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Critics Corner


The following are letters between John A. Tvedtnes of FARMS and Reasons to Believe.  John A. Tvedtnes wrote two letters in response to the REASONS TO BELIEVE' article titled "KOLOB, the Mormon Masterplanet."  Reasons to Believe then wrote one reply and this is followed by a response from Mr. Tvedtnes.  No further responses have been forthcoming from Reasons to Believe.

Letter One (from Mr. Tvedtnes)

June 25, 1997

Reasons to Believe
P. O. Box 5978
Pasadena, CA 9117

Dear Reasons to Believe people,

A friend recently sent me a copy of your one-page piece "KOLOB, the Mormon Masterplanet."  You might want to improve the piece by correcting some of the errors it contains.

You suggest that Mormons believe that Kolob is a habitable planet when, in fact, LDS scriptures say no such thing.  This being true, even if "the Mormon Kolob is an impossibly inhospitable place for life," there is no point in all you write.  Indeed, Kolob is probably not a "planet" in our 20th-century sense at all.  One of the passages you quote (Abraham 3:16) says it is "the greatest of all the Kokaubeam."  Since this is the Hebrew word meaning "stars," it is obvious that it is not what we would call a "planet."  Besides, LDS scriptures never call it a "planet," so your piece is mistitled.  In Abraham 3:9 and in the explanation to Figure 2 of Facsimile 2, it is said to govern some planets, which is precisely what stars do--when they have planets, at least.  You also fail to note that the ancients used the term "planet" in a very loose sense to refer to a celestial body, and sometimes employed it for the sun, which is what we find in the explanation to Figure 5 of Facsimile 2.  How modern astronomers use the term is irrelevant when we are talking about an ancient document.

One thing that your paper does correctly note is regarding the difficulty of expecting life as we are accustomed to it being on Kolob.  If Kolob has life (and we do not know if it does), it would undoubtedly be different from the mortal existence with which we are acquainted.  But then, God knows things we don't and has power beyond our mortal imaginations, so I suspect he could provide life of another sort in conditions that would be extremely hostile to us.

Your statement that "life support conditions are calculated to be absurdly rare in our universe" is obviously based on the calculation of Hugh Ross, whom you cite (did he write the paper also?).  But a large number of mainline astronomers estimate that the number of planets capable of sustaining life is enormous.  So Ross is out-of-touch with mainstream science on this issue.  He is also in a clear minority in asserting that "science has proven that the universe requires a transcendent Creator." Most scientists believe that the universe came into being through the so-called "Big Bang," and leave God out of the picture entirely.  If Ross uses the term"proven," as you do in your paper, then he can't be much of a scientist, for scientists don't deal with "proof," only with "evidence."  Indeed, the scientific method is not designed to "prove" a theory, but to demonstrate by experimentation that it cannot be true.  If Ross isn't aware of this, then he's a real outsider in the scientific community and you shouldn't say that "science has proven" what you claim.

Since the light of the stars travels outward indefinitely until it encounters something that can absorb it, there is no problem with stars and planets "borrowing" light from others, as the Book of Abraham says.  The LDS scriptures nowhere suggest that any star "receives significant light from another," so your statement on this is non sequitur.

The one area in which I find value in your paper is your discussion of what "a life supporting planet must have."  It is truly wonderful that our planet is the right size, the right distance from our sun, has the right components in its landmasses, has sufficient water and a life-giving atmosphere, has an axis inclination that makes possible the seasons (and, consequently, augments the weather patterns), and is replete with both plant and animal life.  I often marvel at God's handiwork in preparing this planet for us.  I wish more people would realize what great evidence the earth itself is for the existence of a divine Creator.

Well, if you will make the corrections I have indicated, your paper should be acceptable.


John A. Tvedtnes

Letter Two (from Mr. Tvedtnes)

June 25, 1997

Reasons to Believe
P. O. Box 5978
Pasadena, CA 9117

Dear Reasons to Believe people,

After I had sent my earlier letter today, I reread your paper on "KOLOB, the Mormon Masterplanet," and found a few other mistakes you may want to correct.

