The LDS (Mormon) Church, Part 7: Heaven

The topic of Heaven is another area where the LDS Church's teachings are unique.  


If you were to ask 15 different people what they think Heaven will be like, you'll likely get 15 different answers.  It seems a silly thing to debate, really.  It's sort of like debating what...Houston, Texas....is like.  We can debate all day long, but Houston is, well, Houston.  Debating it really doesn't change it one bit.  And to really understand and know what Houston is like?  A person needs to go there.

Another reason it seems silly is because the LDS church teaches that Heaven is a good place - the place we'll all want to be after this life.  I totally agree.  The Bible teaches the same thing.  So why even bring up this topic?  

I bring up this topic because the LDS teachings on what Heaven is like gets to the heart of their teachings about God and His nature.  It is also gets to the heart of why they teach some other stuff...like how to live and how to get to Heaven.  It's a key part of the religion and important to understand if you want to understand the LDS way of thinking.

As always, I encourage you to check back on some of the other posts in this series if you haven't already.  And if you don't read anything else, please at least read the "Introduction and Intent" and "Format" posts so that you know where I'm coming from:

1. Introduction & Intent
2. Format
3. Part 1: Joseph Smith
4. Part 2: God and Jesus
5. Part 2: Followup
6. Part 2: Another Followup
7. Part 3: Determining Truth
8. Part 3: Determining Truth Followup
9. Part 4: The Fall & Original Sin
10. Part 4: Followup
11. Taking a Break
12. Part 5: The Great Apostasy
13. Part 5: Followup
14. Part 5: Another Followup

Let's get started...

Section 1~ What the LDS (Mormon) church teaches about Heaven

1.  The ultimate LDS goal is to live in a way that makes one worthy of entering the Celestial Kingdom (see #2) and to obtain godhood.  The LDS believe that God was once a man like we are now, and that he "progressed" to be God of this world...just like the god before him, and the god before him, etc.  They believe that there are many gods of many worlds throughout time and space.

"As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be." (Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, LDS.org)

"The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession.  We are created, we are born for he express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven.  (Journal of Discourses 3:93)

"We believe in a God who is Himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement -- a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share" (James Talmage, The Articles of Faith, pg. 430)

It's too long for me to quote it in it's entirety, but too full of interesting LDS beliefs for me to not mention it....I strongly recommend that you go read this article at lds.org: EXALTATION

2.  There are three "Heavenly Kingdoms": the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:29-31)  

"There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom.  The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion, expressed by our obedience to the Lord's commandments." (LDS.org)

Celestial Kingdom 
- To obtain this highest level, one must be married. (DC 131:2-3)
- The marriage must be done properly ("sealed") to exist for eternity.  (DC 132:19)
- If not eligible for "exaltation", people will become angles...servants to minister for those who are "worthy of a far more...weight of glory" (DC 132:16-17)
- People who earn the highest level of exaltation become gods (there are three levels to the Celestial Kingdom). "Then shall they be gods,because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them." (DC 132:20)
- "The celestial kingdom is the highest of the three kingdoms of glory.  Those in this kingdom will dwell forever in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  This should be your goal: to inherit celestial glory and to help others receive that great blessing as well.  Such a goal is not achieved in one attempt; it is the result of a lifetime of righteousness and constancy of purpose." (LDS.org)
-  Women who attain the highest glory (become goddesses) will spend eternity in full submission to their god/husband and will give birth "forever and ever" to spirit babies. "Each father and mother will be in the condition to multiply forever and ever" (Orson Pratt, The Seer, pg. 37) 
- Mormon men can have multiple wives in heaven.  In fact, it may be a requirement that men have multiple wives to become gods.   "...you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained....The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy...I heard the revelation on polygamy, and I believed it with all my heart, and I know it is from God - I know that he revealed it from heaven..." (Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young, pg. 269)
- I don't mean to open the polygamy can of worms here.  Understand that it's difficult to get a clear message from the LDS church on this issue.  They denounce the practice today, yet it is still a part of their scripture (DC 132:61-62) and seems to be a key in understanding the LDS heaven.

