FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.
Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism Unmasked/Chapter 6
Response to claims made in "Chapter 6: This is Good News?"
|Chapter 5: Confronting the Mormon Jesus||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism Unmasked, a work by author: R. Philip Roberts
|Chapter 7: Revealing Revelations|
Response to claims made in Mormonism Unmasked, "Chapter 6: This is Good News?"
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: 77-78 - Jesus promised that his Church would never be destroyed
- Response to claim: 78 - the first "fallacy" of Mormonism is that it claims that the Church's teaching are the same as those of the early Church and that it is a restoration of that Church
- Response to claim: 78 - the second "fallacy" of Mormonism is the claim that there was a great Apostasy
- Response to claim: 82 - Mormons believe that "both Adam and Eve lost their purely 'spiritual state' and became physical beings"
- Response to claim: 82 - The author claims that "Mormon thinkers speak of Adam and Eve as therefore fulfilling God's will, not having sinned at all"
- Response to claim: 84 - The author attempts to distinguish between what he calls the "Mormon Jesus" and the Jesus of the Bible
- Response to claim: 85 - "Mormonism also claims that Christ's death brought salvation to an 'infinite number of earths'"
- Response to claim: 86 - The author claims that Mormons believe that "most of the inhabitants of the terrestrial kingdom, it seems, are inactive or at least not fully faithful Mormons"
- Response to claim: 89 - The author states the Mormons believe that "Hell, in fact, is reserved for apostates who leave the church"
Response to claim: 77-78 - Jesus promised that his Church would never be destroyed
The author states that Jesus promised that his Church would never be destroyed.
Question: Does the fact that Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" mean that universal apostasy was impossible?
Jesus' teaching about the rock is not a reference to any individual church or group of believers, since even well-intentioned mortals must fail
Some Christians argue that a universal apostasy is impossible, because Jesus told Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) It is claimed that this means the Church organized by Jesus would never suffer apostasy and loss.
Jesus' teaching about the rock is not a reference to any individual church or group of believers, since even well-intentioned mortals must fail. Christ is the only sure foundation upon which a church can be built, and the knowledge of Christ must come as it always has, as it came to Peter—by direct revelation from the Father. Christ's Church will then be built upon those who have such revelation of Christ, including prophets and apostles.
The gates of hell prevailing against the church must refer to keeping the church in or out of the Hades, the dwelling place of departed spirits
The gates of hell prevailing against the church must refer to keeping the church in or out of the Hades, the dwelling place of departed spirits. Gates do not force people to enter or leave, but they do keep people from going in or out. Therefore, the Catholic and Protestant interpretations are not very intelligible whereas the Latter-day Saints can interpret the passage in at least two logical, Biblically sound ways.
It is not surprising that this issue revolves around how one interprets Jesus' remark. There are several options. Key to understanding the passage, however, is figuring out what the final "it" refers to: the church or the rock. Does the passage mean "the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church," or does the passage mean "the gates of hell shall not prevail against this rock?" If it refers to the "rock," then one must determine what "the rock" refers to. Similarly, the word "prevail" can be interpreted in a number of ways.
Catholic perspective: "this rock" is literally Peter
The Catholic church, of course, thinks that "this rock" is literally Peter, and have based their claims to apostolic succession on the unbroken succession of bishops of Rome back to Peter. Other churches must necessarily define a different meaning, because they cannot claim apostolic succession in this way.
Churches (such as the Protestants) who believe that the Church of Rome is somehow flawed or in apostasy from the pure truth must adopt a different reading.
Protestant perspective: "the rock" refers to the Christian Church
Protestant readers have generally interpreted "the rock" to refer to the Christian Church. Under this reading, Jesus is promising that the church will never be entirely overcome by death and/or the forces of Satan.
Latter-day Saint perspective: the only true, unmovable rock that exists is revelation from God
Latter-day Saints have generally read this verse as referring to the only true, unmovable rock that exists--revelation from God. That is the rock upon which any Church must be built, and it is evidenced by the verses just before this one. In Matthew 16:13-17, the subject is literally revelation given to Peter as to who Jesus Christ really is. This knowledge came by revelation from God (Matthew 16:17), and Christ taught Peter that this revelation is the rock upon which He would build His Church. This is confirmed by Joseph Smith's teachings.
Jesus in His teaching says, “upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What rock? Revelation.
Both the Protestant and Catholic versions must contend with the fact that other Biblical authors taught an inevitable apostasy. It would seem strange for such Biblical authors, including Peter, to teach something which Jesus here denies.
One must also notice that gates only prevail against something by keeping it out or by holding it in. It makes little sense for gates, which by nature keep inhabitants in or out of a place, to "prevail" by forcing something to enter is completely illogical. The Catholic and Protestant interpretations force an interpretation that isn't logical, namely, that gates prevail by forcing someone to enter or someone to leave. Gates, of course, serve no such function. Gates keep things in or out, but they do not force things to go in or to go out.
"Prevail" meaning "to keep out"
The word translated as "hell" in the KJV is actually Hades, the dwelling place of all departed spirits. For the gates of Hades to not prevail against them could mean that the gates would not be able to stop the church from entering therein. (By comparison, in The Gospel of Nicodemus the "gates" mentioned in Psalm 24 refer to the gates of Hades and the attempt made there to keep out Jesus in the period between his death and resurrection. In other words, Christ’s Church, his disciples, would preach the gospel not only among the living, but also among the dead—not even the gates of Hades could keep them out.
In this context, Jesus gives Peter the sealing power to bind on earth and have it bound in heaven. For Latter-day Saints the word "bind" in Matthew 16:19 is synonymous with "seal." This passage has reference to priesthood authority to perform ordinances or sacraments, such as baptism, echoing the Shepherd of Hermas’ usage of the word "seal." When a baptism (seal) is performed vicariously for the dead by proper priesthood authority, the seal (baptism) is recognized in heaven. Thus, Joseph Smith explained, "there is a way to release the spirit of the dead; that is, by the power and authority of the Priesthood—by binding and loosing on earth."
As extreme as this interpretation may seem, this was not a foreign concept to early Christians. Clement of Alexandria (AD 160-215), among others, believed that the apostles of Christ preached the gospel to the departed spirits in Hades. "And it has been shown also…that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the master..."
"Prevail" meaning "to keep in"
Another interpretation is that "prevail" has reference to keeping inhabitants inside. In this thought, gates could only prevail against something that is already inside of them and not external to them. This interpretation would be that Christ was saying that His Church would soon be inside the gates of the spirit world alone because of apostasy on earth, but that the Church would later come out from the world of the dead and back to earth—that His Church would shortly be confined to the spirit world, held back by its gates, but that later, members of Christ's Ancient Church (such as Peter, James, and John) would come, by revelation, out from behind the gates of Hades to restore the gospel to the earth.
Both of the above readings are distinct possibilities. Both reconcile all the Biblical data.
"Prevail" meaning "shut up against"
A literal translation of the passage reads as follows:
"You are Peter or a small stone broken from a larger rock and upon the original larger rock I will establish my church and the gates of the world of spirts, or sheol, will not be shut up against my church or overpower the dead saints."
In this context the passage could be Christ teaching that the spirits of the departed will have the chance to hear the gospel. This is supported by Peter's teaching about Christ's ministry to the world of spirits just prior to his resurrection in 2 Peter 3:18-22 through 2 Peter 4:1-6).
Latter-day Saints believe that this sealing power given to Peter is the same power and keys that can seal families on both sides of the veil.
Jesus is also the Rock
It is not just revelation, however, that is key, but the revelation of Christ by God the Father.
The image of a rock is found throughout scripture, and bears directly on Jesus' remark to Peter:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13-22)
Paul argues that the Church is built on a foundation of, among others, apostles and prophets, who were grounded in Christ as the cornerstone. Thus, Christ is the rock, as are those who receive revelation of Christ (such as the apostles and prophets) and His mission as part of their calling. Significantly, the apostasy resulted in the loss of apostolic authority (unless one accepts the apostolic succession of Rome).
Paul cautioned the Corinthian saints against presuming they could build on anyone or thing besides Christ:
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:9-23) (emphasis added)
Paul tells the saints that they are building the Church; but the Church cannot be built on man or men, even great men like Paul, Apollos, or Peter. (Of course, one cannot reject the testimony of the prophets and apostles either. But, relying on a mortal, fallible man alone will not suffice.)
Only Christ is a sufficiently firm basis for faith, practice, and belief. And, Christ cannot be found through the "wisdom of this world," but only through on-going revelation.
Paul noted the use of the same symbol later in the epistle, tying the Christians to covenant Israel:
MOREOVER, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) (emphasis added)
One must ask again, How was Israel guided? By a prophet, who provided knowledge by revelation of the Rock of Israel. This symbol was a common one, of course, for the Israelites:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16-17)
Response to claim: 78 - the first "fallacy" of Mormonism is that it claims that the Church's teaching are the same as those of the early Church and that it is a restoration of that Church
The author states that the first "fallacy" of Mormonism is that it claims that the Church's teaching are the same as those of the early Church and that it is a restoration of that Church.
This is simply the author's own opinion.
Response to claim: 78 - the second "fallacy" of Mormonism is the claim that there was a great Apostasy
The author states that the second "fallacy" of Mormonism is the claim that there was a great Apostasy.
Question: Was the apostasy predicted by the Bible not complete?
There are clear Biblical teachings of a complete apostasy
It is claimed that if the Bible predicts an apostasy from the church founded by Jesus Christ, it is nevertheless not a "complete" apostasy.
There are clear Biblical teachings of an apostasy. Attempts to argue otherwise must disregard a great deal of Biblical data.
The Greek word translated as "apostasy" (αποστασία) meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "standing". Thus, an "apostasy" is not a failure of the Church due to persecution from without, but is fundamentally about the betrayal of the Church from within.
The Bible predicts an apostasy before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
1 NOW we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition... (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)(emphasis added)
The Greek word translated "falling away" in the King James Version is αποστασία, apostasy.
Other translations render it:
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (NIV) off-site
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,
2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
3Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction... (New American Standard Version) off-site
Paul also taught that after his departure, people from within and without the Church would change doctrine and lead the members astray
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)
Paul warned Timonthy:
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4} (emphasis added)
Peter also taught that false teachers would be present in the Church and would seek to deceive members
1 BUT there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.(2 Peter 2:1-2)
Response to claim: 82 - Mormons believe that "both Adam and Eve lost their purely 'spiritual state' and became physical beings"
The author states that Mormons believe that Adam and Eve "existed as purely spiritual beings although living on the earth," and that as a result of eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil, that "both Adam and Eve lost their purely 'spiritual state' and became physical beings." The author contrasts this idea with the Bible, which "says that God originally created Adam and Eve from material substance."
Every Latter-day Saints believes that Adam and Eve were created from the material substance of this earth, just as the Bible says. The author has misunderstood 2 Nephi 2:22 and Moses 3:5-7.
2 Nephi 2:22 says nothing about Adam and Eve living as "purely spiritual beings""
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
Moses 3:5-7 specifically states that Adam was formed of the dust of the earth:
And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.
The author claims that "Mormon thinkers speak of Adam and Eve as therefore fulfilling God's will, not having sinned at all." The author quotes Joseph Fielding Smith as saying, "I'm very, very grateful that in the Book of Mormon, and I think elsewhere in our scriptures the fall of Adam has not been called a sin. It wasn't a sin..."
