Hey guys, so in the past, we’ve talked about some of the unique beliefs members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have about Heaven, but we haven’t done a whole lot on what Latter-day Saints believe about Hell. What it is, who’s going there, is it eternal, is it not, will there be cookies—all very important questions. So let’s get to it.
Alright so first of all: Do Latter-day Saints believe in Hell? Yes, absolutely. But (and this is a big “but”), our beliefs about Hell are probably a little different than you’re used to. The Church’s website explains very simply:
“Latter-day revelation speaks of hell in at least two senses. First, it is the temporary abode in the spirit world for those who were disobedient in mortality…. Second, it is the permanent location of those who are not redeemed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
So let’s work through each of those 2 definitions. First, we have “the temporary abode in the spirit world for those who were disobedient in mortality.” We’ve talked about the Spirit World in past episodes. After we die, we believe our spirits go to a sort of spiritual “waiting room,” for lack of a better term, where we wait for the resurrection, Millennium, and Final Judgment. While there, those who didn’t have the opportunity to learn the gospel in this life will have the opportunity.
Those who did not take advantage of Jesus Christ’s atonement and repent of their sins during mortal life or when they learn the gospel in the Spirit World will have to pay for their own sins in the Spirit World. The Law of Justice requires that somebody’s got to pay. Now, Christ already paid for everything, but if you don’t accept that gift via repentance, the bill is yours. We’re really not sure what that payment will look like, though it will be hellish. But we do believe that this spirit world “hell” will be temporary. Eventually, everyone will be resurrected and most everyone will inherit a spot somewhere in heaven in accordance with their level of obedience in this life.
Hell number 2: “the permanent location of those who are not redeemed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” In our faith, we call this group of people “sons [or daughters] of perdition.” We’ve done a whole episode on this group of people in the past so I won’t dive too deeply into this today. It sufficeth to say that these are the people who have a perfect knowledge of Christ (not just faith, but actual knowledge) and consciously choose to reject Christ and His atoning sacrifice anyway. After the resurrection, the few people who qualify for this group will join Satan and his fallen angels in a hell we call “Outer Darkness.” There they will stay, as far as we know, forever.
Be careful, though, with the term “Outer Darkness,” because sometimes (for instance, the 1 time it’s used in the Book of Mormon) it’s actually referring to the temporary Spirit World meaning of hell instead of the permanent post-resurrection hell we’re talking about now. Oftentimes it takes some critical reading skills to figure out what the scriptures mean when they’re talking about Hell. And that’s especially true when it comes to the Bible. There is a lot of discussion among Christians about what the Bible means when it talks about hell, and really smart, logical people come to different conclusions on this subject.
For example, here’s part of the problem: In the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures there were multiple terms that, in English, we have lumped together and all translated as “hell.” For example, in the New Testament, the Greek word we’ve translated as hell was Hades. But there’s another word in Greek that has also been translated as “hell:” Gehenna. Gehenna is a reference to an actual place outside of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed to the idolatrous god, Moloch. Later, the site was used as a trash heap where things were perpetually burned.
Gehenna is used in the Bible as a metaphor for the future suffering of the wicked. And there’s a lot of discussion about different ways people interpret those references that we won’t get into here. What is generally accepted is that Gehenna and Hades were different things, even though in English we call them both hell—they’re two different senses of hell. Revelation 20 highlights this really well:
“…death and Hades (hell) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” In other words, if the lake of fire is an obvious reference to hell, then Hades, which will be “cast into the lake of fire,” must be something a little different.
Many believe that Hades simply refers to the temporary destination of the disembodied spirits of the dead, whether wicked or righteous, where they will wait until the resurrection and final judgment. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, you’ll notice that that interpretation of Hades sounds an awful lot like what we simply call the “spirit world.” In fact, Joseph Smith once said, “Hades, the Greek, or Sheol, the Hebrew: these two significations mean a world of spirits. Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits.”
Latter-day Saints believe that after his crucifixion, Christ visited Hades or the spirit world and organized a missionary effort there among the righteous who were then enabled to teach the gospel to the others in Hades who didn’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel during mortality, and we talk a lot more about that in this video.
But in addition to what the Bible teaches about Hell, Latter-day Saints are certainly grateful for the Book of Mormon and modern revelation that elucidate some of these doctrines a bit more. There’s a quick rundown of what Latter-day Saints believe about hell. There’s a lot more that could be said about this topic, so check out the links and notes in the description and have a great day!<br></br>
- From the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3moEdkS
- More from the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/32vsKs2
- From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/2Rw5lQI
- “The Concept of Hell,” by Larry E. Dahl: https://bit.ly/3mr7co7
- “Hell Second Death, Lake of Fire and brimstone, and Outer Darkness,” by Dennis L. Largey: https://bit.ly/3mqLkJO
- “What is the meaning of the Book of Mormon scriptures on eternal hell for the wicked?” by H. Don L Peterson: https://bit.ly/32yNvTO
- “What is the Mormon concept of Hell?”: https://bit.ly/2Fy6XqL
- Information about “Hades”: https://bit.ly/3miP3ca
- More information about “Hades”: https://bit.ly/2FArD1n
- Information about “Gehenna”: https://bit.ly/32A6AVE
- This is a video from non-Latter-day Saint pastor Robin Parry (Evangelical Universalist) who argues that hell may be temporary. Take it for what it’s worth: https://bit.ly/2FQ23FG
- This is a blog post from Reverand Aimasa Kubo that seems to describe an afterlife strikingly similar to what Latter-day Saints believe. Take it for what it’s worth: https://bit.ly/2H3YWKD