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By Eric Johnson

Outer darkness is a place reserved for the “sons of perdition.” It is an eternal destination, a place where very few (if any) human beings will ever be sent. According to tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith,

Outer darkness is something which cannot be described, except that we know that it is to be placed beyond the benign and comforting influence of the Spirit of God-banished entirely from his presence. This extreme punishment will not be given to any but the sons of perdition (Doctrines of Salvation 2:220. Italics in original).

According to the Doctrine and Covenants, this will be a place that “even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:91; also see 133:73). Smith said this will be practically indescribable:

The extent of this punishment none will ever know except those who partake of it. That it is the most severe punishment that can be meted out to man is apparent. Outer darkness is something which cannot be described, except that we know that it is to be placed beyond the benign and comforting influence of the Spirit of God — banished entirely from his presence (Doctrines of Salvation 2:220).

What are Sons of Perdition?

There are possible characteristics of a “son of perdition.” One example would not be human since they were cast out of heaven with Satan before they could receive a body. According to Smith:

It is very clear in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 76:30-37, that the only persons who will be completely overcome by this dreadful fate are the sons of perdition who go with the devil and his angels into “outer darkness.” (Answers to Gospel Questions 5:107-108).

While some apparently have taught that these spirits could be restored to a kingdom of glory, but 12th President Spencer W. Kimball said this wasn’t true:

In the days of the restoration there apparently were those who taught that the devil and his angels and the sons of perdition should sometime be restored. The Prophet Joseph Smith would not countenance the teaching of this doctrine, and sanctioned the decision of the bishop that any who taught it should be barred from communion (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 125).

For those born in this life, the person must be a former member who knew Mormonism is true but still rebelled and went against the truth while still knowing it was true. Smith taught:

The sons of perdition are those who have had a knowledge of the truth, have known that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, have had the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost, and these things have all been revealed so that they know they are true; and then they turn against them and fight them knowingly. Sons of Perdition are to be cast out with the devil and his angels into outer darkness. Into the telestial kingdom will go, according to that which is written here in this revelation, the vicious, the unclean, the ungodly (Conference Reports, April 1942, p. 27).

He also said, “I think I am safe in saying that no man can become a Son of Perdition until he has known the light. Those who have never received the light are not to become Sons of Perdition” (Conference Reports, October 1958, p. 21).

A church manual reiterates:

To become a son of perdition one must sin against the Holy Ghost, but before that is possible, one must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, 2001, p. 161)

The manual Gospel Principles sheds additional light:

There is no forgiveness for them, for they denied the Holy Spirit after having received it. They will not have a kingdom of glory. They will live in eternal darkness, torment, and misery with Satan and his angels forever. (See D&C 76:28–35, 44–48.) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 273).

Even if a person had once been a Latter-day Saint, Kimball said it still was practically impossible for a human to become a son of perdition:

The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 123) (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, p. 161).

Who are the Sons of Perdition?

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By Eric Johnson

For many years, those who have left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have been told that they were “Sons of Perdition” and were destined for “Outer Darkness.” Although this is obviously a scare tactic, it is not true according to a number of credible teachers in Mormonism.

What is Outer Darkness?

Outer darkness is a eternal place of torment reserved for the “sons of perdition.” Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith–the general authority who has spoken more on this topic than anyone else–stated,

Outer darkness is something which cannot be described, except that we know that it is to be placed beyond the benign and comforting influence of the Spirit of God-banished entirely from his presence. This extreme punishment will not be given to any but the sons of perdition (Doctrines of Salvation 2:220. Italics in original).

According to the Doctrine and Covenants, this will be a place that “even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:91; also see 133:73). Smith said the state of this existence is  practically indescribable:

The extent of this punishment none will ever know except those who partake of it. That it is the most severe punishment that can be meted out to man is apparent. Outer darkness is something which cannot be described, except that we know that it is to be placed beyond the benign and comforting influence of the Spirit of God — banished entirely from his presence (Doctrines of Salvation 2:220).

What qualifies a person to be a “Son of Perdition”?

There are two types of qualifications to become a Son of Perdition.

The first example is a spirit from the preexistence who sides with Lucifer rather than Jesus at the Council in Heaven concerning who would be the Savior of the World. Because of his/her disobedience, this person ended up not receiving a body, which is necessary to progress to one of the three kingdoms of glory. This spirit is a son of perdition, with the final destiny of outer darkness. Smith taught:

It is very clear in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 76:30-37, that the only persons who will be completely overcome by this dreadful fate are the sons of perdition who go with the devil and his angels into “outer darkness.” (Answers to Gospel Questions 5:107-108).

Concerning mortals, those humans who never joined the LDS Church can never become sons of periditon; hence, the very worse lot in their life will be the telestial kingdom. (To see the differences between the three kingdoms of glory, click here.) Smith told a general conference audience:

I think I am safe in saying that no man can become a Son of Perdition until he has known the light. Those who have never received the light are not to become Sons of Perdition. (Conference Reports, October 1958, p. 21. Ellipsis mine).

To become a church, baptism and confirmation are required. A church manual states,

Baptism is the first saving ordinance of the gospel (see Articles of Faith 1:4). Through baptism and confirmation by priesthood authority, you became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 21

So, even if you attended LDS Church services, sang their hymns and partook of their sacraments yet were never baptized and confirmed into this faith, you can never become a son of perdition. That ought to bring a sigh of relief to many reading this article! Even Adolph Hitler will get nothing less than the telestial kingdom since he was never baptized/confirmed into the church and work for him has been accomplished in an LDS temple. To see his baptism for the dead record and other temple work done for him, click here.

