God Existed Before the Creation of the Universe
We read in the December 27–January 2 Come Follow Me lesson for Individuals and Families:
“For example, He [Joseph Smith] gave us the record of a vision in which Abraham saw our existence as spirits ‘before the world was’ (see Abraham 3:22–28). The Lord also gave us an inspired translation or revision of the first six chapters of Genesis, called the book of Moses—which doesn’t begin with ‘in the beginning.’ Instead, it begins with an experience Moses had that provides some context for the well-known Creation story. Together, these latter-day scriptures are a good place to start our study of the Old Testament because they address some fundamental questions that can frame our reading: Who is God? Who are we? What is God’s work, and what is our place in it? The opening chapters of Genesis could be seen as the Lord’s response to Moses’s request: ‘Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens’ (Moses 1:36).”
I am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been a bishop twice and am currently, with my wife, Kathleen, a worker in the Pocatello, Idaho temple. I love the Come Follow Me program and have taught many Come Follow Me Sunday School lessons over the past few years. I am also a scientist with a PhD in Anatomy. I am neither an astronomer nor an astrophysicist, but as a scientist, I have read and written about the Big Bang Theory (see my book The Infinite Creation, 2020) and believe the data and their interpretation by my fellow scientists are correct to the best of our current understanding. The Big Bang theory tells us that the entire visible universe began some 13.8 billion years ago.
Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018; Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Bantam, New York, 2018), in my opinion, correctly, pointed out that time and space began at the Big Bang and did not exist before that event. However, physics tells us that what was created at the Big Bang was what Hawking called “normal matter.” During the last few years of his life, Hawking was, famously, one of the most vocal scientists arguing that God had no place in the creation of the universe. He stated, for example, “The role played by time at the beginning of the universe is, I believe, the final key to removing the need for a grand designer and revealing how the universe created itself.” (Brief Answers, 2018) In a number of similar statements, Hawking made it quite clear that in his mind, time trumps everything, even God. So was Hawking right? Was he the official spokesperson for all scientists? I have a great admiration for Stephen Hawking. I think he was a genius, but geniuses are not always right. In a speech delivered at Caltech in April 2013, Hawking stated, “The missing link in cosmology is the nature of dark matter and dark energy.” He further noted that, “normal matter is only 5 percent of the energy density of the known universe; 27 percent is dark matter, 68 percent is dark energy.” (Smith, Brett, Dark Matter at Caltech Speech, redOrbit.com, 18 April 2013)
Estimates of the ratios between normal matter, dark matter, and dark energy tend to vary from year to year, and person to person. Kevin Pimbblet presented a pie chart in a November 2017 review showing that normal matter accounts for less than 4% of the total, dark matter 23%, and dark energy 73%. (Pimbblet, Kevin, Study finds dark matter and dark energy may not exist, here’s what to make of it, theconversation.com, 30 November 2017) Furthermore, Pimbblet broke down normal matter into free hydrogen and helium (3%), stars (0.5%), neutrinos (0.3%), and everything else in the universe, including our earth and everything on it (0.03%). Therefore, what we can actually see of the universe, including the stars and planets, accounts for only 0.53% of the total universe.
Our current best model of the universe tells us that less than 4% of the total universe began with the Big Bang. We cannot, however, say the same for dark matter or dark energy – the other 96+ percent of the universe. Hawking would have us believe that God is limited by E=mc2, but that equation only describes “normal matter,” which is defined by what we can see or detect because of light (the electromagnetic spectrum; time, space and light are expressed as c in Einstein’s famous equation).
If we now recognize, as Hawking acknowledged, that there apparently are distinct components of the universe (at least dark matter and dark energy) that we, at present, cannot detect, no matter how hard we’ve tried, then how can we be so arrogantly confident that there are not yet other parts of the universe we can’t detect? In the face of such overwhelming numbers for the known unknown, how can we be so arrogantly confident that God is confined to the, at most, 4% of the universe that we can detect.
The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the following instructions at Ramus, Illinois, May 17, 1843:
“There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but 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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 131:7-8)
Joseph Smith’s definition of spirit matter sounds a lot like the scientific definition of dark matter. It appears from this scripture that “intelligence” is some sort of matter, which is infinite, “fine and pure,” and not “visible” like normal matter. Modern science teaches that all visible matter was created at the time of the Big Bang, or later. Is intelligence, from which spirits are made, some sort of matter that exists outside the confines of finite space and time – unaffected by the Big Bang? Is it some sort of infinite matter?
Visible matter is that which either emits light or reflects it. What we see in the blackness of space is either sources emitting light, such as the sun and stars, or objects reflecting light, such as the moon and planets. The “empty” space across which light travels is black because there is no visible matter in that space to reflect the light. What’s more, we can only see a tiny fraction of the light given off by stars even in our own small neighborhood of the universe. If you are to gaze out into the night sky in a remote area of the world, where there is no light pollution and where the sky is full of stars, and count the number of stars you can actually see, the number turns out to be somewhat less than 10,000. That number is only about 0.000003% of the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone (about 250 billion + 150 billion). No wonder God told Abraham that the stars were numberless. (Genesis 15:5)
Paul told the Colossians (1:15-17):
“[Jesus] Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
Again, Paul’s “invisible God” sounds a lot like dark matter, obscure matter, or invisible matter, which science has only recently identified as existing without being observable. Most biblical scholars take Paul’s statement to mean that God is without any physical form, being invisible, but modern science teaches us that just because matter is invisible does not mean that it does not exist or have any form.
Furthermore, we learn by revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 67:11), “For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God.” Again, this scripture tells us that God is invisible to anyone not “quickened by the Spirit.” Just like with dark matter, we know it is there, because it accounts for the extra, invisible gravity necessary to account for the shape of galaxies, but we cannot detect it with any instruments yet devised.
The New York Times obituary for the astronomer Vera Rubin, published in December 2016, stated that she, “…transformed modern physics and astronomy with her observations showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter. Her work helped usher in a Copernican-scale change in cosmic consciousness, namely the realization that what astronomers always saw and thought was the universe ‘is just the visible tip of a lumbering iceberg of mystery.’”
Lisa Randall, who is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University, and member of the Scientific American advisory board, has stated,
“Perhaps the most significant sign of the existence of dark matter…is our very existence. Despite its invisibility, dark matter has been critical to the evolution of our universe and to the emergence of stars, planets and even life…[it was] critical to the creation of structures such as galaxies – within the (relatively short) time span we know to be a typical galaxy lifetime…Without dark matter, radiation would have prevented clumping of the galactic structure for too long, in essence wiping it out and keeping the universe smooth and homogeneous. The galaxy essential to our solar system and our life was formed in the time since the big bang only because of the existence of dark matter.” (Randall, Lisa, What is dark matter?, Scientific American, pp 58-59, June 2018)
In 1955, John Wheeler proposed that dark matter forms a foam of quantum gravitational fluctuation, which he called “quantum foam.” (Wheeler, J. A., Geons, Physical Review, 97: 511-536, 1955; see also Ng, Y. Jack, Quantum foam, gravitational thermodynamics, and the dark sector, J. Phys.: Conf. Ser., 845: 012001) Clouds of the early elementswere attracted to this dark matter foam and coalesced by the force of gravity, within halos of dark matter, to form stars and galaxies. This description of the formation of stars and galaxies does not agree with Hawking’s view that “…the universe created itself,” (Brief Answers, 2018) with no framework within which to build. How was the quantum foam created, if it was created, and doesn’t this foam allow for God’s hand in organizing the universe?
When I was young, I marveled at the book of Abraham facsimiles. I was especially intrigued by Facsimile 2 and Joseph Smith’s translations, wherein were described the interconnection between heavenly bodies, “…said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power…” (possibly ke-ʹeban-raš; a keystone; onoma.lib.byu.edu) I pondered, “how could the sun borrow light from some other celestial body whereas it was, in itself, a source of light?” Perhaps the “light” described in Facsimile 2 is not the ordinary light we perceive emanating from the sun. Is it possible that this Kae-e-vanrash, or ke-ʹeban-raš, this grand keystone as revealed to Abraham and taught by him to the Egyptians, is another name for “dark matter,” which interconnects and governs all the heavenly bodies? We are told in Doctrine and Covenants that God,
“… ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth. …Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6, 12-13)
Perhaps the knowledge and understanding we are gaining through the scientific research into the nature and influence of dark matter in the universe can help us begin to better understand the otherwise enigmatic opening verses of Abraham chapter 3 (Abraham 3:1-17). As we ponder the scriptures, it is my hope that we will also ponder the new and exciting discoveries of modern science, which will ultimately completely mesh with what we learn from the scriptures, because truth will never contradict truth.
Read more about dark matter and the origin of the universe as well as much more about the relation between science and religion in my recent book, The Infinite Creation, Unifying Science and Latter-day Saint Theology (Cedar Fort Inc., 2020), as well as the companion book, The Infinite Fall, A Scientific Approach to the Second Pillar of Eternity (Cedar Fort Inc., 2021). Much of what is posted here is excerpted from The Infinite Creation.
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD