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11 August 2002

The Night the Stars Fell



We are about to experience the annual Perseid meteor shower -- the peak is scheduled to be the nights of August 12th and 13th -- and it reminded me of a "meteor story" from the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith that I stumbled across a few years ago.

The source of the information below is:

Philo Dibble, "Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith," The Juvenile Instructor 27 (1892), pages 22-23.

This is a fun story of prophecy and faith to share with your students during this Seminary year. (The information about Philo Dibble is also included in the original article from the Juvenile Instructor. Look up "Philo Dibble" in the index of the book "Church History in the Fulness of Times" for another great historical incident involving Brother Dibble!)

Best wishes,


(845) 446-4927

[Elder Philo Dibble, who was born at Peru, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and who now resides at Springville, Utah County, Utah, is one of the oldest living members of the Church. He embraced the gospel on the 16th of October, 1830, in Kirtland, Ohio. This was several months before the Prophet came to Kirtland. The first time he met the latter was after his arrival there. He testifies, however, that he knew he was a prophet before he saw him. He also relates the following incidents:]

On one occasion Joseph was preaching in Kirtland sometime in the fall of 1833. Quite a number of persons were present who did not belong to the Church, and one man, more bitter and skeptical than others, made note with pencil and paper of a prophecy uttered on that occasion, wherein Joseph said that "Forty days shall not pass, and the stars shall fall from heaven."

Such an event would certainly be very unusual and improbable to the natural man, and the skeptic wrote the words as a sure evidence to prove Joseph to be a false Prophet.

On the thirty-ninth day after the utterance of that prophecy a man and brother in the Church, by the name of Joseph Hancock, who is yet living, in Payson, Utah, and another brother were out hunting game and got lost. They wandered about until night, when they found themselves at the house of this unbeliever, who exultingly produced this note of Joseph Smith's prophecy, and asked Brother Hancock what he thought of his Prophet now, that thirty-nine days had passed and the prophecy was not fulfilled.

Brother Hancock was unmoved and quietly remarked, "There is one night left of the time, and if Joseph said so, the stars will certainly fall tonight. This prophecy will all be fulfilled."

The matter weighed upon the mind of Brother Hancock, who watched that night, and it proved to be the historical one, known in all the world as "the night of the falling of the stars."

He stayed that night at the house of the skeptical unbeliever, as it was too far from home to return by night, and in the midst of the falling of the stars he went to the door of his host and called him out to witness what he had thought impossible and the most improbable thing that could happen, especially as that was the last night in which Joseph Smith could be saved from the condemnation of "a false prophet."

The whole heavens were lit up with the falling meteors, and the countenance of the new spectator was plainly seen and closely watched by Brother Hancock, who said that he turned pale as death, and spoke not a word.

An interesting postscript to this story is found in a footnote on page 347 of B. H. Roberts' Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.27:

14. Mr. Alexander H. Stephens in his History of the United States, says: "During the fall of 1833 occurred a natural phenomenon of a most wonderful character. This was on the night of the 13th of November. It was what was known as the "meteoric shower," or the "falling of the stars." It was witnessed with amazement and astonishment throughout the entire limits of the United States."

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