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the comet hale-bopp

Statistically improbable signs and wonders are sent by the Lord “that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” In the scriptures we see that the Lord often “doubles down,” coordinating multiple signs that are in combination much more improbable than a single sign would be. Two signs linked to comets in the 1830’s are proposed as examples of synchronized signs. (Helaman 14:28) [i]

Best Meteor Storm and Most Famous Comet

The organization of the Church and the beginnings of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth are chronicled in Church history spanning the years 1830 until 1836. During this time, the biggest meteor storm in recorded history was observed during the early morning of November 13, 1833.

The storm was caused by the Tempel-Tuttle Comet whose 33 year orbit closely intersects the earth’s orbit causing the annual Leonid meteor shower. Joseph Smith declared the meteor storm to be a sign from heaven fulfilling prophesies in the Holy Scriptures. The storm was also a well-documented fulfillment of a specific prophesy by Joseph Smith given forty days earlier that “Forty days shall not pass, and the stars shall fall from heaven.” [ii]

Later, in 1835, just before the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and the visit of the Lord Jesus Christ and other heavenly messengers in 1836, the most famous comet, Halley’s Comet, returned to the inner solar system with a spectacular show.[iii]

In 1833, as the meteors like fireworks filled the sky, the saints were on the banks of the Missouri River being driven out of Missouri and would arrive in Kirtland, Ohio to assist in building the temple. In 1835, as Halley’s Comet lit up the night sky, the temple was nearing completion and ready to host the Savior of the world as He was establishing His Church and Kingdom on earth.[iv]

If Joseph Smith declared one prominent astronomical event caused by a comet to be a sign from heaven fulfilling prophesy, what if this additional event of the return of the most famous comet two years later is also a sign from heaven sent by God? And, what if the timing of the premier meteor storm caused by a comet and the return of Halley’s Comet two years later were to make this particular combination of the two signs even more rare and unlikely to have happened by coincidence? [v]

Recorded history’s greatest meteor storm over North America on the early morning of November 13, 1833. It was visible from Niagara Falls. It was caused by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, discovered by Wilhelm Tempel and by Horace Parnell Tuttle.

Sketch of Halley’s Comet in 1835 by famous astronomer John Herschel.


A NASA photo of Halley’s Comet

“a famous view of the full tail of Halley recorded from the Mount Wilson Observatory.”

Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet

Famous American writer Mark Twain’s life is closely associated with Halley’s Comet, the most famous of the periodic comets. He said in 1909:

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.”

The historical account continued:

“[Samuel] Clemens was indeed born just after Halley’s Comet appeared in 1835, and he died of a heart attack one day after it appeared at its brightest in 1910.” [vi]

It is not that Samuel Clemens’ life is so important as to merit his own comet caused sign and wonder in the heavens. I think, however, that his life events are interesting because it shows a positive result and not just doom and catastrophic negative results being associated with major comets.

If the two comet-caused signs in 1833 and 1835 directly precede and foreshadow an event like the visit of the Savior to the Kirtland Temple in 1836 then the meaning of the very unlikely coordinated signs would be overwhelmingly positive and not be just doom and gloom.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was born in 1835 and died in 1910, both events happening as Halley’s Comet (named for astronomer Edmond Halley) was at its brightest.


Here is the first photo taken of Halley’s Comet as it returned in 1910. Photography was still in its infancy on the comet’s previous visit in 1835.


Both Halley’s Comet and Pluto have orbits that are inclined considerably from the main plane of the Solar System planetary orbits. The comet’s orbit extends beyond Neptune and its motion is clockwise (retrograde) as opposed to the counter-clockwise motion of the planets. The comet position is shown in this illustration for the year 2024—it actually won’t have a tail until it again passes close to the Sun.


Here is a top view of the same orbital model for Halley’s Comet.

Halley’s Comet Return in 1985-1986

Even though the view of the comet was not as good as on previous visits, the return of Halley’s Comet in 1985 and 1986 was exciting news as technology and space exploration “rocketed” to new heights. Six Spacecraft were sent to study the comet and the Giotto Spacecraft, built by the European Space Agency, came within 600 km. of the comet and survived.[vii]

“The Giotto space probe, launched in 1985 on an Ariane 1 V14 launcher, brushed past the hidden nucleus of Halley’s comet in 1986.”