- Doctrines of the Gospel, 20, quoted in Joseph Fielding Smith, "Fall-Atonement-Resurrection-Sacrament" in Charge to Religious Educators, 124.
Latter-day Saints distinguish between a sin and a transgression. The Second Article of Faith states that Adam committed a transgression.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
- Here's the full quote from Joseph Fielding Smith. He states that Adam committed a transgression rather than a sin:
“I’m very, very grateful that in the Book of Mormon, and I think elsewhere in our scriptures, the fall of Adam has not been called a sin. It wasn’t a sin. … What did Adam do? The very thing the Lord wanted him to do; and I hate to hear anybody call it a sin, for it wasn’t a sin. Did Adam sin when he partook of the forbidden fruit? I say to you, no, he did not! Now, let me refer to what was written in the book of Moses in regard to the command God gave to Adam. [Moses 3:16–17.]
“Now this is the way I interpret that: The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here, then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here, then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself, and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat it, you will die.
“I see a great difference between transgressing the law and committing a sin”
Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, on lds.org. off-site
Question: If "the wages of sin is death" as described in Romans 6:23, and the fall of Adam and Eve was a transgression rather than a sin, then why did it introduce death into the world?
The "death" that is the wages of sin is spiritual death—being outside the presence of God
"Transgression" is sometimes used in LDS discourse to distinguish a degree of moral culpability. In one context, a "transgression" violates God's law, but the guilty party is less fully responsible or aware of the moral implications: "In a general sense and in most instances the terms sin and transgression are synonymous, although the use of the term transgression lays emphasis on the violation of the law or rule involved whereas the term sin points up the willful nature of the disobedience" (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 804).
Adam and Eve and all humanity were redeemed from physical death by the atonement of Christ (2 Nephi 9:12). The "death" that is the wages of sin is spiritual death—being outside the presence of God (Alma 12:16-17).
Adam and Eve were told, however, that eating the fruit would cause them to die—the exact nature of their act is immaterial (see Genesis 2:17) and Adam and Eve understood this much (Genesis 3:2-3). Any disobedience of God's law puts us forever outside his presence—hence the absolute necessity of the atonement of Christ. Without the atonement, even those who are less responsible for their actions would have been lost (Mosiah 3:16). By the grace of Christ, however, they are saved.
Question: How did the transgression of Adam and Eve introduce sin into the world?
It happened that way because God had told them it would
Adam and Eve's actions in the garden made them subject to death and put them out of the presence of God, as He had told them it would (Genesis 2:17). It happened that way because God had told them it would, as the Bible and other LDS scripture bears witness.
When out of the presence of God, the effects of a sinful world were possible for at least three reasons:
- out of God's presence, it was possible that "sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good" (Moses 6:55).
- all people "know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves," therefore we became subject to the consequences of others' evil choices (Moses 6:56).
- Satan was present, and was able to tempt us to do evil (Moses 5:13).
The author attempts to distinguish between what he calls the "Mormon Jesus" and the Jesus of the Bible.
The idea of a "Mormon Jesus" versus the "Jesus of the Bible" is absurd, since Latter-day Saints worship the Jesus of the Bible.
Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb: The "sameness of Jesus" and humanity
Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:
Mormonism can be a controversial topic for many non-Mormon Christians, but I have come to the conclusion that no theology has ever managed to capture the essential sameness of Jesus with us in a more striking manner. :83
Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a "different" Jesus than "mainstream" Christians?
"Mormon Beliefs About Jesus" versus "Christian Beliefs About Jesus": Mormons worship the Jesus Christ of the Bible
It would be enlightening for any Latter-day Saint to read this description of the "Mormon Jesus" in the left column and see just how much of this is recognizable as church doctrine. The list is taken from page One Nation Under Gods, p. 378 (PB). This claim is repeated in the author's later work Becoming Gods—The "Mormon Jesus" versus the "Traditional Jesus".
|The "mainstream Christian" author's misrepresentation of "Mormon Beliefs About Jesus"||Jesus Christ, as He is actually viewed by Latter-day Saints||For more information...|
|A literal son (spirit-child) of a god (Elohim) and his wife.||
|The elder brother of all spirits born in the pre-existence to Heavenly Father.||
|A polygamous Jewish male.|
|One of three gods overseeing this planet.|
|Atoned only for Adam's transgression by sweating blood in Gethsemane.||
|The literal spirit brother of Lucifer.||
|Jesus' sacrificial death is not able to cleanse some people of all their sins.||
|There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.||
Response to claim: 85 - "Mormonism also claims that Christ's death brought salvation to an 'infinite number of earths'"
The author claims that "Mormonism also claims that Christ's death brought salvation to an 'infinite number of earths'"
- Doctrines of the Gospel, 25-26.
At least one Church leader, Joseph Fielding Smith, speculated that Jesus Christ brought salvation to other worlds.
Question: Is Jesus Christ the savior of other worlds?
Very little has been revealed on this subject
The closest we have to an authoritative statement is an inference from Doctrine and Covenants 76:
For we saw him [Jesus Christ], even on the right hand of God; and we heard [a] voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father — that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (verses 23–24.)
The generally accepted interpretation of this verse is that if Jesus is the creator of many worlds, and the inhabitants of these worlds are children of the Father (both by birth and by covenant), then Jesus must be their Savior. This is probably the understanding of the majority of Latter-day Saints.
This interpretation is strengthened by a poetic version of section 76 (probably written by WW Phelps, but with input from Joseph) in which the vision is restated:
And I give a great voice bearing record from heav'n,
He's the Savior and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad.
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last.
Are sav'd by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers. 
Joseph Fielding Smith speculated that Jesus Christ might be the savior of other worlds
Joseph Fielding Smith said "Perhaps this is the reason Jesus Christ was sent here instead of some other world, for in some other world they would not have crucified Him, and His presence was needed here because of the extreme wickedness of the inhabitants of this earth" (The Signs of the Times, pg. 5)
Brigham Young, on the other hand, taught that each world had its own Adam and Eve, and its own savior
Brigham Young gave a sermon in General Conference on 8 October 1854 in which he espoused a different view:
Let me open the eyes of your understanding. There has never been a time when the creations of worlds commenced. They are from eternity to eternity in their creations and redemption. After they are organized they experience the good and the evil, the light and the dark, the bitter and the sweet as you and I do. There never was a time when there were not worlds in existence as this world is, and they pass through similar changes in abiding their creation preparatory to exaltation. Worlds have always been in progress, and eternally will be.
Every world has had an Adam and an Eve, named so simply because the first man is always called Adam and the first woman, Eve. And the oldest son has always had the privilege of being ordained, appointed and called to be the heir of the family if he does not rebel against the Father, and he is the Savior of the family. Every world that has been created has been created upon the same principle. They may vary in their varieties, yet the eternity is one: it is one eternal round. 
This statement is probably where our critics are getting the idea we believe in a different savior for each world. However, Brigham's statement doesn't settle the question. In the early Utah period, there was a great deal of exploration from the pulpit of the limits of LDS belief, but these sermons were not considered final or authoritative. Such ideas play little, if any, part in present-day LDS teaching or discussion.
The author claims that Mormons believe that "most of the inhabitants of the terrestrial kingdom, it seems, are inactive or at least not fully faithful Mormons."
This claim is absurd.
The author states the Mormons believe that "Hell, in fact, is reserved for apostates who leave the church."
The author is probably referring to what Latter-day Saints refer to as "Sons of Perdition." The reality is that we do not know who may end up in "outer darkness" or what the author refers to as "hell."
Question: Will the Sons of Perdition be given another chance to achieve celestial glory?
Different General Authorities have had different perspectives on the eventual fate of the sons of perdition
The ultimate issue lies in the nature of man and intelligences.
