Sunday, May 27, 2012

On the Nature of the Kingdoms

    To truly know Him and have faith in Him, we need to have a correct understanding of His plan for us. If we are misled or have an incomplete understanding our faith will remain incomplete and weak. Thus it is that we need correct doctrine to open our eyes to the gloriousness of His plan.

    Now, I have discussed in depth the laws of each of the kingdoms (here, here and here), and so the next step is to delve further and begin to gain an understanding of the nature of each kingdom. Knowing this will give us confidence in His plan and will allow us to trust in His judgments, that they are just and true, and leads to a deeper appreciation of all that He has done for us.

    Let us first recap what we have learned about the laws of the kingdoms. In Moses 6 we read  “... ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

    For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.

    This short passage passage contains the Eternities. His plan is expressed in such a simple and yet profound manner that it just leaves one awestruck. His ways are all one. There is a pattern and an order, the first and the last, the greatest and the least, all mirroring each other, forming one great whole.

    By the rebirth of water we first sacrifice our life and are reborn anew. This “life” that we sacrifice is our superficial agency which makes us who we are. By sacrificing our corrupt agency, we gain a true perfect agency from Him, and by so doing are able to keep the commandment. This is the first gate we must all pass on the way to Him, which allows entry into the Telestial kingdom.

    By the rebirth of fire or the spirit we yet again sacrifice our life and are reborn to an even  higher state. Again this “life” that we sacrifice is yet another part of our self, which is our independence and individuality. By relying upon Him and throwing away our pride, we are able to finally become innocent and pure before Him, and by so doing we are able to be justified. Again this is another gate we must all pass to return to Him, which allows entry into the Terrestrial kingdom.

    Finally our being cleansed in His blood is the means whereby we are re-inherited as His children, wherein we do as He did. And what did He do? He sacrificed his life and will to the Father, which is what we must do to return to Him, and only then can we become holy like He is.

    Again in Revelations 22 when Christ speaks to John of the Final Judgment He divides those that are judged into four camps saying: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

    Clearly we can see that these four groups are the perditious i.e. the filthy, the Telestial i.e. the unjust, the Terrestrial i.e. the righteous, and the Celestial i.e. the holy.

    Now by looking at these differences in the nature of those that enter each kingdom we can see that the Kingdoms are not mere different editions of the same thing. Just as there are fundamental differences in the nature of those that inhabit each kingdom, the the kingdom's nature is also different in like manner.

    I am not going to cover the perditious as they are not a kingdom of glory, and so instead let us cover Telestial kingdom in more detail, a kingdom which is often likened unto this mortal world in which we now live. Unfortunately, due to this likening, some mistakenly assume that this mortal world is the same as a Telestial world.

    While there are indeed many similarities between the Telestial and us, one simple change makes all the difference in the world, namely a lack of filthiness. There is no death, disease, sin or wickedness in this kingdom, and as such there cannot be any comparison as to our state versus theirs. It is a kingdom of glory and immortality, with no corruption or sorrows.

    That said, the individual that enters this kingdom is not special or spectacular in any way, relative to this world. As evidenced in the Bible passage where Christ meets Mary after his resurrection, a person with a Telestial body can be mistaken for a mortal. Now this is not to say that they are the same, as evidenced by the inability to get sick and die. However from this we can discern that there is not a fundamental difference in degrees of power or freedom between the mortal and the Telestial.

    Again, they that remain in their Telestial state are they that are slaves to the natural man. As such, they remain forever imperfect and thus, forever common. Even Isaiah compares this group to common stones, i.e. not of particular worth or value, which is interesting, as they are the very people who refuse to throw away their pride, and thus end up becoming common and worthless.

    However those that fulfill the conditions set forth by Christ are they that rise from a mere Telestial state to a Terrestrial one. This state is often compared to the millennium. However again people do understand that this similarity is not not the same as an equivalence. There will still be imperfection and death during the Millennium, it is just that the hearts of the people during that time will be comparable and in like manner to a higher kingdom, wherein they live by that higher law.

    Again Isaiah likens the Terrestrial to semi-precious stones and metals. They are perfected in Christ, and as such wield power beyond our mortal comprehension. There is a visible difference between mortal men and those that are Terrestrial, or like unto angels of God. When Christ first appeared to the Nephites, the people mistook him for an angel of god, as he was in a Terrestrial state.

