I know that I already posted one blog post today (My recorded interview with Regina Samuelson about masturbation from the perspective of a Mormon girl), but the advent of NASA’s revelation of the Earth-like Kepler 452b warrants a post of its own.
The science of Kepler 452b is fascinating and it gave me a stroke of amusement as it made me think of Equis, a Mormon thought experiment from the days before I came out of the obscurity of faith and into the brilliant light of Reason.
Over the course of several years I frequently returned to Equis. And it led me to a theological quandary.
Of all things about Mormonism, one of the few that I miss is Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse. That’s the part that means that our purpose in life is not merely to “find happiness” or “be saved” but to learn to be Gods.
We’ll come back to that in a minute.
When I was 15, I attended a Seminary class (kind of like Mormon Catechism) in which my favorite all-time Seminary Teacher distributed slips of paper with a big circle and a form of questions with interesting fields like:
Name of Planet:
Name of First Man:
Name of First Woman:
Examples of Animal Life:
Examples of Plant Life:
We were paired up into Boy/Girl pairs until we ran out of girls and the last 3 people in class had to be an “Adam and Steve” pair and one “Single Dad”. (Never to even flirt with the idea of polygamous god-families, which is more in-keeping with the doctrine).
The girl that I was paired up with was shy and a little upset that she got paired up with the fat Mexican Star Wars Geek with acne and before we were done filling the page out, she made it clear that I was to fill it out and she was just going to wait until class was over in a brooding fume.
I was disappointed. This seemed like an exercise made just for me! I wanted to call the planet “Equis”, not so much for its latin meaning (it is related to horses and husbandry) but because I thought it sounded cool. I didn’t have any ideas for names of the first people, so I called them Adam and Eve and filled out the form pretty much describing Earth. In fact, I pretty much filled the page out as if Equis would be just like Earth in order to avoid ridicule from my brooding partner.
Then we sat in awkward silence until the teacher collected the papers.
The highlight of the class was the teacher reading the pages out loud and reading that one couple decided that the first man on their planet would be named “Pubert.” Apart from that, it really was kind of a waste of time. A good exercise pitched to an audience way too immature to handle it.
After that class, however, over the course of several years I frequently returned to Equis. And it led me to a theological quandary.
Equis was enormous, compared to Earth, with incredibly diverse climates and terrains to visit and to settle.
On the world where I was Heavenly Father to my own species of people, I would do things quite differently! And why shouldn’t I think about such things! I mean, I was going to have to do these things! And I wasn’t going to be a different person then than I am now. Of course, I would have learned a lot of things but surely there was no harm in thinking about it, now, right?
Well, maybe not.
I was deeply concerned about genetic disease among my Heavenly Children and so I thought that I would not start with the Adam/Eve model, at all. That just seemed fraught with problems. Instead, I would start with four or five couples with names like Steve and Mona and Guinevere and Eustace and so forth and I would give them science right away so that they could use birth control and artificial insemination if they needed to in order to perpetuate the species in a responsible fashion.
What about ushering in mortality! This munch-on-an-apple-and-get-mortality business was straight-out! I would sit them down and make them understand that mortality was a part of their learning experience and that they were going to have to make some choices for themselves and not simply do what I wanted them to.
However, I was NOT remaking Equis after all of the hard work that I put into it and so I would have huge creatures who acted like elementals with dominion over each fragile ecosystem on Equis. For example, over-fishing brought upon you the wrath of the Water-Elementals and abusing fossil fuels brought upon you the wrath of the Fire-Elementals and then it would not be me punishing them for “wickedness” – it would be them literally choosing consequences for their own actions.
Equis was enormous, compared to Earth, with incredibly diverse climates and terrains to visit and to settle. It would have three moons – one that controlled the tides and weather, one vacation-world that had forests and an abundance of water and flora and fauna and then another one that was small enough to use as a base for building spacecraft that could easily launch into outer space for interstellar travel.
