Plan of salvation/Sons of Perdition

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Sons of Perdition

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Question: Are there women who would be among those cast into outer darkness? Are there female "Sons of Perdition"?

At least one Church leader (Melvin J. Ballard) used the expression "sons of perdition" to refer to both women and men

Either stance is consistent with statements by leaders of the Church. It seems, however, that later leaders or authors are more likely to believe that women are capable of perdition. This perhaps owes more to changing and expanding gender roles, and a greater experience with women in all their manifestations than any revelatory change—which has never been claimed by any leader.

At least one Church leader (Melvin J. Ballard) used the expression "sons of perdition" to refer to both women and men, so there is some precedence for using the term in a generic sense. However, others (Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith) used it in what could be interpreted as a generic sense, but made other statements which suggest that such a reading would go further than their intent.

There is a chance that daughters of perdition are fundamentally different from sons of perdition, but one could suggest that the difference is not in degree of transgression, but rather simply different as it pertains to their genders.

Most Latter-day Saints would regard this as a point of theoretical or hair-splitting interest only—surely no one aspires to be a son/daughter of perdition. This is likely the reason for which we are told so little about the matter. As the Lord told Joseph Smith about those who go to perdition,

the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation (D&C 76:45-48).

Perhaps the best response to this question comes from Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

Somebody called me up on the telephone and asked if there were daughters of perdition. I said: “I don’t know” and he said, “How can I find out—I just called Spencer Kimball and he told me he didn’t know either.[1]

The idea that women cannot become "sons of perdition" likely comes from D&C 84:40-41

40 Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

41 But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.

Some interpret this to mean that to become a "son of perdition," one must first hold the priesthood. It does, in fact, state that if one receives the priesthood covenant and "altogether turneth therefrom", it is unforgivable. However, it does not explicitly say that that is the only way to become a son of perdition. (For an insightful commentary on these verses see Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2004], 3:44-49)

This uncertainty did not keep Brigham Young from teaching that women were not at risk of perdition

Brigham said,

Man is the transgressor. Eve was the first to partake of the forbidden fruit, and the man was disposed to follow her, and did follow her; consequently, sin is in the world, and when redemption comes it must come by man. When we speak of law and the transgression of law, we refer to the law of God to man. I doubt whether it can be found, from the revelations that are given and the facts as they exist, that there is a female in all the regions of hell.[2]

Brigham saw man as more culpable than woman for the Fall, and thus expressed his view that the revelations no where mentioned a woman in "all the regions of hell," which likely refers to perdition in this context.

The next year, Brigham again relied on his view of women's relative innocence when he said, "Woman must atone for sins committed by the volition of her own choice, but she will never become an angel to the devil, and sin so far as to place herself beyond the reach of mercy." His reasoning drew on the same view of woman's lesser culpability: "She is not accountable for the sins that are in the world. God requires obedience from man, he is lord of creation, and at his hands the sins of the world will be required. Could the female portion of the human family fully understand this they would see that they are objects of tender mercy and greatly blessed."[3]

Brigham is a good example of the necessity of taking nothing for granted in reading such quotes. He often discussed the matter of sons of perdition when mentioning both men and women, but his earlier explicit quotes make it clear that we ought not to read anything into this ambiguity:

The names of every son and daughter of Adam are already written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Is there ever a time when they will be taken out of it? Yes, when they become sons of perdition, and not till then. Every person has the privilege of retaining it there for ever and ever. If they neglect that privilege, then theft names will be erased, and not till then. All the names of the human family are written there, and the Lord will hold them there until they come to the knowledge of the truth, that they can rebel against him, and can sin against the Holy Ghost; then they will be thrust down to hell, and their names be blotted out from the Lamb's Book of Life (emphasis added).[4]

Brigham would later say that "All the sons and daughters of men will be saved, except the sons of perdition,"[5] and "Jesus will bring forth, by his own redemption, every son and daughter of Adam, except the sons of perdition, who will be cast into hell."[6] Again, we have the mention of men and women being saved, but his reference to "sons of perdition" should apparently not be read in a generic, non-gendered sense.

