January 14, 2008

Age of the Earths in Eternity

Brigham Young June 22, 1856 In the Journal of Discourses you can usually expect to run across some interesting speculations from the early brethren, Brigham Young not excepted. Despite some of the more unorthodox declarations, Brigham believed the gospel itself was relatively simple:

The Gospel is simple, it is plain. The mystery of godliness, or of the Gospel, is actually couched in our own ignorance; that is the cause of the mystery that we suppose to be in the revelations given to us; it is in our own misunderstanding-in our ignorance. There is no mystery throughout the whole plan of salvation, only to those who do not understand.
Still, there is much we do not understand or have full revealed knowledge regarding. While discussing the infallibility of the Bible, Evangelist Craig Blomberg distinguished between two types of knowledge: "natural," or "general,"and "special."
A few Evangelicals would...argue that only in Scripture can utterly reliable truth on any topic be found, but they are in the decided minority. Most recognize truth in "natural" or "general" revelation (everything God has left in creation for humans to discover) as well as "special" revelation (God's direct communication to humanity through angels, prophets, Christ, or Scripture.)[1]
In a similar way, many Latter-day Saints would include scientific questions such as the age of the earth in a non-salvatory realm of information. Good to know, interesting, but not immediately pertinent to salvation. With the scriptural understanding that we lived as premortal spirit children of God before we entered this mortal state, little detail is known about our "primeval childhood." How long were we there, how long did the process of creation take? LDS theology is unique in leaving the door open instead of insisting upon a literal 6-day creation process (or even 6,000 exact years):
We understand, for it has long been told us, that we had an existence before we came into the world. Our spirits came here pure to take these tabernacles; they came to occupy them as habitations, with the understanding that all that had passed previously to our coming here should be taken away from us, that we should not know anything about it. We come here to live a few days, and then we are gone again. How long the starry heavens have been in existence we cannot say; how long they will continue to be we cannot say. How long there will be air, water, earth; how long the elements will endure, in their present combinations, it is not for us to say. Our religion teaches us that there never was a time when they were not, and there never will be a time when they will cease to be; they are here, and will be here for ever.
Brigham Young taught, on several occasions, that time itself is in eternity:
I will give you a figure that brother [Orson] Hyde had in a dream. He had been thinking a great deal about time and eternity; he wished to know the difference, but how to understand it he did not know. He asked the Lord to show him, and after he had prayed about it the Lord gave him a dream, at least I presume He did, or permitted it so to be, at any rate he had a dream; his mind was opened so that he could understand time and eternity. He said that he thought he saw a stream issuing forth from a misty cloud which spread upon his right and upon his left, and that the stream ran past him and entered the cloud again. He was told that the stream was time, that it had no place where it commenced to run, neither was there any end to its running; and that the time which he was thinking about and talking about, what he could see between the two clouds, was a portion of or one with that which he could not perceive. So it is with you and I; here is time, where is eternity? It is here, just as much as anywhere in all the expanse of space; a measured space of time is only a part of eternity (JD 3:367-368).
In June of 1830 during his inspired translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith recovered a vast cosmology, said to come from the record of Moses:
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 1:33).
Despite this declaration, the Lord told Moses he wouldn't go into detail on any system other than the one to which Moses belonged:
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).
In April of 1853 Brigham briefly discussed his views on the worlds:
We see the spangled vault of the starry heavens stretched over us; but little is known of the wonders of the firmament. Astronomers have, by their researches, discovered some general facts that have proved useful and instructing to the scientific portion of mankind. The phenomena of the motions of the heavenly bodies, and their times and seasons are understood pretty accurately. But who knows what those distant planets are? Who can tell the part they play in the grand theatre of worlds? Who inhabits them, and who rules over them? Do they contain intelligent beings, who are capable of the happiness, light, glory, power, and enjoyments that would satisfy the mind of an angel of God? Who can tell these things? Can they be discovered by the light of science? They cannot. Let every intelligent person seriously contemplate this subject, and let the true light of reason illuminate the understanding, and a sound judgment inspired by the Spirit of Christ be your guide, and what will be your conclusions? They will be what mine are-that the Lord Almighty reigns there; that His people are there; and that they are, or have been, earths to fulfill a similar destiny to the one we inhabit; and there is eternity; and as Enoch of old said- "Thy curtains are stretched out still." (JD 2:122).
If we could hie to Kolob... Footnotes: [1] Craig L. Blomberg, Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide, 37.


Andrew Miller said...

Interesting stuff. Your citation is a little wrong. It's "Craig Blomberg" not "Carl Blomberg."

LifeOnaPlate said...

Thanks for the heads up; not sure how I got that one wrong.

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