Can We Trust the Prophecies of Joseph Smith?
There is an incredible legacy of false prophecy related to Joseph Smith. Just type “False Prophecy of Joseph Smith” into any search engine and see what you get! But there is a ton of confusion surrounding Joseph’s prophesies and to be honest, neither side of the issue seems to examine the issue fairly. Non-Mormons point to every prophecy of Joseph and try to demonstrate that they prove he is a liar, and Mormons try to justify prophecies that fail to come true by twisting the laws of prophecy. Let’s take an honest look at the different types of prophesy as they relate to Joseph Smith. Before we begin, let’s take a look at the different categories of prophecy as they apply to the man upon whom the Mormon faith is founded:
Let's begin by looking at the first and easiest prophecies to make. These are prophecies that are given no specific time frame in which to be fulfilled.
Example: Joseph Smith predicts in 1835 that, "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).
Although the Lord did not return by 1891, you’ve got to understand that Joseph Smith said fifty-six years should wind up the scene. The word “should” provides Joseph with an ‘out’. Something could have happened to upset the original time schedule. Therefore even though this prophecy did not come true, this prophecy alone does not necessarily make Joseph Smith a false prophet. Christians cannot look at open dated prophecies and judge the prophet status of Joseph Smith.
These are prophecies that the prophet can fulfill on his own. They require NO outside action or event that is NOT within the control of the prophet.
Example: The Lord instructs Joseph not to translate any more until he goes to Ohio. (D&C 37:1).
To make this prophecy come true, Joseph Smith had only to cease translating for a few months. When the prophet has the ability o control the outcome of the prophecy, there is no way to judge whether or not the prophet is true or trustworthy. Just as it is unfair for Non-Mormons to try to use Open Dated Prophecies against Joseph, Mormons cannot use these types of self-fulfilling prophecies to prove that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.
These are prophecies that will only come true if a certain condition exists. In other words, if a situation changes, the prophecy may also change.
Example: Joseph Smith states that if the people of Ohio repent, they will not be severely judged of the Lord (D&C 40:16-18).
The outcome of this prophecy is conditional upon their repentance of the people in question. If the people of Ohio were not severely judged, it could be said that they must have sufficiently repented. So this type of prophecy cannot be used by either side to prove anything at all.
Most of Joseph Smith's prophecies are of the first three types, and while these three types of prophecies are often used by either side to demonstrate either the false nature or true nature of Joseph Smith as a Prophet, none of them can fairly be used. There is another kind of prophecy, however, that was often uttered by Joseph Smith, and can be examined to either validate in invalidate his status as a true prophet:
Close-dated and Unconditional Prophecies
These are prophecies which must come true within a specific time frame and have no conditions attached. Although relatively few of Joseph Smith's prophecies are of this type, they are extremely important because they make it possible to put Joseph Smith to the biblical test of a prophet.
Example: Temple in Independence.
In this revelation given on September 22 and 23, 1832, Joseph Smith foretold of an LDS temple to be built in Independence, Missouri. (D&C Section 84):
1. "A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.
2. Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.
3. 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 with whom the Lord was well pleased.
4. Verily, this is the word of the Lord, and 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.
5. For verily this generation shall not pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill his house."
31. "which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the "consecrated spot as I have appointed."
Verses four and five declare that a "temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away" before the temple will be built. And this temple is to built in Zion, which is Independence, Missouri. Over one hundred and seventy years later, there is still no Temple on the "temple lot" specified in the revelation. Early Mormon leaders made it quite clear that the word "generation" meant those that were alive when the revelation was given in 1832.
25 years later, Heber C. Kimball still believed it
"They are holy places, and they will be held sacred even as Jackson County.." "and I shall yet see the day that I will go back there, with brother Brigham and with thousands and millions of others, and we will go precisely according to the dedication of the Prophet of the living God. Talk to me about my having any dubiety on my mind about these things being fulfilled!—I am just as confident of it as I am that I am called to be a saviour of men, and no power can hinder it." (President Heber C. Kimball, December 17, 1857 Journal of Discourses, Vol 6. p. 190).
25 years later, Elias Smith still believed it
"I expect to live to be an old man, and to go back with the saints to the land of Jackson County." (President B. Young; "God grant it.") (1857 Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 221)
29 years later, Heber C. Kimball still believed it
"Brethren, I shall go to Jackson County with thousands of this people who will be faithful to their integrity; but we cannot go back until we have built some good houses." (1861 Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, p. 350, Disclosure by Heber C. Kimball).
