Question: Was Joseph Fielding Smith issuing a prophecy when he said that men would never walk on the moon?

Table of Contents

Question: Was Joseph Fielding Smith issuing a prophecy when he said that men would never walk on the moon?

This was not a prophecy - it was his opinion that reaching other worlds and discovering that Christ was also their savior would eliminate the need for faith

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that "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]

According to Smith's grandson, Joseph Fielding McConkie, who actually heard him express this idea,

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"[2]

Therefore, Joseph Fielding Smith assumed that we were not meant to reach other worlds since Christ's atonement applies to all worlds, and discovering this upon reaching other worlds would eliminate the need for us to accept the gospel on the basis of faith.

Attempting to make this is a "prophecy," or a declarative statement of Church doctrine is improper, for the following reasons:

  • President Smith was not the president of the Church when this statement was made. Only the President of the Church, sustained by his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve, may declare new official doctrine.
  • The statement merely expresses doubt about the idea, clearly an expression of personal belief or conclusion.
  • Latter-day Saints do not believe in the doctrine of prophetic infallibility.

Latter-day Saint doctrine allows prophets their own opinions and views, which are not regarded as either infallible or binding upon Church members. Only Jesus Christ was perfect; LDS prophets follow the biblical model of being fallible men of their time called by God to accomplish his purposes. So safeguard against the foibles or mistakes of individuals, God uses the united voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve apostles to establish official doctrine and interpretation.

No one need trust a prophet's word alone on any issue—either of great or small importance. All members are encouraged to seek their own revelation from God, and to accept and act on the truth that he reveals to them by scriptures, by prophets, and by the Holy Ghost.

On 14 September 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts presented to President Joseph Fielding Smith a Utah state flag that had traveled with them to the moon

From the Deseret News, 14 September 1971:

Some 20 general authorities met the spacemen and President Harold B. Lee of the First Presidency told the explorers that "We watched, listened and prayed for you. We're glad you're home safely."

Scott responded and said the crew had looked forward to visiting "the mountains of Utah" and had brought a gift back from the moon.

He handed President Joseph Fielding Smith a large piece of white cardboard upon which was mounted the insignia Apollo 15, a color photograph taken on the moon and a small flag of Utah.

Scott said the small cloth flag, a few inches square, was carried by the astronauts during their enitre journey to and from the moon and also during their travels across the lunar surface in their Rover auto.

President Lee gave to each of the astronauts a white volume telling the story of the Church with the names of the astronauts stamped in gold.[3]

On 14 September 1971, the Apollo 15 astronauts presented President Joseph Fielding Smith with a Utah flag which had traveled to the moon.

Notes

  1. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions [1st edition] (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957), 2:190-191 (italics added)
  2. 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.
  3. Hal Knight, "3 Apollo Astros in S.L. For Busy One-Day Visit," Deseret News (14 September 1971).