You Must Preach to the Inhabitants of the Moon - 1837

According to Oliver B. Huntington, Joseph Smith taught that "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 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," (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol. 3, p. 166; as recorded at the Utah State Historical Society). Oliver B. Huntington wrote the proceeding statements in 1881.

In 1892 he made a similar statement in the Young Woman's Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 263-264, a church publication :

"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 man 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 be a greater age than we do, that they lived 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 should preach the gospel to the inhabitants of the sea -- to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes."

What about Smith's successor Brigham Young? Did he have anything to say about this matter? Indeed he did! On July 24, 1870, he made the following statement in a sermon:

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. Journal of Discourses, Volume 13, page 271.


"The Sun and The Moon": How a New York City newspaper found life on the moon in 1835.

Blog by Joe Sudbay

January 11, 2009

As John's post below indicates, there are a lot of changes taking place in the newspaper business. New technologies and innovations are resulting in rapid change. In some ways, history is repeating itself. Back in the 1830s, the newspaper business also went through a rapid transformation. I know this because I just finished reading "The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth Century New York." It is a remarkable story, not only because it's true, but because how much of it relates to some of the same things we deal with today.

The author, Matthew Goodman, is an avid reader of AMERICAblog. The Economist ranked "The Sun and the Moon" as one of the best books of 2008 and it got a very good review in the Los Angeles Times.

The centerpiece of the story is an in-depth history of a hoax pulled off by one of New York City's first one-penny newspapers, The Sun. Before then, papers cost six cents and catered to the well-off.

For a period in the summer of 1835, New Yorkers were led to believe that there was life on the moon. And, many of them believed every word. In what became known as "The Moon" series, the editor wrote a multi-part report on the discovery of life on the moon complete with detailed descriptions of the creatures living in harmony on the lunar surface. New Yorkers clamored for the latest updates.

But, the backdrop of the book is the transforming newspaper business. The Sun and its fellow one-penny papers democratized the news and made it available to everyone, not just the well-to-do merchant types. They also provided more titillating news then had usually been reported -- including sordid court cases and wild rumors. These were the original tabloids. And, the competition among the media types was fierce -- they were brutal to each other in print.

Throughout the book, there are similarities between now and then. "The Moon" series highlighted the ongoing struggle between science and religion. Back then, much of the country was heavily influenced by religion. Colleges were basically religious institutions. Science was no different. You'd like to think times have changed, but eight years of the Bush administration showed us that struggle still exists.

The story also provides insight into the growing abolition movement. I was surprised to learn that in the 1830s, New York City had a pro-slavery bent, because of all the business it did with Southern states. Newspapers were defined by their views on slavery -- and many of the New York papers had no problem with it.

Some big names from the 1800s, like Edgar Allan Poe and P.T. Barnum, also make appearances.

Congrats to Matthew Goodman who did an amazing job with his book. I hadn't done much reading for fun in the past year, but "The Sun and The Moon" was fun and engaging. Anyone who has an interest in the media or the history of New York City or the struggle between religion and science would enjoy the read.

Book Review from the Publisher


The Sun and the Moon tells the delightful, entertaining, and surprisingly true story of how in the summer of 1835 a series of articles in the Sun, the first of the city’s “penny papers,” convinced the citizens of New York that the moon was inhabited.


Six articles, purporting to reveal the lunar discoveries made by a world-famous British astronomer, described the life found on the moon—including unicorns, beavers that walked upright, and, strangest of all, four-foot-tall flying man-bats. The series quickly became the most widely circulated newspaper story of the era. And the Sun, a brash working-class upstart less than two years old, had become the most widely read newspaper in the world.


Told in richly novelistic detail, The Sun and the Moon brings the raucous world of 1830s New York City vividly to life—the noise, the excitement, the sense that almost anything was possible. The book overflows with larger-than-life characters, including Richard Adams Locke, author of the moon series (who never intended it to be a hoax at all); a fledgling showman named P.T. Barnum, who had just brought his own hoax to New York; and the young writer Edgar Allan Poe, who was convinced that the moon series was a plagiarism of his own work.


An exhilarating narrative history of a city on the cusp of greatness and a nation newly united by affordable newspapers, The Sun and the Moon may just be the strangest true story you’ve ever read.


Book Review by Publishers Weekly


Goodman offers a highly atmospheric account of a hoax that he says reflects the birth of tabloid journalism and New York City's emergence as a city with worldwide influence. In August 1835, New York Sun editor Richard Adams Locke wrote and published a hoax about a newfangled telescope that revealed fantastic images of the moon, including poppy fields, waterfalls and blue skies. Animals from unicorns to horned bears inhabited the moon, but most astonishing were the four-foot-tall "man-bats" who talked, built temples and fornicated in public. The sensational moon hoax was reprinted across America and Europe. Edgar Allan Poe grumbled that the tale had been cribbed from one of his short stories; Sun owner Benjamin Day saw his paper become the most widely read in the world; and a pre-eminent British astronomer complained that his good name had been linked to those "incoherent ravings." Goodman (Jewish Food) offers a richly detailed and engrossing glimpse of the birth of tabloid journalism in an antebellum New York divided by class, ethnicity and such polarizing issues as slavery, religion and intellectual freedom. B&w illus. (Nov.)


Book Review by Library Journal


Goodman (Jewish Food ), "Food Maven" columnist for the Forward , encapsulates the enterprising city of New York's schemes and social fabric in an account of the penny newspaper, The Sun 's 1835 series purporting to document life on the moon. Assisted by his own talents for fiction writing, Goodman shows how this new working-class organ, by printing fabrications rather than facts (as well as by pioneering the penny per copy press), became the most widely read newspaper in the world. Using magazines, memoirs, and guidebooks of the period, Goodman maintains that the radical English expatriate editor Richard Adams Locke devised the so-called moon hoax to satirize the claims of religious astronomers who believed that God had created extraterrestrial life. This is a rollicking read, perhaps better at conveying a lyrical feel for the time and place than for its scholarly analysis (for which see Sean Wilentz's Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850 ). Lengthy biographical accounts of P.T. Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe, introduced in part to evince how deception and plagiarism characterized the period, while interesting, are extraneous and little related to the main story. Gracefully worded, footnoted, and with a bibliography, this book's appeal nevertheless is more to the general reader than to the academic. Recommended for public libraries.-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress


Book Review by Kirkus Reviews


A delightful recounting of "the most successful hoax in the history of American journalism."The moon, it turns out, is covered with poppy fields, grassy plains, forests and lakes, and populated by assorted shellfish, single-horned goats, bi-ped beavers, miniature zebras and four-foot-tall, simian, winged creatures-so-called "man-bats"-capable of conversation and religious worship. Or so wrote Richard Adams Locke in his sensational 1835 series for New York's Sun. Intended as a satire of those who would make science the handmaiden of religion, Locke's Great Astronomical Discoveries mixed just enough real-life names, genuine science and plausible technological advances to be believable. Reprinted and debated in competing papers, the series helped turn the Sun, the first of the penny papers, into the world's largest-selling newspaper. Although Goodman (Jewish Food, 2005, etc.) focuses on the anatomy of Locke's brilliant deception, he also surveys New York's newspaper scene at a time when the dailies were becoming something more than a compilation of commercial information, currency-conversion tables and reprints of outdated foreign news. The trend toward local, preferably sensational, news was led by the Sun's publisher Benjamin Day who, in addition to setting the penny price, practically invented the idea of newsboys to hawk his paper and lithographs to illustrate the stories. The true appeal of Goodman's story, though, lies in his skillful interweaving of "an elaborate series of deceptions and exposures" in the air near the time of Locke's creation: P.T. Barnum's exhibition of Joice Heth, the 161-year-old nursemaid of George Washington, Edgar Allan Poe's faked account of Monck Mason'sballoon flight across the Atlantic and the shady story of religious con man Mathias the Prophet, whose gullible disciples included Sojourner Truth. Goodman consistently entertains with his tale of press manipulation, hucksterism and the seemingly bottomless capacity for people to believe the most outrageous things. Absolutely charming. Agent: Henry Dunow/Dunow, Carlson & Lerner