Second Coming: A Planet or Comet

In the April 1843 General Conference, Joseph Smith made reference to a planet or comet in relationship to the second coming of Christ. Following his references to the events that must precede this grand event, he reportedly said the following:

. . . then one grand sign of the son of the son of man in heaven. but what will the world do? they will say it is a planet. a comet, &c. consequently the sun [Son] of man will come as the sign of coming of the son of man; is as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.1

James Burgess also recorded Joseph Smith’s statement, albeit differently:

So also is the comeing of the Son of Man. The dawning of the morning makes its appearance in the east and moves along gradualy so also will the comeing of the Son of Man be. it will be small at its first appearance and gradually becomes larger untill every eye shall see it.2

In this second quote, Joseph Smith went on to suggest that Christ’s coming may be characterized by two planetary objects coming into contact with each other. So spectacular would this event be that “every eye shall see it”.

The quotes above are directly related to the Savior’s statement to his disciples while on the mount of Olives.  As part of his response following his statement concerning the destruction of the temple3, the Savior said:

For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.4

Although “. . . in the fourth century, early Christianity was stripped of anything resembling ‘cosmism’”, the Prophet Joseph Smith restored much about this ancient construct.5


  1. “Joseph Smith Diary by Willard Richards, 6 Apr 1843”. The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph. Comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991. 180; hereafter Words.
  2. “James Burgess Notebook”. Words. 181. See note 1 and 32 of this discourse for further explanation.
  3. See Matthew 24:2-3.
  4. Matthew 24:27-30.
  5. See Cosmology in Early Christianity.

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  1. Jeremy’s avatar

    Very cryptic language if you ask me. Some today (even Mormons) believe that this refers to a planet called Nibiru, also commonly known as Planet X. I don’t know much about Planet X, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

    One theory suggests that Planet X is inhabited by Enoch’s people and its return will be what causes all the destruction (i.e., the burning) of the last days. Any astro-physicist will tell you that when two planets come into close range (such as Earth and Nibiru), there can be an enourmous amount of heat generated.

  2. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Jeremy,

    Have you read Hamlet’s Mill?

    Check out Appendix 39 for additional information. Appendix 20 suggests that Jacob’s wrestle took place on the solstice.

    Seems like there is much more to the Four Corners of the Earth than meets the eye.

    Of course, this is all just speculation and who knows what it means…

  3. Anthony E. Larson’s avatar

    I am so very pleased to see that other thinking Latter-day Saints are looking at this long neglected statement by Joseph Smith and are seeing it for what it is. It’s implications are profound for understanding prophecy and the events of the Last Days. You might also care to investigate a corroborating statement by Elder LeGrand Richards in a General Conference talk during the 1950s that clearly references the same “great phenomenon in heaven” that he attributes to a “misplacement of planets.” This is a pivotal principle taught by Joseph to the early Saints. I applaud your willingness to tackle a vital concept that has been greatly marginalized in recent years.

  4. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Sorry Anthony, I don’t see Elder LeGrand Richards saying quite what you think he says. Here’s his quote from CR April 1951:

    “While I was president of the Southern States Mission, one of our missionaries wrote in from Florida and said, “President Richards, I have been reading about the signs of the coming of the Lord.” He said, “When the sun darkens and the moon ceases to give its light and the stars fall from heaven, everybody will know that he is coming.

    And I wrote back and said, “Probably they will know. The newspapers might announce some great phenomenon in the heavens, misplacement of planets, that have caused this consternation, and scientists will have their explanation to make of it, and unless they have faith in the Living God, unless as Jesus said, they can read the signs of the times, they may not know anything about what is going on in the world.

    “Why,” I said, “if the inhabitants of this earth had the ability and the power to read the signs of the times, they would know that already the Lord has given far more than the darkening of the sun or obscuring the light of the moon or causing the stars to fall from heaven, for what he has accomplished in the establishment of his kingdom in the earth in these latter days, and the unseen power operating in the world for the accomplishment of his purposes, are greater signs than any of these phenomena that we read about—the signs of his coming.”

    Note that he doesn’t attribute anything to a “misplacement of planets.” Rather that scientists and others of the world would attempt to explain it away and attribute is as merely such.

  5. Greg’s avatar

    Thank you Anthony. As usual I suppose, I am unaware this statement has been “marginalized” in recent years.

    But then again, I don’t get out much. :)

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Steven – At least Elder Richards’ quote is consistent with the rest of the statement attributed to Joseph Smith by James Burgess. He said many would “attribute it to a natural cause”.

