I recently (Sept. 17) had the opportunity to participate in a discussion on The Millennial Star blog. The topic was on the meaning of the word “damned” in D&C 132: 4-6. I stopped participating when I realized that I needed more room than a comments section to explain my understanding of damnation. So, I thought I’d take the topic up in earnest on this blog.
Bible Dictionary definition of damnation
This is the definition that the modern Mormons have accepted, and which they routinely teach. According to this interpretation, there are four degrees of damnation:
- Sons of perdition. These are people who are cast into outer darkness, who inherit the kingdom of the devil. They receive the full measure of damnation, being fully limited in their progress and privileges. They are damned in that they do not partake of either the Telestial, Terrestrial or Celestial kingdoms of glory and the happiness which is found therein. The kingdom of the devil is not a kingdom of glory, but a hell, and all who inherit it are miserable forever.
- Telestials. These are people who inherit the Telestial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein. They escape the misery of outer darkness, but partake of the misery in knowing that they will eternally miss out on the glories of the Terrestrial and Celestial kingdoms. Although this kingdom of glory is termed a heaven (see the section heading of D&C 76), because of the damnation of these individuals in what they might have received, but did not, they feel regret and longing and are miserable forever. And thus their kingdom of glory is also a hell.
- Terrestrials. These are people who inherit the Terrestrial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein. They escape the misery of outer darkness and the misery of the Telestial kingdom, but partake of the misery in knowing that they will eternally miss out on the glory of the Celestial kingdom. Although this kingdom of glory is termed a heaven, because of the damnation of these individuals in what they might have received, but did not, they feel regret and longing and are miserable forever. And thus their kingdom of glory is also a hell.
- Celestial angels. These are people who inherit the Celestial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein. They escape the misery of outer darkness and the misery of the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms, but partake of the misery in knowing that they will eternally miss out on the glory of the exalted, those who are gods in the Celestial kingdom. Although this kingdom of glory is termed a heaven, because of the damnation of these individuals in what they might have received, but did not, they feel regret and longing and are miserable forever. And thus their kingdom of glory is also a hell.
Under this model, there is only one type of person that is not damned:
- Celestial gods. These are people who inherit the Celestial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein, and who are exalted. They escape the misery of outer darkness and the misery of the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms, as well as the misery of Celestial angels. This kingdom of glory is termed a heaven, and it verily is to these individuals, because they have no regrets and long for nothing, for they possess all things and thus are not miserable, but have a fulness of joy and happiness.
Salvation, who gets it and who doesn’t
As the Bible Dictionary mentions salvation in its definition of damnation, it might be helpful to give the Mormon understanding of who gets saved. Specifically, we know of four types of people who receive salvation:
- Celestial gods. These are people who inherit the Celestial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein, and who are exalted. They dwell in the presence of God and Christ and receive that salvation known as eternal life (exaltation), becoming like God.
- Celestial angels. These are people who inherit the Celestial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein, but who are not exalted. They are servants to God and Christ and dwell in their presence, but are not exactly like them. They are in a saved condition, like gods, but without exaltation.
- Terrestrials. These are people who inherit the Terrestrial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein. They do not dwell in the presence of God, but receive of “the ministration of the celestial.” Like the Celestials, these people are saved.
- Telestials. These are people who inherit the Telestial kingdom of glory and the happiness found therein. They do not dwell in the presence of God, nor receive of the fulness of Christ, but receive of the Holy Spirit through “the ministration of the terrestrial.” These people are also “heirs of salvation.”
There is only one type of person that is not saved:
- Sons of perdition. These are people who are cast into outer darkness, who inherit the kingdom of the devil, a kingdom which is not of glory.
Damned and saved at the same time?
