It’s called Outer Darkness. This is the place in the LDS doctrine for people known only as the Sons of Perdition. They are the vilest of vile; wretched, repulsive individuals that will be eternally cut off from God’s light. They will float in a miasma of pitch black devoid of all senses. Those in outer darkness will not be able to see, speak, feel, taste or hear anything. This will be the eternity for all those deemed to be abhorrent in the sight of God. The Heavenly Sons of Perdition are all of the angels who rebelled against God. The Earthly Sons of Perdition are all of those who have been presented with the “gospel” and rejected it; or denied the evidence of a miracle related to said gospel. The last qualifier to become a Son of Perdition is to officially leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To extricate oneself (according to the LDS hierarchy) is to deny God and, thus, resign oneself to an eternity worse than Hell. This is the common belief of active members and this is where I found myself after I left this establishment. Isai establishment because it does not operate like a church. It is a machine with every member expected to work in clockwork unison with every other member to ensure the growth of the establishment. Deviation of the norm is not accepted; speaking up is not allowed and questioning the authorities (contrary to what is said) is forbidden. A church this tyrannical would quickly fall apart yet the LDS faith still appears steady and strong. The stability revolves around conditioning from birth or conversion. Those born into the church are taught from the age of eighteen months that the world hates them because they are Mormon, the Lord’s peculiar people. As they grow the conditioning continues with history lessons on the persecution of the early Saints (founding members); how the doctrine and covenants are true and how the Book of Mormon is the word of God. As soon as children are old enough to talk the phrase “I know this church is true” becomes a mantra that is reinforced within their psyches by seeing their parents smile every time I hear the words. By the time the children are eight years of age (the age of accountability with the church) they have heard more frontier folklore than most historians and have been conditioned to accept what they are told as the truth. At this time the children begin the lessons needed to become baptized and officially become members of the church. From that point on the conditioning continues with practices in what the priesthood is to do; the liturgy needed for every Sunday meeting and the requirements for being a good Mormon including what to wear and how to behave. By the time the children reach adulthood the boys have held the Aaronic priesthood and administered sacrament while the young ladies are taught how to be a Proverbs31 kind of wife. All the while they are taught to revere their forbearers, know that the world despises them and understand that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. The goal of every male child (his or his parents and the ward’s) is to go on a mission at the age of19. Many children save for this their entire lives and pay for the two year trip themselves. The daughters are allowed to go on a mission at the age of 21.Their trips are only 18 months as opposed to the males’ 2 years. In order to go on the mission, however, both males and females must be Temple worthy and go to the nearest temple to receive their endowments. For the males this will include receiving the Melchizdek priesthood. Both sexes go through ceremonies and are sworn to secrecy about the content of the ceremonies and what transpires in the Temples. Once the missions are over the men and women return to their home Wards (churches) and to a hero’s welcome. They have gone into the evil world and brought souls to the church. Many return to
college and get married shortly after their returns. In the LDS church there are very few things sexier than an RM (return missionary). The missions are the points of impact where the young, naïve missionaries intercede into the lives of the unconverted. Walking, riding bikes, hiking or driving around their area missionaries will eventually find someone searching for God that will listen to them. A few warm smiles and a couple of handshakes later and the missionaries have an appointment for an investigator lesson. An investigator is anyone who attends a Sunday meeting or has an interest in the LDS church. After investigator lessons are done and the baptismal questions are asked the investigator is baptized and the “Holy Spirit” is bestowed upon them. From there the new member enters into a yearlong course called Gospel Principles (or Essentials depending). During this time the new member is evaluated for attributes that can be used to forward the Ward or Branch’s purposes. Investigators and new members are told time and again that they will be rejected as scripture declares. They are taught that they are the Lord’s peculiar people. They are indoctrinated not only into the church but also into the lifestyle which is inclusive and permeates every aspect of the LDS members’ lives. The way they dress, the way they pray, the way they speak, everything is dictated to members. Not in an overtly hostile way. No. Every bend of the will is done with a handshake, hug and a smile. Every hoop to jump through is placed under the premise of fellowship. Don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol, and don’t drink coffee. Wear a white shirt and tie to church. Don’t eat too much red meat. Eat lots of grain. Pay your tithing in its entirety. If a priesthood holder’s wife has to work the men are looked upon as failures as priesthood holders, fathers, husbands and men. If a member does not live up to any of these the resulting ramifications can be losing one’s Temple recommend which, for many active LDS members, is akin to being branded with an iron across the forehead for the world to see. Most active members of the LDS church live in abject fear of losing the grace they believe they receive from attending the weekly worship service and the Temple. This fear is so pervasive that they will abide by anything to keep this faux grace. Aside from the above mentioned rules there are a bevy of others like what kind of underwear to wear after being endowed in the temple, what duties to perform while at the temple and how to do