So what exactly is a Son of Perdition?

To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post, click here We Mormons have a name for hell — it’s called Sons of Perdition. We’re pretty confident that Satan, Cain and Judas will be residents there, but after that things get a little hazy. Frankly, we’re not even sure what it’s going to be like, other than God and his minions have no plans to visit.

We’re not even sure if there are “daughters of perdition” out there in outer darkness. That makes sense because no one wants a Son of Perdition to be able to place his hands on a daughter of any kind. To be honest, we’re encouraged on lds.org, and the church lessons handbooks, to not dwell too much on the Sons of Perdition. Instead, as the song goes, we should accentuate the positive, and focus on the greatness of the Celestial Kingdom and happiness.

But I can’t help myself. The recent case of evangelical pastor Chad Holtz being canned by the United Methodists because he no longer believes that a loving Heavenly Father would burn his children forever and ever reignited my interest in where Old Scratch resides. Frankly, the idea that God would subject his children to a punishment a million times more physically painful than Christ suffered — and let’s face it; lots of people were crucified; that’s no big deal, in the eternal sense — seems to be a doctrine that comes from old Satan himself. The doctrine of sinners in the hands of an angry God ought to go the way of infant damnation. I personally like C.S. Lewis’ definition of hell — detailed in the novella The Great Divorce — where “hell” is where we most feel comfortable in the afterlife.

But back to the Latter-day Saints and Perdition: Standard-Examiner blogger Ryan Jenkins posted an excellent piece detailing Mormon beliefs on punishment and reward, and God being a deity of salvation, rather than damnation Read, but we still don’t get an idea of exactly who is ending up there. To be a “Son of Perdition” is to deny the Holy Ghost, but even that creates more questions, as does this quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith:

What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 358). (from lds.org)

If you read Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76, verses 32 through 38, the sufferings of the Sons of Perdition rival the sufferings of the damned in that bizarre Christian novel action “Left Behind” series. “Lakes of fire” and “better for them never to have been born” fill the verses. But the real puzzler — at least to me — is verse 35, which reads that to be a Son of Perdition involves “Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.”

That seems to indicate that a Son of Perdition needs to have accepted Christ as his savior, then rejected that belief and done everything to lead others away from Christ. That “Mormon” definition of qualifying for hell seems to jibe with many other Christian beliefs. But what about those evil people who never accepted Christ in the first place? Is a person who was born in the Amazon jungle 500 years ago and enjoyed raping and murdering for sport exempt from hell, or Sons of Perdition because he never had a chance to embrace Christ?

Or, as I’ve heard many LDS brothers and sisters tell me in my lifetime, is the Sons of Perdition reserved for LDS apostates who fight against “the church?” How do they end up in Perdition and that creep I saw profiled on Cable TV on the crime documentary channel escape the “Mormon hell?”

I’m tying myself into theological knots here trying to grasp understanding of a concept I admit I don’t understand. But I doubt that makes me unusual. I wonder if LDS Church leaders fully understand Perdition and what it is. And what about the Left Behind crowd or those nitwits who fired Pastor Holtz for believing in a God who doesn’t torture?

Personally, I believe God will be a heck of a lot more merciful than most of us think, but I can’t say that definitively.

Perhaps the more intriguing question is, why do so many followers of the peaceful Christ buy the allegorical descriptions of a burning, torture-dungeon hell? And what are the motives of those who preach of, advocate, or wish for such a hell or Perdition?

This post also appeared in Currents, the Standard’s digital-only section on politics and culture. For more information on Currents, call 801-625-4400.

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28 Responses to So what exactly is a Son of Perdition?

  1. Neal Humphrey says:

    I’ve been told many, many times that I’m one.

    • Tom says:

      Neal,

      By whom?

      • Neal Humphrey says:

        Tom -

        The “whom” is a pretty long list. I was occasionally tagged with the epithet over the past few decades. When I moved to Utah, and long before I was writing for the Standard Examiner, some of my parishioners asked what a Son of Perdition was because their Mormon neighbors, whom I never met or spoke to, were calling one.

        The most recent use of the epithet was in anonymous mail last month.

        I’ve also received the Melchizedek Priesthood “shaking dust from feet” curse several times. ‘Gives me something to blame hangnails on.

        • Bob Becker says:

          I’d never heard of the “shaking dust from feet” curse, so went to Wiki and found this:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaking_the_dust_from_the_feet

          Seems it’s not a specifically LDS curse, but has been adopted/adapted by LDS prophets from earlier Christian sources.

          My favorite from the list of LDS use examples in Wiki is this: “June 16, 1831 Early missionaries Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, John Corrill, and John Murdock washed their feet against Detroit, Michigan after a day of unsuccessful proselytizing.”

