Earth to Elna Baker: God doesn’t live on Kolob

Don’t get me wrong, I actually personally want to see the new Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. And I admit this is a super nit-picky observation, but I’ve seen multiple Mormons mention the Kolob joke when they talk about how great the new musical is/will be. The latest was Elna Baker, the funny Mormon author of The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. Here’s part of her reaction to the new musical from an NPR story:

“There’s a line where they say, ‘I believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob,’ ” Baker says. “That is an actual Mormon belief. We do believe that. But taken out of context — or in context — you do not want anyone to know you actually believe it.” (Robert Smith, “On Broadway, A ‘Mormon’ Swipe At … Everything,” All Things Considered, 24 March 2011.)

Any Mormons who believe God lives on a planet called Kolob need to look more closely at their Book of Abraham (might I recommend Brian Hauglid’s new textual history of the BoA?). Again, this will seem silly and nit-picky to plenty of folks, but according to the scripture in question:

1. Kolob isn’t necessarily a planet.
2. God doesn’t live there even if it is.

Check it.

Sure, what the scripture really says still sounds a bit weird. Let’s at least be more accurate in our eccentricities!

Break a leg.

  • http://visionsofthekingdom.com David Tayman

    You know, I kept thinking the same thing every time I saw such reviews.

    Which is actually part of a bigger problem – that there are faithful members out there who do believe just that. And other things that they claim, “The scriptures clearly say that…”, when it ends up what the really mean is that “a speculation by Orson Pratt clearly says that…”

    We had a Sunday School lesson the other day, where a long time member appeared to skim the introduction to the Pearl of Great price for the first time, and announced in class that “The pearl of great price was discovered on ancient Papyrus.” – On my mission, I was horrified to hear a companion describe the Book of Moses as being translated from ancient Egyptian papyri.

    Apart from Scripture Mastery quotations, I’m not really convinced most members have actually read the Pearl of Great Price.

    /rant

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    David, you’ve captured the general point of annoyance I’m trying to express here, yes.

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis E. Parshall

    Never having actually read the scriptures, apparently, means that these people are all qualified to teach Sunday School as well as give press interviews.

    I’m gonna go eat, drink, and be merry now.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Ardis, there’s always some Mormon ready to blather on the news. Like the guy in this interview:

    http://connect2utah.com/news-story?nxd_id=132376&nxd_28362_start=30

  • http://loydo38.blogspot.com the narrator

    Would you be fine with saying that the literal reading of Abraham 3 is that God is physically located near a start named Kolob?

    And to be fair, most Mormons who are aware of Kolob would probably say that God lives on planet named Kolob. And as such, it would be a fairly common Mormon belief that God lives on the planet Kolob.

  • http://agitatingfaithfully.org Dane

    I agree with narrator here. Even if this particular doctrine were expressed accurately, it wouldn’t sound any less peculiar (and perhaps even more peculiar, since suddenly it becomes a discourse not just on God’s habitation, but on His solar neighborhood…)

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Would you be fine with saying that the literal reading of Abraham 3 is that God is physically located near a start named Kolob?

    Like I said in the post, what the BoA really says still sounds weird (interestingly the encyclopedia of mormonism leaves room for literal or figurative/allegorical views).

    And to be fair, most Mormons who are aware of Kolob would probably say that God lives on planet named Kolob

    So to be fair, most Mormons would be wrong about what the BoA actually says, not to mention the hymn which they are probably more familiar with (and a fav of mine).

    Dane: I pointed that out in the OP.

  • Matt W.

    I’ve never met a member who believes God lives on Kolob. Lots of them have heard of Kolob. I’ve heard Everything from it’s a mystery to it’s a metaphor, to a star closest to the physical space where God resides.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges
  • http://loydo38.blogspot.com the narrator

    So to be fair, most Mormons would be wrong about what the BoA actually says, not to mention the hymn which they are probably more familiar with (and a fav of mine).

    Of course. But then we end up into the endless cycle of asking what it is that we really believe… Which I don’t want to get into here.

    I share your frustrations though, as you know. I just wish that others would get our weird (and sometimes nonsensical) teachings right when they want to make fun of us.

  • Clark

    Kolob was taken as a planet fairly early on though. Consider this sermon from Brigham Young for instance:

    Why cannot we behold all things in space? Because there
    is a curtain dropped, which makes them out of sight to us. Why cannot we
    behold the inhabitants in Kolob, or the inhabitants in any of those
    distant planets? For the same reason; because there is a curtain dropped
    that interrupts our vision. So it is, something intervenes between us and
    them, which we cannot penetrate. We are short sighted, and deprived of
    the knowledge which we might have. (Brigham Young, July 10, 1853)

    William Ivins Appleby calls it a planet in his journal as well.

    But yeah, I think both the commentary for fac 2 and the text of Abraham are pretty clear it’s closest to God but the commentary to fac 2 in particular seems to separate it from him.

  • Clark

    BTW – I’ve never quite figured out why God living somewhere we can make sense of is so weir. “God lives on a planet? How strange.” Yet presumably it’s normal and sensical to believe he’s nowhere and everywhere and a bunch of other incomprehensible claims? All this stuff about “silliness” really is nothing more than “stuff I’m used to hearing about.”

