“Think Celestial” Strategies

If I live worthy of the celestial kingdom, I may be allowed to help “carry the message of redemption to all the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:37)

President Nelson

During his first general conference address given while sitting (over 100 previous while standing), President Russell M. Nelson counselled, “To assist you to qualify for the rich blessings Heavenly Father has for you, I invite you to adopt the practice of ‘thinking celestial’” (“Think Celestial,” Liahona, May 2023, 117).

My immediate reaction to the Prophet’s invitation was a mindset of joy. I reasoned that striving to develop strategies toward living in tune with God would help me face problems both now and after death.

#1 Better Understand Heavenly Father’s “Fabulous” Plan and Christ’s Atonement

Among President Nelson’s crucial life lessons are: “I have learned that Heavenly Father’s plan for us is fabulous, that what we do in this life really matters, and that the Savior’s Atonement is what make our Father’s plan possible” (Nelson, “Think Celestial,” 117).

Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness for Me

President Nelson’s description of God’s plan of salvation as fabulous emphasizes the marvelous blessings promised to those mortal souls who “will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; … [they] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:25-26; emphasis added).

To help me clarify some important concepts about the Savior’s Atonement, I found the following definition helpful: “The word [Atonement] describes the setting ‘at one’ of those who have been estranged and denotes the reconciliation of man to God … Jesus Christ, as the Only Begotten Son of God and the only sinless person to live on this earth, was the only one capable of making an atonement for mankind” (Bible Dictionary, “Atonement”; emphasis added). Christ “was foreordained [by Heavenly Father] before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). During His mortal ministry Jesus affirmed, “For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).


As this definition continued, it helped me expand my personal ways of thinking about Christ’s Atonement, “By His selection and foreordination in the Grand Council before the world was formed, His divine Sonship, His sinless life, the shedding of His blood in the garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the grave, He made a perfect atonement for all mankind” (Bible Dictionary, “Atonement”; emphasis added).

Previously, I tended to view the Savior’s Atonement as focusing only on Christ’s intense and incomprehensible sufferings in Gethsemane and on the cross. Now, I let any thoughts about Christ’s great works and teachings inspire my mind, particularly when partaking of the sacrament. As Jesus counselled after He had instituted the sacrament among the Nephites, “Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do” (3 Nephi 18:24).

#2 Seek Daily Celestial Light and Revelation from Trusted Sources

President Nelson specifically suggested my next strategy: “Seek guidance from voices you can trust—from prophets, seers, and revelators and from the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, who ‘will show unto you all things that ye should do’ (2 Nephi 32:5; emphasis added). Please do the spiritual work to increase your capacity to receive personal revelation” (Nelson, “Think Celestial,” 119).

President Lorenzo Snow
President Joseph F. Smith

On Thursday, October 3, 1918, President Joseph F. Smith received a definitive revelation explaining additional aspects of Christ’s Atonement after His death but before His Resurrection: “From among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30; emphasis added).

President Smith’s revelation inspires me with a hope that my grandparents who raised me, and for whom I have completed their vicarious temple ordinances, will be taught the gospel in the spirit world, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:58). In the spirit world they can exercise their agency to reject or accept those sacred covenants. As President Dallin H. Oaks has explained: “We have a loving Heavenly Father who will see that we receive every blessing and every advantage that our desires and choices allow. We also know that He will force no one into a sealing relationship against his or her will” (“Kingdoms of Glory,” Liahona, October 2023, 29).

Ella and Fred Hart
Ella and Fred Hart

We should also be careful not to think that we can judge another person’s eternal salvation. The Prophet Jacob emphatically declared, “The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there” (2 Nephi 9:41). As 21st century Apostles have testified, “Each of us will stand to be judged of Him [Jesus Christ] according to our works and the desires of our hearts (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org). Even Joseph Smith was corrected when he mistakenly thought that his brother Alvin—who had died before he could be baptized—would not inherit the celestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants, 137).


I especially have great hopefulness for beloved family members who may have wandered from the covenant path. While questioning whether some members of his extended family could all be together in the world to come, President Henry B. Eyring recounts a promise that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve once made to him: “You are worrying about the wrong problem. You just live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine” (“A Home Where the Spirit of the Lord Dwells,” Ensign, May 2019, 25).

This counsel encourages me. If I live worthy of the celestial kingdom, I may be allowed to help “carry the message of redemption unto all the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:37).

Cardston Alberta Temple

#3 Spend More Time in the Temple and Being Temple Worthy

Attending the temple is a strategy that President Nelson especially emphasizes: “Your service and worship in the temple will help you to think celestial. The temple is a place of revelation. There you are shown how to progress toward a celestial life. There you are drawn closer to the Savior and given greater access to His power. There you are guided in solving the problems in your life, even your most perplexing problems” (Nelson, “Think Celestial,” 119).

The recent modifications to the endowment ordinance focus more closely on the Savior and His role in fulfilling Heavenly Father’s fabulous plan. Each time I attend an endowment session I feel a stronger personal commitment to follow Christ. I rejoice that my mother was sealed in celestial marriage to my father three years after his death, and my brother and I were able to be sealed to our parents as part of an eternal family. Most importantly, I treasure that 51 years ago my wife and I knelt at an altar in the Provo Utah Temple and were sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity. These ordinances performed in Houses of the Lord have blessed all aspects of my life.


President Nelson’s “Think Celestial” talk thrills me. It has expanded my understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan and the Savior’s Atonement. By searching the scriptures and talks of latter-day Apostles, my understanding of missionary work in the spirit world has expanded. And as my wife and I regularly attend the temple, we are strengthening our testimonies that “to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Nephi 9:39).