Revelation sheds valuable light on subject of man's eternal destiny

Section 76 is one of the truly great revelations given during this dispensation. It sheds valuable light on the significant subject of man's eternal destiny. Interestingly, however, some of the early saints had difficulty accepting it at first because it contained many ideas that were new to them.

Even Brigham Young recalled that "when the Vision [D&C 76T 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. I then could feel what incorrect tradition had done for me." (Journal of Discourses, 6:281.)The revelation came while the Prophet was preparing what is known as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST). He pondered the meaning of the statement in John 5:28-29 that all would be resurrected either "unto . . . life" or "unto . . . damnation." He wondered if there is only one condition for the right-eous and another for the wicked. He learned that there are actually two divisions within the resurrection (D&C 76:17), and the remainder of this great revelation showed him that four distinct kingdoms will exist in eternity.

What the kingdoms' names mean

"Celestial," meaning, "heavenly," and "terrestrial," meaning "earthly," are used in everyday conversation. These names do not refer to where the kingdoms will be, but rather to the fact that one is higher than the other. The Lord has revealed that the celestial kingdom will be here on this earth. (D&C 88:17-25.) The terrestrial kingdom will be elsewhere.

The name "telestial" is unique to latter-day revelation. It is probably related to the teachings of Paul. He indicated that all must be resurrected in their proper order: "the first fruits" (celestial), those who are "Christ's at his coming" (terrestrial), and "then cometh the end." (1 Cor. 15:23-24; compare D&C 88:97-102.) "End" in this passage is a translation of the Greek word telos. Those who are telestial will be the last to inherit a kingdom of glory. Hence the name of this kingdom may be related to the Greek word Paul used. It may also be linked to the prefix tele- meaning "far off," because it will be the glory most distant from the presence of God.

"Perdition" is derived from the Latin word perdere, which means "to lose." The sons of perdition truly lose that which is of greatest worth - any contact with God's glory.

Who inherits the terrestrial kingdom?

A casual reading of verses 71-74 in Section 76 may leave the impression that all who receive the gospel in the spirit world will be heirs of the terrestrial kingdom. If this is true, there would be no need to perform baptisms and other ordinances for the dead. A later revelation, however, clarified that "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." (D&C 137:7.) Hence the statement in Section 76 is a generalization consistent with the principle that rewards are based on previous preparation and conduct. (Abraham 3:26.) While many who receive the gospel in the spirit world will inherit the terrestrial kingdom, those for whom temple ordinances are performed have the potential to receive celestial glory. - Richard O. Cowan

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