|Prophets and Prophecy in Mormonism/Part 4|
|By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2000|
|Few Mormons can come up with any prophecies that their leaders have made, even though prophecy is an important doctrine in the LDS church. In this article, Marvin Cowan looks at one “prophecy”, and examines the historical context and the alleged fulfillment.|
We are spending a little more time writing on the above subject because Mormons claim that their Church has been led by a living Prophet ever since it was organized by Joseph Smith in 1830. “Apostles and prophets are the foundation upon which the organization of the true Church rests,” LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote on page 606 of Mormon Doctrine. But when LDS are asked what their current Prophet has prophesied, they usually can’t name anything. If they mention any LDS prophecy it is usually the “Civil War Prophecy” by Joseph Smith. But few Mormons know what it says or where it is recorded. Because LDS believe this prophecy proves that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, we will discuss it’s message in the light of history.
It is found in Doctrine and Covenants Sec. 87 and Joseph Smith claimed he received it on December 25,1832. It says: “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, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations” (vs. 1-3).
It goes on to say that “slaves shall rise up against their masters and be marshaled and disciplined for war” (v. 4) and “the remnants” (Indians)... “shall vex the Gentiles (white, non-LDS Americans) with sore vexation” (v. 5). Verse 6 then says, “And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and fierce and vivid lightening 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.”
Even if Smith “prophesied” on December 25, 1832 that “the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States” when the Civil War didn’t begin until 1861, that does not prove that he was a prophet since many of the nation’s newspapers were also writing about that division in 1832! Any good American history book will report that on July 14, 1832 (6 months before Smith’s prophecy) the United States Congress passed a tariff law that was harmful to the Southern States. On November 14, 1832 that law was nullified by a South Carolina State Convention. Then on December 12, 1832 President Andrew Jackson sent General Scott with part of the army and a warship to Charleston, South Carolina to collect the tariffs and the nation expected war then (see A History of the Nineteenth Century Year By Year, vol. 2, pp. 832-833, by Edwin Emerson, Jr., pub. by P. F. Collier & Son in 1900).
In 1832 when Smith gave this prophecy he was living in Kirtland, OH, a neighboring town to Painesville, OH. On December 21, 1832, the Painesville Telegraph & Geauga Free Press printed excerpts from “The Crisis,” an article which had appeared earlier in the New York Currier and Enquirer. It predicted that South Carolina would soon start a war with the Northern States and contained some of the same warnings of devastation that Smith’s prophecy had in it. Notice that the article in the Painesville newspaper appeared four days before Smith’s prophecy and was available to him. Was the writer of that New York article a prophet or was he just writing about what was happening and what it looked like would happen in 1832?
Most of the other things in Smith’s prophecy did not happen. While the Southern States did call upon Great Britain, they refused to take sides with the South and they did not call upon other nations until war was poured out upon all nations. Most of the slaves did not rise up against their masters nor fight in that war. That war was primarily between the white people of the North and South. The remnants (Indians) did not vex the Gentiles (non-LDS whites) near as much as the Indians were vexed and put on reservations. The Civil War did not lead to the things mentioned in v. 6 nor did those things continue until they made “a full end of all nations.” While this may have been written in 1832, it was not in the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants nor any other LDS scripture until after the Civil War began. Didn’t the LDS people between 1832 and 1861 see it as a true prophecy?
On January 6, 1833 (10 days after the above prophecy) Smith again stated, “I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requirements of the new covenant, have already commenced gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri....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 by Joseph Smith, vol. 1, pp. 315-316).
The only part of this “prophecy” that happened was the bloodshed from the Civil War and even newspapers predicted that before Smith did! Those living in January 1833 did not see everything in Smith’s prophecy before they died, so this was a false prophecy. If Smith’s prophecies were wrong, could he also have been wrong about how to have eternal life?
For more about false teachings and prophecies, see my new booklet entitled, What Every Mormon Should Ask, published in March 2000 by Harvest House Publishers. Our next article will discuss Mormon scripture.