          I’m beginning to see why some LDS are finding sympathetic some Christian fundamentalists, the sort who insist god sent Katrina to punish New Orleans for its gay pride day.

          Putting aside my difficulties with the syntax of “washed their feet against,” all this reinforces my conviction that believers [any flavor] live in an odd and wondrous [in the sense of "strange"] world.

    • ctrentelman says:

      You took the red pill?

      • pollypinks says:

        My bil worked on a CD called “The Red Pill” for two years. God, he’s bonkers. Back to the United Methodists. That’s really bizarre, because Methodists are normally quite liberal. I’m a universalist who attends a really liberal presbyterian church, home to atheists, gays, and any and all, and we participate alot with Methodists. That’s pretty kooky.

  2. Bob Becker says:

    Doug:

    As Flying Spaghetti Monster is my witness, I thought \Sons of Perdition\ was a biker’s club name [like \Hell's Angels.\] I had no idea it was a specifically LDS term until I read your column this morning.

    Learn something every day.

  3. Perhaps this perspective will enlighten:
    I spent the entire 1970′s through the ’90′s s trying to become one.
    I studied, prayed, slaughtered goats, pillaged, plundered, committed most every crime/sin known to mankind; even, at the age of 16, had sexual relations with a total stranger in the Los Angeles LDS temple while preparing to be sealed to my family.

    My patriarchal blessing states that, if I remain true to the gospel, that I will become a General Authority.

    I then parlayed this notoriety with the dark forces into a paying gig doing my shock-snuff -metal band thing: to effect.

    Now, as an aging degenerate who knowingly, purposely and aggressively attempted to bring as much discord and chaos to the world as possible, I can attest: I would not have done a thing differently.

    I am a son of perdition; of course.

  4. Jake D. says:

    Cain is not only a Son of Perdition but he is also a Master Mahan, and Bigfoot.

    It’s too bad we didn’t get to see Bigfoot on a Harley in Grondahl’s cartoon.

  5. Doug Gibson says:

    This column on hell and salvation is fascinating reading, and I agree with most of it: http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/March-2011/Theology-Is-Hell-Crowded-or-Empty.aspx

  6. Ryan Jenkins says:

    Doug
    Take a look at D&C 88:29-37 for context; particularly verses 32-33, a perfect description of the Sons of Perdition. All others after the ressurection will receive a glory (that is what my post what about), Sons of perdition will receive a ressurection but will not receive a glory because they reject the gift and the giver of the gift. I purposefully did not address this group (i believe it will be few when all the children of God are accounted for). “No man knows…except them who are made partakers thereof” (D&C 76:45-46).

  7. Eric Greene says:

    A son of perdition is someone who, after receiving all the god has to give, decides to rebel against him and try to take him down.

  8. tom says:

    I thought Sons of Perdition were characters in the Harry Potter series.

  9. Leslie says:

    Doug–You wrote “God and his minions”. Do these really belong together???

  10. Doug Gibson says:

    Good point, Leslie, I wondered about the use of that term.

    But then I thought, God is so much greater than all of us that we are indeed his minions, loyal or otherwise.

  11. Heidi says:

    Now that the subject of satan arises. I have a question?

    Does satan know our thoughts??

    Heidi

    • Howard Ratcliffe says:

      No Heidi, Satan needs Intelligence networks on Earth who all work together in various nations eg CIA, NSA, Mossad, MI-5, ISI etc. This is the “Beast” aka Gnosticism.
      God exists as FATHER (Spirit), Son (Jesus Christ aka God in Flesh), Holy Ghost; the latter given freely at Pentecost. Only God knows our thoughts and will Judge our Actions as well as Thoughts.
      1. Enter your Prayer Closet (anywhere but a Temple or Church) Acts 7:48 “…the most High dwelleth not in temples mand with hands” Acts 17:24 “Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands”. 2. Ask Jesus Christ to forgive your Sins. In return He will give you New Birth through the Holy Ghost and if it’s anything like my experience 6 years ago, the world will look a lot different.
      Heidi, we need not fear Satan; he is headed for the Lake of Fire. We need to fear God who knows our thoughts, deeds and has the power to destroy our Soul “..fear not them which kill the bdy, but are not able to kill the soul…fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Mat 10:28 “Fear none of tose things which thou shalt suffer behold, the devil shal cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried….be faithful unto death, and I will gve thee a crown of life.” Rev 2:10

