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I recently read about the doctrine of eternal families in the LDS Church. As I understand it, the LDS church teaches that men on this planet have the potential to become gods themselves, who then have their own planets upon which people may become gods also.

I am mathematically inclined, so I began thinking of this from that perspective. Currently, the LDS Church has a membership of around 15 million people worldwide. If we, however, only assume that one million men attain godhood from God's spiritual progeny on this planet and that this is the only planet on which His progeny attains godhood, then we would have a generational ratio of 1:1,000,000 or 1:10^6. If that ratio were to hold for each man that becomes a god in each subsequent generation, the numbers become quite large very quickly, even assuming linear growth rather than exponential.

I understand that LDS teaching holds the our God was once a man on another planet, so at the very least, people on this planet are the third "generation". If our God is one of a million others who also became gods on their planet, then the total number of gods and planets, if this really is the third generation, would now be 10^6 X 10^6, or 10^12 (one trillion). If this is the 4th generation, then there would be 10^12 or one quintillion gods and planets.

Ten celestial generations would produce 10^60 gods and planets, and 20 would produce 10^120 gods and planets.

Science estimates that there are only between 10^78 - 10^82 atoms in the observable universe. So, my question is whether or not the LDS Church speaks to this reality and whether it holds to a multi-universe or infinite universe theory in order to account for the mathematical realities or if there is some other explanation.

I have never read anything about this question on any other sites. The mathematical realities just occurred to me as I was thinking about this.

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    Interesting thought. I'm guessing out on a limb that the orthodox LDS answer to this question is, "It hasn't been revealed yet." I truly hope I'm wrong though. :)
    – user5286
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 19:22
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    I thought I remembered reading about an eternal matter something that exalted Mormons use to build their worlds. I also remember reading that the "generations" of previous Gods to previous worlds continues ad infinitum. There is no "first God". I might be wrong because they were not official LDS sources.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 20:33
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    A simple "what we observe is obviously not all there is" sounds like the answer to me.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 20:36

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The problem with this kind of question is that, at least within the context of Mormon Doctrine, there has never exactly been an authoritative treatise on any sort of relation to these concepts in our physical realm. I can, however, present the various theories laid forth by various 'philosophers,' so to speak, within Mormonism.

An interesting book I came across recently is entitled The Kolob Theorem by Lynn M. Hilton. Hilton gives the hypothesis that Kolob (the star/planet on which God resides according to Mormonism) is at the center of the Milky Way, and that all subsequent other Galaxies are their own realms with their own respective Gods. Of course, the problem with this according to your numbers is obvious: There are only about 10^12 galaxies in the observable universe. I am not sure if Hilton addresses this in his book, perhaps he gives an explanation or perhaps believes in some kind of infinitum.

Another, and anecdotally more common, theory is that everything that is observable in our universe is the creation of only our God. The late Neil A Maxwell, an Apostle in the church, offered this:

The Restoration’s revelations and translations accommodate a vast universe; thus it is no surprise to us that scientists’ latest estimate of the number of stars in the universe is approximately 70 sextillion—“more stars in the sky,” scientists say, “than there are grains of sand in every beach and desert on Earth”

The context of his sermon indicates belief in all that being of God, and thus lends credence to the former theory. I believe it is the more common one among adherents to Mormonism.

While it is possible to find various speculations and even contradictory statements from both members and church leaders regarding the exact nature of such doctrines, most Mormons simply believe in an absolute infinite, that is; that there is no end to the number of universes out there. Few ever formulate an opinion on how that is accomplished. I believe that it would be accurate to say that as a whole Mormonism accepts the notion of a multiverse, but because, as in many other things in Mormonism, the exact mechanics are not prescribed, it's best to conclude that there is simply no precise conclusion in Mormonism other than the infinite number of Gods, and thus an infinite universe or multiverse.

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  • +1 Thanks. I'm very interested to know that some of this has been addressed in some fashion.
    – Narnian
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 12:53
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    This isn't really important in terms of answering the question, but technically, Kolob is the star "nearest unto the throne of God" (Abraham 3:2), not the "the star/planet on which God resides." Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 23:37
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I saw your query today as I was sitting through the Primary program in Sacrament meeting. Other LDS will understand this. 😇 I was searching Google hits on the query [mormon string theory] and your question was right there.

One of the problems with your calculations is the assumption that every man (and woman,incidentally) who achieves godhood goes on to create their own planet, etc. This is a common misconception among Mormons and non-Mormons alike. There is nothing in the LDS scriptures, which consist of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C], and the Pearl of Great Price that compels such a doctrine. There are, however, indications that such a doctrine is false.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught than the same sociality that exists among us here on earth exists in heaven. (D&C 130:4.) We don't go to heaven and then go off and do our own thing. We do things, like creating, together. LDS scripture supports such a conclusion.

The Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price includes an account given of the creation of this earth that differs from the Hebrew Bible on one particular matter. The Hebrew Bible describing the creation tells that God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1.) However, Abraham records that it was the Gods (plural), or Council of the Gods that was responsible for creating the heavens and the Earth. (Abraham 4:1.) Thus, the creation of the earth was accomplished by God AND all of the other gods of that celestial generation. Rather than having 1 million gods each creating innumerable planets, we would see 1 million gods cooperating in the same socialty that existed among us here, where we all work together to raise the neighbor's barn, creating innumerable planets.

As to whether or not such an LDS doctrine is at odds with the amount of matter observable in the universe, I doubt many LDS Christians would struggle to comprehend an incomprehensible god's power. Indeed, I suspect there is a similar dearth of non-LDS Christians struggling to understand the incomprehensible God. That, of course, is what faith is for.

Anyway, I appreciate the question because in pondering and composing this response a couple of answers to other questions I have had for many years became clear. But those questions and answers are unrelated to your query.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for taking the site tour. Thanks also for offering an answer to this question. For further tips on writing good answers here, please see: What makes a good supported answer? And for more on what this site is all about, please see: How we are different than other sites. Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 3:27
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    Interesting answer. This would be more useful if you can find sources that agree with your ideas. You probably can't find "official" sources but perhaps other LDS members have speculated similarly in writing. Quoting the exact words of your scripture might also be helpful. I wonder about D&C 130:4, for example. If you can find references and include short quotes from them, I will definitely upvote this.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 3:32
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I note that Mark and Dougvj's answers contain a lot of educated speculation. That's fine! None of the proposed theories are inherently contradicted, as far as I can tell, by revealed doctrine. It is worth reaffirming, however, that they are just theories. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks (living Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) has pointed out, what is "known" about our postmortal experience is a lot less than we may imagine. He also offers a reminder that, while it is tempting to extrapolate from a smattering of quotes by Joseph Smith or Lorenzo Snow (if I had a nickel for every time someone told me what the "real" interpretation of "As Man is, God once was; as God is, Man may be" is, I'd be quite wealthy!), one church leader offering a statement once is not a pronouncement of doctrine:

"As to all of these, the wise cautions of Elders D. Todd Christofferson and Neil L. Andersen in earlier general conference messages are important to remember. Elder Christofferson taught: “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”

In the following conference, Elder Andersen taught this principle: “The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.” The family proclamation, signed by all 15 prophets, seers, and revelators, is a wonderful illustration of that principle."

Source: "Trust in the Lord" By President Dallin H. Oaks First Counselor in the First Presidency

As Mason Wheeler has previously pointed out (According to LDS teaching, was Adam the first man created in all the worlds or just this one?), the Church doesn't tend to take doctrinal stances on instances like this because they are simply not relevant to us. To again paraphrase Elder Oaks' talk, the far more practical concern for us is whether we will get to heaven, than how its mechanics will work out. Personally, I agree with Mark's skepticism of the "we all become our own planet builders and universe-makers" theory, but I can see many easy counterarguments--just as we all grow up and "maintain sociality" here on Earth while running our own households, so might there be an inter-universal sociality of Gods. Or maybe not. Again, we really don't know. :)

This is a lot of words to say something that probably doesn't need as many as I devoted it, but it's been something on my mind recently, so this was an opportunity for me to articulate a lot of the things I've been mulling recently.

In short: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has no official doctrine on a "multiverse" or any alternatives. While members are not discouraged from pondering or theorizing, they are counseled to remember the extremely limited information upon which there is to base any such speculation.

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    – agarza
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:50
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Science estimates that there are only between 10^78 - 10^82 atoms in the observable universe.

The keyword here being "observable". The portion of the universe that is observable to us is merely a function of the speed of light and the amount of time since the big bang. The total size of the universe and the number of particles within is unknown. All current data suggests that the universe is flat (curvature of zero) which would likely indicate that it extends infinitely in all directions. This would in turn imply an infinite amount of particles from which an infinite number of beings could be composed of. However, it is also possible that it is positively curved, making it necessarily finite. In such a case, a multiverse would be necessary to accommodate LDS doctrine.

There is no definitive doctrine taught by the Church about reality being composed of a universe or a multiverse.

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    – agarza
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 4:20
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We know and hold that the universe is infinite. This is inescapable to any observing eye. God told Moses "My works and words .. never cease" (Moses 1:4).

What is "observable" has nothing to do with it. The Lord also told Moses that the worlds of His creation are "innumerable unto man" (Moses 1:35). Therefore whatever number of atoms, stars or galaxies our "scientists" claim are in the so-called "observable" universe, I fully guarantee that our God has far, far surpassed that number, so that no man nor any collection of mortal men throughout the entire history of the world can ever number them, no matter how fast the machines are we build to find, count or estimate them. We will never arrive at the number of God's creations. Besides which, a better term than "observable" might be "observed". Clearly there is far more that is observable than what we have so far observed. For as many times as mankind has picked out the remotest, darkest, seemingly lifeless and empty patch of the night sky and pointed our strongest telescopes at it for a length of time, we have seen that Creation is unimaginably more vast than we had ever previously considered, or than any worldly theory had ever predicted. Yet the prophets of God since the beginning have told us to expect this. When will man learn?

Every time we do this, our estimates of how large the universe must be at a minimum have to be multiplied by an astronomical number. God said what He said: His works are without end, and innumerable. When will we learn?

I predict and even know without the slightest doubt that the JWST will continue to unfold this pattern. For as far as we might try to peer, we will never observe the mythical "Big Bang", and we will continue to find organized and fully formed stars and galaxies forever, even if a thousand years from now we have telescopes that can see 100 billion or 100 trillion times further. And so it is. There is no end to God's creations. Therefore the universe is infinite.

As for universes versus multiverses, I am not sure the question is well-formed enough or the terms sufficiently differentiated to give a definitive, concrete answer. The word "universe" derives from a combination of Latin uni- meaning "one" or "united", with versus, which has the meaning "turned", cognate with modern "verse", as in a line of writing, a verse of Scripture or a song. It can also denote a furrow or the "turn of a plow". (Source: Oxford Languages)

The native meaning of the word "universe" is therefore "all that is". "Multiverse" is not necessarily appreciably different therefore, because "universe" either means a single line or furrow, or it means all the lines and furrows that there are, while "multiverse" simply means "multiple lines or furrows of a plow". Given this understanding, a "multiverse" might actually be interpreted to mean a finite number of verses or collections of things, whereas "universe" under the expansive interpretation we are accustomed to literally includes all that is.

Hubble deep field enter image description here Hubble ultra deep field enter image description here

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