The spiral galaxy M31 in
the constellation Andromeda.
Astronomy Attests the Truth of the Book of Abraham
BY PROFESSOR J. E. HICKMAN, OF THE BRIGHAM YOUNG COLLEGE
In this age of soulless analysis, every truth which does not hold its pedigree in its open palm, is questioned. Every timeworn theory, legend, and event must now give reasons why it should be perpetuated, or it goes to the wall. Myth must be written upon that which has not, in its warp and woof, the stamp of its own origin. Events of the ancient past come walking on the stage of modern events clothed in the simple garb of the naive narrative, and appear as uncomfortable as the unbidden guest. At the time of their enactment, the critical and documental methods were unknown. But regardless of this fact, we demand their proof and taboo that which cannot marshal to its defense either experience or reason. As a result, the ancient is being sifted and some of it shifted to the ranks of the myth or to the authorship of some nameless Munchhausen. The Book of Abraham comes down to us from the past and must stand or fall through the accumulation of evidence. While Egyptologists are in doubt as to the real meaning of the cuts and hieroglyphics given to the world by Joseph Smith, and while modern Egyptologists are divided in their opinions as to how much Joseph Smith knew of the hieroglyphics he translated, let us analyze the contents of the Book of Abraham on the subject of astronomy; for Joseph Smith must largely stand or fall on the truthfulness of the things he gave to the world. He is a prophet, and God will make good what he reveals to his messenger. The Book of Abraham claims to be what God revealed to Abraham, and hence must be true if God did really reveal this system of truth to Abraham. Now comes "the rub": If Joseph Smith were a fraudulent deceiver or a paranoiac, time and research will unveil his deception, for truth never went in partnership with falsehood. If, on the other hand, he sets forth vast truths previously unknown to the world, and if later research corroborate these truths, he stamps himself as a veritable seer or translator, or both. The Book of Abraham advanced important astronomical facts far antedating modern discoveries. Let us turn immediately to the consideration of some of these advanced truths, recorded in a simple narrative form in the Book of Abraham. They are: (1) the heavenly bodies move in their spheres; (2) the more ad-<p.592>vanced a world becomes in its changes, the slower it moves in rotary and revolutionary movements; (3) worlds (stars) not only move in their own orbit but groups of them revolve around greater worlds; (4) some revolve about one group, some about another; (5) stars are mighty in size, and some of them are very great; (6) that other stars than the sun have planets like ours; (7) that the stars are innumerable to man and that Abraham's seed should be as numberless as the stars; (8) some groups are close together; (9) finally, all revolve about a common center. Nearly every one of these facts lay shrouded in the vast unknown in 1835,--the time the Prophet began the translation of the Book of Abraham. Let us now review, somewhat in detail, the above facts in the order of their mention, and compare them with the body of astronomical truths and theories which have been discovered since the translation of the Book of Abraham. (1) "It is given unto thee [Abraham] to know the set times of all the stars," etc. (Pearl of Great Price, p. 64). Halley and Herschel thought that the sun and two stars (Arcturus and Sirius) moved, but the real proof came after the invention of the spectroscope (1843). It was not until 1861 that Sir Wm. Huggins applied the spectroscope to the stars (Science History of the Universe, Vol. 1, p. 272). Since that time it is shown that all the stars are in motion. Newcomb says that we may assume that all the stars are in motion. Wherever examination has been made the stars are moving. If one were to be at rest it would be set in motion by other stars (The Stars, p. 75). (2) Again the Lord says that the planet which is the lesser light (moon) is above or greater than this earth in point of reckoning, for it moves more slowly (P. of G. P, p. 61). This infers that as a planet advances in development from the primitive state to that of the moon--frozen, desolate. dead--it slows up in its movements. which fact astronomers now admit. (Refer to conclusions of Hale, Newcomb, Lowell, Todd, and Young.) (3) Worlds (stars) not only move in their own orbs but groups of them revolve about common centers. To quote: "It is given unto thee [Abraham] to know the times of reckoning, and the set times. vea. the set time of the earth and the set time of the greater light" (P. of G. P, p. 61). God said that Kolob is nigh unto his throne to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as this earth. "And it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars until thou come near unto the throne of God" (p. 64). (4) Abraham was shown the time of the revolution of the sun and the stars. He was shown, though they had their orbits. that they were in turn governed by other stars. Kolob governs the class to which this earth belongs (p. 64) ; hence, of necessity, <p.593> it would govern the suns or stars of this class as well. Vast systems revolve about Kolob. There are other great stars, and they are governing ones also (p. 60, 61). The movements of all stars in their orbits, and the revolving of one system around another center, were unknown to modern astronomers at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. But since Kirchhoff more perfectly discovered (1859) the principle of spectrum analysis, "astro-physics has advanced by leaps and bounds." It is now known that each star not only revolves around some center, but groups of stars revolve around a common center. Hoeffler found that five of the seven stars in the Great Dipper lie nearly in the same plane and have an equal motion in one and the same direction. "May it not be that there are systems of stars in which each star revolves around a center of its own while all these systems are in revolution around a single center?" (The Stars, by Newcomb.) We now know that the sun, carrying with it the solar system, is plunging through space at twelve miles a second, and is headed toward the constellation of Lyra--perhaps near the star Vega, the brightest of that constellation. Yet the orbit of the sun is so great that too little evidence is at hand to compute the center of its orbit. Yet Abraham knew the time of the sun's revolutions; and modern astronomers are patiently waiting to get enough of the arc of its orb that they may compute the form and immensity of its path. There are other governing stars besides Kolob. To quote: "And there were many great ones (stars) which were near unto it (Kolob) : and the Lord said unto me, These are the governing ones" (p. 60). Inasmuch as Kolob governs a certain class of worlds, and there are other "governing ones," then they must govern other systems. This is what modern astronomers have found. Astronomers say that the more distant stars. The Pleiades are moving together about a center with an exactness that no difference in their proper motions has been detected. (Stellar Evolution, by Hale.) Isn't it very startling to think that Joseph Smith could have known such far-reaching truths concerning the infinite deeps long before they were discovered by the aid of the spectroscope and astrophotography; especially since some scholars are claiming that he was a deceiver, totally unacquainted with the significance of those hieioglyphics; and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing? Pray. tell me by what law of mind an ignorant deceiver can project a system of truths which antedates the discoveries of modern science. (5) Again, the "Book of Abraham" says that the stars were mighty and some of them were very large. Abraham did not claim that the sun was one of the great stars, but that though the <p.594> stars were vast in size, some were immensely larger than others (p. 60, 61). During the last fifty years it has been found that the stars are mighty, and that the sun' is only one of the mediocre stars. Before 1859, we had no means of measuring the stars. But since then, it is found that some are as much larger than our sun as.it is larger than the earth; and the sun is 1,300,000 times larger than this earth. If we can judge, in a general way, the size of the stars by the light they emit, some of them are even greater than those quoted above. Prof. J. J. See says that some small stars (apparently small), in the Milky Way, have a luminosity of two trillion times that of the sun. Some stars probably have diameters greater than the orbit of Jupiter, and yet the diameter of Jupiter's orbit is nearly one billion miles. In justice to our reason, must we not acknowledge that Joseph Smith did translate the Egyptian hieroglyphics? If not, where did he get these truths--truths that only Deity, and those to whom he had revealed them knew? It is quite evident that Joseph Smith got them; but where and how? It is certain that he did not get them from any modern work on astronomy. Either the Lord revealed them to him, and he pretended he got them from hieroglyphics which he knew nothing about. or else he translated these facts from the Book of Abraham as he claims. Which is the more reasonable? (6) Another astronomical truth which Joseph Smith sets forth, one not discovered by modern scholars until recent years, is the fact that there are other planets in space outside of our solar system. "There shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still, thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest. And it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light until thou come near unto the throne of God" (pp. 63, 64). Here, then, are planets and stars governed by Kolob. It is now firmly believed that there are dark worlds revolving about various stars. This fact may be verified by referring to Evolution of Worlds, by Lowell, pp. 2, 25: Astronomy, by Jacoby, pp. 328-33, 350; New Astronomy, by Todd, pp. 19, 450. (7) Another fact which we get from the Book of Abraham is: God showed Abraham the almost endless system of stars; and He promised Abraham that his seed should be as number less as those worlds. At the time the Book of Abraham was published only 100,000 stars were known; but now, through the aid of improved phototelescopic methods, the total number of stars is counted by hundreds of millions (The Stars, p. 320). More than 140,000,000 stars have been discovered in the Milky Way. <p.595> The total number of stars, from the first to the seventeenth magnitude, was recently estimated to be 1,600,000. Each of these stars is a sun like that which governs the earth, probably surrounded by planets like the earth; and all these solar systems also are moving, many of them more swiftly than ours. (Science History, Vol. 1, p. 77.) (8 and 9) Finally, Abraham was shown that all stars revolve about the planet Kolob and its system of worlds and the other governing ones were near His planet. What proof have we of such a stupendous thought? Remember there is one center around which all stars revolve and that they are divided into at least two systems of revolving stars-there may be more. This much we read out of the Book of Abraham. From Maedler's time to the present, astronomers have been gathering data which indicate the condition of the stellar universe. All are now quite agreed that, aside from the various star-clusters which seem to revolve about their common centers, the vast mass of stars are revolving about some single centre. Prof. J. C. Kapteyn, a Dutch astronomer, says that the visible universe consists of two distant parts which move at an angle of 115 degrees with each other, and that one of these streams moves three times as fast as the other. The sun forms a part of one of the streams and is at their intersection. (Sc. Hist. of the Universe, Vol. 1, p. 89). This view is, in general, quite in harmony with that found in the Book of Abraham. Sir Alfred Wallace claims that the entire stellar universe is revolving about a common center and the sun is not far removed from the center. I am not claiming that either of these views is absolutely correct, but that they agree in a general way with the Prophet's translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. The above astronomical truths, quoted from the Book of Abraham, and later vindicated through modern discoveries, are the vindication of what some people are pleased to call the Prophet's "farrago of nonsense." Remember the body of astronomical facts recorded in the Book of Abraham was at that time shrouded in the vast unknown. Remember that Egyptian hieroglyphics were meagerly and inaccurately known by a few, and that Joseph Smith was out of the way of the few who pretended to know. Grant this, which we must, and then we will be compelled to confess that Joseph Smith surely did his translation through inspiration. Let us put the test of the Prophet upon Joseph's utterances: "When the prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the things follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him." (Deut. 18:22.) Here again Joseph stands the test of the prophet. Surely the Book of Abraham stands four square to scientific investigation, bears its own internal proofs and without apologies it <p.596> still stands as one of the four standard works of the Church. The Saints have no need to "courageously readjust their faith," for God's stellar universe declares the truthfulness of the Pearl of Great Price. Surely this is proof positive.
--Improvement Era, Vol 19 No. 7, May 1916 pp. 591-596.
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