Joseph Smith’s Moon Men

Mormon Quakers On The MoonIntroduction

Where there men living on the moon? Was it inhabited? This is a fascinating topic that goes even farther back than the times of Joseph Smith. The 19th Century was filled with such speculation, firing the imaginations of men, and culminating with books like Jules Vernes’ ‘The First Men In The Moon’ published in 1901. Human speculation is one thing, but when those that call themselves ‘prophets’ jump into the fray, their statements are usually taken with a little more gravity, especially when some of them preach such things over the pulpit.  Such was the case, when some influential Mormon leaders, including Joseph Smith, made some statements regarding this topic. Where did they come from? In 1835 the New York Sun published a series of articles claiming that the astronomer John Herschel had found inhabitants on the moon. It was satire but many people thought it was real at first. Could Smith have been influenced by that article? Even if he and others were, why were some of them preaching this over the pulpit? Why were there patriarchal blessings given that told of men preaching the gospel on the moon?

I. Statements from Early Mormon Leaders

In 1892 the following one-page article appeared in the Young Women’s Journal.  Its author Oliver B. Huntington wrote:

“Astronomers and philosophers have, from time almost immemorial until very recently, asserted that the moon was uninhabited, that it had no atmosphere, etc.  But recent discoveries, through the means of powerful telescopes, have given scientists a doubt or two upon the old theory. 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. 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 1000 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, 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.”( Young Woman’s Journal, 3:263,264.)

Many have quoted the above, and wonder how Joseph Smith could have taught such a thing. Here, Huntington gives this not as Smith’s opinion (his comment that ‘nearly all the great discoveries’ shows that) but as a verification for Smith as a prophet. He then quotes his own patriarchal blessing, which he says was given by the father of Joseph Smith as further proof.

Philo Dibble

Mormon apologists, have endeavored to dismantle this statement by Huntington, by saying that he would have been only eleven when he heard it, and that his memory must be off, for he is even wrong about who gave him his patriarchal blessing! (It was his own father, not Smith Sr., but Smith Sr. most likely participated in the blessing) Another thing that apologists mention, is that Huntington must have got this statement from Philo Dibble, which Huntington wrote in his diary in 1881. It reads:

Inhabitants of the Moon

“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 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. 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 ask 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.” (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol 2, p 166, Utah State Historical Society, typescript, p. 166.)

Huntingtons’ blessing reads:

Oliver Huntington himself received a patriarchal blessing from his father:

“I lay my hands on thee & bless thee with a father’s blessing …. thou shalt be called to preach the gospel to this generation …. before thou art twenty one thou wilt be called to preach the fullness of the gospel, thou shalt have power with God even to translate thyself to Heaven, & preach to the inhabitants of the moon or planets, if it shall be expedient ….” Patriarchal Blessings Books, 9:294, 295. (Van Hale, Mormons & Moonmen, Sunstone, September-October 1982)

The fact that his own father gave him this patriarchal blessing in the presence of Joseph Smith Sr. who might have even participated in it, should also be weighed in the balance:

“In his 1894 article Huntington recalled that he received the blessing in 1836 at a blessings meeting for the Huntington family at the home of William Huntington. The meeting was appointed and conducted by Joseph Smith, Sr. It lasted the entire day, with Orson Pratt recording the blessings the best he could and “afterwards filled up from memory of all present that which he could not catch from the Patriarch’s lips.’’ (Van Hale, op. cited)

According to George Laub, on April 27th1843, Hyrum Smith preached a sermon titled “The Plurality of Gods and the Different Worlds” and thought it important enough to preach that the Moon and the Sun were inhabited, in front of the “Saints”:

“Now I say unto you that there are lords many and gods many but to us there is but one God; the Father and Jesus Christ the First Begotten who is made equal with God so that He Himself is a God and now the work that the Father done did he do also and so there is a whole train or lineage of Gods and this world was created by faith and works the same as if a man would build an house. He knew where the materials were and he believed he could build or do the work of that building for he understood the science of building, and by faith He joined the work with His own hands and completed that building; the same way was this world by faith and works and by understanding the principle and it was made by the hands of God or gods. It was made of element, or in other words of chaos, it was in chaotic form from all eternity and will be to all eternity and again they held council together that they might roll this world into form as all other worlds are made showing you by the building of a house as a sample or a figure. And in my Fathers house are many mansions or in my Fathers world are many worlds; I will go and prepare a place for you.


Hyrum Smith

And then if there are many worlds then there must be many gods, for every star that we see is a world and is inhabited the same as this world is peopled. The sun and the moon is inhabited and the stars (Jesus Christ is the light of the sun), the same as this earth but anyone of them are larger than this earth. And many that we cannot see without a telescope which are larger then this earth and they are under the same order as this earth is undergoing and undergone the same change. There was and is a first man Adam, and a Saviour in the meridian of time, the same computing time and all in all and all things in order. And many things are to be considered that will bring knowledge to our understanding but the foolish understand not these things. For this world was patterned after the former worlds or after former mansions.”  pages 16-17 See also, George Laub’s Nauvoo Journal, BYU Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, winter 1978).

I might mention here, that there are some problems with Laub’s dates. He kept notes, but didn’t compile them all until 1846, and did some of the dating by memory. Eugene England thinks that the sermon by Hyrum took place in 1844 instead of 1843, and it does make more sense, since Joseph was preaching the plurality of the gods often during that period. Hyrum had, back in March of that year (1844) told the “saints”,

Nauvoo, March 15, 1844.

To the brethren of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, living on China Creek, in Han[filtered profanity or slur] County, greeting:-Whereas brother Richard Hewitt has called on me to-day, to know my views concerning some doctrines that are preached in your place, and states to me that some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here. And any man that is found teaching privately or publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance to be brought before the High Council, and loose his license and membership also: therefore he had better beware what he is about.

And again I say unto you, an elder has no business to undertake to preach mysteries in any part of the world, for God has commanded us all to preach nothing but the first principles unto the world. Neither has any elder any authority to preach any mysterious thing to any branch of the church unless he has a direct commandment from God to do so. Let the matter of the grand councils of heaven, and the making of gods, worlds, and devils entirely alone; for you are not called to teach any such doctrine-for neither you nor the people are capacitated to understand any such principles-less so to teach them. For when God commands men to teach such principles the saints will receive them. Therefore beware what you teach! for the mysteries of God are not given to all men; and unto those to whom they are given they are placed under restrictions to impart only such as God will command them; and the residue is to be kept in a faithful breast, otherwise he will be brought under condemnation. By this God will prove his faithful servants, who will be called and numbered with the chosen.

And as to the celestial glory, all will enter in that kingdom that obey the gospel, and continue in faith in the Lord unto the end of his days. Now, therefore, I say unto you, you must cease preaching your miraculous things, and let the mysteries alone until by and bye [by]. Preach faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance and baptism for the remission of sins; the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost: teaching the necessity of strict obedience unto these principles; reasoning out of the scriptures; proving them unto the people. Cease your schisms and divisions, and your contentions. Humble yourselves as in dust and ashes, lest God should make you an ensample of his wrath unto the surrounding world. Amen. (Times & Seasons, Vol. 5, page 474)

In the bonds of the everlasting covenant,

I am Your obedient servant,


Notice that Hyrum Smith here denounces polygamy, which the hierarchy were all practicing. He then tells those that are teaching that doctrine, to also stop teaching “the mysteries”.

It was about this time that William Law and others found out about these teachings and were soon in open rebellion against Joseph and Hyrum shortly after this. Just before this notice by Hyrum Smith, Joseph had organized the Council of 50. His Diary reads, (for March 10, 1844)

Joseph asked, can this council keep what I say, not make it public, all held up their hands. [several lines left blank [Joseph then proceeded to organize the Council of Fifty to oversee the settlement of Texas and eventually to rule over the political Kingdom of God on earth.]]

I believe the sermon by Hyrum was on the 28th of April, 1844, and in Joseph’s Journal for that date, it reads,

Sunday, April 28[th] 1844 At home. Hyrum preached at the stand. A.M.(Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.475).

