Prophets in Mormonism/Part 24
|By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2008
|Joseph Smith said the Lord named their church the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they were living in the last days and gave prophetic statements “revealed to him by the Lord” that sound like he would be alive at the time of Christ’s return. How do Mormons explain these prophecies?
Joseph Smith said the Lord named their church the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they were living in the last days (Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4). And he said Doctrine and Covenants 112:15 was revealed to him by the Lord on July 23, 1843. It said,
- Exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph; for verily I say unto you, I am with him, and my hand shall be over him; and the keys which I have given unto him, and also to youward, shall not be taken from him till I come.
That sounds like Smith will be alive at the time of Christ’s return. Smith also declared in Doctrine and Covenants 130:14-17,
- 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 eighty-five 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 to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face. I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time.
Doctrine and Covenants 130 is dated April 2, 1843 and came from Smith’s diary dated that day. Smith was born December 23, 1805, just one week before 1806 began. If 85 years are added to 1805 or 1806 Christ’s coming would be no sooner than 1890 or 1891, according to Smith.
At the LDS General Conference on April 6, 1843, just four days after the above prophecy, Joseph Smith also said,
- Were I going to prophesy, I would say the end [of the world] would not come in 1844, 5, or 6, or in forty years. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes. I was once praying earnestly upon this subject, and a voice said unto me, “My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.” 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 will make His appearance or I shall go where He is. I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written–the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old. (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 336, also in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 286, by Joseph Fielding Smith, 6th LDS Prophet)
Note that Smith said in 1843, “There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.” Is anyone still alive who was alive in 1843? LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie knew that this prophecy had to be fulfilled or Smith would be a false prophet. So he said,
- It is not unreasonable to suppose that many young men had babies at the time of this prophecy (1843) and also had other children as much as 50 or 75 years later, assuming for instance that they were married again to younger women. This very probable assumption would bring the date up to, say, the 2nd decade in the 20th century – and the children so born would be members of that same rising generation of which the Prophet spoke. Now if these children lived to the normal age of men generally, they would be alive well past the year 2000 A D (Mormon Doctrine, pages 692-693).
So, if a 20 year old man had a child in 1843 and 75 years later in 1918 when he was 95 he had another child by a younger wife, that child would be 90 years old in 2008. Is 90 “the normal age of men generally”? How many 95 year old men fathered children in 1918? How many 90 year old people today are really part of the rising generation of 1843? McConkie tried very hard to show that Smith was a true prophet, but Christ has not come, so Smith’s prophecy still has not been fulfilled!
On January 4, 1833 Smith also predicted many things would happen to that generation related to the coming of Christ and again said, “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, vol. 1, pp. 315-316). Most of what he predicted never happened, yet all of the people living in 1833 are dead.
The minutes of a meeting on February 14, 1835 when the first Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church were selected say:
- President (Joseph) Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion (Missouri)–our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh–even fifty-six years should wind up the scene. (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 182)
The names of the 210 people who went to Zion and who were to “prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord” are listed in volume 2, pages 183-185. They all died more than a century ago! A baby born the day Smith made this prophecy would be 173 years old in 2008 and everyone else living then would be older. Is anyone that old still alive? Smith also said those who went to Zion would “prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh–even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.” If 56 years are added to 1835 when this prophecy was made, it equals 1891, the same year Smith’s other prophecy predicted the Lord’s return. Did the Lord come then? Was this a true prophecy? What does that indicate about Smith as a prophet?
Those who want to read more about Smith’s prophecies can do so in my book, Mormon Claims Answered. Next time we will discuss more of Smith’s teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants.