By Eric Johnson
After a person dies and the millennium is complete, judgment will take place and all humans will be assigned to one of three kingdoms of glory for eternity. Those kingdoms are the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial kingdoms.
The lowest kingdom is compared in D&C 76 to the
glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus. These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit. These are they who are thrust down to hell.
This is the place where carnal, worldly people will reside, according to tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith:
The inhabitants of the telestial kingdom, who have been the unclean, the liars and filthy of the earth, will not be resurrected until the close of the millennium. (D. and C. 88:101-102; Rev. 20:4-6; 22:15.) When they are released from the prison and prepared to enter their glories, they will gladly bow the knee and confess Jesus Christ, as will all the other of the children of God, but this does not imply that they are entitled to receive all the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1953, 1:290).
A church manual provides more detail:
Neither our Father in Heaven nor Jesus will visit those who live here. Angels will visit these people, and they will have the influence of the Holy Ghost. The people who live in the telestial kingdom are those who did not accept either the gospel or a testimony of Jesus, either on earth or in the spirit world. They will suffer for their own sins in spirit prison until after the Millennium. Then they will finally be resurrected. While on this earth, they were liars, thieves, murderers, false prophets, adulterers, and those who ridiculed sacred things. They were the people who accepted the beliefs of the world rather than the teachings of Jesus. Many people will live in this kingdom. Our Father in Heaven will give these people the happiness they are prepared to receive (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 202).
This is a place where “good” people go, although they did not attain the very best God had planned. Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “Those who have been decent and upright and who have lived respectable and good lives will go to a terrestrial kingdom whose glory is as the moon” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 8). Smith further explained,
Those who were honorable men who will be permitted to go to the terrestrial kingdom will be blessed with ministrations from the celestial kingdom. They will be privileged with visitations from Jesus Christ but will be denied the presence of the Father. Thus we learn that our Eternal Father will do all that he can for the inhabitants of the earth according to their works. The inhabitants of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms will be given a measure of salvation, but not the fulness. They will be redeemed from the power of Satan after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions and have learned to be obedient to divine law (Answers to Gospel Questions 1:81).
A church manual states,
This kingdom is not as wonderful as the celestial kingdom. Even though Jesus will visit the terrestrial kingdom, those who live there will not live with our Father in Heaven, and they will not have all He has. Those who go to the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people. Some of them will be members of the Church, and others will not. They will be those who did not accept Jesus on earth but later accepted Him in the spirit world. The people who will live there will not be part of an eternal family but will live separately, without families. Our Father in Heaven will give these people the happiness they are prepared to receive (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 202).
Those who qualify for the celestial kingdom receive eternal life, also known as exaltation. Sixteenth President Thomas S. Monson stated the goal: “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p. 56). Those reaching this state will becomes gods and goddesses, just like Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother(s) did before this world was created. This is where families will be reunited and propagated into the future; this is called eternal increase. A church manual reports,
This is the place where our Father in Heaven and Jesus live. It is a place where people will be happy, and it will be more beautiful than we can imagine. The people who will live in this kingdom will love our Father in Heaven and Jesus and will choose to obey Them. They must have repented of all their sins and must have accepted Jesus as their Savior. They must have been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. They must have a testimony from the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Savior (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 201).
Two other manuals explain:
Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fulness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun (Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 53).
Those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, who become gods, must also have been married for eternity in the temple (see D&C 131:1–4). All who inherit the celestial kingdom will live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ forever (see D&C 76:62) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 272).
Apparently very few will reach this state. Several leaders have said that most Latter-day Saints are not doing enough to qualify. For instance, tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith stated,
NOT HALF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS TO BE SAVED. Those who receive the fulness will be privileged to view the face of our Father. There will not be such an overwhelming number of the Latter-day Saints who will get there. President Francis M. Lyman many times has declared, and he had reason to declare, I believe, that if we save one-half of the Latter-day Saints, that is, with an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God, we will be doing well. Not that the Lord is partial, not that he will draw the line as some will say, to keep people out. He would have every one of us go in if we would; but there are laws and ordinances that we must keep; if we do not
observe the law we cannot enter (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:15).
What does Christianity Teach
The Bible does not teach in three degrees of glory. Rather, there is heaven and there is hell. Verses wrongly cited by some Latter-day Saints to support their case are John 14:2,3, 1 Corinthians 15:39-42, and 2 Corinthians 12:2: 3.