D&C 76:1-10, 113-119 Introduction to the Vision
Wilford Woodruff said that Doctrine and Covenants 76 “gives more light, more truth, and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read” (Journal of Discourses, 22:146-47). Think of the prominence of “heaven or hell” beliefs and teachings in the 1800s, and how revolutionary this revelation was for the world of religion and its doctrine.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon both saw this vision, Sidney saying that the process of seeing and recording the vision lasted hours. In many sections of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord begins by revealing some of His names, titles, attributes, and purposes. What stands out for you in verses 1-10, and why? Read also the words of Joseph and Sidney after the vision, in verses 113-119. How do these verses expand your view of the Lord and His work?
D&C 76:11-24 “Our Eyes Were Opened”
After declaring some of His attributes and works, the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself in vision to Joseph and Sidney:
- Look for key words and phrases in verses 11-14, 19-21. What do these words and phrases teach you?
- In verses 22-24, what impresses you most in Joseph’s and Sidney’s testimony of what they saw, heard, and felt?
- Note these profound teachings that we can derive from verse 24:
- Multiple “worlds” have been created by the Savior (see also Moses 1:33, which says “worlds without number”).
- Other worlds are populated with “inhabitants” (see also Moses 1:29).
- Just like us on this planet, the inhabitants of other worlds created by Jesus Christ are saved through Him (they “are begotten sons and daughters unto God;” in other words, they become the spiritually saved children of Christ; see Mosiah 5:7-8). There is not another Savior for other worlds. We live in the world to which He came to live and die as the Son of God and Redeemer of all mankind.
D&C 76:25-29 The Angel Who Rebelled
Next we see a stark contrast and counterpoint to the foregoing vision of the Savior. The adversary tried to prevent Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Joseph Smith—History 1:15-16). He also attempted to impede the divine callings of Abraham (Genesis 15:1-12) and Moses (Moses 1:12-22), and others. And here in Section 76, Joseph and Sidney are shown Satan, including his past “authority in the presence of God,” followed by his rebellion and fall:
- Satan is first referred to in verse 25 as “an angel of God.
- Then in verse 26 he is called “Perdition” (a word that comes from Latin, meaning “lost;” in his case signifying complete and irreparable ruin), then by his former name, “Lucifer” (from Hebrew and Latin, meaning “light-bearer” or “shining one”).
- In verse 27 he is called “son of the morning” (the meaning is unsure; it may have reference to his former status before God).
- In verse 28 he is called “Satan” (from Hebrew, meaning “the adversary”) and “the devil” (which comes from Greek and also means “adversary”).
- Although Satan tries to influence everyone on earth, verse 29 makes it clear that he especially targets “the saints of God” (see also Revelation 12:17).
- Although we don’t want to study about or focus too much on the devil, the Lord has revealed certain truths as helps to us. What do we learn about him in verses 28-29? How can you put this knowledge to use in your daily life?
D&C 76:30-39, 43-49 Sons of Perdition
After teaching about Satan, the Lord shows a vision of those who are called the sons of perdition. What do these verses teach us about them? The LDS Guide to the Scriptures tells us that sons of perdition are “the followers of Satan who will suffer with him in eternity. Sons of perdition include (1) those who followed Satan and were cast out of heaven for rebellion during premortality and (2) those who were permitted to be born to this world with physical bodies but then served Satan and turned utterly against God. Those in this second group will be resurrected from the dead but will not be redeemed from the second (spiritual) death and cannot dwell in a kingdom of glory.”
D&C 76:40-42 Definition of “The Gospel”
How would you define “the gospel”? These verses begin, “this is the gospel” and then offer a brief yet wonderful summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Compare these verses to other enlightening statements of the Lord’s gospel and doctrine, as found in Acts 10:34-48; 2 Nephi 31:2-20; 3 Nephi 11:21-40; 3 Nephi 27:13-21; D&C 49:11-14; Moses 6:47-52, 59-62; and Articles of Faith 1:4.
D&C 76:50-70, 92-96 “The Glory of the Celestial”
Verses 17, 50, and 65 mention “the resurrection of the just,” which appears to refer to both the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms, while “the resurrection of the unjust” would be the telestial kingdom and outer darkness. Carefully study verses 50-70, 92-96 and look for (1) the behavior and character of those who enter the celestial kingdom, and (2) the eternal rewards they will be given. Note:
- Verses 50-53 are another beautiful example (as in verses 40-42; see above) of the definition or summary of the gospel and doctrine of Christ.
- Verse 53 says that these will “overcome by faith” (see also verse 60). They overcome their own “natural man” (see Mosiah 3:19) and they overcome the world.
- Those who inherit the celestial kingdom, but who die before the Second Coming, will resurrect at the coming of Christ and become “they whom he shall being with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people” (verse 63). Those who are alive at His coming will survive the destruction and burning and continue as mortals into the Millennium, until their time comes to die and resurrect “in the twinkling of an eye” (see D&C 43:32; 63:51; 101:31).
- The only way to enter celestial glory is to be among the “just men [or women] made perfect through Jesus” (verse 69). We are to do all we can to follow Him on the covenant path, but ultimately it is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that grants us eternal life in the presence of the Father and the Son (see also verses 107-108).
- Eventually we may receive of the Lord’s “fulness and of his grace” (verse 94) and become “equal in power, and in might, and in dominion” (verse 95); thus becoming gods (see also verses 58-59 and D&C 88:107; 132:20, 27).
D&C 76:71-80, 87, 91, 97 “The Glory of the Terrestrial”
Although there has been some authoritative commentary on verses 72-74, it is not fully clear what all the meanings and eternal implications are regarding those “who died without law” (verse 72); “they who are the spirits of men kept in prison” (verse 73); and those “who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh” (verse 74; “received not” appears to signify “rejected”). This is not to say that we have no other information, for there are many additional scriptural references to such groups, but we are still left with questions about their mortal and post-mortal opportunities and responses, as well as their eternal rewards.
What does the Lord say in verses 75, 79 about the character of those who will enter the terrestrial kingdom? What will be their rewards, according to verses 76-79? Read verse 79 again and ponder, What does it mean to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus? How can I be more valiant in my testimony and discipleship? (See Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve, “Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith,” October 1974 general conference.)
D&C 76:81-86, 88-90, 98-106, 109-112 “The Glory of the Telestial”
Find what verses 82, 99-101, 103, say about the character and behavior of those who will enter the telestial kingdom. What does the Lord say about their rewards in verses 84-86, 88-89, 102, 104-106, 112? Consider the following:
- The Lord makes clear that the telestial existence is a kingdom of glory (verses 81, 89, 98, 109). In fact, verse 89 states that its glory “surpasses all understanding.” We cannot imagine how glorious the telestial kingdom is, which the Lord reserves for the majority of His disobedient and rebellious children. Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote, “The meanest child is loved so dearly that his reward will be beyond the understanding of mortal man” (Message of the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 167).
- Nonetheless, the glory of the telestial compares to the glory of the celestial as the stars compare to the sun.
- Being “thrust down to hell” (verse 84) likely refers to their period of suffering and repentance, which will end at some time before they enter the telestial kingdom (see also verses 85, 105-106).
- Verse 98 indicates that just as there are many stars, there are also many gradations—or levels of glory—within the telestial kingdom. This may also be the case in the terrestrial and celestial worlds.
- Verses 99-101 do not denigrate Paul and others who taught truth, but does identify bickering religionists who claimed to be righteous but were not true followers of the true God. These will be in the telestial kingdom.
- Verse 103 identifies some of the unrepented sins of those who go to the telestial kingdom, and interestingly it mentions twice the sin of lying.
- In verse 110 the Lord declares that “these all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever.” This implies an eventual level of true conversion, for what use would an insincere or forced bowing and confession be, which would not be from the heart and thus not be accepted by the Lord?
After your study of this great vision, ponder its overall meaning to you, including how it can help you in your daily devotion, demeanor, and conduct.