If you’ve read my essays on the creation of the Earth, you know I’m an old Earth advocate. I also think Heavenly Father uses natural laws to order and run the universe. That being the case, the footprints of the Earth’s creation and terraforming are left in the geological record for us to read. At best, the geological record is incomplete in that it can tell us what happened. It can only imply the "how" and nothing at all about the "why."
That’s where a belief in God and revelation come into play. They tell the "why" but leave you to figure out the "how."
So, in the temple this week, the thought came to mind as I watched the recounting of the creation that it is by small and simple things which God brings to pass great works. I also thought how there’s evidence now, found in Australia of prokaryotes which lived just 400 million years after the Earth formed. They are the hardiest life forms today: they live in the most inhospitable environments on the Earth. The extreme conditions they live in were global back then. So, what did they do? They “ate” methane and carbon dioxide dissolved in the oceans and released oxygen. The carbon they took to make themselves, the freed oxygen combined with the minerals and got stored in the ground. When they died, their carbon settled to the ocean bottoms and became the fossilized sludge geologists found.
The net effect of this is they ate the primordial atmosphere and sequestered all that gas in the crust. Did you know, the most common element in the ground you walk on is oxygen? At one time it was in the atmosphere… a much thicker one. The patina of carbon is where life exists. All that was “put in place” by these early prokaryotes.
From an engineering standpoint it’s marvelous. They were a distributed, fault tolerant, self-replicating process… life… which brought the Earth to life. As each step neared completion, God began the next step. In time the dirt was saturated with oxygen and the gas began to collect in the atmosphere. Under the bombardment of UV radiation, some of it formed the ozone molecule… a gas which absorbed this lethal radiation.
The point is, Heavenly Father does work by small means to bring to pass great works. So if He can use single celled organisms to terraform a planet, He can make use of us to do great things too. And that’s the kind of stuff you can learn by going to the temple. I love it!