Feast upon the Word Blog

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D&C 19:7 endless DOES NOT EQUAL having no end?

Posted by Matthew on September 18, 2007

A lot can hang on the meaning of a single word.  Suppose I’m leaving a child with a baby sitter and I tell her she has to be in bed by 8. In my mind that means lights out, in bed trying to go to sleep. But the child agrees to “being in bed by eight” and intends to read in bed until just before we get home.

When trying to get agreement between two people with a different perspective, what is the role for reaching agreement by agreeing on words we interpret differently? And how does the parties knowledge of the different interpretations change things?

Which brings me to D&C 19.

What does it mean to say endless doesn’t mean not having an end? I’ve been thinking about that question and posting my muddled thoughts on the wiki. Please take a look and help me out by editing that or feel free to respond to anything there on this thread.

Moving beyond that question, why did the Lord use the word “endless” if he didn’t mean “without end”? Or to ask the same question in succesively more general ways: why use a word he knows we will interpret differently than he means it? why purposefully hide what he is saying?

I see verse 7 as addressing these questions in relation to the specific case of endless/eternal:

Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.

I propose that this verse is saying that God used the word “eternal” and “endless” as in “eternal punishment” or “endless torment” as description of the punishment those who don’t repent will receive because those words suggest that there is no end to the punishment and torment. As is explained in verse 6 and then 10-13, in fact, the punishment does have an end (or might anyway). Endless and eternal don’t mean not ending. Instead they are referring to God, i.e. eternal punishment mean’s God’s punishment. But, as this verse 7 explains, God used these words so that the impact is bigger on the reader. This is what the Lord means when he says the words are more express and what he means when he says that he did this that “it [the relevant scriptures] might work upon the children of men, altogether for [his] name’s glory.”

Do you accept this interpretation? If so, how do we explain how or why the Lord tells us things that mean one thing to us and another thing to him? How do we explain how that is different than dishonesty?

Backing up, consider three types of ambiguity: (a) both parties agree to something knowing that the meaning of what is agreed on is ambiguous (b) both parties agree to something knowing that each is interpretting it in a way different from the other (c) both parties agree to something; one party knows that the other party is interpretting it differently than they are.

I propose that the above example using endless falls in this bucke (c) as does the bedtime example above.  How do we distinguish dishonest examples of (c) from good uses of (c)?

33 Responses to “D&C 19:7 endless DOES NOT EQUAL having no end?”

  1. Kurt said

    If you want to see an absolutely loopy argument over this very issue, behold.

  2. Rob Osborn said

    Perhaps what is more intruiging about section 19 is “who” he referring to. Many have misinterpreted the classification to mean the future telestial. Read it again though. It specifically starts the section by describing the state of the unrepentant souls at the end of the millennium at the great judgment day. So who he is really referring to are the sons of perdition.

    So the real question then becomes- will the sons of perdition have an end to their suffering? And if so, what is to become of them after their suffering?

  3. Geoff J said

    Looks like you and I arrive at pretty much the same conclusion on this passage Matthew. (See the link to my post on the subject in comment #1).

  4. Jacob J said

    How do we explain how that is different than dishonesty?

    The simple fact is that God has never revealed the entirety of his plan. In some dispensations, he has given more, in some less, but as long as he has not given the full thing, then there will be things he can’t explain because they would make no sense in the version of the plan we have been given. In such a situation it is unavoidable that there will be things he tells us that are not true, strictly speaking, from his own perspective. Endless punishment fits very easily into this category of things that are not true, but are the best approximation given the framework of the prophets who believed in it. I don’t think it is dishonesty, per se, but just working within the limitations of the knowledge base of the people. Anyone who has taught pre-algebra or beginning chemistry or beginning physics, or whatever, will know that partial truths and approximations of the truth are required in teaching something complex to people who don’t know that much about it yet.

  5. Robert C. said

    I generally agree with what Matthew, Geoff and Jacob (Rob, I’ll have to read think about your point some more, it’s not something I’ve thought about very specifically, though I think I agree with you also) have said. Interestingly, I was looking at a related issue just the other day in Alma 12:24, 27 where in v. 24 Alma refers to “that endless state . . . which is after the resurrection of the dead,” but in v. 27 he says “after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment . . . which is the end.” So, it seems Alma is talking simultaneously about an end (at final judgment) and an endless state (after resurrection).

    I’m thinking that, given the kind of “matter is neither destroyed nor created” notion that Joseph Smith taught, anytime we try to think of a beginning or an ending, or an endlessness, that it must be interpreted somewhat narrowly, in relation to something else. That is, we might think that the consequences of any choice, or any kind of punishment for that matter, are endless in the sense that their effects reverberate through the eternities—or, in other words, we can’t change the past, and so when time is viewed in a way that includes all history, the past is eternally before us and, in a sense, eternally present. In this sense, I take it that the miracle of atonement, repentance and forgiveness, is the causal link between past/present and the future. That is, the future is undetermined in some important and significant sense—although, without repentance, then the future would consist of never ending punishment. So, I’m thinking that in order to think strictly about the very idea of an “end” is to deny what the atonement is all about (which, by the way, is why I think that firm divisions between kingdoms, or even a firm limitation in terms of the progress that sons of perdition can make, doesn’t really make sense—but, then again, I think that this bit in D&C 19 really undermines the confidence we should have when trying to use scripture to think about any theological question very systematically; rather, it seems to point to a rather . . . utilitarian reading of scripture, I guess, that we should be less interested in trying to think about some ultimate, metaphysical truth that lies behind the words of scripture, and more interested in the effect the words have on us in terms of repenting, and making the “endless but not without end” concept effective in our lives…).

  6. Rob Osborn said

    Robert C,

    The BoM prophets up until the end did not believe it was possible to repent after death. In fact, they did not have much of any kind of doctrine regarding the preaching of the gospel in the spirit prison to the disobedient.

  7. Robert C. said

    Rob O., yes, I’m inclined to agree with you, which is why I find Alma’s comments so fascinating, because he seems to sort of deconstruct his own argument by talking in terms of judgment as an end, but then after the resurrection there is an endlessness—that is, it’s surprising that there there is something after the end. Thus, it is only a limited or qualified end, and the limitation or qualification is not explicit. So there’s a qualified end that is not explicitly qualified, but is obliquely hinted at in terms of an endless state or quality of existence after the end. So, even though I’ve typically read Alma as thinking about an end that is rather absolute, I’m not so sure this is a justifiable, or at least systematically justifiable, reading of Alma. That is, I think my previous reading of Alma has been more simplistic than his words actually are….

  8. BobW said

    Don’t other scriptures support the proposition that endless as used elsewhere can be interpreted by D&C 19 doesn’t have to mean what we would presume it means by consulting Webster. Intelligence, for example, has a meaning we use in secular conversation but D&C 93:36 suggests it means something else in the scriptures. See also D&C 88:40. Parables are designed to hide the truth from the uninitiated so they don’t damn themselves. If the D&C 19 definition of endless is to be taken literally it would appear that the dual defintions are used for the same purpose. Those who need to be frightened into the first steps of repentance benefit from the prospect of having their ill fated condition last forever and ever. If they do repent and move beyond milk the are likely not going to be upset that they got started down the path to meat by a definitional trick.

  9. Rob Osborn said

    One other view is that just as a spirit cannoy recieve a fullness of joy without the body, can a spirit also not recieve a fullness of misery without the body? In this sense, if it be true, those in spirit prison are not suffering the worst torment- hence the endless torment, because they are separated from their physical bodies which are subjected differently than only just the spirit is possible to do such.

  10. Matthew said

    Kurt, Geoff (#1,3), I hadn’t seen that post and the associated comments before. Thanks for pointing me to it. I agree that the position I take above is quite similar to what Geoff says there.

  11. Matthew said

    Rob (2), Yah, if we accept this interpretation which says that when the scriptures talk about people receiving eternal punishment and endless torment they are talking about the sons of perdition (is that your view?), then we do get those questions. I don’t know the answers. I’m curious, if we go with that interpretation does it require that we believe that denying the holy ghost (as explained in D&C 76) is equivalent to not repenting (D&C 19:4) and being judged evil at the day of judgment (Mosiah 3:24)?

  12. Matthew said

    Jacob J (#4), I hope my post is clear that I hadn’t meant to suggest God was being dishonest. I take it as a foregone conclusion that God is honest.