Joseph Smith emphasized key doctrinal points regarding the eternal nature of the intelligence and the mind of man
Toward the end of his life, Joseph Smith emphasized key doctrinal points regarding the eternal nature of the intelligence and the mind of man:
The soul the mind of man, whare did it come from? The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told me so. If you dont believe it, it wont make the truth without effect, God was a self exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself....
In 1833, Joseph and the First Presidency also emphasized that teaching that the sons of perdition would be restored was not authorized:
Say to the brothers, Hulets, and to all others that the Lord never authorized them, to say, that the devil, nor his angels, nor the sons of perdition should ever be restored, for their state of destiny wled, save to those who are made partakers thereof: consequently those who teach this doctrine have not received it of the spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils.
After Joseph was killed, the complexities of the King Follett sermon led to a few differing interpretations regarding the soul which have lasted until today in the Church
On a few occasions Brigham Young discoursed on intelligence or spirit "recycling" (for lack of a better term), particularly regarding those sent to outer darkness, or at least those who forsake the gospel. It seems Brigham diverged from the teachings of Joseph Smith that the "mind" (or identity) is eternal — Brigham probably saw intelligence as a kind of substance that can be formed and reformed into different identities, rather than intelligences as eternal identities, or minds. For example, on 17 April 1853, he explained:
The Lord said to Jeremiah the Prophet, "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." The clay that marred in the potter's hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion, to be prepared over again. So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom.
Technically "some sort of a kingdom" could indicate Brigham believed they could inherit a telestial or terrestrial, but never attain a celestial, kingdom. Brigham seems to have understood "intelligence," or the eternal part of man, as something that could be disorganized and reorganized. He was careful to point out he wasn't teaching an annihilation, but a recycling. On 17 August 1856 he stated:
But the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom [from God when you are exalted]; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth.
If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead. Why? Because everything else is opposed to that kingdom, and the heir of that kingdom will keep up the warfare with that opposing power until death is destroyed, and him that hath the power of it; not annihilated, but sent back to native element.
Joseph F. Smith differed from Brigham's view, and explicitly mentioned his rejection of the idea of "dissolution"
Joseph F. Smith said,
Thus we see that the first death which came into the world is also the last death which shall be pronounced upon the sons of perdition. What is it? Banishment from the presence of God. Banishment from the power of God. Banishment from the glory of God. Banishment from the joys of heaven. Banishment from all progress. Banishment into outer darkness. Banishment into hell, which is as a lake of fire and brimstone, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, because the soul lives and is bound to live on, suffering the damnation of hell. This is what I understand spiritual death is. I do not understand it to be the separation of the body and the spirit again. I do not understand it to be the dissolution of the spirit into its [p.228] native element. I understand the second death to be the same as the first death-spiritual death; the same condition that Adam was in and that he had to be redeemed from by the blood of Christ, and by faith and obedience to the commands of God. By this means Adam was redeemed from the first death, and brought back again into the presence of God, back again into the favor of the Almighty, back again into the channel of eternal increase and progress. And if a man, after being placed in this condition, shall deny the Holy Ghost and Jesus Christ, putting Him again to open shame and crucifying Him afresh, then that first death which fell upon our first parents will again be pronounced upon that man, and it is not written that he shall ever be delivered from it. It is not written that there is any forgiveness for it, nor any redemption therefrom.
More recent LDS leaders such as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie have rejected the idea that those in perdition can ultimately be redeemed, which contradicts Brigham's speculations. Elders Smith and McConkie were concerned that the view advanced by Brigham might "lull men into a state of carnal security," and thus hamper their mortal probation.
Knowing that disagreement exists among the teachings of various LDS leaders, perhaps for the time being it is most prudent to rely upon canonized LDS scripture
For example, Doctrine and Covenants 76 maintains that no ultimate knowledge of the fate of the sons of perdition will be known to any but the partakers:
Wherefore, he saves all except them — they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment —
And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof. (D&C 76:44-46)
Compare that with the following from an earlier revelation:
Wherefore I will say unto them — Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.
But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit. (D&C 29:29-30)
Brigham's speculations are interesting, but currently remain outside accepted or official LDS doctrine, and stand in contrast to other LDS leaders past and present. Perhaps it is significant that in the official Church manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, a segment from a sermon given August 26, 1860 is included as follows:
Jesus will bring forth, by his own redemption, every son and daughter of Adam, except the sons of perdition, who will be cast into hell....
The punishment of God is God-like [see D&C 19]. It endures forever, because there never will be a time when people ought not to be damned and there must always be a hell to send them to. How long the damned remain in hell, I know not, nor what degree of suffering they endure....
God's punishment is eternal, but that does not prove that a wicked person will remain eternally in a state of punishment.
Perhaps Brigham viewed the fate of the sons of perdition much like the fate of those who inherit a telestial glory, who suffer for a time, as described in D&C 76:81-84. Perhaps the best course for the time being is to recall that, ultimately, "all [God's] judgments are not given unto men" (D&C 29:30).
- Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 156–158.; Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:258. Volume 5 link; Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 274. off-site
- See The Gospel of Nicodemus, Part II, 6 in ANF 8:436-437.
- The Pastor of Hermas, ANF 2:49. See also, Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 615-616. GL direct link and D&C 128:.
- Joseph Smith in The Essential Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1995), 151-152.
- Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies VI. in ANF, 2:490.
- Personal translation taken from Blueletter Bible and BYU Professor Wilf Griggs.
- "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
- Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011).
- Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 4 no. 6 (1 February 1843), 83, stanzas 19-20; emphasis added. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) direct off-site. Michael Hicks argued that Joseph was not the author of the poetic paraphrase in "Joseph Smith, W. W. Phelps, and the Poetic Paraphrase of 'The Vision'," Journal of Mormon History 20/2 (1994): 63–84.
- Brigham Young, "For This Is Life Eternal," in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 2:230. Brigham Young made similar statements on other occasions; for example: "There is no time when worlds have not been created and exalted; there have always been an Adam and an Eve—the first man and woman, and their oldest son is heir, and should be our Savior. We have one Father and we all are brethren." Journal of the Southern Indian Mission—Diary of Thomas D. Brown, p. 87–89; Friday, 6th Octr. 1854. "President Young said there never was any world created & peopled nor never would be but what would be redeemed by the shedding of the blood of the savior of that world." Journal of Wilford Woodruff; Ms/f/115, Church Historical Department; 12 May 1867. "All worlds have their God, their Savior, their sin, their priesthood, and can choose which they like, but beginning man rejected the priesthood by assuming to be a law unto himself—all other things abide this law." Minutes of Meetings Held in Provo City; Film/979.2/Z99/v. 2, BYU Microfilm Room; Sunday, 2 p.m. 3 October 1869.
- This article was originally based on the 29 May 2008 blog post "Spirit Recycling?" off-site Due to the nature of a wiki project, it may have been edited or had additions made by other editors.
- From Wilford Woodruff's journal account of the "King Follett discourse," a funeral sermon during the General Conference of the Church at Nauvoo, Illinois, on Sunday afternoon, April 7, 1844. Original spelling retained.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, F.G. Williams [First Presidency], "History of Joseph Smith (continued)," Times and Seasons 6 no. 3 (15 February 1845), 801. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [The letter was dated 25 June 1833; see also History of the Church, 1:366. Volume 1 link]
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:124.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:28.
- Joseph F. Smith, "The Second Death," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 4:227–228. [Discourse given on 20 January 1895.]
- See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 31.; Bruce R. McConkie, "Seven Deadly Heresies," 1 June 1980, BYU Marriot Center.
- McConkie, "Seven Deadly Heresies."
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:154-155.; see also Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 288–89. off-site