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Eternal Punishment
(ŠElectronic format by Timothy L. Barker)

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

by Elder Moroni Snow

There is a great diversity of opinion among men as to the meaning of the terms, hell and hell-fire, used so often in the Bible.  Divines have studiously kept the true meaning from the more ignorant classes, and have threatened those who dare to disbelieve and oppose their dogmas with a "lake of fire and brimstone," in which the souls of the wicked are forever burning yet never consumed.  The lower classes have been so long under the feet of hireling priests, and their "fear of God" has so long been "taught by the precepts of men," that it seems hard to make them understand the naked truths of the Bible.  The great prophet of the nineteenth century (Joseph Smith) has given the key to the proper understanding of the terms at the commencement of this article, in these words: "Eternal punishment is God's punishment."  "Endless punishment is God's punishment."  It is so because God is eternal, and His days are endless, and His punishments are inflicted in the eternal world, hence they are eternal punishments, in contradistinction to the punishments inflicted in this temporal world.  The prevailing creed is, that when men die they mount to mansions of glory at once, or are cast into purgatory.  If, at the last moment, before the thread of life is snapped or the "trap" is sprung, we confess the Lord Jesus, we shall be saved.  Such a doctrine is enough to cause an honest man to recoil.

Let us now examine a few facts in relation to these terms as used in the holy Scriptures.  The great wall of defense to the above creed is contained in the following: "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb. ix, 27.)  How long after death cometh the judgment, Paul does not here say.  The Psalmist says (xvi, 10), "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."  This is quoted by Peter (Acts ii, 27) who also says (1 Peter, iii, 18-20), "Being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the spirit, by which (spirit) also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah."  After three days Jesus was resurrected, and appeared in His resurrected from to Mary, to whom, when she was on the point of embracing Him, He said, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God," (John xx, 17.) which He did, as is recorded in Mark xvi, 19, and Acts i, 9-11.

From these passages we learn that between death and the resurrection there is an intermediate state in which our spirits exist.  This is that Paradise to which Jesus refers in Luke xxiii, 43.  The meaning of Jesus could not have been misunderstood by the Jews and those who surround Him, for they believed in this state of existence, and in the Hebrew the term "Sheol," translated by King James' translators "Hell," was used, and means a hidden, concealed, or covered place, and in the Greek is rendered "Hades," a word derived from "a" and "eidon," meaning unseen.  This Hell or Hades is never used to denote the punishment of sinners.  Josephus, the Jewish historian, in referring to this state says, "This region is allowed as a place of custody for souls, * * * while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven which is to succeed this region.  * * This is the discourse concerning Hades, wherein the souls of all men are confined until a proper season, which God hath determined, when He will make a resurrection of all men from the dead, * * raising again those very bodies, which you Greeks seeing to be dissolved, do not believe."  He further divides Hades into two places where the just and the unjust are confined, and the former, says he, "we call The Bosom of Abraham."  See Luke xvi, 23.  He says the wicked "are struck with a fearful expectation of a future judgment, and in effect punished thereby."  This is as it was understood by the Jews to whom Jesus spoke, and how exactly it coincides with the Gospel as revealed through the Prophet Joseph.

After death cometh the judgment; all who have died in every age of the world will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, having their resurrected bodies, and all men will "be judged according to the deeds done in the flesh," and the righteous will receive their reward, and the wicked shall "depart into everlasting fire," and "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death," (Prov. Xx, 14).

In order to pierce the clouds of mystery in which divines have enveloped this state of the wicked, let us refer to the term used for this state in the Scriptures themselves.  As we have before stated, the term used for hell in the Greek is "Hades," so also the term used to denote the end of the wicked, and translated by us into "hell fire" is "Gehenna."  This term was perfectly understood by the Jews, and would be by us to-day, were the true meaning not kept out of sight by the cunning priests.  Gehenna is, properly, the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, once celebrated for the horrible worship of Moloch, and afterwards polluted with every species of filth, as well as the carcasses of animals and dead bodies of malefactors.  (In order to consume this mass of corruption, and avert the pestilences arising therefrom, fires were kept constantly burning, which of course destroyed the bodies of the malefactors, and the elements once composing them were scattered to the four winds of heaven, and thereby arrested the spread of the pestilence that would otherwise have been the result.  By this fire the elements composing the bodies were dispersed, and returned to the state in which they existed previously.  That the wicked are to be everlastingly burning, is neither to be believed nor is it taught in the Bible.

Jude, the brother of James, referring to eternal punishment says (verse 7th), "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha [sic], and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."  These wicked and corrupt cities were overwhelmed and destroyed, and no vestige of them remained, yet the fire was of no long continuance, but was sufficient to destroy and to disorganize the gross materials of the body, and this is "an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."  God is from everlasting to everlasting, and the agency by which He either punishes or destroys the souls of the wicked in the everlasting worlds, is the everlasting punishment as taught by our Savior, and as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith.