By Eric Johnson
Posted May 24, 2022
Leading off the Sunday afternoon session (April 3, 2022) of general conference, Dallin H. Oaks–the first counselor in the First Presidency–delivered a talk titled “Divine Love in the Father’s Plan.” It was transcribed in the May 2022 Liahona magazine from pages 101 to 104.
The Eternal Destinations of Mormonism
The subheading of Oaks’s talk says,
The purpose of the doctrine and policies of this restored Church is to prepare God’s children for salvation in the celestial kingdom and for exaltation in its highest degree.
To support the LDS view of the afterlife, Oaks downplayed the biblical doctrine believed by Christians all over the world when he said on page 101,
A common misunderstanding of the judgment that ultimately follows mortal life is that good people go to a place called heaven and bad people go to an everlasting place called hell. This erroneous assumption of only two ultimate destinations implies that those who cannot keep all the commandments required for heaven will be forever destined for hell.
By downgrading heaven and hell, he may not realize that the Book of Mormon teaches in these two places as destinations where everyone is headed. Consider these verses that describe hell:
O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment (2 Nephi 9:19).
For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the
lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 9:26).
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them
away carefully down to hell. 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 28:21-22).
There are also citations about heaven in the Book of Mormon. Yet, as far as I know, there is not even one citation about three kingdoms of glory or a mention of the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdoms. This is strange when it is understood how Joseph Smith called the Book of Mormon “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church 4:461. See also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 194)
Presupposing the LDS doctrine of preexistence, Oaks then said,
A loving Heavenly Father has a better plan for His children. The revealed doctrine of the restored Church of Jesus Christ teaches that all the children of God–with exceptions too limited to consider here–will finally wind up in a kingdom of glory (101).
Taking John 14:2 out of context (“In my Father’s house are many mansions”), Nelson said “we know those mansions are in three different kingdoms of glory” (101). Then he said something quite scary: “Before that, we will need to suffer for our unrepented sins.”
While he cited some LDS passages from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants to support his point, for some reason he decided not to provide any support from the Bible. Perhaps that is because there are no verses to support such a teaching!
It would be horrible if Christian believers had “to suffer for [their] unrepented sins”! This sound more like the Roman Catholic purgatory than anything described in the Bible. The Bible only knows two types of people: forgiven saints and unforgiven sinners. If a person dies with unforgiven sin, then eternity is marked with horrific suffering in hell and being separated from God forever.
Oaks then went on to describe the celestial kingdom where he said there are three degrees or levels. Referring to D&C 88 and the description of the three different laws (celestial, terrestrial and telestial), Nelson said on page 102 that
the Lord has revealed doctrine and established commandments based on eternal law. This is what we teach in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the purpose of the doctrine and policies of this restored Church is to prepare God’s children for salvation in the celestial glory and, more particularly, for exaltation in its highest degree.
If a person hopes to attain the celestial glory, Oaks emphasized the importance of keeping one’s covenants. On page 103, Oaks said,
Fundamental to us is God’s revelation that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman.
He then said that “the faithful who keep their covenants will have the opportunity to qualify for every promised blessing.” He also said,
For all of us, He has destined life after death and, ultimately, a kingdom of glory. God desires all of us to strive for His highest commandments, covenants, and ordinances, all of which culminate in His holy temples being built throughout the world (103).
Oaks pooh-poohs the idea that there is a heaven and a hell, even though such a concept is taught in both the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon. Instead, he relies on his church’s other standard works to support the idea of three kingdoms of glory. Whichever “law” a person obeyed in this life dictates the glory that will be deserved in eternity. In other words, how good (or evil) a person is in this lifetime is the determining factor in one’s eternal destiny.
With no biblical support to back this concept up, the ideas brought forth by Oaks are not attractive to the Evangelical Christian. His talk, then, is thoroughly rejected as nothing more than speculation.