Topic Study: Time

(January 2003 TG Entry: Time  See also God, Eternal Nature of)

I             Measurement of Time

Alma taught that time is only measured unto men.

…all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.

Alma 40:8

But other scriptures teach that the “Lord’s time” is not the same as man’s time.

The following scriptures show that

  • Ps. 90:4 thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday
  • 2 Pet. 3:8 one day is with the Lord as a thousand years
  • D&C 88:42 move in their t. and their seasons
  • D&C 130:4 God’s t., angel’s t., prophet’s t., and man’s t.
  • Abr. 3:4 This is the reckoning of the Lord’s t.
  • Abr. 5:13 it was after the Lord’s t.; Fac. 2, Fig. 1 celestial t. signifies one day to a cubit

It might be useful to think of the clock speed of computers to understand our perception of the measurement of time.  Computers run at a particular clock speed.  They are designed to have so many “ticks” per second.  Within each “tick” they can do a unit of work.  Computers that are faster do more work in the same period of time.

Our perception of time could be very similar.  Time may be constant, but we run at a very slow clock speed.  The reason I think this might be the case is my experience with dreams.  I have had times where I saw the clock, I then fell asleep and dreamed a very lengthy and involved dream, and awoke to find that only a small amount of time had passed.  That leads me to believe that my brain can operate at a much higher clock speed when uninhibited by the constraints of this earth.  Perhaps running at such a speed is how life is for God.

Perhaps God’s days being 1000 years means that he operates at the higher clock speed, and that within each of our days, he experiences 1000 years worth of existence.

II            Days of Probation

21  And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men.  For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.

2 Ne. 2:21

The phrase “time was lengthend” is interesting.  This can mean that the time between out action and receiving the consequence of that action was lengthened; thus death was not immediate.  But can it also mean man’s time was slowed as well?

Other related scriptures:

  • 2 Ne. 2:21 (Hel. 15:4) days of the children of men were prolonged
  • Alma 12:24 (34:32) t. to prepare to meet God
  • Alma 42:4 t. granted unto man to repent

…But this life is the time in which men are to repent. Do not let any of us imagine that we can go down to the grave not having overcome the corruptions of the flesh and then lose in the grave all our sins and evil tendencies. They will be with us. They will be with the spirit when separated from the body.

This life is the time to repent. That is why I presume it will take a thousand years after the first resurrection until the last group will be prepared to come forth. It will take them a thousand years to do what it would have taken but three-score and ten to accomplish in this life.

…When we go out of this life, leave this body, we will desire to do many things that we cannot do at all without the body. We will be seriously handicapped, and we will long for the body; we will pray for that early reunion with our bodies. We will know then what advantage it is to have a body.

Then, every man and woman who is putting off until the next life the task of correcting and overcoming the weakness of the flesh are sentencing themselves to years of bondage, for no man or woman will come forth in the resurrection until they have completed their work, until they have overcome, until they have done as much as they can do.* (Melvin J. Ballard, “Three Degrees of Glory” as quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, p. 10 – 11)

Above is perhaps the best quote on the subject of time, specifically.

They [the tendencies of the flesh] will be with us [after death]. It is my judgment that any man or woman can do more to conform to the laws of God in one year in this life than they could in ten years when they are dead. The spirit only can repent and change, and then the battle has to go forward with the flesh afterwards.  It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both flesh and spirit are combined as one.  This is the time when men are more pliable and susceptible. When clay is pliable, it is much easier to change than when it gets hard and sets.   (Melvin J. Ballard, The Three Degrees of Glory (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1965), pp. 12–13.  Also quoted in Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 241)

The quote above is the second best

The remaining quotes deal mostly with our spirits and desires not changing when we die.  I think perhaps I like this first one best:

Then let us live to be men and women of God, and cultivate that Spirit that dwells in us; for I have told you many a time that if you receive a bad spirit in you here today in this Bowery, you may get up and go out of door; but will you not have the same spirit as you had received when you started to go out? If you retain that wicked spirit, going out of door will not make you better.

When a man becomes a devil, and has killed the Prophets and Apostles, while he is in this house, or tabernacle of his spirit, will it change his feelings to go out of door, or to lay down that tabernacle? There will then be the same spirit and disposition that is in the spirit while it is in the body. (Alma 34:34) When it leaves the body, does that change the spirit?

It is the spirit in man which affects the conduct; it ain’t the body.  (Heber C. Kimbal, Jounral of Discourses, Discourse delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, July 26, 1857)

This quote is interesting, in that it says our feelings are more acute in the absence of a body.

Can you realize the eternity of your own existence? Can you realize that the intelligence which you receive is eternal? …I wish to impress upon your minds the reality that when the body which is organized for intelligence to dwell in, dies, and returns to its mother earth, all the feelings, sensibilities, faculties, and powers of the spirit are still alive, they never die, but in the absence of the body are more acute. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discources, volume 1 “Salvation.A Discourse by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, January 16, 1853.)

The rest of these quotes basically point out that our tendancies don’t change when we die.

It appears that we do not change when we die, which means that if we are addicted to drugs, bad habits, and evil desires when we go out of this life, those influences will probably follow us. (“The Gospel” by Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., Oct 1985)

Addiction to any substance enslaves not only the physical body but the spirit as well. Therefore, repentance is best achieved while one still has a body to help attain spiritual supremacy (Russell M. Nelson, Oct 1988)

The scriptures make the danger of delay clear. It is that we may discover that we have run out of time. The God who gives us each day as a treasure will require an accounting. We will weep, and He will weep, if we have intended to repent and to serve Him in tomorrows which never came or have dreamt of yesterdays where the opportunity to act was past. This day is a precious gift of God. The thought “Someday I will” can be a thief of the opportunities of time and the blessings of eternity. (Henry B. Erying, April 2007)

Sometimes we seem to get the idea that in the spirit world, we will be completely different individuals; we will suddenly undergo a miraculous change in our character when we die. But nothing could be further from the truth. “We,” our spirits, do not change at death; we are still the same. Amulek, a great Book of Mormon prophet, tells us plainly what the conditions in the spirit world will be. (Hartman Rector, Jr. Oct 1970)

Does God Experience Time?

In relationship to the above topic, I’m not sure the below has a lot of applicability, but it is the best possible description of what the Lord was trying to communicate in the first part of Abraham 3.

If there is any applicability to the above, Well, is it possible to posit that in our spiritual forms we are closer to God, and thus closer to his time scales?

Well…that seems like a stretch.

This is from Rodney L. Williamson “Reflections on the Work of Christ” prepublication draft 20120301 ©2012.  He identifies the following statement from Joseph Smith as foundational to understanding his worldview of God.

  1. “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” (The Doctrine and Covenants 131: 7-8.)
  2. “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.” (Joseph Smith, King Follet Discourse. See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. by J. F. Smith, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1976, p. 345.)
  3. “Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials to build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end.” (Ibid, p. 350.)
  4. “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. 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. 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. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fullness of joy.” (256 The Doctrine and Covenants 93: 29-34.)
  5. “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. 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. For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’” (257 The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:37-39.)
  6. a. “The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God, himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge.” (258 Joseph Smith, King Follet Discourse. See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 354.) b. “Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits, no man can be exalted but by knowledge. So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved.” (Ibid., p. 357.)
  7. a. “And now, verily I (Jesus Christ) say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn…Ye were also in the beginning with the Father.” (The Doctrine and Covenants 93:21,23.) b. “And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (The Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:23-25.)

He then speaks of God as an actuality.  In the following section the numbers in parentheses refer to the above.

Intelligence occupies a uniquely powerful position in Joseph Smith’s vision. He described it as the “glory of God” at one point (Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 93:36) which glory he also identified with creation. (5) Intelligence is uncreated and co-eternal. (4) It inheres in all actual things because all things are composed of eternal “element…in which dwells all the glory. Intelligence is the agent of decision, decision being the subjective process of cutting out from the space of potential future states of the universe one particular state to actualize as fact in response to an assessment of value. Though Joseph Smith apparently believed that all actual things possess decision-making ability to some degree, intelligence being put forth as an elemental fact of existence (4), it is not necessary that it be present to the extent that the entity or subject in question exhibit consciousness, and decisions need not be conscious. Thus, every actual thing, whether it is an electron, a star, a tree, a virus, a rock, or a human being, makes decisions as a result of its possessing or supporting some characteristic measure of intelligence. The lower the level of intelligence possessed by a particular thing, the closer the future course of that thing approximates pure statistical determinism. Clearly, this provides a large measure of stability to the universe, providing a foundation of symmetry at a very primitive level. However, intelligence as the agent of decision biases nature (or breaks the symmetry of randomness) and provides it with direction, i.e. meaningful large scale change. As a result, all natural phenomena are vector like—they point forward in time. Time, then, is derived from creative advance which arises out of the intelligence inherent in all actual things.

