This article from President Hinckley explains the war then -- and the war now as this spiritual battle goes on today to steal away the hearts and minds of man from God. Still we love our brothers and sisters, we know the spiritual struggle they are facing even if they don't realize the formidable force they are up against. Of course, I wish that all could have this knowledge and be blessed by the teachings and priesthood of the gospel. It is quite painful to watch others be pulled into demise simply for not knowing what they can do to protect themselves (and I've lived my own pain having not known of the restored gospel and been able to participate until age 37):


http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=02303bc909592110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

Leslie said...

That links didn't come out well. I'm trying again, but if this doesn't work, I've listed the article name that can be found at www.lds.org:

First Presidency Message: An Unending Conflict, a Victory Assured, June 2007

woman of much faith said...

I am confused about the Joseph Smith story. Mainly because I feel that any (young) boy could say that he saw a spirit, or what this young boy saw. I'm asking this in total respect and I'm just curious what you have to say. Thank you for reading and hopefully you'll answer my question.

Stephanie said...

woman of much faith,

you are right. Anybody could say they saw anything. That is why the Lord has to tell us personally that the story of Joseph Smith is a true story that actually happened.

If you want to know if his story is true or just made up, read his account of it. I am sure you can find it at lds.org or mormon.org. Then begin praying, with an open mind, and an ernest desire to know if it is true. Your answer may not come the first time you ask. But if you keep asking and seeking and listening, I believe the Lord will let you know for yourself if his story is true. I know He let me know it.

I think there is also a great deal of logical evidence to support at least that Joseph Smith truly believed he had this vision. But really no one can KNOW whether he really saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in that grove unless God makes it known to your heart. All the evidence can be debated and argued. But no reasoning or argument from man can debunk a direct answer from the Lord. So if you really care to know, I suggest you study the subject out and then ask the Source of all Truth.

Good luck if you decide to do the work to find out for yourself.

Love, Stephanie

Greg said...

Thanks for the information here. I'm a protistent doing reserch for a presintation about the Morman beliefs of heaven. Multiple times I've prayed that God would show me if this was true, and each time, he's shown me that the Morman beliefs were false.