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Telstar and Christ’s Second Coming

Telstar 1 communications satellite, 1962 (replica). Made by Bell Systems — Science Museum Group, UK.

Where Science Meets Religion by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson December 4-10: Revelation 1-5

John tells us in Revelation 1:7, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

The first time that I remember reading this verse was when I was in High School Seminary. Unfortunately for my Seminary teacher, Jay Cottle, he previously had been my Scout Master — and I tended to view Seminary as being much like a Boy Scout outing. Although the disorder didn’t have a name back then, I’m quite certain I also had ADHD. To his great credit, Mr. Cottle put up with probably way too much of my nonsense in class. When I became far too out of control, I was sent for a time-out into the storage room where I sanded graffiti off of desks for a while. Furthermore, I was a science geek and, therefore, had the self-imposed obligation to question everything.

I certainly questioned Revelation 1:7. I insisted, probably without even raising my hand, that when Christ comes again, there is no way that “every eye shall see him” at the same time. My flawless logic was that not even the sun can be seen by everyone at the same time.

Of course, I used to watch every NASA rocket launch on our tiny black-and-white TV, but those broadcasts were not transmitted live beyond the US. By 1960, 90% of families in the United States had televisions. However, before the advent of communication satellites, television broadcasting relied on terrestrial transmission methods, such as over-the-air (OTA) radio waves transmitted to a television antenna usually located on a person’s roof. A broadcast antenna at the television station could typically broadcast a signal up to fifty miles or more.

We were sixty miles southeast of Twin Falls, and so could sort of receive television broadcasts from KLIX-TV, which started transmission 1 June 1955. KID-TV, in Idaho Falls, was founded 20 December 1953, but that was one hundred miles to the northeast, so the signal from there was even less strong. Furthermore, we had to adjust our TV antenna to maximize reception from a station — so we received only one station — at least while it was broadcasting. Pocatello, which was around sixty miles to the northeast, didn’t have a television station until 1974.

During my senior year, in 1965-1966, I was the Raft River High School Science Club President. One of our projects that year was to gather signatures all over the Raft River Valley on a petition to establish a relay tower on the west ridge of mountains to boost the KLIX signal and enhance the television reception in the valley. Members of our Science Club went door to door collecting signatures — many of the doors were over a mile apart.

We had collected quite a few signatures by the time I graduated, but I went off to college and forgot about trying to get better television reception into my home town. At BYU, we had one television for our dorm — Chipman Hall in Helaman Halls, with over 230 students — and that was downstairs by the laundry room. Lots and lots of us crowded into the TV room to watch BYU football or basketball games — or Saturday-morning cartoons and The Monkeys. Had Christ returned in 1966, we could only have seen him by rushing down to the TV room.

Then I left on my mission, before any change in television reception took place in the Raft River Valley. No tower was ever constructed on the west ridge, because cable TV arrived in the valley sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s — making OTA broadcasting somewhat obsolete. By 1969 there were over twenty-two thousand cable systems in service to more than 3.6 million homes.1 While I was on my mission, on the 20th of July 1969, an estimated 650 million people world-wide, including my companion and I who watched at the bishop’s home, watched Neil Armstrong first step onto the surface of the moon — that viewership was an amazing 18% of the total earth’s population, but nowhere near the “every eye” predicted at Christ’s Second Coming.2

On the 10th of July 1962, the first active communication satellite, Telstar 1, which had been developed by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), was launched by NASA.3 The satellite allowed the first live television broadcast between the United States and Europe. However, it remained active for only seven months before its communication system failed due to a high-altitude nuclear test conducted by the United States. Although the satellite has not been operational since February 1963, it still remains in Earth orbit. Even though the satellite itself had a short functional life, Telstar, the out of this world, groovy instrumental, written by Joe Meek and released by the British band the Tornados in 1962, which went to number one on both the British and US pop charts, is still very much alive, at least in the mind of us who were teenagers back then.4 Telstar 2 was launched on May 7th, 1963, and remained active for two years. Even though it is dead as well, it also remains in orbit.5 Telstar 1 and 2 are among the nearly 26,000 man-made objects in orbit today.6

The oldest communication satellite still in use today is the low-budget amateur radio satellite OSCAR 7. It was made by radio amateurs, and launched on the 15th of November 1974 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta 2000 rocket.7 The first national television network based on satellite communication started broadcasting in November 1967. Today there are over 3000 functional communication satellites in orbit.8

The first smartphone was marketed in 1992. Today, 97% of Americans have cellphones and 85% have smartphones.9 Among those aged 18-29, 100% have cell phones and 96% have smart phones. ( Worldwide, over 90% of people have cellphones and more than 85% own smartphones.10

So, it turns out, quite different from the world I grew up in sixty-odd years ago, and in a world where I questioned the prophecies in Revelation, if Christ’s Second Coming were to happen today, every smartphone around the would be buzzing with the viral message, and “every eye [would] see him.”

Trent Dee Stephens, PhD


4. Moore, Rick, Behind the Song: The Tornados, “Telstar;”

5. Telstar 2; National Aeronautics and Space Administration;

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