Of Mice and Men

by Joseph

Dear Joseph,


Back in ’04 I received some study aids from a proselyting couple every week for a few months. I don’t know what church they were from, but the aids had a very interesting and new-to-me perspective on hell. They pointed out that, in the Bible, the phrase “immortal soul” never appears. That the soul is actually referenced several times as being destroyed. Hell itself is destroyed in Revelation, along with everyone in it. So this idea of an eternal place of physical torment is not Biblically supported.

For one, we won’t have physical bodies in Heaven, so how can we be physically tormented? Rather, it’s a place of separation from God where, having just been in His direct presence, our souls experience the worst possible emotional anguish being removed from it. And for two, it’s not eternal because it’ll be destroyed. Cease to exist. And I was told that the souls inside will likewise cease to exist.


I’m glad you brought up Judas and Cain. I’ve long felt that those two get a bum rap.


Take Cain, to begin with. He murdered his brother—a terrible thing. But let’s go back a bit and look at WHY he murdered Abel. Abel raised livestock and offered them to God. Cain was a farmer. He nurtured the earth and coaxed living things to grow from it. But, when he offered the literal fruit of his labors as a sign of his love and devotion to God, he was rejected and essentially told, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” The one person in all of existence who should have been 100% guaranteed to love him unconditionally tells Cain that he’s not good enough. I’m not saying God is to blame for Abel’s murder, not at all. Just that maybe Cain had a bit more going on in his head than simple jealous rage; I kind of feel sorry for him. I mean, when your child comes home from preschool one day with a macaroni necklace for you, are you going to tell her it’s an ugly, poorly-crafted eyesore and throw it in the trash? Or are you going to tell her how beautiful it is and how much you love her as you let her put it on your neck and then wear it with love and pride for the rest of the day?

Why is it that we “fallen humans” are capable of showing greater empathy and compassion than God seems capable of?


As for poor old Judas, SOMEONE had to turn Jesus in, the fate of every soul to ever dwell on Earth hung in the balance. They were friends. How hard would it be for you to turn your best friend over to be tortured and executed? You know it has to be done, and he seems to have chosen you to do it. But, man, could you? Have you seen (or read) Of Mice & Men? SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t: 
at the end, George kills Lenny. Why? Is George an evil person? Has he decided after all to betray Lenny? No! He’s doing what needs to be done to protect his dearest friend from a fate worse than a mere bullet to the back of the head. So it is with Judas. Only instead of sparing his friend from an evil world, he had to give his friend over to that evil world in order for his friend to save it. If anything, Judas Iscariot deserves praise above and beyond what anyone except Christ himself will receive.

—Thomas


 

Dear Thomas,

Mormons believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it has been translated correctly, but we also understand and lament the fact that much has been lost from it over the years. This fact is one reason we cite for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: to restore the “plain and precious” truths that have been obscured or lost. The point being that there is obviously a lot of information missing from the Bible that makes it easy for us to look at an account, like Cain’s, and say, “based on what I can see, God is pretty messed up. If I were Him I would have kept the dang macaroni necklace.”

Here’s what’s going on in this case: when we know two things are true but they appear conflict with one another, then we know that we are missing a third truth. In the case of Cain, we know it is true that God is loving and weeps over the loss of even one of His children, and IF it is true that He straight rejected Cain’s sacrifice, then the third truth is simply that Cain must have done more than we can account for in the 5,000 year old story.

In the annals of modern revelation since Joseph Smith’s first vision in 1820, somewhat has been said about what that missing account contains, about what exactly Cain did (or didn’t do…). But I won’t delve into that now because we have yet to cover the basics of the doctrines of the Gospel, and without that proper foundation any additional information on this subject will be fraught with tangential doctrinal expositions and the like.

For one, we won’t have physical bodies in Heaven, so how can we be physically tormented? Rather, it’s a place of separation from God where, having just been in His direct presence, our souls experience the worst possible emotional anguish being removed from it. And for two, it’s not eternal because it’ll be destroyed. Cease to exist. And I was told that the souls inside will likewise cease to exist.

You bring up some good points here. How can we physically be tormented if our bodies are lying in the grave? You’re right, we can’t! That is why we don’t use the word “Hell” to describe that place, but rather “Spirit Prison,” which is a more apt description of what it will be like there. The analogy of fire and brimstone and having coal on your tongue, etc., are simply that: analogies! The pain we will feel in that place will be a mental and spiritual torment.

And Hell will have an end. Christ broke the bands of death for all of us, and so too for the “spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19, a very interesting passage of scripture for this subject, in case you’d like to read up on that). Hell will have an end inasmuch as it had a beginning, or a creation, as a state of mind would have a definite start and end, though the mind exists independent of that state. In a similar manner, though Hell should pass away, the spirits there will not pass away. Some will go to outer darkness (recall the degrees of glory I mentioned before), and most will go to a higher degree of glory than that, but they will not be destroyed along with the prison that temporarily bound them. We do not believe that those who belong to “the wrong church,” for example, will be cast off to Hell to rot for eternity; that is a teaching of men and not of God.


But yeah, as for Judas, who knows. I like to speculate as much as the next guy, but without word from the Lord (whether through Him directly or His servants, the prophets), it’s just speculation as far as I’m concerned. Luckily it doesn’t affect my own salvation one way or the other, and that’s what I’m all about. I like your comparison to Of Mice and Men, which I have read (nothing spoiled!), because it makes a good point. If Judas was making the decision based on informed righteousness, then I think you’re right in that he has some intense glory in reserve; but if he’s just the traitor that he appears to be, then the opposite is true. I tend to align more with the latter because of the sentiments and experiences of Joseph Smith, who—through sad and downright awful experiences—learned that the most damnable enemies to the truth often come from those who were once closest to it.

I will write more to you about this subject soon.

—Joseph

P.S. 

I am aware that there are some apocryphal accounts that speak of Judas being formally executed by the other apostles to pay for a betrayal that HAD to be done. That’s why in my last letter to you I said the names of those two (Cain and Judas) aren’t doctrinal in terms of being for-sure candidates for outer darkness (where those go who were in hell when hell is destroyed, like you mentioned).

P.P.S.

I enjoyed the analogy of the macaroni necklace. Very creative!

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