In the Latter Day Saint movement, Kolob is a star or planet mentioned in the Book of Abraham as being nearest to the throne or residence of God. The literal existence and the exact nature of Kolob is a controversial topic in Latter Day Saint movement theology, as is the Book of Abraham, which has not been canonized by the Community of Christ and several other denominations. However, the idea of Kolob has had an influence in the theology and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

Description in the Book of Abraham

The first known reference to Kolob is found in the Book of Abraham, published in the LDS volume of scripture entitled the Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Abraham was dictated by founder Joseph Smith, Jr. as he read from Egyptian scrolls that accompanied a traveling mummy exhibition. When this show passed through Smith's town of Kirtland, Ohio in 1835, Smith was approached about the scrolls based on his reputation for having published translations of ancient texts such as the golden plates. According to Smith, the scrolls described a vision of Abraham, in which Abraham:

"saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God;....and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." (Book of Abraham 3:2-3.)

In an explanation of an Egyptian hypocephalus that was part of the Book of Abraham scrolls, Joseph Smith interpreted one set of hieroglyphics as representing:

"Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh." (Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure #1 explanation.)

The Book of Abraham describes a hierarchy of heavenly bodies, including the earth, its moon, and the sun, each with different movements and measurements of time, where at the pinnacle, the slowest-revolving body is Kolob, where one Kolob-day corresponds to 1000 earth-years:

"...Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.

"... The planet which is the lesser above or greater than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order more slow; this is in order because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, therefore the reckoning of its time is not so many as to its number of days, and of months, and of years. [This is in reference to the moon: see Genesis 1:16.]
"And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still; and thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." (Book of Abraham 3:4-9; see also Book of Abraham, Facsimile #2, explanation to Figure #2.)

Criticism of Joseph Smith's interpretation

Modern Egyptologists have made an analysis of the facsimile, and with fragments of the papyrus from which the Book of Abraham was translated, and disagree with Joseph Smith's interpretation. The facsimile is widely regarded as a typical Hypocephalus. In response to criticism that Joseph Smith's interpretation is not consistent with Egyptologists interpretation, some Mormon apologists promote a loose, symbolic interpretation of the facsimile they say is consistent with Smith's translation. Other Mormon apologists contend that the fragments that were found were not the source for the Book of Abraham for various reasons. See Book of Abraham.

Modern Mormon interpretations of Kolob

In modern Mormon theology, Kolob is interpreted either literally or symbolically. Judging from the volume of literature, the literal interpretation has always had the greater following.

Literal reading

According to the literal interpretation, Kolob is an actual star in this universe that is near to, or perhaps the sun of, the physical throne of God. This interpretation has significant formative impact on Mormon belief and criticism, leading to conceptions such as that the faithful will be made gods of planets in this universe, that God dwells within this universe rather than transcending it, and that the Biblical creation is a creation of the local earth, solar system, or galaxy, rather than the entire known physical reality.

The Book of Abraham is unclear about whether Kolob was a star or a planet. One part of the Book of Abraham states that Abraham "saw the stars...and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God;...and the name of the great one is Kolob." (Book of Abraham 3:2-3.) Thus, Kolob is referred to as a star. In another part of Book of Abraham, however, might be interpreted as implying that Kolob was a planet (See Book of Abraham 3:4-9). LDS Church leaders rarely speak about the subject of Kolob; however, President David O. McKay referred to Kolob as a great star "somewhere out in the great expanse of space".

Metaphorical reading

A metaphorical interpretation—orthodox, but relatively uncommon in Mormonism—suggests that Kolob represents Jesus Christ rather than a physical object and location in this universe. The symbolic interpretation was explained by Hugh Nibley in The Temple and The Cosmos (see Kolob, time and temples). Advocates of the symbolic interpretation believe it harmonizes better with other Mormon beliefs, and with beliefs in the greater Christian community, as it does not require that God have a physical throne within this universe.

Speculative readings

Two Mormon authors have published books speculating that Kolob is a star at the Galactic Center, Sagittarius A*, of our own Galaxy. Our galactic center is known to be a very bright (and a very compact) source of radio waves, possibly a supermassive black hole.

Theories on the origin of the word Kolob

Some Latter Day Saint apologists assert that Kolob derives from a Semitic root. On the origin of the word, Michael D. Rhodes states:

The word most likely derives from the common Semitic root QLB, which has the basic meaning of "heart, center, middle" (Arabic qalb "heart, center"; Hebrew qereb "middle, midst", qarab "to draw near"; Egyptian m-q3b "in the midst of"). In fact, qalb forms part of the Arabic names of several of the brightest stars in the sky, including Antares, Regulus, and Canopus.

Facsimile 2, the hypocephalus (meaning "under the head"), belongs to a class of Egyptian religious documents called hypocephali, which were amulets the Egyptians placed under the heads of their dead that were highly individualized for each of them (see Book of the Dead and Book of Abraham). Hypocephali first appeared during the Egyptian Saite Dynasty (664-525 B.C.), and it is in chapter 162 of the Saite version of the Book of the Dead that directions for the construction and use of hypocephali are given. The section to which this chapter belongs (chapters 162-165) contains many strange words and concepts, which some Egyptologists believe contain foreign influences, possibly Semitic or Nubian.

It may also be noted that the Egyptian and the Semitic language families are believed to derive from a common ancestor (Proto-Afro-Asiatic), thus both branches are included as members of the Afro-Asiatic super-group. Concerning their relationship, John A. Tvedtnes writes:

Egyptian hieroglyphs were used to transliterate Semitic words borrowed during the late period, as Albright's study of the "Egyptian Syllabic Orthography" shows. Moreover, it was Egyptian symbols that were used in the Proto-Sinaitic script that became the ancestor of the Hebrew and other alphabets.

Most Egyptian language scholars (who are neither critical of nor interested in Mormon theology) believe that while Kolob may be of Semitic origin, it was not translated (rendered) from the papyri Smith possessed, but merely transliterated from a word he may have heard M. H. Chandler, the previous owner, use; and this prior to Smith's translation of some of the papyri's characters. In this theory, the word is specifically claimed to be the Arabic "qalb" (plural "qulob"), meaning "heart" or "center." It is contended that M. Antonio Lebolo, the one who found the mummies with the papyri in Egypt, must have heard an Arabic speaker there use the word to describe the "center" figure (Kolob) of the hypocephalus. According to this theory, Lebolo later related the word to his nephew Chandler, and in turn Chandler related the word to Smith. Smith then transliterated the word as Kolob and managed to successfully present it as the actual translated name of the figure. This theory is weakened by the fact that Chandler had not spoken with Lebolo, his relative (a claimed uncle), upon obtaining the mummies, which were left to him upon Lebolo's death.

Arabic was the language most widely spoken in Egypt during the 19th century when the mummies were discovered there. Archaeology, and especially Egyptology, was not an established discipline at the time of Smith's procurement of the hypocephalus, and the ancient Egyptian language had not yet been translated into English when Smith produced the Book of Abraham. It was common for Arabic speakers to assist English and French treasure hunters, and also for ancient Egyptian artifacts to be sold to English and American collectors with embellished stories, or legends surrounding them. The hypocephalus was one such artifact, with almost one hundred known similar examples.

The hypocephalus was written with hieroglyphs and hieratic script. No instance of the Semitic root "qlb" is known to have been found on any other actual hypocephalus, and although no two such documents are the same, some share certain hieroglyphs and hieratic characters with the one Smith obtained. There is little evidence to support the position that the word was translated from any of the hieroglyphs themselves, although some have attempted to show correlation. Although many hypocephali do have additional languages written on them such as Greek, this particular hypocephalus does not exhibit a strong Semitic influence, nor is a possible root for Kolob found in any other Egyptian writings.

There is a second theory proposed attempting to account for Kolob. They allege Smith's own knowledge of Hebrew due to his experiences with Andrew Seixas reveal a habit of modifying Hebrew words, by either inserting or changing a letter in a particular word. For example, changing the Hebrew kokob for "stars" into Kolob for "the star nearest to the celestial."

