Earlier this week I mentioned the Politico post that drew attention to a local news report in Memphis in which the reporter talked to people on the street and asked, “Can you name the [presidential] candidate that’s running for president that believes that if he’s a good person in his religion he will receive his own planet?” Many people who have watched this news segment online have objected to the joking approach the reporter took in discussing Mormonism, but people are also upset because, they insist, the idea that good Mormons will get their own planets is nothing more than an invention by critics of the LDS Church. A sampling of comments left at the Politico web site includes statements like these:
“Wow, the interview was right out of the anti-Mormon playbook. That isn’t what Mormons believe. It’s what anti-Mormons say Mormons believe. And they are not the same thing.”
“Joking about planets and Eden, well, the jokes on you. Neither is a tenant of Mormonism. Rather those are distortions and smears meant to belittle the faith. Get the facts from the source next time. Obviously Ben was getting his facts from anti-Mormons. I would like to see a retraction and an apology.”
“This is why there is so much incorrect teachings on the internet about Mormonism. The idea that good Mormons get their own planet is non doctrinal and has never been taught. This philosophy came about as a way to make the church look stupid.”
“I’ve been an active Mormon for 55 years and have never heard that we get our own planet– what kind of lies are you trying to promote?”
“I have been a Mormon my whole life and I’ve never even heard about this planet thing until the musical hit Broadway. It’s not part of the doctrine of the Church and it’s definitely not in the consciousness of the membership. I’m not sure where these people get that idea.”
Mormon blogger Joanna Brooks at least recognized a valid LDS source for this doctrine when she wrote,
“Sure, it’s a distorting and sensationalistic caricature of Mormon beliefs to say that all of us believe we’re going to get our own planets. You could sit in your local Mormon Church for a month of Sundays and hear no reference to it. Even among orthodox Mormons, talk of planets (and the American location of the Garden of Eden—another matter ridiculed by Ferguson) is the subject of gentle insider humor, a nod to older strains of Mormon belief and folklore.”
The fact is, this doctrine, which states that worthy Mormons can (and will) achieve the status of Godhood and then form and populate worlds (planets), has been taught in Mormonism since the days of Brigham Young. The doctrine was clearly articulated in an LDS Student Manual as recently as 1976, and Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote about it in The Millennial Messiah, published less than 30 years ago.
Some Mormons today wonder where non-Mormons “get that idea.” Clearly, the idea has come from Mormon leaders: President Brigham Young, President Lorenzo Snow, Apostle Orson Pratt, Apostle Moses Thatcher, Apostle Melvin Ballard, President Joseph Fielding Smith, and Apostle Bruce McConkie, as well as official LDS publications, to name a few. (For the actual statements from these Mormon leaders please see “Will Exalted Mormons Get Their Own Spirit Children and Planets?” at mrm.org)
I cannot say what individual Mormons believe; but apparently many of them think this doctrine is “belittling,” “anti-Mormon,” and makes the Church “look stupid.” The questions I have for them, then, are these: Are you comfortable belonging to a church that teaches this doctrine? Will you pin your hope for eternal life on a succession of LDS Church leaders who have not only believed they will populate and rule planets, but have taught that, if you are worthy enough, you will, too? Are you willing to worship as God a man who has achieved his godhood and planets a mere generation before you? This is what Mormon leaders and the Church have taught — and Mormon members have believed — since the 1800s. Why haven’t they told you?