Non-existent quotes/Haight: assistance of the moon

Elder David B. Haight and an alleged astrological reference that people should 'do nothing without the assistance of the moon'


Question: Did Elder David B. Haight make an astrological reference that people should 'do nothing without the assistance of the moon'?

This claim has evolved over time due to successive misinterpretation of the original sources

It has been claimed that Elder David B. Haight "reinvoked the astrological principle that people should 'do nothing without the assistance of the moon'" in a talk that he gave during General Conference in 1998. One critic of Mormonism takes this a step further by claiming that the phrase "do nothing without the assistance of the moon" was deleted from the transcribed version of Elder Haight's talk. However, this claim has evolved over time due to successive misinterpretation of the original sources.

There is no question that grammar and phrasing of the talk was edited. The question is: where is the phrase "do nothing without the assistance of the moon" that the author highlighted twice before claiming that it had been removed from the printed version of the talk? There is no other portion of this talk which makes any reference to the moon.

The bottom line: this is a false claim and a false accusation.

Was an embarrassing phrase removed from Elder Haight's talk?

Becoming Gods makes this claim on page 352, endnote 155:

LDS Apostle David B. Haight "reinvoked the astrological principle that people should 'do nothing without the assistance of the moon'" (Quinn, Early Mormonism, p. 291). Haight's remark "do nothing without the assistance of the moon" was made during his lecture at the 168th Annual General Conference. But when the transcribed text of the speech was made available online through the LDS Church's official Internet site, the phrase had been deleted." (emphasis added)

Conference talks are routinely edited before they are printed. General Authorities may make off-the-cuff remarks or inject other comments that may not make it into the final printed version. But this accusation is different: the author of this book is asserting that there was something removed in order to hide it, despite the fact that the phrase would have been heard by the entire conference audience, and the video of the talk recorded. These recordings are easily accessible in many LDS meeting house libraries, so it is a relatively simple task to check the validity of this claim.

Was there a cover-up directed at removing an embarrassing 'magic related' remark made by Elder Haight in front of the entire Church during a General Conference? Note in the criticism that the suspicious phrase "do nothing without the assistance of the moon" is actually singled out twice. To resolve this claim, we will examine the published text of Elder Haight's talk and compare it to a transcript that was made from a video recording of the same talk.

The original talk

Transcription of live talk [April 1998 General Conference] from home recorded video in Rancho Cucamonga, CA Chaffey Ward church library. Talk as printed in the Ensign: David B. Haight, "Live the Commandments," Ensign (May 1998). Comments

And as we left that little meeting that evening and left that little farmhouse, there was a full moon shining down through the trees. And I said to Ruby,

As we left our meeting that evening and left that little farmhouse, there was a full moon shining down through the trees. I said to Ruby,

  • Some minor grammar cleanup to remove the repetition of the phrase "that little."

“I can imagine that on the night of April 6, 1830, after that small group had assembled, the Church had been organized, the six members had signed the necessary papers to see that it was recognized under the laws of the state of New York.

“I can imagine the night of April 6, 1830, after that small group had assembled, the Church had been organized, and six men agreeable to its organization were present to be in harmony with the laws of the state of New York;

  • The phrase "agreeable to its organization" was added.
  • The spoken phrase "recognized under the laws" was reworded to read "in harmony with the laws."

And of the occasion was said what was prophesied, the future of the church, the testimony that would have been born. I said I would imagine that the night of April the 6th, 1830, the moon was shining showing that our Savior smiled upon that occasion and upon that setting.

I can imagine what was said, what was prophesied about the future of the Church, and the testimonies that would have been borne.” Then I said, “I would imagine that on the night of April the 6th, 1830, there was a full moon shining, showing that our Savior was smiling upon that occasion and upon that setting.”

  • Grammar modifications.

And later I said that to the little group and Brother Chamberlain who then was the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake heard me say that. And he was thoughtful enough to get in touch with our, with our observatory, naval observatory, to find out what might have happened on April the 6th, 1830.

Later I expressed that idea to a group where Brother Chamberlain, who then was the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake, heard me say it. He was thoughtful enough to get in touch with the naval observatory to find out what might have happened on April the 6th, 1830.

  • Grammar cleanup

They didn’t have records back that far and so he was thoughtful enough to contact in England the Naval Observatory and the records that might have been available over there and he later sent me some document-- documentar-- documentary indicating what was happening in the horizon in that week of April the 6th, 1830 and indicating on there that there was evidence that there was a full moon those days before and after and during April the 6th, 1830, which I have now as a prized possession that there was a full moon. The glories of the Lord had been poured out upon the occasion.

They didn’t have records back that far, so he was thoughtful enough to contact the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England for records that might have been available over there. He later sent me some documents indicating what was happening in the horizon that week of April the 6th, 1830, indicating that there was a full or beautifully beaming moon those days before and after April the 6th. The glories of the Lord had been poured out upon the occasion.

  • Grammar again.

So, where is the alleged remark "do nothing without the assistance of the moon" in the transcription? It is not there. It was never there.

As Elder Haight grew older, he was unable to use the teleprompter to effectively read his written text

As Elder Haight grew older, he was unable to use the teleprompter to effectively read his written text. He joked about this in the October 1995 General Conference, three years prior to his 1998 talk discussed above.

When Elder LeGrand Richards was getting along in years, he generally gave extemporaneous conference talks. As you know, we have some time restraints. There was concern as to how to notify him when his time was up. A little flashing light was put on the podium, and during one of his talks he said, “There’s a light here that keeps flashing.” The next conference they made the light red, but he just put his hand over it. So I might resort to some of that today. As we age, we get to the point where the teleprompter doesn’t work for us anymore; then the printers seem to be doing a poor job in printing the text; and then the ink doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to be, either! But I am honored and grateful to be here with you.[1]

It ought to be no surprise, then, that Elder Haight's spoken words differed somewhat from his written words.


Question: How did the false quote alleged to have been made by Elder David B. Haight about doing "nothing without the assistance of the moon" originate?

D. Michael Quinn's treatment of Elder David B. Haight's actual quote started the process of misinterpretation

It is claimed that Elder David B. Haight "reinvoked the astrological principle that people should 'do nothing without the assistance of the moon'" in a talk that he gave during General Conference in 1998. This claim has evolved over time due to successive misinterpretation of the original sources. Quinn's is the first iteration of this process; it culminates in a completely non-existent quote in the work of Richard Abanes.

There is no evidence at all that Haight was referring to astrological principles

There is no evidence that:

  • Elder Haight invoked astrology or astrological principles;
  • Elder Haight believed it was necessary that a full moon be present;
  • Elder Haight questioned a planetarium worker and/or instructed him to check into the matter and report back;
  • Elder Haight was proceeding on anything more than a poetical wondering or imagination of what might have happened to show God's approval.

It is astonishing that Quinn has tried to hang his theory on such a stream of misreadings and textual mismanagement.

Quinn's use of the quote over the course of two pages contains many distortions of the textual record

D. Michael Quinn uses a talk by Elder David B. Haight which he claims demonstrates that "without mentioning astrology, Apostle David B. Haight in 1998 reinvoked the astrological principle that people should 'do nothing without the assistance of the Moon' (see ch. 3)."[2] Quinn's use of the quote over the course of two pages contains many distortions of the textual record. We will examine these below.

We here include the published text of Elder Haight's talk and a transcript that was made from a video recording of the same talk.

The talk

Transcription of live talk [April 1998 General Conference] from home recorded video in Rancho Cucamonga, CA Chaffey Ward church library. Talk as printed in the Ensign: David B. Haight, “Live the Commandments,” Ensign, May 1998, p 6. Comments

And as we left that little meeting that evening and left that little farmhouse, there was a full moon shining down through the trees. And I said to Ruby,

As we left our meeting that evening and left that little farmhouse, there was a full moon shining down through the trees. I said to Ruby,

  • Some minor grammar cleanup to remove the repetition of the phrase "that little."

“I can imagine that on the night of April 6, 1830, after that small group had assembled, the Church had been organized, the six members had signed the necessary papers to see that it was recognized under the laws of the state of New York.

“I can imagine the night of April 6, 1830, after that small group had assembled, the Church had been organized, and six men agreeable to its organization were present to be in harmony with the laws of the state of New York;

  • The phrase "agreeable to its organization" was added.
  • The spoken phrase "recognized under the laws" was reworded to read "in harmony with the laws."

And of the occasion was said what was prophesied, the future of the church, the testimony that would have been born. I said I would imagine that the night of April the 6th, 1830, the moon was shining showing that our Savior smiled upon that occasion and upon that setting.

I can imagine what was said, what was prophesied about the future of the Church, and the testimonies that would have been borne.” Then I said, “I would imagine that on the night of April the 6th, 1830, there was a full moon shining, showing that our Savior was smiling upon that occasion and upon that setting.”

  • Grammar modifications.

And later I said that to the little group and Brother Chamberlain who then was the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake heard me say that. And he was thoughtful enough to get in touch with our, with our observatory, naval observatory, to find out what might have happened on April the 6th, 1830.

Later I expressed that idea to a group where Brother Chamberlain, who then was the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake, heard me say it. He was thoughtful enough to get in touch with the naval observatory to find out what might have happened on April the 6th, 1830.

  • Grammar cleanup

They didn’t have records back that far and so he was thoughtful enough to contact in England the Naval Observatory and the records that might have been available over there and he later sent me some document-- documentar-- documentary indicating what was happening in the horizon in that week of April the 6th, 1830 and indicating on there that there was evidence that there was a full moon those days before and after and during April the 6th, 1830, which I have now as a prized possession that there was a full moon. The glories of the Lord had been poured out upon the occasion.

