Is sexual sin really next to murder?

We all know the story. Corianton leaves his mission to go after the harlot Isabel. Alma tells him that his sexual sins are next to murder and denying the Holy Ghost. And that’s why the Law of Chastity is so important.

Is that really what the scriptures teach? Let’s start with the incident in question.

Alma 39:3-5
2 For thou didst not give so much heed unto my words as did thy brother, among the people of the Zoramites. Now this is what I have against thee; thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom.
3 And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry,and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.
4 Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.
5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

What are the things that Corianton did that were grievous to Alma:

  • Boasting in his strength and wisdom
  • Forsaking the ministry and going to the land of Sidon after Isabel.

In verse 4, he tells him he should have tended to the ministry that was entrusted to him. Do you notice he doesn’t mention sexual sin? Why isn’t he calling him out on violating the Law of Chasity? If sexual sin was next to murder, why bother talking about trivial things like boasting in his strength and forsaking the ministry?

D&C 3
4
For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.

Boasting is bad. In fact, in the previous chapter, Alma had just warned Shiblon about boasting.

Alma 38
11 See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength.

In verse 5, he says that these things are an abomination, but he has never said Corianton had sex with Isabel, just that he left his ministry to chase after her. I suspect sex did happen, but the fact that it isn’t clearly indicated should tell us something. Alma’s focus is on the ministry that Corianton abandoned, not the reason he abandoned it.

Alma continues to discuss the impact to the ministry a few verses later.

11 Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots. Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.
12 And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities;
13 That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly; but rather return unto them, and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done.

The great iniquity that Corianton did wasn’t having sex outside of marriage. Sexual iniquity would have been brought upon himself, not the Zoramites. Alma specifically says the great iniquity was something Corianton brought upon the Zoramites. Specifically, that after seeing Corianton’s conduct the Zoramites wouldn’t believe Alma’s words.

Alma’s focus is on the effect Corianton’s actions are having on others. Alma places no emphasis on the impact those actions are having on Corianton himself. When Alma says these things are most abominable above all sins, he’s talking about leading people astray, not having sex outside of marriage.

Now I’m not arguing that God has given us a green light to have sex outside of marriage. But Alma is not saying that sex outside of marriage is next to murder. He’s saying that leading people astray is next to murder. He should know – he was guilty of it himself!

Alma 36
6 For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.

13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

Alma uses murder to describe his own actions of leading people away from God. He viewed it as committing spiritual murder. Alma was seeing similar behavior in his son Corianton and used similar language (shedding innocent blood) to describe his actions.

If the worth of souls is great, I suspect that Alma was thinking, “how great shall be our sorrow in the soul that doesn’t repent because of our bad example.” The scriptures paint a pretty grim picture of the suffering that those who don’t accept Christ will have to go through. That isn’t something you want to have to answer for on your own behalf. I can’t image how much worse it is when you have to account for someone else whom you prevented from repenting.

Corianton is spiritually killing people. That’s a grave sin. That would sound like something that is next to murder. And for an authorized servant of the Lord to turn his back on what he knows to be true and lead people away from the truth is close to denying the Holy Ghost. So that all makes sense.

But isn’t sex outside of marriage a grave sin too?

In 1942 the First Presidency stated: “The doctrine of this Church is that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution.” (Improvement Era, Nov 1942, 45:758)

President Harold Lee taught that “the Master used interchangeably the words adultery and fornication in defining sexual impurity, and it has been severely condemned in every dispensation by authorized church leaders” (Stand Ye in Holy Places 332).

Is that really true? Let’s look at the Law of Moses.

Leviticus 20
10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Well, that’s pretty severe: death penalty. Sounds like adultery is bad. How about sex between unmarried people? That’s got to be just as severe if the Lord has drawn no essential distinctions and it has been severely condemned in every dispensation.

Exodus 22
16 ¶ And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

What? The Law of Moses, all justice and no mercy, tells the guy he just has to marry the girl? And if the father refuses the match, he just pays the dowry and goes on with his life? It’s the same physical act, but the punishments are vastly different. Maybe Moses wasn’t an authorized church leader!

We could spend a lot of time speculating on why this is, but it’s just speculation. The scriptures are quite clear that adultery is very bad and not to be tolerated. Non-adulterous sex outside of marriage, while discouraged, is tolerated. The scriptures don’t tell us why they are different, just that they are.

Which takes us back to Corianton. Alma doesn’t accuse him of adultery. There is no discussion of Corianton having a wife at this time. In fact, Alma 39 says:

10 And I command you to take it upon you to counsel with your elder brothers in your undertakings; for behold, thou art in thy youth, and ye stand in need to be nourished by your brothers. And give heed to their counsel.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: youth

  1. The part of life that succeeds to [comes after] childhood. In a general sense, youth denotes the whole early part of life, from infancy to manhood; but it is not unusual to divide the stages of life into infancy, childhood, youth and manhood.

This seems pretty consistent with the idea that Corianton isn’t married. So under the Law of Moses, his sexual sins fall under the rules of Exodus 22 instead of Leviticus 20. Sorry First Presidency of 1942, the Nephites at the time of Alma were living under the Law of Moses and that law drew significant distinctions between fornication and adultery.

Once Alma is done reprimanding Corianton for his sins, what does he do?

Alma 42
31 And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.

What happened to being sent home early? The shame of the one year waiting period? Groveling before a bishop to prove to him that you are truly sorry? Alma just told him to repent and get back to work?!? But we all know that you can’t repent that easily of something so serious. Even if Alma is out of line, the Lord won’t sustain such a bad decision. Right?

Alma 43
1 And now it came to pass that the sons of Alma did go forth among the people, to declare the word unto them. And Alma, also, himself, could not rest, and he also went forth.
2 Now we shall say no more concerning their preaching, except that they preached the word, and the truth, according to the spirit of prophecy and revelation; and they preached after the holy order of God by which they were called.

If Corianton was able to preach the word with the spirit of prophecy and revelation, we might have to re-evaluate some of our assumptions.

So what should we take away from this post? The real takeaway has nothing to do with sex. The gravest possible sin next to murder itself is to lead people away from God. If we are in a position where others are looking to us for spiritual guidance, and we boast in our strength and wisdom, we’re treading on very thin ice. Alma 39 is a strong message to ministers that they need to be on their best behavior. And when they, through their conscious actions, turn people away from God, that is an abomination in the sight of God. Indeed, most abominable above all sins save the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost.

 

Jehovah – Part 2

This week I received an email from a reader regarding my post about the name Jehovah. He wrote:

Had a question about the Jehovah is the Father. All your references make tons of sense. I did some digging to follow up and I came across D&C 110:3-4 and am curious about your take on that reference. It appears to be JC claiming the name of Jehovah as his own directly which would make it appear to be an outlier given the other references. Thoughts?

For reference, here’s what D&C 110-3-4 say:

3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.

It’s a great question. I love that this reader is fact checking me! If I’m wrong, I want to know it. Here’s a cleaned up version of my response:

John 17:11 in the KJV says:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

The KJV has Jesus referring to the people the Father has given him. Unfortunately, it’s a bad translation. In fairness, it was made 400 years ago and they didn’t understand ancient Greek like we do today.

Here’s what the NIV says:

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

And the Berean Literal Bible:

And I am no longer in the world, and yet they are themselves in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one as we are.

And the New Revised Standard Version:

11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Jesus isn’t saying his Father has given him people, he’s saying his Father has given him his name. You can check out a word for word translation of the Greek here: http://biblehub.com/text/john/17-11.htm

Having become one with the Father, Jesus was given the name of Jehovah. From this point forward, Jesus can claim to be Jehovah because he succeeded in becoming one with the Father.

