by John P. Pratt
Reprinted from Meridian Magazine (Mar. 6, 2002)
©2002 by John P. Pratt. All rights Reserved.
|1. Creating a Garden|
|2. Mental Creation|
As the L.D.S. Church studies the Old Testament and the creation accounts this year, our leaders have again reprinted an official position on the creation of mankind. That statement from the First Presidency in the February Ensign is so comprehensive and well-worded that it has required little revision since 1909. It claims not to include any new revelation, but rather is a restatement of just what the scriptures both say and imply: that man was created "in the image of God" (Gen. 1:27). Again, the main point seems to be to encourage us to have faith that our existence, and that of all nature, is the result of purposeful creation by our wise and loving Creator.
So, what is meant by creation? While we are not told many details of how God created the earth, perhaps we can learn something by considering just how men create things. Let us look at some examples which might provide insights into the part of the creative process which is described in the scriptures.
Your child might press you further, "Tell me more about these seeds you planted. What is a seed?" You then could explain, "A seed is a small entity which contains all of the information within it to produce after its own kind when given the proper environment. All of the instructions to produce the roots, stalk, leaves and more seeds are within each tiny cell of that seed. All I did was provide the right environment, but all the life really came from the seeds."
Your inquisitive child might proceed, "But where did those amazing seeds come from? It looks like they are the most wonderful part of this garden!" If you weren't tired of questions yet, or afraid your questioner was getting into concepts over his head (and maybe yours), you might respond, "All the seeds come from other plants of the same kind, which in turn came from other seeds. This is not the first garden ever grown, and these seeds all came from other gardens."
And now comes the question you probably expected, "And where did the first seeds come from?" Now, of course, it is time to talk about God. You might say, "This whole earth is like a big garden that God created. But he has told us that this earth is not his first garden. Long ago he told a prophet named Moses that he has created worlds without number, and that as one earth passes away another is created, and that there is no beginning nor end to his works (Moses 1:33-38). So maybe the seeds for this earth came from other earths, or maybe they were made especially for us. We just don't know. God hasn't told us where the first seeds came from, or even if there were any first seeds. But now it's time for lunch!"
This example illustrates different aspects of the idea of creation, such as the creation of the garden itself, and the creation of the seeds. Let us now continue with an example of a totally man-made creation. Suppose your child asks about some modern day inventions found in your home. Suppose he looked inside several modern appliances from the blender to the washing machine and noticed that in the heart of each was an electric motor. How would you answer his question, "How was this electric motor created?"
Having already had the garden conversation, you might begin by clarifying the question. You might explain that we don't usually use the word "create" when speaking of motors, but that we have two different words to refer to two distinct processes. We use the word "invent" to refer to the process of thinking of the idea, designing a model, making the drawings and plans and finally a prototype to prove that the concept actually works. We use the word "manufacture" to mean assembling the proper materials to physically create what is described in the plans.
If your child responds that he doesn't really care much about the manufacturing process, but really wants to know, "Who invented this motor and how did he do it?"
Having clarified the question, what would you respond?
Here is a somewhat detailed answer, which appears worth considering because it may be very similar to the process the Lord describes in the creation of the earth.
One day as he watched the sun set, he recited a poem from Goethe's Faust expressing the wish to follow in soaring flight the sun which is setting here, but rising elsewhere. In a brilliant flash of inspiration, he saw a way to use two circuits, rather than only one, to make the magnetic field rotate always just ahead of the rotor, continually forcing the rotor to try to "catch up" to the rotating field. Here is his own description of that moment:
the idea came like a flash of lightning, and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew with a stick on the sand the diagram shown six years later in my address before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. The images were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal.
That kind of inspiration is common to many inventors. Often the entire idea comes in a flash of revelation where the inventor sees how to do the whole project and can hardly write it down fast enough. If you asked the inventor to describe the "invention process" he might talk about the steps leading up to understanding the problem he wished to solve, but often the key idea simply came to them in an instant of enlightenment which is hard to describe in detail because it happened so fast. This second step of invention is that the solution is discovered, which may come in an instant or only after a long period of thoughtful contemplation and calculation.
What makes Tesla different from other inventors was his next step. Most inventors would then go immediately to the shop and start experimenting with wiring a prototype. Not so with Tesla. His next step was to build a model in his mind.
Tesla had a photographic memory and could visualize pictures so well that he greatly disliked art classes because they seemed like a waste of time to him. When he invented something, he did it first in his mind. This was a long process and was not simply making sketches in his mind. He visualized making the entire invention and watching it run in his mind. It was so real to him, that he could watch to see if the rotor wobbled and was off balance, and would then adjust it in his mind. Only after seeing that it would work in his mind did he actually build one. When he did, it worked the first time. He said he used this process in essentially all of his inventions:
My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements and operate the device in my mind. It is absolutely immaterial to me whether I run my turbine in my thought or test it in my shop. I even note if it is out of balance.... Invariably my device works as I conceived that it should, and the experiment comes out exactly as I planned it. In twenty years there has not been a single exception.
The computer has now changed how much of design is done, and promises to continue with more major improvements. Computers now offer a way for inventors and other designers to see just what their invention will look like and how well it will work. Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) allows three dimensional modelling of practically anything (CAD) and manufacturing planning (CAM). For example, when it was desired to build the five Olympic Rings of lights on the mountains above Salt Lake City for the winter games last month, a computer was used to project a view from any direction around from the city in order to pick the location which would be the most visible from every direction. That way, before it was actually built, the designers had already verified that it would have maximum visibility. In other words, it was built only after it was verified that the design was good.
Today people who design their own home don't have to visualize what it would look like just from the blueprints, which often left them disappointed after it was completed and too late to modify. CAD programs allow one to pick desired features and then do a virtual walk-through to see just what it would look like. This technology is now advanced enough that the most recent Boeing airplanes can be totally verified beforehand that all of the pieces will fit together properly, thus avoiding an expensive mock-up. Computer aided design is still in its infancy; it promises yet to provide untold new capabilities.
The reason for belaboring these examples is that they appear to be so similar to the Lord's two principal accounts of the creation, those of Moses and Abraham. The Book of Moses describes a spiritual creation which appears very similar to Tesla's mental method of inventing, whereas the Book of Abraham describes instead God's planning and verification that he "would be obeyed", which sounds very much like the CAD/CAM computer method. Of course, even as both accounts are different perspectives of the creation of the same earth, even so is creating something first in the mind is very similar to creating first in a computer. Let us now look at each of these accounts in more detail, beginning with the Book of Abraham.
The Lord divides the creation of the earth into seven sequential periods or steps. The first four steps sound very much like the example of where our garden came from. In this case it was the huge garden of the entire earth, but the steps are very similar. They were first to arrange for a good source of light (day 1), arrange for a good source of water (day 2), arrange for a dry garden plot and prepare the soil to be ready to nourish the seeds to be planted (day 3), and arrange for proper growing seasons (day 4) (Abr. 4:1-19).
This account makes it clear that each of these steps was actually carried out, that is, they were not just plans. Each day's account states that the commands were "obeyed" or "fulfilled" (Abr. 4:9, 10,11,12,15,18). On the other hand, each of those steps was only a preparation for what was to come; it seems to describe the preparation to plant a garden later. In particular, in step 3 (preparing the earth to bring forth grass, herbs and fruit trees), no mention is made that any seeds were actually planted nor that any plants were created or growing. The statement is simply that the earth was prepared to be able to bring forth plant life:
And the Gods said: Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass; the herb yielding seed; the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, whose seed in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon the earth; and it was so, even as they ordered.
And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.
