Before we start exploring what the scriptures teach about the three degrees of glory, there is one more “loophole” that needs to be closed. Even though the scriptures teach that we can’t be saved anywhere but in the celestial kingdom, and that we can’t receive salvation anywhere but in the celestial kingdom, some might try to argue that we can participate in eternal life in places other than the celestial kingdom. At the risk of beating a dead horse, let’s measure that concept against the scriptures to see if there is any way we can possibly save the traditional interpretation of the three degrees of glory.
You’ll notice all the same themes pop up here as did with saved and salvation: faith, repentance, baptism, etc., plus we even have partaking of the sacrament. To state the obvious, these are all behaviors the telestial and terrestrial categories of people do not exhibit, therefore they cannot receive eternal life.
And unto him that repenteth and sanctifieth himself before the Lord shall be given eternal life.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
2 Nephi 2:27-29
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
2 Nephi 31:17-18,20
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive…Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.
Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism. And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.
Notice in this next verse that eternal life and salvation are equivalent.
40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.
Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
7 And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
Remember D&C 6:13?
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.
Eternal life and the celestial kingdom are linked in D&C 101.
65 Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be; While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.
Notice how this contrasts with the terrestrial category, that isn’t crowned.
These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.
Here are several more references to crowns:
And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.
For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.
Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.
And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.
And those who receive it in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life;
Continue in these things even unto the end, and you shall have a crown of eternal life at the right hand of my Father, who is full of grace and truth.
Speaking of the right hand of God, this next one is potent.
And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father; Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
The righteous on his right hand receive eternal life, which is the celestial kingdom. So there are no telestial or terrestrial people here. Those on the left depart into everlasting fire. As far as I know, Jesus doesn’t have a third arm. So what happened to the telestial and terrestrial people?
D&C 88 reiterates the link between eternal life and the celestial kingdom.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
And here are a few more scriptures to just drive the point home.
But blessed are they who are faithful and endure, whether in life or in death, for they shall inherit eternal life.
And now, marvel not that I have called him unto mine own purpose, which purpose is known in me; wherefore, if he shall be diligent in keeping my commandments he shall be blessed unto eternal life; and his name is Joseph.
And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life.
I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not; but unto as many as received me gave I power to do many miracles, and to become the sons of God; and even unto them that believed on my name gave I power to obtain eternal life.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
Wherefore, give heed unto these things and be diligent in keeping my commandments, and you shall be blessed unto eternal life. Amen.
And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
As with saved and salvation, there are no scriptures that I can find that describe the telestial or terrestrial behaviors as worthy of any degree of eternal life. The scriptural requirements for eternal life match those of being saved, receiving salvation, and being a celestial person. We have strayed from the pure and simple truths of the gospel by introducing all these false doctrines on our misunderstanding of what the scriptures really say about the three degrees of glory.
The next post will talk about when humanity is judged and placed into the three degrees of glory.