Hyrum Andrus (Joseph Smith scholar and faithful witness) gives a lecture on the scale of God’s creations. Here I will report on some concepts taught there, and add much commentary of my own.
Here’s the Andrus must see lecture I’ll be referencing: https://youtu.be/rZlEFtmWG3A
Lorenzo Snow reported hearing Joseph Smith teach about the length of an eternity as finite, ww Phelps says it at the Nauvoo dedication of temple, Joseph says ww is right. Andrus speaks of the church office giving him this source. (I don’t have it, if you do, share it)
Additionally, unpublished parts of the book of Abraham show that this eternity (specifically not this world) has been going on for 2.5 billion years, that Jesus has been God, he has been the only begotten, the first councilor in the godhead all that time. (We have quotes on ww Phelps teaching this, and he got it from the unpublished but translated parts of the book of Abraham.)
Jesus is God, he created the worlds of this eternity, he saves the words of this eternity, and he is our covenant father. He works under the direction of his father. Michael (who is Adam) and we ourselves (consider yourselves as Adam) also worked premortality and do yet work under the direction of Christ. Christ was given increased abilities so he could fulfill his role as savior of this system. Our part is to repent and obey Christ’s covenant with us to keep his commandments. As we do, we become joint heirs with Christ to all the father has, and with Christ, we inherit the fullness of godhood and presidency over creation and life.
Andrus there also makes related points about an eternity as a time centering around an only begotten. In other words, each eternity consists of an exalted man having an only begotten son to redeem that eternity. When that’s done, the process repeats: the exalted man has another only begotten for the next system of worlds. (Scripture says God created all worlds by his only begotten son, but that clearly is a reference to this eternity, not all eternities, as there are many Gods and Lords creating and ruling each level of the cosmos.)
When one eternity (eternity = galaxy? Andrus says all the evidence points to an eternity being a galaxy, these brightly centered island universes…) is done, he has another “batch” of spirit children, calls another of them as an only begotten and one as a testator and these two to be his presiding councilors for that eternity.
Once you have the keys, you function in every way like Jesus and heavenly father. In the King Follet sermon Joseph says when Jesus presents the kingdom to his father, his father moves up, and Jesus takes his place. And so on with all saints who get those keys. It’s the same keys. We become fathers who have an only begotten son and are head of an eternity.
Joseph Smith taught that covenant was made between 3 individuals, God creator (father), God redeemer (son), God testator (Holy Ghost). That’s the presiding council over this eternity. Each eternity has a presidency. We will head those presidencies as we gain these keys with Christ.
It seems God the father is head of many presidencies, perhaps one at a time, but he goes on from eternity to all eternity as president of those eternities of his creation.
Surely all righteous spirits had important jobs as messengers etc. in the pre-mortal stage. It seems there are 3 stages of existence, as typified in the godhead, and repeated by all saints: premortality as testators, mortality as saviors on mount Zion, and eternal life as fathers of creation. Andrus points out that just as Abraham learned his pre-mortal role, so can we (as God is no respect or of persons). I suspect we were much more busy and involved than we think, both in helping our forebearers on earth, and in helping manage the whole of eternity, so far as we were able.
Women also have, in this the holy order, a key role next to the exalted men of holiness in creation, government of the family (God’s rule over their families), etc. It is perhaps not like the church order which requires more male officers. But perhaps it is quite similar. We do see women already in temples receiving priesthood power now and promises for more of it in the future.
Other exalted men of holiness also create, have spirit offspring, and eternities are began, and these exalted holy men who are resurrected and have the keys of endless seeds, they are head of an eternity, and select 2 councilors or minor presidents to sustain themselves in all things in those councils, to be executives in the creative work of that eternity, and to bring about the salvation of that eternity. Naturally these two councilors would be two of his spirit offspring. Naturally they would be the Redeemer and Testator of that eternity.
It seems each eternity is a “batch” or sibling group of spirits born at a similar time. It does seem each exalted being would preside over only 1 eternity at a time, thus the “only” begotten son would in fact be the only one of that cohort, despite obviously continuing on to endless eternities, and appointing endless only begotten sons, one for each eternity.
How much longer the present eternity will go on I don’t know,
perhaps we are in the middle of it (Jesus coming in the meridian of time on a cosmic scale?), perhaps the second half of it is for resurrected exalted beings to begin work, having long prepared as spirits.