And it came to pass that they numbered the days; from the evening until the morning they called night; and it came to pass, from the morning until the evening they called day; and it was the third time. (Abr. 4:11-13)
When it says "they were obeyed," it may not be clear whether it means only that the ground was prepared (which is technically what it says), or whether perhaps seeds were also planted (conjecture), or perhaps that grass, herbs and fruit trees actually grew (also not stated). The latter case, however, seems doubtful because the sun and moon hadn't even been organized into day and night yet (that's day 4), nor has it rained (after day 7), and those are two major requirements for grass, herbs and fruit trees. In our own gardens, it is a lot of work just to prepare the soil, and often that is much more than planting time. If creating a home garden took seven days, I would expect at least one of those days to be for preparing the soil. Remember that in the Lord's case, he may have had to actually make the soil, which could have been a very long process in itself. So having the Lord spend one full creation period preparing soil for plant life appears to be reasonable.
Remember also that in describing the home garden in our example, no mention was made at first of just where the seeds came from. That is an entirely different matter to answer a different question. So it seems to have been with the Lord's explanation. He never does tell us where the seeds came from. Thus, the account so far seems much more like the Lord is answering the "manufacturing" aspect of creation rather than the "invention" aspect. Abraham may not have been ready for a detailed discussion of genetic codes.
Creation days 5 to 7 have an entirely different flavor to them because for the first time we are told that some of the commands of those three days would be obeyed in the future. Also we are told that more planning and counselling was done on those days, and that the "plan was good." Specifically, on the fifth day, the waters were "prepared" to support sea life, and it was seen that the sea life would be successful (later) at propagating their species (Abr. 4:21). That sounds like what we might do if we were preparing a sea aquarium and put in the right amount of salt, other minerals, and oxygen into the water and then testing it to see that it would be right to support life, before we put any fish into it. The atmosphere was also prepared to support winged fowl on that fifth day, which would certainly seem to include the right amount of oxygen. This preparation was actually done, that is, the past tense "prepared" is used. The "would be obeyed" part refers to the bringing forth of abundant sea life and winged fowl. It seems clear that no fish nor fowl had yet been formed.
Then on the sixth day, the earth was "prepared" and "organized" to bring forth animal life. Those are the only two past tense verbs to describe what was actually done on that day; but again, they saw that they would be successful when animals would later be formed. Animal bodies are all formed from the earth, and the earth needs to contain the right proportions of matter for healthy bodies to be possible. On that sixth day, they also did a lot of planning and organizing for mankind but all of the verbs are in the future tense, describing what they would do later. And again, they saw that they would be obeyed, even in the case of mankind (Abr. 4:31). That obedience spoken of seems to be limited to propagating their own kind.
On the seventh day they "concluded" all of these "decisions" which they had "counseled among themselves" and they rested (Abr. 5:3). It had been a long hard week of preparations.
This entire account is very reminiscent of the CAD/CAM process of carefully designing a model, verifying that the plan would work, and also planning the "manufacturing" of an earth. As anyone knows who had created anything whether a computer program or a work of art, the design process often takes more time than the actual production and is where most of the "creating" really takes place.
In case the reader of Abraham had misunderstood, and thought that the plants of the field were already
growing, or that animals or man were already on the earth, the account now makes it explicit. Only after the seventh day of rest, did the Gods come down and "form" their creations:
And the Gods came down and formed these the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods formed the earth and the heavens,
According to all that which they had said concerning every plant of the field before
it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Gods had not
caused it to rain upon the earth when they counseled to do them, and had not
formed a man to till the ground.
But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is,
the man's spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and man became a living soul.
And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man,
whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed....
And out of the ground the Gods formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof. (Abr. 5:4-8, 20)
So just what does that mean? It sounds like they turned on the water for the first time and began to water the garden which they had just planted. Note that it specifically says the garden was "planted." It does not say that plants were created out of nothing, nor does it say that seeds were created. The existence of seeds is implied by the word "planted" and we are not told where those seeds came from. When we think of the plants being formed out of the ground we do not usually picture God coming down and molding clay into a statue of a tree and then magically endowing it with life. Instead we picture a seed growing into a tree the way it is always observed to occur in nature.
For some reason, when we are told that man was also formed out of the ground, we tend to think of the clay statue method. But all mankind and all animals are formed from the dust of the ground, even as all plants. True, it is a more indirect process, but that is ultimately where our bodies came from. In any case, without being given details of the process, we are told that the Gods formed man and animals out of the ground. The fact that he summarizes the entire physical creation of plants, animals and man in only a few verses, after having spent an entire chapter on the seven periods of planning and preparation suggests that the planning was the big part of the process and that the physical creation was accomplished as quickly as watering a garden and watching the seeds grow into phyical plants. The physical creation of grass, animals and man, that is, the formation of their physical bodies, only requires a few weeks or months, which is insignificant after all the very long periods of planning and preparation.
Note that there is no mention in Abraham at all of any spiritual creation. Of course the spirits of mankind already existed, and at the formation of Adam's body from the dust of the ground, we are explicitly told that Adam's spirit was placed into his body (Abr. 5:7). In a similar fashion, each of us had our spirit enter our developing body at a certain stage. But nothing is said of where his spirit came from, nor does that detail seem to be any part of this account any more than where the plant seeds came from. We are all spirit children of Heavenly Father, but we learn that great truth elsewhere.
Thus, the last three days of Abraham's account of the creation sound a lot like the CAD/CAM method, though admittedly much more advanced techniques would have been used. They did a lot of planning and organizing, and it was verified that the plan was good. In the CAD/CAM creation process, all of the models are created in theory first, and tested theoretically to see that all the parts would function correctly and that everything would work as a whole.
The Book of Moses also describes the seven periods of creation, but several features are somewhat different from the account in Abraham. Concepts of planning and designing are never introduced, but instead the word "created" is used. That is, birds and fish were "created" on the fifth day, and animals and man were "created" on the sixth (Moses 2:20-31). Remember that we just saw in Abraham's account, those creatures were only planned on those days.
What are we to understand from such different accounts of the same process? Were the animals created or only designed on the sixth day? Perhaps the word "create" and "design" both mean essentially the same thing. Even as in the example above of "Who created the motor?" we found that what was really wanted was "Who designed or invented the motor?" rather than "Who manufactured this motor?" Note that the entire Book of Abraham account never once uses the verb "create." Where the Book of Abraham speaks of planning, the Book of Moses speaks of creating. That seems like strong evidence that both are talking about the same thing and that the scriptural "create" means something like "design and verify that the design actually works."
Fortunately, the Lord tells us more precisely what he was talking about during all of those days of "creation." After finishing the account of the week of creation, the Lord explained to Moses that the description was actually about a "spiritual creation":
And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and
of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the
heaven and the earth,
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field
before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken,
spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord
God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had
created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven
created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water,
neither in the air;
But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (Moses 3:4-6)
Whereas the account given to Abraham explains that the first week had been organizing and planning, Moses was given a different perspective. He understood that it was a spiritual creation. It seems to say that even the earth and heaven were created spiritually first, as well as the plants, animals, and man. We are told elsewhere that "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" (D&C 131:7-8). Thus, this "spiritual creation" may refer to an actual creation made of matter in the spirit world.
This all sounds like a giant step beyond the best CAD/CAM process. It seems far beyond what Abraham was told. Yes, those seven periods consisted of planning and organizing as Abraham had understood, but it was far more than just sketches or computer simulations. Everything was actually created spiritually first. In other words, it is as if the Lord is trying to explain that his word "create" really means "design and build a working prototype in the spirit world."
Another way of emphasizing the point is that if Tesla had invented the incandescent light bulb instead of Edison, then he would have tried all the different possibilities for the filament first in his mind and been able to determine mentally that tungsten is best. In fact, he did invent the fluorescent and neon lights that way. Some of Tesla's inventions were amazing, and much more difficult to perfect in his mind than it would have been to select tungsten as a filament. Whatever Tesla did with his incredibly strong mental imagery was very similar to, if not identical to, actually building a motor in the spirit world and watching how it worked.
In summary, two of the most successful methods of modern invention, CAD/CAM and mental visualization, correspond very closely to what is apparently described in the two accounts of Abraham and Moses of how the Lord created the earth. It is exciting to contemplate the time when the Lord will return and will explain many of the hitherto hidden details of the creation, about which we can only now speculate:
Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things
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
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. (D&C 101:32-34)