By Lane Thuet
In LDS teachings, there will be a final judgment where mankind will be either rewarded or punished for their deeds done while on earth. For the most part, it is a modified system of universalism which means that there will be a temporary punishment, or “hell” of sorts. Ultimately, though that punishment will have an end. LDS Apostle John Widtsoe stated, “In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is no hell. All will find a measure of salvation” (Evidences and Reconciliations, p.216). The only real, eternal hell will be each person’s knowledge that he or she could have had a better reward.
But there is one group whose end is spoken of as being far more terrible. The greatest punishment given out in the final judgment will be for those called “sons of perdition.” Many have wondered who will be a part of this group and what can be expected to happen to them.
Mormon doctrine teaches that those who are “sons of perdition” are those who had a sure and perfect knowledge of the truth, then voluntarily turned from it and committed the “sin unto death.” The first requirement, then, to become part of this group is to have been members of the LDS Church. After that, they would have to have the truth revealed to them with such sureness and clarity that there would be no doubt in their minds about the truthfulness of the Mormon gospel. Speaking of the sons of perdition, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “before a man can sink to this bitterness of soul, he must first know and understand the truth with a clearness of vision wherein there is no doubt” (Doctrine of Salvation 1:49). Such clarity requires a confirming vision from heaven. Joseph Smith taught that to become a son of perdition, a person must “have the heavens opened unto him, and know God….He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.358).
It is very difficult for a person to receive this kind of sure knowledge in the first place. Such persons are normally high-level LDS leaders. Spencer W. Kimball stated, “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (The Miracle o Forgiveness, p.123)” Even apostasy from the Mormon Church does not automatically qualify a person to this punishment.
After potential sons of perdition have had this sure knowledge manifested to them, they would then have to turn away from the Mormon Church, deny the truth, and commit the “unpardonable sin.” LDS leaders have defined the unpardonable sin (also called the “sin against the Holy Ghost”) two ways. The first way is committing murder (Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, pp.338-339). The second way is assenting to the murder of Jesus Christ, or rebelling to the point that the person effectively crucifies Him anew (Mormon Doctrine, pp.816-817).
Those who become sons of perdition share the same fate as the devil and his angels. Lucifer has even been called “Perdition” in some LDS books, and those who follow him are known as his “sons” (Mormon Doctrine, p.746). What is this fate? Brigham Young taught that their bodies and spirits would ultimately be dissolved to their original state and that they must then be reorganized to begin life again in another god’s universe (Journal of Discourses 1:118). John Widtsoe clarified the teaching further, explaining that “the ultimate punishment of the sons of perdition may be that they, having their spiritual bodies disorganized, must start over again, must begin anew the long journey of existence, repeating the steps that they took in the eternities before the Great Council was held” (Evidence and Reconciliations, pp. 213-214).