The Mormon Church is hitting back against the idea that followers are taught they will get their own planet in the afterlife – a misconception popularised most recently by the musical The Book of Mormon.
A newly-posted article affirms the faith’s belief that humans can become like God in eternity, but says the “cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets” is not how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints see it.
“While few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities,” the article says.
The expectation of exaltation is more figurative and ambiguous than boiling it down to living on one planet, it says.
“Church members imagine exaltation less through images of what they will get and more through the relationships they have now and how those relationships might be purified and elevated,” the article says.
The 3,500-word article is part of a series of recent online pieces posted on the church website that explain, expand or clarify on some of the more sensitive gospel topics.
Past articles have addressed the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy and the early history of polygamy.
The series of postings have been applauded by religious scholars who say the church is finally acknowledging some of the most controversial or sensitive parts of its history and doctrine that it once sidestepped.
The new article, Becoming Like God, does not mention Kolob, referred to in the Book of Abraham as a planet or star closest to the throne of God.
Kolob is mentioned in a Mormon hymn, but interpretations that it is the planet where God lives, or the place where church members will go when they die, read a great deal into an obscure verse in Mormon scripture, said Matthew Bowman, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College.
“I’m not surprised it’s not mentioned,” he said. “Even most Mormons aren’t sure what exactly to make of the reference.”
Kolob is believed to be the inspiration for the name of the planet Kobol in the science fiction TV series Battlestar Gallactica, which was created by a Mormon.
Kolob is also mentioned in The Book of Mormon when a fictional Mormon missionary sings about all the things he believes as a church member.
“I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe that plan involved me getting my own planet,” he bellows, and later: “I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob.”
The church was founded in 1830 and took more than a century to hit a million members. Today there are 15 million Mormons worldwide.