So what about those of you who were indeed baptized and confirmed into the LDS Church? It is true that the only mortals who can become “sons of perdition” once belonged to this religion. A church manual reports, “To become a son of perdition one must sin against the Holy Ghost, but before that is possible, one must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, 2001, p. 161).

This may worry some former Mormons who may wonder, “Am I a son of perdition destined for outer darkness? Should you be considered sons of periditon? Are you destined for outer darkness? The answer is no, for several reasons.

First of all, to become a son of perdition, you need to have been baptized in the church, have turned from it, and then fight against the church while knowing it is true. That last part is very important. You not only need to have been a Mormon, but you have to have “full knowledge” that this is the restored church of God. Then, they fight against this church, again, knowing it is the true church of God.

Let me give you some examples of this teaching.

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,

The sons of perdition are those who have had a knowledge of the truth, have known that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, have had the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost, and these things have all been revealed so that they know they are true; and then they turn against them and fight them knowingly (Conference Reports, April 1942, p. 27).

Notice very carefully, he said that:

  1. You “have had a knowledge of the truth”
  2. You “have known that Jesus Christ was the Son of God”
  3. You “had the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord”
  4. You had revelation to let you know they are true”
  5. Still, they fight against the true church despite the four previous points being true.

What’s interesting is that there are many former Mormons who still believe “Jesus Christ was the Son of God” and have a “testimony of the Spirit of the Lord.” However, their faith no longer is in the Jesus of Mormonism but the Jesus of the Bible, and their lives have been turned upside down!

Meanwhile, Smith’s father, sixth President Joseph F. Smith, said that the potential son of perdition must have “full knowledge” of the truth:

It is probable that only personages who have acquired similar full knowledge, who willfully and deliberately deny the truth, when they know it to be the truth, can commit the unpardonable sin and become sons of perdition. They are sons of perdition because, “Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to open shame” (D. & C. 76:35). They must have had a fullness of knowledge; a testimony which cannot be destroyed. One must be on a high eminence to fall so low; and few in world’s history have attained such a height. It is doubtful if even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was sufficiently enlightened to become a son of perdition (Gospel Doctrine, p. 545).

This is an important quote and I don’t want you to skim over it. First of all, he uses the term “full knowledge.” What exactly does “full knowledge” mean? What kind of devious person would it be who knew “full” well that Mormonism was true–including the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the authenticity of the restored church’s leadership that began with Joseph Smith, and the accuracy of the First Vision event–and then fight against it? Assuming these things were true, someone who knew full well about this and didn’t stay with this organization certainly would deserve the horrible end result of outer darkness.

Yet, as Joseph F. Smith put it, there will be very few mortals who qualify for the son of perdition label; he said that “few in world’s history have attained such a height” (“height”?). He even doubts that Judas became a son of perdition.

I have known a lot of former Mormons and have met hundreds (possibly thousands) of others. While they indeed once believe in Mormonism, the key is that none of them have ever said they still believe Mormonism to be true. They left because they believed it was not true! This is true for both atheists and theists alike. Of course, some were timid when they first left and weren’t sure if all of Mormonism was wrong. Yet while they were in this state, they were hardly fighting against the church.  T

In Review

  1. Those spirits who rebelled against God are the true sons of perdition. These spirits never received a mortal body necessary to progress to a kingdom of glory. No humans who have ever lived fit into this category.
  2. Those mortals who never joined the LDS Church (through baptism) can become a son of perdition. Even the most evil such as Adolph Hitler will have a place reserved for them in the telestial kingdom.
  3. Those mortals who did join the LDS Church must fit the following criteria to be classified as a son of perdition, with a destiny to outer darkness.
    1. They must have understood what they were doing, with “full knowledge”
    2. They are so evil that they fight against the LDS Church, with full knowledge that it is the true and restored church of Jesus Christ.

Thus, even for those of you who are former Mormons, the worst any Latter-day Saint can say you are destined is the telestial kingdom. You are not a son of perdition.

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By Eric Johnson

Exaltation, which is synonymous with eternal life, is godhood achieved through complete obedience to all the commandments of God as defined by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those who are exalted earn the right to eternal life in the celestial kingdom with their families.

Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball explained, “One may be saved in any one of three kingdoms of glory—the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial—but one can reach exaltation only in the highest of the three heavens or degrees in the celestial glory” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 8). To enter this top kingdom of glory, a person must fully obey the commandments. As tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept. The word of the Lord is that they of the celestial world are those sanctified from all unrighteousness” (The Way to Perfection, p. 206). Sixteenth President Thomas S. Monson declared, “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p. 56). A church manual reported, “As we are obedient to the commandments of God, we earn the right to live with him forever in the celestial kingdom” (Uniform System for Teaching Families, 1973, p. D-1). And another manual states, “Eternal life is living with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom. This blessing—which is also called exaltation— comes only to those who keep the commandments and make the necessary covenants” (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, 1998, p. 4).

Thousands of similar quotes can be found to show that this view comes from the very beginning of this religion and continues into the 21st century. These works include work in the temple, as a Mormon must get married for time and eternity in one of the many dozens of LDS temples located around the world. A manual teaches, “To be exalted in the highest degree and continue eternally in family relationships, we must enter into ‘the new and everlasting covenant of marriage’ and be true to that covenant. In other words, temple marriage is a requirement for obtaining the highest degree of celestial glory” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 93). Another manual puts it very concisely: “Consider this fact: Your marriage is a laboratory for godhood” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 65).

The result is that qualified Latter-day Saints can have their families together forever, as this manual reports:

Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple. When people are married outside the temple, the marriage ends when one of the partners dies. When we are married in the temple by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are married for time and eternity. If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 209).

However, many Latter-day Saints will not reach this goal, one church president explained:

There will not be such an overwhelming number of the Latter-day Saints who will get there. President Francis M. Lyman many times has declared, and he had reason to declare, I believe, that if we save one-half of the Latter-day Saints, that is, with an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God, we will be doing well. Not that the Lord is partial, not that he will draw the line as some will say, to keep people out. He would have every one of us go in if we would; but there are laws and ordinances that we must keep; if we do not observe the law we cannot enter” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:15).

Eternal Increase

This manual describes

“These are some of the blessings given to exalted people: 1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62). 2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23). 3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase. 4. They will receive a fulness of joy. 5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20)” (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 277).

Eternal Increase

“Those who receive the exaltation in the celestial kingdom will have the ‘continuation of the seeds forever.’ They will live in the family relationship. We are taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ that the family organization will be, so far as celestial exaltation is concerned, one that is complete, an organization linked from father and mother and children of one generation to the father and mother and children of the next generation, and thus expanding and spreading out down to the end of time” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 2013, p. 68).

“By definition, exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity. This or Father in heaven has power to do. His marriage partner is our mother in heaven. We are their spirit children, born to them in the bonds of celestial marriage” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 129).

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By Eric Johnson

Note: This is taken from chapter 30 of Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson’s book Answering Mormons’ Questions (Kregel, 2013)

The three heavens described in Doctrine and Covenants section 76 are called the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms. First Corinthians 15:40–41 is used to support this idea. It reads, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 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.” In appealing to this passage, a missionary manual explains,

Because God rewards everyone according to deeds done in the body, there are different kingdoms of glory to which we may be assigned after the Judgment. Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fullness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun. People who do not accept the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon. Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the stars.

Another biblical passage used to support this teaching is 2 Corinthians 12:2, where Paul wrote, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.” Is it possible the Bible teaches three separate levels of heaven?

The Biblical Meaning of the “Third Heaven”

While Paul certainly referred to a “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2, there is no reason to believe he was referring to one of three distinct eternal destinations of mankind. To properly interpret Scripture, the context of a passage must be grasped, including what the listeners of Paul’s day would have understood it to mean. It is likely they would have interpreted Paul’s three heavens as the atmospheric heaven, the celestial heaven, and the believer’s heaven. Scripture supports this assertion. For example, Deuteronomy 11:11 refers to the atmospheric heaven, where rain and clouds are formed: “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drink eth water of the rain of heaven.” Psalm 147:8 likewise describes God as He “who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.” Matthew 24:30 tells about Christ’s return through this heaven: “And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Genesis 1:14 speaks of the celestial heaven, the abode of the sun, moon, and stars: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”

Finally, there is the heaven the Bible calls the “dwelling place” of God, which is referenced many times in the Old Testament. Isaiah 63:15 says, “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?” Psalm 102:19 says, “For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth.” And 2 Kings 2:11 says it was into this heaven that “Elijah went up by a whirlwind.”

New Testament commentator Philip E. Hughes agrees with the above assessment, writing, “The probability is that Paul had in mind the conception of the heavens as threefold. Thus [Johann Albrecht] Bengel explains that the first heaven was that of the clouds, that is, of the earth’s atmosphere, the second that of the stars (cf. the appearance of ‘the lights in the firmament of heaven’ on the fourth day of creation, Gen 1:14), and the third a heaven which is spiritual” (Hughes, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 433).

Another passage Mormons use to support their view is John 14:2. Here Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Quoting this verse and then referring to revelations given to Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith, Area Authority B. Renato Maldonado said, “The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that ‘mansions’ may be understood to mean ‘kingdoms’—those kingdoms in which we will dwell in the life after this. . . . The Lord has said that we will be blessed and will live in a degree of glory in the next life according to the eternal laws we obey in mortality” (B. Renato Maldonado, “The Three Degrees of Glory,” Ensign, April 2005, p. 62).

A simple reading of chapters 13 and 14 of John can help the reader understand what Jesus meant. The Savior had just washed the disciples’ feet (13:1–17) and foretold His betrayal (vv. 18–30). He then told Peter he was going to deny his Lord three times (13:31–14:4). Thomas asked Jesus how His followers could know the way to truth (14:5–7), and Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father (vv. 8–14). In light of this context, John 14:2 describes the encouragement Jesus was giving to Peter and the others as He promised His friends He would not abandon them, even after His death. In John 14:2, the Greek word rendered “mansions” by the seventeenth-century King James Version translators might suggest that there are separate locations, or levels, involved. However, the word is better translated “rooms,” as it is used in modern versions such as the New International Version and the English Standard Version. Commentator Merrill C. Tenney writes, “The imagery of a dwelling place (‘rooms’) is taken from the oriental house in which the sons and daughters have apartments under the same roof as their parents” (“John,” in Gaebelein, The Expositors’ Bible Commentary, 9:143).

“Dwelling places” (“rooms”) is a very different concept from what is offered by LDS leaders, who insist that humans who achieve godhood will rule their own worlds, just as they believe Elohim, or Heavenly Father, rules this one.6 In the words of Jesus and Paul, there is no implication at all that there are three degrees of heavenly glory. The interpretation of three levels of heaven as separate eternal destinations has been forced upon biblical passages that were never intended to support such an idea.

For more on this topic, click here.

Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach about Three "Levels" of Heaven? | God Loves Mormons - YouTube
 

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By Eric Johnson

After a person dies and the millennium is complete, judgment will take place and humans will be assigned to one of three kingdoms of glory for eternity. Those kingdoms are the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial kingdoms.

Telestial kingdom

This is compared in D&C 76 to the

glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus. These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit. These are they who are thrust down to hell.

This is the place where carnal, worldly people will reside, according to tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith:

The inhabitants of the telestial kingdom, who have been the unclean, the liars and filthy of the earth, will not be resurrected until the close of the millennium. (D. and C. 88:101-102; Rev. 20:4-6; 22:15.) When they are released from the prison and prepared to enter their glories, they will gladly bow the knee and confess Jesus Christ, as will all the other of the children of God, but this does not imply that they are entitled to receive all the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1953, 1:290).

A church manual provides more detail:

Neither our Father in Heaven nor Jesus will visit those who live here. Angels will visit these people, and they will have the influence of the Holy Ghost. The people who live in the telestial kingdom are those who did not accept either the gospel or a testimony of Jesus, either on earth or in the spirit world. They will suffer for their own sins in spirit prison until after the Millennium. Then they will finally be resurrected. While on this earth, they were liars, thieves, murderers, false prophets, adulterers, and those who ridiculed sacred things. They were the people who accepted the beliefs of the world rather than the teachings of Jesus. Many people will live in this kingdom. Our Father in Heaven will give these people the happiness they are prepared to receive (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 202).

Terrestrial Kingdom

This is a place where “good” people go, though they did not attain the very best God has planned for people. Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “Those who have been decent and upright and who have lived respectable and good lives will go to a terrestrial kingdom whose glory is as the moon” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 8). Smith further explained,

Those who were honorable men who will be permitted to go to the terrestrial kingdom will be blessed with ministrations from the celestial kingdom. They will be privileged with visitations from Jesus Christ but will be denied the presence of the Father. Thus we learn that our Eternal Father will do all that he can for the inhabitants of the earth according to their works. The inhabitants of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms will be given a measure of salvation, but not the fulness. They will be redeemed from the power of Satan after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions and have learned to be obedient to divine law (Answers to Gospel Questions 1:81).

A church manual states,

This kingdom is not as wonderful as the celestial kingdom. Even though Jesus will visit the terrestrial kingdom, those who live there will not live with our Father in Heaven, and they will not have all He has. Those who go to the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people. Some of them will be members of the Church, and others will not. They will be those who did not accept Jesus on earth but later accepted Him in the spirit world. The people who will live there will not be part of an eternal family but will live separately, without families. Our Father in Heaven will give these people the happiness they are prepared to receive (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 202).

Celestial Kingdom

Those who qualify for the celestial kingdom receive eternal life, also known as exaltation. They will becomes gods and goddesses, just like Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother(s) did before this world was created. This is where families will be reunited and propagated into the future; this is called eternal increase. Yet very few will ever reach this state.

Sixteenth President Thomas S. Monson stated the goal: “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p. 56). A church manual reports,

This is the place where our Father in Heaven and Jesus live. It is a place where people will be happy, and it will be more beautiful than we can imagine. The people who will live in this kingdom will love our Father in Heaven and Jesus and will choose to obey Them. They must have repented of all their sins and must have accepted Jesus as their Savior. They must have been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. They must have a testimony from the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Savior (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 201).

Two other manuals explain:

Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fulness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun (Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 53).

Those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, who become gods, must also have been married for eternity in the temple (see D&C 131:1–4). All who inherit the celestial kingdom will live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ forever (see D&C 76:62) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 272).

What does Christianity Teach

The Bible does not teach in three degrees of glory. Rather, there is heaven and there is hell. Verses wrongly cited by some Latter-day Saints to support their case are John 14:2,3, 1 Corinthians 15:39-42, and  2 Corinthians 12:2: 3.

Mormonism, the Afterlife, and Striving After Godhood

Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach about Three "Levels" of Heaven? | God Loves Mormons - YouTube

Return to the “Crash Course Mormonism”  Index

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By Eric Johnson

Joseph Smith (1805-1844) is the founder and first president/prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While he is not worshiped by followers of the church, he is certainly the most highly esteemed leader this religion has ever had.

First Vision

According to the official account told by the church, Joseph Smith saw both God the Father and Jesus in 1820 when he was a 14-year-old boy. The account is recorded in the first chapter of Joseph Smith-History, which is found in the Pearl of Great Price. One manual recounting the teachings of Smith says,

In this glorious manifestation, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared in person to young Joseph. Joseph conversed with the Savior, who told him to join none of the churches of his day, for “they were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight;. . . they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Joseph was also promised “that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto [him].” After centuries of darkness, the word of God and the reality of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, had been revealed to the world through this youthful and pure vessel (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 2007, p. 5. Ellipsis and brackets in original).

Another manual explains,

The First Vision was a pivotal event in the rise of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Joseph Smith, although only an unlettered youth, learned profound truths that have become the foundation of the faith of the Latter-day Saints. He had actually seen and spoken with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ” (Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341-43, p. 35).

Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Fact or Fiction?

Book of Mormon

In 1823, Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni appeared to him and over the next few years visited a set of gold plates that were said to have been compiled by Moroni’s father Mormon. These plates were then buried in the Hill Cumorah until Joseph Smith was allowed to take them in 1827. They were said to be translated by Joseph Smith, as he used a magical seer stone that was placed in a top hat and revealed the English working of the plates. According to Apostle James E. Talmage,

THE Book of Mormon is preeminently an American book, comprising the history of the aboriginal peoples of the New World. It professes to be the modern translation of certain records, covering the period from B. C. 600 to about A. D. 420, with which is incorporated the abridgment of a yet earlier history. The original account was inscribed on thin sheets of gold, in small characters of the Reformed Egyptian style. The plates were taken from their repository on the side of a hill near Palmyra, New York. This was in September, 1827; and in the early months of 1830 the English translation was published. The Book of Mormon story deals in part with the general history of the ancient peoples, their rise and fall as nations, their wars and intrigues of state, their alternating epochs of material prosperity and adversity; but more particularly it preserves an account of the Divine revelations, the prophets and prophecies with which the ancient Americans were blessed; and thus the work stands before the world as the Scriptures of the Western Continent” (The Vitality of Mormonism, p. 132).

Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson said that this book proves Mormonism to be true. He explained,

If the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was His prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation” (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 2014, p. 108).

Book of Mormon

Polygamy

Joseph Smith taught that God restored the biblical practice of polygamy, or plural marriage. Over the course of a decade, Smith married about three dozen women, some girls as young as 14 and others who were married to living husbands. Historian Richard van Wagoner explained,

Much of the development of Mormonism can be linked to the introduction, promotion, and eventual abnegation of polygamy. To those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, plural marriage can be evidence of his divine calling; to those who question or reject his prophetic claims, polygamy is more readily explained as evidence of his downfall (Mormon Polygamy, p. 212).

Joseph’s Wives.com

Other unique teachings

Smith’s Death

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by Sharon Lindbloom
8 July 2019

The June issue of Ensign magazine (2019), published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contains an article in its “What We Believe” section titled, “We Believe in Being Perfect—in Christ” (30-31, emphasis in the original). The LDS doctrine related to being perfect has been examined and discussed several times at Mormonism Research Ministry because of the ambiguity with which LDS leaders interpret it, as well as the unbiblical nature of the teaching. For this article I don’t intend to focus as much on the history of the doctrine as on the June Ensign’s presentation of it.

The Ensign article starts off noting that in Matthew 5:48 Jesus commanded His followers to be perfect, then asks,

“how does God expect us to keep this commandment? By gaining a correct understanding of God’s expectations for us, we can come to know what the prophet Moroni meant when he said we can become ‘perfect in Christ’ (see Moroni 10:32-33).”

Moroni 10:32-33 is an oft-quoted Book of Mormon text that explains how, according to Mormonism, one becomes “perfect in Christ.” It reads,

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins that ye become holy, without spot.”

It’s clear from this passage that being “perfect in Christ” requires God’s grace; that is stated no fewer than three times. But what does it mean to be “perfect in Christ”? The Ensign article tells its readers that the key to understanding what it means is in having a “correct understanding” of God’s expectations.

Falling under the sub-headline, “What Does it Mean to Be Perfect?” three LDS apostles are quoted (one of whom is also the current church president). These quotes comprise the entire text that is meant to answer the question of what it means to be perfect. The interesting thing is that each included quote discusses Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus indeed says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (see a Christian explanation of Jesus’ statement here), but He does not say you must be “perfect in Christ.” These words, the foundation of the LDS doctrine being presented in this Ensign, come from a Book of Mormon passage that the LDS leaders do not address in the article.

So, what does it mean in Mormonism to be “perfect in Christ”? The article’s quotes do not make that clear. However, the reader may find the answer in an inset box on the facing page. Titled, “What God Expects,” the box includes a list of five expectations God has of every person. Remember it has already been stated that by gaining a correct understanding of God’s expectations we can know what Moroni meant when he said we can become “perfect in Christ.”

The first item on the list is a partial quote of Moroni 10:32: “Deny yourselves of all ungodliness…and love God with all your might, mind and strength.” This, according to Moroni, must be accomplished before receiving grace from God, the grace that he says is sufficient to make a person “perfect in Christ.”

The second item on the list says, “With faith in Jesus Christ, repent when we fall short.” Note that the need to repent indicates that a person has not yet complied with the first “expectation” on the list–that of denying oneself of all ungodliness. Past LDS president Spencer W. Kimball explained, “Repentance is for every soul who has not yet reached perfection” (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, 37). Once we reach perfection, once we deny ourselves of all ungodliness, repentance is no longer necessary.

Expectation number three is, “Keep the covenants, or promises, we have made with God.” If we are shown to be covenant-breakers, we are shown to be sinners, far short of God’s expectations. Again Spencer W. Kimball explains, “Of those who break covenants and promises made in sacred places and in solemn manner, we can apply the Lord’s words as follows: ‘… a wicked man, who has set at naught the counsels of God, and has broken the most sacred promises which were made before God, and has depended upon his own judgment and boasted in his own wisdom’ (D&C 3:12-13).” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 57)

The fourth expectation is much like the third: “Do our best to keep the commandments throughout our lives.” This is an interesting way to phrase this expectation in that it seems like it’s saying that it doesn’t matter whether commandments are kept, only whether we tried to keep them. Can this really be correct? That God commands that we keep the commandments but doesn’t actually expect us to keep them? Brigham Young taught,

“There is not one requirement of the Lord that is non-essential; every requirement that He has made of us is essential to our per­fection and sanctification, to prepare us to enjoy celestial glory.” (November 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:284)

Add to that 11th LDS president Harold B. Lee’s admonition,

“Any member of the Church who is learning to live perfectly each of the laws that are in the kingdom is learning the way to become perfect. There is no member of this Church who cannot live the law, every law of the gospel perfectly.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 2000, 33)

It’s pretty clear that, like keeping covenants, actually keeping the commandments is also expected. After all, one of the covenants Mormons make with God at baptism is a promise to “keep His commandments.” This emphasis on doing rather than merely trying also fits well with what LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson taught:

“To be classed among the truly penitent, random acts of obedience will not be adequate. We must properly enter into the covenants and persist in keeping them…It is not simply the promise of obedience in our contracts with Deity that brings grace, but the performance of our promises.” (“Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, June 2001, 24)

The fifth and final expectation on the list quotes the LDS scripture Doctrine & Covenants 67:13: “Continue in patience until ye are perfected.” In other words, God’s expectation is that we keep trying until we succeed.

This fifth point seems to lead into the other inset box on that page of the Ensign that lists “What God Doesn’t Expect.” This list is one of attitudes, suggesting the ways Mormons might (but shouldn’t) think about the perfection that is required of them: Don’t think you must be perfect now; don’t labor under an attitude of perfectionism; don’t think you must work all the time; don’t be self-critical over failure to progress in becoming perfect; don’t think of heaven as something you must try to “earn.” None of this thought-adjustment mitigates the LDS church’s list of God’s expectations.

Once a person has a correct understanding of what God expects, says the LDS church, that person will know what it means to be “perfect—in Christ.” Recognizing God’s expectations as provided in this article, it is clear that “What [the LDS church] believes” about this is just what one would expect: we must achieve perfection or, in the words of LDS president Russell Nelson (quoted in the article), “errorless performance” (and “much more”). God expects a denial of all ungodliness, complete and total devotion to and love for Him, true repentance (i.e., never sinning again), perfect covenant-keeping, absolute commandment-keeping, and a commitment to keep on trying until the goal is reached. As Spencer W. Kimball taught,

“This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfec­tion. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 208-209)

This “achievable goal” must be reached before God’s grace will be applied; that is, God’s expectations leading to perfection must be accomplished by a person’s own strength and determination. LDS apostle Henry D. Moyle explained,

“Our Church is founded upon the premise that spiritual growth and exaltation must be earned by the efforts of the individual.” (Henry D. Moyle, Improvement Era, December 1937, 787).

The LDS church says that, “We Believe in Being Perfect—in Christ,” but it is wholly unclear to me where Christ enters in to this perfection process. The Book of Mormon says it requires the grace of God to become “perfect in Christ,” but God’s expectations, as laid out in the Ensign article, require what amounts to self-achieved perfection before that grace is made available to any individual.

The Ensign article seems to gloss over the heavy burden the LDS doctrine of perfection places on Mormons. Employing a vague approach in explaining the doctrine, it appears to lower the bar regarding the meaning of “being perfect—in Christ.” While the article, on the face of it, might give hope to struggling Latter-day Saints, actually achieving what is required—that is, God’s stated “expectations”—is entirely hopeless. Though the article quotes LDS apostle Gerrit Gong saying, “Understanding the Savior’s freely given atoning love can free us from self-imposed, incorrect, and unrealistic expectations of what perfection is,” for anyone who reads between the lines, what the LDS church presents in this “What We Believe” article is its same old impossible gospel.

Mormonism’s “restored gospel” is nothing like the biblical gospel–that Jesus is perfect for us. The Bible tells us that it is the holiness, perfection, and righteousness of Christ that makes us acceptable to the Father. Rather than an impossible gospel that requires individual, self-achieved perfection, the gift of “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22) is a beautiful gospel. And it is very, very Good News for all who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

For more information listen to Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson discuss Gerrit Gong’s 2014 Ensign article, “Becoming Perfect in Christ” during a 5-part Viewpoint on Mormonism: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5

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A 90-minute class will take place in Salt Lake City beginning in September 2019 for anyone who might be interested to take a basic “Gospels” class.

Who is invited? Anyone willing to commit to regularly attending the every-other-week sessions and doing the reading (regularly)

What? A free class on the Gospel accounts of Jesus

When? Every-other-Tuesday nights from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Where? Upstairs at Sandra Tanner’s Utah Lighthouse Bookstore (1358 S W Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84115), across the street from the Smith’s stadium (Bees). There are only three official parking spots, with additional parking on the street. (Note: Sandra will not participate in this class.)

Why? Especially for those who have left Mormonism and would like to know more about the trustworthiness of the Bible as well as those who would like to go through this material.

The class will be led by Eric Johnson (foreground, blue shirt), who works with Mormonism Research Ministry in Draper, UT. For many years, Eric was the Bible department head at Christian High School in El Cajon, CA, teaching upperclassmen on apologetics, marriage/family, and worldview. He also taught classes at Grossmont Community College (for 9 years) and Bethel Seminary San Diego. At San Diego Christian College, Eric taught a Gospels class. Eric received his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in 1985 (Journalism/Marketing) and his master’s degree (M.Div., New Testament) at Bethel Seminary San Diego in 1991. Eric has authored or coauthored five different books, including Mormonism 101 (Baker, 2015) and Answering Mormons’ Questions (Kregel, 2013).

The class must have at least 5 interested students and, if demand is there, will be limited to no more than 20 students.

Philosophy

It might be difficult to just “read” a book that is intended for a college audience. However, if placed in a “class” format, learning can be exciting. The intention is to help attenders better grasp the Gospel accounts in the New Testament while considering different types of “criticism.” Among other things, the attender will consider:

  • Competition gospels and why they were rejected
  • The similarities and differences of the four Gospels
  • The historical / religious / social / cultural setting for each Gospel
  • A look at the literary styles, plots, theological themes and purpose for each of the four Gospels
  • The historical quests for Jesus
  • The historical reliability of the Gospels
  • The chronology of Jesus’s life
  • The birth / childhood of Jesus
  • The beginning of His ministry
  • The message of Jesus
  • The miracles of Jesus
  • The Messianic Words / Actions of Jesus
  • The Death of Jesus
  • The Resurrection of Jesus

What is required?

  1. You must register for the class by contacting Eric directly (eric at mrm dot org)–first come, first served (minimum of 5, maximum of 20).
  2. To get the most out of this class, you are being asked to purchase the book Four Portraits, One Jesus and read the chapter for that week. That chapter per class session will be covered.
  3. You must be willing to pay the registration fee that covers the book and some handout material.
  4. You must be willing to attend the majority of the class sessions (obviously, you may need to miss some, which is understandable, but full benefit for this class will come when the majority of the people are able to attend the majority of the time).

If you are interested, please contact Eric and register for the class. Again, we are limiting this class to 20.

Tentative class schedule (7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.)

  1. DVD teaching by Dr. Mark Strauss on the particular chapter
  2. Teaching/discussion

This class will emphasize discussion. We will emphasize the discussion and study questions that are given at the end of each chapter. Occasionally Eric will bring in additional information (via other articles or PowerPoint teachings) to provide additional information.

Tentative Schedule

September 3: Introduction / Chapter 1

September 17: Chapter 2

October 1: Chapter 3

October 15: Chapter 4

October 22: Chapter 5

November 5: Chapter 6

November 19: Chapter 7

December 3: Chapter 8

Christmas break

January 7: Chapter 9

January 21: Chapter 10

February 4: Chapter 11

February 18: Chapter 12

Winter break

March 24: Chapter 13

April 7: Chapter 14

April 21: Chapter 15

May 5: Chapter 16

May 19: Chapter 17

June 2: Chapter 18

June 16: Chapter 19

June 30: Chapter 20/Conclusion

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By Eric Johnson

In Mormonism, final judgment is something that takes place at the end of the millennium. The success in keeping the commandments is what determines one’s final destination: the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, the Telestial Kingdom, or Outer Darkness. Seventeenth President Russell M. Nelson stated,

One day we will meet our Maker and stand before Him at Judgment. We will be judged according to our ordinances, covenants, deeds, and the desires of our hearts (“Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2001, p. 34)

Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained the sequence after death:

After the Resurrection, there will be a Day of Judgment. While all will eventually be saved and inherit a kingdom of glory, those who trust in God and seek to follow His laws and ordinances will inherit lives in the eternities that are unimaginable in glory and overwhelming in majesty. That Day of Judgment will be a day of mercy and love—a day when broken hearts are healed, when tears of grief are replaced with tears of gratitude, when all will be made right (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “O How Great the Plan of Our God!” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2016, p. 21).

While Uchtdorf makes it sounds like this will be a pleasant experience for most, others say it will be enjoyable only for those who have been successful in keeping the commandments. According to a church manual, it depends on what type of law a person is living that determines the verdict at the final judgment:

At the Final Judgment we will inherit a place in the kingdom for which we are prepared. The scriptures teach of three kingdoms of glory—the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom (see D&C 88:20–32) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 271).

Eighth President George Albert Smith said this judgment will depend on how well a person took advantage of the available opportunities:

Latter-day Saints will be judged according to their opportunities. A knowledge of pre-existence has been given to the Latter-day Saints; a knowledge that we are here because we kept our first estate, and that we have been given the opportunity of gaining eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father by keeping our second estate. We will not be judged as our brothers and sisters of the world are judged, but according to the greater opportunities placed in our keeping. We will be among those who have received the word of the Lord, who have heard his sayings, and if we do them it will be to us eternal life; but if we fail, condemnation will result. (CR, October 1906, p. 47.) (The Teachings of George Albert Smith, p. 31. Italics in original).

