The Kingdoms of Glory

Bruce R. McConkie

Contrary to the views found in the uninspired teachings and creeds of modern Christendom, there are in eternity kingdoms of glory to which all resurrected persons (except the sons of perdition) will eventually go. These are named: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial the glory of each being beyond mortal comprehension. (D. & C. 76; 1 Cor. 15:39-42; Rev. 21.)

However, only the celestial kingdom is the kingdom of God where the faithful saints will gain their eternal inheritance. All who fall short of the glory of eternal life will in greater or lesser degree be damned (even though they dwell in a kingdom of glory), for their eternal progress will be limited, and they can never go on to an eternal fulness in the Father's presence. (D. & C. 132:16-17.)

Rewards granted individuals in eternity will vary between and within kingdoms. Only those who are sealed in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and who thereafter keep the terms and conditions of that covenant will attain the highest of three heavens within the celestial kingdom. (D. & C. 131:1-4.) Inhabitants of the telestial kingdom will differ in glory among themselves "as one star differs from another star in glory." (D. & C. 76:98; 1 Cor. 15:41.) Similar variations will exist among inheritors of the terrestrial kingdom. (D. & C. 76:71-79.)

Revealed statements that those quickened with a portion of the glory of the respective kingdoms shall then receive a fulness of the glory concerned, mean (for instance) that no one can gain admission to the celestial kingdom unless by obedience to celestial law he has obtained a celestial body. (D. & C. 88:16-32.) The glory to be received by individuals in the kingdoms of glory hereafter will be in direct proportion to their obedience and diligence in this life (D. & C. 130:18-19), for all men will be judged in accordance with their particular works. (Rev. 20:13.)

Celestial Bodies

By obedience to celestial law men gain celestial bodies, bodies which are sanctified by the spirit. (D. & C. 84:33; 88:16-32; Alma 13:12; 3 Ne. 27:19-21.) They become new creatures of the Holy Ghost, having been born again. (Alma 5.) Their renewed bodies are just as different from bodies still in their carnal state as the bodies of the various animals, fowls, and fishes differ from each other. (1 Cor. 15:39-42.) Those who have gained celestial bodies will, in the resurrection, receive back "the same body which was a natural body" (D. & C. 88:28), that is their celestial bodies will be immortalized and then they will gain admission to the celestial kingdom.

Celestial Spirits

Those who by full obedience to gospel requirements develop celestial bodies, gain at the same time celestial spirits. Then in the resurrection, when "the same body which was a natural body," (that is, the renewed body, the body sanctified by the spirit, the celestial body) is received back again, "they who are of a celestial spirit" are quickened by a celestial glory and go on to an inheritance in a celestial kingdom. (D. & C. 88:28.)

Celestial Glory

If a man obeys celestial law in this life, he obtains a celestial body and spirit. In the resurrection these are received back again quickened by a celestial glory thus qualifying him to go to a celestial kingdom where alone celestial glory is found. (D. & C. 88:16-32.) Mortal man has no concept of the glory of that world. Those who finally attain it are persons "whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical." (D. & C. 76:70; 1 Cor. 15:40-42.) Exaltation consists in gaining a fulness of celestial glory. (D. & C. 132:19-20.) Those so attaining will receive "a fulness of the glory of the Father" and be glorified in Christ as he is in the Father. (D. & C. 93:16-20.) The Prophet said that in the resurrection the righteous "shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more; but they shall be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ." (Teachings p. 347.)

Celestial Kingdom

Highest among the kingdoms of glory hereafter is the celestial kingdom. It is the kingdom of God, the glory thereof being typified by the sun in the firmament. (D. & C. 76:50-70, 92-96; 1 Cor. 15:39-42.) The Prophet has left us this record of a glorious occurrence that took place in the Kirtland Temple on January 21, 1836: "The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell. I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son. I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold." (Teachings, p. 107.)