    I pretty much agree with what you are saying. But the way you describe things (the example of the student learning pre-algebra) is different than what the Lord says he is doing in D&C 19:7. The key difference is that in the student example, further understanding is achieved by explaining what was wrong with the prior teaching. D&C 19:7 is different because the Lord never says that what he said before wasn’t right. Instead he says that he said the right thing but did it in a way he knew would be misinterpreted. The reason I agree in general though with what you are saying is that the result is sort of similar. Either way you get the hearer (or pupil) hearing and believing something that gets them part of the way there but is contradicted when they learn more. But it is different to say “what I told you isn’t quite right” vs “you didn’t understand what I told you quite right, in fact, I didn’t want you to really understand yet.”

  13. Matthew said

    RobertC #5,

    Probably I’m misunderstanding your point. Please correct me.

    You write:
    it seems to point to a rather . . . utilitarian reading of scripture, I guess, that we should be less interested in trying to think about some ultimate, metaphysical truth that lies behind the words of scripture, and more interested in the effect the words have on us in terms of repenting, and making the “endless but not without end” concept effective in our lives…).

    I don’t know what this means. Does it mean that I should interpret things based on what intepretation is most likely to help me follow the commandments? Suppose I go with that and say I think I am most likely to obey the commandments if I believe that endless actually means having no end vs it being another name for God. In that case, what do I do with D&C 19?

    To me, D&C 19 really only makes sense in the concept of thinking about what endless actually means. If we say “let’s not worry about what it really means, let’s just think about how to maximize its impact on us,” then I don’t even know what to do with the word. Or in other words, if endless isn’t interpretted based on what I think is actually the case then I can’t trust it and it won’t have any impact at all–i.e. it does me little good to set my own watch forward 5 minutes to be on time to meetings.

  14. Robert C. said

    Matthew #13, well, I’m absent-minded enough that setting my watch forward 5 minutes actually helps me (since I often forget that I set my watch ahead 5 minutes—though I’ve actually tried doing this to an odd number of minutes, like 3.5 or something, so that I know my watch is a little fast, but can’t remember exactly how fast and so it sort of scares me into trying to get there a little early to be safe, whereas I’d be more apt to try to get there exactly on time otherwise, and inevitably fail by a few minutes)!

    But, more to your point, I think you’re right that we can’t really apply what I was trying to say to D&C 19 itself. However, I still think that when we go back and read other scriptures where the term “endless torment” is used, that we should be focused more (or at least as much) on how the hearers understood the words that were spoken, and the effect such words had or could’ve had on the hearers, and not so much worried about trying to impute some sort of theological, metaphysical truth hidden behind such words (which is perhaps what I’m trying to do with my comments on Alma 12, so I think I’m primarily criticizing myself here! also, I’m sort of shifting my position, or at least the way I’m expressing it, since above I talked in terms of the effect on our lives, whereas now I’m talking in terms of the the effect on those who were listening at the time a given scriptural sermon was given…).

  15. Kurt said

    Matthew (10), as pointed out in the previous NCT thread, there is ample evidence, both historical (e.g., the context of the revelation is that of a directive to Martin Harris) and textual (e.g., other passages that make it clear punishment will end and endless=eternal=God), to show your approach to this passage is incorrect (i.e., that the Lord was being less than entirely forthright so as to scare people into repenting). Despite this, you adhere to the notion that God will be deliberately and disingenuously ambiguous so as to accomplish some seemingly justifiable ulterior motive (i.e., scare people into repenting, Geoff calls it “useful false doctrine” in an “ends justify the means” type argument), which imputes less-than-flattering attributes to God.

    Your conclusion requires you to assume God is less than entirely forthright (i.e., passively deceptive), it ignores historical context and a lot of hostile text. Why hold such a position in the face of such opposition? It baffles me, quite frankly, unless you have some ulterior motive. I can only assume you are willing to adopt such a position so you can conveniently dismiss other scriptural passages that have doctrines you find personally irritating. Why else would you come to such an intrinsically flawed conclusion? This is an honest question. I really want to know what you are getting at, Matthew. I dont understand how you can say in comment #12 that “I take it as a foregone conclusion that God is honest” when you posit “[H]e knew would be misinterpreted”? Those two things are flatly contradictory in my thinking. Coming to a conclusion like that would automatically make me, personally, question my conclusion. I honestly do not understand how you reconcile these two things. Please explain. I am genuinely baffled.

