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.