By Bill McKeever
The LDS doctrine of eternal progression can be summed up by saying that all humankind existed as spirit children of “Heavenly Father” in what is known as “the first estate.” Those who proved themselves worthy in the pre-existent spirit world were eventually allowed a mortal existence here on earth (the second estate) and were given physical bodies. According to Mormon thought, we are placed here on earth to be tested and tried and after we die we enter what is known as the “third estate.” According to 11th President Harold B. Lee, “There is no truth more plainly taught in the Gospel than that our condition in the next world will depend upon the kind of lives we live here” (Decisions for Successful Living, p.164).
Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the temporary mortality we are now experiencing is “the most vital period in our eternal existence” because it “would either give to those who received it the blessing of eternal life, which is the greatest gift of God, and thus qualify them for godhood as sons and daughters of our Eternal Father, or, if they rebelled and refused to comply with the laws and ordinances which were provided for their salvation, it would deny them the great gift and they would be assigned, after the resurrection, to some inferior sphere according to their works” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:69).
Despite what seems to be a very clear explanation on the matter, I am often amazed at how much folk-Mormonism circulates among members of the LDS Church that gives the impression that Lee and Smith were somehow not totally accurate in their appraisal. For instance, I have spoken to Mormons who really feel that even though they are not qualified for exaltation now, they will qualify someday in the hereafter. However, neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon offers any hope that a person can repent and make things right with God after they die. Alma 34:34-35 reads: “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”
According to LDS teaching, every person on earth is living a set of laws that will have a bearing on what level of “glory” an individual will inherit in eternity. Fourth LDS President Wilford Woodruff stated, “Our Heavenly Father has placed before us the laws celestial, telestial and terrestrial. If any man will obey the celestial law, he will be preserved by that law; all the glory, power and exaltation, belonging to that law, will be given to him” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp.268). Hence, it follows that if a person lived a life worthy of either the terrestrial or telestial kingdom, he can be sure that this will be his final destination after death.
Some Mormons seem to be under the impression that there is a chance to improve themselves beyond the grave; even though their mortal lifestyle may not qualify them for exaltation, give or take a million years or so, they too often believe they can eventually leave their originally assigned kingdom and advance up the ladder towards the celestial. In response to such a notion 10th President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It has been asked if it is possible for one who inherits the telestial glory to advance in time to the celestial glory? The answer to this question is, No! The scriptures are clear on this point” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:31).
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball concurred. On pages 243-244 of his book The Miracle of Forgiveness, he noted, “No progression between kingdoms. After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal! That is why we must make our decisions early in life and why it is imperative that such decisions be right.” (Also cited in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.50; and Search These Commandments, 1984 ed., pp.81-82.)
In light of these comments, I personally can’t see why Latter-day Saints would look forward to entering their third estate. Doctrine and Covenants 25:15 warns LDS members to “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.” If that passage is true, there is certain to be a lot of disappointed Mormons in the next life.
## Bruce McConkie
“There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” ([The Seven Deadly Heresies](http://lds-mormon.com/heresies.shtml))
## Joseph Fielding Smith
“NO ADVANCEMENT FROM LOWER TO HIGHER. It has been asked if it is possible for one who inherits the telestial glory to advance in time to the celestial glory? The answer to this question is, No! The scriptures are clear on this point. Speaking of those who go to the telestial kingdom, the revelation says: ‘And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.’ Notwithstanding this statement, those who do not comprehend the word of the Lord argue that while this is true, that they cannot go where God is ‘worlds without end,’ yet in time they will get where God was, but he will have gone on to other heights. This is false reasoning, illogical, and creates mischief in making people think they may procrastinate their repentance, but in course of time they will reach exaltation in celestial glory.
“KINGDOMS PROGRESS IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS. Now let us see how faulty this reasoning is. If in time those who enter the telestial glory may progress till they reach the stage in which the celestial is in now-then they are in celestial glory, are they not, even if the celestial has advanced? That being the case (I state this for the argument only, for it is not true), then they partake of all the blessings which are now celestial. That means that they become gods, have exaltation, gain the fulness of the Father, and receive a continuation of the ‘seeds forever.’ The Lord, however, has said that these blessings, which are celestial blessings, they may never have; they are barred forever! The celestial and terrestrial and telestial glories, I have heard compared to the wheels on a train. The second and third may, and will, reach the place where the first was, but the first will have moved on and will still be just the same distance in advance of them. This illustration is not true! The wheels do not run on the same track, and do not go in the same direction. The terrestrial and the telestial are limited in their powers of advancement, worlds without end.” (Doctrines of Salvation v. 2)
## Milton R. Hunter
“Many Latter-day Saints think that they can reject temple marriage, fail to pay their tithes and offering, commit various sins here in mortality and that they will have another chance to make all of this up in the life to come. I desire to emphasize the point that now is the time for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to render obedience to all of the Master’s laws and ordinances. It is required that we keep God’s commandments now, because we have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ” (Milton R. Hunter, Conference Report, October 1961, p.112).
## James Talmage
“No soul is justified in postponing his efforts to repent because of this assurance of longsuffering and mercy. We know not fully on what terms repentance will be obtainable in the hereafter; but to suppose that the soul who has wilfully rejected the opportunity of repentance in this life will find it easy to repent there is contrary to reason. To procrastinate the day of repentance is to deliberately place ourselves in the power of the adversary. Thus Amulek taught and admonished the multitude of old: ‘For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; * * * therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; * * * Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his’” (_Articles of Faith_, 1984, p. 105).
## Orson F. Whitney
“Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110)
## See Also
* [Second Chance Theory](http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/afterlife/second_chance.htm), by Bruce R. McConkie and Spencer W. Kimball
* [They can not come, Worlds without end](http://p079.ezboard.com/They-can-not-come-Worlds-without-end/fpacumenispagesfrm47.showMessage?topicID=61.topic) (ZLMB discussion)
* [Progression Between Kingdoms](http://www.nauvoo.com/ubb/cgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=4;t=000198) (Nauvoo Forum discussion)
* [Why preaching the highly questionable notion of no progression between kingdoms might be a good idea](http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2006/05/incentives-to-repent/), by Geoff Johnston
* [Bruce McConkie’s Seven Deadly Heresies Speech (Unedited)](http://www.mrm.org/seven-deadly-heresies)
* “There will be very few, if any in the spirit world who will not accept the gospel.” – President Wilford Woodruff, General Conference, April 1894
* “When the gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our Elders in this life. I believe there will be a very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the Gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable.” President Lorenzo Snow (Millennial Star 56:50)