Do Mormons believe everyone else is going to hell?

I love this question because it gets to the heart of the unique LDS beliefs about the afterlife. One of the wonderful things about the restored gospel is the understanding of where we came from, why we’re here, and where we are going. The answers to those three questions constitute what Mormons refer to as “the plan of salvation.”  This plan of our Heavenly Father was designed to allow us to leave a pre-mortal world and journey to earth to receive a body and be tested to prove ourselves worthy of returning to Father and inheriting a glorified, resurrected body, and an eternity of possibilities for growth. For a short video explaining this in more depth, please visit this page (plan of salvation).

One of the most satisfying doctrines (to me at least) is the notion that when Christ said, “in my Father’s house there are many mansions” he literally meant it as “there’s a place for just about everyone.” That’s not to say that everyone gets the same reward no matter what they’ve done in life, because actions have consequences in the eternities. However, God’s great love for all of his children will allow them to have a place to dwell in which they will be comfortable.

The notion of “degrees of glory” was first expressed by the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 15, he begins by talking about the resurrection of Christ and then discusses how God gave to every creation a body which will someday be “quickened” or resurrected (including the animals which have an eternal home with God as well for fulfilling the measure of their creation). Then Paul describes the human body and how there are differing degrees of glory that are as different as the sun is from the moon and the stars. He says it this way:

40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

Later in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

What does Paul mean by these things? Obviously he has something very specific in mind about at least 3 heavens and 3 types or classes of resurrected bodies.

If all we had to turn to were these few verses, we would dwell in confusion. Thankfully, in our day God called the Prophet Joseph Smith to restore the gospel and the understanding of these things. Joseph received a revelation now published in a book we refer to as the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains modern day revelation just as ancient revelation and teachings were written and recorded in the Bible and Book of Mormon.

This revelation explains that a loving God established 3 degrees of glorious heavens for his children to inhabit, contrasted by a place of outer darkness which is hell. Those who inhabit these kingdoms of glory and hell differ in the following meaningful ways.

Celestial kingdom: Likened to the glory of the sun. The Father dwells here in everlasting glory but straight is the gate and narrow the way which leads to this kingdom of glory (Matt 7:14). Only the humble followers of Christ may enter here after having made covenants (promise between God and man beginning with baptism) by the proper priesthood authority which God bestows on men he calls (Hebrews 5:4). The reward of the celestial kingdom is that of eternal life, or life as God lives (Philippians 3:14).

Terrestrial kingdom: Likened to the glory of the moon. This kingdom is a place for all the good and noble people of the world who loved the Lord and tried to do their very best to live according to the light they possessed. They failed to attain the celestial kingdom by rejecting the messengers of salvation who legally and lawfully administer God’s covenants. Throughout all eternity they will be damned, or stopped in their upward progression and never attain to the presence of the Father, but they may from time to time enjoy the presence of the Son, whom they loved in life, but not enough to take his name upon them through covenants. This kingdom will also accept of the “heathen” nations those who lived a good and moral life according to the amount of light and truth God saw fit to bestow upon them.

Telestial kingdom: Likened to the glory of the stars. This kingdom is a place where the wretched and wicked of this world will eventually dwell after they pay the price of their sins through torment and suffering and finally accept the atonement of Jesus Christ. This will still be a place of glory, but as Paul declares it differs in glory as the sun does from the stars, which is obviously an incredible difference, yet to those who inhabit this place, they will be grateful and filled with the joy they are able to obtain at this level of glory. These too are damned and may not progress to any higher kingdom. In this, they will not complain but with those in the Terrestrial kingdom, may feel a longing and sorrow over their separation from their Heavenly home and parents. They will never receive the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, but may from time to time receive the presence of the Holy Ghost to comfort them.

Those in a higher kingdom may visit those in a lower kingdom, but there is no way for those in a lower to attain to a higher kingdom.

Outer darkness: This torment is reserved for those miserable souls who were once fully enlightened by the gospel, embraced the covenants of salvation which would lead them to the celestial kingdom, and then so fully rejected the light, they become as Judas, willing to see their Lord crucified and turned to persecuting their Lord and His followers. Those for whom this terrible judgment is pronounced upon will be cast out into a realm devoid of light.

To me, there is no more tolerant concept of heaven available on earth than in the LDS faith. A loving Father in Heaven desired all of his children to return and live with him, yet in order to do so, they must prove themselves willing to make sacred promises and then fulfill them, in preparation for life in a Celestial world. No one in that realm can make a promise and not keep it or they would not be worthy of such a glory. Covenants such as baptism help prove us worthy of inheriting such a place as this. God maintains his status as God because his word is always good. For every law there is an associated blessing, and rejection of the law means there is a consequence of not receiving the blessing.

To read the actual revelation Joseph Smith received on these kingdoms of glory, please visit this link (kingdoms of heaven).

If you have questions, please feel free to ask us a question and we will try to answer it for you.

 

Marty Curtis Conversion Story

Have you ever wondered what it looks like when a person becomes converted to Jesus Christ and recognizes for the first time what it means to give yourself to the Lord? Jerry Gearheart and I interview Marty Curtis as he shares his experience on camera. I know this video is a little long, but I promise you’ll enjoy it and you may not be the same after watching Marty’s story. From escaping a tattoo to a miraculous healing for his son Chase when he was a baby, Marty’s other son Ty helped him find the courage to put everything together and experience a mighty change of heart to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith’s Last Dream

Most people don’t know much about LDS church founder Joseph Smith. He had an incredible life of persecution from the time he was 14 and had what we call the “First Vision” to the time he was murdered by a mob in Carthadge, IL.

For the unfamiliar reader, the First Vision was the experience Joseph had during his time of religious confusion (you may read Joseph’s account here). There was a time when many religions were vying for converts and it created much confusion to young Joseph. He came across the scripture in James 1:5 which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph was moved upon by this scripture and decided to take God up on his promise. He went into the woods near his home and while he prayed to inquire of God which of all the churches he should join, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in a vision and instructed him that he should join none of the churches of that day saying “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Joseph was told he would do a great work on the earth to restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ in it’s purity. He was called to be God’s chosen prophet on earth just as Moses and other ancient prophets had been called and spoke with God “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exo. 33:11).

Just weeks before Joseph’s death, the well respected Josiah Quincy traveled from Boston to pay him a visit in Nauvoo, IL. Of that trip, Mr. Quincy wrote this:

“It is by no means improbable that some future textbook, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. And the reply, absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants. History deals in surprises and paradoxes quite as startling as this. The man who established a religion in this age of free debate, who was and is today accepted by hundreds of thousands as a direct emissary from the Most High,–such a rare human being is not to be disposed of by pelting his memory with unsavory epithets.”

In Joseph’s last days before the martyrdom, he evidently had this dream which I had never heard of till I saw this touching video someone produced. Joseph Smith was an amazing man, called of God to serve as his mouthpiece on earth. He sealed his testimony with his blood, living true to the end in that faith that God revealed to him.

Claudia Simmons Conversion Story

Claudia Simmons shares her LDS / Mormon conversion story. One of the things she mentions in her story is the great hymn, I Stand All Amazed. The lyrics are below the video if you would like to read them after listening to her story.

I Stand All Amazed

You can listen to this song here:
http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/289

  1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
    Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me;
    I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,
    That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died.Chorus
    O it is wonderful that He should care for me
    Enough to die for me!
    O it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
  2. I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine
    To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine;
    That He should extend His great love unto such as I,
    Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
  3. I think of His side, pierced and bleeding to pay the debt,
    Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
    No, no! I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
    And testify all my desires He doth fully meet.

What Role do Women Play in the Mormon Church?

My mother passed away far too young.  She was only 58, and I was in my first semester of college.  It was devastating for our whole family.  It’s so difficult to articulate the impact her death had on my family because her roles were so far-reaching and monumental.  She was a comforter, a teacher, a friend, and a leader.  She was educated and had opinions about the world which shaped our view of things.  She inspired me to do my best.  Although she wasn’t necessarily politically active, she had a positive impact on the community by being a scout leader and by using her skills as a nurse -anesthetist to volunteer where needed.  Here’s the kicker…she wasn’t a member of the Mormon Church.  My purpose in telling you about my non-Mormon mother and the roles she fulfilled is to demonstrate that the roles women fulfill in the Mormon Church are really not much different than the roles women fulfill in society as a whole.

Mormon women teach in the Church.  They teach children in the Primary organization (including Cub Scouts), young women and young men in the youth program and Sunday School organization, respectively, adult men and women in the Sunday School organization, and women in the Relief Society, which is the largest women’s organization in the world with over six million members.  Mormon women also instruct and inspire congregations, or wards, from the pulpit during Sacrament meeting by giving talks on Gospel centered topics and by offering public prayers.

