Why did Smith teach the moon was inhabited and why did Young teach the sun was inhabited?

Quakers on the Moon
The primary source for Smith’s alleged belief was from Oliver B. Huntington in 1881. He said in his journal that Joseph Smith taught, "The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being about six feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker style and are quite general in style or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally, near a thousand years" (History of the Life of Oliver B. Huntington, 10, typed copy, University of Utah). Later in 1892, an LDS article entitled "The Inhabitants of the Moon," recorded Huntington: "As far back as 1837, I know that he [Smith] said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they live to a greater age than we do—that they live generally to near the age of a 1000 years. He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style" (The Young Women's Journal 3:263).

Since Huntington is such a late source and because there is nothing else to corroborate him, many remain skeptical that Smith actually held such a belief. But even if he did, this would not entail that it was a prophecy rather than a non-inspired opinion. If the latter, the opinion obviously went far beyond the perhaps common view that the moon was indeed inhabited. Smith’s alleged opinion was much more detailed. So long as he was not acting as a prophet with it, the source of this crazy belief is irrelevant. Smith should rightly be entitled to it.

Sun
Things are much different, though, for Brigham Young. To our knowledge, he never acknowledged that the moon was inhabited (he simply claimed man’s knowledge here is ignorance), but he explicitly did so for the sun. He said, "So it is with 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. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth when it is celestialized" (Journal of Discourses 13:271). Here Young was acting as a prophet in giving this sermon, since he just said right before this statement in a previous sermon that every sermon he gives should be called scripture (13:95).

The only problem now is the LDS claim that the biblical authors also assumed the latest errant science of their day. For example, Luther famously pointed to Joshua where God commanded the sun to stand still as absolute confirmation of Ptolemy’s geocentricity and geostationarity (i.e., the earth does not move, but the sun and planets revolve around the earth) and against the heliocentricity and heliostationarity of Copernicus. Did Joshua really teach the former rather than the latter? Joshua and other biblical writers certainly used the language of the sun rising and setting just as we do today, but that doesn’t entail that these biblical writers had a word from the Lord that affirmed the Ptolemaic view. The latter saves the appearances, as it were, but the Lord may have set it up to be quite different from the way things appeared. One’s language to describe those appearances may in fact be accurate according to the way language is used in a particular situation while not being accurate if literally conveying the truth of the world behind those appearances. The biblical writers were not scientists; they were, among other things, truthful reporters of events as they appeared and according to the way their own communities spoke.

Concerning these particular matters with the inhabitants of the moon and sun, both Smith and Young seem to have done something different. They both clearly went beyond appearances and rightly expressing those appearances according to the ways dictated by their communities, and they actually gave us the scientific concepts of the way things are. Smith, for all we know, did this non-prophetically (and thus on my view, excusably), but Young clearly did this prophetically (i.e., acting as a prophet). And since we know that the sun is too hot to have inhabitants on it, we have good reason for believing that Young was a false prophet.

For more information, see HERE.

R. M. Sivulka


Add Comment
Scott says...
"Seems harsh to say someone is a false prophet simply because they appear wrong on a particular issue. I think most define a false prophet as someone who never had the right to be a prophet in the first place." (12/27/15)
chako says...
"Or maybe celestial beings are not of the same stuff as we are in the human body and therefore unseen and unharmed by what we perceive as hot." (2/5/16)
Martin says...
"Scott, the Bible is full of writing (Old Testament and New Testament) stating that even a single prophesy which doesn't come true makes the prophet a false one. So yes, "one wrong on a particular issue" makes Young a false prophet." (2/6/16)
MGP says...
"1. How many of us have seen postings attributing things to famous people that they NEVER said... from Geo Washington to Clinton to Reagan... People want to make THEIR OWN opinions look legit by ascribing them to someone famous... OR
2. Joseph Smith (and Brigham Young) both had twinkles in their eyes and were playful. MAYBE JS was pulling the guy's leg and he didn't get the joke? OR
3. Maybe JS and BY were wrong!! OH MY! Wait... Didn't the Lord call EVERY prophet in the Bible to repentance? Why must our modern prophets be held to a higher standard than the prophets of the Old and New Testaments?" (2/28/16)
MGP says...
"Martin... Please give Chapter and verse to your assertions." (2/28/16)
MGP says...
".... and one more comment... Oliver B. Huntington was 10 years old when he claims he heard this from JS. He wrote it down 40 years later! OK... 10 years old? JS was known to have been playful with children. Was this just a story to a child and all these nay sayers are making hay about it? come on..." (2/28/16)
Brian Hitchcock says...
"With regard to Joseph Smith and the moon: In the 20th century, there have been men on the moon--so if he was speaking prophetically, he was wrong in some particulars, but not in the main thesis. But the theory that this was a fanciful tale told to one gullible 10-year-old is more plausible. That would explain why none of his other followers recalled such "teaching"." (3/3/16)
John B says...
"You're right it's harsh. And I agree that he shouldn't have had the right to be called a prophet in the first place." (4/21/16)
julie says...
"To MGP....for Martin. Deut. 18:15-22" (5/25/16)
Jimmy says...
"Brian Hitchcock says...
"With regard to Joseph Smith and the moon: In the 20th century, there have been men on the moon--so if he was speaking prophetically, he was wrong..
Brian, don't be so delusional!! If being that vauge can pass as being a true prophet then you may even believe there are "special powers" in certain kinds of underwear. Sorry but even if you are squinting the astronauts astronauts did not appear at all to be dressed like pioneer men nor where the astronauts inhabiting the moon. Nor were the astronauts inhabiting the moon. When a person chooses to follow anything that comes after Christ with a different gospel message, when a person chooses to follow anything that comes after Christ with a different gospel message The door is wide open for Satan and all of his deception. You can believe God can speak the universe into existence, but preserving his Word was too big of a task. That's pretty sad!" (8/7/16)