For quite some time I have been fascinated with the heavens. I want to know more about what’s out there. I notice that in the scriptures we have some details about how Abraham got a guided tour of the heavens (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham, chapter three); I want one of those, too.
During our years in Chile I managed to get to the Atacama Desert (the driest place on earth, with one of the highest percentages of clear nights per year), where a host of astronomical observatories keep our lenses focused on parts of the universe. At Cerro Tololo, our guide, who was not a Latter-day Saint, told us in a reverential tone, “there’s no end” . . . and he repeated it, “there’s no end!” That’s what the hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob” also teaches: “there is no end to space.” Abraham talked with the Lord face to face and saw the works His hands had made. The patriarch reported his experience: “And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof” (Abraham 3:12).
When back in the western United States, my son and I drove to southern Arizona, to Kitt Peak, the sister observatory of Chile’s Cerro Tololo, where we meandered through the hills that host twenty-four astronomical observatories, more than any other place on earth. In the bookstore atKitt Peak I purchased a book entitled The Universe and Beyond, and soon devoured its contents (as much as I could understand).
I attended an astronomy class on Brigham Young University campus and perused the course’s textbook titled, simply, Universe. Then, last summer, I visited some friends in Puerto Rico and twice drove up into the thickly forested mountains to the Arecibo Observatory, the largest radio telescope in the world (in fact, it is the largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed—the largest curved focusing dish on earth, giving it the largest electromagnetic-wave-gathering capacity). I had seen it in an edited version of the film “Contact”years before. For decades Arecibo was a pivotal facility in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
My most recent adventure into outer space was twice viewing the IMAX film called “Hubble 3D,” featuring actual scenes captured by the huge space telescope that is still in orbit around the earth. The images were absolutely stunning! The expansive views of the heavens—even our feeble scientific attempts to catch glimpses of very tiny segments of the semi-organized chaos that is the universe—were virtually overwhelming in magnificence and grandeur. The Lord of the universe Himself has declared, “Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power” (Doctrine and Covenants [D&C] 88:47).
Many astronomy professionals and professors, along with astronomy enthusiasts, and even the United States government and the governments of some other nations, have intellectually and financially supported the idea that there must be other intelligent beings in the universe (the term “extra-terrestrial” means originating or existing outside this earth). Otherwise, as some great literary and scientific minds have hinted, if it is supposed that we are the only ones in all the universe, it would seem like such an awful waste of space.
“We do not worship a one-planet God!” declared Elder Neal A. Maxwell.1 And the Apostle Paul began a general epistle to Jewish Christians with these dramatic words: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Note the plural term “worlds.” Modern revelation confirms the doctrine Paul taught. Referring to Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, the great Creator, the Vision of Glories attests: “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” (D&C 76:24). “Worlds without number” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:33) have been created and populated with our Father’s children. In fact, “were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of [God’s] creations” (Moses 7:30).
It is important for us to point out that the inhabitants of those many other worlds are not little green men with antennae for ears, or any other fanciful life-forms such as those created in the minds of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. There must be an infinite variety of animals created by the God of Heaven, but His children (all human beings) are created in His image; they look like He does, with eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, fingers, feet and toes, and other body parts, just as the Bible and other books of scripture describe. The purposes of their creation and habitation in all these worlds is also the same: to temporarily leave the presence of their Heavenly Father and Mother, and secure a physical body, gain knowledge and experience, and prove themselves worthy to continue progressing—learning and doing the divine work of immortality and eternal life—forever and ever.
I propose that God caught up and transferred Enoch and his City of Holiness, as terrestrial-level beings, to reside for now on one of those other worlds—until our Earth shifts upward during the Millennium to a terrestrial-level condition (also called “transfigured,” “translated,” “changed,” “renewed,” “quickened,” “paradisiacal,” and other such terms in the scriptures), and then, as scripture also attests, they will be transferred back to this more glorified world to be part of the New Jerusalem from which Jesus Christ will rule and reign for a thousand-year period.2
So, yes, there are definitely intelligent, extra-terrestrial beings out there in deep space—and some of them have communicated with us here on planet Earth (though revelation also specifies that the beings who have communicated over the ages with man on this earth are those who belong to this particular world: “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it” –D&C 130:5).
We may conclude, then, that if anyone believes in visitors from outer space the Latter-day Saints do! Over the ages there has been frequent contact between Heaven and Earth. God has communicated directly with his spokesmen, His prophets, or He has sent an authorized representative in the person of an angel or messenger (the Hebrew term, malakh, meaning both angel and messenger).
For a span of four decades while the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program has tried to make contact with other parts of the universe, during those same four decades I have been teaching about extra-terrestrial communications to earth. Numerous angels have come to visit our physical earth. Following is a fairly comprehensive list of those who have come, along with scriptural references.
The Old Testament contains at least 108 references to angels:
angel appears and talks with Hagar (Genesis 16; 21)
angels talk with Lot (Genesis 19)
angel talks with Abraham (Genesis 22:11, 15)
angels appear to Jacob (Genesis 31:11; 32:1)