Latter-day Saint exobiology (pt. 1)

Indeed, many observers assert that aliens would be bad for believers. Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research, once wrote that finding intelligent other-worldly life “will be inconsistent with the existence of God or at least organized religions.”

That quote is from the Wired article, “Christian Theologians Prepare for Extraterrestrial Life” by Brandon Keim (dated 6/13/08). The article itself is in response to an interview with “Vatican chief astronomer and papal science adviser” Gabriel Funes on extraterrestrials and religion (see “The Extraterrestrial is My Brother“). Here’s part of the interview:

LOR: And [the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life] would not be a problem for our faith?

FUNES: I believe no. As a multiplicity of creatures exist on earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God. This does not contrast with our faith because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God. To say it with Saint Francis, if we consider earthly creatures as “brother” and “sister,” why cannot we also speak of an “extraterrestrial brother?” It would therefore be a part of creation.

Of course, from a Latter-day Saint point of view, this is old news. LDS theology and scriptures from the start took a vast, expansive, and non-geocentric view of the universe, including its population. Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of Genesis — in particular, Moses 1, which is a preface to the Old Testament version of Genesis 1 — makes this clear from the start. Here are some selected quotes from Moses 1 (given by Smith in June 1830, just 3 months after the Church was formally organized):

[God speaking to Moses:] And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease. Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth. . . .

. . . and [Moses] said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I had never supposed. . . .

. . . And the Lord God said unto Moses For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. And by the word of my power, have I created them; which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. 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. . . .

. . . But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, 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; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.

And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but there are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. (Moses 1:4-5, 10, 31-33, 35, 37-38)

So by mid-1830, LDS doctrine — as given by what was (and is) considered restored ancient scripture — declared the vast size of the universe and that the Earth was just one among an uncounted number of worlds, with a strong suggestion that these other worlds were and are inhabited as well.

This doctrine was re-emphasized just six months later (December 1830) in the ongoing scriptural expansion of Genesis when writings attributed to Enoch were given. Enoch has a vision where he ascends into heaven and sees the wickedness of all the earth:

And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as rain upon the mountains?

And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is that thou canst weep, seeing thou are holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there . . . how is it thou canst weep? . . .

[God replies:] Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also. Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren. (Moses 7:28-31, 35-36)

That last verse makes it clear that not only has God made worlds without number, but that many of them are inhabited. And the nature of such inhabitants is made even clearer a year later, in a revelation to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon given on February 16, 1832 (and recorded as section 76 of the Doctrine & Covenants):

. . . and we heard the voice bearing record that [Jesus Christ] is the Only Begotten of the Father — 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 76:23-24)

So we see that by early 1832 — nearly 180 years ago and almost a century before Edwin Hubble proved that galaxies other than ours existed — LDS scriptures and revelations explicitly and repeatedly stated the existence of incomprehensible numbers of extraterrestrial worlds, at least some number of which, like the Earth, are inhabited by “begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

Next up: do all of those “begotten sons and daughters unto God” on other worlds look just like us? ..bruce..

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