Mormon writers state that Joseph Smith's claim to be a prophet is established by the fulfillment of his prophecies. Actually, a careful examination of the evidence seems to prove just the opposite.
The Canadian Revelation
David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, tells of a false revelation that Joseph Smith gave when the Book of Mormon was in the hands of the printer:
When the Book of Mormon was in the hands of the printer, more money was needed to finish the printing of it. We were waiting on Martin Harris who was doing his best to sell a part of his farm, in order to raise the necessary funds. After a time Hyrum Smith and others began to get impatient, thinking that Martin Harris was too slow and under transgression for not selling his land at once, even if at a great sacrifice. Brother Hyrum thought they should not wait any longer on Martin Harris, and that the money should be raised in some other way. Brother Hyrum was vexed with Brother Martin, and thought they should get the money by some means outside of him, and not let him have anything to do with the publication of the Book, or receiving any of the profits thereof if any profits should accrue.... Brother Hyrum said it had been suggested to him that some of the brethren might go to Toronto Canada, and sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon for considerable money: and he persuaded Joseph to inquire of the Lord about it. Joseph concluded to do so. He had not yet given up the stone. Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts.... Well, we
were all in great trouble, and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or the heart of man (An Address To All Believers In Christ, 1887, pp. 30-31).
Mormon historian B. H. Roberts commented concerning this false revelation:
... May this Toronto incident and the Prophet's explanation be accepted and faith still be maintained in him as an inspired man, a Prophet of God? I answer unhesitatingly in the affirmative. The revelation respecting the Toronto journey was not of God, surely; else it would not have failed; but the Prophet, overwrought in his deep anxiety for the progress of the work, saw reflected in the 'Seer Stone' his own thought, or that suggested to him by his brother Hyrum, rather than the thought of God ... in this instance of the Toronto journey, Joseph was evidently not directed by the inspiration of the Lord (A Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 165).
David Whitmer states that there were "other false revelations that came through Brother Joseph as mouthpiece.... Many of Brother Joseph's revelations were never printed. The revelation to go to Canada was written down on paper, but was never printed" (An Address To All Believers in Christ, p. 31).
Joseph Fielding Smith admits that "not all the revelations given to Joseph the Seer were placed in the Doctrine and Covenants in his day.... Some of them were for the Church and not for the world, and therefore are given only to the saints" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 280).
The Mormon church leaders complain that the Catholics withheld the Scriptures from the common people, and yet they have hid some of Joseph Smith's revelations from their own people.
The Lord's Coming
In 1835 Joseph Smith prophesied that the coming of the Lord was near and that fifty-six years should wind up the scene. In the History of the Church, volume 2, page 182, we read as follows: "President Smith then stated ... it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and
go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene."
Joseph Smith later said that a voice once told him the following: " 'My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.' I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make his appearance or I shall go where He is" (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 336).
On the same page Joseph Smith said: "There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes." Joseph Smith then proceeded to make a prophesy about the coming of Christ. Since the last six words have been deleted in the History of the Church (under the date of April 6, 1843) we cite the original source—i.e., Joseph Smith's diary, March 10, 1843—July 14, 1843: "... I prophecy in the name of the Lord God—& let it be written: that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens till I am 85 years old 48 years hence or about 1890...."
Klaus J. Hansen says that "in 1890 there was a widespread belief among church members that Joseph Smith's prediction of 1835, that fifty-six years would 'wind up the scene,' would be fulfilled" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p. 76).
On October 14, 1886, Abraham H. Cannon recorded the following in his journal:
Thursday, Oct. 14th:—The following are words spoken by Apostel [sic] Moses Thatcher, at Lewiston, . . .
"It is my belief, that the time of our deliverance will be within five years; the time indicated being February 14th, 1891.... And that the man raised up will be no other than the Prophet Joseph Smith in his resurrected body.... the government will pass into the hands of the Saints, and that within five years. There will not be a city in the Union that will not be in danger of disruption by the Knights of Labor, who are becoming a formidable power in the land...." (A servant of God, holding the power and keys of the Holy Apostleship does not speak in this manner for mere pastime. There is more in these utterances than we are apt to attach to them, unless we are aided by the Spirit of God.) ("Daily journal of Abraham H. Cannon," October 14, 1886, BYU Library).
Under the date of January 23, 1833, Joseph Smith recorded the following in his History of the Church, volume 1, page 323:
"... my father presented himself,... I asked of him a father's blessing, which he granted by laying his hands upon my head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and declaring that I should continue in the Priest's office until Christ comes."
When the Twelve Apostles were first ordained in the Mormon church some of them also received the promise that they would live until Christ came:
"The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was,... that he shall live until the gathering is accomplished.... and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory" (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 188).