“The most difficult problem to overcome was how to ensure that Giotto survived long enough to snap its close-up pictures of the nucleus when the spacecraft and the comet were heading towards each other at a combined speed of 245,000 km per hour.” [viii]

I was working at the BYU Computer-aided Manufacturing Lab at Brigham Young University when we purchased Apple’s new Macintosh computer in 1984. With my interest in astronomy and career in software development, my wife Rhonda and I decided to create an educational program about the Solar System and Halley’s Comet for the coming return of the comet in 1985-86.

My wife wrote the manual and the tutorial and ran the tiny business. Here is the ad we purchased in the December 1984 MacWorld magazine that enabled us to sell over a hundred copies worldwide and learn a lot about running a small software business out of our basement.[ix]

“Learn About the Solar System and Halley’s Comet,” a simulation and tutorial program, was developed on the Macintosh computer in 1984-85.

Our 512k two floppy Macintosh Computer running our “Learn About” program.

Comets: “Great” and “Dreadful” Omens of the Future?

Predictions of gloom and doom have been usually associated with the arrival of bright comets including the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 and Genghis Khan’s invasion of Europe in 1222. Both events were linked to visits of Halley’s Comet.[x]

The Bayeux Tapestry included Halley’s Comet in the upper center. The comet appeared just before William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 AD.

Many modern scientists don’t believe that comets are signs of anything or that God sends signs and wonders to anybody for any reason. However, the scriptures go into great detail about miraculous signs and wonders. And, Joseph Smith testifies strongly that the 1833 meteor storm caused by a comet is a sign fulfilling the prophesies of the scriptures.[xi]

One of the messages of true celestial signs and wonders is for the people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His true prophets, repent and follow the laws and the ordinances of the Gospel. The “great and dreadful day of the Lord” will surely come preceded by signs and wonders. If we repent, the emphasis will then be the “great” part of that “day,” where marvelous blessings are poured out in abundance upon the earth. (Malachi 4:5)

Engineering a Sign and Wonder

What if we could tune into the angelic discussions that may have occurred in the “Restoration Signs and Wonders Committee” meetings planning and engineering the signs and wonders associated with the scheduled appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Kirtland Temple on Easter Sunday in 1836.

Comet Tempel-Tuttle would need to be very closely aligned with the earth’s orbit beginning in about 900 AD until 2000 AD and approach the inner solar system just before the temple dedication in 1836. The comet debris for the November 13, 1833 meteor storm would need to be burned off the comet in its 1766 return to the inner solar system and that cloud of debris would then have an orbit of its own that would need to be precisely targeted to intercept the earth’s orbit and position as it would be on November 13, 1833.[xii]

The debris cloud would need to be not just a few million miles away from earth’s orbit. It would need to be within a few hundred thousand miles from our orbit. When perfectly aligned, the earth would pass through the debris cloud in just a few hours causing the spectacular meteor storm.[xiii]

Only right in the very middle of this illustration of the debris cloud for the comet Tempel-Tuttle would be the dense debris that can produce meteor storms when the comet and a debris cloud are perfectly aligned with the orbit of the earth.


Now, we don’t know whether it is necessary to have coordinated celestial and historical events precomputed and in place when the solar system is created as astronomers believe five billion years ago, or whether course corrections are made to the comet’s orbit along the way just as we are planning to do to deflect a small asteroid or comet from a collision course with earth. We believe in a God who is both the ultimate scientist and the ultimate engineer who is intimately involved in the history of this world.[xiv]

Multiple Signs and Wonders in the 1830’s

Let’s now see how much more improbable a sign becomes if two coordinated signs were scheduled involving two comets in the crucial 1830-1836 era when Daniel’s prophetic words about the establishment of the Church and Kingdom of God began to be fulfilled.

Comet Tempel-Tuttle has a 33 year orbit. Halley’s Comet has a 76 year orbit. If they are set up initially to have Tempel-Tuttle come in 1833 and Halley in 1835, two years apart, how long would it be before they are again that closely synchronized? Tempel-Tuttle will return in about 1866, 1900, 1933, 1966 and 2000. Halley’s will return in 1910, 1986 and 2061. No close overlaps yet.[xv]

Then, lo and behold, the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle is beginning to move away from a close intersection with our orbit after the year 2000. Another great Leonid meteor storm is believed to not even be a possibility in the future and so a coordinated scenario between the two comets becomes impossible. No more computations are needed.

