Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith acknowledge that he was wrong when he said that Man would never walk on the Moon?

Table of Contents

Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith acknowledge that he was wrong when he said that Man would never walk on the Moon?

Smith reportedly stated that he had been wrong

Following the Apollo moon landings and the death of President David O. McKay, President Smith became president of the Church. At a press conference following his assumption of Church leadership, he was apparently asked by a reporter about this statement. According to someone who listened to the press conference, President Smith replied:

Well, I was wrong, wasn't I? [1]

Regardless of whether or not President Smith stated that he had been wrong, he certainly acknowledged that men had landed on the moon when the Apollo 15 astronauts visited Utah on 14 September 1971 and presented him with a Utah flag that they had carried with them across the lunar surface.[2]

Joseph Fielding McConkie: "The illustration he used to dramatize his point has since proven to be in error. It, however, has nothing to do with the point he was making."

A grandson of President Smith noted:

Growing up as a son of Bruce R. McConkie and a grandson of Joseph Fielding Smith had its moments. One of the experiences that my brothers and sisters and I shared regularly was to listen to people make disparaging remarks about our father or grandfather in Sunday School or other church classes. You could pretty well depend on the fact that if someone quoted either Elder McConkie or President Smith, that someone else would immediately respond with some kind of an insulting retort. I don't think it bothered any of us to have someone disagree with our father or grandfather, we just couldn't understand why the disagreement seemed so mean-spirited. One of the classic responses that is made to discredit anything Joseph Fielding Smith said is to remind everyone that he said that men would never get to the moon. The idea being that if he said one thing that was incorrect then how can we possibly be expected to believe anything else he said....

As to the men on the moon issue, I was present on at least one occasion when President Smith said it. It was a Sunday dinner at our house. My grandfather, Oscar W. McConkie, had asked President Smith if he thought the Lord would allow us to get to other worlds and communicate with the people on them. President Smith indicated that he did not. He reasoned that because the atonement that Christ worked out on this earth applies to all the creations of the Father, that our getting to other worlds and discovering that they had the same Savior and the same plan of salvation would dispense with the necessity of our accepting the gospel on the basis of faith. To dramatize the point he said, "I don't even think the Lord will let men get to the moon." I concurred with President Smith's reasoning then and do so now. What he said, in my judgment, was right. The illustration he used to dramatize his point has since proven to be in error. It, however, has nothing to do with the point he was making. To dismiss everything else he said on the basis of one faulty illustration is, I would suggest, a far greater error and may frankly be grounds to question whether those saying it deserve credence, not whether Joseph Fielding Smith does. [3]

Notes

  1. Personal reminiscence of David Farnsworth provided to FAIR (21 November 2010). The press conference took place on 23 January 1970. [citation needed]
  2. Hal Knight, "3 Apollo Astros in S.L. For Busy One-Day Visit," Deseret News (14 September 1971).
  3. Joseph Fielding McConkie, "On Second Thought: Growing up as a son of Bruce R. McConkie," as quoted by John W. Redelfs on his blog The Iron Rod, Aug 19, 2005.