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Doctrine and Covenants 76
by Donald Q. Cannon
Section 76 presents a vision about the Plan of Salvation, particularly the nature of the three kingdoms or heavens of glory that mankind may inherit following the resurrection, depending on their personal faithfulness (see Degrees of Glory).
As Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) on February 16, 1832, they came to John 5:29, concerning the resurrection of the just and the unjust. Of that experience, Joseph explained, "It appeared self-evident that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term "Heaven,' as intended for the Saints' eternal home must include more kingdoms than one . While translating St. John's Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision" (HC 1:245). At least ten people were in the room when this revelation was received. One of them, Philo Dibble, sixty years later recalled how Joseph and Sidney, almost motionless for about one hour, would alternately relate and confirm to each other what they were concurrently seeing in the vision (Cannon, pp. 303-304).
The revelation contains a series of six visions: They see the Son of God on the right hand of God (verses 1-24); they see how the devil and his followers rebelled and were cast down (25-49); they see the Celestial Kingdom (50-70), Terrestrial Kingdom (71-80), and Telestial Kingdom (81-90), and those who will inherit each of these degrees of glory; and they see the three kingdoms of glory compared (91-119). The text was first published in the The Evening and the Morning Star in July 1832 and was included as section 91 in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Because this section, called "The Vision," departed significantly from the mainstream Christian view of one heaven and one hell, it was not easily received by some at first. Brigham Young said, "My traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it" (Deseret News, Extra, September 14, 1852, p. 24). Entire branches of the Church had the same problem. John Murdock and Orson Pratt, serving missions in Ohio at the time, struggled to help Church members there accept these new outlooks on eternity. Soon, however, most members believed and understood the concepts, and came to revere this vision as one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring ever given.
Joseph Smith himself rejoiced in "the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision" (PJS 1:372), which he said was "a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins; are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every man is constrained to exclaim: "It came from God"' (TPJS, p. 11).
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page; Scriptual Writings home page; Doctrine and Covenants home page; Overview of the Doctrine and Covenents home page)
Cannon, George Q., ed. "Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith." Juvenile Instructor, 27 (May 15, 1892):302-304.
Cook, Lyndon W. The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 157-66, 311-12. Provo, Utah, 1981.
Dahl, Larry E. "The Vision of the Glories." In Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1, pp. 279-308. Sandy, Utah, 1984.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Doctrine and Covenants 76
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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