I was talking to my son the other day, and he surprised me by bringing up Hell. He wanted to know where he was heading and what it would be like. This healthy eight-year-old stunned me by the change in topic, but I tried to roll with it. (Obviously he is going to Heaven — what 8-year-old isn’t?) As we chatted, we made some decisions about what each place must be like. Ultimately we determined that Heaven would be full of super cars and superheroes and that Hell would be hot and have no Xbox’s anywhere.
Our discussion has stayed with me, and I’ve been thinking a long time about what I really think Heaven and Hell will be like. Most religions believe that Heaven is a place of rest and that Hell is a place of burning and suffering. My opinion is a little different.
What We Learn at Church
The LDS Church teaches that there are degrees to Heaven. There is the celestial kingdom, which is the highest and most desirable place to be. Only the truly faithful in all things will make it there. Then comes the terrestrial kingdom. It will be glorious and beautiful and many of the good people of the world will be there, including people who rejected Christ’s gospel in this world, but accepted it in the spirit world.
Finally, the Telestial Kingdom, the lowest kingdom of heaven. Those who never murdered anyone or broke the unforgivable commandments will reside there. In each of the lower two kingdoms, there is a barrier. You can progress to a certain point, and then you’re done. But not the celestial kingdom. That one has no end to how far you can progress and how much you can learn. The celestial kingdom should be everyone’s goal.
Hell is not talked about much in the LDS Church. As far as I can tell, you have to do some seriously awful things to merit that world. I’m talking about murder and denying the Holy Ghost after you’ve received an undeniable witness of Him. Satan will be there and all his minions.
My impression of Heaven and Hell has been greatly shaped by what I’ve learned in church.
First, I think Heaven is a place of great peace. Because of that peace, we will feel relief and it will be a place of spiritual rest. But I don’t feel like we will be sitting around strumming harps. That sounds so boring! I think it will be a place with many varied classes and activities where we can really grow and learn. I think it will be a lot of fun! Because to me, there is nothing more horrible than stagnating. That, to me, is real damnation.
In the scriptures, Jesus Christ is called the Light of the World. I know when I feel the sunlight, it is warm. Heaven is a place where Christ — filled with light brighter than the sun — will dwell with us. I have had answers to prayers where the room has seemed to fill with light behind my closed eyes. During those experiences, I felt warm and peaceful.
I’ve had priesthood blessings where it’s almost like a column of warm love has come through the ceiling and wrapped around me. Because of this, I also think Heaven is warm and bright. And clean. I don’t know about you, but a messy and dirty house is a distraction to me. I can’t relax till things are tidy. That’s why I feel like Heaven is clean.
I think that Heaven is filled with everyone we have ever loved. My Mom once told me that every animal, every pet we have ever loved, will be there with us. I’ve collected quite a little zoo if that’s the case. And I can’t help but feel that we will live in neighborhoods full of our friends and family. Between you and me, I really hope we get to fly. But I have a feeling we will travel more by thought, or along columns of light as the angels that Joseph Smith saw did. Don’t quote me on that though!
It’s easy to say then that Hell must be Heaven’s opposite. Despite what many think, I don’t think Hell is hot. I think it is very cold and very dark. I’m sure that those who have to exist there are miserable, but not because they are being whipped or tortured by others. I’m confident they are torturing themselves in their own minds.
Their punishment is knowing that they could have done so much better and achieved so much more if they had kept their focus. To me, Hell is a place where you want to progress, but you can’t. You feel an emptiness, knowing you need something more. But it will never come — and you probably never figure out what it is.
To me, Hell is lonely. There isn’t love, peace, or friendship. In Hell, the homes are isolated and it’s always windy. (Okay, so that is nowhere in scripture… But isn’t it just torture when you’ve had to walk a long way on a very windy day?)
I recently learned that the Norse people believe Hell is cold and icy, so they bury their people with cleats for their shoes, just in case they end up in Hell. So maybe I’m not so far in left field with my theory.
Where Are You Going?
So where do you think you’re going? I’m grateful that we have a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to succeed. He has given us the scriptures, a Savior, and families, all in an effort to help us return to live with Him. And He really DOES want us back with Him.
I’ve always been surprised and saddened when people only see God as a judge or someone waiting for us to mess up. Repentance is a gift. To me, it’s proof that He wants us to be able to correct mistakes and be allowed to learn lessons while we are on earth.
I’m not in any hurry to find out how much of my personal theory is correct about Heaven and Hell, but it will be interesting to find out the answers. I invite you over to my home in Heaven to chat about it. And have something chocolate — because I am sure calories don’t exist in Heaven.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism yourself, Abby wants you to know that this isn't a bad thing. And you or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.