For two Viewpoint on Mormonism podcasts on this topic, see Billions of Planets and Worlds and Earths
In recent years the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been making a concerted effort to disavow the notion that exalted Mormons will, as a reward for their exaltation, be able to create and/or rule over their own world or planet throughout eternity. In an essay titled “Becoming Like God,” found on its official website, we read:
“Since human conceptions of reality are necessarily limited in mortality, religions struggle to adequately articulate their visions of eternal glory. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”50 These limitations make it easy for images of salvation to become cartoonish when represented in popular culture. For example, scriptural expressions of the deep peace and overwhelming joy of salvation are often reproduced in the well-known image of humans sitting on their own clouds and playing harps after death. Latter-day Saints’ doctrine of exaltation is often similarly reduced in media to a cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets.”
Mormon blogger Joanna Brooks complained that the idea that righteous Mormons will one day get their own planets is “folklore.”
“Sure, it’s a distorting and sensationalistic caricature of Mormon beliefs to say that all of us believe we’re going to get our own planets. You could sit in your local Mormon Church for a month of Sundays and hear no reference to it. Even among orthodox Mormons, talk of planets (and the American location of the Garden of Eden—another matter ridiculed by Ferguson) is the subject of gentle insider humor, a nod to older strains of Mormon belief and folklore.” (Link)
Mormon scholar Richard L. Bushman also plays this down:
“Take the issue of getting your own planet, for example. Elder Price talks about a planet for himself and one for Jesus. Those are not really core Mormon beliefs. Mormon scriptures and Church leaders don’t say anything about people getting their own planets. The idea is more like lore than doctrine.” (CNN)
The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), a Mormon apologetic group, even claims:
“There is no Mormon doctrine that says we will become ‘gods of our own planets.’ A search of LDS.org, which includes all of the church lesson manuals, all talks given in church conferences, and all magazines published by the LDS church shows that there are no instances—zero—where it is taught that we will be ‘gods of our own planets.'” (“Gods of their own planets?”, MormonVoices.org)
On the official Newsroom website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an article titled “Mormonism 101: FAQ.” The article states, “As an institution, the Church has the responsibility to publicly and clearly articulate its official teachings.” Yet, under the question, “Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will ‘get their own planet’?” instead of affirming that this teaching was espoused by several LDS leaders and is found in correlated manuals produced by the Church, the answer given to this question is:
“No. This idea is not taught in Latter-day Saint scripture, nor is it a doctrine of the Church. This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine. Mormons believe that we are all sons and daughters of God and that all of us have the potential to grow during and after this life to become like our Heavenly Father (see Romans 8:16-17). The Church does not and has never purported to fully understand the specifics of Christ’s statement that “in my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2).”
Unfortunately, the above comments tell only a partial story — a portion so small that they are most certainly misleading. While it is true that few leaders speak of exalted Mormons getting their own “planet” or “planets,” several leaders and correlated manuals speak of exalted Mormons making, populating, and ruling over their own worlds or earths, a common synonym for the word planet. And yes, such comments can be found on websites owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including lds.org.
What have Mormon leaders and authors said?
12th President Spencer W. Kimball
“Desirable as is secular knowledge, one is not truly educated unless he has the spiritual with the secular. The secular knowledge is to be desired; the spiritual knowledge is an absolute necessity. We shall need all of the accumulated secular knowledge in order to create worlds and to furnish them, but only through the ‘mysteries of God’ and these hidden treasures of knowledge may we arrive at the place and condition where we may use that knowledge in creation and exaltation” (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Reports, October 1968, p.131).
“Each one of you has it within the realm of his possibility to develop a kingdom over which you will preside as its king and god. You will need to develop yourself and grow in ability and power and worthiness, to govern such a world with all of its people.” (“. . . the Matter of Marriage” [address delivered at University of Utah Institute of Religion, 22 Oct. 1976], 2).
What is particularly significant about this Spencer Kimball quote is that it is included in three different current LDS manuals:
- Chapter 4: Teaching Children: from Four to Eleven Years,” A Parent’s Guide. This manual is for parents teaching their young children. They even put the quote under the section, “Teach Children to Accept and Understand Their Gender Roles.”
- Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual – Introduction. This manual is for teachers of high schoolers.
- Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual – Chapter 10. This manual is for college students.
