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42 Questions


Question 6
"no eternal hell"

"What is the explanation for the current teaching that there is no eternal hell, when both the Bible and The Book of Mormon teach that there is?  (See 1 Nephi 14:3; 2 Nephi 9:16; 28:21-23; Mosiah 3:25; Alma 34:35; Helaman 6:28; 13:25-26.)"

Response by Stan Barker & Malin Jacobs

What is the definition of "eternal hell?"
The critic does not provide a reference for his assertion that the "current teaching" is "that there is no eternal hell."  Possibly his source is Elder Bruce R. McConkie's book, Mormon Doctrine.  The "Eternal Hell" entry in Mormon Doctrine refers the reader to "Eternal Damnation."  Under "Eternal Damnation" is found:

To denote the severity and extent of the condemnation falling upon those whose feet slip from the straight and narrow path, and who do not repent and return to righteousness, the Lord couples the word eternal with the term damnation.  There are three distinct senses in which the expression eternal damnation is used.

Elder McConkie gives the third sense as:

3. Eternal damnation is used further to specify the torment and anguish to which the spirits of the wicked are heir in the spirit prison as they await the day of their resurrection.  This type of eternal damnation ceases when the offender has finally come forth in the resurrection.  In this sense, eternal damnation is the type, kind, and quality of torment, punishment, or damnation involved rather than the duration of that damnation.  In other words, eternal is the name of the kind of punishment involved, just as it is the name of the kind of life referred to in the expression eternal life.  Eternal punishment is, thus, the kind of punishment imposed by God who is Eternal, and those subject to it may suffer therefrom for either a short or a long period.  After their buffetings and trials cause them to repent, they are freed from this type of eternal damnation.

...Behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name.  Wherefore Eternal punishment is God's punishment. Endless punishment is God's punishment."  (D. & C. 19:4-12.)1

This would seem to state the critic's view of beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  However, Elder McConkie's first two senses of "Eternal Damnation" are:

1. Eternal damnation is the opposite of eternal life, and all those who do not gain eternal life, or exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial kingdom, are partakers of eternal damnation.  Their eternal condemnation is to have limitations imposed upon them so that they cannot progress to the state of godhood and gain a fullness of all things.  (SHIELDS - emphasis ours)


2. Eternal damnation is also used to specify the punishment of those who come forth in the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29), meaning those who are destined to inherit the telestial kingdom and those who will be cast out to reign with the devil and his angels as sons of perdition. (D. & C. 76:30-49, 81-112; 88:100-102.)1  


It seems to us that the use of "eternal" in these two senses agree with the critic's idea of a never-ending condition.  Therefore in these two senses there is no contradiction between the Bible, Book of Mormon or doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ.

Earliest known discussion:  Elder Moroni Snow, Eternal Punishment, The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, XLI (Liverpool, England, William Budge: 1879) :758-759.

1. McConkie, Bruce R., Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., (Salt Lake City, UT, Bookcraft:1966) :234-236