“Gondwanaland: What It Means to Latter-day Saints,” New Era, Mar. 1971, 35
An earth with no Atlantic Ocean or Caribbean or Mediterranean Sea as we know them would be a strange and different world. So would a world with just one supercontinent, with all of the land masses joined together.
But that’s just what Gondwanaland stands for. In the words of a dictionary (only one year old but already out of date), the name means “hypothetical continent thought by some geologists to have linked land masses that later separated to form parts of South America, Africa, India, and Australia.”
Actually, over the years only a few scholars ever accepted the theory, and they were generally pooh-poohed by their contemporaries. Consequently, any person—scientist or not—who thought the idea had possibilities was usually regarded as a little peculiar.
But we know now that the strange idea of a Gondwanaland wasn’t so strange after all.
For believers in the Bible, the idea had always stirred up controversy, simply because no one quite knew how to interpret the biblical passage of scripture that seemed to suggest that at one time the world had been divided: “And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided. …” (Gen. 10:25.)
This problem of interpretation was genuine, however, because the period of Babel—confusion of tongues, dispersion of man—and the days of Peleg were closely grouped together and seemed to be in the same general time period. Hence, some biblical scholars said that the word divided referred to the dispersion of man, which was described seven verses later. Other biblical scholars said that the word meant a physical and geographical division of the lands of the earth. But if the date of such a geographical division of the earth’s once supercontinent had been and still is in question, certainly Latter-day Saints never questioned the understanding that there was once a supercontinent.
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord gave additional and amazingly clear information describing past and future events concerning the earth’s history.
Here is one reference:
“And he [the Savior at the Second Coming] shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people;
“And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.
“He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;
“And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.” (D&C 133:21–24.)
In 1885 the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess theorized on the existence of a supercontinent that he called Gondwanaland.
On November 3, 1831, at Hiram, Ohio, the Prophet Joseph received the above revelation with its great truth: “… and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.”
The fact that Latter-day Saints have been informed for such a long period of time of the once supercontinent is extraordinary, but not nearly as extraordinary as is our awareness of that which is yet to come.
The Christian has the keys for such an understanding within his Bible, but few understand the full meaning—and sequence of meanings—of such biblical phrases as “a new heaven and a new earth.” Nor does the world understand and believe the numerous prophetic passages that discuss and prefigure changes in the earth. (For a start, see Isa. 40:4–5; Isa. 65:17–25.) And those Christians who still cling to a belief in an actual millennium are a dwindling number.
Note, however, the additional confirmation and information revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning some of the things that will happen to the earth: “We believe … that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (A of F 1:10.)
To receive paradisiacal glory is to return to the conditions of paradise, or the Edenic period. In the words of Elder James E. Talmage, “… the description of Eden is to us as the story of another world, an orb of a higher order of existence, wholly unlike this dreary planet. Yet we learn that Eden was in reality a feature of our planet. …” (Articles of Faith, p. 375.)
Aside from this aspect, many indeed are other references in the Doctrine and Covenants referring to the changing of the earth from its present state into another condition, references to mountains being made low and rough places made smooth. The earth in its present condition will give way to its “paradisiacal” period, and that in turn will give way to another, until at some point, in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “the earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto a crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of the lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it. …” (D&C 130:9.)
Many passages refer to the changing of the earth. After we read some of them (see D&C 45; D&C 88; D&C 133), it becomes clear that moving the earth’s landmass back into one supercontinent is only one of many changes to occur.
Brother Jim Jensen’s recent discovery of a Lystrosaurus jawbone in the Antarctic is a great one. It helps scientists confirm their theory relating to the earth’s past. But understanding the earth’s past is only part of the story. We as Latter-day Saints should know that the so-called Gondwanaland will exist again.
This has many implications affecting our lives, not the least of which is this: If these points mentioned in scripture having to do with the physical geography of the earth are true, what does it say for those countless scriptural references that encourage, plead with, even command us to live righteously, pray always, do good to those around us, share the gospel with others, and live in the awareness that eventually we all will face a day of accounting?
The great personal impact that comes from reviewing something like the Gondwanaland story should be renewed faith in scripture and renewed determination to live in harmony with all of its teachings. In this sense, Gondwanaland serves as a most timely reminder to us to be about our Father’s business.—JMT