There are 10 thoughts on “Temporal Mercies and Eternal Being: Using the Science of Time to Understand God’s Nature and Our Own”.

  1. 7. Possible alternate reading of D&C 130:5 “where all things for their glory are manifest, past [history], present [news reports from angels], and future [the published parts of His plan that are still future], and are continually before the Lord.”
    8. Bruce R. McConkie’s three distinct definitions of “time,” as used in the scriptures (Mormon Doctrine, 2ed 1966, 794-95), which might lead to possible alternate readings of Alma 40:8b “time [mortality] only is measured unto men,” D&C 84:100 “time [mortality] is no longer,” and D&C 88:110 “there shall be time [mortality] no longer; and Satan shall be bound,…and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand [lineal] years.”

    • Wayne,

      Thank you in taking an interest in my article and commenting so extensively on it.

      Of course, I have read and digested (to a greater or lesser degree) all the scriptural passages you cite. Some of the other, more obscure references I haven’t read (like the BYU devotional address by Pres. Kimball). What I present is my best attempt to integrate all those passages you cite with the others that could be cited regarding God’s transcendence.

      I try to address many of these concerns is at least 2 ways. First, I identify one common facet of time with mortality, temporality, corruption, and dissipation (as Elder McConkie does) so when “Time is no longer” it very well could mean “Time as we know it in mortality” or “the dissipative aspects of time” are “no longer.” My second approach (maybe less satisfying to you) is in invoking divine accommodation–God speaks to us in temporal terms because it makes more sense to us. He also speaks to us (or at least to Joseph Smith) in English. How else would he speak to you or I? In short, I imagine God lives in tensed stated, rather as we do, but that He can transcend it when needed. Thus, His manner of speech is not just useful to Him (much less deceptive or inauthentic) or merciful (condescending) to us but is rather natural.

  2. 4. Another possible Plan B: The Lord’s further explanation after Oliver Cowdery failed to translate: “Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now. Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now; For, do you not behold that I have given unto my servant Joseph sufficient strength, whereby it is made up? And neither of you have I condemned” (D&C 9:10-12).
    5. A possible pending executive decision: “It means that if the members of the Church do real proselyting in their home wards that the number of converts could grow to astronomical figures and even hasten the time when the Lord will be returning to the earth is His second advent,” (Spencer W. Kimball, “A Report and a Challenge,” Nov 1976 Ensign, 4c). See also Mark 13:32, etc.
    6. Other possible Plan Bs, (including D&C 52:11, Rom 9:28, D&C 88:73), “if” verses, “it mattereth not unto me” verses (D&C 61:22, etc.), “In my/mine own due time” verses, angels making reports on how the plan is going (Zech 4:10, etc.), the Lord visiting earth to check on a report (Gen 18:20-21), angels having authority to act on their own (Gen 19:17-22), the Lord of the vineyard visiting earth several times hoping to change the outcome (Jac 5), and an article by Kent E. Robson: “Time and Eternity,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4:1478-79.

    To be continued again…

  3. “Instruction vital to our salvation is not hidden in an obscure verse or phrase in the scriptures. To the contrary, essential truths are repeated over and over again….every verse, whether oft-quoted or obscure, must be measured against other verses. There are complementary and tempering teachings in the scriptures which bring a balanced knowledge of truth.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Pattern of Our Parentage” (Nov 1984 Ensign, 66a). I could not tell if Stenson has considered any of the following:
    1. God’s plan and purposes verses: “What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals? A….it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its…temporal existence” (D&C 77:6,7), “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18), plus Eph 1:9,11,” Eph 3:11, Isa 14:24, 2 Ne 24:24, 2 Ne 9:13, Alma 42:8, Morm 8:22, D&C 3:1, D&C 76:3.
    2. God’s present and future tense power verses: “He hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Ne 9:6), “The Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes” (Alma 37:7), “For God worketh by power according to the faith of the children of men” (Moro 10:7), plus Isa 46:11, Ezek 24:14, 2 Ne 9:17, 2 Ne 27:21, 2 Ne 30:10, Alma 7:8, Alma 37:16, Alma 42:26, 3 Ne 27:18, Moro 7:32, D&C 17:4,9, D&C 84:119, D&C 85:10, D&C 88:75, D&C 101:95, Abr 3:17.
    3. A possible Plan B: “’To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die’…(Ecc 3:1-2). ‘Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?’ (Ecc 7:17). I believe we die prematurely but seldom exceed our time very much, though there are exceptions. Hezekiah, twenty-five-year-old king of Judah, was far more godly than his successors or predecessors. The Judean King had an allotted time to die. ‘In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the Prophet Isaiah…came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live.’ Hezekiah, loving life as we do, turned his face to the wall and wept bitterly: ‘…remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was good in thy sight.’…The Lord yielded unto his prayers. ‘…`I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee…And I will add unto thy days fifteen years;…’ (2 Kings 20:1,3,5,6). The Lord slightly modified his plan and gave Hezekiah fifteen years” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Tragedy or Destiny?,” 1955 BYU Devotional address, as reported in the Mar 1966 Improvement Era, 216a, published in several other places, and still available as a pamphlet).
    To be continued…

