D&C 76 – Terrestrial

D&C 76
71 And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.

The post on the Celestial category of people explains the qualifications for membership in the church of the Firstborn. These terrestrial people didn’t qualify for the church of the Firstborn during their mortal probation. The subsequent few verses describe these terrestrial people.

72 Behold, these are they who died without law;

What does it mean to die without law? Which law is this talking about? What do the scriptures mean when talking about dying without law?

D&C 45
54 And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.

Moroni 8
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing

Heathen nations are historically those that don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian god. It would seem to cover Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, and many other groups of people…indeed the vast majority of humans.

In the New Testament, the Gentiles were considered to be without law. Paul taught that those without law would die without law, but those with the law would be judged by the law.

Romans 2:12, 14
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

God also seems to be generous when defining who has law.

2 Chronicles 15
3 Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.

During this period of history, Israel had integrated false idols and other pagan influences into its culture and religion. If God considered Israel, which had been given the law of Moses hundreds of years earlier, to be without law, then it would probably be safe to say that most Christians are also without law at this point in time. Until we have the fulness of the law of God, it appears that God considers us without law and will give us mercy and a place in the terrestrial world.

D&C 76
73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.

The scriptures tell us some of these people in prison are those who lived before the flood.

1 Peter 3:19-20
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Moses 7
36 Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.
37 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?
38 But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them.
39 And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment;
40 Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands.

One interesting thing is that later in that same chapter we learn that some of these people in prison are released at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

Moses 7
54 And it came to pass that Enoch cried unto the Lord, saying: When the Son of Man cometh in the flesh, shall the earth rest? I pray thee, show me these things.
55 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Look, and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men;
56 And he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory;
57 And as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day.

It seems that during the time between Christ’s death and his resurrection, not only did he teach the gospel to those in prison, but many of them accepted it and were released from prison to join the saints at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

One thing that strikes me is the use of past and present tense when describing the terrestrial category. For arguments sake, let’s say that anything in past tense describes the person in mortality, and anything in present tense describes them in post-mortality.

Mortality:

  • Who died without law
  • Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh.
  • Who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

Post-mortality:

  • Who are the spirits of men kept in prison
  • Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
  • Who are honorable men of the earth,
  • Who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.
  • Who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
  • Who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.

Terrestrial World – It is a where, a when, or a who?

That may sound like a strangely worded question to most LDS. But according to the scriptures, it’s a fair question. We’re going to have to build our way up to answering that.

The scriptures are full of descriptions of the Millennium, both the events that lead up to the commencement of the Millennium and the conditions that will exist during the Millennium. Here are a few:

Articles of Faith
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Revelation 21
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

If God himself will reign during the Millennium, it’s pretty safe to say that all those living in his realm will have the true law and will no longer be considered without law. Consider again these verses:

D&C 76
72 Behold, these are they who died without law;
73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

This category of people will be resurrected during the Millennium so that they can live the gospel of Jesus Christ according to men in the flesh. They didn’t receive it until after their death, but now they can live it during the Millennium and prove themselves worthy of a celestial glory.

The scriptures also talk about the City of Enoch returning during this time.

D&C 84:100
The Lord hath redeemed his people;
And Satan is bound and time is no longer.
The Lord hath gathered all things in one.
The Lord hath brought down Zion from above. [City of Enoch]
The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.

Moses 7
61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;
62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
63 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other;
64 And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.

The scriptures go on to tell us that at the end of the Millennium, the righteous are changed in the twinkling of an eye, or “promoted” to the Celestial Kingdom.

D&C 43
29 For in mine own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth.
30 For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come.
31 For Satan shall be bound, and when he is loosed again he shall only reign for a little season, and then cometh the end of the earth.
32 And he that liveth in righteousness shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the earth shall pass away so as by fire.
33 And the wicked shall go away into unquenchable fire, and their end no man knoweth on earth, nor ever shall know, until they come before me in judgment.

D&C 101
26 And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
27 And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
28 And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
29 And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.

It is interesting to note that the Three Nephites will also be changed in the twinkling of an eye when their work is done.

3 Nephi 28
7 Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
8 And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.

So far, we’ve talked about the terrestrial world and the Millennium, but have linked them together yet. Now it’s time to show how the Millennium is the terrestrial kingdom!

Teaching of Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 171
Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but his is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead.

The Three Nephites were translated and, according to Joseph Smith, were then moved to a terrestrial order of existence. Compare the conditions of the Millennium (especially D&C 101) with the description of the Three Nephites:

3 Nephi 28
30 And they are as the angels of God, and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good.

38 Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world.
39 Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them.
40 And in this state they were to remain until the judgment day of Christ; and at that day they were to receive a greater change, and to be received into the kingdom of the Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens.

The scriptures indicate that the Millennium is a terrestrial kingdom, when Christ will reign on the the earth, Satan will be bound, death and suffering will cease, and peace will abound. But the Three Nephites were living in the condition thousands of years before the commencement of the Millennium. And the City of Enoch was translated to a terrestrial order thousands of years before that!

If we cling to the notion that the terrestrial kingdom is a place in the afterlife where people remain for eternity, the scriptures don’t make sense. But if we change our perspective and see the terrestrial level as a state of being (no death, no temptation, etc.) that not only will exist during the Millennium but can happen before then as well (City of Enoch, Three Nephites, John the Beloved, etc.), not only do the scriptures begin to make sense, but we also begin to gain insight into how God’s plan really works. Rather than a consolation prize for those who didn’t achieve the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom is an important stepping stone as we move up from a telestial existence to a celestial existence.

With this new perspective, let’s look at a few more scriptures.

D&C 63
20 Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come;
21 When the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received.

If the Millennium is when the earth is transfigured (paradisiacal glory), then living on the earth will be a reward for those who endure in faith and do God’s will. It’s not a consolation prize, it’s a reward and a stepping stone!

And remember the heathens we read about who would be part of the terrestrial kingdom? Let’s see what Ezekiel says about them.

Ezekiel 36
33 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

The heathen will be in this terrestrial kingdom and be able to learn the truth about the Lord. They too will have the opportunity to be judged on their living the gospel while in the flesh.

If the Millennium is the terrestrial kingdom, then what happens to the inhabitants when the Millennium is over?

D&C 101
25 And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth.
26 And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
27 And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
28 And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
29 And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.

A quick word search on rest reveals that it means dwelling in the presence of the Father.

D&c 15
6 And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.

D&C 84
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

Unlike what is taught in the LDS Church, the scriptures indicate that people do progress from one kingdom to another. Specifically, those who finish their time during the Millennium will be caught up in the twinkling of an eye to a celestial level. Terrestial kingdom is not a dead-end street for those who weren’t valiant. It is a milestone through which all will pass on their way to a celestial glory.

 

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