Perhaps we are near the end of this eternity Kolob system, and the elect are at this earth as they’ve waiting and prepared so long in heaven before doing our probations in mortality, and were given a big test, along with some big ones who fell and push very courageously for the devil’s work now.
The book of Moses does say that of all of God’s millions of creations, those on this world are the most corrupt. Many have speculated that the depravity of this Earth is why Jesus came to this one for his atonement rather than others. Brigham echoed this teaching, saying that even as this earth is the lowest, it will, in proportion be exalted to the highest, and orbit Kolob, and be next in size to Kolob.
Christ promised to do the atonement, and could minister as a god even before doing it, and give people access to the forgiveness proactively. Then when this, the redemptive world was made, he had his mortal life here and did the atonement here. Other worlds of this eternity had to wait to receive resurrection until Christ broke the bands of death here, but they could make great progress while waiting for it. Here we must remember that all who experience mortality earlier had less premortal learning time, and all who experience it later had more. Either way, all is well and just, and the times for us all are appointed by God, and it’s all according to his divine plan. There were and are of course vast cohorts of beings who have received translation, and waited thus in the order of Enoch for their resurrection while yet embodied.
It is a key of knowledge given repeatedly in scripture that each person lives as a mortal only once, and once resurrected, stays resurrected. Those of this eternity who lived and died before Christ’s resurrection would wait for his resurrection before they could get theirs. Some could wait as translated beings, like Enoch and his city. Andrus comments elsewhere that Enoch likely presides over all terrestrial worlds of this eternity, though we also read of terrestrial worlds having access to the ministry of Christ, but not of the father.
Let it be thrown out, the sometimes popular theory that there are a “line of saviors”, and that we are never like father and Christ. This idea separates us from god, and our potential as children of God to grow up to be just like our parents. We are joint heirs who will receive the fullness of Christ, just as Christ receives the fullness of the father. The oath and covenant of the priesthood is clear: we will receive all the father has, and that would include his powers and priesthoods. We can receive the same keys, and go on to be fathers, and to call our firstborn in spirit to redeem our children of that eternity, and we president over it. How long till we get there is unknown, we certainly lack experience at present (though we are living a vailed life at present, and our pre-mortal experience is likely more vast than we recall). We could have smaller stewardships and bigger as we prove worthy of them, so there are levels of exaltation we advance in, but recall that this life is the probation, and once it is passed, the calling (to priesthood) and the election (to godhood) is made sure. By and by, we do receive the very same keys of presidency and creation and resurrection and eternal lives which the gods, such as God the father and the son, do hold and will hold.
What do we see? God going from one creation galaxy island to the next, and each of these islands of stars having their redeemer. We see the holy God and exalted worlds collecting at the center of each galaxy as massive shining celestial kingdoms. We see the sons and daughters of God advancing to be as their divine parents, joining the family business of family creation, building worlds to house their families, and performing family government as kings priests and Gods to their spirit posterity as they go through the plan of salvation experience. We see no end to this in the vast never ending expansion of space, and no limited enrollment in the divine way of (priesthood order of) holiness. We see reverence for all human life made in the image of God. We see one eternal round.
A few references:
Here’s the quotation that Jesus has been God for 2.5 billion years:
“Well, now, Brother William, when the house of Israel begins to come into the glorious mysteries of the kingdom, and find Jesus Christ, whose going forth, as the prophets said, have been from of old, from eternity: and that eternity, agreeably to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system, (not this world) almost two thousand five hundred and fiftyfive millions of years: . . . it almost tempts the flesh to fly to God, or muster faith like Enoch to be translated and see and know as we are seen and known!” (William W. Phelps, Times and Seasons, January 1, 1845, Vol 5, No. 24)
Phelps appears to be citing something from the unpublished portion of the Joseph Smith translation of the Book of Abraham in Egypt.
I also heard church history scholar Hyrum Andrus say that WW Phelps stood at the Nauvoo temple dedication and said that an eternity was a finite period of time, and gave the number of years. Joseph then acknowledged that Phelps was correct.
Elder Bruce R McConkie repeated this teaching, clearly citing Phelps:
“Why anyone should suppose that an infinite and eternal being who has presided in our universe for almost 2,555,000,000 years, who made the sidereal heavens, whose cre ations are more — numerous than the particles of the earth, and who is aware of the fall of every sparrow why anyone would suppose that such a being has more to learn and new truths to discover in the laboratories of eternity is totally beyond my comprehension.” (From 7 Deadly Herecies talk, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/bruce-r-mcconkie/seven-deadly-heresies/)