  12. Howard Ratcliffe says:

    “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there be a faling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” 2 Thess 2:3
    Perdition: Strong’s #622 and #684 means Lose, Ruin, Die, Destroy, Perish.
    Random House Dictionary: Spiritual Ruin, Hell, Spiritual state of the wicked.
    Random House lied. Perdition is the Beast and it’s one world leader “Antichrist” who must be revealed prior to “that day” ie the 2nd Coming. It is not Hell.
    At the 2nd Coming Antichrist, the one world leader and his False Prophet are the first 2 persons in history (6000 years) to enter the Lake of Fire. Satan is cast to earth at the 5th Trumpet (Rev 9:11) 18 months 1 day and 1 hour prior to the 2nd Coming. The Son of Perdition aka Lucifer/Satan is bound and cast into the bottomess pit for 1000 years “Milennium” at the first ressurection (Rev 20:1-3).
    When Creation is 7000 years old Satan will be loosed for one final rebellion “Gog and Magog”; Jesus will Judge people who rejected the Holy Ghost at the 2nd Ressurection from the “Books” of their works.
    Death and Hell are then both thrown into the Lake of Fire.
    It’s very dangerous to accept the Melchisedek Priesthood because this is Jesus’ title; Gen 14:18 Melchisedek is the author of the Covenant with Abraham; in Ps 110 Melchisedek is the authority of King David and in Heb 7 Melchisedek is Jesus Christ.
    Accept the Holy Ghost and this will make sense; follow a blind guide and there will be plenty of company in the ditch.

  13. Martin S says:

    Cal Grondahl’s cartoon associated with this article is a real dandy. I got a chuckle out of the cartoon, the original article, and most of the posts.

    I’m a pretty devout member of the LDS church, but I try to avoid discussing religion, politics, sex, or money – especially at church.

    From a serious note however, in the end, I feel that the enormity and depth of God’s love will amaze all of us.

    I question the comment that Cain is a Son of Perdition, a Master Mahan, and Bigfoot. Could he also be the abominable snowman known as “Yeti” in the Himalaya’s? He must be one scary dude.

    What is a Master Mahan?

    Does he drive a big 4×4 with lots of rust and a confederate flag sticker on the back window? (Or more probable, a giant gas guzzling Mercedes with personalized lawyer license plate.)

    • Erick says:

      Technically, as per Moses 5:23 – 25, while contemplating his move against Abel, Cain was told that he would be the “Father of his Lies”, and that he would be called Perdition (as opposed to “Son of Perdition”). Furthermore in verse 25 it reads:

      And it shall be said in time to come—That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.”

      To me it reads that Cain was the “Father”, or origin of Perdition, whereas all others who may come after would be “sons” or followers of Cain’s deeds. It’s kind of like an inverse on the concept of adoption via the seed of Israel. At least that’s how I read it. In any case, if you needed a source as to the Church’s octrine on whether someone can actually become a Son of Perdition, there you have it.

  14. bfwebster says:

    Doug:

    Actually, LDS doctrine believes in three different places that could be considered “hell”: ‘spirit prison’, post-Judgment suffering, and Perdition. As you note, the big difference between LDS doctrine and most other Christian belief systems is that the first two “hells” aren’t permanent, and we’re not sure about the third one (cf. D&C 76:45: “And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows”; Brigham Young also speculated that those who end up there might eventually be ‘recycled’, so to speak). Interesting post and great cartoon. ..bruce..

  15. ZENOS says:

    Doug,

    Sins of our Fathers folks. Perdition is breaking the partitions of
    Temple covenents. “One Man. One Woman and concubines they
    shall have not.” This is all-inclusive to include sexual laisons with
    other guys while a bearer of the Melchezedek {Christ}, and while
    not endowed from competent authority.
    “Out-Ward Ordiences” are specifically perscribed to the Aaronic and
    even then to the “full-letter of the law pertaining to Doctorine”.

    …”For the aime of this Country was now on this wise: To peirce the
    Hearts of its’ Children and Wifes’..” Author Unknown

  16. Howard Ratcliffe says:

    Speculate all you want and Perdition will never change; it means Lost or Ruined. In John 17:12 Jesus tells us that none of the original apostles were lost except Judas Iscariot. Taking the Melchisedek Priesthood is doing exactly what Judas did; reject Jesus as Melchisedek. Hebrews 7 and 9 say this in a dozen different ways. The hypocrisy of accepting the Aaronic Priesthood by persons generally given Patriarchal blessing of the tribe of Ephraim is hard to believe; to take the Melchisedek Priesthood is Blasphemy. A person in the Mormon Church must therefore claim to be Semitic (son of Shem) from the Tribe of Levi, Ephraim, Manasseh (for Pacific Islanders, Natives, Blacks), Dan (Prophets related to Joseph Smith) and Judah, specifically related to Jesus Christ. The latter claim would require Jesus and Mary Magdalene to have had a family. Try explaining all this to Jesus when you see Him; “It is appointed unto men to live, but after this the Judgment” Heb 9:27

