By Eric Johnson
For many years, those who have left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have been told that they were now “Sons of Perdition” who were destined for “Outer Darkness.” Although this is an obvious scare tactic, it is not true according to important credible leaders in this religious organization.
Outer darkness is a eternal place of torment reserved for those called “sons of perdition.” Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith–a general authority who spoke more about this issue than any other–stated,
Outer darkness is something which cannot be described, except that we know that it is to be placed beyond the benign and comforting influence of the Spirit of God-banished entirely from his presence. This extreme punishment will not be given to any but the sons of perdition (Doctrines of Salvation 2:220. Italics in original).
According to the Doctrine and Covenants, this will be a place that “even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:91; also see 133:73). Smith said the state of this existence is practically indescribable:
The extent of this punishment none will ever know except those who partake of it. That it is the most severe punishment that can be meted out to man is apparent. Outer darkness is something which cannot be described, except that we know that it is to be placed beyond the benign and comforting influence of the Spirit of God — banished entirely from his presence (Doctrines of Salvation 2:220).
What qualifies a person to be a “Son of Perdition”?
There are two types of qualifications to become a son of perdition.
The first example would be spirits from the preexistence who sided with Lucifer rather than Jesus at the Council in Heaven where it was decided who would become the Savior of the World. Smith described these spirits who were the first to display rebellious ways:
Lucifer became perdition by rebellion. If Lucifer had not known the effects of his rebellion, how would he ever become perdition? If he were ignorant, he could not have become perdition. He was not ignorant, and therefore he became perdition, and they who followed him were sons of perdition, because he and they sinned knowingly. They did what they did with their eyes open, and were in rebellion against God. However, Lucifer did not know all the purposes of the Father as we learn from the Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:6. Therefore the Lord used Satan’s evil acts to accomplish his own purposes. [DS 2:225.] (Joseph Fielding Smith, Selections of Doctrines of Salvation, p. 462. Bold and italics in original).
Because of their disobedience, these spirits ended up not receiving bodies, which is necessary for a spirit to progress to mortality and be qualified for one of the three kingdoms of glory. Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball wrote,
Those who followed Lucifer in his rebellion in the premortal life and those who in mortality sin against the Holy Ghost are sons of perdition. The ex-mortal sons of perdition will be resurrected, as will everyone else; but they will finally suffer the second death, the spiritual death, for “they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 14:18.) (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 125).
While many Latter-day Saints bristle at the doctrine of hell (i.e., “How could a loving God send His children to such a place?”), they may have not considered the fact that these spirits never had the chance to have a physical body because of their wrong choice in the preexistence. Just one sin. Just one rebellion. When I bring this up to some Latter-day Saints, I get defensive arguments., “Well, they chose wrong,” one told me. Another said, “They deserve what they get.” Yet how many sins and wrong choices has every human–including me and you–made? If God would send some of His spirit children to spirit prison, why is it impossible for Him to send His creation to hell?
The second possible “son of perdition” are mortals. Let’s break these humans into two categories: 1) Never been Mormons; 2) Is or once was a Mormon.
For the first possibility, it is impossible for those who never joined the LDS Church to become sons of perdition. Hence, the very worse lot in their life will be the telestial kingdom. (To see the differences between the three kingdoms of glory, click here.) Smith told a general conference audience:
I think I am safe in saying that no man can become a Son of Perdition until he has known the light. Those who have never received the light are not to become Sons of Perdition. (Conference Reports, October 1958, p. 21. Ellipsis mine).
A church manual reports, “To become a son of perdition one must sin against the Holy Ghost, but before that is possible, one must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, 2001, p. 161). To become a church member, baptism and confirmation are required. Another manual states,
Baptism is the first saving ordinance of the gospel (see Articles of Faith 1:4). Through baptism and confirmation by priesthood authority, you became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 21
So, even if you attended LDS Church services, sang their hymns and even partook of the sacrament yet were never baptized and confirmed into this faith, you can never become a son of perdition. That ought to bring a sigh of relief to many who are reading this article! Even Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler will get nothing less than the telestial kingdom since he was never baptized/confirmed into the church; work has been done for him in the London, England temple several decades ago. (To see his baptism for the dead record and other temple work done for him, click here.)
For those who once were baptized and confirmed into the LDS Church. what is your status? It is true that the only mortals who can become “sons of perdition” had to have once been members. This may worry some former Mormons who may wonder, “Am I a son of perdition destined for outer darkness?” The answer is no for several reasons.
First of all, to become a son of perdition, you need to have been baptized in the church, have turned from it, and then fight against the church, all the while knowing it is true. That last part of the previous sentence is very important. You not only need to have been a Mormon, but you have to have “full knowledge” that this is the restored church of God. You would then fight against this church, again, knowing it is the true church of God.
Let me give you some examples of this teaching.
Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
The sons of perdition are those who have had a knowledge of the truth, have known that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, have had the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost, and these things have all been revealed so that they know they are true; and then they turn against them and fight them knowingly (Conference Reports, April 1942, p. 27).
Notice very carefully, he said that:
- You “have had a knowledge of the truth”
- You “have known that Jesus Christ was the Son of God”
- You “had the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord”
- You had revelation to let you know they are true”
- Still, they fight against the true church knowingly despite the four previous points being true.
What’s interesting is that there are many former Mormons who still believe “Jesus Christ was the Son of God” and have a “testimony of the Spirit of the Lord.” However, their faith no longer is in the Jesus of Mormonism but the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, their lives have been turned upside down!
Smith also declared that this “knowledge” had to be “full.” He wrote,
There is another class of sons of perdition. This class is composed of all those who have known the power of God in this mortal life and then, having full knowledge of the power and purposes of God, rebel against him, putting Jesus Christ to open shame (Doctrines of Salvation 2:219. Italics mine).
Smith’s father, sixth President Joseph F. Smith, also talked about having this “full knowledge” of the truth:
It is probable that only personages who have acquired similar full knowledge, who willfully and deliberately deny the truth, when they know it to be the truth, can commit the unpardonable sin and become sons of perdition. They are sons of perdition because, “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 open shame” (D. & C. 76:35). They must have had a fullness of knowledge; a testimony which cannot be destroyed. One must be on a high eminence to fall so low; and few in world’s history have attained such a height. It is doubtful if even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was sufficiently enlightened to become a son of perdition (Gospel Doctrine, p. 545).
These are important quotes and I don’t want you to skim over them. What exactly does “full knowledge” entail? What kind of devious person would it be who knew “full” well that Mormonism was true–including the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the authenticity of the restored church’s leadership that began with Joseph Smith, and the accuracy of the First Vision event–and then fight against these truths? Someone who had such knowledge of these things and still rebelled would certainly be deserving of an eternal punishment such as outer darkness!
Yet, as Joseph F. Smith put it, there will be very few mortals who qualify for the son of perdition label; he said that “few in world’s history have attained such a height” (“height”?). He even doubted that Judas became a son of perdition! If Judas and Hitler won’t make it to Outer Darkness, why would you?
I want to make one final point. I have known a lot of former Mormons and have met hundreds (possibly thousands) of others. While they indeed once believed in Mormonism, none of them ever told me that they still believe Mormonism to be true. They left this church because they believed it was not true! This is true for both atheists and theists alike. Of course, some may have been more timid when they first left and could have even held doubts that all of Mormonism was wrong. While they were in this state, they were hardly fighting against the church.
- Those spirits who rebelled against God are the true sons of perdition. These spirits never received a mortal body necessary to progress to a kingdom of glory. No humans who have ever lived fit into this category.
- Those mortals who never joined the LDS Church (through baptism) can become a son of perdition. Even the most evil such as Adolph Hitler will have a place reserved for them in the telestial kingdom.
- Those mortals who did join the LDS Church must fit the following criteria to be classified as a son of perdition, with a destiny to outer darkness.
- They must have understood what they were doing, with “full knowledge”
- They are so evil that they fight against the LDS Church, with full knowledge that it is the true and restored church of Jesus Christ.
Thus, even for those of you who are former Mormons, the worst any Latter-day Saint can say you are destined is the telestial kingdom. You are not a son of perdition.