Most of the Christian world believes the afterlife is divided into two states: heaven and hell. It was revealed to Joseph Smith that there are more details to the afterlife than that. The Lord explained in section 76 that when Paul talked about resurrected bodies having glories as different as the Sun, the Moon and the Stars that this was in fact a model of the afterlife. So in the Church we now understand that rather than just heaven and hell, there is gradation in “heaven”. There is a telestial kingdom which matches the glory of the stars, a terrestrial kingdom that is likened to the glory of the moon, and a celestial kingdom that is likened to the glory of the sun. It is my opinion that just as the three-kingdom model shows more gradation than the heaven/hell model, that in reality the afterlife is a continuum of glory ranging from no light (outer darkness) to enough light to be likened to the sun at noonday (in Arizona no less).
First, I have consistently argued that being part of a kingdom does not mean getting an entrance ticket, but rather it means we are by our very nature celestial or terrestrial or telestial people. (Grasshopper put up a nice post of this subject a few weeks ago over at Millenial Star.) We have either changed our character through repentance enough to be celestial persons or we haven’t. There is no cheating the system and just sliding through the celestial gates by the skin of our teeth (Indiana Jones-style) where then we can pal around with Abraham, Moses and all the prophets. If we are not like them, we will not be like them. Nor will we want to be with them. It is pretty simple. We receive the glory in the resurrection to match who we really are.
I think the Sun, Moon, Stars analogy inherently matches this continuum idea too. At the low end we have the faintest of stars. Only the tiniest amount of light can be discerned from these. Within the star category you have a continuum that goes up to the brightest of the stars in the night sky. That brightest star probably emits more light than a new moon. But the next night we see a sliver moon. Within a few weeks the full moon comes out and gives enough light to see your path at times. In fact a full moon on a clear night can sometimes give more light than the sun under heavy cloud cover and pouring rain. But the better the weather gets and the more the marine layer burns off the more light we get from the sun, culminating in noonday sun on a crystal clear day in summer. The point should be obvious – we can see a continuum even with the scriptural Sun, Moon, Stars analogy.
So what do you think? Are there major plateaus in the eternal rewards God us gives or is our reward/punishment in the eternities on a continuum that matches exactly our character?