From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Johnson, Hollis R.
Latter-day Saint prophets and scripture teach that other worlds similar to this earth have been and will be created and inhabited in fulfillment of God's eternal designs for his children. As explained in revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith, God has in operation a vast plan for the eternal progress 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" (Moses 1:33, 35). This same many-worlds view is echoed in other scriptures (see Heb. 1:2; D&C 76:24; Moses 7:30; Abr. 3:12).
Joseph Smith's version of pluralism shared some similarities with ideas of his religious contemporaries and of modern science. But the pluralistic cosmology that emerged from his revelations and the interpretations of the early generation of LDS leaders taught by him were distinctive. Unlike other religious pluralists, Joseph Smith evidenced no interest in using pluralism for proselytizing purposes, but only to unfold a fuller understanding of God's purposes for people in this life and in the hereafter. The full and coherent picture painted in these Mormon teachings is not plausibly derived from any contemporary view, but is generally compatible with ancient cosmologies, and particularly with ideas attributed anciently to Enoch (Crowe, pp. 245-46; Paul, pp. 27-32; see also CWHN 1:180-88; 2:236-40).
Like contemporary pluralists, Joseph Smith's system implied innumerable stellar systems with inhabited planets. In addition (see Paul, p. 28), Joseph taught that old physical worlds pass away while new ones are being formed (Moses 1:35, 38); worlds are governed hierarchically (Abr. 3:8-9); each system of worlds has its own laws (D&C 88:36-38); Jesus Christ is the creator of all these worlds (D&C 76:24;93:9-10); people assigned to different levels of glory inhabit different worlds (D&C 76:112); the earth has been the most wicked of all worlds (Moses 7:36); resurrected beings also reside on worlds (D&C 88:36-38); and these other worlds exist in both time and space (Moses 1:35, 38; D&C 88:36-38, 42-47;93:9-10).
Mormons therefore accept the existence of other worlds created by God for a divine purpose that is the same as the purpose of earth life-"to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life" of God's children (Moses 1:39). The inhabitants of these 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 unspecified ways (Moses 1:33; D&C 76:24). The means of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ is the same for all of God's creations. Creation is continual and expansive and is directed toward the eternal happiness of all intelligent beings, for 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" (Moses 1:38). For Latter-day Saints the gospel of Jesus Christ has universal validity, in both time and space. God's Plan of Salvation operates on a universal scale. Latter-day Saints believe that there are now countless planets whose inhabitants-children of God-are progressing, as are human beings on this earth, according to eternal principles towards a Godlike life.
Crowe, Michael J. The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750 -1900: The Idea of a Plurality of Worlds from Kant to Lowell. Cambridge, Eng., 1986.
Johnson, H. R. "Civilizations Out in Space." BYU Studies 11 (Autumn 1971):3-12.
Paul, Robert. "Joseph Smith and the Plurality of Worlds Idea." Dialogue 19 (Summer 1986):13-36.
HOLLIS R. JOHNSON