The Bible warns us about false prophets. Joseph Smith who founded the Mormon Church claimed to be a prophet of God. Joseph Smith made a number of false prophecies. Three such false prophecies are examined here.
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There are people who have made some remarkable predictions, yet they are not prophets of God. Nostradamus is credited for making some amazing predictions, and he did not claim to be a prophet of God. There are those that have claimed to be a prophet of God and have started a religion. Charles Taze Russell claimed to be a prophet of God; he founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses church known today as the Watch Tower Society. The informed Mormon and Christian would agree that Russell was not a prophet of God, nor did he found "the true church”. What separates a true prophet of God from a false prophet, and is it important to distinguish the difference?
If a religion advocates that you follow a god other than the God of the Bible, it is a false religion (Deuteronomy 13:1-10). When we look to the Bible we can soon learn how to distinguish a false prophet from a true prophet. We are also told why it is important to know the difference.
In these verses we see that there are those who prophesy in Jesus’ name, and even perform miracles in His name, but those things in and of themselves do not mean that they are from God!
In this passage we can see why it would be important to distinguish a false prophet from a true one. It certainly does not sound wise to ignore what someone has to say, if they really are a prophet of God.
This Scripture shows that the Lord is the one that fulfills the prophecy and the fulfillment of it is certain. We know that God does not lie, and nothing is too hard for Him (Hebrews 6:18, Jeremiah 32:27). L.D.S. scripture also tells us that the Lord fulfills the prophecy and the fulfillment is certain.
It is interesting to me that many Protestants will willingly enough put the prophecies of Joseph Smith to the test, yet many Mormons are not willing to do so — either because they do not believe it is important, or they think it is wrong to do so. Following are a couple of statements from L.D.S. authors that show that it is important to establish that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.13
Paul F. Royall, BYU Speeches, December 17, 1963, p.4
Of course there are still those Mormons who say, “I already believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, so what need is there for me to put his prophecies to the test?” I say to them that the more I have studied even what I already believed, the more it has increased my faith. I can honestly say that my faith in God and His word has increased greatly by sharing this faith with people who have opposing views. The truth will endure all tests, and through opposition faith is strengthened. Take to heart what was said in the following L.D.S. Conference Report.
Bryant S. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1939, p.62
Next we will examine three prophecies by Joseph Smith. Your job is to decide if he was a true or false prophet. If you decide that the prophecies are not false, then you must be able to explain how you can justify them as being true.
FALSE PROPHECIES - LDS Prophets
First I would like you to look at the Civil War prophecy carefully and see if it was intended to be divided into time frames of the (1) Civil War (2) World War 1&2
(3) The second coming of Christ. This is the way the L.D.S authorities have interpreted it so that it was not a false prophecy. I suggest to you that to interpret this prophecy in such a manner is not being true to the context!
To help see the problem with this type of interpretation I have tried to mark where a time frame must take place for this to be true.
Date: December 25, 1832 D&C 87:1-8 (PDF- L.D.S Scripture pg. 730)
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; (Time Change)
2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, (Time Change) 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;(Time Change)
and then war shall be poured out upon all nations. (Time Change)
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled 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.
6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.
To interpret this prophecy in the manner that the L.D.S authorities have explained it to us, including World Wars I and II, we have to change time frames at least six times in only eight verses. As you can see in verse 2 this must even take place in the middle of the sentence. Another thing to consider is the fact that although we call two of these wars “world wars” we would not say every nation was involved. How would you divide these eight verses to fit the L.D.S authority’s interpretation? Is it possible to do this and be true to the context? I don’t thinks so!
Herber Kimball, a member of the first presidency, made the following statement (keep in mind that the Civil War took place from 1861-1865):
Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, pgs.54-55, (PDF pg. 62-63)
Heber C. Kimball, April 14, 1861
Does it sound like Herber Kimball understood that the Civil War prophecy was to be fulfilled at that time, when he said" and they will destroy their nationality"?
Even if you interpret this prophecy as something that was to take place during one time period, as I believe it was intended(making it a false prophecy),one would still wonder about the parts of the prophecy that did come true. I am referring to the fact that the Civil War did take place, and it did begin in South Carolina. How could Joseph Smith have known that before it happened? It might not be as amazing as you think if you take a look at what was happening in history at the time of his prophecy.
Tension between the North and the South was bad enough that John Quincy Adams (then Secretary of State) predicted Civil War twelve years earlier than Joseph Smith did. The following can be found in the L.D.S. Collectors Library under the bonus title American History; An Apprehensive View of the Missouri Compromise.
AUTHOR: Thomas Jefferson
SOURCE: America, Vol.5, pg.305
[THE Missouri Compromise was the first of the great measures that followed the spirit of mutual accommodation found in the Constitution itself. It was an arrangement between the free and slave States, embodied in an Act of Congress approved March 6, 1820, which provided for the admission of Missouri into the Union as a slave State, but which prohibited slavery in all other Louisiana territory north of the southern boundary line of Missouri.
Jefferson betrays both apprehension and alarm for the future of the Union, in these three letters written in 1820. It is the Southern view of a lukewarm slave holder. Following it is the Northern view taken from the journal of John Quincy Adams, then (1820) Secretary of State. His prophecy of civil war, in the third paragraph, was fulfilled in 1861. Niles, whose moderate view follows, founded (1815) and edited Niles' Weekly Register, the files of which are an invaluable record of contemporary events.]
Still this leaves the fact that Joseph Smith stated that the rebellion would begin in South Carolina. This is what a lot of people would have expected at that time. Before Joseph Smith's prophecy Congress passed a tariff act that South Carolina refused to accept and President Andrew Jackson alerted the troops to be ready for war. The following can be found in the L.D.S. Collectors Library (bonus title).
History of the American People, Vol.4, pgs .36-37
In summary, the Civil War prophecy by Joseph Smith did not come true. War was not poured out on all nations, beginning at South Carolina. There also was not an end to all nations. The part that Joseph Smith did get right was common knowledge to the people at that time. This Makes Joseph Smith a Mormon false prophet.
The MISSOURI TEMPLE - Prophecy by Smith
Let’s start by examining just what Joseph Smith prophesied concerning the temple in the western boundaries of Missouri.
Date: September 22 and 23, 1832
Place: Kirtland, Ohio
To: Joseph Smith and Six Elders
D&C 84:1-5 (PDF L.D.S Scripture pg. 719)
Questions about D&C 84:1-5
Verse 5. This prophecy was given in 1832; was it that generation that “should not all pass away” until the city and temple were to be built in western Missouri and dedicated by the Hand of Joseph Smith? If this is not the correct interpretation, where in the text do you see a change in time frames? There was not a city or temple built in that generation in western Missouri. Does this make it a false prophecy, according to Deuteronomy 18:18-22?
This is a question that the Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith addressed:
Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.4, p.112
"It may be reasonable to assume that in giving this revelation to the Prophet the Lord did have in mind the generation of people who would still be living within the one hundred years from the time of the announcement of the revelation, and that they would enjoy the blessings of the temple, and a glorious cloud would rest upon it. It is also reasonable to believe that no soul living in 1832 is still living in morality on the earth. Notwithstanding this there is nothing in the commandment given to Nephi, neither in his assurance that the Lord would bless him in obtaining the plates that were so essential to the welfare spiritually and temporally of the descendants of Nephi, that in any sense is in conflict with the commandment or promise that was made by the Lord in the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We read in another revelation given to the Church in January 1841, where the Lord absolves the members of the Church from the obligation of building the temple, in the following words(D&C 124:49-54):
‘Verily, verily I say unto you that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth med to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.
‘And the iniquity and transgressions of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hinder my work unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord.
‘Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God.
‘And I will answer judgment, wrath, and indignation, wailing and anguish, and gnashing of teeth upon their heads, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord your God. And this, I make an example unto you, for your consolation concerning all those who have been commanded to do a work and have been hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression, saith the Lord your God.
‘For I am the Lord your God, and will save all those of your brethren who have been pure in heart, and have been slain in the land of Missouri, saith the Lord.’” (End Quote)
There are a few problems with this prophecy this president quoted (D&C 124:49-54) or (L.D.S-Scripture PDF pg. 815-816) which should be addressed. First, this is billed as a word from the Lord that was relayed to us by Joseph Smith on January 19, 1841, in Nauvoo, Illinois. The original prophecy concerning the Temple that was to be built in the western part of Missouri took place in September, 1832 — nine years earlier. By this time Joseph Smith was very well aware of the fact that he could not go to Missouri, and certainly he could not build a city and a temple there. This “prophecy” appears to be a message of convenience, a way to get Joseph Smith “off the hook “with those who would still inquire about when they would go to Missouri to build the city and temple.
There is a strong contrast between this message, which excuses them for not building the temple because they “tried with all of their might”, and what Joseph Smith's friend believed when only three years had elapsed since his prophecy. John Whitmer is one of the eight witnesses who are mentioned in the preface of the Book of Mormon. The following can be found in a Mormon publication he authored.
Messenger and Advocate (Sept. 1835) (PDF pg. 194)
“Cleanliness”, by John Whitmer; pg. 189
“The Lord has said that he would hold no one guilty, that should go with an open heart, up to the land of Zion; after five years from September, 1831. And the Lord has said that he would gather his people and specified the place where:[D&C 84:1-4] A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith Jr. and six elders, as they united their heart and lifted their voices on high; yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church established in the last days for the gathering of his saints to stand upon mount Zion, which 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 jr. and others, with whom the Lord was well pleased.
‘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 (Cov. Sec. IV. Par. I.).’ Isaiah 66:18 For I know thier works and thier thoughts: it shal come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come,and see my glory"
‘According to this quotation the glory of the Lord shall appear; but they must come to a certain place in order that they can see it. Our former quotation determines the place, and who dare dispute it? The Lord has said by the mouth of Isaiah; that he would perform his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." (End Quote)
At this point it was still believed that the temple would be built during that generation and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith. More important is the contrast between the nature of the God in D&C124; 49-54 and the God mentioned in the Bible. The God we learn of in the Bible declares that He Himself will see to it that His prophets’ prophecies will come to pass, and nothing is too hard for Him. Scripture previously quoted showing this included Ezekiel 12:12-25, Habakkuk 2:2-3, Hebrews 6:18, and Jeremiah 32:27; also D&C 1:38
In contrast the God we learn of in D&C 124 excuses the people for not fulfilling the prophecy Joseph Smith gave concerning the building of the temple, because “they tried with all of their might” (verse 49). I ask you by whose power a prophecy is fulfilled; is it by God’s power, or man’s? Does your answer line up with what the Bible says? (References above)
The passage quoted in D&C 124:49-54 is in conflict with the nature of God presented in the Bible. In the Bible we are told how to identify a false prophet. The test, we are told, is that if a prophet tells us of future events and they do not come to pass, the prophet was false. The only exception we are ever given in the Bible concerns when coming judgment is stopped due to repentance; Jonah and Nineveh would be examples of this. D&C says that although the prophecy did not come to pass, the people are excused because they “tried with all of their might”.
It is not reasonable to accept Joseph Smith’s word for what Smith says the Lord said in D&C 124:49-54, when Smith has already proven to be a false prophet, according to the Bible. This section in D&C was clearly a prophecy of convenience for Joseph Smith; he was trying to conceal his own false prophecy with another so-called word from the Lord. It only takes one false prophecy to become a false prophet.
THhe 56 YEARS - Prophecy by Smith
History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.13, pg.181 (PDF pg. 957)
Kirtland, February 14, 1835—
“This day, a meeting was called of those who journeyed last season to Zion for the purpose of laying the foundation of its redemption, together with as many other of the brethren and sisters as were disposed to attend.
“President Joseph Smith, Jun., presiding, read the 15th chapter of John, and said: Let us endeavor to solemnize our minds that we may receive a blessing, by calling on the Lord. After an appropriate and affecting prayer, the brethren who went to Zion [in Zion's camp] were requested to take their seats together in a part of the house by themselves.
“President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion— our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and 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.
“The President also said many things; such as the weak things, even the smallest and weakest among us, shall be powerful and mighty, and great things shall be accomplished by you from this hour; and you shall begin to feel the whisperings of the Spirit of God; and the work of God shall begin to break forth from this time; and you shall be endowed with power from on high.”
In this text we can see that Joseph Smith was the one leading this meeting and the quotes in this section are things he said. We also learn that God has called the meeting, and the things mentioned in the meeting are not just an opinion or estimation. Rather the things mentioned in the meeting were made known to Smith by revelation and by the Holy Spirit. We learn that the people who went to Zion were in the meeting. We learn that the people who went to Zion were the ones who were to go and prune the vineyard for the last time. We learn that the pruning of the vineyard (or the coming of the Lord) should come about within fifty-six years.
Collected Discourses, Vol.5, Francis M. Lyman,
April 5, 1896
“On that day also the Prophet announced that they were to be called into the ministry and to go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, ‘for the coming of the Lord, which is nigh, even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.’ The harvest was ripe, and the laborers were few, and they were to cast in their might and their labors for the accomplishment of the purposes of the Lord; and he announced, at that time, that in fifty-six years the scene should be wound up, that some scene was to be wound up in 1891 —fifty-six years added to 1835. And thus many of the older brethren were expecting to discover something in 1891 that perhaps it has been felt has not been accomplished.
“......... In the culmination of these events we recognize the fulfillment of the prediction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that about 1890 or 1891, the scene would change, and the conditions that had existed from those early days of persecutions and troubles should be wound up and cease forever. The Prophets Brigham Young and John Taylor laid down their lives while carrying forward the great work, though it was not their good fortune to witness the relief and the independence and the measure of sovereignty of statehood that the people of this state enjoy today. But after that time when the Lord had indicated that the scene should change, and the winding up of the conditions that had formerly existed, from that time till now, everything has moved in harmony with the directions and counsels of the Lord through His servants. Think of the change of feeling from hostility to friendliness in the people of the United States toward the people of this state. We not only have the governor and judges of our own choice, and courts organized here in this state, but we have our senators in congress, and our representative, and they are as honored and equally influential as are those of any other state in the Union; and the Lord has magnified His people and verified the prophesy of His servant Joseph in regard to this great change. Is it not clear that the inspiration in the Prophet Joseph at that time indicated and pointed to the conditions that we see today? The scene is changed, and it has changed to remain, and will never return to the old conditions again.”
After reading what Joseph Smith said in the meeting, and a related passage by Lyman, some logical questions come to mind:
Joseph Smith did make other statements on other occasions that seem contrary to his prophecy that Christ should return in fifty-six years. This does not change the fact that in the meeting held on February 14, 1835, Joseph Smith did say that the pruning of the vineyard and the coming of the Lord should be wound up in fifty-six years. This was supposedly made known to him by revelation, and by the Holy Spirit.
How can these four statements be reconciled? They are contradictory, and from a man who claims he is relaying God’s word to us? Considering the facts; it is not reasonable to accept Smith as a prophet of God.
When looking at statements by Joseph Smith as historical documents, it is helpful to know how those around him understood what he meant. Following are some sources that show that those who listened to and believed Joseph Smith fully expected to see Christ return in their lifetime.
History of the Church, Vol. 1, pg.176, Footnotes (PDF pg. 421)
Soon after Joseph Smith ordained Lyman Wight to the office of High Priest, Lyman prophesied that some people there would be alive when Christ returned. Why is there no record of Joseph Smith rebuking him, since Smith had already declared that “no man knows when Jesus will return”? Lyman Wight gave a false prophecy right after the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph Smith and Smith ordained Lyman a High Priest.
History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.23, pg.323 (PDF pg. 277)
The blessing was that this man should continue in the Priest's office until Christ comes. If this continuation of the Priest's office still holds after his death why does it end upon the return of Christ? Or could it be that it was believed that this man would live until the return of Christ, due to Joseph Smith's prophecy?
History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.13, pgs. 186-189 (PDF pg. 960)
“President Joseph Smith, Jun., said that the first business of the meeting was, for the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, to pray, each one, and then proceed to choose twelve men from the Church, as Apostles, to go to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. The Three Witnesses were then blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency. The Witnesses then, according to a former commandment, proceeded to make choice of the Twelve. Their names are as follows:
1, Lyman E. Johnson
2. Brigham Young
3. Heber C. Kimball
4. Orson Hyde
5. David W. Patten
6. Luke S. Johnson
7. William E. M’Lellin
8. John F. Boynton
9. Orson Pratt
10. William Smith
11. Thomas P. Marsh
12. Parley P. Pratt
“Lyman E. Johnson, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball came forward; and the Three Witnesses laid their hands upon each one's head and prayed, separately.
“The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was, in the name of Jesus Christ, that he should bear the tidings of salvation to nations, tongues, and people, until the utmost corners of the earth shall hear the tidings; and that he shall be a witness of the things of God to nations and tongues, and that holy angels shall administer to him occasionally; and that no power of the enemy shall prevent him from going forth and doing the work of the Lord; and that he shall live until the gathering is accomplished, according to the holy prophets; and he shall be like unto Enoch; and his faith shall be like unto his; and he shall be called great among all the living; and Satan shall tremble before him; and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory.
“............Heber C. Kimball's blessing was, in substance, that he shall be made like unto those who have been blessed before him; and be favored with the same blessing. That he might receive visions; the ministration of angels, and hear their voice; and even come into the presence of God; that many millions may be converted by his instrumentality; that angels may waft him from place to place, and that he may stand unto the coming of our Lord, and receive a crown in the Kingdom of our God; that he be made acquainted with the day when Christ shall come; that he shall be made perfect in faith; and that the deaf shall hear, the lame shall walk, the blind shall see, and greater things than these shall he do; that he shall have boldness of speech before the nations, and great power.”. (End Quote)
Again in this quote, we see that Joseph Smith is present when the Lord's work is taking place and Heber C. Kimball and Lyman E. Johnson both said they would live to see the Second Coming of Christ. How can we possibly say that Joseph Smith did not put a date to the return of Christ? Certainly those who were close to him believed they would be alive when Christ returned. By Joseph Smith's own words, this makes him a false teacher.
History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.10, pg.254 (PDF pg. 2317)
So far we can conclude that Joseph Smith did indeed prophesy the return of Christ within fifty-six years. Some of those who were close to him believed they would also live to see the return of Christ. These events were recorded supposedly while doing the Lord's work. Joseph Smith also made contradicting statements that cannot be reconciled. Robert A. Morey wrote book entitled How to Answer a Mormon; the majority of this 119-page book concerns false prophecies by Joseph Smith. I only mentioned three here. Remember, it only takes one false prophecy to be a false prophet.