Mormon women are expected to be leaders by fulfilling various leadership roles in the Church at the local level, in wards and stakes, as well as in world-wide Church leadership positions.  As leaders in the Church, women are expected to sit in council with and advise Priesthood leaders, such as Bishops and Stake Presidents, in order to “counsel together for the benefit of individuals and families. Council members also plan the work of the Church pertaining to their assignments. Effective councils invite full expression from council members and unify their efforts in responding to individual, family, and organizational needs” (Church Handbook 2, para 4.1).  The two primary councils women in the Church participate in are the Priesthood Executive Committee and the Ward Council (Church Handbook 2, para 4.3 and 4.4).

Mormon women are commanded to help lead their family as equal partners with their husbands.  In 1995, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which states “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.  Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.  In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.  Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”  It is within the family that Mormon women and men are expected to focus their time, energies and talents on strengthening the family unit, in all its different makes, models and designs, thereby strengthening the Church and society as a whole.

In 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave this council to the Young Women of the Church: “The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.”   He continued, “For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Particularly, pay no attention to what some boy might say to demean you. He is no better than you. In fact, he has already belittled himself by his actions. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.”

I think my mom would have made a great Mormon.

Why do Mormons use the Book of Mormon instead of just the Bible?

The really fast answer is, we don’t. However, this is a big question for a lot of people who have read these verses at the end of the Bible.

Revelation 22:18-19

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The part people don’t understand and misinterpret about these verses is that John, the author of the book of Revelation, was alone on the isle of Patmos when he wrote and completed this visionary work. The Bible as we know it today with 66 books wasn’t put together for hundreds of years. Those verses aren’t referring to the Bible, that it cannot have words added or taken from it, but that nothing should be added to John’s revelation or taken from it. It was meant by God to survive intact without change so that those in the last days would have the benefit of studying and knowing what had been prophesied.

Further evidence of this understanding comes from the writings of Moses in Deuteronomy 4:2 which says:

2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

If the interpretation of Revelation was as some in the world declare it, they would seal the heavens and prevent any further words from God from being given to us. However, if that interpretation were correct, then Moses’ words would have shut off all communication from the heavens as well. Where would Isaiah have fit in or Ezekiel and all the other prophets? Such is not the case. God calls prophets and speaks to them, using them as his mouthpiece on earth to guide his wayward children.

From the Book of Mormon, one ancient prophet was commanded to write these words from the Lord.:

2 Nephi 29:3-11

3 And because my words shall hiss forth-many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.

4 But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?

5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.

6 Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.

11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

As further evidence of this, consider that at the time the 10 tribes of Israel were taken captive by the Assyrians and then later escaped and were lost to our knowledge, it was during a time when there were many prophets among the Israelites. Who would dare say the words of the prophets that were with the 10 tribes were invalid just because they are not in the Bible we hold today? There are even several writings of prophets mentioned by name in the Bible which we do not have today (ex. 1 Chron 29:29).

Lastly, in the Book of Revelation it speaks of 2 witnesses that God will give power to, to prophesy at the battle of Armageddon. Are these not prophets who will utter the word of God in great power? Will they not declare the word of the Lord just as surely as Moses or Isaiah or Peter or Paul? When their writings are written will not people regard it as modern day revelation worthy of canonization? I think so.

Mormons don’t exclusively use the Book of Mormon. We use the Bible for its testament of God’s dealings in the ancient world and the Book of Mormon for its testament of God’s dealings in the ancient Americas, the Doctrine and Covenants as modern day revelation, and the Pearl of Great Price which was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith. We regard all scripture as valuable for our profit and learning.

In the LDS church, we believe in modern revelation. We believe that God wants to speak with us today and has called a prophet again on the earth to show that he loves all of his children, the same today as he did anciently. If there were times in the past when God’s children needed inspiration from God, we certainly can’t argue we don’t need that today. From Joseph Smith’s first vision of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, to Thomas S. Monson today, God has called prophets to guide and direct his affairs on earth.

What do Mormons believe about the purpose of life?

So what do Mormons believe is the purpose of life? This little video does a good job explaining our beliefs. The coolest thing (in my opinion) about LDS beliefs is the knowledge of having lived before coming to earth and agreeing to come here with a veil drawn over our minds so we could learn to walk by faith, tuning in to the light of God to experience growth through personal choices. It was there that Jesus Christ was fore-ordained (or specially chosen and set apart) for his role as Savior. With the knowledge that there would be a Savior to pay the price of our sins, we agreed to come to earth knowing that there was a path home to heaven.

