The traditional portrait of Hell is not complete without liberal helpings of fire and brimstone. The scriptures use different words to describe the placement for the wicked, often using metaphors about fire. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, believe that these descriptions, including those using fire and brimstone, are simply analogies, and speak about a deeper spiritual torment that will afflict those who experience Hell.
Why Fire and Brimstone?
Fire is a familiar metaphor. It is deadly, intense, and consumes that which it burns. Any person who comes in contact with fire suffers a great deal of pain and damage.
Brimstone, on the other hand, is not quite as clear. Brimstone refers to what is commonly known as sulfur. Sulfur has a pungent odor like rotten eggs and thus assaults the senses, burning nose and eyes. Both of these are commonly found underground and are associated with volcanoes and geysers. This relates to the traditional view of Hell as being an underworld.
It is also interesting to note that another name for Hell used in the scriptures is Sheol. Sheol was an actual place outside of the ancient city of Jerusalem. It was a landfill of sorts, in which the inhabitants of their city disposed of their garbage by burning. Thus, this place would have not only fire, but also an extremely unpleasant smell. This coincides closely with the idea of Hell being a place of fire and brimstone.
An often given description of Hell includes an underground cavern with fire and brimstone, demons wielding pitchforks and a devil with horns and cloven hooves. Though this description accurately depicts how unpleasant Hell is, members of the LDS church believe that this is only an analogy.
Fire and brimstone represent constant spiritual torment that will be the lot of those consigned to Hell. Not only will they be cut off from God’s presence, but they will have a perfect memory of all of their guilt. They will be eternally damned, or stopped from making progress, fully aware of their wasted potential. A combination of these factors is what will cause the torments that accompany Hell.
In addition, those who do not repent will have to suffer the penalty of their own sins instead of having them taken on by Jesus Christ. Jesus described this in His own words:
Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-18
Members of the LDS church believe that everyone on earth chose to follow God’s plan before they were born. There were many who did not who were cast out with the devil and the rest of his followers. Because all of us chose God before we came to this earth, we are all eligible for some form of reward after this life. Our eternal destination will depend on our actions in this life, where we must choose God again.
In the New Testament, the missionary Paul speaks of the glory of the sun, the glory of the moon and the glory of the stars. From earth, the sun looks like the brightest light, followed by the light of the moon, followed by the light of the stars (See 1 Corinthians 15: 41-42). This analogy is used to talk about the fate of souls after death. We believe in three heavens or degrees: the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial. The most righteous are given a place in the Celestial Kingdom, which is represented by the sun. Under that is the Terrestrial Kingdom, which is represented by the moon. And then the wicked are sent to the Telestial Kingdom, which is represented by the light of the stars.
Even the lowest kingdom is much better than the earth we now live on, but pales in comparison to the glory of the Celestial Kingdom. Only a very few of the most wicked individuals will be completely cast out into what is called Outer Darkness where Satan and his followers live.
Those who are not worthy to live in the Celestial Kingdom will have to pay the penalty for their own sins before they are assigned to another kingdom. They also must live with the knowledge that they have forever been withheld from reaching their potential. These feelings of guilt and pain are what we equate with fire and brimstone. In this way, Hell is not so much a specific place, but a condition of being cut off from God and impeded in our eternal progress.
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“Fire and Brimstone” was written by Michael D. Young. The subject “Fire and Brimstone” is important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links: