The Witness and Promise of Nature

David A. Grandy, “The Witness and Promise of Nature,” in All the Way to Heaven: Discovering God’s Love in the Here and Now (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book), 59‒78.

The smell of the earth is good. It is apparent that there is no death.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Spring”

Who, in looking upon the earth as it ascends in the scale of the universe, does not desire to keep pace with it, that when it shall be classed in its turn, among the dazzling orbs of the blue vault of heaven, shining forth in all the splendours of celestial glory, he may find himself proportionably advanced . . . ?

—Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 1:333

We are thus for ever in presence of miracles; and as old Nathan said, the greatest of all miracles is that the genuine miracles should be so familiar.

—Samuel Alexander, “Natural Piety”

In the book of John we read, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:31–32). The oft-remarked paradox here is that obedience or bondage to the word of God becomes our passport to freedom. When seen aright, mortality is at once tight confinement and liberating chrysalis, and “those things by which the world is bound, by those very things may its bondage be released.”[1] This release, however, presupposes death and rebirth—the dying of the natural man and the gathering up from the ashes thereof a new creature in Christ. Jesus compared the process to a seed buried in the ground: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).

The death of a single kernel of wheat resets the miracle of creation. From a single seed of wheat comes a stalk of wheat—much fruit—and then the miracle may repeat itself again and again in an ever-expanding way. After growing a tomato plant from a single seed and realizing that the plant produced many seeds, each embryonically a plant with the same seed-producing potential, a seven-year-old granddaughter of President M. Russell Ballard observed, “And if all of those seeds were planted and grew more tomatoes, and you planted all of those seeds, in a few seasons you would have millions of tomatoes.”[2] But of course, as Jesus stated, each seed must die, or give itself over to something bigger than itself, for the seed that refuses to die fruitlessly hangs on to itself and thereby abides alone.

The saving grace of mortality is that it is passage into something infinitely greater. The death-bound mortal body, said Paul, is “sown in weakness” but “raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43). While Brigham Young stated that our dead bodies are planted like seeds in the earth to come forth in the Resurrection,[3] he also taught that the earth experience is the backdrop for the exhilaration that overtakes our spirits when they are released from their bodily confinement. Speaking at the funeral of Thomas Williams, President Young insisted that when we have crossed into the next world “we shall turn round and look upon it [mortality] and think, . . . why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body.” And feeling liberated from our sluggish, pain-ridden bodies, we will feel to rejoice, “My spirit is set free, I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I hunger no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me, nothing like pain or weariness, I am full of life, full of vigor, and I enjoy the presence of my heavenly Father, by the power of his Spirit.”[4]

All the same, in time we will cease rejoicing in the freedom of the spirit and will consider “the long absence of [our] spirits from [our] bodies to be a bondage” while yearning for the “day of redemption”—that is, restoration and resurrection (Doctrine and Covenants 45:17; 138:50). So long as physical element and spirit remain apart, “man cannot receive a fulness of joy” (93:34). Until that indissoluble restoration occurs, therefore, we find ourselves handicapped either by the infirmities of the body or by no body at all as the spirit flies free of mortal hardship, albeit unredeemed mortal hardship. What we await is the glorious moment when the dross of our earthly experience will be changed to gold and, in “the twinkling of an eye” according to Paul, we “shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

But before the Resurrection our earthly experience, Paul also said, may be eased and enriched by the Holy Ghost, whose witness is an earnest or promissory note—and a foretaste—of our future life with God, if we are faithful. The thrill of the Spirit testifies that God has “put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22, New International Version).[5]

Said another way, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ enwraps us in truth—not, however, to confine us, but to ease and brighten our mortal circumstance by affording us moments of celestial refreshment along the way. Hence, all the way to heaven is heaven. If mortality is a kind of prison house, the gospel helps us find the chinks and breathing holes therein. In the process we are liberated by the very things that bind us, by our intimacy with hurt and frailty, and thereby we come to know the two-way miracle of God’s saving love. “All beings, to be crowned with crowns of glory and eternal lives,” taught Brigham Young, “must in their infantile weakness begin, with regard to their trials, the day of their probation: they must descend below all things, in order to ascend above all things.[6]

This is God’s saving love because he was the first to open the path. Thirty-three years before the resurrected Christ ascended into heaven to stand at the right hand of his Father, he was born in a lowly stable. And while Luke reports that as Jesus grew he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52), Isaiah describes the paradoxical, pain-filled complexity of his life. “Who hath believed our report?” asks Isaiah, as though it is too wondrous to be believed that someone so lowly, so accursed, and so cast off from the power structures of human society would take up the burden of salvation of those who rejected him. Jesus, the Messiah, will “grow up . . . as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Further, he will know firsthand the heartache of loneliness, grief, and steadfast social disfavor: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Finally, in some way hard to comprehend, he will be the sacrificial lamb foreordained to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows and to be “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities,” though we have “esteem[ed] him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” In brief, “with his stripes [wounds] we are healed” (Isaiah 53:1–5).

None of this makes sense if we subtract ourselves from the picture Isaiah paints; that is, if we assume that, not having lived at the time of Christ, we play no role in his humiliation and sorrow. Elsewhere Christ lets us know that his descent below all things is the nature and condition of everyday life: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40), whether we have chosen to help and uplift others or, as Moroni put it, opted to “adorn” ourselves “with that which hath no life, and . . . suffer[ed] the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by . . . and notice[ed] them not” (Mormon 8:39).

For those who choose to help and uplift, the universality of Christ’s descent translates into shared heavenly ascent: “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross . . . that I might draw all men unto me” (3 Nephi 27:14). Owing to Christ’s submission—according to Isaiah he was brought without protest “as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)—we are lifted up, if we repent, to share in his exaltation. The divine splendor of that saving moment springs from the depth and steadfastness of Christ’s love in the face of unremitting torment and persecution. He broke the bands of death by suffering without thought of malice or vengeance unto death, even as malicious, vengeful men lifted him up to death. Then with that perfect victory secured, Christ became the Mediator between heaven and earth who draws all men unto himself, as he told the Nephites, by offering all people the opportunity to be drawn up unto eternal life should they choose to help and uplift others.

Even those who choose otherwise are lifted up, albeit to be judged unready for eternal life by reason of their refusal to die as to the things of this world so that they might, as Christ said, “bring forth much fruit” in the next world. Having patterned their thinking to a fallen world and believing that it is their one chance to win glory, they are like seeds that will not germinate. They consequently are “hewn down and cast into the fire” (3 Nephi 27:17). Those, however, who, like Nephi, “cry unto the Lord” in prayer and thereby let their hearts be softened by the realization that there is a bigger story in the offing are found “spotless” before God the Father (1 Nephi 2:16; 3 Nephi 27:16, 20). Given their meekness and tractability, their trust-in-God openness to new possibility, they move on to a wider sphere of action involving “eternal lives” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:24).

The Witness of Nature

The biological imagery is not accidental. It springs naturally from the agricultural cultures of the Bible and Book of Mormon, and even moderns far removed from farms are not far removed from life-sustaining farm products. Agriculture, of course, is just one of many ways we subjugate nature to our own ends, and while it may be said to be one of our greatest accomplishments, not so nature. By anyone’s reckoning, we had nothing to do with its creation, nor with the biological miracles that keep it in creative and procreative process. With this thought in mind, Paul taught that God has revealed himself to all people through the witness of nature: “For the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made [created], even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). We normally do not see God, but we do, as a matter of everyday routine and inescapable fact, experience something cosmically bigger than ourselves. More, that something, while often unpredictable, painful, and destructive, blesses us with food, drink, warmth, shelter, and soul-stretching beauty. The fallen earth is far from perfect, but it clearly resonates overtones of divinity. Those who shrug off its witness while devoting themselves to their own narrow interests are left without excuse, says Paul.

When Paul preached to the Greeks in Athens, he quoted one of their own poets (Aratus) to drive home the point that in God “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). But some of those to whom he preached had already found a way to talk about life and nature without invoking God. The Epicureans, who along with other Greek philosophers took an interest in Paul simply because they had nothing better to do than “either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (v. 21), believed that, owing to their indestructibility, atoms alone were immortal—and also mindless. Departing from traditional cosmology, the Epicureans took pleasure in insisting that there is no divine blueprint. The gods, if they exist, take no interest in human affairs; further, everything ultimately gets zeroed out as mindless atoms, having accidentally achieved human form to fleetingly bring forth life, fall apart to resume their senseless meanderings. Nothing carries over from life to death, because death or lifelessness is the ground state to which everything invariably returns.

This outlook, very much the minority view in antiquity, now strikes many people as eminently reasonable. What other conclusion is possible, some ask, in light of the evil in the world—the wars that appear to have no end, the disasters that senselessly (it seems) befall innocent parties, and the exploitation of animals and children for monetary profit. With so much evil in our midst, it is hard to believe in Providence, particularly when science explains so much and alleviates so much drudgery, even misery, without mention of God.

If Paul could speak to us today, he would, I believe, say that this argument against God is no more persuasive than that offered by the Epicureans; it is, in fact, the same argument, though updated to acknowledge the notable role of science and technology in modern society. If one wishes to start late in the game by shrugging off the witness of nature, then, yes, one can always work up an explanation of things that does not reference any sort of higher power. But this intellectual bubble, Paul would say, is a by-product of God’s creation, and like the great and spacious building in Lehi’s dream, it floats without foundation and is held temporarily aloft by human presumption. Eventually it will have to come back down to earth, to nature, to the life-giving love that allowed it to spring into existence and that cannot be explained away.

Yes, there is the problem of evil, which problem militates against the proposition of life-giving love, but evil leaps out against a vast backdrop of unremarked, freely offered goodness. God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). These are nature metaphors for the all-inclusive love Christ instructs us to adopt: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (v. 44). From a Christian perspective, love is the universal norm and fount of existence. At the same time, however, it is always under threat of being taken for granted, owing to its ubiquity and sublime impartiality. It is like the air we breathe, or like T. S. Eliot’s music, which is “heard so deeply that it is not heard at all.”[7]

To be sure, hate-inspired evil exists, but it looms all the larger when we pick it out exclusively while failing to realize that it is thrown into relief by the goodness that prevails in nature, which goodness points back to God. Mindless atoms could not have produced the present universe with all its instances of harmony and beauty, nor could they have haphazardly collected together to form beings with powers of thought, feeling, and imagination wholly absent in the atoms themselves. Here again we have entities floating without foundation, this time living beings whipped up out of a void of lifelessness. For Paul nothing made less sense. Such thinking was possible only because we live in a universe quickened by divine love. The very reason we can stray into such errant byways is because God opened an expanse in which we could “live, and move, and have our being.”

More than that, evil does not count as evidence against God, because its baleful effects may be subordinated to divine ends. Without evil, Lehi taught, we could not know goodness; without misery, we could not know joy. But the gospel motif of opposition in all things does not imply equality of opposites; rather, it points back to a loving God able to bring evil into the orbit of good so that the two can mix together for a higher purpose. The nature of evil is to brood narcissistically on perceived injustices, to accuse others “day and night” as Lucifer did (Revelation 12:10), and to shut them out. God’s nature is to lovingly include others, to draw them in and then, should they repent, draw them up to eternal life. It is this love that turns existence into a “compound in one” because it overleaps polarizing differences. And in virtue of this magnificent act of divine outreach, God is able to turn evil toward good ends so that its hurt reregisters as happiness. “The sting of death is sin,” wrote Paul, but “thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory [over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ,” we now have reason to rejoice (1 Corinthians 15:56–57).

“Where danger is also grows the saving power,” wrote the poet-philosopher Friedrich Hölderlin.[8] Without peril and tribulation, salvation would be a meaningless affair, for there would be nothing to be saved from; and we, if it could be said that we existed at all, would be none the wiser, living in a flat world with no opposition. Thanks be to God, though, we live in a deeply textured, deeply tensioned, multivalent world that stretches us “wide as eternity” (Moses 7:41). First but not necessarily foremost, we live, as Paul said, under the “bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21), enchained to our fallen mortal bodies and to a fallen ephemeral world where “earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.”[9] But though we are intimate with our fallen condition, we are not completely at home with it. “Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, / Time held me green and dying / Though I sang in my chains like the sea,” wrote the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.[10] We sing in our chains like the sea against our mortality, and our strivings on earth spring from our desire to find “a city which hath foundations [rather than airy intellectual props], whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Or as Saint Augustine, the preeminent fifth-century theologian, wrote, addressing God in prayer: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”[11]

