Don asked some good questions over a Nine Moons today. In the comments he asked: “What’s wrong with permanent judgment? It seems like we are all a bunch of “scaredy cats” looking for a way out of what we deserve.” This post is my response to his interesting question.
I am convinced that the idea of permanent judgment is just untenable in Mormon doctrine. I think that this arises from our rejection of creation ex nihilo (aka creation out of nothing) as much as anything else. Mormon doctrine holds that in one way or another all of us are co-eternal with God. We were not created out of nothing as creedal Christianity asserts. Further, Mormonism preaches a robust form of free will – a free will that I believe mankind has always had and cannot lose. On top of that, Mormons take the title “Father in Heaven” very literally – more so than any other religion I know of. When we sing “I am a child of God” we really mean it.
So that gives us a picture of humankind being beginningless (whether we are beginningless in current form or are made up of beginningless parts is not a settled question), of the same “kind” as God, considered children of God and as such loved by God as his own, and eternally free to choose. Therefore, we Mormons take comparisons between our loving earthly parent-child relationships to our relationship with God very literally. Of course Christ himself used similar comparisons:
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
(Luke 11: 11-13)
So here are my responses to Don’s question about what is wrong with permanent judgment:
Would you ever permanently shun your own children? If we live forever then what kind of parent would cast off their own child forever if there was a chance that child might change and return? Certainly not the God I worship.
The 1/3 misconception
Now some might claim that God knows we never would repent so consignment to outer darkness or Telestial glory forever is understandable. First, we have shown at painfully great length here that foreknowledge is incompatible with robust free will. But independent of that fact is the problem of the reported 1/3 of God’s children who many believe have already been permanently discarded and assigned to hell with Satan for all eternity before even getting a chance to come here. What? So our loving God already dumped 1/3 of us and will never allow them another chance, even if they use their free will to repent? That’s not the God I worship either. As Don pointed out in his post, if God foreknew that they would never repent then he also foreknows which of us here are outer darkness bound so why bother sending that bunch here to begin with?
What about the repentant Telestial souls?
This free will issue is also the reason that there is no such thing as permanent kingdom assignments. I have already posted on progression between kingdoms and on what I consider to be the ridiculous notion of some Telestial penal planet somewhere in the universe for all of the bad people of this world to live on forever with the permanent bodies they will get in the second resurrection. It sounds like some bad Star Trek episode where there is a planet of immortals stuck together forever – especially since these are all the awful murderers, rapists, child abusers, and whatnot from here. What keeps them from starting a space program and leaving? And more importantly, what happens when they use their free will to repent? What happens when they pray to their Heavenly Father? Has he made his mind up to eternally shun them based on 40 years of screwing up on this planet? That is not the God I worship.
Innumerable discarded and abandoned other families?
The other issue is what became of the inhabitants of the innumerable inhabited worlds that came before ours? Were they just batches of God’s other children that got one chance and most of whom were discarded forever as well? That just doesn’t work for me. Regardless of how many persons make up the unified One God in the eternities, loving parents don’t abandon children.
My preferred solution
Anyone who has been hanging around here for any length of time know that I think the best solution to all of these problems is the model preached by Heber C. Kimball and many of his contemporaries called multiple mortal probations. If Heber and friends were right then there are no separate batches of children that are discarded after every planet but there is only one batch and it is us. We lived there and progressed or retrogressed to the station we have in this life. If we become enough like God we can transform into a being like him and become one with the Godhead and enter that rest. Heber’s model solves the issue of the permanent penal planets. It provides means to find an explanation of why the 1/3 prior to this planet missed this probation (I have a theory of my own on that here). Most importantly it does not paint God as a harsh being who willingly discards his own free-willed children forever despite the ongoing chance that they might “come to themselves” and return to him as did the prodigal son in the parable.
As a final thought on my assertion that there are no permanent kingdoms; our scriptures make it clear that Celestial beings also eternally retain their free will and if God himself were to choose wickedness he would cease to be God. Sure these sorts of radical ideas get us in trouble with creedal Christianity, but if it’s true it’s true. I think the trouble we get ourselves into is trying to overlay creedal doctrines onto the foundation of the restored gospel. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. In my opinion, the notion of permanent judgment is one example of a doctrine that just doesn’t jibe with the restored gospel.