[Blog] Mormon Cosmology: Our Hollow Earth, Jews in Space, and Alien Gods

Mormon Cosmology:

Our Hollow Earth, Jews in Space, and Alien Gods

by : Cody Noconi

The actual history of the Mormon church is stranger than fiction. The actual history of its founder, Joseph Smith Junior, is perhaps beyond adequate description; certainly beyond the scope of this paper. The present-day incarnations of the Mormon movement go to great lengths at times, in order to assure that this history is not made common knowledge, or even circulated within the organization itself. The following multi-part series is a smash cut of real Mormon history and theology, which even the LDS missionaries knocking on your door are likely to be unaware of.

The Mormon faith believes in continued revelation, wherein god can change his mind on a given topic, so to speak, and instruct later generations differently than in previous ones. For example, early Mormons were originally instructed simply, “hot drinks are not for the body, or belly.” 1 It was not until some years later, that this direction was redefined as coffee and tea, which lead to Mormons famous abstinence from such substances. 2 Unless a given set of revelations are corrected or clarified by the current ‘prophet’, or leader of the church, then one must assume that the previous revelations are canonized doctrine. Such is the case with the little known or discussed Mormon belief in a hollow earth, Jews in space, 3 and alien gods.

 

A Hollow Earth and Lost Tribes of Israel

There are numerous first hand accounts from early Mormons, which explicitly reference Joseph Smith, the founder and first ‘prophet’ of the church, preaching that the earth was hollow, and that some of the Lost Tribes of Israel had inhabited the earth’s hollowed core. Benjamin Johnson, an early member of some authority among the Mormon church who at one point acted as a private secretary to Joseph Smith Jr., quoted Smith with the following: “you remember the old caldron or potash kettle you used to boil maple sap in for sugar, don't you? …they are in the north pole in a concave just the shape of that kettle. And John the Revelator is with them, preparing them for their return.” 4

Oliver B. Huntington, another prominent early Mormon, reaffirmed this belief when he said, “I have heard Joseph say that ‘John was among the Ten Tribes beyond the North Pole.” 5 On another occasion, Joseph even, “...described the shape of the earth at the poles as being a round elongation and drew a diagram of it.” 6 Oliver did not offer up said diagram for publication, but he repeatedly parrots second hand testaments of Mormon officials describing the earth as being hollowed out at the poles.

The concept of a hollow earth with some type of a habitable center is a common trope among early cultures around the globe. However, it was not until the famous physicist Edmond Halley first put forward the hypothesis in the late 17th century, that the idea really took hold in an academic sense among the Western world. 7 How this relates to Joseph Smith Junior and his understanding of planetology, is that a particular version of this hollow earth idea was widely popularized in his time by one John Cleves Symmes Junior. A version which clearly influenced Jo Smith.

John Cleves Symmes was an American Army officer and academic, who was the first to postulate that openings to the center of the earth could be found through large openings at it’s polar regions. In April of 1818, Symmes published Circular No 1. in which he boldly proclaimed, “I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.” 8 This document was republished and widely circulated around the area Joseph Smith and his family resided during his early adult life. Although he did not officially publish a book on this topic during his lifetime, Circular No. 1 was certainly recirculated, and Symmes himself regularly lectured around the country regarding his hypothesis. Even if he did not personally read Symmes material or attend a lecture, Joseph Smith was certainly influenced by Symmes’ work nonetheless.

If one requires more tangible proof that this belief was considered church doctrine, then one should look no further than the church’s own publications, the Articles of Faith and Doctrine and Covenants. “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel.” 9 Coupled with, “… the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.” 10

Also take into account the striking language found in a patriarchal blessing given to Joseph, by his friend and co-founder of the Mormon church, Oliver Cowdery. “[Joseph Smith] will go forth toward the north, and by the power of his word shall the deep begin to give way: and the ice melt before the Sun. By the keys of the kingdom shall he lead Israel into the land of Zion, while the house of Jacob shouts in the dance and in the song.” 11 Fairly stark and unambiguous language, that clearly illustrates the Mormons theological reimagining of Symmes hollow earth hypothesis.

Although it is not currently circulated or widely known by the majority of Mormons today, this doctrine has not since been readdressed or reclarified, and therefore we are only left to assume that this is still canonized belief by the church leaders.

 

Jews in Space and Mormon Moon-Folk

In what appears to be a dogmatic offshoot or misinterpretation of the hollow earth belief, is the idea that this hollow was created when a portion of the earth was removed by god. There were apparently more lost Tribespeople of Israel inhabiting this terrestrial chunk, which was now lost somewhere in space. It is currently unclear whether or not this particular bit of folklore was official revelation, or just Smith’s intimate musings, however it certainly interesting to take note of.

“I heard Joseph Smith preach baptism for the dead…. I heard him say, ‘the Ten Tribes were not on this globe, but a portion of this earth had cleaved off with them and went flying into space, and when the time comes when the “earth reels to and from like a drunken man and the stars from heaven fall,” it would join on again.'” 12

“The Prophet Joseph [Smith] once in my hearing advanced his opinion that the Ten Tribes were separated from the Earth; or a portion of the Earth was by a miracle broken off, and that the Ten Tribes were taken away with it, and that in the latter days it would be restored to the Earth or be let down in the Polar regions. Whether the Prophet founded his opinion upon revelation or whether it was a matter of mere speculation with him, I am not able to say.” 13

Perhaps related, or at least tangential to his belief in an Israelite colony in space, is Joseph Smith’s conviction that the moon, sun and stars were inhabited as well. “‘Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker Style & are quite general in Style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; ...generally, near a thousand years.'” 14

The Patriarch of the church even seemed confident that through either the power of god or science, that within that same generation of the early church, Mormon missionaries would actually be preaching their gospel off planet! “In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and – to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes.” 15 Decades before Jules Verne and the commonly acknowledged birth of science fiction, Joseph Smith Junior must at least be credited with a wonderfully active imagination.

These beliefs seem to have survived at least into the days of the main church’s second leader and namesake of the Mormon college BYU, Brigham Young. 16 Young waxed on topic at some length regarding this topic:

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?... When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.” 17

In other words, the only conceivable purpose for a planet would be for god to inhabit that planet with sentient beings which then require His salvation. If there is any confusion as to whether or not this was indeed considered doctrine and not just ignorant conjecture, Brigham even doubled down on statements such as that when he said, “I have never preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture.” 18 Once more, unless clarified by current Mormon leaders, then the beliefs discussed thus far should be referred to exactly as Brigham suggested; Mormon scripture.

It should come as no great shock that this was a common belief at the time given that the Mormon’s canonized Book of Abraham, explicitly refers to a celestial body Kolob, as nearest the throne of God. 19 Mormons today generally consider it to be the literal residing place of their god. In addition, Mormonism also preaches a plurality of gods; an idea that through spiritual perfection, heterosexual human couples can themselves become gods, each couple managing their own planetary, Genesis style creation in turn. “Mankind are here because they are the offspring of parents who were first brought here from another planet, and power was given them to propagate their species, and they were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.” 20 An infinite process, which has been going on for untold eons. 21 A sort of interstellar, Manifest Destiny meets Divine Panspermia, so to say.

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.... It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know... that he was once a man like us.... Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves... the same as all Gods have done before you...” 22

Despite what many Mormons today would preach, and what they themselves likely believe, the faith is not monotheistic. This belief in an infinitely expanding, factory-line intergalactic god nursery is what would be more accurately categorized as monolatrism; the devotion to a single god, while neither acknowledging or denying the existence of other, sometimes greater divine beings.

Fans of Battlestar Galctica may already know that the show’s creator, Glen Larson was himself LDS, and that he obviously encoded Mormon symbolism and theology into the show’s narrative. The twelve lost ‘colonies’ that record their history in Egyptian-like hieroglyphics, the ‘gods’ were once humans that somehow perfected or advanced themselves to a god-like status, and all of whom originated from a planet Kobol. The parallels are simply too many to lay out here, 23 but by this time BSG fan or not, one should be able to appreciate that Mormon archetypes are certainly far out enough to have inspired one of the most successful science fiction shows of all time.

 

References:

  1. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants 89:9
  2. [online] Available at: https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-81-89/section-89-the-word-of-wisdom?lang=eng {Accessed Oct 21st 2017]
  3. History of the World, Part I, Mel Brooks. Universal Studios, 1981. Film
  4. Johnson, Benjamin My Life's Review, 1947, p. 93
  5. Huntington, Oliver B. Journal, under January 13, 1881; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 528, footnote 100
  6. Huntington, Oliver B. The Inhabitants of the Moon, The Young Women's Journal, 1892, v. 3, p. 264
  7. Halley, Edmond, An Account of the cause of the Change of the Variation of the Magnetic Needle; with an Hypothesis of the Structure of the Internal Parts of the Earth, Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society of London, No. 195, 1692, pp 563–578
  8. Symmes, John Cleve. Symmes' Circular No. 1. St Louis, 1818
  9. Articles of Faith, #10, see History of the Church, v. 4, pp. 535-541
  10. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants 110:11
  11. Patriarchal Blessing from Oliver Cowdery to Prophet Joseph Smith, in Oliver Cowdery, “A Patriarchal blessing given by Oliver Cowdery to the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland,” September 22, 1835, reprinted in Collier, ed., Unpublished Revelations, 1979, 2nd edition, 1981, v. 1, p. 76
  12. Smith, Bathsheba W. Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Juvenile Instructor, June 1, 1892, v. 27, p. 34
  13. Apostle Orson Pratt, Letter Box of Orson Pratt, LDS Church Historian's Office, letter to John C. Hall, December 13, 1875; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 529, footnote 101
  14. Smith, Joseph Jr., in Journal of O.B. Huntington, Book 14, p. 166
  15. Huntington, Oliver B. The Inhabitants of the Moon, The Young Women's Journal, 1892. v. 3, pp. 263-264.
  16. “President Young said he heard Joseph Smith say that the Ten Tribes of Israel were on a Portion of Land separated from this Earth.” -Prophet Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff's Journal, September 8, 1867, reprinted in Susan Staker, ed., Waiting for World's End, The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, 1993, p. 291
  17. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 271
  18. Ibid, pp. 95
  19. The Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham 3:2-3
  20. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 7, p. 285
  21. “Worlds without number I have created.” -Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:33
  22. Smith, Joseph Jr., King Follett Discourse, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, pp. 3-4 Also: “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like himself.” -Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, v. 3, p. 93. Also: “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.” -Smith, Joseph Jr., History of the Church, v. 6, pp. 307, 308
  23. [online] Available at: http://www.mormonthink.com/glossary/battlestargalactica.htm {Accessed Oct 21st 2017]
 

Additional Resources:

  1. MormonThink.com [online] Available at: http://mormonthink.com [Accessed 10 21st 2017]
  2. Wiki – John Cleves Symmes Jr. - [online] Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cleves_Symmes_Jr. [Accessed 10 21st 2017]
  3. OliverCowdery.com [online] Available at: http://olivercowdery.com/texts/1818symm.htm#item1 [Accessed 10 21st 2017]
  4. Wiki - Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series0 – [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlestar_Galactica_(2004_TV_series) [Accessed 10 21st 2017]