How Many Sons of Perdition Are There?

For more than forty-two years, ever since I first met the Mormons, I have heard it taught that the Sons of Perdition can be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Where did this teaching originate? Is it true? This morning, reading the King Follett Discourse again for the first time in many years, I’m not so sure. Joseph Smith taught in this greatest of all his sermons:

All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Perhaps I misunderstand Joseph here. But it seems to me that he is equating “have the heavens opened unto him” with “receive the Holy Ghost.” This understanding is further buttressed by his statement, “This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Many doesn’t sound like the fingers of one hand to me. What am I missing here? Surely more than a handful of priesthood holders have received the revelations of the Holy Ghost and then turned away. Is that not true? Could it be that Joseph Smith simply misspoke himself in this part of the sermon, that he just used imprecise language? Maybe this is the reason that the King Follett Discourse is not included in our canon, do you think? Why isn’t it part of our standard works?

I love this sermon, but it leaves me with a lot of questions.

27 Responses to How Many Sons of Perdition Are There?

  1. Brad Hoopes says:

    For some reason today; I was pondering what it would be like to be a son of Perdition. And so I decided to read up on the subject.

    One of my good (brothers) made a comment: I use the term brother because of the fact that our father who art in heaven said we are all brothers, and sisters. As I was reading through all the hypothesis on this subject one of the good brothers gave some good advice.

    He suggested reading D&C 76:43 through 49, I would suggest reading the whole chapter. As their is a lot of good subject matter to be gleaned.

    What I’m going to say is not gospel doctrine, and should not be taking as such.

    I took a missioner approach class when I attended Ricks Collage,
    Now known as B.Y.U. Idaho. One day we some how got on the subject of what it would be like to be a son of perdition.

    our teacher told us from his study on the matter, He assumed it would be a place with no physical, spiritual or any kind of light what so ever.
    I would liken it unto going down into a cave, and having someone turn out the lights. I was on a tour of a local cave in Utah, and the guild turned out the lights.
    He stated; you well note that no matter how long your eyes try to adjust, or try to pick up any ambient light, you would never be able to see anything.

    I can say it was a most unsettling thing to experience, and cant even imagine what an eternity, or forever would be like.

    So all I have to say to the one third I hope it was worth it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;-(

  2. Carmen says:

    I don’t believe you would have to be a member of the LDS church to be a son of perdition. There are people in the scriptures who weren’t members and yet who could have become sons of perdition. Take Saul from the book of Acts for example. He was a Pharisee. He saw Jesus Christ and went blind for three days. So he basically obtained a sure knowledge that Jesus was the Christ, and if he had turned around and denied what he saw, he would have become a son of perdition.

  3. flat iron says:

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website thus i came to “return the favor”.
    I’m trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  4. RSB says:

    Lucifer was in the presence of God and he was cast out forever with one third of the hosts of Heaven. They had perfect knowledge did they not? That is a lot of folks in outer darkness not just a handful. So perhaps the brethren are saying that the Lord made it more difficult for mortals to commit this kind of unpardonable sin. A protection for having been faithful in the pre mortal existence maybe. Hence the veil.
    On the other hand, we are told and encouraged to seek this “more sure word of prophesy” I suspect after all the trails and the testing,we would be less likely to turn from God. When we earn something we tend to appreciated it more. So compared to Satan and the one third of the hosts in Heaven,(billions) mortal Sons of Perdition would only be a hand full.. so to speak.

  5. Dennis says:

    D&C 76:44–49 . It Is Futile to Discuss the Fate of Sons of Perdition
    It appears that in the early days of the Restoration some attempted to teach the destiny of the sons of perdition. The Prophet Joseph Smith responded by writing: “Say to the brothers Hulet and to all others, that the Lord never authorized them to say that the devil, his angels, or the sons of perdition, should ever be restored; for their state of destiny was not revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, 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. We, therefore, command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion. We sanction the decision of the Bishop and his council, in relation to this doctrine being a bar to communion.” ( Teachings, p. 24.)

