Come Follow Me with Casey Paul Griffiths (Doctrine and Covenants 71-75, Jun 28-Jul 4) – powered by Happy Scribe
One of the most important branches of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling was to translate the Bible almost as soon as Joseph Smith was done translating the Book of Mormon, the Lord commanded him to start an inspired process of restoring things that had been lost or removed from the Bible. As Joseph Smith is restoring the Bible, the Lord is also giving him truths that might not have even been in the Bible in the first place. The Lord is putting back into place the plan of salvation and helping Joseph understand it.
Now, here at the John Johnson farmhouse in Hiram, Ohio, Joseph Smith left the Saints and Kirtland for a little while to focus for a few months on the work of the translation of the Bible. And there’s no better example of how important this biblical translation project was in revealing the truth of salvation than Section 76 of the doctrine covenants. Section 76, according to Joseph Smith, was received when they were translating the New Testament, specifically when they came to one verse.
That’s verse twenty nine of John five in the New Testament. The verse reads simply and shall come forth that have done good until the resurrection of life and they that have done evil until the resurrection of damnation. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon started to ask questions about what this meant, where their different types of resurrection and where their different homes that a person could go to after they had passed away. They shortly after received a revelation that now becomes section seventy six of the doctrine covenants and section seventy six, when it was first recorded, had a brief introduction that Joseph and Sidney wrote, describing it as a vision concerning the church of the firstborn and the economy of God and the vast creation throughout eternity.
Now, if you read the doctrine covenants, the Church of the Firstborn is reference in Section 76, Section 93. In other places, the Church of the firstborn are the people that are going to make it. You can be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints and not be a member of the Church of the Firstborn, the church of the first person of the people that receive exaltation and become like Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.
The second thing that they said the vision concerned was the economy of God. And the way that they used economy back then was just a little bit different than the way we use it now. According to an 1820 dictionary, an economy was the management, regulation and government of a family or concerns of a household. So the vision was nothing less than describing what it means to become like God and how God manages all of his children. And the vision, which is really a series of six different visions, covers everything from the beginning to end.
And what we have in Section 76, according to Joseph Smith, is really just the beginning of what was revealed to him. He’s going to spend the rest of his life sharing truths that are learned in this room as he studying from the Bible and as the Lord is teaching him. Another thing that’s unique about the vision is that there are several people present besides Joseph Smith when it’s received. Both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw the vision. But fellow Dimmable said there were other people in the room, perhaps twelve, and they saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision itself.
According to fellow Dibbell, Joseph Smith at one point would say, I’m seeing this and describe it. And then Sidney would say, I see the same. Then Sidney would describe something in Joseph Smith would say, I see the same. At the time the process was over, Fellow Loadable said that Sidney Rigdon sat in his chair pale and limp as a rag, while Joseph Smith appeared hale and hearty and ready for war. Joseph glanced over at Sydney and just simply said something that is used to this as I am.
But what did they see and what did they learn? Well, the first vision that’s actually described in Section seventy six of the doctrine and covenants is a vision of the father and the son. Now, remember, this vision, which is written down in eighteen thirty two, was actually recorded before Joseph Smith had written down the first vision that he received back in 1820. So in some senses, this is the first vision. And here Joseph Smith is clearly saying the father and the son are separate.
He also teaches some interesting truths about Jesus Christ, saying that not only is he the savior of the world, but he’s the savior of the world’s plural, that the inhabitants of every world where the sons and daughters of God live are begotten sons and daughters of God through the power and glory and majesty of Jesus Christ Joseph Smith. A few years after the vision was recorded, actually in collaboration with W.W., Phelps recorded a poetic version of the vision. And in that this idea that Jesus just isn’t the savior of Earth, but that Jesus is the savior of the universe, comes out even more clear in the poetic version of the vision, Joseph Smith and Phelps wrote, He’s the savior, the only begotten of God, that by him, of him and through him, the worlds were all made, even all the career in the heavens.
So Brandt, whose inhabitants to from the first little last are saved by the very same savior of ours, and of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons by the very same. Truths and the very same powers, so no matter where you are in the universe, Jesus Christ as your savior and the gospel is the same, you’re saved by the very same truths and the very same powers. Now they go from a vision of the best, of the best to a vision of the worst, of the worst.
The second vision that’s open to them is a vision of Lucifer, an angel in authority, in the presence of God who fell from the presence of God. And Section 76 contains the most detailed explanation of how a person can go from being in the presence of God to being literally a son of perdition. Perdition is a Latin word that just means ruined beyond repair, and that’s what they describe as the state of Satan and those that followed him and pretty mortality and those that qualify to become sons of perdition down here.
Now, you probably don’t need to worry about becoming a son of perdition because it’s a little bit more intense than just regular church attendance. You have to know for sure that God and Jesus Christ exist and then deny everything. Section 76 even says you have to be willing to crucify Christ afresh and deny him after having known him. Now, as the vision continues, we go back from the worst of the worst to the best of the best. It talks about the celestial kingdom or the church of the firstborn.
It talks about the terrestrial glory and says that these are honorable people that just weren’t valiant in their testimony. And then it talks about the celestial glory. In fact, spends quite a bit of time on the celestial glory who are people who came to Earth and didn’t really attempt to live the commandments, but were valiant and pretty mortality and followed the plan before they came down here. All of these things wrapped up together, explained the plan of salvation. And one of the greatest truths that was revealed here was that the idea that a person goes to hell eternally or a person goes to heaven was a lot more complicated than Heavenly.
Father loves all of his children. Even the lowest of the degrees of glory of the celestial kingdom is probably more glorious and beautiful and wonderful than even the beautiful, glorious and wonderful world that we live in right now. In fact, this world, which is the celestial kingdom, if you imagine it, with no war, hunger, poverty, famine, disease or death, is maybe a good approximation of where the worst of the children that don’t become sons of perdition end up.
This vision and of itself is an expression to us of how merciful God is and how kind God is and how much he cares about his children. The Prophet Lorenzo Snow said God loves his offspring, the human family. His design is not simply to furnish happiness to the few here called the Latter day Saints. His plan and scheme that he is now carrying out is for universal salvation. And then Lorenzo Stone said this. He will bring all of us up into that position in which we will be as happy and as comfortable as we’re willing to be.
The idea that God isn’t just a cruel overseer that’s playing dice with the universe, but the God is a loving father that helps us, starts right here, as Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon are studying the scriptures. And as we’ve been told again and again and again, study of the scriptures is a way to open the portals of heaven and to show us the truth of eternity.