Forever is a really, really long time

6 min readFeb 17, 2019

A couple weeks ago, I went to an open house for a local Mormon temple about to undergo remodeling. I live in Utah and I have to admit, the Mormons here are dedicated and devout to their religion. They often lead good, upstanding lives and I respect them for that. They are my friends and neighbors.

At the open house, we got to see their temple, a place built just for performing the rituals of their practice of religion, but not necessarily open to the public. It was a beautiful building and everything was just so. Every room is purpose built for a particular ritual. It was also more than 30 years old and ready for an update.

At the very beginning of the tour, they showed us a video that describes the elements of their religion in some detail. The video described a beautiful life rich in ceremony and fellowship. I could almost feel myself slip into a world where I don’t have to think anymore. I could just be like them, all I would have to do is be a good person until I die, then I’d go to Heaven, forever.

That word that kept ringing in my head after watching that video, forever. “You’ll live with your family in Heaven forever. You’ll be with your loved ones forever. You’ll be with ancestors that you haven’t even met, forever.” Hmm. I’m not so sure I want anything forever.

To put this in perspective, I noticed recently that some scientists have come up with a rough estimate of when they think that the universe will end: 10^139 years from now. That’s 10, followed by 139 zeroes, not 10*139. Not even close. Every zero is like multiplying again by 10. Our tiny little brains are just not equipped to comprehend what that amount of time means. Here’s an excerpt from an article I found at Gizmodo to provide some context for that mind boggling number:

The universe is around 10 billion, or 10^10 years old. 10^139 is a completely unfathomable number of years. If you could imagine the entire length of the universe from the Big Bang to now as a single day on Earth, 10^139 years would still be… far longer than the current age of the universe. It’s more than the amount of time it would take to count every atom in the universe, if you had to wait from the Big Bang until now in between counting each atom. That number of years eludes any rational attempt to understand it (Which