Is Hell Really That Hot?
When I was a child, near my grandparents' home was a seemingly ancient, abandoned adobe home that we thought was haunted, especially at night. Underneath the stairs was a deep, dark hole. My grandpa (or somebody) told me that the devil lived down there, and when I was very young I believed him. At any rate, I could almost feel the fires of hell ascending from the bottomless pit beneath the haunted stairs.
Has someone ever told you (or have you told them) "I hope you burn in hell!" Dante, in his Divine Comedy, frequently describes hell as a place where everyone and everything is burning. The physical fires of endless torment are commonly referred to in a variety of Christian theological creeds.
Likewise, Islam refers to hell as a place of intense heat. In Sura 18 verse 29, for example, it says
Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloses them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burns the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting place!
Christian and Muslim theology alike imply that a myriad of God's children go to this place of endless burning. But do we really believe that such a place exists? And will a predominant majority of God's children go there? Latter-day Saint theology doesn't teach either of these ideas. Rather, Mormon scripture explains that hell is not a place of intense heat, but a state of mind that can be compared to such a place. It also sets out the "qualifications" of those who will be required to endure hell, which implies to me that relatively few will actually have to endure it.
Interestingly, this verse in Jacob chapter 6 of the Book of Mormon makes the metaphor appear to be a reality
according to the power of ajustice, for justice cannot be denied, ye must go away into that blake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever...Other passages make it clear, however, that the "lake of fire and brimstone" are only symbols for the guilt of the unrepentant. For example, a verse in Mosiah chapter 3 shows the metaphorical comparison
And their atorment is as a blake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up cforever and ever.A passage in Mosiah chapter 2 is perhaps the best explanation of what those "flames [which] are unquenchable" really symbolize.
if that man arepenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine bjustice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own cguilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the dpresence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and epain, and fanguish, which is like an unquenchable gfire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.
So, hell is not really that hot. Because it's not even really a place, despite all the Christian dogma and the metaphors we might have learned as kids that we thought were real. It's a state of mind. Equally important, love of God and a reliance, through repentance, on the Atonement of Christ, are all that is required for each of us to avoid the torments of hell's metaphorical "lake of fire and brimstone". For most people, that should be easy.