Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

For many of these people who are open to religious faith, one issue has been particularly troubling. They have had a difficult time reconciling the correct doctrine that we have a loving Father in Heaven and the incorrect doctrine that most of mankind would be doomed to eternal hell.

This was an issue with my great-great-grandfather Phineas Wolcott Cook. He was born in 1820 in Connecticut. In his diary he notes that he had made a covenant with the Lord to serve Him if he could find the right way. He attended many churches and at one was asked to “testify [and] join the church [and] be a Christian.” His response was he “could not tell which one to join, there were so many.” He continued to investigate several churches. One doctrine was of particular significance to him. He explained: “Sometimes they found fault with me because I wanted a more liberal salvation for the family of man. I could not believe the Lord had made a part to be saved and a great part to be damned to all eternity.” Because of this doctrine, he allowed his name to be taken off the records of one Protestant religion. When the LDS missionaries taught him the true doctrine of the plan of salvation in 1844, he was baptized.

Phineas’s faith in the loving mercy of the Lord and His plan of happiness has been shared by many honorable men and women, even when the teachings of their own churches were very bleak.

The Anglican church leader and classical scholar Frederic Farrar, the author of The Life of Christ, lamented in lectures in Westminster Abbey that the common teachings of the Protestant churches with respect to hell were incorrect. He asserted that a definition of hell which included endless torment and everlasting damnation was the result of translation errors from Hebrew and Greek to English in the King James Version of the Bible. Farrar also noted the overwhelming demonstration of a loving Father in Heaven throughout the Bible as additional evidence that the definitions of hell and damnation used in the English translation were incorrect.

Lord Tennyson in his poem “In Memoriam” expressed his heartfelt sentiment after noting that “we trust that somehow good will be the final goal of ill.” He continued:

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy’d,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete.

At the time Joseph Smith received revelations and organized the Church, the vast majority of churches taught that the Savior’s Atonement would not bring about the salvation of most of mankind. The common precept was that a few would be saved and the overwhelming majority would be doomed to endless tortures of the most awful and unspeakable intensity. The marvelous doctrine revealed to the Prophet Joseph unveiled to us a plan of salvation that is applicable to all mankind, including those who do not hear of Christ in this life, children who die before the age of accountability, and those who have no understanding.

At death, righteous spirits live in a temporary state called paradise. Alma the Younger teaches us “paradise [is] a state of rest, a state of peace, where [the righteous] shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” The unrighteous spirits dwell in spirit prison, sometimes referred to as hell. It is described as an awful place, a dark place where those fearful of the “indignation of the wrath of God” shall remain until the resurrection. However, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all spirits blessed by birth will ultimately be resurrected, spirit and body reunited, and inherit kingdoms of glory that are superior to our existence here on earth. The exceptions are confined to those who, like Satan and his angels, willfully rebel against God. At the resurrection, the spirit prison or hell will deliver up its captive spirits. Jesus came into the world “to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness.”

The Savior said: “Let not your heart be troubled. … In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you.” A succinct summary is provided in the book of Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

After all the Savior has suffered for mankind, it is not surprising that in speaking of existing churches in the First Vision, He would instruct Joseph to “join none of them, for they were all wrong.” The Savior subsequently ushered in the Restoration of His true doctrine with respect to the plan of salvation and other saving principles such as the doctrine of Christ.

But notwithstanding the significance of our doctrinal differences with other faiths, our attitude toward other churches has been to refrain from criticism. They do much good. They bless mankind. Many help their members learn of the Savior and His teachings.

A reporter for the Washington Post visited one of our Church meetings in Nigeria. The reporter interviewed one new member and told of his conversion. The reporter states:

“[He] said … he jumped off a city bus and walked into the [LDS Church building]. … He immediately liked what he heard inside [the chapel], especially that no one preached that people of other faiths were going to hell.” This echoes the feeling of numerous converts to the Church since its organization.

Our leaders have consistently counseled us “to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.”

It is equally important that we be loving and kind to members of our own faith, regardless of their level of commitment or activity. The Savior has made it clear that we are not to judge each other. This is especially true of members of our own families. Our obligation is to love and teach and never give up. The Lord has made salvation “free for all men” but has “commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.”

The desire of our hearts, of course, is not only to acquire salvation and immortality but also to attain eternal life with a loving Father in Heaven and our Savior in the celestial kingdom with our families. We can obtain eternal life only through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The Savior said, “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me.”

Those early European converts that Dickens met on board the ship Amazon had overcome many stumbling blocks. They had a testimony that revelation comes from heaven and that prophets and apostles are again on the earth. They had faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

They had come to understand the sublime destination that was in store for them. They were not fearful of the arduous journey they were undertaking, and their ultimate destination was not really the Salt Lake Valley. Their true destination was paradise followed by exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

That is why Latter-day Saints then and now sing the last verse of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” with faith and expectation.

And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!

A loving Father has provided a comprehensive and compassionate plan for His children “that saves the living, redeems the dead, rescues the damned, and glorifies all who repent.” Even though our journey may be fraught with tribulation, the destination is truly glorious.

I rejoice in the great plan of salvation that is big enough for all of our Father in Heaven’s children. I express gratitude beyond my ability to articulate for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Quentin L. Cook, “Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children,” Ensign, May 2009,

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One of the essential doctrines illuminated by the Restoration is that there must be opposition in all things for righteousness to be brought to pass. This life is not always easy, nor was it meant to be; it is a time of testing and proving. As we read in Abraham, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Elder Harold B. Lee taught, “Sometimes the things that are best for us and the things that bring eternal rewards seem at the moment to be the most bitter, and the things forbidden are ofttimes the things which seem to be the more desirable.”

The novel A Tale of Two Cities opens with the oft-quoted line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The scriptures make it clear that each generation has its own version of best and worst of times. We are all subject to the conflict between good and evil and the contrast between light and dark, hope and despair. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained, “The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience.” We know from our doctrine that good will overcome evil, and those who repent and are sanctified shall be given eternal life.

Near the time Dickens was writing his novel, the heroic efforts of the early Saints who settled the Intermountain West were occurring.

Even with their common faith, the Saints had experienced much hardship and approached the evacuation of Nauvoo with very different expectations. Some looked forward with optimism, others with concern. Two excellent examples are presented by Helen Mar Whitney and Bathsheba Smith. Both have left compelling records of their feelings.

Sister Whitney recorded her expectations upon leaving Nauvoo: “I will pack away all my little ribbons, collars and laces, etc., for we are going where we cannot purchase them. We are going out from the world to live beyond the Rocky Mountains where none others will wish to go. There will be neither rich nor poor among us, and we will have none but the honest and virtuous.” Sister Whitney’s words resonate with an idealistic optimism.

Sister Bathsheba Smith’s recorded feelings are also full of faith but evidence some trepidation. She had seen the mobs arrayed against the Saints in Missouri and was present at the death of the Apostle David W. Patten.

Recalling the evacuation of Nauvoo, she wrote: “My last act in that precious spot was to tidy the rooms, sweep up the floor and set the broom in its accustomed place behind the door. Then with emotions in my heart I gently closed the door and faced an unknown future, faced it with faith in God and with no less assurance of the ultimate establishment of the Gospel in the West and of its true enduring principles, than I had felt in those trying scenes in Missouri.”

Both of these LDS pioneer women remained strong in the gospel throughout their lives and provided wonderful service in building Zion, but they faced many additional trials and hardships, which they both faithfully endured. Despite Sister Whitney’s optimism, her first three children died at or near birth—two of them during her extended exodus from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Sister Whitney has blessed us with her writings in defense of our faith and was the mother of the Apostle Orson F. Whitney.

Sister Smith recorded the poverty, sickness, and privation that the Saints suffered as they made their way west. In March of 1847 her mother passed away, and the next month her second son, John, was born. Her record of that is brief: “He was my last child, and [he] lived only four hours.” Later in her life she was the matron of the Salt Lake Temple and the fourth general president of the Relief Society.

We are deeply touched by the hardships that the early Saints endured. Brigham Young captured this somewhat humorously in February 1856 when he stated: “I might say something with regard to the hard times. You know that I have told you that if any one was afraid of starving to death, let him leave, and go where there is plenty. I do not apprehend the least danger of starving, for until we eat up the last mule, from the tip of the ear to the end of the fly whipper, I am not afraid of starving to death.”

He went on to say, “There are many people who cannot now get employment, but the spring is going to open upon us soon, and we are not going to suffer any more than what is for our good.”

The challenges we face today are in their own way comparable to challenges of the past. The recent economic crisis has caused significant concern throughout the world. Employment and financial problems are not unusual. Many people have physical and mental health challenges. Others deal with marital problems or wayward children. Some have lost loved ones. Addictions and inappropriate or harmful propensities cause heartache. Whatever the source of the trials, they cause significant pain and suffering for individuals and those who love them.

We know from the scriptures that some trials are for our good and are suited for our own personal development. We also know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It is also true that every cloud we see doesn’t result in rain. Regardless of the challenges, trials, and hardships we endure, the reassuring doctrine of the Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ includes Alma’s teaching that the Savior would take upon Him our infirmities and “succor his people according to their infirmities.”

The scriptures and modern prophets have made it clear that there will be lean years and plentiful years. The Lord expects us to be prepared for many of the challenges that come. He proclaims, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
Quentin L. Cook, “Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time,” Ensign, Nov 2008,

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It is our faith in Jesus Christ that sustains us at the crossroads of life’s journey. It is the first principle of the gospel. Without it we will spin our wheels at the intersection, spending our precious time but getting nowhere. It is Christ who offers the invitation to follow Him, to give Him our burden, and to carry His yoke, “for [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

There is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved (see Acts 4:12). We must take upon us His name and receive His image in our countenance so that when He comes we will be more like Him (see 1 John 3:2; Alma 5:14). When we choose to follow Christ in faith rather than choosing another path out of fear, we are blessed with a consequence that is consistent with our choice (see D&C 6:34–36).
Quentin L. Cook, “Live by Faith and Not by Fear,” Ensign, Nov 2007,

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