Prophets in Mormonism/Part 17

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2008
In Doctrine and Covenants 124:22-23 George Miller, Lyman Wight, John Snider and others are given a prophecy to “…build a house unto my name, such a one as my servant Joseph (Smith) shall show unto them, upon the place which he shall show unto them also….” But this house (Nauvoo House) was never built. Why does that present problems for Mormons?

George Miller and Lyman Wight were the subjects of our last article on Doctrine and Covenants 124. In Doctrine and Covenants 124:22-23 it says they along with John Snider and others are to

build a house unto my name, such a one as my servant Joseph (Smith) shall show unto them, upon the place which he shall show unto them also. And it shall be for a house for boarding, a house that strangers may come from afar to lodge therein; therefore let it be a good house worthy of all acceptation, that the weary traveler may find health and safety while he shall contemplate the word of the Lord; and the corner-stone I have appointed for Zion.

Then in verses 56-60 “the Lord” told Joseph Smith,

And now I say unto you, as pertaining to my boarding house which I have commanded you to build for the boarding of strangers, let it be built unto my name, and let my name be named upon it, and let my servant Joseph and his house have place therein, from generation to generation. For this anointing have I put upon his head, that his blessing shall also be put upon the head of his posterity after him. And as I said unto Abraham concerning the kindreds of the earth, even so I say unto my servant Joseph: In thee and in thy seed shall the kindred of the earth be blessed. Therefore, let my servant Joseph and his seed after him have place in that house, from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord. And let the name of that house be called Nauvoo House; and let it be a delightful habitation for man, and a resting-place for the weary traveler, that he may contemplate the glory of Zion, and the glory of this, the corner-stone thereof. A month after Smith said he received this revelation, on February 23, 1841 an “Act to Incorporate the Nauvoo House Association” was signed by the Governor of Illinois. Section one said, “Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, repre­sented in general assembly, that George Miller, Lyman Wight, John Snider, and Peter Haws, and their associates, are hereby declared a body corporate, under the name and style of the ‘Nauvoo House Association;’ and they are authorized to erect and furnish a public house of entertainment, to be called the ‘Nauvoo House’” (His­tory of the Church, vol. IV, p. 301). According to page 243 in Church History in the Fulness of Times, “The cornerstone of the building (Nauvoo House) was laid on 2 October 1841.”

Not much more is said about building the Nauvoo House or the Association responsible for building it until 1844. Then Lyman Wight, who was one of the men responsible for building the Nauvoo House according to this “revelation,” wrote to the LDS First Presidency on February 15, 1844 and said, “Having also become convinced that the Church at Nauvoo or in the Eastern States will not build the Nauvoo House according to the commandment, neither the Temple in a reasonable time…” (History of the Church, vol. VI, p. 256). Church History in the Fulness of Times says of Joseph Smith “The Prophet considered the construction of the Nauvoo House hotel nearly as urgent as construction of the temple…In March 1844 Joseph Smith postponed further construction on the hotel in order to press forward on the temple” (p. 243). And on May 3, 1844, Brigham Young and Willard Richards wrote a letter to Reuben Hedlock saying, “We have dropped the Nauvoo House until the Temple can be completed and the Temple is going finely” (History of the Church, vol. VI, p. 353).

An official publication of the LDS Church entitled The Restored Church says of the Nauvoo House, “The building was never completed as originally designed, the martyrdom of the Prophet and the contemplated exodus West causing a change in plans. The part completed is still standing in Nauvoo not far from the Mansion House; but it has been changed to make a dwelling” (page 160).

If you didn’t notice the difference between what “the Lord” said in Doctrine and Covenants 124 about the Nauvoo House and what actually happened, then read the first and second paragraphs in this article again. It was never finished as a “board­ing house” so it never became a place for boarding strangers. Doctrine and Cov­enants 124:59 says, “Let my servant Joseph Smith and his seed after him have place in that house, from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord.”

But even that part of the Nauvoo House that became a private house instead of a boarding house was not built while Joseph Smith was alive, so he never lived in it. After the Mormons moved west, Smith’s wife lived in it for awhile, but most of the time it has sat empty. The Reorganized LDS Church later bought the building but no one lives in it, so Smith’s descendants did not live in it forever and ever as “the Lord” said.

Doctrine and Covenants 124:74 also says, “Therefore, I say unto you concerning my servant Vinson Knight, if he will do my will let him put stock into that (Nauvoo) House for himself, and for his generation after him, from generation to generation.” But Vinson Knight died on July 31, 1842, just nine months after the cornerstone was laid (History of the Church vol. V, p. 84). He never even saw the part of the Nauvoo House that was finally built, so if he put stock in it, it didn’t do him any good and his family never got any use of that house either. So, was this a revelation from “the Lord?”

Notice what Mormon scripture 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 vary from that which he hath said

Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of man” (Doctrine and Covenants 3:1-3). It also says, “Search these commandments for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37). In the light of such claims, is there a problem in Doctrine and Covenants 124?

Our next article will look at a few other problems in Doctrine and Covenants 124. Those who would like to read more about failed prophecies in the Doctrine and Covenants can do so in Mormon Claims Answered.

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