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Was the Creation confined to six 24-hour days as we know them?

TitleWas the Creation confined to six 24-hour days as we know them?
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsValletta, Thomas R.
Issue Number1
Date PublishedJanuary 1994
KeywordsAbraham (Prophet); Creation; Time

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Some individuals interpret scriptures to say that the Creation was done in six 24-hour days. Does Abraham’s usage of “time” lead us to understand that the Creation was not confined to six 24-hour days as we know them?

Thomas R. Valletta, instructor, Ogden Utah Institute of Religion. While some readers of the Bible throughout the world regard that the creation of the earth took six 24-hour days, other readers of the Bible refer to Peter’s statement “that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8) as evidence that the process of creation may have taken six thousand years.

Latter-day Saints have additional information that allows a third view: that each “day” of the Creation was of unspecified duration, and that the creation of the earth took place during an unknown length of time. In fact, Abraham stresses that time is synonymous with day. For example, Abraham 4:8 summarizes the second creative period by stating that “this was the second time that they called night and day.” This usage is completely consistent with the ancient Hebrew. The Hebrew word YOM, often translated “day,” can also mean “time” or “period.” In other words, the term translated “day” in Genesis could be appropriately read as “period.”

Also, the term day is used in scripture to indicate the “period wherein the labor of God is performed.” Day in this sense is usually contrasted with the night or darkness wherein the labor is ceased. The Savior used the term in this light when He said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4; see also John 11:9–10.) The Book of Mormon carried over this ancient usage also. The warning is issued in Alma that “the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. …

“I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” (Alma 34:32–33.)

The above ideas suggest that each “day” may not even be of the same length:

“There is no revealed recitation specifying that each of the ‘six days’ involved in the Creation was of the same duration.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, June 1982, p. 11.)

What seems clear is that the accounts of the Creation were given to us for reasons other than determining the “how” and the “how long” of creation. A more fruitful approach is to read them with a view to what they tell us concerning God’s work and glory.