In John 14:1-2 we read:
The word for mansions is used here μοναὶmone, a word that means to abide, or a way-station or resting place, a word that is used also in John 14:23. This word comes from μένω to stay or abide. Originally a staying or abiding or delay. Thus Thucydides, of Pausanias: “He settled at Colonae in Troas, and was reported to the Ephors to be negotiating with the Barbarians, and to be staying there (τὴν μονὴν ποιούμενος, Literally, making a stay) for no good purpose.” Thence, a staying or abiding-place; an abode.
The word mansion has a similar etymology and follows the same course of development, being derived from manere, to remain. Mansio is thus, first, a staying, and then a dwelling-place. A later meaning of both mansio and μονή is a halting-place or station on a journey. One interpretation of this text is that Christ is telling his apostles that there will be many stations that we can have rest in on our way to dwelling with him. In other words, this can be read as a text implying ascension – heaven is far away, and it will be a journey!
Probably the most common interpretation of this passage for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the idea that there are many dwelling places for those in the next life. The idea that mankind is divided into two groups – heaven and hell, is rejected in Latter-day Saint scripture (see D&C 76). Members of the church believe that almost all men will live in kingdoms of glory, what we today all the Three Degrees of Glory.
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “In the life to come we shall not be arbitrarily divided into two fixed groups-inhabitants of heaven and hell. Jesus stated, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions.’ There will be various grades and stations.” 1
Spencer W. Kimball said,”The age-old concept of heaven and hell is erroneous. It is not true that there is but one dividing line between heaven and hell and that all who barely fail to reach heaven will be doomed to a fire and brimstone hell, and conversely untrue, that all who are just a little better than the condemned ones will go to a common heaven, there equally to play harps or to sing praises eternally. This is a false concept. The scriptures have made it clear that every soul will pay penalties for evil deeds and receive rewards for good deeds and all will be judged according to their works. They will not be put into two categories but in as many as there are individuals who have different degrees of accomplishment and performance, and this is just. Think for one moment how unjust it would be to put all law-breakers-the murderer, adulterer, thief, and car-parking violator-in the same penitentiary with the same punishments, deprivations, and the same period to serve; how unjust to put in the same world [of] development and happiness and glory the person who has merely confessed the name of Christ with all those who not only confessed it but lived his every commandment and perfected their lives and became godlike in all their attributes. God is just.” 2
- Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book, 1997, 451.
- The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Deseret Book, 1982, 47.