That Time Joseph Smith Said The Earth Was Made of Planets

“This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodelled and made into the one on which we live.”

Joseph Smith

William Clayton recorded that Joseph Smith uttered those prophetic words to a group of Saints in Nauvoo on January 5, 1841. Well, Joseph at least uttered something close to those words. Brother William McIntire, who was also there, recorded him saying it a bit differently: “Earth has been organized out of portions of other Globes that has ben Disorganized.” Whatever words he actually used to say it, what Joseph told the congregation that day was absolutely amazing and way ahead of its time. He said that our planet was formed from the parts of other, dismantled planets or globes. According to the Prophet, our earth was made out of other worlds. (1)

Now, a statement like this makes our imaginations run wild. Where in the world did that come from? What was Joseph Smith thinking? What was he trying to say? What does science today have to say on the subject? I’ll attempt to answer those questions. No, this post is not about the theory that dinosaur bones came from other planets–an erroneous theory we’ll discuss at another time. The truth packed into Joseph’s statement about other planets is so much more compelling and beautiful than that. No, this post is about how the planet Earth actually formed around 4.5 billion years ago. And it’s about a man claiming to be a prophet of God who seemed to have known how the earth actually formed, over a hundred years before scientists figured it out. Yes guys, Joseph was right on the money with this one—our earth was definitely made out of other planets.

But it’s going to take some serious explaining to show just how correct he was about this. We’ll have to delve pretty deep into the history of our world–even way back to the beginning of the universe itself. So buckle up, sit back, and hold on because we’re going to take a tantalizing, backwards tour of how the planet Earth was formed according to modern science, and how Joseph Smith somehow knew at least the gist of how it happened.

To do this, I’ve divided Earth’s development into 5 separate time periods, ranging from the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago to our modern day. We will start at the present (where we live) and move backwards in time, ending where the very atoms that make up our bodies and our world came to be. As we go, pay close attention to words and phrases like “planet”, “globe”, “broken up”, “disorganized”, and “remodeled”, because we’re going to use them and words like them a whole lot! And we have to because that’s just what this ever-unfolding, scientific story requires. 

In fact, as we progress on our journey along the widely-accepted timeline of our earth’s origin, you’ll see that it’s an epic tale of falling planetary shards, colliding worlds, and colossal spheres detonating into glorious disorganization, all converging over time into the world we know and love. And I think when we’re through, you’ll realize and will have to admit that the earth we live on is a bona fide sort of Frankenstein constructed out of the parts of a host of different planets and globes.

Period 5: That Time Bits of Planets Rained Down on the Earth (4.5 Ga–the present)

Achondrite meteorite on display at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, UT. It is the type of meteorite that originated from a bigger parent body. [2]

Last summer, my wife and I were stargazing in Northern Utah, when suddenly a huge, fiery meteor streaked across the sky right above us. And I mean right above us. As this burning, hard rock from space sped through the air over our very soft and mortal heads, I honestly thought for a split second that it was going to make a crater somewhere nearby and we were all going to die. It was that close (or that big). It was pretty exhilarating. Thankfully, it was smaller than it looked, and it didn’t land to make a crater, and nobody died… that I know of. (3)

But that’s nothing new. Earth is always getting hit by rocks from space, and has been for the last 4.5 billion years. You can find them in museums and private collections. They find them sticking out among the ice of Antarctica and the monotonous sands of the Sahara desert. One exploded over Russia in 2013. Every once in a while you see something in the news about a meteoritic fireball in the sky over random cities. Heck, you can even buy them online if you want! Micrometeorites rain down on us so constantly that there’s something like 60-100 metric tons of them falling to Earth every single day. Meteorites. Are. Everywhere. (4)

It’s true. We do get hit by a lot of space rocks these days, but far back in Earth’s past, it was even more. And I’m not even talking about the famous one that finished off the non-avian dinosaurs. What I’m talking about was way before the first dinosaurs graced the land with their loveable awesomeness. The first 600 million years of Earth’s history is called the Hadean because there were so many space rocks hitting the planet all the time that it was like a fiery inferno straight out of H. E. Double Hockey Sticks… which is fitting because Hadean comes from the Greek word Hades, which means “the underworld,” or “hell.” The rocks pelting Earth from above during this time rendered the surface a continually toasty landscape of glowing molten rock, probably making it hard for life to get a hold. Scientists also call this early time in Earth’s history the Late Heavy Bombardment. A fitting name indeed as the stones from space fell at a persistent and heavy rate for quite a while. These severe and constant impacts helped build the planet, each impactor adding a portion of its mass to Earth’s.