Some critics supporting and discounting Smith are apt to find legitimate Semitic origins and relations to the hypocephalus in order to empathize a non-African presence in Egypt. This has caused widespread controversy.

Figure 1 in the Facsimile is referenced directly from the pictograph in the center, and has none of the hieroglyphs anywhere in the papyrus as a reference. However, Joseph Smith's notes, Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, contain exact replications of the hieroglyphs in the hypocephalus with corresponding English translations made by the prophet Joseph Smith. This 'key' to translating the facsimile is useless in any other Egyptian document or artifact.

Although Smith stated the translation he gave "was given" to him (thus not giving any insight into how the translation was accomplished), he indicates clearly that he was following an already established linguistic system, and not a uniquely given process. According to Joseph Smith, quoted from the Documented History of the Church 2:238:

The remainder of this month (July, 1835) I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.

Therefore according to Smith he was translating Kolob from the hieroglyphs, as the pictographs themselves, although interpretable, are by their nature beyond the realm of translation.

It has also been suggested that Kolob derives from the Hebrew word for "dog", thus "The Dog Star," i.e., Sirius, the brightest star visible to the naked eye.

Native American (Iroquoian Language Family) Similarities

The word "kolob" is similar to an Iroquoian word which expressed the power of life, healing, and rebirth, as symbolized by the rising of the Sun in the east each day. North American Tribes residing in the Eastern United States associated the rising of the sun with the direction of east, and associated Sunrise with divine power, rebirth, healing, and resurrection. The word "kolob" is similar to the Iroquoian word "kalvg(v)" (pronounced "kah-luh-g", the last "v" is silent) which means east or Sunrise. The rising of the sun was associated with Asgaya Gigaei, the "Red Man of the East", a pseudonym for the Apportioner or Creator Spirit, unelanvhi.

If You Could Hie to Kolob

If You Could Hie to Kolob is a Latter Day Saint hymn that was written by William Wines Phelps, a prominent early Mormon. The music is taken from a well-known folk tune known as "Dives and Lazarus". It is hymn number 284 in the hymnal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The hymn reflects doctrines unique to Mormonism, such as the eternal nature of spirit (including man's spirit) and matter. It also conveys doctrines elaborated by Joseph Smith, Jr., the first Latter-day Saint prophet, about the plurality of gods and eternal progression. The word hie means To go quickly; hasten.

The lyrics can be found on the Church's online hymnal.

Kolob in popular culture

  • Some of the elements of the two Battlestar Galactica science-fiction television shows seem to be derived from the Mormon beliefs of its creator and chief producer, Glen A. Larson. In both the original series from 1978, and the 2003 new series, the planet Kobol is the ancient and distant mother world of the entire human race and the planet where life began, and the "Lords of Kobol" are sacred figures to the human race. They are treated as elders or patriarchs in the old series, and versions of the Twelve Olympians in the new series. According to Jana Reiss, author of What Would Buffy Do? "Kobol" as an anagram of "Kolob" is only one of many plot points Larson has borrowed from Mormonism.
  • Kolob was the name of a short-lived record label/production company founded by the Osmond Brothers in the 1970s. Released in association with MGM Records (which was absorbed by Polydor in 1976), the logo consisted of a hand holding a ball of clay resembling the planet. The Osmonds also recorded an album called The Plan which deals with themes in Mormonism related to Kolob.
  • Zion National Park has a region known as Kolob Canyons.
  • Daniel Steven Crafts has a movement called The Great Arches of Kolob in his Southwest Sinfonia, originally named after Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park.
  • Kolob was also the name of the alien probe in the children's sci-fi series Children of the Dog Star, transmitted in 1984 in New Zealand.
  • In Levi Peterson's The Backslider, released in 1986, the Mormon protagonist, feeling distant from God, wonders "how God [is] feeling this morning up on the royal star of Kolob.

See also



  • Larson, Charles M. By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri.
  • Nibley, Hugh. The message of the Joseph Smith papyri: an Egyptian endowment. Deseret Book Co., 1975.

External links

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