Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith state that man would never visit the moon?

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Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith state that man would never visit the moon?

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that he did not believe that man would ever travel through space

In the first edition of his work Answers to Gospel Questions, published in 1957, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

The Savior said that preceding his coming there would be signs in the heavens. No doubt there will be appearances of commotion among the heavenly bodies. We are informed by prophecy that the earth will reel to and fro. This will make it appear like the stars are falling. The sun will be darkened and the moon look like blood. All of these wonders will take place before Christ comes. Naturally the wonders in the heavens that man has created will be numbered among the signs which have been predicted—the airplanes, the guided missiles, and man-made planets that revolve around the earth. Keep it in mind, however, that such man-made planets belong to this earth, and it is doubtful that man will ever be permitted to make any instrument or ship to travel through space and visit the moon or any distant planet. [1]

A few years later, at a Honolulu stake conference in 1961, Elder Smith reiterated this idea,

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. [2]

According to Smith's grandson, Joseph Fielding McConkie, Elder Smith felt that travelling to other worlds and discovering that they had the same Savior would eliminate the need for faith:

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"[3]

Henry J. Eyring: "Elder Smith...felt the necessity of claiming the strategic high ground relative not only to these challenges, but also to any others that science might present"

Henry J. Eyring (son of Henry B. Eyring and grandson of scientist Henry Eyring) had this to say regarding how Joseph Fielding Smith viewed science relative to scripture,

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, sensed that intellectualism—both within and without the Church— would only increase, and that science might produce discoveries more threatening to faith even than evolution. For instance, given the pace of exploration of invisible phenomena such as the working of the atom, it was perfectly reasonable to assume that scientists might soon explore and explain away spiritual phenomena, or even the human spirit itself....The Church had taken no official position on either evolution or the age of the earth. Elder Smith, though, felt the necessity of claiming the strategic high ground relative not only to these challenges, but also to any others that science might present. He did this by advocating scriptural literalism. In other words, all scriptural accounts— including those of the creation— were to be read literally, regardless of contrary evidence or opinions. The advantage of this position was that it preempted threats not only from existing scientific theories such as evolution, but also from any future discoveries potentially inimical to faith. The scriptures would be taken as authoritative, come what may. The drawback of this position, of course, was that it required scientific findings contrary to scripture to be disregarded.[4]


Notes

  1. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions [1st edition] (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957), 2:190-191 (italics added)
  2. D. Michael Quinn, Elder statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark (2002), 498.
  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.
  4. Henry J. Eyring, Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring (2007) 45-46.