There are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is of one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is of another. One kind of splendor belongs to the sun, another to the moon, and another to the stars; yes, one star differs from another in splendor. It is just like this with the resurrection of the dead.
(1 Corinthians 15:40-42, Williams New Testament)
It was confirmed by revelation to Joseph Smith that Paul was teaching of gradations of glory in the resurrection. We assign them labels – Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial. Differentiating between the Terrestrial and Telestial is a rite of passage for Mormon youth (at least it felt that way for me).
The heavenly symbols themselves have largely been neglected. I find it odd that we try to pick apart parables and read into the symbols, but neglect pondering the heavenly images God has fixed before us.
I’m going to play an imaginative game with myself and allow you to overhear some of my thoughts on the sun, the moon, and the stars. I’m going to view this from the perspective of the earth and generally ignore scientific knowledge as I play my game.
In the heavens there are many stars. Not every star is the same. Some are so faint, they possess hardly any light. Others are much brighter, but still hardly cut through the darkness that pervades where they reside.
These stars are a reflection of us and our state (the world and kingdom in which we presently reside). We should be humbled as we ponder the difference between the glory of a star (even the brightest of them) and the glory of the sun.
Around and around the stars go. When the are buried under the horizon, they rest for a season. Later, they reappear, emerge from their horizon tomb, and return to their dark estate.
This is not all, some stars fall from the heavens. What faint light they possess, is engulfed in the blackness as they fall. Often others will follow falling stars and meet the same fate as they cast themselves to the earth. It is futile to move independent of the course and path God has fixed.
Just as some stars are faint and others are bright, the moon is not static. It either waxes or wanes in its glory, one small degree at a time. Like the stars, there is the same potential to be swallowed up in the darkness. That risk should be recognized.
Unlike the stars, which are independent, the moon borrows it’s light directly from the sun. The light it imparts in the darkness is reflected sunlight.
Unlike the stars, the moon is a body which has assumed the shape of sun, though only possesses a fraction of the sun’s glory. The identical shape important, because it allows for two unique phenomena.
The first of these is a red moon. The moon can at times be stained as by blood (we should be reminded of sacrifice and covenants).
The second of these is when the sun and the moon at last meet in the sky. They overlap and become one. The moon is crowned at last with the glory of the sun. The infrequency of such an event should be noted.
The sun is far above the glory of the sun or moon. When the sun enters the scene, the stars fade, and cannot bear its presence. They are in effect burned up, while the moon remains. The darkness which pervades in the heavens, cannot coexist with the sun’s glory. This operates as a prophecy of future events where the Son of God will return in glory and burn the wicked inhabitants of this world. Every day the heavens testify of that day and what it will bring.
The sun is unique in that it is both singular (unlike the stars which are many) and uniform (unlike the moon which waxes and wanes). Often however, it is veiled behind the clouds to us.
The fact that these symbols are repeated should emphasize the cyclical nature of the eternities. The sun may visit, but will depart after a season, darkness will reemerge, and stars will dance in futile circles yet again.
Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?