When I was a child, I frequently fought with my younger brother. I’m not talking about play battles, I mean we were trying to destroy each other. My parents had tried to make us stop, to no avail. One night, amid World War 3, my mother made a startling announcement: she and our father had decided they were going to leave us and never come back. My siblings and I shrieked and wailed as they stalked out the door. Within seconds, the feeling of dread was overwhelming. As the oldest, the burden of feeding and educating the others probably fell on me, and it was a burden I had no hope of carrying.
I threw open the sliding glass door and plunged into the unforgiving night. On the back patio, I screamed their names, fairly certain they could not hear me and that I’d never hear their voices again. When I went back in, my parents were there, consoling my brothers and sister, saying they would never leave us.
Looking back, I do not fault my parents for what happened that night. Parenting is a tough thing to do. It doesn’t come with a manual, and half the time it’s like making your way through a pitch black room littered with Legos. Besides, we are all fallible human beings. What I cannot excuse, however, is a god who abandons his children.
A year ago I sat down with an LDS coworker who told me he couldn’t even visit a church that taught that God sends people to hell forever. This was exactly the sentiment I had felt as a Mormon, and it’s probably the way most Latter-day Saints see it too. A God who thrusts people to eternal hell just doesn’t seem merciful. I’ll be the first to admit that hell is a harsh punishment in Protestant Christianity, but it’s even harsher in Mormonism, where God sends his own children there.
According to Mormonism, every person on the face of the planet is literally the offspring of God. This of course, stands in opposition to orthodox Christianity where only saved believers are His children. God is believed to be omniscient and omnipotent; a being who loves everyone perfectly. Yet despite this, in Mormonism, only a small percentage of God’s children will have the chance to live with him in eternity.
Mormons do try to soften the blow of this by espousing a belief in three levels of heaven. Even though Heavenly Father only resides in the highest kingdom, and only the most righteous people will go there, they believe virtually all mankind will go to at least some degree of heaven. The lowest level, the Telestial world, is thought to be so beautiful that if we could see it, we would kill ourselves to get there. In the LDS mindset, this is far more merciful than being sent to a place of fire and torment.
But is it? Elder Holland, an apostle of the LDS church, once said, “I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife and my children. It would not be heaven for me” (Temple Open House video – click here to view). This is exactly how Christians view any place devoid of God the Father, it would not be heaven for us. Well guess what folks, in Mormonism eternal families and fellowship with Heavenly Father are both restricted to the Celestial Kingdom alone. So ask yourselves, is a beautiful world where the Father does not come, really heaven? And is it really less painful than a hell made of fire and brimstone?
Whether literal or metaphorical, The Book of Mormon describes the suffering God’s children will endure after the final judgment in Alma 12:16-18.
And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining to righteousness.
Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them to his will.
Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.
Latter-day Saints may argue that this is a temporary “everlasting destruction” or it’s only talking about the few who go to Outer Darkness with Satan and his angels, but either way it’s a moot point. In Mormonism these are God’s children who are being abandoned, and left chained by the power of the devil.
Mormons also claim that everyone essentially goes to the degree of heaven they are most comfortable in, and it’s not really God abandoning us, it’s us abandoning him. What concerns me about this approach, is I believe there are people who honestly want God, but cannot abandon their sins, despite all desires to the contrary. These will have the doors to the Celestial Kingdom shut in their face and God will say, “I’m sorry, but you chose this.”
At least the Mormon god is consistent. Assuming that humanity does comprise God’s children, Jesus’ words to the Pharisees are incredibly harsh in John 8:42 where he denounces their heritage, “If God were your Father, you would love me…” In verse 44 he goes on to say their father is none other than the devil. Mormon doctrine also teaches that the Holy Ghost abandons us when we break the commandments, leaving us in the very teeth of sin when we need him the most. I would expect this kind of behavior from a teenage girl. I would not expect it from the highest being in the universe, the Alpha and the Omega.
In 1 John 4:8 we learn that God is love. I’m not talking about the “love” Mormons attribute to him: where he lovingly abandons his children to hell and puts the blame on their shoulders, I’m talking about a noble kind of love. This love is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV).
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
It is not wrong for Latter-day Saints to struggle with the justice of God and the eternal nature of hell. It is, however, hypocritical to cast stones at Christianity while excusing the problems in their own theology. As for me, I cannot even visit a church that teaches God sends his own children to hell.