They didn’t have records back that far, so he was thoughtful enough to contact the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England for records that might have been available over there. He later sent me some documents indicating what was happening in the horizon that week of April the 6th, 1830, indicating that there was a full or beautifully beaming moon those days before and after April the 6th. The glories of the Lord had been poured out upon the occasion.

  • Grammar again.

Astrological correlation?

Quinn claims that Elder Haight is presenting an "astrological correlation"[3] for the Church's reorganization (though he then admits a page later that Haight never mentioned astrology, though he claims that Haight "reinvokes" an astrological principle).

But, Quinn snips out the subsequent phrase that tells us exactly why Elder Haight was mentioning the full moon. "I would imagine that on the night of April the 6th, 1830, there was a full moon shining," quotes Quinn. Why would Elder Haight imagine this? Because of astrology, Quinn has told us.

But, Quinn omits the very next phrase: "...showing that our Savior was smiling upon that occasion and upon that setting." This has nothing to do with astrology at all. The moon gives light, light is a sign/symbol of God/Christ, and so Elder Haight wonders if the fullness of light at night showed God's approval.

From bad to worse

Quinn compounds the confusion by claiming, "The apostle did not explain why he initially assumed there was a full moon when 'the glories of the Lord had been poured out upon the occasion,' but this was obviously more significant to him than a mere coincidence of astronomy." Nonsense—Elder Haight explained exactly why he "imagined" (not "assumed," as Quinn has it; Elder Haight uses the phrase "imagined" three times in succession) there might be a full moon--because such light would indicate God's approval of the goings-on.

Quinn also omits the earlier part of the story, which has Elder Haight explaining WHY his mind went down this particular path. He talks of a meeting at the reconstructed Peter Whitmer farmhouse. He then says:

"Near the end of that very spiritual meeting with those mission presidents, I walked up the stairs and looked at the two little bedrooms. The Peter Whitmer family lived there. But they turned one of those rooms over to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and there he did some of the translating of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery worked with him in that humble little setting. My heart burned with the wonderful feeling I had of just being in that little farmhouse and imagining what took place and the blessings of heaven that had been poured out upon them.
"As we left our meeting that evening and left that little farmhouse, there was a full moon shining down through the trees. I said to Ruby, “I can imagine the night of April 6, 1830, after that small group had assembled, the Church had been organized, and six men agreeable to its organization were present to be in harmony with the laws of the state of New York; I can imagine what was said, what was prophesied about the future of the Church, and the testimonies that would have been borne.” Then I said, “I would imagine that on the night of April the 6th, 1830, there was a full moon shining, showing that our Savior was smiling upon that occasion and upon that setting.”" (emphasis added)

Elder Haight makes it clear that his experience at the farmhouse in the modern day had a full moon. This gets him to picturing and imagining what it would have been like on the date the Church was organized, imagining what people would say, and he then adds the rather whimsical or poetical touch that God's approval might even have been signaled by a full moon. This has nothing whatever to do with astrology or invoking the idea that one ought to do nothing "without the moon."

The planetarium worker

Quinn also misrepresents what Elder Haight does about this. Quinn writes:

"This possibility [of a full moon] was sufficiently important to him that the apostle inquired with the director of a local planetarium, who had to contact associates in England for evidence that 'there was a full or beautifully shining moon those days before and after April the 6th."

Note that Quinn's version has Haight regarding this as "so important" that he asks someone to check into it, and that person "had to" touch base with England to answer this vital question.

Elder Haight's account is markedly different:

"And later I said that to the little group and Brother Chamberlain who then was the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake heard me say that. And he was thoughtful enough to get in touch with our, with our observatory, naval observatory, to find out what might have happened on April the 6th, 1830. They didn’t have records back that far, so he was thoughtful enough to contact the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England for records that might have been available over there."

In Elder Haight's talk, he only mentioned his notion about the full moon to a small group, Bro. Chamberlain heard him say it, and on his own initiative (Elder Haight characterizes him as "thoughtful" for doing it) investigates the matter and reports back.

Haight never "inquires" of the planetarium worker as Quinn claims, he is merely thinking out loud. The Chamberlain does not "have to" check England—Quinn's constant tendency to emphasize the power and authoritarianism of Church leaders makes this sound like Elder Haight has insisted that Chamberlain investigate this matter and report back.

In fact, Chamberlain does all this on his own, and then reports back, to Elder Haight's pleased surprise—the apostle even notes that the documents thoughtfully sent him "later" by Chamberlain "I have now as a prized possession" (see original transcript; not present in published version).


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. {{Ensign|author=David B. Haight|article=Seek First the Kingdom of God|date=Nov. 1995|pages=73
  2. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 291 ( Index of claims )
  3. Quinn, 290.


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims