List of prophecies of Joseph Smith
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Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, is viewed by adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement as a prophet in the tradition of the ancient prophets recorded in the Bible. During his life, Smith made several prophecies, many documented in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of scripture in several denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement.
There is much dispute surrounding the known and alleged prophecies of Smith. Some critics contend that Smith could not be a genuine prophet because they claim that some of his prophecies did not come true. Latter Day Saint adherents have responded to these claims by putting forth the following six arguments:
- some prophecies that critics claim have failed have actually been fulfilled;
- some of Smith's statements have been mischaracterized as "prophecies";
- some prophetic statements ascribed to Smith have not been verified as legitimate by either Latter Day Saint or non–Latter Day Saint historians;
- some prophecies should be interpreted metaphorically, not literally;
- some legitimate prophecies were conditional and did not happen because the conditions precedent to those prophesies were not satisfied; and
- some legitimate prophecies remain unfulfilled but are expected to be fulfilled in the future.
Table of prophecies organized by date
Prophecies from 1823 to 1830
|Smith spoken of for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues: Smith wrote that in 1823, an angel visited him and made prophetic statements regarding Smith's future. "He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." Smith recorded the incident in 1838.||Joseph Smith–History 1:33; History of the Church 1:11–12||September 21, 1823 (reported in 1838)||Latter Day Saints claim that this prophecy has been fulfilled. As evidence, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has cited discussions of Smith by American, German and Finnish scholars, as well as the LDS Church's extensive missionary program, which leads many people around the world to speak of Smith for both good and ill.|
|Jesus comes to the temple: "I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God; wherefore, gird up your loins and I will suddenly come to my temple. Even so. Amen."||D&C 36:8||December 9, 1830||Latter Day Saints claim that this prophecy was fulfilled during Smith's lifetime. Smith stated that Jesus Christ appeared to him and Oliver Cowdery on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple.|
|Copyright sale: Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery were to find a buyer for copyright of the Book of Mormon in Canada.||B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:165 (1930)||Winter 1829–30||Latter Day Saints claim that the conditions precedent for the fulfilment of this prophecy were not satisfied. Page argued in an 1848 letter that the revelation was therefore fulfilled.|
|Gather in one place: The Latter Day Saints shall be gathered in one place "against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked"||D&C 29:8||September 1830||Latter Day Saints claim that this prophecy was fulfilled. Adherents recognize several meanings for "gathering", stemming from their concepts of Zion. Indeed, general authorities have stated that the concept of gathering to Zion refers to the stakes of Zion wherever they are located, and not to a single geographic and physical location.|
|Hour is nigh: The "hour is nigh and day soon at hand" when Jesus will return.||D&C 29:9-11||September 1830||Latter Day Saints claim this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. Adherents believe that Jesus has not yet returned in his Second Coming, and Latter Day Saints advocate that the words "hour" and "day" are metaphorical and represent centuries or millennia, i.e., in a similar manner as is generally used in the same context in some instances in the Bible.|
Prophecies from 1831 to 1832
|Land purchase: The Latter Day Saints were to gather riches and purchase a place of refuge and safety, where the wicked would not come, and the wicked would refuse to battle the Saints.||D&C 45:64-74||March 7, 1831||Latter Day Saints claim that this prophecy was fulfilled. Richard Abanes claims this was not fulfilled. Members of the LDS Church claim that the "place of refuge and safety" that was purchased is in the Salt Lake Valley, and that many, including the U.S. government, refused to battle with the Mormons shortly after their relocation to Utah.|
|Zion in Missouri: Missouri is named as the place for the "City of Zion"; the land will be purchased for "an everlasting inheritance".||D&C 57:1-5||July 20, 1831||In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124:49-51 the project was postponed. Hence, Latter Day Saints claim that a subsequent prophecy of Smith's replaced a prior prophecy. In any case, many adherents generally believe that a temple will eventually be constructed on the site prepared, based on additional statements by Smith. The Community of Christ has constructed a temple on the Greater Temple Lot. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and the LDS Church still own land on the Greater Temple Lot.|
|Zion in this generation: Zion and its temple will be built at Independence, Missouri, "in this generation".||D&C 84:2||September 22 or 23, 1832||The precise site dedicated by Smith for the construction of the temple at Independence is the Temple Lot; it is currently vacant and owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). Members of the LDS Church believe that a temple will be built at this location in the future.
One oft repeated explanation of the supposed non-fulfillment of this prophecy is that the phrase "in this generation" is used figuratively to designate those of this "gospel dispensation" (those who have received or will receive divine revelation during the "dispensation" of revelation and inspiration from God (or "heaven") since the time that Joseph Smith began receiving such revelation, and afterwards, (as it is used in a similar fashion in some instances in the Bible).
Another plausible explanation that this prophecy was fulfilled can be taken at face value from this revelation (D&C 84), in that it was received in Kirtland, Ohio. And though verse 3 indicates that the place of the temple (in Independence, MO) was indicated "by the finger of the Lord" (previously), the phrase in verse 4 "beginning at this place" is rather a transition of reference to Kirtland, Ohio, where Joseph Smith was at when this revelation was received by him  And, indeed, the Kirtland Temple was built and finished and dedicated by the spring of 1836.
The reference to building "New Jerusalem" in this context then is not one of physical edifices (though the 'temple' being reared "in this generation" was, but occurred in Kirtland, OH, and not in Independence, or Jackson County, MO)—but, rather indicated that 'building' or developing the future inhabitants of that city (yet to be built physically) began in earnest, spiritually, by the reception of priesthood keys, as well as priesthood organization of quorums, and temple practices and ordinances revealed by Joseph Smith to holders of both the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood among duly ordained male members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Kirtland who received these things were begun in the temple there, Ohio finished within four years from the year this prophecy was given.
The Community of Christ has constructed the Independence Temple on the Greater Temple Lot.
|New York destroyed: New York and Boston will be destroyed if they reject the gospel. The "hour of their judgement is nigh".||D&C 84:114||September 22 or 23, 1832||Richard Abanes contends that this prophecy was not fulfilled because both cities still exist. But Latter Day Saints believe that the conditions precedent for this prophecy were not fulfilled, because the gospel was accepted, not rejected, in both New York and Boston. Smith went to New York and Boston to preach and there are large groups of Latter Day Saints in both cities today.|
|Civil War: there will be a war between the northern states and the southern states beginning in South Carolina; the southern states will call upon Great Britain for assistance; that after this, war will be "poured out on all nations"; and that "slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war".||D&C 87||December 25, 1832||Latter Day Saints believe that the American Civil War fulfilled this prophecy, in part: it was a war between the northern and the southern states, the war began in South Carolina, and the southern states did call upon the United Kingdom for military assistance. The prediction that after this, war would "be poured out upon all nations" is disputed, but Latter Day Saints argue that the wars that have occurred since the American Civil War—which include two world wars—adequately fulfill this prophecy.|
Prophecies from 1833 to 1834
|Current generation: "Not many years shall pass away" before the wicked "of this generation" will be swept off the face of the earth; and "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 1:315||January 4, 1833||Critic Richard Abanes claims this was not fulfilled.|
|Zion built here: Promise that if the Saints are obedient in building a temple, then the City of Zion will prosper and become glorious, and that Zion cannot "be moved" out of its place.||D&C 97:15-20||August 2, 1833||The Latter Day Saints were not able to build a temple as commanded because they were driven out of Missouri by Executive Order 44. D&C 101:1-3 Latter Day Saints argue that the Latter Day Saints' disobedience led to this result, thus nullifying the prophecy.|
|Stars fall from heaven: According to Philo Dibble, while preaching in Kirtland, Ohio, Smith said, "Forty days shall not pass and the stars shall fall from heaven."||October 5, 1833||On November 13, 1833, the Leonids meteor shower occurred, and it was such a brilliant and heavy meteor shower that some people thought that the world was ending. Some critics of the Dibble narrative say that he simply invented the story after the fact. Others assume that Smith must have studied celestial events and deduced that the Leonids shower would occur again soon, as records exist of its occurrence in 902, 1630, and 1799.|
|Enemies not destroyed: If the Saints were not successful in legal action against their enemies in Missouri, God would avenge them and all their adversaries would be destroyed.||History of Church 1:455||December 10, 1833||Critic Richard Abanes claims this was not fulfilled.|
|United Order: The United Order would be "everlasting", and "immutable and unchangeable" to benefit the church until Jesus comes.||D&C 104:1||April 23, 1834||Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled. Members of the LDS Church claim that the adjectives "everlasting ... immutable and unchageable" may refer to the divine source of the United Order rather than a prophecy that it will always be practiced. They also argue that the United Order is part of the eternal gospel and that its practice is simply in abeyance pending other events. Members also argue that similar phraseology is used in the bible.|
|Missouri victory: Speaking through Smith, God 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".||D&C 105:13||June 22, 1834||Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled.|
|Zion in Missouri: The Latter Day Saints should be ready to move into Jackson County, Missouri, on September 11, 1836, "the appointed time for the redemption of Zion"||History of the Church 2:145||August 16, 1834||Richard Abanes claims that this was not fulfilled: the Latter Day Saints fled Missouri in 1839. Latter Day Saints claim that the Saints did move into Jackson County on the appointed date.|
Prophecies from 1835 to 1839
|Wind up in 56 Years "[T]he coming of the Lord, which is nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene."||History of Church 2:182||February 14, 1835||Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled because the Second Coming of Jesus did not happen within 56 years of the statement. Latter Day Saints claim that this was not necessarily a prophecy because it was not contained in a revelation and that Smith may have been expressing an opinion on the timing of the Second Coming.
