LDS Apostle Jeffrey HollandAssessing Holland’s Statement That Heaven Would Not be Heaven Without His Family in Light of LDS Eschatology
Last week, I wrote a blog entitled “A Stark Reminder.” It was a report on attending my wife’s LDS grandpa’s funeral and how obviously Mormonism is not Christian since the former elevates the family into an idol. This week, I would like to follow up on this topic and simply ask, “Given the LDS view of eternal marriage, what sense does it make to claim, as Apostle Jeffrey Holland did, that without it, heaven would not be heaven for them?” More specifically, Holland wondered how to even talk about heaven without his wife or kids being there. To answer that question, I need to examine the LDS eschatological doctrine of where people end up after death. When that is clearly understood, then the question should have an obvious answer.
Mormonism teaches that there is a base kingdom that is not a kingdom of glory. It is a place reserved for those who know the truth with certainty and yet apostatize from it. This kingdom is known as “outer darkness” or “perdition.” This kingdom of darkness is shared with Satan and the demons. Relatively few end up here.
Everyone else on this earth will go to one of three kingdoms of glory thanks to Christ’s gracious payment. The base kingdom here is called the “telestial kingdom.” It is where the wicked go who never were LDS.
Above that, there is the terrestrial kingdom. Generally speaking, this is where honorable people go who are not members of the LDS Church. However, there are perhaps many LDS who will also end up there since they were not valiant in their testimony (D&C 76:79). (LDS of this sort don’t seem really honorable. So why won’t they end up in the telestial kingdom instead? Never mind that.)
There is also the highest kingdom called the “celestial kingdom.” This is reserved for, generally speaking, worthy LDS as well as babies who die prior to the age of accountability. Now within this kingdom, there are also different degrees of glory, the highest of which is called “exaltation.” That is the only place where families may continue throughout eternity as Gods and Goddess. These families may follow the lead of their God/Gods in order to organize and populate other worlds to rule over, receiving exclusive worship from these children. Keep in mind that exalted earthly families end up being worlds apart. Exalted children may have visiting rights with their exalted parents and other exalted siblings, but they all go on to rule over other worlds. The prerequisites for exaltation are that families must be sealed to each other in a temple ceremony, and equally important, these families must continue to live worthy of the LDS gospel.
This eschatology is all rather basic to almost all LDS members, including the fact that most LDS know that only a relatively small percentage of families may qualify for exaltation, and thus, being together as a functioning family throughout eternity. Obviously most new members are not aware of these details. Nonetheless, Mormon doctrine is clear that just being a member of the LDS Church does not guarantee an eternal family.
So let’s look at some possibilities come judgment day. Is it at all possible that neither Apostle LeGrand Richards nor his wife Jane become exalted? Well, how about LeGrand being exalted without Jane? Certainly he could be exalted and his kids would not make it. So isn’t it possible that Jane really wasn’t as worthy as she appeared here on earth? Couldn’t these family members end up in the terrestrial kingdom and LeGrand instead gets one or more worthy wives sealed to him in the millennium? (Again, let’s not bother ourselves with what Jesus said about this subject now.) Or let’s say LeGrand gets the terrestrial and Jane gets the celestial–perhaps exaltation, but perhaps not. Yes, the woman is dependent on the man to call her out of the grave on the morning of the resurrection by using her new name given her in the temple ceremony, but perhaps LDS may take this in a non-absolute sense. LDS need not worry about the details here; they may simply trust that God will justly work it all out in the end. Perhaps God will have another worthy man–a new husband–call Jane out in the place of LeGrand if he didn’t really make the cut. Again, God only knows!
This all seems quite possible given these LDS eschatological categories. If so, then would LeGrand still rather be annihilated if that required losing the bonds of his earthly family members? Perhaps, since it would not really be heaven for him as Apostle Holland speaks of it. If that is the case, perhaps one spouse forfeits exaltation to be with the other and/or other family members in some lower kingdom where that would be heaven enough for them. Here they may be together forever, but are eternally punished by not functioning as husband and wife, father or mother, son or daughter. On the other hand, if LeGrand, Jeffrey, and other LDS imagine a possible scenario in which they may be exalted without their earthly family members, then of course it is possible by definition to imagine heaven without them. But honestly, what is so difficult in not imagining one’s spouse being faithful to the end? No one is perfect except Christ of course.
Differences With Traditional Christianity
The basic difference at this point with traditional Christianity is twofold. First, and as stated in the previous blog, the ultimate purpose or God is quite different. For Mormonism, that god is either 1) exaltation itself with any worthy spouse aptly fitting the bill or 2) it’s being with one’s own earthly family throughout eternity. (Given the General Authority statements in the previous blog, it seems that the latter option is what is typically held.) In both cases, though, God simply is the means to make one’s utmost desire a reality. For Christianity, though, that God is simply the Triune Creator of all reality. He is the end… with or without one’s family.
Second, Mormonism’s eschatological segregation is much more complicated than traditional Christianity’s. As a result, in Mormonism, there are many more segregated kingdoms where one’s spouse and other family members may end up. Within the Christian worldview, though, there simply are those in Christ’s kingdom of light and those outside it in the kingdom of darkness. On this view, husbands and wives and everyone else of course may spend eternity together in either kingdom. However, they won’t be functioning in either kingdom as husband and wives or eternal families.
Having said all that, there is a basic agreement here between Mormonism and Christianity. It is fairly easy to imagine a scenario where one spouse does not end up with the other. Claiming that heaven would not be heaven without one’s family members is merely a nice, personal, autobiographical statement. It is meant to merely convey one’s utmost feelings for other family members. Some family members, including LDS family members, can more easily imagine heaven without their family members. Think of abusive families. Nonetheless, autobiographical statements have absolutely no bearing on the reality of where one ends up. That reality has already been defined in the Bible and it contradicts Mormon eschatology.
President, Courageous Christians United
West Jordan, UT
November 30, 2022