Hiding the Danger
We sometimes hear about companies not telling the public about a defect in their product which could cause serious injury or even death. It’s bad enough to see the damage caused by the defective product. When, however, we learn that the company leaders knew about the problem but remained silent because they didn’t want to hurt their bottom line, then people really get upset. They want the book thrown at the company executives.
This is tragic when it results in physical death; it is much more catastrophic when it ends in eternal death. That is what Mormonism does. It hides the danger of eternal punishment.
One of the basic tenets of Mormonism is that nearly everybody will go to one of their three kingdoms of heaven. So much so, that the chart of the LDS Plan of Salvation that LDS missionaries show people doesn’t even mention eternal punishment. It starts with pre-existence, continues with life on earth and then in the spirit world and concludes with the three kingdoms of LDS heaven. There is no mention of hell, outer darkness, or anything comparable.
This is consistent with LDS theology. In a number of different ways, it denies the concept of eternal punishment. Hell is most often defined as temporary – something people experience in the spirit world before Judgment Day. Sometimes it is even used to describe what people experience in the telestial kingdom, the lowest one in LDS heaven. Thus, you end up with people suffering hell in heaven!
The same holds true with damnation. Everybody in heaven except those in the highest level are damned. One of their manuals states: “Eternal damnation is the opposite of eternal life, and all those who do not gain eternal life, or exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial kingdom, are partakers of eternal damnation. Their eternal condemnation is to have limitations imposed upon them so that they cannot progress to the state of godhood and gain a fulness of all things” (D&C Student Manual, Section 19).
On and on it goes. Mormonism teaches that eternal or everlasting punishment doesn’t mean there is no end to the punishment; rather, it says that it is punishment from the eternal God and is equivalent to divine punishment (which they quickly add will come to an end once a person gets better).
The closest Mormonism gets to the idea of eternal punishment is the term “outer darkness”. Even then, however, they limit it to the devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition. After stating this, it almost always continues by saying that very few people will ever become a son of perdition. In fact, it is common for LDS missionaries to say they don’t think anybody since the time of Christ has become one.
The result is that a Mormon’s sense of urgency is nothing like our sense of urgency. The thought of their suffering eternally has never entered their consciousness. The worst thing they can imagine happening is their not living with Heavenly Father in heaven, but instead living in one of the lesser kingdoms. This is even softened because they think they will have time after they die to continue to progress in their worthiness.
This means we have to repeatedly tell them of the danger they are in. We need to say this with total conviction and sincerity. We need to have the demeanor of someone approaching a loved one who refuses to get help for a deadly condition because he doesn’t see the danger he is in. We need to be totally committed – and totally loving. We need to take them figuratively by the shoulders and give them a good shaking. We need to tell them they are on the road to hell – and say it with a tear in our eye. That, my friends, is speaking the truth in love. And that is a truth Mormons desperately need to hear.