Mosiah 3: 26-27
“Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on then no more forever.
And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus has the Lord commanded me. Amen.”
The strong, direful, terrible warnings continue from the angel:
Those who ignore the obligation will, in the afterlife, have:
“drank out of the cup of the wrath of God…”
Notice this is phrased in almost identical language to Christ’s terrible suffering in the atonement. (See 3 Ne. 11: 11; D&C 19: 18.) This is so awful an experience the Lord cannot capture adequately in revelation the words to describe it. (D&C 19: 15.)
“mercy could have claim on them no more forever.”
Meaning that if they choose this path, they will suffer. There will be nothing to mitigate what they will endure. Mercy will not intervene and lessen the ordeal.
How often has the Lord used such terrible phrases to describe the damned as:
“torment as a lake of fire and brimstone”–because we all know the pain of having our skin burned. It quickly conveys the idea of torment into our minds,
“whose flames are unquenchable”–because it will burn away until nothing impure remains,
“whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever”–because this process is eternal and will be the experience of anyone and everyone, worlds without end, who merit this purging and refining fire.
These words from the angel were delivered to a king, to be taught to his people, in a gathering in which all those who attended then covenanted with God. The audience would “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5: 2.)
Why does it require this message from the angel to produce this result?
Could they be saved by praising them, telling them they were chosen and the elect of God?
Could they be saved by telling them they were a royal priesthood?
Could they be saved by telling them that all was well with them, they prosper in the land because God is with them?
Why is it necessary to tell them of hell?
Of eternal suffering and unquenchable fire?
In The Second Comforter I remarked “there is no veil to our feelings.” That is true, but the feelings one experiences by coming into the presence of God are almost universally fear and dread. The scriptures confirm how fearful this has been to mankind:
To Abraham, it was a “horror” to draw near the Lord. (Gen. 15: 12-13.)
To Isaiah it was woeful, and terrible. (Isa. 6: 5.)
To Daniel and his companions, quaking fell upon them, many fled, leaving Daniel alone. (Dan. 10: 7-8.)
Mormon explains how men react to God’s presence as being “racked with a consciousness of guilt.” (Mormon 9: 3-4.)
When popular mythology constructs fantasies of coming before the Lord, they make it happy – not dreadful. They despise the call to repent because it disagrees with their happy myths. The angel is not overstating the case. He is explaining the great gulf that exists between fallen man and God. (See Moses 1: 10.) The unrepentant and foolish are completely unprepared for God’s presence. (Mormon 9: 2-6.) The words of the angel are attempting to give some indication to the faithful of how deeply, how completely, and how great the scope of repentance must be to avoid the similar pains of death and hell the Lord suffered on our behalf.
We delude ourselves when we think the angel’s message was not meant for all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the King Benjamin’s audience acquired their salvation by coming down in the depths of humility and repentance (Mosiah 4: 2), then we fool ourselves if we think anything less will be expected of us.
Was the angel bitter? Angry? Harsh? Unkind? Of the wrong “spirit?” Not the kind of messenger we should expect would be sent from God?
Was his message not kind enough? Not inspiring? Not faith promoting?
Can an angel or a prophet ever save anyone if they do not focus on the great burden left for mankind to repent and return to God? Will flattery ever save a man?
Samuel the Lamanite was sent to cry repentance. He put the case clearly to them and to us, but his words are no more comforting than the angel’s words were to King Benjamin and his people:
“Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
The Apostle Paul described such folks as having “itching ears.” (2 Tim. 4: 3-4.) It is a fairly apt description. These folks think themselves righteous, but they are unrepentant, unforgiven, and unsaved. They follow a religion which cannot save them, because it has become nothing more than a false idol, appealing to their vanity.