37) NATURAL LAWS: Is God the Creator and Origin of the natural laws of the Universe? Can Darwinian theory be harmonized with this doctrine?

Commentary

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There are two fundamental differing views in regard to the laws of the universe.One view pictures God as learning, and then using the laws of the Universe which already existed.The other conversely teaches that God Created the Laws and then uses those laws to bring to pass His purposes which are the immortality and eternal life of man.Which view is scriptural? The Lord has answered this question:

And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given alawunto 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.

And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these areoneyear with God, but not with man.

The earth rolls upon her wings, and thesun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God. [1]

The scriptures and writings of the prophets teach that God is the author of the laws of the Universe.God applies His laws to the course physical matter that we can see and the more pure spiritual matter that is currently unseen by all but the righteous.God is Omnipotent and has the power to influence His creations according to the laws which he has devised.This is vastly different from the philosophies of the world.Evolutionists believe that physical laws (that is all that there is) have always existed and that all we see has come about by the random action of matter upon matter.These physical laws have always existed and were not Created.Most modern scientists adhere to the philosophy of uniformitarianism.

Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of science, assumes that the same natural processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past, and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe. Its methodology is frequently summarized as “the present is the key to the past,” because it holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.But what do the scriptures teach?Are we not told that this earth and solar system adheres to telestial laws, while other systems abide higher laws?Are there not terrestrial kingdoms and celestial kingdoms?The Lord has said:

For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory. . . .
All kingdoms have a law given . . .

And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. . . .

. . . he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons. . . .

And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons . . . [2]

Does this sound like a universe that is entirely the same as that upon which we live?Man has a history of being prejudiced against that which he does not know and judging all by his own very finite experience.No wonder the Lord has counseled:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. [3]

Joseph Smith through vision understood far more the majesty of the universe than science is capable of understanding.In section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Prophet explains:

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. [4]

Judging all things by only what we know can be very dangerous.Are these the conditions that we live under in this telestial state?Has science made some assumptions that do not harmonize with the scriptures? Additionally, the Lord has declared that the works of His hands obey His laws.

. . . the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth notthelaw—Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shalldie, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it. [5]

The concept that the earth obeys laws can only be understood in light of the doctrine of intelligence.The Universe is not solely comprised of the course physical matter that we can see, but also includes spiritual matter and intelligence.Please see otherFAQs dealing with these subjects.Has modern science grossly underestimated the composition of the universe?Can the laws of nature being Created and Used by an Omnipotent Father be harmonized with the Darwinist assumptions that chance is responsible for all things?

Prophetic Statements

Joseph Smith

The spirit of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be eternal; and earth, water, etc., had their existence in an elementary state, from eternity. . . .[6]

God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable; for instance—God set the sun, the moon and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by his commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders, and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass. God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field—all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law or principle.[7]

It was by faith that the worlds were framed.God spake, chaos heard, and worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in HIM.So with man also; he spake by faith in the name of God, and the sun stood still, the moon obeyed, mountains removed, prisons fell, lion’s mouths were closed, the human heart lost its enmity, fire its violence, armies their power, the sword its terror, and death its dominion; and all this by reason of the faith which was in him. . . . without power there could be no creation nor existence![8]

Brigham Young

It was observed here just now that we differ from the Christian world in our religious faith and belief; and so we do very materially. I am not astonished that infidelity prevails to a great extent among the inhabitants of the earth, for the religious teachers of the people advance many ideas and notions for truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood. Says the scientific man, I do not see your religion to be true; I do not understand the law, light, rules, religion, or whatever you call it, which you say God has revealed; it is confusion to me, and if I submit to and embrace your views and theories I must reject the facts which science demonstrates to me. This is the position, and the line of demarcation has been plainly drawn, by those who profess Christianity, between the sciences and revealed religion. You take, for instance, our geologists, and they tell us that this earth has been in existence for thousands and millions of years. They think, and they have good reason for their faith, that their researches and investigations enable them to demonstrate that this earth has been in existence as long as they assert it has; and they say, If the Lord, as religionists declare, made the earth out of nothing in six days, six thousand years ago, our studies are all vain; but by what we can learn from nature and the immutable laws of the Creator as revealed therein, we know that your theories are incorrect and consequently we must reject your religions as false and vain; we must be what you call infidels, with the demonstrated truths of science in our possession; or, rejecting those truths, become enthusiasts in, what you call, Christianity.

In these respects we differ, from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is a true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts-they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. God never made something out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law by which the worlds were, are, or will exist. There is an eternity before us, and it is full of matter; and if we but understand enough of the Lord and his ways, we would say that he took of this matter and organized this earth from it. How long it has been organized it is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from these picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant. This we know by what we have learned naturally since we have had a being on the earth. [9]

I want to say a few words about our religion, but first I will ask you to remember this prayer which I offered at the commencement of my remarks with regard to the poor. If you will do that, they will be looked after and brought home. Now we will talk a little about our religion. Ask the scientific men of the world how many of the arts can be reduced to a science? When they are so reduced they become permanent; but until then they are uncertain. They go and come, appear and disappear. When they are reduced to science and system their permanency, and stability are assured. It is so with government-until it is reduced to science it is liable to be rent asunder by anarchy and confusion, and caprice and scattered to the four winds. Government, to be stable and permanent and have any show for success must be reduced to a science. It is the same with religion; but our traditions are such that it is one of the most difficult things in the world to make men believe that the revealed religion of heaven is a pure science, and all true science in the possession of men now is a part of the religion of heaven and has been revealed from that source. But it is hard to get the people to believe that God is a scientific character, that He lives by science or strict law, that by this He is, and by law he was made what He is; and will remain to all eternity because of His faithful adherence to law. It is a most difficult thing to make the people believe that every art and science and all wisdom comes from Him, and that He is their Author. Our spirits are His: He begot them. We are His children; He set the machine in motion to produce our tabernacles; and when men discard the principle of the existence of a Supreme Being and treat it with lightness, as Brother Taylor says, they are fools. It is strange that scientific men do not realize that, all they know is derived from Him; to suppose, or to foster the idea for one moment, that they are the originators of the wisdom they possess is folly in the highest! Such men do not know themselves. As for ignoring the principle of the existence of a Supreme Being, I would as soon ignore the idea that this house came into existence without the agency of intelligent beings.[10]

Joseph F. Smith

Some men there will be who would limit the power of God to the power of men, and we have some of these among us and they have been among our school teachers. They would have you disbelieve the inspired accounts of the Scriptures, that the winds and the waves are subject to the power of God; and believe the claim of the Savior to cast out devils, raise the dead, or perform miraculous things, such as cleansing the leper, is only a myth. They would make you believe that God and his Son Jesus Christ did not appear in person to Joseph Smith, that this was simply a myth, but we know better; the testimony of the Spirit has testified that this is the truth. And I say,beware of men who come to you with heresies that things come by laws of nature of themselves, and that God is without power.—Logan Journal,April 7, 1914.[11]

Any man who will . . . deny the so-called miracles of the scriptures is unfit to be a teacher of Latter-day Saint children. [12]

Joseph Fielding Smith

APOSTASY COMES WHEN TRUTH NOT TAUGHT. Modern education declares that there never was such a thing as the fall of man, but thatconditions have always gone on in the same way as now in this mortal world. Here, say they,death and mutation have always held sway as natural conditions on this earth and everywhere throughout the universe the same laws obtain. It is declared that man has made his ascent to the exalted place he now occupies through countless ages of development which has gradually distinguished him from lower forms of life.

Such a doctrine of necessity discards the story of Adam and the Garden of Eden, which it looks upon as a myth coming down to us from an early age of foolish ignorance and superstition. Moreover, it is taught that since death was always here, and a natural condition prevailing throughout all space, there could not possibly come a redemption from Adam’s transgression, hence there was no need for a Savior for a fallen world.

Is it any wonder, under such circumstances, that churches are deserted; that more than half of the population of this country has become indifferent, if not antagonistic, to religion? This, also, is just as true of other lands.[13]

Darwinist and Neo-Darwinist

Carl Sagan

The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying… it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.[14]

You see, the religious people — most of them — really think this planet is an experiment. That’s what their beliefs come down to. Some god or other is always fixing and poking, messing around with tradesmen’s wives, giving tablets on mountains, commanding you to mutilate your children, telling people what words they can say and what words they can’t say, making people feel guilty about enjoying themselves, and like that. Why can’t the gods leave well enough alone? All this intervention speaks of incompetence. If God didn’t wantLot’s wife to look back, why didn’t he make her obedient, so she’d do what her husband told her? Or if he hadn’t madeLotsuch a shithead, maybe she would’ve listened to him more. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn’t he start the universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants? Why’s he constantly repairing and complaining? No, there’s one thing the Bible makes clear: The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He’s not good at design, he’s not good at execution. He’d be out of business if there was any competition. (Sol Hadden in Carl Sagan’s Contact(New York: Pocket Books, 1985), p. 285.)

Scripture

D&C 88:40–47
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory. . . .

All kingdoms have a law given . . .

And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. . . judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne andgoverneth and executeth all things.Hecomprehendethall things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.And again, verily I say unto you,he hath given alawunto all things, by which they move in theirtimesand their seasons;And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.And they givelightto each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these areoneyear with God, but not with man.The earthaollsupon her wings, and thesungiveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of thepowerof God.Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?Behold, all these arekingdoms, and any man who hathseenany or the least of these hathseenGodmovingin his majesty and power.

Mormon 9:17
Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?

D&C 88:5–13
. . . through Jesus Christ his Son—He that ascendedup on high, as also he descendedbelow all things, in that he comprehendedall things, that he might be in all and through all things, the lightof truth;Which truth shineth. This is thelightof Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it wasmade.As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which youstand.And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth yourunderstandings;Whichlightproceedeth forth from the presence of God tofillthe immensity of space—Thelightwhich is in all things, which givethlifeto all things, which is the lawby which all things are governed, even thepowerof God whosittethupon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

Alma30:44
all things denote there is a God; yea, even theearth, andallthings that are upon the face of it, yea, and itsmotion, yea, and also all the planetswhich move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Jacob 4:6–10
. . . we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; andit is impossible that man should find out all his ways. Andno man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, ifGod being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then,why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?Wherefore, brethren,seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.

John 9:1–3
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered,Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Alma 15:3–11
And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever,which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.

Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him.

And it came to pass that they went immediately, obeying the message which he had sent unto them; and they went in unto the house unto Zeezrom; and they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities; and when he saw them he stretched forth his hand, and besought them that they would heal him.
And it came to pass thatAlmasaid unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.

And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.

And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.

And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk; and this was done to the great astonishment of all the people; and the knowledge of this went forth throughout all the land of Sidom.

Mormon 9:17
Who shall say that it was not a miraclethat by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?

3 Nephi 1:22
And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen . . .

Helaman 15:3
Yea, wo unto this people . . . except they shall repent, when they shall see all these signs and wonders which shall be showed unto them . . .

D&C 1:19
. . . man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh.

D&C 130:6–8
The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.

Isaiah 55:8–9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Supporting Statements

Louis Agassiz

. . . facts are the words of God, and we may heap them together endlessly, but they will teach us little or nothing till we place them in their true relations, and recognize the thought that binds them together.[15]

In our study of natural objects we are approaching the thoughts of the Creator, reading his conceptions, interpreting a system that is His and not ours.[16]

Boyd K. Packer

It is on the premise that law controls both the moral and spiritual, and the physical natures of man that I have established my conviction on his origin.  All laws, even those devised by man, are established under the assumption that violation carries penalties.  If man is no more than a highly specialized animal, there are substantial questions as to whether moral laws can apply to him.

If there is no moral law, there is no sin.  The New Testament makes that clear, (see Rom 5:13; Heb 10:26; 1 John 3:4) and Lehi said:

“If ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin.  If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness.  And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery.  And if these things are not there is no God.  And if there is no God we are no, neither the earth; for there could have been o creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.  (2 Ne 2:13)   1


  1. D&C 88:42–45
  2. D&C 88:22–44
  3. Isaiah 55:8–9
  4. D&C 130:6–8
  5. D&C 88:25–26
  6. Joseph Smith,Teachings of Joseph Smith, pp. 157-158
  7. Joseph Smith,Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 197.
  8. Joseph Smith,Lectures on Faith, p. 5
  9. Brigham Young,Journal of Discourses14:115-117
  10. Brigham Young,Journal of Discourses13:300
  11. Joseph F. Smith,Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith,compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 372.
  12. Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era Vol 21, p. 104
  13. Joseph Fielding Smith,Doctrines of Salvation, 1:315.
  14. Carl Sagan
  15. Louis Agassiz
  16. Louis Agassiz

References:

  1. Boyd K. Packer, “The Law and the Light,” Given at the Book of Mormon Symposium Brigham Young University, 30 Oct 1988.

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