I’m not usually a literalist about the scriptures, but I’m a little baffled by a verse I read today and the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 137. This section is the account of a vision Joseph Smith had of the celestial kingdom. He names Adam and Abraham, as well as his parents, as inhabitants, likely those who were saved “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

And then he mentions his brother, Alvin. Joseph “marvels” that his brother Alvin is there, “seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.” And then the great revelation that “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” Of course, this revelation plays a big part in understanding why we do work for the dead in our temples…right?

Here’s my question: What was Alvin doing there in the celestial kingdom when his work hadn’t been done yet?

Okay, so that’s just one question among many questions that I could ask about this scripture: Has he already been resurrected? Is that a requirement of being the celestial kingdom? Why have I been taught that people are waiting for their chance to “accept the gospel” when it looks like doing so doesn’t necessitate our doing their work vicariously? Are the ordinances not really a requirement to get there? If not, will Alvin and people like them want them anyway?.

In the end, I think what I’m really asking is this: If I take this section literally – and Alvin Smith was actually in the celestial kingdom – then once I have received all my living ordinances, what am I doing when I go back to the temple?

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