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Aaron Shafovaloff on D&C 19


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Aaron Shafovaloff recently posted a thread on another board seeking comments on a paper draft I assume he intends to post on the Mormon Coffee blog, where he is a regular contributor. Here is the explanation he gives and the post:

The following is a draft of an article I am writing. Your critical and constructive feedback is appreciated. I have never heard a good Mormon argument in response. One Mormon tried to argue that D&C 19 is merely trying to reinforce the endless duration of the concept of individual eternal punishment, but it flies in the face of how Mormon leadership and culture has been using the passage for nearly 180 years.

To appease the universalist leanings of Martin Harris, Joseph Smith gave a revelation that reoriented the language of the New Testament describing hell.

Of course, Aaron has no idea why Joseph Smith had this revelation, but the more pigeonholing and marginalizing you can squeeze into a post the better, right?

Whereas the Bible describes hell as "eternal" (Matthew 25:46), "everlasting" (Daniel 12:2), and "forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10), Joseph Smith essentially taught in D&C 19 that the punishment was only described as "endless" and "eternal" because God is endless and eternal, not because the punishment itself has no end.

First, these scriptures don

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Great post Mak. At the risk of being nit-picky, if I'm correct, Tartarus was first understand in early Christianity as separate from Gehenna. The author of 2 Peter refers to Tartarus as the place where the fallen angels who came to earth, spawned giants with women, and subsequently caused the Flood had been imprisoned. It correlates with 1 Enoch and Jubilees which describes the prison of the Watchers.

(I should note that, IIRC, in some later texts like the Apocalypse of Paul, Gehenna and Tartarus are equivocated. But I believe this is a later development that occurred only after the Watchers became less significant in early Christianity.)

Of course Aaron is completely off-base and obvious errors such as confusing Hades and Gehenna damage any credibility he might have.

You could very well be right Joseph. The imprisonment of the Watchers would be a nice analogy to the Titans. I haven't done a lot of work in this area, but I do recall a lexicon from a few years back stating Tartarus was analogous to Gehenna. Irrespective, it is not to be equated with Hades, which is the main point.

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You could very well be right Joseph. The imprisonment of the Watchers would be a nice analogy to the Titans. I haven't done a lot of work in this area, but I do recall a lexicon from a few years back stating Tartarus was analogous to Gehenna. Irrespective, it is not to be equated with Hades, which is the main point.

Too true. I only pointed it out because I'm submitting a paper to BYU's Classical Studies Symposium in a few weeks on the conceptual similarities of Tartarus in Greek mythology and early Christian mythology, and I was doing research for that seconds before I looked at your thread.

Sorry for the tangent, we can go back to discussing Aaron's inept understanding of D&C 19.

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Isn't it as simple as looking at Christ's suffering for the sins of the world?

If the consequence of sin is that suffering for sin never ends and Christ took those sins on Himself then should not Christ be suffering for sin to this very day, and into eternity without end?

Christ suffered for sins until He paid for every one of them; once He had paid that price in full he said, "It is finished." When He spoke those words he then said,"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.", and He died, thus ending His suffering.

In light of this concept of paying the price of sin (suffering) and doing so until, "it is finished." Christ gave the parable of the servant who owed the debt and was forgiven by his Lord, but who would not forgive another who was indebted to him:

Matthew 18:


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I think he's getting that from the Gospel Principles manual which has hell as a subdivision of the Spirit Prison, but I could be wrong. Will go and check.

add-on: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=88a11f7962d43210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=5158f4b13819d110VgnVCM1000003a94610aRCRD

Thanks calmoriah. Of course, here "hell" is a condition and not a location. Another way that the term is used. I'll amend my post.

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Thanks calmoriah. Of course, here "hell" is a condition and not a location. Another way that the term is used. I'll amend my post.

The condition of hell as opposed to a particular special location is generally how it's talked about in my experience. Many speak of hell existing for those still living...obviously not some location therefore.

I suppose some imagine spirit prison as some sort of school or detention center where the more 'dangerous' or less advanced spiritually inhabitants are separated from the rest, but the spirit world is often discussed as being all around us and this makes sense to me since they are still needing to learn from their mortal experience, that they are not completely removed from this sphere but can observe others if necessary, for their understanding on the consequences of their actions for example.

I would be curious to know where other LDS believe the spirits of the dead are at this moment in a 'physical' sense and if they see any separation existing in any way besides the mind/spirit. I see spirits of less development of being incapable of perceiving and enduring more godly things so that the veil is kept in place to a great extent until spirits are purified enough to endure God's presence.

Of course, this is speculation, but it demonstrates that LDS belief does not require a physical location of a hell in order to be consistent or coherent.

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While I understand the idea of an endless hell, I've wondered why traditional Christians seem to believe that if one goes there, it has to be the final destination (if I am wrong, please correct me on this).

Since the traditional interpretation I've heard is that all souls prior to Christ's resurrection were in hell until Christ released at least some, why is this not allowed to happen again? Why will God refuse to rescue any more in hell?

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How the term Gehenna was used outside the NT (e.g., in Talmudic sources) may be useful background information, but the NT texts must be allowed to speak for themselves.

Why confine the meaning of the term to later councils deciding on what should and shouldn't be included in the canon? Why assume the NT texts can "speak for themselves," and if they do, that they all speak the exact same message?

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Aaron has posted a response to my post here:

I'll let this be a partial rejoinder to maklelan, who posted a response on MADB (where I have been banned without any apparent recourse).

I would respond at CARM, but I've been banned permanently there for far more ludicrous reasons (a linked to my blog and engaged in what was called "off-topic bickering"). MADB expects a level of respect that isn't met by photographs of drag queens and idiotic and emotive arguments about God.

By the way, maklelan, you have my permission to copy and paste this post of mine in entirety.

Will do.

I think I need to do more studying on Gehenna and Hades. I was aware that outside literature contemporary to the Bible considered Gehenna to be of limited duration, but what interests me mainly about Gehenna in this context is whether it is, in the Bible, referring exclusively to a post-final-judgment hell.

I don't think it's used consistently enough to say it "exclusively refers" to any one thing.

I will defer on that issue for now and do more studying on it. I do however think it is clear that the NT depicts Hades itself being thrown in the lake of fire and sulfur in Revelation 20, where people are "tormented day and night forever and ever". And the descriptions of the lake of fire have much stronger connections to the metaphor behind Gehenna. Also, Matthew 10 warns of Gehenna where BOTH body and soul are destroyed---this doesn't work if Gehenna here is referring to a bodiless, pre-resurrection, pre-final-judgment hell.

You're still presupposing a nice and clear pre- and post-resurrection place of punishment. This idea is not found in the Hebrew Bible, and it's mixed in the New Testament.

The reason I relate (not equate) Hades with Tartarus is because of the one time (although I incorrectly implied multiple times with the term "sometimes") the New Testament uses it, 2 Peter 2:4:

"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (Lit. Tartarus) and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment"

This is a pre-final-judgment hell, which is precisely why I categorized it why I did.

And the fact that it is not analogous to Hades undermines your presupposition. You're arguing from your conclusion.

But discussion of the specific terms (Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus) are actually expendable to my argument.

How can they possibly be expendable? They are your entire argument. You twice reiterated that:

Let me explain again:

1. The Bible makes a distinction between pre-resurrection hell/punishment and post-resurrection hell/punishment.

2. For dead humans, the Bible describes post-resurrection hell/punishment---not pre-resurrection hell/punishment---as eternal.

D&C 19 doesn't focus on the term itself "hell". It uses the terms "eternal damnation" and "eternal punishment" and "endless punishment". Hell is a conceptual category that I am chiefly engaging here (through various means). For the purposes of this argument, I find it extremely odd to say that the place or condition where a person is "tormented day and night forever and ever" and where a person experiences "eternal punishment" (instead of eternal life) isn't essentially hell---regardless of whether you think this hell is actually endless.

I don't see how this is that important a point.

Significantly, you appeal to your own opinion that outer darkness is temporary in duration and will result in annihilation for individuals. This seems to contradict the general (but not absolute) LDS notion that both intelligences and matter are eternally self-existent, and can be neither created nor destroyed.

There's not a whole lot in LDS theology that is absolute.

An idea of annihilationism in outer darkness or an idea of progression from outer darkness to another kingdom (such as through MMP, multiple mortal probations) would seem to help solve the problem that D&C 19 creates, but it, in my opinion, only reinforces my point that D&C 19 poses a big problem for traditional Mormon theology (which affirms the hell of outer darkness is of endless duration).

I don't consider ceasing to exist to be escaping the punishment of outer darkness.

The main NT texts that D&C 19 seems to allude to, the "eternal damnation" text (Mark 3:29) on blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and the "eternal punishment" text (Matthew 25) on punishment meted after final judgment, seem---as far as traditional Mormon eschatology goes---to refer to a post-final-judgment, post-resurrection hell. The only such hell Mormonism traditionally explicitly speaks of is outer darkness.

You also appeal to the fact that Mormons sometimes refer to the Telestial and Terrestial kingdoms as hell (I agree and have written on this elsewhere). But that only seems in my view to reinforce my point: that D&C 19 poses huge problems for traditional Mormon theology (which disallows progression between heavenly kingdoms).

No it doesn't. Like I said, there's a broad semantic range associated with the term "hell," and the New Testament is far less consistent when it comes to ideologies like this.

Even if you think I am a poor dolt warranting the snidest mockery and most supercilious of treatment, I hope you can at least acknowledge the heart of the argument here. There doesn't seem to be any way to reasonably connect D&C 19 with texts that are supposedly about the pre-final-judgment hell in spirit prison[1]. If D&C 19 is trying to address NT eternal-damnation/eternal-punishment texts that are about hell in spirit prison, then it is a misfire, because there are none. And if outer darkness is endless in duration, or if any kind of post-resurrection hell is endless in duration, then D&C 19 is essentially refuting parts of traditional Mormon theology. This requires one to adopt an idea like annihilationism in outer darkness, or Brigham Young's idea of the recycling of souls, or progression between kingdoms (if the bottom kingdoms are functioning as hells which have suffering that D&C 19 speaks of), or even multiple mortal probations (contra the Book of Mormon on the permanence of the resurrection).

There are a number of different ways to account for D&C 19, but there's nothing wrong with "annihilationism," and D&C doesn't say that eternal punishment is never endless.

[1] As for those who think I am a ignorantly or maliciously characterizing Mormon theology as having a spirit prison (in the intermediate state) that contains a hell, then please just see "Hell" under the "Gospel Topics" section of the LDS Church's official web site. This reminds me when a FAIR apologist denied to me at Temple Square that the Telestial and Terrestial Kingdoms had been described by traditional Mormonism as kingdoms of heaven. I really do feel like I'm trying to engage a moving target here.

Well, you've argued that official doctrine is irrelevant and that you're just going to engage folk LDS religion. This variability is what you get. You might save yourself a lot of time and trouble by just abandoning this silly quest.

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Aaron said, "(where I have been banned without any apparent recourse)".

Aaron complaining about being banned, when that is his favorite tactic when he starts to lose an argument.


Careful, he might need to use our bathrooms here at MADB.

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Just a few thoughts about hell. First D&C 19 is an excellent explanation of what hell really is. In fact to me the idea of suffering in hell (even for a duration of 1,000 years) is rather frightening. If Aaron wanted to truly understand the LDS view of hell he would read the entire section and other related sections to get a better understanding of what is involved. But then again someone who protests Temple dedications and Conferences and such is not really interested in what we say, he only seeks to slander the Church and bring it's members into disrepute. Here is an interesting statement:

(D&C 19:15-20) "Therefore I command you to repent
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I wrote:

It's true that the term Gehenna derives from a Jewish (Hebraic) background and that Hades derives from Greek mythology. However, the NT uses Hades to translate the Hebrew Sheol and never uses Gehenna for that purpose.

You replied:

There are only 2 quotations/allusions of/to OT passages with any word for "hell" in the entire New Testament. This is hardly enough to establish a clear translation technique.

As I

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