    The other one that NPR mentioned was from the song “I Believe” where it was weird to believe some Jews sailed to America in a boat. That’s weird but believing vikings did it is normal? What exactly is weird believing Jews did it? I mean I can understand being skeptical without evidence. That makes sense. I just don’t understand what’s weird about the belief.

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    Blair,

    That Photoshop of DCP is classic! You should give Matsby a run for the money… fame?

    I have always believed that Kolob orbits Bolok, its exact mirror and time-warp node to Ashmagaddon Prime. Long live interstellar theology!

  • gomez

    As an Englishman I have always found childish amusement in the fact that Kolob backwards is Bolok – as in ‘that’s a load of old…’

  • Aaron R.

    Gomez, FTW!

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    I’ve seen old quotes about inhabitants of Kolob, but where does anyone claim it as God’s residence?

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    IOW, I’m looking for the exception that proves the rule when it comes to GA’s.

  • Manuel

    Wow, I think I am really liking Tod Robbins explanation of Kolob dynamics. I’m writing it down to teach it next time I have an opportunity to teach in seminary.

    By the way, has anyone here ever heard members say Joseph Smith could have been the Holy Ghost? I have.

    Another common one is that Joseph Smith is a direct descendant of the posterity of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Manuel, yes, I’ve heard of such truth…er, uh, I mean speculation…

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    All I want to know at this point is:

    When will room be made for discussion of Draconians and Pleiadians in Sunday School?

  • http://nateinslc.blogspot.com Nate W.

    Clark:

    The other one that NPR mentioned was from the song “I Believe” where it was weird to believe some Jews sailed to America in a boat. That’s weird but believing vikings did it is normal? What exactly is weird believing Jews did it?

    1. Lack of evidence that Jews had a strong seafaring tradition in the 600 BC timeframe.
    2. Lack of evidence of settlements in the Americas of settlements consistent with Jews from 600 BC.
    3. Brattahlid, Greenland to L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland is about 720 miles. Yemen to the closest given point on the west coast of the Americas is over 10,000 miles.

    I’m not trying to say that it couldn’t have happened, but comparing the Vinland Settlement to Nephi’s voyage in terms of plausibility is a rather foolish argument.

  • Clark

    Nate, I’m not saying there’s evidence for it. I’m just saying that compared to most religious beliefs that’s far, far more plausible. It’s much more plausible than things most Americans don’t blink twice at such as “carpenter hung on cross by Romans and comes back to life to give everyone else life” or “we should literally eat the blood and flesh of our God to remember his death” or things like that. Really, “some guys sailed across the ocean” is pretty low down on the ridiculous quotient level.

  • http://nateinslc.blogspot.com Nate W.

    Clark:

    I think comparing Nephi’s Voyage to the Atonement is comparing apples to oranges. If we were to examine the truth claim “Jesus suffered for the sins of humanity and allowed for the eventual resurrection of all people,” what kind of evidence would we expect to find to support or refute that claim? Because there is no material evidence for the existence of sin, and because resurrection is something that no one claims has happened on any more than a negligible scale, this is a claim that is not subject to confirmation or denial by using scientific methods, nor can we determine the plausibility of such a claim.

    However, the claim “a clan of people from Jerusalem traveled via ship from someplace in the Middle East to some place in the Americas in about 600 BC” is a claim that we would be able to determine the plausibility of and that we would expect physical evidence for and/or contemporary historical records of. My opinion is that it is more problematic to believe things that are empirically verifiable but for which there is no evidence and which is implausible based on how we understand the world to work, than it is to believe things that by definition are not subject to empirical proof.

  • Clark

    Nate I guess I’m saying that how weird something sounds is not related to its empirical content. For instance the Catholic view of transubstantiation is, once you understand it has no empirical content, not that problematic. But it sounds really weird to someone not used to it especially if they are a materialist and don’t accept the Aristotilian underpinnings.

    Likewise an apologist can argue we shouldn’t expect to find much evidence of single small group of Jews landing in America. Some might think it sounds weird because of expected empirical content but why shouldn’t we say the same about transubstantiation from a physicalist perspective? Or for that matter if prayers work shouldn’t we expect obvious empirical evidence?

    The reason these don’t sound weird is because we are used to them. To your typical atheist from an other country nearly all Christian beliefs sound very silly. It’s just that Mormon ones are more noticeable within American culture because they aren’t used to hearing about Mormon belief.

  • Chris

    Ah, believing in magic. I gave up on that when I grew up. Sadly, I am in the minority. It’s so incredible to me that most people in this century think that magic rules our universe rather than simple physical laws. I am just plain dumbfounded that so many believe in these magic beings. I won’t bother getting into specifics because it is all absurd, and if you actually buy any of the religious ideas out there you are already thinking entirely irrationally, so reason will never work with you. I feel like a man living among Neanderthals or an adult surrounded by children.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    sounds like someone needs a happy meal. . .

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Hc7gVmoMoA


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