If you’ve ever seen the Moon, you’ll notice it has tons of craters. That’s because of the crazy amount of space debris that’s been falling through our solar system over the last 4.4 billion years. The truth is that Earth has been hit just as much by this stuff as the Moon has, it’s just we have way less crateral evidence for it. Why? Because of things like rain, erosion, and plate tectonics. Those things erase craters, and turn them and the meteorites that caused them into sediments, which then become part of Earth’s crust. Sometimes when they hit, impactors completely vaporize and their contents get sent into the upper atmosphere, where they then can rain down onto Earth long distances from the spot of impact. The big one that helped eliminate the dinosaurs hit somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, yet it left a healthy layer of iridium in 65-million-year-old sedimentary rocks all over the globe. I guess you could say that parts of those old meteorites, wherever they come from, have been broken up, remodeled, and incorporated into the very fabric of Earth. The meteorites that fall from space become, in a way, reorganized as part of Earth. (5)

But where do meteorites come from? And don’t just say “Space,”–it’s way more complicated and interesting than that! “Meteorites,” it turns out, “beget meteorites.” Kind of like a chain reaction, pay it forward kind of thing. As one meteorite crashes into a bigger rock, or “parent body,” as they call it, it breaks off pieces of the victim parent body and sends them careening precariously into space, where eventually they may collide with another parent body and spawn even more meteorites, and so on and so forth. Parent bodies can be things like comets, large asteroids, or—get this—other planets. In fact, one of the two main types of meteorites (achondrites) in large part can only come from parent bodies that are big enough to have undergone planetary differentiation–a process we will discuss more in-depth during Period 3. (6)

One such parent body is the asteroid Vesta. We have a lot of achondritic meteorites here on Earth that we’re pretty sure originated from Vesta (an idea first proposed in 1970, and supported by NASA’s Dawn mission in 2013). Vesta is a planet whose surface has been “broken up” a bit by meteorites into meteors and more meteorites, and remodeled to become part of Earth, just like Joseph Smith said. (7)

Now, I know what you’re thinking–”How could junk from the asteroid Vesta possibly substantiate Joseph Smith’s bizarre 1841 comment about other planets? Asteroids aren’t planets!” And you’re right. Asteroids are not planets–at least, not anymore.

In the early 1800s, and especially in 1841 when Joseph Smith spoke of how Earth formed from other planets, all asteroids, including Vesta, were called “planets”. Vesta, which was discovered in 1807, was even given a planetary symbol, just like all the other big brother planets, such as Venus, Mars, Saturn, etc. It wasn’t until around 1850 that scientists started using the word “asteroid” for the relatively smaller rocky objects they were discovering between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. So, at least when thinking about the rocks that have fallen here from Vesta, Joseph Smith technically was right–they came from another planet to help make this one. (8)

But if that’s not good enough, we’ve also found meteorites on Earth that fell from Mars, and maybe even Mercury–parent bodies which are, without a doubt, grown-up, veritable, orbit-clearing planets. We didn’t know we had Martian meteorites until NASA’s Viking spacecraft landed there in 1976; and we still aren’t sure if we have stuff from Mercury yet, but it’s very possible. Pieces of these true planets have helped build up the earth, just like the fragments of Vesta have. (9)

Since 1981, we’ve also been finding pieces of the Moon on Earth. Today, we don’t think of the Moon as a “planet”, but in the early 1800s they did, and so, apparently, did Abraham (see Abraham 3:5). I mean, it is bigger than any of the “dwarf planets” in our solar system, so there shouldn’t be any problem in including the Moon as one of the planets whose bodies have contributed mass to the earth. (10)

And yet, those still aren’t the only planets that have contributed a fraction of their mass to the earth’s. There are definitely more mysterious planetary organ donors in Earth’s tortured past. We know this because we have also found meteorites here that only could have come from planets that are no longer in our solar system–ancient planets that hung out in orbits around the Sun, but were destroyed, or at least were used as a parent body by some space rocks to create new meteorites that eventually made it to Earth. We’ve got parts of other planets here that don’t exist anymore! How cool is that! (It is really cool, and we’ll talk more about those guys in Period 3) (11)

