JOSEPH SMITH CONTACTEE
On a visit to Salt Lake City, Utah, before Canadian UFO Report was even contemplated we were fascinated by the almost magic quality of what we learned in a short time about the Mormon Church. There was the story of the strange gold plates and the miraculous experience of Joseph Smith. There were references that seemed to include North America in Biblical events. Perhaps above all there were the magnificent graphic paintings, so unlike those of usual church windows, by which Mormons illustrate the history of their beliefs.
All of it might have remained just a mental note, however, had it not become apparent after we started the magazine that besides being the seat of the Mormon faith, Utah was also a center of UFO activity. These two circumstances somehow seemed to come together when we read of a good sighting by a senior member of the church, Garth Batty. On a hunch we wrote Mr. Batty asking if there was anything in Mormon literature that even hinted at a connection between his Church and space visitors.
Incredibly that wild guess was right on target. In his reply Mr. Batty quoted the Mormons' late president Joseph Fielding Smith, as saying: "The Lord is not restricted in giving invitations to other creations to visit this earth so you need not be surprised if some visitors from other worlds do visit this one."
Mr. Batty then introduced us to a wealth of additional material that added up to compelling reason for writing about the Latter Day Saints Church in a magazine devoted to study of UFOs.
While the material was excellent, our real luck probably lay in the fact that Mr. Batty had an accurate feeling for just what we were after. He wrote: "True religion, unblemished by the doctrines of men, founded upon revelation directly from God, would of course have to give information which is both reasonable and which gives knowledge that God truly has created innumerable worlds which are inhabited."
Answering our request for a few details about himself, he said: "I was born March 4, 1928, in Vernal, Utah and was baptized and confirmed a member of the Latter Day Saints Church (commonly called Mormon) in March, 1934. I hold the office of High Priest in the Melchezedek Priesthood and have held various offices in the Church, among them being: Sunday school teacher, Scoutmaster, Counselor to a Bishop, Bishop of two different wards, a member of the Stake High Council, and First Counselor in the Presidency of The Stake.
"I have firm conviction and bear testimony that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a prophet of God, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called Mormon) is true."
* * * *
"So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
"But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction -- not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being -- just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other -- 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'"
Joseph Smith was 14 at the time of his experience. Born in Vermont and moving with his family to rural York a few years later, he was a thoughtful sensitive youth almost painfully affected by the swirl of religious conflicts of that period and place. When he set out to pray, he was looking for answers to settle his inner confusion. Who of all these parties is right, he had asked himself, or are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it and how shall I know it?
Without studying his story more closely, we might conclude that this experience was entirely the result of his spiritual anxieties. Like others before him whose cases are recorded in religious history, he may have had a vision without substance yet so overwhelming that it led to great accomplishment.
But in Joseph Smith's case there were to be other events of such substantial and extraordinary nature that he became revered as a prophet in his own time and founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, which today is the place of worship for the vast congregation of Mormon faith.
His next experience occurred three years later (when he was 17 years old) after he had gone to his room for the night. Forbidden now to join any religious sect because of the vision he spoke about, and troubled by his own frailties, he had resorted again to prayer for help.
"While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.
"He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person."
The visitor said his name was Moroni and told Joseph Smith he had been divinely chosen for important work.
"He said there as a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants."
As Moroni spoke, Joseph Smith received a vision showing him where the plates were buried in a stone box on a hill nearby. There, Moroni said, he would also find a breastplate to which were fastened two stones called the Urim and Thummin known in ancient times as "seers." It would be the young man's duty to take the plates into safekeeping and, with the help of the two stones, translate what was written on them.
Although Joseph Smith was able to go directly to the stone box the next day, four years passed before Moroni who made continuing appearances, allowed him to remove the contents and start translation. Moroni's part in all this became clearer when it was learned he was the resurrected son of Mormon, the ancient historian whose writings comprised much of the book to be translated. When the work was finished, the plates were delivered up to Moroni.
That, with the signed testimony of witnesses who saw and handled the plates, is the story of Joseph Smith as devoutly believed by the multitude of followers that form the great Mormon church. Remarkable though he was, however, he would not be a subject for study in the context of outer space were it not for a singular fact: in terms far more specific than any other western religious teachings, the Mormon scripture refers to other worlds. For example, in "Pearl of Great Price" these passages appear:
"And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.
"And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man, but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them." Moses: 2:33, 34, 35.
"And Enoch said unto the Lord; How is it that though can'st weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?"
"And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning of thy creations..." Moses &:29, 30.
(In explaining this verse, Joseph Fielding Smith, great-nephew of the first Joseph Smith, made a statement that underlined the similarity between Mormon beliefs and the concept of what is known today as UFOlogy. In Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 3, Article 57, p. 211, he said: "The Lord is not restricted in giving invitations to other creations, so you need not be surprised if some visitors from other worlds do visit this one." Those were words of the highest authority. At the time of his death in 1972 Joseph Fielding Smith was president and prophet of the church and was considered an inspired leader. He was serving as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles when this statement was made.)
After the Book of Moses in Pearl of Great Price comes the Book of Abraham where reference was made to other heavenly bodies in such detail it might be called a traveler's guide to outer space. In contrast to the Book of Moses which is given as a revelation, the Book of Abraham is presented as a translation by Joseph Smith as a revelation, the Book of Abraham is presented as a translation by Joseph Smith of "some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt."
Of particular interest is reference to the "first creation" called Kolob which Abraham introduces in this way:
"And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummin, which the Lord my God had given me in the Ur of the Chaldees;
"And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many stars which were near unto it;
"And the Lord said unto me; These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord they God; I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.
"And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummin, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time, according to the reckoning of Kolob." Abraham 3:1, 2, 3, 4.
This account conjures an image of a world so enormous and revolving so slowly that centuries or our time would elapse between one sunrise and the next. A clock on Kolob would show that Christopher Columbus arrived in America about 12 hours ago!
A noteworthy feature of Joseph Smith's accomplishments is that without any formal education in languages; he had completed translation of the Book of Mormon by the time he was 25. Moreover his mastery of Egyptian -- as well as Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic -- was so complete even at the outset two years earlier that a distinguished professor said the young translator's work was the finest he had ever seen.
But when told that an "angel of God" had been responsible for locating the plates, this same professor tore up the certificate he had just issued vouching for the work. He said there was no such thing as "ministering of angels" and thereby dismissed the secret of Joseph Smith's undertaking.
In his testimony the young prophet refers to the help he received from the Urim and Thummin, the same stones mentioned in the Book of Abraham. Since he performed his monumental work (even the pocketbook edition of the Book of Mormon totals more than 500 pages) in an atmosphere of physical hardship and religious persecution, it would appear the two stones were virtually miraculous in the help they gave him. His critics, of course, ridiculed any idea that he was divinely inspired but even the harshest could not deny that somehow the book was produced by this reviled youth who often worked in the fields for a living.
Angered by events so far beyond their understanding and by the rapid growth of the church he founded, his enemies eventually had him and his brother jailed in Illinois where the harassed Mormons had tried to make a new start. But that was not enough. In 1844 a mob attacked and killed the two men before they came to trial.
So extraordinary were the qualities of Joseph Smith, however, that this vicious act turned out to be barely more than an interruption in what he had set out to do. He had once said the destiny of his church lay in the valley of mountains, and thus he predicted one of the great epics of the West. In 1844, the year of the prophet's death, Brigham Young and his band of Mormon followers embarked on their historic journey through the Rockies into Utah where they founded Salt Lake City, which then became the seat of the Mormon faith.