On the same day, all of the Nauvoo dissenters were cut off from the Church. They then began their Nauvoo Expositor project. I believe that Jo and Hyrum started preaching on the plurality of gods in early April because of the things that were being spread about by the dissenters and Elders that overheard the doctrine being discussed by them. There are many entries in Joseph’s diary that the Elders (not the hierarchy) were ordered to preach only the “1st principles”. Notice also, that Hyrum says in his sermon that “the foolish” do not “understand these things,” which also supports the 1844 date, since many were at that time speaking of them.

April 27, 1843 was on a Thursday, so I think it is unlikely that is the correct date.

Joseph Smith preached the same day and was there when Hyrum made this statement in front of an entire congregation. That he says, “many things that will bring knowledge to our understanding but the foolish understand not these things” shows that he was entirely serious. These are the words of an ordained ‘prophet’ of God. Then we have this statement of Brigham Young, not only a belief, but also important enough for Young to preach it over the pulpit:

Brigham Young

I will tell you who the real fanatics are: they are they who adopt false principles and ideas as facts, and try to establish a superstructure upon, a false foundation. They are the fanatics; and however ardent and zealous they may be, they may reason or argue on false premises till doomsday, and the result will be false. If our religion is of this character we want to know it; we would like to find a philosopher who can prove it to us. We are called ignorant; so we are: but what of it? Are not all ignorant? I rather think so. Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed “the man in the moon,” and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and 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. 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. Every planet in its first rude, organic state receives not the glory of God upon it, but is opaque; but when celestialized, every planet that God brings into existence is a body of light, but not till then. Christ is the light of this planet.” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 13, p.271.)

The whole quote is important, because Young goes on and on about false premises, and then enlightens his audience with tales of the moon & sun being inhabited!

Notice that Hyrum says in his sermon,

And then if there are many worlds then there must be many gods, for every star that we see is a world and is inhabited the same as this world is peopled. The sun and the moon is inhabited and the stars (Jesus Christ is the light of the sun), the same as this earth but anyone of them are larger than this earth.

Now that is an interesting thing to say, “Jesus Christ is the light of the sun”. Notice again, what Young says,

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. Every planet in its first rude, organic state receives not the glory of God upon it, but is opaque; but when celestialized, every planet that God brings into existence is a body of light, but not till then. Christ is the light of this planet.”

Exactly what Hyrum Smith said, “Christ is the light of this planet”, (the sun).

In the light of this, Huntington’s statement in the Young Woman’s Journal makes much more sense.

Mormons will say, well, these are only opinions. I say, read the quotes closely and in context. These  are not just opinions, the examples by Hyrum and Brigham are used to teach principles of the gospel of Mormonism, and they exhorted their audience to believe them. Where do you think they got the info from? As Dibble & Huntington relate, from Smith himself. There is plenty of evidence here to show that it came from that source. Brigham’s sermon closely resembles Hyrum’s, and even makes the analogy of Christ as “light”.

Here is an excerpt from the Patriarchal Blessing of Lorenzo Snow, from the blessing book of Joseph Smith, Sr. on the 15th December 1836:

“thou shalt have power to translate thyself from one plannet [planet] to annother [another] — power to go to the moon if thou shalt desire it.” (Marquardt, H. Michael, “Excerpts from a few Patriarchal Blessings given by Joseph Smith, Sr.” Online here. )

On the 26th of  March 1836, Joseph Smith Sr. gave this blessing to Stephen Post:

“. . . for thou shalt not finished thy ministry upon this ball [this earth], thou shalt preach to people of other planets, and thou shalt preach to spirits in prison . . .” (ibid)

This is the same man who blessed his own son, and said:

Wilford Woodruff

Thou shalt stand upon the earth when it shall reel to and fro as a drunken man, and be removed out of its place: thou shalt stand when the mighty judgments go forth to the destruction of the wicked: thou shalt stand on Mount Zion when the tribes of Jacob come shouting from the north, and with thy brethren, the sons of Ephraim, crown them in the name of Jesus Christ: Thou shalt see thy Redeemer come in the clouds of heaven, and with the just receive the hallowed throng with shouts of hallalujahs, praise the Lord. Amen. Thus spake my father Joseph. Therefore, my son, I know for a surety that those things will be fulfilled, and I confirm upon thee all these blessings.” (Joseph Smith, Sr., Patriarchal Blessing Book no. 1, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Wilford Woodruff received the same promise in a blessing he received when he was ordained a Seventy on January 3, 1837:

