As a kid, I spent hours lying on the grass staring into the night sky. From light years away, twinkling stars beckoned. A “nearby” planet’s color added to the mystery of the black night. A falling star’s glowing trail caught my attention for a moment. The moon in all of its phases became a friend and confidant. These Celestial wonders made me ponder, “Where is the kingdom of God?” and “What is the kingdom of God like?”
As I looked at the sky, I wondered which stars Abraham and Moses saw.
“I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it” (Abraham 3:2).
Thanks to the Hubble telescope and easy internet image accessibility, nowadays I peer deep into space–usually on a daily basis! The images captivate my sense of awe and wonder!
A September 2014 article image commanded my full attention. Scientists introduced Laniakea as a galaxy supercluster home to 100,000 galaxies. Laniakea encompasses Virgo Supercluster, the area where the Milky Way is located.
The team of astronomers, based at the University of Hawaii, gave the supercluster a Hawaiian name, Laniakea meaning “immeasurable heaven” (lani meaning “sky” or “heaven” and akea meaning “broad”, “wide”, “spacious”, “immeasurable”.)
One reason Laniakea interested me so much is because of its artistic resemblance to an early Apostle’s depiction of the kingdom of God.
A Diagram of the Kingdom of God
Latter-day Saints believe that families can be united forever through a priesthood ordinance called a sealing. The sealing creates a covenant relationship enabling a family to become an eternal chain, linking generation to generation. Jehovah’s promises of kingship and priesthood to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob become the rightful inheritance of all who make the covenant with God.
Joseph Smith taught “that such a patriarchal priesthood of kings and priests would have to be established by sealing children and parents back through Abraham to Adam in order to fulfill the mission of Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6). When this was accomplished, the order within the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom would then be eternally set. Probably no clearer statement of Joseph’s theology regarding this concept can be found than what is given in an editorial by Orson Hyde. The following diagram began the editorial after which came the text.” (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, compiled and edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980], 297).
Orson Hyde published “A Diagram of the Kingdom of God” in the Millennial Star in 1847.
He included the following explanation of the diagram.
“The above diagram shows the order and unity of the kingdom of God. The eternal Father sits at the head, crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Wherever the other lines meet, there sits a king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father. He is one with the Father, because his kingdom is joined to his Father’s and becomes part of it.”
(The entire description can be found at the end of this article.)
Peering into the Kingdom of God
God hasn’t revealed exact specifications of His kingdom and glory, though visionary prophets try to explain it to us as best they can.
Latter-day Saint scholar Lynn M. Hilton postulated in his book The Kolob Theorem that our Heavenly Father’s kingdom consists of the numberless creations in the Milky Way galaxy. He believed that neighboring galaxies were the kingdom of other exalted beings.
He also believed that galactic space dust, called dark nebulae, covering the Milky Way’s brilliant center acts as a veil physically blocking us from the presence of God.
Amazing technology is beginning to breach the vastness of space dust, illuminating fantastic views of starry creation zones in the Milky Way like the Pillars of Creation. Are we beginning to peer into the throne of God?
Regardless of the actual location and physical expansiveness of Heavenly Father’s kingdom, several things we know for sure are:
God’s Creations Are Numberless
Every book of scripture testifies that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are Creators and Divine Organizers. Using eternal matter, Diety fashions all things into existence. When God reveals Himself to man, He reveals His creations–vast and innumerable.
Even without an expansive galactic tour, we behold vast and innumerable creations all around us everyday. Alma declared that “all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).
Paul testified of the immenseness of God’s creations, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
But, I love how God testifies of His own works,
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine” (Moses 1:33, 37).
“And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it; And the Lord said unto me:
These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest” (Abraham 3:2-3).
There Is No End to His Works or Creations
Along with the notion of the enormity of God’s creations is the principle of the endlessness of His creations. He will create eternally.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
“For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words” (Moses 1:35, 38).
God’s Time Differs From Man’s Time
God sets the time.
“[G]od hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:12).
The Lord revealed the interesting concept of His time to prophets, specifically Abraham and Joseph Smith.
“And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.
And it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light, until thou come near unto the throne of God” (Abraham 3:4,10).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “The Lord made known to [Abraham] the following facts: That Kolob is the first creation, and is nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. It is the first in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. This measurement is according to celestial time. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth….” (Man: His Origin and Destiny , 461.)
In the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith recorded Divine responses to his questions, “In answer to the question—Is not the reckoning of God’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside? I answer, Yes” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:4-5).
