Disclaimer: My comments may or may not be reflective of doctrine specifically taught by the LDS Church.
The current First Presidency, like Joseph Smith, does not believe that the LDS Church has All of the Truth. However, we are the only church body which performs ordinances for both the living and the dead in the Temples which have been dedicated to the Lord. Holding the Keys to the Kingdom of God, we fulfill purposes for the Lord. Through John the Baptist, and through Peter, James and John the Beloved, the Holy Priesthood was given to Joseph Smith.
I believe, that just as in OT and NT times, God continues to communicate with His children through prophets all over the earth whose teachings are manifested through many different religions. I also believe the following passage (which, BTW, should put an end to the incorrect interpretation of the Book of Revelation wherein some people believe there will be no further revelation and/or prophecies):
Acts 2:17 (KJV)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
I believe that these occurrences will take place in all religions. I believe in universal salvation----that even the Sons of Perdition will eventually obtain salvation even if it means their intelligences and spirits will need to be reorganized in order for each spirit entity to achieve salvation. I also believe, in that, God is eternal, and that we are also eternal, that all will continue to progress either in this world, or in another world, until we become exalted beings who are One with God. Eternity has no beginning and no end. Our existence on this earth in our physical body DOES have a beginning and an end; however, inasmuch as we are eternal, our spirit can achieve Exaltation through a progression of entering a new body either here or in another world or worlds until God's desire is realized. His desire is that we ALL return to Him. His “will” will be done all in accordance with our own personal progression and exercise of our own free will, using the pathway which He, in His infinite mercy, has provided.
When Jesus commanded us to be perfect, and wherein we are taught that God will make up the difference, I think man has misinterpreted this to mean that if we have not been completely awakened spiritually (i.e., are born of the Spirit-see John 3:3) so that we can see the Kingdom of God, that He will perfect us with His own Power and Authority. However, I believe He allows for our perfection to take place through the use of our free will. Otherwise, He becomes a puppet master choosing some over others to make perfect, while others flounder and fall. We are taught that only those who are born of the Spirit will be able to see the Kingdom of God. Since I and those who are reading my words are unable to yet see the Kingdom of God (although I believe that those who are spiritually enlightened do get to experience glimpses of His Kingdom—just not all of it, and not for any lengthened period of time), then it is not possible that we HAVE been born of the Spirit; however, it IS apparent to me that some have progressed farther than others. Some see the spiritual much easier than others. They are the ones who have eyes which can see and ears which can hear.
We are all on our own personal journey, and all of us at a different point in that journey to Exaltation. Once we achieve perfection, once our spirit is born of the Spirit, we WILL see the Kingdom of God. In fact, it cannot be hidden from us at that point; and we will see all things clearly, having perfect knowledge, and be totally prepared to be joint-heirs with Christ. There will be no more "mystery" (i.e., the missing of any of the pieces of ALL Truth) of God. As an individual entity, our spirit will progress through the events of the book of Revelation. Likewise, the earth will also physically progress through those events. We are truly sons and daughters of the most High God, quite literally!
When we are taught that only "few there be that find it", I believe Jesus is speaking of our current incarnation; IOW, most of us need to go through more incarnations until we are among the "few there be that find it" within that particular incarnation. It is only those who are completely born of the Spirit who will find it (“it” being Exaltation).
Where we are taught that our sins have been forgiven us; but then are also taught that those who live by the sword will die by the sword, or with what judgment we mete the same is meted unto us, these teachings at first appear to be in conflict. Additionally we are taught that Mercy cannot rob Justice!! Through the process of reincarnation, these words become Truth because if we lived by the sword in one life and did not die by the sword in that same life, our spirit will enter another body in order that Justice will be served; yet, our sins are still forgiven us (Mercy). In fact, our spirit can then experience Justice and learn what it needs to in order to progress spiritually.
