One Sunday morning a few weeks back my pastor, discussing the relationship between science and creation, mentioned a newspaper hoax that took place in 1835. It seems New York reporter Richard Adams Locke wrote a six-part series of articles detailing new scientific discoveries that exposed the existence of life on the moon. From lunar forests to space animals to flying moon men who worshipped in a golden temple, Mr. Locke spun his story. Though he finally admitted the hoax, for many years people continued to believe that there was intelligent life on the moon. These people included early LDS leaders.
LDS author John Heinerman has compiled a lot of information regarding the universe in his book, People in Space (1990). Since he has pulled together early LDS teachings on the subject of life on the moon, I will quote him here:
According to a close ally and disciple of his [Joseph Smith’s], Oliver B. Huntington, people like the 19th-Century Quakers resided within the moon. Writing a short, one-page article in an 1892 Mormon Church publication, Young Women’s Journal (3:262), this is what Huntington reported:
“Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a prophet (of God).
“As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this Earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do–that they live generally to near the age of 1,000 years.
“He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style.
“In my Patriarchal Blessing,” given by the father of Joseph the Prophet in Kirtland (Ohio), 1837, “I was told that I would 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.” (Patriarchal blessings are given to worthy young Mormon men and women by Priesthood holders called church patriarchs. Such blessings are the worldly equivalents of getting your fortunes told with tarot cards.)
Philo Dibble, another early Mormon pioneer remembered Smith giving details about such lunar residents this way:
“The 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 Quaker style and are quite general in style, or the fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming 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.
“I heard him say that ‘he could see what he would ask of the Father in the name of Jesus and it would be granted’ and I have no more doubt of it than I have that the mob killed him.” (Unpublished typescript, p. 166, located in the Utah State Historical Society archives and used with their kind permission.)
Yet a third Latter-Day Saint by the name of George Laub, who resided in Nauvoo, Illinois, remembered Hyrum Smith (Joseph’s older brother) saying that “the Sun & Moon is inhabited & the Stars” in an 1843 sermon on the “plurality of gods & worlds.” Laub’s entire diary with this quote in it was published in the scholarly journal BYU Studies (18:177)…
Even Joseph’s successor, Church President Brigham Young, taught similar doctrine in a sermon delivered to several thousand Latter-Day Saints on July 24, 1870. As recorded in the Journal of Discourses (13:271), he remarked concerning the world’s knowledge about such lunar residents: “When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows.” Basically he was saying that the world’s wisest men know just as much about the people in the moon as the world’s most stupid men know, which is absolutely nothing!
Those who find it hard to believe that people live inside the craters of the moon either don’t have much of the spirit of truth about them or else they just lack plain common sense…
A more complete history of these lunarians may be found in the archives of eternity somewhere. [People in Space, 8-11; all spelling, capitalization and parenthesis in the foregoing quote has been retained from the original]
In 1835 some scientists suggested there was life on the moon. Richard Locke “confirmed” it. According to Philo Dibble, Joseph Smith ran with the idea and today there are LDS Ph.D.s (or at least one) who believe it must be true.