Chapter 39: Eternal Judgment

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 285–90


“I have come to the conclusion,” declared President Brigham Young, “that we shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body and according to the thoughts and intents of the heart” (DNW, 17 Aug. 1869, 2; see also D&C 137:9). He taught clearly that every man and woman will experience this judgment: “Each and every intelligent being will be judged … according to his works, faith, desires, and honesty or dishonesty before God; every trait of his character will receive its just merit or demerit, and he will be judged according to the law of heaven” (DNW, 12 Sept. 1860, 2).

Teachings of Brigham Young

We will be judged according to our works, words, thoughts, and response to the truth.

This is a world in which we are to prove ourselves. The lifetime of man is a day of trial, wherein we may prove to God, in our darkness, in our weakness, and where the enemy reigns, that we are our Father’s friends, and that we receive light from him and are worthy to be leaders of our children—to become lords of lords, and kings of kings—to have perfect dominion over that portion of our families that will be crowned in the celestial kingdom with glory, immortality, and eternal lives (DBY, 87).

I do know that the trying day will soon come to you and to me; and ere long we will have to lay down these tabernacles and go into the spirit world. And I do know that as we lie down, so judgment will find us, and that is scriptural; “as the tree falls so it shall lie” [see Ecclesiastes 11:3], or, in other words, as death leaves us so judgment will find us (DBY, 382).

Death levels the most powerful monarch with the poorest starving mendicant [beggar]; and both must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for the deeds done in the body (DBY, 445).

Let every one believe as he pleases and follow out the convictions of his own mind, for all are free to choose or refuse; they are free to serve God or to deny him. We have the Scriptures of divine truth, and we are free to believe or deny them. But we shall be brought to judgment before God for all these things, and shall have to give an account to him who has the right to call us to an account for the deeds done in the body (DBY, 67).

Time and ability to labor are the capital stock of the whole world of mankind, and we are all indebted to God for the ability to use time to advantage, and he will require of us a strict account of the disposition we make of this ability (DBY, 301).

The children of men will be judged according to their works, whether they be good or bad. If a man’s days be filled up with good works, he will be rewarded accordingly. On the other hand, if his days be filled up with evil actions, he will receive according to those acts. … When will the people realize that this is the period of time in which they should commence to lay the foundation of their exaltation for time and eternity, that this is the time to conceive, and bring forth from the heart fruit to the honor and glory of God, as Jesus did (DNW, 13 Apr. 1854, 1).

All who believe, have honest hearts, and bring forth fruits of righteousness, are the elect of God and heirs to all things. All who refuse to obey the holy commandments of the Lord and the ordinances of his house will be judged out of their own mouths, will condemn themselves as they do now, will be accounted unworthy and will have no part or lot with the righteous (DBY, 383–84).

“Well,” says one, “if I am pretty sure to get a state of glory better than this, I guess I will not take the trouble to inherit anything more.” Well, run the risk of it, every man on the earth has the privilege. The Gospel is preached, sin revives, some die and some contend against it [the gospel]—some receive it and some do not; but this is the sin of the people—truth is told them and they reject it. This is the sin of the world. “Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” [see John 3:19]. So said Jesus in his day. We say, here is the Gospel of life and salvation, and everyone that will receive it, glory, honor, immortality and eternal life are theirs; if they reject it, they take their chance (DBY, 384).

When the light of the knowledge of God comes to a man, and he rejects it, that is his condemnation (DBY, 383).

The principles of eternal life that are set before us are calculated to exalt us to power and preserve us from decay. If we choose to take the opposite course and to imbibe and practice the principles that tend to death, the fault is with ourselves. If we fail to obtain the salvation we are seeking for, we shall acknowledge that we have secured to ourselves every reward that is due to us by our acts, and that we have acted in accordance with the independent agency given us, and we will be judged out of our own mouths, whether we are justified or condemned (DNW, 17 Aug. 1859, 1).

We will be judged for living “according to the best light [we] have.”

It has appeared to me, from my childhood to this day, as a piece of complete nonsense, to talk about the inhabitants of the earth being thus irretrievably lost—to talk of my father and mother, and yours, or our ancestors, who have lived faithfully according to the best light they had; but because they had not the everlasting covenant and the holy Priesthood in their midst, that they should go to hell and roast there to all eternity. It is nonsense to me; it always was, and is yet (DBY, 384).

A man or woman must know the ways of God before they can become ungodly. Persons may be sinners, may be unrighteous, may be wicked, who have never heard the plan of salvation, who are even unacquainted with the history of the Son of Man, or who have heard of the name of the Savior, and, perhaps, the history of his life while on the earth, but have been taught unbelief through their tradition and education; but to be ungodly, in the strict sense of the word, they must measurably understand godliness (DBY, 384).

