I am sure it will come as a big shock to you that some of the high priests in this Church are ignorant of basic doctrine and need to go back to the Gospel Essentials Sunday School class for a refresher course. Strong evidence of this took place in my high priest group meeting this morning. And just in case some other high priests reading this are equally ignorant, here is the “official Church doctrine” on the subject:
Latter-day revelations speak of hell in at least two ways. First, it is another name for spirit prison, a place in the postmortal spirit world for those who have “died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets” (D&C 138:32). This is a temporary state in which spirits will be taught the gospel and have the opportunity to repent and accept ordinances of salvation that are performed for them in temples (see D&C 138:30–35). Those who accept the gospel may dwell in paradise until the Resurrection. After they are resurrected and judged, they will receive the degree of glory of which they are worthy. Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the end of the Millennium, when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory (see D&C 76:81–85).
Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness, which is the dwelling place of the devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition (see D&C 29:36–38; D&C 76:28–33). Sons of perdition are those who receive “no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame” (D&C 76:34–35; see also D&C 76:31–33, D&C 76:36–37). Such individuals will not inherit a place in any kingdom of glory; for them the conditions of hell remain (see D&C 76:38; D&C 88:24, D&C 88:32).
This is from True to the Faith, the correlated book published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and copyrighted in 2004 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and introduced by The First Presidency. This book is distributed by the priesthood to new members at or shortly after their baptism. And the doctrine in it is as pure and undefiled as anything in the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants.
So the next time somebody tells you that the only Mormon “hell” is reserved for the sons of perdition who go to Outer Darkness, you can set them straight. But try to be more diplomatic about it than I was this morning, or you might end up eating a knuckle sandwich. Some people are so terrified of going to hell they like to pretend that there is no such thing, and that the worst that can happen is to end up in one of the three kingdoms of glory.
Tomorrow, if I get around to it and still feel like it, I might share with you what Bruce R. McConkie had to say about hell in his marvelous book Mormon Doctrine. Then you can decide whether or not to dismiss his doctrine as “personal opinion” as so many do. I think you will be quite amazed at how close his definition of “hell” is to the one taught as “official Church doctrine” by the Church.