    In Joseph Smith's description of the angel Moroni we see that there is an unfathomable gulf that separates us from the angels of God. To quote: “... his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.

    Interestingly even the wicked do not attempt to raise their hands against terrestrial beings as evidenced by Paul and Alma, Laman and Lemuel, and any of the wicked that have seen angels face to face. Though they may deny it years down the road when the memories have faded, while in a personal confrontation against the powers of heaven, even the wicked bow their heads.

    In any normal circumstances the wicked would in no way bow down to a righteous authority figure. Imagine if you will if a glowy person in a robe simply appeared in front of a wicked person today, don't you think that they would doubt the veracity of the angel's power unless it was overwhelmingly obvious? There is no way that a wicked man will listen to someone simply because they are sparkly. More than likely they would just give any mortal person the finger and simply continue sinning.

    This alone is a testament to the unmistakable level of power which they possess which even the wicked cannot deny. When Alma was faced with such an angelic messenger the angel spoke saying  “And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you?

    It was sufficient that Alma behold the angel to know that he was sent of God. That is the power that the Terrestrial have. They are conduits of His light. Even their voice shakes the earth. There is no denying them, unlike how we can deny the holy prophets.

    Next and finally we come to the Celestial. While there is not a great deal of evidence in the scriptures as to the nature of the celestial, we can see from what is written that it is far beyond even what the terrestrial possess.

    First, there is no doubt that a divine personage is God. His whispers pierce the souls of any and all who hear as shown in Helaman and 3rd Nephi. His words are such that only those that have their hearts opened can understand them.

    In D&C 110 it describes Christ as a Celestial being saying “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah

    As Joseph Smith said in another account “God Almighty Himself dwells in eternal fire; flesh and blood cannot go there, for all corruption is devoured by the fire” In yet another account the pillar of light that Joseph Smith saw is described as a pillar of fire. Moses consistently describes god as being in the “midst of the fire”.

    Now this isn't a literal fire, but rather the closest description that can be given of Him and His glory is that of a flaming fire or a pillar of light. It is beyond mortal words to describe. Every word that is uttered by the Lord is truth, and thus his words alter or fixate reality itself. That is His eternal and enormous power.

    It is for this very reason that we can read in Psalms the following “And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

    For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD?  who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?

    Unfortunately we live in a day and age where we have forgotten awe and worship. We tread lightly the things of God, and treat Him as but a friend or some backup guy we go to for help only if things are getting a bit nasty. There is no praise or being awestruck at his majesty, and as a consequence we know nothing of Him.

    Thus we see that the gap between the kingdoms shows us that it is not merely a difference in speed of progression, but rather we see each degree of glory gains powers untouchable by those below. As the fundamental nature of their personality changes as they rise, so too does the fundamental nature of their abilities change with them.

    If we were to use vehicles as an analogy, it wouldn't be three cars going at various speeds but rather three entirely different vehicles. If we were to symbolize the Telestial glory by a car, then we would need to symbolize the Terrestrial with an airplane, and the Celestial with a spaceship. Even this imperfect analogy cannot capture the infinite gulf between the kingdoms of god.

    A Telestial car can never hope to fly where the Terrestrial airplanes are capable of going, and the same goes for the difference between the Terrestrial airplanes and Celestial spaceships. There is no catching up, as there is no contest between them.

    Each degree of heaven separates us from Him by infinite gulfs which we cannot cross. From mortality to immortality, from imperfection to perfection, from the common and profane to the sacred and holy, these are chasms that we cannot fully comprehend, let alone cross. No amount of effort can overcome the natural limits that are ingrained in our souls. Only God can overcome those limits.

    When we begin to understand these fundamentals when it comes to the unquantifiably vast differences in the Kingdoms and how they operate, it elevates us and empowers us to put that much more trust in the Lord. If a mere angel's power is beyond our comprehension, then how much greater is the Lord's! If mere prophets can discern what is in the hearts of the children of men, how much more does He understand us!

    I testify that He is, and that He is all powerful, all seeing, all knowing, all good, for He is God. Then let us put our trust in Him, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, He who has freed all of His people from Bondage, and has his arms stretched out still, just waiting for us to seek Him out. If we do this, we will become like Him of this I testify, Amen.