Mormon view of the afterlife
The LDS view of the afterlife is quite different from other Christian religions. Rather than having a single good or single bad place to end up (heaven or hell), Mormons teach that there are many different levels in the afterlife, in which one may end up. Mormons refer to these destinations as Kingdoms, or the ‘degrees of glory’ that we might obtain. The temple ceremony emphasizes the different degrees of glory. (see Temples)
Mormons believe that immediately following death, all souls will go to Paradise or spirit prison, depending on whether or not they accepted the gospel while on the earth. When members speak of hell, they are often referring to spirit prison, although, they may be referring to the permanent, Telestial Kingdom (see below). While souls are in spirit prison, people from Paradise will teach them the gospel and they will have an opportunity to accept it. If they accept, they will live in paradise until judgment day.
Mormons believe that everyone will be resurrected and receive perfected bodies. The resurrection is a gift to everyone because of Christ’s death and resurrection. After the resurrection comes the Judgment. After Christ judges everyone, people will go to their assigned Kingdom.
Three Degrees of Glory
The three Kingdoms or degrees of glory are, from lowest to highest, the Telestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Celestial Kingdom. There are also levels within each kingdom. This ensures a more fair way of rewarding people for their actions in life. Some ‘bad’ people are worse than others are, and some ‘good’ people are better than others are. Mormons believe it would be unfair for people to end up in one of only two places.
Church members compare the three degrees of glory to the brightness of various heavenly bodies. The Celestial Kingdom compared to the brightness of the sun. The Terrestrial is like the brightness of the moon. The Telestial is like the brightness of the stars.
Heaven (Celestial Kingdom)
Even though the LDS Church does not teach that there is one specific heaven, members still use the word ‘heaven’ a lot. While they may be referring to any level within the Celestial Kingdom, typically heaven refers to the highest level. The term heaven is also a reference to being in the presence of God.
Those who attain the highest level in the Celestial Kingdom get to live with their family (assuming their family members make it there, too. They would have had to be sealed in the temple to be together.). Another benefit to achieving the highest level in the Celestial Kingdom is that you become a God. “As God is, man may become”, is how Joseph Smith put it. Yes, that does mean you get to create worlds, just as God did (or does). Only the elect members of the church will attain the highest level.
According to the Doctrine and Covenants (see Scriptures), in order to inherit the Celestial Kingdom, one must:
Receive the testimony of Jesus; be baptized by one with priesthood authority; keep the commandments; receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; overcome the world by faith; be made perfect through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Those who die without knowledge of the gospel but “would have received it with all their hearts” would qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Also eligible are those who “die before they arrive at the years of accountability”, which is eight years of age. This means that children who die will automatically go to the Celestial Kingdom, since they could not have sinned.
According to the Doctrine and Covenants, the following will inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom:
“Those who reject the gospel in this life but receive it in the spirit world; those who are honorable but are blinded by the craftiness of men; and those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.”
Finally, the Telestial Kingdom (which presumably will include everyone else) is for those who:
Reject the gospel; reject the testimony of Jesus; and are liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers
Just as heaven might have different meanings depending on how it is used, hell also has different meanings. Unlike the usual depiction of flames and physical suffering associated with hell, the LDS Church teaches that hell is being away from the presence of God.
Mormons, if not referring to spirit prison, are referring to the Telestial Kingdom when they reference hell. The Telestial Kingdom is the lowest kingdom. It is where the worst of humanity will end up. Like the Celestial Kingdom, the Telestial Kingdom also has an extreme. It is called ‘outer darkness”, reserved for a select few who have received a special witness of God, and then denied Him. Members are taught that there are only a handful of people who have ever denied that witness, so there will not be many people there.
Technically, ‘outer darkness’ is assumed to be a different location than the Telestial Kingdom, but the church does not refer to the Kingdoms in a physical sense, so this location is irrelevant. The point is that it is spiritually the furthest away from God.
‘Magic’ Underwear (Garments)
Ordinance Work for the Dead
Heaven and the Afterlife
Nature of God and the Godhead
Modern Day Prophets
Local Church Leadership