And as my world of Heavenly Children grew in population, I would take them to new worlds and settle my other Heavenly Children in the same cosmic family. They would not start over the way that Adam and Eve had to start over on Earth and build Earth in the similar pattern as our Extra-Terrestrial siblings had done “on other worlds” (yes, Mormons believe in aliens). They would have parent generations who taught them wonderful things that they had learned on Equis and we would take our time learning about the cosmos, together as a great family.
My children wouldn’t need a Savior…I would be better to them than my Heavenly Father had been to us.
And my children wouldn’t have to pray to reach me. I’d come to visit all the time and have big conventions where we would get together to celebrate and I could answer their questions and teach them about the cosmos and the nature and power of this vast family of Gods and Goddesses who were their divine heritage.
It wasn’t long before a dangerous idea came to me: my children wouldn’t need a Savior. They wouldn’t need a Savior because I would be better to them than my Heavenly Father had been to us.
No sooner had it come to me than I immediately felt dark and ugly. Surely, this was Satan putting evil thoughts in my head. After all, it is Lucifer’s plan that was supposed to forbid people agency and accountability. But my plan was altogether different – I would give them complete (and unprecedented) Accountability.
We were learning about the cosmic laws so eternally fundamental that they bind even the Gods.
Supposedly, if you were called upon to bear the weight of your own sins, you would be killed instantly, though that doctrine is really apocryphal – I don’t know that anyone knows how that rumor got started. But if you were temporarily invincible, surely you’d be able to bear it. It seemed to me that if a God’s omnipotence was the equivalence of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, then it was certainly possible for the Deified Joe Rawlins to stop death for each of my Children when they came to atone for the mistakes in their lives. And how much more meaningful would it be to suffer for your sins, rather than simply feel guilty that a Christ had taken your sins upon himself?
What’s more, if Gods are omnipotent, then why couldn’t Gods just forgive their children’s sins? It seemed that there was a realm of the absurd where questions like “Can God make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it?” were answered with an obvious “No!” and so there were laws that even bound God!
This is certainly in keeping with the theology in the Doctrine and Covenants that says that “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say”.
So even the omnipotence of God has been limited to the realm of the absurd. For example, God cannot choose to exist and simultaneously not to exist.
Similarly, He seemed unable to simply forgive sins or to break promises because both of those are somehow inherently evil and not in keeping with the virtuous and holy nature of a righteous God. And so we were learning about the cosmic laws so eternally fundamental that they bind even the Gods.
And ultimately this was only because we must learn to become Gods, ourselves. And so, there must have been a need for a Savior.
That need, I decided, was to learn that the ultimate act of Godly love was compassion. That to be grateful for a Big Brother who would die for us and a Heavenly Father who would offer His Son like Abraham did was a way to teach us that as Gods, we will make sacrifices for the sake of our Heavenly Children.
So how would I teach such a principle on Equis?
I would suffer it for them. I would suffer and make certain that they understood that I did it for them. Not once but all the time.
To become resurrected Gods in the same way that our Heavenly Father had done when he was a mortal man on Kolob and had learned to obey his own Heavenly Father.
After The Book of Mormon Musical was released, many non-Mormons were surprised to learn that one of the core doctrines of Mormon theology is that Mormon men are each, respectively, a “god-in-embryo”. That mortal life is an incubation period to learn righteous dominion over both the physical and the spiritual. To learn to distinguish “the sweet” having tasted “the bitter” and become resurrected Gods in the same way that our Heavenly Father (Ahman or Elohim) had done when he was a mortal man on Kolob and had learned to obey his own Heavenly Father.
That’s right: Our HEAVENLY GRANDFATHER.
Needless to say, this is quite a controversial theology in modern Christendom, with whom Mormons have actively pursued some acceptance in spite of two centuries of comments like these:
“When the light came to me I saw that all the so-called Christian world was groveling in darkness.” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 73
“With a regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 199
“The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to the knowledge of the salvation of God” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 171
“…the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans. And subsequently the Priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was re-called into the heavens, and the world was left without the Priesthood—without the power of God—without the Church and Kingdom of God.” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 22, p. 44
For many New Age Mormons, the PR hacks at MormonNewsroom.com and the essayists at LDS.org have become the new prophet and Priesthood Leadership of the LDS Church.