  17. drjackcv says:

    Friday, August 12, 2011: [size=150]The Beautiful, Loving Plan of Happiness[/size]
    [size=85](NOTE: This is speculation on the subject of [b]sons of perdition[/b]. I invite your corrections. The footnote numbers at the bottom of this entry do not export to this URL. I don’t know why not. If anyone would like a .pdf version with the footnotes numbered in the text, email me. JBS)[/size]

    [i][b][color=#BF80BF]In the name of God, the Beneficent , the Merciful[/color][/b][/i]
    [i][size=85]Inscribed at the beginning of every chapter of the Quran
    Our Muslim brothers and sisters certainly have this part right. [/size][/i]

    For the past several days I have followed a train of thought and scriptures that led me to even greater appreciation for [b]the sweetness of the fruit of the tree of life[/b], and for personal balance and peace.
    Over the past months, I have been impressed with how [b]the Plan of Salvation provides perfectly for the greatest eternal happiness of every one of God’s children[/b] – using “children” in its broadest sense as all of the intelligences whom our Father clothed in spirit bodies. Although Perdition & Sons are, by definition, “Loss”, even they are successes. [i]There are no failures. [/i]Each of us proves ourself. I prove what I really love, whether good or evil, truth or lies, light or darkness. Then God honorably, mercifully assigns each to a kingdom which is most beneficial and enjoyable for each and all.
    19th century Marcel Proust once said, [i]“Tell me what you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.”[/i] I am convinced that what we innately love determines what we will believe. The word believe comes from the ancient root words [b]ambhi [/b]– thoroughly and [b]leubh [/b]– love. In German the leubh root became liebe, love. [b]We believe what we thoroughly love.[/b] My beliefs reveal the deepest core of my soul – what I love. My actions both reveal and reinforce that unchanging core. I often write the term [i]beliebe [/i]in the margins of my scriptures where I see the word believe.
    So, when we have proven ourselves, our deepest cores, to ourselves and the universe, then our Father graciously allows us to [i]“enjoy that which [we] are willing to receive.”[/i] If one is willing to be one in him, God goes so far as to invite that one to share His throne and all that He has. Astounding! Even Perdition & Sons [i]“enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.”[/i] Joy even for them! What a Plan.
    However, another verse says [i]“it had been better for [Sons of Perdition] never to have been born.”[/i] How can these scriptures both be true?
    I can see the joy part: these predators who love darkness will be free to prey on each other without goody-two-shoes heirs of salvation preaching at them all the time. A thrilling dog-eat-dog place, competition for everything, opportunity unlimited for those who excel in management of the creature. You wrap your chains around others, using them as human resources, sifting them as wheat, taking what you want and throwing the rest away, and you laugh.
    But why would it be better for them [i][b]not [/b][/i]to have participated in God’s Plan? Well, certainly, on this world and in the pre-existence, our heavenly Father’s will is done, not theirs. There was preaching there, there is here. There were and are controls. Satan could abuse Job no further than he was allowed – and likewise I’m sure it is with all of us. The latter-day scriptures tell us that if we choose not to listen to Satan, he is bound. This binding is both a natural reduction in honor/power to Satan , and the protective grace of God. Ironically, the predators who think they have it all under control are the most tightly controlled. Even before Father chose us and gave us spirit bodies, peer pressure alone would have created some constraints on the Losers’ predatory behaviour. There has always been grace, safety and respite. I suspect, though, that in Outer Darkness the dogs are let loose. In “their place” the law of the jungle is the only law; the biggest, meanest dog rules, and faced with this [i]“Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell”.[/i] Lucifer’s plan could have made that bitterness permanent for all of us. It fills me with joy and gratitude to think of being saved from such a hell. Anything else is salvation in a kingdom of glory.
    Under the Great Plan of Happiness, Perdition & Sons are the only ones on whom the second death (separation from God) shall have any power. Where God (meaning, I think, His priesthood) is, they have no power to go. Although God himself points out the exit from hell, namely repentance, He states unequivocally that those who do not believe are damned – they will not repent and [i]“shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.” [/i]
    Yesterday I saw a clear delineation between Perdition & Sons (the wicked) and heirs of salvation. It is, not surprisingly, based on what one loves.
     Perdition & Sons (the wicked) love darkness – they sift (thrash/thresh) others as wheat
     Telestial souls love to lie – the avoidance of responsibility, something for nothing.
     Terrestrial souls love peace and comfort, are honorable but not valiant
     Celestial souls love God with all their heart, might, mind and strength, and love the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ; they love light and truth; they love the world and give themselves for it; they are valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and strive to do all that they do in His holy name (balanced service), praying with all the energy of heart for more love.
    Therefore, what? [i]“Treat people as they are.”[/i] Invite all to come unto Christ, but don’t be upset when all do not do so. Many won’t. Accept their agency with holy balance. Proving the world is the goal – not converting the world. Pray more earnestly for charity and faith in God’s beneficence and mercy, omniscience and power. It’s His church, not yours. [i]Oh, be wise, what can I say more?[/i]