What’s life like in a Mormon family?

The Mormon family is as diverse as any family unit one might come across, and is found in virtually every society, class and race of people across the globe. Mormon families are not immune to the challenges of life, including financial uncertainties, health problems, divorce, the myriad worthwhile distractions competing for our time, or the barrage of unwholesome outside influences constantly looking for attention. Notwithstanding these many challenges, there are certain themes and principles common to most Mormon households, and include activities such as prayer, learning, worship, developing relationships, and service to God’s children.

First, prayer allows us to commune directly with our Heavenly Father, and Church leaders encourage Church members to pray daily as individuals and as families in order to receive direction from God. The old adage that “families who pray together, stay together” rings true here.

Second, from the Church’s beginning in 1830, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to obtain both spiritual and secular knowledge, and to develop their God-given talents. Mormon families and individuals are encouraged to study the scriptures daily in order to learn God’s word. Furthermore, modern prophets such as President Gordon B. Hinckley have encouraged Church members to “go on to college or whatever school, vocational school, whatever your choice is, but take advantage of every opportunity that you have because the Lord has laid upon you a mandate through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning not only spiritual learning but secular learning,” and to “read the word of God in sacred books of scripture. Read from the great literature of the ages. Read what is being said in our day and time and what will be said in the future.”

Third, worship is central to the Mormon family. Mormon families worship God together in a variety of ways to include attending church meetings on Sundays and performing sacred ordinances in the Holy Temple. The act of worshiping together as a family serves to strengthen the family and draws them closer to God.

Fourth, Mormons believe that familial relationships developed during our time on earth will continue after this life, and that a family can be together throughout eternity. This doctrine helps to guide our thoughts, words and actions when it comes to how we treat family members and gives us hope that death is not the end. We have been instructed to set aside Monday night (or another if that won’t work) to have what we call Family Home Evening, where the family can spend time together singing, praying, discussing the gospel, doing fun activities, and in general just building bonds.

Fifth, as Mormon families look to the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, they try to follow His example by serving God’s children. Family members are asked to consecrate both time and resources to help others in need, and by so doing, the family not only serves their fellow men but also God. Further, modern day apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, has taught that “as we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”

The bottom line is that there are no perfect Mormon families, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23). Nevertheless, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives great hope to both individuals and families that we may have eternal life. And, when families follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, principles such as prayer, learning, worship, developing relationships, and service to God’s children become important components of family life.

What is the LDS Church’s General Conference?

Each April and October, the LDS Church has a worldwide conference broadcast to buildings and homes throughout the world. At these conferences, the leaders of the church, men and women, address the body of the church with talks they have prepared after fasting and prayer to know what the Lord would have them address to the members of the church. Sometimes in a conference, themes will appear as multiple talks might address a certain subject, however, there are always a wide variety of topics discussed since the conference lasts 12 hours. The presentation begins with a General Young Women’s conference a week before the main general membership conference. On that Saturday night, the broadcast is directed only to the women. A week later, the general conference starts on Saturday morning and afternoon, each with a 2 hour session. That night there is a Priesthood session for only the men making a total of 6 hours that day. On Sunday, another morning and afternoon session are held of 2 hours each.

When I was a child growing up in Pennsylvania, I typically dreaded conference because we would drive to the chapel where they would haul out a radio and set it on a table by the pulpit and we would sit as silently as possible for each session we attended and listen to audio broadcasts of things I didn’t understand. As I got to be a teen, sometime in that time frame we got a satellite dish at our chapel and were able to watch conference broadcasts live on video. That was a big improvement and much more interesting. Today, living in Utah, I can just watch most of conference at home with my family. The church doesn’t broadcast the Saturday night women’s and men’s sessions on TV to provide an opportunity for those groups to get together and feel the companionship of their fellow saints while they gather for conference in a local chapel.

If you would like to browse a General Conference page, check one out here on the LDS church website.
http://lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng

If you would like to just see a “highlight” reel, the church prepared one here which I think is the first time. It’s about 18 minutes long and just shows short clips from talks in conference given by the men we sustain as prophets of God, that is those men called as Apostles of Jesus Christ, the longest serving of which is appointed as the President of the Church on earth and the Lord’s prophet just as a modern day Moses. Today, that man is Thomas S. Monson and I know him to be a prophet of God.