  7. Anthony E. Larson’s avatar

    Like many Latter-day Saints, you see Joseph’s and LeGrand’s statement in isolation without considering the many other references by him and others that learned these things from him personally, that corroborate and support my interpretation rather than yours. That’s why I say that such teachings have been marginalized. Taken out of the context provided by teachings of other apostles, prophets and early church members who learned this concept from him personally, one might be excused from seeing things your way. You believe that those statements suggest that a planet or comet will not be the “sign,” that the “misalignment of planets” is going to be a false conclusion of scientists. I suggest you read the numerous statements and review the documentary evidence that support my contention. You can see them on my blog at The preponderance of evidence says your interpretation is badly flawed. But don’t take my word for it. (grin) Do the research for yourself. But don’t look at such statements in isolation.

  8. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Anthony for your comments on this thread.

    Although I don’t know Steven personally, we have had many conversations via FB and email and I have always found him to have an open mind.

    We all learn at our own pace and have our own individual interests and pursuits. And in fact, Steven has written many things that have given my studies greater depth and context and for that I am very appreciative.

    So I hope that we can keep this cordial.

    Anthony, you have a wealth of information on your site and there is a lot to take in. I’m afraid that unless a person makes this topic a study (fasting and prayer also come to mind), the “cosmism” that Nibley referred to on another thread (Cosmology in Early Christianity) is often a difficult topic to comprehend. Especially given the Book of Abraham and it’s many ties to Egyptian cosmology.

    In any case, thanks for the discussion. Hopefully disparate points of view will always be welcome on this thread.

  9. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Anthony: Believe it or not, as far as I know, I’ve read your entire website. There are some things I believe in and others I don’t. Further, I’ve read three of your books, but again, some things I believe in and others I don’t.

    I think our main area of disagreement is that you seem to believe in a naturalistic explanation for miracles, such as the parting of the red sea, etc., while I believe that since God is the author of law he can suspend our so-called physical laws whenever it please him. See:

    We can disagree, but at the very least, let us disagree agreeably.

    Greg: Thanks for the kind comments. I think you run a great site, and appreciate a lot of the things you’ve posted. Thanks.

  10. Anthony E. Larson’s avatar


    Sorry if I seemed disagreeable. I have a lot on my plate just now, and I’ve had to deal with this issue so many times it gets under my skin. Please accept my apologies if I’ve been rude.

    You’ve pegged me correctly: I do believe in naturalistic explanations. Our common religion, Mormonism is uniquely naturalistic at its roots. A god who is a “glorified man” with a body of flesh and bone, as taught by Joseph Smith, is a perfect example, since most Christians believe him to be mere spirit, intellect or force and nothing like man. I like Pres. Lorezo Snow’s cuplet, “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man man become.” That’s naturalism par excellance, and it sets a tone for all LDS doctrine and tradition.

    In order to help you understand my approach better, may I respectfully submit that you read Elder Talmadges “Jesus the Christ,” page 148 wherein he writes that “miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized.” I urge you to read his entier comments on this subject because your view contradicts his entirely.

    This brings me back to the original point of our discussion, Joseph Smith’s statement about a comet or planet being the agent of latter-day destructions. I strongly suggest you read his entire statment in context. When you do, you’ll see that he lists several of the promenent signs of the last days before making the “comet, planet” statment. This, in my mind, further reinforces the cause-and-effect relationship between the signs and the cosmic object.

    So now I must ask, after reading all the quotes I offer by Joseph’s contemporaries and other general authorities, after all the evidence and logic I’ve presented, can you conceed or acknowledge my point? Or is your mind unchanged?

  11. Steven Montgomery’s avatar


    Thanks for disagreeing agreeably. Even though I never asked or expected it (from you or anyone), apology accepted.

    Regarding the quote by James E. Talmage: I love Elder Talmage and love reading his books, Jesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith. I gained my first inklings of a testimony as a young man in the early 70′s reading his books. I agree that miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law. However, as I wrote here: ” . . . God is the author of law. Law does not exist independently of God.” Because God is the author of law, including the laws of physics or chemistry, he can alter or change the law depending upon his will. He can command the elements, turn water into wine, command the dead to come back to life, or turn Moses’s staff into a serpent.

    Because God is the author of law: Noah’s flood came about because of God’s will and not because of near misses with a planet or planets; Moses’s parting of the Red Sea came about because he commanded the elements and they obeyed and not because of some other natural explanation; Enoch could move mountains at his mere word and not because of some naturalistic explanation.

    Because God is the author of law and is omniscient he can make it possible for a star to nova or otherwise brighten so that it is a great sign of Christ’s birth. Or some other planetary object to be a great sign of the Son of Man.

    So we agree mostly. Unless I am mistaken, we just disagree in the “how” miracles are performed.

