For whatever reason, science fiction has definitely made a comeback in American culture. Filmmakers have found that movies depicting aliens from space are big money makers. Interestingly enough, Hollywood is not the only one touting the phrase, “We are not alone.” Long before black and white film captured plastic rocket ships hanging by a string, leaders of the Mormon Church were declaring that life existed on other planets. The big difference lies in the fact that Hollywood likes to portray life in outer space as creatures with big, oval-shaped heads and skinny torsos. Mormon leaders, on the other hand, have insisted that life on other worlds is made up of literal human “brothers and sisters.”
This should really come as no surprise. The thought of life on other worlds was clearly taught by both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. According to Oliver B. Huntington, Joseph Smith instructed, “The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being about six feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker style and are quite general in style or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally, near a thousand years” (History of the Life of Oliver B. Huntington, pg. 10, typed copy, University of Utah). Huntington also records: “In my patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and — to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now see with your eyes” (The Young Women’s Journal 3:264, 1892).
Huntington’s comment seems pale in comparison to those made by Brigham Young. Not only did Young acknowledge that the moon was inhabited, but he also insisted that the sun was inhabited as well! In a sermon given on July 24, 1870, Young declared:
” Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed “the man in the moon,” and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth when it is celestialized” (Journal of Discourses 13:271).
Joseph Smith, in his Inspired Version (a.k.a. Joseph Smith Translation) of the Bible, states in Genesis 14:34: “And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for 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.” According to Mormon folklore, this city of Enoch was transported, land and all, toward the throne of God. Tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“The Lord, who created the earth, certainly controls it. Why try to deny him this power? Moreover, 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, and `abideth the law’ which was given to it.” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:316).
Joseph Young, an LDS Seventy and brother of Brigham Young, wrote in his History of the Organization of the Seventies, “Joseph Smith said, on another occasion, in the hearing of some of the saints still surviving, that the City of Enoch would again take its place in the identical spot from which it had been detached, now forming that chasm of the earth, filled with water, called the Gulf of Mexico” (p. 12).
Such teachings should not be considered merely a result of nineteenth century ignorance. Modern LDS leaders have also taught that there are humans living on other earths. For instance,President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the following in a book appropriately titled Doctrines of Salvation: “We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring” (1:62).
Smith also taught that just as there are millions of galaxies, there are also millions of Gods. He wrote, “…the great universe of stars has multiplied beyond the comprehension of men. Evidently each of these great systems is governed by divine law; with divine presiding Gods, for it would be unreasonable to assume that each was not so governed” (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:144).
In his book, A Wonderful Flood of Light (p.25), LDS Apostle Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “We do not know how many inhabited worlds there are, or where they are. But certainly we are not alone.” On page 38 of Maxwell’s Not My Will, But Thine, he wrote, “Of these worlds we learn further that ‘the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God’ (D&C 76:24). It is all more than we can really comprehend.”
While such comments may make for interesting science fiction, they certainly do not have a place in either the Bible or true Christianity. Unfortunately, many sincere Latter-day Saints consider the above men to be divinely inspired men of God. In any other setting, statements such as the above would be taken no more seriously than those made by Marshall Applewhite, who committed suicide with most of his followers in the Heaven’s Gate cult. Is there really much difference between those who believe that a UFO following the Hale-Bopp Comet had come to pick them up and those who teach that their brothers and sisters exist on other planets, including the sun?
For a look at other historical issues related to Mormonism, please click here.