This is the fourth and final part of an ecumenical exchange with Idealist At Large.
To see part one, click here.
To see part two, click here.
To see part three, click here.
To see Idealist’s own website, click here. Once again, by posting this, I am not saying I agree with everything here but simply find this a good way to understand our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters lest we start repeating myths or lies about their beliefs which, unfortunately, is far too common, just as we as Catholics would prefer if others did not believe we thought we could merit salvation by our own power. For this reason, I will not try to argue against all these points here, but I imagine apologetical arguments can be found elsewhere. Without further ado, I would like to thank Idealist At Large again (and apologize for asking so many questions—I did not think this through) and let us begin.
Could you shed some light on what your church’s historic stance was on African-Americans?
This page is from Jeff Lindsay’s blog. As he states, his positions on the topics he writes about aren’t officially endorsed by the Church; they are a Church member’s attempt to answer questions he has often heard. He’s quite good with his answers to many questions, is both intelligent and faithful, and has a lot of experience, so I find him a reliable source. His explanations here are clear and detailed, including important context, and give a good answer to your question.
What is your stance on Hell?
Hell can mean a few things: the experience of unrepented sin while on earth, the spirit prison in the spirit world, and what is called ‘outer darkness’. I’ll explain what is meant by the last two.
This is a part of the spirit world and refers to the condition of those who were wicked or disobedient in mortality. These spirits include those who rejected Noah’s preaching before the Flood. The spirit world is a temporary place where all spirits of those who’ve lived on Earth go until the Resurrection and Final Judgement. For the ‘righteous’, it’s a place of rest and beauty – although ‘rest’ is more in the spiritual sense. It seems that these righteous spirits are very busy, especially with the work described below.
Spirit prison is also where people who haven’t yet had the opportunity to accept the Gospel go. Spirits dwelling there are unable to make further progress, and experience less of a situation of spiritual rest than those who have accepted the Gospel, because there’s unresolved business and they still need to accept Christ and go through the processes of repentance and so on. Those who do this then experience a state of rest, like those who accepted the Gospel in mortality and were righteous.
The Gospel is preached to those in the spirit prison, so that everyone has the same opportunity – every person who lives on this earth, whether on earth or in the spirit world – to hear of it and accept it. Those who accept then receive the same blessings we do when we make sacred covenants with God and receive the saving ordinances. However, those ordinances can only be performed on earth, not as spirits, so those who do accept the Gospel in the spirit world rely on us here to perform those ordinances for them, vicariously. This is a large part of what occurs in temples.
This preaching and offering of the light of the Gospel is referred to in Isaiah 24:22, 49:9 and 61:1, Luke 4:18, John 5:25, and 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6. (Of course, some of these verses, like the Isaiah prophecies, also refer to the spiritual prison of sin and ignorance, and the light that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to those who recognise Him).
Everyone except Satan and those who followed him in the peremortal existence, plus anyone who commits the ‘unpardonable sin’ of denying the Holy Ghost, will experience a place of eternal rest and beauty after the Final Judgement. There will be many differences in experience, glory and beauty – including how much progress a soul can make, eternally – but all who have decent desires will be blessed, even if they don’t accept the Gospel. There’s just a limit to how much wholeness and goodness they can then experience, due to their choices.
This is the state or dwelling of those who have known the reality of God and the truthfulness of the Gospel, and then completely reject it – crucifying Christ anew, in a sense, because they have experienced His saving power, and then denied Him and chosen Satan and darkness instead.
Two groups experience this hell:
- Those who will later inherit a telestial glory (the lowest level of eternal glory) – murderers and basically the worst of humanity. They are consigned to this hell for some period of time, to suffer for their sins, since they don’t fully accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But they don’t commit ‘the unpardonable sin’ of denying the Holy Ghost (what I described above), so they will eventually be saved or removed from this condition and given an inheritance in a place of telestial glory. (This is how I understand it, but the Gospel Topics entry and Bible Dictionary indicate something different – that this group only experience the ‘hell’ of spirit prison, but right up until the end of the Millenium and the final resurrection – the righteous taking part in the first resurrection, before the Milleniun. So I’m not sure exactly which it is. Perhaps I’ve been wrong in what I’ve thought this ‘hell’ meant in D&C 76.)
- The Sons of Perdition, who commit ‘the unpardonable sin’ – denying the Holy Ghost and completely rejecting Christ and truth and everything they have known. This is going to probably be a very small group, comparatively, since it seems like it’s quite hard to do this. (They will be joined, though, by the second segment described below, who would be a much larger group). They are called ‘sons of perdition’ because (a) ‘Perdition’ is a name for Satan, and (b) they are lost – the meaning of ‘perdition’ (specifically, it’s a noun, so it means the state of being lost. In French, ‘perdre’ means ‘to lose’). Lost from the light of Christ, from salvation, and from God and us all. Lost eternally.
The ‘sons of perdition’ are also those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal ‘War in Heaven’, where he drew away a third of the ‘hosts of heaven’. These spirits never came to earth to receive bodies; they rejected God’s plan of salvation from the beginning, and never have a chance to participate in it. This is really sad.
This is the origin of the ‘evil spirits’ existing in this world. They work with Satan to stop as many other children of God as possible from experiencing salvation and exaltation. Their final ‘resting’ place will be Outer Darkness.
See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76, for more.
The Gospel Topics entry on the Church website is also, as usual, a good overview, and adds other helpful sources: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/hell?lang=eng