The Term "Outer Darkness" In The Book Of Mormon
This article is about the Book Of Mormon's use of outer darkness and the Bible's use of the term outer darkness.
The Book of Mormon uses the term "outer darkness" in Alma 40:12-14:
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house ”and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this estate, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
These versus were penned by Alma The Younger in about 350 A.D. People who lived in those days could qualify for outer darkness forever (that is what he implied but did not specifially say). Or the length of time in outer darkness could be until the Second Coming of Christ which will not happen until the gospel is preached in all the world (except perhaps in Israel where freedom of religion is restricted due to religious beliefs).
It is quite possible that the Savior was talking about the Millennium, which begins at His Second Coming. At the Second Coming the wicked are kicked off of this planet and they burn in hell (as spirits) for 1,000 years (i.e. the Millennium) on some other planet. At the end of the Millennium they are resurrected as Telestial beings. But the righteous (Celestial) and honorable (Terrestrial) are resurrected at His Second Coming and they stay on this planet which will be Celestialized. See this article:
Of course, we do not know all of the details of what goes on in the spirit world until the Second Coming. We have a very good idea of what happens after the Second Coming.
My point is that a person being in outer darkess could be eternal (for the "sons of perdition") or temporary. But the length of suffering and the degree of suffering likely vary dramatically between individuals because of the wide range of sins among those who are not sons of perdition.
What is said below about the possible places where a person would be in "outer darkness" may apply to both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
The Savior's Reference To Outer Darkness In The Bible
When the scriptures were originally written, during the time of Christ, "scientists" in the days of Christ only knew four things about the Universe:
It is questionable whether they knew that "stars" were really "Suns" which were really far, far, far, far away!!!
And it is obvious that they did not know anything about any other planets in our solar system. Even today, in order to know where a planet is it takes a powerful telescope and time-lapse photography!!! In the time-lapse images the stars will not move but the planets will move.
Yet in three places in the book of Matthew in the Bible the term "Outer Darkness" is used which would not apply to any of these four types of celestial bodies!!!
It is not clear whether the phrase "outer darkess" is symbolic or a literal place. This article will assume that it is a literal place, but that is not clear.
In a moment I will talk about how astronomy today gives us some clues about what Outer Darkness" might be.
But first the three scriptures that mention outer darkness.
First, Matthew 8:5-13:
5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
In this case the person the Savior was talking to was a man with great authority - a centurion. Note that the people the "outer darkness" referred to in this case were the children of the kingdom. I would assume these would be the people who persecuted the Savior and His followers.
The person throwing these people into outer darkness would likely be Heavenly Father or the Savior as it may refer to Judgment Day.
Second, Matthew 22:11-14:
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
In this case it is the king, not the Savior, who is casting someone into outer darkness. It is interesting that the only "sin" of this person is that he was not wearing the proper wedding garment. Yet he was cast into outer darkness. I would guess that this person was trying to get favors from the king, or trying to get into the king's society, to which he was not entitled.
Third, Matthew 25:24-33:
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darknes: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
In this case it was a king who was casting an unprofitable servant into outer darkness because he did not properly use the talents (i.e. money) of the king.
The children of the kingdom reference (verse 12 in the first section above) is clearly the most serious sin and in this case the punishment could be an eternal punishment, however the Savior did not mention any specific sin that was committed!!!
The second instance is a major social issue and clearly the man was not welcome at the wedding party. Being cast out would be the worst thing that could happen to him. However, if the wedding was a temple wedding that is a whole different set of punishments which I obviously won't go into.
The third instance is all about money. Outer darkness seems to be an extreme punishment for a monetary issue.
In any case, we are not familiar with Jewish rules of etiquette, so it is not clear.
Objects That Astronomers Know About, In Our Solar System, That Might Qualify For Being In "Outer Darkness"
When thinking about "outer darkness," it is important to realize that "outer darkness" has nothing to do with the distance from this earth because the Sun is our main source of light, and the Sun is still shinning brightly anywhere in the solar system unless a person is in a location which is really, really, really far from the Sun (e.g. more than about 200 million miles from the Sun).
So "outer darkness" must deal with the distance of things from the Sun!!!
