I went out with the missionaries tonight and ended up having a very interesting discussion. Over the course of our conversation one of the young elders said he believed that because God is a God of mercy, most of His children would be saved in the Celestial Kingdom.
He said he viewed it as an upside down triangle where most people enter in and only a few go to “Hell.” Curious, I asked what brought this missionary to this conclusion. He said he’d been taught this idea at BYU by his religion professor and by many others in the church throughout his life.
The church states the following on its website on the topic of Heaven and Hell:
“Will I go to heaven?” Yes! God will judge all men fairly and reward them appropriately with a place within His kingdom.
I think the declaration on its website, using an exclamation mark that “Yes!, everyone will go to heaven,” begs the question, “Do Mormons really believe in Hell?” Based on the church’s comment above coupled with prevalent teachings I hear from others in the church, I’d have to say we technically do not. But is this truly what the scriptures teach? For example:
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. (2 Nephi 28:22)
I should make a caveat here. I do not believe the church is teaching, like my young missionary friend, that all or most will go to the Celestial Kingdom. I think the church is claiming that ALL will go to a kingdom of glory, or in their own words, all will enjoy a degree of Heaven, far better than this earthly existence.
So where did this teaching or idea come from? All of us are familiar with the faith promoting rumor often attributed to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young “that if we could see the Telestial Kingdom, we would be tempted to kill ourselves to get there.” Here’s what a quick search on Holy Fetch brings up to provide some background on this teaching:
“There may be some truth to this statement, but the only record we have of it being uttered, unfortunately, is a third-hand account from Charles W. Walker in 1877. He wrote the following in his journal:
And on Friday last while speaking at the Funeral of Matilda Moody [Brother Woodruff] said we should improve the present time and do all we could for our dead ere death called us away. He referred to a saying of Joseph Smith which he heard him utter (like this) That if the People knew what was behind the vail, they would try by every means to commit suicide that they might get there, but the Lord in his wisdom had implanted the fear of death in every person that they might cling to life and thus accomplish the designs of their creator.”
You’ll note that this statement was recorded more than 30 years after it was allegedly originally said, and that it’s Brother Charles Walker, saying what he “heard” Brother Woodruff at a funeral, recall what he heard Joseph Smith say. That makes this statement now (coming from me) fourth hand information. Yet, the idea the Telestial Kingdom is a kingdom of incomprehensible glory it seems has become our doctrine. This is in large part, in my opinion, because of this idea from what we “heard” Joseph once taught.
Despite disagreements over how many are saved in each kingdom, I think most of us agree that all of God’s children do go to one of the three kingdoms of God, namely the Telestial, Terrestrial, or Celestial, save those sons of perdition (D&C 76). But, the question becomes whether the Telestial Kingdom is a literal kingdom of glory or if it is Hell, where its entrants experience eternal torment and endless punishment.
Endowed members will recognize the statement that the Telestial Kingdom is “the world in which we now live.” I think this is a very strong clue. Is this fallen world glorious?
I like Paul’s and other prophets’ descriptions on the subject. There are those whose “bodies” are Celestial and Terrestrial, who condescend to this world with great advantages, and yet who will make great sacrifices for the progression of less advanced spirits being tried and proven in this dark and fallen world (see 1 Nephi 1:9-10).
I think if we had any idea what the eternal implications of our being “sentenced” to here were (rather than “called” perhaps), I think we would preach day and night to ensure that NO ONE, not a single SOUL, would be required to come here without great protection and advantages.
Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. (Mosiah 28:3)
I personally do not believe that all of God’s children go to “Heaven.” I am of course using a different definition than the church for the term in question. I disagree with the general way this doctrine is now taught and apparently understood in the church. I sincerely believe it is dangerous to faith and to our growth. If in fact true, ironically, the LDS Church may be the only church I know of that does not believe in Hell.
Here are some more good scriptures on this topic: