Mormon Literature Sampler:

Protest Against the Science-thought of "A Dying Universe"
and No Immortality for Man: 
The Mission of the Church of the New Dispensation*

B. H. Roberts

My dear brethren and sisters, you will perhaps understand better the emotions with which I undertake the task of addressing you if I remind you that it has been over ten months since I had the privilege of standing here to address a congregation of Latter-day Saints in this building. Since that time I have passed through trying experiences and great suffering, but I have been brought through it all, as I believe, by the grace and blessing of God, by the skill of surgeons and nurses, the generous prayers and kindness of my fellow servants in the Church, and also through the good wishes and kindly interests of many of the people.

Lord Lytton, in his great character of Richelieu, sets forth the thought that for justice every place is a temple, and all seasons summer. So I feel in relation to gratitude; for expressions of it, every place a temple, and all seasons summer. So I am returning to this post of duty in a spirit of profound gratitude to all these sources that have contributed to bring me back from the shadows in which I lingered to once more resume my labors among you.

If there has been any purpose in bringing me back to activity, any remnant of duty or any thing that I can do for the cause of God before passing on, I announce myself as being very willing to undertake it if God will lead me to it; for I confess before you all that without him man can do nothing. We are utterly dependent upon him and the presence of his Spirit to achieve the things he would have men do. That is where I begin this afternoon. If there is any unfinished business in my life that I can attend to, beginning now, I declare that I am most willing to undertake it.

Recently I made a visit to California for a few weeks and happened to be there at the time when the present intellectuals of our country and from some foreign countries gathered at Pasadena to resume investigations in scientific fields, and especially in the field of astronomy, at the Wilson Observatory. I saw the royal welcome that those men of learning extended to Dr. Einstein on his return from Germany. I remembered his appearance a year ago in the same place, when he came to display the theories and knowledge that he had developed concerning the great universe now unfolding before the visions of men. He came now to check up on some of his assistants and helpers, who, during the summer, had been pursuing investigations it was hoped would sustain the theories that he had advanced. It was a great gathering, and the interest was profound.

I wish to make some reference to that circumstance and also to call your attention to the revolution that has been going on in the world's knowledge during the past thirty years, by which the whole face of the universe may be said to have changed in the minds of learned men. They are calling to our attention things that go far to upset the doctrines in which scientists, especially physicists and astronomers and philosophers, were fairly well established; but through discoveries that have been made in recent time, beginning about 1900, the whole human conception of the universe is revolutionized. I would like to investigate a little some of the changes that have occurred in our knowledge concerning these matters.

There was a time when learned men felt reasonably secure, for instance, in the thought that matter was indestructible. Also that energy was indestructible; that while these existences might change forms, it was but a change of form, the substance of the things was perpetuated, and the universe was secure as an enduring thing. But the new knowledge, recently developed in the years I indicate, has changed all that, and men are saying today that matter is being destroyed; that energy is radiated away, and that the whole universe is eminently in danger, with the lapse of time, of absolute annihilation!

You perhaps remember that it was about thirty or thirty-five years ago that radium was discovered, and it was found that radium radiated itself away, giving off particles that must end in its destruction. From that discovery the thought leaped upward to the blazing suns of the universe, and led scientists to conclude that they too were radiating away, and the time must come when they would disappear and the visible universe be annihilated....

That is the announcement of our modern science, and while there may be some exceptions to agreeing to such a conclusion, I announce, and deliberately, that such is the trend of modern science--the destruction of the universe, and of course, the killing of any hope of immortality....

Of course the chorus of voices among the scientists is not unbroken. There are others who entertain different views. For example, in about 1900 Ernest Haeckel published his Key to the Universe. He held that while these disintegrating forces were undoubtedly imminent in the world, nevertheless, in other quarters of the universe integrating forces were active; and while the destruction went on in one place, reconstruction went on in another, "and the eternal drama," as he phrased it--"the eternal drama begins afresh," and the universe was held to be permanent and enduring (Riddle of the Universe, pp. 240-43)....

To me the lamentable conditions that obtain in this "new knowledge" of the scientists the trend of which is to proclaim the end of the universe, the destruction of matter and energy, and its being resolved into that state a mist of more than two hundred and fifty degrees below zero destroys all hope that man can entertain of immortality and eternal life! If that is to be the sum total of the discoveries of modern science, how hopeless it all is!

One of the achievements of this modern knowledge has been the expansion of man's knowledge of the extent and greatness of the universe. It was only a few years ago, I remember, when astronomers spoke tentatively of the

fixed stars as consisting of a hundred thousand or of five hundred thousand, perhaps with, and perhaps not with, planetary systems moving about them, as we know planets move about our own sun.