In 1843, Smith related the following: "I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face. I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time."
Latter Day Saints argue that in this later instance, Smith did not claim to know the timing of the Second Coming, which should cause us to question whether his 1835 statement was a prophetic statement.
|Wealth from Salem: Smith would receive "wealth pertaining to gold and silver" in Salem, Massachusetts.||D&C 111:4||August 4, 1836||Critics[who?] claim that this was not fulfilled, as Smith did not receive any wealth at Salem. Latter Day Saints argue that the revelation did not say that Smith would receive the wealth on his 1836 trip to Salem, but rather that it would occur "in due time". The LDS Church teaches that "in Salem was a treasure of much greater value to the kingdom than that for which they had come. There were many souls in Salem whom the Lord knew would accept the gospel. ... [in the early 1840s,] Elder [Erastus] Snow baptized over one hundred people" in the city.|
|Marsh exalted: Apostle Thomas B. Marsh would be "exalted" and would preach "unto the ends of the earth ... among ... many nations".||D&C 112:3-11||July 23, 1837||Though Marsh was excommunicated shortly thereafter, in 1857, he was rebaptized into the LDS Church. Marsh wrote an autobiography in 1864, documenting his significant missionary service. Latter Day Saints therefore believe that the prophecy was fulfilled as it pertains to Marsh's preaching.|
|Oliver Granger: "And again, I say unto you, I remember my servant Oliver Granger; behold, verily I say unto him that his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord."||D&C 117:12-15||July 8, 1838||One member of the LDS Church has written: "The surest evidence that Oliver Granger is held in sacred remembrance is that his name is included in one of our four (4) most sacred books constituting the Standard Works, the Doctrine and Covenants. This, in itself, fulfills the prophecy." Another Mormon apologist has argued that "the words 'sacred remembrance' most likely refer to the fact that the Lord would remember him. After all, the verse begins with the Lord saying, 'I remember my servant Oliver Granger.'"|
|During this captivity [in Liberty Jail], not one of our lives shall be taken: Smith said on the morning after their capture after the 1838 Mormon War that "the word of the Lord came to me last night that ... whatever we may suffer during this captivity, not one of our lives shall be taken".||Dona Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Doubleday and Company, Garden City, New York, 1977) p. 244.||November 1838||Latter Day Saints assert that this prophecy was fulfilled, because neither Smith nor any of his companions were killed during their imprisonment in Liberty Jail.|
|Enemies punished: While in prison, God stated through Smith that "cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed", that Smith's enemies would be taken "in their own craftiness", and that "not many years hence ... [they] and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall".||D&C 121:11||March 20, 1839||The meaning of this prophecy, its referenced target, and the extent of its fulfillment has long been controversial. Although some of the known persecutors of Smith met gruesome and ugly deaths, others died peacefully of old age. Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled.
Latter Day Saints argue that the unfortunate events which befell some of Smith's enemies is evidence that the prophecy was fulfilled. Another argument set forth by adherents is that the prophecy applied more to spiritual punishments in the afterlife rather than temporal punishments.