Okay, so let’s think about this: If debris from battered and destroyed planets and asteroids makes it to our home world now, then there’s no reason to suppose the same kind of stuff didn’t make it in the distant past. Remember, the Hadean was a time that was impossible to support life precisely because the earth was getting bombarded so much by space rocks that its surface had a hard time staying solid. And when you have rocks from space falling into melted rocks, they’re probably gonna melt too and permanently become part of Earth’s rocky DNA. Of course, we can’t say for certain where all those Hadean impactors came from, but over a span of 0.6 BILLION years, it’s likely that at least one piece of another planet made it to Earth during that time.

And so yes, since 4.5 Ga, the earth has slowly been built up by small fragments of other planets. Pieces of Mars, Mercury, the Moon, Vesta, and an assortment of unknown planets have rained down and mixed with the crust of Earth, adding mass and making Earth what it is today. Up to around the time of Joseph Smith’s birth, most people likely thought meteorites originated from the atmosphere somehow, not from “other planets” or parent bodies, so I can’t say for sure if he knew that meteors were pieces of other worlds. We now know that they are. But whether Joseph knew it or not, or whether meteorites even crossed his mind as he gave his talk in January of 1841, I think we can still give him a point for this one: he was right about how the earth formed in Period 5. This world was made from broken-off pieces of other worlds. (12)

Period 4: That Time a Mars-Sized Planet Became Part of Earth (4.5 Ga)

Another planet, Theia, striking the proto-earth to form the Moon. [13]

The next part of Earth’s origin story has a lot to do with the Moon, and how it became a thing in our sky. You’ve seen the Moon before. Earth just wouldn’t be the same without its trusty companion up there, giving us light, tides, stability, werewolves, and an awful good calendar to work with. No, if the Moon hadn’t happened, we may not even be here; Earth as we know it probably wouldn’t be here. This chapter of Earth’s story isn’t just about how the Moon became a thing in our sky, but also how a significant chunk of what is now Earth joined the party too. (14)

This part of the story happened around 4.5 Ga. That was such a long time ago, that Earth back then wasn’t even quite “Earth” yet. It was a bit smaller than it is now, and it went by a different name: Tellus. (15)

It’s fitting that Tellus went by a different name than Earth, because after the culminating and dramatic events of this period of natural history; after suffering through a gauntlet of refining fire, Tellus basically emerged as a brand new planet. It was born again, and became known as Earth.

As a proto-earth, Tellus was small. By some estimates, it was only about 90% as massive as today’s Earth. That means that Tellus was something like 5.972 x 10^23 kg lighter than Earth is. That’s the same as 650 quintillion tons, or about twenty-nine octillion dollars in gold, or 93 quintillion male African elephants… in case you were wondering. (16)

One day, as Tellus was out minding its own business, orbiting the Sun, everything for our baby world changed. Another planet named Theia, which was about the size of Mars, came hurtling around the corner and smashed right into Tellus. Boom.

Now, I want you to imagine this collision for just a moment. It was spectacular. It was immense. Two planets—emphasis on the word planets—colliding. If you could have watched it from a safe distance, it would have been absolutely amazing. You would have needed popcorn. This enormous crash was so intense that it’s likely both planets were completely liquified or vaporized. (17)

Can you imagine? It’s hard enough to vaporize a pot of water on the stove to cook your long-awaited mac n cheese, let alone two planet-sized orbs made of rocks and metal. The amount of planetary carnage on the scene must have been overwhelming. It was a complete mess on an astronomical scale.

The resulting liquid/vapor rock glob in space thrashed around for a while, the forces of gravity and momentum mixing the two planets together like a giant blender into a gooey, molten planet smoothie. Part of that mixture broke off from the chaos and found its own place in space, becoming the Moon. The remainder and bulk of the mishmash became a new planet no longer known as Tellus. This guy was a brand new hybrid planet we now like to call Earth.

You may have done the math by now. It is fractions, but it’s not too complicated. If Tellus was 90% of Earth’s mass before running into Theia, and Tellus picked up some extra mass from the deal and became pretty much a full-fledged Earth, then Earth today must be about 10% Theia, by mass. Scientists think that the reason Earth’s core is so unusually big is because its core mixed violently with Theia’s. (18)

Wait a sec! Let’s go over that again. One out of every ten pounds of Earth is from another planet? Yes, another planet that was completely annihilated, ripped apart, disorganized, and assimilated into our own. Does this concept sound familiar to anyone out there? Is it ringing a bell? I think we’ve heard it somewhere before… (19)

Well, if we have heard it, it wasn’t from the men of science of or before the year 1841. Back then, the prevailing theory on how the Moon formed was not that it was a chunk of Earth broken off into orbit by a collision with an entire other planet. Views on the Moon back then were inconclusive, as testified by the diverting fact that William Herschel, a leading astronomer of the day, thought “beyond doubt” that there were “inhabitants” living on the Moon. Nobody really posited any theories on Moon formation until 1870. That year, George Darwin, the son of the ever-famous-on-this-blog Charles Darwin, suggested the early Earth had spun so fast on its axis that the centrifugal force flung off a piece of Earth (from what’s now the Pacific Ocean) into space to became the Moon. Sounds a bit funny to us now, but nothing else rivaled this idea until 1946, when Reginald Aldworth Daly proposed the Moon had formed from an impact. Since then, the mounting evidence—including evidence from the Apollo missions—seems to support that the Moon is here because of another planet smacking into ancient Earth. And if that incoming planet left its remains in the Moon, it must have left some in the Earth too— an idea which a comparison of Moon and Earth compositions supports nicely. (20)

Theia was, by all intents and purposes, a planet—an “other planet” that, once an independent world, was broken up, vaporized, and remodeled into our own. I mean, it was the size of Mars, and nobody disputes that Mars is a planet. Theia could have held her own. With science telling us 10% of Earth is an alien planet, Joseph Smith was, once again, right about how the Earth formed in Period 4. This world was made out of another world.

But Joseph did say “planets”, in the plural, so shouldn’t there have been more than one? Don’t worry, there were others! Lots of others.

Period 3: That Time Lots of Other Planets Made the Earth (4.65-4.45 Ga)

Every round, differentiated (?) object in the solar system under 10,000 kilometers in diameter, to scale. [21] 

Have you ever played pool before? Or bumper cars? Or American football with pads? Well, if you have, you’ve done something that resembles a very important part of Earth-formation history. What do all those things have in common? Balls, bodies, or objects forcefully colliding into each other.

Well, this period of Earth’s formation included a whole lot of collisions–huge masses crashing into each other, crumpling, breaking, and combining. It was so much like the game of pool, with balls whizzing around and hitting one another, that some astronomers have affectionately dubbed it “Cosmic Billiards”. (22)

But before we get to that, this stage of Earth’s creation began with a young star, just beginning to make its way in the cosmos. I’m talking of course, about the Sun. Way back in the beginning of the Sun’s life, before it had any planets to call its own, it was just a protostar surrounded by a large, swirling disk of dust and gas called an accretion disk. Static electricity began to make dust particles stick together and form clumps. These clumps attracted more clumps, and these bigger clumps eventually combined to form bigger rocks, like asteroids. (23)

Now, you can picture a baby star surrounded by tons of little happy space rocks, and you could say, “Good job, Solar System. You did it!.” But the Solar System wasn’t done yet. Just like the dust particles teamed up to make clumps and rocks, these rocks would combine to make larger asteroids called planetesimals. As the name suggests, planetesimals are basically just tiny planets with a diameter of around 1 km. Planetesimals, as we shall soon see, are the smaller building blocks of even larger, soon to be full-grown planets. (24)

The planetesimals were basically wannabe planets, and there must have been a lot of them—we even have a bunch of them still hanging around the solar system today as moons or Kuiper Belt Objects. But once again, planetesimals weren’t the goal here. To really reach their full potential, these planetesimals had to become planets. (25)

And so how do you suppose they would go about doing that? You guessed it, by colliding with each other. As two planetesimals crash into each other, they can combine some of their mass together too, forming a larger, more massive planetesimal. And as these planetesimals accumulated matter in this fashion, they eventually reached a very important stage of development–planetary differentiation.