The Bible Dictionary model creates a conflict in which it is possible to be damned and saved at the same time, to be eternally happy and eternally miserable at the same time. Despite damnation being “the opposite of salvation,” according to the Bible Dictionary these two opposite conditions will exist in Celestial angels, Terrestrials and Telestials. This thought goes contrary to the principle of like things cleaving unto like things:
For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. (D&C 88: 40)
The way around this quandary is to redefine the word damnation (or damned) to mean something other than what it traditionally means. The Bible Dictionary would have us believe that damnation means “to be limited in one’s progress and privileges” in certain passages of the scriptures, in other words, that “this word has a wider meaning than is at once apparent from modern usage.”
Acceptance of this theory creates an internal conflict of regret and longing, and a judgmental attitude, with comparisons of those “above us” and “below us,” and ultimately will and does lead to depression. In other words, according to this model, happiness comes from knowing you got more than someone else and unhappiness comes from knowing you didn’t get as much as others. This is what LDS look forward to in the eternities, having accepted this doctrinal theory, and this is what they routinely display in their mortal lives.
Correcting an error
The redefining of the words damnation and damned to fit certain passages of the scripture, assigning them a meaning of “a limiting of one’s progress and privileges,” has become systemic throughout the church. Every LDS I know believes the Bible Dictionary assertion. I do not know how or when it crept into the church, but I am a convert member of some decades and I have never heard another model other than this one since my baptism, so I know it’s been around a long time.
It is a bit embarrassing to admit that I not only accepted it myself from the beginning without question, but also preached it as a missionary to others. It wasn’t until September 17, 2009, that I actually got around to checking to see if the model held up to scriptural scrutiny. It was then that I discovered that the standard LDS damnation model (of being saved and damned at the same time) is incorrect. Many thanks go out to JA Benson and his/her Friday Forum post at The Millennium Star blog, as well as the comments of others on that post, for providing me the excuse and impetus to investigate this subject.
Although I don’t know the origins of this particular doctrinal theory, it seems apparent that it was the result of not understanding the scriptures. So, to correct it, I will attempt to lay out the scriptures to the understanding of the reader and expound the real meaning of the words damned and damnation. Perhaps with a proper understanding of these words, LDS won’t be such chronically depressed people.
Number of scriptural uses of damned and damnation
Damn In the scriptures, there are ZERO uses of the word damn.
Damning In the Doctrine and Covenants there is but ONE use of the word damning. (See D&C 123: 7. Damning in this verse means detestable and so it doesn’t need to be addressed.)
Damned In the New Testament there are THREE uses of the word damned. (See Mark 16: 16; Rom. 14: 23; and 2 Thes. 2: 12.) In the Book of Mormon there are EIGHT uses of the word damned. (See 2 Ne. 9: 24; Alma 14: 21; Alma 36: 16; 3 Ne. 11: 34; Morm. 2: 13; Morm. 9: 4, 23; and Ether 4: 18.) In the Doctrine and Covenants there are TEN uses of the word damned. (See D&C 42: 60; 49: 5; 58: 29; 68: 9; 84: 74; 112: 29; and 132: 4, 6, 27.) And in the Pearl of Great Price there is but ONE use of the word damned. (See Moses 5: 15.) The total number of scriptural uses, then, of the word damned, comes to 21.
Damnation In the New Testament there are ELEVEN uses of the word damnation. (See Matt. 23: 14, 33; Mark 3: 29; 12: 40; Luke 20: 47; John 5: 29; Rom. 3: 8; 13: 2; 1 Cor. 11: 29; 1 Tim. 5: 12; and 2 Pet. 2: 3.) In the Book of Mormon there are NINE uses of the word damnation. (See Mosiah 2: 33; 3: 18, 25; 16: 11; Alma 9: 28; Hel. 12: 26; 3 Ne. 18: 29; 26: 5; and Morm. 8: 33.) In the Doctrine and Covenants there are THREE uses of the word damnation. (See D&C 19: 7; 29: 44; and 121: 23.) The total number of scriptural uses, then, of the word damnation, comes to 23.
So, there are only 44 verses in the English Standard Works that mention damn or damnation. It shouldn’t be too hard for us to figure this all out.
1828 Webster’s Dictionary definition of damned and damnation
First let’s establish what people understood these words to mean during the time of Joseph Smith:
1. Sentenced to everlasting punishment in a future state; condemned.
2. a. Hateful; detestable; abominable;
A word chiefly used in profaneness by persons of vulgar manners.
(Taken from the damned entry of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.)
1. Sentence or condemnation to everlasting punishment in the future state; or the state of eternal torments.
How can ye escape the damnation of hell. Matt. xxiii
(Taken from the damnation entry of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.)
From the same dictionary, here are the definitions of the words condemned and condemnation:
CONDEMNED, pp. Censured; pronounced to be wrong, guilty, worthless or forfeited; adjudged or sentenced to punishment.
(Taken from the condemned entry of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.)
1. The act of condemning; the judicial act of declaring one guilty, and dooming him to punishment.
For the judgment was by one to condemnation. Romans 5.
2. The state of being condemned.
Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation. Luke 23.
3. The cause or reason of a sentence of condemnation. John 3.
(Taken from the condemnation entry of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.)
Okay, so the words damned, damnation, condemned and condemnation all deal with a judicial act of declaring one guilty (no mercy applied) and dooming him to punishment. In the case of the words damned and damnation, this can refer to either eternal (everlasting) punishment or temporal punishment (condemnation). Condemned and condemnation usually refer to temporal punishment unless the scriptural text is speaking specifically of the last day (day of judgment) and eternal punishment. Regardless of which word you use, though, the meaning always is that a judgment has taken place, you have been found guilty because no mercy has been applied and you are to receive a punishment.
To condemn means to damn
In the scriptures, the verb to damn is never used. Instead, the verb to condemn is used. This makes sense from an etymological standpoint:
Etymology of condemn: Middle English, from Anglo-French condempner, from Latin condemnare, from com- + damnare to condemn
See that damnare? Damnare means damn, or to damn. So, the verb to condemn is really just the verb to damn with the prefix con- attached to it.
Damned and damnation in Spanish
Remember those 44 total verses listed above? If you look them up in Spanish, you will find that in 40 of them the word damned is translated as condenado and the word damnation is translated as condenación. The Spanish word condenado means condemned and condenación means condemnation. Also, regardless of whether the word in English is damned or condemned, the Spanish word is almost always condenado (condemned). In the same manner, regardless of whether the word in English is damnation or condemnation, the Spanish word is almost always condenación (condemnation). So, in Spanish there is no distinction made between damnation and condemnation and the Spanish speaking population merely allows the context to indicate whether we are talking of temporal or eternal condemnation (judgment, verdict of guilty and punishment).
The other four verses are translated as follows:
Matt. 23: 33 reads in English, “damnation of hell,” but in Spanish it reads, “juicio del infierno” (judgment of hell).
Mark 3: 29 reads in English, “eternal damnation,” but in Spanish it reads, “juicio eterno” (eternal judgment).
1 Cor. 11: 29 reads in English, “damnation,” but in Spanish it reads, “juicio” (judgment).
2 Pet. 2: 3 reads in English, “judgment” and “damnation,” but in Spanish it reads, “condenación” (condemnation) and “perdición” (perdition).
All of this shows that in the scriptures, whenever it speaks of damnation (or condemnation), it is always talking about a judgment being passed, no mercy has been applied, a guilty verdict is the result and punishment is inflicted. Always.
Abinadi’s definition of damnation
Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—if they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent. (Mosiah 16: 10-12)
According to Abinadi’s definition, damnation consists of “being delivered up to the devil.” Those who are damned are subject to the devil. Notice that Abinadi says that there is an endless damnation. There is also a damnation that ends.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God. (D&C 132: 26)
So, we see from this verse that it is possible to be delivered up to the devil for a time, and then be redeemed when repentance occurs.