This is confirmed by Paul in Hebrews 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

He didn’t start with a more excellent name, he obtained it after doing the will of the Father and proving that he will act EXACTLY has Jehovah would. At that point, they can have the same name because they are ONE and share everything, including the name.

Philippians 2:5-11
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [YHVH], to the glory of God the Father.

What name is above every name? If Elohim is the name of the Father, he would have to give Jesus the name Elohim to be above every other name. How would giving Jesus the name Jehovah give glory to the Father if the Father had the name Elohim? In inheriting all that the Father has, that appears to include the divine name, Jehovah or YHVH.

Ephesians 1:19-22
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.

If the Father put Christ above all, including every name that is named both in this world and the world to come, and that name is Jehovah, then that must be the name of the Father. Because if the Father’s name is Elohim, he didn’t put Christ above every name when he called him Jehovah.

But the Father knew what he was doing. The scriptures are consistent when we follow the paradigm the scriptures use. The Father’s name is Jehovah. Before his mortal ministry, Jesus did not have the name Jehovah. After his ministry, he did, and does, and will.

Outer Darkness

Ask a Mormon, “who goes to outer darkness?”, and you’ll most likely be told “the Sons of Perdition.”  These Sons of Perdition had received the fullness of the Father and then rebelled against it. At the final judgement, they will be deemed too wicked to receive a kingdom of glory and will be banished to outer darkness with Satan where they will remain forever.

For years that’s what I believed, because that’s what I had been told my entire life. But one day I did something radical –  I decided to actually read what the scriptures say about outer darkness. The scriptures tell a different story about outer darkness and who goes there.

(In the quoted scriptures, I will highlight some key words in red. I’ll eventually discuss them, but in the meantime just make note of them while I talk about other things)

Alma teaches what happens after death for both the righteous and the wicked.

Alma 40:12-17
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.

There’s our first problem. Alma teaches that there are only two groups, the righteous who go to paradise and the wicked who go into outer darkness. Alma teaches that the wicked are sent to outer darkness BEFORE their resurrection – they don’t stay there forever! He even goes on to clarify that while there are several usages of the term resurrection, when he says they remain there until their resurrection he’s specifically referring to the resurrection when body and spirit are reunited and we are judged.

Alma 40:21
21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

Alma seems to think that outer darkness is where the wicked are sent to await the final judgement, also known as spirit prison. His description of outer darkness is not where a handful of really, really bad people are sent for eternity after they have been judged.

In Doctrine and Covenants 133, the Lord talks about the Second Coming. Near the end, he begins talking about the fate of the wicked who are alive at the time of the Second Coming.

D&C 133:63
63 And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people.
64 And also that which was written by the prophet Malachi: For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
65 Wherefore, this shall be the answer of the Lord unto them:
66 In that day when I came unto mine own, no man among you received me, and you were driven out.
67 When I called again there was none of you to answer; yet my arm was not shortened at all that I could not redeem, neither my power to deliver.
68 Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink, and die for thirst.
69 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and make sackcloth their covering.
70 And this shall ye have of my hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.
71 Behold, and lo, there are none to deliver you; for ye obeyed not my voice when I called to you out of the heavens; ye believed not my servants, and when they were sent unto you ye received them not.
72 Wherefore, they sealed up the testimony and bound up the law, and ye were delivered over unto darkness.
73 These shall go away into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

According to D&C 133, those that go away into outer darkness are the ones that did not listen to God or his servants. They will be cut off from the righteous and delivered over unto darkness. This happens at the coming of the Lord, the day that shall burn as an oven. While not stated specifically, it would appear that this is the beginning of the Millennium when Satan and his followers are bound for a thousand years. There is no talk of resurrection and judgement before they are sent to outer darkness.

In D&C 101, the Lord tells the church to plead with government leaders for protection from their enemies. If the leaders don’t act, the leaders will suffer for their choices.

