On February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received what members of the time would call “The Vision.” The two men saw a heavenly vision of the afterlife and outlined the “degrees of glory” all inhabitants of the world would one day reside in, including the celestial kingdom. What is the celestial kingdom? Who resides there? Here are seven things we know about the celestial kingdom from this important vision and continued revelation.
The Highest Degree of Glory
There are three degrees of glory man can obtain: the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial. The celestial kingdom is the highest degree of glory and likened unto the sun.
Paul references these degrees of glory in 1 Corinthians 15 when he writes, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
The Place Where God and Christ Permanently Dwell
The celestial kingdom is where our Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ will permanently dwell after the Final Judgement. Teachings published in The Evening and the Morning Star in June 1832 stated that the celestial kingdom will be “where God, and Christ is, and where they will be for eternity.”
Doctrine and Covenants 76:62 states the inhabitants of the celestial kingdom “shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.”
Who Will Inherit the Celestial Kingdom
The celestial kingdom will be home to those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, made sacred covenants, and honored those covenants throughout their lives. Doctrine and Covenants 76 describes the inheritors of the celestial kingdom like this:
They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit 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 the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
We also learn that children who die before the age of accountability will be saved in the celestial kingdom. Those who did not have the chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and accept it during their mortal lives will be given the opportunity in the spirit world.
Three Degrees Within the Celestial Kingdom
Within the celestial kingdom itself, there are three degrees of glory. Not much has been revealed about the differences between these degrees, but we do know in order to obtain the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, a person must enter into the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it.”
The opportunity to be sealed for time and all eternity in marriage is available now and will be available to those who did not have the opportunity in this life. This is true of all other saving ordinances, such as baptism and the temple endowment.
The Earth Will Become the Celestial Kingdom
Doctrine and Covenants 88 reveals that the Earth will become the celestial kingdom after a period of cleansing and purification. It will be “sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory” and “crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever.”
Everyone Will Receive a Urim and Thummim
A Urim and Thummim is an instrument provided by God to help a person receive revelation. Not only will the Earth itself become a Urim and Thummim after it is purified, but those in the celestial kingdom will receive their own personal Urim and Thummim. Doctrine and Covenants 130:11 states:
And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.
The Doctrine Wasn’t Initially Well-Received
When Joseph Smith began to share what had been revealed, many struggled to accept it. At the time, the doctrine of Universalism was hotly contested. Universalism is the belief that God will save all of humankind in His kingdom. This contrasted with the strict heaven-and-hell philosophies of the time, which called for sinners to be consigned to eternal damnation and punishment.
Though “The Vision” was much more nuanced than Universalism, some early Church members conflated the two. Brigham Young recalled that the teaching was “a great trial to many. Some apostatized because God…had a place of salvation, in due time, for all. My traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was directly contrary and opposed to my former education. I said, Wait a little. I did not reject it; but I could not understand it.”