“Doctrine and Covenants 76,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 76,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
“The Vision,” Hiram Township, OH, 16 Feb. 1832; signed by Sidney Rigdon and JS. Featured version copied [between 16 Feb. and 8 Mar. 1832] in Revelation Book 2, pp. 1–10; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams and JS; CHL. Includes redactions. For more information, see the source note for Revelation Book 2 on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
On 16 February 1832, JS and Sidney Rigdon saw a vision “concerning the economy of God and his vast creation throughout all eternity,” likely while in the upstairs bedroom of the John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. This vision came after JS returned from the January conference in Amherst, Ohio, and after he resumed his work of revising the New Testament at the Johnson home, with Rigdon working as scribe. According to a later JS history, revelations JS had dictated up to February 1832 showed “that many important points, touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.” Included in these “important points” was information on what happens after death. This information led JS to think “that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term ‘heaven,’ … must include more kingdoms than one.”1 According to the description of the vision, on 16 February 1832, JS and Rigdon reviewed John 5:29, wherein Jesus Christ prophesies that the dead will “come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” They reported that when they pondered this verse they together beheld a vision of what awaited humankind after death.
JS and Rigdon’s description of the vision outlined three levels of heavenly glory—celestial, terrestrial, and telestial—and the requirements for entrance into each. According to their report, every person who lived on earth—apart from followers of Satan known as “sons of perdition”—would spend the afterlife in one of these “kingdoms.” These concepts differed considerably from views of the afterlife held by most Protestant churches that the souls of the “righteous” are received into heaven while the “wicked” are cast into hell. Other thinkers and theologians, however, had conceptions of heaven that were more similar to JS and Rigdon’s vision: The Universalist church, with which JS’s grandfather Asael Smith had affiliated, proclaimed that Christ would temporarily punish sinners but eventually redeem all people.2 Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist and mystic, posited in the mid-1700s that heaven consisted of three different levels (celestial, spiritual, and natural).3 Alexander Campbell, Rigdon’s former associate in the Disciples of Christ, also wrote about “three kingdoms”—the Kingdom of Law, the Kingdom of Favor, and the Kingdom of Glory. Campbell’s Kingdoms of Law and Favor, however, could be experienced during mortal life, and only the Kingdom of Glory was reserved for the afterlife. In describing these three kingdoms, Campbell wrote that the first was entered through birth, the second through baptism, and the third through good works. One differed from the next, Campbell declared, “as the sun excelled a star.”4
Neither JS nor Rigdon described in detail how the vision occurred—only that they both saw it at the same time. The shared nature of the vision made it somewhat unusual. Although some experiences of angelic visitations had multiple participants—including the appearance of John the Baptist to JS and Oliver Cowdery in May 1829 and the appearance of an angel showing the gold plates to Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris in the summer of 18295—most visions and revelations had been experienced by JS alone. Philo Dibble, who claimed to have been with JS and Rigdon in the Johnson home when the vision occurred,6 later recounted that JS and Rigdon sat in the upstairs room, where they had conducted much of their work on the Bible revision, with twelve other men. By turns, either JS or Rigdon would ask, “What do I see?” and then relate the scene, after which the other would reply, “I see the same.” There is no indication in Dibble’s account that anyone was recording the vision as it occurred; instead, Dibble said there was “not a sound nor motion made by anyone” in the room. Dibble recalled that neither JS nor Rigdon “moved a joint or limb during the time I was there.”7
The text of the vision account itself contains JS and Rigdon’s descriptions of what they saw, interspersed with the voice of Deity explicating parts of the vision. According to this record, Jesus Christ conversed with JS and Rigdon during the vision. In some ways, such interaction parallels other visions recounted in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon, for example, describes a prophet named Nephi being taken by “the spirit” to “an exceeding high mountain,” where he is shown, among other things, Jesus Christ’s life on earth. Nephi’s account of this vision records both what he saw and questions and statements made by “the spirit” and by an angel as they observed the vision with Nephi.8
How or precisely when JS and Rigdon recorded the experience of seeing the vision is unknown. According to the written account of the vision, JS and Rigdon were commanded four separate times to record what they were seeing. It may be that they made a record after each command and then proceeded. Alternatively, JS and Rigdon may not have recorded anything until after the vision concluded. They were instructed to write their account while they were “yet in the spirit,” and the text in the account indicates that they did so. If JS and Rigdon recorded the event after its conclusion, therefore, they apparently did so soon thereafter. The first part of the vision (beginning “Here O ye heavens” and ending “ … yet entered into the heart of man”) seems similar in language and style to JS’s revelations, suggesting that JS may have dictated the first part separately from the rest of the account. It is unknown whether JS dictated the entire record to Rigdon, Rigdon wrote it himself, or the two worked collaboratively. Whatever the case, both apparently signed the record after its preparation as a testament to its legitimacy.9 The placement of Rigdon’s signature before JS’s indicates that Rigdon was serving as the scribe for the account and signed after completing it. Moreover, JS and Rigdon’s vision occurred, as their own account attests, “as we sat doing the work of translation”—in which process Rigdon served as a scribe. Rigdon had also recently transcribed some of JS’s dictated revelations.
