Outer Darkness and Hell


      When witnessing to Mormons, it’s helpful to remember another distinction that Mormonism makes, namely the distinction between outer darkness and hell.  The manual True to the Faith states: “Latter-day revelations speak of hell in at least two ways.  First it is another name for spirit prison.”  That makes hell temporary for almost everybody. Even those who do not accept Mormonism while they are in spirit prison will go to the lowest kingdom of heaven.  “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.”

     It goes on to say, “Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness.”  Outer darkness consists of permanent punishment but only a few people will go there, namely, the sons of perdition.  Although Joseph Smith said that many of those who apostate from the LDS church qualify as sons of perdition, I have had many Mormons say that very few people will qualify. 

     Be that as it may.  The point I want to make is that Mormonism, by redefining hell and making it temporary for almost everybody, takes much of the sting out of hell.  Many find this much more attractive than the thought of people suffering eternally in hell.  I understand that.

     But there is one big problem with that.  It’s wrong.  The Bible clearly talks about those who do not rely solely on Jesus’ work as suffering eternally.  (Mormonism gets around that by defining eternal punishment as punishment coming from an eternal God – not as punishment that lasts for all eternity.)  Even though the thought of people suffering eternally sends shivers down my spine, I can’t reject it.  That is what the Bible teaches.  Nothing emphasizes the seriousness and repulsiveness of sin more than the fact that it merits eternal punishment.  Neither does anything impress upon me more the urgency to tell others about perfection in Jesus mre than this. 

    On the other hand, any dismissal of an eternal hell plays right into the devil’s hand.  The last thing the devil wants us to have is a clear picture of the agonies of hell.  That, in a very real way, would scare the hell out of us. 

      Again I don’t like to think about or talk about hell.  Neither do pro-life people like to talk about the details of abortion.  But sometimes they have to especially when talking to sometimes who is ignorant of its hideous nature.  So also we.  We need to talk about the hideous nature of hell.  But we also need to talk about the only way to escape it – being covered with the perfection of Christ.

19 Responses to “Outer Darkness and Hell”

  1. November 21, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Problem Mark.

    The idea of Hell is equally effective at scaring people into an obsession with righteous works as it is in scaring people into begging for grace.

    So, I don’t think a correct view of hell can really be called a dividing line between Mormons and Evangelicals. The doctrine seems to make no difference on the grace vs. works debate one way or the other.

  2. 2 Brad
    November 21, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    It’s only effective in scaring people into an “obsession” with righteous works, if those same people believe it is those very righteous works that play any part in saving them.

    Since Scripture says otherwise, they would be misled already, apart from any discussion on hell.

  3. 3 Susan Brown
    November 21, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Take a moment and go to Biblegateway.com and search for the word “HELL” or “DAMNATION” and just read all the scriptures that talk about this. You can choose the version you like too, I like the King James.
    If the Holy Spirit chooses to open your eyes and heart, you will see that the mormon idea of hell is far from what the ONE TRUE GOD teaches in His Holy Word. Just remember that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble…
    Good luck.

  4. November 21, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    It should be noted Mark, that while some LDS do indeed assert that the number of the Sons of Perdition is very few, there are differences of opinion on this score.

    The most prominent would be Bruce R. McConkie (Apostle and author of “Mormon Doctrine”). Under the entry of “Unpardonable Sin” McConkie quotes the Prophet Joseph Smith:

    “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.”

    McConkie seems to emphasize that last sentence, remarking “Among other things, this statement from the Prophet, explodes forever the mythical fantasy that the sons of perdition are so few they can be numbered on the fingers of the hand.”

    Just thought I’d draw your attention to the difference in opinion.

  5. 5 Darrell
    November 21, 2008 at 5:21 pm


    Once again… buffet mormonism… you can choose which prophet to believe and listen to?

    While I was a mormon I was taught that “hell” or “outer darkenss” would be suffered only by a few “really bad” people. Just as McConkie said in your quote… “for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition”. I remember teaching this to the deacons out of the teaching guide for them just a couple of years ago.


  6. November 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I don’t think you can simply arbitrarily choose which one to follow.

    You have to study each. Take their remarks in context with everything else they said or wrote, test it against scripture, and then test it against an overall picture of what other prophets have said. Then of course, there is the avenue of praying for confirmation.

    Basically, you have to take responsibility for your own beliefs. You can’t just pass the buck on Thomas S. Monson, or Bruce R. McConkie, or Brigham Young. You have to take the initiative and study things out.

    Yeah, it’s complex. Yes, it does not yield the certainty you seem to be craving so much.

    But I’m OK with that. And anyway, I don’t think that the views of Biblical Fundamentalism yield any better results. Biblical literalism may, for instance, provide a nice security blanket for people. But it has been outright proven false in numerous respects.

    Really, I think that this demand for certainty in religion is often just a mask for intellectual and spiritual laziness, and a refusal to be held accountable for your own theology, and your own convictions.