  6. drlemon64 says:

    Interesting blog post! I would think that there may be very few sons of perdition throughout history, maybe not many more then can be counted on one hand. First off, if very many people were in danger of such a horrible fate, you would think that it would be discussed more often in conference like chastity sins or whatever. In addition, some of the worst apostates turned around and repented (eg Oliver Cowdery, Orson Hyde, etc.), so one would apparently have to go pretty far to become one. That said, if there were sons of perdition running around, 1830s Missouri would be an ideal place (apostates who were in high places and who wanted to murder Joseph Smith, etc.).

  7. Mormonlady says:

    It needs to be a LDS member (man) that holds the Melchizedec priesthood first of all. There is a sealing for married men to get the second comforter (Jesus) and it is a ceremony in the temple where a high LDS leader do something, and then also speak prophetic words. It is not so common now as before, but it happens once in a while.

    I am sure the general authorities get it, but other priesthood holders can get it too. The wife doesn’t go through the ceremony, but she will be blessed anyway because she is married. This is priesthood stuff, nothing for women to worry about.

    If the man that recieved the second comforter and have made their calling and election sure, then they know enough because the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face.

    If that man is sheding innocent blod, and that is Jesus who is the only innocent person who has lived here on earth, then he has done something that the atonement cannot cover. He cannot crucify Jesus a second time.

    Former LDS members that are afraid of being a son of perdition are thinking that they are too important. They are just an average sinner, and have not gone through this temple ceremony. They have not recieved the second comforter.

    They are angry at the LDS Church because they think that every former member is a son of perdition, but this is not true at al. They are angry because they do not know, and they are making up stories in their minds. It is very sad indeed.

    “Thus the Prophet Joseph said:

    “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings, p. 150.)

    Such a person eventually receives godhood and becomes a member of the “church of the Firstborn.” (D&C 76:54.)

    Who were some of the saints who were accepted of the Lord through their sacrifices? The Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that when a person has been proved of the Lord by “hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God,” he may then have the privilege of receiving the Second Comforter. This Comforter is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, “and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face.” Joseph Smith went on to say that this was the condition of a number of the ancient saints, naming Isaiah, Ezekiel, John the Revelator, Paul, and “all the saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.” (See Teachings, pp. 150–51.)

    The assurance of being accepted of the Lord was also known to many of the Nephites: Enos (see Enos 1:27), Alma the Elder (see Mosiah 26:20), the Three Nephites (see 3 Ne. 28:4–11), and others (see 3 Ne. 28: 1–3).

    The promise of becoming a member of the church of the Firstborn is also made to Latter-day Saints. (See D&C 76:50–60.) In our dispensation many Saints have made their calling and election sure. (See, e.g., D&C 124:19.) Noteworthy among these was William Clayton, to whom the Prophet said:

    “Your life is hid with Christ in God, and so are many others. Nothing but the unpardonable sin can prevent you from inheriting eternal life for you are sealed up by the power of the Priesthood unto eternal life, having taken the step necessary for that purpose.” (History of the Church, 5:391.)

    Joseph Smith himself was told by the Lord that he had been sealed unto exaltation and that the Lord had prepared a throne for him “in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.” (D&C 132:49; see also Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:347–50 for further discussion.)

    President Marion G. Romney, as a member of the Council of the Twelve, admonished the Saints in general conference to make their calling and election sure and said:

    “The fullness of eternal life is not attainable in mortality, but the peace which is its harbinger and which comes as a result of making one’s calling and election sure is attainable in this life. The Lord has promised that ‘… he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.’ (D&C 59:23.)

    “Inasmuch as the calling and election made sure is the greatest of all blessings received in this life, what greater counsel may Latter-day Saints receive than the following from the Prophet Joseph Smith:

    “Then I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you obtain it.” (Teachings, p. 299.)”

    “The question is frequently asked, ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances?’ I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. …

    “If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” (Teachings, pp. 331, 308.)

    Both men and women receive the blessings of the “fullness of the priesthood” in the temple, even though women are not ordained to the priesthood; for as President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

    “Women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority. The women do not hold the priesthood with their husbands, but they do reap the benefits coming from that priesthood.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft, 1956, 3:178.)

    Concomitant to participating in ordinances and holding the priesthood is the making of covenants. Divine covenants must be entered into and honored before a person can have his calling and election made sure. To ensure that we receive the blessings of covenants righteously entered into and followed, the Lord has established a means by which ordinances and covenants may be approved. This is through the sealing power of the Holy Spirit of Promise. When the Holy Spirit of Promise (which is the Holy Ghost) justifies a person’s performance with respect to a covenant entered into, that performance is ratified, making the covenant effective for salvation.”

  8. A.V.P. says:

    Senor Sandino.

    The sealing of the second comforter is a promise, just like baptism. Only this promise is a bit higher in this sense. The only stipulation is that the person that receives it doesn’t turn around and go against God. If he never does then he is promised to enter into the highest glory that God has awaiting for him. But if the person does actively fight against God then he loses this promise and gains the greatest punishment of all. To have all light and truth taken away from him as he is escorted into outer-darkness. Your generic sins such as slothfulness don’t fall under this category. If a prophet is slothful in his doings then he will have the same consequences as if he hadn’t received the sealing in the first place. He would have to go through the same repentance process and things of that nature.
    Though the Lord hopes, he has never expected any of us to be totally perfect in this life. It is expected that any and all men will have their shortcomings. Even those who have been sealed up by the Holy Spirit of Promise

  9. Sandino says:

    Thanks to All for sharing such a great knowledge of the doctrine. What I’m still trying to understand is what Ben explains and somebody else above implied:
    “Any other sin you commit after that point is on your head, and you’ll suffer for it as Jesus did…”
    Does that mean that Apostles and Prophets are either perfect (committing no sin) or they will go through the process of suffering for even the minimum sin they commit AFTER being sealed by the Second Comforter-Jesus.
    Thanks for clarifying that for me.

  10. Ben says:

    Shedding innocent blood refers to crucifying Jesus anew, or having received a perfect knowledge of your salvation through Christ’s atonement, then working actively against that truth. As previously stated, you basically have to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (that’s the Second Comforter–Jesus) unto eternal life, then seek to destroy the church. Any other sin you commit after that point is on your head, and you’ll suffer for it as Jesus did, then when your suffering’s done you’ll receive your exaltation like it says in D&C 132. But crucify Jesus anew and, well, it was better for you never to have been born. As detailed in the Doctrine and Covenants, only the prophet can reveal to a person if their calling and election is made sure, so if he hasn’t told you, don’t worry about maybe being a child of perdition. You’re not. And anything you’re worrying about, anything that may be hanging over your head–it’s not so bad. Satan will tell it’s worse than it is. You can repent, if you’re willing, in Jesus’s name.

  11. I believe that a son of perdition must have so much light to deny the Father, the Son and the angels of heavens, when a man who is called by God, who is a prophet receives all of the ordinances and the second anointing, and know God even the Greatest Plan of Salvation which is all included in the Ark of the Covenants, and deny it, then he becomes a son of perdition or if he persecutes the Church of Jesus Christ, kill the prophets, the saints, or people. That’s what I believe with the strongest feelings of my heart about the Book of Mormon. The Lord may send the Destroyer Angel who denies the Holy Spirit, and kill the man who deny it with wide open eyes. This is my testimony which I feel so strong about Jesus in the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.

  12. J. Humberg says:

    I was Baptized in 1970 while serving in the USCG in Alaska.

    Splitting hairs about who gets the axe on this Perdition question is just that!