William Smith's blessing stated:
"He shall be preserved and remain on the earth, until Christ shall come to take vengeance on the wicked" (Ibid., vol. 2, p. 191).
Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde received similar blessings, although Hyde's blessing has been falsified somewhat in modern printings of the History of the Church (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 188).
Of course none of the Mormon Apostles lived to see the Lord come, and Joseph Smith's statement that "fifty-six years should wind up the scene" did not come to pass.
Writing in 1838, Apostle Parley P. Pratt said the following:
"Now, Mr. Sunderland.... I will state as a prophesy, that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile upon this continent 50 years hence; and if they are not greatly scourged, and in a great measure overthrown, within five or ten years from this date, then the Book of Mormon will have proved itself false" (Mormonism Unveiled—Truth Vindicated, by Parley P. Pratt, p. 15; copied from a microfilm of the original at the Mormon church historian's library).
This tract was reprinted in the book Writings of Parley P. Pratt, but this entire prophecy was deleted without any indication.
A Temple in Zion
In a revelation given by Joseph Smith September 22 and 23, 1832, the following statements appear:
Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people,... for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.
Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others ...
Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.
For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it....
Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed (Doctrine and Covenants 84:2-5, 31).
Notice that this revelation, given in 1832, plainly states that a temple would be built in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri (that is, in Independence, Missouri) before all of those that were then living passed away. The leaders of the Mormon church understood this revelation to mean exactly what it said. Although the Mormons were driven from Independence (Jackson County, Missouri) they expected to return and fulfill the prophecy.
On March 10, 1861, Apostle George A. Smith stated: "Who is there that is prepared for this move back to the centre stake of Zion.... let me remind you that it is predicted that this generation shall not pass away till a temple shall be built, and the glory of the Lord rest upon it, according to the promises" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 344).
In the 1870s Apostle Orson Pratt still maintained that the temple would be built in his generation. The following statements are taken from his discourses:
We have ... confidence in returning to Jackson county... There are many ... still living, whose faith in returning to Jackson County, and the things that are coming, is as firm and fixed as the throne of the Almighty (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 138).
... God promised in the year 1832 that we should, before the generation then living had passed away, return and build up the City of Zion in Jackson County....
We believe in these promises as much as we believe in any promise ever uttered by the mouth of Jehovah. The Latter-day Saints just as much expect to receive a fulfillment of that promise during the generation that was in existence in 1832 as they expect that the sun will rise and set to-morrow. Why? Because God cannot lie. He will fulfil all His promises. He has spoken, it must come to pass. This is our faith (vol. 13, p. 362).
... a temple will be reared on the spot that has been selected, and the corner-stone of which has been laid, in the generation when this revelation was given; we just as much expect this as we expect the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening.... But says the objector, "thirty-nine years have passed away." What of that? The generation has not passed away; all the people that were living thirty-nine years ago have not passed away; but before they do pass away this will be fulfilled (vol. 14, p. 275).
God said, in the year 1832, before we were driven out of Jackson County, in a revelation ... that before that generation should all pass away, a house of the Lord should be built in that county....
This was given forty-two years ago. The generation then living was not only to commence a house of God in Jackson County, Missouri, but was actually to complete the same,... if you believe in these revelations you just as much expect the fulfillment of the revelation as of any one that God has ever given in these latter times,... we Latter-day Saints expect to return to Jackson County and to build a Temple there before the generation that was living forty-two years ago has all passed away. Well, then, the time must be pretty near when we shall begin the work (vol. 17, p. 111).
By February 7, 1875, Orson Pratt was teaching that only a few of those who were driven from Jackson County would return to receive their inheritances: "There will be some that will live to behold that day, and will return ... according to the promise" (vol. 17, p. 292).
Klaus J. Hansen shows that as late as 1900 Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the church, was still hoping that the prophecy would be fulfilled:
"In 1900, Woodruff's successor, Lorenzo Snow, affirmed at a special priesthood meeting in the Salt Lake Temple that 'there are many here now under the sound of my voice, probably a majority, who will live to go back to Jackson County and assist in building that temple' " (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p. 74).
The 1890 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants carried a footnote which read: "a generation does not all pass away in one hundred years" (Doctrine and Covenants, 1890 ad. section 84, p. 289). This footnote has been deleted in more recent editions.
As late as 1935 Joseph Fielding Smith, who later became president of the church, maintained that the revelation would be fulfilled: "I firmly believe that there will be some of that generation who were living when this revelation was given who shall be living when this temple is reared.... I have full confidence in the word of the Lord and that it shall not fail" (The Way to Perfection, 1935, p. 270).
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, page 111. The Apostle Orson Pratt maintained the temple would be built in Jackson county before the generation living in 1832 passed away.
