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President Spencer W. Kimball Explains What We Know About Life on Other Worlds

An article by a German astronomer reports that radio astronomers today discuss as a distinct possibility inter-planetary conversation between earth-bound men and creatures on other planets; he "demonstrates" with intricate mathematical logic that planets suitable for life may be fairly common among the stars, and that there are "perhaps ten civilized communities within 1,000 light years of the earth," and "there may well be creatures intelligent enough on some of those planets to transmit radio messages across the enormous distances of interstellar space."

He seems convinced that earth's astronomers may eventually detect and interpret incoming messages that highly cultured creatures from those intelligent communities might send. He says the galactic history of such planets "might take billions of years to evolve, but their flowering might well last only a few thousand years, so their brief moments of glory would seldom coincide." He reasons that "some extra-terrestrial civilizations may have destroyed themselves completely, while others may have killed off only the higher types of life, permitting new and later civilizations to evolve from the humble creatures that managed to survive."

Since no mention is made of a controlling power, we fear that there is the assumption that planets build themselves and that inhabitants create themselves. We honor and congratulate the scientists for their intensive research and some of their conclusions. But if we add to their assumptions and findings the knowledge we have acquired through the scriptures and then acknowledge an omnipotent God in the center of all things, the picture becomes clearer and the purpose we see in existence gives it meaning and color.

The Gospel writer, John, gave us these precious words:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made"(John 1:1-3).

And modern revelation confirms:

"The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
"And thus he was called the Son of God" (D&C 93:10, 14).

The Lord himself testifies: "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth" (D&C 14:9) "[They] are in mine hands" (D&C 67:2).

Abraham and Astronomy 

Students of the universe might be amazed to know how much Adam knew about astronomy; how much Enoch and Moses had of accumulated knowledge of this world in its beginnings, its history, and its projected end. Many would wonder at the great Abraham, living nearly 40 centuries ago, who was such an authority, not only on the earth, its movements, and conditions, but on the universe itself, extending to the very center of it.conditions, but on the universe itself, extending to the very center of it.

His supernatural knowledge was probably supplemented by research and observation in the clear starry nights in the plains of Mesopotamia. Could there possibly have been observatories on the tops of the ancient ziggurats pyramiding into the sky?

The Lord commands, "Seek knowledge through study and through faith." Abraham must have received the major part through the Urim and Thummim, which could have been far more revealing than the most powerful telescope in the most modern observatory. In his 175 brilliant years of life he accumulated knowledge in many fields, but especially astronomy, in which field he seems to have excelled and was perhaps equal or superior to even the highly trained Egyptian astronomers. At the altar near Bethel, close to Jerusalem, came his greatest scientific knowledge.

As he sat in Egypt and wrote his treatise on papyrus, probably to present to Pharaoh and his eminent court, he wrote: 

"And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees;
"And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;
"And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest" (Abraham 3:1-3).

The worlds were created, organized, and made to function by Jesus Christ our Lord, all this at the instance of and under the direction of his Father, Elohim, our Heavenly Father. Abraham knew, as we know, that the works of God in all creations were infinite, purposeful, efficient, limitless.

The Lord continues in his revelation to the prophet: "And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; . . . And unto every kingdom is given a law" (D&C 88:37-38). He knew the bounds set to heaven, earth, sun, and stars, their times, revolutions, laws, and glories—which orbs borrow their light from Kolob, the greatest of all the stars (see Abraham 3). He actually tells us about the throne of God and that he resides "on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, . . . a great Urim and Thummim" (D&C 130:7-8).

Kolob and Facsimile 2

He continues in his inspired treatise: "And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord . . ." (Abraham 3:4), and that one revolution of it was equal to one thousand years on earth.

Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. (Pearl of Great Price, Facsimile 2:1.) 

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Facsimile 2 Fig. 1. Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh. Image and description from lds.org.

Other grand governing creations near to the place where God resides are pictured. This advanced knowledge was "revealed from God to Abraham, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar which he had built unto the Lord." (Pearl of Great Price, Facsimile 2:2.) He says,

"Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, . . . and he told me of the works which his hands had made; . . . which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof"(Abraham 3:11-12).

As we stretch our imaginations to absorb the limitlessness of the creations of God we turn to a favorite song:

If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward with that same speed to fly
D'ye think that you could ever, through all eternity,
Find out the generation where Gods began to be?
Or view the last creation where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers, "No man has found 'pure space,'"
Nor seen the outside curtains, where nothing has a place.
The works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter; there is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit; there is no end to race.
— Hymns, No. 257

Interstellar Civilizations 

The noted scientist speaks of other planets and suggests civilized space communities. Time was when most people thought the earth was the major unit of creation and that the sun, the moon, and the stars were earth's inferior appendages, existing merely to give light like lanterns hanging in the sky. But now the people generally know, as prophets knew long before them, that the earth is but one minor unit of numerous creations in space, illuminated by the presence of God, "who is in the midst of all things" (D&C 88:13). "And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame. . . ." (D&C 133:49).

Our friend astronomer speaks of interstellar civilizations, probably experiencing turbulent history such as our own earth has had with the rise and fall of great civilizations, such as Babylon, Ninevah, Jerusalem, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and numerous others that have flared like an arc light, then dimmed to candlelight proportions or even expired. The prophets knew through the centuries that not only civilizations come and go, but worlds are born, mature, and die. The Lord said,

"And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away. . . . it is the workmanship of mine hand" (D&C 29:23, 25).
". . . the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, . . . and the righteous shall inherit it" (D&C 88:25-26).

The Prophet Joseph writes:

"The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.
". . . and any man who hath seen any of the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power" (D&C 88:45, 47).
"For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God, the Father;
"That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified" (D&C 88:19-20).

To Moses, to Joseph Smith, and to others of the great prophets came visions and revelations so clear, so distinct, so complete that it will yet be long, if ever, when, through observation and exploration only, men will gain the same knowledge. "But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you," said the Lord to Moses. "For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them" (Moses 1:35).

How the Urim and Thummim Works

We are awed by the perspicacity and discernment of the scientists whose accumulated knowledge is great, but there is still greater knowledge; there are more perfect instruments; there is much more to learn. Most of us can but imagine how the great truths have been transmitted through the ages. Exactly how this precious instrument, the Urim and Thummim, operates we can only surmise, but it seems to be infinitely superior to any mechanism ever dreamed of yet by researchers. It would seem to be a receiving set, or instrument. For a set to receive pictures and programs, there must be a broadcasting set. The scripture above quoted indicates that the abode of God is a master Urim and Thummim, and the synchronization of transmitting and receiving apparatus of this kind can have no limitation.

In a short period man has so improved his communication techniques as to hear voices around the world. A few years ago, even with earphones, we could decode only part of the static over the newborn radio. Our first television pictures were very local and very amateurish. Today, we see in our homes a fight in Madison Square Garden, a football game in the Cotton Bowl, the Tabernacle Choir in Chicago, an astronaut on his way to the moon. Is it hard to believe that with such accomplishments by puny man Omnipotent God has precision instruments with which to enlarge the knowledge of those who have the skill to use them? Is it difficult to believe that the Urim and Thummim could be such a precision instrument to transmit messages from God to his supreme creation—man? Can God have limitations? Can atmosphere or distance or space hold back his pictures? Would it be so difficult for Moses or Enoch or Abraham or Joseph to see a colorful, accurate, moving picture of all things past and present, and even future? The Creator said to Moses, ". . . look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end" (Moses 1:4). "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten" (Moses 1:33) ". . . the heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine" (Moses 1:37).

The perfected Enoch, as he saw the brilliant, awesome picture, exclaimed:

"And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations" (Moses 7:30).

And then the Creator said:

". . . there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:38-39).

The quoted doctor speaks of the flowering of the civilizations upon the various planets. The Lord told Enoch:

"Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eyes can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren" (Moses 7:36).

The scriptures postulate that worlds have gone out of existence through self-destruction, but other worlds have gone on unto perfection, and communication between the higher and the lower is not only possible but is an actuality. At the controlling center of the universe in such a perfected world is God. He knows all things that could possibly affect us, and because of his experience in his creation of us in his image, he is eager that we become like him—perfect. Accordingly, he has continued communication with us through the millennia. Without plane or rocket, messengers have come.

Extraterrestrial Communication

Our surprise is greatest in the last conclusion made by the scientist when he expresses the belief that "the earth's young civilization is now approaching its first great crisis because of its newfound powers of self-destruction," and "man's best hope of avoiding disaster is to listen hard for radioed advice. Far out in starry space," he says, "perhaps is an old wise civilization that has survived many crises and is trying to warn the callow earth against the mistakes of its own youth." What an astute observation! Yet for thousands of years our omniscient Heavenly Father from his "wise old world" has been trying to get his children to listen hard for such radioed advice and televised wisdom, but they were blind of eyes and dull of ears. They were not connected to the power line.

Handwritten messages of warning have come. Wicked Belshazzar, with lords and ladies in ugly debauchery, drank wines from golden vessels stolen from holy temples, and while drunkenness and sensual indulgences were at their height,

". . . came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
"Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another" (Daniel 5:5-6).

This was a message from another world, and Daniel interpreted the solemn warning. On another continent Aminadi ". . . interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God" (Alma 10:2). Another message, written by the Lord on two sets of stone tables, came from Mount Sinai: ". . . And he wrote upon the tables the words of the Covenant, the ten commandments" (Exodus 34:28).

How else except through extraplanetary messages could landlubber Nephi, without experience, have built a seaworthy ship that would safely cross an ocean? How else could Noah have known the minute specifications for an ark to successfully ride the flood? How else could Moses know the dimensions, materials, and uses of the tabernacle, and how else could Solomon know the specifications for his temple?

Communications have come in great numbers through the ages, faithfully interpreted by the Jeremiahs, the Ezekiels, and the Daniels; by the Nephis, the Moronis, the Benjamins; by the Peters, the Pauls, and the Joseph Smiths.Ezekiels, and the Daniels; by the Nephis, the Moronis, the Benjamins; by the Peters, the Pauls, and the Joseph Smiths.

Better than radio or television communications have come personal messengers without plane or rocket ship from God's abode to announce the birth of Isaac, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the coming of Saul to Damascus. Joseph saw the coming famine in Egypt so he could warn Pharaoh and save his own people. And another Joseph received a message causing him to flee to Egypt with the Christ child, and return to Nazareth. Peter saw a picture of the four-cornered sheet filled with beasts and heard voices that were to send the proselyting program not only to Jews, but also to all the world. A messenger from the Father crossed space to announce:

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:11, 13-14).

Comforting messengers stood by the Christ in Gethsemane after his momentous decision was reached. One messenger was outside Jerusalem's wall by the empty tomb, and "rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it" (Matthew 28:2). He said, "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen. . . ." (Matthew 28:5-6).

And there were two undetained by space or time, standing on the Mount of Olives, who said:

"Ye men of Galilee, . . . this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

Just last century a messenger came to Joseph Smith announcing "that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God . . . that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for [Joseph] to do. . . ." (Joseph Smith 2:33). In a single night repeated visits and the crossing through space between earth and the abode of God seemed to be negotiated without limitation of time or space or gravity's pull!

From the center of the universe where the power, the light, the direction, and the intelligence originate came another messenger announcing himself as the resurrected John the Baptist. Anciently beheaded, now resurrected, he came to restore the keys and powers that he himself had possessed on earth. He was followed by three other messengers, Peter, James, and John, who restored the Melchizedek Priesthood with all its powers and authority.

Divine guards had sped through space to save the life of Abraham on Potiphar's Hill in the land of Ur, to save Daniel in the lions' den, to save Nephi from the bitterness and bloodthirsty anger of his brothers, to save Isaac from the knife of sacrifice.

Then there were messages so precious, so vital, that the Lord himself came. He walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden and taught him. He spoke to Enoch and showed him the millions of units in his universe. He stood on Mt. Sinai and trained his great Moses to lead Israel. He stood on the highway near Damascus and startled Paul in his marvelous transformation and ministry.

And then there were the visits of the Father himself, who came to bear witness of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, at the waters of Jordan, on the Mount of Transfiguration, to the Nephites on soil of the New World. He introduced his Son on these pivotal and vital visits: "Behold, my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name."

And again, in the Sacred Grove in New York State came the Father and the Son in the restoration of great and holy things.

Life on Other Worlds

Is man earthbound? Largely so, and temporarily so, yet Enoch and his people were translated from the earth, and the living Christ and angels commuted.

Is there extraterrestrial conversation? Certainly. Man may speak to God, and receive answers from him.

Is there association of nonhuman beings? There is no question.

Are planets out in space inhabited by intelligent creatures? Without doubt.

Will radioed messages ever come between planets across limitless space? Indubitably, for there have already been coming for thousands of years, properly sent, interpreted and publicized messages of utmost importance to the inhabitants of this earth. Dreams and open vision, like perfected television programs, have come repeatedly. Personal representatives have brought warning messages too numerous to mention, and it is our testimony to the world that God lives and abides in his heavenly home, and the earth is his footstool and only one of his numerous creations; that Jesus Christ is the Son of that living God; that he is the Creator, Savior, and Redeemer of the people on this earth and especially to those who will listen and obey; and that these interstellar messages—call them what you will, visions, revelations, television, radio—from the abode of God to man on this earth continue now to come to the living prophet of God among us.

Lead image from Getty Images

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Understanding the gospel, concern for people, love for the Savior: these form the underlying theme of Faith Precedes the Miracle.

President Kimball, the twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has spoken forthrightly to members of the Church, warning of the deceits of Satan and pointing out the road back for those who have erred and who yearn for reconciliation with the Lord.

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