You state that "a life supporting planet must have a rotational period close to 24 hours.  If it is as brief as it is for the greater planets (e.g. Jupiter and Saturn), thousand mile per hour winds result."  Actually, your statement about the speed of the winds is true only of the large planets where, because of their sheer size, the coreolis effect is greater because the speed at the equator of a large planet is so much greater than it would be for the earth were it to rotate in the same amount of time.  At present, the approximate rotational speed at earth's equator is 1,000 mph, compared to roughly 9,600 mph on a planet the size of Jupiter with a 10-hour rotation.  Even if earth had a 12-hour day, the speed of the equator would be 2,000 mph.  This would obviously increase wind velocity, but not nearly to the extent you suggest.

"Close" is a very relative term, especially when it comes to stars.  Our "closest stellar neighbor," as astronomers sometimes put it, is a few light years away.  You shouldn't read the word "near" in Abraham 3:2 in the earthly sense, but in the cosmic sense, which you have failed to do.  So your comment that "a life supporting planet cannot exist too close to 'many great stars'" is clearly based on your own personal reading of the Abraham text.

You should be careful in your conclusion that "the Mormon scenario of millions of populated planets is just pure fantasy."  No LDS scripture says there are "millions of populated planets."  This straw man technique is not worthy of people who profess to be presenting scientific evidence.

Two minor points that would help improve your paper.  The first is to be careful to use hyphens for compound adjectival phrases, which is standard English usage.  The second is to be more careful with your footnotes.  For example, footnotes 1 and 2 refer to two different books written by "Ross, Hugh."  But footnotes 3-5, though they refer to the same author, do not say from which of these two books they were drawn.


John A. Tvedtnes

Letter Three (from Reasons to Believe)

26 September 1997

John A. Tvedtnes
Senior Project Manager
Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies
P.O. Box 7113, University Station
Provo, UT 84602

Dear Mr. Tvedtnes:

Thank you for your two letters dated June 25, 1997, which respond to Dr. Hugh Ross' article "KOLOB, the Mormon Masterplanet."  Dr. Ross read your letters, but because of his busy schedule he asked me to draft a response.

Since you are unfamiliar with Dr. Ross and his work, let me begin by providing you with some background information on him and the organization he founded.  Recognizing Dr. Ross' unique qualifications as a scientist is relevant to some of the points you raise in your letters.

Dr. Ross is the author of four books The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Creation and Time, and Beyond the Cosmos.  All four books have, in different ways contributed toward an attempted integration of science and the Christian faith (see the enclosed gift copy).  Dr. Ross earned a B.Sc. in physics from the University of British Columbia and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto.  For several years he continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.  Today he directs the efforts of Reasons To Believe a nonprofit research organization that seeks to interface the serious study of science with the truths of historic, biblical Christianity.

With regard to the content of your letters, let me assure you that Reasons To Believe has no desire to misrepresent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or its doctrines.  If something we have written is, in fact, erroneous, then we will correct it.  Anything less would constitute a breach of Christian scholarship and integrity.  Reasons To Believe is committed to avoiding "straw man" and "ad hominem" type tactics.  We want to practice good science and good faith!

Having said this, however, you must acknowledge that the LDS church has made some exclusive claims to religious truth.  The self proclaimed Mormon prophet Joseph Smith declared that Christendom was completely apostate, and that his unique revelatory truths would restore authentic Christianity to the earth. This is certainly a monumental religious truth claim, one not even made by any of the three major branches of historic Christianity (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant).  We Christians, who embrace the historic faith that Joseph Smith condemned, have a right and a biblical responsibility to scrutinize such an exclusive claim (1 Thes 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1-3).  It is equally apparent, however, that the LDS church has a moral and spiritual responsibility to back up such a claim.  Since Mormon teaching about Kolob is related to their broader overall truth claims, we have a right to scrutinize, and the LDS church has the burden to back up, their claims.

l found your specific criticisms of Dr. Ross' article to be somewhat scattered.  You seem to have taken a "shotgun" approach to defending Mormon teaching about Kolob, apparently reaching for any and every possible criticism available, without much reflection given to how your views hold together as a coherent whole.  If only from a purely logical vantage point, I encourage you to rethink your approach to defending Kolob Nevertheless, for


purposes of response, I will attempt to order your criticisms and respond to those which are both relevant and consequential.

Criticism #1 "You suggest that Mormons believe that Kolob is a habitable planet when, in fact, LDS scriptures say no such thing."

First, I concur that The Pearl of Great Price (Book of Abraham, Chapter 3) does not explicitly and formally identify Kolob as a "planet."  However, given the vague and ambiguous nature of these particular writings, neither is that conclusion explicitly and formally denied.

Second, the inference that I have drawn from your criticism is that unless something is specifically taught in the Mormon scriptures, then it can not be regarded as a Mormon doctrine.  I think your view is clearly at odds with the broader Mormon theological view which identifies Mormon doctrine as extending beyond the scriptures to a larger body of beliefs.

Third, from examining the LDS scriptures as well as Mormon doctrinal commentaries and authorities, the two most popular Mormon interpretations concerning Kolob are that it is: (a) some kind of master planet, or (b) largely an inexplicable celestial reality, possibly starlike.

Fourth, a convincing case can be made, however, for concluding that the Mormon church has viewed Kolob as a planet.  In fact, Joseph Smith's own comments on the subject seem to reveal that he conceived of Kolob as planet-like, comparable to earth, though much greater in size and significance.

    "Is not the reckoning of God's time, angel's time, prophet's time, and man's time, according to the planet on which they reside?" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:4-5)

    "One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth..." (The Pearl of Great Price, Facsimile No. 2, Figure No. 1)

    "[T]hat Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof..." (Abraham 3:4)

In context, Joseph Smith's claim about the time differences between Kolob and earth clearly hinges on his understanding of the revolutions of earth as compared to the revolutions of Kolob.  Is it in any way unreasonable to conclude that the point of comparison involves "planetary characteristics," thus planet to planet?  The natural reading of the text seems to imply that Joseph Smith viewed Kolob as something like a "master planet."

Fifth, while we might debate whether Joseph Smith conceived of Kolob as a planet or not, it is certain that Mormon doctrinal authorities have both implicitly and explicitly referred to Kolob as a planet.  Consider carefully the words of the late LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie:

    "Kolob means 'the first creation.'  It is the name of the planet 'nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.'" (Mormon Doctrine, second edition, s.v. "KOLOB," p. 428)


As I am sure you are aware, McConkie was widely considered one of the Mormon church's top doctrinal authorities.  If Kolob is viewed as a planet by top Mormon doctrinal authorities, then we have a legitimate right to address and scrutinize that claim.  It isn't our fault that Mormons lack unity in their understanding of Kolob.

Sixth, with regard to Kolob being habitable, this is merely an implication of the Mormon belief in the plurality of worlds with beings residing on celestial planets (Moses 1:33-38; Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24; 93:9-10; 130:1-7).

Criticism #2 "Kolob is probably not a 'planet' in our 20th-century sense at all."

Your statement leaves me perplexed!  Is Kolob not a planet in the twentieth-century sense, or not a planet in any sense?  Are you conceding that it could be a planet in some sense before the twentieth-century?  Does Joseph Smith's sense differ from your sense?  Is Kolob a star?  Is it a star in the twentieth-century sense, or a star in every sense?  Are the other planets of the Mormon scriptures also stars?  Can people live on stars, or just on planets?

What is your literary and epistemological justification for asserting that Kolob is not a planet in our twentieth-century sense?  When the Mormon scriptures speak of planets, is the term "planet" to be understood univocally, equivocally, or anologically with the twentieth-century definition of planet?

Criticism #3 "You also fail to note that the ancients used the term 'planet' in a very loose [sent] to refer to a celestial body..."

