John Carter

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I went to see John Carter of Mars last night (bear with me… this is actually NOT off-topic from apologetics), and the theater was gracious enough to give me a (virtually) private screening in 3D. ;)

Loved the movie (although apparently no one else does, and my teenage kids refused to come with me, saying all their friends hated it…).

But (believe it or not) I actually mentioned this movie in my home teaching message earlier this month about prophets, and the role of prophets.

Why?

Well John Carter is really over-the-top fantasy. Mars does not look like this, as we all know. But we need to remember that the first John Carter story was written 100 years ago. This was only 20 years or so after an Italian astronomer looked through a telescope at Mars and thought he saw canali (it means channels, but it got translated into English as canals). Everyone thought that he had seen signs of civilization on Mars. This included Percival Lowell, the top astronomer in the United States at that time. So when Edgar Rice Burroughs took to his typewriter a few years later to write fantasy tales about this Mars, he was building off of the best scientific evidence of the day. It was not utter fantasy, in other words.

And this is decades AFTER Brigham Young had speculated about men on the moon or men on the sun. So while BY may look foolish today, and generates reams of hilarity penned by the antis, he would not have looked foolish in his own day (and in fact in all the anti-Mormon hysteria generated in those days, nobody ever remarked on Brigham Young’s silly non-scientific ideas), and not for a generation or two afterward either.

I brought all this up to my home teaching families. Prophets are not supposed to be super-scientists. But I said the antis will object anyway, saying that prophets cannot make scientific mistakes like that, even if the world does not know better, because God would tell them how the universe really works.

But would He really, I asked. Did God tell Isaiah that you cannot stop the sun and make it go backward 15 degrees? Did God tell Moses and Abraham about quantum theory? Or disabuse them of the notion that the Heavens are a dome over the world? Well, if not, what DOES he tell prophets? The short answer is that He tells prophets how to guide the people through the perils of the day. Specifically, I mentioned the Church Presidency message on lds.org that changes several times a week, with messages on such topics as civility in politics, or generosity and moderation in dealing with immigration.

Surely this is more important than knowing whether there really are canals on Mars, and populated by beautiful Martian princesses waiting to be saved by dashing Confederate cavalry officers… ;)

David Farnsworth
Tigard OR 97224

2 thoughts on “John Carter

  1. Pingback: 29 March 2012 | MormonVoices

  2. PepciJam

    [quote]And this is decades AFTER Brigham Young had speculated about men on the moon or men on the sun. So while BY may look foolish today, and generates reams of hilarity penned by the antis, he would not have looked foolish in his own day (and in fact in all the anti-Mormon hysteria generated in those days, nobody ever remarked on Brigham Young’s silly non-scientific ideas), and not for a generation or two afterward either.[end quote]

    It should be noted that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young DID NOT originate this idea of life on the moon or the sun as shown below:

    ” Background to belief of Men on the Moon in 1800’s
    In 1976 Patrick Moore, Director of the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association, wrote of William Herschel: “As an observer it is possible that he has never been equalled, and between 1781 and his death, in 1822, every honour that the scientific world could bestow came his way. His views about life in the Solar System were, then, rather surprising. He thought it possible that there was a region below the Sun’s fiery surface where men might live, and he regarded the existence of life on the Moon as ‘an absolute certainty.'” (Patrick Moore, New Guide to the Moon (W.W. Norton & Company, New York: 1976).
    In 1780 Herschel in a letter to a disbelieving astronomer, asked: “Who can say that it is not extremely probable, nay beyond doubt, that there must be inhabitants on the Moon of some kind or another?” Also in 1822, the German astronomer Gruithuisen announced that he had discovered a lunar city with a collection of gigantic ramparts extending 23 miles in either direction.

    It was not until 1838, with the publication of the writings of Beer and Madler, that the scientific world concluded that the moon is definitely unable to support higher life forms. The scientific conclusion did not become the popular opinion for at least 60 years.
    In 1835 another event that shaped public opinion about inhabitants of the moon took place. John Herschel, son of the famous William, went to South Africa to study stars visible only in the southern hemisphere. There was considerable interest because of Herschel’s involvement.

    Richard Locke, a reporter for the New York Sun, decided to take advantage of the slow communications. He published six articles describing John Herschel’s work. The first article published on 23 August, explained that the telescope was so powerful that it brought the surface of the moon to an “apparent proximity of about eighty yards.”

    Further articles claimed that Herschel was reporting lunar flowers, forests, bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tailless bevers who cooked with fire, and (most provocatively) flying men with wings:
    “They appeared to be constantly engaged in conversing, with much impassioned gesticulation; and hence it was inferred, that they are rational beings. Others, apparently of a higher order, were discovered afterwards. . . . And finally a magnificent temple for the worship of God, of polished sapphire, in a triangle shape, with a roof of gold.” (Moore, New Guide to the Moon 130–131).

    Patrick Moore has detailed the reception these articles received: “The articles met with mixed reception, but some eminent critics swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker. `These new discoveries are both probable and plausible,’ declared the New York Times, while the New Yorker thought that the observations `had created a new era in astronomy and science generally.'” (Moore, New Guide to the Moon)

    The New York Evangelist published a lengthy summary which was reprinted in the 11 September 1835 Painsville Telegraph (Ohio), a paper commonly read in the neighboring Mormon center of Kirtland. Although The Sun confessed its hoax on September 16th, this was not printed in the Painsville Telegraph.”

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