Joseph Smith's "Civil War Prophecy"
But the actual background of the situation at the time of his “prophecy” indicates that the whole world was expecting the explosive situation that had developed in South Carolina (concerning their reaction to the hated federal tariff of 1832) to erupt into Civil War at any moment! So Smith’s prophecy was only a fanciful elaboration carried to completely unfulfilled extremes which was built up on actual conditions as they existed at that moment. It seemed to everyone, at that very moment, that wars “will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina”!
“After the tariff of 1832 was adopted and promised to compound their injuries, South Carolina called a state convention on November 19, 1832. It passed an Ordinance of Nullification, declaring the tariff void in the state....
“President Andrew Jackson at once became the champion of Federal authority. He was not going to have the laws of the land treated thus by a state. [On Dec. 10, 1832] He denounced nullification as rebellious treason and warned South Carolina that he would enforce the laws. he sent two warships to Charleston and troops to the border. At the same time he caused to be introduced a bill authorizing him to use the army and the navy to enforce the law. This became known as the Force Bill. [’The legislature of South Carolina replied by declaring that the state would repel force by force.’ - Collier’s Encyclopedia.] But he [Jackson] also urged modification of the tariff, and Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Great Compromiser, carried through a revision of the tariff in 1833 before the date nullification was to come into effect [Feb. 1, 1833]. South Carolina was mollified, recalled the convention, and repealed its ordinance of nullification.” - The Civil War, Mentor Book, Harry H. Hansen, pp. 17-18.
Dec. 10, 1832 - “Jackson warned the people of South Carolina that he would use every power at his command to enforce the tariff, and he proceeded to mobilize both land and naval forces. Furthermore, he called upon Congress to enact legislation that would strengthen his military power. The legislature of South Carolina replied by declaring that the state would repel force by force.” - Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1975, v. 17, p. 762.
“Jackson ordered General Scott [with federal troops, of course] to Charleston, and sent two war vessels to the same port. He instructed the collector of the port to collect duties by force. He issued a proclamation 10 December telling the people of South Carolina that disunion by force was armed treason.” - Encyclopedia Americana, 1957, v. 15, p. 577.
So we can see that war appeared inevitable on 10 December 1832, but that the situation had been peacefully resolved by the end of January 1833 (less than two months later)! Only during the space of a few weeks was Smith’s prophecy apparently a safe bet. That he wrote it down at this time was really a great mistake. Due to the militant leadership of South Carolina, it was no surprise that when different conditions 30 YEARS LATER caused another breakdown in diplomacy, that state led the way for the Civil War. But the prophecy was obviously meant for an earlier war that didn’t come! If you read the rest of the prophecy carefully, you will see that the Civil War does not fulfill much of it.
Apparently the LDS Church also thought this “revelation” looked like an obvious attempt on Smith’s part to “predict” something that seemed to be a foregone conclusion at that time. They did not reveal or publish this “revelation” in the 1833 Book of Commandments nor in the 1835 The Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, this “revelation” wasn’t even printed until 1851 and wasn’t added to The Doctrine and Covenants until long after the Civil War.
The LDS Church has made changes to the famous “Civil War Revelation.” They have also failed to release other prophecies by Joseph Smith which would more fully reveal Smith’s full meaning on this subject. See the modern D&C 87 and compare with the original handwritten manuscript by Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith Begins His Work, v. 1, Appendix p. 23) and the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price, p. 35.
You can see that Smith’s handwritten manuscript contains two revelations. About 10 days after he wrote the now-famous “civil war revelation,” he wrote another revelation on the very same paper:
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 sene [scene] of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation: pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquakes will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land. To open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country, the people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requisitions of the new covinant [sic] have already commenced gathering togather[sic] to zion which is in the state of missouri Therefore I Declare unto
The second part of Smith’s two-part “civil war” revelation (quoted above) hasn’t been given much publicity by the Church, but it helps clarify the first (highly publicized) part!
Joseph Smith is claiming that the great war that is to begin with the rebellion of South Carolina will be accompanied (or immediately followed) by tremendous acts of God (earthquakes, pestilences, etc.) that will destroy the wicked. All this is not only to happen within the lifetime of those living in 1833, but is to happen quite soon after he gave the “revelation” (note the urgency: Those who will be saved have “already commenced gathering together to Zion which is in the state of Missouri” and “the hour of his judgement is come ... flee to Zion”).
The vast majority of the Mormons of that generation finally fled to Utah! Is that the Zion that they were commanded to flee to? Did even the small minority who actually did flee to “Zion” in Missouri as they were commanded actually see the fulfillment of the wicked being swept off the earth?
Notice what was to happen soon after the war began in South Carolina: the coming of the Son of Man (D&C 131:12). But the Prophet was even more specific than this: He declared in 1835 that everything would be accomplished and Jesus would return to earth within 56 years (or by 1891)!
Yes, The History of the Church, v. 2, p. 182, says,
“President [Joseph] Smith then stated...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, for the coming of the Lord which was nigh - even 56 years should wind up the scene.”
- Again we see the importance of going to Zion (Missouri).
Joseph Smith later said that, when he was praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, he had this revelation from God:
“’My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age [1890-1891], 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 would make his appearance. But I do not say whether He will make his appearance or I shall go where He is” - History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 336 (also compare D&C 130:14-16).
Although the Prophet seems to be not entirely certain of the meaning of this prophecy, the circumstances make it very clear. He was praying very earnestly to know when Jesus would come to earth. Context shows he meant to know when Jesus would come to earth after - or during - the great war and destruction to be with those faithful ones gathered at “Zion.” Certainly God would not lie to or deceive his Prophet with a misleading answer. And the further statements by Smith (later partially deleted by the LDS Church) show to everyone the intended meaning of this “prophecy.”
Joseph Smith’s diary (which is partially quoted to make up the History of the Church) continues the prophecy in these words:
“There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.... I prophesy in the name of the Lord God - and let it be written: that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens till I am 85 years old 48 years hence or ABOUT 1890.” - Joseph Smith’s Diary, March 10, 1843 - July 14, 1843.
In 1830 when the “Twelve Apostles” of Joseph Smith were ordained, some of them were promised that they would live until Christ came to the earth:
“The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was,...that he shall live until the gathering is accomplished,.... and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory” - History of the Church, v. 2, p. 188.
William Smith’s blessing said: “He shall be preserved and remain on the earth, until Christ shall come to take vengeance on the wicked” - History of the Church, v. 2, p. 191. Orson Hyde and Heber C. Kimball received similar blessings.
Obviously none of those Apostles lived to see Jesus come to earth, and the Prophet’s prophecy that “56 years should wind up the scene” was certainly not fulfilled!
LDS Apostle Parley P. Pratt wrote in 1838:
“Now, Mr. Sunderland,...I will state as a prophesy [sic] that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile upon this continent 50 years hence ; and if they are not greatly scourged, and in a great measure overthrown, within 5 or 10 years from this date [by 1848], then the Book of Mormon will have proved itself false” - Mormonism Unveiled - Truth Vindicated, Parley P. Pratt, p. 15, (original copy kept at the LDS’ Church Historian’s library).
Remember that Mormon Apostles, too, are considered “prophets, seers, and revelators” - A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 137, 1979 ed., by LDS Apostle LeGrand Richards.
This tract by Apostle Pratt was later reprinted in the LDS book, Writings of Parley P. Pratt, 1952, but this time the entire prophecy quoted above was left out with no reference to it whatsoever!
Tied in with all this is, as we have already seen, the prophecy that the faithful must return to Zion (which is revealed by the prophet to be in Missouri). D&C 84:2-5,31 given in late 1832 as a revelation from God by Joseph Smith says:
Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his Church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people,...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...
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 house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot [Temple Lot] as I have appointed.
The Mormon leaders understood this very clear revelation to mean exactly what it says: that a temple would be built in (and the Saints gathered to) the western boundary of Missouri (specifically, Independence, Jackson County, Missouri) before all those living at the time the prophecy had been given had died.
On March 10, 1861 Apostle George Smith wrote:
“Who is there that is prepared for this move back to the Centre Stake of ZION,... let me remind you that it is predicted that this generation shall not pass away till a temple shall be built, and the glory of the Lord rest upon it, according to the promises” - Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p. 344.
In the 1870’s Apostle Orson Pratt still taught that the temple would be built during the lifetime of the generation that received the revelation (1832). These are quotes from his discourses:
“...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.... 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 fulfill all His promises. He has spoken, it must come to pass. This is our faith” - Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 362.
The next year Apostle Pratt wrote:
“...a temple will be reared on the spot that has been selected, and the cornerstone of which has been laid, in the generation when this revelation was given....all the people that were living 39 years ago have not passed away; but before they do pass away this will be fulfilled” - Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, p. 275.
Three years later Apostle Orson Pratt again wrote:
“God said, in the year 1832, before we were driven out of Jackson County, in a revelation...that before that generation should all pass away, a house of the Lord should be built in that county” - Journal of Discourses, Vol. 17, p. 111.
Even as late as 1900 Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the church, still believed the prophecy:
“In 1900, Woodruff’s successor, Lorenzo Snow, affirmed at a special priesthood meeting in the Salt Lake Temple that ‘there are many here now under the sound of my voice, probably a majority, who will live to go back to Jackson County and assist in building that temple” - Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p. 74.
Even in 1935 Joseph Fielding Smith, who later became President of the Church, taught:
“...there will be some of that generation who were living when this revelation was given who shall be living when this temple is reared.... I have full confidence in the word of the Lord and that it shall not fail” - The Way to Perfection, Joseph Fielding Smith, 1935, p. 270.
It has been over 165 years since Joseph Smith gave the prophecy that the temple would be built in that generation. Since the Mormons have not yet even begun work on this temple, it appears that there is no way possible for Joseph Smith’s prophecy to have been a true prophecy. In fact, it appears that the Utah-based LDS Church has been one-upped by another organization.
“The Church of Christ (Temple Lot)....returned to Independence, Missouri in 1867 and began raising funds for the purchase of a temple lot upon which to erect the temple of the Lord for the day of His return and the gathering of the ten lost tribes of Israel. (The lot was to be the center of the New Jerusalem, but was lost to the Reorganized Church in a lawsuit in 1891-95.) [This is the very same lot selected and dedicated by Joseph Smith for the temple of ZION in 1831!]” - Inside Story of Mormonism, Anderson, 1973, p. 31. Also see p. 432, An Encyclopedia of Religion, 1945, Ferm.
So the Reorganized Church now has its headquarters in the “Zion” of Joseph Smith’s prophecies (Independence, Missouri). And the LDS Church is now stuck with a different “Zion” and temple in Utah!
At any rate, with this background information, a careful examination of the “civil war” prophecy (and other related prophecies) shows the inadequacy of the present-day interpretation by the LDS Church and its supporters. –RDB.
The following is taken from an internet post by JMLloyal (CATZ):
1) Doctrine and Covenants 45: 64-67 Prophecy is made and a command was given by God for the LDS to leave the eastern states (USA) and go to Jackson County Missouri and purchase land for the building up of "Zion," the "New Jerusalem".
2) Doctrine and Covenants 84: 1-5, 31 Prophecy is given as "the word of the Lord" that the "New Jerusalem" would be built in Jackson County, Missouri, within the generation then living; this city would be built starting with the Temple; "this generation" would not pass away until the temple is built and the glory of the Lord rest upon it.
3) Doctrine and Covenants 69: 8 A generation is defined as a group of people living at a certain time period; for example, generation after generation is used in this verse. The book Mormon Doctrine says on page 310, "A generation may be measured in terms of the life of the oldest persons who live in a particular period. (D&C 45: 30-31; 84: 4-5)
To date, 2006, no temple has been built in Jackson County Missouri, and the generation of Joseph Smith's day has long passed off the world scene. Also to note, the plot of land that the New Jerusalem temple was prophisied to be built upon is owned by an "apostate" Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ, Temple Lot. They refuse to combine with or cooperate with the LDS church in building this temple or selling this land to them for it to be built.
4) Doctrine and Covenants 124: 42-51 (note verse 49) The "divine" excuse is used by the Mormon god and his prophet for the complete failure of this (and, by the way, any other) prophecy! (Please note that verse 45 contradicts verse 49!)