D&C 101:89-91
89 And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
90 And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers;
91 Even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

If only Sons of Perdition, who have had the fullness of the Father and then rejected it, go to Outer Darkness, the leaders of the US government in the 1830s definitely don’t qualify as Sons of Perdition. Yet the Lord says those government officials will go to outer darkness. So we’ve got a problem. Both Alma and the Lord are describing a different outer darkness than what we’ve been taught. They’re not the only ones.

In Matthew 8, when the Centurion has faith for his servant to be healed remotely merely by Christ’s word, he compares the faith of that Gentile to the house of Israel and says:

Matthew 8:12
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Surely anyone who lacked adequate faith to have a miracle doesn’t qualify as a Son of Perdition. If so, then I’m doomed.

When Christ tells the parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22, the guest who is not wearing the wedding clothes is discovered.

Matthew 22
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In Matthew 25, Christ tells the story of the unprofitable servant. Whereas the first two servants provide an increase and receive a reward, this third servant, who didn’t squander the Lord’s money but merely didn’t do anything with it, is cast into outer darkness.

Matthew 25
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Three different times during Christ’s mortal ministry he talked about who would be sent to outer darkness. His descriptions of these people don’t match the scriptural definitions of the Sons of Perdition. Let’s take a look at what the scriptures say about these Sons of Perdition.

D&C 76
31 Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power—
32 They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
33 For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;
34 Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—
35 Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.
36 These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels
37 And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;
38 Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.
39 For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.

According the D&C 76, the Sons of Perdition are those who have received the Holy Spirit, or known God’s power, and then denied it. So far our traditions are still safe. Notice how the Lord describes where they are sent: the lake of fire and brimstone. This place is not characterized by weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Specifically, D&C 76 does not say that Sons of Perdition go to outer darkness. The words “outer darkness” are not found in D&C 76.

Also notice the timing of the resurrection. They go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, and they are not redeemed of the Lord. Verse 39 is really interesting. All the rest (everyone who isn’t a Son of Perdition) shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead. These Sons of Perdition are not brought forth…they remain where they are and they appear to not receive resurrection.

D&C 88 doesn’t specifically mention Sons of Perdition, but does talk about a sub-telestial category of people.

D&C 88
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

This sub-telestial category of people RETURN to their own place. It doesn’t say what this place is, but they’ve been there before because they return to it. To really drive home the point, the Lord says they RETURN AGAIN.

Now let’s take a look at those word links: weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

D&C 19
2 I, having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning me—having done this that I might subdue all things unto myself—
3 Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last great day of judgment, which I shall pass upon the inhabitants thereof, judging every man according to his works and the deeds which he hath done.
4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.
5 Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my left hand.

Those on the left hand refer to a binary judgement Christ performs at his return: the righteous on his right hand and the wicked on the left hand. In this “judgement” there are no degrees of glory or different kingdoms, just good and bad. The bad, those on the left hand, receive weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, which the scriptures uniquely identify with outer darkness.

Abinadi teaches about those who will weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth…and they aren’t the Sons of Perdition.

Mosiah 16
1 And now, it came to pass that after Abinadi had spoken these words he stretched forth his hand and said: The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just.
2 And then shall the wicked be cast out, and they shall have cause to howl, and weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; and this because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord; therefore the Lord redeemeth them not.
3 For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.
4 Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.

Abinidi is basically saying that all mankind have qualified for outer darkness (where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth) and it is only those who have been redeemed of the Lord who avoid it. That’s consistent with what Jesus taught in Matthew, and what the Lord says in D&C.

This binary imagery of those on the right hand being saved or invited inside and the wicked being cast into outer darkness where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing their teeth is common in the scriptures.

Luke 13
24 ¶ Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

These people are seeking to enter in but aren’t able. These aren’t the Hitlers of the world. These people appear to be doing good works externally, but Christ says the are workers of iniquity.

Matthew 24
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Here we have people who didn’t do what they were supposed to, but don’t appear to have done anything close to what Cain did. They are nevertheless sent to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (outer darkness). We’re back to the binary judgement that Alma and Abinadi taught.