Brigham elsewhere lumped all traitors to Christ with the sons of perdition:

The Lord is merciful, but, when He comes to His Kingdom on the earth, He will banish traitors from His presence, and they will be sons of perdition. Every apostate who ever received this gospel in faith, and had the Spirit of it, will have to repent in sackcloth and ashes, and sacrifice all he possesses, or be a son of perdition, go down to hell, and there dwell with the damned; and those who persecute and destroy the people of God, and shed the blood of innocence, will be judged accordingly.[7]

Brigham's argument seems to implicitly require that no woman can be an apostate in the same sense as a man—this may reflect his experience of most violent apostates being men, and was also doubtless influenced by his view of women as less inherently corrupt and culpable for the world's sin.

Joseph Smith: "O ye Twelve! and all Saints! not betray the revelations of God...lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell."

O ye Twelve! and all Saints! profit by this important Key--that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it, that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray Jesus Christ; that you do not betray the brethren; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world or that which is to come. Yea, in all your kicking and flounderings, see to it that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell. All other sins are not to be compared to sinning against the Holy Ghost, and proving a traitor to the brethren [8]

In 1895, Joseph F. Smith addressed both men and women in a manner which might suggest that "sons of perdition" was a generic term for males or females

Hence I warn you, my brethren and sisters, especially my brethren, against trifling with your Bishopric, because if you do, as God lives He will withdraw His Spirit from you, and the time will come when you will be found kicking against the light and knowledge which you have received, and you may become sons of perdition (emphasis added).[9]

The plausibility of this reading, however, is undercut by an informal discussion in 1903, Joseph F. Smith's views were expressed:

There was some informal talk regarding the question as to whether there are, or would be, any women in hell. It was conceded that some women by their acts—namely, abortion, child murder after birth, and the poisoning of their husbands, and other criminal acts—merited a place in the lower regions. President Smith expressed the view that women who commit such crimes as those mentioned would receive punishment to the uttermost farthing, but that there would be no daughters of perdition. This, he said, was his view in regard to the matter, which also seemed to meet the minds of the brethren.[10]

To muddy the waters further, President Smith's remarks in 1916 struck a slightly different tone:

"The devil knows the Father much better than we. Lucifer, the son of the morning, knows Jesus Christ, the Son of God, much better than we, but in him it is not and will not redound to eternal life; for knowing, he yet rebels; knowing he yet is disobedient; he will not receive the truth; he will not abide in the truth; hence he is Perdition, and there is no salvation for him. The same doctrine applies to me and to you and to all the sons and daughters of God who have judgment and knowledge and are able to reason between cause and effect, and determine the right from the wrong and the good from the evil and who are capable of seeing the light and distinguishing it from the darkness."[11]

Here President Smith says that "the same doctrine applies" to "all the sons and daughters of God,"—perhaps his emphasis was on the need for obedience and to forgo rebellion, rather than the risk of perdition.

In 1958, Joseph Fielding Smith suggested to many readers that he shared his father's view that only priesthood holders risked becoming be sons of perdition

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. They will be punished if they rebel against God They will have to pay the price of their sinning, but it is only those who have the light through the priesthood and through the power of God and through their membership in the Church who will be banished forever from his influence into outer darkness to dwell with the devil and his angels. That is a punishment that will not come to those who have never known the truth. Bad as they may suffer, and awful as their punishment may be, they are not among that group which is to suffer the eternal death and banishment from all influence concerning the power of God (emphasis added).[12]

The next day, during Priesthood Session, President Stephen L Richards said:

It is a tremendous responsibility to bear the Holy Priesthood. I wish all of you -- perhaps all did not -- had heard what President Joseph Fielding Smith told us yesterday, something I have long believed, and I was glad to have sanction for my belief. He said in substance that there will be no Sons of Perdition who do not hold the Priesthood. I have believed that for years because I do not think that the Lord in his mercy would ever condemn a man to that indescribable penalty of being put out entirely from the Kingdom and from all grace unless that man knew that Jesus was the Christ, unless he knew the power of the Christ, and he could only know that, I think by holding the Priesthood. I believe that in the main that can be said to be true -- that only men who hold the Priesthood of God stand in danger of that terrible penalty of being classed as outcasts (emphasis added) .[13]

It should be noted, however, that the quote seems to only be referring to men to begin with, and President Richards was speaking to a congregation of men, going on to emphasize the necessity of being worthy of the priesthood—he may have therefore spoken exclusively to the men (i.e., the only men who can reach perdition are priesthood holders) rather than exclusively of men (i.e., only men with the priesthood risk perdition). However, the views expressed by Joseph F. Smith and Brigham Young suggest that Joseph Fielding Smith was probably of the same mind on this point, as was President Richards.

Evidence for the idea

In addition, 2 Nephi 2:11 states clearly that there is opposition in all things.

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

For every evil, there is an equal and opposite good and vice versa. It seems logical that if women are capable of exaltation, they are also capable of perdition. Indeed, Joseph Smith's father (Joseph Smith Sr.)—in his capacity as Patriarch of the Church—warned against becoming a "daughter of perdition" through apostasy.[14]

While Joseph F. Smith was expressing his view that there would be no daughters of perdition, Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon saw things in a different light: "That there will also be daughters of perdition there is no doubt in the minds of the brethren."[15]

President Charles W. Penrose described those who go to perdition in similar terms as Joseph F. Smith and others, but did not make holding the priesthood a requirement, but merely having and rejecting all the blessings of the gospel:

The "sons of perdition" are those who have received the Gospel, those to whom the Father has revealed the Son; those who know something concerning the plan of salvation; those who have had keys placed in their hands by which they could unlock the mysteries of eternity; those who received power to ascend to the highest pinnacle of the celestial glory; those who received power sufficient to overcome all things, and who, instead of using it for their own salvation, and in the interest of the salvation of others, prostituted that power and turned away from that which they knew to be true, denying the Son of God and putting Him to an open shame. All such live in the spirit of error, and they love it and roll it under the tongue as a sweet morsel; they are governed by Satan, becoming servants to him whom they list to obey, they become the sons of perdition, doomed to suffer the wrath of God reserved for the devil and his angels. And for them, having sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no forgiveness either in this world or the world to come. But all the rest Christ will save, through the plan of human redemption prepared in the beginning before the world was (emphasis added).[16]

Elder Melvin J. Ballard was explicit in labeling both "sons and daughters" as "sons of perdition":

"[God] has other sons and daughters who do not even attain unto the telestial kingdom. They are sons of perdition out with the devil and his angels, and though the Father has grieved over them, he still has not the power to rescue and save them because He gave them free agency, and they used that in such a manner that they have shut themselves out from His presence. But He is justified. He has performed His full duty by them."[17]

Rodney Turner, a former professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, made perdition open to both genders:

"Satan is called perdition. (D&C 76:26.) Therefore, all who yield to his enticings and die in their sins are sons (or daughters) of perdition and will have to suffer in hell for a given length of time. (Moses 7:37-39.) The risen Christ compared Nephite apostates to Judas: 'For they are led away captive by him [Satan] even as was the son of perdition; for they will sell me for silver.' (3 Ne. 27:32.) Those Gentiles who deny Christ 'shall become like unto the son of perdition, for whom there was no mercy.' (3 Ne. 29:7.) 'No mercy' means they must bear the full weight of divine justice (the wrath of God or hell) before being saved. They are temporary sons or daughters of perdition as opposed to those who, failing to ever repent, are termed the "filthy still" ({{s||D&C|88:35, 102) and are consigned to the fullness of the second death (D&C 29:27-30,41)."[18]

"Between now and the last judgment, billions of men and women will be transferring their memberships from one church to the other! Those who repent, bow the knee, and confess that Jesus is the Christ will be numbered with the church of the Lamb of God (Mosiah 27:31; D&C 76:110-11).

Those who absolutely refuse to repent will remain 'filthy still'; they will retain their memberships in the church of the devil. They are sons and daughters of Perdition, suffering the damnation of the second death. (Alma 12:12-18; D&C 88:35.)"[19]

It should be noted that no church leader has made his stance on this matter a matter of doctrine—from Brigham Young onward, the remark is often couched in language suggesting it is their view or opinion. This is likely why various leaders have not hesitated to express varying points of view.

Question: What must one do in order to become a "Son of Perdition"?

D&C 76:31-32 lays out the criteria for being a son of perdition

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;

Therefore, the criteria for becoming a "son of perdition" are:

  1. Know God's power
  2. Deny that power

If we argue that women are not capable of this, which of these two things are we saying that women are not capable of? Obviously they are capable of the first and if they aren't capable of the second, then that completely flies in the face of agency.

It is possible that the idea that women are not capable of perdition is part of a phenomenon of so-called "woman worship" that sometimes goes on at church—we may see elements of this in Brigham Young's conviction that women are more pure, and less tainted by the sins of the world, and thus do not risk utter damnation in quite the same way. Social factors also doubtless played a role, since the dangerous enemies of the Church in the 19th century were virtually all men. Social factors should also be considered, since Victorian thought tended to speak of women in exalted, angelic terms—the view was that women were responsible to civilize men and help them control their baser instincts, and their domestic domain was thereby a refuge from the corruption and competition the man's workaday world.

In a modern manifestation of "woman worship," men in the Church often put themselves down, praising the sisters, saying their wives are more righteous than they are, that there are "more women in heaven," mothers are all angels, and so on. It's a nice sentiment, but:

  • it may be incorrect–how can we know?
  • it can come across as condescending, even if intended sincerely; and
  • it does not do justice to the variety of the female mortal experience.

Men who think that women are, as a whole, better may not know enough women or perhaps don't know the women they do know well enough. Women are generally socialized to be social networkers and are on average more concerned with the social consequences to their actions (e.g., hurting someone's feelings, betraying someone, being embarrassed, etc.).

The reality is that women are just as human and flawed as men, and capable of good and evil to the same capacity as men. They are simply different and therefore prone to different behaviors. But, on the other hand, perhaps some of this difference in style protects them from the type of behaviors that merit perdition. If so, one can hardly complain.

One other possible reason for the idea that women may be excluded from perdition comes to mind. Motherhood is often set up as the female parallel of male priesthood. The scriptures teach that a man's priesthood comes to an end when he does not live worthily of it D&C 121:37. As far as we know, there is no such limit placed on a woman's access to her motherhood. Even women who have never physically borne children are still considered mothers. Mos 4:26 A man's priesthood can be taken from him but maybe a woman's analogous power, her motherhood, is differently -- and perhaps more permanently -- attached to her.

Question: Will sons of perdition be resurrected?

Scripture and subsequent Latter-day Saint teaching indicates that all mortals will be resurrected, without exception

There are multiple citations from Church leaders indicating that sons of perdition born into mortality will be resurrected, since "there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead" (Alma 40:4), and "this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption" (Alma 11:44-45.

Statements by Church leaders have reflected this scriptural foundation

George Q. Cannon

A careful reading of these verses [DC 76:38-39], however, and especially of the preceding paragraphs, will show that the Lord does not, in this language, exclude even the sons of perdition from the resurrection. It is plain that the intention is to refer to them explicitly as the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power: "for all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb." This excluded class are the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power, and "the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord after the sufferings of his wrath."[20]

I was given to understand, while I and others of the brethren were in exile, that because of this passage [DC 76:32-39], contained in this revelation, some of the Elders had conceived the idea, and were teaching it, that the sons of perdition would not be resurrected; and inquiry was made of us concerning it. The doctrine as taught, was, that a certain class of spirits that had received tabernacles upon the earth, would not be resurrected; and to sustain this view [p.379] the paragraphs just read were quoted: "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." Because of this language some have inferred that all the rest would be resurrected, and the sons of perdition would not be resurrected. If you will read the context carefully you will see this is not the meaning. "And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power; Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, * * * For all the rest shall be brought forth," etc. That is, they will be redeemed and brought forth, but they will not be brought forth in the manner that we will be resurrected; they will not receive that redemption which the rest of the children of men will receive. God in this glorious revelation through His servant, Joseph, taught this to us: that there will be a time when every human being, except the sons of perdition, will partake of the salvation of our God. And even, it is said concerning them of the telestial glory, that they are heirs of salvation. But the sons of perdition are not heirs of salvation; they will not receive redemption, they having committed the unpardonable sin, from which they never can be redeemed, so far, at least, as God has taught us in His revelations. Now if you will turn to the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, you will find how plain the Lord has made this matter, so plain as to leave no doubt about it....[21]

Charles W. Penrose

[S]ome of our brethren entertain the notion that the sons of perdition will not be resurrected. But the Lord has told us, as you will read in section twenty-nine of the book of D&C, that "then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened and they shall come forth, yea, even all." Very emphatic are the words in that section, verse twenty-six. The same doctrine is to be found in the Book of Mormon. But there is a passage in section eighty-eight, of the book of D&C which will make the matter very clear to those who desire to understand it.[22]

Anthon H. Lund

Perhaps the sons of perdition are the last class. All will be resurrected. Jesus died for us all. He became the Redeemer, He bought us for a price, and His death brought the privilege of resurrection unto every soul, whether he be a sinner or not. All will receive a share in the resurrection--not in the first resurrection, but they will be resurrected, and will be brought before the bar of our Heavenly Father.[23]

John A. Widtsoe

They who will be judged to be sons of perdition will arise from the grave with their bodies.[24]

Joseph F. Smith

'Whether the sons of perdition will be privileged to retain their bodies after the resurrection, or whether they will be resurrected or not?' First, yes. They will doubtless be resurrected. Second, yes. They will without doubt retain their bodies. First see DC 29:26,27. This means all the dead shall be raised from the dead. Again see Alma 11:43,44, Revelation 20:11-15, 1 Corinthians 15:21-23. Second, Mosiah 16:11, DC 29:27-28, Alma 11:45, Alma 34:34. . . .[25]

Joseph Fielding Smith

Question: "Will those who in this life become sons of perdition receive their bodies in the resurrection? If so, will they have to pass through death again? If they do not, and their bodies and spirits are again united never to be divided, will they have ascendancy, or jurisdiction, over Satan and those who rebelled with him and who have no bodies of flesh and bones?"

Answer: The matter of the resurrection being universal has been discussed in former articles appearing in The Improvement Era. Therefore it is sufficient to say here that the resurrection will be universal and every soul born into this world must receive his body and spirit reunited inseparably in the resurrection.[26]

Question: Will the Sons of Perdition be given another chance to achieve celestial glory?

Different General Authorities have had different perspectives on the eventual fate of the sons of perdition

The ultimate issue lies in the nature of man and intelligences.[27]

Joseph Smith emphasized key doctrinal points regarding the eternal nature of the intelligence and the mind of man

Toward the end of his life, Joseph Smith emphasized key doctrinal points regarding the eternal nature of the intelligence and the mind of man:

The soul the mind of man, whare did it come from? The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told me so. If you dont believe it, it wont make the truth without effect, God was a self exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself....[28]

In 1833, Joseph and the First Presidency also emphasized that teaching that the sons of perdition would be restored was not authorized:

Say to the brothers, Hulets, and to all others that the Lord never authorized them, to say, that the devil, nor his angels, nor the sons of perdition should ever be restored, for their state of destiny wled, save to those who are made partakers thereof: consequently those who teach this doctrine have not received it of the spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils.[29]

After Joseph was killed, the complexities of the King Follett sermon led to a few differing interpretations regarding the soul which have lasted until today in the Church

On a few occasions Brigham Young discoursed on intelligence or spirit "recycling" (for lack of a better term), particularly regarding those sent to outer darkness, or at least those who forsake the gospel. It seems Brigham diverged from the teachings of Joseph Smith that the "mind" (or identity) is eternal — Brigham probably saw intelligence as a kind of substance that can be formed and reformed into different identities, rather than intelligences as eternal identities, or minds. For example, on 17 April 1853, he explained:

The Lord said to Jeremiah the Prophet, "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." The clay that marred in the potter's hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion, to be prepared over again. So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom.[30]

Technically "some sort of a kingdom" could indicate Brigham believed they could inherit a telestial or terrestrial, but never attain a celestial, kingdom. Brigham seems to have understood "intelligence," or the eternal part of man, as something that could be disorganized and reorganized. He was careful to point out he wasn't teaching an annihilation, but a recycling. On 17 August 1856 he stated:

But the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom [from God when you are exalted]; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth.

If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead. Why? Because everything else is opposed to that kingdom, and the heir of that kingdom will keep up the warfare with that opposing power until death is destroyed, and him that hath the power of it; not annihilated, but sent back to native element.[31]

Joseph F. Smith differed from Brigham's view, and explicitly mentioned his rejection of the idea of "dissolution"

Joseph F. Smith said,

Thus we see that the first death which came into the world is also the last death which shall be pronounced upon the sons of perdition. What is it? Banishment from the presence of God. Banishment from the power of God. Banishment from the glory of God. Banishment from the joys of heaven. Banishment from all progress. Banishment into outer darkness. Banishment into hell, which is as a lake of fire and brimstone, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, because the soul lives and is bound to live on, suffering the damnation of hell. This is what I understand spiritual death is. I do not understand it to be the separation of the body and the spirit again. I do not understand it to be the dissolution of the spirit into its [p.228] native element. I understand the second death to be the same as the first death-spiritual death; the same condition that Adam was in and that he had to be redeemed from by the blood of Christ, and by faith and obedience to the commands of God. By this means Adam was redeemed from the first death, and brought back again into the presence of God, back again into the favor of the Almighty, back again into the channel of eternal increase and progress. And if a man, after being placed in this condition, shall deny the Holy Ghost and Jesus Christ, putting Him again to open shame and crucifying Him afresh, then that first death which fell upon our first parents will again be pronounced upon that man, and it is not written that he shall ever be delivered from it. It is not written that there is any forgiveness for it, nor any redemption therefrom.[32]

More recent LDS leaders such as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie have rejected the idea that those in perdition can ultimately be redeemed, which contradicts Brigham's speculations.[33] Elders Smith and McConkie were concerned that the view advanced by Brigham might "lull men into a state of carnal security,"[34] and thus hamper their mortal probation.

Knowing that disagreement exists among the teachings of various LDS leaders, perhaps for the time being it is most prudent to rely upon canonized LDS scripture

For example, Doctrine and Covenants 76 maintains that no ultimate knowledge of the fate of the sons of perdition will be known to any but the partakers:

Wherefore, he saves all except them — they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment —

And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;

Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof. (D&C 76:44-46)

Compare that with the following from an earlier revelation:

Wherefore I will say unto them — Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.

But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit. (D&C 29:29-30)


Brigham's speculations are interesting, but currently remain outside accepted or official LDS doctrine, and stand in contrast to other LDS leaders past and present. Perhaps it is significant that in the official Church manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, a segment from a sermon given August 26, 1860 is included as follows:

Jesus will bring forth, by his own redemption, every son and daughter of Adam, except the sons of perdition, who will be cast into hell....

The punishment of God is God-like [see D&C 19]. It endures forever, because there never will be a time when people ought not to be damned and there must always be a hell to send them to. How long the damned remain in hell, I know not, nor what degree of suffering they endure....

God's punishment is eternal, but that does not prove that a wicked person will remain eternally in a state of punishment.[35]

Perhaps Brigham viewed the fate of the sons of perdition much like the fate of those who inherit a telestial glory, who suffer for a time, as described in D&C 76:81-84. Perhaps the best course for the time being is to recall that, ultimately, "all [God's] judgments are not given unto men" (D&C 29:30).


  1. Bruce R. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine Lecture, #2," Brigham Young University, 1967.
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:222.
  3. Brigham Young, "A Few Words on Doctrine," speech in Tabernacle, recorded by George D. Watt, (10:30 am, 8 October 1861), 6–7; see also Brigham Young Addresses, 1860-1864, Vol. 4, by Elden J. Watson, sheet 134 (in chronological order), Historical Dept. Church, Ms d 1234, Box 49 fd 8), p. 140.
  4. Brigham Young, "Extensive Character of the Gospel—Comprehensiveness of Divine Revelation, Etc.," (15 August 1852) Journal of Discourses 6:297.
  5. Brigham Young, "Union, etc.," (7 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:281.
  6. Brigham Young, "The Three Glories," (26 August 1860) Journal of Discourses 8:154. See also Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:238.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:55.; Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 18:39.; Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 19:264. All these discuss God saving all his sons and daughters, save the sons of perdition.
  7. Brigham Young, "The Priesthood to Dictate in Temporal As Well As Spiritual Things—Inconsistency of An Equal Division of Property—Let Apostates Alone," (16 June 1867) Journal of Discourses 12:63.
  8. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:385
  9. Joseph F. Smith, "The Second Death," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 4:230. [Discourse given on 20 January 1895.]
  10. Joseph F. Smith quoted in Stan Larson (editor), A Ministry of Meetings: The Apostolic Diaries of Rudgar Clawson (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1993), 560 (entry for 26 March 1903).
  11. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report (April 1916), 3.
  12. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report (October 1958), 21.
  13. Stephen L Richards, Conference Report (October 1958), 86.
  14. H. Michael Marquardt, comp., Early Patriarchal Blessings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2007), 106.
  15. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Signature Books, 1997), 795 ( Index of claims )
  16. Charles W. Penrose, "The Church of Christ,....," (4 March 1883) Journal of Discourses 24:93.
  17. Melvin J. Ballard, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Co., 1949), 255–257. Also in Melvin J. Ballard, Three Degrees of Glory (Independence, Mo: Missions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1922), 32.
  18. Rodney Turner, "The Farewell of Jesus," in Studies in Scripture: Vol. 5, The Gospels, edited by Kent P. Jackson, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1986), endnote #20.
  19. Rodney Turner, "The Prophet Nephi," in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., First Nephi: The Doctrinal Foundation: papers from the Second Annual Book of Mormon Symposium (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988), 90.
  20. George Q. Cannon, "The Resurrection As Affecting the Sons of Perdition," The Juvenile Instructor {{{vol}}}/{{{num}}} (15 February 1900): 123.
  21. George Q. Cannon, "Union, Fate of Sons of Perdition," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 1:378–379. [Discourse given on 6 October 1889.]
  22. Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report (Octrober 1911), 51–52.
  23. Anthon H. Lund, Conference Report (April 1904), 8.
  24. John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 213. GL direct link
  25. Joseph F. Smith, From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to his missionary sons (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1981), 68. ISBN 0877478856.
  26. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957–1966), 2:169. ISBN 1573454400. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  27. This article was originally based on the 29 May 2008 blog post "Spirit Recycling?" off-site Due to the nature of a wiki project, it may have been edited or had additions made by other editors.
  28. From Wilford Woodruff's journal account of the "King Follett discourse," a funeral sermon during the General Conference of the Church at Nauvoo, Illinois, on Sunday afternoon, April 7, 1844. Original spelling retained.
  29. Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, F.G. Williams [First Presidency], "History of Joseph Smith (continued)," Times and Seasons 6 no. 3 (15 February 1845), 801. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [The letter was dated 25 June 1833; see also History of the Church, 1:366. Volume 1 link]
  30. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:124.
  31. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:28.
  32. Joseph F. Smith, "The Second Death," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 4:227–228. [Discourse given on 20 January 1895.]
  33. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 31.; Bruce R. McConkie, "Seven Deadly Heresies," 1 June 1980, BYU Marriot Center.
  34. McConkie, "Seven Deadly Heresies."
  35. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:154-155.; see also Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 288–89. off-site