What Do Mormons Believe About Hell?

April 20, 2009

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate 

Q. What do Mormons believe about hell, and who is going there?


Short answer: Mormons believe in hell, but our conception of hell is different than the one that generally springs to mind, and we use the word to mean different things in different contexts.  For us, there are two “hells”, really.  One is a state of pain, guilt, and anguish where the spirits of the wicked will be after they die but before the final judgment (we often call this state spirit prison).  The other is an everlasting state of hell reserved for a few truly wicked (we commonly refer to this one as outer darkness).  Because the second state only applies to few, for the majority of people hell will not last forever: after the final judgment most people will receive some degree of glory.

Long answer: I wrote this post because I’ve found that people assume we believe in the traditional hellfire and damnation, and that causes a lot of misunderstanding. For instance, we claim to be the only religion with the “fullness of the gospel,” and that you have to be baptized by someone authorized by God (only in the LDS church) in order to be saved. People hear that and assume that we therefore believe that everyone else is “going to hell” in the sense that most modern Christians would use the phrase. That isn’t our belief, however.

What is hell? The word hell in the Bible is the English translation of the Greek word hades or the Hebrew word sheol. It originally referred to a temporary dwelling of spirits of all dead people, both righteous and wicked, and not solely as a place of punishment.  The word hell didn’t evolve the sense of being a place of everlasting punishment until later (see reference 1, or click the word hades above for further reading).

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place of suffering, however. We believe that when we die, our spirits go to a place that we call the Spirit World to await the resurrection and judgment. Furthermore, the Spirit World is divided into two general states: paradise and prison, depending on how you have lived your life (see Megan’s two-part summary of the afterlife). In the Spirit World, everyone gets an equal chance (if they didn’t have it on earth) to hear and accept the gospel. Unrepentant people will still suffer, and we still refer to their suffering as “hell.”


What is hell like? The torment of the wicked isn’t described in much detail in the Bible, but King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon taught that the knowledge of our guilt would be our torment:

Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever. (Mosiah 2:38)

Alma (also in the Book of Mormon) wrote that we will not be able to look up to God, “and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence” (Alma 12:14)

It’s important to know that this suffering, while agonizing, will not last forever. Of those who would eventually inherit the lowest degree of glory, Joseph Smith taught:

These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. . .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 76:103, 106)


What about the sons of perdition? We believe that one day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ. With a few exceptions  everyone will be redeemed. Death and Hell will deliver up their captive spirits (2 Ne 9:12, Rev 20:13), all men will be resurrected and be brought forth to be judged and receive a degree of glory. The few exceptions I mentioned are called “sons of perdition.”

Sons of perdition are the truly evil. They are those that want no part in salvation. They deny the truth and defy God’s power, and crucify the Savior unto themselves, and put him to an open shame. They are the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord (D&C 76:31-38). They do not inherit a glory at all, but rather dwell with the devil and his angels forever. Their state is sometimes referred to as “hell” also, or “outer darkness,” though both of those words also refer to the temporary state. It’s hard to be a son of perdition. Really hard. Cain and Judas hard. For all intents and purposes, it’s not even an option for the majority of humanity.

If everyone will just be saved, why does anyone’s conversion even matter? I thought you’d never ask! It matters for two reasons: 1) The wicked will still suffer. A lot. Enough that no amount of raucous fun you could have on earth would ever possibly be worth it. And 2) There are very different degrees of glory that you will inherit forever, based on how much you were “willing to receive.” But that’s a topic for a different day.

(1) See Frederic W. Farrar, Eternal Hope (1892), xxxvi-xlii

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221 Responses to “What Do Mormons Believe About Hell?”

  1. Chad


    You were dishonest with me earlier. When I brought up the Mormon belief in many gods you stated

    “We don’t have many Gods. That’s absolutely funny to have many Gods. We don’t see Joseph Smith is a God. Oh dear, where did you get that information? As I’ve stated, we focus on following Christ’s example, to have Christ-like attributes. Did Jesus worship either believe their are many Gods except His Father in Heaven?

    Don’t judge us too quickly. So sad you got us wrongly.”

    Now you state, after I provide evidence: “Haha interestingly, about the topic of many gods, i have heard that already. I consider it a deep doctrine.”

    I really would appreciate to have a conversation with you, but you must be honest about your beliefs. Please examine your motivation – is it to blindly follow Mormonism in spite of the evidence otherwise, or is it to prayerfully seek truth?

    I would love to join you again in conversation, but I would need you to commit to being honest.

  2. Marie


    I was dishonest? Okay if that’s what you think I was. this conversation will not satisfy you either. You have in your already that we believe in something that is different than yours. We aint coersing you to believe us. It’s just so futile to talk here and after all you’re disagree and deem us as wrong. Why question more? Why need to prove that you know more? I’ve just expect if i give you explanations, i’ll just regret it. Necause you will not accept it. 🙁

  3. Marie


    You misinterpret a lot. Thanks for telling im dishonest. A very kind word of you. I still love you though.


  4. Chad


    You told me that you did not have many gods, that that was absolutely funny. You told me I had you wrong. Then you later state that you have heard of many gods, and consider it a deep doctrine.

    Which is is – do you believe in many gods or 1 god? Because that is HUGE difference. When you say you don’t believe in many gods, then believe in many gods, how am I supposed to take that?

    Again I only tell you these things to show you the TRUTH that what you believe cannot be true. It cannot save you. Your beliefs contradict themselves, yet you turn from that fact and blindly follow.

    I will continue to pray for you, but you will not change unless you sincerely seek the truth.

  5. Marie

    What do you think we mean about many gods? That we worship the goddess of sea, god of nature, god of fertility, goddess of love? Many gods?

    If you want to know the entire explanation of that “deep doctrine”, you may submit your inquiry in the question box and let the author gather all the appropriate answers to that. Im afraid you will not understand if i let myself explain it.

    You were like unto a baby, you will be feed soft foods prior to solid foods.

    So have to understand and know the basic foundation, basic doctrine and the gospel in order for you to easily understand those we consider deep.

    I myself is focusing to learn the basic and continue strenghten my spirituality that way, i am more prepared to understand those doctrines.

    I know you were so curious and eager to know that.
    Again, its useless for now because you have different beliefs. I know there are more mysterious things yet people (including me) is not ready enough. So we have to focus first following the example of Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

  6. Chris

    “As a daughter of Heavenly Father, its important to have my Savior Jesus Christ at my side today and always. Knowing the purpose of our life and knowing the plan of happiness. you want me to mention more?”


    Please explain to me: “Who is Jesus Christ?

    Please go in to detail.

    Much Love in Christ to you Marie,

  7. Marie


    I really wanna hug you for being active in this site! I’ve
    found out you’ve been here for how many years already. I have a feeling that someday you’ll be able to embrace and accept the restored gospel. Oh how i love your spirit. You are smart, but just dont let your intellectual reasoning rule over you. Let your spirit and conscience follow the Holy ghost,the Comforter, the spirit of Jesus Christ teach your soul. How great would be your joy!

    Jesus Christ is my Savior, the son of God
    my Master
    my light
    the king of mercy
    the prince of peace
    He is my all.

    if i go into detail, would it satisfy you? will it perhaps change your thoughts? even the author here gave you the entire thorough explanations, you still dont comprehend. I should say, One word is enough for a wise man.


  8. Chris

    So, would you agree that Jesus Christ is a created being? Or would Jesus Christ be the Creator?

  9. Marie

    Oh thought you knew that already? Bet you have asked that qiestions many times already. Are you having a survey? Or…?

  10. Chris

    I am trying to lead you to the truth Marie. Just bringing up what I know Mormons teach (being one for 8 years) and letting you know what I now know to be the truth.

    May God bless this…..


  11. Marie

    Thanks Chris,

    This is the genuine truth which I only knew. Goodluck and may God bless you always!

  12. Chad


    I commend you for following the Lord’s call to share the truth with he lost. Bless you brother, you are an encouragement to me! This verse comes to mind, and is appropriate here:

    2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB

    The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

    Marie I pray you turn from your sin, and trust in Christ alone (not after all you can do). I pray you stop following Satan’s brother, and start following the King!

  13. Marie

    Don’t worry Chad,

    I have the Holy Ghost to guide me. Im certain Im in the Lord’s side. Thanks for your concern! Have a nice day!

  14. Kristin Cook

    Your beliefs about hell are based on Greek mythology.

  15. marie

    Hi Kristen!

    I would love to hear your answer if do you have any proof that hell did not/doest/never exist? Any proof that its not true either? 🙂

  16. Chris

    Mormonism is completely contradictory to what the bible teaches about Hell. Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50 “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
    Mark 9:43, 48-49 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.”

  17. Chris

    The first statement of this website is so revealing. “Mormons believe in hell, but our conception of hell is different than the one that generally springs to mind, and we use the word to mean different things in different contexts.” My reply to it…is to read the Word of God! Here are just two verses about changing the teachings of Jesus Christ….Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

    2 Peter 2:1-3
    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

  18. marie

    The holy ghost has testified to me that the church is true. My prayers were answered. Im afraid you are not following your own advice from mark 9:43,48-49: havent you know that its not good to rwbuke others belief and contempt them? You are not heeding properly to it. Are you? Nay. He warns againsts hypocrisy.


  19. Chris

    1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
    6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

    With MUCH love Marie,

    We are trying to shine the light of Christ. All food, “Nothing is to be refused, if received with thanksgiving.” Coffee, Tea, Coca Cola is sanctified by God, as long as we are thankful for it. The gospel (means “Good News”) it is the fact that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, by following His teachings, we are saved from the penalty of sin that we all have coming to us. A free gift that no one should boast. If we did Mormon, Catholic, Jehovah Witness’ teachings, we would have something to do with making it to heaven. God says a free gift, meaning that you can not boast because He GAVE it to you….freely. That is it! Jesus states that His way is easy, His burden is light. No longer having to follow all the ridiculous laws that were created by man that the Jews had.You only have to admit that you are a sinner, believe that Jesus paid that sin debt on the cross, ask to receive His Free Grace and commit to follow Him.

    Verse 6 tells us that we are good ministers if we present the gospel correctly. A way of looking at it is that we are spiritual waiters. Our job is to bring it from the chef to the table, without messing it up.

    Please remember, this is not my opinion. This is the Word of God.

    Blessings to you and your family,

  20. Chris

    “Im afraid you are not following your own advice from mark 9:43,48-49: havent you know that its not good to rwbuke others belief and contempt them? You are not heeding properly to it. Are you? Nay. He warns againsts hypocrisy.”

    I am not a hypocrite. I AM a sinner! I don’t remember where it says don’t rebuke others belief system (could you find it, I can’t). The bible (The True Word of God) tells me all over the place to heed false teaching. It also says that Jesus is the only Way, the Truth and the Life. That no one comes to the Father, but by Jesus. Not religion…..by HIM!

    I love you in Christ!

    Dear God Almighty, I thank You Father that this discussion is happening, may this correspondence be fruitful…..In the HOLY name of JESUS CHRIST, i pray…..amen.

  21. marie



    peace be with us always. I love you my brethren.