On December 8, 2019, I reached out to Elder Bruce A. Carlson of the Seventy (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in the spirit of reconciliation after he had directed some harsh chastisement against me via Madison Alabama Stake President Keith R. Draughon some years earlier. Elder Carlson rebuffed my peaceful overture and rather spoke sternly against me saying that I would face a harsh judgment in the hereafter for my “disobedience” to LDS Church authority. He did not elaborate, but instead quickly ended the phone call which I had initiated. Further details are given in Fear & Reconciliation.
For the sake of this post, assume that this judgment, to which Elder Carlson referred, would be a denial of entry to the “Celestial Kingdom” in the hereafter (Doctrine & Covenants 76).
Rather than engage in an open debate with Elder Carlson, I will take this opportunity to politely agree with him and commend him for carrying out his leadership duties.
Indeed, I am not spiritually fit for the Celestial Kingdom by my own admission. There have been far too many instances where I have heeded the promptings of the Holy Ghost even when doing so meant breaking Church law. And I am far too empathetic to those who have left the Church due to “faith crises,” gender-related issues, etc., including some of my family members and friends.
According to LDS doctrine, there are “Three Degrees of Glory.” All mortals will be resurrected in the afterlife through the great and atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each resurrected being will then be sent to one of three kingdoms according to God’s judgment, although there is also some thought that we will voluntarily go to whichever kingdom where we would feel most comfortable by some self-judgment means. (There is also a sphere called “Outer Darkness” to which only the most wicked will go, such as those who have denied the “sure witness of the Holy Ghost.”)
The three kingdoms from least to greatest are the: Telestial, Terrestrial and Celestial. Entry to the Celestial Kingdom requires making and keeping sacred covenants during mortal life. The leadership of the LDS Church exclusively holds the “priesthood keys” for administering these ordinances. “Eternal exaltation” in the Celestial Kingdom also requires near absolute loyalty and obedience to the General Authorities.
These leaders have taught that many will be excluded from the Celestial Kingdom including practicing LGBTQIA+ souls. Members who leave the Church are branded as “apostates,” and will likewise be excluded. Honorable people who never made the “sacred covenants” administered by the LDS authorities, if have been given the opportunity of doing so during mortality, will at best inherit a home in the second-place Terrestrial Kingdom. (Doctrine & Covenants 76:71-74)
Doctrine and Covenants 93:30
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
The purpose of this post is not to proclaim that any LDS leader or teaching is “wrong.” Indeed, I firmly believe that the LDS Church is “true” within its own sphere.
My purpose is rather to set forth an expanded vision that offers a path of reconciliation between those stalwart Church members and those who have left the Church or have never joined. Both sides can be “right.”
To wit, there is a “Celestial Kingdom” exactly as described in LDS doctrine. Or if there is not one already, then the Lord will give ample resources to those resurrected beings who desire to create this kingdom. It will be a sphere of stern authoritarianism and rigid dogma and orthodoxy. This kingdom is for those to whom the “First Law of Heaven is Obedience.” The primary work of its members will be the maintenance and perpetuation of its own internal hierarchy. It will be exclusive for the reasons given earlier. Those who make this their eternal home will have a sort of collective happiness while mourning the fate of all their family and friends who did not sufficiently “walk the covenant path” during mortality if they had an opportunity to do so. The Celestial Kingdom will be a very gated community with sentinel angels as security guards.
LDS Church founder Joseph Smith Jr. referred to there being “worlds without number” beyond earth and our solar system. (See Moses 1:33, in “The Pearl of Great Price.”)
How then would the number of “Kingdoms of Glory” be limited to just three? Subdividing each kingdom would not answer this question.
The truth must be that there are Kingdoms of Glory without number, the Celestial Kingdom being one of a seemingly infinite number. Nor can the Celestial Kingdom lay claim to being the “highest” when there are so many potential dimensions well beyond the scope of man’s finite understanding.
Surely there must a kingdom which I will call the “The Kingdom of Christ-like love, grace, compassion, charity, kindness, healing and empathy.”
For brevity, I will call shorten this to the “Christ-like Love Kingdom of Glory.” Membership is open to all those who actively love God, their neighbors and mankind. Families and friends can live here peacefully together for eternity regardless of which church they belonged to during mortality, or whether they went to any church at all. Black, brown, yellow, white, male, female, practicing LGBTQIA+, rich, poor, married, divorced, single, bond, free, recovering addicts, suicide survivors and victims, the marginalized and wounded — all will be warmly welcome in a non-judgmental, egalitarian environment. Those who have been through a “faith crisis” will also be openly received, as well as those were who disfellowshipped or excommunicated by LDS Church leaders on trumped up charges. This kingdom is for those to whom the greatest commandments are to love God and one’s neighbor to such an overwhelming extent that all other laws and ordinances are but distant appendages. The primary work of its members will be to extend charity to one another and help others heal from their soul wounds. It will be an “open border” community.
I earnestly believe that the Christ-like Love Kingdom of Glory already exists somewhere in the Universe. But if not so, then the merciful Lord will give us ample resources to build it!
– Tom Irvine