Welcome to 2015. Scientists have begun to understand our universe in ways that could not even be comprehended even 50 years ago. The human race is for the first time starting to seriously consider their place among the stars, and are asking whether or not humanity really has a role to play in that cosmic vastness. As science progresses, many people question that need to religious thought in such an academic and scientific world. It is a good question and can lead to many interesting and thought provoking discussions.
The biggest problem in arguing a compelling case for religious thought in the our scientific world is that religion seems to not follow along with scientific findings. Since most religions believe that their teachings are inspired or handed down from some divine being, it seems absurd that they would have to change to accommodate contemporary scientific thought which appears to be constantly changing as more information is gathered and theories postulated.
It has been argued that we need space age religion to bridge the gap. Some sort of theological ideology that incorporates what we understand about the universe without being a religion based around science fiction. This is an important distinction. Most people will look at Scientology as the true space age religion, since it came about right as the space race was taking off. Although the tenants of Scientology do incorporate scientific thought in a sense, they can more aptly be considered science fiction thought. The difference for me is that Scientology’s teachings involve a scientific story as a base for a comprehensive and universal theology, while a true space age religion would work off of the standard theology first and then have parts of scientific truth incorporated in, not by shoe-horning, but as a natural logical progression of what the basic tenants of the theology. A true space age religion would have a theology that is independently developed but then have scientific truths be the logical conclusion of extending the theological tenants to universal scales.
With that in mind, I propose that Mormonism (more formally known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) best fits the bill as a space age religion. The theology of Mormonism was developed without consideration of scientific truths, but ended up incorporating ideas that we would later recognize as being in line with modern scientific understandings.
Now, this may seem odd, since Mormonism (as with most Christian religions) tends to kick violently against concepts such as evolution and modern cosmology. It is important to note that the dismissal of scientific facts is not a part of the standard theology, but rather the personal interpretation of members who are reading the scriptures and forming a world view that is compatible with their personal ideologies. Mormonism general stays silent on these big issues, not speaking for or against the validity of most scientific theories.
I am going to share some things that I have found in Mormon scriptures that lead me to believe that Mormonism has the best set of beliefs when it comes to squaring them with scientific thought. Now of course, I am not saying that Mormonism is scientific. Scriptures are given to help men spiritually, not scientifically. We can also not expect people in the 1800s to be given revelation about scientific truths that were far beyond the contemporary concepts of their time. But, I found these quite interesting.
(As a note for any non-members reading this, these ideas that I will point out to not constitute the core of Mormon doctrine. They are not primary concerns that should be brought up in Mormon theological discussions. I would consider them tertiary ideas, not critical to the salvation of man, but still interesting. Since this is a blog, I feel comfortable discussing them, but any member who teaches tertiary doctrines over the pulpit at church meetings some be considered not mainstream.)
- Heliocentric Solar System- First proposed in Greece as early as the 3rd century but did not pick up until the Copernican revolution in the 16th century. Up until that point, church clergy perpetuated the idea that the Sun revolved around the Earth. However, in the Book of Mormon a passage states: “And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun.” (Helaman 12:15) This reflects obvious scientific understanding that would have been clear in Joseph Smith’s times but not when the Book of Mormon was originally compiled.
- Plurality of worlds, some of which are habitable- With modern day astronomy finding hundreds of worlds outside of our solar system, some of which may be habitable, the old idea that we are the only worlds that God has created and that the creation of our world was the beginning of time has fallen out of notion. In one of Joseph Smith’s revelations we read: “The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. (D&C 130: 6-7).” Although this states that angels live on a different world than ours, it is fascinating that from its earliest start Mormon theology supported the idea of other inhabitable worlds with other beings on them, and not placing the angels in some obscure and abstract place. Also, the Book of Abraham includes ideas about astronomy, although these seems to be largely metaphorical instead of an actual description of the order of the galaxy.
- Rejection of Ex Nihilo creation From the earliest times of Mormonism, leaders have taught against the idea that matter was created out of nothing. In the Book of Abraham we can read: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abraham 3:24). This seems to imply that there was matter before the Earth was created, which works well with our current models of the universe and the idea that the Earth is in fact younger than our universe. This idea that matter is eternal also works with the laws of the conversation of matter and modern cosmological models of what happened before the Big Bang.
- Spirit is matter as well- A passage in the Doctrine and Covenants gives an interesting statement about matter: “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter. (DC 131:7-8)” This tells us that everything is matter and a spirit exists of matter as well. However, I do not believe that this is discussing dark matter. That is a needless and reckless attempt to mix Mormon theology with science. What this is just saying is that spirits also exist in the natural world, which is a stark contrast to other Christian outlooks on what spirits are. Trying to say that dark matter is somehow spirit matter not only does not work when we consider scientific knowledge and the actions of spirits in the scriptures, it also opens Mormons up to unwarranted ridicule. And it is just absurd.
These are four items that stand out to me the most. In my mind, Mormonism is a great examples of a space age religion. But we must be careful to not take the consideration too far that we get into territory that can get us in trouble. Reading too far into the scriptures can cause confusion and frustration. However, we must remember that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.