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Aug 08 2012

A wee scrap of Mormon madness

These are the words of Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith of the Church of Latter Day Saints, uttered at a conference in 1961.

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.

He also wrote this in a book called Answers to Gospel Questions.

When man was placed on this earth it became his probationary, or mortal home. Here he is destined to stay until his earth-life is completed….There is no prophecy or edict ever given that mortals should ever should seek dominions beyond this earth while they dwell in mortality. Here we are, and here we should be content to stay. All this talk about space travel and the visiting of other worlds brings to mind vividly an attempt long ago made by foolish men who tried to build to heaven.

This belief that Mormons have that they were given Earth, and that the faithful can someday get their own planet, has consequences and implications.

Now you might be thinking, that was 1961…boy, did NASA show that Fielding was wrong 8 years later. But I was sent this link to a poll from 2009, where the LDS Freedom Forum is considering the problem.

What do you think about Joseph Fielding Smith’s moon prophecy?

He spoke out about something quasi-political. As a Church official, he should have known to leave well enough alone. 3%

It was his personal opinion and he was wrong about it. Big deal. 28%

I think this is proof he was a “false prophet.” 1%

He’s human…sometimes even Prophets or Apostles get stuff wrong. 17%

Joseph Fielding Smith was right about the moon, and still is to this day. 50%

Yep, 50% thought Fielding was right, humans couldn’t travel to the moon, and much of the following discussion is about how the moon landing was faked.

(It’s an old poll, and I think it’s closed, so don’t bother trying to change it. I just thought it was amusing.)

50 comments

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  1. 1
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    BUT BUT BUT WE CAN’T VOTE AGAINST MORMONS FOR BEING MORMONS THAT’S BIGOTRY BECAUSE RICH WHITE MORMONS PUSHING A RIGHT-WING AGENDA ARE JUST LIKE THE POOR OPPRESSED JEWISH AND CATHOLIC IMMIGRANTS OF THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY!!!

  2. 2
    Steven Brown: Man of Mediocrity

    I for one think that the US government should take these allegations more seriously. With so much doubt around the moon landings it’s clear they should re-assign 50% of military spending to NASA with the goal of getting people back to the moon and then on to Mars.

    This level of funding should stay in place until the last moon landing doubter admits that they were wrong.

  3. 3
    'Tis Himself

    People who believe that not one but two groups of Middle Eastern Jews came to the Americas despite no archeological, anthropological, linguistic or genetic evidence to support these beliefs will believe anything some church bigwig pulls out of his ass.

  4. 4
    holytape

    So moon landing, despite tons and tons of the evidence = fake. Lost tribe of Israel in the Americas, despite not having a single shred of evidence in support and tons of evidence refuting the claim = true.

    I think the magic underwear is a bit too tight.

  5. 5
    qbsmd

    Has anyone ever done a demographic analysis of moon landing deniers? I wonder how many of them are motivated by Mormonism, at least of the ones living in the U.S.

  6. 6
    feralboy12

    The moon is a superior planet to the earth

    You’d think one of those Mormon demi-gods would be living there with his harem by now, were that the case. Great view and all.

    It’s an old poll, and I think it’s closed, so don’t bother trying to change it.

    Since my preferred answer, “you’re all a bunch of fucking idiots” isn’t one of the choices, I wasn’t going to bother anyway.
    Yeah, that’s just a wee scrap of the madness. The full tome is called The Book Of Mormon, translated from the Golden Plates, which we know was one of the great archaeological finds of the 19th century. Their methodology is impeccable. No way that could have been faked.

  7. 7
    Glen Davidson

    Another day, another bit of babbling Mormon nonsense.

    We’re used to it.

    Glen Davidson

  8. 8
    marinerachel

    Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!

  9. 9
    dailydouq

    You’re kidding, right? (I’ve already been fooled by a spambot once today). My calendar doesn’t show 1April.

    50% of these fools still think we didn’t go to the moon! What do they think landed on Mars a few days ago? Where do these people live? In some gorge with zero electromagnetic reception (oops, guess they had to have Net access to answer the poll). I knew a bunch of them were bat-shit crazy, but not that crazy. And I’ve actually been to Independence Missouri, almost on (since it’s fenced) the spot where jeebus will return.