So far as mortality is concerned, millions of the inhabitants of the earth live according to the best light they have—according to the best knowledge they possess. I have told you frequently that they will receive according to their works; and all, who live according to the best principles in their possession, or that they can understand, will receive peace, glory, comfort, joy and a crown that will be far beyond what they are anticipating. They will not be lost (DBY, 384).

If [people] have a law, no matter who made it, and do the best they know how, they will have a glory which is beyond your imagination, by any description I might give; you cannot conceive of the least portion of the glory of God prepared for his beings, the workmanship of his hands (DBY, 385).

I say to every priest on the face of the earth, I do not care whether they be Christian, Pagan or [Muslim], you should live according to the best light you have; and if you do you will receive all the glory you ever anticipated (DBY, 384–85).

All except the sons of perdition will ultimately inherit a kingdom of glory.

The disciples of Jesus were to dwell with him. Where will the rest go? Into kingdoms prepared for them, where they will live and endure. Jesus will bring forth, by his own redemption, every son and daughter of Adam, except the sons of perdition, who will be cast into hell. Others will suffer the wrath of God—will suffer all the Lord can demand at their hands, or justice can require of them; and when they have suffered the wrath of God till the utmost farthing is paid, they will be brought out of prison. Is this dangerous doctrine to preach? Some consider it dangerous; but it is true that every person who does not sin away the day of grace, and become an angel to the Devil, will be brought forth to inherit a kingdom of glory (DBY, 382).

More will prove faithful than will apostatize. A certain class of this people will go into the celestial kingdom, while others cannot enter there, because they cannot abide a celestial law; but they will attain to as good a kingdom as they desire and live for (DBY, 383).

All these different glories are ordained to fit the capacities and conditions of men (DNW, 13 Aug. 1862, 2).

We read in the Bible that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars [see 1 Corinthians 15:40–42]. In the book of Doctrine and Covenants [see D&C 76], these glories are called telestial, terrestrial and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course (DBY, 382–83).

Were the wicked, in their sins, under the necessity of walking into the presence of the Father and Son, hand-in-hand with those who believe that all will be saved—that Jesus will leave none, their condition would be more excruciating and unendurable than to dwell in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The fatalist’s doctrine consigns to hell the infant not a span long, while the adulterer, whoremonger, thief, liar, false swearer, murderer, and every other abominable character, if they but repent on the gallows or their death-beds, are, by the same doctrine, forced into the presence of the Father and the Son, which, could they enter there, would be a hell to them (DBY, 385).

The punishment of God is God-like. It endures forever, because there never will be a time when people ought not to be damned, and there must always be a hell to send them to. How long the damned remain in hell, I know not, nor what degree of suffering they endure. If we could by any means compute how much wickedness they are guilty of, it might be possible to ascertain the amount of suffering they will receive. They will receive according as their deeds have been while in the body. God’s punishment is eternal, but that does not prove that a wicked person will remain eternally in a state of punishment (DBY, 383).

Suggestions for Study

We will be judged according to our works, words, thoughts, and response to the truth.

  • President Young taught that “the lifetime of man is a day of trial.” What are we to “prove to God” during our mortal existence?

  • For what will we be held accountable in the day of judgment? (See also Alma 12:14; 41:3.)

  • Who are the elect of God?

  • President Young said that we will be “judged out of our own mouths.” How do we determine “whether we [will be] justified or condemned”?

  • President Young taught that we will be judged according to our use of time. Why is our use of time so important? How would you judge the way you spend your time now? What have you learned from other Church members, friends, and neighbors about how time can be used well?

We will be judged for living “according to the best light [we] have.”

  • What circumstances or conditions in people’s lives will ease the Lord’s judgments concerning them? How can we apply this principle to the way we esteem people whose beliefs are different from ours?

  • According to President Young, on what condition will men receive in the hereafter “peace, glory, comfort … far beyond what they are anticipating”?

All except the sons of perdition will ultimately inherit a kingdom of glory.

  • Why would the wicked who die in their sins not be able to endure dwelling with the Father and the Son? (See also Mormon 9:3–4; D&C 88:22.)

  • President Young said that Heavenly Father’s children “will attain to as good a kingdom as they desire and live for.” How can we determine whether we are living worthy of attaining the kingdom that we desire?

  • President Young taught that all people except the sons of perdition will ultimately inherit a kingdom of glory. What does this teach you about Heavenly Father’s devotion to justice and mercy? What does it teach you about His love for His children?