A chronicle of Issues, Studies, News and other items of interest regarding Mormonism (2006-2013)
Friday, November 15, 2019
Mormonism and E.T.
1st creation, Kolob, nearest the home of God - from The Book of Abraham
A earlier survey suggested the beliefs of the Mormon Church may be the most likely to survive an encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI).
Ted Peters, a professor of Systematic Theologywondered "could the world's religions survive the discovery of extraterrestrial life? Or would their beliefs be so shaken that they would eventually collapse?" He asked 1300 people if they thought the discovery of ETI would shake their faith.
The results indicate religion would survive discovery of ETI. However the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have the highest rate of acceptance of (ETI). The report notes:
Note how high Mormons score. Many Mormon respondents added comments to the effect that belief in ETI is already a part of Mormon doctrine. "My religion (LDS, Mormon) already believes in extra-terrestrials."
Mormon Origins of ETI belief
After Joseph Smith translated and published the Book of Mormon in 1830, he began translating the Bible. The text included "and he [Moses] beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof." Then the Lord explained to Moses "there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man." (Book of Moses 1:28-35) This was later canonized as scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His translation also stated that many sought "the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world." (Inspired Version, Genesis 14:34 [not canonized]) Joseph Smith's grand-nephew, apostle Joseph Fielding Smith (future president of the church) affirmed this idea in 1954, "we are taught that portions of this earth have been taken from it, such as the city of Enoch, which included the land surface as well as the people. Yet the earth has maintained its steady course." (Doctrines of Salvation 2:316 & 1:62).
An 1832 revelation received by Joseph Smith stated "that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." (D&C 76:24)
In 1835 Joseph Smith purchased some ancient Egyptian papyri which he translated into the Latter-day Saint scripture, The Book of Abraham. It describes a star named Kolob which is near the throne of God. The star (possibly a planet) governed others "which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest" (Abraham 3:3). Many Latter-day Saints believe Kolob is the planet where God and other celestial beings live.
In the 1840s, Joseph Smith introduced the temple endowment which also indicated other worlds were inhabited, and going through the same process as earth.
An 1843 a sermon by Joseph Smith suggested that angels can only minister to the planet they earlier lived on as mortals. "There are no angels who administer to this earth but who belong or have belonged to this earth. The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth, but they reside in the presence of God, but on a Globe like a sea of glass and fire." (Sermon, Ramus, Ill., Sunday April 2, 1843. Parts of this sermon were later canonized.)
This concept continues in modern LDS thought. In 1989, Apostle Neal A. Maxwell taught "we do not know how many inhabited worlds there are, or where they are. But certainly we are not alone." (Wonderful Flood of Light p.25)
Today Latter-day Saints believe that the most righteous will become "exalted" and couples will rule over a planet that will be populated with their spiritual offspring.
Other unofficial "folk doctrines" exist such as the lost ten tribes living near the North Star, or that the Gulf of Mexico was the former (and future) location of the City of Enoch. Various church leaders have expressed their opinions on the topic, but they are not considered Mormon doctrine.
For example, by 1836, the father of Joseph Smith & presiding church patriarch was giving patriarchal blessings telling individuals they would have the power to transport themselves to other planets and teach the gospel there. And in 1852 Brigham Young taught that Adam and Eve lived on another planet before coming to earth. He also felt the moon and sun were inhabited. Joseph Fielding Smith echoed this idea in 1954,"It is my opinion that the great stars that we see, including our sun, are celestial worlds; at least worlds that have passed on to their exaltation or other final resurrected status." (Doctrines of Salvation, volume 1, pp 88-89)
From the earliest days of the church, Joseph Smith understood the earth was one of many inhabited planets, each used as part of God's plan. God physically resided on, or near Kolob. Those who chose to follow God would one day have their own world populated with their spiritual offspring.
In the survey, participants were asked what they thought of this statement: "Extraterrestrial beings are likely to have religious beliefs and practices which will conflict sharply with established beliefs and practices as we know them on earth." Most Mormon strongly disagreed with this, and researchers commented:
We note the singular strength of disagreement among Mormons, perhaps due to the existing incorporation of ETI into Mormon theology.
LDS theology see's God's work with humanity expanded beyond the confines of planet earth.
(Originally published in 2010 at examiner.com by Clair Barrus)