Another reason evil does not count as evidence against God is that we know in the restlessness of our hearts that the “bondage of corruption” is not the end of the story. This is not wishful thinking but a consequence of the fact that if absolute evil or meaninglessness were the sum of existence, the question of meaning, and of God’s existence, would never arise. If darkness were everything, no one would wish it away, for the possibility of light—a nonexistent entity—would never register. “Birds do not sing in caves,” wrote Thoreau, but in places where the light-dark rhythms of nature give them something to sing about.[12] Our struggle against mortal frailty, and “against the rulers of the darkness of this world [and] spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12), signifies light and goodness, rays of which counterbalance darkness and spark our quest for greater light and goodness.

The Promise of Nature

Paul wants us to realize that Epicurean-like denials of divinity would be impossible if God did not exist. In recent centuries, unfortunately, this attitude of denial has so naturalized Western thought as to go virtually unchallenged, the result being that what was once regarded as an open question is now for many people a settled issue. What, we may ask, has happened to reorient our thinking toward the Epicurean belief that lifelessness is the cosmic default state?

The question has inspired much research. Here I offer a brief two-paragraph summary that should make sense to anyone even remotely familiar with scientific assumptions about nature. We begin with Johannes Kepler, who in about 1600 declared that he had decided to quit thinking of the cosmos as a divine organism so that he could begin thinking of it as a mechanical clock—the most compelling machine of his era.[13] Living at a tipping point in Western thought, Kepler appreciated the epistemic value of the clock metaphor: a mechanical universe would be much easier to explain than one informed by living powers, some of them divine. While Kepler did not believe in atoms, and though his science was steeped in religious belief, he was also partial to the Epicurean proposition that physical reality could be reduced to mechanical principles.

Kepler’s success in effecting this reduction, coupled with the success of Galileo, Descartes, Newton and others, was so persuasive that later thinkers argued that physical reality is exhaustive of all reality. When asked by Napoleon Bonaparte regarding the role of God in his scientific world picture, the great scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace famously responded, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”[14] This proposition—that one can fully explain reality without referencing spiritual (nonphysical) agencies—became a bandwagon on which many others would climb, and soon it would become an article of faith in Western thought—“the definitive explanatory principle of all events.”[15] Science still subscribes to it today, along with the notion of mindless atoms the Epicureans had claimed were the basis of all reality, though, of course, the modern understanding of atoms (and subatomic particles) is much more subtle and complex.

Suffice it to say, if mindless atoms of any complexity are assumed to be the basis of all reality, then lifelessness becomes the unchallenged rule and life the anomalous and difficult-to-explain exception to the rule. This is the present state of affairs in modern scientific thought, but it is exactly upside-down compared to Paul’s teaching. For him physical death was not reversion to the rule of lifelessness but, as the seasonal round of nature demonstrates, a leave-taking from mortality so that rebirth and resurrection might occur at a higher plane. Echoing Christ, he taught that seeds cannot be quickened or raised to new life unless they first die: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die” (1 Corinthians 15:35–36).

Paul is proposing that mortality is a time when our frail, imperfect bodies break down and fall into the earth like seeds in order to be born anew, this time whole, perfected, and glorified: the resurrection of the dead, though “sown in corruption,” is “raised in incorruption”; though sown in dishonor and weakness, is raised in glory and power (1 Corinthians 15:42–43). Using similar organic imagery, Brigham Young remarked on the same upward-spiraling, dying-and-quickening process:

Our bodies are all important to us, though they may be old and withered, emaciated with toil, pain, and sickness, and our limbs bent with rheumatism, all uniting to hasten dissolution, for death is sown in our mortal bodies. The food and drink we partake of are contaminated with the seeds of death, yet we partake of them to extend our lives until our allotted work is finished, when our tabernacles, in a state of ripeness, are sown in the earth to produce immortal fruit.[16]

This view of the Resurrection dovetails with Paul’s belief that nature testifies of God’s reality and goodness. Further, that testimony does not require deep study, because it is always on display. A seed begins to grow by “dying,” that is, by giving up most of its substance to nourish the germ within it. This small gift initiates a process that eventually produces, when compared to the originally sown seed, a galaxy of life: many seeds germinating as plants proliferate to produce new seeds and plants as far as the imagination can reach. This is the arithmetic of life, and for Paul it was an image of Christ’s sacrificial death and the all-inclusive, ever-expanding newness of life that flows therefrom.

