Some people say that Mormonism and space exploration pair nicely together, like cheese and sacramental wine. Some faithful Latter-day Saints have even worked for the NASA, like Ron Dittermore. We have the Book of Abraham, which has all sorts of astrology and planetary information, including the infamous Kolob. But as much as Mormonism speaks of other worlds and planets without number, it completely misunderstands our place in the universe.

From the beginning, Mormonism has had an interesting take on other worlds. A few examples:

“ ‘Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker Style & are quite general in Style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; comeing [sic] generally, near a thousand years.’ This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could ‘See’ whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see.”
– Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., in Journal of O.B. Huntington, Book 14, p. 166


“In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and – to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes.” – O.B. Huntington, The Young Women’s Journal, v. 3, pp. 263-264 (1892)

President Brigham Young further enlightened us about our own sun:

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?… When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 271

It seems that there is “no question” among the LDS faithful that these prophets were only speaking as men (as they always seem to be speaking when fact comes around proves them wrong). Or perhaps O.B. Huntington wasn’t righteousness enough to qualify for his patriarchal blessing to preach the gospel to the moon people, in which case we can just do their baptisms for the dead once we visit the moon cemetery on another Apollo mission.

But this is just the beginning of the theological problems that bring Mormonism and space exploration into conflict.  For example, when Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, what would have happened if Jesus all the sudden decided to come again? Would Buzz stand watching in safety as the whole earth burned in a glorious baptism of fire?

Could Buzz masturbate in the lunar module? Since Satan’s hosts were banned to the earth (Revelations 12:7-9), would they have needed to ride the Apollo 11 in order to tempt him? Would Buzz be in better position to obey God’s commandments if he lived on the Moon? If so, should we be spending less time on FHEs and more time figuring out how to get off the earth and away from Satan?

Luckily, these are all non-issues because the Church takes the doctrinal standpoint that we never really landed on the moon. The prophet of the time, President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“We will never get a man into space. This earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.” – Honolulu Stake Conference, 1961

Thanks to the counsel of President Joseph Fielding Smith, we know that we have never gone to the moon. But what about Mars? If Elon Musk gets his way and Mars becomes habitable, does Jesus need to have two showings of the Second Coming so no one misses it? Or, since “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it”, does Jesus have to leave the hosts of angels at Earth when he burns the Earthlings on Mars?

Luckily, these questions do not need to be answered. They are not part of fundamental gospel truths (except the nature the adversary, the characteristics of glorified beings, and the Second Coming). We just need to keep focusing on the things that make sense, and hopefully you will either realize that this other stuff isn’t important or forget about it. Right…?

Albert Carrington
Albert Carrington
Albert Carrington served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until he was excommunicated for adultery. During his disciplinary court, Elder Carrington tried to argue that he had only committed "a little folly in Israel!", but the current brethren couldn't be bothered to give him a break. Learn more about Elder Carrington here.
  • Travis88

    Here you’ve hit on one of Joseph Smith’s specialities. He had an uncanny knack for exploiting holes in the scientific/cultural knowledge of his time, both with his prophecies and with his writings. Here are a few, starting with the one in this article.

    1. Space Exploration – They could never foresee this as becoming a reality. So they felt safe to say anything about space as it couldn’t be disproven.

    2. Egyptology/Egyptian Writing – Without any contemporaries being able to confidently or professionally critique his work with the Book of Abraham papyri, he felt confident in translating them to say anything he wanted to.

    4. Etymology (study of word origins) – The Book of Abraham 1:23 tells us that Egypt is named because of Egyptus. However, Egypt wasn’t called this until much later. And it is not the way that Egyptians refer to their own land or their own people.

    4. DNA/Genetics – Not ever imagining that there could be a way to test someone’s ancestry, he never gave a second thought to propagating the idea of the Native Americans being principle descendants of the Israelites, specifically the Lamanites.

    5. Masonic Rites – Since no one but the initiated would know the secret rituals, he could reduplicate them for his new Temple rituals without much worry that others would find this out. Little did he know that all sacred rituals of both the Masons and his Temple would one day be shown and compared.

    6. History of the US – Not realizing all the ways that the conquering Spaniards changed things in the US, Joseph Smith didn’t understand that horses were not indigenous to North America. (This is a bit different than the other 5 things, in that this was a misunderstanding of Joseph, not necessarily a gap in scientific understanding.)

    I’m sure there are a few more that I can’t think of at the moment. The ironic thing is that if Joseph really was a prophet, seer, and revelator he would have known all this and not prophesied or written things that would be directly contradicted by future discoveries.

  • B. Bending Rodriguez Sr.

    Errr… you forgot to mention that Joseph Fielding Smith was also speaking as a man in 1961. It does take the polish off that excuse, because by 1961 there had already been plenty of rockets going up and down. He was kind of an idiot not to see the moon landing coming. I wonder if anyone called him out in 1969 on his false prophecy. And what did he say to the Lawd in 1972 after he died? “Hey you jerk! Why did you tell me that people could not land on the moon?”

    Good thing that other men who weren’t “prophets” didn’t put themselves in a little box and believe we could never get there. Also, good that he had no control over government or policy. His statement could have caused some real Galileo-type stuff.

    • J Call

      Or why not quote what Joseph Fielding Smith said when asked for comment on the moonlanding, “Well, I was wrong, wasn’t I?” or mention that he met some of the astronauts in 1971 and told them he’d been watching and praying for them 🙂

  • mbcruisin22

    Good, but I was hoping you would also dive into the astrophysics of the pearl of great price. It makes a ton of scientific assertions that are not true in terms of the movement of planets, centricity of the earth in the universe, etc.

    Also the BOM and Bible make a lot of astrophysical claims that are scientifically rediculous.

    Diving into that stuff would make this article much more compelling

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