Mormon Heaven: Biblical?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has a very interesting concept of the afterlife.  One of the areas that many converts to the LDS Church are perhaps most interested in and love the most about their new religion is the concept of eternal families.  The LDS Church has special buildings throughout the world called “temples”.  In these temples, various ceremonies or “ordinances” are performed, both for the living and the dead.  One of these ceremonies is called a “sealing” ceremony.  In a sealing ceremony, the man and woman are married to each other not “till death do us part”, but for “time and all eternity”.  In this, the husband and wife, as well as their children, are sealed together to each other forever, and if they are faithful to the covenants they make in the temple, will exist as an eternal family unit.  If an entire family converts, they are all sealed together in the temple for time and eternity as well.

This sounds wonderful!  Generally we all love our families, and don’t want to think that death separates us.  Through sealing, we can be just like we are now, together as a family unit.  However, I do not see how this is different from the Catholic version of Heaven, where our loved ones will be with us as well, and we will not only be with our family, but will be part of the entire family of God in Heaven.  So, if we can be with our wives and husbands, sons and daughters, etc. for eternity, what is the difference with sealing then?

Latter-day Saints have a three tiered Heaven, called “Degrees of Glory”.  These three “levels” (as I call it) are the Celestial Kingdom (the highest), the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom.  The equivalent of Hell in the LDS Church is called “Outer Darkness”, where the “Sons of Perdition” go.  Latter-day Saints also believe in a concept called “exaltation”.  Exaltation is the highlest level within the Celestial Kingdom.  It essential means “godhood”.  To be exalted, one not only has to be baptized, confirmed, receive the priesthood (if male), etc., but they also have to receive their Endowment in the temple (the Endowment is a presentation of the Plan of Salvation, as well as where Mormons learn the signs and tokens necessary to go passed the angels, back to the Heavenly Father), and also be sealed, eternally married to their spouse.  If they are faithful to their covenants, they can become gods.  In Mormon theology, being exalted means that a husband and wife can become “Eternal Parents”, as the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are.  They will make spirit children, as the Father and Mother did before us.

So, there are three degrees of Heaven, Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial, and the Celestial Kingdom itself is divided into three levels, the highest of which is exaltation, or godhood.  But is this three tier Heaven Biblical?  Although Mormons also have “modern revelation” relating to it, they also cite a few verses from the Bible that they say supports their view.  Let’s look at some of them:

Many Mansions?

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism (EOM) lists John 14:2 as a reference to the many mansions in Heaven, thus alluding to the Degrees of Glory. But does this make sense in the Degrees of Glory theology? I don’t think so. Let’s look at it:
John 14:2 KJV
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Latter-day Saint apologists interpret these “mansions” as the three degrees of glory.  But is this correct?  Let’s look at the surrounding verses to see what they tell us about these “mansions”.

John 14:1-3 KJV
1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

So, yes, Catholics fully agree that there are many “mansions” (translated as “rooms” or “dwelling places” in other translations) in God’s house. But what about in the Telestial Kingdom? From the EOM article, we see that the Doctrine and Covenants says that, in reference to the Telestial Kingdom, “where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, world without end.” (D&C 76:112). Only those in the Terrestrial and Celestial Kingdoms have the presence of Christ, and only those in the Celestial Kingdom dwell in the presence of God and Christ forever.

But look at John 14:3! It tells us that Jesus will go to make a place for us, and that when He comes again, He will receive us unto Himself, so that where He is, we will be also. Clearly, this excludes the Telestial Kingdom, since “where God and Christ dwell, they cannot come”, but Jesus tells us in John 14:3 that He will take us to where He is. So, these “mansions” that are created are not separate from Jesus Christ, He will take us to where He is also. So if anything, the Telestial Kingdom is not one of the mansions being discussed here.  Therefore, John 14:2 cannot be referring to the LDS degrees of glory at all.

Celestial and Terrestrial Bodies?

Mormons also reference 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 as referring to the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms (the word “Telestial” is a Mormon word from modern day revelation), and that the difference between the 3 kingdoms is like the difference between the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Let’s look at 1 Cor 15:40-41:

1 Cor 15:40-41 KJV
40There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41There 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 yes, from these verses, it looks like they’re talking about the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms, and the differences in glory between the Kingdoms.

Now, let’s look at those verses in context to see what they’re talking about:

1 Cor 15:35-45 KJV
35But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41There 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.
42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

What is the passage talking about in context? The resurrection of the body, and how our bodies are different after the Resurrection. Some ask, how are the dead raised up, and what body do they come? The passage then goes on to explain the difference between the flesh of men, the flesh of beast, fish, and birds. There is a difference between celestial and terrestrial bodies. There is a difference in the glory of the sun, moon, and stars. Then we step into verse 42. Just like in those differences that were discussed prior to verse 42, there is a difference between our bodies now and our bodies in the resurrection. Our bodies are sown in dishonor, but they will be raised in glory. We have a natural body right now, and it will be raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there’s a spiritual body. 35-45 is an extended analogy. The difference between our resurrected and our current bodies is like the differences mentioned prior to verse 42. They are both bodies, but they are different. Similarly, all living things have flesh, but the flesh of man is different from that of beasts, fish, and birds. The Sun, Moon, and Stars are all astronomical “balls”, but they are different in how bright they are. Clearly, in context, verses 40-41 have nothing to do with levels of Heaven, but are part of an analogy on the difference between our current bodies and our resurrected ones.

So from analyzing the verses related to “mansions” and “celestial and terrestrial bodies”, we see that the Bible does not discuss three levels of Heaven at all.  Latter-day Saints thus rely entirely on modern day revelation for this doctrine.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism-Degrees of Glory

Encyclopedia of Mormonism-Eternal Lives, Eternal Increase

Encyclopedia of Mormonism-Exaltation

Encyclopedia of Mormonism-Godhood

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~ by onecatholic on September 19, 2009.

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