Was Mormonism’s “Prophet” Misrepresented?

Wayne Jackson
A critic has accused the Christian Courier of misrepresenting Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Mormon Church, with reference to one of his alleged “revelations.” Were we guilty of this infraction? Read this article and see.

A previously published article on this website entitled, Is the Mormon Church the Restored Church? respectfully contended that it is not. One aspect of that piece dealt with the Mormon claim that Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the cult, was a “prophet” of God.

We noted that Mormon writers argue that:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its foundation in the revelations he [Joseph Smith] received, the sacred truths he taught, and the authority of the Priesthood restored through him” (Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, n.d., p. 24).

If, therefore, the “prophecies” of Smith were not fulfilled, then the Mormon religion was constructed upon a faulty foundation, and thus is not a system approved by God.

In this connection we introduced three “prophecies” from the Mormon “seer” for testing.

  1. Smith prophesied that the civil war conflict between the northern and southern states would become so intense that “war shall be poured out upon all nations” (Doctrine & Covenants 87:1-3). It wasn’t!<
  2. On February 14, 1835, Smith “prophesied” concerning “the coming of the Lord” that “fifty-six years should wind up the scene” (B.H. Roberts, History of the Church, II, p. 182). It didn’t!
  3. Smith gave a “revelation” that the Mormon temple would be erected in Independence, Missouri (Doctrine & Covenants 57:1-3). That “prophecy” failed also.

By the standard set forth in Deuteronomy 18:21-22, Joseph Smith, Jr. was a false prophet. Moses declared:

“And if you say in your heart, How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follows not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you should not be afraid of him.”

A Critic

One of our website readers (presumably a Mormon) has taken issue with these arguments that negate Joseph Smith’s claims of being God’s prophet. Bypassing points (1) and (2), our correspondent chose to focus upon (3), namely the “prophecy” that the Mormon temple was to be built in Independence, Missouri.

First, the gentleman denies that Doctrine and Covenants 57:1-3 contains a “prophecy” of the building of the Mormon temple. He acknowledges that the “temple” issue was in view, and that Smith’s utterance was one of “revelation,” but he alleges that not all revelation was prophecy.

Second, he contends that even if one concedes that this was a “prophecy” of the building of the temple, there is no time element specified. It still could happen in the future. Here is our friend’s actual statement:

“Let’s say that Joseph Smith prophesied that there will be a temple built on that spot in Independence, Missouri. Did he say when? Did those verses say that there will be a temple in 1 week, or in 1 year, or soon or later on? There is no time frame. So the ‘prophesy’ still has a chance to be fulfilled.”

Actually, these two “escape” routes are the only avenues available to avoid the embarrassing conclusion that the Mormon system is a “non-prophet” enterprise. Let us, therefore, take these two objections and carefully analyze them.

No Prophecy?

It is very difficult to see how any responsible reader could fail to understand that the declarations of Doctrine and Covenants 57:1-3 are alleged to be prophetic.

The introduction to this segment of the narrative describes it as a “revelation given through Joseph Smith the prophet” as to the precise place where the “temple” was to be built (Introduction to Section 57). It was declared to be in the place “which is now called Independence,” in “the center place,” which would be “westward,” and “upon a lot which is not far from the court-house” (v. 3).

If there is a “revelation” of future events, “through Joseph Smith the Prophet,” what else would such be designated except “prophecy”? However, in view of the utter failure of the prediction, one can well understand why the gentleman would wish to distance himself from the “prophecy” aspect.

If “Prophecy,” The It Is To Be Fulfilled Yet in the Future

Our friend then elects to engage the semantic game. He suggests that he will simply play along with us, and concede that this might have been a true prophecy. Still, to him, that represents no problem. As he sees it, there is no “time” element in the “prophecy,” and for all anyone knows, it may yet be fulfilled in the future!

Unfortunately for our friend, this explanation fares no better than the first, and for this reason. Elsewhere in Doctrine and Covenants there is another “revelation” supposedly “given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirkland, Ohio, September 22 and 23, 1832” (Section 84, Introduction). It states:

“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, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord which shall fill the house” (84:4-5).

With all due respect, the only “cloud” manifest is the one that hangs over this “prophecy.” The “generation” that was alive in 1832 is not alive today.

Orson Pratt, a Mormon “apostle,” identified that phrase, “this generation,” as “the generation then living” when the “prophecy” was given on September 22-23, 1832 (Pratt, A Series of Pamphlets, First Series, No. 7, 10). The fact is, several generations have come and gone, and the “prophecy” has yet to be fulfilled. It was a failed “prophecy,” from a false prophet.

We truly regret having to be so blunt, but the seriousness of the issue demands nothing short of undiluted confrontation. Let the honest soul face the truth, and turn from his error.