A Terrifying Passage About Mormon Hell

October 13, 2005

We all know that Mormon’s don’t understand hell the way the Baptists do. We believe in “many mansions,” in three “kingdom’s of glory,” and in a “spirit prison” that is a temporary condition even for the unrepentant wicked. But we do believe in all the doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon, don’t we?

Last night Esperanza and I were reading in Mosiah when we came across this terrifying passage. At least I find it terrifying. It is in King Benjamin’s marvelous address, and he is speaking to a group of people who already have the gospel. Specifically he is speaking of those who turn away from the truth after they have found it. He says:

36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

39 And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

How do we reconcile and harmonize this passage with the Mormon concept of hell?

My best understanding is that King Benjamin is referring to the bitterness and disappointment that will be felt by eveyone who fails to obtain eternal life which is the highest of three degrees in the Celestial Kingdom, or in other words, exaltation. That is the only “hell” that I can think of that would never end, that would be endless torment.

Spirit prison will be over for all when its inhabitants are resurrected. We are assured that even the telestial kingdom is such a marvelous place that if we could look into it for five minutes we would all commit suicide to get there. So where is the “endless torment” spoken of by King Benjamin?

Anyway, I once turned away from the gospel as taught by the living prophets. That was after I had been taught by the missionaries and joined the Church. I tried to keep the commandments for a while, but I became discouraged and decided that I just didn’t have the strength or ability to keep them. I tried to go back into world I had known before being taught the gospel. I tried to forget about my new knowledge of God and what he expected of me.

But one day, after committing a particularly heinous sin, I was reading this passage of scripture, and the Holy Ghost caused it to jump off the page into my face. I was terrified. I knew that if I didn’t find the strength to live the gospel, this “never-ending torment” was in my own future, that I would certainly suffer as if being on fire “forever and ever.”

Yet I frequently run across Latter-day Saints on the Internet, usually saints who were raised in the Church, who believe that the mercy of Christ is so complete, that he will save them from such suffering regardless of their obedience in keeping his commandments. “Mormons don’t have a hell,” I am often told online. “Your Baptist upbringing is showing,” they say. “Even the telestial kingdom is wonderful, a form of salvation,” they comfort me.

So where have I gone wrong? How am I interpreting this Book of Mormon passage incorrectly? How do you reconcile this passage with the Mormon concept of hell? If I am confused, I want to be straightened out. If not, some saints are going to be awfully surprised when they find out where their labors in mortality are taking them. They are going to Mormon hell.

Newsweek Story: The Mormon Odyssey

October 8, 2005

I don’t much like or dislike this story about the Church on the MSNBC or Newsweek website, but I thought I ought to mention it in my blog because it is mainstream media. And I’m always interested in what the mainstream media is saying about the Church. What do you think? I notice that some of the Google Ads on the page were from anti-Mormon sites. Of course, those ads change rapidly, so they may not be the same ones that you see if you link through.

How Goes Same Sex Marriage in California?

September 23, 2005

I really enjoyed this editorial entitled “Arnold Schwarzenegger Hates Gay People.” Like the prophets of God, I believe that legalizing same sex marriage is a serious threat to the institution of marriage and public morality. Apparently, an overwhelming majority of Californians agree, notwithstanding the disgusting performance of their state legislators and judges. I am especially pleased to learn the information in this column because I have never had much respect of Governor Schwarzenegger. I consider him a RINO (Republican In Name Only), and he is far too liberal to suit me. But he has gained some stature in my eyes for using his veto in this case. Three cheers for the Terminator! Maybe we should send some missionaries to preach the gospel to him.

Is Astrology a Sin?

September 22, 2005

In this short but interesting piece about the occult arts, Mormon scholar Robert J. Matthews reviews the scriptures in which the Lord gives us his Word about astrology, spiritualism, witchcraft and other black arts. We are often prone to think of astrology and spirit mediums as harmless superstition, but that is not how the Lord feels about it. A false prophet teaching false doctrine leads us away from God and is hence evil and therefore dangerous. What do you think?

Big Problems on the Church Website

September 22, 2005

I have big problems with the Church website because of flaws in the search functions. Many times I search for something that I know for a fact is there, but it doesn’t show up in the search results even when I use the exact “string” to search for it. Often when I limit my search to a specific author, it produces a huge number of hits that include many other authors. There does not seem to be a very effective ranking according to “relevance.” And Google “advanced” search, which I use constantly from my Firefox context menu using a Firefox extension, cannot do a site: search for some reason. Boolean operators are poorly implemented on the Church website, and the search inadequacies frustrate me no end. I love the Church website for what I can do with it, but the search frustrations ruin much of the site’s usefulness, in my opinion.

Have any of you had similar frustrations? How can the LDS online community make a big enough issue with this to get the Church to do something about it? The search technology is available to do a much better job than is currently being done. Maybe the Church needs to get some help from one of the major search engines or consult with tech people in the search industry that know the technology better than those currently in charge of searching on the official Church website. What do you think?

