Jesus Christ/Savior of other worlds
This page is based on an answer to a question submitted to the FAIR web site, or a frequently asked question.
It would appear that there is one savior — Jesus — and that his sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice for all of the worlds created and populated by the Father. Some critics have used the idea of each world having its own Savior against us. Is there anything written or published on either concept?
Very little has been revealed on this subject. The closest we have to an authoritative statement is an inference from Doctrine and Covenants 76:
- For we saw him [Jesus Christ], even on the right hand of God; and we heard [a] voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father — that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (verses 23–24.)
The generally accepted interpretation of this verse is that if Jesus is the creator of many worlds, and the inhabitants of these worlds are children of the Father (both by birth and by covenant), then Jesus must be their Savior. This is probably the understanding of the majority of Latter-day Saints.
This interpretation is strengthened by a poetic version of section 76 (probably written by WW Phelps, but with input from Joseph) in which the vision is restated:
- And I give a great voice bearing record from heav'n,
- He's the Savior and only begotten of God;
- By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
- Even all that career in the heavens so broad.
- Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last.
- Are sav'd by the very same Saviour of ours;
- And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons
- By the very same truths and the very same powers.
Joseph Fielding Smith said "Perhaps this is the reason Jesus Christ was sent here instead of some other world, for in some other world they would not have crucified Him, and His presence was needed here because of the extreme wickedness of the inhabitants of this earth" (The Signs of the Times, pg. 5)
Brigham Young gave a sermon in General Conference on 8 October 1854 in which he espoused a different view:
- Let me open the eyes of your understanding. There has never been a time when the creations of worlds commenced. They are from eternity to eternity in their creations and redemption. After they are organized they experience the good and the evil, the light and the dark, the bitter and the sweet as you and I do. There never was a time when there were not worlds in existence as this world is, and they pass through similar changes in abiding their creation preparatory to exaltation. Worlds have always been in progress, and eternally will be.
- Every world has had an Adam and an Eve, named so simply because the first man is always called Adam and the first woman, Eve. And the oldest son has always had the privilege of being ordained, appointed and called to be the heir of the family if he does not rebel against the Father, and he is the Savior of the family. Every world that has been created has been created upon the same principle. They may vary in their varieties, yet the eternity is one: it is one eternal round.
This statement is probably where our critics are getting the idea we believe in a different savior for each world. However, Brigham's statement doesn't settle the question. In the early Utah period, there was a great deal of exploration from the pulpit of the limits of LDS belief, but these sermons were not considered final or authoritative. Such ideas play little, if any, part in present-day LDS teaching or discussion.
The Church does not take an official position on this issue
This is one of many issues about which the Church has no official position. As President J. Reuben Clark taught under assignment from the First Presidency:
- Here we must have in mind—must know—that only the President of the Church, the Presiding High Priest, is sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church, and he alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church....
- When any man, except the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not "moved upon by the Holy Ghost," unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.
- Of these things we may have a confident assurance without chance for doubt or quibbling.
- —J. Reuben Clark, Jr., "Church Leaders and the Scriptures," [original title "When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?"] Immortality and Eternal Life: Reflections from the Writings and Messages of President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Vol, 2, (1969-70): 221; address to Seminary and Institute Teachers, BYU (7 July 1954); reproduced in Church News (31 July 1954); also reprinted in Dialogue 12/2 (Summer 1979): 68–81.
Harold B. Lee was emphatic that only one person can speak for the Church:
- All over the Church you're being asked this: "What does the Church think about this or that?" Have you ever heard anybody ask that question? "What does the Church think about the civil rights legislation?" "What do they think about the war?" "What do they think about drinking Coca-Cola or Sanka coffee?" Did you ever hear that? "What do they think about the Democratic Party or ticket or the Republican ticket?" Did you ever hear that? "How should we vote in this forthcoming election?" Now, with most all of those questions, if you answer them, you're going to be in trouble. Most all of them. Now, it's the smart man that will say, "There's only one man in this church that speaks for the Church, and I'm not that one man."
- I think nothing could get you into deep water quicker than to answer people on these things, when they say, "What does the Church think?" and you want to be smart, so you try to answer what the Church's policy is. Well, you're not the one to make the policies for the Church. You just remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). Well now, as teachers of our youth, you're not supposed to know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. On that subject you're expected to be an expert. You're expected to know your subject. You're expected to have a testimony. And in that you'll have great strength. If the President of the Church has not declared the position of the Church, then you shouldn't go shopping for the answer. (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 445. GospeLink (requires subscrip.))
This was recently reiterated by the First Presidency (who now approves all statements published on the Church's official website):
- Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency...and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.
- —LDS Newsroom, "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," lds.org (4 May 2007) off-site]
In response to a letter "received at the office of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in 1912, Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency wrote:
- Question 14: Do you believe that the President of the Church, when speaking to the Church in his official capacity is infallible?
- Answer: We do not believe in the infallibility of man. When God reveals anything it is truth, and truth is infallible. No President of the Church has claimed infallibility. — Charles W. Penrose, "Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered," Improvement Era 15 no. 11 (September 1912).
- [note] Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 4 no. 6 (1 February 1843), 83, stanzas 19-20; emphasis added. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) direct off-site. Michael Hicks argued that Joseph was not the author of the poetic paraphrase in "Joseph Smith, W. W. Phelps, and the Poetic Paraphrase of 'The Vision'," Journal of Mormon History 20/2 (1994): 63–84.
- [note] Brigham Young, "For This Is Life Eternal," Brigham Young Addresses, edited by Elden Watson, 2:230. Brigham Young made similar statements on other occasions; for example:
- "There is no time when worlds have not been created and exalted; there have always been an Adam and an Eve—the first man and woman, and their oldest son is heir, and should be our Savior. We have one Father and we all are brethren." Journal of the Southern Indian Mission—Diary of Thomas D. Brown, p. 87–89; Friday, 6th Octr. 1854.
- "President Young said there never was any world created & peopled nor never would be but what would be redeemed by the shedding of the blood of the savior of that world." Journal of Wilford Woodruff; Ms/f/115, Church Historical Department; 12 May 1867.
- "All worlds have their God, their Savior, their sin, their priesthood, and can choose which they like, but beginning man rejected the priesthood by assuming to be a law unto himself—all other things abide this law." Minutes of Meetings Held in Provo City; Film/979.2/Z99/v. 2, BYU Microfilm Room; Sunday, 2 p.m. 3 October 1869.