“We educate ourselves in the secular field and in the spiritual field so that we may one day create worlds, people and govern them.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 386).
In 2001 Henry B. Eyring repeated the key part of this quote in a Church Educational System (CES) fireside talk on Sunday, May 6, in Moscow, Idaho. His message was titled, “Drive for learning must have powerful spiritual component.” The quote was repeated not only in the LDS Church News, but also in the October 2002 Ensign. On the official LDS seminary website, Kimball’s quote was again cited by Mormon Apostle Richard G. Scott. In Mormonism, “seminary” is geared for high-school students.
“The real life we’re preparing for is eternal life. Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance. Our conviction is that God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to live the life that He does. We learn both the spiritual things and the secular things ‘so we may one day create worlds [and] people and govern them’ (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 386).” (Henry B. Eyring)
“Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Privilege of Holding the Priesthood,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1975, p. 80. Quoted in Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual).
10th President Joseph Fielding Smith
“That great blessing of celestial glory could never have come to us without a period of time in mortality, and so we came here in this mortal world. We are in school, the mortal school, to gain the experiences, the training, the joys, and the sufferings that we partake of, that we might be educated in all these things and be prepared, if we are faithful and true to the commandments of the Lord, to become sons and daughters of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ; and in His presence to go on to a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever, and perhaps through our faithfulness to have the opportunity of building worlds and peopling them.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Adam’s Role in Bringing Us Mortality,” General Conference, Oct. 1976, reprinted in Liahona, Jan. 2006.)
“The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fullness of his kingdom. In other words, we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fullness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:48, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 1976, p.132)
5th President Lorenzo Snow
On page 90 (chapter five) of the correlated manual titled Presidents of the Church Student Manual: Religion 345 (2004), under the subheading, “They Shall Organize Worlds and Rule Over Them,” it states:
“Only a short time before his death, President Snow visited the Brigham Young University [then Brigham Young Academy], at Provo. President Brimhall escorted the party through one of the buildings; he wanted to reach the assembly room as soon as possible, as the students had already gathered. They were going through one of the kindergarten rooms; President Brimhall had reached the door and was about to open it and go on when President Snow said: ‘Wait a moment, President Brimhall, I want to see these children at work; what are they doing?’ Brother Brimhall replied that they were making clay spheres. ‘That is very interesting,’ the President said. ‘I want to watch them.’ He quietly watched the children for several minutes and then lifted a little girl, perhaps six years of age, and stood her on a table. He then took the clay sphere from her hand, and, turning to Brother Brimhall, said: ‘President Brimhall, these children are now at play, making mud worlds, the time will come when some of these boys, through their faithfulness to the gospel, will progress and develop in knowledge, intelligence and power, in future eternities, until they shall be able to go out into space where there is unorganized matter and call together the necessary elements, and through their knowledge of and control over the laws and powers of nature, to organize matter into worlds on which their posterity may dwell, and over which they shall rule as gods.’ (Snow, Improvement Era, June 1919, 658–59).”
“We are the offspring of God, born with the same faculties and powers as He possesses, capable of enlargement through the experience that we are now passing through in our second estate… He has begotten us in His own image. He has given us faculties and powers that are capable of enlargement until His fullness is reached which He has promised — until we shall sit upon thrones, governing and controlling our posterity from eternity to eternity, and increasing eternally.” (Millennial Star 56:772, October 5, 1894)
“When two Latter-day Saints are united together in marriage, promises are made to them concerning their offspring that reach from eternity to eternity. They are promised that they shall have the power and the right to govern and control and administer salvation and exaltation and glory to their offspring, worlds without end. And what offspring they do not have here, undoubtedly there will be opportunities to have them hereafter. What else could man wish? A man and a woman, in the other life, having celestial bodies, free from sickness and disease, glorified and beautified beyond description, standing in the midst of their posterity, governing and controlling them, administering life, exaltation and glory worlds without end” (Deseret News, 13 Mar. 1897; quoted by Spencer W. Kimball in The Miracle of Forgiveness , 246; See also Lesson 10 of The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A).
