On Progression Between Kingdoms
By Loyal to the Word

 

Introduction: The Issue and Its Importance

 

         All members of the Church are familiar with the three degrees of glory in the afterlife – the telestial, the terrestrial, and most lofty, the celestial kingdom. Persons who have not committed blasphemy against the Holy Ghost will be assigned to one of these three kingdoms according to their choices and conduct in life. Knowledge, perfection, and progression are pervasive themes in Mormon theology, particularly relating to the afterlife, and often the question is asked whether it is possible, in the eternities after the final judgment, to progress from a lower kingdom to a higher kingdom of glory.
         This question goes beyond mere curiosity. It is an important and fundamental question that affects everything from our most foundational understandings of the Gospel to our own personal behavior. This is a question of utmost importance to have settled in our minds, because depending on how we believe about it could determine in large part the way we choose to live our lives. This author is unequivocally, always and unchangingly AGAINST the notion of progression between kingdoms. Reasons for this position will be laid out in this article, and the issue of progression between kingdoms will be settled here once and for all with finality.

 

Teachings of the Brethren – Not Uniform

 

         Many will be curious to know what the prophets and apostles have said on the matter of progression between kingdoms. Unfortunately, there is not a uniform opinion on the matter. Although most Church leaders who have spoken on the matter have spoken against progression between kingdoms, this is not true in every case. In times past there have been a small handful of General Authorities that have entertained the possibility of progression between kingdoms. These days, however, considerably few members of the Church believe in this philosophy, perhaps because we have had many years to ponder over the subject and come to a realization of its associated problems, and also since the vast majority of the most recent General Authorities speaking on the subject have denounced it. And so for a member of the Church to express opinions of progression between kingdoms is quite abnormal. But it is true, unfortunately, that there have been statements made in the past by General Authorities entertaining the notion of progression between kingdoms. Of course, in the case in which there is such a diversity of opinions among Church leaders, the question cannot be settled on the authority of their opinions alone. But to see what the sentiments of those who have spoken on the issue are, Church leaders will be quoted below, grouped in categories according to opinion. There are three categories: “For Progression Between Kingdoms,” “Against Progression Between Kingdoms,” and “Ambiguous/Neutral.” Many who wish to believe in progression between kingdoms philosophy would underhandedly try to group many in the “Ambiguous/Neutral” category with those who are “For Progression Between Kingdoms.” But this cannot be done honestly, thus any quotations that were not strictly for one side or the other are grouped into that third “Ambiguous/Neutral” category. It should be noted that some have changed their view on this doctrine, for instance, James E. Talmage in the 1899 edition of his book, Articles of Faith, first wrote favorably of progression between kingdoms. Talmage later became an apostle in 1911, and sometime afterward, changed the wording in his book so as not to endorse that view. The reader will also notice that those who spoke in favor of progression between kingdoms did not (and could not) speak by the authority of the scriptures, but more as a matter of speculation, while those that denounced it used the scriptures as their basis. NOTE: No matter what their opinions on this or any other matter, Loyal to the Word always maintains the highest respect and admiration for General Authorities of the Church who have remained in good standing. This paper is in no way meant to be disrespectful of any General Authority, but it will hold nothing back against the false progression between kingdoms philosophy.

 

For Progression Between Kingdoms:

 

“None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods — all others would have to inherit another kingdom — they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process [progress?]”
(Brigham Young, in as recorded in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 5 Aug 1855)

 

“It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”
(James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 1899 edition, p. 420-421)

 

“I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can: and while, if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed to those eternities that are to come.”
(J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 23 April 1960, p. 3)

 

Against Progression Between Kingdoms:

 

“They [telestial inhabitants] never can come where God and Christ dwell, but will be servants in the dominions of the Saints, their former victims.”
(Parley P. Pratt, Key To the Science of Theology, p. 83 as quoted in Crowther, Life Everlasting, p. 318).

 

“But how about these terrestrials, can they come up into the celestial? No, their intelligence and knowledge have not prepared and adapted them to dwell with those who reign in celestial glory, consequently they can not even be angels in that glory. They have not obeyed the law that pertains to that glory, and hence they could not abide it.”
(Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 15:322 as quoted in Crowther, Life Everlasting, p. 321).

 

“Now I wish to answer one or two queries that undoubtedly have arisen in your minds, and in doing so I wish to read some more scripture. The question is often asked, ‘Is it possible for one who attains telestial glory in time in the eternal world to live so well that he may graduate from the telestial and pass into the terrestrial, and then after a season that he may progress from that and be ultimately worthy of the celestial glory?’ That is the query that has been asked. I have just read the answer, so far as the telestial group is concerned. ‘Where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.’ I take it upon the same basis, the same argument likewise applies to the terrestrial world. Those whose lives have entitled them to terrestrial glory can never gain celestial glory. One who gains possession of the lowest degree of the telestial glory may ultimately arise to the highest degree of that glory, but no provision has been made for promotion from one glory to another. Let us be reasonable about it.”
(Melvin J. Ballard, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, Bryant S. Hinckley, ed., p. 255)

 

“The question is frequently asked concerning three men placed in the three glories, can the one in the lower glory, by acceptable living in that glory, be transferred into the next glory, and the one in the middle glory move into the higher glory? If you will stop to think, you will see how utterly impossible that is.”
(John A. Widtsoe, quoted in Susan Easton Black et al., Doctrines for Exaltation: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 214)

 

“There are some people who have supposed that if we are quickened telestial bodies that eventually, throughout the ages of eternity, we will continue to progress until we will find our place in the celestial kingdom, but the scriptures and revelations of God have said that those who are quickened telestial bodies cannot come where God and Christ dwell, worlds without end.”
(George Albert Smith, The Teachings of George Albert Smith, p. 36. See also Oct. 1945 Conference Report)

 

“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.”
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 50. See also The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 243-244)

 

“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.”
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2: 31)

 

“There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were. This belief lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, ‘God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we did not gain the celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?’ It lets people live a life of sin here and now with the hope that they will be saved eventually. The true doctrine is that all men will be resurrected, but they will come forth in the resurrection with different kinds of bodies – some celestial, others terrestrial, others telestial, some with bodies incapable of standing any degree of glory. The body we receive in the resurrection determines the glory that we receive in the kingdoms that are prepared. Of those in the telestial world it is written, ‘And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end’ (D&C 76:112).”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “The Seven Deadly Heresies”, BYU Devotionals)

 

Ambiguous/Neutral:

 

“The answer to this question may not be absolutely clear in the revelation; but the general understanding, both from the revelation and from the interpretations that have heretofore been made thereof, is that once a person enters these glories there will be eternal progress in the line of each of these particular glories, but that the privilege of passing from one to the other (though this may be possible for especially gifted and faithful characters) is not provided for.”
(Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era, Vol. Xiv. November, 1910. No. 1)
 

“It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God's plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for; though as to possible progress from one kingdom to another the scriptures make no positive affirmation. Eternal advancement along different lines is conceivable. We may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God's living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”
(James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, current edition, p. 371, emphasis added)

 

“The question of advancement within the great divisions of glory celestial, terrestrial, and telestial; as also the question of advancement from one sphere of glory to another remains to be considered. In the revelation from which we have summarized what has been written here, in respect to the different degrees of glory, it is said that those of the terrestrial glory will be ministered unto by those of the celestial; and those of the telestial will be ministered unto by those of the terrestrial—that is, those of the higher glory minister to those of a lesser glory. I can conceive of no reason for all this administration of the higher to the lower, unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father's children along the lines of eternal progression. Whether or not in the great future, full of so many possibilities now hidden from us, they of the lesser glories after education and advancement within those spheres may at last emerge from them and make their way to the higher degrees of glory until at last they attain to the highest, is not revealed in the revelations of God, and any statement made on the subject must partake more or less of the nature of conjecture. But if it be granted that such a thing is possible, they who at the first entered into the celestial glory—having before them the privilege also of eternal progress—have been moving onward, so that the relative distance between them and those who have fought their way up from the lesser glories may be as great when the latter have come into the degrees of celestial glory in which the righteous at first stood, as it was at the commencement. Thus: Those whose faith and works are such only as to enable them to inherit a telestial glory, may arrive at last where those whose works in this life were such as to enable them to entrance into the celestial kingdom—they may arrive where these were, but never where they are.”
(B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 1: 391-392)

 

“The brethren direct me to say that the Church has never announced a definite doctrine upon this point. Some of the brethren have held the view that it was possible in the course of progression to advance from one glory to another, invoking the principle of eternal progression; others of the brethren have taken the opposite view. But as stated, the Church has never announced a definite doctrine on this point.”
(Secretary to the First Presidency in a 1952 letter; and again in 1965)

 

The Question Must Be Settled From the Scriptures

 

         Now we have seen a good sampling of what has been taught regarding the issue of progression between kingdoms. Since there is a differing of opinion among General Authorities (although most have been solidly against progression between kingdoms), we cannot rely on their opinions to settle the matter. In such a case as this, how do we know the truth? Where can we find the answer? We must look to the scriptures to find the answer. In the absence of explicit, authorized revelation, looking to the scriptures is the only way to come to a satisfactory conclusion of this issue.

 

The Scriptures Have the Answer

 

         In looking to the scriptures for the answer to the question of progression between kingdoms, we are going to the primary source of information about God’s kingdom. What could be more authoritative than appealing to the written words of the scriptures, which have been consciously given to us from the Lord as an “iron rod” which if we hold to, we will avoid deception (1 Ne. 11:25)? And the scriptures give us the answer so clearly that we can say unequivocally and finally that progression between kingdoms is false.
         It is well worth noting that advocates of progression between kingdoms rarely use the scriptures in their reasoning, and if they do, their use is narrow or limited. That is because the scriptures do not endorse their view in the slightest, but everywhere the scriptures indicate, and sometimes quite explicitly, that progression between kingdoms is not possible. Below we shall now consider the profound and compelling scriptural evidences that disqualify the notion of progression between kingdoms.

 

THE ANSWERS FROM THE SCRIPTURES

 

Probationary State

 

          There is no teaching about life that is so consistent in the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, the “most correct of any book” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194), than the fact that our lives are a probationary period. A probation is a trial period of testing. That is the very meaning of the word, and that is perhaps the most significant purpose to our lives here. True it is that we are also here to receive a body which will later be resurrected, and to gain experience, and to be sealed to an eternal companion, but the grand over-arching purpose to this life is for God to test our willingness to serve him – that is, we are on probation.
          There are many scriptural witnesses of this fact. Samplings from the scriptures will here be given and analyzed to illustrate that life is a probationary period with eternal consequences in which we prove ourselves to God:
 

                                                             “Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your
                                                             probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of
                                                             God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye 
                                                             must be cast off forever.”
                                                             (1 Ne. 10:21)

 

         The phrase, “cast off forever” is significant in this passage, because it disqualifies the opportunity of progression between kingdoms. How could they eventually progress to the celestial kingdom under such circumstances? They cannot. They are “cast off forever” because they “sought to do wickedly in the days of [their] probation.” This passage of scripture alone is sufficient to falsify progression between kingdoms philosophy.

 

                                                             “And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a
                                                             representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day
                                                             should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even
                                                             the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of
                                                             probation.”
                                                             (1 Ne. 15:32)

 

         This scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that our probation ends before we are judged. It says, “they must be judged of their works…which were done…in their days of probation.” Progression between kingdoms philosophy denies this scripture, because if true, after the judgment, we would still be in the days of our probation.

 

                                                             “And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according 
                                                             to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh;
                                                             wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time
                                                             was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord
                                                             God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment 
                                                             that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they
                                                             were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.”
                                                             (2 Ne. 2:21)

 

         The foregoing passage lays out very clearly that our mortal life is meant to be a “state of probation” in which we must “repent while in the flesh.” Repentance outside of the flesh, or after our mortal life, for those of us who heard the Gospel, will not be effective (D&C 76:74).

 

                                                             “But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the 
                                                             commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them,
                                                             and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!”
                                                             (2 Ne. 9:27)

 

         This passage is a solemn warning to those who, having the “law given,” that is, having had the Gospel taught to them, would “wasteth the days of his probation.” Interestingly, wasting the days of probation is exactly what progression between kingdoms ultimately leads to, as we shall see. If progression between kingdoms were really true, then even those who have been taught the teachings of the Church and are now living sinfully have almost nothing to fear as far as their future state is concerned - it will never be too late to progress and so there is no fear in wasting time now. Those who follow this course will reap disappointment, however, and not a free pass, “for awful is his state!” Of course, the reason such a state is so awful is because they are “cast off forever” (1 Ne. 10:21).

