In our leadership session of Stake Conference we briefly discussed the parable of the 12 kingdoms found in D&C section 88. I have to admit that this was a parable that I had somehow not noticed previously. It intrigued me and I decided that I needed to study it more carefully than the short time in our leadership session allowed.
In case you are as unfamiliar with it as I was (or to refresh your memory!), here it is:
Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.
52 And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance.
53 And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance.
54 And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you;
55 And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
56 And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord.
57 And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
58 And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—
59 Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;
60 Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.
61 Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made.
So, that’s the parable but what is it about? What does it mean?
The heading to the section doesn’t help a lot:
51–61, The parable of the man sending his servants into the field and visiting them in turn;
I think our first clue comes in verse 51 where we find ‘these kingdoms’. Which kingdoms?
If we go back to verse 37 we find:
37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
It seems that this is a cosmic vision; a revelation about the universe. We can link it with Moses great vision in Moses chapter 1:
27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God.
28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.
29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.
Elder Orson Pratt confirmed that the kingdoms, or the different parts of the field, in this parable represent other worlds or other creations. I think it is safe to assume that the man or the lord of the field is Jesus Christ. So we have the Lord sending his servants to the worlds that he has created. I take this to mean that the Gospel has been preached to all of God’s creations throughout the Universe. The number 12 is often symbolically associated with the priesthood so we may infer that the priesthood is present in these worlds.
The Lord visits each of the worlds in turn and spends one hour with them and they enjoy the joy of his countenance before he withdraws. Elder Pratt said that the hour in which the servants enjoyed the joy of the master’s countenance represents the Millennium:
Do we not expect that the Lord will, by and by, come and visit us and stay a little while, about a thousand years. Yes, and then we shall be made glad with the joy of the countenance of our Lord. He will be among us, and will be our King, and he will reign as a King of kings and Lord of lords.
He will then withdraw to go to do the same in another kingdom in its turn. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
During the millennium, the Savior will spend one thousand years here which is one day according to the Lord. In D&C, Section 88, it is written that the Savior will do the same thing in other worlds, visiting each in its turn. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:212)
President John Taylor explained:
That is, each kingdom, or planet, and the inhabitants thereof, were blessed with the visits and presence of their Creator, in their several times and seasons. (Mediation and Atonement, 77)
Elder Pratt then goes on to explain that there will come a time when each of the Lord’s creations have filled the measure of their creation and
Then, from that time henceforth and for ever, there will be no intervening veil between God and his people who are sanctified and glorified, and he will not be under the necessity of withdrawing from one to go and visit another, because they will all be in his presence.
What does this parable have to do with us? Well, it reminds us that we worship a God who is the creator and redeemer of the Universe, who with his infinite atonement is able to extend his mercy to all of his children in all of his worlds. This is the magnificent being who knows and loves each of us individually. This is the omnipotent one in whom we can trust. It also reminds us that there will come a time when our world, in its turn will experience the joy of the countenance of the Lord and that we need to prepare ourselves for that time.