European astronomers announced on Monday they had found 32 new planets orbiting stars outside our solar system and said they believe their find means that 40 percent or more of Sun-like stars have such ‘exoplanets’.
The discovery has generated considerable excitement in astronomy circles and in the press, including this fine article in the CSM Horizons web log and a cool four-minute video (viewable below) from the European Southern Observatory.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are neither surprised nor disturbed by these discoveries. Space scientists are only now pulling into view things which have been elements of Mormon doctrine and belief for more than 170 years.
LDS Belief in ‘Worlds Without Number’
Latter-day Saints believe that many worlds similar to Planet Earth have been and will be created and peopled as part of God’s eternal undertakings.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that God has in operation a vast plan for the progress and happiness of his children. In a vision given to Moses, the Lord said, “Worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose,…there are many (worlds) that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man.”
Mormons believe that all of God’s creations – including this and all other inhabited worlds – were made for the same divine purpose. This purpose, as described anciently to Moses, is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of God’s children. The inhabitants of other planets are understood by Latter-day Saints to be children of God and created in his image, though they might differ from the earth’s inhabitants in some ways.
Moreover, the cosmic creation is continual and ongoing, and is directed toward the eternal happiness of God’s children everywhere. The Lord told Moses, “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.”
Mormons believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is in effect everywhere, throughout both time and space. This means that the plan of salvation through a divine Redeemer is the same for all of God’s creations, regardless of the planet or even the solar system in which they reside.
Latter-day Saints believe that there are now countless planets whose inhabitants – not space aliens, but children of God – are progressing in accordance with eternal principles towards a fuller and more Godlike life.
For a more complete explanation, including scriptural references, please see the article on “Worlds” in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
A memorable testimony by Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the creative activities of Jesus Christ has been preserved in this YouTube video, which I warmly recommend to all my readers.