We recently (Mar-Apr 2017) published an article by me about heaven and hell in our magazine, Grace in Focus. I showed that believers will live forever not in heaven, but on the new earth.
I received this email question: “I just read the article on heaven and hell. Wow. The Mormons have believed that for years. They have a lot of other stuff that is off. What is the difference between Bob’s views and that of the Mormons?” (CB).
That question led me to a brief study of Mormon’s understanding of heaven. I am not aware of a single thing that Mormons believe about heaven that I suggested in my article.
Here are things that Mormons believe about heaven that I do not:
- There are three heavenly kingdoms to come (celestial, terrestrial, and telestial). The celestial kingdom will be best. God the Father will be there. This kingdom is for the most faithful. The terrestrial kingdom is where Jesus will be. This second kingdom is for those who were not valiant enough to earn the first kingdom. But they are still people who were faithful in service to Christ. The telestial kingdom is for terrible people who suffer in hell until they eventually receive Jesus as their Saviors. They are then transferred from hell to this kingdom. Even this kingdom will be far better than this world.
- The name of the place of those who miss all of the kingdoms is called the outer darkness.
- Only a very small percentage of all humanity will be eternally condemned.
- After death condemned people will spend 1,000 years in hell and will have opportunities to respond properly to Jesus and then get into the telestial kingdom. Only if they are still unresponsive will be they be sent to the place of eternal condemnation (which in their view is not hell or the lake of fire, but the outer darkness).
- The conditions to enter the celestial kingdom is to believe in Jesus, be baptized in the LDS church, repent (lifelong), support the LDS prophets, receive the LDS ordinances (baptism for the dead and marriage in the temple), and live faithfully according to God’s commands.
- The most exalted people in the celestial kingdom will become gods of their own planets, populated by children they bear in their resurrected bodies.
I do not believe, as Mormons do, in works salvation. Nor do I believe that there will be three different kingdoms, that very few people will be eternally condemned, that postmortem salvation will occur, that resurrected people will have children, or that humans can become gods. None of those things are taught in Scripture.
I think Mormons do believe that these three kingdoms will take place on planets. That is, a point they might agree with me and Scripture is that people in Jesus’ kingdom will have glorified bodies. But it is hard to pin them down on where these kingdoms will be. They seem to call the celestial kingdom the third heaven. I’ve not seen any references to the new earth in their writings. I’m not sure if they believe that there will be a new earth.
In discussing this with Shawn, he felt that the reader saw a connection between the Mormon belief in degrees of reward in the kingdoms and my view of degrees of reward in the kingdom. While I do see a sort of rewards theology in Mormon teaching, it is so far removed from Scripture as to be unrecognizable. The teachings of not one, but three, kingdoms, works salvation, people in glorified bodies having children, humans becoming gods, and much more, removes Mormonism from any hint that it is Biblical.
I am not an expert in Mormon theology. But you don’t need to be an expert to see how far from the teachings of Scripture Mormonism is, including its teachings about heaven.