As with all doctrinal issues between Mormonism and Christianity there is a difference in the definitions of hell. For the Mormon concept and definition, let's allow their leaders, past and present, speak.
The "fools of this world" do not know what hell is. It's an agreeable place.
"We would ask him (Joseph Smith) on the other hand, if the overthrow of the Church was inevitable, to which he often replied, that we would all go to hell together, and convert it into a heaven, by casting the Devil out; and says he, hell is by no means the place this world of fools supposed it to be, but on the contrary, it is quite an agreeable place." (1)
Joseph and the Saints will make a heaven of hell.
"I see no faults in the Church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it." (2)
No hell in Mormonism.
"In the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is no hell. All will find a measure of salvation, ... The gospel of Jesus Christ has no hell in the old proverbial sense." (3) An end to hell.
"That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is called hell... Hell will have an end." (4)
Those that receive glory in the telestial kingdom will have to pass through hell.
"...the great majority of those who have suffered in hell will pass into the telestial kingdom... Speaking of the telestial kingdom the Lord says, 'These are they who are thrust down to hell...' Since those going to a telestial kingdom travel to their destination through the depths of hell... it follows that all those who live a telestial law will go to hell... Among them are the sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, false swearers,... and those who believe the damnable doctrine of infant baptism.... The sectarian world are going to hell by hundreds, by thousands, and by millions,' the Prophet (Joseph Smith) said. '... for those who are heirs of some salvation, which includes all except the sons of perdition, hell has an end....'" (5)
Rebellious become sons of perdition.
"Those in this life gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and who then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion, also become sons of perdition." (6)
Even paradise is a prison.
"Since disembodied spirits cannot gain a fulness of joy until their resurrection, they consider their habitation in the spirit world as one of imprisonment, and so the whole spirit world (including both paradise and hell) is a spirit prison. It was to the righteous spirits in prison, whose who were in paradise, that our Lord preached while his body was in the tomb." (7)
Mormons will continue to work and preach Mormonism in paradise prison.
"Life and work and activity all continue in the spirit world. Men have the same talents and intelligence there which they had in this life... The faithful elders who depart this life continue their labors for the salvation of their brethren in the spirit world. Those who would have received the gospel in this life, if the opportunity had come to them, will repent and receive it in the next life and will thereby become heirs of salvation." (8)
Mormon leaders have stated clearly there is no eternal punishment for most people and... no hell.
We must conclude that Mormon leaders believe and teach that:
1 - Hell is only a temporary place that will come to an end.
2 - Hell is "quite an agreeable place," one they could make into a heaven.
3 - Spirit prison is a place where life, work, and activity all continue. This activity includes laboring for the salvation of those who are there who have died without hearing or receiving the gospel.
4 - Actually there is no hell in Mormonism. They teach that most people that have lived will receive some degree of glory. In other words, there is no eternal punishment for the wicked unrighteous and unbelievers except for the sons of perdition, of which there will be only a very few.
The following diagram will help to understand the Mormon Plan of Eternal Progression.
It is interesting to note that the Book of Mormon says that it is the Devil who says there is no hell. In 2 Nephi 28:21 and 22, we read: "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well - and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; ...-and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance." (Emphasis ours.)
Trusting in the God of the Bible brings eternal life.
God's word, the Bible, teaches differently. The central theme of the Bible is to point to the causes of eternal life and eternal death.
Pride and self-reliance lead to eternal death because they do not accept God's unmerited favor, salvation by grace. Rather, pride and self-reliance lead humans to try to earn eternal life by their own efforts.
Hell is synonymous with Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, Pit, or grave. Let's consider the definitions and descriptions of these terms. The KJV uses almost exclusively the word hell, newer translations use all of the above.
Sheol: In the old Testament, Sheol is (1) the place to which the dead go. It is spoken of as a place where all human activities cease; the terminus towards which all human life moves. (2) Scripture reveals Sheol as a place of sorrow into which the wicked and unbelieving are turned and where they are fully conscious.
Hades: Hades is a Greek word for its Hebrew equivalent, Sheol of hell. It is used also in two ways: (1) It indicates the condition of the unsaved between death and the great white throne judgment; (2) the lost in Hades are conscious, possess full use of their faculties, memories, etc., and are in torment. Though both Sheol and Hades are sometimes translated "grave," they never indicated a burial place, but rather, a place of the spirit after death.
Hell: Hell is the same as Hades.
Now that we understand these terms, let's see how the Bible speaks of them:
Psalms 31:17, "Let me be not ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."
Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
Isaiah 38:18, "For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth."
These three verses alone are in direct conflict with Mormon teachings which state that the non-believing dead are active and can even receive the gospel after death. According to the Bible, the wicked dead are not active. They have no work, no activity. Since they gain no knowledge nor wisdom and "cannot hope for thy truth," they cannot be taught nor can they receive the gospel. God's truth of salvation is revealed, received, and completed in Christ Jesus while living on this earth!
What is the condition of those who die and go to hell? We know that it is a conscious state of existence. These people are conscious of pain, which is characterized by wailing and gnashing of teeth. They are in torment. Let's consider Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus: Luke 16:19-31, "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Bible scholars agree that this is not a parable. In parables that Jesus taught, individuals are not named.
So what do we learn from this account? We assume Lazarus to be a believer who had demonstrated much patience in his great suffering and who is now, after death, found in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man found himself in hell. This shows that he and all the lost who are in hell are conscious, possess full use of their faculties, memories, etc., and are in torment. This continues until the final judgment of the lost when all unsaved, and hell itself, will be cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna*).
Note that it was Jesus who taught these things. It is the Son of God who tells us that
- the man in hell was fully conscious,
- that he was in torment,
- that there was no passing from one place to another.
The most important message is that one has to accept the Jesus of the Bible here in this life or suffer eternal damnation. If one is not convinced that Jesus is the Christ, and that salvation is through Him and Him alone, as taught in the Bible, one is doomed to hell upon death and to the lake of fire after the final judgment.
*Gehenna: This is the lake of fire that comes after the great white throne judgment. It is described as unquenchable fire, which means that it is not a fire of this earth, of this dimension, it is a spiritual fire of absolutely incalculable intensity.
Revelation 14:11 reads, "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night...."
There are two other references in the Bible that we also need to examine: Outer Darkness and Paradise.
Outer Darkness: This refers to the place of suffering for the unbelievers, contrasted to the light where the believers will dwell. Unbelievers will be thrown into the furnace of fire (Gehenna), whereas believers will shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. The "outer darkness" in Matthew 8:12 and 22:13 is Gehenna, the place of burning, fire and positive punishment. It will be weeping for the lost opportunity of genuine and true repentance. Gnashing of teeth is being angry at oneself because of the decision not to go through the "narrow gate" and live in the "strait way" (Matthew 7:13-14) when one had the opportunity. The Lord wanted to teach that after death there is no second chance.
Entrance into heaven is through the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice for our justification. The final judgment will follow for the believer as well. Believers will be judged for the work they have done for Christ, and receive or not receive rewards.
Paradise: This is the place where believers go immediately at death to be with Christ. Jesus told of the penitent thief: "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Paradise is a place of great joy and bliss, but this bliss is not complete until the spirit is reunited with a glorified body at the resurrection of the just. Lazarus, being a believer, went to paradise to wait until the resurrection of the just.
Jesus Christ preached about hell and warned us about it more than He peached about heaven. If He put that much emphasis on it, it is real and it is to be avoided at all cost!
Christ died to save us from hell. He came to deliver us from the power of Satan and power of hell and eternal damnation.
The "books" mentioned in Revelation 20:12-13, is a record of those who did not accept God's gift of salvation by faith alone in Jesus, but wanted to achieve salvation by their own works. The book of life, mentioned in Revelation 20:12 and 15, is a list of names of those saved by the grace of God alone.
"Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28.)
"The old heaven and earth are completely renovated by fire, not annihilated. God's dwelling with men is now possible because Adam's curse has been removed, Satan judged, the wicked punished, and the universe sinless, except for the lake of fire. God now tabernacles with men." (9)
The Great City: "The city is a magnificent symbol of the eternal abode and destiny of the redeemed of all ages. God's saints have always envisioned such a city. The dazzling city's measurements reveal a solid cube of golden construction 1500 miles broad, wide and high. This could mean 2,250,000 square miles on each tier of the cube extending 1500 miles upward, like a huge skyscraper with innumerable floors.
The glorious destiny of the redeemed in eternity is symbolized by the city's adornment with every divine beauty, her wall being of jasper, and the city itself of pure gold, both crystal clear. Each of the twelve foundations is a spectacular gem of unusual brilliance and color. These foundations are not sections divided into three on each side of the city, but twelve layers, each of which encircles the city. Looking at them would give a rainbow or prism effect of symmetrical beauty. Each gate is a pearl and the street is transparent gold." (9)
Life within the City: "The curse has been removed and with it all the laborious toil, futility, and rebellion which marked and marred man's history. The redeemed will readily submit to the Lord's sovereignty and as His bondservants they will serve Him, seeing His face in intimate fellowship and being identified by His name on their foreheads. What perfect occupation! Light will mark life in the eternal state, resulting in complete happiness and fellowship, with the redeemed reigning for endless ages. In all this the Lamb is focal." (9)
You can believe Mormon leaders who teach there is no hell or you can believe the Book of Mormon that says it is the Devil that says there is no hell, or you can accept the word of Jesus Christ in the Bible that there is a literal hell and ALL those that do not accept Him will be doomed to go there.
Dear friend, your eternal life depends on your decision. Don't gamble your eternal destiny n what some man has said that is in direct contraction to God's word, the Bible. God doesn't give revelation that is contrary to biblical Scripture! False prophets will always mislead you, deceive you, thrust you out of the way the Lord has given in His word, the Bible. We should fear the Devil and those that teach false doctrine because through their false teachings, they can destroy both body and soul, which will be cast into hell.
Hear Christ's words to those who teach false doctrines:
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (Matthew 23:33)
And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
Recall the rich man and Lazarus? Lazarus, a believer, was carried into heaven by angels. Can we assume on the other hand, that the Devil and his demons are waiting to clutch the unbelievers and thrust them down to hell? What a terrifying thought!
If you don't want grace through Jesus, then you will have to be judged by the law and by your works. Are you living in the grace of Jesus Christ or are you under the gospel of laws and ordinances of Mormonism?
Accept Jesus and His word that you will have eternal life, by believing on Him and Him only Salvation is an individual gift to be received through the Holy Spirit, not a goal to be achieved through an organization!
When you believe and receive Jesus as your personal Savior, your name is written in the book of life. At that moment you are no longer under sentence to spend eternity in the lake of fire. You are guaranteed eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Accept the gift of eternal life. It can only be received as a gift.
Welcome to the kingdom of God.
Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
1. Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844.
2. History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 517.
3. Joseph Smith - Seeker After Truth, by John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City, 1981, pp. 177, 178.
4. Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie, p. 349.
5. Ibid, pp. 350-351.
6. Ibid, p. 746.
7. Ibid, p. 755.
8. Ibid, p. 762.
9. Ungers Bible Handbook, Moody Press, Chicago, Ill., 1967, pp. 877-880.