Worlds without number and the inhabitants thereof

April 9, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 11:57 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,MMP,Scriptures,Theology

One of the most striking concepts revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith can be found in the first chapter of the Book of Moses.

33 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.
34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
35 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.

38 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 1:33-35, 38)

These scriptures are most commonly read in the church to mean that before this earth was created there were innumerable other similar inhabited worlds that God created. In fact the header in this chapter reads: Many inhabited worlds seen.

Then to add to the mix, we can throw in this insight Joseph taught near the end of his life:

It is the first principle to know that we may converse with him and that he once was a man like us, and the Father was once on an earth like us (King Follet Discourse, Wilford Woodruff Diary)

So the basic idea as most read these passages is that there have been innumerable inhabited worlds (which are generally thought to be planets as opposed to the figurative worlds on the same planet) and that God, the Father of Jesus Christ, was a mortal on at least one of them.

If that isn’t enough to set us apart doctrinally as a peculiar people I don’t know what would be. But while these statements open grand new vistas for us, they also bring up a lot of new questions. Here are some of the issues that interest me:

1. Who were the inhabitants of all those other worlds?
2. Did each world have a savior of its own?
3. Who was the Godhead for each world?
4. How similar was the human plot of each world?
5. How similar was the animal and plant life of previous worlds to ours?

I’ll spend time exploring these questions over several posts to come. In my next post (which I’ll publish tonight as well) I’ll start with the first question. This ought to be fun!

47 Comments »

  1. 6. Was the Father a Messiah? (Jesus said that he only does what he saw his father do).

    7. Does the Father still hold Family Home Evening? (or rather does he still have relationships with his ‘earthly’ parents/children?

    Comment by yddy42 — April 10, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

  2. While there definitely are “answers” to these questions given by various figures in the late 19th century, I’m not convinced they are revealed answers. In either case it seems difficult to discern the answer and I have no problem saying, “I don’t know.”

    I should add that one of the more famous discourses about multiple worlds was Orson Hyde’s on the parable of the vineyards in D&C 88. There he says each of the twelve vineyards is a different planet and Christ is the savior of each. That seemed very profound when I found it on my mission. I think it far less profound today and take a healthy skepticism towards such speculations.

    Comment by Clark — April 10, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

  3. yddy42: Nice additional questions. I’ll address those in the follow up posts in this series.

    Clark: I have no problem admitting “I don’t know” either, and that is what I do say in most venues. But this seems like a good place to explore the merits and follies of various models. Who knows, maybe we could even cobble together a model that makes some sense.

    BTW — Where can I find that Orson Hyde sermon? Is it in the JD or something? It sounds like it could be an interesting reference point as we speculate here.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 10, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

  4. But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you.
    I think this is the one of the least appreciated verses around. It accounts for much of my stance on a lot of issues, including the crazy topic of foreknowledge. There’s just lots we don’t know about anything outside of how this world operates.
    That said, I think I’m mostly in favor of the idea that it generally works the same way each time in terms of creation, fall, and atonement, although I don’t know whether I believe in the one savior per world theory or the one per spirit generation theory, though I don’t tend to go for the one savior for all spirits ever theory. It doesn’t make much sense to me.
    yddy42:
    I’ve never been satisfied that the evidence you give for point 1 says what some claim it does. It seems like a pretty general statement to me, and I’m not sure how far we can push it. He at least busies himself with the work of his father–bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, though I would have no problem with the father as a savior, I don’t know that I see it as necessary.
    As far as his relationships, I hope so. Why should God the father be the only one who has to give up his important relationships?

    Comment by Steve H — April 10, 2005 @ 10:53 pm

  5. Am I missing something? Where in the verses you provided does it state that other worlds are inhabited?

    Comment by Kim Siever — April 11, 2005 @ 7:54 am

  6. Kim: I noticed that too. There is room for the interpretation that this is the only inhabited world ever in the Moses verses alone, however the header of that chapter and the quote from Joseph say that other worlds were inhabited.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 8:27 am

  7. Also, if he’s created worlds without number, is it really worth telling us if they are just rocks floating around out there? Are they even worlds? I don’t see that there would be a purpose.

    Comment by Steve H — April 11, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

  8. I always interpreted Abraham as saying that there were other saviors out there somewhere:

    “And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it; And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.”

    If Kolob was meant to be a symbol for Christ (a fairly popular idea) it would seem that these other governing ones might be Christs as well.

    Man, talk about speculation.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 3:32 pm

  9. Clark,
    The same thing happened to me on my mission. Same verses, same discourse.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 3:33 pm

  10. That is two of you who have read that sermon… Where is it found? Sounds interesting.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 3:42 pm

  11. I read it in the D&C student manual I think.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 3:45 pm

  12. Wow. I have that institute manual. I’ll look up Orson Hyde ain the D&C 88 section there. If the quote shows up there it can’t be all that speculative though — That’s a correlation-cleansed manual.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

  13. Ok I found the quote. It is found in that manual indeed on page 201. It is quoting Elder Orson Pratt (not Hyde) from JD 17:331-32. I’ll read the whole thing comment on it if there is anything of interest in it later.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

  14. Whoops. My bad. Hyde was the one who had that odd family tree in explaining the plan of salvation.

    Comment by Clark — April 11, 2005 @ 10:23 pm

  15. Geoff, the scripture header is not scripture.

    What quote from Joseph Smith are you referring to? I couldn’t find a quote from Joseph Smith in this post or the comments that states the other worlds were inhabited.

    SteveH,

    It may be that the intent of creating the worlds was to populate them. Or it may not be. The scriptures are silent on the issue and we are just guessing. Nothing wrong with guessing, as long as we realise that’s all it is.

    That being said, ‘world’ can also be used as a ‘synonym’ for planet. We have nine such worlds in our solar system and not all of them are inhabited. Does that mean they don’t have a purpose?

    Comment by Kim Siever — April 12, 2005 @ 8:07 am

  16. I always thought that this verse:

    34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

    Meant that there were many adams (i.e., for the many worlds). Many Adams = many inhabitants. No?

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 12, 2005 @ 8:34 am

  17. Kim,

    Check the post again. The second quote is from Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse (as recorded by Wilford Woodruff).

    J,

    I agree absolutely. Many Adams does = many worlds.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 9:17 am

  18. Geoff,

    I have gone through that quote a dozen times and I see nowhere in it that states the worlds without number that Jesus created are inhabited.

    Re: Adam=many

    I believe that scripture is stating that the interpretation of Adam is “many”, just as Kim means “chief or ruler”.

    Comment by Kim Siever — April 12, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

  19. That’s fine Kim. That’s the beauty of these speculative things… we’re allowed to believe whatever we want. I think you are in a minority in that reading of those scriptures (as the header attests) but I se nothing wrong with that.

    So I guess that means you think that this is the only inhabited world of all that Moses was told about? Do you also assume Jesus was only speaking for himself to Moses and not by divine investiture of authority on behalf of the Father? Who do you think created the world the Father inhabited?

    That was the point of this post — to hear the various theories out there.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

  20. “So I guess that means you think that this is the only inhabited world of all that Moses was told about? ”

    Why do you guess that? Simply because I said that the scripture does not say what everyone thinks it says? Because I argue the scripture does not state other worlds were inhabited does not mean I am arguing against the idea of other worlds being inhabited.

    I believe many things that are not in the scriptures.

    Comment by Kim Siever — April 13, 2005 @ 7:36 am

  21. Uhhh… ok. Well, um… Thanks for going to such great lengths to point that out… ;-)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 13, 2005 @ 8:38 am

  22. To get back to the original questions at the beginning of this topic:
    Who were the inhabitants of all those other worlds?
    Batch theory seems to fit well here. Those who talk about the HTK? theory, I would appreciate a better understanding of it. I’ve been trying to get a full grasp of it. Could someone give me a good summary of this please?

    Did each world have a savior of its own?
    I would think so. For some reason I have difficulty with the idea that Jesus is the Saviour of multi-worlds. Maybe because the angels that visit the earth have been said to be spirits who have already been to earth or will be going to earth. I dont’ know about you guys, but a religion that preached that a Saviour died for our sins on a planet far away in another galaxy would just seem way to weird for my taste. How did such information make if from the far away planet? Think how difficult of a message that would be for a missionary there! Also, one of the appeals of Jesus as a Saviour is that he was one of us. He experienced OUR earth and OUR problems. And to go along with the question, “Did each world have a savior of its own?” Did each world have its own satan?

    Who was the Godhead for each world?
    That goes along strongly with the question who was the saviour of these other worlds.

    How similar was the human plot of each world?
    I would think the human plot would not be much different than earths. As Solomon says, there is nothing new under the sun. In other words, no matter how much things changes, some things always stay the same.

    How similar was the animal and plant life of previous worlds to ours?
    I would say, if I was making planets, I’d probably change it up some when it came to plants and animals.

    As the human’s on that world’s idea of treatment towards animals changed, perhaps the natural selection of different species would be altered allowing for wildly different varieties of animals even if the original animals and plants that started each earth was the same.

    Comment by Speaking Up — April 13, 2005 @ 11:05 am

  23. Good comments, S-U.
    I think I am largely in agreement with you. I plan to post on each of these questions separately. In answer to your question about my first question, see my post that describes what I am calling the Heber C Kimball model (aka the HCK model). I first mentioned the model and quoted Heber C. in this post. I should note that Jeffrey Gilliam just took this idea much further than I did in a post yesterday too.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 13, 2005 @ 11:26 am

  24. [...] ts own?
    By: Geoff Johnston @ 2:22 pm

    As promised, this is the third in my series about the worlds without number and the inhabitants thereof talked about in our scriptures and in the church [...]

    Pingback by New Cool Thang » Did each world have a savior of its own? — April 22, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

  25. SEPTEMBER 30, 2007

    WELL GUYS IT LOOKS LIKE I’M ABOUT 2 YEARS LATE ON THIS DISCUSSION. BUT I WOULD LIKE TO ADD MY FEELINGS ANYWAY. EVERYTHING THAT WE ARE BEING TAUGHT HERE AND NOW STATES THAT WE’RE BEING SCHOOLED FOR THE ETERNITY’S. WHO IS TO SAY THAT WE WHO MAKE IT TO THE HIGHEST KINGDOM, ON OUR WAY TO GODHOOD. PERHAPS, OUR PREREQUISITES WILL BE TO BECOME (SAVIORS OF MEN AND WOMEN!! THUS FULL FILLING ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS. HAVING DONE WHAT WE’VE WITNESSED OUR FATHER/BROTHER DO. ALL I CAN SAY IS WOW WHAT ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES. THE THOUGHT THAT WE MIGHT HAVE TO ENDURE THE SAME SUFFERING THAT OUR SAVIOR HAD TO ENDURE IS QUITE HUMBLING….

    Comment by JOE MILLETT — September 30, 2007 @ 8:05 pm

  26. Who are the inhabitants of other worlds? Distant cousins! By the way, no world can be saved without it’s dead, and work for the dead was not instituted (by Christ) until AFTER he entered the spirit world, so he could not be the Savior of previous worlds!!! So much for the theory “Savior of ALL God’s worlds.”

    Comment by Samuel Wattles — December 10, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  27. And this is why Mormons are not considered Christians by mainstream Christians – because you so obviously are polytheists, which is anathema to both Christians and Jews. Of course, as Jew, I think Christians are also polytheists, but I think Mormons are more explicit about it. Christians dance about the concept of reconciling three with one in the Trinity, but Mormons clearly have no qualms about believing in and talking about many gods. I respect everyone’s right to their religious views, but it confirms for me that Christianity and its variant, Mormonism, is at heart the Greco-Roman pagan religion revived and draped in Jewish-inspired concepts, language and sentiments.

    Comment by Rick — May 27, 2009 @ 8:31 am

  28. Well Rick, Mormons can use the same tricks the rest of Christianity uses to claim “One God”. If three persons can unite to create one God then more than three could unite to make up one God as well.

    But Mormonism, without a formal theology, leaves room for all kinds of theological speculations.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 27, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  29. Oh my gosh.

    Did we finally get a commenter who isn’t either Mormon or Evangelical?

    Apologetic dialogue with a Jew or a Muslim would certainly be a fresh change of pace from the usual.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 27, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  30. 1. Who were the inhabitants of all those other worlds? Scripture doesn’t say but it has been implied that they are other spirit children of God.

    2. Did each world have a savior of its own? No. Jesus Christ was the savior of the universe.

    3. Who was the Godhead for each world?

    Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    4. How similar was the human plot of each world?

    If we were created in his image, and he once was like us as you put forth then it stands to reason that they wold be very similar.

    5. How similar was the animal and plant life of previous worlds to ours?

    Going along with point 4 they would be very similar.

    To Geoff J, Mormons do not believe in the Nicene Creed which is what sets them apart from other Christian Denominations. However many scriptures do seem to violate some concepts of the Nicene Creed. Particularly some in the New testament such as the Baptism of Christ when they all appear as separate individuals, the death of Samuel in Acts, and other places. They do have their own set of Article of Faith which do mirror some concepts from the Nicene Creed though.

    Comment by John in NC — November 18, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  31. We certainly do not believe in the Nicene Creed the way others believe in the Nicene Creed. However, if you have a decent understanding of the theology that lead to the creed in the first place, there is considerable room for agreement on each point from first to last.

    The very first thing to understand is that as translated “substance” does not mean “stuff”, it is a much closer translation for “nature”. Three persons with a shared divine nature.

    Check out what “substance” (ousia) means in classical Greek philosophy if you don’t believe me, as well as the historical debate between “homoousious” (same nature) and “homoiousios” (similar natures). Ousia itself is literally translated “being”, but not in the sense of a single concrete entity like a person but rather in the sense of form or nature or “be-ing” that all persons share.

    The way the Greeks thought of it, the substance oxygen was not the extension of all the oxygen in the world (as we tend to think of it), but rather the nature or form that separates oxygen from other natures or forms.

    e.g. divinity was a “nature” (ousia), not an “existence” (hypostatis). Same deal with humanity. But as translated into Latin divinity became a “substance”, which makes for a strange mental picture (ridiculed to this day) that is not really what the Greeks had in mind at all. “Nature” is a much better translation.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 19, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  32. Here are a couple of articles of interest.

    Under earths in Mormon Doctrine page 212, also below.

    Bruce R. McConkie

    As to his infinite and eternal creative and redemptive enterprises the divine word attests: “And worlds without number have I created,” saith the Father, “and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. By him the worlds were made, and through his infinite atonement the inhabitants of those worlds are adopted into the divine family as heirs with himself.

    Gospel Library > Magazines > Liahona > September 1983

    Comment by Doug — January 13, 2010 @ 6:53 am

  33. This is a great talk and answers all that we need to know at this stage.

    By Elder Bruce R. McConkie
    of the Quorum of Twelve

    Liahona » 1983

    Comment by Doug — January 13, 2010 @ 7:12 am

  34. The talk is called.

    Christ and the Creation

    Comment by Doug — January 13, 2010 @ 7:14 am

  35. If this is what u call fun…. so be it.

    Comment by Somerandomdude. — January 26, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

  36. I thought that name was Somer and Omdude at first…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 27, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  37. I know this is from a couple years back, but the title of this thread made me want to go back and address a conversation that I missed previously.

    Geoff said post 37 in the thread “Yes, God the Father had a father” http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2006/05/the-father-has-a-father/253/

    “I concede that there likely is a divine person who is the Head God; but since there were innumerable worlds before ours and each likely had a unique different Godhead/Presidency I assume that he is innumerable generations ahead of the Father of Jesus Christ.”

    My question to those who have this manner of thinking, is how you square that with the scriptures like, “Worlds without number have I created, and by the Son I created them.”

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — February 22, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  38. Stephen,

    I think the simple answer that the “I” in those verses could be attributed to the “One God” which could be seen the union of all exalted persons.

    Arguments have been made for the One God be a single divine person but I personally lean toward the idea that the One God is the name for the “divine concert” as Mark calls it. My thought is that if The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost are One God the why couldn’t other exalted persons be part of that union as well?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 23, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  39. “My thought is that if The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost are One God the why couldn’t other exalted persons be part of that union as well?”

    With that point of view, you would have to say that “by the Son I created them” is referring to more than one Son?

    I just don’t see how you get there from the text.

    I think a Multiverse concept may be more fitting here.

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — February 23, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  40. How does saying “by the Son I created them” really make sense in the first place? If we are talking about individual persons we are already in squirrely territory with that sentence. (Did the speaker create them or did the Son create them?)

    Since there are lots of murky details we are talking about here I can only say where I am currently leaning on this. As a perusal of our past discussions will show I have leaned in other directions in the past.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 23, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  41. How does saying “by the Son I created them” really make sense in the first place?

    Hebrews chapter 1

    “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

    Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”

    My understanding was always that God the Father directed/delegated Jesus Christ to create the Universe.

    The creation of “heaven and Earth” was “by and through” Jesus Christ.

    This is the picture that the scriptures paint, and I don’t think I would want to be the one speculating in a way that lessens or diminishes either God the Father or Jesus Christ’s dominion.

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — February 23, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

  42. Yeah I’m fully aware of that traditional Mormon reading and interpretation of it. But in the end it is still takes a little contorting getting around that “I created it” vs “He created it” thing. Sort of like a person having a painting commissioned by an artist but still saying “I created it”.

    I don’t begrudge anyone accepting that reading though.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 23, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

  43. My thought is that if The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost are One God the why couldn’t other exalted persons be part of that union as well?

    I understand this view, and agree with it somewhat. But it appears that scripture speaks of Jesus Christ (one specific person) creating more than just our world.

    From what I can tell, it also appears that there are so called “Gods by nature” (like Jesus Christ) and “gods by grace”.

    The King Follett discourse (which started all of this speculation) indicated that God the Father lived a life like Jesus Christ. (ie Our Father was also a God by nature).

    Any organization of the hierarchy of the cosmos is pure speculation, but a Godhead of each “earth” just doesn’t seem right to me.

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — February 23, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

  44. In the strict sense of the term, I don’t think it makes any sense to claim that there is more than one Godhead, any more than in the strict sense of the term it makes any sense to claim that there is more than one (uppercase G) God.

    “Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end” (D&C 20:28)

    If, per John 17:22, we may be one with God even as Jesus is, it is also a real possibility (in my view) that “the Father”, “the Son”, and “the Holy Ghost” refer to divisions of the one Godhead or divine concert, and not the First Presidency of that union alone.

    Anyone who does not think that is plausible, should, in my opinion, take a close look at the doctrine of the name of Christ, as described in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon alike, to say nothing of the doctrine of divine investiture which (it seems to me) is essentially the same thing.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 25, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  45. Mark D.

    (in my view) that “the Father”, “the Son”, and “the Holy Ghost” refer to divisions of the one Godhead or divine concert

    I have heard of this point of view, and I understand that there is a oneness attained by those perfected in Christ.

    Nevertheless, scriptures like the following give me pause to this kind of thinking.

    Moses 1:35 “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.”

    This truly does sound like one individual, who by the word of His power, created many worlds. This one individual seems to say that they are HIS and he knows each one intimately.

    In the one godhead per each world scenario, this kind of scripture doesn’t make much sense, because our Father would supposedly be only the god of this world and wouldn’t know all the others intimately.

    Assumptions and speculation has pushed the rest of the Christian world from the truth. I only hope that the same doesn’t happen to the LDS. I think there has been a lot of theories set up in LDS theologies that are themselves based off of assumptions and speculation. I am not sure if there is much to gain from that.

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — February 28, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

  46. I made a new video on Free Will and Ex Nihilo creation. Kind of off subject but…

    http://youtu.be/y77r_pOgJHo

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — March 9, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

  47. And the next video now ready.

    It is called 2 Origins of Ex Nihilo – Genesis

    http://youtu.be/LV1-QxbBD1Q

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — March 11, 2012 @ 1:22 am

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