We Can Become Joint Heirs with Christ
One of the most glorious and incomprehensible aspects of the plan of salvation is that Jesus Christ’s Atonement enables all who will enter into, and keep, covenants with God to inherit all that He has.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galations 4:7).
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20).
“I pray that as you ponder the many titles of a worthy priesthood holder, you will discover a divine wind at your back, lifting you ever upward toward the great inheritance your Heavenly Father has reserved for you.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Four Titles”.
Brigham Young incorporates all of the above elements into his declaration of man’s ultimate destiny.
“Mankind are organized of element designed to endure to all eternity; it never had a beginning and never can have an end. There never was a time when this matter, of which you and I are composed, was not in existence, and there never can be a time when it will pass out of existence; it cannot be annihilated.
“It is brought together, organized, and capacitated to receive knowledge and intelligence, to be enthroned in glory, to be made angels, Gods—beings who will hold control over the elements, and have power by their word to command the creation and redemption of worlds, or to extinguish suns by their breath, and disorganize worlds, hurling them back into their chaotic state. This is what you and I are created for” Brigham Young (Discourses of Brigham Young, 48; see also D&C 93:29–33).
We have beautiful scriptural accounts of prophets, like Moses, Abraham, and Joseph Smith, being shown the Father’s vast creations. And yet, He promises that the least Saint can have such revelations!
“For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5-8).
Until that glorious knowing, we can continue to ponder and wonder with William W. Phelps, who composed the text of “If You Can Hie to Kolob”1. If you could hie to Kolob In the twinkling of an eye, And then continue onward With that same speed to fly, Do you think that you could ever, Through all eternity, Find out the generation Where Gods began to be? 2. Or see the grand beginning, Where space did not extend? Or view the last creation, Where Gods and matter end? Methinks the Spirit whispers, “No man has found ‘pure space,’ Nor seen the outside curtains, Where nothing has a place.” 3. The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound; Improvement and progression Have one eternal round. There is no end to matter; There is no end to space; There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race.
Orson Hyde’s Entire Description of the Diagram
“The above diagram shows the order and unity of the kingdom of God. The eternal Father sits at the head, crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Wherever the other lines meet, there sits a king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father. He is one with the Father, because his kingdom is joined to his Father’s and becomes part of it.
The most eminent and distinguished prophets who have laid down their lives for their testimony (Jesus among the rest), will be crowned at the head of the largest kingdoms under the Father, and will be one with Christ as Christ is one with his Father; for their kingdoms are all joined together, and such as do the will of the Father, the same are his mothers, sisters, and brothers. He that has been faithful over a few things, will be made ruler over many things; he that has been faithful over ten talents, shall have dominion over ten cities, and he that has been faithful over five talents, shall have dominion over five cities, and to every man will be given a kingdom and a dominion, according to his merit, powers, and abilities to govern and control. It will be seen by the above diagram that there are kingdoms of all sizes, an infinite variety to suit all grades of merit and ability. The chosen vessels unto God are the kings and priests that are placed at the head of these kingdoms. These have received their washings and anointings in the temple of God on this earth; they have been chosen, ordained, and anointed kings and priests, to reign as such in the resurrection of the just. Such as have not received the fulness of the priesthood, (for the fulness of the priesthood includes the authority of both king and priest) and have not been anointed and ordained in the temple of the Most High, may obtain salvation in the celestial kingdom, but not a celestial crown. Many are called to enjoy a celestial glory, yet few are chosen to wear a celestial crown, or rather, to be rulers in the celestial kingdom.
While this portion of eternity that we now live in, called time, continues, and while the other portions of eternity that we may hereafter dwell in, continue, those lines in the foregoing diagram, representing kingdoms, will continue to extend and be lengthened out; and thus, the increase of our kingdoms will increase the kingdom of our God, even as Daniel hath said: “of the increase of his kingdom and government there shall be no end.” All these kingdoms are one kingdom, and there is a King over kings, and a Lord over lords. There are Lords many, and Gods many, for they are called Gods to whom the word of God comes, and the word of God comes to all these kings and priests. But to our branch of the kingdom there is but one God, to whom we all owe the most perfect submission and loyalty; yet our God is just as subject to still higher intelligences, as we should be to him.
…These kingdoms, which are one kingdom, are designed to extend till they not only embrace this world, but every other planet that rolls in the blue vault of heaven. Thus will all things be gathered in one during the dispensation of the fulness of times, and the Saints will not only possess the earth, but all things else, for, says Paul, “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come: all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (Orson Hyde, “A Diagram of the Kingdom of God,” Millennial Star 9 [15 January 1847]: 23-24).