When something differentiates, it means its mass is great enough to cause its core to melt, causing the heavy elements like iron and nickel to sink to the center, and lighter stuff like silicon to rise to the top. Differentiation is why Earth’s core is made of iron, because it all sank to the middle. This process turned little planetesimals into rounded, differentiated protoplanets. And they’re rounded because another effect of planetary differentiation is to pull a rock, if big enough, into a globe. (26)

Today we have a lot of differentiated things in the solar system: planets, dwarf planets, and some asteroids. Basically anything with a diameter of about 20 km or bigger will differentiate. Many of the achondrite meteorites we find on Earth came from differentiated parent bodies. We know they’re differentiated because of their composition. If a meteorite is mostly heavy elements like iron, then it was probably at one point inside of a differentiated parent body–perhaps even a planet–and that’s how we know that some of these achondrites are from worlds that are no longer around. (27)

In the early solar system, there sure were lots of things differentiating. Some estimates place the number of planets crowding around the young Sun at a couple of dozen to around 100. Think about that. We have 4 terrestrial planets in the inner solar system today, but back then, we had something like 100 Moon-to-Mars sized planets. One HUNDRED planets. Imagine that. (28)

But where did they all go? Unlike socks in a washing machine, planets don’t just magically disappear or cease to exist–something had to have happened to them. But like socks in the laundry, these earlier planets did indeed go through a spin cycle of sorts, and that, my friends, is where the answer lies. All these planets occupying a limited space reeks of solar-system-scale disaster. Like the dust-particles-to-protoplanet story, more collisions were inevitable. And that’s exactly what happened. Entire planets collided. Many, many times over.

So many planetary orbs were colliding during this time that scientists have named this era of solar system formation the Titanomachean, meaning literally, “the war of the titans.” What a fitting name, because the titans of our early neighborhood absolutely decked it out for tens of millions of years. Two protoplanets would crash into each other, fall apart, and mix together to form a larger one. Some would even get completely annihilated, their decimated remnants eventually being pulled into another under-construction planet. It must’ve been awesome. (29)

This is how Tellus, our before-Theia proto-earth, formed—through collisions with other planetary embryos and from stray pieces of other embryos. By the end of all the chaos (but before Theia struck the final major blow), who knows how many shards of battered and even destroyed and broken-up planets ended up being pulled into our developing proto-earth and added to the planetary cookie dough mix? 

Now, let’s consider this for a moment: There was a duration of earth’s history that was literally just tiny planets colliding to make bigger planets. These planets would have smashed and melded together to form larger and larger bodies, like gigantic balls of play dough in the hands of a creative and careless child on a mission to make a mess. You know what this means right? It means that this earth was formed out of an unknowable number of other planets that smashed together, collided, broke up, and were remodeled by gravity into the one in which we now live. It means our earth is made out of other planets, guys! And that, of course, means we’ve got to give another point to Joseph Smith, because he was absolutely right about how the earth formed in Period 3.

Period 2: That Time Pieces of an Exploding Globe Started the Earth-Making Process (4.7 Ga)

“Among the complex atoms on Earth, many were created in the supernova explosion whose expanding bubble came to rest amid the material from which we are now made.”

Lawrence Krauss [30]

Around 4.7 Ga, our Sun wasn’t a star yet. It was a nebula—a giant cloud of gas and dust, just waiting for something amazing to happen. And then, it did. Somewhere close to the nebula, a star went supernova, blasting its globular shape into a bright explosion, scattering its elements in all directions. (31)

As most supernovae do, this explosion would have made a pretty formidable shockwave that could have reached our baby nebula and given it a little nudge, causing a gravitational collapse that would one day result in the formation of a new star: our Sun. (32)

Rotating around our infant Sun was a disk of that gas and dust, left over from the original nebula. It was from this accretion disk that dust grains, rocks, asteroids, planetesimals, planets, and Earth would eventually be made. And it was an exploding, nuclear globe that started the process.

