By Eric Johnson
According to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, matter is eternal. Creation took place “ex materia,” or out of material already present. Because God did not have power to create anything out of nothing, He had to reorganize already present elements that have no beginning or end and cannot be destroyed (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 350-352). “Since Mormons believe that the elements are eternal, it follows that they deny the ex nihilo creation” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism 1:400).
The Book of Abraham in the LDS scripture Pearl of Great Price is written in a similar manner to the account given in Genesis, with the exception that it records multiple gods participating in the creation. Consider part of the account:
And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth (Abraham 4:1.)
And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light (Abraham 4:3)
And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (Abraham 4:26).
And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Abraham 4:28).
And the Gods said: Behold, we will give them every herb bearing seed that shall come upon the face of all the earth, and every tree which shall have fruit upon it; yea, the fruit of the tree yielding seed to them we will give it; it shall be for their meat” (Abraham 4:29).
And the Gods said: We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and they numbered the sixth time” (Abraham 4:31).
One authorized church manual describes creation this way:
The belief of traditional Christianity is that God created all things ex nihilo, which means “out of nothing.” The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “there is no such thing as immaterial matter” (D&C 131:7), and the Lord said that “the elements are eternal” (D&C 93:33). The word create, as found in the Genesis account of the Creation, is from a Hebrew word that means “to organize” (see Genesis 1:1, footnote c; see also Abraham 3:24). Joseph Smith likened the creative activity to the building of a ship (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 350–51). Just as a shipbuilder needs materials to create the ship, the Creator made the heavens and the earth out of existing materials (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual Religion 327, 2000, p. 40).
Another manual explains how Jesus, as creator, was assisted by others, including possibly Joseph Smith:
Jesus Christ created the heaven and the earth under the Father’s direction (see Moses 1:31–33; 2:1). Others were privileged to assist Him in the Creation, including Michael, or Adam. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed? (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74–75) (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual: Religion 327, 2000, p. 7).
In fact, all preexistent spirits–humans included– were with Jesus in the beginning:
Ex nihilo creation—viewing mortals as having been created out of nothing—with all of its attendant problems that include blurred accountability, is refuted by Restoration light. We know now that not only was Jesus in the beginning with the Father (D&C 93:21), but we were also (D&C 93:23)! (Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine, p. 39).
What does Christianity Teach
Since there are no actualities that are coeternal with God, it is understood that God created all things “ex-nihilo,” or out of nothing. God made the world without having to use pre-existent materials. God is the primary cause of all things (Psalm 33:6; John 1:3; Romans 4:17; Hebrews 11:3). Pastor and theologian John MacArthur writes:
The universe had a beginning, and that beginning begins with the first moment of time (Gen. 1:1; Matt. 19:4, 8; Mark 10:6; John 1:1-2; 17:5; Heb. 1:10). Since God created “in the beginning,” the beginning must also include time. God began to create in the first moment of time, the beginning of the first day (Gen. 1:5). Genesis 1:1 evidences that God exists outside time and that he is its Creator (Biblical Doctrines, p. 213).