The Creation

Here is a talk I gave at District Conference for the
Shanghai International District, March 19, 2017, sharing a few views on the Creation, why we should study and ponder it, and what we can learn from its wonders.

The Creation 

In the Beginning…

“In the beginning, God
created the heaven and the earth.” This simple statement opens the
sacred scriptures. The story of the Creation has been a source of much
confusion in recent decades. Some have said it describes a Creation of
seven 24-hour days, even though the Hebrew word, yom,
translated as day, can also refer to a long era of time. Since this was
written in an age when even the most basic aspects of science were
unknown, it was not meant to give a detailed scientific report but a
broad overview, reminding us that we were created, that the earth and
cosmos were created, and that God is the master behind this majesty. The
scientific details, including the age of the earth or the way the Lord
created life, have not been revealed.

Note that the
Church has no official position on these scientific matters and no
official position on theories of evolution, leaving us plenty of room to
learn from science when wisely applied, though we know God is the
Creator, not blind chance alone. We know that the Creation is for a
divine purpose and does not all end in emptiness and death, though all
of us will die and few will escape grief. We know that there is a reason
for pain and death here, both part of the mortal process and trial that
we gladly signed up for in the premortal existence, where we rejoiced
at the work of the Creation that we beheld (recall, for example, Job
38:7, where we read that when the Creation was underway, “the morning
stars sang, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”).

we all may grieve at times, we need not despair, for the answer to our
sorrows is found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, who actually was the
Creator, acting under the direction of the Father, and then came to
earth as a mortal, showing us how to live, teaching us His Gospel, and
then took upon himself all our guilt and pain that He might have power
to cleanse us by paying the price of our sin. He accepted a cruel and
lonely death on the cross, descended into the world of spirits to
initiate one of the greatest works of God’s mercy, the preaching of the
Gospel to the dead who can even also accept the blessings of baptism.
Then, after 3 days, he took up His body again in the most glorious
moment of His Creative work and declared victory over death for all of
us. Though we must all come here to be tried, to obtain a mortal body,
and then must die, we can all be resurrected and return to God’s
presence, immortal, cleansed from sin, with endless joy and growth
possible. It is so magnificent, thanks to the work of God and His son,
Jesus Christ.

In Alma 7, Alma taught believers in the
New World city of Gideon about the future mission of the Messiah,
explaining that He would be born of Mary back in Israel:

[10] And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers,…

on, wasn’t Christ born in Bethlehem? And isn’t Jerusalem a city, not a
land? Yes, every school boy in Joseph’s day knew those things, and if
Joseph were the author, that’s how it would read. But Bethlehem is just 5
miles from Jerusalem, like a tiny suburb. It is appropriate for the
Nephites to describe Christ’s birth place, just like Americans in China
might say they are from Salt Lake City when they are really from Murray
or Draper. Further, after decades of critics mocking this verse, we now
know from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient sources found long
after Joseph Smith that the ancient Jews did indeed call the region
around Jerusalem, specifically including Bethlehem, by this term, the
land of Jerusalem, turning an apparent weakness in the Book of Mormon
into one of its many subtle strengths. So cool. But I digress. 

… she
being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed
and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son,
yea, even the Son of God.

[11] And he shall go
forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind;
and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon
him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death
which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that
his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he
may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to
their infirmities.

[13] Now the Spirit knoweth
all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh
that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot
out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and
now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the
Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of
heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be
washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who
taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse
from all unrighteousness.

With knowledge of Jesus Christ, we can
look at the creation all around us and rejoice in the beauty, order, and
meaning of it all. We can see evidence of God’s love and brilliance
even in simple things like the flavor of a strawberry, and wonder why we
are so blessed to enjoy so much diversity and flavor in our diet, when
we might have been pandas or koala bears, chewing on the same old leaf
every meal, every day. I’d go crazy — as a human, though I’m sure I’d be a
happy panda. So grateful I am not. Our rejoicing in the Creation
continues as we examine the flowering trees all around us in Shanghai,
as we learn about the intricacy of life and as we explore nature,
whether above the earth, on the earth, or under the earth, including the
wonders of diving in the ocean, as Brother Lamb taught us this morning.
There is so much to marvel at, so much evidence of God’s kindness and
His plans for us.

The Apostasy of Dr. Thomas Nagel

of God’s Creation and of Jesus Christ as our Creator and Redeemer, we
have a powerful lens to consider the problems of mortality. For those
who lack the lens, one can look at mortality and see only emptiness and
death. One can focus on the pain that is necessary in this world, and
then conclude that this pain and death means if God exists, He does not
love us.

