By David A. Beck
Long ago, God told the children of Israel how to test the prophets; test their prophecies, whether they come to pass (Deut. 18:22). We should have no confidence in a prophet who cannot accurately prophecy. The penalty for uttering false prophecy was death (Deut. 18:20).
True prophets spoke by the inspiration of God (2 Pet. 1:21). Since “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18), we can know assuredly that any false prophet is not inspired of God.
We are warned repeatedly of false prophets in the New Testament. Jesus warned, in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.” We are told in 1 John 4:1, “many false prophets are gone out into the world.” The purpose of this paper is to explore several prophecies made by self-proclaimed prophets during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which have failed the test of time. Specifically, we will be dealing with prophecies by leaders of three major cults: Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. By pointing out their failures, I hope to cast doubt on their credibility as spokesmen for God.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, or Mormonism, b6gan his prophecy on September 21, 1823, when he received the first of many “revelations.”(1)
Smith’s prophecies were rife with contradictions and false statements. In the Book of Mormon the claim is made by Orson Pratt, one of the original twelve “Apostles” of the Mormon Church, that this book’ must be either true or false, and “if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it.”(2) I intend to show; without a doubt, the falsehood of prophecies made by Joseph Smith and other “inspired” Mormon prophets.
Joseph Smith prophesied, on April 17, 1838, that David W. Patten should “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.”(3)
“Apostle” David Patten was killed in October, 1838, before he could fulfill the revelation about himself!”(4)
In May, 1843, Joseph Smith prophesied concerning Judge Stephen A. Douglas. He stated that unless the United States redress their “wrongs” against Mormons, they would be, ‘4utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left.” Hie then predicted Douglas’ aspiration to the presidency of the United States and threatened “the weight of the hand of the Almighty upon you” if he ever turned his hand against Smith of the Latter Day Saints. The Mormons have interpreted the overwhelming defeat of Douglas in the 1859 presidential election, and Douglas’ death some six weeks later, as a fulfillment of this prophecy. What they really have done is interpret the political climate oi the day, the easily predicted entry of Douglas into national politics; as fulfillment of this prophecy, What about the rest of the prophecy? His the United States been utterly overthrown and wasted?(5)
Smith, like inany other self proclaimed prophets,. was an expert at reading the news of the day, and making an educated guess as to the eventual outcome. His Civil War prophecies bear this out. Although some of the events predicted did occur, much of the “prophecy” utterly failed. Modern Mormons make much of these prophecies, but old copies of Doctrines and-Covenants, which carried the full prophecy, have since been edited, to try to make the prophecy fit the events.(6) Predictions of famine, plagues, earthquakes; the involvement of Great Britain and “all Nations”; and the ultimate control of the United States by the “aborigines” [Indians/DAB], all as part of the Civil War, have all failed to come to pass.(7)
Many of the prophecies made by so-called “inspired” Mormon apostles and elders are bizarre. Such is the case noted by Barnett of O. E. Huntington, who claimed that the moon is inhabited, “by men and women the same as this earth, and that they live to a greater age than we do – that they live generally to an age of 1000 years.” He further claimed that this was told to him by Joseph Smith in 1837, and that Smith had predicted that he (Huntington) would someday preach to those inhabitants of the moon!(8)
Brigham Young, in his Journal of Discourses, July 24, 1870, makes that same claim. Hirum Smith, in April, 1843, made a further “inspired” claim that the promise of Jesus, “in My Father’s house are many mansions,” actually should have been rendered, “in My Father’s world are many world’s.” He further states, “I will goe (sic) and prepare (sic) a place for you, an(f (sic) then if there are meny (sic) worlds then there must be meny (sic) gods, for every Star (sic) that we see is a world and is inhabited the same as this world is peopled.”(9)
I believe we can safely state that these prophecies concerning the universe are false. Certainly, modern science fiction writers would not go so far as to claim that every “starworld” is inhabited “the same as this world is peopled.”
Brigham Young made several “scientific” claims which have proven to be false. For example, he claimed, “Gold and silver grow, and so does every other kind of metal, the same as the hair upon my head, or the wheat in the field; they do not grow as fast, but they are all the time composing or decomposing.” He made that claim in 1852. In 1856, he claimed that people “receive a greater proportion of nourishment from. . . the water you drink and the air you breathe . . . than from the food you consume. Many are not aware of this, for they are not apt to reflect how much longer they can live when deprived of food than they can when deprived of air.”)(10)
When “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21), they spoke truth. Whatever subject they touched upon, whether physics, astronomy, biology, or any other science, they spoke truth. Obviously, the Mormon prophets we have studied thus far can make no such claim.
In 1 Nephi 3:7 of the Book of Mormon, the statement is made, “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”(11) Maurice Barnett points out a contradiction between this passage, penned by Joseph Smith in 1830, and a statement made in Doctrine and Covenants, first issued in 1835. D and C 124:49 reads, “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 and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept their offerings.”(12) Already under fire for failures in his revelations, Smith had to “doctor” his doctrines!(13)
The “gathering of the saints to Zion,” originally predicted by Smith in July, 1931, was one such attempted and failed work. Independence, Missouri, was designated as the place where the City of Zion, or New Jerusalem, was to be located. The Mormons were instructed to buy all the land in Jackson County, Missouri, that they possibly could.(14)
September 11, 1836, was the first date set by Smith for the “gathering.”(15) Later, in April, 1838, Smith predicted that the house of worship in Zion would be begun on July 4, 1838, and that it would take one year to build it.(16)
All predictions by Smith, Orson Pratt, Heber Kimball, and other “inspired” prophets definitely stated that the present generation would not pass away until Zion was established. On January 10, 1871, Orson Pratt flatly denied the Second Adventist claims of an early 20th century date for the establishment of the Kingdom, and stated that it would definitely occur before the end of the nineteenth century. That gathering was to be the beginning of a 1000 year reign of Christ.(17)
As late as 1945, Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “Over one hundred years have passed since the site of Zion was dedicated and the spot for the temple was chosen, and some members of the Church seem to be fearful lest the word of the Lord should fail . . . I firmly believe that there will be some of that generation who were living when this revelation was given who shall be living when this temple is reared. . . No matter what the correct interpretation may be, the fact remains that the City Zion, or New Jerusalem, will eventually be built in Jackson County, Missouri, and the temple of the Lord will also be constructed.”(18)
At this writing, neither the temple nor the city has been built; a definite prophetic failure. In 1851, “Apostle” Orson Pratt stated, “Now the doctrine of the gathering of the saints in the last days must be either false or true; if false, then J. Smith must be an impostor. It matters not how correct he may have been in all other points of his system, if this one point – the gathering – be false, he must be a deceiver. Why? Because he professes to have received this doctrine by direct revelation and commandment.”(19) I couldn’t have said it any better myself!
Mormon leaders often felt they were invincible. Brigham Young even boasted, “I have dared the world to produce as mean devils as we can; we can beat them at anything. We have the greatest and smoothest liars in the world, and the cunningest and most adroit thieves, and any other shade of character that you can mention . . . We can beat them, because we have men here that live in the light of the Lord.”(20)
Joseph Smith made many predictions concerning his own supposed invincibility. In August of 1843, he made one of many predictions concerning his power to “overcome his enemies.” He repeatedly challenged the world to try to kill him, and boasted of facing death and surviving. These predictions failed, too. On Wednesday, June 19, 1844, Smith claimed in the Nauvoo Neighbor, “as sure as there is a God in Israel, we shall ride triumphant over all oppression. ” Only a few days after this, he was dead; murdered with his brother, Hyrum, in the jail at Carthage, Illinois.(21)
The Mormons were prolific prophets. I have herein touched merely the hem of the garment as far as their speculations are concerned. They were certain, in their early days, that Zion would be set up, and Christ would return, before the end of the nineteenth century. Smith at least twice set the date as 1890. In February, 1835, Smith, “gave a revelation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion – our trials, sufferings: and said God had not designed all this for nothing . . . it was the will of God that those who went to Zion . . . 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.”(22)
Again, in 1843, Smith predicted that if he lived to be eighty-five years old, he would see the face of the son of man.(23)
Smith claimed to have been promised he would live until Christ returned.(24) Even after Smith’s death, Orson Pratt, as well as others, predicted the second coming and descent of the Saviour with a shout as “at hand” or “in this century.”(25) These prophecies never came to pass.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 5, pp. 142-143, 149
March 3, 1988