All Things Present

God told Moses that He had a work for Moses to do. He reassured him that a Savior would come in the future. Then, He explained how He knew all of this: “All things are present with me, for I know them all” (Moses 1:6; see also Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-2).

The word “present” has both a temporal and a spatial meaning. My first reaction to those words is to think about God’s awareness of past, present, and future events. Jacob taught that “the Spirit…speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13). Mormon testified that “the Lord knoweth all things which are to come” (Words of Mormon 1:7). And Alma spoke of God’s “foreknowledge of all things” (Alma 13:7). Alma even taught his son Corianton that God relates differently to time than we do:

All is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.

Alma 40:8

Another meaning of the word present is “in a particular place.” Our understanding that God has a body implies that He can only be in one place at a time. (See Luke 24:39, Doctrine and Covenants 130:22.) Yet the Bible Dictionary refers to Him as “omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through His Spirit).” Because He knows all things, He is aware of what is happening at every place, whether He is physically present or not. (See 1 Nephi 9:6, 2 Nephi 2:24, 2 Nephi 9:20.)

A third meaning of the word present is “fully focused on or involved in what one is doing or experiencing.” I personally have a difficult time multitasking, and so it is unfathomable to me that God is not only aware of everything that is happening in the world right now, but is also fully engaged, fully present. Whether I can understand it or not, I rely on it. I pray with an expectation that He is listening and considering my words important, just as He does for each of His other children. I take comfort and confidence in the fact that God is a perfect multitasker – that all things are fully present with Him.

Today, I will be grateful for God’s knowledge of all things. I will be grateful for His awareness of each of us and for His willingness to engage in the details of our lives.

5 thoughts on “All Things Present

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  1. Thank you! I especially appreciate your exploration of the three meanings of “present.” I similarly like to consider the alternate meaning of the word “comprehend” – to encompass – when it is used to describe God in the scriptures. (D&C 88:6, D&C 10:58)

    A thought, though, on this phrase: “Our understanding that God has a body implies that He can only be in one place at a time.” The “omnis” in omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent leave me loathe to place, accept, or imply limits on God. We have a tendency to do so either to make Him easier to understand or accept in our minds, or to emphasize differences between the doctrine of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ and that of other faiths.

    An example of the former, making Him easier to understand or accept, is that many Latter-Day Saints I’ve spoken to reject the foreknowledge of God because they think it compromises free agency. They find it more comfortable to lessen God in their minds than to accept that God already knows what they will choose, including what their eternal reward will be. The consequences of that choice are dire and far-reaching for one’s faith, being left with a God who doesn’t know what will befall you, whose plans for you are at the mercy of the unpredictable choices of others. When there is an apparent conflict between to ideas, it is always a mistake to subordinate the nature of God to anything else. In doctrinal proofs, God’s “omnis” must be axiomatic, never “therefores,” or our faith in God is limited by our own capacity for reason and comprehension – in which case, it ceases to be faith.

    So why do we say “He can only be in one place at a time?” The scriptures never say that. As you rightly said, the idea is only implied from the doctrine that He has a physical form. We almost always use such language to distinguish our belief from that of an impersonal, non-corporeal God. We use the “He can only” to make a point about His physicality – but in doing so, dispose of His omnipotence. We imagine a God who cannot do what we easily imagine fictional humans like The Doctor and Marty McFly can do.

    Here is a quick thought experiment showing why this matters. Our doctrine includes the opportunity for personal communion with the Father and the Son. (D&C 130:3) It also includes that He has created and populated “worlds without number.” (Moses 1:33) So what if two different people in God’s infinite creation need personal communion with Him at the same time? Infinity is an exacting concept. If an event (needing God’s personal communion) can happen more than once in an infinite set, it must be happening an infinite number of times, at the same time. That would mean His visit must be infinitely short; effectively, He cannot do what He says He will do; He cannot meet the needs of His children. Therefore He ceases to be God.

    “But God ceaseth not to be God.” (Alma 42:23) The rational conclusions of the thought experiment are that either God cannot be God, or He can be in more than one place at a time. It is obvious which conclusion is consistent with faith.

    All of this comes back to your thoughtful consideration of what it means for God to be “present”. Is He confined to being squeezed along through inexorable time, one second at a time, dividing His attention infinite ways every moment? No, “all is as one day” to Him. Time does not confine or constrain Him. The bottom line for us is, He has time for us. He has all the time for us. He is truly “present” in our lives, and can be physically present wherever and whenever He wants to be.


    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that an acceptance of God’s omnipotence and omniscience (including His foreknowledge) are fundamental to our faith in Him. An example of a scripture which implies that an incorporated God can only be one place at a time is the Savior’s statement in 3 Nephi 17 that He must leave the people He has been with all day in order to visit the lost tribes of Israel, but that He will return the following day. I don’t know how to reconcile that with a God who is not bound by space or time, but I agree that the main point is His ability and willingness to be fully present in each of our lives, and I am most grateful for that.
      Thanks again, and Happy New Year!


      1. 3 Nephi 17 is a good point, and one I’ve thought about. I’ll share a few thoughts on this, but separate from any of them and even without any of them, I would still not be able to bring myself to believe that He had to stop serving in one place because He had no other choice but to do so – that ministering in both places at once is beyond His power. That would, by definition, be a concession that He is not omnipotent. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

        * He gave other reasons why he was leaving. v2-3, they weren’t prepared to receive what He was commanded to teach.

        * He said he was going, and then when He saw their tears and their faith, He stayed instead – probably for many hours. For an audience of 2,500, He healed all their sick and afflicted, blessed and prayed for each of their children one by one, prayed for them as angels ministered, administered the Sacrament, taught them further, and ordained the twelve disciples. In other words, He didn’t seem like He left in a hurry to make His other appointment.

        * That said. It seems apparent to me that during the Savior’s mortal life, His condescension to live on Earth included living without His “omnis”. He lived like we do, relying on the Father and the Spirit for revelation and power. I have wondered if despite His resurrection, His condescension continued during His earthly resurrected ministry. This could still make sense – His condescension was to show us the way and help us relate to Him.

        * I’ll just add – Catholics believe one of the miracles manifested by earthly saints is bilocation – the ability to be in two places at once. Whether this happens or not, I find it very unlikely that we could even imagine a mortal human having a power that God Himself doesn’t have.

        Thanks again for your thoughts!


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