When I was very young I used to say extra prayers during off hours. I figured that at 3 a.m. most of the praying world—at least in my world– would be asleep, and my prayer wouldn’t get lost among the other millions. In my ignorance of youth I couldn’t grasp how God could hear simultaneous prayers, so I’d sometimes wait for the crowd to thin out.
Even today, members grapple with trying to understand eternal time. How could Christ perform the infinite atonement for each of us one at a time, name by name? We picture him in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, and we frame it all within the days, hours, and minutes we understand in mortality.
Even trying to imagine eternity pains our brains. We keep wondering what’s next, and when the end comes. How can there not be an end? Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that God is omniscient, and can see the past, present, and future all at once. Alma taught, “All is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.” (Alma 40:8)
Joseph Smith said, “…the past, the present, and the future were and are, with [God], one eternal ‘now’.” Yet despite these assurances, we struggle to fathom this non-linear concept. Sometimes we just shake off the confusion, admit that our mortal brains can’t grasp it, and exert faith that we’ll understand the time dimension business in the next life.
But what if I could give you a glimpse into an alternate time arrangement, right here on earth? There’s a glorious hint all around us, perhaps one that will widen your perspective, and it’s found in the amazing natural world God placed here for us to enjoy.
I used to show a time-lapse video of plants to high school students. Roses, zinnias, peonies, dozens of flowers along with trees, vegetables, shrubs, and ferns were filmed. These are all plants that we consider stationary. They scarcely move. They don’t walk. They certainly don’t run.
But they dance.
I wish you could hear the gasps of amazement as these kids watched the videos of flowers swaying, swinging, unfolding as if hearing a symphony. Some of the blossoms bop, some of them burst into bloom, some of them twist dramatically about and nudge another bud. They are as active as any athlete. It’s just that the performance is so slow we don’t notice it. You need time lapse photography to capture the incredible dance they’re doing all over the earth, all the time– and mostly without the notice of human beings.
Actually this would make a cool Family Home Evening lesson. Go outside and observe how still the plants are. Then come back in and watch one of these videos:
Maybe this is a tiny glimpse into how time can stretch or condense in God’s realm. Maybe He gives a prayer his full attention, sets up the answer, gives direction to the Holy Ghost, and then—without even a millisecond passing—can hear the next prayer, and the next. His mind and his capabilities can operate at such a higher level that our earthly measurements look crude and clumsy.
We watch time travel movies and find holes in them. We speak of extra-sensory moments we can’t explain, so we doubt them. But our entire grasp of this subject must look like pre-kindergarten to those on the other side who have escaped mortal reckoning.
And maybe we’re like the plants. Or the stars! To those in heaven, maybe we seem to be moving in ultra slow motion. They have plenty of time to work with us, prompt us, comfort us, and all before we utter the second word of our sentence. All before our second petal unfolds. I don’t know if this is the case, but it’s something we can, at least, consider.
There is something grand and exciting awaiting us on this topic. But we have been given a hint that there might be more to the way we see the world. Have faith. If nothing else, allow the plants in your world to remind you that things are not always as they seem. Sometimes they’re absolutely breathtaking.
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.