If the imagery seems a little off—a little too organic maybe—that is not surprising. Later Christians found Paul’s language too redolent of natural processes and undertook to recharacterize the Resurrection as an inorganic event similar to the repair of broken pottery or the restoration of old and torn clothing.[17] Thus “inorganic pictures of the resurrected body . . . [were] grafted uneasily onto Paul’s organic imagery.”[18] Neither image is wrong, but the latter tracks back to the flora of the natural world, their spontaneous efflorescence from tiny, seemingly nondescript beginnings (seeds). A similar efflorescence occurs during the resurrection of the dead, Paul taught, though at a higher turn of the salvific spiral, and this is because, thanks be to God, Christ’s triumph over death is, as nature so vibrantly demonstrates, life-quickening.

Thus the living witness of nature is also a promise of new life, and, according to Paul, a promise whose fulfillment nature yearns and lives for. If in the restlessness of our hearts we “groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” so also does “the whole creation,” writes Paul (Romans 8:22–23). In a parallel passage from the Book of Moses, Enoch hears the earth cry for relief from the evil that prevails upon it: “When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?” (Moses 7:48).

One may understand these passages as the personification of lifeless elements, but pioneer Latter-day Saints were open to the view that a sentient earth feelingly shares our destiny. The earth, Brigham Young taught, fell from grace “to pass through certain ordeals, together with the people on it.”[19] And to assist in our exaltation. According to Apostle George A. Smith, “the elements, including the water, the soil and all that surround them, are actually aching for the brethren to combine them together and make . . . choice productions of a mild climate; all these elements are ready to render aid to build up Zion.”[20] Making the same point, Heber C. Kimball, a counselor in the Church’s First Presidency, asked: “How does the earth feel, when righteous men and women are walking upon it, ploughing it, hoeing it, watering it, blessing it! I will tell you the earth feels it, and every part of the earth that is attached to it.”[21] Finally, Daniel H. Wells, also a counselor in the First Presidency, insisted that the “man who . . . plants a single fruit tree . . . and cultivates it, and cause[s] it to bring forth more fruit, he has done something towards his exaltation—has made one step towards redeeming the earth from sin . . . and from the curse pronounced against it.”[22]

Such statements function as a litmus test to reveal one’s attitude toward nature. If we tend to shrug them off as wishful sentimentality, the Epicurean thesis of elemental lifelessness may be governing our thinking. We may be assuming that lifelessness is the cosmic default condition, and so rocks, mountains, planets, and perhaps even flora and fauna lack the capacity to yearn for redemption and the glorious transformation that occasions the promise of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Said differently, our supposition may be that nature is, at bottom, lifeless and therefore oblivious to the drama of salvation being played on its stage. Whatever harmony nature displays, therefore, occurs mindlessly—that is accidentally and aimlessly—and not, as Paul proposed, in praise and witness of the Creator.

The salient difference between the two outlooks reduces to the question of whether God’s love washes over the entire cosmos, running into every nook and cranny and inflecting reality at every level with grace and life, or whether his love stops short at some point—perhaps at so-called inanimate matter consisting of lifeless atoms. Is physical creation, with all the terror, pain, joy, and beauty it brings to us, the heartfelt though fallen handiwork of God, or is it only partly lit up by God’s love and therefore only partly transfigured by his creative, quickening touch? In brief, does the universe—the cosmos organized out of primeval material—instantiate God’s love, or do we find that love flourishing only in tiny pockets here and there in contravention to the great rule of lifelessness that otherwise controls physical reality?

