There are certain things that are difficult for mere mortals to conceptualize. One that I find particularly challenging is the LDS doctrine of “There [being] no such thing as an ultimate beginning, a time prior to which there was nothing” (Quote taken from Mormon Doctrine). From a mortal perpsective it seems like there should be a beginning to the universe; this is one reason why the Big Bang theory is so popular - it postulates a definite moment in time when everything began. How could there be no beginning?
Something funny about the idea of “no beginning” is that it is equally difficult to conceptualize the opposite, of there ever being a beginning. If we assume for a moment that there was a beginning to the god-created universe, then we must ask, who created the first god? An all-powerful being could not have just "poofed" into existence.
If you spend too much time thinking on the apparent impossibility of both positions, you run the risk of experiencing a minor ontological crisis over whether the things we call life and the universe really exist. Thankfully Descartes provided a temporary escape from these sorts of existential crises. Regardless of whether there was or was not a beginning to the universe, you can be certain that you exist in a universe by virtue of the fact that you are thinking about these very issues. Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am!
But wait, there's more.
Another influential philosopher named Bishop Berkeley (namesake of Berkeley University) pointed out that for something to exist, including ourselves and the universe, it must be perceived. He called it “Esse est percipi” – to be is to be perceived. You've no doubt heard the statement, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?” Bishop Berkeley asks us to consider whether the tree even exists at all if no one ever perceives it.
If you are skeptical of the need for something to be perceived in order for it to exist, you are in good company. Einstein was very skeptical of esse est percipi. The notion of something having to be perceived in order for it to exist led him to quip, “When no one is observing the moon, is it still there?” He obviously believed that the moon exists even when no one is observing it. So if Einy rejected esse est percipi then the matter is settled, right? Not quite. Esse est percipi is supported by experiments in quantum mechanics.
Consider a classical quantum mechanics study where electrons are fired one at a time from an electron gun through a double slit barrier. When the positions of the electrons are registered on a screen behind the barrier with no one present, the single-fired electrons create an interference pattern that can only be explained by the electrons behaving like a non-physical wave of potentialities after leaving the electron gun. However, when people stand at the barrier and observe electrons going through the slits, the electrons go back to being physical particles as evidenced by the pattern they leave on a screen. The upshot of all this is that when no one observes the electrons they behave like non-physical probability waves, but when people observe the electrons, they behave like physical particles.
Dr. Quantum describes this process well. Click on the video below.
So how do we reconcile esse est percipi and the quantum slit experiment with our common sense notion that physical things continue to exist even when they are not being perceived by mortal beings? The answer is the Light of Christ.
The Light of Christ is a divine source that emanates from the presence of God. It gives him instant knowledge of everything throughout all His creations. It is that Light by which He knows at an instant how many hairs are on the top of our heads. It is that Light by which He knows instantly that a sparrow died and fell to the ground in the mountains even though no one else knew it ever existed. It is that Light by which God perceives all things, thus bringing all things into continual existence.