    There are a few unscrupulous individuals that went too far in their Anti-Gospel Rhetoric. One in particular was Ed Decker and his “Saints Alive” pamphlets and film called the “God Makers”. Fawn Brody, Deborah Lakke, Sonja Johnson for her chaining event at the dedication of the Seattle Temple and the ERA.

    While working at the Genealogy booth at the Puyallup Fair in Washington State, I was accosted by some cronies for the Saints Alive group, they were summarily marched off the fairgrounds by the security personnel, but I had heard that a couple years earlier, Ed Decker himself from Bellevue, WA at that time, came dressed in the Temple’s ceremonial clothing and paraded up and down in front of the LDS booth passing out his Anti-Mormon literature until he was arrested for illegal trespassing and soliciting without a license there at the fair, and was slapped with a restraining order.

    If the press was in on these persons actions and the First Presidency too about the Deckerites, then there might be a few angels taking notes as well. So instead of worrying about which way the Pearly Gates swing, why not let these people pass on into the next state of life, and see if the lights go out forever!

    Perdition is a state of mind, and a conscious act of defiance against a higher law….
    So lets let’s just let sleeping Endowed Excommunicated unrepentant, Anti-Mormons sleep in their own self made proverbial beds!

  13. Trevor says:

    The moniker “sons” of perdition teaches correctly that women will not have part in this degree of glory (or lack thereof). Boyd K. Packer and other apostles have on rare occasion taught this exact doctrine stating that the statement in scripture that women are saved by childbirth refers directly to being saved from the condition of being a Son of Perdition. Also many apostles have clearly taught that the “rank and file” members of the church/holders of the Priesthood will never be in a position to even sin sufficiently against the Holy Ghost to become a Son of Perdition. Do we believe that God continues to reveal truths to his prophets? I do. The scriptures are gateways to receiving personal revelation. I think that some on this forum had beware of wresting the scriptures or reading with a single possible interpretation of meaning. Apostles often speak from different angles on the same topic so that one can compile what they all have said at different times in order to come to an understanding of the doctrinal truth. Sometimes they appear inconsistent or in opposition to one another when in actuality they are defining the bounds set by the Lord on a particular law. One has to apply to deep pondering of all available teachings and prayer to get at the truth- not sloppy logic.

    Bruce – your loyalty to the Bible is an example of limited faith and belief in God. Judas Iscariot is not the only Son of Perdition. Cain is the first, and that from the Bible as well. So you have at least two you must consider even limited to the Bible as the end-all-be-all of God’s communication with mankind.

  14. Bruce says:

    The Bible refers to *singular* – Son of Perdition – not sons.

    When in doubt, go to God’s Word- The Holy Bible – not the words of modern men.



    • A.V.P says:

      it would be good to know that in the book of mormon it refers to the idea in the singular form as well. But in peter it says the following:
      2 Pet. 3: 7
      7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
      With the part, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, we find Peter pluralizing the idea of those that are to receive the judgment of perdition

    • A.V.P says:

      someone else also commented on your’s saying that cain was refered to as a son of perdition. He was actually refered to as perdition. Such is taught in Moses 5:22-24. If such is true then the singularity of the idea of ‘son of perdition’ may be because previous to Judas Iscariot there were no others that were considered to be sons of perdition. If this is true then when reading it all in context it would make sense as to why both the book of mormon and the new testement refer to son’s of perdition in the singular sense. It would also make sense as to why peter would refer to them in the plural sense when refering to their judgment, for at that time other son’s of perdition may have come to light (or to dark)… As for modern day revelation in regards to this idea, we aren’t able to identify who are those who are modern day sons of perdition due to the fact that without direct revelation in regards to the subject we aren’t able to 1/we arent able to determine who has received enough light and knowledge in order to be able to reach the heights of those who are able to become S of P, and 2/ we don’t know whom of those people have rejected God sufficiently in order to be filled with enough darkness to be considered son’s of perdition.