Condemning the Righteous and Letting the Wicked Go Unpunished

September 21, 2005

In Helaman 7:5 there is a scripture that has always fascinated me because it seems to describe our own day so well:

“Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills.”—

What do you think? Are we seeing any of this in our own day? Do the guilty go unpunished because of their money? Do our government leaders commit adultery, steal and kill to get gain and glory? What about wars fought for profit rather than for national defense? Is any of that going on today? If so, isn’t that killing for “gain and glory?” Perhaps I’m being paranoid, do you think? Tell me I’m wrong. Convince me it isn’t so. I would be a lot happier with the world I’m leaving to my children and grandchildren if I could be disabused of this negativity which I hope is just a paranoid delusion.

Is Jesus a God of Vengeance?

September 20, 2005

Call me bloodthirsty, but this is one of my favorite scriptures:

“And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat. And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.”

Is Jesus a God of vengeance? Will he right the wrongs that we see daily around us throughout our lives? Will the abusers get their just desserts? I know that God is love, and that he forgives those who repent of their sins. But will he see that justice is done for those who have been abused? Are the wicked going to get their comeuppance? Can those who refuse to seek revenge against their enemies count on the Lord to settle their scores? I love the God of mercy. But I also derive great satisfaction from all those scriptures that assure me he is also a God of justice. I have to forgive everyone, the repentant and unrepentant alike. But God can forgive whomever he pleases to forgive. And without repentance, there is no forgiveness through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Is part of heaven seeing justice done?

Seek Not For Riches But For Wisdom

September 15, 2005

For me, one of the most comforting scriptures is D&C 6:7 which reads:

Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.

I guess one of the reasons I find this verse so comforting is that it seems to let me off the hook when it comes to being financially successful, something that I have never had a gift for. If I had to stroke my own ego by pointing to my great financial or business success, I would be in sore need of an ego boost.

But how does one go about effectively seeking wisdom? Is it just a matter of keeping the commandments and practicing ones religion? Or is there more to it than that? I recently read a short introduction to philosophy at this website. Among other things it suggests

The word philosophy has meant different things at different times, often reflecting the culture of the day. Usually we understand the term to denote the love of wisdom, from the Greek; in this sense, as it was apparently used by Socrates, it gives the impression of someone who is seeking wisdom, not one who has found it. Thus we would only call someone a physicist, say, if he or she actually had some knowledge of physics; but we call by philosopher someone who is aiming at wisdom without necessarily achieving it.

Is this true? Is a study of philosophy necessary to a search for wisdom? If not, is it helpful? Can it be counterproductive? If a study of philosophy is useful, are all philosophies equally so? If not, how does one go about judging among them?

I would really like to answer some of these questions, but I don’t know how to begin. I have a few maxims that have always been among my favorites, but they hardly constitute a philosophy.

When you have a good thing, don’t mess it up.

The greatest of all ignorance is the ignorance of ignorance.

Try not to say things that will permanently damage your most important relationships.

Very little is actually what it seems to be.

Religion is more important than politics.

The Apostate Cat by Tom Matkin

September 15, 2005

He prowls around
His Master’s yard.
In the
and Dismal

His prey is not
what a cat can eat.

to the Master’s Home
he drags his

The Master
The Cat,

How to Prove Mormonism Scientifically

September 8, 2005

According to the scientific method as I understand it, in order to be accepted by science, an hypothesis has to be proven by performing a real world experiment that demonstrates it to be true by direct observation in an experiment that can be repeated by other investigators, preferably many others. Only by demonstrably repeatable results can a claim be regarded as proven by the evidence. It is also helpful if there is some way that the claim can be proven false. Or in other words, a scientifically provable hypothesis has to be something that could be proven false if it were in fact false. Perhaps there is more to the scientific method than this, but that is my understanding of the gist of it.

Fortunately, the scriptures contain a way to use this method for proving whether or not the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is correct and true. All one needs to do to prove it to himself is perform the experiment.

Keep the commandments of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and see what the results are. Are there promised blessings? Do they ensue from performing this experiment? Can others perform the same experiment and achieve the same results? Can performing the experiment prove the claim to be false?

The Savior himself said that if we will do the will of the Father we will learn whether or not the doctrines are from a man or from God. Alma made a similar claim in Alma 32:26-34. Consider an agricultural scientist, if he should find himself with an assortment of seeds, and he wanted to find out which ones among them were alive and fertile, how could he more scientifically determine which were alive and which were dead than by planting them to see which ones sprout and grow? Is this not the scientific method? Is not the growth of the living seeds scientific proof that the seeds are alive?

I don’t know the mathematics behind this principle. I am not a mathematician or a trained scientist. But I imagine that if the principle is true, there is some what to express it mathematically. And for my own purposes, it is self-evident truth. This is the way that I have scientifically proven the gospel to myself. And I know many others who have performed the same experiment and achieved the same results.

Parenthetically, I have also performed a negative of this experiment. I set out to violate the commandments of Jesus Christ to see what would happen, and I found out that personal disaster ensued just as my religious leaders said it would. I know many others who have performed this experiment too and achieved the same results. The gospel is actually quite provable by the scientific method.