I hope that as I speak today, it helps create an environment that the Spirit can be present. Because what I have to say to you may not be as important as what the Spirit needs to say to you. It’s what you hear in your mind and in your heart, not from this pulpit, that is important.
Astronomy Events This Week
There has been a YouTube video that has been circulating around called “What If Money Was No Object.” The premise being that we should chase our dreams and become the best at what we like.
Now whether or not you agree with the premise is not the point, what it is for me is that if I could have chosen any career or decided to do anything in the world, training wise, I would have been an Astronomer.
So, for the Astronomer inside of me, this week has been an exciting week for me. First there was the Lunar Eclipse that happened Tuesday morning (which I forgot to set an alarm for, and couldn’t stay awake for, but the pictures from NASA and the local Astronomers at the College have been riveting); and then on Friday a planet was discovered that was earth sized, in the habitable zone (a zone where a planet is just far enough from a star to have liquid water, any closer it would be too hot, any further it would be too cold).
This latter event, the discovery of an earth like planet, rings true the verses found in Moses, when Moses is asking the Lord why He made this earth for us. The Lord answered (Moses 1:31-33):
“…For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.
“And by the word of my power, have I created them…
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose…”
But we do know why the Lord created all these things, as the Lord says later “For behold this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (v. 39)
Now, whereas the earlier event, the eclipse, reminds me of Alma’s response to Korihor, when Korihor is asking, or even teasing Alma to give him a sign that there is a god. Alma responds by saying (Alma 30:44):
“…All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”
Looking to the Heavens
It’s always fascinating to me how the events of this week, the eclipse and the earth like planet, seem to bring our planet earth together.
Astronomy has also seemed to play a key role in the scriptures.
When we first open the Holy Bible in Genesis 1, we read of the creation: calling the light day and the darkness night (v. 5); the organizing of other materials to create a planet (v.9-12); and the greater light (our closest star, the sun) and lesser light (the moon) and also the stars (v. 16).
In Helaman we read of Samuel the Lamanite, who prophesied that a sign of Jesus’ birth would be “a new star… such as one ye never have beheld” (Helaman 14:5).
When Jesus was born, “a new star did appear” (3 Nephi 1:21) and was seen in the America’s, and throughout the world. This is the same star that the wise men, who brought the three gifts to Jesus, saw and “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” “when they saw the star” (Matthew 2:10).
Even Joseph Smith, at least as described in a Truman G. Madsen lecture (T. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet, 2003), would look up to the sky and see the order of the heavens as he gazed at the stars.
Zooming Out/Out of this World
And sometimes, this wonder of the heavens, the vastness of the solar system, the galaxy and the universe, is a great mindfulness or visualization exercise that I like to do with my clients at work. And that is to zoom out of this world.
But first, it is appropriate to understand, or even have respect for the numbers that are used to describe space. We tend to just see extra zeros between thousands, millions, and billions, and may not grasp the magnitude of difference between them.
So for example, if I was really committed to counting to a billion, and would spend 16 hours a day counting, allowing for eight hours of sleep. And if I counted at the rate of one number per second, it would take me about 16 minutes to get to a thousand. I would reach a million after just two weeks. I would reach a billion, again counting a number per second for 16 hours a day, in about 50 years.
This is why Astronomers have started measuring with arbitrary terms, such as an Astronomical Unit (the distance from the Sun to Earth, which is about 150M kilometers), or light years (the measurement of how far light travels in a year, which is about 9.5 trillion kilometers), to help the math be easier.
So as we zoom out from our planet. We first stop off at the moon (about 385 thousand kilometers away). And then we go until the Earth begins to look like a star in the sky, which is when we reach Saturn, just a mere 1.3 billion kilometers from us (28 times the distance between Earth and the Sun). And as we zoom out more to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is just over 4 light years away, we see our Sun as a small star in the distance. And as we move to the neighbouring galaxy (not an orbiting one) Andromedia, it is 2.5M light years away from us. So our Milky Way Galaxy is just a speck in that galaxy.
The further away we get the smaller or more insignificant we begin to feel (Which insignificant isn’t the point of the mindfulness exercise, because that would not be a good therapy session to have people leaving in a more depressed state. The exercise is to try to put life in perspective and a sense of humility).
Which brings us to the great paradox in life, and President Uchtdorf addresses so eloquently, he says (November 2011, Ensign):
“This is [the] paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation…within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.”
How important are we to God?
So how important are we to God? We are important enough to have this world created for us as a part of the Plan of Salvation.
We are so important to our Heavenly Father that he knows us by name. Sister Elaine S. Dalton (October 2005 General Conference) said:
“Did you know that Heavenly Father knows you personally—by name? The scriptures teach us that this is true. When Enos went into the woods to pray, he recorded, ‘There came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.’ Moses not only prayed but also talked to God face-to-face, and God said to Moses, ‘I have a work for thee, Moses, my son.’ …In Doctrine and Covenants, section 25, Emma Smith is given a blessing for her comfort and guidance in life. The Lord begins this blessing by saying, ‘Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter.’”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (May 2004 Ensign) said:
“I testify to you that God has known you individually … for a long, long time. He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars; He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys!”
God loves us so much, “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
Jesus loved us so much that he performed the perfect atonement.
And it is during this Easter Season, which by the way is dependent on Astronomy and isn’t a set date, that we remember the bleeding in Gethsemane; commemorate his crucifixion; celebrate His resurrection; testify “that He lives!” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:25); and sing that “He is risen” (Hymn 199).
Season of New, Spring, Change, Fresh
It is in this season, the spring season, where we can start new, by making changes in our life. And by taking the sacrament and renewing our covenants. President Uchtdorf shared (October 2010 General Conference):
“Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.”
So that as we go down the path of Christian discipleship and get to the other side of the veil, the God who is the master of the Universe, will call us by name and say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).