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Life after Death

Particular or Partial Judgment

Catholic Doctrine

After an individual dies in mortality, they are subject to a particular judgment, which is “The eternal retribution received by each soul at the moment of death, in accordance with that person’s faith and works” (Catechism glossary).

During one’s life on earth, there is the opportunity to accept or reject Jesus Christ and the grace that his atonement offers. Upon death that opportunity ends. Although the Bible speaks of a judgment that is focused on the final meeting with Christ after his second coming, there are numerous passages that speak of an immediate reward upon death based upon an individual’s faith and works (for example Luke 16:20-25 and Luke 23:43). It is clear through these scriptures and others that the resulting consequences after death can greatly differ from one individual to the next, each person receiving this particular judgment immediately upon death.

The possible outcomes of particular judgment are three: immediate entrance into heaven; entrance into purgatory to be purified before entering heaven; or entrance into hell to face damnation—each of which will be discussed in later sections of this chapter. While faith and works are most often mentioned as the basis on which we are judged, it is more fundamentally our love, encompassing both faith and works, on which we will be judged.
See Catechism 1021, 1022, 1055 and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

The Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught that there is a “state of the soul between death and the resurrection” (Alma 40:11). This state is in the spirit world where all will await the resurrection in one of three different places within the spirit sorld. Assignment to one of these three interim states is the result of the partial judgment. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
See Gospel Principles, 295.

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on Particular or Partial Judgment

Purgatory, Limbo, and the Spirit World

Catholic Doctrine

Upon death the soul separates from the body, leaving the temporal body to decay while the soul goes on to meet God in anticipation of being reunited with a glorified body in the resurrection before the final judgment. Souls who are in “God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified,” although guaranteed of eternal salvation, must undertake further purification, being cleansed of mortal imperfection prior to their entrance into “the joy of heaven” (Catechism 1030). The place where this purification takes place is called purgatory.

Purgatory should not be confused with hell or the punishments that are associated with damnation; rather, it is a place of cleansing or purifying. The theology of purgatory originated as dogma at the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence (1431-1445), and as a decree at the 25th session of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). While there are some sins that will be forgiven in the next world through the fire of purification in purgatory, there will be others that will not be forgiven—for instance see the scripture regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Matthew 12:32.

The Catholic Church teaches that souls in purgatory can benefit from prayers and other offerings from those still living in mortality. Such a practice is supported in scripture, as in 2 Macc. 12:46, which states (speaking of Judas Maccabeus), “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” This is further exemplified by the example of Job, whose sons were purified by Job’s sacrifice. In honor of the memory of the dead, the Catholic Church approves of the offering of prayers, alms, indulgences, and works of penance. The hope is that those in purgatory, with the help of our prayers and offerings, will be purified sufficient to “attain the beatific vision of God” (Catechism 1032).

While these prayers and offerings can be made on behalf of deceased persons, it is important to note that the Catholic Church teaches that “there is no repentance for men after death” (Catechism 393).
A third possible spiritual existence after death is Limbo. Under pre-Vatican II Catholic doctrine, Limbo was defined as a state of eternal happiness set apart for un-baptized infants and children who die before the age of reason. The 1992 version of the Catechism does not mention Limbo, but does raise a question concerning the eternal destiny of these infants and children. In a 1984 interview with Vittorio Messori, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now Pope Benedict XVI), said Limbo “has never been a definitive truth of faith.” A little over twenty years later Pope Benedict XVI in another interview is quoted as saying “let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis” (“Pope to Demolish Limbo, Halfway House Between Heaven and Hell”, Richard Owen, London Times, Nov. 30, 2005).

In 2005 the International Theological Commission, an arm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, discussed a church movement toward abolishing Limbo (“Catholic Church likely to abolish state of Limbo,” Michael Browning; Cox News Service; Friday, December 2, 2005). Despite this news report, it must be understood that the International Theological Commission is only an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; therefore such conclusions as those reached on limbo have no official standing as Catholic doctrine.