 

                                                             “I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them
                                                             from whence I came. I also have charity for the Gentiles. But
                                                             behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be 
                                                             reconciled unto Christ
, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk
                                                             in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path
                                                             until the end of the day of probation
.”
                                                             (2 Ne. 33:9, emphasis added)

 

         This is an interesting scripture, because Nephi frankly tells the reader of the Book of Mormon that he cannot hope for any person’s salvation “except they shall be reconciled unto Christ…and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.” In other words, if a person does not continue in that sanctifying path and they die, it is vain to hope that they will have salvation.


                                                              “And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death
                                                              which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal
                                                              death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which
                                                              he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state;
                                                              a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless
                                                              state
which has been spoken of by us, which is after the
                                                              resurrection of the dead
.”
                                                              (Alma 12:24, emphasis added)

 

         This famous scripture is a direct affront to progression between kingdoms philosophy. First, it reinforces that “this life” is a “probationary state.” Not the next life, but this life. Then it specifically designates this life as “a time to prepare for that endless state…which is after the resurrection of the dead.” Of course, if the idea of progression between kingdoms is true, even after the resurrection there is still time to prepare! And so there is nothing particularly meaningful about preparing now because we can always just do it later. What a contrary notion to the plain meaning of this scripture! This scripture is saying clearly that if we want to be prepared for the afterlife then we must do it during the “space granted unto man in which he might repent,” which is our mortal life (see also Alma 42:13).

 

                                                             “And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to
                                                             repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve
                                                             God….Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and 
                                                             devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for 
                                                             them to prepare; it became a preparatory state…. Therefore, 
                                                             according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought 
                                                             about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this
                                                             probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were
                                                             for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should
                                                             destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be
                                                             destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.”
                                                             (Alma 42:4, 10, 13)

 

         This scripture also reinforces that our mortal life is the “time granted unto man to repent” and that it is a “probationary time” in which we must “repent and serve God.” It is also designated as a “preparatory state” in which we prepare ourselves for the next world. It is only through repentance in this “preparatory state” that we can satisfy the conditions for mercy. More on this extremely important passage of scripture, Alma 42:13, will be dealt with under below under the heading, “Destroying God’s Justice.”

 

                                                             “Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all
                                                             uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but
                                                             ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation,
                                                             but that ye will serve the true and living God.”
                                                             (Morm. 9:28)

 

         Here we receive a solemn warning (again) to “Be wise in the days of your probation.” Why would this be such a reoccurring theme in the scriptures unless it was vitally important for our salvation to follow this advice? With progression between kingdoms, there is no worry about being “wise” during our probation, because there will be plenty of time later on after the final judgment to fix things. It goes without saying that a notion such as that is completely foreign to the tenor of not only this scriptural passage, but the entire scriptural canon.

 

                                                             “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he
                                                             said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there 
                                                             is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will
                                                             make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove
                                                             them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the 
                                                             Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their
                                                             first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first 
                                                             estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who
                                                             keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall
                                                             have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
                                                             (Abr. 3:24-26)

 

         The scripture above is another famous passage that emphasizes the eternal consequences of our conduct in our mortal life. Those who “keep not their first estate,” that is, those who rebelled in heaven are cast out eternally as sons of perdition (D&C 76:25-33). Those who “keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” What is very obviously implied in this passage is that those who do not keep their second estate by following the Gospel are excluded from having “glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” This scripture is important because it shows very clearly that the condition we will be in our future state is dependent on our conduct in a previous state. It is also important because it establishes the eternal consequences of our conduct in the second estate. Why else would Enos in the Book of Mormon find it most effective to motivate the stiffnecked Nephites by “reminding them of...the duration of eternity” in relation to “death...and the judgments and the power of God”? (Enos 1:23). The simple answer is because once our fate is decided in the final judgment, that fate is permanent. 

 

Probationary State and Salvation for the Dead in the Spirit World

 

         It should be noted that there are many who have lived and died without ever hearing the Gospel. For those who never heard the Gospel in mortality, their probation extends into the spirit world and ends before the final judgment. “Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth” (D&C 138:32). However, among this number of the dead, only those “who would have received it [i.e. the Gospel] with all their hearts” if they had “been permitted to tarry” on earth (D&C 137:7-8) will be heirs of the celestial kingdom. Those who would not have accepted it, or who actually heard the Gospel and refused it while living but afterwards accepted it in the spirit world, can go no higher than the terrestrial kingdom (D&C 76:74).

         This concept, that the probationary state for those who did not have knowledge of the Gospel extends into the spirit world is corroborated by President Brigham Young, who taught this very thing. He said:


                                                     “If we are faithful to our religion when we go into the spirit world, 

                                                     the fallen spirits – Lucifer and the third part of the heavenly hosts 

                                                     that came with him, and the spirits of wicked men who have dwelt upon 

                                                     this earth, the whole of them combined will have no influence over 

                                                     our spirits. Is not that an advantage? Yes. All the rest of the 

                                                     children of men are more or less subject to them, and they are subject 

                                                     to them as they were while here in the flesh.”

                                                     (Brigham Young as quoted in Daniel H. Ludlow, Latter-day Prophets Speak

                                                     p. 29. Emphasis added.).


         But then there are those who have heard the Gospel as the Zoramites had, as Alma said, “My brethren, I think that it is impossible that ye should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ, who is taught by us to be the Son of God; yea, I know that these things were taught unto you bountifully before your dissension from among us” (Alma 34:2). It was also said of the Zoramites that they “were dissenters from the Nephites: therefore they had had the word of God preached unto them” (Alma 31:8) and that they “have had so many witnesses” (Alma 34:33). For these types of people who have heard the Gospel in this life, their chance to accept it and live according to it is their mortal life. The scriptures say of the Zoramites, and such people as us who have heard the Gospel,

 

                                                             For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God;
                                                             yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their
                                                             labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many
                                                             witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate 
                                                             the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life,
                                                             which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not 
                                                             improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of
                                                             darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. 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.
                                                             (Alma 34:32-34)

 

         This discussion of life being a probationary time is very important to the issue of progression between kingdoms. The fact that life is a probation is in direct conflict with progression between kingdoms. If progression between kingdoms is true, then life really isn’t a probation at all, since the time to prove yourself worthy extends into the eternities, making the idea of an earthly probation completely meaningless! What is the point of considering mortal life/spirit world specifically as a probation if the probationary experience simply continues after these things? The scriptures are very clear that this is not the case, and that our probation is over at the end of our lives (or for those who never heard the Gospel, at their resurrection): “for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation” (1 Ne. 15:32).

 

The Logical and Inevitable Moral Result of the Doctrine

 

         What should be the most apparent and obvious inconsistency of progression between kingdoms is the very fact that it works against goodness. There are not many in the Church these days that would believe in progression between kingdoms, and that is because, if dwelt on long enough, a glaring problem emerges with it that absolutely cannot be explained.
         What is the logical conclusion of progression between kingdoms? Progression between kingdoms philosophy leads to the idea that what we do in this life doesn’t matter! If there will always be time in the eternities to repent and progress to the celestial kingdom, then what is our concern here and now? It disappears completely. Progression between kingdoms gives license to sin, and takes away almost completely a person’s incentive to repent.
         But a worldview such as this is not what the scriptures portray. The scriptures warn us with great fervor to not follow such a course. Alma taught, “And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 13:27). If progression between kingdoms is true, then the passage just cited is incredibly over-concerned, to the point of being comical. ‘Alma needs to relax before he gives himself an ulcer! We’ll all make it there eventually, after all,’ they would say.
         There is a simple way that we can tell that this doctrine of progression between kingdoms is false. Moroni gave us clear instruction to judge in matters such as this:


                                                             For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may
                                                             know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to 
                                                             judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade
                                                             to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ;
                                                             wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But
                                                             whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in
                                                             Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a
                                                             perfect knowledge it is of the devil
; for after this manner doth the
                                                             devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one
                                                             (Moroni 7:16-17, emphasis added)

 

         Progression between kingdoms utterly fails Moroni’s truth test, for it certainly does not “inviteth to do good,” but does exactly the opposite by enabling people to sin without any long-lasting consequence.
         It gets worse still. Progression between kingdoms so radically alters the Gospel that it turns the entire plan of salvation upside down, making it become something totally unrecognizable. If progression between kingdoms is true then it fundamentally changes everything that we have been taught since primary age! Is repentance important? Not if progression between kingdoms is true – it can wait. Do we have to put off the natural man and work works of righteousness in our lives? Not if progression between kingdoms is true – do what you feel like in your life because there will be time to correct things later. Nephi warned against this very kind of teaching when he said:

 

                                                             Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be 
                                                             merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us. And there 
                                                             shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry;
                                                             nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea,
                                                             lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for 
                                                             thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for 
                                                             tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us
                                                             with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of
                                                             God.
                                                             (2 Ne. 28:7-8)

 

         Progression between kingdoms, of course, teaches exactly what Nephi was warning against: the attitude of “if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” For those who believe in progression between kingdoms, if they live a sinful life, there will be a brief stop-over in hell, and some time spent in the telestial kingdom, until finally the person, after having entirely sown their wild oats on earth, progresses to the celestial kingdom and receives full salvation. There is no incentive for doing good and no real punishment or consequence for living sinfully. Everything that we are taught about keeping the commandments in order to receive salvation is not actually true, according to progression between kingdoms.
         And so we see that progression between kingdoms completely warps the Gospel into something totally unrecognizable. Everything that we have been taught as a basic verity, like the need for personal righteousness, etc., is totally undermined. In reality, progression between kingdoms is a doctrine of devils because it leads men to do all manner of wickedness without significant repercussion. Regarding those who have been deceived by Satan, the scriptures warn, “others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion…and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Ne. 28:21). The prospect of progression between kingdoms of course quite naturally lulls a person into such a state of carnal security. A philosophy like progression between kingdoms is exactly what Satan wants us to believe. Consider the following logical statements in turn:

1) What we believe determines what we do,
2) Progression between kingdoms philosophy allows us to relax our personal standards because what we do in our lives won’t really matter,
3) If we believe in progression between kingdoms, we are much more likely to feel license to relax our personal standards and indulge in sin,
4) This is exactly what Satan desires.

 

The Doctrine of Nehor

 

         In the Book of Mormon there is an antichrist that taught a false doctrine that is very relevant to our discussion about progression between kingdoms. Nehor, the false teacher, taught that “all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble” since “in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4). This false teaching is almost identical to progression between kingdoms philosophy! The basic idea is almost exactly the same (i.e. “all men should have eternal life”), and, no big surprise, the conclusion of this teaching is exactly the same (i.e. “they need not fear nor tremble”). This author cannot think of any idea or teaching that compares better to this false doctrine of Nehor than progression between kingdoms. And yet, this is one of the circumstances in which the Book of Mormon is exposing false doctrine for us.  Those who preach progression between kingdoms are unwittingly teaching the doctrine of Nehor, a teaching which the Book of Mormon condemns and warns us against.

 

A Parallel to Satan’s Plan


 

         The false idea of progression between kingdoms has a strong parallel to Satan’s fallacious scheme in the Grand Council before the world was. Satan claimed, “I will be [God’s] son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). In other words, Satan promised a scheme that would save all people without their actually deserving it. But this erroneous plan displeased God, for God knew that the true formula for salvation would require that those who were wicked and unrepentant would necessarily be lost. It involved a risk, but in doing this, those who proved themselves true and faithful would thereby be glorified (Abr. 3:26-28). There is no glory or honor in granting salvation to one who did not abide its conditions, and it is inequitable to demand that those who wasted their time in rebellion would receive the same reward as those who chose to endure in righteousness. As the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The contention in heaven was – Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 357, emphasis added). Lucifer’s scheme to affect salvation for those who did not merit it was denounced. And yet, there are those who would approve of Satan’s plans to save virtually every person, whether they had proved themselves worthy during their trial period or not – those are the misguided who believe in the falsehood of progression between kingdoms.

 

They Cannot Come, Worlds Without End

 

         One of the most important and definitive scriptures that refutes progression between kingdoms is found in the Doctrine & Covenants. In Section 76, in which Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded their grand vision of the degrees of glory in heaven, it specifically and explicitly mentions, in regards to telestial kingdom inhabitants, “And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112). Really, it seems that no other scripture is really necessary to prove the point that progression between kingdoms is false. It is falsified by this one significant passage. “Where God and Christ dwell [i.e. the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms, respectively] they cannot come.” (see also D&C 76:92, 77).
         What of the “worlds without end” portion of the verse? What does that phrase mean? “Worlds without end” means simply, “forever and ever.” This is evident in the way that the Prophet Joseph Smith used the phrase. He said,

 

                                                             There have been remarks made concerning all men being
                                                             redeemed from hell; but I say that those who sin against the Holy
                                                             Ghost cannot be forgiven in this world or in the world to come;
                                                             they shall die the second death. Those who commit the
                                                             unpardonable sin are doomed to Gnolom—to dwell in hell, worlds
                                                             without end
.
                                                             (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 361, 
                                                             emphasis added).

