Doctrine & Covenants Lesson 49 (D&C 137–138)
November 27–December 3


● As various rooms of the Kirtland Temple were completed they were put to use for the Prophet’s work in translating, for the school of the prophets, and for a Hebrew school.

● January 21, 1836. On this date, a very important meeting was held in the west room of the attic (the third floor) that had been used as a classroom for studying Hebrew.

● This night was one of great revelation:

— The Prophet Joseph Smith received a vision of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137).1

— The Prophet also saw in vision the Savior standing in the midst of the present Twelve Apostles who were laboring in foreign lands.

— He saw the Twelve Apostles and the Presidency in the celestial kingdom.

— Many of the other brethren also saw glorious visions and received the ministration of angels.

— Some even saw the face of the Savior.

— Oliver Cowdery said: “The heavens were opened to many, and great and marvelous things were shown.”2

● D&C 137:1   A glorious vision of the celestial kingdom burst upon them.

● D&C 137:2–4   Joseph saw the celestial kingdom, its gate, its streets, and the Father and the Son sitting on the throne.

● D&C 137:5   He identified certain individuals who had already inherited or would inherit the celestial kingdom, such as Adam, Abraham, father and mother Smith, and his brother Alvin, who had died in 1823.

● D&C 137:5   Of these, only Joseph’s parents were still alive, and his father was in the room with Joseph at the time of the vision. According to President Joseph Fielding Smith, the prophet was seeing “a vision of the future.”

● D&C 137:6   Joseph marveled that his brother would inherit the celestial kingdom since he had died before the gospel was restored and had never been baptized.

● D&C 137:7   The Lord declared to the Prophet that those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel, “who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry” on the earth “shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.”

● D&C 137:8   Also, “all those that shall died henceforth without a knowledge of it,
who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom.

These verses show the mercy and charity of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ by declaring that those who receive and accept the gospel in the spirit world will inherit the celestial kingdom.

● D&C 137:9   The explanation given by the Lord was that He will judge all men
according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts, whether in this world or in the spirit world to come.

● D&C 137:10   The Lord also declares that “all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability (age 8) are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” So there is no need for infant baptism. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and children under the age of 8 are innocent in the Lord’s eyes.


Circumstances of the Revelation

● At the end of his life, the veil was very thin for President Joseph F. Smith and he was in continuous communication with the Spirit.

● He pondered the question, “How could Jesus have gone personally to the wicked among the spirits and preached to them directly when he was only in the tomb for three days?”

● October 3, 1918.   President Smith received this vision showing him that the Savior had not gone personally, but had organized his faithful people to go and do the teaching.

President Joseph F. Smith said on October 4, 1918, at general conference, “I will not, I dare not, attempt to enter upon many things that are resting upon my mind this morning, and I shall postpone until some future time, the Lord being willing, my attempt to tell you some of the things that are in my mind, and that dwell in my heart. I have not lived alone these five months. I have dwelt in the spirit of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination; and I have had my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously.”4

● D&C 138:11–12, 15–17    President Smith later recounted the vision:

“As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality. . . . I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. . . The spirit and the body [were] to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy.”

● D&C 138:25–37   President Smith observed that righteous spirits who have finished earth life are busy teaching those in the spirit prison.

● D&C 138:38–52   Those who lived upon this earth prior to the Lord’s ministry and resurrection looked upon the situation of their spirits in the spirit world as a “bondage” and were looking forward with great anticipation to the coming of the Lord. Once he was resurrected then they could be resurrected and receive back their bodies again.

● D&C 138:19–21; 29–33   The Lord provides a way for those who are dead to hear the gospel as it is preached to them in the spirit
D&C 138:57–58                  world. They receive the gospel ordinances by having them performed for them by us here on earth in
1 Peter 3:8–20; 4:6          the temples of our God.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.”5

● The ordinances of salvation are baptism, confirmation, ordination, endowment, marriage, and sealing of children to their parents.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The question is frequently asked, ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all these ordinances?’ I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. . . . Any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too.”6

● This pertains to all accountable people, both living and dead.

● Whereas the living who have the opportunity can comply with their own ordinance requirements, the dead cannot. This is one of the reasons we build temples.

● We on the earth must perform the necessary earthly ordinances for the dead.

President Henry B. Eyring taught:

“Only a very small minority of God’s children obtain during this life a complete understanding of God’s plan, along with access to the priesthood ordinances and covenants that make the Savior’s atoning powerfully operative in our lives. . . .

“Some may consider this unfair. They may even take it as evidence that there is no plan, no specific requirements for salvation—feeling that a just, loving God would not create a plan that is available to such a small proportion of His children. Others might conclude that God must have determined in advance which of His children He would save and made the gospel available to them, while those who never heard the gospel simply were not ‘chosen.’

“But you and I know, because of the truths restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that God’s plan is much more loving and just than that. Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family. While He knows that not all of them will choose to be gathered, His plan gives each of His children the opportunity to accept or reject His invitation.”7


1.  History of the Church, 2:380–381.
2.  1836 Diary, BYU Studies 12.4 [Summer 1972]: 418.
3.  Church History and Modern Revelation, 3:71.
4.  In Conference Report, Oct. 1918, 2.
5.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308.
6.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 331.
7.  “Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 20–21.

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