When we send our children to universities,
they will frequently hear from learned professors that there is no God.
They will hear that pain and death in this world show there is no
loving, merciful God behind the Creation. They will hear that scientists
have pretty much figured everything out and that there is nothing
besides the matter and energy we can see, and that scientists have
proven that chance and randomness have accidentally given us life. This
will be declared with great persuasiveness and our children may not be
prepared to retain their testimonies in the face of so much scientific
consensus and pomposity. Is such science really sound?

of the very vocal atheists in the academic world are furious over the
apostasy of the professor who may be the most famous philosopher in
America. Dr. Thomas Nagel, a famous professor at New York University,
like too many professors, is an atheist. But he has created shock waves
in the academic world with a book he published in 2012. The title alone
marks him as an apostate from the atheistic faith of the elite. It is Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.

this book, he argues that any theory for the rise of mankind from
natural evolutionary forces must somehow explain the most puzzling
aspect of this planet, the existence of consciousness. The rise of life
in any form he finds a difficult enough challenge for science to explain
using the reigning paradigm of materialism, meaning the idea that
nothing exists except the matter and energy that we can see and measure.
But Nagel finds the gap between the claims of science and common sense
to be particularly severe when we then seek to explain how the random
rise of life could lead to conscious and reasoning creatures who can
discuss and choose to strive for concepts such as truth and justice, or
to compose poetry and music, or debate the origins of life.

is not the only atheist to have realized this problem, and not the only
academic to realize the that the wonders of the Creation are difficult
to explain based on materialism and chance alone. Nagel is still is an
atheist, and still has many of the same objections to God that he did
before such as the problem of pain and suffering in the world, but I
welcome his willingness to challenge some especially blind aspects of
the faith of his peers. May we, too, learn from the miracles before us.

critique of materialism could be even more stronger, I think, if he had
also considered the recent humbling discoveries of modern astrophysics.
After decades of professors telling us that tangible matter is all
there was and that science had life and the cosmos pretty well figured
out with no need for mysteries like God, along came the shocking
discovery just a few years ago that the motion of galaxies didn’t make
sense based on the matter we could see. It seemed that there was much
more matter clumped around each galaxy affecting the motion of the
stars, and this mysterious invisible matter became known as dark matter,
which is more abundant than regular matter. We don’t know if it is
related to spirit which Joseph Smith described as being a form of
matter, but a finer form that we currently cannot see (Doctrine and Covenants 131:7-8),
but we are anxious to learn more. So we have this new mystery of dark
matter that defies the smugness of the materialists.

top of that, analysis of the motions of entire galaxies relative to
each other shows a vast unseen force is moving galaxies apart faster and
faster, when we had assumed that gravity should be pulling them
together. This bizarre new phenomenon is now called Dark Energy. Dark
matter and dark energy together are estimated to comprise 96% of the
matter-energy of the cosmos, 96%, meaning that the tangible matter and
energy we know, that stuff that supposedly was all there is according to
the doctrine of materialism, is actually no more than about 4% of
reality. If wise professors could have missed so much of reality for so
long, how much more are they missing when they declare that there is no
need for a Creator, no room for God, no such thing as spirit, and no
need for the revealed teachings of morality?

God’s Desire for Us to Appreciate the Creation

and admiring the Creation gives us a foundation to appreciate the love
of God, His role as the Father of our Spirits, and our relationship with
Him. It gives us a foundation to understand why we are here and why our
bodies matter to him. Why the power of creation, or procreation, that
He has given us, matters to Him and is part of His purposes in our
Creation, and part of the marvelous ongoing engine of Creation in His
divine work. It helps us resist the vain teachings of learned men who
declare that there is no God, nothing to worship, no origin other than
chance for all the glory around us. And it helps us yearn to learn more
and grow in knowledge.

