I understand that there are different levels of kingdoms, as explained in D&C 76, but how come the Book of Mormon sounds so polarized between Eternal Life and Perdition/Hell? Did the Lehites have knowledge of Telestial and Terrestrial states? Thanks and keep it up!
Knowledge of the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms could have been known in the Book of Mormon times. The lack of that specific information in the specific sermons delivered is no indication that it was not. In many ways we need to understand that what is in the Book of Mormon is what Mormon (and Moroni) were inspired to include, and trust that God meant the details of the kingdoms of glories to be given us through revelation to Joseph Smith.
We know that not everything was known by every person in the Book of Mormon though. For example, Alma, as great as his revelations were, still awaited further revelation on the matter of the resurrection. (Alma 40:19-21)
“Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice, that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ.
Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven.
But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.”
As we can see, Alma only had opinions on some things related to the resurrection. It is possible that Alma did not know about the degrees of glory.
One of the things we need to keep in mind is that even with the three degrees of glory, there is still a clear polarization that is, frankly, much more important to understand. This basic doctrine is what the Book of Mormon teaches, because it is the basic doctrine that we need to know. D&C 76 is additional information that helps us understand greater truths once we have accepted the basics gospel.
Because of the greater knowledge we have received, we might sometimes run the risk of losing sight of what’s truly important. We know, for example, that at some level, all will be saved except the sons of perdition. But what we lose sight of is that any but those who reach the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom are only partially saved. There is only one complete and full salvation. Anything except this complete and full salvation is damnation — being damned meaning to be stopped from progression. There is only one state wherein we gain eternal progression. There is only one state where our joy will be full. There is only one state where we may have a continuation of seed, and where we will rule forever as gods, all things being subject unto us. (seeD&C 132:19-20) Anything less is damnation.
There is only one exaltation.
This is the polarization spoken of in the Book of Mormon. It separates those who do all the Lord asks of them, walking in obedience to His ordinances, from those who do not.
Exalted vs. not exalted. Fully saved vs. not full saved. Fullness of joy vs. not a fullness of joy.
There is not, nor will there ever be, a principle that recommends less than striving for complete salvation and exaltation. Therefore, the understanding that there are various levels of damnation is a matter of interest and knowledge. It is important to understand, and to gain knowledge, but it is not as meaningful to the principles of action, which principles are those that matter.