The Creation

As we look at the world we see beauty everywhere. There is beauty in the natural scenes such as the trees and flowers, the mountains and the oceans. As we have sent probes into space and looked back at the earth, we see a brilliant globe floating against the backdrop of cold dark space. We see the deep blue of the ocean and the swirling white patterns of the clouds. As we have build ever more powerful telescopes and peered out into the universe, we see beauty and majesty everywhere; in the stars, the nebulals and hot swirling clouds of gas. Can all this be simply an accident, the result of random density fluctuation of matter expanding outward from the big bang?

Let there be light poster
Poster my roomates gave me when I got married

It is interesting that we have as many inspired accounts of the creation as we do. Depending on how we count it, we have at least three accounts. These accounts are:

  1. The writings of Moses (Genesis Chapters 1 & 2 and Moses 2 & 3)
  2. The writings of Abraham (Abraham Chapters 4 & 5)
  3. The instructions received in the LDS temples

The Book of Moses account is Joseph Smith's inspired revision of the Genesis account. In many ways all of these accounts of creation cover the same information, but there are differences. It is similar to the New Testament were there are four gospels. Each an accounts of Christ's minstery, but each adding it's own detail and insight.

One source of confusion about the creation is that there is a spiritual creation and a physical creation. Perhaps the scripture that most clearly illustrates this is Moses 3:5.

Moses 3:5. And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there were not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;

This scripture occurs after the account of the 6 "days" of creation. So the account of "days" of creation must have referred to the spiritual creation and not the physical one.

With the creation it is easy to get off into the philosophies of men. Over the years, there has been a number of conflict between science and religion, but evolution verses creationism has probably cause more strife than any other areas. As an active member of the Church and as PhD physics, I have spent spent some time trying to understand these issues. Possible the insights that I have gained could be of interest to others.

Often people who are pushing evolution verses creationism are not really that sincere. They are just looking for an excuses, if there is no God, then they are not responsible to follow the laws that God has laid down. Sometimes there is an element of control or pride as well. They don't want anyone to tell them what they should do. Other philosophy question such as free will verses determinism, where our thoughts and actions are the product of our environment, are ignored by many more people even though they are also very hard to explain by rational thought. However free will arguments don't come up much, because both religious and non-religious people want to feel that they have free will. It is only the hard core philosophers that worry about the question of free will.

There are however many people who genuinely questions how does science and religion fit together. How does the scriptural accounts of creation fit with science. These are often people of faith, that feel like they should have a better explanation to tell the non-believers. First of all in the scriptures, God doesn't tell us the how of creation, but instead the why. The ancient prophets wouldn't have understand anyway. I would doubt that people today would be able to understand either. Just because scientist have discovered quite a few things it is easy to think we know most of it. Several time through history, many people in science have thought they pretty well had things all figured out, only to later discover that they were missing something really fundamental. An examples of this the discovery of quantum mechanics. I would expect there are many fundamental things about science yet to be discovered. I certainly hope so! One of the things that for me makes science so enjoyable is that there is always more to be discovered.

Trying to reconcile science and religion can sometimes be counter productive. An example of this is B.H. Robert. He was an author and a Church historian. He became one of the seven Presidents of the First Quorum of Seventy in 1888. He wrote a book entitled The Truth, the Way, the Life trying to fit all known knowledge together. Since he was a general authority, the leaders of the Church checked his book before publication. They felt it had too many speculations and that he should drop a couple of the more controversial chapters. B.H. Roberts wasn't willing to do that, so he put the publication of the book on hold. At the time B.H Roberts was upset about the whole thing, but accepted the authority of the Brethren. During B.H. Roberts' lifetime science moved on and some of the theories he was trying to reconcile with revealed true were either dropped or greatly modified by the scientific community. Later in life, B.H Roberts was thankful that he had followed the advice of the Brethren and not published this book. That was many years ago, but if anything the theories of science are changing faster than ever.

Sometimes I think we have the tendency to think that we need to have an answer for all questions. Or a variation on this is that we know the answer "like the world wasn't created by accident," and we make up things to fill in the details. When I was a graduate student in physics, I had a teaching assistantship. One of my duties was to grade the homework. Some problems had the answers in the back of the book. It was interesting and sometimes even entertaining to see the imaginative but totally wrong paths students created to the correct answers. I think the best answer is to simply admit "I don't know."

I grew up in a small town in Southern Utah, that is a long way from the high tech centers of the world. Sometimes in Priesthood and Sunday School classes people would tell how evolution and the theories of science were wrong. I knew enough about science to know much of what they were saying was just plain wrong. Since what they were saying about science was wrong, it made me wonder a little bit about the reliability of what they were saying about spiritual things. I had a very wise father. When I asked him about some of these thing, he told me I don't know the answer to those things, but let me tell you what I know. He then bore a strong testimony of the gospel and God's plan for us.

Like my father, I thing the most productive thing is to stick to what we know. What do we know about the creation?

Other scriptures about the creation.