The Mysterious Moon

The Mysterious Moon

Richard Hollerman

The Moon!  Down through the ages, people have viewed the moon high in the night sky and have been made to wonder about this mysterious heavenly body. What about you? What comes to your mind when you see or think of the moon?

Common Connections

Probably all people, beginning in childhood, have looked at the moon and imagined that they could see a face imprinted on the surface. This has led them to speak of “the man in the moon.” Why does a face seem to appear on the face of the moon? It has something to do with the hills and plains on the surface of the moon, as our discussion a little later will show.

As some people think of the moon, they immediately think romantic thoughts!  Supposedly, a “romantic” setting would be for the full moon to be placed in the sky, perhaps along with drifting clouds, and with trees in the foreground.  Songs have been written extolling this romantic connection. Have you experienced this yourself?

Children may think of the moon as a light in itself, similar to the sun. But actually, the moon reflects the sun’s rays; it has no light of its own.

A Word from History

According to the World Book Encyclopedia, centuries ago people held a variety of views about the moon. Some thought that it was a “rotating bowl of fire.” Others thought that it is a great mirror that reflected the surface of the earth. Philosophers from Greece had a more accurate idea. They thought that the moon revolved around the earth and that the light is actually reflected from the sun.

Plutarch (AD 100) thought that the moon was the home of people. The Greeks also thought that the lighter regions represented land masses and the darker areas represented bodies of water.  Ptolemy, an astronomer from Alexandria (AD 150), thought that the moon and sun revolved around the earth.  Years later, in the sixteenth century, Copernicus (from Poland) had a more accurate view—that the earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the earth. In 1609, Galileo from Italy used a telescope and concluded that the light portions on the moon’s surface are hilly and cratered terrain whereas the dark areas are plains. Originally, people thought that these areas were seas. (World Book Encyclopedia and the New Book of Knowledge).

Much more has been learned about the moon during the past 400 years. This is true since we have sent spacecraft to this neighboring heavenly body. In 1959, the Soviet sent Luna 2 to the moon. Then Luna 3 from Russia sent photos of the far side of the moon back to the earth.  In 1964-1965, the first television pictures of the moon was sent back to the United States by U.S. Ranger. In 1966, the Soviet Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to have a soft landing on the moon’s surface. By 1966-1968, U.S. Surveyor landed on the moon and sent photos of the moon’s surface. The Soviets again were in the picture when their Aond spacecraft went to the moon and returned to the earth.

During this time, we can see that there is an intense competition between the world’s two superpowers. In 1969 the American Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts landed on the moon and did experiments. A year later, in 1970, Luna 16 of the Soviet Union landed on the moon and returned. The moon continues to hold secrets but one by one, they are being discovered.

Evolutionary Explanations

An avowed purpose of NASA is to discover something about the origin of the moon and how this relates to the origin of the earth. Sadly, all of this is based on false evolutionary presuppositions. There is no doubt in the minds of these unbelieving scientists that evolution did take place; they are simply trying to discover how it took place.  This constitutes one large deceptive enterprise that negates the truth of God’s creation.

The evolutionary explanation is quite fantastic!  We take this from the World Book Encyclopedia. These evolutionary astronomers believe that the earth and a huge heavenly object collided some 4.6 billion years ago!  This is called the “Giant Impact” or the “Big Whack.”  Because of this huge explosion, vaporized rock was thrown out into space and began to circle the earth. In time, these small particles cooled and formed the moon! Indeed, this scenario is fantastic but surely it is the figment of unbelieving minds who are vainly seeking answers without the help of God’s divine revelation in Scripture.

According to some of these evolutionary scientists, as the moon was formed, it was extremely hot and melted, bringing into being a sea of magma. The crust of the moon was then hit by asteroids which stripped off the entire crust. These asteroids were so powerful that the moon nearly split into smaller pieces. We can see the craters on the moon to this day. About three or four billion years ago, lava erupted on the moon and this may have continued to only one billion years ago. Since the moon has no atmosphere, the asteroids don’t burn up as they do on the earth.

