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Religion Library: Mormonism

Afterlife and Salvation

Written by: Stephen Taysom

At the time of Christ's second coming, those persons who lived lives worthy of the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms will be resurrected and will live on earth under the personal rule of Jesus Christ for a period of 1,000 years. Those destined for the Telestial Kingdom remain separated from their physical bodies until the 1,000-year period has ended. Mormonism thus lacks a traditional heaven/hell dichotomy and offers instead a variety of potential outcomes, based on the willingness of individuals to implement the teachings of the Church into his or her life. Mormons thus speak of those in the Celestial Kingdom as heirs of "exaltation" and those in the lower kingdoms as heirs of "salvation."

In addition to the three "Kingdoms of Glory," a fourth potential destination also awaits certain souls. "Outer Darkness" is a mysterious place that is the home of Satan and those spirits who followed him when he was cast out of heaven at the beginning of time.  It is also the destiny of those persons who, while living on earth, had a perfect knowledge of the divinity of Christ but chose to reject him and sin against his teachings. In Outer Darkness, there is endless lamentation and no divine presence. It is the closest Mormon analogy to the concept of hell in most other Christian traditions.

Although the basic contours of Mormon doctrine on the fate of the soul after death have remained stable since the 1830s, the question of movement between kingdoms has been more difficult to settle. In the 19th century, some leading Mormon thinkers held that a soul might have the opportunity to move up from one kingdom to another over the course of the eternities. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, Mormons have taught that there is no movement from kingdom to kingdom after the final judgment is rendered.

Study Questions:
1.     Describe the stages of final judgment.
2.     How is heaven categorized into a hierarchy? Why is this necessary for salvation?
3.     What is the Telestial Kingdom? What happens to the individual there?
4.     What is “Outer Darkness”? Who would be cast there?
5.     Can a soul move through these four kingdoms? Why or why not?


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