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Mormon cosmology is the description of the history, evolution, and destiny of the physical and metaphysical universe according to Mormonism, which includes the doctrines taught by leaders and theologians of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Mormon fundamentalism, the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ and other Brighamite denominations within the Latter Day Saint movement. These views are not generally shared by adherents of other Latter Day Saint movement denominations who do not self-identify as "Mormons", such as the Community of Christ. Mormon cosmology draws from Biblical cosmology, but has many unique elements provided by Latter Day Saint movement founder Joseph Smith, Jr.
According to Mormon cosmology, there was a pre-existence, better described as a pre-mortal life, in which human spirits were literal children of heavenly parents. Though their spirits were created, the essential "intelligence" of these spirits is considered eternal, and without beginning. During this pre-existence, two plans were said to have been presented, one championed by Lucifer (Satan) that would have involved loss of moral agency, and another championed by God the Father. When his plan was not accepted, Lucifer is said to have rebelled and taken "the third part" of the hosts of heaven with him to the earth to serve as tempters. According to a plan of salvation as described by God the Father, Jehovah (the antemortal Jesus Christ according to Mormonism) created the earth, under the direction of God the Father, as a place where humanity would be tested. After the resurrection all men and women except spirits that followed Lucifer and the sons of perdition would be assigned one of three degrees of glory. Within the highest degree, the Celestial Kingdom, there are three divisions, and those in the highest of these divisions would become gods and goddesses through a process called exaltation or "eternal progression". The doctrine of eternal progression was succinctly summarized by Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”
The Earth's creation, according to Mormon scripture, was not ex nihilo, but organized from existing matter. The faith teaches that this earth is just one of many inhabited worlds, and that there are many governing heavenly bodies, including a planet or star Kolob which is said to be nearest the throne of God. According to the King Follett discourse, God the Father himself once passed through mortality like Jesus did, but how, when, or where that took place is unclear. The prevailing view among Mormons is that God once lived on a planet with his own higher god.
In Mormonism, the concept of divinity centers around an idea of "exaltation" and "eternal progression": the idea that mortals themselves may become gods and goddesses in the afterlife, be rulers of their own heavenly kingdoms, have spirit children, and increase in power and glory forever as a result of their posterity. Mormons understand that there are many gods and goddesses in the cosmos, including a Heavenly Mother. However, the three persons of the Christian Trinity (God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost) are to be the only objects of worship.
In Mormonism, the goal of each adherent is to achieve "exaltation" via the atonement of Jesus, as a result of which they inherit all the attributes of God the Father, including godhood. Mormons believe that these people will become gods and goddesses in the afterlife, and will have "all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge". Moreover, Mormons teach that exalted people will live with their earthly families and also "have spirit children". Their posterity will continue to grow forever.
According to the belief, exaltation is available only to those who have earned the highest "degree" of the Celestial Kingdom. As prerequisites for this "greatest gift of God", adherents believe that either in this life or the afterlife, they must become "perfect", they must participate in all the required ceremonies, and their exaltation must be "sealed upon them" by the Holy Ghost via the Second Anointing. One of the key qualifications for exaltation is being united in a celestial marriage to an opposite-sex partner via the ordinance of sealing, either in person or by proxy after they have died. In the 19th century, some leaders of the LDS Church taught that participation in plural marriage was also a requirement of exaltation. The LDS Church abandoned the practice over a century ago and teaches that only a single celestial marriage is required for exaltation.
According to Mormon theology, God the Father is a physical being of "flesh and bones." Mormons identify him as the Biblical god Elohim. Latter-day Saint leaders have also taught that God the Father was once a mortal man who has completed the process of becoming an exalted being. According to Joseph Smith, God "once was a man like one of us and…once dwelled on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did in the flesh and like us."
According to Mormon belief, Jesus is identified as the god Jehovah (Yahweh). The pre-mortal Jehovah was born to the Virgin Mary and was named Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God—the literal father of his physical body was God the Father. Because Jesus was the Son of God, he had power to overcome physical death. Because he lived a perfect and sinless life, Jesus could offer himself as an "infinite and eternal" sacrifice that would be required to pay for the sins of all of the other children of God.
