Mormons believe that the earth's history and destiny is similar to humankind's. Just as man has gone through various stages to reach where he is, so has the earth. And just as man has stages to progress through, so has the earth.
Purpose for the Earth
Mormons believe that this earth, one of “worlds without number” in the universe, was created to be the testing place for the sons and daughters of God, a place for them to have their spirits bodies clothed with physical bodies and to discover which ones can progress to the next stage. While Mormons believe that God has created numerous other earths similar to this one for his spirit children to live, they believe that this earth has received both the best and the worst of God's children to conduct the final battle between good and evil, between Christ and Lucifer, who fight for the hearts of men.
Mormon theology teaches that matter is eternal and can be neither created nor destroyed—just be transformed from one form to another. Joseph Smith taught that the earth was not created out of thin air but was organized from pre-existing material from other planets that had been broken up. Doctrine is not clear on the literal space of time that it took to accomplish, whether six earth days or millions of years, because there seems to be a difference in God's time and man's. However, Brigham Young didn't feel that it was a vital concern because no one's salvation or spiritual condition relies upon knowing it.
Christ taught that the earth, too, is a living being, one that was born, suffered and groaned, was baptized with water, will be baptized with fire and die, and then will be resurrected into a state of glory.
Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon apostle, believed that the earth first had a spirit body, just as men had, because Church doctrine states that all things are first created spiritually, then physically.
- From revelation, Mormons believe that Jehovah (Christ) and Michael (Adam) organized the earth, under God the Father's direction, into a terrestrial or paradisaical state. This is, simply, in a good condition, not the best, not the worst. There was no death, illness, or suffering in the Garden of Eden and the earth bore fruit and flowers abundantly.
Present Day Earth (Telestial)
- When Adam fell, and he and Eve's bodies underwent a transformation so that they would die, earth “fell also and became a mortal sphere, one upon which worldly and carnal people [could] live. This condition was destined to continue for a period of 6,000 years, and it was while it was in this state that the earth was baptized” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 211), referring, of course, to the Great Flood for which Noah built the Ark. This telestial state—which is the worst state--is present-day earth. On this earth, to harvest fruit or flowers usually requires sweat and toil.
Millennial Earth (Terrestrial)
- In the future, earth will be burned in a baptism by fire, be “re-newed and receive its paradisaical glory' (Tenth Article of Faith) again, or return to a terrestrial state in the Millennium. Earth will be like the Garden of Eden again, bearing abundantly and free from death and pain.
Kingdom of God (Celestial)
- A short time after the Millennium is over, the earth will die, be resurrected, and become like a “sea of glass” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:7—similar to what John saw before the throne in Revelations) fit for the presence of the Father and the Son and the righteous and obedient forever. It will exist in a celestial or godly state (the best state) and will look, LDS believe, like a sun because of its brightness and glory. It will be the home of celestial beings and literally the Kingdom of God. This earth, because of its glassy form, will become a Urim and Thummim--a way to see everything in the universe, past, present, and future—a way to see like God.