    My eyes were opened by John Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven”, but once on a very cold day in camping in Bryce Canyon we bailed out to a restaurant (for warmth and food) and got a fireside chat as well. Went just fine while it was about sightseeing in the Grand Canyon. The fossils that were dragons should have clued me it was about to head into the Twilight Zone but I was naive in those days. When the petroglyphs were then interpreted as from the lost tribes of Israel (what tribes? I didn’t know any got lost.) My wife wanted to bug out. I love a good campfire ghost story so I stayed for the whole fantasy but it wasn’t until Krakauer’s book that I learned all this shit was what Moroni told Smith and is in the Book of Mormon, not some crazy story, their actual doctrine!

    These folks are very dangerous and it stretches my allegiance to the Constitution to accept any of their true believers can hold secular office.

  10. 10
    ogremeister

    stevenbrown @ 2:

    This level of funding should stay in place until the last moon landing doubter admits that they were wrong.

    Unfortunately, no level of funding additional expeditions would be proof enough for them, as all the subsequent evidence would also have been faked.

    On the other hand, NASA would get tons more money, forever and ever, amen. So there is that.

  11. 11
    Chuck

    As a former Mormon, I can say the craziness is a difference in degree, not in kind. A lot of people think Mormonism is waaaaaay crazier than Christianity, but that’s probably only due to familiarity with Christianity.

    That having been said, how about these quotes from Apostle Mark E. Peterson from a 1954 talk to church educators?

    Now let’s talk SEGREGATION again for a few moments. Was segregation a wrong principle? When the Lord chose the nations to which the spirits were to come, determining that some would be Japanese and some would be Chinese and some Negroes and some Americans, He engaged in an act of SEGREGATION…. When he told Enoch not to preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were BLACK, the Lord engaged in SEGREGATION. When He CURSED the descendants of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in SEGREGATION…. “Who placed the Negroes originally in darkest Africa? Was it some man, or was it God? And when He placed them there, He SEGREGATED them….The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negroes we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that He placed a dark skin upon them as a curse—as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. (2 Nephi 5:21) And He certainly SEGREGATED the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron curtain there….”

    “Now we are generous with the negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. BUT LET THEM ENJOY THESE THINGS AMONG THEMSELVES, I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of the thing— WHAT GOD HATH SEPARATED, LET NOT MAN BRING TOGETHER AGAIN.”

    His talk on how to “beat” the evils of masturbation is hilarious.

  12. 12
    Steven Brown: Man of Mediocrity

    @Ogremeister:
    I’m glad you saw what I did there.

  13. 13
    raven

    When the Lord chose the nations to which the spirits were to come, determining that some would be Japanese and some would be Chinese and some Negroes and some Americans, He engaged in an act of SEGREGATION….

    The old bigot must have forgot that white Europeans including himself were segregated by his lord in Europe.

    I’m sure the Native Americans considered them weeds. The few that were left anyway.

  14. 14
    Pierce R. Butler

    Maybe I missed something in skimming the comments, but so far it seems all commenters and our esteemed host take the poll results at face value.

    Who are you guys, and what did you do with the real Pharynguhorde and (ex-)Pope?

  15. 15
    Chuck

    Brigham Young was even worse: “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” Journal of Discourses 10:110

    Brigham Young had a little moon prophecy of his own, but he went one step further: “Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?…when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in 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.” Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 271

    So much for a direct line to God. Please, someone tell me more about “the wisdom of religion” and how much it has to offer to humanity and the sciences.

  16. 16
    ogremeister

    @stevenbrown:

    We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious funding. They stole it from us. Sneaky little astronautses. Wicked, tricksy, false!

  17. 17
    Charlie Foxtrot

    I wonder if Phil Plait has any data on this?
    (Nah, he probably hasn’t polled all the moon-landing deniers he’s had to deal with over their religious affiliations. )

  18. 18
    mythbri

    @Chuck

    I’m a former Mormon, too. I made the decision to leave the church just based on the “teachings” they consider to be mainstream – I got nowhere near that level of crazy shit until after I’d stopped going to church and let my family know that I didn’t believe in it anymore.

    The current believers will always come up with ways to excuse this stuff, whether it’s “incomplete revelation” or “Satan spreading falsehoods.”

  19. 19
    sadunlap

    To paraphrase a nasty snarky woman whose name I forgot:

    If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we put all of the hoax deniers there too?

    It sure would be worth the money.

  20. 20
    Trebuchet

    What’s really sad here is that this about the LEAST harmful of all the various Mormon stupidities. And it’s just NOT FAIR to ask the Mittwit about any of this.

  21. 21
    Jafafa Hots

    I think the reason Mormonism and Scientology are relatively toxic in some ways compared to other religions is because they are new.

    It;s one thing to be a Catholic because everyone in your family has been since before you can trace your genealogy, but it’s another thing entirely to adhere to a crazy set of ideas your great-grandpa helped come up with as an excuse to have 14 wives.

    Or that your dad joined in the 1970s because the EST seminar he wanted to go to was sold out.

    Old BS doctrine with hundreds or thousands of years of relics and tradition spread across continents and cultures may be harder for some unthinking people to dispute.
    Buying into a crazy idea your uncle Dave came up with takes a greater amount of “let’s let go of sanity for a bit and see where the ride takes us.”

  22. 22
    YankeeCynic

    Perhaps there’s a lost tribe of Israel up there. Though, you know, asphyxiated. Turns out bronze-age tribes didn’t really make great space suits.

  23. 23
    Yog Sothoth

    So it is in 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.” Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 271

    Well I think it’s fair to say we won’t be travelling to the Sun any time soon
    :-D David Brin’s novel “Sun Diver” has a nice story about the inhabitants of the sun, but as far as I know no one has made it into a religion yet.

  24. 24
    skeptifem

    I wonder if Phil Plait has any data on this?
    (Nah, he probably hasn’t polled all the moon-landing deniers he’s had to deal with over their religious affiliations. )

    woo of all varieties is popular with mormons. All the folk magic bs from the book of mormon seems to feed into it. people still buy seer stones. If I recall correctly the original little green men account of UFO sightings were from a mormon man. I have heard more than one mormon tell me that bigfoot exists but is actually cain from the bible. herbal and homeopathic supplements are extremely popular. so are polical conspiracies (as long as they are freakishly right wing in nature). creationism is catching on here. and so forth…

  25. 25
    mythbri

    @Trebuchet

    I personally prefer “Mittens” to “Mittwit”. It makes me think that a big fluffy cat is running for President, instead of the T-1000.

  26. 26
    Chuck

    mythbri says “I’m a former Mormon, too. I made the decision to leave the church just based on the “teachings” they consider to be mainstream – I got nowhere near that level of crazy shit until after I’d stopped going to church and let my family know that I didn’t believe in it anymore.”

    Yeah, they tend to sweep the crazy under the rug and discourage members from “seeking the mysteries.” I found the Mormon religion a lot more interesting after I’d freed myself from it.

  27. 27
    Menyambal

    I think that people riding a Saturn 5 rocket to the moon beats any religious story that I have ever heard. And that includes the stories from the religions with good stories.

    I got to touch a moon rock at the Air and Space museum in DC. My hand shook.

    I would rather live in a world where the moon landings are real, than believe in any religion I have ever heard of. How can people give up so much to gain so little?

  28. 28
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    And that includes the stories from the religions with good stories.

    good?

  29. 29
    Portia (aka Smokey the Advocate)

    When Hitchens died, and I posted to facebook in memoriam, a Mormon “friend” took the opportunity to vociferously attack Hitchens’ writings about Mormonism…and how he had it “all wrong” and was suuuuper unfair about their post-mortem baptisms. (Because, duh, it makes it all better that the deceased are given the option whether to accept salvation). Of all the things he could have chosen to criticize, it was a poor time to do it. Mormons have such a persecution complex, along with everything else.

  30. 30
    peterhearn

    I think it would be fascinating to go back in time and meet Joseph Smith (not this guy. the one born in 1805). Just to see how charismatic he was, or what quality he had that enabled him to convince a whole colony that his wacky prophecies were divine.

    Was it his compelling character? Or was everyone just that oblivious and uneducated? I’m going with the later.

  31. 31
    Lynna, OM

    PZ, I’m so pleased. In your Grievances post I requested that you write all my posts for me so that I didn’t have to bother.

    Thank you.

  32. 32
    raven

    I think it would be fascinating to go back in time and meet Joseph Smith…

    Well, you can’t but you can do the next best thing.

    Religions are made up all the time.

    The last two to catch on were Scientology made up by Elron Hubbard, recently dead, and the Moonies, made up by Rev. Sun Myung Moon who claims to be jesus christ the second.