Terrestrial Kingdom
-"The middle degree or kingdom of the three degrees of glory in heaven.  In the scriptures, the glory of the terrestrial kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon." (LDS.org)
- "Those who inherit terrestrial glory will receive the presence of the Son, but not the fullness of the Father." (LDS.org)
- "Individuals in the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people who were blinded by the craftiness of men." (LDS.org, DC 76:75)

Telestial Kingdom
- Reserved for individuals who "received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus" (LDS.org, DC 76:82)
- "These individuals will receive their glory after being redeemed from spirit prison, which is sometimes called hell" (LDS.org)
- Reserved for "liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, liars" (DC 76:81-106)
- They will be servants of the Most High (DC 76:112)

The LDS believe that 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 is referring to these three levels of heaven.

3.  Eternal Families - families created on earth can continue at families in Heaven for all of eternity. (John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith)

"The promise to the faithful in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that we may have associations and an expansion of families in the eternities." (Henry B. Eyring, "The True and Living Church," Ensign, May 2008, 20-24)

"Temples are sacred places where families can be sealed together forever..." (LDS.org)


Section 2~ What the Bible says about Heaven (and about God as it relates to the LDS belief)

1.  There is One God, and there will never be another god.  Therefore, we can not become gods.

It was Lucifer's pride - his thought that he should be "like God" - that resulted in him being cast out of Heaven in the first place.  No one can be like God. (Isaiah 14:12-15)

There is no god but the One True God.  There will never be another god.  "...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."  Isaiah 43:10

"Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." Isaiah 44:6

We were made for God's good pleasure, not for our "progression" or development.  "...thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."  Revelation 4:11

The idea that God is like us and we can be like Him is incorrect. Psalm 50:21

2.  What Heaven is like

"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.  For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Revelation 7:16-17

"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." Revelation 21:23 

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." Revelation 21:27

"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." (Matthew 6:20)

"...sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Luke 18:22

The kingdom of heaven "shall be like"(Matthew 25)...  This chapter goes on to use parables and analogies to describe what heaven will be like.  

3.  There will be no marriage in Heaven.  

"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage..." Matthew 22:30  

(Taken out of context, this verse might be interpreted to read that only new marriages will not take place in Heaven and marriages that existed on earth still might be in effect.  Please note that when read in context, you can see that this verse is, in fact, referring to a marriage that took place on earth.  The Sadducees were assuming that when married on earth, a man and woman would continue to be married in Heaven.  Jesus corrected them by saying that there would be no marriage at the resurrection.)

Section 3~ My Thoughts

1.  On becoming a god...

My initial and most basic reaction goes something like, "Um, NO!"  After that, I'm left to read the Bible verses the LDS church uses to defend this belief, and I see that the verses are used out of context and twisted.  

My general impression based on this teaching is that the main thrust of the LDS church seeks to glorify the individual instead of God.  Personally, I'm not sure what I find more offensive...the notion that God was once a man or that man can become a god.  Both teachings reduce God and glorify humanity.  We are not created to become gods, we are made for God's pleasure.  Period.

A popular LDS "argument" to the idea that God was once a man and somehow grew into being God (like an eternity of gods before Him), is the idea that "you can't get something from nothing" so God must have been created.  This argument is flawed.  Even if their teaching that gods develop from men into gods, then have their own children who become gods, etc....There must have been a beginning somewhere.  That very first "god"....the great-great-great-great, etc grandfather to our current God?  If that god was the first, then where did he come from?

My response to this philosophical argument is that the physical law of the conservation of energy - meaning energy is never created, it only can transform into a different state (also known at the First Law of Thermodynamics) - is that this is a PHYSICAL law.  Yes, in this physical state that we live in, the idea that something must always come from something else is in full effect.  Nothing is ever created from nothing.  A chair is created from wood, which came from a tree, which came from a seed, which gathered energy and nutrients from the soil, air, and sun.  And can that chair simply disappear into nothing?  No.  Even if it's not a chair anymore, those molecules are something...they are transformed into ash and smoke and heat if burned.  

But again, this is a physical law.  God is not subject, or confined, to follow our physical laws.  I think Jesus walking on water, healing the blind, raising the dead, and eventually rising from death Himself is adequate evidence of this.  

Anyone dizzy yet?  I am.  My brain is starting to hurt :) 

In general, this teaching makes me feel sad for the LDS who believe it.  For two reasons....the  first is that God is just so much MORE than the LDS church teaches.  It's a shame to lessen him.  The second is that the "righteous" LDS believer will come face to face with the True God someday.  What will be their attitude?  "Where's my kingdom?  Where's my glory?  I've earned this...?"  If so, they will be disappointed in the most eternal and harsh way.

2.  On what Heaven is like...

First, there is absolutely no Biblical support for Heaven as the LDS teach it.  Especially the idea that "murderers, sorcerers, liars, whoremongers, etc." have a place in heaven.  The Bible teaches that there is no pain, no suffering, and that we are all in the presence of God.  These two teachings do not fit together.

The LDS also teach that hell is a temporary place.  Again, not Biblical.  Heaven is for those who are saved by God's grace and mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Hell is for those who reject the salvation offered by Jesus.  Both are permanent.

On the other hand, Scripture does seem to indicate that there will be some type of reward for good deeds done by those who are saved..."treasure".   It seems logical that some would have more treasure than others based on the type of lives they lived.  

3.  On Eternal Families...  

I don't see how this idea can hold water.  What if a man lives in a way that is worthy of the Celestial Kingdom, but his wife is not?  Or what if they both go to the CK, but their children do not?  Or, even more interesting...what if they both live worthy of the CK, and so do all of their children?  Isn't that man and woman entitled to the CK with their children forever?  But if their children are worthy of the CK, and can become "as God" of a new planet that they create and fill - how can they still be a part of their parents' CK?  I don't know - it's so obviously flawed the way I see it....am I not understanding the teaching here? 

Marriage on earth - like many earthly experiences - is meant to reflect the relationship between God and his people.  We (the body of believers) are called "Christ's bride" and Jesus is called the "bridegroom".

But never mind if it makes sense to me or not...Jesus explicitly says that there will be no marriage in heaven.  That's good enough for me.  


Section 4~ Questions 
1.  Do you believe that you can become a god or goddess?  If so, why?  If not (and you're LDS), what do you make of the LDS teachings on this topic?

2.  Do you believe that God was once a man, and that he is a created being?  If so, who created him?  And who created his creator, and his creator, etc?  How do you make sense of this teaching?

3.  How do you makes sense of the fact that the LDS faith has such contradictory teachings on the issue of polygamy and it's role in your ability to go to Heaven?

4.  If you believe that families are eternal and that you will continue your earthy marriage in heaven some day, how do you reconcile that with Matthew 22:30 (in full context).

5.  When you do good things in this life, why are you doing it?  Are you doing it to try and earn a particular level of heaven, or even godhood?

6.  Let's assume that you (as a LDS) are living your life to the best of your ability so that you might earn the greatest level of exaltation.  What if you do all that you are supposed to do except for maybe one thing?  What then?  What is your place in heaven if you make a mistake? 

Madeleine  – (4/13/2009 06:19:00 AM)  

Very interesting post. I have bookmarked and will be back to read it more thoroughly when the distractions of life are settled (or in bed).

Craig and Bethany  – (4/13/2009 10:44:00 PM)  

I am wondering, is the whole point of LDS works to earn a standing in heaven? I don't mean this to sound crass, but it really puts the focus on making yourself great.

Okay, I'll try to answer the questions from Section 4:

1. I do not believe I can become a god or goddess. I do believe that I am a child of God, saved by grace, no work of my own though. Could the LDS doctrine be a misrepresentation of this (the child of God part)?

2. I believe that God created ex nihilo (out of nothing). Meaning, I believe He CREATED the matter that all things are made of. I believe he is outside of time and space and commands more dimensions than we do.

3. I am mystified by the LDS teaching on polygamy. (Help, LDS readers!)

4. I do not believe marriage will continue in heaven.

5. When I do good things in this life I do it as an act of worship to God, an offering of love to Him.

6. I am curious about this one too.

Looking forward to comments and friendly banter from you all!

mantilla lady visits baseball's purgatory  – (10/18/2009 03:38:00 PM)  

Do the Mormons really believe that there is a ‘capacity’ in Heaven. Y’know, like is there going to be SRO?
Any comments?

Curt

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