We can see this consistent use of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth to describe where hypocrites go.

D&C 124
8 And that I may visit them in the day of visitation, when I shall unveil the face of my covering, to appoint the portion of the oppressor among hypocrites, where there is gnashing of teeth, if they reject my servants and my testimony which I have revealed unto them.

In Matthew 24, these are servants who stop looking for the return of their master and their sentence is to be with the hypocrites. D&C 101 (referenced above) says that hypocrites get sent to outer darkness. Isn’t it great how all these scriptures support each other? We have word links in the New Testament that support word links in the Book of Mormon that support work links in the Doctrine and Covenants.

If hypocrites go to outer darkness, there will be a lot of people there. Think of how many people Jesus labeled as hypocrites during his mortal ministry. Or how about this:

Alma 34
28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.

That’s a sobering thought. We are all closer to being sent to outer darkness than we care to admit.

 

D&C 76 – Terrestrial

D&C 76
71 And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo, these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament.

The post on the Celestial category of people explains the qualifications for membership in the church of the Firstborn. These terrestrial people didn’t qualify for the church of the Firstborn during their mortal probation. The subsequent few verses describe these terrestrial people.

72 Behold, these are they who died without law;

What does it mean to die without law? Which law is this talking about? What do the scriptures mean when talking about dying without law?

D&C 45
54 And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.

Moroni 8
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing

Heathen nations are historically those that don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian god. It would seem to cover Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, and many other groups of people…indeed the vast majority of humans.

In the New Testament, the Gentiles were considered to be without law. Paul taught that those without law would die without law, but those with the law would be judged by the law.

Romans 2:12, 14
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

God also seems to be generous when defining who has law.

2 Chronicles 15
3 Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.

During this period of history, Israel had integrated false idols and other pagan influences into its culture and religion. If God considered Israel, which had been given the law of Moses hundreds of years earlier, to be without law, then it would probably be safe to say that most Christians are also without law at this point in time. Until we have the fulness of the law of God, it appears that God considers us without law and will give us mercy and a place in the terrestrial world.

D&C 76
73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.

The scriptures tell us some of these people in prison are those who lived before the flood.

1 Peter 3:19-20
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Moses 7
36 Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.
37 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?
38 But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them.
39 And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment;
40 Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands.

One interesting thing is that later in that same chapter we learn that some of these people in prison are released at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

Moses 7
54 And it came to pass that Enoch cried unto the Lord, saying: When the Son of Man cometh in the flesh, shall the earth rest? I pray thee, show me these things.
55 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Look, and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men;
56 And he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory;
57 And as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day.

It seems that during the time between Christ’s death and his resurrection, not only did he teach the gospel to those in prison, but many of them accepted it and were released from prison to join the saints at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

One thing that strikes me is the use of past and present tense when describing the terrestrial category. For arguments sake, let’s say that anything in past tense describes the person in mortality, and anything in present tense describes them in post-mortality.

Mortality:

  • Who died without law
  • Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh.
  • Who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

Post-mortality:

  • Who are the spirits of men kept in prison
  • Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
  • Who are honorable men of the earth,
  • Who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.
  • Who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.
  • Who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.

Terrestrial World – It is a where, a when, or a who?

That may sound like a strangely worded question to most LDS. But according to the scriptures, it’s a fair question. We’re going to have to build our way up to answering that.

The scriptures are full of descriptions of the Millennium, both the events that lead up to the commencement of the Millennium and the conditions that will exist during the Millennium. Here are a few:

Articles of Faith
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Revelation 21
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

If God himself will reign during the Millennium, it’s pretty safe to say that all those living in his realm will have the true law and will no longer be considered without law. Consider again these verses:

D&C 76
72 Behold, these are they who died without law;
73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.
75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

This category of people will be resurrected during the Millennium so that they can live the gospel of Jesus Christ according to men in the flesh. They didn’t receive it until after their death, but now they can live it during the Millennium and prove themselves worthy of a celestial glory.

The scriptures also talk about the City of Enoch returning during this time.

D&C 84:100
The Lord hath redeemed his people;
And Satan is bound and time is no longer.
The Lord hath gathered all things in one.
The Lord hath brought down Zion from above. [City of Enoch]
The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.

Moses 7
61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;
62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
63 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other;
64 And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.

The scriptures go on to tell us that at the end of the Millennium, the righteous are changed in the twinkling of an eye, or “promoted” to the Celestial Kingdom.

D&C 43
29 For in mine own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth.
30 For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come.
31 For Satan shall be bound, and when he is loosed again he shall only reign for a little season, and then cometh the end of the earth.
32 And he that liveth in righteousness shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the earth shall pass away so as by fire.
33 And the wicked shall go away into unquenchable fire, and their end no man knoweth on earth, nor ever shall know, until they come before me in judgment.

D&C 101
26 And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
27 And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
28 And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
29 And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.

It is interesting to note that the Three Nephites will also be changed in the twinkling of an eye when their work is done.

3 Nephi 28
7 Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
8 And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.

So far, we’ve talked about the terrestrial world and the Millennium, but have linked them together yet. Now it’s time to show how the Millennium is the terrestrial kingdom!

Teaching of Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 171
Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but his is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead.

The Three Nephites were translated and, according to Joseph Smith, were then moved to a terrestrial order of existence. Compare the conditions of the Millennium (especially D&C 101) with the description of the Three Nephites:

3 Nephi 28
30 And they are as the angels of God, and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good.

38 Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world.
39 Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them.
40 And in this state they were to remain until the judgment day of Christ; and at that day they were to receive a greater change, and to be received into the kingdom of the Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens.

The scriptures indicate that the Millennium is a terrestrial kingdom, when Christ will reign on the the earth, Satan will be bound, death and suffering will cease, and peace will abound. But the Three Nephites were living in the condition thousands of years before the commencement of the Millennium. And the City of Enoch was translated to a terrestrial order thousands of years before that!

If we cling to the notion that the terrestrial kingdom is a place in the afterlife where people remain for eternity, the scriptures don’t make sense. But if we change our perspective and see the terrestrial level as a state of being (no death, no temptation, etc.) that not only will exist during the Millennium but can happen before then as well (City of Enoch, Three Nephites, John the Beloved, etc.), not only do the scriptures begin to make sense, but we also begin to gain insight into how God’s plan really works. Rather than a consolation prize for those who didn’t achieve the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom is an important stepping stone as we move up from a telestial existence to a celestial existence.

With this new perspective, let’s look at a few more scriptures.

D&C 63
20 Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come;
21 When the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received.

If the Millennium is when the earth is transfigured (paradisiacal glory), then living on the earth will be a reward for those who endure in faith and do God’s will. It’s not a consolation prize, it’s a reward and a stepping stone!

And remember the heathens we read about who would be part of the terrestrial kingdom? Let’s see what Ezekiel says about them.

Ezekiel 36
33 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

The heathen will be in this terrestrial kingdom and be able to learn the truth about the Lord. They too will have the opportunity to be judged on their living the gospel while in the flesh.

If the Millennium is the terrestrial kingdom, then what happens to the inhabitants when the Millennium is over?

D&C 101
25 And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth.
26 And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
27 And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
28 And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
29 And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.

A quick word search on rest reveals that it means dwelling in the presence of the Father.

D&c 15
6 And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.

D&C 84
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

Unlike what is taught in the LDS Church, the scriptures indicate that people do progress from one kingdom to another. Specifically, those who finish their time during the Millennium will be caught up in the twinkling of an eye to a celestial level. Terrestial kingdom is not a dead-end street for those who weren’t valiant. It is a milestone through which all will pass on their way to a celestial glory.