With a love of the Creation in
our hearts, and an understanding of God’s purposes, we will not revolt
when God asks us to abide by His commandments regarding our bodies and
what we do with them. When we understand the purposes of mortality, even
the part about death, and when we understand the diversity that must
exist in this life, ranging from perfect vision to blindness and ranges
of results in every aspect of life, we will not be angry but seek to
help when suffering exists. We will be less likely to revolt when we
hear the inspired words of Church leaders that challenge some of our own
assumptions and beliefs. This includes the Proclamation on the Family,
which declares that “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained
of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the
eternal destiny of His children.” Later, it says “The family is ordained
of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal
plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and
to be reared by a father and a mother….” This is how we are designed.
The rich experiences of raising children and love within a family are
tied to our bodies and our biology, by design. It is a core part of the
Creation. We should be cautious about any temptation to deny or downplay

Read that document, the Proclamation on the
Family, and notice how grounded it is in the Creation. God wants us to
better understand this Creation and its purposes, including the current
and eternal role of the family. Those teachings have merit for all of
us, married or not.

If we will seek knowledge and
understanding, He will help us to learn and we will find growing
evidence of His love and mercy and fairness in this process.

[At this point
in my District Conference talk, I quickly covered key parts of the rest of my talk to keep to my allocated time. Sadly, the other speakers on the program all showed up! I also didn’t talk at my normal high speed to give the Chinese translators a chance. They had a copy of my talk in advance so they were braced for things like “Neo-Darwinian,” but they still need a reasonable pace. Here is the rest of what I prepared.]

I’d like to read an entry
from my personal journal written in August of 1995 that taught me that
God wants us to appreciate the wonders of His Creation. We had just been
to St. George, where a relative of mine, a geologist, had given us a
tour of the area and explained the details of the strange beauty there.

few days later, my three-year old son and I were walking along a
deserted trail (once a road) on Butler Hill, right next to the Wasatch
Mountains by Salt Lake City. I was surprised at the huge variety of
rocks I was finding — igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, in many colors
and shapes. I paused and examined the setting and the beautiful
mountains and wondered how such variety was possible on that former
shore of Lake Bonneville. 

As I looked over the valley and recalled
the inspiring morning with a geologist a few days earlier, I wished
that I could talk to a geologist again to better appreciate that part of
God’s creation. My son and I then returned to picking through the many
rock piles, looking for treasures of beauty. Just moments later, a man
and his dog strolled by on that isolated lane. He interrupted us,
saying, “I noticed that you are looking at the rocks here.” Before I
could say anything, he began to explain why there was such a variety of
rocks to be found. The road that once went up this hill had been closed
off by dumping random truckloads of rocks from around the state of Utah —
whatever rocks Salt Lake County happened to have in its trucks. As a
result, there were varieties of lava rock from southern Utah, rocks from
the Oquirrh mountain range, granites from Alta Canyon, metamorphic
rocks from elsewhere in the Salt Lake area, and even some loads
containing Indian artifacts. I was impressed and asked him how he was so
well informed. “I’m a geologist for the State of Utah
and have studied this area.” Thrilled, I bombarded him with a number of
other questions before he had to go, thus learning the identities of
many of the rocks that had stirred my curiosity. It was a true treat for
me — and a marvelous blessing. 

The Lord may seem to ignore most
of our foolish pleas and may choose to let us suffer pain and
disappointment for our own good, somehow, but through it all His loving
kindness shows in marvelous ways. That gentle but flagrant act of
kindness — sending a geologist to visit me on an isolated stretch of
long-closed road — shows me something about the loving Parent we
worship. Not only is He kind, but He wants us to know about His works
and appreciate them — even to the point of sending a geologist our way
at just the right time.

Such blessings of love, comfort, and
knowledge can come even as we are in distress. It was in possibly the
darkest, most painful time of Joseph Smith’s life, the time when that
great prophet was imprisoned and mistreated for months during winter in
the cold, gloomy Liberty Jail, jailed on false charges, when he wrote
what we now have as Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. He begins
with a cry: “O God, where art thou?” He asks how long will he ignore
the sufferings of His people who have been driven from their homes in
winter, how long before there is justice on the enemies who seek
destruction of the Latter-day Saints? And after these pleas, God answers
not with sudden deliverance and justice, but with assurances of future
justice, and for now, the blessing of knowledge.

