Q: “I’ve heard that there is more than one heaven. Can you explain those in greater detail?”
A: Mormons believe that there are three levels of Heaven. In order from the highest to lowest, the kingdoms are the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial.
The Bible also speaks of the three heavens:
“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” -1 Corinthians 15:41-42. The Apostle Paul spoke of being “caught up in the third heaven” in a vision. -2 Corinthians 12:2 The Prophet Joseph Smith also had a remarkable vision where he saw each heaven and the characteristics of its inhabitants (Doctrine and Covenants 76).
That being said, these three levels are all heaven. Even the lowest kingdom – the telestial, is still considered heaven. Let’s go into a bit more detail of the three levels of heaven.
The Celestial Kingdom: This is the highest degree of heaven. In the scriptures, it’s compared to the brightness and glory of the sun (1 Corinthians 15:40-41 and Doctrine and Covenants 76:70). Here, we live in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. We’re eventually able to become like them, and be able to live together forever with those of our family that qualify, and we’ll receive a fullness of joy. We are told that all those who have exercised faith in Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, received baptism and the Holy Ghost by those in proper authority, and continued in faithfulness in the gospel with attain celestial glory.
The Terrestrial Kingdom: This is the middle heaven. In the scriptures, it’s compared with the brightness and glory of the moon (1 Corinthians 15:40-41 and Doctrine and Covenants 76:97). We believe those who lived honorable lives on earth but who deliberately didn’t choose to accept or fully live the gospel of Jesus Christ will go to the terrestrial Kingdom (D&C 76:71-80).
The Telestial Kingdom: In the scriptures, this is likened to the glory of the stars (1 Corinthians 15:40-41 and Doctrine and Covenants 76:81). Those who never accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this life or in the spirit world (D&C 76:82, 101), and who don’t repent but continue in rebellion and major sin will receive the telestial kingdom, or the lowest kingdom of heaven. We believe that the people who go here will have to wait in the spirit world for a thousand years after the Second Coming of Christ before they’ll be resurrected and receive their telestial glory (Revelations 20;5, Doctrine and Covenants 76:106). This particular kingdom is for those who are not honorable people and who are the unrepentant “liars” and “adulterers” and “whoremongers” of the earth (D&C 76:103). These people will still suffer for their sins and pay the price for their rebelliousness to the laws of God, but the difference is what we believe their suffering will eventually come to an end and they will receive a kingdom of Glory.
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