    [b][size=150]FOOTNOTES: [/size][/b] (for a .pdf version of this entry, which has footnote numbers in the body and below, email me. This URL won’t take my .doc file or .pdf as attachments.)
    [list=]Beneficent: 1. Characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity. 2. Producing benefit; beneficial.
    Moses 5:8
    1 Nephi 11:22
    Heb 12:9; Abr 3:22; Richard G. Scott, How to Live Well amid Increasing Evil Ensign, May 2004, “He clothed your intelligence with spirit and made it possible for you to enjoy the wonder of a physical body.”
    TG, God, Omniscience of
    Abr 3:24-26; 2 Tim 4:8; Mos 5:16; D&C 76:103; 29:45; Jn 3:19
    Innate: 1. Possessed at birth; inborn. 2. Possessed as an essential characteristic; inherent. 3. Of or produced by the mind rather than learned through experience: an innate knowledge of right and wrong.
    Be-witched, thoroughly witched; be-numbed, thoroughly numbed; etc.
    Jbs/…SoulRevelation.doc
    Rev 3:21; D&C 84:38; Jn 17:20-23; “Never mind the world nor what they can say or do, for they can only do what the Lord permits them. … We will send out the gospel to them, and continue to advocate the principles of truth, and to organize ourselves according to the order of God, and seek to be one—for if we are not one we are not the Lord’s and never can be, worlds without end. Hear it, you Latter-day Saints! And do not be figuring for yourselves and for your own aggrandizement; but feel to say in your hearts, “What can I do to help to build Zion. I am here, and everything that I have got is upon the altar, and I am prepared to do the will of God no matter what it may be, or where it sends me, to the ends of the earth or not.” But we are not doing that yet; we are too much after our own affairs and drinking into the spirit of the world, and yielding and catering to that feeling and influence. Now, while we wish the world well and would desire to promote their happiness, we cannot be governed by their practices nor be under their influences. God is the Lord our God; he is to be our king and law-giver, and he must rule over us.” 6 Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, Ch. 7
    D&C 88:32
    D&C 76:
    Alma 30:17
    2 Ne 28:19; Alma 37:15; 3 Ne 18:18; Moses 7:26
    Job 1:12; 2:6; D&C 122:9
    D&C 43:31; 101:28; 1 Ne 22:26; Cannon, G.Q. Gospel Truth, 1:86–87; Smith, Joseph Fielding, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:192
    D&C 29:36; Cannon, G.Q. Gospel Truth, 1:86–87; Smith, Joseph Fielding, Ch. Hist. and Modern Revel’n, 1:192
    Grace (Bible Dict.): The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
    Moses 1:20
    Moses 1:20; D&C 88:24; 76:88, 89r
    D&C 76:36-38; 29:5; Alma 11:40-41
    D&C 29:44; 84:41; Mark 16:16; Jn 3:16-19; 2 Thes 2:10-12
    D&C 29:44, 45; Lk 22:31; D&C 35:13
    D&C 76:1032 Tim 4:2; Lectures on Faith 6:9; 2 Ne 26:24; D&C 76:79
    Deut 6:5; Matt 22:36-40; Lectures on Faith 6:9; D&C 93:36, 37; Jn 3:16; 2 Ne 26:23, 24; Mni 7:46-48; 2 Tim 4:2; 2 Ne 26:24; D&C 76:79; Mni 7:48; TG, Love;[/list]

  18. Carmen says:

    A son of perdition is someone who has recieved a sure knowledge of Jesus Christ, but for some reason, has deliberately chosen to follow Satan instead. I don’t know why anyone would turn their backs on Christ after recieving a sure knowledge of who he is. But I do know this: there is really no need to worry about the unpardonable sin. It’s not something a person slips into. Those who commit it don’t want God in their lives and don’t even care that they are beyond His forgiveness. Furthermore, it takes time for a person to commit this sin; it’s not something that can be committed by just anybody in the next 5 seconds. In other words, it’s not easy for a person to become a son of perdition because they have to try really hard to be evil.

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