    P.S., Geoff, I have no interest in discussing this with you. Please do not wade into this conversation. I honestly want to understand how Matthew comes to his conclusions, and I have zero interest in repeating the prior thread with you. I would appreciate your indulgence on this matter.

  16. Joe Spencer said

    I’m fascinated by the fact that this discussion has avoided what seems to me to be the most important moment in D&C 19 as regards this strange verse: “Wherefore, I will explain unto you [Joseph and Martin] this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest” (verses 8-9). What we have here is a movement of inclusion, and a very personal and specified one at that (though I think this raises questions about the propriety of having published this—or at least about what happens when a revelation is published). The primary question this passage forces me to ask is: Why would God reveal such a thing to anybody, and then why to Joseph and Martin? How does this question of linguistics amount to a mystery, and how does that connect to the mystery of Godliness mentioned in verse 10? Etc., etc., etc.

    Does that disqualify the metaphysical speculations to which this verse so easily tends.

  17. Rob Osborn said

    Matthew,

    D&C 76:35 I think is more closely linked to the Light of christ than the gift of the holy ghost. I did a word grouping study on this topic a while back and found that the spirit of christ in us is more closely associated with the light of christ given to each and everyone rather than the gift of the holy ghost. The gift of the holy ghost is just that- a gift, a special power if you will that enables you to perform miracles, talk with the tongue of angels, see revelation and then speak to others with divine authority. The light of christ on the other hand is just the light inside of us that testifies of truths. The light of Christ in the scriptures is also called the “spirit of truth”, the “spirit of Christ” and the “light of truth” It is this light that people use to be converted to the truth/gospel.

    So in section 76 when speaking of the sons of perdition, it means that anyone born in mortality that is then swayed eternally to the dark side have indeed denied the light of Christ within themselves. Because each one of us born here have already accepted Christ and his plan we have indeed already recieved the witness in the pre-existance. When we die, all of that truth will be restored again to our recollection. If we continue to deny that light of truth within us at that point we will become a son of perdition.

  18. Todd Wood said

    Eternal punishment . . . endless torment, yes, mark me down for believing the straightforward idea of these words.

    I just finished Isaiah 30 last night. Tophet is terrifying in the last verse.

  19. Jacob J said

    Matthew (#12),

    I didn’t think you were suggesting God was dishonest, I was just offering my partial answer to your question in the post. You correctly point out that verse 7 does not explain it as a matter of pre-algebra, I agree. I think that factor ends up in the mix anyway, but there also seems to be the clear message that God knew he was being misunderstood and he was okay with that. On that other thread, I said this:

    I think these verses are clearly saying that God is happy to have people incorrectly think hell goes on forever because that view motivates repentance more effectively.

    And I might as well add this: I find nothing objectionable in that idea. Even if God were to out-and-out lie to me in the interest of saving me, I would be fine with that. Imagine how things must look from God’s perspective. Our understanding of things must look quite full of error and misunderstanding from His perspective. Why should he care about some detail when our understanding is riddled with misconceptions. If he thinks one of them will lead to more people being saved, why would we complain?

    For a very tortured and fully a-textual reading of this section see my discussion with Kurt over at the NCT thread (between comments #70 and #116). Joe Spencer’s point in #16 above comes up in that debate as part of my dismantling of Kurt’s analysis.

    P.S. Kurt, I am addressing Matthew above, please don’t respond as I have no desire to “discuss” this with you again.

  20. Kurt said

    For a very tortured and fully a-textual reading of this section see my discussion with Kurt over at the NCT thread (between comments #70 and #116). Joe Spencer’s point in #16 above comes up in that debate as part of my dismantling of Kurt’s analysis.

    P.S. Kurt, I am addressing Matthew above, please don’t respond as I have no desire to “discuss” this with you again.

    Then dont address my person and make absurd accusations like the one above. Jacob, if I made the mistakes in exegesis and history you make as often as you make them, just as you did in that thread you reference, it would cause me to take pause and allow some reality to sink in.

  21. Matthew said

    All, thanks for your thoughts on this. They are helpful. Now to address some specific questions.

    Kurt (15),
    >Why hold such a position in the face of such opposition?
    I have only skimmed through all of the comments on the other post. So, it is entirely possible that after reading them all and really thinking through the historical and textual evidence I will completely agree that I have misread this section. I’d really like to (though I don’t have time tonight) synthesize the different thoughts and arguments behind reading this section one way or another and post that and let people tell me if I represented their position correctly. Then others can make their own interpretation about what is best without having to wade through all the previous comments.

    But by way of background it may help to understand where I’m coming from to know that I am sincerely interested in this topic and not just using it as excuse to justify something else. I am very interested in the topic of redefining in the scriptures. Here’s an excerpt from my user page on feast in a list of things I want to work on:

    How are we to understand cases where a scripture is given and in that scripture a word is used that has meaning in the language of the people to whom the scripture is given; but then, through revelation a different definition of the word is given later? (examples, endless (D&C 19:6-12, Moses 7:35), eternal (D&C 132:24, Moses 7:35, D&C 76:44) son of man, eternity, endless) (scriptures: Maybe the prophecy about Elijah coming is another example of this since the prophecy is fulfilled through the coming of John the Baptist. Also Christ redefines the law of Moses–that seems related. Also maybe Christ redefines the meaning of neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan. I assume that originally neighbor doesn’t mean everyone. D&C 59:13-14 I believe provides a clue to what is going on in these cases. We can see from these verses how what isn’t intended is for us to replace the new meaning with the old word, because if that was what the Lord wanted he could have done the replacement himself.

    So for me, my interest in this scripture is related to that larger project. Just fyi (because it is cool that Feast keeps track of this) I added this topic in its first form to my user page on July 31st 2005.

    >I dont understand how you can say in comment #12 that “I take it as a foregone conclusion that God is honest” when you posit “[H]e knew would be misinterpreted”?

    First I agree that what I label (c) in my post is generally wrong. But I have been thinking about when (c) is wrong completely outside of the context of any scripture. So then when I come across a scripture where, on my first reading, it seems that God is saying he did (c), that’s interesting to me.

    I am pretty sure not every case of (c) is wrong. Let me construct an example (for simplicity only an example as a thought experiment versus trying to come up with some real example which would require way too many details) and you tell me if you think the person in this example (labeled person A) is dishonest.

    Person A and Person B both work for the same company. It is person A’s job to do a certain task and person B’s job to audit whether or not person A did the task complying with a certain safeguard. Here’s the way the audit is done: Person B asks person A “did you do this task complying with the safeguard?” Obviously this system depends on A answering the question honestly.

    Now…Person B believes strongly that the only proper way to comply with the safeguard is to do Y. This belief held by B is known to A. A, however, believes that doing Z is a better way of complying with the safeguard in the case of this task. Person A does the task and implements the safeguard by doing Z. Person A’s belief that doing Z is better is not known to person B. When A is asked by B “did you do this task complying with the safeguard” person A says Yes–knowing that in person B’s mind this means that person A did Y, though A did not. Was A dishonest?

    I realize this example isn’t the same case at all as the case of how I interpret God’s actions in D&C 19, but both are examples of (c). And if we don’t think that in every case (c) is dishonest than we wouldn’t reject my interpretation because it implies an outright contradiction. That leaves us then to interpreting the text based on the historical setting and textual analysis.

  22. Matthew said

    Rob #17, if I understand your answer to my question in #11 it is “yes.” Your interpretation is appealing in certain ways but requires checking that interpretation against many scriptures before I would feel comfortable embracing it…I’m sort of interested, but not sure when I’d be up to the task.

  23. Matthew said

    Joe (#16), Are you asking if your questions in #16 “disqualify the metaphysical speculations to which this verse so easily tends”?

    Are the claims in my post and those in comments like my (#20) metaphysical speculations? If so, I hope your questions don’t disqualify them because I am very interested in your questions but also think that my post and related thoughts are the types of things I need to think through (and need help thinking through).

  24. Joe Spencer said

    I don’t know that your post itself indulges in metaphysical speculation. But it does seem to me that much of the discussion that has emerged in response to your post has… admittedly so, in fact. It was to that admission of metaphysical speculation that I was responding. I’m the last person to accuse anyone of speculating! I was just wondering if a return to the very immediate context of the verse keeps people from getting too worried about where these verses might take one…

  25. Matthew said

    Joe, I think I sounded too defensive. Sorry. I understand your questions in 16 and am interested in the answers but don’t know them. I honestly am not sure which of the above points are “metaphysical speculation” despite Roberts use of the word. Maybe that’s ok though because I think your point is that we should pay closer attention to the text and I certainly don’t disagree with that. And I am interested in any suggestions you have on how paying closer attention to the text frees us from some of the questions on this post/dicussion.

  26. Robert C. said

    For the record, I think what I had in mind in terms of “metaphysical speculation” was thinking in terms of what the after-life “is actually like.” I’m torn, however, even on this issue: on the one hand trying to figure out exactly what the after-life will be like, beyond what has been directly revealed seems like a rather unproductive endeavor; on the other hand, it seems this was a very important topic for Alma to think, ponder, pray, and preach about, not to mention how frequently the after-life is talked about in other scripture. Of course I agree that paying close attention to the text is a good thing, but what kind of metaphysical speculation are you (we) all saying is bad, and why?

  27. NathanG said

    Rob O,
    I suppose I fit in the category of “many have misinterpreted the classification to mean the future telestial”. So I reread the section to see what you were talking about. I’m not convinced of your argument that this refers to the sons of perdition and am curious for more exlpanation. Specifically here are my questions because I agree that the section begins with a description of a final judgement”

    Does the phrase “And surely” at the beginning of verse 4 link verses 1-3 to the discussion that follows? It could have the meaning of “at this time” or something to that effect. Or verse 4 could be the beginning of his message that he is really interested in sharing, and the first 3 verses are an introduction of the speaker that prepares the mind of the listener. This is someone full of power who will subdue the devil and has the final judgement, so we had better pay attention to the message he is going to give about punishment. This thought could then take any earthly chronology out of the discussion and simply deal with those who repent, and those who don’t (which if verse 3 is eliminated is how I can easily read it). I say earthly chronology because there is still the discussion of punishment having an end.

    Verse 5 talks about judgements of those who are “on my left hand.” Does this refer specifically to the judgement at the end of the millenium? If so, would we assume that whatever suffering and torment telestial people suffer allows them to then move to Christ’s right hand? I’ll have to read more about discussions of right and left hand, but it seems that separations similar to this occur as early as mortal life (wheat vs tares, sheep and goats (is Matthew 25 end of Millenium or beginning of Millenium? or do we attempt to put more chronology into it than God intended?))
    In favor of continuing to interpret it as the many, we have the detail of those in the telestial kingdom. D&C 76:105-106 states that “these are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times…” This is kind of a restatement of D&C 19 where he uses “eternal fire” then “wrath of Almight God” and then “until the fulness of times”. So we already have a group that are clearly described in the same pattern as the lesson in D&C 19.

    Back in favor of your argument (but not necessarily to the exclusion of the telestial as you have done) is the statement (also in D&C 76:44-46) that he saves all except them (Sons of Perdition)– they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment–And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man.”
    The last phrase about this not being revealed and it won’t be revealed goes against your last line in post #2 “So the real question then becomes” for it is a question that won’t be revealed to us. So if it is not going to be revealed to us, why would God spend a whole section (with some amazing doctrines) discussing something that he later says won’t be revealed except to those who receive it? Is it something to just make us think and puzzle without a definit answer to come to?

    So, I don’t know the answer, and I definitely can’t dismiss the question of the outcome of the sons of perdition (although I won’t lose any sleep worrying about it), but is it to the exclusion of applying to the Telestial Kingdom, and was it primarily a discussion of Sons of Perdition, or was it a discussion of those who don’t repent at the opportunity of receiving the gospel (whether on earth or in spirit prison)?

  28. NathanG said

    Rob O,
    Two other shorter questions.
    #6. Do we know for sure that the Book of Mormon prophets did not believe it was possible to repent after death? Is there something they say that leads to this, or is it an assumption you make because they don’t talk about it.

    #9. Does the suffering have to be the “worst torment” to be “endless torment”? Perhaps it does if we have to suffer as Christ suffered (vs 17)(but you can emphasize individual words differntly to support different ideas) and then all of Section 19 only applies to resurrected beings who continue to suffer. Or could eternal punishment still be given to spirits because it is the punishment God says they will have (God’s punishment) which is used to describe Telestial people as quoted above.

