A Three Degrees Test

Here’s a simple test for everyone. Download and print the Three Degrees Test. Grab a pen and get started. Read each scripture, and then write Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial, and Lake of Fire into the appropriate kingdom box. When you’re done, if your answers aren’t consistent, you might have a vain or foolish doctrine.

10 thoughts on “A Three Degrees Test

  1. Very black and white. Cut and dry.

    It’s like the umbrella that over shadows everything else.

    Like how in 2 Ne. 10:16 Jacob makes mention of only two opposing sides.

    16Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.

    But Christ makes mention that in his Father’s kingdom, there are many mansions.

    JST John 14:2

    2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.

    So are they contradictory or do these have reference to different times in the God’s timeline for his children?

    1. John 14
      In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

      The first thing to notice is there is no indication of any difference in degrees between the mansions. That is something we artificially read into this. It is talking about quantity, not quality. There are many drinking glasses in my cupboard – they are all identical, but I have enough for everyone to have their own.

      The next issue is the word mansions. The Greek word is μοναὶ (monai), which means a dwelling-place, room, or abode. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” is a better translation. God’s house has a place for everyone. That same Greek word that is rendered as “mansions” in English is used later in verse 23:
      Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

      You don’t see it? It’s the word abode. Now let’s read those two verses using a consistent word:
      In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
      If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our dwelling-place with him.

      This is a very different message than some people will get big mansions and some people will get small mansions. That message isn’t found in the scriptures.

  2. This is from TPJS p. 366

    “My text is on the resurrection of the dead, which you will find in the 14th chapter of John—“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” It should be—“In my Father’s kingdom are many kingdoms,” in order that ye may be heirs of God and joint-heirs with me. … There are mansions for those who obey a celestial law, and there are other mansions for those who come short of the law every man in his own order.”

    Joseph seems to equate mansions with kingdoms.

    1. That quotation was given on May 2, 1844, just one month after the King Follett Discourse. That doesn’t mean what he’s teaching here is automatically false, but it does mean we need to measure it against the scriptures before we accept it as true.

      D&C 76:96
      And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.

      D&C 76:55
      They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things

      If everyone in the celestial kingdom has all things given them, how can there be any differences? It is one glory – the fullness of the Father.

      Romans 8:16-17
      The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

      Joint-heirs receive an equal portion. They are glorified together.

      2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
      But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Our reward in the celestial kingdom is the glory of Jesus, which is the glory of the Father. That seems to contradict the notion that there are mansions of different sizes. In the celestial kingdom, it’s uniform. Everyone gets the full enchilada. I don’t see scriptures supporting Joseph’s interpretation, so I’m sticking with what the scriptures teach.

  3. I appreciate the work you’ve put in.

    Isn’t the Father’s kingdom more than just the Celestial? Isn’t everything his?

    1. I don’t see any scriptures where the Father’s name is associated with any kingdom other than the celestial. If the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms are the final habitation for people as taught in the traditional Three Degrees doctrine, then the scriptures in the test make it clear that you can only enter the kingdom of God through faith, repentance, baptism, etc. Which means the telestial kingdom cannot be considered part of the kingdom of God. And if you’re not part of the kingdom of God, you must be part of the kingdom of the devil. The only way I see to make that work is to have shifting definitions – “When God says A here, he means A. But over here when God says A, he means B.” How can anyone have faith in the word of God if the definitions are contradictory and arbitrary? What is the standard for determining when God meant A and when he meant B?

      Those are some of the conundrums that led me to start with a clean sheet of paper and start constructing a model based on what the scriptures say. If I am correct, telestial and terrestrial are levels of spirituality during the Millennium, not a final judgment.

      I was just reviewing the scriptures that the angel Moroni (or Nephi) shared with Joseph to prepare him for his mission. Dozens of prophecies about restoring Zion in preparation for the Millennium. Joseph’s mission has very little information about the Little Season and the final judgment. My current understanding that I’ve been trying to document is that these revelations pertain to getting us to Zion…what happens after that will be taught to us once we’re there. On November 9, 1835 Joseph said:
      “It is not necessary that God should give us all things at first, or in his first commission to us, but in his second…The small lights that God has given are sufficient to lead us out of Babylon, and when we get out we shall have the greater light.” (HC 2:305)

      If we apply that to D&C 76, this knowledge of the three degrees of glory pertains to the Millennium, not the final judgment. It is what we needed to understand how things would work at the Second Coming – what would happen to the righteous followers, what would happen to the good people who never received the message, and what would happen to those who oppressed their fellow man. The telestial and terrestrial kingdoms are part of God’s plan of salvation, even though they are not final resting places. The terrestrial enjoy the presence of the Son, and the telestial have the ministering of the terrestrial and the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the reason they have that is so that they can learn the truth, see the error of their ways, and repent and exercise faith in the Lord.

      If I were to create an analogy, let’s equate the celestial kingdom to being a licensed, practicing doctor in a hospital. The terrestrial kingdom would be equivalent to being in medical school – you’re on the right path, and you’re learning the specific things you need to become a doctor, but you’re not there yet. But you will be someday. The telestial kingdom would be like undergraduate school. You’re not learning medical specifics, you’re learning basic skills (chemistry, biology, math, etc.). Until you have demonstrated competence with those fundamentals, you’re not ready to go to medical school, and you’re definitely not ready to practice medicine in a hospital.

      Does that mean that anyone in undergraduate school will never become a doctor in a hospital? No. Does that mean that anyone currently in medical school will never become a doctor in a hospital? No. They are future doctors at different stages. (If past, present, and future are before God at the same time, God would see them as skilled doctors even while they are struggling to pass their organic chemistry class).

      Now circling back to your original question. Does that mean that undergraduate school is part of the hospital? Not really. It’s a component of getting there, but the hospital doesn’t own the undergraduate schools. Is medical school part of the hospital? Kind of, especially in finishing the training of medical students, but they are separate entities.

      The analogy isn’t perfect, but hopefully it helps. If the telestials have no chance of ever enjoying the benefits of the Gospel, why is it preached to them in prison? If the Gospel is the knowledge one needs to become a doctor, and anyone who is currently in undergraduate school can never become a doctor, why would you make them study organic chemistry in undergrad school and tell them to apply to medical school? Why would you continue to train students in medical school if they will never be allowed to become licensed doctors?

      That’s probably more than you asked for, please forgive my exuberance.

  4. I appreciate how thorough you are.

    Maybe I never fully understood the concept before, but it’s an interesting thought to think of the 3 degrees as millennial resting spaces and not final resting places.

    Something I’ll need to go back and study again…

    I feel like I’m even more confused now. 😆

    So in this example, there’s a final judgement where they’re either doctors or not. In the celestial kingdom or not.

    Wasn’t that what brought about the entire revelation given to JS and SR?

    I’m sure this will look familiar…

    “Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term ‘Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision.”

    Maybe I miss understood you, if I did, forgive me. It just looks like we ran a lap and are back where we started.

  5. Whoops! It appears that I was too eager to send my message that I did forget finish my thought.

    I understand that the celestial kingdom of God‘s kingdom. I guess my previous comment was more along the lines of gods Dominion. Even though he dwells in the celestial kingdom and all the kingdoms under his reign and control, in other words his dominion.

    To say that there is a kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil would make the devil equal with God and I just don’t believe that. Nor did the Scriptures justify that.

    In fact and says that Satan was thrust out of heaven for rebellion. Which would show that God is dominant over Satan. I believe that the other kingdoms still would fall under God‘s jurisdiction as he is the supreme ruler and governor of all.

    1. It is definitely confusing when we try to examine it through our Three Degrees tradition. Try to put yourself in Joseph and Sidney’s shoes back in 1832.

      Catholicism taught that at Jesus’ Second Coming, everyone is resurrected, judged, and assigned to Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell. Lutheranism taught the at Jesus’ Second Coming, everyone is resurrected, judged, and sent to either everlasting life or everlasting death. Premillenialist Protestants believe the Second Coming happens before the Millennium, Postmillennialist Protestants believe the Second Coming happens after the Millennium. Most of these Christian denominations made no accommodation for people who had never heard of Jesus Christ – if you weren’t a Christian in life you went to hell. And many believed unbaptized babies went to hell. That’s the tradition they had been taught growing up.

      With that in mind, Joseph and Sidney are starting to realize discrepancies. As they are translating, they received the vision which rocked their world, because they learned that at Christ’s Second Coming it wasn’t a binary judgement. Accommodation was made for differing degrees of knowledge and obedience. Notice how this Section gives information about the celestial being caught up before Christ’s coming, how there is a first resurrection and a last resurrection, how even the telestials will be heirs of salvation, after suffering the wrath of God. They’re learning the Millennium isn’t the end, that the judgment at his Second Coming is not the final judgment. This is a major shift from traditional Christianity’s traditions.

      I refer you back to my post on “saved in the kingdom”. If God considers the telestial kingdom part of the kingdom of God, how can he allow scriptures like these?

      John 3:5
      Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

      Telestials are not born of water and of the Spirit. If the telestial kingdom is the kingdom of God, Jesus lied to us.

      Alma 11:37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

      Telestials are not clean. If they do become clean, that means they don’t belong in the telestial kingdom anymore.

      3 Nephi 11:38
      Ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

      The reason telestials are in the telestial kingdom is because they didn’t repent. If the telestial kingdom is considered the kingdom of God, telestials have entered the kingdom of God without repenting and the resurrected Christ is a liar.

      Mosiah 27:25-26
      Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

      Telestials have not been born of God. They have not become his sons and daughters. Therefore they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

      Go read those posts again and you’ll see that you cannot subscribe to the telestial kingdom being a permanent place of rest for inhabitants as innumerable as the stars in heaven or the sand on the seashore, without having multiple, conflicting definitions of what it means to be saved, and what the kingdom of God means. God isn’t the author of confusion. If our tradition requires us to disbelieve dozens of scriptures that plainly teach what is required to be saved in the kingdom of God, that should be a warning sign.

    2. I see a couple of parallels with how the LDS view God and the degrees of glory. When you split God into three distinct and separate entities, then you split Heaven into three degrees of glory and assign one of the three Godhead entities to each Kingdom, it fits nicely into the LDS world-view.

      When you throw out the traditions of our LDS fathers and go to the scriptures we start to see a different picture that doesn’t fit that pattern. LoF teaches us that there are two personages in the Godhead, but they are mystically intertwined and linked together. The third member of the Godhead is the mind of God which is shared by the Father and the Son. Now, how does that line up with the LDS degrees of glory doctrine?

      The telestial beings are able to eternally enjoy the presence of the mind of God. The terrestrials are able to eternally enjoy the presence of the personage of tabernacle. The celestials are able to eternally enjoy the presence of the personage of spirit. To me, at least, that whole construct of this as the eternal resting place of people starts to fall apart when we accept the true God and His true nature.

      There is plenty of scriptural evidence that there is a hierarchy in Heaven. There are those who are Sons of God, who are on the Divine Council. There are others who are messengers, or angels. It also is filled with numberless concourses of angels singing and praising God. Heaven is a pretty big place.

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