Worlds Without Number

The James Webb telescope just dropped its first “deep field” image. This is as far back as we have ever been able to see, and soon we will be able to peer back to some of the first creations that formed after the Big Bang.

A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld…if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars. All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times—According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was,


37 comments for “Worlds Without Number

  1. Caveat: the Microwave Background Radiation goes back farther, but I believe this is the farthest back we’ve seen in terms of galaxies.

  2. Ironic, isn’t it, that science is revealing these things, not the prophets? Maybe someday science will figure out what dark matter and dark energy are and how they may or may not have something to do with “the spirit” that, according to LDS theology, permeates the universe. Maybe someday science and religion will converge. If so, it won’t be because religion has progressed. Our interest in the cosmos seems to have been bottled up since Joseph Smith died.

  3. Tom, I don’t mean to be rude, but your comment is dumb. The title of Stephen’s post cites a verse of scripture that wasn’t widely published until the 1880s. The post itself includes more verses of modern revelation. Just above your comment is a video of a BYU performance that features cosmological stuff. And it’s not like Stephen’s post is breaking radical new ground. People regularly notice that the universe is pretty marvelous.

    So way you’re playing science against the prophets doesn’t make sense, and your statement that we’ve gone anti-cosmology since the time of Joseph Smith seems to fly in the face of the evidence, and there really is nothing to justify your cynicism here. The instinct to add galaxy-brain hot takes isn’t serving you well. If you take some time to think about it, you might see that sometimes things are okay and the church is good.

  4. Religion is frequently slow to react to science. Think Galileo here. The Church is no different. Think BoM. When I was young in the 50’s and 60’s, the BoM was a history of the American Indians. After archaeological and DNA evidence, it is now a history of a small group that settled somewhere in the Americas. (Or perhaps it’s inspired fiction.)

    Think evolution. Joseph Fielding Smith’s anti-evolution screed that had his son-in-laws compete endorsement. Now Church leaders are less vocal about evolution. As science fills in the gaps, human evolution has become more than a theory. General evolution is foundational to biology.

    And let’s not forget Pres Nelson’s doubts about the big bang. And Church leaders’ skepticism about space travel.

    Scientist and historians have led the way, and the Church has been forced to follow.

  5. The history of religion and science is a lot more complicated than the simple narrative taught in grade school that has its root in the anti-religionists of the 18th century. You could just as easily raise Gregory Mendel, the fact that the Big Bang met resistance from anti-religionists precisely because it was first hypothesized by a Catholic priest, the fact that the scientific method has a clear genealogy stretching back to the monastic university system, or the fact that the Scopes monkey trial was a publicity scam to draw attention to a small town while Scopes himself wasn’t even sure he ever taught evolution. Sure, the Catholic Church messed up a long time ago, but the simplistic narrative of science vs. religion has taken on a life of its own, with people willing to manipulate the facts to support it.

  6. Some galactic LDS texts:

    “Cosmos, Earth, and Man” (2016), by The Interpreter Foundation.

    “Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant” (2005), by FARMS/Maxwell Institute.

    “Worlds Without End” (1998), by LDS Planetary Scientist John S. Lewis.

    “Key to the Universe” (1879), by Orson Pratt.

  7. I am so excited about the detailed images of the universe. Even the launch and deployment has been so fascinating.

  8. Secularism is alive and well, sadly!
    Scientific “evidences” turn out to be, in my opinion, some of the worst mythical fantasies of all time and we are duped into believing it all. We have gotten to where we believe so much in the hand of man that we end up believing the possibility that the Book of Mormon could be “inspired fiction” and still call oneself a member or associate of this religion!
    Adam was the very biological son of God. We have God DNA in our bodies. We are the very seed of God. And yet, so many are duped into science that they believe we are the evolved species of mere animals!
    Then you have this great expanse of the heavens that science says popped into existence by a supposed big bang and again, everyone hops on board.
    It’s mind boggling to me that people believe the theory on the universe by science of the which we cannot even see the end thereof with our most technological lenses.
    We have replaced God, that’s for sure.

  9. As I am an equal-access identifier of dumb comments, I should note that Rob’s comment is also dumb. Trying to make Adam a biological son of God is going to raise red flags for heresy, given that Christ is the only begotten. And it’s all so unnecessary. It’s the flip side of militant atheists demanding that science and faith be at war, even in areas where they’re highly compatible. This is one of them. The church teaches that our bodies are created in God’s image and have a glorious purpose and future in the resurrection. Carl Sagan observed that our bodies are made of star-stuff, as all the elements in them were created in ancient stars. Cool! And compatible! We can all get along if we commit to saying fewer dumb things.

  10. “Equal-access identifier of dumb comments.”


    This is pseudo-intellectual bullying; reminds me of what I have to put up with, from right-wing zealots in my Church meetings.

    I enjoy reading intelligent discourse of Times and Seasons, not invective. Invective drowns our reasoned discussion. Could the administrators of W and T please re-emphasize the policy of kind and charitable comments being welcome?

    Thank you.

  11. Jonathon,
    Are we not the seed of God? Does the Bible not teach the geneology (physical lineage) of man tracing the seed of man directly back to God?
    The main reason that godhood requires both a male and female in marriage is so that the seed can continue. If God can just create seed (Adam) without sexual reproduction with a female then why have a wife so the seeds may continue?

    Common sense rules the day, not mythical science.

  12. Rob, you must realize that your ‘common sense’ proposition here about sexual here is, wait for it, . . . based on science.

  13. “…then why have a wife so the seeds may continue…”

    Ummm… These kinds of ideas seriously alienate women from Mormonism and the Mormon concept of heaven. Surely Heavenly Mother(s) is/are more than eternal seed incubators so that male Gods can reproduce. I’m hoping Rob didn’t actually *mean* to imply this. (Sorry for the threadjack, but it needed to be said.)

    Back to the OP… I’m in awe at the photos. Really makes me aware of what is meant by ‘dust of the earth’ when it comes to humanity and all our intelligence and supposed high ideals. Humility should be the thought of the day.

  14. If Adam really is the literal son of God as the scriptures say he is then all of evolutionary theory is wrong concerning man’s origins.
    And certainly, if they can be so wrong on man then it’s no wonder they can be so far wrong on the origin or supposed beginnings of the universe.

  15. This stream is difficult to read for many reasons. Science will always fall flat in various ways. The scientific process is BY DESIGN one of abandoning “truths” in favor of new evidence. This is not a flaw of the scientific method, but its very essence. In theory our LDS tradition is similar. Our “doctrine” (I’m using quotation marks because I no longer know what doctrine is and how it is defined in our tradition) of continuing revelation should make us capable, like scientists, of discarding bad ideas for better ones. But in fact our tradition of revelation leads us down the opposite path. When our leaders have spoken about something like priesthood restrictions, or evolution, or whether women can wear pants at church the statements of prior or current church leaders result in institutional “doubling-down” on bad ideas, not abandoning them.

    It is sadly true that scientists, like prophets, hold on to ideas long after they are useful. Many of you know of the saying that “science progresses one death at a time.” Sometimes better ideas have to wait in line until senior scientists die and make room for new beliefs. The same is surely true for religion.

    Even though science will fall flat, it will also lead out. Our church leaders, and our members, do not generally demonstrate a good understanding of many scientific ideas. For examples, most church leaders and members probably believe that electrons zip around atomic nuclei in the same way that our planets move around the sun. This isn’t the case. Or we may believe in some simplified but deeply misguided idea of what organic evolution really is. When commentators say things like “We have God’s DNA in our bodies” what does this mean? Does it mean that our physical bodies are traceable to God’s? Or does it mean that God had some of their DNA implanted in ameba-like single cell organisms 3.4 billion years ago when life first appeared on our dear earth and that it has been passed down through the eons to us? Or could it mean that we have mitochondrial RNA (not DNA) passed on maternally throughout all time/eternity? It would be so much easier for my ear if the commenter had said that “I believe that God’s DNA is in our bodies” rather than stating something so utterly non-scriptural with such certainty.

    We need to let science be science: it will change and it will progress. It is my opinion that we ought to try to remember that science tells us how the world works. I believe that religion gives our world meaning. Full stop. I think that we must NOT look to religion to tell us how the world works. I don’t believe that God has used the prophets for scientific progress. I believe that God has used the prophetic and scripture tradition to make sense of the world.

  16. OK Rob, I’ll bite; Please show me where in the scriptures it says that “Adam is the literal son of God?” Where does it say that?

  17. Rob may be referring to the genealogy of Jesus given in the book of Luke:

    …Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

    In my view our doctrine, which I consider orthodox, I don’t believe Adam was the son of God in the same way that Jesus was. That notion, along with the idea that Jesus must have been engendered by the Father through a physical union with Jesus’ mother, are both what I would consider “fringe” in today’s church.

    As to wearing pants at church, well, I occasionally see women come to our very traditional Orem ward in pants and nobody has said a word about it, at least not within my earshot. I won’t deny that there might be some judgmental comments, but it would be unthinkable for anyone to ask them to leave. If women arrive at the temple in pants, or if anyone arrives in casual dress, for that matter, we just check their recommend and welcome them to the temple, like anyone else.

  18. Stephen,
    22 And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed. (Moses 6:22)
    Also in Luke-
    38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. (Luke 3:38)

    The “son of God” reference here specifically means the genealogy of one’s seed.

  19. God formed Adam from the dust of the earth the same way we create our children from the dust of the earth.

  20. Rob, did you read the Church’s positions linked to above? Because you aren’t in line with the church. But hey, you seem to have your mind set and apparently that’s that.

  21. Rob: your literal interpretation is not convincing. It is ok for you to believe that. Don’t drag the entire church into your box.

  22. “God formed Adam from the dust of the earth the same way we create our children from the dust of the earth.”

    I don’t follow. Are you saying HF procreate in the standard way with a female partner to produce Adam via normal birth?

  23. ReTx,

    Yes. D&C states the one of the reasons for eternal marriage between man and woman is so that their seed may continue in eternity. So, plugging in the logic- our immortal bodies will still have working reproductive organs which perpetuate the seed of the body through sexual reproduction. It takes both a man and a women in order for a continuance of the seed of the body. If we are formed in God’s image then it is safe to agree that as we have working sexual reproductive organs, so too does God/God’s also. So, when the God’s say they are going to go down and form man in their image, and it takes both the male and female God to do so it’s pretty much common sense how that happens.

  24. Brian,
    I’m not so sure we really understand the language and title of Christ being the “firstborn” and “only begotten son”. A clue-
    It’s a title having to do with the resurrection, not actual physical or spiritual formation.

  25. Boy is the conversation is veering off topic. That’s not always a bad thing but my guess is that it won’t be a particularly productive tangent.

    Thanks for the post Stephen; “worlds without number” is a hard concept to wrap my head around. I’m grateful we live in a day where we are able to capture images such as this that help us conceptualize some what that phrase might mean.

  26. I’m so glad knowing that HF has had “relations” approximately 100 billion times. What a life to look forward to

  27. Rob, I’m a rather staunch social conservative. Even so — as it relates to the language and meaning of the scriptures — we have to be careful not to assume that all allusions to birth and rebirth and so forth must be interpreted through the single lens of mortal sexuality. There is a wide range of meaningful interpretations that are regularly employed with regard to these themes–and they all make perfect sense.

    Plus, there’s a lot we don’t know about the premortal world, including what the familial relationships between resurrected and spirit beings “looks like.” It could be that there is some sort of “organic” connection. Or it could be based in a covenantal relationship of sorts–we just don’t know.

    And to complicate things further–there are different ways of interpreting the garden saga. I, for one, believe that it’s an allegory having to do with the entire family of Adam and Eve–all of us in the premortal world–with Adam and Eve representing us (respectively) as archetypal characters.

    My nickel’s worth of free advice.

  28. Fundamental truths still apply though regardless of how one applies “allegorical”. We’re Adam and Eve real people? Yes. Were they the first parents of our race placed upon the earth? Yes.

  29. I’m not sure how to respond. The comments are all over the map.

    My daughter, who is 42, wears pants to church and the chapel has yet collapse and the Ward members are accepting.

    The story of Adam and Eve is an allegory. They are NOT the first parents. I contain none of HF DNA.

    I mostly agree with Stephen Hardy, but believe he is a bit hard on science. “Abandoning Truth” for a new truth is occasionally true, but I think generally science involves fine tuning and filing in gaps.

    As for the Big Bang, it should be noted that Pres. Nelson voted no in a GC talk.

    My personal religion and science don’t clash. I vax, I mask, I believe in evolution, I’m worried about global warming, I prefer action over prayer. And I love space exploration.

  30. I love science viewed through the lens of theism.
    Thus, I disbelieve in man evolving from animals, the big bang, etc.
    I do believe in man being the direct descendents of God himself, that there was a global flood in Noah’s day, that there was no death before the fall on the earth and that the earth, since things started dying, is pretty young.
    As for the universe, I think it has always been around. I do believe in Stas, plants, etc starting and dying but the matter itself has always existed and always will.
    When we view the universe we see so little that there is no way we can assume the age of something we cannot even see the end of, if an ,”end” even exists..
    Science, in so many facets is blind and ignorant of reality.

  31. I concur with rogerdhansen’s comment on July 15, 2022 at 3:22 pm. Especially the part about loving space exploration =).

  32. “I’m not so sure we really understand the language and title of Christ being the “firstborn” and “only begotten son”.”

    By the same token, I’m not so sure we really understand the language in those verses that say “Adam was the son of God,” other than in the same sense that we are sons and daughters of God. In fact, I’m not sure we really understand much beyond that which is essential to our salvation.

    When pressed in interviews in 90’s about the deeper doctrines of the Church, such as God once being a man. President Hinckley sagely replied that “we don’t know a lot about that”. Many people took him as being disingenuous, with a “wink wink” to Church members about what we really believe. I prefer to take him at his word. There is a whole lot of stuff that we don’t know whole lot about. I feel deeply blessed to learn the “mysteries of Godliness” in the ordinances of the temple. As far as I can tell, much of what we call “deep doctrine” turns out not to be important enough to be covered there. Let’s rejoice in salvation, be patient, and for now, “let the mystery be”.

  33. I think a quote by the famous Latter-day Saint chemist Henry Eyring is particularly appropriate here:

    “Contemplating this awe-inspiring order extending from the almost infinitely small to the infinitely large, one is overwhelmed with its grandeur and with the limitless wisdom which conceived, created and governs it all. Our understanding, great as it sometimes seems, can be nothing but the wide-eyed wonder of the child when measured against omniscience.

    “For one who feels compelled, as I do, to accept the existence of the Master Architect, it is important to examine his handiwork for the light it throws on him and on his program for his children…..In this church, you only have to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is!”

    Here is a link to the Deseret News article in which I found this quote, it’s a really good read:


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