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Big Science Questions and the Gospel, Part VIII, Time and God

When I was a Wikipedia editor years ago the Joseph Smith page stated that “[Smith] began teaching that God was…embodied within time and space,” and they cited Busman’s statement to that effect. I removed the “embodied in time” and explained that this is arguable, citing Alma’s statement that “time only is measured unto men.” (As I was writing this I re-checked the page, and it’s back up, oh well).  

So is God in and beholden to the flow of time? Church historians and theologians undoubtedly have a more informed take on this than I, but in terms of the science I’m more comfortable with an Augustinian “no.” 

Since Einstein discovered that “now” is relative, saying that God dwells in time begs the question of which time, since it doesn’t do us any good to simply say that “now” for God is “now” for us, and that God remembers the past and is aware of, but is not experiencing, the future. (Although the Pearl of Great Price speaks of Kolob as reckoning “God’s time,” I read this as talking about God’s unit of time measurement more than the “now” that God is operating in, although I might be wrong). Joseph Smith’s quote that “the past, present, and future, were, and are with [God] one eternal now” basically strikes the same note as Einstein’s statement that “the distinction made between past, present, and future is nothing more than a persistent, stubborn illusion.” 

The physicist Brian Green compares the flow of time through space to a loaf of bread. Earlier in time is earlier in the loaf, and later is near the end of the loaf, but all of time essentially exists “at once,” (or “one eternal now”). This imputes a kind of “immediate relevance” to things that we now think of happening in the past. In a sense the Second Coming, Golgotha, and the First Vision, are all happening Now. Things that happened in the past are not bygone, has-been events, but are still very relevant and, in a way, current. This view of seeing the world does help me live in the moment more than I am disposed to, since “the moment” will always exist. 

One perspective about what came “before” the Big Bang is that it is like talking about what is south of the South Pole: time itself began then so it’s a nonsense statement. (Interestingly, the Big Bang was first conjectured by a Roman Catholic priest, who received pushback from some quarters because they believed that a hypothesis that space and time began at some point in the past was a little too theologically convenient). However, as noted in a previous post, the idea that God would also have begun at the Big Bang doesn’t quite sit right with me, so the LDS theological belief that there is an eternal past as well as future (which I can’t chapter and verse but that seems to be the deal), would require some kind of a multiverse, which again comports with my native Latter-day Saint dispositional belief in creations multiplying other creations far beyond our horizons of comprehension. 

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