Joseph Smith seemed at times to use the terms “star” and “planet” interchangeably (see Abraham 3:9, Facsimile 2, figure 5). As we’ve seen earlier, such behavior wasn’t all that uncommon in his day. And of course, stars are “globes”. Giant, enormous, massive, nuclear plasma globes, but globes nonetheless. Could it be that Joseph’s 1841 statement on the formation of Earth was referring (at least partially) to the ancient ‘globular’ star that was torn to shreds in its own death, ultimately leading to the creation of the star around which the earth would form?  (33)

The shockwave that reached our baby nebula likely included material from the dead star itself. Some of the heavy elements we now enjoy on our planet and in our bodies may have come from this very star. And if this star had any planets around it, maybe even pieces of those planets, if destroyed, could have been carried along for the ride and ended up in our solar system and our Earth. It’s definitely a possibility. If indeed, there were planets around this star whose scattered remains wound up in the earth, then Joseph was even right in more ways than one about bits of other broken-up planets coming together to form our own. (34) 

Here’s another point for Joseph–and I’m tempted to give him two for this one–because he was absolutely right: In this period of Earth’s formation, bits of planets and globes provided not only some of the fundamental building blocks of our planet, but the physics that began the creation process itself.

Period 1: That Time the Remains of Many Exploded Globes Became the Earth (13.8–4.7 Ga)

Remnants of a supernova first observed by the medieval astronomer Tycho Brahe [35]

Not long after the Big Bang (around 300 million years), the very first stars in the universe were born. They were ginormous, massive beasts that lived short lives but left a legacy that would endure for the rest of time itself; for from these stars, in a way, descend all the later stars and planets in the cosmos.

The ancestry of all elements in the universe heavier than lithium can be traced back to stars. Stars don’t just give off light; they are like giant ball-shaped element factories. In fact, the reason they give off so much light is precisely because they’re busy fusing atoms together to make elements. These early gigantic stars formed, made a bunch of essential elements like carbon, oxygen, and iron, then exploded and made even more elements. Those elements would seed nebulas where new stars would be born, followed by more fusion and more element manufacturing, and then another explosion and then another star and so on. (36)

The nebula from which our solar system formed, was made from the remains of dead stars. Scientists believe that the Sun is at least a third generation star, meaning that at least 2 older ancestor stars preceded it and made the elements from which it was made. (37)

The earth is also made from atoms forged in stars. The carbon in limestone; the silicon in sand; the sodium in granite; the oxygen in the atmosphere; the iron in the core–they all came from exploded and demolished stars. Without the shards of the stars that came before us, all the way back to 13.5 billion years ago, our planet would not be here. Our entire world, from the depths of the earth to the pepperoni on your pizza is made out of disassembled stars. 

As we’ve discussed, Joseph Smith called stars planets, and all stars are globes. And the stars that fashioned the elements which ultimately produced the nebula from which our Earth was formed were literally gigantic globes that were broken up and disorganized and eventually remodelled into a habitable planet. The earth itself is a mix of parts from an unknowable cast of deceased and shattered stars. Once again, it sounds like we have to give Joseph Smith a point for this one, because he was absolutely right about how the earth—or the elements that comprise the earth—was made in period 1. 

That Time Joseph Smith Was Right About How the Earth Formed (1841)

Now, I ask all the learned men who hear me, why the learned doctors who are preaching salvation say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. They account it blasphemy to contradict the idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. The reason is that they are unlearned but I am learned and know more than all the world put together–the Holy Ghost does, anyhow. If the Holy Ghost in me comprehends more than all the world, I will associate myself with it. You ask them why, and they say, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?” And they infer that it must be out of nothing. The word create came from the word BARA, but it doesn’t mean so. What does BARA mean? It means to organize; the same as a man would organize and use things to build a ship. Hence, we infer that God Himself had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter—which is element and in which dwells all the glory.

Joseph Smith, 7 April 1844 [38]

Now that we’ve delved into the formation history of our beautiful planet home, you can see just how well Joseph Smith described the earth-making process on that fateful day in January 1841.

Infographic comparing the January 5, 1841 statements of Joseph Smith and the current scientific theories on how the earth was formed.

Meteorites come from battered planets and asteroids that were known in Joseph’s day as planets. Theia, the body that hit the proto-earth to make the Moon and the rest of Earth, was a planet. The planetesimals and protoplanets that collided to form the proto-earth were planets, or at least globes. The star whose supernova debris caused the accretion disk which formed the earth, was a globe–and may have been categorized as a planet by Joseph’s standards. Also, its shockwave may have carried shards of its own planets along for the ride, which, of course, were planets. And the stars that seeded the universe with its first heavy elements, providing the building blocks to make other stars and planets, including Earth, were globes, or planets as well. In short, Joseph Smith was very right about how the earth formed—it formed from pieces of disorganized and broken-up planets and globes.