In a more recent book, however, Joseph Fielding Smith stated: "It is also reasonable to believe that no soul living in 1832, is still living in mortality on the earth" (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 4, p. 112). It has now been 147 years since Joseph Smith gave the prophecy that the temple would be built in that generation. Since the Mormons have not even begun work on this temple, it appears that there is no way possible for Joseph Smith's prophecy to be fulfilled.
The Civil War
On December 25, 1832, Joseph Smith gave his famous revelation concerning the Civil War. In this revelation we find the following:
1. Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
2. And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
3. For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.
4. And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshalled and disciplined for war.
5. And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation (Doctrine and Covenants, 87:1-5).
The Mormon people believe that this revelation proves Joseph Smith was a prophet. Larry Jonas, on the other hand, shows that Joseph Smith could easily have received the idea for this revelation from the views of his time:
On July 14, 1832, Congress passed a tariff act which South Carolina thought was so bad, she declared the tariff null and void. President Andrew Jackson alerted the nation's troops. At the time Smith made his prophecy, the nation expected a war between North and South to begin at the rebellion of South Carolina. This can be confirmed in a U.S. history book. Better yet, let me confirm it from a Latter-day Saints Church publication, Evening and Morning Star,... the issue which came out for January 1833. The news of South Carolina's rebellion was
Painesville Telegraph (Ohio) December 21, 1832
[Supplemental photo not in Changing World.]
known before January 1833. It was known before December 25, 1832 but it was not available in time for the December issue. It takes quite a while for news to be set up even today in our dailies. We would expect it to wait for a month to come out in a monthly. The example contains the information available to the church before the paper hit the street. The example and the prophecy are strangely similar... Both consider the pending war a sign of the end—which it was not. In fact, the war expected in 1832 did
Far from being evidences of Smith's divine calling, the most famous prophecies which he made are evidences that he can copy views of his time (Mormon Claims Examined, by Larry S. Jonas, p. 52).
One further fact that supports the argument that Joseph Smith borrowed from the "views of his time" is that there is another article printed in the January 1833 issue of the original paper, The Evening and the Morning Star, which has the title "Rebellion in South Carolina." Interestingly enough, Joseph Smith's revelation has the words "beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina" in the first verse. In this article we read as follows: "In addition to the above tribulations, South Carolina has rebelled ... Gen. Jackson has ordered several companies of Artillery to Charleston, and issued a Proclamation, urging submission and declaring such moves as that of S. Carolina Treason" (The Evening and the Morning Star, vol. 1, issue 8).
Joseph Smith was familiar with the fact that South Carolina had rebelled at the time he gave the revelation. just before the revelation concerning the Civil War is recorded in Joseph Smith's history, the following statement is attributed to him: "... the United States, amid all her pomp and greatness, was threatened with dissolution. The people of South Carolina, in convention assembled (in November), passed ordinances, declaring their state a free and independent nation... " (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 301).
Thus we see that the statement in Joseph Smith's revelation that the wars would begin at the rebellion of South Carolina was undoubtedly inspired by the fact that South Carolina had already rebelled before the revelation was given. This rebellion did not end in war, but the Civil War did start some years later over trouble in South Carolina.
The fact that Joseph Smith predicted a civil war is not too remarkable. Many people believed there would be a civil war before it actually took place. The December 1840 issue of the Millennial Star, volume 1, page 216, quoted an article from the New York Herald. In this article a civil war was predicted: "We
begin to fear this unhappy country is on the eve of a bloody civil war, a final dismemberment of the Union...."
It is interesting to note that verse 3 of Joseph Smith's revelation concerning the Civil War did not come to pass. In verse 3 we read: "... the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall call upon other nations in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations." War was certainly not poured out on all nations at that time as Joseph Smith predicted.
Brigham Young prophesied that the Civil War would continue until the land was emptied so that the Mormons could return to Missouri:
... they have begun to empty the earth, to cleanse the land, and prepare the way for the return of the Latter-day Saints to the centre Stake of Zion.... I expect to go back.... Many of the Saints will return to Missouri, and there receive an inheritance.... The earth will also be emptied upon natural principles: ... will it be over in six months or in three years? No; it will take years and years, and will never cease until the work is accomplished. There may be seasons that the fire will appear to be extinguished, and the first you know it will break out in another portion, and all is on fire again, and it will spread and continue until the land is emptied (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, pp. 142-43).
Brigham Young also predicted that the Civil War could not free the slaves: "Will the present struggle free the slave? No; ... they cannot do that,..." (Millennial Star, vol. 25, p. 787; also Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 250).
Verse 5 of Joseph Smith's prophecy concerning the Civil War is rather unclear: "And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation." Apostle Orson Pratt explained that the "remnants" mentioned are the Indians:
To add to the sufferings and great calamities of the nation, they will be greatly distressed by the aborigines, who "will marshal themselves and become exceeding angry" and vex them "with a sore vexation." We are inclined to believe that this will not take place until millions of the nation have already perished in their own revolutionary battles. To what extent the Indians will have power over the nation is not stated in this revelation ... (The Seer, p. 242).
The fact that Joseph Smith believed the wicked of his generation
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, page 250. Brigham Young predicted the civil war would not free the slaves.
would be completely destroyed is obvious from a letter he wrote N. E. Seaton, on January 4, 1833. In this letter he stated:
And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country ... flee to Zion, before the overflowing scourge overtake you, for there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things, which I have spoken, fulfilled (History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 315-16).
Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young predicted that the U.S. government would be broken up.
Suppressed Material on Civil War
Joseph Smith's revelation concerning the Civil War was never published during his lifetime, and although it is included in the handwritten manuscript of the History of the Church, it was suppressed the first two times that Joseph Smith's history was printed (see Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 688; also Millennial Star, vol. 14, pp. 296, 305). It is obvious that this was a deliberate omission on the part of the Mormon historians, for over 300 words were deleted without any indication!
Mormon historian B, H. Roberts informs us that the revelation was not printed until 1851 (seven years after Joseph Smith's death). Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders apparently did not have much confidence in this revelation at first because they waited nineteen years before they published it.
In the History of the Church, volume 5, page 324, we find another reference to the 1832 prophecy attributed to Joseph Smith: "I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina. It may probably arise through the slave question. This a voice declared to me while I was praying earnestly on the subject, December 25th, 1832."
In our research in the diary of Joseph Smith we found that this statement does appear under the date of April 2, 1843, although there have been a few changes in wording. A careful examination of this portion of Joseph Smith's diary, however, reveals that some very important material has been suppressed. Before we can understand the significance of this matter we must turn back in Joseph Smith's diary to the date of March 11,
1843, where we find the following:
A dream, then related, Night before last I dreamed that an old man came to me and said there was a mob force coming upon him, and he was likely to loose his life, that I was Leut General and had the command of a large force, and I was also a patriot and disposed to protect the innocent & — [word unclear] finding & wanted I should assist him. I told him I wanted some written documents to show the facts that they are the aggressors, & I would raise a force sufficient for his protection, that I would call out the Legion. He turned to go from me, but turned again and said to me. "I have any amount of men at my command and will put them under your command."
This dream, with some modifications, appears in the History of the Church, volume 5, page 301.
Now, when we move ahead to the date of April 2, 1843, in the diary of Joseph Smith, we find that just before Joseph Smith gives his second account of the prophecy concerning South Carolina, there is an interpretation of the dream which reads as follows: "Related the dream written on page 3—Book B Interpretation by O. Hyde—old man.—government of these United States, who will be invaded by a foriegn [sic] foe, probably England. U. S. Government will call on Gen. Smith to defend probably all this western territory and offer him any amount of men he shall desire & put them under his command."
This important interpretation of the dream should appear in the History of the Church, volume 5, page 324, just before the words "I prophesy." The reader will find, however, that the interpretation has been completely omitted. The reason that it was suppressed is obvious: Joseph Smith was dead by the time the Civil War started, and therefore the interpretation could not be fulfilled. In his first account of the prophecy on the Civil War, Doctrine and Covenants 87:3, Joseph Smith had predicted that England would come into the war and that the war would spread until it "shall be poured out upon all nations." The war did not spread to "all nations" as Smith had predicted, and the U.S. government certainly did not call upon Joseph Smith to protect it from England or any other country. As we shall show later, Joseph Smith was lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion, and he did ask the U. S. Government for "100,000 men to extend protection to persons wishing to settle Oregon and other portions of the territory" (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 282). This request, however, was denied.
We feel that the interpretation of the dream that was suppressed undermines the prophecy on the Civil War. It should be
noted also that the part omitted should have appeared in the middle of a portion of Joseph Smith's history (vol. 5, pp. 323-24) which was later canonized as a revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 130. In other words, section 130 contains the abbreviated material from the History of the Church. The portion that was suppressed should appear between verses 11 and 12.
The prophecy concerning the Mormons being driven to the Rocky Mountains and the one concerning the Civil War are considered Joseph Smith's most important prophecies. These are used to try to prove that he was a prophet of God. In the chapter dealing with changes in Joseph's history we demonstrate that the prophecy concerning the Rocky Mountains is a forgery which was written after Joseph Smith's death. In this chapter we have shown that the prophecy about the Civil War came because of the rebellion of South Carolina in 1832, and that it contains inaccuracies which tend to invalidate it. In addition to this, the Mormon leaders have suppressed part of Joseph Smith's diary which tended to discredit the revelation.