In Joseph Smith’s worldview, because each and every entity in the actual world is characterized by some measure of intelligence, every entity has the ability to repetitively, creatively advance itself. This imparts to the world a certain measure of unpredictability.  (This is especially evident in all ‘living’ things. “…[A]t the root of life there is an effort to engraft on to the necessity of physical forces the largest possible amount of indetermination.” Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. by Arthur Mitchell, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1998, p. 114.)  Without such novelty continually being introduced into the world, there is no meaningful concept of time because there is only sameness. Each entity in actuality is characterized by a time scale which is a measure of the rate at which it creatively advances reflecting its level of intelligence. On scales much shorter than this, the entity in question appears motionless and uncreative. On scales much longer than this, the entity’s trajectory through actuality appears disjointed in time and to consist of a series of snap-shots which may or may not reveal meaningful activity depending on the presence of cycles and their periods.

The association of time with intelligence unifies it with the concept of being and places time on a metaphysical foundation. God, the greatest of all intelligences in Joseph Smith’s system (6a), is not subject to time. God is the supreme initiator. The creation advances into novelty on a time scale that is determined by God though his creative intelligence. It is God that orchestrates creation and, therefore, it is God who ultimately sets the beat against which all other time scales must be measured. Without this creative pulse to establish order in the universe, the grand symphonic harmony of creation is drowned out by the endless cacophony of random collisions.

And again, verily I say unto you, [God] hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons; and their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.  (The Doctrine and Covenants 88:42-43)

It should be clear that in Joseph Smith’s worldview the ultimate driving force for creative generation is God whose glory is intelligence; but God must be considered a natural phenomenon in this worldview and the process through which God became God cannot be considered anything but natural. Statements (2) and (6) hint at the mechanism of this process, intelligence clearly being the agent of advance. God, then, is the endpoint of creative evolution and, as such, exemplifies the creative process itself. God’s existence is exalted but not his reality. No phenomenon exists that lies outside God’s comprehension. He senses and understands the world around Him perfectly. At each moment, He captures the world in all its complexity in his Being through his senses, grasps it with his Intellect and thereby unifies it in all its diversity. Having captured the world, He values it, evaluates its potential, and then acts to increase its value in the best possible way. Such a Being is the pure embodiment of the world process. As such, He is eternally creatively generative. (6) Glorified in truth, God grasps the matter of the cosmos and creates through intelligent action according to his purposes, constantly exerting his mind to lure all things toward harmony through beauty and truth.

Because God is actual, He has a history. Because He has a history, He has a heart. Joseph Smith’s God feels genuine affection for his children. Consider the meaning of John’s revelation that “God is love.”  (1 John 4:8,16.)  What does that mean if God is not actual? Well, love in that case would be purely conceptual; it would be the pure form of love. As such, it would have nothing whatsoever to do with God feeling love for his children. Only actual things have feelings, the same way that only actual things can be blue. Hence, the ancient Platonists denied that God felt anything; they believed that He had no body, no parts, and no passions. Feeling introduces a tremendous amount of variability into our souls, something that a purely eternal being is not allowed. In contrast to this, consider the following passage from a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith:  [quotes The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7:27-29,32-33,35-37.]

God feels. He feels because He is actual and, because of this, his love for his children is genuine.

Skipping many pages, he then continues:

God is the master of space-time because He is the Creator. Time and space are exemplified in and through and by his Being which comprehends the whole of reality. For those who fear that this impugns his omniscience by denying him foreknowledge, I assert plainly that God does not know the future, not simply because He has no need to know it, but because that which does not exist cannot be known.(From a certain point of view, both reasons are identical: in the economy of heaven, there can be no need to know that which cannot be known. A modern study of ignorance, its causes and ramifications, is presented by Nicholas Rescher in Ignorance: On the Wider Implications of Deficient Knowledge, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 2009.) But that which does not exist can be created. God works to create a future according to his will, a will that is not only imaginative but also responsive to the needs and desires of other intelligent beings in the universe. God’s will is often portrayed as being blind to everything except some unique future visible only to God, a future that exists absolutely in a space of pure potentiality, a future already present to God. The Divine Will is envisioned as smashing down and rolling over everything that opposes it or stands in the way of its work of establishing the one, single future in actuality. I do not accept this cold, vicious, and dreary view. God unswervingly aims at actualizing and maximizing beauty and truth in this world; and that which captures God’s will, his imagination, and his desire to create that which is beautiful, is his transcendent love for his children. Space-time is the canvas upon which He continually paints a completely unique and beautifully dynamic masterpiece of actuality. Like any other creative masterpiece, its final form reflects an inner vision of the Artist, but its subtle details, the details which qualify it as a masterpiece, can never be foreknown because they reflect the sensitivities, responsiveness and spontaneous creative genius of the Artist. We, as actual, intelligent beings, are participants in this creative masterpiece.


Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “I believe that the busy person…can solve…problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else.  At the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come…, as a revelation, the solution [to] the problems that vex [our lives].” (as quoted in February 2016 Ensign, p 46.  John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1921, 63–64, quoted in David B. Haight, “Temples and Work Therein,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 61.)

Other References

  • Gen. 1:1 In the beginning God created
  • Gen. 1:5 God called the light day
  • Ps. 62:8 Trust in him at all t.
  • Eccl. 3:1 (3:1–11) t. to every purpose under the heaven
  • Eccl. 8:5 wise man’s heart discerneth both t. and judgment
  • Matt. 8:29 art thou come hither to torment us before the t.
  • 1 Ne. 10:3 according to the own due t. of the Lord
  • D&C 132:7 anointed, both as well for t. and for all eternity

Time appointed unto man



  • Isa. 49:8 (2 Cor. 6:2) In an acceptable t. have I heard thee
  • Mark 1:15 t. is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand
  • Mark 13:33 ye know not when the t. is
  • Acts 17:26 hath determined the t. before appointed
  • Rom. 13:11 knowing the t., that now it is high t.
  • Rev. 1:3 (22:10) keep those things … for the t. is at hand
  • D&C 77:6 earth during the seven thousand years of … its temporal existence
  • D&C 45:30 shall the t. of the Gentiles be fulfilled
  • Meridian of Time
  • Gal. 4:4 when the fulness of the t. was come, God sent forth his Son
  • 2 Ne. 2:3 in the fulness of t. he cometh
  • D&C 39:3 (Moses 5:57; 6:57) same which came in the meridian of t.
  • D&C 138:27 ministry among those who were dead was limited to the brief t. intervening between the crucifixion and his resurrection

Time shortened

  • Rev. 12:12 devil … knoweth that he hath but a short t.
  • Isa. 60:22 Lord will hasten it in his t.
  • Matt. 24:22 for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened

Last Days

  • Ezek. 30:3 t. of the heathen
  • Dan. 11:35 make them white, even to the t. of the end
  • Dan. 12:4 t. of the end:many shall run to and fro
  • Dan. 12:7 it shall be for a t., t., and an half
  • Amos 5:13 prudent shall keep silence in that t.
  • Matt. 16:3 (Luke 12:56) can ye not discern the signs of the t.
  • Luke 21:24 Jerusalem shall be trodden down … until the t. of the Gentiles
  • Eph. 1:10 in the dispensation of the fulness of t.
  • Eph. 5:16 Redeeming the t., because the days are evil
  • 1 Thes. 5:1 of the t. and the seasons … ye have no need that I write unto you
  • 2 Tim. 3:1 in the last days perilous t. shall come
  • 2 Tim. 4:3 t. will come when they will not endure sound doctrine
  • 1 Pet. 1:5 ready to be revealed in the last t.
  • Rev. 12:14 woman … is nourished for a t., and t., and half a t.
  • 2 Ne. 25:17 (29:1; D&C 137:6) Lord will set his hand again the second t. to restore his people
  • D&C 68:11 given to know the signs of the t.
  • D&C 112:30 (128:18; 138:48) power of this priesthood given … for the last t.
  • D&C 121:12 God hath set his hand … to change the t.

End of Time

  • Rev. 10:6 (D&C 88:110) there should be t. no longer
  • D&C 84:100 Satan is bound and t. is no longer

Other Entries

  • Ex. 21:19 he shall pay for the loss of his t.
  • Lev. 19:26 neither … observe t.
  • Matt. 18:22 I say not unto thee, Until seven t.:but, Until seventy t. seven
  • John 1:18 (1 Jn. 4:12) No man hath seen God at any t.
  • Gal. 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and t.
  • See also D&C 64:25.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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.