It looks like I’m taking requests now.
I received the following message at one of the various goofy billboards I frequent.
Do you take requests for your blog? If so, I’d like to read something by you on a particular aspect of Mormonism. The concept that we are in essence training to be gods of our own worlds which we create. I find this so fascinating, and I’m surprised whole books haven’t been written about it.
This concept poses so many interesting questions.
Yes, it does, but it’s a whole lot more boring than that. Church would likely be more exciting if it were a series of “God training sessions” where we landscape planets and divvy out Spock ears. Instead, the “training” we receive is how to be more like Christ, which is essentially the same kind of training that most Churches provide for their members. The idea is that through Christ, we can become, in Biblical terms, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” ( Romans 8:17 ) The mechanics of this inheritance – planets and solar systems and such – are rarely, if ever, discussed.
For instance, if people who have died have since become gods of their own worlds, do these worlds represent extraterrestrials? Or are their worlds in some seperate reality?
Probably the former, although I’m not sure if I understand the distinction. Certainly they would exist in worlds apart from this one, as Mormon scriptures state the following:
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.” (Moses 1:33)
I think traditional Christian theology, which also posits the existence of heaven and angels and things not of this earth, would be more likely to view these things as existing in a separate reality, whereas Mormons have the audacity to locate God and His creations within time and space.
Would any potential extraterrestrials then owe humans fealty since we become their gods?
That’s not how it works. The fundamental unit of the gospel is the family. Your father on Earth is the father of your body, but God is the father of your spirit. We will always be subject to Him, and we will always be part of his family. Those on other worlds He has created are His children, too, and He will always remain their God. In crude terms, we don’t get to muscle in on His territory.
Do Mormons then believe in the possibility of extraterrestrials?
Yes, although Joseph Smith has said that “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it.” That would seem to preclude a lot of traffic between worlds. In addition, Mormon theology suggests that these other worlds are very much like this one, since, like Earth, they are inhabited by the children of God. From my perspective, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for flying saucers and bug-eyed monsters.
And since people will one day become gods, which means there will be more than one, does that make Mormonism a form of polytheism?
That’s the accusation, but it’s misleading.
There are two distinct ideas that invite the “Mormons are polytheists” label. The first is that Mormons reject the traditional definition of the Trinity, which states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all the same person, or, at least, that they are three people and one person at the same time, or of the same “substance.” The traditional creeds define this one-in-three, three-in-one relationship as inherently incomprehensible, which is fine by me, because it makes no sense at all. To my mind, the Trinity is a shortcut; it allows Christians to affirm their Monotheism and still acknowledge three different Gods, but it does so by an indefinable intellectual fiat.
Mormons believe that these three are, in fact, three distinct people, and all three can rightfully be called God. However, they also believe these three are infinitely more alike than they are separate, and that all three are completely united in purpose, power, and authority. There aren’t three separate agendas in play, and each member of the Godhead can speak for the other. In that sense, the Father is the only God, since both the Son and the Holy Ghost exist solely to do His will. So, despite objections by Trinitarians, we’re essentially monotheists in terms of how we worship.
This, however, is a bit of a tangent from your question. The second concept that gets Mormons into trouble, which is the one you raise, is that if people can go on to become like God, then there must be a number of Gods, perhaps an infinite number, who are distinct from the God who is our Father. This is more or less accurate. It’s essential to note, however, that we will never cease to be subject to our own Father and God, so the existence of these other Gods and other families has no bearing on our own faith and religious fealty. Some have more accurately defined Mormons as “henotheists,” which means devotion to a single God while acknowledging the existence of other gods.
Is this the purpose of the possibility reincarnation?
No. Mormon doctrine rejects the idea of reincarnation entirely. We do believe in an infinite soul with no beginning and no end, but the trajectory of that soul is linear, not circular. Nobody gets born into mortality more than once.
That each life we live is a class in the school of Earth, and we become gods when we graduate?
Kind of. Mortality is very much a “testing ground,” but what we’re learning isn’t necessarily how to govern planets. It’s how to be more like Christ. And, I should note, it’s a test all of us ultimately fail without Christ’s sacrifice.
Since the Mormons believe that God resides on Kolob, is the God of either Kolob or Earth formerly a mortal being who similarily achieved godhood after living many lives and graudating?
Take out the “many lives” part and you’ve got the gist of it, although we don’t know the details. One church leader penned the couplet “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” He didn’t elaborate beyond that.
Incidentally, that couplet was lifted by “Battlestar Galactica” in the second part of the “War of the Gods” episode.
What is the God/Earth/Kolob relationship? What is Kolob like? Where is it, do astonomers know? If so, why haven’t Mormons suggested aiming Hubble there? If they did, is there hubble telemetry of Kolob?
We don’t know jack-diddly about Kolob, other than the fact that it’s a star, not a planet, and it’s the star “nearest unto the throne of God.” (Abraham 3:2-3) A handful of Mormons who are loonier than me have made some wild guesses as to where or what it is, but there’s just not much hard info.
How did the Mormons develop this belief?
Mormons believe that the era of revelation didn’t end with the original apostles. These doctrines are all the product of modern revelation to modern prophets.
Didn’t the Mormon faith pre date the popularization of the idea of beings on other planets?
Probably. Joseph Smith was talking about this stuff back in the 1830s.
Anyway, I’d like to see you tackle this on your blog.
How’d I do?