  29. NathanG said

    Matthew,
    I wonder if an example I’ve dealt with helps. There are people who are sick and are at the end stages of their life. They are in extreme pain. We often treat their pain very aggressively with narcotics. There is a side effect that we know will happen as people get more and more narcotics. They will stop breathing and they will die. Legally and ethically according to the judgement of people in this world, it is fine to give these large doses of narcotics for the treatment of intractable pain, even if it leads to the death of the patient. When prescribing these medications we cannot prescribe it for the intent of killing the patient, or if their pain comes under control, we can not increase the dose. But if they continue having pain we can increase the dose until they have either died from side effects or appear to be comfortable. I have participated in this and have felt no fear of reproach from the medical or legal community, have had nothing but thanks and gratitude from the families of the patient, and have felt no guilt before God that my actions have been questionable.

    Can God use a term and stay true to that term himself even if their is a desirable side effect of people being motivated to repent, but all the time he uses it in a pure description of his punishment? I think it’s option C without any deceptive undertones to it.

    I know both arguments can be critiqued and abused. God then must judge himself and likewise the doctor must judge himself to ensure he is using it correctly. Others can then judge all they want, whether correctly or incorrectly, it makes no difference..

  30. Matthew said

    NathanG, You ask “can God use a term and stay true to that term himself even if there is a desirable side effect of people being motivated to repent, but all the time he uses it in a pure description of his punishment?” Then you say “I think it’s option C without any deceptive undertones to it.” Yes I think this gets at the issue. I’m not sure if I totally understand how the example you give fits into category (c) above from my post.

  31. Matthew said

    ok. Still not ready to write up the different supporting arguments (as I suggested I might in #21) but want to list out for now the different possible interpretations of verse 7 (and surrounding verses). All, please feel free to correct me if I am interpretting you incorrectly.

    A) Eternal and Endless were used by God to properly explain to all the not endless but rather god-like punishment and torment. It was not God’s intention to use words that kept people from understanding. Nevertheless, some did not understand which is why he cleared things up in D&C 19. (I think this is Kurt’s view)

    B) God only revealed to a select few (prior to the broad publication of D&C 19) that eternal and endless did not mean without end because he only wanted a select view to understand this. It was God’s intention that others NOT understand which is why he didn’t reveal the special meaning these two words had to them. It was not God’s intention that the others misunderstand. (This may be Kurt’s view. Not sure.)

    C) God only revealed to a select few (prior to the broad publication of D&C 19) that eternal and endless did not mean without end. It was God’s intention that at least some, to whom he had not revealed the special meaning of these words, misunderstand His words and believe that they meant without end to better motivate them to make the changes they needed to make. (This is the view I proposed in my post. It is also Geoff’s view I think.)

    D) God told the people that the punishment was endless even though it did have an end because in the people’s limited understanding (and in ours perhaps too?) the best way to understand the depth of the punishment is to think of it as not having an end (though in fact it can have one). Though in a factual way it seems untrue for God to say the punishment is endless, it actually gets people closer to an understanding of the truth than if God had chosen a different description which didn’t suggest endlessness. (I think this is Jacob J’s view.)

    E) Other interpretations?

    If you accept D, maybe the distinction between A, B & C becomes largely one of symantics.

  32. NathanG said

    Matthew,
    I think I was trying to respond to 21. “I am pretty sure not every case of (c) is wrong. Let me construct an example (for simplicity only an example as a thought experiment versus trying to come up with some real example which would require way too many details) and you tell me if you think the person in this example (labeled person A) is dishonest.”

    My experience I related popped into my head, but perhaps it won’t make sense to anyone but me.

    I’ll try a little more. First, I don’t think my example is a category C, nor does it really fit your categories. I had hoped to make the point that category C is a valid description of what God is doing so long as we take out the deceptive undertones to the statement. I think my example parallels the concept showing that a questionable practice can be justified if the deliverer is abiding by correct principles. (“Treat pain aggressively to the risk of the patient dying” paralleling “Accurately describe God’s punishment by using several names/titles for God even if it scares them into repentance”) I added that I never felt guilt with relation to my actions even though my actions could be judged many ways by many people including accusations of physician assisted suicide I’m sure, but their accusations will not change the fact that my primary intent was to do something that is on sure moral/legal/ethical ground.

  33. Matthew said

    NathanG, Makes sense. thanks for explaining.

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