I was looking into the connections between Mormonism and Universalism, again, and happened across this blog which speaks of “a universali[s]m that existed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” in the LDS Church, which this member seems to believe has gotten, at least somewhat, lost in current years. I’m not sure how lost it is, as many members of the LDS Church, even today, will be quick to point out that, according to LDS Doctrine, salvation is “universal” in its scope. What they mean by that, however, is something very different from true Christian Universalism, as they only mean that all men will be resurrected from the dead, to immortality. They do not mean that all men will return to the Father or even that all men will enter into any of the various “degrees of glory,” as taught in LDS Doctrine.
That said, some of the quotes provided do seem to allow for the possibility of movement between these degrees of glory, by way of “eternal progression,” and that would seem to allow for someone to receive a greater degree of glory over time. I think this is something which current Mormons do still allow for, at least as a possibility, even if they cannot explain how that might look in practice, especially as it might relate to the highest degree of glory, for which there are certain requirements that must first be met, including the everlasting covenant of marriage.
But, as to the quotes provided, saying that truth can be found in all places, inside or outside of the church, among both believers and non-believers (as any Christian, LDS or not, would allow for), is not the same thing as teaching true “Universalism,” the belief that salvation will come to all men and all men will be united with God, the Father. So I don’t see “Universalism” being the message of most of those quotes, though a couple of them do seem to speak to that possibility, even if not the guarantee, especially as it relates to “eternal progression” (and not just the fact that all men will be “resurrected from the dead” to a state of immortality). It’s not clear that such pertains to those who are termed “sons of perdition,” however.
But there can be no doubt that Joseph Smith and, therefore, Mormon Doctrine was heavily influenced by Universalism or the Universalist beliefs of Joseph Smith’s father and grandfather. Anyone familiar with Universalist arguments will immediately recognize the argument made in D&C 19 with regard to “eternal punishment,” etc., as a Universalist argument. The only problem is that D&C 19, while true when applied to the Bible, is not true when applied to the Book of Mormon because in the Book of Mormon it is written that there shall be “no end” to this torment – quite unequivocally.
So we have the expression “endless torment”, which is made in relation to the punishment of the wicked/unrepentant and another way to say “endless torment” would be “torment that has no end”.
However, in D&C 19 we read: “it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment” and if it is not written that there shall be “no end” to this torment then there must need be AN END.
In D&C 19, Joseph Smith seems to be explaining why something that is called “endless” HAS AN END !!
He explains that it is not “endless torment” (or “endless punishment”) because it “has no end” but because this torment/punishment comes from the hand of God, whose NAME is ENDLESS (and ETERNAL)
Therefore ETERNAL PUNISHMENT = GOD’S PUNISHMENT
And ENDLESS PUNISHMENT = GOD’S PUNISHMENT
Signifying from whom it comes, not how long it lasts.
I would have absolutely no problem with this IF, in fact, it wasn’t written that “there is no end” to the punishment/torment of the wicked. The problem is that it is written, at least in the Book of Mormon.
In the Book of Mormon we find many references to “that hell which has no end.” to those who “cannot be saved,” to that which says: “the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out,” to those who are “cast off forever,” where they are “destroyed forever,” from where there is “no deliverance,” to “a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end,” wherein the wicked will be “miserable forever” (you get the picture).
None of that sounds to me like torment/punishment that has “no end.” And we can’t blame it on “translation errors,” like we could if we were discussing the Bible which was actually translated by fallible men, since the BoM, we are to believe, was not translated but was simply transcribed by Joseph Smith directly into English as dictated by God himself.
And the fact that there are so many references to the fate of the wicked, which is clearly said to have “no end” (in more ways than one), completely disproves the statement that “it is not written that there is no end to this torment” (even if, in fact, this could be proven to be true by addressing translation or interpretation error in the Bible).
It IS written that there is NO END (no redemption, no salvation, no deliverance, no end to the misery) of the wicked MANY TIMES, in MANY WAYS throughout the Book of Mormon.
And I certainly don’t know how else you can understand the statement “it is not written that there is no end to this torment.” The fact remains that it is written, but only in the book produced by Joseph Smith. It is not written in the Bible.
Here are just a few references:
2 Nephi 1:17 My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts the Lord your God should come out in the fulness of his wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever;
2 Nephi 2: 5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
2 Nephi 2: 28-29 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
Note that if “eternal life” is that life which comes from God who is “eternal” and “eternal punishment” is that punishment which comes from God who is “eternal,” then by the same token this passage attribute “death” to God. Note also that this is not an expression one will ever find in the Bible.
2 Nephi 9:16-24 And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame scendeth up forever and ever and has no end. O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled. But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever. O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth call things, and there is not anything save he knows it. And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day. And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.
2 Nephi 28:22-24 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
While Joseph Smith was clearly influenced by and even incorporated, in some sense, “Universalism” into his doctrines, there also seems to be quite a bit in the Book of Mormon that seems like a deliberate attempt to refute that same doctrine. It’s quite the paradox, so just one more place where Mormon Doctrine seems to fall apart.