Joseph Smith as a Prophet
The Latter-Day Saints (“Mormons”) hold as among the first and most important principles of their religion, on which all the rest is based, that the founder of their church, Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) was literally a prophet of God, if not the greatest prophet ever to have lived on the earth. Was he? Examine the record for yourself:
Test of a prophet: “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously…” Deut 18:21-22
The fulfillment of a prophecy cannot be delayed long. “They … say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God.” Ezek 12:21-28
See also Isaiah 8:20 and 9:15 on false prophets: if what a prophet says is different from the law, it is because there is “no light in” him; a prophet that teaches lies will be “cut off.”
Nephi Lowell Morris, in the preface to his book The Prophecies of Joseph Smith and Their Fulfillment (which discusses only prophecies which he considered fulfilled), says:
“Time is the supreme test of a prophecy. He who undertakes to foretell events must know that Time in its merciless pursuit will find him out. Of all the pretenses of the false prophet, prophesying is the most hazardous. Religious impostors often display qualities of leadership in controlling the affairs of their followers. The more modest their pretenses, however, the more likely are they to escape detection and exposure. But when spiritual leaders assume to exercise the exalted function of prophecy, and have the courage to publish their prophecies, they place their reputations before the bar of the world, and as the weight of Time presses out the vintage of the centuries they must sink to a deserving oblivion or be exalted to a place in the skies. Time is a foe of Fraud, but the never-failing friend of Truth.”
Joseph Smith himself (speaking for God) gave tests which could be applied to determine the truth of prophecies or revelations:
“And everything… that [is] not by me or by my word, … shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead… For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.” D&C 132:13-14.
“…remember, it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men.” D&C 3:3.
“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” D&C 132:8.
Can even a “true” prophet have false revelations? Even Joseph Smith had to admit that some of his “revelations” might be of man or even of the devil. Comp Hist 1:165. This is contradictory in concept to the Deuteronomy 18:22 test, which says that the failure of the test indicates that the prophet is false. Joseph Smith here implies that the prophecy may be false, but the prophet himself is apparently still a prophet. One might ask then, what good is a prophet?
Hyrum Smith, who was also a “prophet,” on Nov 1, 1831, commented about prophecy and said that “if you hit once in 10 times, that is alright.” [quoted by Abraham O. Smoot in 1868 at the Provo School of the Prophets] This also is a contradiction of Deut 18:22.
Note that the prophecies and promises which are in the D&C “shall all be fulfilled.” If even one remains unfulfilled, then this also is a false prophecy. D&C 1:37
PROPHECIES OF JOSEPH SMITH WHICH WERE NOT FULFILLED
The following prophecies made by Joseph Smith have not been fulfilled in over 150 years. They are given in approximate chronological order, except for the many Missouri prophecies, which are grouped together.
PEACE AND KNOWLEDGE: Sept 21, 1823. Joseph Smith says in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:40, that Moroni told him that Isaiah 11 was “about to be fulfilled.” Isaiah 11:6-11 prophesies that the wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion, etc. shall dwell in peace together, and that nothing will “hurt or destroy,” and that the earth shall be “full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
FULFILLMENT: None of this has yet come to pass.
SALE OF BOOK OF MORMON COPYRIGHT: Winter 1829-1830. Comp Hist 1:165 Joseph had a revelation that Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery were to go to Toronto to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon to raise money.
FULFILLMENT: They went, according to the revelation, but were completely unsuccessful. Joseph Smith “inquired of God” and was told that some “revelations” are not from God. David Whitmer reports this incident in his book An Address To All Believers In Christ, Richmond, 1887, photo reprinting by Utah Lighthouse Ministry, pp 30-31. (See the comment above on the test of a true prophecy.)
PRAYERS ANSWERED: September 1830. D&C 29:6. Jesus promises the Saints that “Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith… ye shall receive.” (see also D&C 132:40) Joseph Smith believed firmly in this promise (see Chron JS Mar 10, 1844)
FULFILLMENT: The prayers of the faithful Mormons, especially during the periods of conflict in Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo undoubtedly included many requests for divine aid, victory over their enemies, and peace in their lands. Surely they asked for these things. But instead they were driven out and found no peace. This prophecy is probably failing thousands of times a day, as faithful Mormons pray. (This prophecy is just a repetition of Jesus’ promise at Matt 21:22, Mark 11:24, John 14:13-14, 15:7, 16:23, and 1 John 3:22.)
SAINTS GATHERED IN ONE PLACE: September 1830. D&C 29:8 God has decreed that the elect shall be gathered into one place “against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.”
FULFILLMENT: The “one place” continued to change as the Mormons were driven from one temporary refuge to the next. After arriving in Utah, the Mormons viewed that as the gathering place. But the modern church apparently no longer believes in this gathering, since it encourages new converts to remain in their homelands. Tribulation and desolation have not been sent forth upon the wicked.
