Boundless Space and the Eternity of Matter Explained

By Charles W. Penrose

The Priesthood had no beginning, and will never have an end.  As we are told in the scripture – it is “without father or mother, without beginning of days or end of years;”  it always existed.  The individual, the organized person, may have had a beginning, but that spirit of which and by which they were organized never had a beginning.

There never was a first world or man; there will never be a last.  We cannot grasp that in its fulness, but we can understand a little of it by comparing it with other things.  For instance, we will take space.  This tabernacle contains so much space, bounded by the walls of the building; but go outside of these walls and space is there.  Go to the farthest bounds of this Territory, space is there.  Go to the ends of the earth, if you can find them, and there is space beyond.  Mount upwards to the stars; go to the sun, pass above the sun to the two worlds that govern it, that we read about in the Book of Abraham, go even unto Kolob, the nearest to the throne of God, and there is just as much space beyond as that which you have left.  There is no outside to space – no beginning, no end.

Thus there is boundless space, and we cannot fully comprehend it, yet we must admit that it exists without limit.  So travel where we will, there we find space, and also inexhaustible material.  And the elements, whether they be spiritual or what we call natural – they never had a beginning – the primal particles never had a beginning.  They have been organized in different shapes; the organism had a beginning; but the elements or atoms of which it is composed never had.  You may burn this book, but every atom of which the book was composed, every particle of substance that entered into its composition, still exists; they are indestructible.  When you go right down to the primary elements, they never had a beginning, they will never end.  For in their primal condition they are not “created”.  They did not come from nothing; they were organized into different forms, but the elementary parts of matter as well as of spirit, using ordinary terms, never had a beginning, and never will have an end.

Now, here are some things you can understand to some extent, that are beginning-less and endless.  It is the same with duration.  Duration never had a beginning, and it will never have an end.  We measure portions of time, but time itself cannot be counted.  Go back as far as we can think, and there was just as much time or duration before that period as since, and think as much as we can down the stream of time there is just as much ahead.  There is no limit to duration, no beginning, no end.  Thus there are boundless space, an infinity of substance, and endless duration.  The elements of that eternal spirit which exists in and through and round about all things, and is the law by which all things are governed, never had a beginning and will never have an end.  There was no beginning and there will be no end to its operations.  There is no beginning to the works of God, and there will be no end.  Therefore there was never a first world or being, neither will there be a last one.

[Elder Charles W. Penrose, Journal of Discourses, Volume 26, page 27-28]

[Discourse delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, November 16, 1884]

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is Figurative

As to the Fall itself we are told that the Lord planted “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the midst of the garden. (Moses 3:9.) To Adam and Eve the command came: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Moses 3:16–17.) Again the account is speaking figuratively. What is meant by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that our first parents complied with whatever laws were involved so that their bodies would change from their state of paradisiacal immortality to a state of natural mortality.

(Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, June, 1982)

The Age of Our System is 2.5 Billion Years

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, in the King Follett Discourse, that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345].

The corollary to this statement is the Prophet Joseph’s instruction that “You have got to learn to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely by going from one small degree to another…” [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 346].

So this leads us to the obvious conclusion that since God was once as we are now, and since we can achieve the same position in the eternities as God has now – of necessity, although God is eternal and his kingdoms have no end, they did have a beginning.  His Godhood began at some definable point in some sort of calculation of time, but will have no end.  This is the same for us – although our intelligences  are eternal and had no beginning – our attainment to Godhood will occur at a specific and definable juncture, while at the same time having no more end.

I’d like to throw in here my contention that although we may live in what we may consider our visible universe, there is not just one universe, but that there are likely an infinite number of universes beyond ours, beyond our grasp visibly, scientifically, and spiritually.

In any case, there was a time when our God, our Heavenly Father, began to be God.  This may seem heretical but it must be true.  And thus He began His dominion at some point in time, however that may be calculated.

W. W. Phelps, editor of The Times and Seasons in Nauvoo before and after the Prophet Joseph’s death, responded to correspondence he had received from William Smith, brother of the Prophet.  This is what he said:

Well, now, Brother William, when the house of Israel begin to come into the glorious mysteries of the kingdom, and find that Jesus Christ, whose goings forth, as the prophets said, have been from of old, from eternity: and that eternity, agreeably to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system, (not this world) almost two thousand five hundred and fifty five millions of years: and to know at the same time, that deists, geologists and others are trying to prove that matter must have existed hundreds of thousands of years;-it almost tempts the flesh to fly to God, or muster faith like Enoch to be translated and see and know as we are seen and known!”  (Times and Seasons, Volume 5, Number 24, Page 758)

Bruce R. McConkie, in his series The Mortal Messiah, states that:  “The papyrus from which the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham…also contained this expression relative to what apparently is the universe in which we live, which universe has been created by the Father through the instrumentality of the Son.” [The Mortal Messiah, Book 1, p.32-33]. McConkie says that “Joseph Smith and the early brethren in this dispensation knew much that we do not know” and “this matter of how long eternity has been going on in our portion of created things is one of these matters”.

From these statements it appears that Joseph Smith learned from the Egyptian Papyri that our universe, or system, was 2.555 billion years old.

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