So, we have the best ever Leonid meteor storm and the arrival of Halley’s Comet synchronized to be just two years apart. Plus, having those two signs happen just before the event on the Lord’s calendar of the scheduled dedication of the Kirtland Temple and the Lord’s visit in 1836. Both signs happening within a couple of years of each other is an exceedingly rare occurrence—perhaps extra “sign and wonder points” being added for the two signs being synchronized together.

True Signs and Wonders or Foolish and Dangerous Superstitions?

We know from the Book of Mormon that even signs far more dramatic than the ones described in this article can be ignored and not believed. Even signs so impressive as a night with “great lights in heaven” and a “new star” arising can be dismissed as a lucky guess. (Helaman 14:3, 5)

Joseph Smith provides ample testimony of the meteor storm caused by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, and that it was a sign from heaven in fulfillment of prophesy in the scriptures as well as the fulfillment of a specific 40 day prophesy he made himself.

Surely the celestial fireworks and lights in the heavens from two of the most unique comets known could be a very rare combination of true celestial signs coordinated by God to signal an important event. An especially appropriate meaning of these signs would be to announce the personal visit of the Lord Jesus Christ and His prophetic messengers to His holy temple. They were there to bestow priesthood keys of the Lord’s latter-day Church and Kingdom on His modern prophet and apostles.[xvi]

The Lord Jesus Christ appearing to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1836.


[i] “Comet Hale-Bopp,”, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


Picture at beginning of this article.

[ii] Ronald P. Millett, “1833 Meteor Storm: A Precisely Synchronized Sign and Wonder,” Meridian Magazine, January 4, 2017.


“Shortly before dawn on November 13, 1833, the greatest meteor storm in modern history was visible over North America with hundreds of thousands of bright meteors per hour. Not only was it a fulfillment of a specific prophesy that Joseph Smith had made, but this storm may have also been one of the signs of the establishment of the Church and Kingdom of God as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

“Joseph Smith described and interpreted it as a sign from heaven. ‘About 4 o’clock a.m. I was awakened by Brother Davis knocking at my door, and calling me to arise and behold the signs in the heavens. I arose, and to my great joy, beheld the stars fall from heaven like a shower of hailstones; a literal fulfillment of the word of God, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures.’ ”

[iii] “Halley’s Comet,” Views of the Solar System, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


“Halley’s [HAL-lee] Comet has been know since at least 240 BC and possibly since 1059 BC. Its most famous appearance was in 1066 AD when it was seen right before the Battle of Hastings. It was named after Edmund Halley, who calculated its orbit. He determined that the comets seen in 1531 and 1607 were the same object that followed a 76-year orbit. Unfortunately, Halley died in 1742, never living to see his prediction come true when the comet returned on Christmas Eve 1758.”

“Halley’s Comet put on bright shows in 1835 and in 1910. Then in 1984 and 1985, five spacecraft from the USSR, Japan and Europe were launched to make a rendezvous with Halley’s Comet in 1986. One of NASA’s deep space satellites was redirected to monitor the solar wind upstream from Halley. Only three comets have ever been studied by spacecraft. Comet Giacobini-Zinner was studied in 1985, Comet Halley in 1986, and CometGrigg-Skjellerup on July 10th, 1992. The nucleus of Halley is ellipsoidal in shape and measures approximately 16 by 8 by 8 kilometers (10 by 5 by 5 miles).”

[iv] John P. Pratt, “Clothed with the Sun, Moon under her Feet,”, November 2, 2016.


“The prophecy of a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet may refer to rare celestial signs of the Feast of Trumpets in 2 BC, 1832, and 2017, which herald the future birth of her son.”

“3.3 Stars Cast Down”

“During the pre-dawn hours of Wed 13 Nov 1833 there occurred what was most likely the largest meteor storm ever recorded. It was seen all over the United States. The sky was so bright with bright falling stars that people were awakened believing that their house was on fire![13] “Meteor” is the scientific term for what are popularly called “falling stars” or “shooting stars”. They are caused when particles enter the earth’s atmosphere and brilliantly burn up from intense heat caused by friction. For comparison, on any given night there is about one falling star per hour. During a meteor shower, there are about 100 meteors per hour. When the earth’s path takes it through a huge patch of space debris left over from the head of a shattered comet, it is called a meteor storm and there can be hundreds of thousands of falling stars per hour. The meteor storm of 13 Nov 1833 lasted at least from 2 am until dawn.”

“Leonids 1833,” Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


Picture of wood cut of Leonids above Niagara Falls in 1833.

