For generations, the words “endless punishment” and “eternal punishment” had a clear meaning. So clear, that churches built their doctrine upon it. Then the Lord explained to Joseph Smith that the words had a different meaning:
“Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory. Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest. For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great it is! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my name is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore– Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment.” (D&C 19: 6-12.)
Instantly, what was once an adjective turns into a proper noun. With that shift, doctrine collapses and a new understanding unfolds.
What makes you think the scriptures are not filled with these same forms of Divine word usages that have one meaning in the minds of the uninitiated, and another to the minds of “mine apostles” [or the Lord’s true witnesses of His resurrection]?
When I read the many arguments regarding the design of God in authorizing plural wives “to raise up seed unto me” (Jacob 2: 30), I am left with the same bemusement about this error as I am with the historic Christian error about eternal punishment. I would ask you to consider whether the designs of God in “raising up seed unto Him” might be fulfilled ONLY by producing eternal fruit worthy of preservation at the coming harvest? (See Jacob 5: 74.) If this is the meaning, then the process of “raising up seed unto God” will require something different than merely breeding. It will require a covenant, and redemption, knowledge, light and truth, and ultimately the glory of God, which is intelligence. I think there was as much going on in using a Divine vocabulary with the term “raise up seed unto me” as there was in the terms endless punishment and eternal punishment.
Our greatest problem is the presumption that we “know” something to be true when it is merely our belief in a notion, coupled with our arrogance and lack of humility before God. We want certainty. We want to be right. We don’t want to be working out our salvation in fear and trembling, as the Gospel requires. (See Philipians 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) We want no such anxiety.