“Chapter 27: Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–49,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 27,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
On February 16, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on inspired revisions to the Bible (known as the Joseph Smith Translation). As Joseph Smith was translating John 5:29, he and Sidney pondered the meaning of the verse and were shown a vision, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76. In this vision the Savior affirmed His reality and divinity, taught about the fall of Satan and the sons of perdition, and revealed the nature of the three kingdoms of glory and those who will inherit them.
The commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 76 will be divided over two lessons. This first lesson covers Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–49, which includes the Lord’s promised blessings to the faithful, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s witness of the Father and the Son, and an account of the fall of Lucifer and the sons of perdition.
January 25, 1832Joseph Smith was ordained as President of the High Priesthood during a Church conference in Amherst, Ohio.
Late January 1832Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon returned to Hiram, Ohio, to work on the inspired translation of the New Testament.
February 16, 1832Doctrine and Covenants 76 was received.
March 24–25, 1832Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were taken by a mob at night and violently beaten and tarred and feathered in Hiram, Ohio.
In early 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on the translation of the New Testament in Hiram, Ohio, at the home of John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson. During this intensive study of the scriptures, the Prophet reflected on the many truths that the Lord had revealed to the Saints and observed: “It was apparent that many important points, touching the Salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 183, josephsmithpapers.org).
One of the questions Joseph and Sidney were pondering during this time was what happens after death. The truths regarding life after death given through revelation (see, for example, 1 Nephi 15:32; D&C 19:3) led the Prophet to observe that “if God rewarded everyone according to the deeds done in the body, the term ‘heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one” (in Manuscript History, vol. A-1, page 183; spelling and punctuation standardized). On February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were translating John 5:29, which states that the dead “shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
After the Prophet dictated the translation of this verse (see D&C 76:15–17), he and Sidney saw a vision “concerning the economy of God and his vast creation throughout all eternity” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , 183; spelling standardized). Jesus Christ appeared to them and conversed with them (see D&C 76:14), and they were commanded to record the vision while they “were yet in the Spirit” (D&C 76:28, 80, 113). The vision revealed truths about the nature of the Father and the Son, the kingdoms of glory, and Satan’s rebellion and the suffering of the sons of perdition.
There were approximately 12 other persons who were present during the vision. One eyewitness, Philo Dibble, later recalled:
“The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of ‘Father Johnson,’ in [Hiram], Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time— … I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision. …
“Joseph would, at intervals, say: ‘What do I see?’ as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, ‘I see the same.’ Presently Sidney would say ‘what do I see?’ and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, ‘I see the same.’
“This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision. …
“Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, ‘Sidney is not used to it as I am’” (in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, 303–4).
The revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith are evidence that God guides His children and teaches them truth. The Lord promised His Saints that “inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time” (D&C 1:28). In addition to receiving direction through the Prophet’s teachings, early Church members learned that “if thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (D&C 42:61). The Lord introduced the sacred vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 with the promise that He would honor those who serve Him by revealing the mysteries of His kingdom through the power of the Spirit (see D&C 76:5–10).
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) explained how personal revelation can bless us:
“It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation. … God is not a respecter of persons; we all have the same privilege.
“We believe that we have a right to revelations, visions, and dreams from God, our heavenly Father; and light and intelligence, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus Christ, on all subjects pertaining to our spiritual welfare; if it so be that we keep his commandments, so as to render ourselves worthy in his sight.
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 132).
The Lord promised to “reveal all … the hidden mysteries of [His] kingdom” and “the secrets of [His] will” (D&C 76:7, 10) to those who “serve [Him] in righteousness and in truth” (D&C 76:5). These mysteries include principles and truths of the gospel that can only be understood by the power of the Holy Ghost. Some mysteries or truths are revealed in sacred temples.
The Prophet Joseph Smith testified that “light … burst upon the world” through the vision that he and Sidney Rigdon received on February 16, 1832 (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 192, josephsmithpapers.org). Although Joseph and Sidney recorded much of the doctrine that was revealed to them in the vision, the Lord commanded that some of the truths He revealed were not to be written (see D&C 76:114–17). The Prophet Joseph Smith later said, “I could explain a hundredfold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive it. The Lord deals with this people as a tender parent with a child, communicating light and intelligence and the knowledge of His ways, as they can hear it” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. D-1, page 1556, josephsmithpapers.org; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation standardized).
The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded that while they were translating John 5:29 they were “in the Spirit” (D&C 76:11) and that “by the power of the Spirit [their] eyes were opened” (D&C 76:12). When one of God’s children is influenced by the Holy Ghost, that person can begin to see things from God’s perspective. Elder Kim B. Clark of the Seventy testified: “If we will look to Christ and open our eyes and our ears, the Holy Ghost will bless us to see the Lord Jesus Christ working in our lives, strengthening our faith in Him with assurance and evidence. We increasingly will see all of our brothers and sisters the way God sees them, with love and compassion. We will hear the Savior’s voice in the scriptures, in the whisperings of the Spirit, and in the words of the living prophets. We will see the power of God resting upon His prophet and all the leaders of His true and living Church, and we will know with a surety that this is God’s holy work. We will see and understand ourselves and the world around us the way the Savior does. We will come to have what the Apostle Paul called ‘the mind of Christ’ [1 Corinthians 2:16]. We will have eyes to see and ears to hear, and we will build the kingdom of God” (“Eyes to See and Ears to Hear,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 125).
The vision that the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw came while they were pondering the inspired translation of John 5:29. The inspired translation of the verse “was given” to them (D&C 76:15) and “caused [them] to marvel” (D&C 76:18). Other visions and revelations have been received by prophets as they have pondered and meditated over the scriptures (see D&C 138:1–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:8–20).
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught about the difference between studying and pondering and the relationship between pondering and receiving revelation: “Reading, studying, and pondering are not the same. We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder, we invite revelation by the Spirit. Pondering, to me, is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying in the scriptures carefully” (“Serve with the Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 60).
President David O. McKay (1873–1970) affirmed, “Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay , 32).
The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw the glory of Jesus Christ as He stood “on the right hand of the Father” (D&C 76:20). They saw “the holy angels, and them who are sanctified … , worshiping God” (D&C 76:21) and “heard the voice bearing record that [Jesus Christ] is the Only Begotten of the Father” (D&C 76:23). This remarkable experience led the two witnesses to declare, “After all of the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!” (D&C 76:22). The phrase “last of all” does not mean that this was the last testimony of the Savior to ever be given. Rather, their testimony was the most recent witness of the reality of the Son of God in a long line of testimonies proclaimed by ancient prophets and Saints. Prophets, Apostles, and Saints throughout the world continue to proclaim their testimony of the living reality of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
On January 1, 2000, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a statement affirming their witness of the reality of the living Christ: “We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 3).
God revealed to His prophets anciently that man cannot number the worlds that have been created (see Moses 1:28–33; 7:30; Abraham 3:11–12). This vision reaffirmed that Jesus Christ was the creator of those worlds. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“Long before He was born at Bethlehem and became known as Jesus of Nazareth, our Savior was Jehovah. Way back then, under the direction of the Father, Christ was the Lord of the universe, who created worlds without number—of which ours is only one (see Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:2).
“How many planets are there in the universe with people on them? We don’t know, but we are not alone in the universe! God is not the God of only one planet!” (in “Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 6).
Those who come unto Jesus Christ and keep His commandments become His sons and daughters. Jesus Christ is the father of all those who repent and experience spiritual rebirth (see Mosiah 5:7; 15:11–12; 27:25–26; Alma 5:14; 7:14; Ether 3:14; D&C 11:28–30). The voice that the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon heard in the vision declared that the inhabitants of every world created by Jesus Christ “are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24). This means that Jesus is both the Creator and the Savior of “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33).
President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the far-reaching effects of the Atonement of Jesus Christ: “His Atonement is infinite—without an end [see 2 Nephi 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:10, 12, 14]. It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope—it was to be done once for all [see Hebrews 10:10]. And the mercy of the [Savior’s] Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him [see D&C 76:24; Moses 1:33]. It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension” (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).
After witnessing “the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father” (D&C 76:20), the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon beheld a contrasting vision of Satan, or Lucifer. They saw Lucifer, who had held a position of authority in the premortal existence, fall from the presence of God after rebelling against Him and leading many of God’s spirit children to do the same (see Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:7–10; D&C 29:36–37; Abraham 3:27–28). Lucifer became known as Perdition (see D&C 76:26), meaning loss or destruction.
Joseph and Sidney were reminded that Satan is a real being who opposes God and all those who seek righteousness. Satan attempted to “take the kingdom of our God and his Christ” (D&C 76:28), and he continues to do so as “he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (D&C 76:29). The Prophet Joseph Smith later explained: “In relation to the kingdom of God, the devil always sets up his kingdom at the very same time in opposition to God” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 15).
Just as the devil opposes God’s kingdom, he also opposes individuals who seek to progress spiritually because “he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
After the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon witnessed Lucifer’s rebellion, the Lord showed them the suffering of the sons of perdition. They did not write the details of the vision but rather recorded what the voice of the Lord said about what they had seen. The Lord explained that sons of perdition are individuals who receive a knowledge of God’s power and are “made partakers thereof” but then allow themselves “to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy [God’s] power” (D&C 76:31). Further, they deny “the Holy Spirit after having received it” and deny “the Only Begotten Son of the Father” (D&C 76:35).
Years after this vision was received, the Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “All sins shall be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. E-1, page 1976, josephsmithpapers.org; capitalization and punctuation standardized).
The unpardonable sin is not committed carelessly or by accident. Rather, those who become sons of perdition do so willingly and deliberately. Sons of perdition have “denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves” (D&C 76:35; see also Hebrews 6:4–6). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “To commit this unpardonable crime a man must receive the gospel, gain from the Holy Ghost by revelation the absolute knowledge of the divinity of Christ, and then deny ‘the new and everlasting covenant by which he was sanctified, calling it an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace.’ [Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 3:232.] He thereby commits murder by assenting unto the Lord’s death, that is, having a perfect knowledge of the truth he comes out in open rebellion and places himself in a position wherein he would have crucified Christ knowing perfectly the while that he was the Son of God. Christ is thus crucified afresh and put to open shame. (D. & C. 132:27.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 816–17).
All of God’s children born on this earth, including those who become sons of perdition, will be raised from the grave and overcome physical death through the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:22; Alma 11:42–45; D&C 88:27–32). In addition to physical death, all of God’s children have experienced the effects of spiritual death, or separation from the physical presence of the Father and the Son, being “cut off from the presence of the Lord” because of the Fall (Helaman 14:16). Spiritual death, or separation from God, is also overcome through the Resurrection, which will bring all back into the presence of the Lord (at least temporarily) to be judged (see Helaman 14:15–17).
After returning to the presence of the Lord, the sons of perdition will experience a second death. President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained that the second death “brings a spiritual banishment … by which those who partake of it are denied the presence of God and are consigned to dwell with the devil and his angels throughout eternity” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 1:49). The sons of perdition are the only ones who will suffer such a death (see Helaman 14:18; D&C 76:37; 88:35).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave the following descriptions of the second death, which comes only upon the sons of perdition:
“Spiritual death is to be cast out of the presence of the Lord, to be dead to the things of righteousness, to be dead to the promptings and whisperings of the Spirit” (Mormon Doctrine, 761).
“Eventually, all are redeemed from spiritual death except those who have ‘sinned unto death’ (D. & C. 64:7), that is, those who are destined to be sons of perdition. John teaches this by saying that after death and hell have delivered up the dead which are in them, then death and hell shall be ‘cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.’ (Rev. 20:12–15.) And thus the Lord said in our day that the sons of perdition are ‘the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power’ (D. & C. 76:37), meaning any power after the resurrection” (Mormon Doctrine, 758).
After learning about the sons of perdition and their awful fate, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon learned that “through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb … all might be saved” (D&C 76:39, 42) and that Jesus Christ “saves all except [the sons of perdition]” (D&C 76:44). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that there are various meanings of the word saved:
“As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings. According to some of these, our salvation is assured—we are already saved. In others, salvation must be spoken of as a future event (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5) or as conditioned upon a future event (e.g., Mark 13:13). But in all of these meanings, or kinds of salvation, salvation is in and through Jesus Christ. …
“For Latter-day Saints, being ‘saved’ can … mean being saved or delivered from the second death (meaning the final spiritual death) by assurance of a kingdom of glory in the world to come (see 1 Cor. 15:40–42). Just as the Resurrection is universal, we affirm that every person who ever lived upon the face of the earth—except for a very few—is assured of salvation in this sense. …
“The prophet Brigham Young taught that doctrine when he declared that ‘every person who does not sin away the day of grace, and become an angel to the Devil, will be brought forth to inherit a kingdom of glory’ (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 288). This meaning of saved ennobles the whole human race through the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. …
“… In another usage familiar and unique to Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation are also used to denote exaltation or eternal life (see Abr. 2:11). This is sometimes referred to as the ‘fulness of salvation’ (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 1:242). This salvation requires more than repentance and baptism by appropriate priesthood authority. It also requires the making of sacred covenants, including eternal marriage, in the temples of God, and faithfulness to those covenants by enduring to the end” (“Have You Been Saved?” Ensign, May 1998, 55–57).