This is part of a collection of the questions and discussions I came up with while researching the claims of Mormonism, reading their books and discussions had with their missionaries.
What three heavens are you referring to? Mormons hold that the atonement of Christ is a universal salvation of the world, just not everyone realizes it. By this thinking they hold to baptisms for the dead and so forth to raise the “rank” of their ancestors to the next heaven (more on these with later). By “next heaven,” they believe in three heavens from within their own attempt to use the following passages:
“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
-1 Corinthians 15:40- 41
Their take was to say, “See, three heavens!” I countered that Paul is stating (in context) that he is unsure about what exactly our bodies will be like in the one heaven, yet it will be a body appropriate for where God puts us. The case examples of Paul are that the moon and stars are different, yet are bodies belonging to the realm of space and so appropriate for that realm (or heaven). Our bodies are different from the animals, and yet are appropriate for the terrestrial (terra firma – Earth), just as the body of a fish is suitable for water. So we will not be as Christ is (God) but we will be like him where he is (having a body of some currently unknown type, yet holy and perfected). The passage is not saying anything else about three different types of heavens based on merits.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”
-2 Corinthians 12:2
Again theirs was to say, “See, mention of the third heaven, so there must be two others!” I corrected that Paul is only stating that he met a man whom he was uncertain whether he was a man physically or if he was just a vision of a man come from heaven (Paul did not know). The reference to the “third heaven” was like what was explained from the previous passage. The sky of earth (that the birds fly around in) is commonly referred to as heaven, outer-space, beyond earth, is as a type of second heaven, and God’s spiritual kingdom is thus the third and ultimate heaven. To this there was no further response.
It was here that it became very apparent that they do not read other comparative commentaries on the Bible to even be familiar with other views. I would think they would have studied material that spoke against their beliefs and been more prepared to answer objections. It was clear that they were hearing my position for the first time, as if they had never had to answer counter claims before. When disagreements came up their typical response was to fall back to the subjective claim that what they know is true because of the “burning conviction of the heart” that God gave them. When pushed that all people of all religions have a subjective feeling of “I’m right, and God assures me of it by a burning conviction,” they again had no response.