Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Forming of the Earth – Part I

In the last post we discussed the fact that nothing comes from nothing, or that creatio ex nihilo as a means of creating the universe was not possible. Thus, when it comes to establishing the organization of the earth it may have involved a condition somewhere between a simple remodeling job and a forming of elementary matter. 
It was Elohim who instructed the gods: “See, yonder is matter unorganized, go ye down and organize it into a world like unto the worlds that we have here to for formed.” Reynolds and Sjodahl in their commentary about the Pearl of Great Price, wrote:
"The Gods went down to that place where they saw those materials did exist and formed the earth.  It was then that the foundation of the earth was laid.  But then it had no power in and of itself, no inherent force, nothing in its general character to better its lifeless condition.  It was a bleak and desolate waste, unoccupied by any inhabitants whatsoever.”
Chaotic Space--a state of disorder
The initial purpose of this organization of matter was obviously to provide a foundation upon which the rest of the creative process could take place.  Actually, three possibilities come to mind:
• Remodeling of an already fairly well-formed earth.  Such an earth may have been previously inhabited;
• Bringing together parts of previously formed matter.  This may have been parts of two or more, even several, previously developed earths or heavenly bodies;
• An extensive organization of formless, elementary matter into a finished and elegantly formed earth.  That is, in the beginning, the matter was a huge mass without definite and permanent shape or form--it was  “matter unorganized,” from which the earth was made and, in fact, originally the universe itself.
In the last post we discussed the Greek and Roman philosophers’ views, which tended toward disregarding creatio ex nihilo and establishing creatio ex material, which means creation out of pre-existing material, which was called “chaos” by the Greeks and Romans, and what Joseph Smith referred to as “chaotic matter.”
In his Metamorphoses the Roman poet and historian Ovid equates Chaos with the crude, shapeless mass into which the Architect of the World introduced order and harmony, thereby creating the Cosmos. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Chaos was the nothingness (without form and void) out of which the first objects of existence appeared. Moreover, the very idea involved in the Hebrew word bara makes it very unlikely that they had in mind "an infinitude of empty space" such as the later Gnostics in Greece believed, because this Hebrew word basically means "to smooth off" or "to polish," a meaning which implies already existing material.
Young, in his Analytical Concordance, suggests the meaning of the word on the basis of biblical usage as being "to cut" or "carve," both of which terms can only be applied to something which already exists in substantial form. "Creation," to the Hebrew mind, implies something more substantial than an empty space. Obviously, then, in the Hebrew text as well as in early Greek and Roman works, there seems to be no question that the space in which the world was first organized was an area full of matter or other material.
In addition, the ancient Hebrew text does not make clear how extensive this organization was except to say "in the beginning the earth was without form and void." (Moses 2:2)  Brigham Young suggests that worlds are made of element which floats, without bounds in the eternities—in the immensity of space.  He says this eternity of matter has no limits to it in its natural crude state, and the power of the Almighty is such that when He speaks, He is obeyed and matter comes together and is organized according to his direction:
"We take the rocks, and the lime from the mountains and burn it and make mortar with lime and sand and lay the foundation of houses, and rear the superstructure with bricks, stones, adobe or lumber.  We bring these elements together and organize them according to our pleasure.  We should teach our children that God has so organized the earth from the rude, rough native element."
In this sense, then, “the gods,” or more specifically Elohim, the Head God, holds control over the elements, and has power to both form worlds and disorganize them and hurl them back into their chaotic state.  Whatever the original state, the forming of this earth required at least enough preparation to render it habitable by the mortality that now resides upon it.  Irrespective of the actual modeling or remodeling involved in the organization, the ancient text seems explicit regarding the time scale placed upon the event known as the "creation."  The period of time referred to as the "day" was clearly not a terrestrial day of twenty-four hours—but rather, as the Hebrew word used, meant a period of time. 
It is very difficult for many people, especially scientists who feel they deal in facts (though that is an arguable issue), to understand that God is from everlasting to everlasting, that is, that He has always existed. Today, many scientists in criticism of a supreme being ask “If God created the universe, then who created God?” as do biblical and religious people, agnostics and atheists. Even in the days of Muhammad there was a prediction that such a question would be asked.  Regarding this today, there are arguments about God being outside time and about cause and effect, to suggest how He could be eternal, with no beginning or end, as a way of dealing with the difficult concept. Carl Sagan said, “If we say that God has always been, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always been?” and Plato talked of time and the universe being created together, to show that this issue has long been on the minds of mankind.
However, the fact of the matter is, God is endless, whether man can comprehend it or not, and His creations are without number. One can assume that the universe is replete with planets, stars, systems, galaxies, and clusters.  Based upon the physical properties of these creations, and the elements that are used in their forming, one can well imagine a limitless amount of natural resources for the creation of worlds that are to be peopled with God's children.  In the middle of the last century, an idea that matter is eternal was presented long before science came to the same conclusion, that is, that matter can neither be destroyed nor created.  Brigham Young confirmed that it cannot be annihilated and that there is an eternity of matter and no such place as empty space—he claimed that no principle allows for that which exists to be put entirely out of existence so that it does not exist in any form, shape, or place whatever, and that there never was a time when matter, of which we are composed, was not in existence, and there never can be a time when it will pass out of existence--it cannot be annihilated, but is subject to organization and disorganization.
We do not know if God brought together formless matter to organize this earth, or if it is made up of previously used parts wherein the remains of other, not necessarily indigenous plant and animal life to our earth, can be found recorded in the ancient rocks and materials of that other world.  We only know that God organized the earth and all that it contains, from spirit and element, of already existing eternal material, which exists co-eternally with Himself.
 (See the next post, “The Forming of the Earth – Part II,” for the continuation of this subject and why we know the age of the Earth)

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