  7. 7 Darrell
    November 21, 2008 at 5:59 pm


    Taking the position you take goes against everything mormonism has taught from day one. It professes to be a “Restoration of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ”. It is taught that this restoration was desparately needed due to the fact that the professors of religion were in such disagreement over DOCTRINE. Now you are saying that it doesn’t matter what position one takes as the very prophets of this “restoration” are in disagreement themselves (which I agree with). However, this very disagreement goes right back to what the restoration itself was suppose to put an end to!!! It makes no sense. If the restoration were true you would not have prophets teaching conflicting positions. The restoration is false.


  8. 8 Brad
    November 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    How is it that McConkie’s opinion on “sons of perdition” is valid, yet his opinion on other matters, if a Mormon doesn’t believe his opinion, is simply viewed as “his opinion, but not doctrine?” Yes, as Darrell said, it does beg the question when a prophet/apostle can be trusted to be accurate, and when they can’t. If, as you say, the answer lies with us essentially studying to see if what they said is true, then whether they are to be believed or not REALLY lies with us, so naturally, if we are inclined to agree with them, we support them, while if we’re not inclined to agree with them, we call it “their opinion.” Mighty convenient – perhaps “intellectual and spiritual laziness”, as you put it?

    And what areas of Biblical literalism have been “outright proven false in numerous respects”? Curious as to what you imply by that…

    Darrell’s POV is valid – if Mormonism was the “restoration” that was promised, why is there such disagreement, even among the very leaders that the LDS church itself set up? Makes no sense.

  9. November 21, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    You didn’t really read my comment, did you Darrell?

  10. 10 Darrell
    November 21, 2008 at 7:46 pm


    I read your comment and it does not deal with the issue presented. You have admitted that there are conflicting views shared by prophets on this issue. In fact, there are differeing views shared by prophets on MULTIPLE issues… Brigham Young taught blood atonement!!!

    My point is this… the conflicting doctrines taught by the LDS Church in and of themselves go to show that the profession that the LDS Church is the “restoration” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is false. The clarity that the LDS Church was supposed to bring to the “confusion of the professors of different religions” does not exist. There is more confusion among the ranks of the LDS Church than one would care to admit… reason being you might ask… because the prophets themselves (past and present) don’t agree with each other. Just look at GBH’s admission that he does not know a whole lot about God being a man VS JS’s teaching in several places that God was a man who progressed to become a God – boy is that a difference of opinon or what!!

    What is really interesting is that although the prophets have not agreed with one another the LDS Church still trys to come across in a very dogmatic manner. The church is portrait of contradictions!! It is actually kind of funny!


  11. 11 Susan Brown
    November 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Mark & Darrell,
    bless you efforts dear brothers. It truly is a fact the the truth is hidden from those that are lost. Until the Holy Spirit removes the blinders, the LDS faithful are doomed. Sad huh? The first and second commandments are just that for a very good reason… especially in this day and age. You worship the wrong god and create a god of your own imagination & liking you are still in big, big trouble.
    Pray for God’s grace to be poured out on all those that Satan has deceived.

  12. November 21, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Talking about how I’m worshiping a God of my own liking is going to get you nowhere.

    I would think it’s a pretty obvious concept that if a person thinks a certain picture of God stinks, he is not going to follow it.

    Sighing dramatically isn’t going to impress anyone, except the people who already agree with you in the first place.

    Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of Mark’s blog.

    Last I checked, his blog was about effectively witnessing to MORMONS. Not scoring brownie points with people who already agree with you.

  13. November 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Darrell, my answer left open the option that the prophets might not actually contradict each other when taken in context, and read as a part of the overall narrative of Church doctrine.

    It also left open the option that they might contradict each other and you will be forced to choose one view or the other.

    But in any case, my main point was that you don’t just get to accept one statement and chuck another willy-nilly based on whatever feels good on first impression (which is what your caricature tried to imply). You have to approach it responsibly and take the prophets seriously at all times. You can’t just take it for granted that Brigham Young, or Joseph Smith, or Bruce R. McConkie got it wrong merely because the doctrine is uncomfortable to you.

    For instance, my own first impression of Brigham Young’s teachings about racial inequality is that he was simply wrong.

    But that’s just my undisciplined first impression. I cannot rely on that.

    I must study out his statements, the statements of others and what the scriptures reveal on the subject, and ideally pray for a confirmation of it as well.

    I’m currently in process of doing that on this and other subjects. My first impression has, so far been validated by subsequent study. But I am open to being proven wrong. Maybe Brigham really was right! It’s possible and I remain open to the idea.

    But this is not just “going to the buffet” and picking whatever tickles your fancy at the moment. It involves hard work, study, and disciplined approach that ALWAYS takes the words of God’s representatives with the utmost seriousness and gravity.

    Which is why your accusation of the “Vegas buffet” is just not accurate. It trivializes the process unfairly.

  14. 14 Brad
    November 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    When you finally come to the realization that the prophets did disagree, as they most certainly did, about various issues, where will that leave you, Seth? Which prophet’s teaching will you follow? How will you know if THAT teaching is correct, since over time they’ve differed?

    Impossible to know, with a moving standard. Impossible.

  15. 15 Susan
    November 21, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    “But I’m OK with that. And anyway, I don’t think that the views of Biblical Fundamentalism yield any better results. Biblical literalism may, for instance, provide a nice security blanket for people. But it has been outright proven false in numerous respects.”

    I don’t see taking God’s Word literally as a security blanket. I think that we are supposed to take the Truth literally.

    We can find highly intelligent and convincing people out there to support anything that we choose to believe or discredit anything we choose not to believe. I’ve read a lot of scholarly material in support of the preservation of Scripture, and I’ve heard scholars argue against it. I think that they both feel pretty secure in their position, but one of them is wrong.

    “I would think it’s a pretty obvious concept that if a person thinks a certain picture of God stinks, he is not going to follow it.”

    There are a lot of things that I personally struggle with about the God of the Bible, the One True God. I don’t believe in Him because He fits into the picture that I want. As I come across those places in Scripture that are confusing and difficult for me to accept, I lay those things at His feet….I trust Him completely even though I don’t understand all of His ways.

    There is a line in a Casting Crowns song thats speaks perfectly to this:

    “With eyes wide open to the differences…the God we want and the God who is…but will we trade our dreams for His…or are we caught in the middle.” (Somewhere in the Middle)

    My God isn’t always what I think He should be….but at those times I know, my thinking is wrong.

  16. November 21, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Not really Brad.

    I give priority to the scriptures themselves – the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, The Doctrine and Covenants, and of course the Bible. Everything else takes a back seat to that. So there is at least one fairly solid reference point.

    Everything else is inspired commentary.

  17. 17 Darrell
    November 22, 2008 at 2:33 am


    I will pray for you as your are studying this out. I believe that if you sincerely seek the truth you will come to the conclusion that the prophets DO contradict each other. The question is, WHY? Why, if they are truly prophets of the restoration, would they preach different things. The restoration was supposed to CLEAR UP all of the supposed contradictions that existed among the “professors of different religions”. So why…

    1) Why would BY teach that there are certain sins that man needs to shed blood for IN THIS LIFE to atone for? Why would he say that killing your brother under certain circumstances will help him atone for his sins? Why has this teaching stopped? Was BY wrong or are the prophets today wrong? The have said that blood atonement IS NOT TRUE. Why the change?

    2) Why was polygamy taught as part of the new and everlasting convenant and then suddenly stopped? Why is it still in the scriptures? Are we supposed to practice it or not? Was JS wrong or are the prophets today wrong? Why the change?

    3) Why did JS prophecy that Christ would return within 85 years (something like that I don’t have the exact figure readily available)? Why did Christ not return? Was JS wrong in his prophecy?

    4) Why would GBH say that he doesn’t know if we teach that God was once a man and man can become a God? Is is not taught today? What about JS’s teaching on it? Was JS wrong or GBH wrong? In addition, what about all the other prophets who have taught it… up to and including the most recent conference? Why the contradiction?

    5) Why did BY teach that Adam was God? Why did a later prophet renounce the teaching? Was BY wrong? Are the prophets wrond today?

    6) Why did BY teach that his words were scripture? Are they? If they are how can they contradict other prophets whose words are scripture? How can they contradict the bible?

    I know that you know about all of these and the MANY others. The question is WHY THE CONTRADICTIONS? There ARE contradictions. Now, you can turn to FARMS and FAIR (which I did for a LONG time) and listen to their equivications on these matters. Personally I find their explanations rather elementary and far fetched…. for example, saying that the horses that are described in the BOM battles must really be deer b/c horses did not exist in the Americas during “BOM times”… I mean come on, get real… riding a DEER into battle? In addition, I personally cannot stand the tactic that they often use of attacking the messenger rather than the message. FARMS and FAIR will give the LDS member who is not willing to face the truth just enough to cling to in order to retain some faith in the church. However, in my opinion, facing up to the truth that there are contradictions among the prophets, there are historical issues with the BOM and the restoration is a big hoax is really the only way to go.

    I will be praying for you in your quest Seth.


  18. November 22, 2008 at 4:09 am

    I always thought the “war deer” hypothesis was pretty amusing. Although I did see an article on people who actually rode elk in ancient Japan and certain quarters of Asia… But anyway…

    You win some, you lose some.

    It’s an ongoing process. I don’t like sitting still and it doesn’t seem like complacency and contentment are a very good fit for discipleship. At least, not for me.

    Of course, I appreciate anyone’s prayers.

  19. 19 Susan
    November 24, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    “It’s an ongoing process. I don’t like sitting still and it doesn’t seem like complacency and contentment are a very good fit for discipleship. At least, not for me.”

    Seth – who are you referring to as complacent and content? I believe there is so much depth to the Word of God (the Bible) that we can study it our whole lives and still find wonderment and amazement in it…at least that is true for me. I can’t get enough of it. The intricacies and perfection of it never cease to overwhelm me. Am I compacent and content because I believe it to be the source of all Truth, and evaluate everything else through it?

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