Prophecies of Joseph Smith

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Joseph Smith, Mormon Prophet

Active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, have received a spiritual witness that Joseph Smith, who organized the Church under the guidance of Jesus Christ through heavenly messengers, was actually a prophet of God. There is, however, ample historical evidence to prove this logically, by analyzing his prophecies.

The Nature of a Prophet

Prophets have many roles, just one of which is prophesying future events. Friends of other faiths should be aware that many are claiming that Joseph Smith was a false prophet by analyzing false reports or corrupted versions of the prophecies of Joseph Smith. They also criticize statements that were never meant to be prophetic. It is important to understand what a prophet really is. A prophet is a man like all men, subject to all the frailties of humanity. Prophets move through their lives like the rest of us, as “through a glass, darkly.” One has only to read the biblical accounts of prophets to see this. Abraham was a prophet, but he struggled with his personal life and even in his community life, as did Jacob (Israel). Moses had a management problem, until his father-in-law, Jethro, suggested a method to relieve Moses of his most exhausting duties. Enoch doubted his own abilities, as did Moses. Elijah isolated himself, feeling like a failure.

The Lord reveals truths to prophets line upon line, as the people they lead are ready to receive guidance. The Lord also reveals to prophets truths that are never meant to be shared, but are only given as gifts to the prophets themselves. Prophets reveal gospel truths that govern behavior and belief. Sometimes, they prophesy of future events, but this has historically not been the central activity of their calling. Also, the Lord gives prophets information needed to guide His children. The prophet may have questions about that information and can, through natural reasoning, surmise correctly or incorrectly, circumstantial ideas. For instance, if the Lord says to a prophet, “Worlds without number have I created…,” and that’s all the Lord says, the prophet’s mind can work on all sorts of peripheral ideas, and he may even express his opinions. Those peripheral opinions might be truth or error, but no matter which, the man does not cease to be a prophet.

It is also important to understand how God deals with His children. He gives specific commandments for prophets to relay to the people, but He also withdraws them, if the people are not worthy enough to understand or to follow those commandments. Commandments are blessings, leading us to higher happiness and glory. Thus, the Lord commanded the Israelites, through Moses, to come up to Him on the mountain and enter into His glory. They would not, so He withdrew that commandment, and the higher commandments, and the higher priesthood, leaving them with a schoolmaster law to lead them along more gradually. Did that make Moses a fallen prophet? No. The exact same thing happened with Joseph Smith. Detractors tend to use as an example of a false prophecy Joseph Smith’s promise that Zion would be founded in Jackson County, Missouri, and that the Saints were to go there immediately and build a temple. This never happened. The Latter-day Saints were driven out of Missouri. A careful reading of the Doctrine and Covenants explains what happened. The Mormons, like the Israelites, were unworthy of fulfilling this command and prophecy. The Lord Himself, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, withdrew the commandments and promises, but said that someday, this would all be fulfilled. Mormons are essentially like the Israelites. They are expecting a gathering in the Lord’s own due time.

Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God

Most of Joseph Smith’s revelations were received in the presence of other people, and often, a person accompanying him experienced the same revelation. This is one proof that Joseph is who he said he was. No one has ever denied these events. Another proof would be showing how prophecies of Joseph Smith have been fulfilled. Some were personal events, prophecies given to individuals regarding the turns their lives would take, all fulfilled, and recorded in the personal journals of Latter-day Saints. Other prophecies regarded the growth of the Church, or even political events, some of which will be cited here.

Some Prophecies of Joseph Smith

  • Joseph’s name would be had for good and ill: When Joseph Smith experienced his “First Vision,” he was told by the Lord not to join any of the Christian sects of the day. The vision showed Joseph that God the Father and Jesus Christ were two separate, embodied beings, contrary to the Trinitarian belief of the Christian sects. Three years later, Joseph was visited by an angel, who called himself Moroni, a prophet who lived in the Americas, around 400 A.D. Moroni told Joseph “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” (Joseph Smith History 1:33). This prophecy has come to pass.
  • The coming of Elijah, the Prophet: The angel Moroni also told Joseph that the following Old Testament prophecy would shortly come to pass: “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (JSH 1:38). This prophecy was fulfilled when Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, as recording in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 110.
  • The growth of the Church: Joseph Smith prophesied that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would grow until it filled the earth — the gospel would be taken to every nation, tongue, and kindred. The Church was originally organized in New York with only 6 members. Ten years later it had 30,000 members, in spite of bitter persecution. By 1963 the Church had over 2 million members. Today it has over 14 million members all over the world. Missionaries on foot have historically carried the gospel message, but now with the internet, the gospel has virtually reached every nation.
  • Prophecies on war: On March 7, 1831, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 45, the Lord said the following:
Ye hear of wars in foreign lands; but behold, I say unto you, they are nigh, even at your doors, and not many years hence ye shall hear of wars in your own lands (Doctrine and Covenants 45:63).

The Mormons who had gathered in Missouri in 1833 were suffering great persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes, had taken their personal belongings, and had destroyed their crops. Threats and oppression continued to escalate. Religious minorities, like Mormons, were often mistreated, and there was no legal recourse for the oppressed.

As Joseph Smith was facing false charges and witnessing the persecution of his people, he inquired of God as to what he should do. God’s counsel for him is found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 101. First, the Lord acknowledges that He ultimately had inspired the Constitution (verses 76–80). He instructed Joseph Smith to seek redress from the judge (verse 86). If that did not work, he was told to go to the governor (verse 87). If the governor failed him, he was told to go to the president of the United States (verse 88). The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith: “And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation; and in his hot displeasure, and his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers” (verses 89–90). Joseph Smith went to the judge, the governor, and the president. He testified of the government’s need to reject slavery and to protect religious minorities. With no commitment from the government, he knew war was coming.

On September 6, 1842, Joseph Smith remarked prophetically:

I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina.
It may probably arise through the slave question. This a voice declared to me, while I was praying earnestly on the subject, December 25th, 1832 (Doctrine and Covenants 130:12-13).

In 1832, Joseph Smith received this revelation:

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;
And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.

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; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations (Doctrine and Covenants 87:1-3).

This prophecy of Joseph Smith’s, then, indicates a series of wars beginning with skirmishes and “rebellion” of South Carolina. From history, it is fact that that very state actually withdrew its presence from Congress through a secession ordinance and fired on the Union troops positioned in Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Andrew Jensen commented on this occurrence in light of Joseph Smith’s words:

Not only was South Carolina the first State to commence the rebellion, but here, also, as if to cause a double fulfillment of Josephs’ prophecy, on April 12, 1861, the first gun was fired from a Confederate battery against Fort Sumter standing at the entrance to Charleston harbor. The ruinous war that followed is a matter of history. The Union losses alone, according to the report of the Provost-General, amounted to 280,397 men, who were either killed outright in battle or who died subsequently of wounds or diseases. The loss on the side of the Confederates was about the same. Truly, as Joseph Smith predicted, the United States never witnessed such a scene of bloodshed before. The losses in the revolutionary war, in the war of 1812, and in the war of Mexico in 1846 were only small affairs compared with this last and terrible war of the rebellion, so accurately predicted by the prophet Joseph Smith. This prediction alone and its literal fulfillment should be sufficient to convince every reasonable man and woman who will take pains to investigate the subject thoroughly, that Joseph, indeed, was a prophet of the Living God (Jensen, Andrew, Joseph Smith As a Prophet, p.5, Special Collections).
There was no serious expectation of civil war at that time, or in 1843 when Joseph added that the slave issue would probably be involved in the rebellion, or even in 1851 when the prophecy was published by the Church and more widely publicized. No one can offer evidence from writings of American statesmen or scholars in 1832, 1843, or 1851 that make such predictions. [1]

The prophecy that war would be poured out on all nations has been manifest in two world wars and revolutions in Russia and China that killed tens of millions of people. This prophecy stands alongside those of John the Revelator who foresaw wars even yet in the future that will engulf the whole world, including Armageddon. Critics have tried to reword Joseph’s prophecy to discredit it, or to claim that everyone knew South Carolina would secede, but the opposite was true at the time. To read more about critics and answers, click here [2]

