“On the 2nd of April, 1843, the Prophet Joseph attended a meeting at which Orson Hyde spoke and, alluding to the coming of the Savior, said, ‘When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, etc. He will appear on a white horse as a warrior, and may be we shall have some of the same spirit. Our God is a warrior. It is our privilege to have the Father and Son dwelling in our hearts.’
“At dinner time the Prophet called the attention of Orson Hyde to these statements and told him that he would offer some corrections. Orson Hyde replied that they would be thankfully received, whereupon the Prophet gave the explanations contained in these paragraphs [verses 1–17], first privately and afterwards in the meeting.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 812–13.) Still later in the evening, after a meeting, the Prophet answered some questions and gave the additional instructions found in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–23.
This verse and others (see Acts 1:11; D&C 45:48–52; 88:95) show that the Savior, when He comes, will appear just as He did at His first appearance: as a man. However, His body will be a resurrected, glorified one of flesh and bones (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 133:46–51).
The passage in question quotes Jesus as saying: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” The Prophet Joseph explained that this statement is literal, not a figure of speech. It is a promise that the Father and the Son will appear to a person (see Teachings, pp. 149–51; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 88:3–4).
Several scriptures suggest that the way we perceive time on earth may not be the way time really is throughout the universe. Alma 40:8 suggests that only men measure time and that to God all time is as one day. Other scriptures suggest that all things are present before the Lord (see D&C 38:2; Moses 1:6). Verses 4–7 in section 130 suggest a similar concept, namely that past, present, and future are continually before the Lord and that time is relative to the planet on which one resides.
In the twentieth century, the field of physics began to speak about time and space in a way that may help explain these revelatory statements. Albert Einstein, in the early part of this century, developed what is known as the theory of relativity. Einstein postulated that what men had assumed were absolutes in the physical world—space, gravity, speed, motion, time—were not absolutes at all but were interrelated with each other. That is why the theory was called the theory of relativity. Physicists now agree that a person’s time reference will vary depending on his relative position in space.
According to Einstein’s theory, if a body moves at very fast speeds (those approaching the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second), that body’s time slows down in relation to the time of a body that is on earth; and for the body in motion, space contracts or shrinks. In other words, time and space are not two separate things but are interrelated. Physicists refer to this as the space-time continuum. If an astronaut were to journey out into space at speeds approaching the speed of light, though to himself all would seem perfectly normal, to someone on earth it would appear as though his clock were ticking slower, his heart were beating slower, his metabolism operating slower, and so on. He would actually age more slowly than would a person who remained on the earth. Though the finite mind tends to reject such concepts, Einstein’s theory suggests that reality to us is a product of our relative position in the space-time continuum.
According to this theory, if a being achieved the speed of light, to that being all space would contract to the point that it would be “here” for him, and all time would slow down until it became “now” for him. The theory of relativity thus may suggest how, for a being of light and glory like God, all space and all time could be present. As difficult as such a concept is to understand, increasingly sophisticated experiments continue to substantiate Einstein’s theoretical description of the realities of the universe.
Lael Woodbury, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at Brigham Young University, talked about man’s perception of time and God’s perception of time in an address sponsored by the Church Educational System:
“The evidence suggests that God … perceives time as we perceive space. That’s why ‘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’ [D&C 88:41]. Time, like space, is ‘continually before the Lord.’ …
“… Right now we perceive music in time as a blind man perceives form in space—sequentially. He explores with his fingers, noting form, texture, contours, rhythms. He holds each perception in his mind, one by one, carefully adding one to the other, until he synthesizes his concept of what that space object must be like. You and I don’t do that. We perceive a space object immediately. We simply look at it, and to a certain degree we ‘know it. We do [not] go through a one-by-one, sequential, additive process. We perceive that it is, and we are able to distinguish it from any other object.
“I’m suggesting that God perceives time as instantaneously as we perceive space. For us, time is difficult. Lacking higher facility, we are as blind about time as a sightless man is about space. We perceive time in the same way that we perceive music—sequentially. We explore rhythm, pitch, amplitude, texture, theme, harmonies, parallels, and contrasts. And from our perceptions we synthesize our concept of the object or event—the musical artwork—that existed in its entirety before we began our examination of it.
“Equally complete now is each of our lives before the Lord. We explore them sequentially because we are time-blind. But the Lord, perceiving time as space, sees us as we are, not as we are becoming. We are, for him, beings without time. We are continually before him—the totality of our psyches, personalities, bodies, choices, and behaviors.” (Continually before the Lord, Commissioner’s Lecture Series [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1974], pp. 5–6.)
Einstein’s theory is only a theory, although it is being substantiated again and again as a valid representation of reality. How God operates through the vastness of space and the eternity of time has not been revealed in specific detail, but what information man has been given can be harmonized with what physicists are discovering about the interrelationship of space and time.
Angels live “in the presence of God” (D&C 130:7). As messengers of the Most High, they minister among His children. The scripture states that the place where God and the angels live is one vast “Urim and Thummim” (v. 8). All things necessary for the angels’ glory is manifest to them there: the past, the present, and the future.
President Brigham Young said, “When it [the earth] becomes celestialized, it will be like the sun, and be prepared for the habitation of the saints, and be brought back into the presence of the Father and the Son, it will not then be an opaque body as it now is, but it will be like the stars of the firmament, full of light and glory; it will be a body of light. John compared it, in its celestial state, to a sea of glass.” (In Journal of Discourses, 7:163.)
At another time he said: “This earth, when it becomes purified and sanctified, or celestialized, will become like a sea of glass; and a person, by looking into it, can know things past, present, and to come; though none but celestialized beings can enjoy this privilege. They will look into the earth, and the things they desire to know will be exhibited to them, the same as the face is seen by looking into a mirror.” (In Journal of Discourses, 9:87.)
Angels are in a state wherein they possess “all things for their glory” (D&C 130:7). The same is true of God and all exalted beings. Those who obtain celestial glory obtain knowledge of all inferior kingdoms, or “kingdoms of a lower order” than the one on which they live (D&C 130:9). They also receive, as verse 10 makes clear, a personal Urim and Thummim in the form of a “white stone.” This stone becomes the means “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms” are placed in their possession (v. 10). Individuals are initially prepared for these great blessings by keeping God’s commandments and receiving an endowment in the house of God, as President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“The ordinances of the temple, the endowment and sealings, pertain to exaltation in the celestial kingdom, where the sons and daughters are. The sons and daughters are not outside in some other kingdom. The sons and daughters go into the house, belong to the household, have access to the home. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions’ [John 14:2]. Sons and daughters have access to the home where he dwells, and you cannot receive that access until you go to the temple. Why? Because you must receive certain key words as well as make covenants by which you are able to enter. If you try to get into the house, and the door is locked, how are you going to enter, if you haven’t your key? You get your key in the temple, which will admit you.
“… You cannot find a key on the street, for that key is never lost that will open the door that enters into our Father’s mansions. You have got to go where the key is given. And each can obtain the key, if you will; but after receiving it, you may lose it, by having it taken away from you again unless you abide by the agreement which you entered into when you went into the house of the Lord.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:40–41.)
Section 87 foretells a war between the northern and southern sections of the United States. The Prophet Joseph Smith learned of this impending war on Christmas Day 1832, and these verses written eleven years later are a second mention of the same disaster. (See Notes and Commentary on D&C 87:1.)
The early disciples asked Jesus the same question just before His death (see Matthew 24:3; JS—M 1:4). At that time He told them that not even the angels know the exact time (see Matthew 24:36; JS—M 1:40). However, He did reveal the signs that would precede that great event so His disciples could recognize its approach.
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:
“I was once praying earnestly upon this subject [the time of the coming of the Son of Man], and a voice said unto me, ‘My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.’ I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make his appearance or I shall go where He is. I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written—the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old. …
“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed [see Ezekiel 47:8–12]. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earth quakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds [see D&C 29:14–20; 34:9; 45:31–42; 88:87–91]; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven [see D&C 88:93]. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, &c. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” (History of the Church, 5:336–37; see also D&C 43:20–27.)
“It is fair to conclude that spiritual and mental growth can be attained only by obedience to the laws on which they are predicated,” wrote Elder Albert E. Bowen. “If through diligence, observance of correct principles, discipline of the mind and of the spirit, a man attains to a fine development of personality in this life, surely it is not unreasonable to suppose that that will be his imperishable possession and glory in the life he enters upon after death. On the contrary, if through lethargy or sin his self-realization in his life is dwarfed, he shall be handicapped to that extent as he enters upon the new world.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1937, p. 86.)
Obedience is the basic law of heaven, and obedience to specific laws will result in specific blessings, culminating in the greatest blessing, as Elder Marion G. Romney explained: “The perfection upon which exaltation hangs, I repeat, is an individual matter. It is conditioned upon the observance of celestial laws as they apply to earth life. The Word of Wisdom is one of them, so also are chastity, tithing, observance of the Sabbath day, prayer, honesty, industry, love of God and fellow men, patience, kindness, charity, and all the rest of the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each individual who observes one or more of these laws shall receive the blessings predicated thereon, and each Church member who will, with all the energy of his soul, diligently strive to live them all, shall receive the blessings predicated upon such striving. Eternal life, the greatest gift of God, is that blessing, and it will follow the living of the gospel as the night the day, regardless of statistics or averages, or of what others think or say or do.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1956, pp. 15–16; see also Enrichment G in the Appendix.)