But today that knowledge is very greatly extended. The term universe once meant all the space there is, and all the things within the space, but today we have a different use of the term....It is often used in the plural. Not only one universe but many are now spoken of. What we called our "universe" is now called our "galaxy," and one out of many such. We call it ours because our solar system has a place in it, near the center of it; but out and beyond this great galaxy, or universe, of which we constitute a part out in the nebulae of the space depths, other universes are being revealed to the vision of man, and they may be as large, for all we know, as the one universe with which we are somewhat acquainted, and that now is described as being made up of a "billion blazing suns!" Whether those suns, like our own, are encircled by planetary systems, science cannot say. Whether, if there are such planets, they are inhabited--as we know our own earth to be inhabited--science can give no information upon that subject.

I will ask you to bear with me while I develop suggestions that will enable you to think of the greatness of the expansion of knowledge among scientists concerning the universe. I do this because I have a motive in it and propose to use it presently in a more local way than we can use this knowledge I am now presenting to you, or reminding you of, for I am persuaded that you are not ignorant of this great enlargement of the knowledge of our modern world relating to the universe.

It is said that light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second! If you want to know how far it travels in a minute you, of course, multiply that number by sixty and it gives you the distance light moves in sixty seconds. If you would know how far it would travel in one hour, of course, you multiply your result by sixty and it gives you the distance light will travel in an hour. If you want to know how far it will travel in a day, you multiply your greatly increasing result by twenty-four and that will give you the distance light will travel in a day. If that increased result is multiplied by three hundred and sixty-five it will give you the distance light travels in one year, called a light year; and that has become the great measuring wand of scientists in computing the distances in space. This galaxy, or universe, of which I have spoken is measured by this light year. You will find, if you are careful in your calculations, that the distance light will travel in a light year amounts to nearly six thousand billions of miles, about 5,859,000,000,000, to be more exact. Of course, we don't understand how far that is, but we know it is a great distance.

This galaxy is suspended in space, in oblong fashion. Now, take light, traveling at the rate of nearly six thousand billions of miles per year, it would require three hundred thousand light years for light to pass over its longest distance and would require thirty thousand light years for it to pass through its width. That is how large this universe of ours is esteemed to be by scientists.

Now, we used to speak of this group of stars as one universe, but today, out in the space depths beyond it, there may be thousands or even millions of such groups of creations. Very naturally, of course, as you find the frontiers of space driven back and this great expansion of the knowledge of man opened up to him, you would expect that reverence for the greatness and majesty of all these creations would lead men to humility and also to acknowledgment of the great power that has brought these creations forth and has maintained them up to the present time. But instead of that you are astonished to find that men of science are not moved to reverence for God, but proclaim the death of the universe and have no hope for the immortality of man.

David, as a shepherd lad in the hills of Judea, watched the stars at night and gathered up spiritual life and power from their splendor. He doubtless was acquainted with some of the star groups because Job had named some of them. He had asked the question:

"Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" [Job 38:31.]

He saw, perhaps, the great cluster of stars we now call the Scorpion; doubtless he had observed the North Star with Ursus Major revolving about it. He was greatly impressed by what he saw and he cried aloud--

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. [Psalms 19:1-6.]

From the contemplation of this universal book he turned to the written law of God, and combined the two together for the comfort and the enrichment of human life, leading up to his beautiful prayer, wherein he said:

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight. O Lord, my strength and my redeemer--" [Psalms 19:14] reverence for God!

But now come these men of science today with their larger views of the universe--its illimitable extent--and they give us to understand that the universe has outgrown God; there is none sufficiently grand to preside over and control it. Do you think that is an extravagant statement? Then listen! Langdon-Davies speaking:

"The truth is," he says, "that nobody has yet been able to imagine a God splendid enough or glorious enough aesthetically or ethically to capture the imagination of man, once it has become alive to what modern science can show it lying about its feet or hanging over its head."

And Dr. Einstein, supposed to be the prince of modern scientists, says:

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation whose purposes are modeled after our own--a God in short, who is but a reflection of human frailties.

Neither can 1 believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism (The Forum, October, 1930).

The above in substance has been many times repeated in the works of modern scientists, so that the trend of our modern knowledge is away from God and to deny the continuance of the universe, and with that, of course, falls all hope of immortality and eternal life, promised in the revelations of God.

I fancy I hear you say, some of you, at least: "What has all this to do with us?" "What practical use can we make of these speculations and these conclusions of learned men, How does it affect our work of this new dispensation of the gospel?"

[Here Elder Roberts said: "I am going to ask the choir to favor us with a number while 1 gather a little strength to conclude this, I think, the noblest part of the thought I am trying to develop for you." The Choir then sang, "The Heavens Are Telling," after which Elder Roberts continued]:

It has always been a matter of pride with me, in my more than fifty years of ministry in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that it was no trivial thing which called this church of the new dispensation into existence. It was not founded upon the idea that men differed in relation to how baptism should be administered, whether by sprinkling or pouring or immersion; or whether it was for the remission of sins or because sins had been forgiven. I always rejoice that it had a broader foundation than whether the form of church government and administration should be Episcopal or Congregational, or the Presbyterian form of government, or any other minor difference of theologians. It went to the heart of things and astonished the world and at the same time, of course, aroused its opposition.

When the Prophet of the new dispensation asked God for wisdom, and which of the many

churches about him he should join, he was told to join none of them, for they were all wrong; their creeds were false; they drew near to the Lord with their lips, but their hearts were far removed from him; they had a form of godliness but denied the power thereof; that the Christian world, especially, had, in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and had broken the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 24), of which the blood of the Christ was the blood of that everlasting covenant. He promised the incoming of a new dispensation of the gospel of Christ, which would link together and unite all former dispensations, from Adam down to the present time, the great stream of events speeding on towards an immense ocean of truth in which it would be united with all truth. It was a world movement. To lay the foundations of a greater faith, it brought forth the American volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. In time the authority of God, the holy priesthood, was restored--the minor phase of it, through John the Baptist; and later Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the kingdom of heaven, bestowed upon them by the Christ, appeared to the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, and the divine and supreme authority from God was conferred upon them. By this authority and under the power of it they organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, outlined its doctrines, and established it firmly in the earth.

That is how the new dispensation began--not whether baptism should be by immersion, or for the forgiveness of sins. The rubbish of accumulated ages was swept aside, the rocks made bare, and the foundations relaid. I gather an inspiration from such a movement as that, and I rejoice in it. May it never become a merely tolerated sect--merely one of many!

Now to show you what an immense field is laid before us here and also how we connect up with these scientists and the development of our modern knowledge, I read to you an admonition to the early elders of the Church, who were assembled in Ohio for the purpose of being instructed and prepared for the work of the ministry unto which God had called them.

The Prophet brought this to them from God:

And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms--[D&C 88:77-79].

I never can read that without exclaiming: What a field of knowledge there is laid before the elders of the Church, and which they are bidden to enter and reap abundantly! People have talked about the ignorant ministry of the Mormon Church. All the while here is our curriculum of studies marked out for us, a curriculum that we are to follow. And for what purpose? Listen to the next paragraph: "That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you." [D&C 88:80.]

God has no use for an ignorant ministry in his church. This is our law of instruction and our guide, to prepare us for the work of the ministry. Therefore we want to learn and become acquainted with the trend of modern science as well as ancient science. We want to know something of what these men--who scan the heavens and reduce the elements, by analysis, to more or less true proportions-know; we want to know something about that, and it is our mission to find out; hence the connection.

Later on in this same revelation came this admonition, and I ask you to mark it. The Lord says, in continuation of this pursuit of knowledge, "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." [D&C 88:118.]

Knowledge by faith! What a thought--knowledge by faith! But let no one suppose that knowledge by faith is to be obtained by an easy road or method. It will demand effort and strenuous life and the exaltation of life itself to obtain knowledge by faith. It was the means by which Daniel of old found knowledge. By it he learned the secret of Nebuchadnezzar's vision, and by it he learned the interpretation thereof and gave God all honor and glory and high praise in an exalting exclamation to the God of knowledge and of wisdom, who had blessed him above the sorcerers of the king of Babylon with knowledge by faith.

Joseph Smith obtained his knowledge also by faith, but not in any easy fashion. I remember that David Whitmer, one of the witnesses to the truth of the Book of Mormon, said in one of his passages printed on the subject: "Joseph Smith was a good man when I knew him. He had to be, or he could not go on with his work."

And he [Whitmer] cites a circumstance in his book, addressed to all "Believers in Christ." Something unpleasant had arisen among the group living at the home of the Whitmers, while and where the Book of Mormon was being translated. The Prophet had some misunderstanding with his wife, Emma; she was not always satisfied with her lot and was sorely tried. So after this disagreement had taken place in the household, he came up to the translating room, where David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery were waiting for his coming. He took up the divine instrument, the Urim and Thummim, tried to translate, but utterly failed. Things remained dark to his vision, David Whitmer tells how Joseph left the translating room and went to the woodslot on the Whitmer farm and there corrected himself, brought himself into a state of humiliation and of exaltation at the same time. He went back to the house, became reconciled to Emma, his wife, came up to the translating room, and again the visions were given and the translation went on. But he could translate only as he was in a state of exaltation of mind and in accord with the Spirit of God, which leads to the source of hidden treasures of knowledge.

You perhaps remember in our Word of Wisdom that it is said if the saints will observe that Word of Wisdom and keep the commandments of God, they shall have access to hidden treasures of knowledge by reason of faith. Knowledge by faith requires exalted living.

When Oliver Cowdery himself tried to translate and failed, God said to him in substance: You thought it was all sufficient if you asked me and I gave you the knowledge, but I say unto you that you must strive for it, you must think it out in your mind and the testimony shall be given of the truth which is revealed to you, your heart shall burn within you, and thus you will obtain wisdom and knowledge by faith. [See D&C 8, 9.]

But it is no lazy man's task this getting knowledge by faith. It requires the bending of the whole soul, the calling up of the depths of the human mind, and linking them with God-the right connection must be formed. Then comes knowledge by faith.

The Prophet of the new dispensation is perhaps the best illustration of how men can acquire a knowledge by faith, for under such a system he laid the foundations of this work and brought it into existence for the final triumph of God's purposes in the world.

It goes further than we have come, this knowledge by faith. After the Prophet had translated the Book of Mormon, he began to receive the revelations which today make up the Book of Moses (in the Pearl of Great Price), the translation of which began to be published about six months after the Book of Mormon had been translated. I read to you one or two passages from that, to show you how wonderful it is, and it leads directly up to the consideration of these matters that are contemplated by our learned scientists of modern days. Listen to it. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the revelation that he had given to Moses, from which Moses constructed his portion of the Bible, and the part I am reading is as follows: "And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking,

Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God." [Moses 1:27.]

Hence he could write so beautifully and so truly of God's works, of creation in our Bible, because he had this vision.

And he [Moses] beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God, and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the seashore.

And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof. [Moses 1:28, 29.]

That goes somewhat beyond the deductions of our scientists who have led out in the conception of this immense universe, as a billion blazing suns to our own universe alone. But whether they are encircled, as our own sun is, by opaque planets, or inhabited--as we happen to know our earth is inhabited, by intelligences, the sons of God--they cannot say and properly refrain from saying it until they have some assurance about it. This man Moses, however, teaching knowledge by faith, tells us that he beheld these numberless worlds and that they were inhabited also.

The Lord continued to say to Moses:

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten....

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. [Moses 1:33, 37.]

Later in this same book (chapter 7) it is revealed that if this earth were resolved into particles they would not begin to number the creations of God; and still further it says in substance that if millions of earths like this were so resolved into particles, they would not begin to number the creations of God. "And thy curtains are stretched out still." [Moses 7:30.]

Now let the scientists in Pasadena, California, and in all the world, with the one hundred inch telescope and the two hundred inch telescope that is in course of construction, go on and on and extend their vision farther and farther, but they will not succeed in numbering the creations of God or the extent of this universe beyond the information that was brought forth one hundred years before they spoke, that is, June, 1830! For this book I am reading from is one hundred years old, and God revealed this expanded universe through faith to his Prophet.

Again the correlation of space and matter was set forth in a revelation given two years later called the "Olive Leaf" [D&C 88] and sent to the saints settling in Missouri. "There are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom." [D&C 88:37.]

I know of no language which better sets forth the existence and better states the correlation of space and matter than this. And then is added the tremendous fact that all this is under the domain of law!

Referring again to the Book of Moses: "The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine." [Moses 1:37.]

Now observe this: "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." [Moses 1:38, 39.]

Let our scientists weigh that! That is knowledge through faith given to God. It far outstrips the halting footsteps of science both as to the extent of the universe and all that men have discovered in relation to it.

I admire the achievements of the men of science and hold them in honor. Especially am I an admirer of Professor Millikan and am thrilled by his discovery and his setting forth of the cosmic ray. But what am I to think of the Prophet of God, who, speaking a hundred years before him and speaking by the knowledge that comes by faith, revealed the same truth namely, that as one earth shall pass away, so shall another come, and there is no end to God's work? This gives to the Church of the new dispensation the right to voice her protest against a dying universe--its death blows to the immortality of man.

Oh, ye elders of Israel, this is our mission, to withstand their theory of a dying universe and this destruction of the idea of the immortality and eternal life of man. We have this knowledge revealed of God, and it is for us to maintain the perpetuity of the universe and the immortal life of man. Such was the mission of the Christ, such is ours. This testimony the elders of the first century of the new dispensation have set forth to the world in such strength as the Lord has given them. And now some of us, from falling hands, "fling to you the torch." Be yours to hold it high, nor let its flame diminish. If you break faith with God and with us who die--your responsibility will be very great.

*This was a speech delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle January 23, 1932. (Taken from Discourses of B. H. Roberts.)

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