genealogy. Though genealogy may sound odd, it is a ruler by which many LDS members measure where they and their families are in the Celestial pecking order. Multiple generational members of the church laud their genealogical background over new members. It is a status symbol to be able to trace your ancestry to a Pratt or Young or a Cowdery. This heritage means your family endured hardships, survived two extermination orders (one by the U.S. Government) and helped to found the church. These descendants can often be found in leadership positions and promoted, presumably by the prompting of the spirit. However a nepotistic approach to leadership keeps the doctrine and the church steered in the direction Salt Lake wishes. This underlying tension between lifelong members and converts often results in the converts going above and beyond their duties looking for ways to prove themselves and establish a spiritual dynasty within the church. Though it is not spoken doctrine many converts have been told they would never attain the celestial kingdom regardless of how hard they try. The Celestial kingdom’s not exactly Heaven. It is one of the levels of Heaven. The LDS church teaches a misunderstanding and misquoted version of 1 Corinthians 15:41 which talks about the sun,
moon and stars all having different glories. They have taken this and taught that there are three layers of Heaven. They include the Telestial Kingdom (lowest), the Terrestrial Kingdom (middle) and Celestial Kingdom (highest). The Telestial Kingdom is for anyone who is a good person but never received the Lord and accepted Christ. It’s the lowest of the three. These people will be the servants of God and Christ for eternity. As I was told by a Bishop once, these will be genderless slaves to everyone else. The middle kingdom is the Terrestrial. This kingdom is for everyone that accepted Christ but not the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith (I.e. Christians). This is like the suburbs of Heaven. Christ will come and visit but God won’t grace you with his presence. Finally is the Celestial Kingdom. This realm is for all of the devout members of the LDS church that attended all the meetings, obeyed all the laws and ordnances, regularly attended the temple to receive their endowments and did baptisms for the dead. These are those that will reign with God for eternity. However, even within the highest rank there are divisions. Though the lowest two have not been described the most exalted has been. It is the permanent residence of God and Christ. It is where every family that has been sealed together for eternity and kept all of the laws and ordinances of the church will live and reign. They will become exalted and live as Gods and Goddesses. This is where all good Mormons want to be, where they strive to be. Any slip up; any lapse in judgment; any straying from the path set forth by the prophets could result in losing the Celestial Kingdom. Every convert and every lifelong member is taught this from the time they can understand. This fear of loss is instilled in them and used to guide them throughout their lives. Nothing else compares to the prospect of being kept out of the presence of God and His kingdom for eternity. Nothing else strikes fear into the heart of a member of the LDS faith. Nothing except leaving the church. Even for inactive members there still exists some semblance of hope. The Elders will visit; the missionaries will come by to talk and you will constantly be invited to Sundays. The inactive still have all of the ordinances and blessing from before, they are just choosing not to exercise them. Many inactive still live by the Word of Wisdom and other documents even if they are not attending meetings every week. The love of family and friends and the support of the church and stake are still present. Even if a member is inactive their lives don’t change much. It isn’t until they take the step toward leaving the church and removing their name from the rolls that they experience persecution from those that once professed to love them. Many are told they will go to Outer Darkness for leaving. This is a scare tactic used to keep members on the rolls even if they are inactive. The hope is they can be coerced into becoming regular, tithe paying members eventually. If they leave the church that possibility is gone. To emphasize this, everything and everyone is pulled away from the soon to be ex-member. Their brethren and sisters no longer stop by or call. Often times active members will go out of their way to avoid those leaving the church. Any form of friendship and support suddenly disappears leaving the former member crashing to the ground on their own. This leads to bouts of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. It is an orchestrated example of what the LDS church wants the ex-member to believe they are going to experience in the afterlife; Outer Darkness. To add to these feelings of hopelessness many ex Mormons experience even more isolation when they try to reintegrate into Christian life. Some have been asked to leave the churches they are visiting while others have been verbally attacked from the pulpits of churches they were looking into. Several stories exist of ex-members being told they might have to be exorcised before they could become members of other faiths.
The result is someone who has been rejected by those who were supposed to love them and shunned by those that are supposed to be the Christ like examples of Love. Many ex-Mormons become pagan or atheists vehemently fighting against Christ. Few find Church Homes and Church Families. The thought of being abandoned by loved once is too much for many to venture out again. A rare few make it through the ordeal of extricating themselves from the machine and become ministers striving to fight this false doctrine and any other false teaching. Saving those within the LDS church is not as simple as showing them the doctrine is false. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Itâ€™s removing a tumor that is wrapped around the spinal column. It is layered and complicated. The real work is to walk them through the gauntlet of pain and misery in Christ like Love and kindness. The challenge is to be there with them as they go through all the stages of grief and loss. The real battle is to be the Children of the Lord who are there to help after God has picked them up.