A doctrinal topic of particular interest to single members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the celestial kingdom. More specifically with this particular article, the differences between the 1st degree of the celestial kingdom will be examined versus the 2nd and 3rd degrees, according to the scriptures. What are these differences and why do they matter to single members? We do know the top degree of the celestial kingdom is for those who have a temple marriage and are sealed to a spouse, whereas the 2nd and 3rd degrees are for single members who are not sealed to an eternal companion. While there are many things not known about differences across the celestial kingdom, this article will examine a few of the things we do know.
Description of those who inherit the celestial kingdom:
By far the most important thing is to qualify to inherit the celestial kingdom in the first place. Otherwise, concerns about the degrees of the kingdom do not matter to those who don’t even make it there. In short, these are they who are just men and women made perfect through upholding the principles and ordinances of the gospel and enduring worthily to the end. Here are numerous things we know about those going to the celestial kingdom from the Doctrine & Covenants 76:
And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall overcome all things. Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet. These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people. These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection. These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just. These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all. These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn. These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all. These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.
--Doctrine & Covenants 76:50-70.
The 1st versus the 2nd and 3rd degrees:
The 1st degree of the celestial kingdom: From Doctrine & Covenants 132 we learn the following:
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory. For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me. But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also. This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.
--Doctrine & Covenants 132: 19-24
The 2nd and 3rd degrees of the celestial kingdom: From Doctrine & Covenants 132 we also learn the following:
Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. 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.
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.
--Doctrine & Covenants 132:15-18
Commentary and Final Thoughts:
So what do we know about the differences between the 1st and 2nd-3rd degrees of the celestial kingdoms? Not much. Just that those at the top made and kept temple marriage covenants and had their marriage sealed eternally while those in the lower 2 degrees did not. We also know civil marriages have no force in the next life but temple marriages with sealings do. But either way, all that make it to that highest kingdom qualified to do so as described in those Doctrine & Covenants 76 verses. The sticking point is…did the people who end up in the 2nd and 3rd degrees of the celestial kingdom somehow “lose their chance” by their mortal choices not to marry in the temple, thus having to resign themselves to one of those lower degrees? That is a point of dispute. This is a somewhat foggy area of doctrine but I will give my opinion of it.
In my opinion I don’t believe anyone “blows their chance” for eternal marriage if they remain single in this life or marry civilly. This is a messy, challenging, complicated world. Perhaps reasonable opportunities to marry never occurred for someone. Or no worthy local members were around to marry in the temple. Maybe a member marries a promising non-member or less active member hoping to go to the temple with them eventually, but the other doesn’t ever show a willingness or the worthiness to do so. Any of a number of these or other situations can occur that ultimately result in a celestial-worthy person leaving this world with no temple marriage sealing with them. So, in my opinion if a person is worthy of the celestial kingdom and they desire and choose to have an eternal marriage when they don’t have one, that opportunity will exist and happen for them in the next life. I feel this opinion is confirmation in this classic quote from Elder Dallin H. Oakes in 1993:
“Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father’s worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences.”
--Dallin H Oaks, The Great Plan of Happiness, General Conference, October 1993
So then if that is true, why would worthy, celestial level people still end up eternally single in either the 2nd or 3rd degrees? Simple. They choose to be single. They prefer, through their agency, to remain single because that is how they would like to be. Not everyone wants to be married and have a spouse. And that is fine. To each their own. After all, this is the plan of agency. And regarding marriage, some celestial-level people will choose to use their agency to remain single, plain and simple. Doesn’t that make sense? It makes sense to me.
In any event, man and woman were created to be together and were meant to be together. In my opinion that is the ideal to strive for and choose, whether in this life or the next. I encourage all reading this article to live a celestial-worthy life and to desire and choose to be sealed eternally to your eventual celestial companion, whenever and wherever that opportunity presents itself. Because “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:1.
P.S. If you have any questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to email@example.com. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org).