29 years later, Elder George A. Smith still believed it
"Who is there that is prepared for this movement back to the center stake of Zion, and where are the architects amongst us that are qualified to erect this temple and the city that will surround it." "And 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." (Elder George A. Smith, March 10, 1861, Journal of Discourse, Vol. 9, p. 71).
32 years later, Elder George Q. Cannon still believed it
The generation in which the revelation was given, which is upwards of thirty years ago.
"The day is near when a Temple shall be reared in the Center Stake of Zion, and the Lord has said his glory shall rest on that House in this generation, that is in the generation in which the revelation was given, which is upwards of thirty years ago." (Elder George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p. 344, October 23, 1864).
38 years later, Elder Orson Pratt still believed it
"We have just as much confidence in returning to Jackson County and the building of a great city that will remain there a thousand years before the earth passes away, as the Jews have in returning to Jerusalem and re-building the waste places of Palestine. In fact, we have more faith than they have; for they have been so many generations cast out of their land that their descendants have almost lost their faith in returning. But, the Latter-day Saints are fresh, as it were. There are many of the old stock, who passed through all those tribulations I have named, still living, whose faith in returning to Jackson County, and the things that are coming, is as firm and fixed as the throne of the Almighty." (Elder Orson Pratt, in a discourse delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, April 10, 1870. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 138).
"God promised in the year 1832 that we should, before this generation then living had passed away, return and build up the City of Zion in Jackson County; that we should return and build up the temple of the Most High where we formerly laid the corner stone. He promised us that He would manifest Himself on that temple, that the glory of God should be upon it; and not only upon the temple, but within it, even a cloud by day and a flaming fire by night. 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 to-morrow. Why? Because God cannot lie. He will fulfill all His promises. He has spoken, it must come to pass. This is our faith." (Elder Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 362, May 5, 1870).
39 years later, Elder Orson Pratt still believed it
"all the people that were living thirty-nine years ago have not passed away; but before they do pass away this will be fulfilled."…"We just as much expect that a city will be built, called Zion, in the place and on the land which has been appointed by the Lord our God, and that a temple will be reared on the spot that has been selected, and the corner-stone of which has been laid, in the generation when this revelation was given; we just as much expect this as we expect the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening; or as much as we expect to see the fulfillment of any of the purposes of the Lord our God, pertaining to the works of his hands. But say the objector, "thirty nine years have passed away." What of that? The generation has not passed away; all the people that were living thirty-nine years ago have not passed away; but before they do pass away this will be fulfilled." (Elder Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, p. 275., delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, April 9, 1871).
42 years later, Elder Orson Pratt still believed it
"God said, in the year 1832, before we were driven out of Jackson County, in a revelation which you will find here in this book, that before that generation should all pass away, a house of the Lord should be built in that county. (Jackson County). This was given forty-two years ago. That generation then living was not only to commence a house of God in Jackson County, Missouri, but was actually to complete the same. And when it is completed the glory of God should rest upon it." (Elder Orson Pratt, Interest Manifested, ETO p. 111).
43 years later, Elder Orson Pratt still believed it
"We need not expect, from what God has revealed, that a very great number of those who were then in the Church and who were driven, will have the privilege of returning to that land." (Elder Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 17, p. 291. February 7, 1875).
58 years later, the Church still believed it
The 1890 edition of the Doctrines and Covenants, Section 84, p. 289 included a footnote that read, “… a generation does not all pass away in one hundred years.” This footnote has since been deleted in more recent editions.
103 years later, Joseph Fielding Smith still believed it
"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. And I do not believe that the Lord has bound himself to accomplish the matter within 100 years from 1832." "I have full confidence in the word of the Lord and that it shall not fail." (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, Salt Lake City, p. 270).
Finally, after 140 years, the Mormon Church itself admitted that this was a false prophecy. No temple was ever built on this property and the close-dated, unconditional prophecy never came true. Joseph Fielding Smith finally admitted that there was no expectation that this prophecy could come to pass:
"It may be reasonable to assume that in giving this revelation to the prophet the Lord did have in mind the generation of people who would still be living with the one hundred years from the time of announcement of the revelation, and that they would enjoy the blessings of the temple, and a glorious cloud would rest upon it. It is also reasonable to believe that no soul living in 1832 is still living in mortality on the earth." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 4. p. 112)
Again and again the Mormon prophets, apostles and elders who followed Joseph proclaimed that this prediction would come true in a literal generation, and that before they all died the Independence temple was to be built. It simply never happened. Now some have argued that it isn't fair to use the statements of those who followed Joseph to judge what Joseph meant by the word, "generation". They will argue that these subsequent leaders were not prophets at the time of their statements, for example. But keep in mind that an apostle who is a member of the Quorum of Twelve IS considered to be a prophet. And if this prophet makes an errant remark prior to ascending to the role of THE prophet and president, wouldn't God speak to him to clarify the truth for the Church once he WAS the president? Why didn’t this happen? In addition, why did the 1890 edition of LDS SCRIPTURE also interpret a generation to simply mean what all the leaders thought it meant (D&C Section 84)? Clearly, the Church and it's leaders all knew what Joseph meant here.