From Section 121,
verses 26 to 31:

26 God shall give unto you knowledge
by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that
has not been revealed since the world was until now;…

29 All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed ….

30 And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars—

All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and
years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their
glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the
dispensation of the fulness of times—

How interesting
that part of the Lord’s comforting answer to Joseph was the promise that
much later, He would explain some of the intricate details of the

This echoes a previous revelation recorded in Section 101 from 1833:

32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—

 33 Things
which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the
earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—

 34 Things
most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath,
things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.

about this world and this universe is described as “most precious”
and gaining it is part of what he calls “partaking of all this glory.”
This earth, this galaxy, this cosmos, are majestic and glorious and to
know them is to encounter the glory of God in a sense.

words in Section 101 echo a still earlier revelation in Section 88 of
the Doctrine and Covenants. I’ll start with verses 77–78 of Section 88:

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach
ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed
more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the
gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are
expedient for you to understand;…

So what is it that is
“expedient to understand” so that we may be better able to teach the
doctrine of the kingdom? The Lord continues in verse 79:

 79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth;
things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly
come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the
wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on
the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

 80 That
ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify
the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I
have commissioned you.

To be prepared to teach, to be
prepared to share the doctrine of the kingdom, the Lord encourages us to
seek knowledge about nations, kingdoms, history, and things on, under,
and above the earth.

When Section 101, like Section 88,
talks about the glories of “things that are beneath,” I have to think
about scuba diving. This morning in Priesthood meeting Brother Lamb
talked about his diving experiences. My wife and I had the privilege of
going with the Lambs on their most recent diving adventure in Thailand.
Diving has been a new thing for me, something I only reluctantly agreed
to try in order to keep my wife happy. How lucky I am that I listened to
her. Though I am a beginner, the experiences we have had in seeing the
beauty of the creation under the water have greatly increased my respect
for the Creation. There is a concentration of beauty and wonder in
coral reefs that can leave you breathless. Like the brilliant little
Christmas Tree worms that look like miniature Christmas trees in neon
colors. When you get too close, they suddenly disappear. It looks like
magic, but it’s really a frizzy worm retreating a high speed. So
amazing. Or the brilliant yellow seahorse, or giant clams, or rainbow
colored parrot fish, sting rays, urchins, octopuses, an occasional
shark, or swimming with a school of gorgeous yellow fish, surrounded by
vibrant life. It’s just incredible. What a stunningly beautiful world we
live in.

These “things both in heaven and in the
earth, and under the earth” as mentioned in Section 88 are the things of
Creation, the things of science and learning in many fields. This may
be why we are commanded several times to seek knowledge from the best
books. Indeed, Section 88 goes on in verse 118 with this guidance: “And
as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of
wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek
learning, even by study and also by faith.” Also see Doctrine and Covenants 90:15 and

There is more knowledge in print, more books
written, more information about the earth and life and the wonders of
Creation that the ancients ever dreamed of. What a wonderful time to be
alive! Today, a human can sit at a computer and have access to vast
treasures of knowledge, all of which is ignored as another futile
mission of destruction is launched on the coolest and latest video game.
May we make better use of our time than that, for there is so much to
learn and so much joy that comes from learning and preparing for our
future mission and employment and family on this incredible planet.

Implications for the Problem of Pain, and Family and Moral Issues

healthy respect for the miracle of the Creation and God’s purposes in
creating it and us can help us live the Gospel better and maybe even
complain a little less. We will better appreciate and respect the
miracle of the human body, which is created in His physical image. We
will understand God’s purposes in putting us here. We will understand
that the many problems and pains we suffer here are not a fair reason to
ignore, deny, or blame the God who made all this for us.

we learn about the workings of DNA, the cell, our bodies, etc., we will
understand how delicate life is and how many things can go wrong.
Thousands of proteins cooperate in the machinery of each cell. Over 20
proteins in the plasma of our blood cooperate to rapidly assemble blood
clots when we bleed and stop the bleeding. If one of them is missing or
wrong, this basic healing process can fail. These systems have to be
passed down generation after generation and each time, it’s possible for
a mutation or other problem to arise. It’s tragic when that happens,
but when you think about all that can go wrong, it’s incredible that we
are here at all and able to talk, to sing, to eat, to walk, to see.

is vital in this world. It tells us when something is wrong, and gives
us a chance to remove the cause or seek help. We would die quickly
without the mechanism of pain, not knowing when we were being burned or
injured or infected. Free agency sadly can bring pain to others or to
ourselves when wrong choices are made. This combination, a natural,
mortal world — where fingers can be slammed in doors, where snakes can
bite us, and where special proteins sometimes fail — plus the terrible
gift of free agency means suffering is inevitable. In The Problem of Pain,
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which
the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you
find that you have excluded life itself.” He also said, “The real
problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why
some do not.” But if you are at a stage in life without pain, use this
sweet time to lift others and learn more about the ways of Him who took
all our pains upon Him. Your service, kindness, and love is needed.

the Creation helps us understand that variety is expected. Some have
perfect vision, some are blind, and there is a spectrum in between. It’s
that way for almost everything. The variety in humans can come from
genes, it can come from the environment and the way were raised, it can
come from choices we make or from things outside of our control. This
variety can affect our tastes, our desires, our yearnings. For some,
resisting alcohol is extremely difficult, while others naturally dislike
it. Issues of morality that are easy for some may be difficult for
others. We can all use patience with the challenges others have. We all
need faith and patience in coping with the unique challenges we each

Issues of morality and LDS policies on the Family
are especially challenging to some, but if viewed with faith and
patience, we may find help in understanding for ourselves God’s love,
fairness, and plans for us. May we seek more knowledge on these issues
and make the most of our brief time in this beautiful world, brilliantly
designed to give us experiences that in the end, through the Atonement
of Christ, can bring us back to His presence and find a fullness of joy.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “The Creation

  1. Thank you. Keeping this. Thinking on it. Finding joy in this beautiful world brilliantly designed.

  2. Amazingly, Mormons are much more evolutionary than Evangelicals. I suppose this due to faithlessness. The Israelites demanded a king to solve the Philistine problem. The faithful say that if the Israelites just had faith, the Philistine problem would have solved itself. The faithful Mormons continued without evolving, and still exist in polygamist enclaves.

    Declaring zero death of any kind before the Adamic fall, the BoM re-enforced pre-Darwinian understanding of Genesis. In ultimate defeat, modern Mormon revisionists suddenly declare the book Mormon Doctrine urban legend, reducing Mormon doctrine to nothing more than the current LDS president as administrative leader of Peter’s Church.

    Despite William Jennings Bryan’s court testimony concurring with Mormanity that a Genesis day could have been millions of years, modern Evangelicals reject even Bryan, refusing to evolve. Every time I discuss Bryan’s capitulation with Evangelicals, the Evangelicals are adamant (no pun intended) that Genesis explicitly clarifies a morning and evening making one day of what is now a 24-hour period.

    To me, it is silly to believe that if Moses was wrong, then God does not exist. For me, believing such is the real atheism. I had not heard of Dr. Thomas Nagel, but to say the claims of science have a “gap” with common sense is odd. The scientific community as long explained the complexity of life and consciousness via emergence.

  3. Well, I'm glad that the theory of emergence gave rise the the restoration of the gospel further illustrating order from chaos.

  4. It not only gave rise to the restoration of the gospel you accept, it also gave rise to the restorations of the gospel you reject. Out of the vast combination of simpler emotions such as the discomfort/anxiety chaos gives you, social necessity/family ties, other paradigms of your mind’s executive functions emerges the acceptance of only one of many restorations.

  5. Yes, the Restoration that you reject outright and rail against fits squarely in your theory of emergence which then begs the question, why do you protest so much?

  6. How do I reject or rail against it? What am I protesting? Much? I spend a minuscule amount of the time Mormanity spends here. If you think I protest too much, then to be consistent you must think Socrates and Jesus protested to the extreme and deserve of an extra amount of your disdain.

    My theory? Emergence is not my theory.

  7. Last week my neighbor told me that for the Big Bang theory to work and make sense, the laws of physics have to be suspended / stopped, for a few minutes, at a very precise moment when the Big Bang supposedly happened.

    She has a doctorate in physics. She also said she had many a heated discussion with fellow physic students about the existence of God. She is a Christian.

    She asked a few Atheists physic majors and professors who were Liberal Progressive Socialist Fascist Communists why, if they claim to be inclusive and tolerant of all, why they can not be tolerant, and can not be accepting, of her belief in God when she is tolerant and accepting of their non belief in God. They never could answer that one question.

  8. She asked a few Atheists physic majors and professors who were Liberal Progressive Socialist Fascist Communists why, if they claim to be inclusive and tolerant of all, why they can not be tolerant, and can not be accepting, of her belief in God when she is tolerant and accepting of their non belief in God. They never could answer that one question.

    Am I alone in thinking JR just makes this stuff up?

    — OK

  9. Anon – Monthly subscription fees are a scam. Plus, once you hit the subscribe button, that automatic renewal is hard to turn off. Why would anyone get a subscription when information is freely available today. That would be like having a dial-up AOL account or installing a water purification system.

  10. OK – The very first thing I thought when I read JR's post was it was a made up story. The story is attempting to comment on others, but really comments on the story teller.

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