Two types of damnation
This shows that there are two types of damnation: eternal damnation (that damnation that comes after the resurrection) and temporal damnation (that damnation that comes prior to the resurrection and which has an end prior to the resurrection.) This is why the scriptures speak of two time frames of forgiveness: this world and the world to come.
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. (D&C 84: 41)
And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come. (D&C 42: 18)
And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame, for thus came the voice of the Lord unto us: 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—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; for they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity; concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—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 an open shame. (D&C 76: 30-35)
Those who do not have forgiveness in this world, but who receive forgiveness in the world to come are those who are temporally damned, meaning that they are delivered unto the buffetings of Satan until the day of their redemption. They are subject to the devil in the mortal world or in the spirit world, being delivered up to him until the day that they finally have faith in Jesus and repent of their sins. At that point, they are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and are no longer damned. In other words, at that point they no longer have a judgment with a guilty verdict and a punishment hanging over them, because mercy and forgiveness is extended to them and they become heirs of salvation. This applies to all mankind who inherit any of the three glories. None of these people will be among the “filthy still” because they will have accepted Christ and mercy will be applied to them.
Those who do not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come are those who are eternally damned, meaning that they are delivered up to the devil, are in subjection to him and remain subjected to him, having no deliverance. These are the sons of perdition. (Remember the 2 Pet. 2: 3 Spanish scripture above, where condemnation was translated as perdition?) These are the people who are cast into outer darkness, who inherit the kingdom of the devil.
Greater damnation, lesser damnation
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. (Matt. 23: 14)
Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. (Mark 12: 40)
Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. (Luke 20: 47)
What is the greater damnation? It is eternal damnation. What is the lesser damnation? It is temporal damnation.
It is impossible to be saved and damned at the same time
Remember that I wrote above that condemnation requires that no mercy is applied? It is a judgment of guilty with punishment executed upon the party. Well, consider Jacob’s words:
Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him. (2 Ne. 9: 25)
By the same token, where there is mercy, there is no condemnation and where there is no condemnation, there is no punishment. Speaking of the day of judgment (the last day), there is only one punishment or penalty affixed to the law: death. The spiritual death that is the second death means dying as to things pertaining to righteousness, meaning that those who receive it are banished from the kingdom of God and cast into outer darkness, where the devil will eternally subject them (Abinadi’s definition of damnation).
None of the inhabitants of the three degrees of glory receive this punishment. In fact, it is impossible for them to receive it because Satan will be cast out into outer darkness. Once out of the kingdom of God, he cannot subject anyone in the kingdom of God to himself. Only those cast out with him (the filthy still) can be subject to him. So, the inhabitants of the three kingdoms will be free forever from the power and influence of Satan.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3: 16-18)
The above scripture shows that you are either saved or condemned (damned) based upon your acceptance of Christ. It is one or the other, not both. If you do not accept Him now, you are condemned (damned) already (temporal damnation). But once there is acceptance of Christ, there is salvation not damnation. This is why the inhabitants of the three glories are only spoken of as being saved. There is not a single scripture that indicates that these people are eternally damned. They may be temporally damned (for a time) but eventually they, too, will be redeemed and be heirs of salvation.
Mormonism is so much more excellent and merciful than apostate Christianity because the people they say are damned to hell, we say are saved in a kingdom of glory. Unfortunately, we go awry of the pure doctrine of Christ by adopting the man-made precept found in the Bible Dictionary theory of damnation.
The misunderstood scripture
I believe the reason why people generally accept the Bible Dictionary model of damnation is due to a misunderstanding of D&C 132: 4-6. Here are those verses, along with the comments I gave on them over at The Millenial Star blog:
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God. (D&C 132: 4-6)
And now my comments:
The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary definitions, which gave how these words were used in Joseph Smith’s time, are consistent with the usage of the word damned in the above quotes.
I will break it down for you:
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
The key word here is “abide.” To “abide…that covenant” means “to endure or sustain” or “to bear or endure; to bear patiently” the covenant. You cannot abide a covenant without first entering the covenant, so the use of the word damned here refers to people who have entered the covenant and have not abided it, or, as the Lord states later in the same sentence, to people who have entered the covenant and then “reject” it. These people are damned. The verse does not refer to people who never enter the covenant.
Next, the following verse:
And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.
The key here to understanding the verse are the words “he that receiveth a fulness thereof.” The Lord doesn’t say “he who would receive a fulness thereof,” but refers to people who already received a fulness thereof. These people must and shall abide the law or they shall be damned. In this particular verse, the damned people we are talking about have already entered the covenant and have received a fulness of the Lord’s glory, who then do not abide (or, in other words, they reject) the law. However, we are assured by the Lord that such people “shall abide the law,” so there is no danger of such being damned, because they will not reject it after receiving such a fulness.
However, those who enter the covenant and who have not yet received of this spoken fulness, who reject the covenant, are damned.
These verses, then, are explicitly referring to one type of damnation: that received by the sons of perdition (see verse 27) and not to merely not receiving exaltation (a stopping of progression.)
27 The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.
My comments were meant to show that there is no need to invent another shade of meaning of the word damned to fit into these particular verses, as the normal shades of damned work just fine. When the above scriptures are misunderstood to mean that “if you don’t enter the covenant, at all, you will miss out on the opportunity for exaltation,” then you must invent a new shade of meaning of the word damned, giving it the meaning of a “stopping or limiting of progress and privileges,” which is what LDS appear to have done.
Apparently, I am not the only one to come to this conclusion. Another person commented on the same Millennial Star post, one Rob Osborn, and he essentially said the same thing:
As for defining “damnation”, in Joseph Smiths day he grew up with a protestant background and upbringing. In their day they used the word “damned” to mean “condemnation to hell”. I have done a lot of research on this noting how Joseph himself used the word outside of scriptural text. In every account I have run accross, Joseph uses it in the traditional protestant sense of condemnation to hell. To this day, that definition is what other Christian religions use. It is only our LDS religion that uses the word out of context. This is almost entirely due to a misunderstanding of the scriptural text. As has already been discusssed, section 132’s usage of the word “damned” literaly is used in the context of “condemantion to hell”. Verse 26 speaks of those who enter into the fulness and then perhaps sin in the new and everlasting covenant. It says they will be destroyed in the flesh and delivered over to the buffetings of Satan (in hell). This is the usage of “damned” in verses 4-6.
The three glories are not punishments; they are rewards
Only those who go into outer darkness receive punishment after the resurrection.
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— (D&C 76: 44)
So, if everyone else gets saved and receives a fulness of joy and endless happiness, why is everyone put into one of three glories? Why not have one glory, instead of three? Why do all the Telestials eventually receive a fulness of the Telestial glory, the Terrestrials a fulness of the Terrestrial glory and the Celestials a fulness of the Celestial glory, without being able “to go up a glory?” If the assignment to a kingdom of glory is not a punishment for wicked deeds, but a reward, upon what principle is the reward based?
I will simply say that these questions and their answers have to do with the doctrine of the resurrection. They could be explained with a review of D&C 76, D&C 88 and Alma 41, but I am done with expounding scripture for today. This post is long enough already and I want to keep it on the topic of damnation and not delve into the mysteries of the resurrection. However, I will say that assignments to one of the three glories has nothing to do with dishing out punishments. None of the saved people long for something they could have had, but are eternally blissful, content, happy and joyful in their saved condition. Assigning them to a kingdom of glory does not, and cannot, damn them. I hope this post is sufficient to get that point across. If there is still confusion, I will open it up further in the comments section.
I have listed above and hyper-linked all of the scriptures that mention damned and damnation. I invite everyone to read those verses again, with the information in this post fresh in your mind, and see if the scriptures are not more plainly unfolded to your view.
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