The LDS Church is currently engaged in a systematic and officially endorsed effort to misrepresent some of its teachings to the outside world.

This is not a new phenomenon.  As far back as the Nauvoo period, “Joseph [Smith] publicly and repeatedly denied he was advocating polygamy” while simultaneously marrying upwards of thirty women.[1]

 

But attempting a similar feat in the age of the internet is a dicey proposition.

Mormons Don’t Get Their Own Planet?

I am referring to a recently released essay on the LDS Church’s official website titled “Becoming Like God.”  While the essay should be commended for affirming that “divine parentage includes a Heavenly Mother,” such an admission cannot make up for the Technicolor prevarication in a different paragraph where it is claimed that “few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet.”

As an active member of the LDS Church for over 35-years, this is news to me.

A caricature is a “comic exaggeration.”  I am surprised to discover at this late date that the teaching I have personally heard and read on numerous occasions, pinocchiothat faithful Latter-day Saints will eventually have “their own planet,” is a “comic exaggeration.”  It is not an exaggeration at all, comic or otherwise.  It is a fact, plain and simple.

The Church first ventured into this field of revisionist theology about a year ago when it published answers to frequently asked questions.  This is found on the official LDS website in the Newsroom section, which the webpage banner proclaims is “The Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public.”

One of the questions that is apparently frequently asked is, “Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will ‘get their own planet’?”  The answer given to this by the Church is simple and straightforward, if somewhat unexpected.  The answer is, “No.  This idea is not taught in Latter-day Saints scripture, nor is it a doctrine of the Church.  This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine.”

Just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind, I ran a test case by asking my wife this FAQ on the Church website.  I played it completely fair and asked her the same question in the same words: by1 “Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will get their own planet?”   Without hesitation, she answered, “Yes.”

So apparently there are at least two Latter-day Saints in the world who would answer that question differently.

No, wait.  There are more.  Those would be the prophets, seers and revelators who have taught this doctrine for over 100-years.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Brigham Young said those who are exalted “will be prepared to frame earths.”[2]  Orson Pratt taught that the faithful who rise immortal will “form and create worlds.”[3]  Lorenzo Snow said glorified Latter-day Saints will “organize matter into worlds on which their posterity may dwell.”[4]

But that was a long time ago.  Maybe that was just an anomaly.  No, wait.  There are more.

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.”[5]  Bruce R. McConkie taught regarding exalted parents, “For them new earths are created.”[6]

President Spencer W. Kimball said, in addressing the October 1975 Priesthood Session of General Conference, “Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight.  swk1I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods.  . . . I think [God] could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000.”[7]

On another occasion, President Kimball counseled Latter-day Saints to “grow in ability and power and worthiness, to govern such a world with all of its people.”[8]

President Kimball was the prophet, seer and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he spoke these words.  But perhaps that doesn’t make a difference any longer.  Maybe 1975 and 1976 are too long ago for it to count.

No, wait.  There are more.

When Worlds Collide

What about contemporary iterations of this doctrine?  Surprisingly, both these quotes from President Kimball are alive and well in current LDS Church manuals accessible on the official website.

The former Kimball quote is found in the current Doctrine and Covenants student manual, while the latter Kimball quote can be found in the Parent’s Guide for teaching children age 4-11,planets colliding 1 the Doctrine of the Gospel student manual, as well as the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual.

Even the manual used to teach investigators and new members contains this information.  From lesson 36 of the Gospel Fundamentals manual, the Preface to which avers, “The principles explained in this book are true,” we have the following: Those who dwell in the highest part of the celestial kingdom “will even be able to have spirit children and make new worlds for them to live on.”

Now hold on thar, Baba Looey!  Are you saying the Church is telling the outside world that Mormons won’t get their own planet, but telling the inside world of Mormons that they will get their own planet?  And that the Church has both statements at the same time on its own official website?

Like I said, playing fast and loose with the truth in the internet age is a dicey proposition.

Lesser minds would call it lying.

But is calling this pattern of deception “lying” too strong?  Not if we use the definition advanced by the Church in chapter 26 of its Gospel Fundamentals manual: “When we say things that are not true, we are lying.  why lieWhen we tell only part of the truth, we are lying.  When we lead people to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

Why Lie?

It therefore seems beyond question that the Church is intentionally lying about this issue.  I do not believe for one second that the anonymous “scholars” responsible for the offending paragraph in the “Becoming Like God” essay are unaware of the true state of things.  Nor are those who also under official Church sanction and approval published the dissembling answer to the frequently asked question of whether Latter-day Saints believe they will “get their own planet.”

But this begs the question of why lie about this in the first place?

The most obvious explanation is that the Church is embarrassed by its belief that the resurrected righteous will create and rule over planets in the eternities, and therefore wishes to publicly deny it; that the Church is desirous of appearing more in the mainstream of contemporary Christianity.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

If the goal is to get the Gentile world to think Mormons don’t really believe this, the gambit seems to have paid off, as various news agencies widely reported the 2/27/14 Associated Press story on this official Church quick draw mcgrawpronouncement:  “The Mormon Church is pushing back against the notion that members of the faith are taught they’ll get their own planet in the afterlife, a misconception popularized in pop culture . . .”

So now the world thinks that Mormons getting their own planet is merely a “notion” and a “misconception.”  Is this something to be cheered?

Milk before meat is one thing, but actively denying belief in the meat is another thing entirely.  Are we selling our birthright for a mess of pottage?

Has the Church learned nothing from the Paul H. Dunn debacle?

Do Mormons not teach that one of the primary causes of the Great Apostasy was the Church’s willing compromise of revealed doctrine to conform to the philosophies of men?

Impact on Non-Mormons–What happens when non-Mormons who read the AP story discover the truth that Mormons actually do believe this?  Will they not then conclude that the Church lies about its beliefs?  Will this lead them to think more highly of the LDS Church?  Will this lead them to have confidence in other Church assertions?  Or will suspicion and distrust be bred?

Impact on Mormons–What happens when Mormons read these new pronouncements?  If they are not well-versed in the historical record, will they not likely take them at face value and conclude that Latter-day Saints really when worlds collidedo not believe they will have their own planet?  Do we not face the possibility of Balkanizing belief among Latter-day Saints by creating a faction that believes the new pronouncements are correct, while leaving many others who believe the contradictory prophetic pronouncements of over a century?

And when these factions collide theologically, as collide they must, what will be the result?  Unity or disunity?  And when the true facts are revealed through such collisions, will the result be greater faith in the Church or less?

The Perils of Situational Ethics

This disparity between what the Church tells the “outer world” of non-members versus what it tells the “inner world” of the faithful may have more alarming consequences.  Not only does the Church create an “outer/inner theology,” it also creates an “outer/inner” morality.

By telling the outside world Mormons do not believe they will have their own planets, they are leading people to believe something that is not true.  But the Church teaches, “When we lead people to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

The Church is thereby teaching its members that being dishonest is justifiable under some circumstances; that lying for the Lord is moral.  mountain meadowsAnd the Church is teaching this by its own example.  But if lying may be rationalized in this manner, what other immoral acts may also be justified, so long as it is in service to the Church, and in obedience to Priesthood leaders?

A group of 120 emigrants learned the answer to this question on September 11, 1857 at a place called Mountain Meadows.  If nothing else, the massacre that occurred there should be a constant reminder to Mormons of the very real perils of promoting such situational ethics.

 


 

[1] Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, (Alfred A. Knopf: New York, N.Y., 2005), p. 491

[2] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 17:143

[3] Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 14:242

[4] Lorenzo Snow, quoted in Improvement Era, June 1919, p. 659

[5] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:48

[6] Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, (Deseret: Salt Lake City, 1982), p. 23

[7] Spencer W. Kimball, “The Privilege of Holding the Priesthood,” Ensign, November, 1975, p. 80

[8] Spencer W. Kimball, “…the Matter of Marriage,” (address delivered at the University of Utah Institute of Religion, 22 October 1976, p. 2; quoted in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, (Bookcraft: Salt Lake city, 1982), p. 31

 

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Corbin Volluz lives in the beautiful foothills of the Cascade Mountains in western Washington state. He has been practicing law for 25-years with a focus on criminal defense and personal injury. Corbin joined the LDS Church in June of 1978, shortly after the lifting of the priesthood ban, and has been studying Mormonism ever since. He has been published in several venues, including the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and BYU-Studies.

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