First, Mormons have never offered convincing proof that their scriptures are actually ancient documents (especially the Book of Abraham).  In fact, there is evidence that they are nineteenth-century forgeries.

Second, if you are correct in your assertion about how the ancients used the word planet, then couldn't a loose reference to planet actually imply a real and specific planet?  After all, aren't planets celestial bodies?

Criticism #4 "If Kolob has life (and we do not know if it does), it would undoubtedly be different from the mortal existence with which we are acquainted."

Previously you implied that Kolob may be a planet in some sense.  Now you have admitted that life on Kolob can not be ruled out.  I think your convoluted defense of Kolob has actually just validated Dr. Ross' view. Taking your view, there is at least an implicit reason to believe that Kolob is an inhabited planet.  If this is true, then there is no point to all you write in your letters.

Since the Mormon God(s) are finite and physical in nature, why would you assume that extraterrestrial Mormon life would be different?  Do the Mormon deities have the intelligence and power to create beings that are fundamentally different from themselves (something other than physical)?


Criticism #5 "But a large number of mainline astronomers estimate that the number of planets capable of sustaining life is enormous.  So Ross is out-of-touch with mainstream science on this issue."

Actually, when Carl Sagan estimated that the number of planets that are capable of sustaining life was enormous, most mainline astronomers laughed at him because he provided no scientific justification for his figures, and his claims ran contrary to the well accepted "anthropic principle."  Finding a planet with all of the necessary fine tuning to sustain human life is extremely unlikely! According to Dr. Ross, "Much less than one chance in a million trillion exists that even one such planet would occur anywhere in the universe" (for Ross' detailed scientific justification, see The Creator and the Cosmos, chapter 15).

Criticism #6 "He is in a clear minority in asserting that 'science has proven that the universe requires a transcendent creator.'  Most scientists believe that the universe came into being through the so-called 'Big Bang,' and leave God out of the picture entirely."

Many leading scientists have boldly asserted that Big Bang cosmology and various evidences of design are powerful proofs for the existence of a transcendent creator.  Consider the following quotes:

Sir Fred Hoyle: "a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology..."

Paul Davies: "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all.... It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe.... The impression of design is overwhelming."

Edward Harrison: "Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God -- the design argument of Paley -- updated and refurbished.  The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design.  Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one.... Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument."

Arno Penzias: "Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say 'supernatural') plan."

For another dozen of similar such quotes from leading scientists, see the enclosed book (pp. 121-24).  You may find that you are actually the one who is out-of-touch with what many of the leading scientists are saying.

Criticism #7 "If Ross uses the term 'proven' as you do in your paper, then he can't be much of a scientist, for scientists don't deal with 'proof,' only with evidence."

Technically speaking, you have a point, scientists deal with evidence and attempt to falsify a given hypothesis.  However, on a practical level, scientists do use the word proof frequently.  People, including scientists, distinguish between practical proof and absolute proof.


Since you assert that Dr. Ross can't be much of a scientist, I'm wondering how his scientific qualifications compare with yours.

Criticism #8 "You should be careful in your conclusion that 'the Mormon scenario of millions of populated planets is just pure fantasy.'"

Given the Mormon belief in the plurality of worlds, is this really an unwarranted conclusion?

Speaking of fantasy, are you aware of Brigham Young's statement declaring that the sun is inhabited? (President Brigham Young, "The Gospel -- The One Man Power" July 24, 1870, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p.271.)  These kind of Mormon statements remind me of Greek mythology.

One thing that your paper does correctly note is that the footnotes in the Kolob piece are confusing.  We will correct that.

I hope you enjoy the book.

Credes Ut Intelligas.

Kenneth Richard Samples

Director of Publications
Reasons To Believe


Letter Four (from Mr. Tvedtnes)

October 2, 1997

Kenneth R. Samples
Director of Publications
Reasons to Believe
P. O. Box 5978
Pasadena, CA 911 17

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your recent letter and the copy of the book The Creator and the Cosmos.  I shall read it with interest, though I must confess that I will not get to it immediately because of heavy commitments for two books I am in the process of finishing and three symposia at which I am speaking over the next two months.

Let me begin to stating that my "shotgun" approach was not, as you state it, "to defending Mormon teaching about Kolob."  You suggest that I should "rethink [my] approach to defending Kolob," despite the fact that I made absolutely no such defense in my letters.  If you will reread my letters, you will see that I was merely correcting some mistakes made in the piece entitled "KOLOB, the Mormon Masterplanet."  It was these mistakes that necessitated a "shotgun" approach; the fact that the mistakes were scattered throughout the article led to my" specific criticisms" being" somewhat scattered."

Your misunderstanding of the clearly-stated intent of my letters demonstrates to me--once again--that those who are critical of the LDS Church only read what they want to read into anything coming from the dreaded "Mormons."  This is particularly surprising to me in your case, since you are involved with publications whose declared nature is scientific--and misreading of data is unworthy of any scientific endeavor.  So I suggest that you put aside your emotional bias as you read the rest of this communication, in order that you may better understand what I'm talking about.  And let me reiterate that I am not trying to defend the concept of Kolob, only to note that you have misrepresented it and that, contrary to your assertion that you are "committed to avoiding 'straw man' and 'ad hominem' type tactics," this is precisely what you have done.


In your letter, you concur that the book of Abraham does not claim for Kolob what you have said is Mormon doctrine.  But you justify your position by bringing in "the broader Mormon theological view which identifies Mormon doctrine as extending beyond the scriptures to a larger body of beliefs."  This is precisely what is wrong with your approach.  You are taking what individuals have said and declaring that this is the doctrine of the LDS Church.  I have found that those who write critically of the LDS Church generally take this very approach because it makes their job easier.  If you look long enough and hard enough, you would surely find any opinion on a given matter is held by one or more individuals.  But is that "Mormon" doctrine?

Let me illustrate by an example.  From the materials you publish, I presume that you are fundamentalist Christians, that you probably accept the Bible as inerrant.  If so, we might conclude that this is part of your doctrine.  But what if I were to cite some of Martin Luther's statements in which he questioned the validity of some of the books of the Bible, such as Esther, Ecclesiastes, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation?  Would I be justified in saying that this is Protestant doctrine?  Of course not.  It is merely the opinion of the man who started it all.  He was as entitled to his opinion as any of us are to ours.

You will, of course, object that things should be different in a church that considers its leaders to be prophets. That reasoning assumes that prophets always speak for the Lord and don't have a life of their own.  Under date of February 8, 1843, Joseph Smith wrote, "[I] visited with a brother and sister from Michigan who thought that 'a prophet is always a prophet;' but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such" (History of the Church 5.265).  Prophets are, after all, human beings.  The fact that they speak for God on occasion does not remove their free agency.  Like all of us, prophets have opinions.  Sometimes, these opinions are clearly set off, as Paul did in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:10, 12, 25, 40). Joseph Smith occasionally used wording such as "this is my counsel" (History of the Church 1.455) or "I therefore warn" (Nauvoo Neighbor, June 19, 1844).  Elder Bruce R. McConkie, whom you cite for evidence that Kolob is a planet, indicated in his The Mortal Messiah (vol. 1 p. 10) that the very nature of that book made it inevitable that it would contain some of his own opinions and speculations.

Along similar lines, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, "It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside.  My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them.  Let us have this matter clear.  We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine.  You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works." (Doctrines of Salvation 3 :203)

President Harold B. Lee declared, "If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that


his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church.  And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth" (The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24-26, 1973, with Reports and Discourses, 69).

From these statements, it is clear that what the Latter-day Saints call the "standard works" are the authority of the Church and that any new doctrines introduced into the Church must follow a specific procedure. Consequently, you are wrong to refer to any authority other than the Book of Abraham to establish LDS doctrine on the subject of Kolob.

It always amazes me that critics of the LDS Church always seem to think that they are in a better position to define what our doctrines is than we are.  You are not the only one.  Thus, when Stephen Robinson quotes from the Book of Mormon to demonstrate the LDS belief in salvation through the grace of Christ, critics cry "foul" and insist that this isn't the real belief of the Latter-day Saints.  The principle of deriving LDS doctrine from the Standard Works was established many decades ago when B. H. Roberts was asked to debate Mormonism at a meeting sponsored by the World Council of Churches.  He insisted that the sole source for LDS doctrine was its Standard Works and that we should not be judged by any other standard.  That is still the position of the Church.  Consequently, I repeat that your article contains major errors that are based on erroneous assumptions about our beliefs concerning Kolob.

Well, all of the preceding addresses your response to my "Criticism #1," as you put it.  Let me here address the others in briefer format:

2-3 . By the "20th-century sense" of the word "planet," I mean that it was used more loosely in both ancient times and in Joseph Smith's day, as was the word "star."  They were, in fact, often used interchangeably.  So your insistence that the terms must have the same meaning in the 19th century that they do today is simply wrong.  It matters not if you accept the antiquity of the Book of Abraham, since what I have said would also apply to 19th-century writings.

4. You read more into my statement than is there.  True, I do not rule out life on Kolob, but I have no evidence for such life.  This does not make it "an implicit reason to believe that Kolob is an inhabited planet."  Again, you are reading into my words what you want to see.  The reason I do not rule out life on Kolob is that I assume that celestial beings could live in environments hostile to life as we know it.  Can you think of a place where God cannot go?  Where angels cannot go?  You may not think of them as "living," but I do.  In this connection, and related to what I said earlier, I suspect that many Latter-day Saints believe that God lives on Kolob, despite the specific statements of the Book of Abraham that Kolob is merely "near" to his place of residence.  Using your standard, we would have to accept this widespread opinion, despite the


fact that it is contradicted by our own scriptures.  I hope you can see the problems inherit in such methodology.

5. Sagan isn't the only scientist to have proposed that there exist a large number of planets capable of supporting life, nor was he the first.  The SETI program is taken seriously by a fair number of competent scientists.

6. Yes, there are scientists who believe in a transcendent Creator, and we should be thankful for them.  And I am personally grateful that Dr. Ross is seeking evidence for God in the scientific arena.  But these scientists are still in the minority.

7. We are essentially in agreement, except insofar as you have again given your own twist to my words.  I did not say that Dr. Ross wasn't a scientist, only that if he used the term "proven" in the same way you do that he "can't be much of a scientist."  Here, as earlier in your letter, you seem to have ignored the conditional word "if" in my sentence to draw a conclusion.  I did not "assert that Dr. Ross can't be much of a scientist," as you state.  I don't know his scientific qualifications, hence the "if."  The word "assert" implies that I made a declarative statement, when, in fact, I made a conditional statement.  I won't pit my "scientific qualifications" with those of Dr. Ross.  Only one of my four degrees can be said to even approach what we term "science," and that is my BA in anthropology.  My real specialty is the ancient Near East, which is one of the reasons the Book of Abraham fascinates me so.  I used to be heavily into astronomy and nuclear physics and thought of majoring in one of those areas, but that's a thing of the past.

Yes, I'm aware of Brigham Young's belief that the sun is inhabited and also the statements by Brigham Young and Joseph Smith about people living on the moon.  Now a question for you:  Are you aware of the source of these beliefs?  Are you aware, for example, of the 1835 hoax in which a British newspaper, soon followed by the New York Sun, took advantage of the overseas absence of Britain's astronomer-royal, Sir John Herschel, to publish an article saying that he had discovered people living on the moon, and followed it up with claims that other astronomers had discovered people living on the sun?  No refutation of these was ever published, and I suspect that a great number of 19th century Americans believed them to be true.  Again, Let me remind you that even prophets can have opinions.  I have no problem with either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young accepting as true something that was being published in the name of the prominent astronomers of the day.

I hope this rather lengthy letter (nearly matching yours in size) has clarified matters.


John A. Tvedtnes