Prophecies from 1840 to 1844
|Relief Society: "I now prophecy that before ten years shall roll around, the queens of the earth shall come and pay their respects to this society" [spoken at a Relief Society meeting].||D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 634||April 28, 1842||Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled.|
|Saint to settle in Rocky Mountains: "I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains, many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains."||History of the Church 5:85||August 1842||Members of the LDS Church contend that this prophecy was fulfilled. Not long after Smith's death, the majority of Latter Day Saints followed Brigham Young in relocating to the Salt Lake Valley, where they established Salt Lake City and other settlements in Utah. Critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner claim that this alleged prophesy was inserted into Smith's History after his death and that it was written in handwriting that does not match Smith's.|
|Smith will not return to Missouri : When Smith was captured by Missouri agents in Illinois, he stated that he would not set foot in Missouri again either dead or alive.||History of the Church 5:216||1842||Latter Day Saints believe that this prophecy was fulfilled. Smith did not return to Missouri even though he was captured by Missouri agents in Illinois. He never entered Missouri again and was killed and buried in Illinois.|
|Rising Generation: "There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes."||History of the Church 5:336||April 6, 1843||Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled. Latter Day Saints claim that the term "rising generation" is vague and could mean future generations and not just apply to those generations that existed in Smith's time.|
|White Horse Prophecy : A lengthy discourse in which Smith reportedly said, "You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber ... and it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse"; and that the temple in Jackson County, Missouri, "will be built in this generation."||Journal of John J. Roberts, March 2, 1902||May 6, 1843||The LDS Church does not accept the White Horse Prophecy as authentic. Although other authenticated statements by Smith appear to echo the claim that the United States Constitution would be threatened and that faithful Latter Day Saints would save it, the authenticity of the White Horse Prophecy is debated and has never been resolved among historians.|
|Government Overthrown: "I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left for their wickedness."||History of the Church 5:394||May 18, 1843||Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled. Some Latter Day Saints contend that Smith could not have been referring to the overthrow of the United States government, because he had earlier prophesied that the U.S. constitution would be preserved. Other Latter Day Saints argue that formal apologies have been delivered to the Saints by government officials, including an official apology from Missouri in 1976. Some Latter Day Saints argue that allowing Utah—which was dominated by Latter Day Saints—to obtain statehood in 1896 could be regarded as "redress" of the wrongs committed.|
|Stephen A. Douglas to run for president: Smith stated that Stephen A. Douglas would run for the presidency of the United States. Smith also predicted that if Douglas slandered the Latter Day Saints then he would feel the weight of the hand of the Almighty upon him.||History of the Church 5:394||May 1843||Latter Day Saints believe that this prophecy was fulfilled. Douglas ran for U.S. president in 1860. He did make some negative comments towards the Latter Day Saints, and he did not win the 1860 election, and later died in 1861.|
|Stakes established in Boston and New York: "In the great cities, as Boston, New York, etc., there shall be stakes"||History of the Church 6:319||Latter Day Saints believe that this prophecy has been fulfilled. Several stakes of the LDS Church have established in those cities. There are stakes of the LDS Church in many other "great cities" of the United States and the world.|
|Government broken up: "While discussing the petition to Congress, I prophesied, by virtue of the holy Priesthood vested in me, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection, they shall be broken up as a government, and God shall damn them. And there shall nothing be left of them—not even a grease spot."||Millennial Star 29:455; History of the Church 6:116||December 16, 1843||Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled. Latter Day Saints argue that years later Congress did grant protection to the Latter Day Saints and that adherents are now free to practice their religion in the United States. Since the conditions for the protection of the Saints were eventually met, it is argued that prophecy never came to fruition.|
|Orrin Porter Rockwell protected from enemies: "I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that you—Orrin Porter Rockwell—so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee."||Sonne, Kristen (June 21, 1998), "Rockwell's colorful history recounted", Deseret News||December 25, 1843||Latter Day Saints contend this prophecy was fulfilled: Rockwell died of natural causes at an old age, having never wounded by a bullet or a blade. However he did cut his hair in 1855, several years after Joseph's statement, to make a wig for Agnes Smith, the widow of Don Carlos Smith, Joseph's younger brother.|
|Son David: Smith prophesied that his unborn child will be named David and will be "church president and king over Israel".||D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 644||April–May 1844||There is dispute between critics and apologists over the authenticity of this prophecy. The son David Hyrum Smith became a member of the First Presidency of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Critic Richard Abanes claims this prophecy was not fulfilled, as David did not become the president of the RLDS Church or any other Latter Day Saint church. Members of the LDS Church dispute the authenticity of the prophecy.|
|Dr. Richards will not have hole in garment: Shortly before his imprisonment in Carthage Jail, Smith told Willard Richards that the time would come that the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment.||History of the Church 6:619||July 1844||Latter Day Saints believe that this prophecy was fulfilled. Although he was in the room where Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed, Richards escaped from the incident uninjured. John Taylor, who was also present in the room, was shot a number of times but survived.|
|Joseph and Hyrum Smith to die if re-captured: Five days before his death, Smith wrote: "I told Stephen Markham that if I and Hyrum were ever taken again we should be massacred, or I was not a prophet of God"||History of the Church 6:546||July 22, 1844||Latter Day Saints believe this prophecy was fulfilled. Four days later, Smith and his brother Hyrum were imprisoned, and on the second day of their incarceration they were killed by a mob in the jail.|
|Dan Jones to serve a mission to Wales: This is commonly referred to as Smith's "last prophecy" and took place in Carthage Jail the night before Smith was killed. "Soon after Dr. Richards retired to the bed ... and when all were apparently fast asleep, Joseph whispered to Dan Jones, 'are you afraid to die?' Dan said, 'Has that time come, think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.' Joseph replied, 'You will yet see Wales, and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.'"||History of the Church 6:601||July 26 or 27, 1844||Latter Day Saints believe this prophecy was fulfilled. Although Jones was ill and believed to be dying of an illness at the time of his conversation with Smith, Jones recovered and later went to Wales as a missionary for the LDS Church.|
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- Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry