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Mormonism and Universalism

punish1I 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.

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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in Book of Mormon, Hell, Mormonism

 

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Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children??

planofsalvation

The above is a depiction of the Plan of Salvation according to the LDS Church. To the far right it depicts three different kingdoms of heaven: the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom. It is into one of these three kingdom that most will go after final judgment. Then, of course, there is Outer Darkness which awaits Satan and his angels… and the most vile of men.

I think this is actually the primary appeal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is addressed in this speech from 2009 which I was just listening to earlier this morning:

Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children

To borrow the words of Elder Cook’s great-great-grandfather Phineas Wolcott Cook, the LDS Church teaches “a more liberal salvation for the family of man”. And in this respect, and this respect only, do I believe that the LDS Church approaches the true doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The problem is that Joseph Smith doesn’t even come close to being the person through whom this gospel truth has been restored in recent times. In fact, I believe that Joseph Smith borrowed a great deal from those men who lived in his day who were already believing in and preaching Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all men, some of whom joined the LDS Church, including Joseph Smith Sr.

For more on that you can read this article from BYU’s website:

Universalism and the Revelations of Joseph Smith

Where I believe the LDS Church fails in this regard is that while it embraces a more liberal view of salvation it still DENIES the salvation of ALL MEN. It also teaches DIVISION in the kingdom of God. And it teaches its members to cling to a very legalistic view of salvation very reminiscent of Old Covenant Law. This is not surprising since this is exactly what the Church claims needed to be “restored” – a very Old Covenant view of the gospel with all of it’s touch not, taste not laws.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches a very high mixture of law and grace. And many of the things which they claim needed to be “restored” are the very things that Christ came to destroy in order that a New (or Renewed) Covenant might be established, one in which Jesus Christ is our one and only High Priest.

So despite their more liberal view of salvation, their view of salvation is not completely universal in scope. While they believe that the gospel will be preached to all men – to many after their death – giving all men the opportunity to accept the gospel and inherit all of the blessing associated with it, they are also quick to point out that there is a hell, a place of eternal torment to which some men will go and from which there is no escape. As one member put it recently: “It’s [that is, Hell is] described all through the Bible too.” This was said in response to someone else pointing out to them that the Book of Mormon cannot be used to support the doctrine of Universal Salvation because it speaks of “eternal torment” and does so in a way which speaks explicitly of the fact that such torment has “no end” to it, despite the claim made in D&C 19 that: “It is not written that there shall be no end to this torment.

Doctrine & Covenant 19 is clearly an attempt to borrow a Christian Universalist argument against the teachings of “eternal torment”, an argument that is absolutely true when applied to the Bible but which fails miserably when applied to the Book of Mormon. This is because the torment of the wicked is written exactly in this way in the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon speaks of those whose “final state” will be one of “endless misery”, from which there is “no redemption”.

So while the salvation of all men can be argued from a correct translation/interpretation of the Bible (which NOWHERE contains those types of assertions with regard to the lost), the same cannot be argued from the Book of Mormon. In fact, the same LDS person who said the above also said: “I don’t know what a “Universalist” is…, but there is plenty of hell in Mormon belief.” And while he does go on to point out that he sees hell not as a place but as a state or condition of the human soul, he clearly believes that such a state, for some, will never end.

So, on this count, I say the LDS Church comes close to the truth but it still falls short of the whole truth.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in Eternal Torment, Hell, Mormonism

 

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