An inheritance in this glorious kingdom is gained by complete obedience to gospel or celestial law. (D. & C. 88:16-32.) By entering the gate of repentance and baptism candidates find themselves on the strait and narrow path leading to the celestial kingdom. By devotion and faithfulness, by enduring to the end in righteousness and obedience, it is then possible to merit a celestial reward. (2 Ne. 31:17-21.)

No unclean thing can enter this kingdom, and the plan of salvation is the system whereby men are washed and cleansed, whereby they are "sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost," and thus enabled to stand spotless before the Lord. (3 Ne. 27:19-21.) "The sanctified" are "them of the celestial world." (D. & C. 88:2.)

"In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees," and in the same sense that baptism starts a person out toward an entrance into the celestial world, so celestial marriage puts a couple on the path leading to an exaltation in the highest heaven of that world. (D. & C. 131:1-4; 132.)

Terrestrial Bodies

By obedience to terrestrial law men develop terrestrial bodies and spirits, thus conditioning themselves to be quickened in the resurrection with terrestrial glory, which is found in a terrestrial kingdom. (D. & C. 76:71-80; 88:16-32.) As is the case with the development of celestial bodies, those who gain terrestrial ones have bodies as different from other kinds of flesh as one form of life differs from another. (1 Cor. 15:39-42.)

Terrestrial Glory

Those attaining a terrestrial kingdom will be inheritors of terrestrial glory which differs from celestial glory "as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament." (D. & C. 76:71; 1 Cor. 15:41.) In effect they bask, as does the moon, in reflected glory, for there are restrictions and limitations placed on them. They "receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father" (D. & C. 76:77), and to all eternity they remain unmarried and without exaltation. (D. & C. 132:17.)

Terrestrial Kingdom

To the terrestrial kingdom will go: 1. Accountable persons who die without law (and who, of course, do not accept the gospel in the spirit world under those particular circumstances which would make them heirs of the celestial kingdom); 2. Those who reject the gospel in this life and who reverse their course and accept it in the spirit world; 3. Honorable men of the earth who are blinded by the craftiness of men and who therefore do not accept and live the gospel law; and 4. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have testimonies of Christ and the divinity of the great latter-day work and who are not valiant, but who are instead lukewarm in their devotion to the Church and to righteousness. (D. & C. 76:71-80.)

Telestial Bodies

"All flesh is not the same flesh," Paul says, with reference to the flesh of various forms of life, thus using a self-evident truth to establish in the minds of the Corinthians that there is also a distinction in the kinds of bodies that men have. The fact that some of these are telestial bodies has been lost from the King James Version of the Bible. The Inspired Version, however, restores the lost phrases, explaining that there are "celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, and bodies telestial; but the glory of the celestial, one; and the terrestrial, another; and the telestial, another." (inspired Version, 1 Cor. 15:40.)

Most accountable men on earth have telestial bodies because they live a telestial law, that is the law of carnality and worldliness. These bodies will be quickened in the resurrection with telestial glory, which is found in a telestial kingdom. (D. & C. 76:81-112; 88:16-32.)

Telestial Glory

That glory granted the inhabitants of the lowest kingdom of glory is called telestial glory. In the infinite mercy of a beneficent Father it surpasses all mortal understanding, and yet it is in no way comparable to the glory of the terrestrial and celestial worlds. Telestial glory is typified by the stars of the firmament, and "as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world" (D. & C. 76:81-112; 1 Cor. 15:41), meaning that all who inherit the telestial kingdom will not receive the same glory.

Telestial Kingdom

Most of the adult people who have lived lived from the day of Adam to the present time will go to the telestial kingdom. The inhabitants of this lowest kingdom of glory will be "as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore." They will be the endless hosts of people of all ages who have lived after the manner of the world; who have been carnal, sensual, and devilish; who have chosen the vain philosophies of the world rather than accept the testimony of Jesus; who have been liars and thieves, sorcerers and adulterers, blasphemers and murderers. (D. & C. 76:81-112; Rev. 22:15.) Their number will include "all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly" (Mal. 4:1), for all such have lived a telestial law. "And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end." (D. & C. 76:112.)

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1958, 1966