What is hell?
The Prophet Joseph Smith described the true nature of hell: “A man is his own [tormentor] and his own [condemner]. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.” TPJS, 357; WJS, 353.
What can I do to shut the gates of hell?
Nephi says, “. . . May the gates of hell be shut continually before me because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite . . .” 2 Nephi 3:8
So what does that mean?
When I read the beginning of verse eight, I see there are things Nephi needs to repent of, so the gates of hell are CONTINUALLY shut before him.
#1 Why should my heart weep?
#2 Why should my soul linger in the valley of sorrow?
#3 Why should my flesh waste away
#4 Why should my strength slacken
In other words, why am I having a pity party? Why am I discouraged? Why am I feeling sorry for myself? Because of mine afflictions? Is that a good reason to open the gates of hell?
And why should I yield to sin because of my flesh? Why should I give way to temptations? What am I tempted to do when life gets hard?
What exactly is the evil one doing in my heart? Who opened the gate? How is my peace being destroyed? Why do I want to invite the evil one to afflict my soul?
Why am I angry because of my enemy? Well Nephi might say, my brothers hate me and are trying to kill me. Is that a good enough reason for Nephi to open the gates of hell?
Why do I even want to even open the gates of hell in the first place? Because it feels so good? I love being depressed? I enjoy feeling sorry for myself? What’s the pay off? Am I justified in getting angry?
So what’s the alternative to hell? What is the key to shutting the gates of hell? Nephi says . . . a broken heart and contrite spirit. What does it look like to have a broken heart and contrite spirit? Nephi is clear that it is not being depressed, discouraged, and sorrowful.
Why do I need a broken heart and contrite spirit? So I can learn. I am here to learn my lessons and learn them well. I am in school. Nothing happens except it is designed to teach me important and essential lessons that I need to experience peace and joy. It does not matter that most of my teachers are ugly and cruel. Most of the time I will want to fire my teachers because my lessons are painful.
So What! I can learn with joy or learn with sorrow. I choose joy when I recognize I am blessed everyday with an opportunity to learn.
I learn through suffering. Why would I want to stop the learning process? Because it hurts? “. . . though he was a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him . . .” Heb. 1:12-13
The Lord has given His word with an immutable [unchanging over time or unable to be changed] covenant that all things work together for my good. Do I believe Him?
Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted, yea, rejoice evermore and in everything give thanks, waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth and are recorded with this seal and testament: The Lord has sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. Therefore, he gives this promise unto you with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled, and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, says the Lord God. T&C 98:1
What is my part? Do I give thanks in all things not just the pleasant things? Do I wait patiently?
My prayers have become more effective since I stopped asking for this cup to be removed and instead ask, “What can I learn from this experience? Help me learn my lessons well. Show me my error, so I can repent.” School became a little easier when I realized I am here to learn. I am not on a vacation.
Does having a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean I “become as a child: submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [me], even as a child doth submit to his father.” Mosiah 1:16
It doesn’t matter what pains I bear, what troubles I experience, what challenges I face. I have complete confidence it is good for me, and I trust Father 100% a hundred percent of the time. Everything that happens in life works together for my good and God’s glory. After all, I am God’s work, “For behold, this is My work and My glory: to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man.” Genesis 1:7
Nephi gives us the key to shutting up the gates of hell. “Awake my soul! . . . Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul . . . Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord and say, O Lord, I will praise thee for ever . . . O Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee for ever . . .
I pray to learn my lessons and learn them well. I pray to be a good student and rejoice in the opportunity I have to learn and grow. I pray to be strict in the plain road. I pray to walk in the path of the low valley and love every minute of it!!!
. . . You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm, in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. T&C 139:16