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Spiritual Death

by Richard M. Romney

Spiritual death is the condition of one who is spiritually cut off, temporarily or permanently, from the presence of God. LDS scriptures speak of two spiritual deaths, and the concept manifests itself in many ways.

The first type of spiritual death is the actual separation from God that automatically comes upon all born into mortality as a consequence of the Fall of Adam. All mortals will be redeemed from this death, as well as from physical death, through Christ's Atonement and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:21-23; 2 Ne. 9:10-15; Hel. 14:15-19; D&C 29:41), to be brought back into God's presence to stand before him.

The second spiritual death will be finalized on the day of judgment for those who have not repented (Rev. 2:11; 20:6-15; Alma 12:16-36). It is the result of a lifetime of choices. For those who ultimately lose the inclination or ability to repent, or commit unpardonable sin, it becomes perdition (2 Pet. 3:7; Alma 34:35; 40:25-26) or "banishment from the presence of God and from his light and truth forever" (DS 2:216-30). This does not extinguish the spirit of man, however, for it is eternal (see Alma 12:18; 42:9). The Savior's Atonement gives all mankind the opportunity to avoid the second spiritual death and gain immortality and eternal life.

The spiritually "dead" may be grouped into several types and categories. For example, Satan and the spirits who joined him during the war in heaven are eternally spiritually dead (D&C 29:36-39; 76:25-29). They are sons of perdition (see 2 Ne. 9:8-9). Mortals who sin "unto death" (D&C 64:7) by denying the Son after the Father has revealed him will join "the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power" (D&C 76:30-38). In yet another sense, all people on earth over the age of accountability are to a certain extent spiritually dead, depending on their present state of repentance and their degree of sensitivity to the Light of Christ and to the Holy Ghost.

Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and most other religions believe in some form of life after death, judgment, and ultimate punishment for the unrepentant. For example, the ancient Egyptians believed that the hard-hearted would die a second death by being devoured by the Chaos monster (Keel, pp. 72-73). Major differences between the Mormon concept of spiritual death and those of others center on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The only permanent spiritual death is that which individuals bring upon themselves by refusing to repent of their sins, having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves (D&C 76:35). (See Unpardonable Sin)

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


Keel, O. The Symbolism of the Biblical World, pp. 72-73. London, 1978.

Lund, Gerald N. "The Fall of Man and His Redemption." In The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure, ed. M. Nyman, pp. 83-106. Provo, Utah, 1989.

Matthews, Robert J. "The Fall of Man." In The Man Adam, ed. J. McConkie, pp. 37-64. Salt Lake City, 1990.

Romney, Marion G. "The Resurrection of Jesus." Ensign 12 (May 1982):6-9.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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