Mormonism makes a distinction between outer darkness and hell. The LDS 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 glory. “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 fully 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. But I don’t see it doing the same thing with the “eternal” in eternal life.) 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 more than this.
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-lifers like to talk about the details of abortion. But sometimes they have to especially when talking to those who are 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.