Mormon reliance on prophecy

Mormons, and those to whom the missionaries are giving an introduction to Mormonism, often hear how the restoration of the true church through Joseph Smith was "prophesied" in the Bible. Here are some of the "prophecies" which are cited:

The "fruitful bough" prophecy, supposedly prophesying Lehi's crossing of the ocean as described in the Book of Mormon (Genesis 49:22):

Joseph [is] a fruitful bough, [even] a fruitful bough by a well; [whose] branches run over the wall.

The "two sticks" prophecy, supposedly prophesying the combining of the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Ezekiel 37:16 ff):

Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and [for] all the house of Israel his companions: 17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. ... 21 ... Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land...

Side comment: Mormons don't mention that this is obviously a prophecy about the reunification of the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), and has nothing to do with books of scripture.

The "other sheep" prophecy, supposedly prophesying Jesus' visit to the Nephites (John 10:16):
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.

The "familiar spirit out of the ground" prophecy, supposedly prophesying the Gold Plates being retrieved from their burial place in the Hill Cumorah (Isaiah 29:4):

And thou shalt be brought down, [and] shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.

Side comment: Mormons don't mention that the word for "familiar spirit" is Hebrew 'ob,' occuring about fifteen times in the Bible. It does NOT mean "a spirit which sounds familiar to you (because it is written in the style of the King James Bible), as most Mormons think, but it means the spirit of a dead person, that is, a ghost, summoned by necromancy, which is everywhere condemned in the Bible as abominable (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

The "Elijah" prophecy, a prophecy of Elijah's role in the modern restoration (Malachi 4:5-6; cf. D&C 110:13):
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Side comment: Mormons overlook the fact that this prophecy was already fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matt 11:14, Mark 9:11, Luke 1:17). Elijah's coming was not a necromantic violation of Deuteronomy 18:10-12, since Elijah was taken to heaven without tasting death. That is, he was not dead, unlike all the other visitors from the other world to Joseph Smith (John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moroni, et al.).

The "sealed book" prophecy, foretelling Professor Anthon's conversation with Martin Harris (Isaiah 29:11-14):
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which [men] deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it [is] sealed: 12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

There are others, of course.

How did the Mormons come to find such passages, and to interpret them as prophecies in support of Mormonism? It's really quite simple. It's a technique that was developed by Jewish scholars in the last centuries B.C.E, and used to great advantage by New Testament writers, especially the author of the Gospel of Matthew. You simply scour older writings for some favorable phrase or sentence that might apply to what you would like to believe was "prophesied," and - I guarantee it - you will find much "prophetic" material.

Personally, I do not believe in divine prophecy. But I can apply the technique, and can find prophecies aplenty.

Here are some scriptures (both Biblical and Mormon) which I have found and which I believe "prophesy" of Mormonism just as accurately and convincingly as those cited by the Mormons and their missionaries.


Joseph Smith's Physical Disabilities

Joseph Smith as a child had a serious leg infection during the winter of 1812-13; an operation was necessary to avoid the loss of the leg, but the operation left him with a lifelong limp. Later in life, as an adult, he was tarred and feathered by an angry mob during the night of March 24, 1832. While trying to break a vial of acid into his mouth, they broke a tooth, leaving him with a lifelong lisp. These events were prophesied over 2000 years before!:

Psalms 3:7

Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies [upon] the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Psalms 58:6

Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD.

Proverbs 25:19

Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble [is like] a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

Joseph Smith's Lying and Womanizing

Joseph Smith denied continually that the Mormons were practicing plural marriage; he insisted he had only one wife, as late as 1844 (when he had "married" over thirty women, many of them already with living husbands):
"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (HoC 6:411)
This lying was prophesied more than 2000 years before:

Jeremiah 48:10

Cursed [be] he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully,...

(Compare D&C 50:17-18: Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? 18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.)

Revelation 2:2

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars...

Revelation 2:4 is a prophecy of Joseph Smith's unfaithfulness to his wife Emma:

Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Revelation 21:8 prophesies Smith's adulteries, his dabbling in magic, and his lying:

But the ... whoremongers, and sorcerers, ... and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Jeremiah 29:21-23 prophesies his adulteries with his friends' wives while pretending to be a prophet:

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of [false prophets]... 23 Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and [am] a witness, saith the LORD.

Even modern prophecy condemns Smith's many sins (this is a useful quote when Mormons ask us to overlook Smith's little "mistakes"):

D&C 50:26-28 (speaking of the president of the church):

He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all. 27 Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son. 28 But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin.

Joseph Smith's Boasting

Joseph Smith was not a humble man, but rather boasted of his achievements. One of his most famous boasts, made May 26, 1844, shortly before his death, is in the History of the Church 6:408-409:

"Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days [p.409] of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet."

Smith was not aware, apparently, of the Biblical prophetic warnings:

Proverbs 27:1-2

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. 2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

Proverbs 26:12

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him.

Isaiah 10:15

Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? [or] shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?

Even his own prophecies warned him: D&C 3:4

For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.

(This is one of the few prophecies of Joseph Smith which was quickly fulfilled, since he was killed barely one month after making his public boast.)

Joseph Smith's Prophecies

Joseph Smith's false prophecies were also prophesied of in the Bible. (Almost none of his prophecies were fulfilled; see a listing here.)

Deuteronomy 18:20-22

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 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.

Jeremiah 5:31

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love [to have it] so...

Jeremiah 23:16

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, [and] not out of the mouth of the LORD.

Jeremiah 14:14

Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

Side comment: Note that this was said at the time Lehi was supposed to be a "prophet" in Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:11
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Matthew 24:24

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Joseph Smith claimed that he was ministered to by three personages claiming to be Peter, James and John. This event was also prophesied in the Bible:

Revelation 16:13

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [come] out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.


Lack of Prophecy Today

Gordon B. Hinckley, in an interview reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, commented on revelation and the present-day church:

Q: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?

A: Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don't need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we've already received.

These words of Hinckley were prophesied over 2000 years ago (or 170 years ago, if you think Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon):

2 Nephi 28:27-30

Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! ... 29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! 30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: ... for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

Micah 3:5-11

Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, ... 6 Therefore night [shall be] unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. 7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for [there is] no answer of God. ... 11 ... yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, [Is] not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

The Church's Efforts To Be Recognized as "Christian"

The LDS church has employed a public relations firm to promote its image, and is trying to appeal to a broader Christian audience. It is obvious that Hinckley's purpose is to make the church more popular, more acceptable. This was also prophesied:

1 Nephi 22:23

For the time speedily shall come that all churches which ... are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.

The New Conference Center in Salt Lake City

The LDS church has just completed it new conference hall in Salt Lake City, seating 21,000. In the first general conference of the church held there (April 2000) Hinckley ridiculed the "critics" of the church. This building, and Hinckley's sermon, were also prophesied:

1 Nephi 8:26-33

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. 27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit [of truth]. ... 31 And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building. ... 33 And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.

Buildings vs. Charity

Hinckley has boasted that:
  1. many temples are being built; half a dozen per year are being dedicated. The Medford temple (a typical small temple) cost $3.5 million. Based on those figures, one can estimate $21 million per year is spent on temple construction.
  2. the LDS church donated, over a ten-year period, $150 million to charitable purposes, i.e. $15 million per year.
This situation (more spent on temples than on charity) was prophesied:

Mormon 8:37

For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

2 Nephi 28:13

They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

The Church Is Prospering

Hinckley's general message to the church and to the world is: The church is prospering! This was also prophesied:

2 Nephi 28:21

And others will he [the devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well--and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Paying for Forgiveness

To get a temple recommend one must pay a full tithe. As part of the temple ceremony, one is "washed clean from the blood and sins of this generation." This was also prophesied:

Mormon 8:32

Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.

The LDS Testimony Meeting

The modern LDS testimony meeting follows a pattern which has become traditional in the church. Those who wish to speak ("bear testimony") go to the pulpit, which is usually raised above the level of the audience, and which is called "the stand" in a Mormon chapel. They there say whatever the spirit moves them to say; however, it almost always includes the same rote statements: "I know the Gospel is true; I know that the Book of Mormon is true; I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God; I know that Gordon B. Hinckley [or whoever the current prophet may be] is a prophet of God; I am grateful that I have been blessed to be born in this day and age when the Gospel has been restored..." This phenomenon was accurately described (and condemned) in prophecy:

Alma 31:13

For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person. 14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying: 15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, ...[16] we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; ... 17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, ... 18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.... 20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers. 21 Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand. 22 Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, ...

The Seer Shall "Know All Things"

When Gordon B. Hinckley was de facto head of the church, he was unable to detect the forgeries of Mark Hofmann. He was also unable to translate the papyrii given to the church in 1966 from which Joseph Smith produced the Book of Abraham. If he were really a prophet, that should not have been the case:

Mosiah 8:17

But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

Moroni 10:5

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Amos 3:7

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

D&C 107:91-92

And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses-- 92 Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.

Exposing False Prophets

Even the fact that the Mormon false prophets will be uncovered and exposed by people living in Utah was prophesied. Notice that in this prophecy, it is not the leaders of the people who will expose the frauds, but "the inhabitants" (e.g., the Tanners, who are "inhabitants" of Utah [Zion]):

D&C 64:38-39

For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion. 39 And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known.

The Troubles of the LDS Church

The vicissitudes and tribulation of the modern church were also foreseen in prophecy, and these prophecies indicate that the modern church is not in God's good favor, and that it is a man-made church. Many of the prophets' projects, supposedly inspired by revelation from God, came to nought and were frustrated (e.g. the United Order, the Kirtland Bank, Zion's Camp, the temples at Independence and Far West, polygamy, the Deseret Alphabet, the Lamanite Placement Program - to mention only a few):

D&C 3:1-3

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. 2 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. 3 Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men...
Deuteronomy 29:28 prophesied the forced moves from Kirtland to Missouri to Illinois to Utah:
And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as [it is] this day.

And the 1847 move into the wilderness of the valley of the Great Salt Lake, an uninhabited desert, was clearly prophesied (I think this is my favorite Biblical prophecy about Mormonism, because it is so accurate and specific):

Jeremiah 17:5-6

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed [be] the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, [in] a salt land and not inhabited.

The Mormons are not "Gentiles"

Every worthy Mormon is entitled once in his life to receive a "patriarchal blessing" from a special person who holds the office of "patriarch." This blessing is a general blessing, but also indicates what lies in store for the recipient. One special purpose of the blessing is to inform the recipient which "tribe of Israel" he belongs to. Joseph Smith also claimed to be of direct Israelite descent.

This was prophesied at Revelations 2:9 -

...and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Try "finding prophecies" yourself! It's great fun, especially in places like Aesop, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Mother Goose.

Comments?   Suggestions for additional prophecies of Mormonism?   Questions?  (Please, no preaching, testimonies, or hate mail!)   To send a comment or ask a question, click here.

©  2000 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included


Methinks I am a prophet new inspir'd...     - Shakespeare, Richard II

Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.     - George Eliot, Middlemarch
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