The Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has written an official essay debunking a misconception made popular by The Book of Mormon musical - that Mormons are taught that they will receive their own planets in the afterlife.

The essay, entitled "Becoming Like God", explains the LDS Church's view on "exaltation", or rather, the Mormon belief in humankind's potential to have a "divine nature", and how this has been misrepresented by the media.

The author of the essay writes: "'What kind of a being is God?' Joseph Smith asked. Human beings needed to know, he argued, because 'if men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves.'

"Joseph told the assembled Saints, 'You have got to learn how to be a god yourself'. In order to do that, the Saints needed to learn godliness, or to be more like God."

Nothing about planets

At the climax of The Book of Mormon West End/Broadway musical, the Mormon missionaries in Uganda encourage the AIDS-striken villagers to strive to make their village a living embodiment of a "paradise planet" by going door-to-door to evangelise people in the village and surrounding areas.

The essay goes on to explain that in order to become like God, Mormons need to be obedient to the commandments of the gospel and be patient, good people.

There is nothing, says the essay, about owning a planet in the LDS doctrine.

According to the LDS Church, its members are encouraged to think not so much about what they will receive when they die, but more about the relationships they have with other people in life and how these relationships can become "purified and elevated".

Church members prioritise marriage and parenthood, which the author of the essay believes is a result of believing in "heavenly parents" and striving for divinity.

So where did the planet reference come from?

A Mormon diagram explaining Kolob, the closest planet to the throne of God
A Mormon diagram explaining Kolob, the closest planet to the throne of God God Species

The concept of a planet post-death was originally mentioned in the Book of Abraham, which was written by the prophet Joseph Smith in 1935 and is said to be a literal translation of Egyptian papyrus scrolls featuring the writings of Abraham and Joseph.

The Book of Abraham describes a hierarchy of heavenly bodies that include the earth, the moon and the sun.

"Kolob" is believed by the LDS Church to represent an actual star, or planet that is closest to the throne of God.

According to Smith, Kolob was known to the Egyptians as "Jah-oh-eh". Mormon leader and historian B. H. Roberts, who lived between 1857 to 1933, took Smith's statements to mean that our solar system and sun revolve around a star called "Kli-flos-is-es" or "Hah-ko-kau-beam", which in turn revolves around Kolob.

Roberts was convinced that sooner or later, astronomers would confirm that his theory was correct.

Several prominent LDS writers believe that the earth was created near the planet Kolob and took 6,000 years to be completed, after which it was moved into our current solar system.

The LDS Church is based in Salt Lake City, Utah and according to the church, has 80,000 missionaries worldwide and a membership base of over 15 million.

The Book of Mormon musical was written by South Park creators Trey Parket and Matt Stone. After being in development for seven years, the musical opened in 2011 to critical acclaim, winning nine Tony Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.