“Unit 17: Day 1, Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–119; 77,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 17: Day 1,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
This lesson explores the vision of the telestial kingdom shown to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76. This revelation was given at Hiram, Ohio, on February 16, 1832. Joseph and Sidney described what they learned about those who will inherit the telestial kingdom and the consequences of rejecting the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ. They also described how the telestial kingdom differs from the other kingdoms of glory and explained what individuals must do to qualify to see and understand for themselves the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Later, in March 1832, Joseph Smith recorded the Lord’s answers to his questions about the Book of Revelation. This revelation is found in Doctrine and Covenants 77.
Imagine you are having a religious discussion with a friend who is a member of a different Christian church. Your friend says, “At church last Sunday, my minister told us that after we die we are going to either heaven or hell. I don’t feel like I’m good enough to go to heaven right now, but I also don’t feel like I’m so bad that I should go to hell. What does your religion teach about heaven and hell?”
Look at the “Doctrine and Covenants 76: Outline of the Vision” diagram from the Unit 16: Day 3 lesson in this study guide. Notice that the last kingdom of glory the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw in vision was the telestial kingdom. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–83, 103, looking for words and phrases that describe the people who will inherit the telestial kingdom. You may want to mark what you find.
In verse 103, sorcerers are people who seek to control and use power through the aid of evil sources. Whoremongers are people who engage in fornication and other sexual sins.
One of the criteria that determine which kingdom of glory a person inherits is how he or she responds to the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ. Read the scripture references in the following chart. In the space provided, describe how the future inhabitants of these kingdoms respond to the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ.
Responses to the Gospel and Testimony of Jesus Christ
Celestial (D&C 76:50–51)
Terrestrial (D&C 76:74, 79)
Telestial (D&C 76:82, 101)
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
In what ways are you seeking to strengthen your testimony of Jesus Christ?
Why do you think a person’s response to the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ has such an important influence on which kingdom he or she will inherit?
How can you be valiant in your testimony of Jesus Christ?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:84–85, 104–6, and mark phrases that teach the following truth: Those who will inherit the telestial kingdom must suffer in hell before they will be redeemed by the Savior.
It is helpful to know that the scriptures use the term hell in at least two ways. First, hell is the part of the spirit world inhabited by the wicked and is a literal but temporary condition of spiritual torment and suffering (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:84–85, 104–6). “Eternal fire” is a figurative expression referring to the excruciating torment and suffering that will occur in hell. Secondly, the scriptures sometimes use the word hell to refer to outer darkness, which sometimes refers to the permanent condition of torment and suffering that continues for sons of perdition after they are resurrected and judged, as well as for Satan and his followers from the premortal life. (See Bible Dictionary, “Hell”; Guide to the Scriptures, “Hell,” scriptures.lds.org.)
Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following about hell:
“To hell there is an exit as well as an entrance. … It is a place prepared for the teaching, the disciplining of those who failed to learn here upon the earth what they should have learned” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1930, 97).
“As to the duration of the punishment, we may take assurance that it will be graded according to the sin; and that the conception of every sentence for misdeeds being interminable [endless] is false [see D&C 19:6–12; 76:36, 44]. Great as is the effect of this life upon the hereafter, and certain as is the responsibility of opportunities lost for repentance, God holds the power to pardon beyond the grave. Yet the scriptures speak of eternal and endless punishment. Any punishment ordained of God is eternal, for He is eternal [see D&C 19:10–12]. His is a system of endless punishment, for it will always exist as a place or condition prepared for disobedient spirits; yet the infliction of the penalty will have an end in every case of acceptable repentance and reparation” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. , 60–61).
What phrases from Doctrine and Covenants 76:85, 106 teach that hell will be a temporary condition for those who will inherit the telestial kingdom?
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the result of suffering in hell for those who will inherit the telestial kingdom: “This suffering will be a means of cleansing, or purifying, and through it the wicked shall be brought to a condition whereby they may, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, obtain immortality. Their spirits and bodies shall be again united, and they shall dwell in the telestial kingdom. But this resurrection will not come until the end of the world” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:298).
In Doctrine and Covenants 76:106–8, we learn that the wicked will suffer for their sins until Jesus Christ completes His work and delivers up the kingdom of God on earth to His Father, which will occur after the Millennium. Christ will then be crowned with glory.
One principle we can learn from these verses is that the kingdom of glory we inherit will be determined by our actions in this life and the desires of our hearts.
The following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles can help you further understand this principle: “Each of you will be judged according to your individual works and the desires of your hearts [see D&C 137:9]. You will not be required to pay the debt of any other. Your eventual placement in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdom will not be determined by chance. The Lord has prescribed unchanging requirements for each. You can know what the scriptures teach and pattern your lives accordingly [see John 14:2; 1 Corinthians 15:40–41; D&C 76:50–119; 98:18]” (“Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 35).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How can understanding this principle influence the choices you make today?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:86–89, 98, 112, looking for words or phrases that describe what immortality will be like for those who inherit the telestial kingdom. You may want to mark what you find.
As the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon described the inhabitants of the telestial kingdom, they included an explanation of how the three kingdoms of glory compare with each other. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:91–98, looking for how the kingdoms compare with each other in glory.
In what ways does the glory of the celestial kingdom differ from the glory of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms?
The difference in glory between the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms can be illustrated by the differences in the brightness of the sun, moon, and stars as viewed from the earth. When viewed from the earth, the brightest stars are about 100 times brighter than the dimmest stars. The moon is about 30,000 times brighter than the brightest stars. The sun is about 400,000 times brighter than the full moon. These differences in brightness help illustrate the differences Joseph and Sidney observed between the kingdoms of glory. As you can see from Doctrine and Covenants 76:94–95, the blessings received by those who qualify for celestial glory are magnificently greater than the blessings received by those who inherit the telestial kingdom.
Doctrine and Covenants 76:113–19 contains the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s explanation that they were commanded not to write all that they were shown. They also explained what others must do to qualify to see and understand for themselves the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:116, looking for how a person can qualify to see and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
According to verse 116, what must a person do to qualify to see and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit?
- In your scripture study journal, write a response to the imagined scenario presented at the beginning of this lesson, in which a friend asked what the Church teaches about heaven and hell. Answer the following questions as part of your response to your friend’s question.
What has the Lord revealed about heaven and hell in Doctrine and Covenants 76?
What are the differences between each kingdom of glory and outer darkness?
What are the differences in the choices made by those who inherit the different kingdoms and outer darkness?
- To help you apply what you have learned from studying Doctrine and Covenants 76, complete each of the following statements in your scripture study journal:
As a result of what I have learned from studying Doctrine and Covenants 76:
I believe or know that …
I want …
I will …
Turn to Doctrine and Covenants 77, and notice how the verses are formatted differently from verses in other sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. Read the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 77, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith was doing when he received this revelation.
From March 1831 to July 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith made inspired revisions to the New Testament. (Many of these revisions are listed in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible footnotes as JST and in the Joseph Smith Translation section in the appendix, with the changed words written in italics.) While working on the book of Revelation, the Prophet asked the Lord about the meaning of some of the verses. Joseph’s questions and the Lord’s answers are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 77. Review some of these verses, and notice how each Q precedes a question that Joseph Smith asked the Lord, and each A precedes the Lord’s response.
Joseph Smith’s experience with receiving the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 77 teaches us that the Lord reveals the correct interpretation of scripture through His prophets. We can also learn that if we inquire of the Lord, He can help us understand the scriptures.
It may be helpful to understand that in Doctrine and Covenants 77:6, the 7,000 years is in reference to the earth’s temporal existence, meaning since the Fall of Adam. It is not commenting on the age of the earth.