As the second post in this purely speculative discussion on the innumerable inhabited worlds that, according to our scriptures, have already passed, I will discuss the question: Who were the inhabitants of all those other worlds? It is an easy assumption to make that humans inhabited those worlds (since God the Father was among them according to Joseph), but the unanswered question is who were they? I have heard two theories:
The Batch Theory
One theory I’ve heard is that each earth had its own batch of people that inhabited it. In other words, eternal spirits/intelligences are grouped somehow in batches and they prepare (through a merit program) in some pre-mortal place and get a lone chance to go to their earth, get a body and be tested, and afterwards they are assigned permanently to a kingdom of glory. This is probably the best way to explain the My Turn on Earth model of the pre-mortal life that I have been discussing lately.
A major problem with this Batch theory for me is that verse 39 in Moses 1 explains that God’s work and glory is to assist mankind in becoming exalted. Yet we know that strait is the gate that leads to eternal life and few there be that find it in this life. This problem is exacerbated if there is no progression between kingdoms in the afterlife. If the kingdom assignment (Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial) we receive after this life is permanent then our scriptures make it clear that very few indeed will end up truly exalted. (I’ll post specifically on this issue later) How do we reconcile these two scriptural teachings? On the one hand God’s mission statement is to get us exalted yet on the other hand the scriptures say very few of us will actually be exalted. Either God is a failure at his work and glory or something is amiss with this model.
The Heber C. Model
This model, as I understand it, has those worlds before inhabited not by other batches of spirits but rather by us. I attribute it to Heber C. Kimball because of the quote I mentioned over in an earlier post about life and death being like being awake and sleeping. He says every day we make progress or we don’t here, and this is like what we do in life too. Every night we go to sleep — this is like dying. Every morning we wake up and go to work again — this is like resurrection.
The more I have pondered on it, the more I like the implications of this model. It solves this problem of the inherent prodigal waste of souls that the Batch theory is saddled with. (The worth of souls is great after all.) It also solves the problem of God being a failure at his work and glory. With this model we are not just part of a batch of souls where only a tiny percentage are actually exalted but rather we are truly beloved children of our God and we are given as many chances as we need to progress or regress as individuals. Rather than a system with external barriers to our progress, the only barrier we face throughout eternity in this model is ourselves. We remain always in motion throughout eternity if this model is true – either becoming more like God or less like God.
The problems with this model are pretty obvious though. First, it sounds like reincarnation which has been repeatedly condemned as a false doctrine by church authorities. This would probably be avoided by noting that reincarnation means we live multiple lives with different identities on this earth. This idea is not that and so it is not reincarnation. The second issue is with the commonly held notion that there is no possible way to separate a spirit from a resurrected body. I have some ideas of how that might be dealt with, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on that. A practical problem with teaching this doctrine might be that it could lead to a greater likelihood of procrastinating the day of our repentance — a behavior that is expressly condemned in our scriptures. Other problems have to do with temple sealings and other related details. Feel free to mention other problems if you’d like as well.
What do you think? Are there other models that could explain who inhabited those previous worlds? Obviously we are speculating here, so any guess will do – especially if you can come up with some logic to defend it.