    Hubbard is beyond anyone’s reach now but plenty of contemporaries exist who knew him and have written about him. You could meet Moon but you would probably have to convert or pay huge amounts of money. The god’s spokespeople always need money.

    AFAICT, there isn’t all that much special about them. Moon is described as a bit cold and reclusive, possibly a damaged human from his childhood in war zone Korea. Hubbard seems to have been a combination of conman and lunatic.

    Or you could just meet my distant cousin. He dropped out of med school to start an eastern themed cult. He’s also a severe but very smart schizophrenic. He had a following for many years but recently gave it all up. “I realized that my followers were crazier than I am”. Thankfully, he is a very, very distant cousin.

  33. 33
    raven

    Some other cult leaders include Ron Paul, David Koresh, and Warren Jeffs. Probably there are more that I can’t think of right now.

    David Koresh took over the Branch Davidians by killing the former leader.

    HW Armstrong started the Worldwide Horror Show of God. He demanded double tithing and forbid divorce and modern medicine. He ended up very rich, got divorced, and lived a long life due to modern medicine. He also predicted the Apocalypse twice and was wrong twice.

    A lot of these cult founders and leaders are not nice people.

  34. 34
    konradzielinski

    You missed one of the most important points.

    > We will never get a man into space.

    Joseph Fielding Smith said this on 14th May 1961.

    Yuri Gagarin got into space on 12 April 1961

    That’s not just being wrong in hindsight, that’s just being wrong period.

  35. 35
    Menyambal

    Rev, when I wrote about religions with good stories, I was thinking about Norse gods, mostly. Thor and his mighty hammer in a chariot drawn by goats always seemed a lot more exciting than some guy helping out at a picnic.

  36. 36
    lpetrich

    Beliefs like Brigham Young’s used to be common in early modern times. Many people believed that God had created inhabitants for every planet because he didn’t want to create a world and let it go to waste. Even Thomas Paine believed that (The Age of Reason).

    It was only in the second half of the 19th century that scientists started getting skeptical of such notions, sometimes VERY skeptical. A century ago, Alfred Russel Wallace wrote a book criticizing Percival Lowell’s theories of what Mars was like, and he was not far off from what Mars turned out to be when we sent spacecraft there.

    Sylvia Louise Engdahl has written a history of such beliefs: The Planet-Girded Suns: The History of Human Thought About Extrasolar Worlds.

  37. 37
    konradzielinski

    > Beliefs like Brigham Young’s used to be common in early modern times.

    That’s kind of the point. the Book of Morman is riddled with errors which where commonly held beliefs at the time. And some not so commonly held ones that are purly a result of Mr Smiths ignorance of the facts. Its just more evidence that whole things is fraudulent. As opposed to actually coming from a higher power, who should know weather or not the sun is inhabited.

  38. 38
    Adam

    Most of that was the usual religious clap-trap nonsense, but one part that stuck out in my mind was

    The moon is a superior planet to the earth…

    What the hell does that even mean?

  39. 39
    Nick Gotts

    Adam@38,

    Oh, that’s easy. The moon is higher up than the earth – after all, it’s always up in the sky when you see it, isn’t it?

  40. 40
    Nick Gotts

    Rev BDC,

    I agree with Menyambal that some of the Norse stories are good – and often make you wonder how seriously the religion was taken (admittedly, few if any of the stories would have been written down until after Christianity had displaced it). The Zen Buddhists have some good stories too. My favourite* is about a Zen master who had a single novice, who was rather stupid and had only one eye. One day, another master visited him. There’s a Zen tradition of silent debate. The visiting master encountered the novice, and held up one finger. The novice frowned, and held up two. The visiting master, after a moment’s thought, held up three. The novice immediately held up a clenched fist, whereupon the visitor bowed, and passed on. Encountering his host, he said:

    Smart novice you have there!

    What!?

    I held up a finger, to indicate the Buddha. He held up two, to indicate the Buddha and his teachings. I held up three, for the Buddha, his teachings, and his disciples. He held up a fist, to remind me that they were all one, and I conceded defeat.

    After the visitor had departed, the master asked his novice about the encounter.

    Well, this fellow comes along, and holds up one finger, drawing attention to the fact that I only have one eye. So, since he’s a guest, I hold up two, congratulating him on having both. Blow me if he doesn’t hold up three, rubbing it in that we’ve got three between us! That was too much for me, and I was just about to hit him, when he walked off.