According to Brigham Young, Adam was a god identified as the Biblical archangel Michael prior to his placement in the Garden of Eden. The pre-existent godhood of Adam/Michael is now repudiated by the LDS Church, but it is accepted by some adherents of Mormon fundamentalism. According to this interpretation of Young's teachings, Michael was a god who had received his exaltation. He took Eve, one of his wives, to the Garden, where they became mortal by eating the fruit in the garden.
Although the LDS Church has repudiated the Adam–God doctrine, the denomination's Endowment ceremony portrays this Adam/Michael as a participant with Jesus in the creation of the earth, under the direction of Elohim.
The official doctrine of the LDS Church includes the existence of "heavenly parents" (plural), which is generally understood to refer to the goddess Heavenly Mother, who exists alongside God the Father.
The Holy Ghost has a body similar to the Heavenly Father, the Heavenly Mother, and Jesus Christ, but he is a spirit body rather than a celestial body.
Mormon cosmology teaches that the Earth is not unique, but just one of many inhabited planets, each planet created for the purpose of bringing about the immortality and "eternal life" (i.e., the highest degree of salvation) of humanity. These worlds were, according to doctrine, created by Jesus. Mormon leaders and theologians have taught that these inhabitants are similar or identical to humans, and that they are subject to the Atonement of Jesus.
The doctrine of other worlds is found in LDS scripture, in the Endowment ceremony, and in the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. In addition, many LDS leaders and theologians have elaborated on these principles through exegesis or speculation, and many of these ideas are widely accepted among Mormons.
According to a revelation dictated by Joseph Smith, Jr., Jesus is the creator of many worlds, so "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." Smith's translation of the Bible also refers to "many worlds", and states that the vision Moses had on Sinai was limited to "only account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, [but] there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power[, a]nd there are many that now stand." Another part of Smith's translation portrays the biblical character Enoch as stating that if there were "millions of earths like this [earth], it would not be a beginning to the number of [God's] creations; and [his] curtains are stretched out still." Enoch, however, did not refer to inhabitants on those "earths".
Finally, the portion of the LDS Endowment ceremony depicting the creation of the world refers repeatedly to "worlds heretofore created". In portraying the Garden of Eden story, after Lucifer has tempted Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, God the Father asks Lucifer what he is doing, and Lucifer replies "that which has been done on other worlds".
Some individual Latter-day Saints have espoused opinions that demonstrate their personal beliefs on the subject of other life in the universe.
For example, according to an LDS member, Oliver B. Huntington, it was alleged that Joseph Smith, Jr. made a statement to him in a blessing that Oliver allegedly received from Smith that there was life on the Moon.
However, most all reputable LDS and non-LDS scholars and researchers alike have expressed absolute doubt about the reliability of such statements for the following reasons: (1) the alleged statement was given in a second-hand, heresay account from, Oliver B. Huntington, who was a child at the time Smith lived and was not a close contemperary of Smith at any time during his life, and (2) the alleged teaching was only first reported in an unofficial journal entry by Mr. Huntington approximately forty (40) years after the death of Smith—thus calling into question an alleged, second-hand, heresay statement first recorded approximately half a century from the time the alleged inicident occurred by an individual who was a young child and not a close conteperary of Smith's at the time the alleged incident occurred.
Furthermore, LDS scholars point to the fact that there exists no contemporary record or any recorded copy of Huntington's alleged patriarchal blessing, which (by official LDS tradition) are always kept as part of a Member's official records.</ref> Further, there are no contemporary reports, records, or any other written support of Smith's alleged views or statements on extraterrestrials, nor are there any reports of statements other than the one claimed by Huntington, which both LDS and non-LDS scholars widely view as being entirely unreliable and unverified. It has also been pointed out by LDS sholars that unlike many of Smith's statements, there is no indication that Smith claimed that any such alleged opinions on extraterrestrials was revealed to him by God or that Smith was allegedly speaking under any prophetic authority.
Similarly, in a statement given on July 24, 1870, LDS Church President Brigham Young discussed the possibility that the sun and the moon were inhabited. However, Young stated clearly that this was his own personal belief and thoughts. Further, in response to a claim of his being ignorant on the matter, Young self-admitted his own ignorance further stating, "Are not [we] all ignorant [pertaining to these matters]?"
Various publications regarding the subject of Young's statement acknowledge that these were personal belief's held by Young and such beliefs were common in the nineteenth century and were even considered to be "scientific fact" by many at the time. For example, William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, argued "[w]ho can say that it is not extremely probable, nay beyond doubt, that there must be inhabitants on the Moon of some kind or another?" Furthermore, on the scientist William Herschel, historians have claimed that "he [William] thought it possible that there was a region below the Sun's fiery surface where men might live, and he regarded the existence of life on the Moon as 'an absolute certainty.'"
In any event, LDS scholars have commented that the personal and, self-admitted, ignorant beliefs of Brigham Young on the subject of "inhabited worlds" has never even been considered as being doctrine (neither unofficial nor official) of the LDS Faith.
"We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring."
Smith also wrote,
"...the great universe of stars has multiplied beyond the comprehension of men. Evidently each of these great systems is governed by divine law; with divine presiding Gods, for it would be unreasonable to assume that each was not so governed."
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Mormon scripture, and the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr., include a number of details concerning the nature of light, elements, matter, "spirit matter", and intelligence.
According to Mormon scripture, "the elements are eternal". This means, according to Smith, that the elements are co-existent with God, and "they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had not beginning, and can have no end." This was elaborated by Brigham Young, who said, "God never made something out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law of which the worlds were, are, or will exist." Thus, Mormons deny ex nihilo creation and instead believe that God created or "organized" the universe out of pre-existing elements.
Mormons believe in a universe and a God governed by physical law, in which all miracles, including acts of God, have a natural explanation, though science does not yet have the tools or means necessary to explain them.
It is believed there were pre-existing "spirit intelligences" that existed before the Heavenly Parents (God the Father and the Mother in Heaven) created spiritual bodies for them. "[S]elf-existing intelligences were organized into individual spirit beings" by the Heavenly Parents and they became the "begotten sons and daughters of God".
Through an unexplained procreative process involving himself and the Mother in Heaven, God the Father created spirit bodies for an innumerable number of spirit intelligences. Jehovah was a God and was like God the Father in attributes, but he did not have an immortal physical body like God the Father until his resurrection.
While these spirit bodies are also composed of matter, they are described as being "more fine or pure" than regular matter.
God the Father's plan for all his children was to provide a way for them to become more like him. Although they were happy living in heaven with God the Father, God's spirit children could not experience the "fulness of joy" enjoyed by him unless their spirit bodies were joined with a physical body. God the Father convened a "Grand Council" of all his children to propose a plan of progression, known to Latter-day Saints as the plan of salvation. According to the proposed plan, God would provide an earth where spirit children could receive a physical body of flesh and blood.
One of the purposes of this earthly existence is for each of God's children to demonstrate through free will the desire to choose righteousness rather than evil. To facilitate free will decision-making, God would cause each spirit child to have no memory of their pre-earth life. All would be given trials and would fall short of perfection, but a Savior would be provided, the acceptance of whom would lead ultimately to redemption and a return to live with God the Father forever. Jehovah volunteered to be the Savior and said, "Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever." Jehovah was "the only person who could be [the] Savior".
Lucifer, another of the spirit sons of God the Father, also sought to be the chosen Savior; however, he proposed that the free agency of humankind be abrogated so that "all mankind" would be redeemed through compelled obedience. Additionally, Lucifer proposed that all glory and honor be transferred from God the Father to himself. Lucifer's plan was rejected by God the Father, which caused Lucifer to be enraged and to try to overthrow God.
The War in Heaven ensued whereby Lucifer and his followers fought against Jehovah and his followers. One-third of the spirit children of God chose to follow Lucifer. Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven by God the Father. Because of their rebellion, Lucifer and the spirits who followed him would not receive a physical body as planned for in the plan of salvation. Lucifer is also known as Satan or the Devil. Satan and his spirit followers dwell on the earth and tempt people to make evil choices.
Following the War in Heaven, God the Father created the earth. Since all matter is co-eternal with God, creation of the earth was not performed ex nihilo. Rather, God performed creation by organizing pre-existing matter. The earth and everything on it were created spiritually by God before they were created physically. Under the direction of God the Father, Jehovah used the priesthood to create the physical earth and everything in it as well as the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Jehovah had assistance from other children of God, including the archangel Michael. God the Father and Jehovah together created the physical bodies of Adam and Eve, which were patterned after the physical body possessed by God. Michael's spirit was placed in the male body, and a spirit daughter of God was placed in the female body.
Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. Although they had physical bodies, they were not yet mortal. God the Father commanded them to have children. He also told them that they could eat of any tree in the garden except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and that they would "surely die" if they ate of that tree.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. Eve yielded to temptation and ate the fruit; when she told Adam that she had eaten the fruit, Adam chose to eat also. As a result of their decision to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve underwent the "fall". As God had promised, the bodies of Adam and Eve became mortal and they became subject to physical death, as well as sickness and pain. They also underwent "spiritual death": they were cast out of the Garden of Eden and separated from the presence of God. Due to the fall, Adam and Eve also came to know the difference between good and evil and became capable of having children, as God had originally commanded.
As a direct result of the fall of Adam and Eve, all children of God who would be born into the world suffer physical death and spiritual death. While physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body, spiritual death is the separation of a person from God. Spiritual death results from making sinful decisions between good and evil. Were it not for the atonement of Jesus Christ, physical death and spiritual death would both prevent God's children from returning to him with a physical body.
Unlike some Christians, Latter-day Saints generally do not see the fall as a serious sin or as an overwhelmingly negative event. Rather, the fall is viewed as "a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden." Latter-day scripture reports that Adam and Eve later rejoiced that they had chosen to partake of the fruit, and the Book of Mormon teaches that the fall was necessary for humankind to exist and for them to experience joy, which is the ultimate purpose of existence.
If a person physically dies without being given the chance to accept the atonement of Jesus Christ on the earth, he or she will be given that chance as a spirit after death. Necessary ordinances, such as baptism, can be vicariously performed on behalf of the person in LDS Church temples.
Mormons believe that Jesus made possible the literal resurrection of all humanity. They teach that when Jesus physically died on the cross, Jesus' suffering ended and his spirit left his physical body.
On the third day after his death, Jesus' spirit returned to his physical body and he became the first child of God to be resurrected with a perfect and immortal physical body of flesh and bone. Because Jesus was resurrected, all children of God who ever lived on the earth will one day be resurrected. Thus, the spirit children of God will all receive immortal physical bodies of flesh and bone, and their spirits and their bodies will never again be separated.
In Mormon cosmology, there are three degrees of glory (alternatively, kingdoms of glory) which are the ultimate, eternal dwelling place for nearly all who lived on earth. Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, provided a description of the afterlife based primarily upon a vision he reportedly received together with Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832, and recorded as Doctrine and Covenants Section 76. According to this section of LDS scripture, the afterlife consists of three degrees or kingdoms of glory, called the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom. The few who do not inherit any degree of glory (though they are resurrected) reside in a state called outer darkness, which, though not a degree of glory, is often discussed in this context. The ones who go there are known as "sons of perdition".
In consequence of the atonement of Jesus Christ, a son or daughter of God the Father may overcome physical and spiritual death and return to live with God forever. Those individuals who receive this—which is described as the "greatest gift of God"—are said to enter into a state of "exaltation" after they are resurrected. Exaltation is also called "salvation" or "eternal life", though some sources state that "salvation" refers only to the process of souls being freed from the bonds of Hell (also called "Spirit Prison"), or released from Paradise (also called "Spirit Paradise"), and the subsequent resurrection of said souls; while "exaltation" and "eternal life" refer to the state of living with God the Father and Jesus Christ in the "highest degree" of Heaven.
Exaltation is "the kind of life God lives". In other words, exalted beings will live in great glory, be perfect, and possess all knowledge and wisdom. Exalted beings will live forever with God the Father and Jesus Christ, will become gods and goddesses, will live with their righteous earthly family members, and will receive the fulness of joy enjoyed by God and Christ. One of they key qualifications for exaltation is being united in a celestial marriage to an opposite-sex partner. Such a union can be created during mortality, or it can be created after death by proxy marriages performed in temples.
Humans who fall short of exaltation still receive an immortal physical body. Most will be awarded one of three kingdoms of glory, whether it be the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdoms. Those who are exalted are said to inhabit the "highest degree" of the celestial kingdom. Satan, his spirit followers, and a select number of people who lived on the earth will receive no glory and will be called the sons of perdition.