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 76; D&C 88: 20-32; D&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.