Today, the PR wing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints disavows the King Follett Discourse as Church Doctrine. This is surprising, given that the Church has published the Sermon in The Ensign, which most Mormons take as “living scripture”.
Most of us who grew up in Legacy Mormon families remember the couplet by LDS President Lorenzo Snow that “As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.” ( The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, ed. Clyde J. Williams , 1.) Other quotes by LDS prophets besides Smith and Snow include quotes like this one:
“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 fulness 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. We will have an endless eternity for this.” – Joseph Fielding Smith (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.48)
Or this one:
“The whole design of the gospel is to lead us, onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is a grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! – Gordon B. Hinckley (October 1994 General Conference, Ensign, November 1994, p. 48; also Teachings of Gordon B. Hinkley, 179).
And yet the hope of my beloved Equis is dashed, not only in my new-found Atheism but also for those struggling to understand Exaltation in the New Mormonism:
“Since human conceptions of reality are necessarily limited in mortality, religions struggle to adequately articulate their visions of eternal glory…Latter-day Saints’ doctrine of exaltation is often similarly reduced in media to a cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets.
“…while few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities.” (https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng)
Did I miss something here? Lorenzo Snow’s couplet? Brigham Young and his controversial Adam-God quotes? All of this is now suddenly bullshit? There seems a reluctance to teach the doctrine the way it used to be taught and even to abandon the principles of former Prophets and that without a statement from the current Prophet to back it up.
For many New Age Mormons, the PR hacks at MormonNewsroom.com and the essayists at LDS.org have become the new prophet and Priesthood Leadership of the LDS Church. Never mind that tired old model of the “Big Fifteen”, we’ve got lawyers and PR consultants to redraw the doctrine of the Church and make dummies of all of the past leadership of the Church. There is even a newfound principle that the Church’s only “Doctrine” is contained in the “Four Standard Works”.
Not only does that rule out getting your own planets! Here are some other principles that Mormons don’t take as doctrine:
None of them are found in the Scripture and they have been change multiple times. So everything said or taught in the Temple, either directly or in symbolism, is apocryphal.
There is a reference to God making robes of animal skins for Adam and Eve and commandments for priestly raiments of the Levitical and Aaronic Orders but nothing about the modern garments.
Dark Skin as a Punishment from God and White Skin as a Reward for Righteousness
Most Mormons now believe that Lamanites (American Indians) and people of African descent were not actually cursed with dark skin as a punishment for wickedness, which past generations of Mormons and Mormon prophets had believed because of teachings in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price.
Most mormons believe that God only uses polygamy on occasion in order to increase population in the Kingdom of God but D&C 132 very clearly states it as an eternal principle.
Birth Control and Masturbation
Most Mormons believe that God does not judge people for using birth control or “spilling their seed”. Not only do the Scriptures teach otherwise, but most modern prophets have condemned it also and none has publicly stated that birth control is now considered to be alright. Mormons have always taught that masturbating is a sin though some new Mormons have taken the interpretation that God overlooks it. One told me that he believes that God ignores masturbation because “it isn’t printed in the Aaronic Priesthood Manual”.
The “Gift of Tongues” is for Missionary Work
Mormons believe that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak a foreign language in order to preach the Gospel, not the babbling and incoherent speech of pentecostals and other such religions when “caught up in the spirit”. There is no doctrine in the Standard Works to support this and Mormons have practiced the Pentecostal practice of “babbling” in Joseph Smith’s time.
One has to wonder – after all these years, is it that Mormons are phasing out their one unique selling proposition? Are they giving up on modern prophets? And if so: why are they excommunicating people like me for challenging the legitimacy of prophets?