This evolutionary explanation, of course, is entirely false but it does show the ingenuity and lengths to which atheists will go to try to understand how blind evolution might account for all that is known on the moon today. If it were not actually proposed, we might imagine that this comes from the overactive imagination of an adolescent who has been exposed to too many science fiction movies. As Scripture says, “professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

The Mormon View!

An interesting addition to our discussion would be the Mormon view of the moon. Most knowledgeable people know that this American originated cult was begun by Joseph Smith, a renowned false teacher from New York state in the early 1800s.  It might surprise you to know that Joseph thought that there were people living on the moon! His follower and successor, Bringham Young, was convinced that people lived on the Sun!

Here is an article that describes this fanciful bit of history:

Early Mormon Leaders on the Inhabitants of the Sun and Moon

By Bill McKeever and Aaron Shafovaloff

Philo Dibble’s Account of Joseph Smith

According to a Mormon-friendly and official Church-published source, Joseph Smith taught that the moon was inhabited by people that dressed like Quakers. With Philo Dibble, a close associate with Joseph Smith, as his source, Oliver B. Huntington wrote with significant detail:

“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”1

Huntington was quoted in the Young Woman’s Journal, which “was adopted as the official magazine for the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association in 1897.”2

“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 a 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 should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should 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.”3

Huntington’s account fits with the larger context of Latter-day Saint teachings and beliefs. Author Dan Vogel notes the following:

“The statement in Abraham 3:5 that the moon is greater than the earth would hardly make sense if the moon were a desolate globe. Of course the pronouncements of Oliver Cowdery and Hyrum Smith that every star and planet was inhabited implied an inhabited moon. Like their contemporaries, Mormons were fascinated with possible inhabitants on the planet closest to earth. Encouraged by the recent spectroscopic discoveries which indicated that the moon had an atmosphere, Oliver B. Huntington related in 1892 an occasion on which Joseph Smith was purported to have expressed his belief that “the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth.”

According to Huntington, Smith described the moon’s inhabitants, saying that “they lived to a greater age than we do—that they live generally to near the age of 1000 years,” that the men averaged “near six feet in height, and dres[sed] quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style… The literature of the day also described supernatural ways of going to the moon and other planets.

Later in the nineteenth century, when science began replacing supposition regarding an inhabited moon, Mormons refused to give up their belief, which they believed was rooted in revelation. An article entitled “Are the Worlds Inhabited?” appeared in the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star in 1882 to defend the Mormon position against the advances made by science: “To the question, is the moon inhabited? astronomers have returned a definite negative answer. It has been claimed that the moon is a dead world, without atmosphere, without vegetation, without moisture, and consequently without inhabitants.… On this subject the Latter-day Saints have the advantage of a little definite information.… ‘That by him and through him and of him the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God [LDS D&C 76:24; RLDS D&C 76:3h].’… The worlds are inhabited—millions of them. They form the abode of the offspring of Deity. Birthplaces, probation planets; prisonhouses; spirit spheres; paradises; gehennas; homes for the resurrected; glorified suns for perfected and celestialized intelligences; all moving in their respective orbits, governed by fixed laws adapted to their condition and that of their inhabitants.” First-generation Mormons resisted any changes in their cosmological concepts. To them these were not just ideas or theories; they explained reality as they knew it.”4

According to Dan Hale, Philo Dibble

“was a collector and had expended considerable effort to collect and produce an exhibit about the life and death of Joseph Smith, which he presented in several Mormon communities. It was at one of these presentations in January of 1881 that Huntington acquired Joseph Smith’s moonmen statement from Dibble.”5

All things considered, the argument that Smith actually taught such things about moon men is probably not strong enough to use. While evidence suggests that Dibble was probably recounting things from one of his own experiences with Joseph Smith, it is not conclusive. If non-Mormons are going to appeal to Huntington’s claim as found in the official Mormon publication, they should do so with caution, context, and qualification.

Of course, to outright reject Dibble’s and Huntington’s claim, one must join Mormon apologists in questioning their integrity as well as the judgment of the Mormon editors of the Young Woman’s Journal for including Huntington’s account in this Church-published magazine. While some think of the issue as a controversy between Mormons and “anti-Mormons”, it is probably more of a disagreement between modern Mormon apologists and the testimony of Dibble, a revered early Mormon who was a close associate of Joseph Smith.

A Common Belief Nonetheless

Despite any questions that remain over Huntington’s and Dibble’s direct link of the teaching to Joseph Smith, the idea of moon men was commonly held among Mormon leaders, many of whom had intimate acquaintance with Smith. It even showed up in patriarchal blessings, which are supposed to include “an inspired and prophetic statement of the life possibilities and mission of the recipient”6. Van Vogel writes:

“[Oliver B.] Huntington received a blessing from his father, William, on 7 December 1836. As recorded in the Patriarchal Blessing Book, the text reads: ‘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, if thou art faithful all these blessings will be given thee …’ Other early Mormon blessings expressed similar sentiments.

On 15 December 1836 Lorenzo Snow received a blessing under the hand of Joseph Smith, Sr.: ‘Thou shalt have great faith, even like the brother of Jared. Thou shalt have power to translate thyself from one planet to another, power to go to the moon if thou desire it, power to preach to the spirits in prison. Power like Enoch to translate thyself to heaven …’ On 21 February 1836 Joseph Smith, Sr., blessed Jonathan Crosby, saying: ‘Thou shalt … Be caught up to the third heavens, and behold unspeakable things, whether in the body or out.… And when thy [p.210] mission is full here, thou shalt visit other worlds.’ Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal on 3 January 1837 that Zebedee Coltrin ‘Pronounced great blessings upon my head by the Spirit of Prophecy & Revelation.’

Among other things the blessing said that he ‘should visit COLUB & Preach to the spirits in Prision & that I should bring all of my friends or relatives forth from the Terrestrial Kingdom.’ These blessings are congruent with Joseph Smith’s conviction that translated beings were ordained by God ‘to be ministering angels unto many planets.'”7

Brigham Young taught that the Sun was also inhabited.
(Image credit: Jesus Christ / Joseph Smith DVD)

Brigham Young

Brigham Young expanded on the teaching that the Sun was inhabited.

“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 most ignorant of their fathers. 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. 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”.8

Going the Extra Mile to Mitigate Criticism of Joseph Smith

In One-Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions, Mormon author Stephen W. Gibson writes:

“At the present time, man has no scientific or revealed knowledge of whether or not there are inhabitants on the earth’s moon. The fact that a handful of astronauts didn’t see any inhabitants in the tiny area they viewed when they landed on the moon decades ago certainly gives no definitive information, any more than visitors to earth who might land in barren Death Valley would have any idea of the billions of inhabitants elsewhere.”9


1.     The History of Oliver B. Huntington, p. 10, typed copy, Marriott Library, University of Utah

2.     Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), p. 535

3.     Young Woman’s Journal 3:263-264.

4.     Dan Vogel. The Word of God, p. 209-210

5.     Sunstone 5 (September/October 1982): 13–17. According to other sources on the internet Dibble was apparently born on June 6, 1806 in Peru, MA. He went on to become a revered Church-veteran. His autobiography is available online here.

6.     Information and Suggestions for Patriarchs [1970], 3–4. Quoted by Richard D. Allred in “The Lord Blesses His Children through Patriarchal Blessings,” Ensign, Nov 1997, 27

7.     Dan Vogel. The Word of God, p. 209-210

8.     Brigham Young, July 24, 1870, Journal of Discourses 13:271.

9.     One-Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions, by Stephen W. Gibson. Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995. p. 80.