Many have also argued that Joseph's use of the term, "generation" is similar to Jesus' use of the word "generation" in Matthew 24:34. Jesus predicts the signs and events that will be seen in the end times and says "verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled". But Jesus is not saying that the end will come in the lifetime of his listeners! He's saying the end will come in the lifetime of those who first see the signs! Even Joseph knew that this was what Jesus meant! Joseph retranslated this passage of the Gospel in his JST version of the New Testament to say: "Verily I say unto you, this generation, in which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all I have told you shall be fulfilled." So the prophecy of Jesus remains open and will be fulfilled in the future. The same thing cannot be said about Joseph's prophecy of the Temple in Independence. Joseph had the opportunity to clarify his own prophecy in the same manner that he clarified the prophecy of Jesus in the JST, yet he did not do that because his prophecy was clear in his mind. One generation simply meant one generation. This type of close-dated, unconditional prophecy can be used to determine if Joseph is a trustworthy prophet of God, and unfortunately, time and time again, Joseph fails to measure up in this objective, measurable and fair estimation of his position as a prophet of God.
In order to better understand the nature of Joseph’s false prophecies we need to start by examining the ground rules that God has given us for prophesy, and in order to do that, we have to look at the different types of prophecy. You see, there are true rules that God has established related to prophecy. We can examine these rules to judge Joseph as a prophet. Let’s take a look at the categories and rules related to Biblical Prophesy:
Prophetic Proclamations (God’s Warnings)
These prophecies are made to nations, cities and individuals with the express purpose of changing their behavior, correcting them, or urging them to new commitment. The outcome of the proclamation can easily be changed by the free agency of man.
Rules: Jeremiah 18:6-10 (You Change, I’ll Lift the Condemnation)
O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter's hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. [At what] instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy [it]; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And [at what] instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant [it]; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
God clearly says that there is an ‘if clause’ connected to every prophetic proclamation that is made against a city or person. This is the only place in prophecy where the free agency of man can affect the outcome of a prophecy. If the nation or person repents, God says it will always be his prerogative to change the death sentence.
True Examples From Scripture
The Proclamation Against Nineveh (Jonah 3)
The Proclamation Against Hezekiah (2Kings 20:1-6)
In both of these examples, God makes a proclamation against a city (Ninevah) and a man (Hezekiah) and then changes the judgment when they repent. It shouldn’t shock us; it fits within the prophetic rules of Jeremiah 18:6. But Mormons cannot use examples such as these to argue that ANY prophecy is dependant on the free agency of man, because that is simply not the case. This type of ‘change of outcome’ cannot be applied to close-dated, unconditional prophecies like the Temple prophecy we have already talked about, because that prophecy is not a Prophetic Proclamation, but is instead a Prophetic Prediction, and these types of predictions have a different set of rules
Prophetic Predictions (God’s Promises)
These prophecies are promises for the future that cannot be changed by the free agency of man, because they are already seen by a God who stands outside of time. They can be specifically measured and judged if they are close-dated and unconditional in nature.
Rules: Deuteronomy 18:22 (It Must Come True)
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.
Rules: D&C 1:37-39 (It Must Come True
Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.
Rules: President Ezra Taft Benson (It Must Come True)
"The ultimate test of a true prophet is when he speaks in the name of the Lord, his words come to pass" (Deseret News, October 6, 1981, p. 6a)
Rules: President Wilford’s Addresses (God Won’t Let Your Leaders Lead You Astray)
“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2)
All of these rules principally agree related to Prophetic Predictions, when they are close-dated and unconditional, they simply MUST come true. The free agency of man cannot change the outcome. If they don’t come to pass, the person who prophesied is a false prophet.
True Example From Scripture: Daniel’s Prophecy of the Messiah.
Daniel wrote his book in 538 B.C., and was one of the Jews taken in the 70-year Babylonian captivity. In Daniel 9:25, we read that from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, until the coming of Messiah (the "Anointed One", in Hebrew: "Mashiach"), 69 heptads of years would elapse [7+62=69]. Each heptad (or "week", in Hebrew: "Shabuim") is a group of seven years, therefore, from the decree until Messiah, 483 years would go by [69x7=483].
So, what happened in history? An overarching decree, for the purpose of returning the Jews to Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, was issued in 457 B.C. by the Persian king Artaxerxes. If we add the 483 years to this date, we come out to the year 26 A.D., which is about the very year that Jesus of Nazareth was baptized (anointed with water and with the Holy Spirit) to begin his public ministry. This is a strong fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy, but Daniel added a couple other things about Messiah: He said that Messiah would be "cut off" (v.26), which is an idiom for being killed. This happened when Jesus was crucified at the end of his earthly ministry. And Daniel also said that after the 69 heptads (483 yrs) were over, the city [Jerusalem] and the sanctuary would be destroyed which happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman legions under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The appearance of Messiah had to occur at the end of the 69 heptads [483 years], but before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jesus of Nazareth was ministering right at the end of the 69 heptads, and, other than he, there is no other credible choice to fulfill this prophecy concerning Messiah. This text in Daniel 9 is the only text in the entire Old Testament which explicitly speaks of the "Messiah", and it says that he will be "cut off" (die).
A number of rabbis have boldly said that this passage predicts the exact time of Messiah's appearance, for example, Rabbi Nehumias (who lived about 50 years before Jesus), said that the time fixed by Daniel for the appearing of Messiah could not go "beyond the next 50 years" (cf. Delitzsch & Gloag, The Messiahship, Vol.2, p.226).
False Example From Joseph Smith: David W. Patten.
In addition to the example of the Independence Temple listed above, there is another instance in which Joseph uttered a close-dated, unconditional prophecy that failed to come true. There is a two-verse prophecy given April 17, 1838 in which instructions are given to David W. Patten, one of the LDS twelve Apostles. He was to prepare to go on a mission with the other eleven (Apostles) into "all the world." (D&C Section 114). According to the revelation, the mission was to take place "next spring" which would give the prophecy a "closed-date" somewhere around April or May of 1839. Less than three months later, the "twelve" were given a specific date to leave (April 26, 1839) and one of the apostles, Thomas Marsh, was instructed to stay behind to "publish my word" (Doctrine and Covenants Section 118). The date of April 26, 1839 came and as History of the Church, written by Joseph Smith, records, "The Brethren arrived at Far West, and proceeded to transact the business of their mission" (Vol. 3 p.336). However, David W. Patten was not part of that mission. David Patten was not present because he had died in October of 1838. History of the Church reports: "Captain Patten was carried some of the way in a litter, but it caused so much distress that he begged to be left by the way side...he died that night" (Vol. 3, p. 171).
Rather than going on a mission with the Twelve next spring, as Joseph Smith had prophesied in 1838, Patten died before the next year even came. This could not be a reference to a "mission" in the spirit world after death because Joseph Smith was specific that he was to go "unto all the world" (not the "spirit" world) and he was to be with the other eleven (D&C 114).
Some Mormons have suggested that David Patten could have apostatized from his calling. In other words God called him to go on the mission but because of sin or faithlessness he fell from the calling. There are two problems with this explanation. The God of the Bible is all-knowing and He knew that Patten was going to die. Also, Patten did not fall away from the Church. After Patten's death, Joseph Smith wrote, "Brother David Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who know him. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and died as he had lived, a man of God, and strong in the faith of a glorious resurrection" (History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 171).
This prophecy, along with the prophecy of the Independence Temple are strong examples of close-dated, unconditional prophecies that failed to come true. It is fair to cite them in our evaluation of Joseph.
Prophetic Ponderings (God’s Knowledge)
These are prophecies in which truths and mysteries of the world and the universe are revealed to man straight from the knowledge and mind of God. Without these prophetic utterances, there would be no way to discover the information.
Rules: Psalms 33:4 (God Knows the Truth)
For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.
Rules: Hebrews 1:1 (God Revealed Truth to Prophets in Past Times)
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets
Rules for this type of prophecy simply tell us that there are some things that God, in His infinite wisdom, may reveal to men through the mouth of a prophet, and these mysteries may later be confirmed through the observations of man, confirming the supernatural power of God and the legitimacy of the prophet.
True Example From Scripture: Isaiah Describes an Expanding and Spherical Universe.
