Scientists tell us that space and time are interchangeable. Luke Mastin writes in Physics of the Universe:
One person’s interval of space is another person’s interval of both time and space, and one person’s interval of time is also another person’s interval of both space and time. Thus, space and time are effectively interchangeable, and fundamentally the same thing (or at least two different sides of the same coin).
This interchangeability only applies to objects approaching the speed of light. From the practical perspective of humans living on planet earth, space and time are different. We experience time linearly, from past to future, and our experience of space is three-dimensional and constant. But when examining the nature of God (as a Being of light), I believe the interchangeability of space and time can provide some insight into the paradoxes of religion. SilverRain wrote something interesting in response to one of my recent postings:
Time is not the same to God as it is to us. The Atonement was efficacious even before it happened…The Fall affected all things (even things before it happened)…just as the Atonement encompasses all. When it happened is rather a moot point.
I think SilverRain is on to something. If God is a creature beyond time, we can’t necessarily interpret all religious events on our historical continuum. I would also add that if God is a creature beyond time, He would also be a creature beyond space, because space and time are interchangeable. So where things happen cannot necessarily be interpreted with normal spacial reasoning. I think this has profound implications for one of the most fundamental and problematic doctrines: that of being “the only true church.”
The Only True Church in Space, not Time
Mormons consider themselves the “only true church” but only right now in space, not in time. When we look back in time, there are other religions, vastly different from our own, which we also consider to be “the only true church” for that particular time. The Mosaic church, with its animal sacrifices and capital punishments bears little resemblance to our modern church. We arguably have more in common with today’s Catholics and Protestants than we do with the ancient Israelites. Yet we still believe that both our church and the Mosaic church are authorised, “only true churches.”
The Only True Church in Spacetime
But if God is a creature beyond time and space, and if He has very different “true churches” across the span of time, wouldn’t it follow that He might also have different “true churches” across the span of space at any given moment in time? Take today’s Catholics: Moses lived about 4,000 years ago, and Rome is about 4,000 miles from Salt Lake City. From God’s eternal perspective, the distance in space separating Rome from SLC would be no different from the distance in time separating Moses and Mormons. I’m not necessarily suggesting that the Catholic church is also “the true church” in the same way the Mosaic church was “the true church.” I’m only suggesting that perhaps we shouldn’t automatically disqualify traditions which differ from our own in space, if we don’t disqualify them in time. Fundamentally, I’m suggesting we reconsider what it means to be the only true church, and whether that really gives Mormon exclusive rights of worldwide divine authority at any given particular moment in time.
The Law of Moses as a Preparatory Gospel
One might argue that the Mosaic church is different from modern Mormonism ONLY because it is supposed to be a preparatory gospel. But if this strange, ISIS-like gospel of genocide and capital punishment can be seen as designed by God to be “preparatory,” couldn’t a myriad of other religious traditions also be considered “preparatory?” The children of Israel were “hardhearted,” which is why we say they weren’t given the fulness of the gospel. But people today are as hardhearted and diverse in their spirituality and beliefs as the Children of Israel ever were. If God is a creature beyond time and space, and He has created “preparatory gospels” at different moments in time, what would prevent Him from creating “preparatory gospels” at different places right now in space?
21st Century Mormonism as a Preparatory Gospel
Mormons believe that one day in the Spirit World, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess,” uniting themselves to the truthfulness of the Gospel as we see it. However, my own personal view is that when this finally happens, we Mormons may discover that our own 21st Century Mormon gospel was itself, just another “preparatory gospel.” We know that God “has yet to reveal many things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” God Himself confessed that He had revealed things which were incorrect to past Christians, like the concept of Hell as a place of eternal fire and brimstone “that it might be more express upon their minds.” So how can we be sure that all the understandings given by God to by modern prophets represent literal and unchangeable realities?
Doctrine Not as Important as Authority
Nathaniel Givens recently wrote a post at T&S where he argued about the distinction between policy and doctrine, policy being something he believed was changeable, and doctrine something that is unchangeable. There was some lively discussion in the comments over whether doctrine was in fact unchangeable. To me, it is clear from the scriptures and the history of the church that doctrine does change. Doctrine is so changeable that I don’t think doctrines themselves are really what we should put our faith in. Rather, our faith is in the authority our church has from God, whether or not it is consistent in its doctrinal content over time.
At the end of the day, our claim to divine authority is all we Mormons really have, and the only thing we need to have. It is enough to know that God has divinely authorised prophets, and that He has called us to follow them. But how do we know if God has not authorised others who are not part of our faith in their own “preparatory gospels?” How do we know if God has not called others to follow the other authorities? We cannot know this. We can only know what God has revealed to us personally. And if that revelation tells us to follow the Mormons, that is God’s answer for us, and for us only.
- What do you think of the idea that God may view space and time interchangeably, and that He might have diverse “preparatory gospels” scattered throughout space as well as time?
- Do you believe that the LDS church could also be considered “a preparatory gospel” to an even greater light and knowledge to be revealed later?
- Do you see doctrines as changeable or unchangeable?
- If doctrines are changeable, what is the essence of our claim to be “the true church?” Do you agree that it lies only in our claim to divine authority?
- Does personal revelation entitle us to make assumptions about the truth or falsehood of contradictory personal revelations other people might claim to receive? Does a personal revelation instructing one to follow the LDS authority negate the possibility of other divine authorities for other people, and the revelations others might have to follow those other authorities?