  12. John Coltharp’s avatar

    Steven, you said: “Law does not exist independently of God.” That doesn’t sound very compatible with Mormonism. God was born on another planet, the same way you were on this planet. He hasn’t always been God. Even now he is a material personage, subject to the same laws that all matter is subject to. There are certain eternal and fixed laws that exist in this universe that not even God can violate, and they exist independently. For instance, matter cannot be created or annihilated (or in other words, matter is of eternal duration.) That is a law that exists independently of God and every other intelligent being in existence. And no intelligent being can alter it in even the least bit.

  13. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks John – if I remember correctly Joseph Smith talked about “self existent” principles which supports your statement above.

  14. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    John, regarding your comment dated June 2, 2011, where you write in reference to my statement that “law does not exist independently of God,” the following: “That doesn’t sound very compatible with Mormonism. God was born on another planet, the same way you were on this planet. He hasn’t always been God. Even now he is a material personage, subject to the same laws that all matter is subject to. There are certain eternal and fixed laws that exist in this universe that not even God can violate, and they exist independently. For instance, matter cannot be created or annihilated (or in other words, matter is of eternal duration.) That is a law that exists independently of God and every other intelligent being in existence. And no intelligent being can alter it in even the least bit.” I would simply reply with the words of Joseph Smith: “Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way.” So, even though Heavenly Father has not always been God, there has always been a God. Seems kinda incredible, but that’s just the facts as I know them. I know this is a which came first, the chicken or the egg quandry, but that where things stand at the moment. If you disagree, please do so in an agreeable manner.

  15. John Coltharp’s avatar


    I believe in the existence of an infinite multitude of gods as well.

    However, when we talk about God, we’re talking about one specific person, not the whole infinite multitide.

    That one single person is not above all law, because he himself was created through certain laws that existed before he was organized.

    But even if the word “God” did denote the entire infinite chain of fathers and sons, they are all still material, and thus subject to the physical laws of the universe, despite McConkie’s threat that I’m a heretic for believing so.

    The McConkies were traitors to Mormonism in my opinion. They did more damage to the doctrine during the last century than anyone else I can think of.

  16. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    John, if, as Moses 6:63 states, “all things bear record of Christ,” then I assume that law does too. But how can the law be designed to bear record of Christ if the law preceded the Gods? I believe that the law and “all things” was designed deliberately so as to bear testimony in some way of the Son.

    For example I do not think it mere coincidence that the carbon molecule is the sixth element. Man being representative of the number six, for incompleteness.

  17. John Coltharp’s avatar

    These verses are being interpreted too broadly.

    Christ didn’t atone for the entire universe. In fact, there is an infinite portion of space out there that consists of kingdoms to which Christ does not belong. They belong to other gods, who have their own firstborn savior-sons. Christ is only the savior of his Father’s kingdom, which is finite.

    So no, all things in the universe do not bear record of Christ, at least not in the sense you’re interpreting it. Christ hasn’t always existed.

    I don’t say the law preceded the gods. There is no beginning to the gods. The gods have always existed, and so has the law. But the gods are not above every law. There are certain laws that are above God, and if God were to violate those laws, he would cease to be God, and his power would come to an end. If this were to occur, the natural laws of the universe would not cease to operate, because they exist independent of God. His knowledge of those laws, and his ability to follow them, is what gives him his power.

  18. John Coltharp’s avatar

    Materialism was the philosophy of Joseph Smith and his apostle-contemporaries. If you believe in the philosophy of materialism (or physicalism as it would be called today), you cannot believe that God is the author of all laws. It’s self-contradictory, and an illogical absurdity.

  19. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    John, regarding your belief that “Christ didn’t atone for the entire universe.” John Taylor, in his masterful book, “Mediation and Atonement” disagrees. As written in chapter XXI of that book:

    “And again, not only did His agony affect the mind and body of Jesus, causing Him to sweat great drops of blood, but by reason of some principle, to us unfathomable, His suffering affected universal nature.

    “World upon world, eternal things,
    Hang on thy anguish, King of kings.”

    When he gave up the ghost, the solid rocks were riven, the foundations of the earth trembled, earthquakes shook the continents and rent the isles of the sea, a deep darkness overspread the sky, the mighty waters overflowed their accustomed bounds, huge mountains sank and valleys rose, the handiwork of feeble men was overthrown, their cities were engulphed or consumed by the vivid shafts of lightning, and all material things were convulsed with the throes of seeming dissolution. Thus was brought to pass that which was spoken by the prophet Zenos: “The rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God to exclaim, The God of nature suffers.” [1 Nephi,xix, 12.] And it is recorded, that so confessed the Centurion, and they that were with him watching the body of Jesus. For when they witnessed the earthquake, and the other things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.” So also was fulfilled that which is written in the prophecy of Enoch:

    “And the Lord said unto Enoch, Look; and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men; and he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the Saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory; and as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day.” —Pearl of Great Price.

    Thus, such was the torturing pressure of this intense, this indescribable agony, that it burst forth abroad beyond the confines of His body, convulsed all nature and spread throughout all space.”

    Finally, I do believe in the materialism of Joseph Smith. I also believe that God is the author of all laws. Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants says so. I doubt that Joseph Smith is “self-contradictory and an illogical absurdity.” Cheers.

  20. John Coltharp’s avatar

    You have to interpret John Taylor’s words in such a way that they’re in harmony with the rest of the Gospel.

    What about Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, and others teaching that every God’s firstborn son is a savior to that family, and that our savior only saved our father’s family? In plain language, Brigham Young says other gods out there have their own firstborn son saviors.

    Your interpretations of scripture are more in harmony with mainstream Christianity, and less in harmony with Mormonism.

  21. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    John, What is this, a war of references? I’ll raise your GA quotes with several other GA quotes.

    Regarding my interpretation of scripture: Mainstream Christianity doesn’t even believe in a plurality of Gods, so I’ll have to differ there. And since Joseph Smith himself said:

    “God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable; for instance, God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders, and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass.”

    I guess If that’s mainstream Christianity, then I am in agreement with it. But I won’t lose any sleep over it.

    Can we put this debate to rest now? I’m tiring of it.

  22. Anthony E. Larson’s avatar

    I tried with our good brother Montgomery, and failed. (sigh) I see you’re having the same result. You won’t change his mind. Even when you point out the flaws in his logic, he sidesteps the issue. As I did, I suggest you turn your efforts to more receptive hearts and leave Bro. Montgomery to himself. This kind cannot be dissuaded.

  23. John Coltharp’s avatar

    Only the Prophet has the right to give the official doctrines. Everyone else’s quotes don’t matter if they contradict his.

    Either way, it’s not a matter of finding the right quotes, because you’re misinterpreting them. You’re whole philosophy is self-contradictory, but you’re apparently incapable of grasping it or seeing that fact.

    Yes, let’s put it to rest. I didn’t mean anything in an offensive way. I was just challenging your views, which every person should expect if they post something online.

  24. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Anthony and John, how else am I supposed to respond when John says things like, “your interpretations of scripture are more in harmony mainstream Christianity, and less in harmony with Mormonism,” but fails to buttress his argument. Merely making a statement like that without supporting argument is meaningless.

    You say that my “whole philosophy is self-contradictory,” and am “incapable of grasping” where it is contradictory. So maybe you could point out where my philosophy is self contradictory. But just making a statement like that without argument doesn’t really argue the issue.

    Show me where I am sidestepping the issue or where I am misinterpreting scripture. Maybe I’m dull and need such things pointed out to me.

  25. Vin Beazel’s avatar

    Looks like I caught up with some old friends, brother Anthony!
    I started seeing a number of references to Three Days of Darkness, and decided to blog, as there are a considerable number of non-lds who have joined in the Feast/discussions; not knowing the contribution of the Prophet, Seer and Translator of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham; as well as the Revelator of the Book of Moses, which is where I love to start them thinking about what is in the Lost Testaments?
    Sharing this site; along with my new blog, on the Three Days of Darkness in Sacred writings, and on the internet discussions’ boards.

  26. Mike’s avatar

    This is an old thread, but I wanted to thank Steven Montgomery for his comments. I’ve read his post on and I think what he has written there and said here makes good sense.

    When Anthony and John make statements like, “Even when you point out the flaws in his logic, he sidesteps the issue” and “but you’re apparently incapable of grasping it or seeing that fact” it’s a clear sign to me that pride may be clouding judgment. Both of them have communicated in a condescending way. To me this reveals an assumption on their part that their conjectures and suppositions are inherently superior to those of others. I sensed no such delusion on the part of Steven.

    The bottom line here is that most of this is just conjecture on any of our parts. I’m sure we all realize as well that none of this is essential to our salvation. It sure is fun to talk about though. :)

  27. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Thanks Mike for those kind words. Yes, it is just conjecture, but interesting to ponder nonetheless.

  28. Anthony E. Larson’s avatar

    Just out of curiosity, Steven, what parts of my blog do you agree with? You did note that some you believed, some you didn’t. Would you care to give me examples?

  29. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Anthony, this is an old thread, more than a year old. So, I’d have to go back and reread your entire site to do it (and my memory) justice. I don’t have time right now, but I may have some free time a month or so from now, as winter closes in. So, if you’ll just be patient. Thanks. Oh, and maybe remind me in a month or so.

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