The only known copy of the Book of Mormon ever to go into space is coming to Utah as general conference approaches.
Before Apollo 16’s launch in 1972, NASA photographer M. Edward Thomas prevailed on the mission’s commander John Young to carry a white, pocket-sized triple combination into space.
That rare copy of Latter-day Saint scripture, published in 1964, will be on display Thursday, Oct. 3, in the President’s Room of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, 15 East South Temple, in Salt Lake City from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Friday, Oct. 4, at Brent Ashworth’s collectibles store in Provo Town Square, Suite 3, 65 N. University Ave., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both events are free.
The inside cover of the Book of Mormon that went to the moon with Apollo 16 shows an inscription from John Young after returning from space. Credit: RR Auction
Robert Livingston, one of the organizers and the executive vice president at RR Auction, said this book of scripture is “absolutely one of a kind.”
“As far as we know, it’s the only Book of Mormon that ever went to the moon,” Livingston said. “There were other microfilm Bibles brought on Apollo 13 and Apollo 14, but never a Book of Mormon, because of the limited weight and space restrictions. Astronauts couldn’t take large objects with them. So this is the only pocket-sized Book of Mormon that was ever taken on an Apollo mission.”
An autographed photo of the Apollo 16 astronauts. Credit: RR Auction
The provenance of the book and its journey to the moon and back again is well documented.
During that era of space travel in the 1960s and 70s, astronauts received many requests from people to take items into space, Livingston said.
Because Thomas had special access to the astronauts, he first asked Young if he would be willing to take a Bible with him into space. Young thought having a religious book on the mission was a good idea. Thomas promised to provide him with one, according to a news release from RR Auction.
Thomas’ wife was hesitant to send their family’s heirloom Bible into space in the event that something went wrong. So the devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent her small, white triple combination Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price instead.
Young is seen in a photograph accepting the book from Thomas and it was listed among his items on a flight manifest.
“The photographic provenance of a personal item that was taken, that’s almost unheard of,” Livingston said.
M. Edward Thomas, left, hands astronaut John Young a Book of Mormon (triple combination) to take to the moon on the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Credit: RR Auction
Young returned the Book of Mormon to Thomas after the mission. Inside the cover is this inscription: “This Book of Mormon flew on Apollo 16 to the moon & returned to earth, John Young, 7/7/72.”
Thomas later converted to the Church, Livingston said.
“It’s an important sacred text flown to the moon that proved pivotal in one man’s conversion,” Livingston said. “This is a truly awe-inspiring relic of Apollo 16.”
The late M. Edward Thomas was a NASA photographer who later joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Credit: RR Auction
Thomas died on Jan. 5, 2001, at the age of 80 in Kaysville.
The Book of Mormon and other items from his NASA career will be auctioned by RR Auction, based in Boston, from Oct. 11 to Oct. 17. The Book of Mormon, item No. 2041, is estimated to go for $150,000, according to www.rrauction.com.