Marion G. Romney, a member of the First Presidency, gave further explanation:

The Church also accepts the scriptural doctrine that following the resurrection each person—then an immortal soul—will be arraigned before the bar of God’s justice and receive a final judgment based on his performance during his mortal probation, that the verdict will turn on obedience or disobedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. If these laws and ordinances have been complied with during mortal life, the candidate will be cleansed from the stain of sin by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and be saved in the celestial kingdom of God, there to enjoy with God eternal life. Those who have not complied with the laws and ordinances of the gospel will receive a lesser reward (“How Men Are Saved,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1974, p. 38).

This work must be accomplished in this lifetime. Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the temporary mortality we are now experiencing is “the most vital period in our eternal existence” because it

would either give to those who received it the blessing of eternal life, which is the greatest gift of God, and thus qualify them for godhood as sons and daughters of our Eternal Father, or, if they rebelled and refused to comply with the laws and ordinances which were provided for their salvation, it would deny them the great gift and they would be assigned, after the resurrection, to some inferior sphere according to their works (Doctrines of Salvation 1:69).

As far as having an opportunity to move to a better kingdom after the assignment has been made at the judgment, Smith said such a scenario was impossible:

It has been asked if it is possible for one who inherits the telestial glory to advance in time to the celestial glory? The answer to this question is, No! The scriptures are clear on this point (Doctrines of Salvation 2:31).

Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball agreed on pages 234-235 of his book The Miracle of Forgiveness where he noted,

No progression between kingdoms. After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal! That is why we must make our decisions early in life and why it is imperative that such decisions be right. (Also cited in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 50; and Search These Commandments, 1984 ed., pp. 81-82.)

Judgement According to the Bible

There are two resurrections according to the Word of God: a resurrection to life and a resurrection of damnation (John 5:29). For the resurrection to life, it depends on whether or not the person’s sins have been forgiven. The Bible teaches that salvation comes by grace through faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). Good works are not capable of getting a person to heaven. After all, the Bible teaches that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Because we are sinners worthy of eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23), our good works may look good to us but fall short according to God. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23,

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

Return to the “Crash Course Mormonism”  Index

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By Eric Johnson

When a person dies, leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach that the spirit of the dead person goes temporarily to one of two possible places, either paradise or spirit prison, depending on how that righteous the person was in mortality. This is an temporary state, with the soul moving to one of the three kingdoms of glory after the final judgment takes place at the end of the millennium.

As far as paradise is concerned, the inhabitants who were faithful on earth are able to share their faith with those not as fortunate. One church manual explained, “In the spirit world the gospel is preached to those who did not obey the gospel or have the opportunity to hear it while on earth” (Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 52). Another states,

When a person dies who has accepted the gospel and been a faithful follower of Jesus, that person’s spirit goes to paradise. This is a place where people are happy and peaceful. Here they are free from trouble, sorrow, and pain. They can do many worthwhile things, such as teach others about the gospel or learn more about it themselves (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 196).

Agency is still available in spirit prison, as souls are free to choose the gospel message or reject it. One manual teaches,

In the spirit prison are the spirits of those who have not yet received the gospel of Jesus Christ. These spirits have agency and may be enticed by both good and evil. If they accept the gospel and the ordinances performed for them in the temples, they may leave the spirit prison and well in paradise (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 244).

Also,

The people in the spirit world can exercise faith and accept the gospel message, but they cannot receive the ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, the endowment, and sealings, for themselves. The Lord has directed us to perform these ordinances for them (Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual Religion 261, 2005, p. 7)

Those hailing from paradise who will perform this service are “spirit missionaries.”

Our Father in Heaven’s prophets have told us that missionaries will be sent from among the righteous in the spirit world to teach the gospel to all the spirits of the dead people. Many will accept the gospel and repent. Necessary saving ordinances will be done for them by living persons in our Father in Heaven’s temples. Relatives or other members of the Church do these ordinances for them. Then they will be able to leave the spirit prison. In this way, our Father in Heaven provides opportunity for all His children to receive the blessings of the gospel no matter when they lived on the earth (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p. 196).

Genealogical work during mortality is very important to Latter-days Saints who want to be educated about those who need their work done.

Each of us can play a vital role in providing ordinances for the dead. We can identify those who have died and see that temple ordinances are performed in their behalf. As we serve those who wait in the spirit world, we can come to know the blessing of assisting the Savior in the great work of salvation (Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual Religion 261, 2005, p. 7)

The idea that salvation can be received after death is a motivating factor for many Latter-day Saints possessing temple recommends.

As you receive priesthood ordinances in behalf of those who have died, you become a savior on Mount Zion for them (see Obadiah 1:21). Your effort approaches the spirit of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice—you perform a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 63).

Those who do not accept the good news will be given an eternity in the lowest possible glory, which is also known as “hell”:

They have removed themselves from the mercy of Jesus Christ, who said, “Behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:16-18). After suffering in full for their sins, they will be allowed, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to inherit the lowest degree of glory, which is the telestial kingdom (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 244)

There are consequences for those who do not accept this good news: “Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory (see D&C 76:81–85) (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 81. Also see Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 2003, p. 112).

What Does Christianity Teach

According to 2 Corinthians 5:8, “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord.” Although there does appear to be an intermediate state between death and the final judgment (for those who take the book of Revelation to be futuristic), there is no second chance of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 9:27). As Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31, there is a barrier between paradise and Hades that cannot be crossed. While Christians do have different ideas on what this intermediate state entails, no Evangelical Christian church teaches that work can be accomplished on earth to free a soul that is damned.

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