Prophets and Prophecy in Mormonism/Part 3

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2000
The Bible gives a clear definition of a false prophet: one whose prophecies do not come to pass. Do the Mormon prophets fit this definition? How do Mormon officials explain the lack of fulfillment for some prophecies? Marvin Cowan deals with these questions.

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LDS Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie declared that, “Our Lord’s true Church is established and founded upon revelation. Its identity as the true Church continues as long as revelation is received to direct its affairs” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 646). He also said, “In this day and age true prophets will be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (ibid. p. 608).

Concerning their Prophet, Mormons are told, “For his word ye shall receive as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (Doctrine & Covenants 20:5). But Deuteronomy 18:22 warns, “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 shalt not be afraid of him.” In other words, he is a false prophet. The thirteenth LDS President, Ezra Taft Benson, agreed with that when he said, “The ultimate test of a true prophet is that when he speaks in the name of the Lord, his words come to pass” (Deseret News, Church Section, Oct. 5- 6, 1981).

Therefore, both the Bible and an LDS Prophet declare that anyone who claims to be a prophet should be tested by whether or not his predictions come to pass.

The introduction to Doctrine & Covenants 84:1-5 declares it is a revelation given through Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio on Sept. 22 and 23, 1832. The text says,

A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high. Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city 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, Jun., 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.

Those who are familiar with Mormon history know that the things stated in the above prophecy never happened. Yet, the generation living in 1832 (168 years ago) all died long ago! The “gathering of the saints” (Mormons) to western Missouri was aborted and they never did build the temple or the city “New Jerusalem” there. Mormons often claim that non-Mormons can’t really understand LDS prophecy because they don’t have the Priest­hood. But they usually agree that a Mormon Apostle could understand it. LDS Apostle Orson Pratt said on May 5, 1870,

God promised in the year 1832 that we should, before the generation then living had passed away, return and build up the City of Zion in Jackson County (MO); that we should return and build up the temple of the Most High where we formerly laid the corner stone… .We believe in these promises as much as we believe in any promise ever uttered by the mouth of Jehovah. The Latter-day Saints just as much expect to receive a fulfillment of that promise during the generation that was in existence in 1832 as they expect that the sun will rise and set tomorrow. Why? Because God cannot lie. He will fulfil all His promises. He has spoken, it must come to pass. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 352)

Again on Nov. 9, 1871, Pratt declared, “Thirty-nine years ago a revelation was given, a passage or two of which I will now read.” He then read Doctrine & Covenants 84:1-5 as quoted above and said, “We just as much expect that a city will be built, called Zion, in the place and on the land which has been appointed by the Lord our God, and that a temple will be reared on the spot that has been selected, and the corner-stone of which has been laid, in the generation when this revelation was given…. all the people that were living thirty-nine years ago have not passed away; but before they do pass away this will be fulfilled” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, p. 275). Thirty-nine years before 1871 was 1832 when this revelation was given. So, LDS Apostle Orson Pratt understood this prophecy just like you and I do and he expected it to be fulfilled before all the people who lived in 1832 died. But it didn’t happen, so it was a false prophecy according to what LDS Prophet Ezra Taft Benson said above.

The fifth LDS Prophet, Lorenzo Snow, was still expecting this prophecy to be fulfilled in 1898 when he spoke at the Annual LDS Conference in April where he said, “There are many—hundreds and thousands within the sound of my voice—that will live to go back to Jackson County (MO) and build a holy temple to the Lord our God” (Conference Reports, pp. 14, 64). It might have been possible for this prophecy to be fulfilled in 1898, but that was 102 years ago and now it is impossible because the generation of 1832 have all died! Some LDS claim this and other LDS prophecies weren’t fulfilled because of the disobedi­ence of the LDS people. But that contradicts Doctrine & Covenants 1:37 which says, “Search these commandments for they are true and faithful and the prophecies and prom­ises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” Again, in Doctrine & Covenants 1:1-3 it says, “The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round. Remember, remember, that it is not the work of God that is frustrated but the work of man. “ That leaves Mormons with a di­lemma: Either the last two LDS scriptures quoted above didn’t come from God or Doctrine & Covenants 84:1-5 didn’t come from God! Either way it should raise some serious ques­tions about whether such “scripture” can lead one to eternal life.

For more false prophecy in Mormonism, see our book Mormon Claims Answered. Because of the importance of this subject to Mormons we will continue this discussion in our next article.

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