Topic Study: God, Eternal Nature of

(October 2002 TG Entry: God, Eternal Nature of)

I             God Is Eternal

The scriptures are replete with the affirmation that God is Eternal.  For example, D&C 20, which was given just prior to the organization of the latter-day church, contains the basic tenets of our religion.  This statement begins in section 17, which immediately affirms the eternal nature of God.

17 By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them;

D&C 20:17

II            God is Unchangeable

This scripture highlights one aspect of God’s eternal nature:  God is unchangeable.  The following verses emphasize this same point:

Therefore, one way in which God is eternal is that he never changes.

III           God’s Title

In section 19, given one month prior to the organization of the church, the Lord explained another way in which He is eternal or endless.

4 And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.

5 Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my left hand.

6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.

7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.

8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.

9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.

10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it!  For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name.  Wherefore—

11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.

12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment.

13 Wherefore, I command you to repent, and keep the commandments which you have received by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., in my name;

D&C 19:4 – 13

In this first, the Lord explained the Endless and Eternal are titles that God holds.  In speaking to Enoch, the Lord said:

35 Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.

Moses 7:35

  • Ps. 146:10 Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God
  • Isa. 63:16 thy name is from everlasting
  • 1 Tim. 1:17 King eternal, immortal, invisible
  • D&C 121:32 Eternal God of all other gods
  • Moses 1:3 Endless is my name, for I am without beginning of days or end

They are not only titles for God, but the name of where he dwells.

15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Isa. 57:15  (See also Deut. 33:27 eternal God is thy refuge)

Eternal is His power as well (Rom. 1:20 being understood by … his eternal power and Godhead)

The title does not apply to just Elohim, but also to the other members of the Godhead.  Alma said that all people:

44 … shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

Alma 11:44

IV          God’s Relationship To Time

The nature of something eternal is really incomprehensible to man.  Our lives start at birth, and end at death.  Almost all other stages in our lives have discrete beginning and endings:  School, work, callings, teenage years, missions, and retirement.  It is impossible for us to understand how something can continue forever.

The Lord understands this, so He speaks to us so that we can understand.

31 For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal—

32 First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—

33 Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.

D&C 29:31 – 33

So the Lord speaks to us in a way that we can understand.  The scriptures give the Lord titles, which denote a sequence.  For example:

1 THUS saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;

2 The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;

3 I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.

D&C 38:1 – 3  (see also Rev. 22:13 Alpha and Omega … the first and the last)

These references are intended to convey that God is the greatest of all, not that He has an end.  To make it more comprehensible to man, the scriptures speak of God’s course as “one eternal round”.

19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

1 Ne. 10:19 (see also Alma 37:12; D&C 3:2; D&C 35:1)

What does it mean to be “one eternal round?”  Joseph Smith provided the following explanation when speaking of the eternal nature of our own souls.

…. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.

Joseph Smith Jr., “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, May 1971, pp. 14

V           Improvement and Progression

But what does “one eternal round” mean?  The hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob” says, “Improvement and progression have one eternal round.”  If we take the prophets analogy too far, and think of eternity like a ring, it might seem that after a period of time we end up back where we started.  But surely we could not say that someone has progressed who ends up in exactly the same state he or she started in.  We must be careful to not take the analogy too far, for we are surely in deep waters.

We also must be careful of how we define progression.  In this world progression can be closely connected to learning—going from a state of not knowing to comprehending and understanding.  But God knows all.  He is omniscient, and omnipotent.  Progression in an eternal sense does not denote going from a state of not knowing to understanding.

So how would one progress in eternity?  Again, the hymn says, “The works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound.  Improvement and progression have one eternal round.”  Listen to these three sections of scripture from Moses chapter 1.

27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.

28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

Moses 1:27 – 29

After seeing this Moses wanted the Lord to explain it all to him.  But the Lord told him “…For mine own purpose have I made these things.  Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.”  (Moses 1:31)

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you.  For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power.  And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

Moses 1:35

It was incomprehensible to Moses, and the Lord knew that.  They are innumerable.  Moses was not deterred.  He said, “Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.”  (Moses 1:36)  Or, in other words, “OK, I trust you.  I don’t need to see all about all the different earths, so just tell me about this one, and the heavens associated with it.”

37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

Moses 1:37

Even understanding the heavens was incomprehensible to man.  They “cannot be numbered unto man.”  Consider for a moment the possibility that the “heavens” associated with this earth might be the visible universe?  Do you think that explaining to Moses what is now visible from the Hubble Telescope might be incomprehensible?  We could live a thousand lifetimes, and not come to “understand” all the galaxies within the visible universe, let alone the solar systems, or planets.

So the Lord said:

40 And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak.

Moses 1:40

But why would God have shown them to Moses in the first place.  I believe he answered that.

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come, and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Moses 1:38 – 39

God’s glory, God’s progression comes from immortality and eternal life of His children.

VI          Man Is Co-Eternal

Section 93 has great bearing upon this topic.  It begins by talking about the Savior and our Heavenly Father, attributes discussed in other topics in the Topical Guide.  Verse 19 contains the purpose for the first part of D&C Section 93.

19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.

Then begins the explanation that bears upon this topic of being eternal.

20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;

Again, this verse contains phases that deal with a progression of time, a “beginning” and “Firstborn”.  Perhaps when God speaks of the beginning, he speaks of that time before this earth was created (as we understand it).  He speaks of before the council in heaven (as we understand it).  He speaks of the earliest recorded moment we have in our records, the revelations.

Section 93 makes it clear that in addition to the Savior being there at the beginning moment, we were there too.

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;

How is it that we could be there?  Is the “beginning” that moment after all members of our Father in Heaven’s family were born in the spirit, but before anything else had happened?  Or rather does it mean that Man has always existed?  Joseph Smith taught the following in the King Follett sermon.

We say that God Himself is a self-existing being…. Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. How does it read in the Hebrew? It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man. It says, “God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam’s spirit, and so became a living body.”

The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself….

I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven.

….

Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it.

Joseph Smith Jr., “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, May 1971, pp. 13 – 14

VII         The Spirit of Truth

It seems that the scripture requires more careful examination.

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;

It seems that that portion of us which is Spirit was with the Father in the beginning, or has always existed.

The First Presidency has explained it this way.

The scriptures plainly and repeatedly affirm that God is the Creator of the earth and the heavens and all things that in them are. In the sense so expressed, the Creator is an Organizer. God created the earth as an organized sphere; but He certainly did not create, in the sense of bringing into primal existence, the ultimate elements of the materials of which the earth consists, for “the elements are eternal” (D&C 93:33).

So also life is eternal, and not created; but life, or the vital force, may be infused into organized matter, though the details of the process have not been revealed unto man. (For illustrative instances see Gen. 2:7; Moses 3:7; Abr. 5:7.) Each of these scriptures states that God breathed into the body of man the breath of life. See further Moses 3:19 for the statement that God breathed the breath of life into the bodies of the beasts and birds. God showed unto Abraham “the intelligences that were organized before the world was”; and by “intelligences” we are to understand personal “spirits” (see Abr. 3:22-23); nevertheless, we are expressly told that “Intelligence,” that is, “the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29).

April 2002 Ensign “Gospel Classics: The Father and the Son”

Notice verse 29 again:

29 Man was also in the beginning with God.  Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

This stuff, “intelligence”, “light of truth”, “spirit of truth”, perhaps even “breath of life” is eternal.  It has always existed.  And what is the “Spirit of Truth”?

24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;

25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.

[Is there another set of matter that is the spirit of that wicked one?]

26 The Spirit of truth is of God.  I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;

27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.

28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.

29 Man was also in the beginning with God.  Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.

[Hum, interesting.  Are there three sets of “stuff” here?  The spirit of truth (vs. 23), the spirit of that wicked one (vs. 25) and the light of truth (vs. 29)?]

31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.

32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.

33 For man is spirit.  The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

35 The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

37 Light and truth forsake that evil one.

38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.

39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.

D&C 93:1 – 40

Summary

God is Eternal, both in name and in being.  He is unchangeable, the same Eternal Being from everlasting to everlasting.  Yet God progresses in some way.  And he does not end up back where he began.

Man is co-eternal with God, because he is made from the Spirit of Truth, or intelligence, or the light of truth.

Related Hymns

If You Could Hie to Kolob

Verse 1

If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?

Verse 2

Or see the grand beginning,
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Me thinks the Spirit whispers,
“No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where nothing has a place.”

Verse 3

The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.

Verse 4

There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.

Verse 5

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

Continue At

The Lord makes a way for us to become like him.  The best description of how the Lord makes it possible for us to become like him is the Abrahamic Covenant.

Abrahamic Covenant

One thought on “Topic Study: God, Eternal Nature of

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.