Joseph Smith has been credited and accused of many things, but he has not been given enough credit for his revealed vision of the universe. Coincidently, the nytimes.com and the Ensign magazine (Aug 2013) have parallel stories that emphasize this universe. The nytimes from an astronomer’s perspective, and the Ensign from an LDS point-of-view.
According Caleb Scharf, in a thought-provoking article titled “A Universe Full of Planets”, notes:
Using techniques of exquisite sensitivity and technological finesse, astronomers have spent the past two decades on an astonishing voyage of cosmic discovery. They have found that the universe is full of planets: cold, small, and dark next to their large and glaring suns, these worlds have previously been hidden from us.
No matter how conservative or optimistic we are, the statistics tell us that something like an astonishing one out of every seven stars must harbor a planet similar in size to the Earth, and at roughly the right orbital distance to allow for the possibility of a temperate surface environment. In other words, roughly 15 percent of all suns could, in principle, be hosting a place suitable for life as we know it.
Since our galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars, this implies a vast arena for the universe’s ubiquitous carbon chemistry to play in–a process that, as here on Earth, might lead to the complex machinery of life. Indeed, there is a 95-percent confidence–give or take a few percent–that one of these worlds could be within a mere 16 light years of us. That’s a stone’s throw, practically our galactic backyard.
R. Val Johnson, in a rambling article titled “Worlds without number: The heavens declare the glory of God” (illustrated with incredible photographs), writes:
Astronomers, with the aid of powerful instruments, are helping us glimpse the extent of God’s dominions. . . What we have learned so far is mind-boggling. And if anything is true of the research done over the past several decades, it is that the more we learn, the more incredible our view of God’s creations becomes.
We sometimes tend to focus on [our] personal relationship [with God] and forget that our Heavenly Father, through His Son, is also the Creator and Ruler of the universe. To Moses (in The Pearl of Great Price), He declared:
“I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name . . .”
“And worlds without number have I created; . . . and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.” (Moses 1:3, 33)
Even though the Johnson article is poorly written and difficult to read, it is important that the Ensign is moving past its repetitive articles on a narrow list of subjects toward more meaty and interesting articles.
The “Worlds” article is certainly very timely. I just wish it had been written by either President Eyring or by someone with a background in astronomy or astrophysics. All that aside, recognizing Joseph Smith’s expansive view of the universe is important. And provides important fodder for Mormon transhumanists.