This video reviews the most common claims critics try to use of supposed failed prophecies from Joseph Smith and explains how they are not such.
Okay, so on this video I want to talk about prophecy from Joseph Smith, supposed failed prophecies, they were not. We’ll talk about that. But I do want to start out by saying please watch the other video I did on fulfilled prophecies of Joseph Smith. And in fact, there are over 400 by account that the book that I shared specifically, I gave my top two dozen roughly in that video.
But here I’m going to actually share the majority of what is out there on the other side, people or critics use as failed prophecies. Again, not failed. We’ll go through that. But it is interesting if you look at the math between this it’s extremely skewed to the positive for Joseph.
Now, critics will often point to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 for talking about false prophets there, and if you look specifically at verse 21 and 22. Verse 21, “And if thou say in thy heart, how shall we know the word, which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shall not be afraid of him.”
So the key thing is speak in the name of the Lord, and if it doesn’t come to pass, then it was the prophet’s opinion, basically. That’s the way this is to be read in a sense. But here’s one of the big problems is the time frame. How do you know if it’s come to pass if the time… There’s nothing listed here about time. So, that’s a huge issue on these.
There are other issues. What if it’s conditional? There’s many times, and I’ll give you some great examples here with Joseph, where the word ‘if’ is used and it makes it a very conditional type of prophecy.
Also, could God change His mind? I’ll share a great example of Jonah and Nineveh. God absolutely changed His mind after stating something emphatically, very clearly. Was it meant to be a prophecy or simply an opinion? A recommendation, an instruction, or even a test like Abraham sacrificing Isaac? Are there source problems? There’s one great example.
One critic listed something and said, “This is one of the greatest examples of Joseph Smith failed prophecy,” and it literally was from a forgery of Mark Hoffman there. So, source issues. Problems with interpreting the meanings. The words themselves, how do you define the words? I’ll give you a huge example and there’s often a double standard that is used in things from the Bible that would apply to Joseph Smith equally, but they’re not. It’s a double standard in judgment.
So let’s look at this as a perfect example. Matthew 24, Jesus Christ shares all of these things that will happen preceding the Second Coming, including one was the gospel would be preached in every nation on earth. And then in verse 34, look what He says, “Verily, I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.”
So was Jesus Christ issuing a false prophecy here, because we can say that did not happen for the way we view the word ‘generation.’ This generation did not experience those things. So obviously, that word means something different, it has a broader meaning as a people, or a dispensation, or God’s timeframe is different than we would judge that there.
Let’s apply that to some scenes in Church history. So this is a great example. The building of the temple in the New Jerusalem, or Jackson County. You can find this in D&C 84. If you look at the bottom two verses there, what I’ve underlined. “Which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily, this generation shall not all pass away until a 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,” there.
Let’s look at another one here. This was a letter from Joseph to the Kirtland High Council in 1834 about redeeming Jackson County after they had been kicked out, essentially. Notice the word “if”, over and over and over in there. “If-verily I say unto you-if the Church with one united effort performed their duties; if they do this work, the work shall be complete … If we do not exert ourselves to the utmost.” He goes on and on. “There remaineth a scourge for the Church,” if we don’t do that, “even that which shall be driven from city to city.” Think about what happened with the Saints, they were driven from city to city in a sense. “If those things are not kept, there remaineth a scourge also,” there.
So a united effort. Now, some may actually even say some Saints did actually go back to Jackson County and that fulfilled part of that prophecy. But I think it’s more just to see the contingency aspect there, and then look at some of these scriptures about contingency.
D&C 82:10, “I the Lord am bound when you do what I say, but when you do not what I say, ye have no promise.” D&C 58, “I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts, this is not the work of the Lord, for His promises are not fulfilled.” And you find this in the Bible. Jeremiah 18, “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it. If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it. If they do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.”
So, now let me share. This is beautiful, in my opinion, the Lord is so merciful. I’m sure this was a painful experience and to hear some of those words, may be part of the reasons why these things didn’t happen, but the Lord shared this merciful thing in Nauvoo in 1841, D&C 124, “Verily, verily I say unto you that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men, to do a work under my name, and those sons of men go with all their might, with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them for performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of man, but to accept of their offerings. Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings …”, even though it might have been imperfect, “… of those whom I command to build up a city and a house unto my name and Jackson County, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord, your God.”
And that part I love and it shows his mercy and critics don’t pull that into the equation when they say these others were failed prophecies there. I love that.
Okay. Wicked shall be swept from the land, 10 tribes gathered in this generation. So Joseph said, “And now 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 parallel in the history of our nation.” This was the Civil War. “Pestilence, hail, famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation.”
Now remember that term generation, and that part, probably yet to come, towards the end, prior to the Second Coming. ” … from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel.” So some say, well, the tribes have not come in this generation, but also we’re preparing the way and the gathering of Israel really is beginning now, preparing that for the future.
“Flee to Zion, before the overflowing scourge overtake you.” So think about Utah in the Civil War. It really was protected. So I think that’s kind of cool one to look at there. And you could say, in many ways, fulfilled prophecies, not a failed prophecy.
Okay, this one, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.” You’ll find this twice in the Doctrine and Covenants. And people will say, “Well, Joseph was killed.” So how did he … You know, a weapon did kill him and he didn’t prosper. Well, it’s the work that prospers and it’s the end that matters. And think about … The Lord was actually using Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.” And when Isaiah quoted that, he was referring to the kingdom of Judah, which was defeated by Babylon 150 years later in 586 B.C. So is Isaiah a false prophet, or is he referring to a later time? And it’s the end that matters on there, and the work moves forward just as it does for the latter days as well.
Now, the critics love to point this one out, Second Coming in 1890. So, let’s look at the words here very closely. And it’s very much not a prophecy in any way, shape, or form, and Joseph makes this very clear, I think. “I was once praying …”, this is D&C 130, “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 85 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 if some previous appearing or whether I should die and thus see His face.”
“I believe,” that doesn’t sound like a prophecy, “I believe that coming the Song of Man will not be any sooner than that time.” And then listen to this. “I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this, and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance, but I do not say whether He will make His appearance or I shall go where He is.”
I don’t think I need to add much to this. It’s just clearly not a failed prophecy. And in fact, we know Christ didn’t come in 1890 and Joseph went to Him. We know which one it was there.
Okay, that leads to another one here. April 6th, 1843 Joseph shares this, “Were I going to prophesy,” he’s not saying he is, “Were I going to prophesy, I would say the end would not come in 1844 or 5 or 6 or in 40 years. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death til Christ comes.”
Now, who knows? We talked about this word “generation”, now you have the word “rising generation”. It’s even more vague as far as time frame that that would apply to necessarily.
Okay now, critics will point to Joseph, this isn’t a prophecy, but it’s a vision. But they are critical of him having this vision of the celestial kingdom where he sees 12 apostles of his day and 5 of the 12 were later excommunicated. So they have a problem with this. And I love to share this example from Jesus Christ Himself. Matthew 19:28 to His 12 apostles, which included Judas at that very moment when Christ says this: “Verily, I say unto to you that you, which have followed me, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
So there’s this principle there that the Lord can show us where we could be, where we can become, but it’s contingent upon our faithfulness. That’s every one of us. We’re taught this, this great principle, that gives us hope to have that vision that’s there, but it is contingent on that. And so Judas was replaced by Matthias and that can happen, and it happened in the the Latter-day Church as well there. It’s not a failed prophecy by any way, shape, or form, or even a failed vision.
Okay. Thomas Marsh, critics will point to this. D&C 112 says because Thomas Marsh left the Church. He did come back, though. This is critical. So but at the beginning it says, “Inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself, thou shalt be exalted”, and they say, well he left the Church. Well it says here as he abases himself, he’ll be exalted, and pride is actually what led them out of the Church there. But he did come back and it is great. He says if you look down, He says, “I have a great work for thee to do in publishing my name among the children of men”, which when he came back in 1857, in 1864 he wrote an autobiography talking about his extensive and significant missionary service. So that’s actually what this says here, but I want to share a fascinating aspect of this.
If you go back to it, it says, “For thou art chosen and thy path lieth among the mountains.” Now, who replaced Thomas Marsh as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve? It was Brigham Young, and so he actually became this person in my sense, view of this, is that “lieth among the mountains” that was Brigham Young in the Rocky Mountains and establishing Zion there in the Rockies.
And then the counsel. “Be thou humble.” That was the key. So anyways, I think this is crazy that critics point to that one.
Okay, David Patten. They’ll say, “Hey, David Patten got called on a mission and then he was killed by a mob six months later, so this was a failed prophecy.” Well, it wasn’t really even a prophecy, it was a mission call.
And notice the words of this. “It is wisdom in my servant, David Patten, that he settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandise, that he may perform a mission unto me next spring in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world.”
So, it’s not a prophecy but a mission call. He doesn’t say he will serve, but to get his house in order to prepare. And I think of this as God’s mercy to his widow also and he probably did end up serving on the other side and somebody took his place here on the Twelve to fulfill that mission to the British Isles as well.
Okay. Joseph to the Relief Society on April 28th, 1842. This one’s kind of fascinating, the Relief Society got disbanded two years after this so, but he says, “Inequity must be purged out– then the veil will be rent and the blessings of having will flow down– they will roll down like the Mississippi River. This society shall have power to command queens in their midst. I now deliver it as a prophecy that before 10 years shall roll around, the queens of the earth shall come and pay their respects to this society. They shall come with their millions and shall contribute of their abundance for the relief of the poor. If you will be pure, nothing can hinder. After this instruction, you will be responsible for your own sins. All are responsible.”
So then two years later, the Relief Society was disbanded in 1844 after the martyrdom and went on a hiatus until 1867. It was reorganized by Brigham Young. But I love this aspect, two possibilities. One is that the Relief Society was disbanded two years later. So you could say this was pulled as a prophecy in a sense, but I love this idea is Joseph may have been thinking of the temple ordinances coming to these women about to be introduced, that they would become queens, and think about all the resources that the women brought into the early Church.
We’re publishing so much on this now. It’s fascinating there. And they were the queens. They were bringing their resources, their abundance for the relief of the poor. I love that. And look at what President Hinckley, this is just October 2006. He says, “This is what the Relief Society does for women. It gives them opportunity for growth and development. It gives them status as queens in their own households. It gives them place and position where they grow as they exercise their talents. It gives them pride and direction of family life. It gives them added appreciation for good, eternal companions and children.” So anyway, fun recent note there.
Okay, so let’s look at that scripture with Jonah and Nineveh. I think this is a great one to just remind you of how God can even change His mind of something that sounds very emphatic as a prophecy. Look at verse four , what I have underlined there.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” So Jonah is saying emphatically, like, this is going to happen. In 40 days, you will be overthrown. So the people in verse 5, ” … believed God and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even the least of them.” And then it goes on talking about that. Verse 10 it says, “God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto to them; and he did it not.” Direct opposition to verse 4, saying it was absolutely going to be overthrown there. So a great example there.
Okay, let’s talk about selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon in Canada. This was something that Joseph wanted some brethren to do to help finance the publishing of the Book of Mormon. So he sent four brethren up there and he says here, this is viewed as a failed prophecy because of the wording, but they don’t pay attention to the “if” in here.
He says, look in the middle there, these four, “I grant unto my servant a privilege that he may sell a copyright through you speaking after the manner of men for the four provinces if the people harden not their hearts against the enticings of my spirit and my word, for behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation or their salvation.” And I love how Hiram Page, actually, I won’t read this, but you can read it down below.
He actually in a letter in 1848 talks about how this really was a fulfilled prophecy, and he had been out of the church 10 years, but he acknowledged how these things will work and he viewed it very differently. He’s like, hey, we did fulfill this prophecy. We actually did our part and there was an “if” in there, and the people rejected it, so it technically was a fulfilled prophecy even though they felt like a failure when they came back.
Okay. Joseph Smith to drink wine with Orson Hyde in Palestine. Critics love to do these kinds of ones to just shock members too when they use this like wine. I did the video, Word Wisdom Phase In, on this as an example. Wine was not prohibited as part of the Word of Wisdom like it is today. Back then it was the focus was on strong drink there.
But more importantly, let’s look at the actual words here. “Elder Hyde told of the excellent white wine he drank in the east [Palestine]. Joseph prophesied in the name of the Lord that he would drink wine with him in that country. ‘If I live, I will take these brethren through these United States and through the world. I will make just as big a wake as God Almighty will let me.'” Joseph didn’t live. He wasn’t able to go there, and I do kind of wonder if this is one of those two that will be fulfilled later because we are told we will drink wine with the Savior in the millennium. So, interesting thought.
Okay, how about this? This is one of my favorites, actually. Kirtland Safety Society. I did a video on that, quite an era in Church history, but Joseph Smith gave his opinion that the notes of the Kirtland Safety Society would be good as gold.
So critics love to point this out, but the ironic thing is that Brigham Young actually redeemed some of the notes in Utah for gold, but the one I love is, look at this screenshot.
I just did this yesterday. Pulled up this screenshot. This is a $5 Kirtland Safety Society note on eBay today. If you were to go and buy it, look at the price. $13,500 there. The price of gold, which is typically quoted as an ounce, the price of gold today is about $1,500, so quite a fascinating thing there.
And it also shows time. I’m sure Joseph didn’t think it was going to be 150 or however many years later on there. You just never know how some of these, and it was an opinion thing anyway, but okay, letter written by Sarah Scott. Now this one is a little complicated because it’s merging several things together into one, and she was really trying to be discriminatory towards the Church. She was an apostate, influenced by William Law. She wrote this. She wasn’t even at this meeting. It was her husband, so it’s secondhand, but the problem is she’s merging a couple of things together.
So she says, “Joseph also prophesied on the stand a year ago last conference that he could not be killed within five years from that time.” Now, know that she’s writing this in 1844, ” … that they could not kill him until the temple would be completed, for that he had received an unconditional promise from the Almighty concerning his days, and he set Earth and Hell at defiance; and then said, putting his hand on his head, they never could kill this child. But now that he is killed, some of the Church say that he said: unless he gave himself up. My husband was there at the time and says there was no conditions whatever, and many others testify to the same thing.”
Now we have three witness records, Willard Richards, Franklin Richards and Wayne Clayton, they were at this meeting. In bold are the words that they record as had been said. “The unconditional promise had to do with …” and she’s merging together the five year comment that Joseph had given some of the brethren in 1838, that he had at least five years left to live. So that’s merged with this. ” … the unconditional promise came in Liberty Jail that says thy days are numbered and shall not be numbered less.” And that was this unconditional promise aspect. And as far as not being killed until the temple is completed. The three witnesses that have recorded references to this meeting, nothing like that was said. So there you go. So, lots of different issues with that comment.
Okay, the United Order. Critics will point out that this in D&C 104 was an everlasting order and they say, well, wait a minute. It’s not being practiced today when it was started here at this time, but we’d say the word everlasting is the importance of efficacy of certain commandments and ordinances. Circumcision in Genesis 17 is described as an everlasting covenant, but it’s not required today there.
But I will also say that consecration is God’s highest law and it is everlasting. And in fact, the Saints today going through the temple, it’s one of our covenants there, and we’re not asked to practice it today, but it will be. It’s the highest of God’s laws there.
And the promise is … So verse two, “With promise immutable and unchangeable,” this is not a prophecy, but the promise is that the promises are immutable and unchangeable. Blessings will come to those that obey.
Okay, how about this one? New York and Boston to be destroyed there, if they reject these things, so the key word is “if” they do reject these things, and we have stakes in both of those areas today, the prophecy is fulfilled video I did actually talks about that, that that was actually a prophecy that there would be stakes in those two areas. And it happened in the last century. So I talk about that in the other video.
But treasure to be found in Salem. So critics love to point this one out, D&C 111, verse four: ” And it shall come to pass in due time,” note those words, “in due time that I would give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours.” So still could have a lot of other meanings because of this “in due time”, possibly in the millennium, who knows? But I love what the Doctrine & Covenants Student Manual shares on this from the Church. “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, the Elder Erastus Snow baptized over 100 people in that city.” So it could have been symbolic. Fascinating thought there.
Okay, D&C 121, Liberty Jail. “And they who do you charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted and their prospect shall melt away as the hoarfrost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun. And not many years hence that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.”
Now this one, I’m just going to share a quick little, pull together a couple of different commentaries here of the meaning of this prophecy. “Its reference, 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.”
“Latter-day Saints argue that the unfortunate events which befell some of Smith’s enemies is evidence that the prophecy was fulfilled. Another argument”, and I love this one, “set forth by adherents, is it that prophecy applied more to spiritual attachments in the afterlife rather than temporal punishments.”
Then lastly, look at this one. The government to be broken up for not helping the Saints. December 16th, 1843 Joseph says, “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 a 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.”
The key is granting the saints protection. My questions are, and I put them at the bottom here: The Saints as a body settled in Utah, did that area eventually become a state receiving all the related protections? Did the Saints in the U.S., regardless of where they lived, begin to receive protections just like any other citizen? I think you know the answer to that. So hope you enjoyed the video. Subscribe for more. Thanks.
Prophecies of Joseph Smith: Over 400 Prophecies By and About Joseph Smith, and Their Fulfillment by Duane S. Crowther
Wikipedia summary of popular prophecies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of…
The Nature of Prophets and Prophecy – Essay on Fairmormon Website: https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/pu…
Fairmormon answers to alleged false prophecies by Joseph Smith: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Jo…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.