Plan of salvation/Sons of Perdition/Eventual fate

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Eventual fate of the "Sons of Perdition"

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Question: Will sons of perdition be resurrected?

Scripture and subsequent Latter-day Saint teaching indicates that all mortals will be resurrected, without exception

There are multiple citations from Church leaders indicating that sons of perdition born into mortality will be resurrected, since "there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead" (Alma 40:4), and "this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption" (Alma 11:44-45.

Statements by Church leaders have reflected this scriptural foundation

George Q. Cannon

A careful reading of these verses [DC 76:38-39], however, and especially of the preceding paragraphs, will show that the Lord does not, in this language, exclude even the sons of perdition from the resurrection. It is plain that the intention is to refer to them explicitly as the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power: "for all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb." This excluded class are the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power, and "the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord after the sufferings of his wrath."[1]

I was given to understand, while I and others of the brethren were in exile, that because of this passage [DC 76:32-39], contained in this revelation, some of the Elders had conceived the idea, and were teaching it, that the sons of perdition would not be resurrected; and inquiry was made of us concerning it. The doctrine as taught, was, that a certain class of spirits that had received tabernacles upon the earth, would not be resurrected; and to sustain this view [p.379] the paragraphs just read were quoted: "For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made." Because of this language some have inferred that all the rest would be resurrected, and the sons of perdition would not be resurrected. If you will read the context carefully you will see this is not the meaning. "And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power; Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, * * * For all the rest shall be brought forth," etc. That is, they will be redeemed and brought forth, but they will not be brought forth in the manner that we will be resurrected; they will not receive that redemption which the rest of the children of men will receive. God in this glorious revelation through His servant, Joseph, taught this to us: that there will be a time when every human being, except the sons of perdition, will partake of the salvation of our God. And even, it is said concerning them of the telestial glory, that they are heirs of salvation. But the sons of perdition are not heirs of salvation; they will not receive redemption, they having committed the unpardonable sin, from which they never can be redeemed, so far, at least, as God has taught us in His revelations. Now if you will turn to the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, you will find how plain the Lord has made this matter, so plain as to leave no doubt about it....[2]

Charles W. Penrose

[S]ome of our brethren entertain the notion that the sons of perdition will not be resurrected. But the Lord has told us, as you will read in section twenty-nine of the book of D&C, that "then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened and they shall come forth, yea, even all." Very emphatic are the words in that section, verse twenty-six. The same doctrine is to be found in the Book of Mormon. But there is a passage in section eighty-eight, of the book of D&C which will make the matter very clear to those who desire to understand it.[3]

Anthon H. Lund

Perhaps the sons of perdition are the last class. All will be resurrected. Jesus died for us all. He became the Redeemer, He bought us for a price, and His death brought the privilege of resurrection unto every soul, whether he be a sinner or not. All will receive a share in the resurrection--not in the first resurrection, but they will be resurrected, and will be brought before the bar of our Heavenly Father.[4]

John A. Widtsoe

They who will be judged to be sons of perdition will arise from the grave with their bodies.[5]

Joseph F. Smith

'Whether the sons of perdition will be privileged to retain their bodies after the resurrection, or whether they will be resurrected or not?' First, yes. They will doubtless be resurrected. Second, yes. They will without doubt retain their bodies. First see DC 29:26,27. This means all the dead shall be raised from the dead. Again see Alma 11:43,44, Revelation 20:11-15, 1 Corinthians 15:21-23. Second, Mosiah 16:11, DC 29:27-28, Alma 11:45, Alma 34:34. . . .[6]

Joseph Fielding Smith

Question: "Will those who in this life become sons of perdition receive their bodies in the resurrection? If so, will they have to pass through death again? If they do not, and their bodies and spirits are again united never to be divided, will they have ascendancy, or jurisdiction, over Satan and those who rebelled with him and who have no bodies of flesh and bones?"

Answer: The matter of the resurrection being universal has been discussed in former articles appearing in The Improvement Era. Therefore it is sufficient to say here that the resurrection will be universal and every soul born into this world must receive his body and spirit reunited inseparably in the resurrection.[7]


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.[8]

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....[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14] Elders Smith and McConkie were concerned that the view advanced by Brigham might "lull men into a state of carnal security,"[15] 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)

Summary

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.[16]

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).


  1. George Q. Cannon, "The Resurrection As Affecting the Sons of Perdition," The Juvenile Instructor {{{vol}}}/{{{num}}} (15 February 1900): 123.
  2. George Q. Cannon, "Union, Fate of Sons of Perdition," 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), 1:378–379. [Discourse given on 6 October 1889.]
  3. Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report (Octrober 1911), 51–52.
  4. Anthon H. Lund, Conference Report (April 1904), 8.
  5. John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 213. GL direct link
  6. Joseph F. Smith, From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to his missionary sons (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1981), 68. ISBN 0877478856.
  7. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 2:169. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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]
  11. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:124.
  12. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:28.
  13. 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.]
  14. 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.
  15. McConkie, "Seven Deadly Heresies."
  16. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:154-155.; see also Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 288–89. off-site