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Hi Gramps,
I am the Young Men President in our Ward in the Mormon Church and a question came up that I don’t know the answer to. The question is; other than needing to be sealed to your spouse to reach the highest glory within the Celestial Kingdom, what are the differences within the three degrees of glory in the Celestial Kingdom? There is much written about the differences between the three different kingdoms of glory, but very little about the differences within the Celestial Kingdom. Can you assist with an answer?
Greg, from Schertz, Texas

Dear Greg,
You are referring to the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says—

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;  And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.  He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase (D&C  131:1-4).

That highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, as you know, is called exaltation, and is the glory which may only be attained by those who enter into the new and everlasting covenant of eternal marriage, and who live in accordance with all of the covenants and p associated therewith. The marvelous blessings and responsibilities associated with exaltation in the celestial kingdom are revealed in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants—

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them–Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths…. and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory (D&C  132:19-21).

It is not detailed in the scriptures, nor have those who represent the Lord to His kingdom on the earth published definitive statements on the particulars of the other two degrees of glory in the celestial kingdom. We are left, then, to rely on the statement by Paul in 1 Cor  2:9—

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

However, one could conjecture on who may qualify for the other two degrees of glory in the celestial kingdom. Such conjectures have no foundation other than the ruminations of an old man, and are mentioned, not for any intrinsic worth that they may have, but just to open up some of the possibilities that may exist.
As compliance with and obedience to the eternal marriage covenant is required for exaltation in the celestial kingdom, so is fulfillment of the baptism covenant in the Church of Jesus Christ a requirement for entrance in the celestial kingdom. There is yet another saving ordinance required for entrance into the celestial kingdom, and that is the holy endowment. As baptism is a precursor to being endowed, so is the endowment a precursor to being sealed together in the eternal marriage covenant–the requirement for exaltation. It is possible that the lowest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom may be reserved for those who comply with the baptismal covenant, but who go no further, and the second degree of glory may be reserved for those who comply with covenants of the endowment, but who are not sealed to a companion for time and eternity.
Another possible cut could be associated with the fact that all children sealed to parents in the holy temples will inherit the celestial kingdom regardless to their degree of compliance with the principles of the gospel. As reported by Elder Orson F. Whitney—

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared-and he never taught more comforting doctrine-that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God”    (Elder Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1929, Third Day Morning Meeting, p.110).

This group of recreant children represent a group that have not yielded obedience to the principles of the gospel in mortality, but are saved in the celestial kingdom through the righteousness of their parents. They could represent the lowest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom. In this case, those who are obedient to the principles of the gospel but who have not been sealed in the eternal marriage covenant could represent the second degree.
Again, we hasten to repeat that these scenarios represent only possibilities of order in the celestial kingdom, with absolutely no endorsement for either scenario.
Gramps

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