See Catechism 997, 1030-1032, 1498, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

Latter-day Saints refer to all states in the afterlife before heaven as the spirit world. The spirit world is a place where our spirits will exist after death and before the resurrection. In this place, we will wait, learn, work, and rest from our labors on the earth. In the spirit world, we prepare for our resurrection where our spirits will unite with our mortal bodies to be judged and given a place in the eternities among the three levels of heaven or outer darkness (both will be explained in a later section).

Our spirits are able to progress in the spirit world in the same shape and form as humans (only in a spirit form), including the same attitudes, thought patterns, desires, and appetites as we had on earth. If we die with a certain attitude towards righteousness or wickedness, we will have that same attitude in the spirit world.

A common question is what form will spirits have in the spirit world? The answer is given by the prophet Joseph F. Smith, who taught that all spirits are in adult form, having been in adult form before their mortal existence, and being in an adult form after their death—regardless of how old they are at death (Gospel Doctrine, 455).

The spirit world is divided into two main parts, with one of those parts being subdivided into two parts—a total of three parts, or divisions. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma defined Paradise as one part, and the spirit prison as another. After partial judgment, spirits who died with a degree of purity, having been obedient to the commandments of the Lord and the will of God on earth, will go to Paradise (Luke 23:43). Those who die with a lesser degree of purity and obedience will go to the spirit prison (1 Pet. 3:19). There is a separation between the righteous and wicked in Paradise and the Spirit Prison (Luke 16:26); however, as spirits progress and learn gospel principles they may move from one state to another.

Paradise is described by the prophet Alma as being a place where righteous spirits are able to find rest from their earthly trials. This rest includes the opportunity to be engaged in service to the Lord. This vision of service was seen by way of revelation through Joseph F. Smith. He records having seen Jesus Christ, after his death, appointing individuals in Paradise to “carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men” (D&C 138:30).

Spirit prison is a term used by the Apostle Peter in his first epistle. He wrote of Jesus after his burial: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). These spirits in prison have not received the gospel for one reason or another and therefore remain subject to temptation. All have agency (free will) to choose good and evil. They are taught and guided by those in Paradise. If they accept the gospel and the ordinances performed for them in the Holy Temples on earth (see Chapter 17 on Temples), they can depart from the spirit prison to enter Paradise.

The spirit prison is divided between those who have not yet received the gospel and those who rejected the gospel while living on the earth. Those who rejected the gospel are in a state of suffering “in a condition known as hell” (Gospel Principles, 292), which is really a temporary hell before the resurrection. These individuals in hell are unable to experience the mercy of Jesus Christ, having separated themselves according to their own free will. Their time in hell will be temporary, as outlined in Acts 2:27: “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” Following this period of suffering, these individuals will take part in the second resurrection (to be discussed in a later section of this chapter) and be allowed entrance into the telestial kingdom, the least of the kingdoms of God following the final judgment. The telestial kingdom could be called the lowest level of heaven (to be discussed in a later section).

From the time that Jesus descended into the Spirit Prison until the present day, the Church of Christ operates in the spirit world. The teachings of President Wilford Woodruff testify to this fact: “The same Priesthood exists on the other side of the veil. … Every Apostle, every Seventy, every Elder, etc., who has died in the faith as soon as he passes to the other side of the veil, enters into the work of the ministry” (Journal of Discourses, 22:333–34).

Likewise families are organized in the Spirit World. President Jedediah M. Grant, a counselor in the First Presidency under Brigham Young, was said to have seen a vision of the Spirit World. He described this to Heber C. Kimball, who wrote: “He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities. …” (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 4:135–36).

The location of the Spirit World is physically the same realm as that in which we live in today. Referring to the spirits of righteous people who have died and entered into the Spirit World, the prophet Joseph Smith said they “are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 326). On this matter President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us” (Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 18; or Ensign, June 1971, 33), while President Brigham Young left little ambiguity when he commented, “Where is the spirit world? It is right here” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 376).

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on Purgatory and the Spirit World

The Second Coming

Catholic Doctrine

At the end of time Christ will appear to judge the living and the dead. Creation will have been fully realized. This is called the parousia. “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed: The Church . . . will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ” (Catechism 1042).

Heaven and on earth will be in Christ according to the statutes of God. The events of this time are described in compassionate detail by John the Revelator from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament: “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away” (Rev. 21:2-4).

At the time of the parousia there will be a community of people who are redeemed and unified with Christ and who will symbolically be “the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9) and remain unharmed from that point forward. They will witness the beatific vision: the eternal and intimate knowledge of God, resulting in extraordinary happiness or blessedness. The physical universe will be restored and glorified to its original state, without any possibility of future blemish, and be subject to the service of the redeemed. This new earth will be a dwelling place for the righteous. There will be unparalleled happiness, and the framework of a new human family will be raised—all under the blessings and influence of the Holy Trinity.

The time and manner in which the parousia will take place is unknown to all on the earth. It is worth nothing, that while some Christian sects ascribe to the theology of a millennium (a thousand year reign of Christ at the time of the resurrection before the final judgment), the Catholic Church does not.

See Catechism 1042-1045, 1047-1050, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the second coming of Jesus Christ will usher in a period known as the millennium. Taken from the Latin word mille (a thousand) and annum (year), the millennium reign of Jesus Christ will be one thousand years of peace, joy, and love preceded by the first resurrection, and followed by the second resurrection and Final Judgment.

At the second coming of Christ, the spirits in paradise will be resurrected and take part in the millennium. Those living righteously upon the earth at the time of the second coming will “be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality” (3 Nephi 28:8). Those taking part will be righteous people who have lived lives worthy of the opportunity and will gain entrance into the terrestrial or celestial kingdom (second and highest level of heaven, respectively) following the final judgment. Brigham Young taught that there will be members of various religions and sects taking part in the millennium, all of whom will retain their agency (free will). (Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Latter-day Prophets Speak, 261–62.).

The 10th Article of Faith confirms that during the millennium “Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” There are many details of the millennium that have yet to be revealed. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus would not likely live on the earth during the millennium, but rather appear as necessary to help govern (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 268).

During the millennium members of the Church will be involved in missionary work and temple work. Missionary work will involve teaching the gospel to those on earth who lack the understanding of the fullness of truth. Temple work will involve participating in the ordinances of salvation and exaltation including baptisms, endowments, marriages, and sealings (see the section on temples in chapter 17). There will be no disease or death (D&C 63:51; D&C 101:29–31). In the midst of these important spiritual activities will be much of life as we know it today (see Isaiah 65:21), except everything will be done and be governed on the principles of righteousness (see Discourses of Brigham Young, 115). As stated in the 10th Article of Faith, the earth will be renewed and it will resemble the Garden of Eden during the time of Adam and Eve. All land masses will be joined together as one continent (D&C 133:23–24).

There will be universal peace during the millennium, as Satan will be bound during the thousand years and will have no power over the children of God (Rev. 20:2-3, D&C 101:28). There will be no wars on the earth and harmony will reign throughout the land. The Prophet Isaiah had a vision of this period when he wrote, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). Likewise the animal kingdom will be at peace (Isaiah 11:6–7).

There will be no separation of Church and state, as Christ will lead both the Church and the government as the religious and political leader. The government will be firmly established on principles of righteousness, with liberty and freedom for all people, with a capital in America and another in Jerusalem (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:66–72).

The millennium will also be a time when many gospel truths that are not known today will be revealed to the entire world. The prophet Joseph Smith received the following revelation: “Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven” (D&C 101:32–34).

At the end of the millennium, before the final judgment, there will be one final conflict that will engulf the entire earth as a final test. The Book of Revelation outlines this struggle in which Satan is set free for a short season (Rev. 20:7-8). Satan will gather his armies, while Michael will gather his, for one final battle for the souls of men. At this time there will be some who will exercise their free will contrary to the commandments of God. Following this final conflict, Satan and his followers will be cast out from among the children of God forever. This will be immediately followed by the final judgment and entrance into one of the three kingdoms.

See Gospel Principles, 282-285.

