I did not fully understand the LDS teaching of three levels of heaven until I had children. Now that I do have children, this tenet disturbs me beyond words. I stated most of my reasons in Reason 1, but this is about the Biblical teaching of the scriptures that the LDS church has altered the meaning of to validate their teaching of the three degrees of glory. The more I learn about God and the Bible, the more fascinated I am. It seems to me that He works in threes a lot. And when He created this world, He also worked in 3. The LDS teach that the third heaven means there are 3 levels inside the one heaven. However, that is not a Biblical or Christian teaching. God created this world into 3 heavens. I will explain further, and we can look in Genesis.
Heaven 1 = of the clouds where the birds fly
Genesis 1:8 and 20
And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. (NKJV, all Biblical quotes are from the NKJV)
Then God said, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.
Firmament = earth
Living creatures, birds
Holy Spirit = God of Nature
Heaven 2 = atmosphere above the clouds where the sun, moon and stars are
The God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Atmosphere = light in firmament of heaven
Sun, moon, stars
Jesus Christ = Redeemer of Sinners
Heaven 3 = heaven where God lives, where we will live as angels with our Father
Genesis 28:12 and 17
Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!"
Ladder to heaven
Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
1 Kings 8:27
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.
Heaven and heaven of heavens
Angels of God
God = Father, Son and Holy Spirit
LDS use the following scriptures from the Bible to alter the meaning of the third heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:2-4
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
The Apostle Paul is speaking of the third heaven as the heaven that we all know of where God lives. He didn't know if he was dead or alive, but knew his spirit was in heaven. It was so magnificent that it was difficult for him to find the words to describe what he saw. The Bible verses are clear that heaven 1 is the clouds, heaven 2 is the atmosphere and heaven 3 is God's house, not 3 heavens inside heaven.
3 in 1 analogy... 3 creations = 1 Heaven
John 3:15-18 speak of eternal life or everlasting life, not exaltation
That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The LDS doctrine:
There are literally three heavens within heaven. LDS will receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom. They will receive godhood and the ability to bear children in heaven. However, you must have a temple recommend and be sealed in the LDS Temple during your time on earth.
Telestial = where the wicked will go (why is telestial not mentioned in the Bible even once?)
Terrestrial = worthy non-Mormons, non-worthy Mormons, anyone who does not accept LDS gospel
Celestial = worthy, sealed Mormons only, gained by complete obedience on earth
Outer darkness = hell. This is where the most wicked and apostate Mormons, like me, will go.
3rd Article of Faith
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Doctrine and Covenants 76:70-112
lds.org Doctrine and Covenants 76
And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul. And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it. Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou are justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou are justified.
In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
So those who never get married on earth can never make it to the celestial kingdom... ugh, what would I do if my children never got married?
- Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation... They are gods. (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 237)
- Immortality is a universal gift. The ability to go to heaven and live forever but not the same as Eternal Life. Lower level of heaven and unable to bear children. (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 376-377)
- There are some who have striven to obey all the divine commandments, who have accepted the testimony of Christ, obeyed 'the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,' and received the Holy Spirit; these are they who have overcome evil by godly works and who are therefore entitled to the highest glory. (Articles of Faith, p. 83)
We are all equal and just as good as our neighbor. Why would God allow only worthy Mormons in the highest heaven if there really was one? That would not be just and God is just. No one is any better than the other no matter what religion they belong to. We are all humans and we are all sinners by nature.
Mormons do believe they are better than non-Mormons; I was one of them. I strived to make it to the celestial kingdom, yet my birth family would be in the 2nd or even 3rd heaven. I would receive exaltation, yet my birth family would not. Webster's definition of exalt: raise in rank, power, or character. The definition alone of the word exalt makes me feel completely uncomfortable and conceited. So absolutely Mormons feel they are better than non-Mormons through no fault of their own, but through the fault of their church doctrines. And most of them do not even realize this. I certainly did not think of it that way when I was a member. However, now that I am out, that is completely how I felt as a member. Due to this, I am unwilling to be taught that I will be exalted because or only if I am LDS. And I certainly am unwilling to teach my children that they will be exalted because they are LDS.
I am certainly not any better or more exalted than any other human being, and would not even wish to live in the highest heaven above many others. Spirituality is not about believing in one religion or another. It is about believing in The One Christ of the Bible who saved us all from our sins. And for that fact, I know all of my loved ones and I will spend eternity in the one heaven where God lives.
According to LDS doctrines, I will be sent to outer darkness for rejecting the LDS gospel. However, I continue to be told by some that I will be in the terrestrial kingdom when I leave this earth. I disagree with a church judging me and deciding which heaven I will be in. And it saddens my heart that the church believes it is not being judgmental by telling me I can never make it to the celestial kingdom. I completely disagree with this teaching. I would never judge another by telling them which level of heaven I believe they will be in. What is the point in a person or church doing that?
Also, if LDS believe in 3 levels of Heaven, why don't they believe in 3 levels of hell? Some sins are so much worse than others... so if we are judged according to our obedience and good works, wouldn't we need to be judged or punished according to the severity or recurrence of our sins? Why just one level of outer darkness for all of the extremely wicked and apostate Mormons? How is that just?
Sin is sin. Obedience is obedience. Good works are good works. He knows what is in our hearts. And if you're in, then you're in; certainly not better or higher than anyone else.
My unanswered questions were:
Why would my God separate families from each other according to their obedience? Why would He not allow us all to live in the same heaven with one another?
I was initially devastated when I received these answers, yet overjoyed to find the truth that there is only one heaven with Jesus Christ or one hell without Him. I will be with my entire family in the one heaven with Jesus Christ!
When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. And then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and gave you a drink? When did we see you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? or when did we see you sick, or imprisoned, and came unto you? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was hungry, and you did not give me meat: I was thirsty, you did not give me a drink: I was a stranger, you did not take me in: I was naked, and you did not clothe me: sick, and imprisoned, and you did not visit me. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or imprisoned, and did not minister unto you? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.