  • The Saints will flourish in the Rocky Mountains: In 1831, Joseph prophesied that "Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:25). A related and more specific prophecy was given in 1842, as described in the following excerpt from B. H. Roberts,Comprehensive History of the Church , Vol. 2, Ch. 51, pp.181-182: [3]
On the 6th of August, 1842, with quite a number of his brethren, he [Joseph Smith] crossed the Mississippi river to the town of Montrose, to be present at the installation of the Masonic Lodge of the Rising Sun. A block schoolhouse had been prepared with shade in front, under which was a barrel of ice water, Judge James Adams was the highest Masonic authority in the state of Illinois, and had been sent there to organize this lodge. He and Hyrum Smith, being high Masons, went into the house to perform some ceremonies which the others were not entitled to witness. These, including Joseph Smith, remained under the bowery. Joseph, as he was tasting the cold water, warned the brethren not to be too free with it. With the tumbler still in his hand he prophesied that the saints would yet go to the Rocky Mountains; and, said he, this water tastes much like that of the crystal streams that are running from the snow-capped mountains. We will let Mr. Call describe this prophetic scene: 'I had before seen him in a vision, and now saw while he was talking his countenance change to white; not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living, brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance, and said: 'I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains.' This was followed by a vivid description of the scenery of these mountains, as I have since become acquainted with it. Pointing to Shadrach Roundy and others, he said: 'There are some men here who shall do a great work in that land.' Pointing to me, he said: 'There is Anson, he shall go and shall assist in building up cities from one end of the country to the other; and you, rather extending the idea to all those he had spoken of, shall perform as great a work as has been done by man, so that the nations of the earth shall be astonished, and many of them will be gathered in that land and assist in building cities and temples, and Israel shall be made to rejoice.
At that date, August 6th, 1842, the Rocky Mountains seemed like a country afar off to the people of Illinois. The Missouri River was the extreme frontiers of the United States. All beyond that was well nigh an unexplored wilderness filled with savages. The church was fairly settled at Nauvoo, the state authorities were apparently very friendly, the future of the Saints in Illinois seemed propitious. Yet in the midst of all these favorable circumstances the Prophet predicted much affliction for some of the Saints, death from persecution for others, apostasy for many, and for the great body of the church an exodus to the Rocky Mountains, where some of those present who were listening to the prediction, should live to assist in making settlements and building cities in the Rocky Mountains where they would see the Saints become a mighty people (B.H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God , Vol. 1, pp. 302-303).
  • Imprisonment in Liberty Jail: In 1838 the Saints were undergoing bitter persecution in Missouri, and the governor, Lillburn F. Boggs, had issued an Extermination Order against the Saints, that they should be driven out or killed. At that time, Joseph Smith and other leaders were arrested and held in freezing winter weather in Liberty Jail, in a dank basement, while their people suffered. Joseph made this prophecy as they were arrested: “…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, NY, 1977, p. 244). Indeed, though imprisoned for months, they were then allowed to escape.
  • The Saints would escape persecution in five years: When the Latter-day Saints were suffering from mob persecution in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet promised them they would be safe in five years. [4]
“[Joseph Smith] prophesied that within five years we should be out of the power of our old enemies, whether they were apostates or of the world; and told the brethren to record it, that when it comes to pass they need not say they had forgotten the saying." (This is recorded in History of the Church , Vol. 6, p. 225.) By 1849, the Saints were gathered in Utah (the first wave entered the Salt Lake area in July of 1847) and had indeed escaped the power of their old enemies.
  • The Destruction of Jackson County: The Latter-day Saints were brutally treated and driven from Jackson County Missouri. To General Doniphan, Joseph Smith made the following prediction:
“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.”

Many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War were fought in Missouri. General Doniphan later testified of the utter destruction of Jackson County. Also, in a letter from Mr. A. Saxey of Spanish Fork, Utah to Mr. Junius Wells treating further of the fulfillment of this prophecy, so well attested, Mr. Saxey under date of August 25, 1902 says:

"In the spring of 1862 my regiment went south, and it was during that time that "Order No. 11" was issued, but I was back there again in 1864, during the Price raid, and saw the condition of the country. The duty of executing the order was committed to Colossians W. R. Penick's regiment, and there is no doubt but that he carried it into effect, from the howl the copperhead papers made at the time. I went down the Blue river, we found houses, barns, outbuildings, nearly all burned down, and nothing left standing but the chimneys which had, according to the fashion of the time, been built on the outside of the buildings. I remember very well that the country looked a veritable desolation."
  • Joseph Smith predicted his own death: The last item written by Joseph Smith in his journal is an entry from Saturday, June 22, 1844, now recorded in History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 546:
“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. “ Shortly thereafter he and Hyrum were placed in Carthage Jail and then murdered by a mob. Others who were with them survived the attack, but Joseph and his brother were killed, as predicted. Fifteen years earlier in 1829, Joseph received a revelation that hinted at his future murder. Doctrine and Covenants 5:22 urges Joseph to be faithful, "and if you do this, behold I grant unto you eternal life, even if you should be slain."

Before his martyrdom, Joseph organized the Twelve Apostles and bestowed upon them all of the keys of the priesthood and the governance of the Church. On his way to Carthage Jail, Joseph commented, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter,” even though he had been promised safety by the highest authorities in the region. [5]

Other Prophecies