From the time of early humankind, staring up at the night sky or watching the sunrise, we have wondered at the vastness and beauty of the world around us. Christians have a creation story, American Indians have creation stories, but what about the Mormon creation theory? What’s the story there?
A journey through the world’s literature reveals a vast host of creation stories. The diversity is amazing. I grew up with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I never knew there was a story about a raven that accidentally creates a man in a pea pod. In Jainism there never was a creation, meaning that everything that is now always has been and merely continues to change from one form to another form eternally.
Yet, the fabric of diversity has a common thread running through and binding it together, making all humanity united in one respect. Most all of us, all over the globe, and maybe even beings in the stars looking back at us, have questions they struggle to answer with their creation stories: how did we get here? Where did we come from? Sometimes, they even try to answer a bigger question: why are we here?
The origin of the Mormon creation story needs some historical context to understand. ( Rational Faiths )
The Story of How the Mormon Creation Story Was Created
The origin of the Mormon creation story needs some historical context to understand. Many creation stories have been around since…well, the beginning. Many of them have been lost in time as cultures lived, and their folklore and oral traditions died with them. Writing enabled the stories to be preserved for history.
Mormons, or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Latter-day Saints, or LDS), arose during turbulence among religious circles in the late 18th century and early 19th century. The movement began in the eastern US and spread to the western American frontier .
The premise of the movement was that the practice of Christian faith began to erode and be corrupted after the apostles’ death. Because of that, several bodies of believers, including LDS, broke away from mainstream Christianity. LDS formed a community and culture quite different from anything else among Christianity in the US, even practicing polygamy. Mormons believe they know the truth.
The Enuma Elish is accepted as the oldest written creation story in the world, originating as far back as the second millennium BC. It remains the same as it was then. In contrast, the Mormon creation story began less than 200 years ago and is a divergence from the original Judeo-Christian story.
The primary reason for the variation is the Mormon literature used as a foundation for the Christian story. The Bible (the King James version ) is viewed as scripture among Mormons, just like other Christians. Additional literature is considered scripture by Mormons, such as The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
The importance of The Bible to Mormons should not be underestimated, however. The Bible is often used in classroom discussions, quoted in sermons, and is essential to missionary outreach. An LDS tenet, The eighth article of faith, holds that Latter-day Saints “believe the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly .” The Mormons believe they translate it properly and understand the truth.
How Did We Get Here, According to the Mormon Creation Theory?
Joseph Smith is the Mormon messenger of God and the originator of a unique conception of “In the beginning God created….” There is a male spirit recognized as the Heavenly Father. Many female spirits are wives of the Heavenly Father and called the Heavenly Mothers. The unions of the Heavenly Father and his spirit wives resulted in the births of an unknown but massive number of little spirit babies.
The plot thickens. One of those babies was Jesus, who was given the role of Savior of humanity. Another baby was Lucifer. Lucifer didn’t think too much about Jesus and thought he should be the Savior. However, the Council of Gods didn’t think too much of Lucifer’s resume and rejected his idea. Lucifer couldn’t accept Jesus as Savior, rebelled, and became Satan or the Devil.
All of this defines the Mormon belief in many Gods. There are the Heavenly Father (or Elohim), the Gods of the Council, and Jehovah (or Jesus).
C. C. A. Christensen’s painting “The Hill Cumorah” depicting Joseph Smith receiving the Golden Plates from the Angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah. (C. C. A. Christensen / Public domain )
Let’s Get Down To Earth
The Mormon concept of matter has to be considered in their creation story. As far as Mormons are concerned, matter has always existed, like the Gods. Creation wasn’t a creation. It was more like a hostile takeover with a massive reorganization.
The Heavenly Father wasn’t involved in the reorganization. He was a supervisor. Jesus was the foreman of the job. He recruited several of the baby spirits to create the Adamic world. Notable figures from the Bible, such as Michael (who later became Adam), Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, James, and John, were the work crew. This work crew, which also included Joseph Smith, were the “noble and great” worthy ones of Mormonism.
Interestingly, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants refer to other similar worlds organized for some of the other spirit babies. However, all Mormon scripture is deemed to apply only to this world.
This reorganized matter was initially a spirit world. Later, much as with the rest of the Judeo-Christian story in the Bible, Earth was filled with tangible and living things after Elohim instructed Jehovah and Michael to do so. When it was finished, Elohim caused Michael to fall into a deep sleep, and he was Adam, the first man when he awoke.
