1 And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.
17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
19 Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
20 And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.
21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
(The book of Alma can be found in lds.org under scriptures/the book of mormon).
What we learn from these scriptures is the purpose for hell. Does God like us to be miserable? Absolutely not. Does he allow it? Yes. Does He provide away of escape? Only if we choose to accept it. We can be forgiven of all our sins if we confess them and ask forgiveness with a humble heart. In other words, we can be forgiven if we repent. The purpose of hell is to persuade us to repent and live with God, instead of suffering the pain of being without Him.
We do not have to atone for our sins. Jesus did that.There is no reason to feel bad about something you have done in order to atone for it. That is mocking what Jesus did for us. However, it is good to recognize if you are hurting someone in someway, that you have forgotten your relationship with God, and you need it back.
After you understand this principle, you can now start repenting a lot faster and with a lot more faith. If you are yelling at someone, and obviously hurting them, the minute you see you are hurting them, you can stop mid-sentence and say "I'm sorry." Then start listening to the Holy Spirit/Spirit of Christ to figure out how to resolve the relationship. There is no need to sorrow to the point of feeling hopeless about yourself. It is okay to make mistakes and God loves you still. If the person you hurt does not want to forgive you, then love them the way God loves you when you don't feel happy. Just realize that they are choosing to be miserable and they don't know how much they are loved or they would immediately forgive you. Go ahead and feel sympathy for them, because they remain cut off from God's love. Throw them a pity party, and pity with them.
Let's talk about the tree of life. There is a tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now how could one possibly obtain a knowledge of evil without hurting someone? And when you hurt someone, your shame about it immediately cuts you off from God. I think I have partaken of that fruit thousands of times. But do you have to stay cut off from God and stay ashamed of yourself? No, and God certainly does not want you to feel ashamed of yourself. He created you exactly the way you are. He wants you to be filled with faith and hope even when you make mistakes. Of course He hates the sin, because sin causes pain to one or more of His children. But He loves you, and the sin has been atoned for already. You need to partake of the tree of life to feel God's love again. How? Is it by atoning for what you did? No. Do you have to feel miserable for a certain amount of time? Only if you want. If you want to take of that tree of life you need to accept that Jesus paid for your sins, so you are legally able to pray to God and have Him comfort and bless you again, right now. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6). So receive God's love, it is always there for you.
There is a really good book entitled, "Healing the Shame that Binds You." It is by John Bradshaw. It is amazing for those who have missed out on some love during their childhood. There is a certain amount of love we need to receive in order to grow spiritually. If your needs have not been met, you may need to start getting them met as an adult. If you feel like you have to prove yourself by righteousness, or if you get so depressed you want to quit trying at life, maybe you suffer from what he calls Toxic Shame Syndrome. John defines toxic shame as the root of all evil. It is a really good book for helping you open up and receive God's love. Toxic shame is trying to be perfect for your own glorification instead of glorifying God, because you feel like you are a bad creature to begin with and you have to prove yourself to be worth anything. It is pride and shame all together. It is rejecting God's love for you and His perfect creative power in making you just the way you are.
So what is hell? I believe it is real, but it is generated by our internal emotional state. So many of us have "checked out" of our feelings. They can be complicated, and it takes emotional intelligence to sort them through and realize why you feel the way you do. I have discovered that it takes time and intelligence to overcome depression. (I am not talking about depression that is a result of flailing hormones or brain defects because that is a reality in which just thinking it through isn't enough).
It is so much easier to check out with spirit numbing activities, but when you die, you cannot escape your feelings any longer. You become your feelings. And if you have been suffering with self hatred while you are alive, now you get to see the consequences of constantly choosing to believe things that are not true. Even if you have hurt people, there is forgiveness. When you are ready to accept that, you can get out of hell. After all, we are ALL carnally minded. Each of us is capable of committing great crimes and the only thing that keeps some of us from doing them is our recognition of hope, and the spirit of God living in us. When God's spirit is not with us, we will become carnal in our thoughts and actions. So everything good any one does is to glorify God. No one can take credit for any good they do, for it is the spirit of God in them. Even Jesus did not take credit for being good.
John 14:10 states, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works."
Everything good we have ever done in our lives is because the Father is in us, helping us do those good works. If you receive His love for you, you become capable of doing well. You will never do good acts with an honest heart unless you humble yourself and realize you can only do good because God created you and put His life in you. You won't burn out when you serve God out of love instead of obligation.
If you die and go to hell, you just haven't realized yet how much God loves you. So you allow yourself to be tormented and destroyed. You have also, unfortunately, tormented others because of your belief. And yes, there is a destroyer who loves to torment you. But Jesus died for you. Because of Him there is always a way out. The first thing you need to do is wait and hope for the light. The light is a thought or realization that comes to you that is true. Like, perhaps the thought, "Maybe I can be healed from all of this emotional anguish somehow." That is a true thought. Hold on to that, and now wait for the next thought. "Maybe I can be forgiven for all the times I have hurt others."
I have argued with God over hell very much. One day He finally told me, "Julie, if ONE person in Hell went to another person in Hell and offered to ease their pain, I would let them both out of Hell." Meaning, that most people are so tormented in hell, there is no hope and no purpose to helping anyone else, the personal pain is just too much. That is why service is so healing, it opens us up to receiving God's love. God only tells us to do things so He can bless and help us.
Imagine how much joy I felt when I finally realized that Jesus comes to us in our own personal Hells and offers to help us out. Sometimes it takes a long time to open yourself to actually receive God's love. It takes time and practice to see your great worth to God, especially if you haven't believed that for so long. It is Jesus who comes to help us, so God lets both of us out. One time I felt sad and turmoil inside. Then I knew that Jesus was here in my pit with me. Just being with me. Just willing to wait for me for as long as it takes until I am ready to come out.
I have read a lot of near death experiences of people in hell. All the people in hell have no hope. They really believe that they will not ever get out. I do believe these accounts. They account that those in hell do know that Jesus Christ can save them. It must take time for people to be ready to be saved. And that is ok. A lot of times Jesus tells those in hell it is too late for them now. And they wish they could come back to earth to repent. Well, if you have spent your whole life hurting people, you know it, your conscience knows it, and Jesus knows it. That is 3 times the pain. But even David sinned against God, and had faith that God is merciful. Sometimes He prescribes hell to us, but if we TRUST in God still, God can't help but love us still. David committed murder and yet He still chose to love God. One person had a NDE and said that Everyone in hell blasphemes God. So I am convinced that the way out of hell is to trust in His punishment, and admit that it is just, and stop blaspheming Him but worship Him. This is I am sure harder to do than it is to say, but God promised David his soul would not be left in hell (look up David in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org) and I am sure God will do the same to us if we truly trust in Him.
It is okay to not understand God sometimes. It is okay to be frustrated with Him. It is okay to dump yourself onto Him. The moments I finally came to God with my frustration over what I thought was unjust about Him, I finally started to progress spiritually, and see the truth of His unending love. I still don't understand all things, but I trust Him. I trust His judgement in all things because I am convinced that He is worth serving. All living creatures and the earth serves God out of choice. The earth fulfills the measure of her creation. Doctrine and Covenants 88:25 states, "And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—" If the earth loves God enough to obey Him, maybe God is worth obeying. Maybe God IS love, and He wants us to live with Him and be happy.
Also, I have read two accounts of Near Death Experiences from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who were also shown hell, and they reported that everyone in hell has angels above them trying to help them to get out, if the people in hell would just ,"look up." If they would just humble themselves to realize there is more to the picture then what they suspect, then they would receive the help they need to get out of hell.
Now, about the unpardonable sin. This is my own personal view, and I am not sure if it is the truth. But it brings me peace so I am choosing to accept it unless further light and truth dissuades me. The unpardonable sin is defined as blaspheming against the holy ghost. People interpret that to mean all kinds of things. This is what it means to me: The unpardonable sin is the choice to not repent. If the Holy Spirit says "God loves you," and you choose to say, "No He doesn't," you have just blasphemed the truth. You cannot receive any more blessings until you go back and accept that what the Holy Spirit said was true. As long as you refuse to believe that God loves you, you are unforgiven. Until you stop sinning against the Holy Spirit, you will remain damned. You cannot progress if the Spirit is whispering truth to you and you refuse to accept it. Here is truth, plain as day in front of you and you say 'no, I don't want that truth.' So you cannot learn any more. You cannot progress and you are eternally damned until you go back and choose to accept the truth. As soon as you are ready to realize, Oh, God does love me, then you are back on your way to progression. Why the word "eternal" and "forever" when talking about hell and damnation? Because we are eternal beings. Our emotional state is always an eternal state, unless we do something to change that. The time to repent is always now. Remember from physics class, an object in motion remains in motion, unless something changes that (like your free will to choose to believe a different way).
It bothers me to think that the atonement of Jesus Christ did not atone for ALL sins. That would make Jesus less than the Lord our God, who descended below all things. Doctrine and Covenants 122 verse 8 states, "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" Truly He knows the depths of pain that result from all sins. He shed His blood, which is the punishment for murder. And He shed blood from every pore. I think that should pay for anything any of us does on this earth. But God isn't going to reveal this mystery unless you are ready because the wicked would use it to justify murder. But I believe that the unpardonable sin is simply to refuse the Lord as our Savior.
We need to understand the scriptures the way they were meant to be understood. How many times did Jesus speak truth, and everybody interpreted things literally and not the way they were meant to be interpreted. There are only so many words and allegories from our world and language to use in order to help us understand reality. This truth is spelled out in Doctrine and Covenants chapter 1 verse 24, "Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."
Matthew 13:10-12 states:
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
When the Holy Spirit whispers truth to you, and you don't accept it, you will start to lose the truth that you have already been given. You will probably get more and more confused until you go back and accept that truth that you had misgivings about in the first place. It must be true, because it puts all of that confusion to rest. The more truth you accept the further you get into heaven, and the more of God's spirit is in you to allow you to pray, receive love, and love others. Leaving hell for heaven becomes a beautiful journey of repentance and leaving behind false beliefs for the truth, instead of the harsh judgement of a condemning god.
May I end with the words of Isaiah 6:10, "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed."
The truth is here in chapter 26 of second Nephi verse 25, "Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price."