As humans we like to have things well defined. We prefer it when we can say that this behavior is right and this behavior is wrong, end of story. The Lord is that way as well. He is able to look at each and every action and determine whether it is good for us or harmful for us. But there are degrees of good behavior, just as there are degrees of bad behavior, just as there are degrees intelligence. In Abraham 3:18-19 the Lord teaches us that where there are two spirits, one is more intelligent than the other. In other words, no two of us have the exact same intelligence, but no matter how intelligent we are, he excels all of us.
Even though there are infinite degrees of good and bad behavior, the Lord has given us some cutoff points that will divide us into one of three kingdoms when we are judged. He compares the qualitative difference between our behavior and our glory in the end to the difference between the stars, the moon, and the sun. This gives us a visual starting point to judge. Sometimes we don’t realize that earth life is already divided up into these three degrees, but we divide ourselves up by our behavior. Let’s look at the three degrees of behavior.
The majority of those in mortality live a Telestial life, the lowest kingdom. This is the kingdom whose inhabitants are compared in glory to the number and brightness of the stars in the sky. Do not be deceived, there is glory there, but to see it you have to hide most other types of glory that overshadow their limited goodness. These are the people who are easily led astray, or who actually delight in evil. Acts of violence and degradation are common place among those of the Telestial mindset. We see these people every day on the news, the looters, pillagers, warmongers, thieves, and abusers. The degrees of misbehavior varies widely, just as the stars in the heavens vary widely in their brightness or dimness.
Their current behavior is only an indication of where they could end up. There is always repentance that will change their lives and elevate them to higher forms of behavior and reclaim their souls. But as a category, this is where the Telestial people spend their lives. They have some joy, but mostly they wallow in the degradation of sin and in the bondage of addictive behaviors. This is a group whose potential for spiritual greatness is largely wasted in riotous living and reveling in the lusts of the flesh. Remember, these are not absolute statements, each person is individual, and lives in this realm either more or less according to how much good or evil they choose to accept.
As the stars differ in glory from the moon, so this Terrestrial category of people outshine their lesser companions. These people have chosen the better part. They seek to follow Christ or at least some higher code of living. They seek to do good in the world and bless the lives of others. These are those people who volunteer to help, contribute to good causes for worthy reasons, visit the sick, take in the homeless, and try to make the world a better place.
These are they who have not made covenants with the Lord, but seek to be good. These are also they who have made covenants with God, but have not kept those covenants. Members of Christ’s Church who do not keep their covenants, and like the unwise virgins have not filled their lamps with the light of the Spirit, will be in this category when the Savior comes again. The brightness of their example is like the brightness of the moon. In the darkness of a clear night, a bright full moon can let you read a book by its light. But even the brightness of the full moon pales and almost vanishes in the presence of a greater light.
Just as the moon looks massive when compared to the size of the stars, so the sun is massive in its glory compared to the moon. The Celestial kingdom is compared to the sun in its glory. This is the behavior that is Celestial in nature. Those who have made covenants with God, like baptism, and temple covenants, and who are living up to those covenants are in this category. These are they who receive revelation in their personal lives, and live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. These are they who are sealed in the temple, who are about doing God’s work, which is working for the salvation of the souls of men. They are doing family history work, tending lovingly to the rearing of their family, working tirelessly for the benefit of others, and obeying the voice of God’s prophets. These are they who set examples, as a light set on a hill, or as a candle in a dark house that gives light to the whole house.
The Lord compares the light of these people to the sun because of the degree of intelligence they have to impart to those in darkness. These are they who bring the knowledge of the gospel of Christ to those who live in the valley of the shadow of death, to those who have not seen the greater light available to them. This is why, as covenant makers with the Lord, we are charged to do missionary work, and to set an example of Christ in all things, and in all places, and at all times. We become saviors on mount Zion as we participate with the Lord in the redemption of his other children.
The three degrees of glory are being lived out right here around us. We can see the fruit of each degree of glory in how we live our lives every day. We choose the degree of glory that makes us happiest by every decision and action of our daily lives. The wonder is that we can change which degree of glory we want to live in just by changing our choices. If we choose to do evil, we choose the lesser kingdom. If we choose to make covenants with the Lord and then keep those covenants, we choose that kingdom, and all the blessings and joys that come with that choice. The Lord leaves it up to us. The choice is ours.
I welcome your comments below.
Here is a link to a YouTube Video that summarizes the article.
Thanks Brother Merrill for publishing this. I liked reading it for its simplicity and clarity. And I what I have liked the most is the fact that I learned some things I did not know.
The concept that we live in a Telestial world and need to live a Celestial law was taught to me by Ed Pinegar of the Seventy when I was in a meeting many years ago. It has stuck with me all this time. I’m glad you like the article.
Thankyou for this article. It’s difficult for me to fully shine with chronic depression. PTSD and an abusive husband. I am striving to lead a celestial life and thankful for the hope Jesus offers me.
The only ray of hope I can offer you is that each of us will not be judged based on our accomplishments in mortality. Our judgment is based on our closeness to the Spirit and the love for all things Christ represents. These are things no one else can take from us. Christ is all about love, and his desire is for each of us to learn to feel his love in our daily living. It is the peace and security that comes with that love that gives us the strength to face even most bitter of trials with courage and hope in a better life after this one. You will be in my prayers.
I think Emanuel Swedenborg has some great insights at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q14EcEwQVQ&t=139s
Thank you, Brother Merill,
It’s been very inspiring to read about the Three Degrees of Behavior in its simplicity one can really understand thank you so very much the Gospel is simple and Jesus teachings.