Elohim and Jesus executed a project evaluation and decided the process and product were good, except for one thing. They both thought it wouldn’t be suitable for Adam if he had to be alone. To solve this problem, Adam was given one of the spirit babies named Eve as a companion.
In name, the Fall, blamed on Lucifer shown here falling, turned The Terrestrial World into the Telestial World, a world of moral ignorance became a world of moral knowledge. Detail from the so-called windows of St. Ann: Lucifer with the hound of hell. (Martin Thurnherr / Public domain )
From The Terrestrial To The Telestial World
Earth, at this point, was considered to be the Terrestrial World. Some might think it was Heaven, but Mormons are very clear on this point. The Terrestrial World is not Heaven. Instead, it is a place of moral ignorance.
We haven’t heard much about Lucifer for a while, but he comes back on the scene. Elohim appears and rebukes Lucifer for tempting Eve and causing the Fall. The Mormon version of the story has Lucifer arguing with Elohim at this point.
It is Lucifer that tempts Eve, of course. Lucifer tells Elohim that he hasn’t done anything different in this world than he was allowed to do in all the rest of the worlds formed. He contended that he was merely playing his role in a pre-ordained plan.
Without the temptation of Eve, there would never have been the Fall, and without the Fall, procreation beginning with Adam and Eve would never have given all the innumerable spirit babies the chance to be born and take human form.
In name, the Fall turned The Terrestrial World into the Telestial World. In effect, a world of moral ignorance became a world of moral knowledge. The world at this time is also referred to as The Lone And Dreary World. Oddly enough, however, this Fall somewhat seems like a divine necessity for the rest of the story, giving Satan a prominent and essential role in the Mormon creation story in comparison to the outcast snake crawling forever on its belly in Judeo-Christian theology.
What Happens Next?
According to Joseph Smith, the Telestial World will continue in its current condition for 6,000 years. It will then be baptized with fire and destroyed, but it will be renewed and return to its Terrestrial place for a millennium. It will then die. Nevertheless, it will be resurrected after its death and, finally, take its divinely destined position of eternal heavenly glory.
Smith’s later theology described Jesus and God the Father as two distinct physical beings. This stained glass window was completed in 1913 by an unknown artist and is presently displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah. ( Public domain )
Authors are sometimes subject matter experts while not an integral part of the subject matter. That is the case here. The author was unconventional with comparisons and metaphors, but he never intended disrespect.
The author also knows there is a chance he may be accused of blasphemy due to mistakes or ignorance. If so, he begs forgiveness.
Satan ridiculed some members of the Christian faith for being false prophets because they would not profess him as the god of this world in The Lone and Dreary World.
However, there may be some who will profess revelation or apostleship. If so, just test them by asking them to perform a great miracle…
The author does not profess revelation, apostleship, being a prophet, being a seer, or being the son of a seer. The author is merely a spirit baby experiencing a human existence. As such, there were some powerfully resonant messages noted as the author performed his research.
The first note was how gaining moral knowledge required a sacrifice on the part of Adam and Eve, and indeed, for the entire world, at least in a temporal sense. Then, after the Fall, Adam was addressed by an angel as he made a sacrifice to the Lord and asked why he was making a sacrifice. Adam told the angel that was what the Lord told him to do.
The second note was two popular phrases among Mormons. “The first law of Heaven is obedience” and “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Are they meant to say that the true purpose of the Fall, shown by Adam’s obedience to the Lord’s requested sacrifices, was for humanity to show obedience to the Lord?
The third note is the words of Jesus in Scripture and how he used obedience to guide humanity along the path of Salvation. First, there is Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV):
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
Then there is Luke 10:25-28 (KJV):
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
Obedience is better than sacrifice, but that seems to beg the question. What is best?
Sacrifice was meant to lead to and demonstrate obedience, and the words of Jesus seem to say that obedience is meant to show to and demonstrate love for God, others, and ourselves. Likewise, love will result in obedience. Love is best.
Does this mean the Mormon story of creation is saying the Gods’ purpose for creation is to allow innocent spirit babies living in moral ignorance the opportunity to experience an existence of moral knowledge? Will the sacrifice of their innocence lead to obedience and obedience to the experiential understanding of love necessary for an eternal life of Heavenly joy?
Top image: The ideas behind the Mormon creation theory are captured in the Replica of Christus (1838) by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), located in the Temple Square North Visitors Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Source: Public domain
By Forest Butler