The earliest extant copy of the account of the vision is in Frederick G. Williams’s handwriting, with a few lines penned by JS. Williams was doing scribal work for JS in July 1832 (and possibly as early as February). He and JS copied the account of the vision into a new blank book—probably during February or March 1832—making the vision the first item in Revelation Book 2. Indeed, JS may have purchased the book for the purpose of entering the account of the vision, given the vision’s emphasis on writing down what was seen. Additional copies of the document quickly circulated.10
Reaction to the contents of the vision varied among individuals in the Hiram community and among church members in other areas. Some, such as Lincoln Haskins, thought it contained “great & marvilous things.”11 Others struggled to reconcile its concepts of the afterlife with traditional notions of heaven and hell.12 It also became a target of criticism by outsiders, some of whom regarded it as both “pompous” and an attempt to “embrace and teach Universalism.”13 A later JS history stated that the vision transcended the knowledge of the afterlife available at the time, declaring that “nothing could be more pleasing to the Saint, upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world, through the … vision.”14
A vision of Joseph & Sidney [Rigdon] February 16 th. 1832 given in Portage County Hiram Township State of Ohio in North Ame[r]ica which they saw concerning the church of the first born and concerning the economy of God and his vast creation througout all eternity 16 Here O ye heavens & give ere [ear] O earth 17 and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof for the lord he is God and beside him there is none else18  for great is his wisdom, marvilous are his ways and the extent of his doings none can find out[.] his purposes fail not neither are there any who can stay his hand, 19 from eternity to eternity, he is the same and his years never fail I the Lord am merciful and gracious unto them who fear me and delight to honor them who serve me in righteousness and in truth /20 great shall be their reward and Eternal Shall be their glory and unto them will I reveal all my misteries yea all the hiden misteries21 of my Kingdom from days of old and for ages to come will I make Known unto them the good pleasure of my will 22 concerning all things to come yea / 23even the wonders of eternity shall they know and things to come will I shew them even the things of many generations there wisdom shall be great and there understanding reach to heaven and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught 24 for by my spirit will I enlighten them and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will yea even those things which eye has not seen nor ear heard nor yet entered into the heart of man 25
We Joseph & Sidney being in the Spirit on the [p. 1] sixteenth of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and— thirty two and through the power of the spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlarged so as to see and understand the things of God even the things which were from the begining before the world was which was ordained of the Father through his only begoten son who was in the bosom of the father even from the begining26 of whom be [we] bear reccord and the reccord which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the son27 whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision for as we sat doing the work of translation which the lord had appointed unto us we came to the twenty ninth verse of in the fifth chapter of John which was given unto us thus speak[i]ng of the reserection of the dead who should hear the voice of the son of man and shall come forth they who have done good in the resurection of the just and they who have done evil in the resurection of the unjust28 now this caused us to marvel for it was given <unto> us of the spirit and while we meditated upon these thing◊ the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings29 and they were opened and the glory of the lord shone round about30 and we beheld the glory of the son on the right of the Father and received of his fulness31 and saw the holy Angels and they who are sanctified before his throne worshiping God and the lamb for ever and ever32 and now after the many testamonies which have been given of him this is the testamony last of all which we give of him that he lives [p. 2] for we saw him, even on the right hand of God33 & we heard the voice bearing reccord that he is the only begotten of the Father that by him and through him and of him the worlds are made and were created and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God and this we saw also and bear reccord that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God who rebelled against the only begotten son whom the father loved who was in the bosom with the father and was thrust down from the presence of
the father God and the son and was called perdition for the heavens wept over him for he was Lucifer even the son of the morning and we beheld and lo he is fallen is fallen even the son of the morning,34 and while we were yet in the spirit the Lord commanded that we should write the vision35 for we beheld satan that old serpent even the devel36 who who rebelled against God and saught to take the kingdom of our God and his christ wherefore he maketh war with the saints of God and encompasseth them round about, and we saw a vision of the eternal sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame37 for thus came the voice of the Lord unto us thus saith the lord concerning all those who who know my power and have been made partakers thereof and have suffered themselves through the power of the devel to be overcome unto the denying of the truth and the defying of my power they are they who are the sons of perdition38 of whom I say it had been better for them to have never been born39 for they are vessels of wrath40 doomed to suffer the wrath of God with the Devel and his angels [p. 3] throughout all eternity concerning whom I have said there is no forgivness for them in this world nor in the world to come having denied the holy ghost after having received it41 and having denied the only begoten son of the fathe[r] crucifying him unto themselves and putting him to an open shame42 these are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone with the devel and his andels [angels] and the only ones on whom the seccond death43 shall have any power yea verely the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord after the sufferings of his wrath who shall be brought forth by the resurection of the dead through the triumph and glory of the lamb who was slain who was in the bosom of the father before the worlds were made and this is the gospel the glad tidings which the voice out of the heavens bore reccord unto us that he came in to the world even Jesus to be crucified for the world and to bear the sins of the world and to sanctify the world and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness44 that through him all might be saved whom the father had put into his power and made by him who glorifyeth the fathe[r] and saveth all the works of his hands except those sons of perdition who denieth thee [the] son after the father hath revealed him wherefore he saveth all save them, and these shall go away into everlasting punishment which is eternal punishment45 to reign with the devel and his angels throughout all eternity [p. 4] where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched46 which is there torment and the end thereof neither the place thereof and there torment no man knoweth neither was reve[a]led neither is neither will be reveiled unto none save to them to who are made partakers thereof never[the]less I the Lord sheweth it by vision unto many but straight way shutteth it up again wherefore the end the width the hight the depth and the misery thereof he understandeth not neithe[r] any man save them who are ordained unto this condemnation47 and we heard the voice saying write the vision for lo this is the end of the vision of the eternal sufferings of the undodly [ungodly] and again we bear reccord for we saw and heard and this is the gospel testamony of the gospel of Jesus Christ concerning them who come forth in the resurection of the just they were they who received the testamony of Jesus and believed on his name were baptized after the manner of his buriel being buried in the water in his name and this according to the commandment which he hath given that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all there sins and receive the holy ghost by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power and who overcome by faith and are sealed by that holy spirit of promise48 which the father shedeth forth upon all those who who are just and true they are they who are the church of the first born49 they are they into whose hands the father hath given all things50 they are they who are priests and kings who having [received] of his fulniss and of his glory and are priests of the most high after the order of Melchesadeck which was after the order of Enoch which was after the order of of the [p. 5] only begotten son51 wherefore as it is writen they are Gods even the sons of God52 wherefore all things are theres whethe[r] life or death or things present or things to come, all are thers and they ar[e ] christs and christ is Gods53 and they shall overcome all things54 wherefore let no man glory in man55 but rather let them glory in god who shall subdue all enimies under his feet56 these shall dwell in the presence of God and his christ for ever and ever57 these are they whom he shall bring with him when he shall come in the clouds of heaven58 to reign on the earth over his people these are they who shall have part in the first resurection59 these are they who shall come forth in the resurection of the just these are they who are come unto mount Zion and unto the city of the Living God the heavenly place the holiest of all these are they who are come to an innumerable company of Angels to the general assembly and church of Enoch60 and of the first born these are they whose names are writen in heaven61 where God and Christ is judge of all[.] these are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenent62 who wrought out this perfect attonement through the shedding of his own blood these are they whose bodies are celestial63 whose glory is that of the sun64 even God the highest of all whose glory the son <sun> of the firmament is writen of as being typical and again we saw the terestrial65 world and lo these are they who are of the Terestrial [p. 6] whose glory differeth from that of the church of the first born who have received the fulnes of the father even as that of the moon differeth from the sun of the firmament behold these are they who died with out Law 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 flesh66 who received not the testamony of Jesus in the flesh but afterwards received it these are they who are honorable men of the earth who were blinded by the craftiness of men these are they who receive of this glory but not of the67 fulness these are they who receive of the presence of the son but not <of> the fulness of the father wherefore they are bodies Terestrial and not bodies Celestial68 and differeth in glory as the moon differeth from the sun these are they who are not valient in the testamony of Jesus wherefore they obtained not the crown over the kingdoms of our God, and now this is the end of the vision which we saw of the Terestrial that the lord commanded us to write while we were yet in the spirit, and again we saw the glory of the Telestial69 which glory is that of the lesser even as the glory of the stars differeth from that of the <glory> [of the]70 moon in the firmament these are they who receive not the gospel of christ neithe[r] the testamony of Jesus these are they who deny not the holy ghost, these are they who are thrust down to hell71 these are they who shall not be redeemed from the devel untill the last reserection untill the lord even christ the Lamb shall have finished his work these are they who receive not of his fullness in the eternal [p. 7] world, but of the holy ghost through the ministration of the Terestrial and the Terestrial through the administration of the Celestial and also the Telestial receive it of the administring of angels who are appointed to minister for them or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them for they shall be heirs of salvation72 and this we saw in the heavenly vision the glory of the Telestial which surpasseth all understanding and no man knoweth it except him to whom God hath reveiled it and this we saw the glory of the Terestrial which excelleth in all things the glory of the Telestial even in glory and in power and might and in dominion and thus we saw the glory of the Celestial which excelleth in all things where God even the father reigneth upon his throne forever and ever before his throne all things bow in humble reverence and giveth glory forever and ever, they who dwell in his presence are the church of the first born and they see as they are seen and know as they are known having received of his fulness and of his grace and he maketh them equal in power and in might and in dominion, and the glory of the celestial is one even as the glory of the son is one, and the glory of the Terestrial is one even as the glory of the of the moon is one, and the glory of the Telestial is one even as the glory of the stars is one for as one star differeth from another star in glory even so differeth one from an other in glory in the Telestial world for these are they who are of Paul, and of Apolus and of cephus73 these are they who say they are some of one and some of another some of Christ & some of John and some of Moses and some of Elius [Elias] and some of Esaises [Esaias] [p. 8] and some of Isaiah some of Enoch but received not the gospel neither the testamony of Jesus neither the prophets neither the everlasting covenants last of all these <all> are they who will not be gathered with the saints to be caught up unto the church of the first born and received into into the cloud these are they who are liars and sorseres [sorcerers] and adulterers and whoremongers and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie74 these are they who suffer the wrath of God on the earth these are they who suffer the vengence of eternal fire75 these are they who are cast down to hill [hell] and suffer the wrath of Almighty God untill the fulness of times when christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet and shall have perfected his work when he shall deliver up the Kingdom76 and present it unto the father spotless saying I have overcome and have troden the winepress alone77 even the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God78 then shall he be crowned with the crown of his glory to sit on the throne of his power to reign for ever and ever, but behold and lo we saw the glory of the Telestial world that they were in number as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the sea shore and herd the voice of the Lord saying these all shall bow the knee and evry tongue shall confess to him who sitteth upon the throne for ever and ever79 for they shall be judged according to there works and every man shall receive according to his own works and his own dominion in the mansions which are prepared,80 they shall be servants of the most high but where God and christ dwels they cannot come worlds without end this is the end of the vision which we saw which we were commanded to write while we were yet in the spirit, [p. 9] But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord81 and the mistries of his kingdom which he shewed unto us which surpasseth all understanding in glory and <in> might and in dominion which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the spirit and are not lawful for men to utter82 neither is man capable to make them known for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the holy ghost which God bestows on those who love him and purifies themselves before him to whom he grants the privalege of seeing and knowing for themselves that through the power and manifestation of the spirit while in the fless [flesh] they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory and to God and the Lamb be glory and honor and dominion for ever and ever Amen
Joseph Smith Jr