The following verses display two scientific facts that could not have been known at the time of their writing. The first verse, from Isaiah, declares that the Earth is round. The others reveal that the universe (the heavens) is expanding (or stretching). During the twentieth century it was discovered that our universe is indeed expanding — and has been expanding since the beginning of time.
- He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. - Isaiah 40:22 (NIV)
- This is what God the Lord says — he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it. - Isaiah 42:5 (NIV)
- "It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts." - Isaiah 45:12 (NIV)
False Example From Joseph Smith: Men on the Moon
While scripture does have legitimate examples of ‘Prophetic Ponderings’, Mormonism has a powerful example of human reckoning that is not confirmed by later observation. Joseph Smith made several cosmological and scientific statements related to the nature of the moon that have since been proven wrong:
"Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a Prophet. As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do - that they live generally to near the age of a 1000 years. He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style. In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and - to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes. The first two promises have been fulfilled, and the latter may be verified. From the verification of two promises we may reasonably expect the third to be fulfilled also." … "The inspiration of God caused men to hunt for a new continent until Columbus discovered it. Men have lost millions of dollars and hundreds of lives to find a country beyond the north pole; and they will yet find that country - a warm, fruitful country, inhabited by the ten tribes of Israel, a country divided by a river, on one side of which lives the half tribe of Manasseh, which is more numerous than all the others. So said the Prophet.” (quoted in THE INHABITANTS OF THE MOON, O. B. Huntington” The Young Woman's Journal, vol. 3, pages 263, 264.).
"The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being six feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker style and are quite general in style or fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally near a thousand years. This is the description of them as given by Joseph [Smith] the Seer, and he could see whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see" (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol 2, p 166)
There is no other evidence linking Joseph Smith himself to the moon men statement firsthand. But it can be established that Joseph Smith's brother, Hyrum Smith, and Brigham Young did believe that the moon was inhabited (as well as the sun). Further, a number of individuals did receive patriarchal blessings saying they would be missionaries on the moon. Brigham Young said "I will tell you who the real fanatics are: they are they who adopt false principles and ideas as facts, and try to establish a superstructure upon, a false foundation. They are the fanatics; and however ardent and zealous they may be, they may reason or argue on false premises till doomsday, and the result will be false. If our religion is of this character we want to know it; we would like to find a philosopher who can prove it to us. We are called ignorant; so we are: but what of it? Are not all ignorant? I rather think so. Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed "the man in the moon," and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth when it is celestialized. Every planet in its first rude, organic state receives not the glory of God upon it, but is opaque; but when celestialized, every planet that God brings into existence is a body of light, but not till then. Christ is the light of this planet." - Journal of Discourses Vol. 13, p.271. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 217).
Actually, belief in moon men was a common view held by many people late in the 19th century. There were serious books and newspaper accounts written on the subject. The astronomer William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus stated his belief in moon men in 1780. German astronomer Gruithuisen announced in 1822 his discovery of a large lunar city. Richard Locke, a reporter for the New York Sun, in 1835 issued 6 purported summaries of John Herschel's (son of William) work with a new large telescope in Africa. Locke regaled the public with stories of lunar forests (38 species of trees), plants, lakes. Then herds of new animals, and in his last article winged flying moon men who worshiped in a magnificent golden temple. These stories were admitted to be a hoax, but many people believed and belief in intelligent moon life continued for many years.
The Evidence is Clear
With that rather elaborate description of Biblical Prophecy completed, we can at least be clear about how we are to measure and judge prophecy, regardless of who utters it. Non-Mormons need to stop using conditional or open dated utterances to prove Joseph Smith wrong, but Mormons need to admit that there are several Prophetic Predictions and Ponderings made by Joseph Smith that simply failed to come true. And Mormons cannot continue to point to examples of Prophetic Proclamations in the Bible in order to excuse Joseph, claiming that free agency can affect Prophetic Predictions or Ponderings. Free agency only affects Prophetic Proclamations, and that is not where Joseph has a problem.
And the problem is not small problem! Even ONE failed prophecy disqualifies a Biblical Prophet. If there exists a single false prophecy of Joseph Smith, then he is no longer what he said he was. This article has been extremely fair on the issue, and upwards of 40 other failed prophecies commonly sited by non-Mormons have not been examined here in an effort to be true to the Biblical laws and rules of prophecy. But it must be admitted that Joseph has uttered prophetic statements that are demonstrably false. His status as a prophet of God must be removed and with it, the foundation for the Mormon Religion.