Answer/Brother Larry C. Porter
As one contemplates the far-reaching implications posed by this searching question, the reader will readily appreciate the fact that we can get beyond the bounds of our understanding in a hurry. From the outset it would be well to state a general premise. We know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of this earth, and we also know that he is the Savior of an “infinite” number of worlds beyond the confines of this sphere. Although many specific aspects of this question must remain open-ended we are, fortunately, not without some very important insights into such an imposing query. Aided by revelation and scriptural enlightenment, the Prophet Joseph Smith and a succession of Church leaders have added significantly to our comprehension of the role of Jesus Christ as Savior of this and other worlds.
The Son of God is both a Creator and a Redeemer. Therefore our question must necessarily embrace both functions simultaneously. Observations from the Book of Moses, given to the Prophet Joseph Smith as early as 1830–31, provide an invaluable key in the matter. As Moses was transfigured and stood in the presence of God, “he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof” (Moses 1:29). Moved by the panoramic spectacle before him, Moses asked that he be shown “why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” (Moses 1:30). He was instructed:
“By the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:32–33).
The Son then is the creator of “worlds without number” under the auspices of the Father. This fact is similarly confirmed by the Apostle Paul in the meridian of time. Paul knew of Christ’s activities in the preparation of multiple worlds and expressed the same when he stated:
“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” (Heb. 1:1–2; italics added).
Relative to the role of the Son as Redeemer to this earth, the prophet Enoch received an explanation of Adam’s fall and also was told that “the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt” (Moses 6:54). He was further informed that, under the conditions of that atonement, mankind would be “cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory” (Moses 6:59). If redemption is the work of the Lord in this earth, what then is understood concerning his participation as a redeemer in the other worlds referred to? The Prophet Joseph Smith expanded our understanding of Christ’s relationship to those habitations. While at the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, during 1832, he and Sidney Rigdon beheld what has been referred to as a “vision of glories.” Concerning this revelation they bore witness:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That 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 76:22–24; italics added).
Christ’s acts of redemption in other worlds, which are certainly implied but not directly stated in the above reference, were clarified by the Prophet Joseph Smith years later. During the Nauvoo period (1843) the Prophet gave a poetic interpretation of his earlier “vision of heav’n” (D&C 76). By way of introduction to Joseph’s poem, the editor of the Times and Seasons said of the illuminating verse to follow:
“Uncontrolled by the narrow limits of this earth, and raised above all sublunary objects, his mind soars aloft unto other kingdoms, unravels the secrets of eternity, and contemplates the organization of worlds, in other spheres … together with the laws that govern other worlds, and the state of their inhabitants” (Times and Seasons, 4:81).
Then Joseph’s verses paralleling Doctrine and Covenants 76:22–24 are given in poetical rhyme:
And now after all of the proofs made of him,
By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea he lives!
And sits at the right hand of God, on his throne.
And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God—
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons.
By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.
(Times and Seasons, 4:82–83, stanzas 18–20)
The Prophet’s response clearly reveals his knowledge that the inhabitants of the other worlds described, “Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours.” Joseph emphasized the validity of what he had seen on that momentous occasion by asserting:
I, Joseph, the prophet, in spirit beheld,
And the eyes of the inner man truly did see
Eternity sketch’d in a vision from God.
Of what was, and now is, and yet is to be.
(Times and Seasons, 4:82)
Contemporaries of the Prophet similarly testified of the realities expressed by their file leader. Orson Pratt held the position that “If the penalty of the original sin be the eternal separation of body and spirit, how can justice have all its demands, and mercy be shown to the transgressor? There is a way and how? It is by the introduction of His Only Begotten Son, the Son of His own bosom, the first born of every creature, holding the birthright over every creation He has made, and holding the keys of salvation over millions of worlds like this; he has a right to come forth and suffer the penalty ofdeath for the fallen sons and daughters of man” (Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. N. B. Lundwall, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962, pp. 361–62; italics added).
Similarly, President John Taylor maintained that Jesus Christ was the “Creator of worlds” and that he held “the keys of the government of other worlds.” President Taylor also professed that, “He holds the keys of salvation” where those other worlds are concerned. (See Mediation and Atonement, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Co., 1882, pp. 76–77.)
In the present day this theme has again been addressed by scriptorians. Elder Marion G. Romney has recognized the part played by Christ in the broader plan of the Father as it relates to this and other worlds:
“Jesus Christ, in the sense of being its Creator and Redeemer, is the Lord of the whole universe. Except for his mortal ministry accomplished on this earth, his service and relationship to other worlds and their inhabitants are the same as his service and relationship to this earth and its inhabitants” (“Jesus Christ Lord of the Universe,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1968, p. 46).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has also testified that, “Christ is the Creator and Redeemer of worlds so numerous that they cannot be numbered by man” (“Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, p. 10). Elder McConkie further attested:
“When the prophets speak of an infinite atonement, they mean just that. Its effects cover all men, the earth itself and all forms of life thereon, and reach out into the endless expanse of eternity. … And through the power of his atonement the inhabitants of these worlds, the revelation says, ‘are begotten sons and daughters unto God’ (D&C 76:24), which means that the atonement of Christ, being literally and truly infinite, applies to an infinite number of earths” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, pp. 64, 65).
The Lord has placed the door slightly ajar and allowed his prophets to give us an infinitesimal glimpse of the eternal worlds. When God gave Moses an introduction to the existence of other spheres, Moses became so imbued with the scene before him that he desired to know more. However, the Lord cautioned:
“But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them” (Moses 1:35).
For the present, man must be content with the “account of this earth” while waiting on the providence of the Lord to teach him more concerning the interaction of Jesus Christ with an infinite number of other orbs and their inhabitants.