  15. Devin Grant says:

    I heard from Calvin R. Stephens, former manager of Church Curriculum, that what the prophets are saying when they comment “Sons of Perdition” can be counted on one hand was a sarcastic approach in front of a public audience. Just like a little kid who uses one hand to count to 10 or 20 using one hand – it could be any number. . . How high can you count? etc.etc. . . You can’t always take things taught publicly literally when you read them from a book or blog. There is a great deal of human emotion involved in saying a statement. To rely on the message more than the tone of the messanger will get you into trouble. . .

  16. Pseudonym says:

    You are correct in your assumption. It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling to say that no one now days can become a son of perdition or that you can count them on one hand. If you study this topic, which will be difficult as it is rarely spoken of, you will find quotes saying that it is a large misunderstaing in the Church that sons of perdition will be quite few in number but will actually be as “the sands of the sea”. D&C 84:41 states that any man who turns his back on the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood will “not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor the world to come.” Sounds a lot like a son of perdition to me, and how many of us are partakers in that covenant?

    Cheryl has been taught incorrectly. Though murder is a grevious sin it does not move one to the son of perdition catagory. Some apostles have compared sinning against the Holy Ghost as murdering the Holy Ghost, some people have confused those statements with murder in general.

    Though women do not hold the priesthood they are part of the Relief Society which is a branch of the priesthood and do have access to the fulness of the priesthood and take part in its ordinances, so they are very capable of obtaining the same punishment as any man as J Stapely pointed out

    • A.V.P says:

      Going along with what you have just said, when Joseph Smith described those that are going to the telestial kingdom he said that those whom have murdered are going to be going to that kindgom. When it refers to shedding innocent blood it is refering to killing Christ again. His blood is the innocent blood that is being refered to.

  17. Cheryl Moala says:

    I have always been taught that to become a Son of Perdition, one must have a perfect knowledge of Jesus and or the trinity, ( Such as I have a perfect knowledge of my child because I see him face to face and converse with him ) therefore I know without a doubt that he, my son, exsist. Then after obtaining this perfect knowledge of God or Jesus, denie that God or and Jesus exsist.
    Also I have been taught that another way of becoming a Son of Perdition is to sin against the Holy Ghost. ( I have been taught that sinning against the Holy Ghost is to shed ” Innocent Blood ” . ) This includes drive by shootings, murder, manslaughter etc.

  18. anonymous says: says:

    why do you have to just rip apart the LDS church? you dont see the catholics being ripped apart.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Since essentially no one is receiving a “calling and election made sure” in these days – unlike the late 19th century when such ordinances, then known as 2nd Annointings, were common – it goes that essentially no one can become a Son of Predition.

    Perhaps it would be possible for an Apostle to become such. If God finds that they have “All of the light” and then knowingly worked against it.

    • A.V.P says:

      Your comment about ‘essentially no one is receiving a calling and election… in these days” is not totally true. There are those that are receiving it in these days. And we aren’t able to estimate their numbers by any means for part of such is, as with other ordinances made in the temple, not to desclose information about the ordinance outside of the temple walls. Also for others to know, to have your calling and election made sure can not be done alone. It is done with a man and a woman. Just as Joseph Smith was to have received his calling and election, Emma Smith would have had to have received hers as well. Knowing such then also supports the reply made by J. Stapley to Judy Jones. For every man that has received his calling and election there must be a woman that has also received it.

  20. J. Stapley says:

    Judy Jones, that would be a fallacy as women have equal access to the fullness of the priesthood as do men.

  21. Judy Jones says:

    I was told about 30 years ago that women couldn’t become Sons of Perdition because they don’t hold the Priesthood.

  22. J. Stapley says:

    I believe that Jeffrey is correct to point to those who have recieved all the holy ordinances.

  23. Brigham asked how much it took to become a son of perdition and answered with “just as much as it takes to make a God.” They have to sin against ALL of the light.

    I understand Joseph to have taught that you had to recieve your calling and election made sure in order to qualify as a son of perdition. This is due to the fact that there is no seal against the unpardonable sin.

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