Though Joseph Smith received many visions and revelations, one of these was so sweeping, so mind-expanding, so glorious that the early Saints simply called it “the Vision.” It not only clarifies who we are and why we’re here and where we’re going, but demonstrated yet again what a powerful and loving Father we have in God.
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Though Joseph Smith received many visions and revelations, one of these was so sweeping, so mind-expanding, so glorious that the early Saints simply called it “the Vision.” It not only clarifies who we are and why we’re here and where we’re going, but demonstrated yet again what a powerful and loving Father we have in God. He is the ultimately successful parent and the vast majority of His children receive a glory that right now they cannot begin to comprehend.
Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor, and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast where today we’ll be studying Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76 in a lesson entitled “Great Shall be Their Reward and Eternal Shall be Their Glory.” You can find the transcript for this podcast at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast and, at the same location all the Come Follow Me podcasts we’ve recorded. That’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast.
President Wilford Woodruff said of the vision that it “gives more light, more truth, and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going to. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be. For all men know what laws they keep, and the laws which men keep here will determine their position hereafter; they will be preserved by those laws and receive the blessings which belong to them.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:146–47.)
In January and February of 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working again on what we call the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This intense study of the scriptures often brought them questions that they pondered, worked on, mulled over and took to the Lord for answers. One of these was triggered by John 5:29, where they received the scripture in this form:
“And shall come forth; they who have done good, in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust” (Doctrine and Covenants 76;17). What was this resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust?
Joseph said of this, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body the term, ‘Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, on the 16th of February, 1832, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision.” which was Section 76. (History of the Church, 1:245.).
Before we launch into some analysis on Section 76, I have to say what impresses me here is the idea that deep study of the scriptures triggered this revelation. We have been asked by our prophet to “Hear Him” with more power and clarity in our lives. We ask ourselves, how can I be open to more revelation? Here is an answer.
Pondering the scriptures in reflective ways, poring over them with hunger to learn and diving deep seems to open doors where the Spirit can give us light. You can imagine that as Joseph and Sidney were discussing John 5:29, and as they thought seriously on the question what is heaven, their minds were open and thoughts began to flow. Can the afterlife just be a heaven and hell? Is there more? If so, what could it be? They are seriously reaching and seeking.
The book of Moses came to Joseph as he was seriously studying Genesis. In turn, studying the book of Moses opened Joseph up to receiving revelation on building Zion. So many revelations came to Joseph because he studied, then pondered, then asked questions and his mind was opened. It is an invitation for us to do the same.
Another prominent trigger scripture, whose reading ushered in an entire revelation is in Doctrine and Covenants 138 where Joseph F. Smith was sitting in his study reading 1 Peter 3 and 4. As he pondered, a vision opened to him where he saw the joy and gladness of the innumerable company of spirits who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus Christ. What opened his eyes to receive this powerful experience? He said, “I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures,” and again, “As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened.” (Doctrine and Covenants 138, 1, 11).
Joseph Smith tells us that before he received his First Vision of the Father and the Son, his “mind was called up to serious reflection.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:8). We are getting clues here. We have to get beyond our superficial minds and superficial thoughts to open ourselves to receive the deep things of God.
What is serious reflection? It is focused and concentrated thought, like sunlight through a magnifying glass that will burn a hole in paper. It is meditation until a subject begins to open itself to you. It is not superficial. It does not flit around from one distraction to another. It does not leap off course or waver like the waves of the sea. It is a way we study scripture that engages us with the Lord and what is real.
So often we are troubled and hurried, wearied and overworked. We brush through the scriptures quickly as if it were a task to check off, and that is where we leave it. The world is so much with us that we do not take the journey to the mountaintop and let the Lord touch all our dizzying effort with his finger and fill it with light. Until he does, however, we are still traveling in the darkness.
Busy and hurried, too often we take “natural man” solutions, rushing from one task to another, checking off the items on our lists to do in a mad frenzy without the transforming power that spiritual insight always brings. The alarm rings in the morning, and we are off and running, too often without climbing the mountain to have the stony pieces of our lives touched with light.
The scriptures have a phrase for this hurry in the darkness, which is what life often feels like. They speak of people who suffer from “the blindness of their minds.” The original Greek translation of this word “blindness” yields some profound understanding. The word is poˊ-ro-sis, which means: “the covering with a callus; obtrusiveness of mental discernment, dulled perception.”
Does the Lord have something to tell you? He does, and we have an invitation to enter the scriptures and come upon our own trigger passages that will open revelation to our minds and hearts.
So, as Joseph and Sidney were working on the new translation:
“By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 76: 12). It is only through revelation that our eyes can be opened.
This experience that Joseph and Sidney had was a series of visions that would open and then close again, then the men would describe what they saw as if they were looking through an open window into the eternities. One vision came upon another. Lucifer, the son of the morning, who was in some authority and fell from his place as the heavens wept, the Sons of Perdition and their anguish, the Celestial and Terrestrial kingdoms in one vision because these represented the resurrection of the just, the Telestial Kingdom, that represented the resurrection of the unjust.
Joseph later wrote, “The things of God are of deep import, and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse; he must commune with God”. (Joseph Smith to the Church and Bishop Partridge, March 20, 1839).
No wonder Joseph wrote, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (Joseph Smith, HC 6:50).
Philo Dibble was an eyewitness to the reception of this revelation. He wrote that “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—probably two-thirds of the time,—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.
“The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.
“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 reported at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and 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.’” (Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, pp. 303–4.)
In this series of visions was this glorious view:
“And now after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 76: 22-24).
In this vision we have a view of the glorious state of the Lord’s faithful children and His promises to them that is simply unsurpassed anywhere else. Whatever narrow view one had of heaven and the destiny of the faithful before this was nothing compared to what Joseph was shown. Our best imaginations cannot come close to conceiving or comprehending what awaits the faithful. Only in Him is there power to save and none can stay His hand. (vs. 3) His work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” and He will accomplish His work. “I am able to do mine own work,” the Lord says. (2 Nephi 27:20).
We can’t achieve this for ourselves, and no one else can give us these gifts, but the Lord whose atonement has made this all possible. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (! Corinthians 2:9). What’s more the Lord delights to honor those who serve Him in righteousness. It is His good will to give them the kingdom. He wants to. We aren’t here on earth trying to wrestle a blessing out of a stingy Father. He has a great reward for those who endure to the end, including eternal glory and all of the mysteries of God’s kingdom, both past and present. He promises the righteous understanding that reaches to heaven and which the world cannot equal and enlightenment by the Spirit and power of God.
The vision that rolls out before Joseph and Sidney shows a future where all but the Sons of Perdition receive a degree of glory, the gift of an abundant Giver and successful Father.
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world…Every honest man is constrained to exclaim: ‘It came from God.’” (History of the Church, 1:252–53.)
Yet, the Saints did not universally regard the doctrines revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 76 in a positive light. That old belief which had been carried for several centuries that most of humanity would be tortured in hell was deeply ingrained, and the picture of God’s inexhaustible love and mercy was a major paradigm shift. Salvation was inseparably linked both with God’s grace and man’s agency.
Brigham Young said, “When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of good, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it.” (In Journal of Discourses, 16:42). It was difficult for them to think that a place of glory awaited for the honest and virtuous whether they belonged to a church or not.
Brigham also said that his upbringing. nearly kept him from receiving Joseph and Sidney’s testimonies. “My traditions were such, that when the Vision first came to me, it was so 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. Suppose all that I have every heard from my priest and parents—the way they taught me to read the Bible—had been true, my understanding would be diametrically opposed to the doctrine revealed in the Vision. I used to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew and fully understood it for myself, by the visions of the Holy Spirit.”
Brigham’s brother Joseph Young also confessed, “I could not believe it at first. Why the Lord was to save everybody.” (Joseph Young, “Discourse,” Deseret News ((Mar. 18, 1857)), 11.)
Consider what a new idea this vision portrayed. For centuries, Christians had taught that God is a Sovereign who rules his creatures, usually from a distance and without passion, meaning among other things without love or compassion. Our first act on the stage was when Adam sinned. We are born in sin and as Luther said, “the only free will humankind possessed…was the freedom to sin.“ If that’s all we are, then perhaps the idea of heaven and hell would be sufficient. However that’s not all we are.
Latter-day Saints understood that our God is neither punishing nor self-aggrandizing, but a parental God, ushering His children from their pre-mortal home, through mortality, and finally back home again as a gracious act. God is committed to His children’s growth, joy and development to become what their heredity implies as His children. This journey that runs right through mortality and on to something much more is God’s gift of development and transformation to His children. If you don’t truly understand this and conceptualize God in a different, penalizing way, the Vision was hard to comprehend.
As Terryl and Fiona Givens noted, “Strip the human story of its origin in heaven and the logic of the final destination is erased. To change the beginning is to change the ending.” That’s the tradition of Christianity. The Restoration changed all that. (Fiona and Terryl Givens, All Things New, Faith Matters, 2020).
Paul told the early-day Saints, of course, that he knew of three heavens, and to those who doubted the new doctrine that came forth in this revelation, Joseph Smith asked why Paul would tell such a lie when the whole Christian world knew better.
Let’s zero in on the verses. Remember this vision comes in response to the question about resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. Who are these? The Lord answers their questions:
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote about the resurrection of the just:
“There shall be at least two classes which shall have the privilege of the resurrection [when Christ comes again]: ‘First, those who shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever’; and second, honorable men, those who belong to the terrestrial kingdom as well as those of the celestial kingdom.
“At the time of the coming of Christ, ‘They who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven. They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.’ These are the just, ‘whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all. These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.’
President Smith continues:
“Following this great event, and after the Lord and the righteous who are caught up to meet him have descended upon the earth, there will come to pass another resurrection. This may be considered as a part of the first, although it comes later. In this resurrection will come forth those of terrestrial order, who were not worthy to be caught up to meet him, but who are worthy to come forth to enjoy the millennial reign.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:296.)
The second resurrection comes after the end of the 1,000 years of the Millennium, when those who inherit the Telestial Kingdom and the Sons of Perdition are resurrected. Yes, even the Sons of Perdition will be resurrected.
To understand this better, Joseph and Sidney see the premortal life where Lucifer, the son of the morning, fell and became Satan, that old serpent, who “sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ”. Some noteworthy things are worth mentioning here. We weren’t offered two plans in the premortal world, but a plan and a rebellion. Lucifer, who was obviously talented, bright and brilliant, sought to take the kingdom of God. His goal was to displace God’s sovereignty and remove Him from the throne. This power-hungry arrogance is hard to imagine, but he was a powerful and persuasive personage. He is called a serpent, because among other things, a serpent has a split tongue, a symbol that Lucifer lied about what he offered and what he intended. He is powerful with his lies, having enough truth in them that he is convincing. His servants do the same on earth.
It is noteworthy that the name Lucifer occurs only twice in scripture—in Isaiah 14:12 and 2 Nephi 24:12, which is quoting Isaiah. The name Lucifer means “light bearer” or “shining one,” but all this is lost when he falls and then devotes his energies to making “war with the saints of God, and encompass[ing] them round about” (v. 29). Notice whom he makes war upon—the Saints. He wants to neutralize and thwart the Saints whose calling it is to bring the Lord’s word to the world.
Satan comes from the Hebrew and means “adversary,” “enemy,” or accuser. Devil is from the Greek word diabolos which means “one who separates and divides.”
Those who fall for his deceptions suffer and Joseph and Sidney “saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame” for they become the sons of perdition. Perdition means “loss or destruction”. H. Dean Garrett and Stephen E. Robinson note that sons of Perdition are: “(1) those who have made the devil—Perdition—their spiritual father rather than Christ, and (2) all those whose fate or condition is to be cast off and lost forever—perdition.
“According to this revelation there are several characteristics common to sons of perdition (see vv. 31–32). First, they know the Lord’s power, which is the priesthood. Second, they have partaken of this power by receiving its ordinances—particularly the ordinances of the temple. Third, having received the power of God, they willingly exchange it for the power of Satan and allow the evil one to bind them to him. Finally, while knowing of a certainty the truth of the gospel and the power of God, they deny the former and defy the latter.”
Robinson and Garrett continue:
“Those who rebelled in the premortal life, before the mortal veil was drawn, did so with full knowledge of God and of his will and so became perdition. Likewise, in this life only those who, like the devil and his angels, have rebelled after the veil has been parted for them, can become sons of perdition (see v. 35)”
Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 123). For this group there is no forgiveness, and no glory. Though Sons of Perdition are resurrected, as are all who have obtained a body, “it would have been better for them never to have been born” (v. 32).
When the scriptures say the sons of perdition are “the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power” (v 37). Robinson and Garrett note: “One of the greatest truths revealed in this vision is that God eventually saves all his children. The only exception to this universal salvation in some degree of glory is the sons of perdition who by their own choice put themselves beyond God’s reach. The redemptive work of Christ saves all who inherit any degree of glory—telestial, terrestrial, or celestial—and the wicked who are not perdition do not suffer forever and ever after they have satisfied the demands of justice.”
Now the section divides itself very neatly into verses 50 through 70 being about the celestial kingdom, verses 71 through 80 being about the terrestrial kingdom, and 81 through 89 being about the telestial kingdom.
Those in the Celestial Kingdom have kept the commandments and overcome by faith, but how does this happen? This isn ‘t because they had a magnificent self-improvement program or a better sense of self discipline that led them to perfection. Entering the presence of the Lord and being in the Celestial Kingdom is not a do-it-yourself proposition. Then how is it done? It is Christ who has overcome all things, and we turn to His merits and mercy, having faith in Him that we can achieve exaltation. It is His work and His atonement that saves us from our weaknesses—and He is very good at this. He was victorious over sin, and we share in His victory.
I like this statement, again by Robinson and Garrett, “Overcoming all things or achieving perfection are not requirements for entering the kingdom at all, rather they are some of the blessings of doing so. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:69).
People in the Celestial Kingdom are members of the Church of the Firstborn. While the Church of Jesus Christ is used to describe God’s church on the earth. These are they who did not just passively accept Christ, but instead have been valiant in their testimony.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie asked: “What does it mean to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus?
“It is to be courageous and bold; to use all our strength, energy, and ability in the warfare with the world; to fight the good fight of faith. … The great cornerstone of valiance in the cause of righteousness is obedience to the whole law of the whole gospel.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him’; it is to deny ourselves ‘of all ungodliness,’ and ‘love God’ with all our ‘might, mind and strength.’ (Moro. 10:32.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. It is to know of the verity and divinity of the Lord’s work on earth.
“But this is not all,” Elder McConkie says, “It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matt. 7:21.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.’ It is to ‘endure to the end.’ (2 Ne. 31:20.) It is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments. It is the manifestation of ‘pure religion’ in the lives of men; it is visiting ‘the fatherless and widows in their affliction’ and keeping ourselves ‘unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to bridle our passions, control our appetites, and rise above carnal and evil things. It is to overcome the world as did he who is our prototype and who himself was the most valiant of all our Father’s children. It is to be morally clean, to pay our tithes and offerings, to honor the Sabbath day, to pray with full purpose of heart, to lay our all upon the altar if called upon to do so.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue… It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1974, pp. 45–46; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, pp. 33–35.
We remember that Joseph Smith learned that “all who had 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” (D&C 137:7).
What are the promises that celestial beings receive? They are joint heirs with Christ. Can you imagine such love? He has won the victory, but He shares it totally with us. This isn’t a scarcity mentality where there isn’t enough to go around. God gives abundance out of His abundance.
As Section 76 says:
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—[we know, of course, that children grow up to be like their parents if they are true].
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
The glory of the terrestrial kingdom compared to the celestial is as the moon to the sun. Section 76 says, “These are they who died without the law.” Robinson and Garrett note:
“The different degrees of glory that one may receive in the resurrection will be positively or negatively influenced by the amount of knowledge a person was faithful to on the one hand, or against which a person sinned on the other. There will be different standards of accountability for those who (a) knew the fulness of the gospel, (b) had a portion of the gospel through the teachings of the New Testament and of traditional Christianity, (c) had the preparatory gospel of the law of Moses, or (d) had no revealed principles of gospel or law at all. This last category will consist mainly of the heathen nations.
Merely being a heathen, however, does not guarantee a person terrestrial glory nor does it limit them to that kingdom. Remember what we just said: those who died “without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they have been permitted to tarry will be heirs of the celestial kingdom.”
Robinson and Garrett also note: “The spirit world allows people a continuation of their probationary state, so that they may learn, repent, and possibly receive a greater reward in eternity than their performance in mortality would otherwise merit. Joseph Smith praised this ‘continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee.’ Any additional progress made in the spirit world, including acceptance of vicarious ordinances, may then be credited to an individual just as though it had been achieved while still in the flesh.” End quote.
In verse 74 we learn that among those in the terrestrial kingdom are those:
“74Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
“75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.”
Some who hear that verse 74, that those in the terrestrial kingdom received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it, may worry, thinking of their children or close relatives or friends who have grown up in the gospel and drifted away. I think we should be wary to jump into fear for our loved ones, because we don’t know exactly what it means to have “received not the testimony of Jesus” in the flesh. What constitutes a receiving? What constitutes a chance? “Received not” sounds like rejected the word when they heard it, but it is God who understands the context and challenges of each of His children.
I know that the Lord will give the largest reward a person is capable and eager to receive.
Finally, we have some verses about the telestial glory, which Joseph and Sidney saw in a separate vision.
“82 These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.” (This means they rejected the gospel and the testimony of Christ. They would not receive it. Telestial beings won’t accept even the most basic testimony of Jesus Christ.)
“84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.
“85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb shall have finished his work.”
We need to ask the question here, what is hell? A lake of fire and brimstone is only a metaphor that describes anguish. Hell is the spiritual state “of the wicked, rebellious, and unbelieving between their death and resurrection. During that time their spirits are subject in the spirit world to the power of Satan and his angels, for this was their demonstrated preference while still in the flesh. If one chooses Satan’s path in life, it leads one into Satan’s power at death. ‘What is the damnation of hell? To go with that society who have not obeyed [the Lord’s commandments].
“Fortunately, this hell does not last forever but will eventually give up its captive spirits at the resurrection. (Dean H. Garrett, Stephen E. Robinson, Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 2, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 2001).
For those in the celestial glory:
“62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.”For those in the terrestrial glory:
“77 These are they who receive of the apresence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.”
For those in the telestial glory:
“88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them”
Except for the sons of perdition, God gives all of His children a degree of glory. And even the glory of the telestial kingdom “surpasses all understanding” (v 89).
But let us not be mistaken about what we have been called to do, Joseph Fielding Smith said, “We are not preaching the gospel with the idea of trying to save people in the terrestrial world. Ours is the salvation of exaltation. What we are trying to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring people back again, through the power of the priesthood and the ordinances of the Church, as sons and daughters of God, receiving a fulness of the Father’s kingdom. That is our endeavor.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:190–91.)
We mentioned that there was some resistance to this vision, but among apostates it caused an uproar. I guess some people were just counting on others going to hell and being punished forever. It’s hard to blast old and well-worn traditions. Just as with the First Vision, Satan always attacks the light, especially when it is ushered in with such power. You may have not put these two events together before in your minds. Note the date again of the receipt of Section 76. It is Feb. 16, 1832. It was only about 5 weeks later, on March 24 that a mob of about 25 came to the Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio where Joseph and Emma were sleeping on the first floor with their twins, both sick with measles. Little Joseph Murdock Smith was the sicker of the twins and Joseph was on the trundle bed with him.
There was a tapping at the window and then the mob burst into the house and dragged Joseph out of his bed and into the night while Emma was screaming “Murder.” One of the leaders of the mob was named Simonds Ryder and, among other things, he claimed that Joseph wasn’t a prophet because he spelled his name wrong in a revelation. Yet, many were irritated by the new view of the afterlife seen in Section 76.
This mob, that started with about two dozen men and then grew to about sixty, came with a fury and grabbed Joseph by the collar, his legs and his arms to drag him outside. Just as they were at the front door, Joseph got a leg free for a moment, and he kicked whoever was there. It happened to be Mr. Waite, who boasted that he was the strongest man in the county. Now he had his own witness of Joseph’s strength and shouted, “Hold him, or he’ll take all of us.”
As Joseph was rough handled, he saw Sidney Rigdon, lying unconscious on the ground and assumed that he was dead. Sidney, too, had had the measles. The mob had torn him out of his bed, tied his legs high on the hind of a horse and rode the horse with Sidney hitting his head over and over again until they cut him loose and let him drop to the ground. Sidney was never quite the same again, and his occasional erratic behavior from then on is probably tied to this event.
With Sidney lying unconscious, Joseph began pleading for his life. As they threatened him in every way, they told him to shut up, and he was put in a stranglehold until he passed out. He was only out a short time and when he awoke, men were coming at him from every direction. They stripped him naked, sprawled him on a plank and one of the men fell upon him with his long, sharpened fingernails and cried out, “That’s how the Holy Ghost falls upon you. Call upon your God for help!” They tarred and feathered him over these bleeding scratches and took the paddle and shoved tar into his mouth, which probably saved him from what came next as they gathered around him and shoved a vial of nitric acid into his mouth to poison him. The tar saved him as he bit down hard on the vial and chipped a chunk from his tooth.
One of the members of the mob was a Dr. Denison, who ironically was the same doctor who had delivered Joseph in Vermont. His job now was to pull out his knife and emasculate Joseph, but his nerve failed him at the last minute. He said, if I knew who I was delivering that night, I would have killed him then.”
Joseph made his way back to the house, which was according to the accounts, about 1000 yards, and as he did so he pulled the tar away from his mouth so he could breathe more freely. Emma had been praying in the house and Joseph stumbled his way to the front door, she saw him in the darkness and thought he was covered in blood, instead of tar and feathers, and she fainted.
The prophet said, “My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body; so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being the Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among them came also the mobbers; viz.: Simonds Ryder, a Campbellite preacher and leader of the mob; one McClentic, who had his hands in my hair; one Streeter, son of a Campbellite minister; and Felatiah Allen, Esq., who gave the mob a barrel of whiskey to raise their spirits. Besides these named, there were many others in the mob. With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals.”
His topic for the talk that day was charity and brotherly kindness. Four days later little Joseph Murdock Smith died, from exposure he received the night of the mobbing and Joseph left that same day for Missouri to strengthen the Saints there because the Lord had commanded him. Joseph Smith, the prophet had great recuperative powers. I repeat, Joseph Smith the prophet had great recuperative powers.
So here in a five week period he received a transcendent vision, was almost killed by a mob, lost his son and headed on the thousand mile journey to Missouri. The shedding of light from the heavens, always seemed to come with a price from the Adversary.
Maurine That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Tell a friend about this podcast. Next week we will be studying Sections 77-80, “I Will Lead You Along.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to our daughter, Michaela Proctor Hutchins, who produces this show.