God Created the Moon in the Beginning

On a more serious note, God has revealed to us in Scripture (written by Moses) the origin of the moon. We know that “the heavens and the earth” were created in the beginning (Genesis 1:1). However, on the fourth day of creation week, God made the heavenly bodies, including the moon. This is the account:

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. (Genesis 1:14-16)

This account of the moon is absolutely reliable and can be used to judge and correct the evolutionary explanations found with many scientists. In this short account, we discover that the moon is called “the lesser light” that accompanied the “greater light” of the sun.  This lesser light was placed in the heavens with one purpose being to separate the day and the night.  The moon also had part in measuring time—for signs and seasons and days and years. (See also Psalm 104:19 and 136:9.)

I do my morning walking between 5 and 6 AM and I’m often stunned by the beauty and brightness of the moon in a darkened sky—especially when there is a full moon. Its light far exceeds the surrounding stars. We can see that it “governs” the night with its brightness.  David was struck with the majesty of the moon in Psalm 8:3-4:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of him,

And the son of man that You care for him?

God is the one who has created the sun and the moon. It didn’t come from billions of years of evolutionary processes.

Idolatrous Worship of the Moon

Fallen humanity hasn’t always worshipped God, the Creator of the moon, but they have often been guilty of worshipping the moon itself! In Palestine and Syria, there was a moon-god by the name of Yarih (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible). Perhaps Jericho was named after this false moon-god.

In Isaiah 47:13, we have reference to the Babylonian astrologers who “prophesy by the stars” and who “predict by the new moons.” Even Judah fell to idolatry and left the true and living God.  Jeremiah 8:1-2 speaks of placing bones out “to the sun, and moon and to all the host of heaven.” At this place we also read that the apostate people “loved” these heavenly bodies.  They “served” them, “gone after” them, “sought” them, and “worshiped” them. Instead of the moon and the other bodies testifying to the Creator, these sinful Judeans were worshiping them!

Moses warned Israel about 1400 BC to turn away from worshiping the moon. He said, “Beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19). The sun, moon, and stars were actually “allotted” to the Gentiles. God used these heavenly bodies to testify to His existence and greatness. Instead, Israel was going to worship the created things instead of the Creator!

In Deuteronomy 17:2-3 we read that Israel would serve “other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host,” which God had “not commanded,” this constitutes transgressing the covenant of God. Much later, we read of the idolatrous priests of Judah who burned incense to Baal, and also “to the sun and to the moon and to the constellations and to all the host of heaven” (2 Kings 23:5). Worship of the created heavenly bodies called for a severe penalty.

We read of how Job denied having anything to do with the worship of the moon. Notice his testimony:

If I have looked at the sun when it shone

Or the moon going in spendor,

And my heart became secretly enticed,

And my hand threw a kiss from my mouth,

That too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment,

For I would have denied God above.

(Job 31:26-28)

The Book of Job may be the oldest document of the Bible, perhaps written at the time of Abraham (ca 2000 BC). Even at this time, long before there were any of our Scriptures, people of God knew that worship of the moon, sun, and stars was idolatry that called for His judgment.

One children’s book on my shelf tells of the idolatry associated with the moon (World Book’s Childcraft: The Universe). It points out that the Romans called the moon god “Luna.” The crescent moon was Diana’s bow and “moonbeams were her arrows” (Ibid.). Certain American Indians thought that the moon and the sun were brother and sisters, both gods.

What is the Moon to You?

Do you look on the moon as a beautiful and wondrous creation of God? Along with the psalmist, are you able to say:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Do to day pours forth speech,

And night to night reveals knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1-2)

Instead of thinking of the moon as the product of evolutionary forces or as a god or goddess, let’s see this heavenly body as the creation of our great Creator, the Lord God Almighty. Let it awaken in us a sense of awe as we see the beauty that God has made. The moon is not mean to be worshiped; neither is the moon to be promoted as the product of evolution. Instead, let us glorify the God of creation who made the sun, moon, and starts for His own glory and honor!





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