On December 27, 1832 the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith information about the light of Christ and its relationship to the resurrection of the dead and, in so doing, has given us a deeper insight into the world of God and what His kingdom is like. In comparison to what mainstream Christians understand, this information is overwhelming. In relationship to science, what the Lord revealed is astounding as well as marvelous. Therefore, it would be advantageous to take a closer look at what is contained in the eighty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
All Christians believe that Jesus created the earth and the heavens, but they don't know the details of exactly how He did that. In commenting on the light of Christ, in verse seven of this section of the Doctrine and Covenants we read: "[It] is in the sun and [is] the light of the sun and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also the light of the stars and the power thereof by which they were made. And the earth also and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand."
According to this explanation, it is the light of Christ that created the sun, the moon, the stars, and the earth and which also gives the sun, moon, and stars their light and their power. In other words, without the light of Christ, the sun wouldn't shine! If that is so then we can ask: What exactly is this light that Christ possesses and how can it do all of these things?
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God created all things by the power of His priesthood and yet, here we are told that Christ created all things by His light. Is this a conflict of doctrine or are the priesthood and the light of Christ somehow connected to one another?
To understand the answer to that question we first have to understand what light is. We usually think of it as something that shines and illuminates or causes something to become brighter when struck by it. This is what the flame of a candle does in the dark or the radiation from the sun does to the earth. Therefore, when we talk about the "light" of Christ it can have reference to a dazzling brilliance that shines forth from the body of Christ in such a way that it brightens the area around Him, and there are numerous eyewitness accounts which testify that this is an accurate description of Christ's light.
But the word "light" can also be used to mean "enlighten" where a person receives additional knowledge. In this sense, we "see" (in our mind's eye) more clearly about a particular subject. Since it "shed's light" and "illuminates" our understanding, we walk a little less in the darkness of ignorance. The Lord explained, "the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlightenth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings" (D&C 88:11). When it comes to the Holy Spirit, one of His functions is to enlighten our mind by revealing hidden truths to us and apparently He does this using the light of Christ.
While both of these definitions do describe the light which Christ has, the Lord has revealed that it encompasses much more than this
He has said, "For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (D&C 84:45). Since God is full of truth and truth is the same as light then the reason why God literally shines with such a bright light is because He is full of truth or, in other words, He is full of light. This is what the scriptures mean when it states "God is light and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
The Lord further explained that, "Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created nor made, neither indeed can be… The glory of God is intelligence or, in other words, light and truth" (D&C 93:29, 36). A person who has false knowledge cannot be intelligent. The reason why God is so intelligent is because He has a full knowledge of truth, and the more truth and intelligence a person has the more light they have and the brighter they shine.
This applies even to us. As man keeps the commandments of God he receives more truth and the more truth he has the more light he emits and the more enlightened and intelligent he becomes (see D&C 93:8). The Lord explained it this way: "That which is of God is light and he that receiveth light and continueth in God receiveth more light and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (D&C 50:24).
Light also has the property of giving life. The Bible tells us that in Christ was life and it was that life which was the light of men (see John 1:4). In a spiritual sense, light has been associated with eternal life while darkness, which is the opposite of light, is associated with spiritual death. But that is also true in a physical sense as well. Light, truth, knowledge, and intelligence gives a fullness of life while hatred, selfishness, and greed not only leads to a miserable life but can cause physical death through violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicide.
In the same sense, it is the light of Christ that imparts life to humans, animals, plants, and even to the earth itself. The reason why this earth is teeming with life is because the planet itself is alive and is therefore able to give sustaining life to everything on it. The Lord explained that "light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space. The light which is in all things, [is what] giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God" (D&C 88:12,13).
In addition to all of this, light is also "spirit." For us, living in a completely physical world, the concept of a spirit is hard to comprehend because it is something outside of our earthly realm of experience yet the reason why God is a spirit is because He is full of light, knowledge, truth, intelligence, and life. This is why He can have eternal life.
All of these characteristics of light are connected to one another because they all depend on one another. In other words, you can't have one without the other. You can't have light without truth and you can't have truth without being intelligent. The more truth a person has the more their light shines and the more enlightened they become. The more enlightened a person is the more intelligent they become and the more intelligence they have the better their quality of life becomes.
Because of this, light is what gives power to a man's priesthood. It is true that the priesthood can be conferred on anyone, but only those who are righteous are able to wield its power because righteousness is founded on truth. Those who are not righteous find that when they go to use their priesthood, the heavens withdraw themselves and will not obey their command. When that happens then it is amen, or goodbye, to the power of that man's priesthood (see D&C 121:37).
Christ has created all things through the priesthood but it is the light, truth, and intelligence He possesses that gives His priesthood its power. Without that kind of light His priesthood would be ineffective and useless. When we understand this principle then we come to have a better understanding of how God uses the light of Christ" to accomplish what He does.
When we sin we commit spiritual suicide, which is to say, we die spiritually because of our own actions. Since no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, and since all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory, then all of us are unworthy to live in heaven. But, because light literally gives life, we can be saved or redeemed from spiritual death because of, or through the power of the light of Christ, which is exercised through Christ's priesthood.
The Lord explained, "Through the redemption… is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead and the spirit and the body are the soul of man and the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul and the redemption of the soul is through him that quickenth (e.g., gives life to) all things" (D&C 88:14, 17). The atonement of Christ on the cross washed away our sins but it is the resurrection that redeems us or saves us from death. At death, the body is laid in the grave but in the resurrection, that same body will be "quickened" or brought back to life, and the way that will happen is through the power of the light of Christ "which giveth life to all things."
However, even though the bodies of all men will be resurrected, not every resurrected body will be the same. In speaking of the resurrection of the dead Paul taught, "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?... God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him… All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial…there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars… so also is the resurrection of the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).
In these latter-days, the Lord has explained that there are three major levels or degrees of heaven - celestial, terrestrial, and telestial -- and that each of them are a kingdom of glory. He further explained that there is also a fourth kingdom that is outside of heaven, known as outer darkness, which is not a kingdom of glory. Within each of these three major degrees of glory there are even more levels. For example, the Lord has revealed that in the celestial kingdom itself there are three degrees or levels and that it is in the highest one where God dwells.
In order for a person to inherit any degree of heaven they must be sanctified, meaning they must be cleansed from all of their unrighteousness. This is important because without that cleansing process we are not prepared to enter into heaven (see D&C 88:18). Since we must be sanctified in order to live eternally in a kingdom of glory, and it is the light of Christ that gives life to all things, then it is clear that the light of Christ is necessary for the processes of sanctification to be effective.
Yet, even though a person must be sanctified to enter heaven, not everyone will receive the same reward. If that is so then it follows that there must be different kinds of sanctification. As was discussed earlier, there are three major degrees or levels of heaven and each one has their own laws or requirements which those living in them must follow.
The Lord has explained that those who are sanctified and redeemed of their sins by the law of Christ, are prepared and fit to live in the celestial kingdom. "Those who are not sanctified through the law, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom for those who cannot abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory, and he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory, therefore he must abide a kingdom that is not a kingdom of glory" (D&C 88:21-24).
The laws for each of these kingdoms are different from one another. This is not hard to understand because we have the same situation here on earth. For example, most people are employed in some kind of work and, while there are common rules that apply in every workplace, each company has their own particular set of rules and regulations. What one company may allow their employees to do may not be permitted in another company.
Even within the same company, the rules for how a person is paid are different. Some people work by the hour, some are salaried employees, while other work on a commission basis. The rules that factory worker must adhere to are not the same as for those who work in the office. Those who work in the audit department must adhere to some very strict financial rules that don't apply to other departments. Those who are on-the-road salesmen have different rules to live by than the rest of the company's employees while the president and vice-presidents of the company have different rules to follow.
In the same way, even though everyone in heaven must conform to a set of common laws, the requirements of those who live in the Celestial part of heaven are different from those who live in the terrestrial part of heaven which are both different from those who live in the telestial kingdom. Those who live in outer darkness have a much different set of rules to live by.
To some, this may seem like a strange concept but the Lord explained, "That which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. That which breaketh a law and abideth not by law but seeketh to become a law unto itself and willeth to abide in sin… cannot be sanctified by law… All kingdoms have a law given and there are many kingdoms for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom and there is no kingdom where there is not space… and unto every kingdom is given a law and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions" (D&C 88:36-38).
There is no place we can go where there is no law. Even here on earth we are governed by the laws of physics. For example, our bodies need air to live. If we cut off our supply of air, we die. It is by continuing to obey this biological law that we are preserved and continue to live in this world. When we decide to disobey this law, we will soon find ourselves no longer enjoying the experience of mortality and must therefore abide or live in some other environment.
And the same situation applies in the resurrection. We are persevered by obeying the law and when we disobey the law it will destroy us. Those who are willing to abide or live by the law of Christ in this life, will be preserved by that same law which will enable us to live in the Celestial kingdom with God. Those who are not willing to obey this law must, of necessity, live somewhere other than where Christ lives. Since there is no place where there is no law it is obvious that wherever we go we must be willing to abide by the law of that kingdom in which live. Those who are willing to live by the laws that govern the terrestrial kingdom will have their life preserved by the law of that kingdom and the same applies to both the telestial kingdom and the kingdom of outer darkness.
The Lord explained, "For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraces truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light" (D&C 88:40). In other words, people associate with other like themselves. Those who are highly intelligent don't choose to cleave or live with people who are content to be ignorant and neither do the ignorant choose to live with people who are always studying and learning. People who are virtuous don't choose to associate with those who have low morals and neither do honest people choose to live with those who have no integrity.
In the resurrection it would be unfair and unjust to have someone with low morals be put in a kingdom where they had to live by a high standard of virtue and, conversely, it would be just as unfair to have a person with high morals live in a kingdom where the law allowed a lower standard of morality. Therefore, the laws of each kingdom must be different in order to afford each person a place where they can comfortably live.
However, there is more to the resurrection than just living in a place where we are willing to abide by its laws. The Lord explained, "ye shall receive your bodies and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened. Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness. They who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness. And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fullness. And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received" (D&C 88:28-32).
As we have already seen, the apostle Paul taught that in the resurrection, not all bodies will be the same. Just like there are different kinds of flesh in this life, so also in the resurrection there will be different kinds of bodies. Although we will all look like humans, there will be significant differences between those in each kingdom. Those whose body is "quickened" by a portion of the celestial glory will have a different kind of a body than those who are "quickened" by a portion of the terrestrial glory, and the same will be true of those whose bodies are brought to life by a portion of the telestial glory or with no glory.
But that then raises the question of what will those differences be?
We know that those in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will have the power to have spirit children while those in the other kingdoms will not be able to procreate. However, it doesn't take much of a change in our body to produce this condition. Here on earth, those who have not yet reached the age of puberty do not have the hormones necessary to create sperm and eggs. It isn't until around the age of 12 or so that their body begins to produce these hormones but until then it is almost impossible for them to have offspring. In this respect a child's body is different from that of an adult, even though it is not physically noticeable.
However, in the resurrection it appears that there will be other differences in our bodies that will be obvious. Although all humans here on earth are nearly identical in their physiological makeup, it is still easy to tell the difference between someone of European decent from someone of African or Asian descent. From what the Lord has revealed, the same will be true in the resurrection. Although we will all have the same human shaped body as we have here on earth, it will nonetheless be easy to distinguish a celestial person from a terrestrial person from a telestial being other than by the brightness of their body.
The Lord has not revealed exactly what those differences will be but whatever they are, each resurrected body will be suited for the kingdom in which that person will live throughout eternity. To illustrate this principle, suppose that those in the telestial kingdom had a body with three legs. Obviously, they could do things that someone with two legs can't do and so the work they would do would require having three legs. Now, suppose that those in the terrestrial kingdom not only had three legs but three arms. They could do things that those in the telestial world could not do. Now suppose that those in the celestial kingdom had a body with three legs, three arms, and three eyes, with one of them in the back of the head.
If this were to be the case (which it isn't), it would be very easy to look at a person and immediately tell which kingdom they belonged to. More than that, it would be impossible for someone from the telestial kingdom to live in a terrestrial world because they wouldn't have the extra arm needed to do the work that terrestrial people must do. In the same way, the only people who could live in the celestial kingdom are those who have three legs, three arms, and three eyes because all of those body parts would be needed to do the work that celestial beings must accomplish. This is one reason why a person cannot progress from one kingdom to another.
Since it is the light of Christ that will give life to our dead body it is obvious that it is the light of Christ that will also produce the differences in our resurrected bodies. It will be remembered that the Lord said, "The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things... is the law by which all things are governed" (verse 13). Light not only gives life but it is also the law which governs all things.
In the resurrection it will be the light of Christ which "quickens" our bodies but if our body is quickened by a portion of the Celestial kingdom then it will become a celestial body which is fitted to live according to the law of the celestial kingdom. In the same way, resurrected beings will be given life by the law of the kingdom they are prepared to inhabit and all of this is done through the light of Christ.
As we more fully come to appreciate what the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith as recorded in section eighty-eight of the Doctrine and Covenants, the better we not only come to understanding Christ and His power but we also gain a clearer understanding of how it affects us and our eternal reward.