While administering ordinances in preparation for the dedication of the Kirtland temple, on 21 January 1836, Joseph Smith again experienced a vision of the celestial kingdom. In the vision, he saw God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and Biblical Patriarchs—but significantly, he also beheld his father and mother who were living at the time, as well as his older brother Alvin who had died twelve years earlier. Joseph then “beheld” children who died in infancy saved in the celestial kingdom. The significance of this vision as a catalyst for Joseph Smith’s theological development has been underestimated. Joseph Smith envisioned his parents in the celestial kingdom at a time when his understanding of the eternality of marriage was expanding. This 1836 vision contributed to the doctrinal development of eternal marriage and the ritual of sealing husbands and wives. The vision was likewise a catalyst for what became the doctrine of the redemption of the dead. Beholding his unbaptized brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom, provoked Joseph theologically toward an expanded heaven and a contracted hell. Vicarious rituals became the practical way to offer redemption to the dead, thus resolving the soteriological problem of evil, and revealing that God’s plan was mercifully calculated to make salvation universally available. Joseph knew in 1836 that infant children who died prematurely received salvation in the kingdom of heaven. This vision further inspired Joseph toward the development of the ritual of child-to-parent sealings, which could ensure eternal bonds between parents and their posterity who lived to maturity—ultimately making it possible to link the whole human family back to Adam and Eve. Though the vision of the celestial kingdom significantly influenced the doctrinal development of Joseph Smith, the vision and associated revelations, remained an obscure journal entry during the lifetime of the prophet. After 140 years, the vision achieved canonization status as Doctrine and Covenants section 137.
College and Department
Religious Education; Church History and Doctrine
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Lotze, Jubal John, "Joseph Smith's Vision of the Celestial Kingdom: Context, Content, Ritualization, Canonization and Theological Implications" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 8108.
Doctrine and Covenants 137, vision, celestial kingdom, eternal marriage, sealings, redemption of the dead, child-to-parent sealings, ritual, canon, canonization, theology, Joseph Smith