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Sons of Perdition

Bruce R. McConkie
Rodney Turner
W. John Walsh

by Bruce R. McConkie

Lucifer is Perdition. He became such by open rebellion against the truth, a rebellion in the face of light and knowledge. Although he knew God and had been taught the provisions of the plan of salvation, he defied the Lord and sought to enthrone himself with the Lord's power. (Moses 4:1-4.) He thus committed the unpardonable sin. In rebellion with him were one-third of the spirit hosts of heaven. These all were thus followers (or in other words sons) of perdition. They were denied bodies, were cast out onto the earth, and thus came the devil and his angels -- a great host of sons of perdition.

Those in this life who gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and who then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion, also become sons of perdition. Their destiny, following their resurrection, is to be cast out with the devil and his angels, to inherit the same kingdom in a state where "their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (D. & C. 76:32-49; 29:27-30; Heb. 6:4-8; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; 2 Ne. 9:14-16; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 47-49; vol. 2, pp. 218-225.)

Joseph Smith said: "All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. (Teachings, p. 358.)

Mormon Doctrine, p.746
Copyright by Bookcraft

by Rodney Turner

In LDS scripture Lucifer and Cain are called Perdition, meaning "destruction" (D&C 76:26; Moses 5:24). The unembodied spirits who supported Lucifer in the war in heaven and were cast out (Moses 4:1-4) and mortals who commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost will inherit the same condition as Lucifer and Cain, and thus are called "sons of perdition."

Perdition is both a place and a spiritual condition. As a place, it is synonymous with that hell to which both unembodied and resurrected sons of perdition will be consigned following the last judgment (2 Ne. 28:23; D&C 29:38; TPJS, p. 361). This future kingdom of the devil will be devoid of any of the Spirit and glory of God. (D&C 88:24).

The spiritual condition of those in this realm is described metaphorically as a lake of unquenchable fire and brimstone and as "a worm [that] dieth not" (Jacob 6:10; D&C 76:44). They will be "vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God" (D&C 76:33). God's wrath will originate within them when they contrast his holiness and majesty with their own filthiness and ignominy (2 Ne. 9:14; Alma 12:14-17; Morm. 9:4-5; TPJS, p. 361). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, "A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner…. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone" (TPJS, p. 357). Fire and brimstone characterize the person, not the place.

The awful realization that they are truly damned, have lost all favor with God, have rejected all that he represents, and have lost the opportunity for repentance will be compounded by their subjection to Lucifer and Cain, who are consumed with like misery and frustration (2 Ne. 2:27; Moses 1:22). Such is the ultimate "damnation of hell" (TPJS, p. 198; see Damnation).

Perdition is the second death: total banishment not only from God's literal presence but also from the influence of his Spirit (2 Ne. 9:15-16; Hel. 14:18; D&C 88:32). Those who sin against the Holy Ghost commit the unpardonable sin and will suffer the fulness of the second death (Alma 39:6; Hel. 14:16-19). All others will be saved eventually in one of the degrees of glory (D&C 76:40-43; JD 8:154).

Sons of perdition are not merely wicked; they are incorrigibly evil. In sinning against the revelations of the Holy Ghost, they have sinned against the greater light and knowledge of God. They willfully and utterly pervert principles of righteousness and truth with which they were once endowed, and transform them into principles of evil and deception. Joseph Smith declared, "You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance" (TPJS, p. 358). No divine principle can cleanse the sons of perdition; following the last judgment, they will remain "filthy still" (D&C 29:44; 88:35). It is revealed that "it had been better for them never to have been born" (D&C 76:32).

Those who become sons of perdition while in mortality will be resurrected with unglorified physical bodies and "rise to the damnation of their own filthiness" (TPJS, p. 361). Cain, thus resurrected, will then rule over the unembodied Lucifer (Moses 5:23; MD, p. 109).

It has been suggested that in the absence of the life-sustaining powers of God's Spirit, sons of perdition will eventually become disorganized and return to "native element" (JD 1:349-52; 5:271; 7:358-59). However, scripture declares that "the soul can never die" (Alma 12:20) and that in the Resurrection the spirit and the body are united "never to be divided" (Alma 11:45; cf. 12:18; D&C 93:33). The ultimate fate of sons of perdition will be made known only to those who are partakers thereof and will not be definitely revealed until the last judgment (D&C 29:27-30; 43:33; 76:43-48; TPJS, p. 24).

Few individuals have been identified as sons of perdition. Although Judas is often so regarded, there is a question whether he had received the Holy Ghost sufficiently to sin against it at the time of his betrayal of Christ (John 17:12; Smith, pp. 433-34).


Smith, Joseph F. Gospel Doctrine. Salt Lake City, 1946.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

by W. John Walsh

Can a woman become a son of perdition?

We know very little about the final state of those assigned to perdition.  The Doctrine and Covenants states:

"Wherefore, he saves all except them--they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment--And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation." (D&C 76:44-48)

Church leaders have authoritatively taught that one must hold the priesthood in order to be a son of perdition.  President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

"I think I am safe in saying that no man can become a Son of Perdition until he has known the light. Those who have never received the light are not to become Sons of Perdition. They will be punished if they rebel against God They will have to pay the price of their sinning, but it is only those who have the light through the priesthood and through the power of God and through their membership in the Church who will be banished forever from his influence into outer darkness to dwell with the devil and his angels. That is a punishment that will not come to those who have never known the truth. Bad as they may suffer, and awful as their punishment may be, they are not among that group which is to suffer the eternal death and banishment from all influence concerning the power of God." (Conference Report, October 1958, p.21)

President Stephen L. Richards later added:

"It is a tremendous responsibility to bear the Holy Priesthood. I wish all of you—perhaps all did not—had heard what President Joseph Fielding Smith told us yesterday, something I have long believed, and I was glad to have sanction for my belief. He said in substance that there will be no Sons of Perdition who do not hold the Priesthood. I have believed that for years because I do not think that the Lord in his mercy would ever condemn a man to that indescribable penalty of being put out entirely from the Kingdom and from all grace unless that man knew that Jesus was the Christ, unless he knew the power of the Christ, and he could only know that, I think by holding the Priesthood. I believe that in the main that can be said to be true—that only men who hold the Priesthood of God stand in danger of that terrible penalty of being classed as outcasts."(Conference Report, October 1958, p. 86)

Since women don't hold the priesthood (See Why Can't Women Hold the Priesthood?), a person could interpret these statements to mean that all women will be saved in a kingdom of glory (i.e., only men are consigned to perdition).  However, it also might be said that a hierarchical organization may exist in hell.  Some beings may hold the priesthood (e.g., sons of perdition) and other beings may not.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

"Devils are spirit men and women." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol.2, p.171)

While devils is typically a synonym for son of perdition, it's certainly possible that the phrase devil may actually encompass more class of beings than one.   In other words, no, women can't be sons of perdition because they don't hold the priesthood.  However, female spirits do dwell in hell.  They are simply not classified as sons of perdition.  The powers and limitations of the various beings in hell is unknown at the present time. 

Are all excommunicated members of the Church classified as Sons of Perdition? Are all nonbelievers?

No.  First, in order to become a son of perdition, a person must hold the true priesthood of God. Since only male members of the Church can even hold the priesthood, only apostate Church members have the possibility of being classified as Sons of Perdition.  Second, in order to be a son of perdition, a person must rebel against God with full light and knowledge that he is in fact doing so.  Succumbing to temptation or a lack of faith is not sufficient.  One must defy God with full knowledge that he is indeed God.  It is impossible for us to name anyone as a son of perdition, barring any revelation from the Holy Ghost, for only God truly understands the intentions of a person.  While most men and women will suffer the pains of hell for their wickedness, precious few have descended to the depths of open depravity which would classify them as Sons of Perdition.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About the Afterlife home page)

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