    *I can’t guarantee its authenticity.

  41. 41
    Nick Gotts

    A lot of people here are very sure that the sun isn’t inhabited. Of course, nothing made of organic chemicals could live there; but is it absolutely certain no persistent complex structures subject to natural selection could arise from high-temperature magnetohydrodynamics?

  42. 42
    Emrysmyrddin

    [meta]

    Please allow me to have a brief fansquee moment towards Chuck at #11, #15, and #26; Chuck, please consider coming back to the podcasting world if you have the life-space and the merest inclination – your expertise, humour and enormous brain are sorely missed, and I know many others who would agree wholeheartedly!

    /end embarrassing fan moment

    *returns John Morales’ [meta] tag*

  43. 43
    Hortan

    @41:

    We must go there, for science!!

  44. 44
    blf

    Joseph Fielding Smith said [“We will never get a man into space”] on 14th May 1961.

    Yuri Gagarin got into space on 12 April 1961

    That’s not just being wrong in hindsight, that’s just being wrong period.

    Nah. Colonel Gagarin was a icky commie soviet atheist yadda yadda yadda not a real flesh-and-blood tithe-paying magic sky faerie obeying genuine yadda yadda yadda

  45. 45
    Chuck

    @ Emrysmyrddin: I’ll probably be back in some form or other for the three listeners who miss me. It’s just a matter of finding the time.

  46. 46
    Emrysmyrddin

    Hoorah (and way more than three, dude)! I look forward to it very much.

  47. 47
    nonpersonhobofico

    Yet ANOTHER exmormon here.

    While it’s obvious that Mormons are deluded, that particular message board represents the (admittedly broad) intersection between Mormondom and the Tea Party (and party sympathetic to those ideals). It’s basically ground zero for ultra-conservative, government-hating, science-denying, conspiracy-pushing, magic-believing Mormon lunacy. The real numbers for Mormons that deny the moon landing probably much lower. Not that it matters much. This just a highly distilled example of all that’s wrong with the Mormons.

  48. 48
    shadow

    @23:

    The writings about life on the sun reminds me of a friend who, while sleeping during Astronomy class, woke to answer the question “How did they determine there was Hydrogen on the sun?”

    His answer: “They landed at night.” He goes on to laughingly explain that at least half the class wrote that down, and the professor had to tell them why there: 1> is no night on the sun; and 2> why we have never landed there. My friend was asked to not ‘participate’ in that fashion again.

    @41:

    Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story “Out of the Sun” about an observatory on Mercury watching a CME and noticing it looked like a cell. Then describing the silent scream of the CME as it hit the cold surface (compared to the nice, warm, corona) of Mercury.

  49. 49
    Rolan le Gargéac

    dailydouq @8 8 August 2012 at 6:30 pm

    it stretches my allegiance to the Constitution to accept any of their true believers can hold secular office.

    it stretches my allegiance to the Constitution !

    Why ? How ? Allegiance ? To the C…? O.K. I vill admit ven I svore ein oath to Adolf Hitler rather than the constitutional drivel of the Weimar Republic, eh, I vas lying ….President, schemisedent…

    This is a rare case where your beliefs count. First they came for the Mario gamers, but I didn’t play Wossname, then they came for that squi…und so weiter.

    Now you’re dead and all your childrens are mine !

    P.S. I apologise for any incoherence but I are mightily pioussed. (I use pioussed instead of pissed because pissed means angry for the US., and I’m not angry I’m just pissed. And a bit annyoed true, but, it is the ingleesh in me.)
    Nyarthlathotep and ShubNiggurath Bless Thee, One and All !)

  50. 50
    McC2lhu doesn't want to know what you did there.

    Revisionist history, over long periods of time, is already a very shady and despicable practice, but to have fifty percent saying J.F. Smith was still right requires something I didn’t think existed: revisionist memory. Trying to mentally flail around to bypass the reality of overwhelmingly documented and televised history firmly stored in the mind just to even the leger with the most hysterically inept texts in the chronicles of all human philosophy has to be the definitive example of disingenuity, or grossest stupidity. The evidence for what a wasteland the typical Mormon mind becomes continues to mount, almost exponentially. Instead of Moore’s Law, it’s ‘Mormon’s Law’.

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