Some Christians assume that we derive that doctrine from 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, but in fact it is based on modern revelation that is consistent with Paul's teachings. What Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 15:40-42 can be interpreted in various ways, but we understand that it refers to the differences in glory among those who are resurrected, indicative of the different kingdoms of glory that God has prepared. The highest degree, the Celestial Kingdom, with the glory of the sun, involves dwelling in the presence of the Father, and is reserved for those who truly accept and follow Jesus Christ and receive of the full blessings of the Gospel that He offers us. Here is what Paul wrote:
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.Some argue that we have misinterpreted this, claiming that it only applies to heavenly and earthly bodies and not the concept of the Resurrection itself. Perhaps, but many early Christians apparently understood that passage in much the same way LDS people do today. Barry Bickmore made the following comments (used with permission) in 2003 in e-mail correspondence to someone questioning the standard LDS interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:40-42:
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
Consider the following commentary by Origen:Another interesting ancient passage on this topic comes from The Testament of Levi, as discussed in "The 12 Patriarchs and 3 Degrees of Glory":Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the Apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, "One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars. [Origen, De Principiis 2:10:2, in ANF 4:294.]Consider also the following by John Chrysostom:And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon." For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God's kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment. [John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:4, in NPNF Series 1, 12:251.]I can give you many other early Christian references to degrees of glory, but 2 Corinthians 12 ought to be sufficient.
You are right that, on its face, the passage seems to be just talking about heavenly vs. earthly bodies. However, the passage also has this little enigmatic reference to "one glory of the sun, one glory of the moon, and one glory of the stars," and one star differs from another in glory. What does that mean? Most people would just skip right over it, but the early Christians seem to have placed great significance on it, taking it to mean that there are degrees of reward and punishment in heaven and hell. Whether he was actually restoring lost text, or not, Joseph Smith restored the basic meaning that early Christians attached to the passage!
8. Then there fell upon me a sleep, and I beheld a high mountain, and I was upon it.No, that proves nothing, but there are at least reasons to accept the LDS interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:40-42 as being reasonable enough to be shared by early Christians. So, I find it interesting. Many thanks to Barry Bickmore, once again.
9. And behold the heavens were opened and an angel of God said to me, Levi enter.
10. And I entered from the first heaven, and I saw there a great sea hanging.
11. And further I saw a second heaven far brighter and more brilliant, for there was a boundless light also therein.
12. And I said to the angel, Why Is this so? And the angel said to me, Marvel not at this, for thou shalt see another heaven more brilliant and incomparable.
13. And when thou hast ascended thither, Thou shalt stand near the Lord, And shalt be His minister, And shalt declare His mysteries to men, And shall proclaim concerning Him that shall redeem Israel.
14. And by thee and Judah shall the Lord appear among men saving every race of men.
15. And from the Lord's portion shall be thy life, And He shall be thy field and vineyard, And fruits, gold, and silver.
16. Hear, therefore, regarding the heavens which have been shown to thee.
17. The lowest is for this cause gloomy unto thee, in that it beholds all the unrighteous deeds of men.
18. And it has fire, snow, and ice made ready for the day of judgement, in the righteous judgement of God; for in it are all the spirits of the retributions for vengeance on men.
19. And in the second are the hosts of the armies which are ordained for the day of judgement, to work vengeance on the spirits of deceit and of Beliar.
20. And above them are the holy ones.
21. And in the highest of all dwelleth the Great Glory, far above all holiness.
22. In [the heaven next to] it are the archangels, who minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the sins of ignorance of the righteous;
23. Offering to the Lord a sweet-smelling savour, a reasonable and a bloodless offering.
24. And [in the heaven below this] are the angels who bear answers to the angels of the presence of the Lord.
25. And in the heaven next to this are thrones and dominions, in which always they offer praise to God.
Source: Levi 1:20-25, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, The Forgotten Books of Eden (Alpha House, Inc.: Newfoundland, 1927), p. 227.)