For Paul the universe marks the “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Ephesians 3:18) of God’s love because Jesus has secured the universal victory of life over death in our behalf. We live within the cosmic embrace of God’s love, though that embrace does not, as we might wish, situate us in an Edenic garden absent of challenge and opposition. Rather, it locates us smack-dab in the middle of a compound-in-one existence where evil and pain may be seen as evidence against God and lifelessness may be deemed the cosmic ground state. These sensibilities are just two of the many prerogatives God’s love affords us, but if either was absolutely true there would be no tension in the world to alert us to that fact. As Lehi wrote, there would be “no creation” and we would not exist as agents able to think and act for ourselves (2 Nephi 2:13).

Although Albert Einstein did not believe in a God who takes an interest in one’s personal affairs, his science was religiously motivated in the sense that the cosmos offered an escape from “the narrow whirlpool of personal experience” and the “painful crudity and hopeless dreariness” of everyday life.[23] With nothing to draw us outward and upward, everyday life would indeed be dreary to the point of futility. Nature, however, is one means whereby that soul-stretching function is accomplished, and it restates the love of God even when we choose to believe otherwise. If nature is without rhyme or reason, as some thinkers insist, how then does it spark our interest and inspire hope of greater understanding? If, in fact, it is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,”[24] how does it invite us into its inner precincts and bless us with a sense of intellectual and even spiritual adventure? Like many others who did not believe in a loving, saving God, Einstein nevertheless responded to the promise of salvation that nature embodies: “Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned like a liberation.”[25]

Paul would say that because God fulfills his promises in ways that break the frame of mortal understanding, the promise of liberation that motivated Einstein’s science spills over into the next world. Nature, though wondrous, is more promise of arrival than arrival, more suggestion than substance, more uplift and intimation than ultimate realization. “What’s a heaven for,” asked the Victorian poet Robert Browning, if it cannot inspire an upward reach?[26] Nature, though fallen, reaches upward, just as we do.


[1] Francesca Fremantle, Luminous Emptiness: Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Boston: Shambhala, 2001), 13.

[2] M. Russell Ballard, “‘This Is My Work and Glory,’” Ensign, May 2013.

[3] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 9:288.

[4] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 17:142.

[5] I cite this version because it spells out the implications of futurity associated with earnest, the slightly obsolete word used in the King James Version.

[6] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 6:333.

[7] T. S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages,” in The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909–1950 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1952), 130–37.

[8] From the opening lines of his poem “Patmos,” translated from the original German.

[9] Henry F. Lyte, “Abide with Me,”

[10] Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill,”

[11] St. Augustine’s Confessions, book I, chapter 1.

[12] Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1973), 28.

[13] See letter to Herwart von Hohenberg, Catholic Chancellor of Bavaria, February 10, 1605; quoted in Alfred W. Crosby, The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society: 1250–1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 84.

[14] Quoted in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig (New York: Routledge, 1998), 6:172.

[15] Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 6:172.

[16] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 9:288.

[17] “The seed is the oldest Christian metaphor for the resurrection of the body,” writes Caroline Walker Bynum. “It is the dominant metaphor in that text which, more than any other, has determined discussion of resurrection. . . . The seed of I Corinthians 15 grows: as ‘bare’ grain it dies in the ground, then quickens to new life in a new body.” Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (New York: Columbia University, 1995), 3.

[18] Sanjeev Nagar, Fundamentals of Christianity (New Delhi: Mahaveer and Sons, 2010), loc. 1619, Kindle.

[19] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 8:297. This paragraph is drawn from my article “Heaven-Earth Wedges: The Mormon Experience,” Proteus: A Journal of Ideas 15, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 59–65.

[20] George A. Smith, in Journal of Discourses, 10:122.

[21] Heber C. Kimball, in Journal of Discourses, 6:133.

[22] Daniel H. Wells, in Journal of Discourses, 9:363.

[23] Albert Einstein, “Principles of Research,” 1918 address given on the occasion of Max Planck’s sixtieth birthday,

[24] William Shakespeare, Macbeth, act 5, scene 5.

[25] Albert Einstein, “Autobiographical Notes,” in Albert Einstein; Philosopher-Scientist, ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1991), 5.

[26] Robert Browning, “Andrea del Sarto,” .