What is meant by the statement, “the earth shall pass away”?
It means just what it says. The earth is a living creature, with an intelligence, a spirit and a body. The soliloquy of the earth as recorded in Moses 7:48, is not just a literary expression, it is the record of the thoughts of an intelligent, living being.
And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?
The earth has volition, and subjects itself to obedience to the celestial law, as we read in D&C 88:25-26—
And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law–
Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it.
As mentioned above, the earth submits itself to all the laws of the gospel. It was baptized by water during the great flood. It will yet be baptized by fire, will die and be resurrected (quickened).—
And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth (D&C 29:23).
The earth will be transformed at the beginning of the millennium from its present telestial glory to a terrestrial glory. After the end of millennium, because of its obedience to celestial law, it will inherit a celestial glory, and will become the residence of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the permanent home of all its former inhabitants that will have qualified for the glory of celestial life by obedience to all the laws of God.
It is my impression that all of God’s creations are eternal, everlasting, living and are all composed of three elements–an intelligence, a spiritual element and a corporeal element.