2nd President Brigham Young
“All those who are counted worthy to be exalted and to become Gods, even the sons of God, will go forth and have earths and worlds like those who framed this and millions on millions of others.” (Journal of Discourses 17:143)
“Having fought the good fight we then shall be prepared to lay our bodies down to rest to await the morning of the resurrection when they will come forth and be reunited with the spirits, the faithful, as it is said, receiving crowns, glory, immortality and eternal lives, even a fulness with the Father, when Jesus shall present His work to the Father, saying, ‘Father, here is the work thou gavest me to do.’ Then will they become Gods, even the sons of God; then will they become eternal fathers, eternal mothers, eternal sons and eternal daughters; being eternal in their organization they go from glory to glory, from power to power; they will never cease to increase and to multiply, worlds without end. When they receive their crowns, their dominions, they then will be prepared to frame earths like unto ours and to people them in the same manner as we have been brought forth by our parents, by our Father and God” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 283; Journal of Discourses 18:259, October 8, 1876)
Apostle Orson Pratt
“But another and still greater object the Lord had in view in sending us down from yonder world to this is, that we might be redeemed in due time, by keeping the celestial law, and have our tabernacles restored to us in all the beauty of immortality. Then we will be able to multiply and extend forth our posterity and the increase of our dominion without end. Can spirits do this? No, they remain single. There are no marriages among spirits, no coupling together of the males and females among them; but when they rise from the grave, after being tabernacled in mortal bodies, they have all the functions that are necessary to people worlds. As our Father and God begat us, sons and daughters, so will we rise immortal, males and females, and beget children, and, in our turn, form and create worlds, and send forth our spirit children to inherit those worlds, the same as we were sent here, and thus will the works of God continue, and not only God himself, and His Son Jesus Christ have the power of endless lives, but all of His redeemed offspring.” (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 14:242)
“Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters; indeed, there will be no end to the increase of his own children: for each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones. Thus each God forms a world for the accommodation of his own sons and daughters who are sent forth in their times and seasons, and generations to be born into the same. The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited.” (The Seer, 37, March 1853)
Apostle Moses Thatcher
“There is a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth it understanding; the sinful who listen and obey are led to repentance, and, through the doors of baptism of the water and spirit are brought out of wickedness to the enlightenment of pure knowledge, until in obedience to heavenly law they secure the keys of power authorizing them to pass by the angels, inherit glory, become heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ; and, having abiding in them eternal lives shall beget, throughout the endless ages of eternity, the souls of the children of men to the honor and glory of God, and create and have dominion over worlds.” (Moses Thatcher, Journal of Discourses 26:305)
Apostle Melvin J. Ballard
“What do we mean by endless or eternal increase? We mean that through the righteousness and faithfulness of men and women who keep the commandments of God they will come forth with celestial bodies, fitted and prepared to enter into their great, high and eternal glory in the celestial kingdom of God; and unto them, through their preparation, there will come children, who will be spirit children. I don’t think that is very difficult to comprehend and understand” (Three Degrees of Glory, 10, 1922).
Apostle L. Tom Perry
In an October, 1997 conference address titled, “Receive Truth,” Apostle L. Tom Perry cited 12th President Spencer W. Kimball who taught, “Peter and John had little secular learning, being termed ignorant. But they knew the vital things of life, that God lives and that the crucified, resurrected Lord is the Son of God. They knew the path to eternal life. This they learned in a few decades of their mortal life. Their righteous lives opened the door to godhood for them and creation of worlds with eternal increase” (President Kimball Speaks Out , 91). (See Ensign, November 1997, p. 60).
Apostle Bruce McConkie
“Exalted parents are to their children as our Eternal Parents are to us. Eternal increase, a continuation of the seeds forever and ever, eternal lives — these comprise the eternal family of those who gain eternal life. For them new earths are created, and thus the on-rolling purposes of the Gods of Heaven go forward from eternity to eternity.” (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 23, 1982)
LDS Church Manuals
“To live in the highest part of the celestial kingdom is called exaltation or eternal life. To be able to live in this part of the celestial kingdom, people must have been married in the temple and must have kept the sacred promises they made in the temple. They will receive everything our Father in Heaven has and will become like Him. They will even be able to have spirit children and make new worlds for them to live on, and do all the things our Father in Heaven has done. People who are not married in the temple may live in other parts of the celestial kingdom, but they will not be exalted” (Gospel Fundamentals , 201).
“An essential requirement for exaltation is celestial marriage, for exaltation depends upon the continuation of the family in eternity and the power to populate other worlds as our Father did this one.” (Principles of the Gospel, published by the LDS Church, 1976)
“And so through the power of the priesthood the man has the opportunity of obtaining that degree of perfection by which he may create worlds and populate them with his own offspring” (Patriarch Eldred G. Smith, BYU Speeches of the Year, March 10, 1964, p.7).
“Long before our God began his creations, he dwelt on a mortal world like ours, one of the creations that his Father had created for him and his brethren. He, with many of his brethren, was obedient to the principles of the eternal gospel. One among these, it is presumed, was a savior for them, and through him they obtained a resurrection and an exaltation on an eternal, celestial world. 8 Then they gained the power and godhood of their Father and were made heirs of all that he had, continuing his works and creating worlds of their own for their own posterity—the same as their Father had done before, and his Father, and his Father, and on and on. . . Nothing is more basic in the restored gospel than these truths that, because of recent events of space travel, are so timely. The great hope of the gospel for us is that we may come to a oneness with our Lord and our Father and partake of this same work and glory and godhood. Being joint-heirs of all that the Father has, we may then look forward to using those powers to organize still other worlds from the unorganized matter that exists throughout boundless space. Creating other worlds, peopling them with our own eternal posterity, providing a savior for them, and making known to them the saving principles of the eternal gospel, that they may have the same experiences we are now having and be exalted with us in their turn—this is eternal life. No wonder this possibility continues to fascinate and inspire Saints of all ages.” (BYU Professor Kent Nielson, “People on Other Worlds”, Ensign, April 1971)
“Brigham Young believed that man is sovereign over his own actions; yet he did not rule out the omnipotence of God. He recognized the possibility of divine intervention, such as the religious experience of Paul, but believed the ultimate decisions of life affecting man’s eternal destiny are to be left to man. This idea was so important to Brigham Young as he conceived the purpose of this mortal existence that he said that ‘the consent of the creature must be obtained before the Creator can rule perfectly.’ Explaining this with eternal perspective, Brigham Young said: ‘Man is made an agent to himself before his God; he is organized for the express purpose, that he may become like his master. The Lord has organized mankind for the purpose of increasing in that intelligence and truth. . . until he is capable of creating worlds on worlds, and becoming Gods, even the sons of God.’ Believing that ‘the power of choice all intelligent beings inherit from the Gods of eternity. . . is innate,’ ” (“The Reflections of Brigham Young on the Nature of Man and the State,” by J. Keith Melville, BYU Studies, vol. 4 (1961-1962), Num. 3 and 4 – Spring and Summer 1962, p.257)
“So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.” (A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose] and the Twelve, “The Father and the Son,” Improvement Era, June 1916, 942, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 131, 1976)
In his book Doctrinal Details of the Plan of Salvation (2005), Mormon educator David J. Ridges, who served 35 years with the Church Educational System, listed 44 true or false questions in what he called a “Plan of Salvation Pretest.” Question 31 (page 4) states “Those who receive exaltation will actually be making and peopling worlds of their own.” On page 13 he states that the answer is true, “President Brigham Young said, ‘After men have got their exaltations and their crowns—have become Gods, even the sons of God. . . they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit; and that is the first of their operations with regard to organizing a world’ (Journal of Discourses, 6:275).”
Ridges also wrote:
“Those who live worthy to become gods (D&C 132:20) will live as husbands and wives eternally and will have the blessing of ‘eternal increase,’ in other words, of having unlimited number of spirit children. Spirit children will be born to them as offspring (Acts 17:28-29), just as we were to our heavenly parents (Hebrews 12:9). This is also referred to as ‘a continuation of the seeds forever and ever’ (D&C 132:19). As gods, they will create worlds for their spirit children and send them through the same ‘great plan of happiness’ (Alma 42:8) that the Father has in place for us” (David R. Ridges, Mormon Beliefs and Doctrines Made Easier, p.88).
“When we escape from this earth, (do) we suppose we are going to heaven? Do you suppose you are going to the earth that Adam came from? that Eloheim came from? where Jehovah the Lord came from? No. When you have learned to become obedient to the Father that dwells upon this earth, to the Father and God of this earth, and obedient to the messengers He sends—when you have done all that, remember you are not going to leave this earth. You will never leave it until you become qualified, and capable, and capacitated to become a father of an earth yourselves.” – Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 1:356