“President Z. Coltrin ordained me a member of the first Seventy and pronounced great blessings upon my head by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation…

Zebedee Coltrin

“And that God would give me a multiplicity of blessings that I should preach to the nations of the earth and to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea and that I should then return to stand upon Mount Zion in the flesh even in Jackson County, Missouri, at the coming of Christ and that I should be caught up to meet him in the clouds of heaven for he said this was the word of God unto me and also that I should visit Colub and preach to the Spirits in prison and that I should bring all of my friends or relatives forth from the Terrestrial Kingdom (who had died) by the power of the Gospel. These and many other blessings were pronounced upon my head, and further said that I should be annointed and my life sealed unto me and that there would be still greater blessings pronounced upon my head. I felt much of the Power of God rest upon me in this ordinance & Bear witness of the truth of the above PROCLAMTION. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.119, caps in original.)

Smith Sr. also promised this, in Woodruff’s own patriarchal blessing, given on April 15, 1837:

“Thou shalt stand in the flesh & witness the winding up scene of this generation. Thou shalt remain on the earth to behold thy Savior Come in the Clouds of heaven. Thou shalt be numbered with the one hundred forty and four thousand and shall stand upon Mount Zion and shall sing a song that no man can learn or sing except thy company.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.143)

Of course none of the above ever happened, but there is still Woodruff’s witness to ‘the truth of the above proclamation.” I wonder what the Mormon reaction would be if they actually found men on the moon? Perhaps we would be honoring Joseph’s prophetic prowess with a commemorative patch:

Courtesy of  Sultan-of -swat

Courtesy of Sultan-of -swat

II. Prophetic Mantle or Prophetic Fraud?

What is interesting is the description of what was going on in Nauvoo at the time when Hyrum made his statement about Moonmen, and a first-hand glimpse is available in the letters of Charlotte Haven, who was visiting some relatives at the time:

“A few Sabbaths ago Joseph announced to his people that the gift of prophecy was taken away from him until the Temple and Nauvoo House should be finished, but that his mantle had fallen on his brother Hyrum, to whom it belonged by birthright, and he charged his people to obey implicitly all the commands revealed to Hyrum. We hear that he has already had some wonderful revelations not yet made public; but that a few of the elders put their heads together and whisper what they dare not speak aloud. What it is we can only surmise by faint rumors.” (Nauvoo, Letter dated, Sept 8th 1843, “A GIRL’S LETTERS FROM NAUVOO, Overland Monthly, 1890).

If Moonmen is an example of some of his ‘wonderful revelations’ than I shudder to think what else he was ‘revealing’ in private. I relate the next paragraph of the letter, though not related to the topic, because it gives an interesting view into the perspective of this young woman, and how she viewed Smith:

“A month ago or more one of the Apostles, Adams by name, returned from a two years’ mission in England, bringing with him a wife and child, although he had left a wife and family here when he went away, and I am told that his first wife is reconciled to this certainly at first unwelcome guest to her home, for her husband and some others have reasoned with her that plurality of wives is taught in the Bible, that Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, David, and indeed all the old prophets and good men, had several wives, and if right for them, it is right for the Latter Day Saints. Furthermore, the first wife will always be first in her husband’s affection and the head of the household, where she will have a larger influence. Poor, weak woman!

I cannot believe that Joseph will ever sanction such a doctrine, and should the Mormons in any way engraft such an article on their religion, the sect would surely fall to pieces, for what community or State could harbor such outrageous immorality? I cannot think so meanly of my sex as that they could submit to any such degradation.” (ibid)

This is how well Smith hid all his doings about polygamy from the public at large, and shows that Miss Haven was a pretty objective witness to events of the time. That Joseph Smith was in Nauvoo at the time and there for the sermon his brother Hyrum gave is attested to by his secretary, for when Clayton took a plural wife on 27 April 1843, it was his first wife’s younger sister Margaret, and Joseph Smith supported Clayton in this marriage, saying, “you have a right to get all you can.’ (Clayton Journals, 11 August, 1843. George D. Smith writes, “In his 1874, statement, Clayton summarized this day: “On the 27th of April, 1843, the Prophet Joseph married to me Margaret Moon, for time and eternity, at the residence of Elder Heber C. Kimball” (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, p. 99, note 12). The entry reads in part:

“He also told me Emma was considerably displeased with it but says he she will soon get over it. In the agony of mind which I have endured on this subject I said I was sorry I had done it, at which Joseph told me not to say so. I finally asked him if I had done wrong in what I had done. He answered no you have a right to get all you can.” (ibid, p.115)

Joseph Smith, JR.

Joseph Smith, JR.

It is obvious who this teaching originated from, as Dibble & Huntington relate: Joseph Smith himself. There is plenty of evidence here to show that it came from that source (Joseph was there when Hyrum preached about Moonmen), and even the Church’s Ordained Presiding Patriarch was giving blessings about traveling to other planets, so Huntington’s blessing is not just an aberration. What apologists might fail to consider, is that since Oliver Huntington had been blessed to preach on the moon, it would have been of particular interest to him, and he would have remembered that Smith taught it.  I was 10 when I saw the moon landing in 1969. I remember it like it was yesterday. I think if someone had told me then that there were men living on the moon, and the man was revered by me as a ‘great prophet’, I don’t think I would have forgotten it, especially if I was promised that I would preach to them someday.

Aside from this, apologists love to say that belief in Moonmen was common in the 18th century, as if this explains everything.  Belief in little grey men is common in our day, but one does not see Thomas Monson making statements, or even personal opinions about them during General Conference.

III. Like Grandfather, like Grandson

If the Smith brothers and Brigham Young were true prophets as Mormons claim, then they would not have been preaching this nonsense over the pulpit. That is why over a hundred years later, we have another Mormon ‘prophet’ Joseph Fielding Smith (ironically the grandson of the ‘prophet’ Hyrum himself) on May 14, 1961 making this statement to a Stake Conference in Honolulu Hawaii:

Joseph Fielding Smith Jr.

‘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.’ Smith, the Twelve’s president and next in succession as LDS President, adds: ‘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.’

In May 1962, he privately instructs that this view be taught to ‘the boys and girls in the Seminary System.’ On 20 July 1969 U.S. Astronauts are first men to walk on moon. Six months later Joseph Fielding Smith becomes church president.”

After Apollo 15’s journey to the moon, the astronaut team brought JFS a Utah State Flag that they had taken with them to the moon. They gave him the flag in 1971 as a token of his ‘failed prophecy.’ (See, The Mormon Hierarchy : Extensions of Power, D. Michael Quinn, Page 862, in appendix 5).

When asked about his statement discounting that man would ever reach the moon, former church President Joseph Fielding Smith said, simply, “Well, I was wrong.”

IV. Conclusion

The story of the Moonmen is just one example of how Joseph Smith gave his followers information that appeared to be revelatory, but could not be proven at the time, which many bought into and took to heart as true.  This information comes from Oliver B. Huntington, and Philo Dibble, was published in the Young Women’s Journal, an official publication of the Church, and was also given in a sermon over the pulpit by both Brigham Young & Hyrum Smith, and was confirmed in many patriarchal blessings given during this period.

Men in the Moon .. Elvis and Andy.

What should trouble anyone, is that Brigham Young & Hyrum Smith made their statements from the pulpit and according to Brigham Young:

I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom…I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

Joseph Fielding Smith aptly taught:

“We should have some sympathy for people taught in the vagaries and foolish traditions of the world, when we discover how tenaciously members of the Church cling to foolish notions in spite of all that is written.” (Doctrines of Salvation Volume III (295. 10) page 630)

Not that many Mormons are still clinging to this foolish notion. But then, they have the benefit of  hindsight, and that is as they say 20/20.