If you’ve been keeping score, that’s 5 out of 5 for Joseph Smith on how the earth formed. And he did that in 1841. If you compared that with what the scientists of his day would have scored on this same test, how would they have fared? What about if you looked at the hypothetical scores of other religious leaders that came after Joseph? How well would they have done? I won’t get into that here, but I think it’s safe to assume that some of those scientists and religionists would have performed far lower than Joseph. 

And so we have to ask ourselves, how in the world did he know this stuff?

I can imagine a scenario where a curious Joseph Smith, with confidence that God answers his prayers, asks the Lord how the earth formed. Perhaps in a vision, or through a seer stone, Joseph sees the young Sun surrounded by a few dozen planets in orbit that collide and explode into countless pieces and melt together to form bigger planets. Maybe he even saw ancient, giant stars exploding in incredibly bright supernovae, spreading their heavy elements throughout the universe into dust clouds and eventually into planets. And after receiving this knowledge, perhaps all that Joseph could have relayed to his fellow saints was, “This earth was formed from other planets that were broken up and remodeled into our own.”

Joseph knew how the earth formed—at least fundamentally. And although I’d love to know, I don’t know how he knew it. But I think the best explanation we can give right now is: Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Sources and Notes

  2. , Large iron meteorite at Clark Planetarium is a primitive achondrite. Is IAB group. Nantan. Likely Shares parent body with winonaites, IICDs
  3. Awesome meteor likely seen while stargazing on the night of August 3, 2019
  4.;; Ebay link:; Micrometeorites per day:;
  8. Vesta was a planet and had a symbol:,; 1800s scientists called asteroids planets for a while:,,,
  10.;;;;; First lunar meteorite recognized 1981-1982?:,; See image in this post given for Period 3 where the Moon is clearly larger than any dwarf planet in our solar system.
  11. Meteorites from lost planets:,,,
  16. The following sources estimate that the pre-Theia proto-earth had a mass of about 90% of what Earth is today: “What was earth’s mass before the collision with theia?”, Astronomy Stack Exchange, answered Dec 29 ’18,; “What was the size of Earth before Theia collided with the planet that resulted the Moon?”, Quora, Answered Apr 20, 2018,;;;
  17. Sarah T. Stewart, “ORIGIN OF THE EARTH AND MOON”,  accessed 6/21/19, Charles Q. Choi, “The Moon May Have Formed When Earth’s Magma Was Blasted Into Space,” 4/29/19,
  20. History of thought on Moon formation:, Darwin’s theory lasted until the space age, Reginald 1946:;;,_and_that_its_inhabitants_were_dressed_like_Quakers%3F; Earth-Moon compositions:
  21. Credit: Emily Lakdawalla/data from NASA /JPL/JHUAPL/SwRI/SSI/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/Gordan Ugarkovic/Ted Stryk, Bjorn Jonsson/Roman Tkachenko,
  22. Michael Summers & James Trefil, Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System, Smithsonian Books (March 14, 2017), pp 30-33.
  23. Planets started out as clumps of dirt: How the Universe Works, Season 2, Episode 8 (2012),
  28.; Exoplanets pp 30-33
  29. The war of the titans, Period of violent planet collisions called Titanomachean: means “the war of the titans”: Planets started out as clumps of dirt: How the Universe Works, Season 2, Episode 8 (2012);
  30. Lawrence Krauss, Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth…and Beyond, 2001, Little Brown, p. 134.
  31. Lawrence Krauss, Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth…and Beyond, 2001, Little Brown, pp. 132-143.
  33. JS seems to use planet and star interchangeably—Abraham 3:8-9, Fac 2, fig. 1,2,5;
  34. Maybe even pieces of the deceased star’s destroyed planets; There may have been planet dust in the supernova that caused the sun to form; Planets have been a thing since 12.8 Ga:,; Supernovae destroy their planets:,; Supernova shockwaves bring matter with them from the dead star:;,
  35., NASA/CXC/Chinese Academy of Sciences/F. Lu et al

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