Joseph Smith had lost his dear brother Alvin many years earlier and had wondered and worried for his soul. Though his family did not believe he had gone to hell (as one clergyman had claimed), they didn’t know what to think since he had died before true baptism had been restored. In January 1836, Joseph’s vision of the celestial kingdom brought the family much-needed peace.
Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
1. Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple—God its light;
He who was slain on Calvary
Opens those pearly gates for me.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Zion, city of our God!
2. Beautiful heav’n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior’s feet.
3. Beautiful crowns on ev’ry brow;
Beautiful palms the conq’rors show;
Beautiful robes the ransomed wear;
Beautiful all who enter there;
Thither I press with eager feet;
There shall my rest be long and sweet.
Watch or Sing: “Search, Ponder, and Pray,” Children’s Songbook, 109.
Watch: This short clip shows Joseph reporting to his mother Lucy his experience in the Kirtland temple of seeing the Celestial Kingdom.
Ask: Can you think of why Joseph Smith was both excited and surprised to see his brother Alvin in the Celestial kingdom?
Teach: Before this vision, Joseph Smith did not know his brother Alvin could receive celestial glory. He had died before baptism by the holy priesthood was restored to the earth. Baptism for the dead had not been restored yet either. Joseph and his family knew that baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom, but didn’t know how Alvin could be saved without it. Joseph was taught the Plan of Salvation a little at a time.
Many years later, more was added to this vision when Joseph F. Smith received a vision of the spirit world in 1918. He saw that the Savior himself teaches the righteous and appoints others to teach the unrighteous and rebellious so that every person has a chance to hear and know the Plan of Salvation and be redeemed through Jesus Christ.
Read: D&C 137:7-9
Explain: The doctrine that people could be baptized standing in proxy for their deceased relatives was not revealed for more than four more years. They didn’t, therefore, know how it would work yet, but after this vision, Joseph felt so relieved that his brother would not be lost.
Testify: God is both a just and merciful God. It would neither be just nor merciful to punish people and condemn them for eternity when they had no opportunity to know of Him and His gospel. Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His children to return to Him if they so choose.
FOR TEENS & ADULTS
Watch and Sing: Beautiful Zion, Built Above, Hymns, p. 44
Ask: How does the knowledge Joseph gained in the Kirtland temple bring peace and hope to families today?
Video: This video shows how understanding the eternal nature of families (as taught by Joseph Smith) can bring peace even when the family is disrupted.
Note: Parents, be sure to connect with your children that they are using the resource of priesthood blessings often. If there is no Melchizedek priesthood holder in the home, reach out to your ministering brothers, bishop, or other family and friends who can help.
Optional Video: This short video includes clips from D&C 138 where President Joseph F. Smith received a detailed vision regarding the redemption of the dead in the Spirit World. After a lifetime of sorrow (having lost his father, Hyrum Smith, his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, two wives, and thirteen children), President Smith received a vision that gave him comfort and expanded on our understanding as a church of what happens to our dearly departed family and friends after they die.
Read: D&C 137:10. Joseph & Emma had already lost four children in their infancy. What would this revelation have meant to them?
Commit: Is there an individual or family you know who needs this same assurance of hope? What would the promise that families are forever mean for them? What will you do to lighten their burden this week?
Testify and Close: Bear testimony that Heavenly Father’s plan has made a way for people who were too young to receive baptism, or who died without a knowledge of the truth. Receiving priesthood blessings can help open our minds to receive further revelation the Lord wants to give us.
FOR SINGLE STUDY
Listen, Read, or Watch: The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, by Elder M. Russell Ballard (great-grandson of Joseph F. Smith who received the vision found in D&C 138. Joseph F. Smith was the son of Hyrum Smith and nephew to Joseph Smith).
Ponder: President Joseph F. Smith knew heartache and loss all his life from a very young age. In what ways did the acuteness of his suffering bring about the revelation of D&C 138?
Our prayers are often most specific and poignant when we have something we are really struggling over. How does the Lord turn suffering and struggle into ways to bless, teach, and comfort us?
What friends or family need your knowledge and testimony of Christ’s plan to redeem the dead?
Quote: Consider how sorrow and joy are linked with this quote from President Russell M. Nelson: “Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Journal: Write down your thoughts on redemption in a personal journal, or share your testimony with someone who needs the hope redemption brings.
Homemade Peppermint Patties
This is a variation from “Fruit Basket Upset.” Have family members sit in a circle with enough chairs for everyone except for the one who stands in the middle. The person in the middle says, “Switch seats if…” and fills it in with some characteristic of 1 or more people in the group. For example, “Switch seats if you are wearing jeans.” Anyone in the family wearing jeans must get up out of their seat and trade with someone else wearing jeans. The person in the middle takes one of the open seats. Whoever is now without a seat becomes the new “It” in the middle.