|IV. PILLARS BUILT ON SANDTHE STRUCTURE OF THE LDS CORPORATIONMORMON VIEW OF HEAVEN
This article is the fourth in the four-part series discussing the Four Pillars of the LDS Corporation. You will not find these Pillars described this way in Latter-day Saints materials. This Pillar provides motivational control over all serious followers. Knowing the Biblical concepts of Heaven and Hell is where I will begin. After this study I will discuss the LDS concept of three Heavens and a fourth level called ‘outer darkness’.
OLD TESTAMENTThe Old Testament (OT) does not give us many ideas about life after life. If you ask Google the question, ‘what are the OT ideas of hell?’, it will respond with 31 times it translated “hell” and 31 times it is translated “grave”. The Hebrew term being translated is “Sheol” in both cases. Where this Hebrew word is used, there is no context giving detail or description. Modern translators will also use the words ‘the grave’, ‘the pit’, or ‘death’. So, the summation of OT uses does not provide any detail of Jewish understanding of afterlife. The concept of ‘Heaven’ in the OT has more information than ‘Sheol’. Two prophets of God did not die but were removed to God’s presence.
Genesis 5:21-24 describes ‘Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him’. Again, in 2 Kings 2:11 regarding the Prophet, Elijah, ‘And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.’Some Psalms also provide an OT belief of Heaven.
Psalm 23 is often used at funerals regarding death. However, Psalm 23:6 gives great insight about OT afterlife understanding. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’In Psalm 73:24-25 Asaph the psalmist states, ‘You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.’In Psalm 115:17-18 the psalmist seems to suggest there is a separation that takes place at death. Some go to silence others continue praising the Lord. ‘The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord!’Other insights into OT understanding of afterlife come from the Prophet Isaiah and Daniel.
Isaiah 60:20-21 discusses the ‘new heavens and the new earth’ a description of life with God after earth-life. “Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”Isaiah 66:22-23 continues this thought. “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord.”Daniel 12:2 also indicates everlasting life with indication that some will have it and others will not be included. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”The Teacher, in Ecclesiastes, discusses the meaning of life. He begins in 1:2-3, “Meaningless, Meaningless, says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” Then he concludes in Eccl. 12:6-7 with, “Remember him (God) before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”Conclusions may be drawn from these OT scriptures. First, God wants man to enjoy an afterlife with Him. Second, not every human will experience the afterlife with God. And third, the afterlife will be ‘forever’ or ‘everlasting’. Afterlife also has only two levels, those who praise God for eternity and those who go to ‘silence’ or ‘shame and everlasting contempt’. Hebrew thought had no room for ‘levels’ of heaven.
NEW TESTAMENT Jesus understood all OT traditions of the Mosaic Law regarding afterlife. He was also aware of historical developments before the Law of Moses. Bible Scriptures – Genesis 1:26, John 1:1-2, 14, and Colossians 1:15-20, inform us of the God/Jesus relationship providing Jesus with total understanding of eternity and life after earthly existence. Here is what Jesus taught about Heaven and Hell during His ministry while here on earth.We know Jesus liked to teach in ‘parables’, a simple story illustrating a moral or spiritual lesson. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus tells us about Heaven and Hell, Luke 16:19-31.“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So, he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment. ‘Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. ’No, Father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. ‘He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”Analyzing this parable, we know: 1. There were two locations for afterlife, Hades (hell) and Abraham’s side (heaven). 2. Personal conduct during life on Earth makes a difference in human destination. 3. Moses’ and the Prophet’s understood afterlife as described in this New Testament (NT) parable. 4. Interaction with current earthly life is not possible. 5. There is only one heaven and one location of eternal punishment. 6. Hell in this account is continuous ‘torment’.In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus teaches about the final judgment. As you read, remember this is The Judge telling you about His future job. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Jesus’ discussion is self-explanatory. There is life on earth, then there is final judgement. Afterlife happens in only two places, Heaven, and Hell. How you interact with your fellow man is important to Jesus because we are all His creation. Your ‘spirit’ towards others makes a difference.
The New Testament authors also provide insight regarding afterlife. Paul states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Also, in 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” The writer of Hebrews states, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28). And the Apostle Peter also weighs in on the subject in 1 Peter 3:18. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” Most of us are intrigued with what will happen to us when we die. These Scriptures describe our future after this life. There is no discussion in the OT or NT of ‘levels of heaven’, which is taught in Mormon or Latter-day-Saint theology. So, what is the source for three levels of heaven?MORMON AFTERLIFE DEVELOPMENT When the Book of Mormon was published and distributed in 1830 it did not have any concepts of heaven which departed from Biblical thought. On February 16, 1832, as reported in LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants 76:1-119, a vision is reported as occurring in Hiram, Ohio, ‘witnessed’ by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Why Elder Rigdon, a recent convert (November 14, 1830), was elevated to visionary status is not discussed.Within this visionary revelation two new concepts of Mormon theology are introduced. First, men may become ‘gods’ in the order of Melchizedek, 76:57-59. Second, three levels of heaven are introduced; celestial 76:70, terrestrial 76:71, and telestial 76:81. Each heavenly level is for different people in the world. 1. The celestial is for the believing Mormons. 2. The terrestrial level is for people ‘who are good and honorable’ but have not heard the Mormon message. They are ‘blinded by the craftiness of men’. 3. The telestial level is for people of the world who are ‘dishonest, liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers.’Nowhere in the Bible do these concepts exist. However, they do provide the Mormon leaders with two of the four Pillars of structural control over their believers. The Melchizedek priesthood supplies an all-male path to godhood for all believers. The men rule completely by a military-styled authoritarian priesthood structure, the Melchizedek priesthood. The ‘Celestial Kingdom’ and a works-styled life is controlled by the priesthood. The path to the Celestial Kingdom has lifetime rules and requirements which must be performed to the satisfaction of the priesthood structure. The Biblical concept of salvation by faith in Jesus is not within Mormon understanding. Mormon life and heavenly salvation are all about performance. The other two levels of Heaven are not important to Mormons who are committed to the priesthood requirements.Regarding ‘OUTER DARKNESS’, there is no formal position except for the explanation contained in Gospel Principles, LDS Church 1979/1990 chapter 46, The Last Judgment. It describes those effected as LDS believers who have renounced the organization and actively taught against it. It does not include those who have never been members of this church.
CONCLUSIONThe Bible from Old Testament to New Testament is unified regarding afterlife. There is one heaven, one hell, and one judgment. Levels of heaven never appear.It is so important understanding these FOUR PILLARS OF MORMONISM CONTROL!! Mormonism, the LDS Corporation, DOES NOT equate to Biblical Christianity!! We love and care about our fellow Mormon friends and family. We pray for them to know Jesus, who has provided salvation for all with no strings attached.
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