Campbell, W. W., “The Return of Halley’s Comet,” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 21, No. 128, p. 188.


Herschel sketch on Page 192.

  1. L. Doolittle, “Halley’s Comet,” Popular Science Monthly, January 1910.


“IN what will be said in this connection respecting comets in general and Halley’s comet in particular, it will not be necessary to occupy much space in repetition of the well-known series of ancient views respecting the physical nature of these bodies or the superstitious dread with which they were regarded. With reference to the latter phase of the subject it may be said in passing, that it was not altogether an unfortunate matter, as without this incentive, probably even such fragmentary and unsatisfactory records of comets as have come down to us would not have existed.”

[v] Lee Krystek, “Comet Halley: Harbinger of Death,”, 2008.


“Man has always found comets a bit scary. Other celestial dwellers that early man observed – the sun, moon, planets and stars – seemed to move and appear with predictable, if unexplainable, patterns. Comets were different. They might suddenly materialize without warning, expanding until their tails filled as much as a quarter of the sky, then fade into the depth of space just as quickly.”

NASA photo of Halley’s Comet.

[vi] “Mark Twain Pictures,” The Official Web Site of Mark Twain, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


“Mark Twain was born and died in the same years that Halley’s Comet flew by the earth,” Today I Found Out, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


First photo in 1910 of comet.

“Halley’s Comet,” Views of the Solar System, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


“Comet Halley,”, Blackman page, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


John H. Lienhard, “Halley’s Comet,” University of Houston, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


“Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky when Mark Twain was born in 1835. The comet moves in a seventy-five or seventy-six-year orbit, and, as it neared Earth once again, Twain said,

‘I came in with Halley’s Comet… It is coming again … and I expect to go out with it… The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’

“Sure enough, he died on April 21, 1910, just as the comet made its next pass within sight of Earth. And we hear echoes of Shakespeare: ‘When beggars die, then are no comets seen: The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.’”

[vii] “Giotto at Halley,” Galleries,, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


[viii] “Giotto Fact Sheet,” ESA, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


[ix] MacWorld, December 1984,, retrieved 01/17/2017.


Search for: Millett

Millett Software, “Learn About the Solar System and Halley’s Comet,” 1984.


[x] “Ten Facts about Halley’s Comet,” Technology and Space, TenFactsAbout, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


“Fact Three: The most distant (aphelion) that Halley’s Comet gets from the Sun is 35 Astronomical Units. One Astronomical Unit is the approximate distance that Earth is away from the Sun, which is about 150 million kilometres, or 93 millions miles. So 35 Astronomical Units is 35 times Earth’s distance from the Sun. This is almost as far away as Pluto is away from the Sun. The closest Halley’s Comet gets from the Sun (perihelion) is 0.57 Astronomical Units, so its gets closer to the Sun than Venus, the second closest planet to the Sun.”

“Fact Five: Halley’s Comet appeared in the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidery depicting the events of the Norman invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. As the comet seemed to appear from nowhere, people believed it to be an omen. The tapestry shows one of King Harold’s attendants telling the King of the appearance of the “comet star” stating that it is a bad omen, possible a sign of God’s wrath for King Harold unrightfully claiming the English throne.”

Alasdair Wilkins, “How Halley’s Comet sightings changed history over the past 2500 years,”, 9/14/2010..


“Ancient Greek texts reveal the earliest recorded sighting of the solar system’s most famous comet 2,500 years ago. Since then, Halley’s Comet has repeatedly cameoed in history, getting credit for toppling armies, birthing empires, and even killing Mark Twain.

“Halley’s Comet is the most famous of the short-period comets, which are comets that complete their eccentric orbits in 200 years or less. It’s the only short-period comet that’s visible to the naked eye, and its 76-year circuit means it’s the one comet that pretty much everyone can hope to see once, if not twice, during their lifetime. Because of this uniqueness and its often dazzling appearances, it’s become something of humanity’s companion throughout human history, popping up again and again in historical records.”

“But spurring on the Norman invasion of the British Isles wasn’t enough for Halley’s Comet – its encore in 1222 was even more world-changing. Genghis Khan is said to have considered the comet his own personal star, and its westward trajectory inspired him to head west himself, launching his invasion of southeastern Europe that would leave millions dead. In fairness to the comet, invading Europe is the sort of idea Genghis Khan probably would have thought up without any celestial intervention.”

RPMNote: Notice that their conception of God does not allow Him to engineer coordinated celestial events with the history of the earth. They are not surprised when mere men are able to do what in earlier eras would be considered supernatural feats. Yet, the concept of a God and a Savior who, using natural laws, design and engineer the universe and guide the progress of the history of the world seems beyond their comprehension.

“God Governs in the affairs of men speech by Benjamin Franklin during the constitutional convention,”, retrieved 01/18/2017.


“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”

[xi] Gary W. Kronk, “Comet Hysteria and the Millennium: A Commentary,”


“Whether you like it or not, there are a lot of gullible people in the world. It is truly amazing what people will believe. But, what’s worse, it is upsetting how many people are out there who try and take advantage of those people. Now I am not going to spend my time addressing all the lies people are falling for on an everyday basis, but I would like to address something that particularly bugs me.

“For nearly 30 years I have enjoyed observing comets. I have seen well over 110. My interest in this branch of astronomy is so great that I have also spent a lot of time reading about comets, doing my own research, and even talking to the experts in this field. The result is an increased enjoyment while observing, the publication of two books about comets, and I even give occasional talks on the subject.

“Although my books are basically reference works for other researchers, my own research has brought me into contact with a lot of interesting stories about how people in ancient and medieval times reacted toward comets. These stories are the kind of anecdotal material I like to intersperse throughout my talks when I need to lighten things up a bit.”

“During the last few centuries astronomers have managed to lift the cloak of mystery surrounding comets. We now know what they are, how they move, and where they come from. Although there is evidence that a comet hits Earth every few million years or so, there is a growing number of scientists that also believe comets played a major role in the early development of life on our planet. It would seem that the numerous early collisions of comets with a very young Earth probably provided most of the water now present on our planet–water, of course, being perhaps the single most important ingredient for sustaining life.

“Comets are just another of nature’s spectacles. Like the beauty of a sunset or a rainbow. All are unexpected, but none should be feared. Our world and our universe are filled with numerous mysteries just waiting to be solved. Fear will not enable us to learn about them, but calmly observing and studying them will.”

“Comet Halley: Harbinger of Death?”, Retrieved 01/17/2017.


“Man has always found comets a bit scary. Other celestial dwellers that early man observed – the sun, moon, planets and stars – seemed to move and appear with predictable, if unexplainable, patterns. Comets were different. They might suddenly materialize without warning, expanding until their tails filled as much as a quarter of the sky, then fade into the depth of space just as quickly.”

“It is little surprise then that the ancients attributed such displays to the gods. While a comet’s appearance occasionally heralded positive events, like the birth of a king or success in coming battle, more often it was taken as a bad omen of disaster. The Fall of Jerusalem in 70 BC was “foretold” by a comet four years before. In 79 AD the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius which destroyed the city of Pompeii was attributed to a comet. In 1665 a comet preceded an outbreak of the Black Plague that killed almost 100,000 people in London. In 1835 a comet was blamed for such widely diverse events as the fall of the Alamo, a major fire in New York City and a massacre of 280 people in Africa.”

RPMNote: Of course the comet itself does not cause any of these calamities. But, isn’t the the God of Heaven able to coordinate natural celestial events with events on the earth if He were to choose to teach His children on earth in that manner?

[xii] “Brief History of the Leonid Shower,”, Retrieved 1/17/2017/


[xiii] Scott Sutherland, “Watch Tuesday’s Leonid meteor shower peak from anywhere,” retrieved 12/23/2016.


[xiv] “Deflecting a Hazardous Near Earth Object,”, Retrieved 1/17/2017.


“This short report on Near-Earth Object (NEO) hazard mitigation strategies was developed in response to a request for information by the U.S. National Research Council’s Space Sciences Board on December 17, 2008 and for the Planetary Defense Conference that took place 27-30 April 2009 in Granada Spain. Although we present example simulations for specific techniques that could be employed to deflect an Earth threatening NEO, our primary goal is to discuss some of the general principles and techniques that would be germane to all NEO deflection scenarios. This report summarizes work that was carried out in early 2009 and extends an earlier, more detailed study carried out in late 2008 [1]. “

[xv] Note: The most dense debris clouds from Tempel-Tuttle are actually just behind the comet by a year or two.

[xvi] Lord in Kirtland Temple, lds media library, retrieved 01/18/2017.


The Lord’s Appearance to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, by Theodore S. Gorka