This post is part five in our series on The Seven Deadly Heresies, as given by Elder McConkie (see here).
The fifth heresy, according to Elder McConkie, is the idea that there is progression within the kingdoms of glory after the resurrection.
Heresy five: There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were.So the question is whether the kingdoms are locked from progression after entrance, or whether there is some progression after entry so that we could progress to eventual Celestial status.
This belief lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, "God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we do not gain the celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?" It lets people live a life of sin here and now with the hope that they will be saved eventually.
The true doctrine is that all men will be resurrected, but they will come forth in the resurrection with different kinds of bodies--some celestial, others terrestrial, others telestial, and some with bodies incapable of standing any degree of glory. The body we receive in the resurrection determines the glory we receive in the kingdoms that are prepared.
Of those in the telestial world it is written: "And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end" (D&C 76:112).
Of those who had the opportunity to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in this life and who did not do it, the revelation says:
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. [D&C 132:16-17]
They neither progress from one kingdom to another, nor does a lower kingdom ever get where a higher kingdom once was. Whatever eternal progression there is, it is within a sphere.
Elder McConkie relies on D&C 76's description about the inhabitants of the Telestial Kingdom that they cannot visit the Savior and the Father or be where the are. He also relies on D&C 132's description of those who reject the new and everlasting covenant.
Those who believe in some type of progression rely on D&C 19, specifically verse 6, which says:
"Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment."
I suppose to proponents this means that punishment is not eternal but that after our punishment we can increase in glory as we perfect ourselves.
Additionally, a supporter of this theory would say that the Telestial Kingdom scripture mentioned above does not specifically say that it will be eternally so. One could be in the situation until he is ready to progress. Moreover, Heber C. Kimball taught an eternal progression model (perhaps BHodges can give us an idea where to look in the JD). Proponents are not comfortable with the absolutism of eternal placement where our theology is generally not so absolutist. I don't see how this can displace Section 132 above, but I don't see any scriptural support beyond Section 19 and it's tenuous at best.
Kimball's model seemed to further Joseph Smith's teachings that we only receive blessings from ordinances as soon as we are ready to receive them. Therefore, if one receive assurance of salvation, while guaranteed, it would not occur until that person is ready. Brigham espoused the idea that we resurrect in Celestial glory and make the jump directly to Celestial substance, whereas one could argue based on JS's statement that we attain a kingdom and then progress to receive our blessing as soon as we are prepared.
My final thoughts:
1) Like previous posts, this is certainly not case-closed as Elder McConkie suggests (astonishing!).
2) My gut tends to feel better with the progression idea because as Alma and Amulek taught, we are raised in the state that we die in. If we are in great need of improvement and are still bound to be Celestial, that leaves a huge gap between death and resurrection.
3) Despite my gut feeling against absolutism, there are similar circumstances of absolutism (War in Heaven) where we understand a group to have made their choice and no further progression is possible. While this may feel like a contradiction of Moses 1:39, I just don't see a lot of scriptural support for the progression model, and not much more direct support for the model advocated by Elder McConkie. I think that, like many of these deeper points of doctrine, it is better to stay open minded because it really hasn't been revealed relative to what we are asking. Any GA statements are, most likely, speculation and will contradict each other (I'll see your Talmage and raise you a Wilford Woodruff).