Heaven is a term frequently used in religious conversations. If you’re “good,” you go to heaven. Plain and simple. But is it really so plain and simple? What is heaven really? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church) has unique doctrine surrounding the concept of heaven and hell. What we learn from Mormon teachings is that not only is heaven a real place but it is also much more accessible than we ever thought.
Heaven Is Part of the Plan of Salvation
Mormons see heaven as part of a great and eternal plan for our own happiness. Heaven is the goal for our lives and choices. Heaven is where we can live with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ again. It is a place where our souls are perfected and where our families dwell with us. Mormons believe it to be an unimaginably beautiful and glorious place.
To understand heaven the way Mormons do, we must understand the Plan of Salvation. God’s plan for our happiness began before we came to earth. In our pre-mortal existence we lived with God as His spirit children, and we fought Satan for our right to make choices on earth. We came to earth to gain a body, live with a family, and make ourselves more like our Savior. Our choices here matter greatly, and even though we make mistakes, the grace of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to repent, change, and start over. Our mortal life is all about choosing, repenting, changing, and choosing again. The more knowledge of gospel truth we have in this life, the greater our responsibility is to act accordingly.
Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison
Once we die and our spirits separate from our bodies, we go to one of two places (and no, they’re not heaven or a dead-end in hell!): If we had a knowledge of the true gospel and lived to it the best we could, we go to what Mormons call spirit paradise. If we either didn’t know about the truth or did but didn’t live what we know, we go to what Mormons call spirit prison. Spirit prison is not as scary as it sounds. It’s merely a place to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spirit prison is for learning and spirit paradise is for teaching. Spirit prison may be a hard place to be for some, especially for those who have heard and rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ. This place has been referred to as hell in Mormon scripture. Once these spirits, however, have suffered for their sins, they will be released and allowed into a tier of heaven. Spirit paradise is a peaceful place, where we can rest from our cares and be assured of the reality of Jesus Christ. There, we can also enjoy the company of loved ones who have already passed from mortality.
The Resurrection and Judgment
Eventually Jesus Christ will come again to the earth, and He will come in all of His glory. This will be an exciting time for His righteous children. Christ’s Second Coming means that we will all be resurrected, or reunited with our perfected and immortal bodies. After the resurrection, we will be judged by God the Father with Christ as our mediator. This judgment will be a merciful and honest one. After the judgment day we will be accepted into a tier of heaven.
The Three Kingdoms of Heaven
What we can traditionally call heaven is a collection of three different kingdoms, or tiers. The highest kingdom is called the celestial kingdom. This is the place for the righteous, for those who accepted Christ’s atonement and allowed it to change and perfect them. Here we can be with our families forever and all dwell with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ eternally.
The second kingdom is called the terrestrial kingdom. This is the place for those who were good people and made good choices, but who didn’t accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. The third kingdom, the telestial kingdom, is for those who didn’t accept any part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who deny the witness of the Holy Ghost. Despite these differences within the tiers of heaven, all kingdoms will be more glorious than we can imagine. We should also note that depending on the state of our character, on who we have ultimately become, we will go wherever we are most comfortable. Those who refuse to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ would never feel at ease living in His constant presence, like those in the celestial kingdom would. Remember that God is merciful and He does that only which is best for us.
You Can Prepare Now for Heaven
The beautiful truth of the doctrine of heaven is that where we end up eternally is based on a glorious combination of our choices and Christ’s grace. Jesus Christ will make up for our shortcomings if we allow it. Our destiny is in our hands. Even the highest degree of heaven is possible to attain through Jesus Christ. To learn more about the heaven and the Plan of Salvation go here and here. To read the account of a vision of the kingdoms of heaven, go here.