Joseph Smith once told some of the Brethren that if they knew everything that he had learned [about the Kingdom of God], they would kill him. What a curious thing to say UNLESS you take into consideration reincarnation. Who was Joseph in other incarnations? Is the way he died indicative of something he did in another life? What about John the Baptist? He said he wasn’t Elijah; Jesus said that John was Elijah. How can this be? I believe both were telling the Truth. Jesus knows All Truth – he IS All Truth. I believe Jesus was teaching a spiritual truth. He would have known that the same spirit that was in Elijah’s body was the same spirit that was now occupying John the Baptist’s body. It was the spirit inside of John’s body that needed to be in a physical body which went through the experience of dying by the sword in order for Justice to be served.
How much of this did John the Baptist understand? As you will see, it does not matter; because either way, John’s answer would have been true from the standpoint that John’s body was NOT the body of Elijah. Therefore, in the physical meaning, John was NOT Elijah. If the veil HAD been removed from John’s mind, he STILL was not Elijah. A spirit is its own entity. As such, our spirit will have its own name; regardless of what physical body it occupies. Perhaps this is why Jesus gives new names to individuals throughout the Bible. I think that some names are representative of “titles”. Perhaps the new name is the name of the spirit which was always known by God by that name. This could explain what Joseph Smith was told by the Lord in D&C 130:11 (which will be discussed shortly).
Some other ancient texts also hint that John the Baptist was Elijah in a previous life. Now, we know that John the Baptist died by having his head cut off. Let’s take into consideration that Jesus also taught that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword; with what judgment we mete, the same will be meted to us; etc. So, look at 1Kings 18:40 where Elijah slew 450 Prophets of Baal. IOW, Elijah lived by the sword, but in that incarnation, he did not die by the sword; in fact, he did not die in that incarnation. He was taken to Heaven in a chariot. I want to continue searching for other possible clues in the Bible which could portray that the same spirit has been in more than one body.
There are other ancient writings that have not been canonized which also contain Truth. Those who are enlightened by the Spirit will be able to find those Truths and be benefitted by them. The following only mentions the Apocrypha; but I believe there are many other ancient writings and oral traditions which also contain Truth identifiable by those who are enlightened by the Spirit who will also be able to filter out what is false.
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, 9 March 1833 (see History of the Church, 1:331–32). The Prophet was at this time engaged in the translation of the Old Testament. Having come to that portion of the ancient writings called the Apocrypha, he inquired of the Lord and received this instruction.
1–3, The Apocrypha is mostly translated correctly but contains many interpolations by the hands of men that are not true; 4–6, It benefits those enlightened by the Spirit.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly;
2 There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.
3 Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.
4 Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth;
5 And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom;
6 And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen.
Some LDS misunderstand the above to be saying that the Apocrypha is false. However, that is NOT what the Lord told Joseph Smith.
Now, there are ancient writings and ancient religions which claim there are seven degrees of Heaven. Some claim other various numbers, and go as high as 365 degrees of Heaven. The standard belief of the LDS Church is that there are three degrees of Heaven. Perhaps that is what God thought that most of the people were ready to understand. However, I just found this, though I had read it many times before. I just did not previously have the eyes to see. It seems to me that ALL scripture contains "hidden" Truth until we are ready to have it revealed to us. Pay special attention to verses 10 and 11 (which I have highlighted):
4 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?
5 I answer, Yes. But there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it.
6 The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;
7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.
8 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
9 This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.
10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.
IOW, a white stone is given to each of those who come into the Celestial Kingdom. The white stone will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known! IOW, there are more than three levels of Heaven. Also note that in verse 11 there is a “new name” written on the stone. We can also see the new name is the key word. Perhaps, as I have already suggested, this is the name of our spirit. Father would know our spirit by our spirit’s name; not by the various physical bodies it has occupied. Indeed, those bodies have returned to the dust from whence they came.
I think it is possible that verse 5 could be hinting at reincarnation.
Now, we know that Joseph Smith believed in reincarnation, and that some of his wives and close friends say he spoke to them about it. He was also frustrated sometimes with the members of the Church because they weren’t as spiritually aware as he hoped they would be. I think, that just like with Apostles of old, Joseph had been taught things which he did not make doctrine because the people weren’t ready to have it revealed to them. This could even have been for the sake of the safety of the members of the Church seeing as how they were already being persecuted, pursued, and killed because of their beliefs.
*"8 June 1889: During our talks he [Lorenzo Snow] told me that his sister, the late Eliza R. Snow Smith was a firm believer in the principle of reincarnation and that she claimed to have received it from Joseph the Prophet, her husband. He said he [Lorenzo Snow] saw nothing unreasonable in it, and could believe it, if it came to him from the Lord or His oracle." ---Diary of Orson F. Whitney, 8 June 1889 entry, Church Archives
*Heber C. Kimball wrote:
"We have come here to become inured to work - to build temples, and improve upon the elements that God has placed around us, that we may become more skillful tomorrow, through the experience of to-day. What I do not to-day, when the sun goes down, I lay down to sleep, which is typical of death; and in the morning I rise and commence my work where I left it yesterday. That course is typical of the probations we take. But suppose that I do not improve my time to-day, I wake up to-morrow and find myself in the rear; and then, if I do not improve upon that day, and again lay down to sleep, on awaking, I find myself still in the rear. This day's work is typical of this probation, and the sleep of every night is typical of death, and rising in the morning is typical of the resurrection. They are days labours, and it is for us to be faithful to-day, tomorrow, and every day." Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 4:329
*April 1843 Joseph Smith said the purpose of successive probations or 'worlds' was to permit the gradual accumulation of intelligence and knowledge,”
*Orson Pratt taught that if a soul has not proved itself in this Probation the soul may be cast into another world and live out another probation. (October 6, 1853. Journal of Discourses Vol 1, p. 332
*Heber Kimball: "When an unbaked pot is broken, the potter can use the mud to make a new one, but when a baked one is broken, he cannot do the same any longer. So when a person dies in a state of ignorance, he is born again but when he becomes well baked in the fire of true knowledge and dies a perfect man, he is not born again.”
*James E. Talmage
"It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God's plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabling to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God's living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase."
*In a talk from the stand of the tabernacle in the presence of President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball explained how Joseph Smith taught that we are conducted from one probation to another probation upon this earth - that is from one dispensation to another. Joseph always told us that we would have to pass by sentinels that are placed between us and our Father and God. Then, of course, we are conducted along from this probation to other probations, or from one dispensation to another, by those who conducted those dispensations.
I have previously posted the following; however, I am repeating these as they support the purpose of this thread. A number of Early Church Fathers believed in and wrote about reincarnation:
*St. Justin Martyr (100–165 A.D.) expressly stated that the soul inhabits more than one human body.
*Origen (185–254 A.D.), who was considered by St. Jerome as “the greatest teacher of the Church after the Apostles,” defended the idea that the soul exists before the body, fundamental to the concept of reincarnation. Origen also wrote: "The soul has neither beginning nor end. [They] come into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives"
*Another Church Father, St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa (257–332 A.D.), wrote: “It is absolutely necessary that the soul should be healed and purified, and if this does not take place during its life on earth it must be accomplished in future lives. . . . The soul . . . is immaterial and invisible in nature, it at one time puts off one body . . . and exchanges it for a second.” St. Gregory also wrote: “Every soul comes into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of its previous life.”
*St. Augustine (354–430 A.D.), one of the greatest theologians of the Christian church, speculated that philosopher Plotinus was the reincarnation of Plato. St. Augustine wrote: “The message of Plato . . . now shines forth mainly in Plotinus, a Platonist so like his master that one would think . . . that Plato is born again in Plotinus.”
*Other Church Fathers who demonstrated a belief in reincarnation included Synesius (the Bishop of Ptolemais), St. Ambrose, Pope Gregory I, Jerome, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and Clement of Alexandria.
That’s enough for now.