Things To Act
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Theological Barriers to Space Colonization?
Adam Greenwood recently wrote on why he thinks LDS should be interested in space travel, giving two broad reasons along with some theological themes: 1) that a new frontier would enable us to create a politically and geographically distinct Zion, and 2) given that space colonization is inevitable, LDS should try to get in early to be able to influence those communities. I find this line of argument interesting, in part because past speculation has led me to question both of those premises.

As to the first, it seems unlikely that the Church is going to be interested in devoting any degree of resources to building a distinct Zion nation any time soon, and it tends to look with disfavor on any members who might want to try to found a separate distinct community on their own without prophetic guidance. Perhaps the only reason this is so is the lack of viable frontier, but my impression is that this is not the only determining variable—our interest in taking the gospel to all the world demands that we employ our resources to that end in every country, and many of the reasons that gathering and geographical isolation were needed in the early days of the Church no longer apply. The model of gathering to Zion (one place) has been replaced with the model of gathering to Zion (stakes spread throughout the world). Perhaps it will change again, but I’ve seen little indication thus far.

The second reason is also something I’ve wondered about for awhile. For whatever reason, the picture I have in my head of the flow of history seems incompatible with extensive space colonization. Of course, many pieces of that picture are based on CES teachings about the run-up to the Second Coming, which teachings (based on various CESers interpretations of ambiguous scriptures) I’ve become more skeptical of over the years. And I certainly don’t mean anything as banal as the “God would look on space travel as blasphemy/If God had meant men to fly, he wouldn’t have invented the automobile…” line of argument. It’s more that it seems that whatever God’s plan for the world, the end wrap-up would come before space colonization could get very far.

The picture I have is something along the lines of increased wars and tensions leading up to the Armageddon conflict, a showdown in the Middle East, and then the Second Coming, at which the wicked will be burnt and the Earth returned to ‘paradisiacal glory’ through the Millennium, following which the Earth will be celestialized. Absent from this picture are nations which don’t take part through being conveniently off-planet and out of range.

Part of the reason that space colonies don’t seem to fit stems from the fact that scripture seems to treat the planetary unit as important, for whatever reason.
Moses 1 teaches that many inhabited earths exist (29) but that we only need to worry about this one (35). D&C 130 teaches that souls seem to 'belong' to one planet (5) and about the celestialization of the Earth (9).

So the broader picture seems to encompass many inhabited worlds, but without provisions for communication between them. As to whether these worlds (as well as the already-perfected worlds further along in the cycle) are in this universe or others, we may not know for sure—but if they are in this universe, it seems unlikely that God would allow us to come in contact with them [though one semi-related case is interesting to note: the Jaredites, under a pre-Law of Moses dispensation, were for a brief period geographically and temporally contemporaneous with the Law of Moses Mulekites and Nephites, which could have led to all sorts of interesting problems if the cultures had been allowed to intersect—different commandments required, different prophets with different lines of authority, etc.]

In any event, for these reasons I can’t seem to make the idea of space colonization fit comfortably into my theological framework (as opposed to my sci-fi fan framework, from which I’m all in favor of going full speed ahead).

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