First, let me talk about the planets that I do not consider to be in outer darkness:
1) Mercury (35.98 million miles from the Sun).
2) Venus (67.24 miles from the Sun), however, because of very thick clouds on Venus, Venus is much hotter than Mercury!!! So if someone were going to "burn in hell" in this solar system, Venus would be the #1 candidate for where that punishment is!!!
3) Earth, (92.96 million miles from the Sun). This is the only truly habital planet in this solar system.
4) Mars, (141.6 million miles from the Sun). This would be next to Earth in terms of habitality.
Inbetween 4) and 5) The asteroid belt is between Mars and Jupiter.
Also inbetween 4) and 5) is a massive amount of space!!! Note that Mars is 141.6 million miles from the Sun, but Jupiter, which is the next planet, is 483.8 million miles from the Sun!!! So starting with Jupiter, space would be very dark and very cold!!!
The seven places in our extended solar system (i.e. the distance of someone on these places from the Sun) where the person would be in darkness would be:
I should emphasize that living on the surface of the gas giants would compound the darkness caused by the distance to the Sun!!! In other words, living on the surface of the gas giants would be far, far darker than just the darkness caused by the distance from the Sun!!!
So for the gas giants "outer darkness" would be compounded both by the distance from the Sun but also by the thick clouds surrouding the gas giants.
So the clouds would be considered to compound the outer darkness caused by the extreme distance from the Sun for these four planets!!!
OK, so much for the eight planets, now we keep going further and further away from the Sun.
Outer Darkess For Non-Planets (This is where "Outer Darkness" Gets Very Serious)
The next two items are not planets but rather they are large numbers of all kinds of weird stuff, such as small dwarf planets, rocks, ice, mountains floating around in space, etc.
1) Kuiper Belt (which includes Pluto, which used to be considered a planet, but it is now considered one of the several dwarf planets,
Another object to consider for outer darkness is a planet called: Planet Nine!!! Sometimes it is called Planet X. This planet has about 10 times the mass of the Earth but astronomers cannot see it for some reason. But they know it has a gigantic elliptical orbit
The Winner Of The Outer Darkness Contest - Rogue Planets
Rogue Planets are planets which are not orbiting any star (our Sun being one of the stars). They are simply planets in outer space which are not orbiting any star!!! No one knows how many rogue planets there are in our Galaxy but it could be in the billions.
These planets would be the ultimate punishment for three reasons:
Now all of these things about rogue planets do not mean that every evil person will land on their own private rogue planet, because there are many degrees and types of wickedness. But if you find yourself on a rogue planet by yourself you will know you are in the worst possible punishment (except perhaps Venus or other really, really hot places).
I talk about hot places in another article.
Other Things To Consider
In the prior sections I did not say anything about the sons of perdition or the like unto the son or perdition (see 3 Nephi 29:5-7). The possible fate of the sons of perdition is largely what this article is about, meaning those going to "Outer Darkness".
There are also dwarf planets at the beginning of the Kuiper Belt. There are 5 officially recognized dwarf planets in our solar system, they are Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. With the exception of Ceres, which is located in the asteroid belt, the other dwarf planets are found in the outer solar system in the Kuiper Belt. Well, this number could change at any moment as astronomers dig deeper into this area of the solar system (especially after the James Webb Space Telescope is operational).
By the way, the Oort Cloud starts far, far, far, far past where the Kuiper Belt ends thus the Oort Cloud exists a very, very, very long ways away from our Sun and is essentially a bunch of rocks and ice and mountains which form a sphere around our Sun but very, very, very far away from the Sun.
Here is a quote from NASA about the Oort Cloud:
There are five official, and perhaps more than a dozen other "dwarf planets" (Pluto being one of the official ones) which are in the Kuiper Belt. My point is that people could live (i.e. be banished to) on almost countless icy rocks which would easily qualify as an outer darkness punishment!!! Certainly any object in the Oort Cloud would also be considered "outer darkness" and I suppose a person could be banished to an icy mountain in the Oort Cloud (where it would be really, really dark because everything is far, far, far away from the Sun)!!!
Note that these icy/rock Oort Cloud objects are way, way, way outside of Neptune's orbit!!! Living by yourself on one of these icy rocks (which could be another punishment) would be a very serious punishment!!!