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on the Second Coming

The Resurrection

Catholic Doctrine

When a person dies, the soul separates from the body: The body is laid to rest and the soul moves on to encounter God. By the power of Christ’s resurrection, all who have died will experience their souls reuniting with their bodies in the resurrection.

“The raising of the righteous, who will live forever with the risen Christ, on the last day. The eleventh article of the Christian creed states, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” The resurrection of the body means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal bodies” (Rom 8:11) will come to life again” (Catechism glossary).

Christ spoke of the resurrection, leaving little doubt as to the truthfulness of the doctrine. The Apostle Paul was an avid defender of the doctrine of the resurrection. In his first letter to the Corinthians (verses 12-14), Paul admonishes the saints who question the resurrection: “…how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

Preceding the final judgment at the “last day, at the end of the world” in close proximity to Christ’s Parousia, the resurrection will come to all who have died, regardless of their state, “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Acts 24:15). This event is described in John 5:28-29: “…the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29).
The bodies in which we will be resurrected in are the same that we have today. The doctrine affirming this concept comes from the Second Council of Lyon (the Fourteenth Ecumenical Council Of the Roman Catholic Church from 1272 to 1274) which yielded the statement: "We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess" (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). The doctrine of being resurrected to our own body is further supported by Paul, who wrote, "We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a "spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:42-44).

Explaining the “how” of the resurrection is beyond human understanding, but will be the work of the Holy Trinity. Those with great faith may be given the ability to do so, while the Eucharist provides a glimpse of our own transfiguration as a proxy to the resurrection. Additionally, the sacraments of baptism and confirmation provide symbolic representations of the resurrection by being buried in the water as death, and rising out of the water in life, being touched by the Holy Spirit.

The resurrection and life of the risen Christ brings hope that we too will rise up in the resurrection at the last day and live with Christ forever. This is made possible as we allow God to dwell inside of us enabling Him to raise our mortal bodies. Through our participation in the Eucharist we are already unified to the Body of Christ, and through the resurrection we will “also will appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4).

See Catechism 989 to 991, 997 to 1003, 1015, 1017, 1038, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

Throughout the ages, death has brought about feelings of finality and despair. In the minds of many, death is the end leaving no hope for the future. The faithful know that Jesus Christ has “broken the bands of death” (Mosiah 16:7), and by doing so “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). This victory over death comes through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are numerous scriptures that provide detailed accounts of Christ’s resurrection, while providing a clear understanding of the future resurrection of all people who have lived and died in mortality upon the earth. Jesus exclaimed, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19), referring to our own resurrection.

In death, our bodies and spirits are separated; in the resurrection our bodies and spirits are reunited in a perfected state. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma recorded these words from the prophet Amulek: “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; … Now, 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…” (Alma 11:42–44).

The resurrection not only restores life, but ushers in a new phase in our eternal progression. The Apostle Dallin H. Oaks wrote, “In our eternal journey, the resurrection is the mighty milepost that signifies the end of mortality and the beginning of immortality” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Resurrection,” Ensign, May 2000, 14). Without the resurrection we could not achieve immortality, nor could we experience a “fullness of joy” (D&C 93:33–34). Paul understanding the hopelessness that would result from the absence of the resurrection wrote, “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then … is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:13–14).

Our knowledge of the resurrection gives hope and understanding that death is not the end, but rather a gateway to the eternities. Our testimony of the resurrection helps us put into perspective our trials in mortality, while providing us motivation to live our lives in accordance with the commandments of God.

It behooves us to prepare ourselves for the resurrection by living a righteous life on earth, including taking care of the body we have now. The resurrection will not cleanse us from sin or magically change our souls from one state to another. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul was quite clear that those who are void of righteousness in mortality will not be raised in righteousness in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:35-44). To this end Alma counsels men that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32).