  4. Jared,

    I have always wondered what time is, and what eternity is? Although I read your excellent, well researched, and scripture corelated article twice searching for the answer, I must admit that I still don’t know. However, according to your summation words, perhaps I should not take this as a personal failing or limitation:

    “Perhaps we will never know the true nature of time; perhaps we cannot… Whatever the case, time and eternity are obviously topics on which much remains to be learned, for as we pass through that final veil to enter the highest estate, “time is no longer” (D&C 84:100). The past, present, and future stretch before us as one eternal and wonderful now.”

    I look forward to understanding what time and eternity are.

    • Theodore,

      I must admit, when people ask me what time is I also choke, even after 40 pages and years of thought. I guess this is in part because what answer you will accept, depends on what you are really wanting. Time, like most things, has many facets and manifestations. It is a philosophical topic, a scientific concept, a mathematical parameter, a human experience, and–in this paper–perhaps a doctrinal key. I just wonder if in giving us thermodynamic element of time, God put the friction, the non-equilibrium, the dissipation into the gospel engine without which it wouldn’t run (along with the fuel of the atonement and the machinery of the gospel plan).

      If you find your answers be sure to write a paper that I can read in return.

      • Jared,

        I cannot produce a paper explaining time and eternity, but I just came up with an analogy that helps me to comprehend a little better. I developed my analogy from the title of the poem, “Life is like a River” by Jennifer Rondeau.

        Time is like a river on which we are floating downstream. We have no control of the speed of the flow and no downstream view, but we can observe the scenery on the shores as we pass and remember some of what we have seen.

        Eternity is an endless and placid ocean into which the river flows. Once there, we have full control of direction and speed of motion and an omni view. There are an infinite number of rivers flowing into this ocean and we can explore every one of them as we choose.

        Theodore Brandley

        • Theodore,

          Your water analogy is a good one. I hint at it in the paper when I cite D&C 121:33. It works on many levels:
          —The movement of both time and water encourages purity.
          —Water flows in one clear direction in a river. In the ocean there are currents (surface and subsurface) that can change direction. It flows in cycles and eddies as the tides and waves come in and out and waters circulate, rise, and fall in any and every direction at once.
          —Like time, water flows when there is an asymmetry (i.e.in elevation).
          —The river carries us helplessly forward showing us an already existent landscape sequentially. That sequence is due to the river’s motion, not inherent in the nature of the shore line. The landscape exists in its totality independent of being experienced in a sequence.
          —Linear rivers are made up of the same substance as the ocean. One empties into the other showing their natures to be connected even as their dynamics differ.

  5. Brother Stenson,

    I normally groan when people attempt to join together science with the Gospel. Invariably, they usually get the science wrong or attempt to force the Gospel into something it’s not. With this I greatly appreciate you stating that

    “It is risky to associate transient science too closely with enduring doctrines — it not only undermines the circumspection that science seeks, but believers do not want faith cast aside when scientific winds shift, as they always do.”

    It is refreshing to see someone who understands physics and both it’s inherit limitations and magnificent wonders. Thank you for this.

    I do have one critique, though. A couple paragraphs at the end summarizing your thesis would have made synthesizing all the ideas so much easier. You highlight and ponder a lot of different concepts. How they all fit together isn’t quite as clear.

    Over all, thank you for the thoughtful and thought provoking concepts.

    • Eric,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I know people often groan. I groan too, but sometimes for different reasons. I groan when my colleagues take an overly narrow and dogmatic view of their science to rule out any other perspectives. I also groan when some attempt to “force the Gospel into something it’s not.” I hope I haven’t done that.

      Instead, I’d rather use the broad, underdetermined, and interpretive freedom in scientific and gospel data to lend support to gospel truths and perspectives where possible.

      I had hoped my last paragraph was a summary of my paper–time (like mortality) is a vehicle for God’s mercy and promises that may one day be effectively transcended and I hoped to give a plausible scientific grounding for this idea–but, unfortunately, “the flesh is weak” even if the “spirit is willing.”

      Thanks for reading it and commenting.

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