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.


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

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