Unique to Latter-day Saint doctrine is the principle of families being together forever through the sealing powers of priesthood in the holy temple. Applying this doctrine to the resurrection means that we have the opportunity to be resurrected with family members and to live together in the eternities. Not only is such doctrine a motivation to live a righteous life while on earth, but it gives hope in times where temporal death separates loved ones.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie points out that there are two distinctly different resurrections that are approximately 1,000 years apart: “Two great resurrections await the inhabitants of the earth: one is the first resurrection, the resurrection of life, the resurrection of the just; the other is the second resurrection, the resurrection of damnation, the resurrection of the unjust” (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie; 1979 Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 640). Elder McConkie goes on to explain that the first resurrection will happen at the second coming and have a morning (for those who will meet Christ at his second coming – Celestial bodies) and an afternoon (for those who come forth right after the second coming – Terrestrial bodies). See 1 Cor. 15:40 for Biblical references to Celestial and Terrestrial bodies, as well as the final section in this chapter. Following the thousand year millennial reign of Christ, the second resurrection will take place. Those coming forth first in the second resurrection will have Telestial bodies, and those coming forth last in the second resurrection will be cast into outer darkness, both with and without bodies including those who gave up their first estate (Satan and his followers who will not have a body and therefore technically not resurrected) and the sons of perdition (those whose sins are unforgivable).

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on the Resurrection

Final Judgment

Catholic Doctrine

The Catechism defines the “Last Judgment”: “The “Last Judgment” is God’s triumph over the revolt of evil, after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. Preceded by the resurrection of the dead, it will coincide with the second coming of Christ in glory at the end of time, disclose good and evil, and reveal the meaning of salvation history and the providence of God by which justice has triumphed over evil” (Catechism glossary).

At the Second Council of Lyons, the declaration was made that "The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ's tribunal to render an account of their own deeds" (Council of Lyons II [1274]: DS 859; cf. DS 1549).

The New Testament beautifully describes, with no ambiguity, the scene that will take place at the final judgment, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32).
Matthew goes on to describe how the sheep will be on Jesus’ right and the goats on his left, and he will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). He then explains to those on his right why they are being given such a wonderful reward according to their faith and works as he says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:35-36).

Then Christ he will look to those on his left and boldly pronounce judgment upon them by saying, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me” (Matt. 25:41-43). Christ will then explain the reasons for such a judgment and finalize the verdict with the words, “And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matt. 25:46).

In this scriptural account we are witnesses to the fact that each man (and woman) individually will be brought before Christ, who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and each person’s bond with God and actions on earth will be made known to all. Upon that knowledge, the Last Judgment will be rendered to its fullest consequences—both good, and bad—according to the earthly life that person led.

One’s life on earth will have many aspects to it that will be exposed during the Last Judgment. That which was secret will be revealed; where love was rejected there will be a judgment rendered; those who felt the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was meaningless will be smitten for their rejection as they will have judged themselves; and those who mistreated and abused their neighbors will be held accountable as if they did those very things to Christ himself —“as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). God’s justice will reign over all injustices, and his love will conquer all death during the Last Judgment.

The time of the Last Judgment is only to God the Father. The Catholic Church expends all of its efforts and prays that not a single person would be lost during the Last Judgment. We know that should it be true that “no one can save himself,” that it is likewise true that God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him "all things are possible" (Mt 19:26) (Catechism 1058).

See Catechism 678 to 682, 1021, 1038 to 1040, 1056, 1058, 1059, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

The scriptures abound with passages that clearly indicate we will be judged at the end times according to our works. Consider the following scripture from the book of Revelation: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

There are many New Testament scriptures that directly correlate the reward that people will receive from their works on earth (such as Matt. 16:27, 1 Cor. 3:14, 2 Tim 4:14), each referring to the Final Judgment. The Final Judgment is the last and ultimate in a succession of judgments starting with premortal life, then earthly life, and concluding with resurrection. Not to be confused with the Partial Judgment that takes place immediately after our death, the Final Judgment takes place after our resurrection and the millennial reign of Christ.

The works on which we will be judged will include our words, thoughts, and actions. With respect to words, Jesus Christ taught his disciples, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36–37). With respect to our thoughts, the prophet Alma taught, “Our thoughts will also condemn us” (Alma 12:14).