 

         Here we have the Prophet certifying that sons of perdition will endure the torments of hell permenantly, and he used the phrase “worlds without end” to describe the unending duration of their condition. The Prophet also used the phrase “Gnolom” to describe the duration of “worlds without end,” and Abraham records that spirits “shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal” (Abr. 3:18, emphasis added). This gives us a key to correctly interpreting the phrase “worlds without end,” which means an eternal duration that is literally without end. And so we could be perfectly justified in rendering D&C 76:112 as: “And they [telestial inhabitants] shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, forever and ever.”

 

Without Exaltation…To All Eternity…Forever and Ever

 

         We have just demonstrated from the scriptures that telestial inhabitants can never progress to the terrestrial or celestial kingdom. What of those in the terrestrial kingdom? Is there further evidence in the Doctrine & Covenants that precludes the possibility of progression between kingdoms? There certainly is. Respecting those who did not keep the law of God, the scriptures say:

 

                                                             Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor 
                                                             are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which
                                                             angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are 
                                                             worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of 
                                                             glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they 
                                                             cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without 
                                                             exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity
; and from
                                                             henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
                                                             (D&C 132:16-17, emphasis added)

 

         This scriptural passage is remarkable. In regards to solving this issue, the scriptures seemingly cannot get more explicit than this. This one scripture alone is sufficient to falsify progression between kingdoms completely. It states clearly, unmistakably and unequivocally that those who do not keep the law of God “remain separately and singly, without exaltation…to all eternity…forever and ever.” When used in conjunction with D&C 76:112 above, the message is unmistakable: no progression between kingdoms. It is amazing that even with the existence of this passage of scripture there are still some who kick against the pricks on the issue of progression between kingdoms. What this circumstance shows is that those who believe in progression between kingdoms are not using the scriptures as their guide in the matter, as they must blatantly ignore or attempt to radically reinterpret passages such as this. But there is no hiding, no climbing over, or skirting around this profound and important scripture. We see by this scripture that those who do not keep the law of God can never be exalted, “but are angels of God forever and ever.” They also “remain separately and singly” for eternity, which is another barrier to exaltation, since it requires the covenant of marriage (D&C 131:1-4).

 

The Problem of Marriage

 

         As we just lightly touched on, another problem with the idea of progression between kingdoms is the fact that inheritance in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, where people are exalted, requires that the person be married. The scriptures say:

 

                                                             In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in
                                                             order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the
                                                             priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of
                                                             marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter
                                                             into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an 
                                                             increase.
                                                             (D&C 131:1-4)

 

         If those who believe in progression between kingdoms expect that exaltation can be reached by such a course, then they have a serious problem with this concept of marriage. For those who are not worthy of the celestial kingdom “when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven” (D&C 132:16). Eternal marriage covenants cannot be made after the resurrection. Without having been sealed in marriage while they were “in the world” (D&C 132:15), there is no eternal marriage “when they are out of the world” (D&C 132:19). Therefore, all marriage sealings must be finalized prior to the resurrection, at least. This utterly prevents those from lower kingdoms from ever becoming exalted.

 

Never…Have I Declared…That They Should Return

 

         There is another significant scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants that highlights an insuperable scriptural restriction which negates the fundamental idea of progression between kingdoms. In Section 29 of the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord discusses the Resurrections of the Just and the Unjust, and the eternal consequences of coming forth in either respective Resurrection, and indicates that the wicked are eternally shut out of his presence. Very much like D&C 76:112, this scripture says of the wicked, “where I [Jesus] am they cannot come” (D&C 29:29). In addition to this, the Lord explicitly says that, “never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they [the wicked] should return” to his presence (D&C 29:29). The entire scriptural passage reads:

 

                                                             “But, behold, verily I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away,
                                                             Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the
                                                             dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth—
                                                             yea, even all. And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto
                                                             eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own
                                                             before the Father; Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye 
                                                             cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And
                                                             now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine
                                                             own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for
                                                             they have no power
.”
                                                             (Doctrine & Covenants 29:26-29, emphasis added).

 

The Permanent Resurrection

 

         There is another indisputable fact of the scriptures that destroys the possibility of progression between kingdoms, and that is the doctrine of the resurrection. Not every person will be resurrected with the same kind of body; some will rise with bodies which are fit for one degree of glory, and others of another. The scriptures declare this truth in this way:

 

                                                             That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever 
                                                             and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this
                                                             intent are they sanctified. And they who are not sanctified through
                                                             the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must
                                                             inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of
                                                             a telestial kingdom. For he who is not able to abide the law of a
                                                             celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot
                                                             abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
                                                             And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide
                                                             a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory.
                                                             Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.
                                                             (D&C 88:20-24)

                                                             For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual
                                                             body. They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body
                                                             which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and
                                                             your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened. 
                                                             Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then
                                                             receive of the same, even a fulness. And they who are quickened by
                                                             a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even
                                                             a fulness. And also they who are quickened by a portion of the 
                                                             telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. And 
                                                             they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall
                                                             return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing
                                                             to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they
                                                             might have received.
                                                             (D&C 88:27-32)

 

         According to these passages of scripture, a person is resurrected with a body of glory proportionate to their conduct in life. Furthermore, a person who is resurrected with a body fit for a lower kingdom cannot abide the presence of a higher kingdom! Therefore there is no conceivable way that a person with a telestial or a terrestrial body can ever enter into the celestial kingdom. The bodies that we are resurrected with, whether telestial, terrestrial, or celestial, are permanent. This is made clear from the scriptures:

 

                                                             Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the 
                                                             mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal
                                                             body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal
                                                             body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they
                                                             can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be 
                                                             divided
; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they
                                                             can no more see corruption.
                                                             (Alma 11:45, emphasis added)

 

         Since when a person is resurrected with their body, “never to be divided,” and it has risen fit for a particular glory, there is no way that this condition can ever be changed. The resurrection is absolutely permanent.

 

Destroying God’s Justice

 

         Those who believe in progression between kingdoms are actually confused about the nature of God as well as His justice and mercy. If the scriptures are accurate, and they no doubt are, then progression between kingdoms would actually destroy God’s justice. How is this so? First, it should be recognized that God is completely perfect in each of his characteristics and attributes (see Lectures On Faith), were it not so, “God would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13,22,25). That is, if he were lacking perfection in any area, he would not be a God, since the very definition of a God is a perfect Being. The obvious corollary of this is that God is perfect both in his divine sense of mercy and justice. But how are these two things, mercy and justice, balanced without over-riding the other? The Book of Mormon explains that the Atonement allows for mercy to be dispensed to those who merit mercy, and that the others will receive the heavy hand of justice: “the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15). The question is, how can one receive mercy? Will it always be available, or is there naturally a time constraint on the gift of mercy in order to avoid infringing on God’s divine sense of justice? The scriptures answer these important questions relating to repentance and God’s justice:


                                                             Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be 
                                                             brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this
                                                             probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for 
                                                             these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy
                                                             the work of justice
. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; 
                                                             if so, God would cease to be God.
                                                             (Alma 42:13)

 

         What this important scripture is saying is that if God offers repentance or resolution for our misdeeds beyond the time of our probationary state, then his justice would be destroyed. Yet progression between kingdoms requires this very thing. Based on this scripture alone, progression between kingdoms cannot be true. Those who believe in progression between kingdoms are really arguing for a God that is loaded with mercy, but as has been established, is deficient in justice, making him less than perfect. The Book of Mormon is clear that this is not God (Alma 42:13-15,22). Progression between kingdoms proponents would seek to do the impossible - squelch the justice of God. But this cannot be done. Those who believe that they can disregard the Gospel and live sinfully and then eventually receive celestial glory are sorely mistaken, and will reap only disappointment and suffering. This is the solemn witness of the scriptures, that we cannot thereby circumvent God’s justice: 

 

                                                              But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to
                                                              tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and
                                                              die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins
                                                              ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God,
                                                              that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep
                                                              them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection.
                                                              Therefore ought ye not to tremble? For salvation cometh to none 
                                                              such
; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the
                                                              Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny 
                                                              justice when it has its claim
.
                                                              (Mosiah 15:26-27, emphasis added)

 

Dying In Your Sins

 

         The Scriptures often speak of the awful consequences of dying in our sins. It is clear from several passages that the result of dying without repenting, unless circumstances permit further probationary time in the spirit world, means banishment from the kingdom of God. The Lord tells us in the scriptures, “hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved” (D&C 45:2, emphasis added). Likewise, Jesus told the Pharisees, “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21, emphasis). This passage, of course, is very reminiscent of the Doctrine & Covenants: “...where God and Christ dwell they [telestial inhabitants] cannot come” (D&C 76:112).

         A passage found in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon warns of this circumstance of dying in our sins, and tells us that the consequence is to eliminate the possibility of salvation:

 

                                                            And wo unto them who shall do these things away [i.e. faith and
                                                            spiritual gifts] and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot
                                                            be saved
in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words
                                                            of Christ; and I lie not.
                                                            (Moroni 10:26).

 

         The Book of Mormon also warns us that those who die in their sins (and are not eligible to receive the Gospel in the spirit world), cannot be exonerated from their condition. Jacob taught:

                                                             And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall
                                                             return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.
                                                             (2 Nephi 9:38).

 

         This is further confirmed in the Book of Mormon, where King Benjamin both defined what it means to die in our sins and taught us the lasting consequences of dying in our sins:

 

                                                             And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and
                                                             have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go
                                                             contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves
                                                             from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide
                                                             you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—
                                                             I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in 
                                                             open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil
                                                             spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord
                                                             has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. Therefore
                                                             if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the
                                                             demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense
                                                             of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of
                                                             the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, 
                                                             which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and
                                                             ever. And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man;
                                                             therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.
                                                             (Mosiah 2:36-39).

 

Mercy Could Have Claim Upon Them No More Forever

 

         As if the scriptures above did not prove the point for us, there is another significant passage in the Book of Mormon that tells us unequivocally that according to the law of justice, mercy cannot still be available for purposes of repentance after the judgment, as progression between kingdoms requires. King Benjamin taught:

 

                                                             And thus saith the Lord: They [i.e. King Benjamin’s words] shall
                                                             stand as a bright testimony against this people, at the judgment day;
                                                             whereof they shall be judged, every man according to his works,
                                                             whether they be good, or whether they be evil. And if they be evil
                                                             they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and
                                                             abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of
                                                             the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence 
                                                             they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to 
                                                             their own souls. Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the
                                                             wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it
                                                             could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the
                                                             forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more
                                                             forever.

                                                             (Mosiah 3:24-26)

 

         It should be noted that the phrase “a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return” in verse 25 means that the person should “no more return” to the presence of God, and thus they must remain in the telestial kingdom, and not that the conditions of hell will remain for eternity.
         But the important thing to note about this scriptural passage is that “at the judgment day,” if it is determined that “they be evil” then “they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt” and “mercy could have claim on them no more forever.” Yet, progression between kingdoms absolutely hinges on the hope that mercy and repentance will still be available after the judgment. But this is the very thing that this passage of scripture says will be denied.

 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

 

         The famous parable in the New Testament describes very well the situation that many of progression between kingdom’s adherents will find themselves in if they deliberately fail to live the Gospel law, thinking that there will be chances to reconcile later. Jesus told of the awful fate of such foolish people when he said,

 

                                                             Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which
                                                             took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of
                                                             them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took
                                                             their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their 
                                                             vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all
                                                             slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold,
                                                             the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those
                                                             virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the
                                                             wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise 
                                                             answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: 
                                                             but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while
                                                             they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready 
                                                             went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward 
                                                             came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he
                                                             answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
                                                             (Matt. 25:1-12, emphasis added)

 

         How painful of an experience it would be for a person to meet Jesus Christ at the end of their life and try to explain, ‘Oh, but I was pretty sure there was going to be progression between kingdoms.’ At this point, the scriptures’ haunting imagery will take on awful, real meaning: “and the door [to the kingdom] was shut” (Matt. 25:10).

 

ANSWERING OBJECTIONS

 

          There are some common objections to the truth as it has been presented in this article, which proponents of progression between kingdoms philosophy try to use as their reasoning. These will be dealt with in turn below.

 

Eternal Progression

 

         Much of the confusion that exists, and much of the belief in progression between kingdoms, stems from a false understanding of what “eternal progression” entails. Firstly, nowhere in the scriptures is the phrase, “eternal progression” found. However, the phrase, “eternal progression” has nevertheless come to be a frequently used and appropriate term for the process of reaching exaltatation. But only those who live the celestial law in the days of their probation are eligible for the full heights of eternal progression. “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22). If there is any progression in lower kingdoms, it is limited. Only those who lived lives fit for the celestial kingdom can receive its blessings, “For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:17).
         Let’s not forget that it is only those who keep their second estate (probationary state) who will have “glory added upon their heads forever and ever” (Abr. 3:26).

 

God is Merciful

 

         Those who believe the false doctrine of progression between kingdoms base it on a mistaken idea of God’s mercy. Their reasoning is: ‘Since God is merciful he wouldn’t cause any of his children to be relegated to a lower kingdom forever.’ Or, ‘Since God is loving and merciful, he would never permanently keep his children from him.’ In reality, however, mercy and repentance are only offered to mankind while they are yet in a preparatory state. This is clear from the scriptures and has been discussed above (see the heading, “Destroying God’s Justice”).  The scriptures inform us that “the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state” (Alma 42:13, emphasis added) and that after the judgment, “mercy could have claim on them no more forever” (Mosiah 3:24-26). That means that God offers mercy, but he can only do it within the confines of justice, while we are still in our probationary state. Does this make God mean? No, it makes him perfect. Everyone will have their chance to receive the Gospel, whether here or in the spirit world, and so God is merciful to all those who thereby accept the Atonement. But in order for him to also be perfectly just, he is not overly merciful (and therefore unjust), offering redemption beyond the reasonable timeframe. The scriptures go on, “for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice” (Alma 42:13, emphasis added). If God allowed his mercy to overtake his divine sense of justice, he would no longer be perfectly just, and therefore would no longer be perfect at all, or as the scriptures say, “Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13). Therefore, in order for God to remain perfectly merciful and perfectly just, repentance and mercy is offered only in the probationary state. These are the conditions that “appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).
         It follows very simply from this discussion, not only that progression between kingdoms cannot be true, but that in order to believe in it a person must conjure up a false idea about the character of God that is not in accordance with the scriptures. It is a skewed view of God, a God loaded with mercy but desperately lacking in divine justice. Of course God creates a permanent separation between himself and those who disobey his laws! He did this for the sons of perdition (D&C 76:25-33), did he love those spirits any less than us? This eternally permanent separation from God is done in accordance with his divine justice, which he cannot deny without falling from perfection (Alma 42:13).

 

Ministering

 

         There are those that take license from the passages in the Doctrine & Covenants that talk of ministering angels visiting lower kingdoms, supposing that that means that those in the lower kingdoms must be receiving instruction in order to progress. They then conclude that this indicates that progression between kingdoms is possible. This is a very weak connection, but adherents of progression between kingdoms philosophy must latch onto whatever meager evidence from scriptures they can find in order to make the appearance that their view can be vindicated. Regarding the ministering between kingdoms here referred to, the scriptures say:

 

                                                              These [the telestial inhabitants] are they who receive not of his 
                                                              fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the 
                                                              ministration of the terrestrial; And the terrestrial through the
                                                              ministration of the celestial. And also the telestial receive it of the 
                                                              administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or
                                                              who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall
                                                              be heirs of salvation.
                                                              (D&C 76:86-88)

 

         Of course ministering probably implies teaching or instructing of some nature. But this definitely does not justify us in concluding that people can progress between kingdoms as a result of it. Consider the ministering done by angels as referred to in D&C 132:16-17: “when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.” This ministering implies service, and is definitely not done for the purpose of exalting those who are ministered to (since in this context, they are already exalted).  Also, in that circumstance, we are explicitly told that the angels themselves who are doing the ministering cannot ever be exalted. Therefore, there is no evidence whatsoever that ministering has anything to do with exalting, and there is of course strong evidence to the contrary.

 

Hell is Temporary

 

         Another sought-for justification by progression between kingdoms adherents is the fact that we know through revelation that the sufferings of hell are temporary in nature for the vast majority of hell’s occupants (excluding the sons of perdition). Since hell is temporary, they reason, so also is probably residence in a lower kingdom of glory. This is a very tenuous conclusion, however. First of all, we are explicitly told in the revelations that hell is temporary. There is no guessing or speculation involved:

 

                                                             Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this 
                                                             torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal
                                                             damnation
; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it
                                                             might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my 
                                                             name's glory. Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it
                                                             is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you
                                                             that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my
                                                             rest. For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For,
                                                             behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my
                                                             hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—
                                                             Eternal punishment is God's punishment. Endless punishment is
                                                             God's punishment.
                                                             (D&C 19:6-12)

 

         The scriptures explicitly tell us elsewhere that telestial inhabitants, who suffer the torments of hell when they die, are “redeemed from the devil” at the last resurrection (D&C 76:84-85). And so the revelations clearly tell us that hell is temporary (for all but the sons of perdition). An understanding of this is essential to the plan of salvation. There is no scriptural ambiguity on the matter.
         Secondly, we are explicitly told in the revelations that we cannot progress from one degree of glory to another (D&C 76:112; 132:16-17). And so the revelations clearly tell us that there is no progression between kingdoms. An understanding of this is essential to the plan of salvation. There is no scriptural ambiguity on the matter.
         To make the conclusion, in the absence of any scriptural witness, and indeed flying in the face of many scriptures, that kingdoms of glory follow the pattern of suffering in hell, is a completely reckless, irresponsible, and unwarranted conclusion. Our best course of action is follow what the scriptures have explicitly told us, rather than make hypothetical conclusions and strained comparisons, all unsupported by scripture.
         Thirdly, hell may be temporary, but the third estate is not. The Book of Abraham explains clearly that those who keep their second estate (probationary state) will have “glory added upon their heads forever and ever” (Abr. 3:26, emphasis added). The phrases “forever and ever” and “to all eternity” are clearly used in the scriptures in the literal sense, unlike the phrases having to do with hell such as, “eternal damnation,” etc. What is done in the second estate affects the status of the third estate “forever and ever.” Those who did not keep their first estate (the devil and his angels) likewise have an eternal consequence associated with their fate as well, “forever and ever.”

 

The Temple and Jacob’s Ladder

 

         There are some who have not understood the instruction in the temple and have assumed, that since the initiates move from a telestial state, to a terrestrial state, and eventually into celestial glory after an interrogation, that this bespeaks of progression between kingdoms. At first glance this may seem so, but when one considers the temple in its proper context the confusion on this matter dissipates. The instructive ritual and covenants of the temple illustrates moving from a fallen state to a sanctified state by increments in this life. It is a process of incrementally accepting sanctifying laws and covenants in this mortal sphere until the initiate is sufficiently prepared to meet the Lord in the next life. After all, it is only after having been true and faithful that we may approach the Lord and enter the celestial kingdom. As the scriptures say, “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22). And so we covenant in the temple to obey laws applicable to each kingdom of glory until we are thoroughly prepared, so that we may step forward to receive celestial glory after we die. The Prophet Joseph Smith described this process as it occurs within our lifetime, which prepares us for exaltation in the hereafter:

 

                                                             The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the 
                                                             greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and
                                                             lost every desire for sin…. But we consider that this is a station to
                                                             which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in
                                                             the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his 
                                                             mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice,
                                                             equality, and consistency of the same.
                                                             (Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, Dahl & Cannon,
                                                             ed., p. 175-176).


         It should be reinforced here that temple work will not save those who would not have accepted the Gospel if they were given the chance while living. As the scriptures say, only those “who would have received it [i.e. the Gospel] with all their hearts” if they had “been permitted to tarry” on earth (D&C 137:7-8) will be heirs of the celestial kingdom. Temple work for the dead is specifically for those who did not hear the Gospel, not those who rejected it. Those who reject the Gospel and later accept it in the spirit world can only receive the terrestrial kingdom (D&C 76:74).
         In connection with this is the Jacob’s ladder vision in the Old Testament. Some would unjustly undertake to interpret this vision as a progression between kingdoms. The vision is related in this way: “And he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it” (Gen. 28:12-13). The Prophet Joseph Smith gave an interpretation of the dream, saying: “Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob's ladder—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 304-305). Of course, it was ministering angels who were ascending and descending between the kingdoms of glory with their work to perform (Gen. 28:12), and not any sort of progression of inhabitants of lower kingdoms to higher. This ministration is explained clearly in the Doctrine & Covenants, both angels ministering from heaven to earth (D&C 13; 84:88) and ministering from one kingdom of glory to another (D&C 76:86-88; 132:16-17).

 

Fixed Degrees of Glory – A Protestant-Like View?

 

         Opponents of the truth often try to compare the reasonable view of the Gospel as it is presented in the scriptures as though it is an imitation of Protestant beliefs. Since a person interprets the scriptures to mean that progression between kingdoms is not possible, they are said by opponents to be taking a view that is much like that of a Protestant religion – limiting and not inclusive enough. Those who reject progression between kingdoms, they charge, are out of harmony with the progressive spirit of the Mormon religion.
         In response to this silly charge, this author reminds such people that he didn’t write the scriptures, he only points out what they say – and they say very clearly that progression between kingdoms is false. If that is what Mormon scriptures say then that is the message of Mormonism, and anything contrary is not in harmony with the real spirit of this religion.
         It’s interesting to note that as far as seeming like Protestant views is concerned, the critics have it backwards. In the end, it is the progression between kingdoms idea that results in a one-dimensional heaven and hell, with people either cast out with Satan or dwelling with God in full glory and nothing in-between. That seems much more like the Protestant expectation of the afterlife than the idea of fixed degrees of glory. In the end, progression between kingdoms is far more similar to the Protestant views so disliked by adherents to progression between kingdoms philosophy. Is the idea of a just God who rewards people according to their works a Protestant notion? Of course not, it is a scriptural notion. What the scriptures of Mormonism teach has been clearly presented in this article, and those who disagree are the ones who are not in harmony with the spirit of this religion.

 

Too Much Pressure and Responsibility

 

          What is perhaps the weakest but also one of the most often-raised objections to the truth with regard to the progression between kingdoms issue revolves around what is at stake in this life. Adherents to progression between kingdoms philosophy are uncomfortable with eternity being determined on the merit of a brief mortal life on earth. They figure that this life is too short for their liking to determine the rest of eternity. While it is too bad that some feel that way, their own misgivings and wishes are not a sound argument, let alone a scriptural one. The truth of the matter, as found in the scriptures, has already been discussed very thoroughly: we must keep our second estate (i.e. endure to the end in our probationary state) in order to receive reward in the endless third estate (Abr. 3:24-26).
         We do not make the rules - God did, and we can only read about them. If we do not like what they say, that is too bad, but it has no bearing on the reality of the situation. It has been established that this life is a probationary state. That is the major reason for life here on earth! What we do here on earth has eternal consequences, whether we like that fact or not is entirely irrelevant.
         In our search for truth, we should not consider what we would like to hear, but what the scriptures say. The truth is the only thing that matters, not what we think ought to be. And the truth of the matter, according to the scriptures, is that what we do in this life determines where we will be eternally in the next life. Yes, there is a lot at stake. Yes, it is important to be good and serve God. This is what the scriptures have been trying to tell us all along. When will we start to listen?

CONCLUSION

 

         Progression between kingdoms is false doctrine. It has been falsified in this article repeatedly on several points and by approaching the subject from multiple angles. Virtually any of the arguments used in this article, standing alone, would be sufficient to falsify progression between kingdoms, but taken together, the evidence is absolutely overwhelming. In order for progression between kingdoms to be true, its adherents paint God into some being that is completely alien to the One we are introduced to in the scriptures. It has been established by scripture that the God of progression between kingdoms is abounding in mercy but lacking in justice, and this is not God at all. Arguments in favor of progression between kingdoms are almost never scriptural, or if they are based on scripture, it is done by a very flimsy, narrow, and limited use of them. In contrast, everywhere the scriptures indicate, and sometimes very explicitly, that progression between kingdoms is not available. Not only that, but it cannot be denied that progression between kingdoms leads its adherents into a “carnal security” (2 Ne. 28:21) and gives them license to waste their mortal probation in sin. This is obviously a teaching of the devil and totally against the message of the scriptures. Therefore, there is no good argument for progression between kingdoms. Latter-day Saints should shun this foolish and destructive teaching.

 

 

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