WICKED WILL BURN, ALL PROPHECIES FULFILLED: September 1830. D&C 29:9-11. “For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand” when the wicked will burn, all prophecies will be fulfilled, and Jesus will return for a thousand years.
FULFILLMENT: This is another prophecy such as Ezekiel 12:27-28 referred to: if the hour were nigh and the day soon at hand, this surely would have been fulfilled within 160 years. By no means have all prophecies been fulfilled, and many cannot now be fulfilled.
ALL NATIONS SHALL BOW: March 1831. D&C 49:9-10. The nations of the earth shall bow to the Mormon gospel or they “shall come down” and “shall be laid low of power.”
FULFILLMENT: None of the nations of the earth have accepted the Mormon gospel or “bowed” to it, yet none have been “laid low” because of it.
Joseph Smith made a number of prophecies regarding Missouri as the location of Zion and the gathering place and refuge for the saints. Since they all have the same general meaning and none of them have been fulfilled, they are dealt with together here.
March 7, 1831. D&C 45:64-74. Saints are to gather riches and purchase an inheritance to be called New Jerusalem, also called Zion, a place of refuge and safety, where the wicked will not come, and against which the wicked will refuse to battle. The righteous will come from all nations and sing songs of everlasting joy. The wicked will fear and stand afar off and tremble, and “all nations shall be afraid.”
July 1831. D&C 57:1-3 Missouri is named as the land consecrated for the gathering of the Saints and the place for the City of Zion and the building of a temple at Independence. It will be purchased by the saints “for an ever-lasting inheritance.”
August 13, 1831. D&C 62:1, 6. The faithful will be preserved and rejoice in Missouri. “I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie.”
Sept 22-23, 1832. D&C 84:2-5, 31 Zion will be built with its temple at Independence, “in this generation”. This generation shall not all pass away until the temple will be built upon the spot. Orson Pratt in 1870 reiterated the prophecy (JD 9:71, 10:344, 13:362) and insisted that it will come to pass within the generation living in 1832.
Jan 4, 1833. HC 1:315-316. Joseph Smith says “by the authority of Jesus Christ” that “not many years shall pass away” before the wicked “of this generation” will be swept from off the face of the land and the Lost Ten Tribes will be gathered to Missouri, and that “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.”
Aug 2, 1833. D&C 97:18-20. Promise that if the saints are obedient the City of Zion (in Missouri) will prosper and become glorious, great and terrible, honored by the nations of the earth. Zion cannot fall or be moved out of its place.
FULFILLMENT: Mormons were driven out of Independence and from all of their settlements in Missouri in 1839. The temple lot is not owned by the Mormon church. No one living in the generation when the prophecy was made is still alive. The wicked of that generation were no more “swept from off the face of the land” than were their contemporary Mormons. The Lost Ten Tribes have not been gathered to Missouri. Nothing in all these prophecies has been fulfilled, even though the majority of the saints steadfastly followed Joseph Smith and were faithful.
Oct 12, 1833. D&C 100:13-15 Zion (Missouri) will be chastened “for a little season” but then “redeemed.”
Dec 10, 1833. HC 1:455. Joseph Smith tells the saints that they should retain their lands in Missouri and seek legal redress against their enemies. If they should not obtain it, God will avenge them with “ten thousand of his Saints” and all their adversaries would be destroyed.
FULFILLMENT: The Mormons lost all their lands in Missouri; they did seek legal redress but were unsuccessful; their enemies were not destroyed; their wrongs were not avenged; the Mormons were driven out of Missouri.
Dec 16, 1833. D&C 101:17-20 Zion (Missouri) shall not be moved out of its place; the Saints will receive their inheritance there, and there is no other place than Missouri appointed by God for the gathering of the Saints.
Feb 24, 1834. D&C 103:5-7 If the Saints will hearken to the counsel of the Lord, “they shall, for I have decreed it, begin to prevail against mine enemies from this very hour… and… they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever.” Verse 15: “The redemption of Zion must needs come by power;” and God will raise up a man like Moses, namely Joseph Smith, who will enable them to “possess the goodly land” (v. 20). Joseph Smith is to organize Zion’s Camp (a Mormon army) and relieve the distress of the Saints in Missouri. Verse 36: “All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness and prayers of faith.”
Spring 1834. Joseph Smith prophesies to the members of Zion’s Camp that “within three years they should march to Jackson County and there should not be a dog to open his mouth against them.” Reed Peck Manuscript p. 3 [cited in Tanner, The Mormon Kingdom 1:4]
FULFILLMENT: Zion’s Camp was organized but utterly failed and it disbanded in July. Cholera decimated them and the campaign did not restore the saints to their homes. They did not return as Zion’s Camp. The Mormons continued to encounter fierce opposition. The Mormons never prevailed against their enemies. (Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel through the Ages, p. 282, “Reed Peck Manuscript” p. 3; HC 3:xxxix [cited in Tanner, The Mormon Kingdom 1:4].
June 22, 1834. D&C 105:13-15. The Lord says regarding Missouri: “I will fight your battles… the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints.”
FULFILLMENT: The Missouri opponents of the Mormons were not destroyed, but have remained in Missouri (and “polluted” it?) The Mormons were driven out of Missouri within five years.
Aug 16, 1834. HC 2:145. Joseph Smith says that the Spirit of the Lord tells him that the Saints should be ready to move into Jackson County, Missouri, on September 11, 1836, “which is the appointed time for the redemption of Zion.”
FULFILLMENT: If Zion was redeemed in 1836, it was unredeemed in 1839, when the Mormons abandoned Missouri.
FAR WEST TEMPLE: April 26, 1838. D&C 115. Revelation concerning the city of Far West, Missouri, and the building of a temple there. God commands the temple to be built; the church will be gathered to Zion (Missouri), which will be “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm.” Work on the temple is to commence in the summer of 1838, with construction to begin April 26, 1839, with work to continue “diligently until it shall be finished, from the corner stone thereof unto the top thereof, until there shall not anything remain that is not finished.” (v. 12) Verse 17: “I say unto you, it is my will that the city of Far West should be built up speedily by the gathering of my saints.”
FULFILLMENT: The temple cornerstone was laid, but no more work was ever done and the temple is still not completed. Far West was abandoned by the Mormons soon after this revelation. It would appear that the building of the Far West temple was not the work of God, since God’s work cannot be frustrated (see D&C 3:3).
LIBERTY JAIL PROPHECIES: March 20, 1839. D&C 121. This is “Prayer and Prophecies” from Joseph Smith while he was a prisoner in the jail at Liberty, Missouri. It contains several prophecies:
- he will be avenged of his enemies by the sword (v. 5) (this is phrased as a prayer, but God had promised Joseph Smith that his prayers would be answered; he need only ask. D&C 29:6)
- his friends will not charge him with transgressions (v. 10)
- the hopes of those who do charge him with transgression shall have their hope blasted (v. 11)
- God will “change the times and seasons” (v. 12)
- Joseph Smith’s enemies will be taken “in their own craftiness” (v. 12)
- “not many years hence, … [his enemies] and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.” (v. 15)
- knowledge will be poured down from heaven upon the heads of the Mormons.
FULFILLMENT: None of these prophecies came to pass. Joseph Smith’s enemies were not destroyed “by the sword;” rather, the Mormons were successfully driven out of Missouri. His friends did charge him with transgressions within a few years, and those charges (in The Nauvoo Expositor) resulted directly in his arrest and destruction, as his enemies wished. God did not “change the times and seasons,” whatever that may mean. In general, the enemies of the Mormons achieved their goal of driving the Mormons out and destroying Joseph Smith. Their posterity was not destroyed, but survived. At least, there is no record of the anti-Mormon Missourians being swept away. And what knowledge has been “poured down from heaven” upon the Mormons since 1839?
(One might wonder why Smith spent so long in prison; according to the Book of Mormon , Mormon 8:24, faith can make prison walls tumble.)
ICE SHALL FLOW: Nov 3, 1831. D&C 133:26. Those “who are in the north countries… shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.”
FULFILLMENT: The church has made no claim that this prophecy has been fulfilled. Besides, what does it mean?
CHRIST’S SECOND COMING IS IMMINENT: Joseph Smith prophesied on several occasions that the Second Coming was to be expected very soon.
Nov 3, 1831. D&C 133:17. “The hour of [Christ’s Second] coming is nigh.”
April 23, 1834. D&C 104:59. “…to prepare my people for the time when I shall dwell with them, which is nigh at hand.”
Nov 25, 1834. D&C 106:4. “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh…”
Apr 3, 1836, D&C 110:16. “The great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.”
Feb 14, 1835. HC 2:182. Joseph Smith preached that the coming of the Lord would be in 56 years (i.e., about 1891). This prophecy also occurs in his diary for April 6, 1843 and HC 5:336. See also D&C 130:14-17. Joseph Smith prophesies that “there of those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.” He prophesies “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.” (The official historians have deleted the last phrase, beginning with “48 years” from the church history, but it is contained in the original diary.) The version in D&C 130 is phrased negatively, i.e., Christ will not come before 1890. It is also made conditional on Joseph Smith living to the age of 85. Joseph Smith says (v 16) that it might merely mean that if he lives to 85 he will go where Christ is, and therefore see his face. But that interpretation would not make sense if the revelation is in response to Joseph Smith’s inquiry about the time of the second coming (v 14).
FULFILLMENT: The second coming did not occur about 1891, and the Church does not claim that it did. Nor has it occurred since. Joseph Smith did not live to be 85 years old. God must have known that he would not. Why would God make a revelation conditional upon an event which he knew would never happen?
NATIONS SHALL TREMBLE: Nov 3, 1831. D&C 133:42 “…all nations shall tremble at thy presence.”
FULFILLMENT: No one can claim that all nations tremble at the presence of the Mormons.
ENEMIES WILL BE SHAMED: Dec 1, 1831. D&C 71:7-10 Mormons are to call upon their enemies to meet them both in public and in private, and the shame of their enemies shall be made manifest. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.”
FULFILLMENT: The Mormons are generally reluctant to discuss their religion with anyone but prospective converts, but, when they have been willing to meet with their critics and debate, they have not been particularly able to make their opponents’ shame manifest. The Missourians and the residents of Hancock County, Illinois, who “formed weapons” against the Mormons, were successful in driving them out.
NEW YORK WILL BE DESTROYED: Sept 22-23, 1832. D&C 84:114-115. New York, Albany and Boston will be destroyed if they reject the gospel. The “hour of their judgment is nigh…”
FULFILLMENT: Newell K. Whitney and Joseph Smith went to New York, Albany, and Boston and preached there. These cities did not accept the gospel. They have not been destroyed.
THE END OF ALL NATIONS: Dec 25, 1832. D&C 87. Prophecy of the rebellion of South Carolina, war between the states. The South will call on Great Britain for aid, and as a result war will be poured out upon all nations; slaves will revolt; the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; famine, plague, earthquake, thunder, lightning, and a full end of all nations will result.
FULFILLMENT: This prophecy is the one most often cited by Mormons to prove Joseph Smith’s prophetic power. However, most Mormons are unaware of the political situation in America at the time it was made. In November 1832 South Carolina had declared its power to “nullify” any federal act, and President Jackson was prepared to go to war to enforce federal authority. Most people expected war. Thus the “prophecy” did no more than reflect commonly held opinion. Even when the South did finally revolt, in 1861, although Great Britain came to its assistance, other elements of the prophecy were not fulfilled: slaves did not rise up, war was not poured out upon all nations, there was no world- wide famine, plague, earthquake, etc., and there was no resulting “end of all nations.” Morris, PJS, contends that World War I, the associated famines, the 1918 influenza epidemic, fulfill this prophecy. But these are not as a result of the American Civil War. (see Chron JS, Dec 1832) Not even Morris claims that there were earthquakes because of it.
STARS WILL FALL: Dec 27, 1832. D&C 88:87. Earth shall tremble and reel, the sun shall not give light, the moon shall be bathed in blood, the stars shall “become exceedingly angry” and fall, all “not many days hence.”
FULFILLMENT: More than 59,000 days have now passed, and this prophecy has not been fulfilled. It is doubtful that in any sense the stars will ever fall. (This is a paraphrase of Isa 13:10, as re-paraphrased by Matt 24:29 and Mark 13:25.)
DESTROYING ANGEL WILL PASS BY: Feb 27, 1833. D&C 89. The “Word of Wisdom” promises that those who obey it (i.e., by abstaining from hot or strong drinks and from tobacco) shall “receive health in their navel…; find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge…; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And… the destroying angel shall pass by them… and not slay them.”
FULFILLMENT: Most Mormons observe the “Word of Wisdom” faithfully. Although Mormons have been shown statistically to have fewer health problems than the average American, they still seem to be subject to being slain by the destroying angel. Nor do they seem to have greater wisdom and knowledge than others because of their avoidance of coffee, alcohol and tobacco.
THE UNITED ORDER – EVERLASTING: Apr 23, 1834. D&C 104. Revelation establishing a separate United Order in Missouri, to be “everlasting” (v 1), “immutable and unchangeable” (v 2), to benefit the church “until I come” (v 1). “This is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints…” (v 16).
FULFILLMENT: The United Order (holding all property in common) failed, even though the saints tried valiantly to make it work. It was attempted in Ohio, Missouri and Utah. Nowhere did it survive. It was not everlasting. It was not immutable or unchangeable, since it was tried with numerous variations. It has not provided for the saints. It has not lasted until the Lord has come.
MORMON DEBTS WILL BE PAID: April 23, 1834. D&C 104: 78-83. God’s promise to deliver the Saints from their debts. “It is my will that you shall pay all your debts.” The Lord will soften the hearts of their creditors.
FULFILLMENT: Joseph Smith and other prominent Mormons had to flee Kirtland to avoid their creditors, leaving debts of thousands of dollars unpaid. Smith ultimately filed bankruptcy.
ORSON HYDE’S PREPARATION OF JEWS’ RETURN: Feb 14, 1835. Joseph Smith prophesied that Orson Hyde would go to Jerusalem, and “by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering of that people.” [Morris, PJS p 261]
FULFILLMENT: Orson Hyde did go to Jerusalem, but did not do anything to greatly facilitate the gathering of the Jews, which did not occur until over 100 years later.
APOSTLES IN FOREIGN LANDS AND HEAVEN: Jan 21, 1836. HC 2:380-381. Joseph Smith had vision of the future (thus, by implication, a prophecy) in which he saw “the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth… in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen…” He saw “Elder M’Lellin in the south, standing upon a hill, surrounded by a vast multitude, preaching to them [and performing a miraculous healing].” He also saw Brigham Young “standing in a strange land, in the far south and west, in a desert place… preaching to them in their own tongue..” He also “saw the Twelve in the celestial kingdom of God.”
FULFILLMENT: The Quorum of Twelve as constituted at the time of this revelation never was together in a foreign land as described. William E. M’Lellin never preached in the South, and was excommunicated May 11, 1838, just over two years after the prophecy. Brigham Young never preached to the inhabitants of any “strange land” in their own tongue. If Mormon doctrine is correct, five of the apostles seen by Joseph Smith “in the celestial kingdom” should never be there, because they apostatized or were excommunicated: Lyman Johnson, Luke S. Johnson, William E. M’Lellin, John F. Boynton, and William Smith.
SALEM, MASS., WILL BELONG TO MORMONS: Aug 6, 1836. D&C 111. Joseph Smith received a revelation telling him to go to Salem, Massachusetts. This section is the revelation given to him when he and his companions had arrived there. It promises that they would receive the city and “have power over it” and “its wealth pertaining to gold and silver” should be theirs.
FULFILLMENT: Joseph Smith returned in September to Kirtland. Neither he nor the Mormons ever had power over the city, nor did they receive its gold and silver.
KIRTLAND’S MORMON BANK WILL PROSPER: Jan 1837. LDS Mess & Adv. 3:443 Joseph Smith says it is “wisdom and according to the mind of the Holy Spirit” that the saints should invest in the Kirtland Safety Society. Wilford Woodruff’s journal Jan 6, 1837, records that Joseph Smith declared “that he [Joseph Smith] had received that morning the word of the Lord upon the subject of the Kirtland Safety Society,” and that “if we would give heed to the commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well.” [cited in Tanner, MSR 531] John F. Boynton, apostle, said that he understood that the bank was established because it was the will of God (HC 2:509-510) Joseph Smith prophesied that like Aaron’s rod the bank would swallow up other banks “and grow and flourish … and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.” Zion’s Watchman March 24, 1838 [cited in Brodie p 195]
FULFILLMENT: The Kirtland Safety Society Bank, renamed the Anti- Banking Company, was organized Nov 2, 1836. It failed to receive a charter from the state, and Joseph Smith and S. Rigdon were convicted and fined $1000 for illegal banking. The bank failed miserably. Those who had invested in it lost their investment. (Comp Hist 1:401-402)
KIRTLAND LAND INVESTORS WILL BE RICH: April 1837. LDS Mess & Adv Apr 1837 p 488 [cited in Brodie 202] “This place [Kirtland, Ohio] must be built up, and will be built up, and every brother that will take hold and help secure and discharge these [land] contracts shall be rich.”
FULFILLMENT: Nobody became rich investing in Kirtland land contracts. Most of those involved in the Kirtland land speculation, encouraged by Joseph Smith, lost money. Joseph Smith himself went bankrupt and had to flee his creditors.
PROPHECY ABOUT THOMAS MARSH: July 23, 1837. D&C 112. Revelation to Thomas B. Marsh, then the president of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles, prophesying that he would be “exalted,” that he would preach to Jews and Gentiles “unto the ends of the earth,” “among the mountains, and among many nations.” Marsh is told that “by thy word many high ones shall be brought low, and .. many low ones shall be exalted.” In verse 11 Marsh is told that “I [God] know thy heart.”
FULFILLMENT: Less than two years later, on March 17, 1839, Marsh was excommunicated. God apparently did not know his heart. Marsh never preached the Mormon gospel as was prophesied, but was a bitter enemy of the church for many years. He later repented and rejoined the church, but this prophecy was never fulfilled.
PROPHECY ABOUT DAVID W. PATTEN: April 17, 1838. D&C 114:1. Revelation concerning David W. Patten, an apostle, directing him to settle his business up so that he could go on a mission “next spring…to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world.”
FULFILLMENT: Less than eight months later Patten was dead, killed leading Mormons in the Battle of Crooked River on October 25, 1838. He never went on the mission as prophesied. It cannot be that his lack of faith frustrated the revelation, since Joseph Smith said of him that he “died as he had lived, a man of God, and strong in the faith.” HC 3:171.
PROPHECY ABOUT OLIVER GRANGER: July 8, 1838. D&C 117:12-15. Revelation and prophecy regarding Oliver Granger: “his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord… let the blessings of my people be on him forever and ever.”
FULFILLMENT: No Mormon knows anything about Oliver Granger beyond this mention in the D&C. As far as the Mormon people are concerned, Oliver Granger has been forgotten, rather than “had in sacred remembrance … forever and ever.”
JOSEPH SMITH WILL BE SUCCEEDED BY HIS SON JOSEPH: April 22, 1839 and Aug 27, 1834. Joseph Smith says that he will be succeeded by his oldest son, Joseph Smith III. [Quinn pp 630, 638]
FULFILLMENT: Joseph Smith III left the main body of Mormons when they went to Utah under Brigham Young. Thus, according to the Utah church, he did not become his father’s successor in the Utah church. He became president of the Reorganized Church in 1860.
PROPHECY ABOUT GEORGE MILLER: Jan 19, 1841. D&C 124:20-21. Revelation and prophecy regarding George Miller. He “is without guile; he may be trusted…; I, the Lord, love him… Let no man despise my servant George, for he shall honor me.”
FULFILLMENT: On December 3, 1848, George Miller was disfellowshipped by the Mormons. Apparently God was mistaken about Miller.
NAUVOO HOUSE WILL ALWAYS BE SMITH’S: Jan 19, 1841. D&C 124:56, 60. God orders the building of the Nauvoo House, a hotel, in which Joseph Smith and his “house” will have “place” “from generation to generation.”
FULFILLMENT: Nauvoo House was never fully completed. Joseph Smith never lived in it; his widow Emma was living in it at her death, but his family have not owned or occupied it since then. It is owned by the Reorganized Church of LDS.
KIRTLAND WILL BE BUILT UP: Jan 19, 1841. D&C 124:83. God says that he will “build up Kirtland [Ohio]” after he has scourged its [non-Mormon] inhabitants. The implication is that it will be built up for the Saints.
FULFILLMENT: The Mormons never returned to Kirtland, except in very few numbers. The inhabitants never suffered any “scourge.” The Reorganized Church holds title to the temple there.
CITY OF ZARAHEMLA, IOWA: March 1841. D&C 125:1-4. Revelation directing the Mormons to build a city called Zarahemla in Iowa, across the river from Nauvoo.
FULFILLMENT: No such city was ever built.
QUEENS WILL CONTRIBUTE: Apr 28, 1842. Joseph Smith prophesies about the newly-founded Relief Society: “before ten years… the queens of the earth shall come and pay their respects to this Society. They shall come with their millions and shall contribute of their abundance for the relief of the poor.” [Quinn p. 634]
FULFILLMENT: By 1852 no queens of the earth had done anything resembling what Joseph Smith prophesied, nor have they done so since.
POWER TO DETECT FALSITY: April 28, 1842. Joseph Smith gives the sisters of the Relief Society “and the Elders” the keys of the kingdom “that they may be able to detect everything false.” [Quinn p. 634]
FULFILLMENT: Apparently by the 1980s the Elders no longer had these keys, since they were unable to detect the forgeries foisted on them by Mark Hofmann, but rather esteemed him an authority on rare Mormon documents, paying him thousands of dollars for his forgeries. The church leaders learned of his deception from the secular authorities, when he was arrested for murders he had committed in furthering his schemes against the church. See any of several excellent accounts of this affair, e.g. Naifeh and Smith, The Mormon Murders, New York, 1988.
PROPHECY ABOUT ANSON CALL: Aug 6, 1842. Anson Call Diary [cited in Morris PJS]. Joseph Smith prophesies that Anson Call will “go and assist in building cities from one end of the country to the other and … shall perform as great a work as has ever been done by man, and the nations of the earth shall be astonished…”
FULFILLMENT: Anson Call assisted in building Fillmore, Utah (population in 1970: 1411). He did not assist in building cities from one end of the country to the other. He did not perform any work “as great … as has ever been done by man,” or at which the nations of the earth were astonished.
JOSEPH SMITH WILL TRIUMPH: September 1, 1842. D&C 127:2. Joseph Smith prophesies that he “shall triumph over all my enemies.”
FULFILLMENT: His enemies murdered him less than two years after this prophecy.
JOSEPH SMITH IN PALESTINE: January 20, 1843. Joseph Smith prophesies to Orson Hyde that the two of them will drink wine together in Palestine. (JS MS Diary)
FULFILLMENT: Joseph Smith never was in Palestine. (His drinking wine would have been a violation of the Word of Wisdom)
US GOVERNMENT WILL BE DESTROYED: May 18, 1843. HC 5:394, also Mill Star 22:455. Joseph Smith prophesies “by virtue of the holy priesthood… and in the name of the Lord” that if Congress or the United States will not redress the wrongs which the Mormons suffered in Missouri, and grant them protection, “the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted,” they shall be “broken up as a government” and there will be nothing left of them. (A similar prophecy was made Dec 16, 1843. See Quinn p 641, Chron JS 189)
FULFILLMENT: The United States rejected the Mormons’ petitions; their wrongs were not redressed; they were not protected from their enemies. The United States government was never overthrown and is still in existence.
JOSEPH SMITH WILL BE MADE RULER AND STRENGTHENED: July 12, 1843. D&C 132:53. “I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things;… and from henceforth I will strengthen him.”
FULFILLMENT: At the time of this prophecy Joseph Smith was at the height of his power. He was never a ruler over any more than at that time. In less than one year he was dead, not strengthened.
MORE WILL BE REVEALED ABOUT PLURAL MARRIAGE: July 12, 1843. Revelation and prophecies regarding plural marriage. D&C 132.66 says that “pertaining to this law [the law of plural marriage] I will reveal more unto you, hereafter.”
FULFILLMENT: The church has not said that it has received any subsequent revelation on this subject except to say that plural marriage will not be practiced by the church.
PLURAL MARRIAGE WILL ALWAYS BE PRACTICED: D&C 132 was interpreted by Brigham Young [see Tanners, MSR p 228] to mean that the principle of plural marriage, once it had been made known, had to be lived and practiced by anyone to whom it had been made known, or that person would be damned, and only by living in plural marriage could one receive the highest exaltation. Verse 3-4: “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned, for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” See also verses 6, 21, 33. The principle of plural marriage is referred to as a “new and everlasting covenant.” John Taylor, third president and prophet, interpreted this to mean that the church could never give up the principle of plural marriage.
FULFILLMENT: Plural marriage was practiced by the Mormons secretly until 1852 (and the church lied during that time, vehemently denying any such doctrine or practice), then openly until 1890, when the church announced to the world that it had stopped performing plural marriages (although they continued to be performed secretly by high church authorities for about another 15 years). Any Mormon who now enters into a plural marriage is likely to be excommunicated by the church, even if the Mormon lives in a jurisdiction where polygamy is not illegal. The attempt by God to institute plural marriage among the Mormons was frustrated and abandoned by them.
MORMONS WILL NO LONGER HAVE TO COOK: Feb 6, 1844. Joseph Smith prophesies that within five years the Mormons would be able to live without cooking their food. (Joseph Smith manuscript diary, omitted from the HC. Cited in Quinn, p. 642).
FULFILLMENT: The Mormons are still cooking their food.
DAVID SMITH WILL BE PRESIDENT AND KING: April 1844. Joseph Smith prophesies that his unborn child will be called David, and will be “president and king of Israel.” (cited in Quinn p 644)
FULFILLMENT: The child was called David. However, he was never “president and king of Israel.” He died in 1904, at the age of 60, having spent the last 27 years of his life in an insane asylum. He was a member of the Reorganized Church. His highest position in that church was counsellor to the president, but he never actually served as such.
MORMONS WILL TRIUMPH OVER ENEMIES: June 19, 1844. Mormon Neighbor. Joseph Smith warns others not to interfere in Mormon affairs, “for as sure as there is a God in Israel, we shall ride triumphant over all oppression.”
FULFILLMENT: Within 10 days of this prophetic warning, Joseph Smith was killed by the mob, and within three years the Mormons had abandoned Nauvoo.
PROPHECY ABOUT W. W. PHELPS: Date unknown. Prophecy made to W. W. Phelps, cited in Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints, p. 42, that Phelps would not taste of death till Jesus came.
FULFILLMENT: W. W. Phelps died March 7, 1872, apparently before Jesus came.
PROPHECIES OF JOSEPH SMITH WHICH WERE FULFILLED (?)
MOVE TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Aug 6, 1842. HC, George Q. Cannon Diary, Anson Call Diary (which gives the date as 1843), cited in Morris, PJS. Prophecy that the Mormons would continue to suffer affliction and would finally move to the Rocky Mountains and become a mighty people.
FULFILLMENT: Joseph Smith sent scouts West in 1843 to look for a place to settle, and again on Feb 21, 1844 he instructed the Twelve to explore the West. He was considering Oregon, California, and Texas, as well as the Great Basin, as the next Zion. [Quinn p 635] The Mormons did move to the Rocky Mountains and became the most powerful segment of society in Utah, as well as an influential force in several other Western states, a position which they have maintained and continue to strengthen.
However, the Call diary was not actually written until years later, from memory, and the manuscript of the HC dates only from 1845 (after JS’s death), where the words of this prophecy appear only as an interlinear insertion which could only have been made after the Mormons actually arrived in Utah. Thus it appears that this “prophecy” is a forgery. See MPM 85-86.
PROPHECY ABOUT STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS: May 18, 1843. HC 5:393-4,398, Chron JS, PJS. Joseph Smith prophesies to Stephen A. Douglas that he will “aspire” to the presidency of the U.S., and that if he ever turns against the Mormons, he will “feel the weight of the hand of Almighty God upon [him]”
FULFILLMENT: Douglas did aspire to the presidency, but did not get it. Mormons claim that it was because he did turn against them. However, this prophecy, like the previous one, appears to be a forgery by the editors of HC. It supposedly is recorded in Wm. Clayton’s diary. The manuscript of that diary, however, has no prophecy about Douglas. See MPM 86-88.
MORMONS WILL ESCAPE THEIR ENEMIES: Feb 25, 1844. HC 6:225, Chron JS. Joseph Smith prophesies that within five years the Mormons would be out of the power of their old enemies.
FULFILLMENT: By 1849 the Mormons had set up their theocracy in Utah and, for a time at least, were no longer plagued by their enemies. (By 1857, however, the U.S. was sending an army to Utah to put down the “Mormon Rebellion.”)
JACKSON COUNTY WILL BE DEVASTATED: ca. 1839. Unrecorded prophecy, reported in Morris, PJS p 180. Joseph Smith advised General Doniphan not to own property in Jackson County, Missouri, because “God’s wrath hangs over Jackson county. God’s people have been ruthlessly driven from it, and you will live to see the day when it will be visited by fire and sword. The Lord of Hosts will sweep it with the besom of destruction. The fields and farms and houses will be destroyed, and only the chimneys will be left to mark the desolation.”
FULFILLMENT: In 1863 Union troops were ordered to burn all houses and crops in Jackson County because of the anti-Union guerrilla warfare of the residents. It was considered one of the worst atrocities of the war.
PORTER ROCKWELL WILL DIE IN BED: Joseph Smith promised his body guard Porter Rockwell that if he never cut his hair, he would die in bed.
FULFILLMENT: Rockwell complied, and in spite of a violent life, died peacefully. (Harold Schindler, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Salt Lake City 1966, pp 108-109)
A VAIN PROPHET WILL BE THROWN DOWN: This prophecy by Joseph Smith, although it was fulfilled quickly and literally, is rarely cited by Mormons. July 1828. D&C 3:4. “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.”
FULFILLMENT: On May 26, 1844, Joseph Smith made the following statement in a public sermon (Brodie p 374, HC 6:408-412):
“Come on, ye persecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! For I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”
At this time he was secretly married polygamously to over 40 women, some of them wives of men still living. Many who knew of these secret marriages accused him of changing the doctrine of the church to satisfy his own carnal desires, in violation of the Book of Mormon (Jacob 2:23-29, 3:5) and D&C 49:16.
Almost exactly one month after this boast, on June 27, 1844, he was killed by his enemies in a gun battle at Carthage Jail.
Summarized above are about sixty prophecies of Joseph Smith which were not fulfilled. Mormons may object that some of them may still be fulfilled, for example, Jesus will yet come, the Far West temple will yet be built, New York will yet be destroyed, Salem will yet belong to the Mormons, etc. Yet many of the prophecies cannot be fulfilled: the dates for their fulfillment were given, and those dates have passed; the people whose deeds were prophesied have died without their performing those deeds.
Morris, PJS, discusses only “fulfilled” prophecies, and only eight of them. In addition to four of those discussed above (he does not mention the prophecy about the downfall of boastful prophets), he is forced to include pronouncements by Joseph Smith that were not prophecies about the future at all, but statements about the past, namely, that mankind began in America, not the Old World; that Jesus was born on April 6; and that the Western Hemisphere is a choice land and will always be free from tyrants (the latter, since it occurs in the Book of Mormon, should not be considered a prophecy of Joseph Smith, since, according to Mormon doctrine, Joseph Smith merely translated of the book, not its author).
Five prophecies fulfilled out of the sixty-five or so found recorded does not even measure up to Hyrum Smith’s standard of a “hit one in ten times,” and is far short of the promise (and prophecy) in D&C 1:37 that “ALL” will be fulfilled. Joseph Smith fails to pass the test of a true prophet, even by his own standards or those of his followers (e.g., Morris).
|D&C||Doctrine and Covenants (an official compilation of revelations, accepted by the Mormons as scripture)|
|JD||Journal of Discourses (a stenographic report of speeches made by Mormon leaders during the days of Brigham Young)|
|Comp Hist||Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints|
|HC||History of the Church (both of these histories are published by the LDS church)|
|PJS||Nephi Lowell Morris, Prophecies of Joseph Smith and their Fulfillment, Salt Lake City, 1926|
|Chron JS||J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology, Salt Lake City, 1979|
|Brodie||Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 2nd ed, New York, 1993|
|Quinn||D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy, Salt Lake City, 1994|
|Tanner MSR||Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism – Shadow or Reality?, 5th ed, Salt Lake City, 1987|
|MPM||Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Major Problems of Mormonism, Salt Lake City, 1989|
See also Richard D. Baer’s “Why I Left The Mormon Church,” n.d., Orangeville, CA.
“Don’t prophesy only unless ye know!” – Josh Billings
“Joseph Smith as a Prophet” is copyright © 1998 by Richard Packham. All rights reserved. Reprinted electronically with the permission of Richard Packham.