Our works are written in the books referred to in the scripture from Revelation 20:12. Joseph Smith taught that this scriptural reference was true in that we will be judged based upon records kept on earth. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “We are going to be judged out of the things written in books, out of the revelations of God, out of the temple records, out of those things which the Lord has commanded us to keep. … There will be the record in heaven which is a perfect record” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:200).

The Apostle Paul taught about being judged out of records, but a different record—that which is written in our hearts. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:15). He likewise wrote to the Corinthians, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:2–3).

These records written in our hearts will be made known during the Final Judgment and be used to render the final verdict upon us. President John Taylor reinforced this principle when he said “[The individual] tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. … That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind—that record that cannot lie—will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who sit as judges” (Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Latter-day Prophets Speak, 56–57).

We will be judged not only by the Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory, but by those to whom Christ delegates the power and authority to judge. God the Father will not judge anyone, but will delegate that power and authority to the savior (John 5:22). Likewise this same delegation of judgment will take place as Christ assigns the original twelve apostles the power to judge: “that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28 and Luke 22:30). There will be others appointed as well by the hand Christ who will be given the power and authority to judge righteously.

The result of the Final Judgment will see everyone assigned to four possible places to dwell for all eternity: “the celestial kingdom (the highest degree of glory), the terrestrial kingdom (the second degree), the telestial kingdom (the lowest degree), ...outer darkness (the kingdom of the devil—not a degree of glory)” (Gospel Principles, 297). Doctrine and Covenants 76 describes each of these places in detail and discusses the choices we make and their effects on our assignment to the appropriate place—regardless of religious affiliation.

“We speak, think, and act according to celestial, terrestrial, or telestial law. Our faith in Jesus Christ, as shown by our daily actions, determines which kingdom we will inherit” (Gospel Principles, 298).The Church urges all members to be faithful in mortality to take full advantage of the atoning power of Christ through repentance everyday, so that we will remain worthy and prepared for the Final Judgment. If we do this, we can return to live with our Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom.

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on the Final Judgment


Catholic Doctrine

The Catechism defines hell as “The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed, reserved for those who refuse by their own free choice to believe and be converted from sin, even to the end of their lives.”

The Catholic Church is explicit in that hell is a real place that will last for all eternity. Those who die with unresolved mortal sin will be judged accordingly and be relegated to spending all eternity in hell where they will suffer the punishments of endless torment. John the Baptist describes the state of hell as “unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17), as did Jesus when he spoke of “Gehenna…the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), a place set aside for those who reject faith in Christ. In the final judgment Jesus will “…send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42).

Although the metaphors of fire and burning overwhelm the scriptural depiction of hell, the key suffering of hell will be the evil doers “eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (Catechism 1035). One can literally translate this to there being no possibility for happiness in hell, and thus the relentless emphasis on suffering.

None of God’s children are predestined to hell, but are rather assigned to the torment of hell through the continual exercising of free will in rejection of God until the end of life. It is impossible to become united with God without our electing to love God ourselves. The scriptures admonish man to accept the grace of God, to turn away from sin, to experience conversion, and walk in the path of righteousness towards eternal life. The Catholic Church entreats the mercy of God, through the celebration of the liturgy and prayers of its members, in hopes of being spared from final damnation (the living and the dead) and to have peace in this life and the next.

See Catechism, 1033 to 1037, 1055, 1058, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

The scriptures outline the existence of two different states of hell: one is temporary before the resurrection, and the other is eternal after the final judgment.

The Temporary State of Hell
This book’s section on the spirit world identifies a division of the Spirit Prison called hell, or temporary hell. Those who die in a serious state of sin, without a testimony of Jesus Christ, will be relegated to spend their time in temporary hell until the second resurrection (of the unjust) at the end of the millennium (John 5:28-29). In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord said, “These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fullness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work” (D&C 76:106).

The Lord describes these individuals as “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (D&C 76:103). These spirits will be resurrected, and because of God’s infinite mercy, they will inherit the telestial kingdom (the third [lowest] level of heaven), be saved, and experience the presence of the Holy Ghost and the ministering of angels—but not the presence of God nor of Jesus Christ (D&C 76:88). They are damned because they can progress no further.

The Hell That Has No End
The second state of hell is the one most popularly thought of among Christians—the hell that has no end. It is the hell that involves endless torment and separation from God, a place eternally without hope. This hell is also referred to as outer darkness. There is no mercy attending to these spirits because they are lost as the “sons of perdition” (John 17:12). The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi further describes these sons of perdition and their grievous states and sins, and even those who become “like” the sons of perdition (3 Ne. 27:32 and 3 Ne. 29:7).

“Lucifer is Perdition. He became such by open rebellion against the truth, a rebellion in the face of light and knowledge…In rebellion with him were one-third of the spirit hosts of heaven. These all were thus followers (or in other words sons) of perdition. They were denied bodies, were cast out onto the earth, and thus came the devil and his angels—a great host of sons of perdition” (Mormon Doctrine, 746).

There are three degrees of glory that will be explained in the next section regarding heaven, each one being assigned following the Final Judgment. There will be those who will not receive any degree of glory (D&C 88:24). “…And 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” (D&C 76:44-45).

Besides the sons of perdition, these are individuals who have “sinned against the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 12:32), making it impossible to “renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6).

Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “How fortunate it is that in the mercy of God there will be comparatively few who will partake of this awful misery and eternal darkness” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:49).

See H. Donl Peterson, professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University in an article titled I Have a Question (Ensign, Apr. 1986, 36); Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:47–49.

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on Hell


Catholic Doctrine

The Catechism defines heaven as “Eternal life with God; communion of life and love with the Trinity and all the blessed. Heaven is the state of supreme and definitive happiness, the goal of the deepest longings of humanity” (Catechism glossary).

Following the Final Judgment, the righteous in a perfectly purified state of grace and friendship with God will be rewarded entrance into heaven. In heaven these faithful individuals will rule with Christ forever in a universe transformed, clothed in resurrected bodies that are glorified and perfected. In this glorious state, “we shall be like him [God], for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This ability to see and be like God is not possible unless God reveals himself more fully to the understanding of man, as will be the case in heaven. This revealing is called "the beatific vision," in which God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). One can only image the happiness that will exist because of these wondrous events, and sharing immortality in heaven with “the righteous and God’s friends” (Catechism 1028).

We cannot imagine what it will be like to be united with God in heaven. Although the scriptures provide anecdotal descriptions, still the understanding is beyond our reach. Paul gives counsel on this predicament when he tells the Corinthians, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Those blessed to be in heaven will not only reign with Christ, but will continue in a state of happiness fulfilling God’s will along with others and the rest of creation.

See Catechism 1023 to 1029, 1060, and glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

The Latter-day Saint doctrine of heaven is established through key scriptures from the Bible, with additional detail found in modern day scriptures. The Biblical scriptures introduce and outline the existence of three levels of heaven, while the revelations given in the Doctrine and Covenants describe in detail the various glories in heaven that can be expected by those who will enter after the Final Judgment.

The savior told his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). This scripture is joined by two letters written by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. Paul wrote about a man who had been “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2), while mentioning and briefly describing three states in the resurrection—the celestial and the terrestrial—and alluding to a third (1 Cor. 15:40-42).

Doctrine and Covenants 76 and 131 complete the missing parts of the scriptural puzzle by clearly describing three kingdoms of heaven following the Final Judgment, with the highest kingdom (Celestial) having three degrees of glory. There is also a forth place called outer darkness, which is the eternal hell spoken of in an earlier section of this chapter.

Jesus spoke of “preparing” a place in the house of his father. This same type of preparation takes place for each of us on earth as we prepare ourselves for the kingdom into which we choose to enter. Our works and faith in Christ, exercised in the choices we have made on earth, will decide which kingdom (place or state) we are prepared to live in following the Final Judgment.

The Celestial Kingdom
The celestial kingdom is considered the highest of all of the levels of heaven (the third heaven that Paul spoke of). This is the kingdom Paul described as being the “glory of the sun” (1 Cor. 15:41), in which Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father will dwell. The happiness of those who will enter the celestial kingdom, and the beauty of the physical surroundings, will be far beyond our current ability to imagine.

Those who will enter the celestial kingdom are those who love and have chosen (and will continue to choose) to obey Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. These individuals have repented of their sins, committed their lives to Jesus Christ as their savior, have entered the waters of baptism, have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and have exercised faith sufficient to triumph over the world through the perfection of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

The Lord has made a provision for other individuals to enter into the celestial kingdom as well. Those who die in mortality lacking a knowledge of the gospel but “would have received it with all their hearts” (D&C 137:7–9) are allowed entrance into the celestial kingdom, as are those children who “Die before they arrive at the years of accountability [age of eight]” (D&C 137:10)—including those who will have been aborted.

Within the celestial kingdom is a place set aside for those who will be exalted— enabled to continue to grow their eternal families. To achieve this magnificent blessing an individual must be married in the temple for time and all eternity and have made and kept sacred temple covenants. These individuals will become like Heavenly Father and receive all that he has including the ability to have spirit children and to make new worlds, that is, they will inherit from Heavenly Father his creative ability. Jesus alluded to this great blessing in the parable of the talents when he said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-70 gives a detailed scriptural account of the celestial kingdom.

The Terrestrial Kingdom
The terrestrial kingdom is considered the second highest of the levels of heaven. This is the kingdom Paul described as being the “glory of the moon” (1 Cor. 15:41), in which Jesus Christ will dwell on a frequent basis.

Those who will enter into the terrestrial kingdom are those who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ on earth but received it in the spirit world. These are individuals who are honorable, but were blinded by the craftiness of men and thus not valiant in their testimony of Jesus.

Those who dwell in the terrestrial kingdom will not have claim to their family in the eternities. Although not close to the happiness of those who will dwell in the celestial kingdom, our Father in Heaven will grant to these terrestrial bodies the happiness they will be ready and are prepared to receive.

Doctrine and Covenants 76: 71-80 gives a detailed scriptural account of the terrestrial kingdom.

The Telestial Kingdom
The terrestrial kingdom is the lowest level of heaven. This is the kingdom Paul described as being the “glory of the stars” (1 Cor. 15:41), in which the influence of the Holy Ghost will reside and angels will minister.

Those who will enter into the telestial kingdom are those who rejected the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ on earth and in the spirit world. These individuals are described in the scriptures as liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, and those who make and love lies. These individuals will be the last to be resurrected after suffering for their earthly sins in the spirit world until the end of the millennium.

Those who dwell in the terrestrial kingdom will be without their family and will live on their own for all eternity. Although not close to the happiness of those who will dwell in the celestial or terrestrial kingdom, our Father in Heaven will grant to these terrestrial bodies the happiness they will be ready and are prepared to receive. There will be many who will dwell in the telestial kingdom following the Final Judgment.

Doctrine and Covenants 76: 81-89 gives a detailed scriptural account of the telestial kingdom.

Outer Darkness
Described in the proceeding section on hell, outer darkness is the eternal hell where the devil and those who follow him, including the sons of perdition, will be relegated to live for all eternity. Those who will dwell in outer darkness will have made their own choices to follow Satan and will not be forgiven. These people will suffer in darkness and sorrow forever.

Doctrine and Covenants 76: 32-49 gives a detailed scriptural account of outer darkness.
The gospel of Jesus Christ imparts to all of God’s children everything we need to know and understand to receive the blessings of the celestial kingdom. By learning and following the principles of the gospel, we can know our Heavenly Father, develop a personal relationship with our savior Jesus Christ, and learn to live the life that God our father desires us to live, the life that will lead us back to him.

See Gospel Fundamentals, Part Ten: Life after Death, 36: Eternal Life, 201 and Lesson 8: The Three Kingdoms of Glory,” Preparing for Exaltation: Teacher’s Manual, 38.

See chapter 14 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on Heaven

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