Here are five of the dwarf planets that I already mentioned (but there may be others):
Here is an excellent article on the Kuiper Belt:
And remember the Oort Cloud begins far, far beyond the end of the Kuiper Belt!!
Let me say somthing about Pluto. While it is no longer considered a planet, it is essentially a perfect sphere!!! When we think about the Kuiper belt we do not think about perfect spheres, but Pluto, and some other objects in the Kuiper Belt are spheres. Furthermore there are five known moons which orbit Pluto.
Even the moons of Pluto would be considered to be outer darkness.
There seems to be no end to discoveries of small, but yet big enough for spirits to live on, objects in the Kuiper Belt (and the Oort Cloud is much, much bigger). An example is 486958 Arrokoth which was discovered in 2014. It is not big enough to be a named dwarf planet but it is big enough for spirits to live on!!! There are many of these things which are too small to mention.
Planet 9 (aka Planet X)
Another possibility for "outer darkness" is Planet 9. Scientists know there is a "Planet 9" because they can see the effects of the gravity on other objects!!! But astronomers cannot "see" Planet 9 with their telescopes. There are multiple reasons which might explain why astronomers cannot "see" it with their telescopes.
While it is obvious that anything further from the Sun than Neptune would qualify as "outer darkness." Planet 9 is a different case for two reasons.
First, is the orbit of Planet 9. It is hypothesized to follow a gigantic elliptical orbit!!!!
Anyone living on Planet 9 (as the "outer darkness" punishment) would see our Sun much dimmer than almost anything outside of Neptune's orbit. At times it would be way, way further away than anything in the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud. But it is not clear to me whether it gets as far out as the Oort Cloud or even much further out than the Oort Cloud!!!
Even though Planet 9 is estimated to be about ten times bigger than Earth, NO OBSERVATORY has ever "seen" Planet 9!! I do not know if any space telescopes have tried to see it!!!
The only reason that astonomers know Planet 9 exists is because they see clear gravitational pulls from Planet 9!!! Maybe the new James Webb Space Telescope will be able to see it. Planet 9 may be one hundred times bigger than Earth.
Second, it is thought by some that Planet 9 is a gas giant, similar to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The gas would compound the other problems with seeing this planet.
If Planet 9 is a gas giant, anyone standing on the surface of Planet 9, and given its gigantic orbit aroud the Sun, and if it was a gas giant, would be in such darkness that they literally would not have a clue what direction the Sun was from them!!!!
The only way to replicate this darkness on Planet Earth (that is us) would be to be in a gigantic, winding cave, at least 1 mile from the entrance to the cave!!!
"Outer Darkness" Possibilities Relative To Planets And Other Objects Which Are Outside Of Neptune!!!!
Sometimes when a person is talking about our "solar system" they are thinking about the area from the Sun to Nepture (which is the outermost planet).
But other times when a person is talking about our "solar system" they are thinking all the way out to the Oort Cloud.
Yet in other cases the term "solar system" means the objects which are orbiting a different Sun!!! There are roughly 4,000 exoplanets and more are found every year!!!
So it is important to understand the context of the statement: "solar system."
Normally, when a person uses the term "solar system" they are thinking about Nepture, not dwarf planets or the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud or exoplanets or rogue planets.
"Space" outside of the planets in our Solar System (i.e. other exoplanets or rogue planets in this case) contain many, many objects that could easily be classified as "outer darkness."
Heavenly Father is not limited to having the Sons of Perdition stay in our solar system. There are many other options outside of our solar system where sons of perdition would be very, very uncomfortable!!!
But it is also very, very important to understand that Heavenly Father has the ability to place a person on a particular object (such as a dwarf planet or large rock in the Oort Cloud for that matter) and not allow them to leave that object!!!
Rogue Planets (The Ultimate Outer Darkness)
One of the things that we would not normally even think about, when we think about outer darkness, is very factual: planets which do not orbit any sun!!! One estimate is that 100,000 planets may exist which do not orbit any star "for every main sequence star"!!!
The word "rogue" is very important as it implies that the "planet" is not connected in any way to a star.
Also note the phrase "for every main sequence star"!!!! This means there could be billions or trillions or even higher numbers of these wandering planets in our Galaxy.
By the way, could an asteroid in the asteroid belt be a candidate for "outer darkness"?? I do not think so. While the asteroid belt is a long way from the Sun it is not a gas giant, meaning it does not have a cloud of fog that would obstruct the view of someone living on the surface of any asteroid. So on an asteroid a person would have an unobstructed view of the Sun even though the Sun is a long ways away. Remember, the asteroind belt is much closer to the Sun than Jupiter. Well, that is my opinion but I do not know for sure. But this is obvious: the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud would be far, far, far darker for a person.
Final Comments About The Phrase "Outer Darkness"
When the Savior was talking about "Outer Darkness" He could have been thinking about:
For item #4, rogue planets, it gets worse!!!! These are thought to be GAS GIANTS!!! This means there is a thick cloud above the surface of the rogue planet. You cannot conceive of anything so dark as living on the hard surface of a rogue planet that is a gas giant far, far from any sun!!!!
Also regarding item #4, the Milky Way galaxy alone may have billions of rogue planets!!! You don't want to live on one of those planets by yourself or even with others!!!
See this amazing Scientific American article on rogue planets:
That article indicates that there may be a smaller number of the gas giant rogue planets than thought, but there are likley a far larger number of smaller castaway worlds than thought. To put it mildely, there are lots of these rocks!!!
But perhaps the worst punishment of all would be living on a rogue planet wandering around in outer space!!! You cannot imagine how dark it would be and how lonely you would be if no one else was near you!!! Which is worse: burning in hell with other people like you or being lonely in space?? I hope I never know.
But even if you were living on something in the Oort Cloud, from that viewpoint our Sun would look only slightly brighter than a star!!!
Both Planet 9, if it had thick clouds and was outside of our solar system most of the time (if it had a giant elliptical orbit most of the time it would be far, far away from our Sun), or deep, deep, deep into the Oort Cloud or being on a rogue planet would all be classified as unbelievable darkness!!!
And I should add that the Oort Cloud, way, way, way, way away from the Sun would be very, very, very cold!!!! Remember, the Oort Cloud has a lot of ice in it!!! In the Oort Cloud, millions of different people could live alone on their own private, frozen ice cube!!!!
Don't forget loneliness as a punishment!!!
And if you did live with other people, who are also in outer darkness, think what kind of people they might be!!! You might want to be alone!!!
This is the key to me: it seems to me that God intentionally and carefully designed Planet 9 to be HELL for special people who were worse that many others!!!!!
About The Time Of Christ
The people in Jerusalen in the time of Christ did not have a clue what the Savior was talking about!!! But the apostles would clearly have known that outer darkness was not a good thing!!!
Here is my point, when the Savior made his comments, no one, not even His disciples, would have had a clue what He was talking about!!!
But today we know many options that the Savior could have been thinking about. Some people may go to the Oort cloud, others might go to rogue planets, and so on.
Perhaps some people will end up on Planet 9.
Something That Astronomers Talk About But They Know Nothing About!!!
When listening to astronomers talk you frequently hear them say something like this: "in this situation (very hot or very cold) life could not have formed." As smart as these people are, they don't know anything about "life"!!! Life starts with a single cell!!! They have have no clue how sophisticated even a bacteria is!!! It takes a heck of a lot more things to create life than just a moderate temperature, water and an atmosphere with oxygen!!!
All of the scientists (including Cell Biologists) on this planet combined could not create a complete cell from scratch, much less a living cell!!!!
Four More Articles About Astronomy On This Website
While there are countless articles on the Internet about astronomy, I also have a short article on astronomy which in turn links to three other articles on astronomy written by experts:
This article defines many terms in astronomy and it also links to a MASSIVE WEBSITE of definitions in astronomy near the bottom of this article.
This article is about the Kingdoms after Judgment Day:
This article is about life on other planets:
Where Did God Come From?? (i.e. What Was The First Cause Of All Things??)
I have an article that includes a discussion of the "first cause of all things" where the primary quote comes from Brigham Young. Read the entire first quote or you will miss the point of the article: