There is an idea in LDS folk theology that if you knew how glorious the bottom two kingdoms of heaven were, you would want to commit suicide to get there. Mormons sometimes even claim that Joseph Smith taught this, but this has been debunked. This “folk” theology is VERY strong in the culture of Mormonism. After a lot of searching (back when I studied this issue), I was only able to find one solid reference supporting this. It was only by the “Patriarch to the Church” in 1964, arguably not that important or authoritative of a position in the modern LDS Church. Yet, despite this singular reference, it is obvious to me (via many conversations with LDS individuals) that this line of thinking is persistent and important to many Mormons for its explanatory power.
If I want to respectfully understand and approach Mormonism as a generalized whole, I have to take this LDS folk theology very seriously. It informs the LDS mindset and mitigates the equally real LDS notion that the bottom two kingdoms are also, to put it lightly, negative experiences.
But notice that this doesn’t fulfill the strict, minimalist notion of what constitutes “official”, binding Mormon doctrine. I am compelled to take Mormonism seriously not merely as an elusive set of abstract ideas, explicated by LDS canon, but also as a set of LDS traditional beliefs that perpetuate, uncorrected and acquiesced to by the LDS institution. If I *limit* myself to the elusive, abstract, minimalist Mormonism of binding and “official” doctrine, it would actually be counter-productive to my understanding of the Mormon people and their traditional theology. It wouldn’t be loving.
Mormons, please think about this the next time you feel tempted to dismiss an evangelical critique/approach/summary/survey of Mormonism with the “it’s not ‘official’ doctrine” panacea.